The project


The proposed site for the Hope Cohousing development is currently a grass-covered sloping field in St Margaret’s Hope which is earmarked by Orkney Islands Council for residential development. [Click for a map]. Its elevated position gives good views over the bay.

A collaborative approach to housing design

A central principle of cohousing is that groups take an active role in the design process of their cohousing community. For us, from the earliest days of the project, we discussed design ideas with architect Gokay Deveci. He was interested in combining the principles of innovative housing design, wellbeing and healthcare principles, and technology to support active ageing. 

The objectives of the project include:

  • eliminating social isolation and promote social interaction
  • addressing fuel poverty issues
  • ensuring safety
  • supporting independent living
  • creating a blueprint that can replicated elsewhere.

A new way to live as we age

Latest elevations
Click to enlarge the updated design concept [drawings from Grigor Mitchell Architect]

The development, of six homes and common spaces including a shared utility area, is small but appropriate in size for our rural, island community.

Five of the houses have an identical layout of two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen/dining area and sitting room. The sixth home is a one-bedroom flat. South-facing skylights provide sunshine, solar heat and ventilation. 

To ensure long-term suitability, accessibility has been a key consideration in the project’s design. The whole project is single-storey, with doors and windows appropriate for wheelchair users. Our intention is that both house design and site layout ensure residents will be able to continue living at HCH as long as they can.

Sustainable, low energy design for a low carbon future

We see it as a priority to build to the highest standards in terms of sustainable, low energy design. As far as is possible, all materials will be chosen with these standards in mind and with a focus both on construction and on running costs.

The choice of a terrace of houses was largely determined by a combination of site conditions and energy efficiency. The sloping site demanded a row of units to reduce the amount of excavation (and associated cost), and a single building has significantly less external wall area – and thus less heat loss – than a series of individual houses.

We will have solar panels to heat water and have commissioned a renewables survey to evaluate different energy options.

revised design – view from the south

Shared and social spaces

A covered walkway will run the length of the development and will facilitate social interaction and easy access between homes and shared facilities. The latter are an integral part of a cohousing project and include:

  • covered outdoor space with seating
  • a utility area including a shared kitchen, dining area and laundry facilities
  • the communal garden and polytunnel
  • a waste and recycling pod.
revised design – view from the north

Technology to support independent living

Our partners at Robert Gordon University have been working to explore the potential use of digital technology in a senior cohousing setting. This includes the fitting of sensors that can (without being invasive) detect movement (or lack of) and monitor occupant wellbeing.

The aim of this technology-based approach is to:

  • enable residents to remain in their own homes for longer
  • predict health-related events, reduce hospital admissions, and enable an early discharge.

External space

Behind the terrace of houses, each has a small private garden space.

Around the site’s boundary, there will be a hedge including native trees and shrubs chosen for year-round colour and interest. The shared garden areas will include raised beds for vegetable growing, a polytunnel for cultivation or relaxing out of the wind and space for our hens. 

In line with our low energy strategy, we will have a shared electric car and an electric car charging point.

Parking will include space for disabled vehicles.

Life in our small community and links to the wider community

For Hope Cohousing members, the planning and pre-construction phase of the last few years has included considerable debate and discussion about the practical arrangements for life in our new homes.

The key points in our guidelines for living together are:

  • residents will be responsible for running their cohousing project
  • decisions will be arrived at by consensus unless it is agreed a majority opinion is more appropriate
  • all residents must normally be over 60 and able to live independently. 

We have lots of ideas for life at Hope Cohousing! 

  • sharing our experience of setting up a community-led housing project with others
  • workshop sessions for ourselves, and the wider community
  • shared meals and festivities – for residents and invited friends and relations
  • gardening – establishing our communal and private garden areas, planting up raised beds

Policy documents

We are mindful that foresight and planning at this stage may avoid difficulties in the future. We recognise the importance of setting out what is expected of us all as residents. In addition, we appreciate that anyone interested in becoming a resident in the future should know what to expect. Our draft policies on equality and diversity, visitors, smoking, pets, allocations and resolving conflict are here.

Watch our video. Made for the Rural Housing Summit 2021, it tells our story in 3 minutes.

Click to learn more about our progress.

updated: January 19, 2022