IKEA's research lab Space10 has teamed up with architecture studio EFFEKT on The Urban Village Project, a vision for subscription-based housing that brings together people of different generations and encourages them to share facilities.
These include shared daycare and transport, local water harvesting, communal dining and urban farming initiatives.
Rather than owning their homes outright, residents could have the option of buying "shares" of community real estate each month, progressively increasing ownership with the potential to cash these in at a later date.
The designers also suggest that members of a community could swap apartments between them as family needs change.
More affordable homes
The Urban Village Project is being presented today as part of this year's Democratic Design Days, IKEA's annual conference, which takes place at the company's headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden.
It builds on Space10's research into the benefits of co-living, which also led the studio to propose the self-sustaining SolarVille village. It also draws on the expertise developed by EFFEKT with its ReGen Villages project, which featured a community of homes with integrated greenhouses.
The proposal is built around three central ideas: that cities should be more liveable, more sustainable and more affordable.
It addresses the problem of affordable housing both in terms of the building of homes and the buying of homes, with the fundamental goal of cheaper housing.
Finance for construction would come from partnering with long-term investments, such as pension funds, future-oriented companies and municipalities. This financial model could be further enhanced with the democratic principles of community land trusts and co-operatives.
Residents could gradually become homeowners, by purchasing shares as and when they are able. There would be no need for expensive upfront payments to purchase a home and rents would remain low.
Basic rent would cover electricity, water, heating, maintenance and shared facilities.
Residents could also choose to add on additional services, such as food, media, insurance, transport or recreation, through flexible subscription services, in much the same way that we subscribe to entertainment services or a car.
These services would be managed and accessed through a digital tool.
Modular cross-laminated timber housing
Housing for the project would be built from cross-laminated timber – "a wood that comes with huge environmental advantages and outperforms steel and concrete on multiple levels" – in standardised modular units.
This modular system could be pre-fabricated, mass-produced and flat-packed, to reduce costs and environmental impact, by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during construction.
This would also allow building materials to be disassembled and reconfigured with ease.
"Urban Villages is based on a modular building system which allows us to configure a wide range of different housing typologies for different urban settings," said EFFEKT partner Sinus Lynge.
"The system is designed for disassembly, unlocking a truly circular material loop where building components and materials can be reused and replaced rather than wasted. This could be a game changer for the building industry."
Residents could simply rearrange the accommodation as required, replacing any elements of the module that need repair. This allows for flexible and adaptable living, and moves towards a circular approach to living space and management of buildings.
Sense of community and wellbeing
As well as being more efficient, the proposals are intended to boost the health and wellbeing of inhabitants and foster a stronger sense of community.
Residents would be able to stay in their communities even if they outgrow their homes, which allows for cross-generational living.
"It is clear that unless we rethink our built environment, our cities will become increasingly unsustainable, unaffordable and socially unequal," said architectural lead at Space10, Jamiee Williams.
"For us, shared living can offer potential solutions to some of these urgent challenges. The Urban Village Project looks at how we can create new realities that promote a sense of wellbeing and turn the spaces we inhabit into healthier and happier places, all while being more affordable and efficient for those that live there."
By sharing access to services such as composting, renewable energy and local food harvesting, residents could also access better deals, as well as sharing drills or other devices that they want to use on a one-off basis.
A digital tool or app would allow residents to form online communities to nurture their real-life versions and connect to their subscriptions, services and facilities.
When implemented together, Space10 believes that these initiatives could make city life more affordable and fulfilling.