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A Dunedin co-housing project that aims to build energy-efficient, sustainable housing on the former High Street School site has taken another step forward after the signing of a building contract.
Urban Cohousing Otepoti Ltd, which bought the school in 2013, plans to turn the 5000sq m site into an inter-generational co-housing neighbourhood that would encourage social interaction and be based on ecological values.
Group member and architect Tim Ross said the group of future residents behind the project had signed a contract with Ehaus, a New Zealand company specialising in building energy-efficient sustainable housing.
"Ehaus have been assisting with fine-tuning of the design, in terms of cost and ease of construction.
"They will be partnering with a local building company to deliver the homes to the Passivhaus standard.''
Passivhaus is a standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. It results in buildings that require little energy for heating or cooling.
"This means the homes will maintain an internal temperature of 20degC to 22degC throughout the year, with little or no additional heating.''
Mr Ross said construction could begin by the end of this year. When complete, it would be the first multi-unit Passivhaus project in New Zealand.
"By working together, the group has been able to design not only their own homes, but the layout of the neighbourhood itself.
"This has been developed to provide opportunities for social interaction, a range of shared facilities as well as a more efficient use of land.''
Mr Ross said the homes would be constructed using prefabricated building components.
More than half of the proposed homes were "spoken for''.
"The group is still finalising costs, but we expect the homes, which range in size from one to four bedrooms, to start at around $250,000.''
Previously, Mr Ross said up to 22 homes could be built on the site.
The former High Street School buildings would be retained and altered so those living in the community could use them for multipurpose spaces, including dining rooms with a small commercial kitchen, guest rooms, shared laundry facilities, meeting rooms, office spaces and workshops.
Outside common areas could include a playground, a greenhouse, a large lawn and fruit trees.
Mr Ross said Urban Cohousing Otepoti Ltd had been holding introduction days to educate the public about the project. The next one would be early next month.