The Background

When I worked in Berlin (1989-1995) The idea of ‘Baugruppe’ existed, but the term hadn’t been coined. An example of just such a building is Offensives Altern which is illustrated in the ‘housing’ section of our website. In fact it is not a new idea at all, the group of people who conceived and developed that apartment building (old ladies and single mothers) worked with a housing cooperative that had been set up in 1892 with the mission of ‘building utopian dwellings for the people’.

 Now, 10% of all the new homes constructed in Berlin are developed by groups of ordinary people, who form themselves into a co-operative or cohousing group, hire an architect and a builder, and then construct custom-designed apartments or a terrace of homes for themselves.

 We  propose that the same should start to happen in Ireland, particularly in its urban centres. Our experience in Germany places us in a great position to work with groups to develop apartment buildings or terraces.

In Berlin, the local authority has to offer its land to these groups before it can be sold to developers, In Dublin, Dublin City Council, (while there is no legislation to support it) is trying to promote the idea of families in mixed income groupings taking up residence in our urban centers, and should look favorably at applications for building groups to purchase its land.

In Berlin, most groups are ‘themed’ in some way – for example offensives Altern described above. Typically the groups end up with exactly the homes that they want; low energy bills, properties that are usually about 25% cheaper to build/buy than any others available in the city. The price is lower mainly because there is no developer overhead/profit to pay, and no marketing costs. The groups also get to know all their neighbours (indeed they effectively choose them) so the end result is usually a very harmonious and cohesive community.


 So How Does It Work?

1. Setting It Up

The group meets, the early members recruit additional members, they search for experts to help them, and they try to identify a suitable site. Early conceptual designs are often produced (with outline costs) so that the members can visualise roughly what they propose to do and what it might cost. The group usually then formally constitutes itself as a co-operative, a civil legal partnership, or a home ownership association. We will work with a professional mediator to help us make decisions and be effective as a group.

2. Design and Planning

This is when the group firms up the appointment of its professional team (architect, engineer and quantity surveyor), and identifies a project manager to oversee the construction work. At this stage the members might also obtain an ‘option’ to buy the site they’ve found, in effect, buying it subject to receiving planning permission. The building gets designed in consultation with each of the members, there are two parts to this – deciding on the overall look and disposition of the building, this is obviously done with all of the group, and then secondly the planning of each members individual apartments or houses. Then a planning application is lodged and, all going well, it will receive planning permission.

 3. Purchase and Building Preparation

At this point the group formally purchases the land, and the architect prepares a set of the drawings from which the development will get built, known as  the tender set, this goes out to building contractors to get firm prices and it selects the builder it wants to do the work.

 4. Build

This is the construction phase, so the project manager the group has hired takes care of checking the quality of the work, controlling the cash and ensuring the project is completed when it should be. Quite often the members of the group get involved in some of the work to help keep costs down – so its quite common for them to tackle the final fitting out, decorating, and the installation of kitchens and bathrooms.

 5. Occupation

Everyone moves in and a building management committee is set up to ensure the homes are properly maintained.


What Sort of Groups are doing it in Berlin ?

A fashionable looking 45 apartment project conceived of by young professionals , arranged around a hidden shared garden.

A group of elderly single women with single mothers who wanted to live close to each other in a supportive community (Offensives Altern).

A group of 11 families that wanted to have the most beautiful shared garden in Berlin

A group has built Germany’s first block of 19 Passivhaus apartments.


The possibilities are limitless!

With time, energy and our expertise you can live in a fantastic home, surrounded with great neighbours at an affordable price.