Low Impact Living
A Field Guide to Ecological, Affordable Community Building
This book is the inspirational story of one project that shows you how you can become involved in building and running your neighbourhood. The author, co-founder of Lilac (Low Impact Living Affordable Community), along with other members of the community and the project team, explains how a group of people got together to build one of the most pioneering ecological, affordable cohousing neighbourhoods in the world. The book is a story of perseverance, vision and passion, demonstrating how ordinary people can build their own affordable, ecological community.
The book starts with the clear values that motivated and guided the project’s members: sustainability, co-operativism, equality, social justice and self-management. It outlines how they were driven by challenges and concerns over the need to respond to climate change and energy scarcity, the limits of the ‘business as usual’ model of pro-growth economics, and the need to develop resources so that communities can determine and manage their own land and resources. The author’s story is interspersed with vignettes on topics such as decision making, landscaping, finance and design.
The book summarises academic debates on the key issues that informed the project, and gives technical data on energy and land issues as well as practical ‘how-to’ guides on a range of issues such as designing meetings, budget planning and community agreements. Low Impact Living provides clear and easy to follow advice for community groups, practitioners, government, business and the development sector and is heavily illustrated with drawings and photographs from the architectural team.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction, 2. Motivations, Values and Challenges, 3. Making it Happen, 4. Low Impact Living: Designing and Building our Homes, 5. Affordable: a Green Housing Revolution for All, 6. Community: Co-operating Collectively, 7. Learning from Lilac
Paul Chatterton is a writer, researcher and campaigner. He is Reader in ‘Cities and Social Change’ in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds where he cofounded the ‘Cities and Social Justice’ Research Cluster and the Masters programme in ‘Activism and Social Change’. He has written extensively on urban issues and movements for social and ecological justice. More information on his work can be found at www.paulchatterton.com.
‘This book is a profound wake up call to all those concerned with providing homes and communities that will meet the triple challenge of Climate Change, planetary resource depletion and doing more with less. Chatterton's account of the inspirational 'warts and all' journey of the LILAC housing pioneers in Leeds, UK, is imbued with a fundamental set of ethics which provides a powerful moral compass allied with comprehensive and practical guidance for how to start a resilient housing community. This book will inspire those who wish to undertake a journey of collectively building their own homes, and just as importantly, it generously explains to others involved in housing, what the secret ingredients of collective success are.’
Fionn Stevenson, Professor, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
"Almost everywhere that people are talking about radical housing solutions in Britain they are talking about LILAC. If you want to know how the world is being changed for the better, from the bottom and straw-bale up, you need to read LILAC’s story"
Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford
‘An engaging account of how an affordable, low-impact cohousing scheme was conceived, negotiated (and how and with whom!), designed, financed and built in Leeds, within a discussion of what this contributes to addressing larger local, city and global social and ecological challenges.’
David Satterthwaite, Professor, International Institute for Environment and Development
‘I am convinced that living within planetary boundaries is not only possible, but that we can lead better lives by making the transition. Paul Chatterton has taken an architect’s plan of this idea and made it a practical reality. His inspiring book tells the story of how to build better communities and respect the Earth they are built upon.’
Andrew Simms, author of Cancel the Apocalypse, Fellow of nef
‘New thinking about how together we find ways to walk lightly upon the Earth and solve the growing affordable housing crisis is easy in comparison to the vision, tenacity and commitment needed to deliver innovative solutions. The LILAC members have the latter in spades. This book is an inspirational story about how a group of ordinary people transformed the way housing can work through a pioneering mutual home ownership development. It will inspire a generation.’
Cllr. David Rodgers, Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing Employment and Skills, London Borough of Ealing; former CEO of CDS Co-operatives and past President of Co-operative Housing International.
‘The LILAC project is one of the most innovative examples of community-led housing in the UK. It shows that the tireless efforts of a group of committed people can deliver something that's nothing short of exceptional. This book explains the background to the project, it describes the solution that was developed, and it charts the highs and lows of the seven year roller coaster journey the group experienced. If you are one of the millions of people in the UK who like the idea of doing something similar it's got to be the 'must read' book of the year.’
Ted Stevens OBE, Founding Chair, National Self Build Association (NaSBA)
‘It has been suggested by some that we have a global ‘ingenuity deficit’ of how to respond to the increasingly complex societal challenges. The LILAC project brims with ingenuity – it lays generous foundations for an optimistic future for others to build on. This is a very inspiring book that makes you want to get up and do something equally good. LILAC is a game changer and this book is a great gift of generosity.
Irena Bauman, Professor of Sustainable Urbanism, University of Sheffield, and cofounder of Bauman Lyons Architects
‘This is not simply a compelling story of one of Britain's most innovative co-operative housing initiatives, it is also an uplifting story of vision and hope being made good.’Ed Mayo, Secretary General Co-operatives UK
"I would recommend this book to everyone looking for a comprehensive account of this truly inspirational "living laboratory". The book can be read in different ways according to the focus and level of interest. Community groups will find the "inspiration" and "how to" chapters of particular value while practitioners and policy makers will be drawn to the wider lessons to be learned from the completed project. The book is richly illustrated with site photographs, and tables and line drawings demystify complex legal and financial elements as well as the process of making decisions as a non-hierarchical body."
Antipode, Helen Jarvis, Newcastle University