Finding Munksøgård Ecovillage was no mean feat. It was situated only about half an hour from Lange Eng Community, 25 km west of Copenhagen on the country outskirts of Roskilde, but entailed hiring a car and driving from Albertslund, listening to the GPS, looking at maps, taking all three exits from a certain roundabout to find the correct one, and a fair bit of very nice cruising through the countryside – albeit on the wrong side of the road. Luckily spotting the street name in the Eurocar Street Directory, it was suddenly there and the timing was perfect – ten minutes before the once-a-month tour commenced.
There are one hundred households in all at Munksøgård. The houses of different sizes are built in rows of accommodate all up about 225 children, youths and adults in a community they describe as being “socially lively”. Being a community of this size entitled them to a road in, a bus and a kindergarten.
The Munksøgård website explains that the key idea behind the community was to create a development integrating environmental friendly technologies and practices in the construction of the houses as well as in the operation. At the same time high priorities were given to establish a strong community among residents supported by houses for joint activities, common areas etc. The residents planned the development with assistance of professionals, and the residents are in charge of management of the settlement.
Munksøgård state that they are the only cohousing community combining owners, shared equity and rental housing in one. “The development (was) designed to provide for diversity in housing sizes, ownership types and in support of different age groups.”
Divided into five groups, they each have their own set of rules where they practice participatory democracy. They only meet as a whole group for the very big decisions regarding the economy for the whole group. Each dwelling group has their own common house for joint activities (common dinners, meetings, parties, etcetera).
They strive to be as sustainable as possible.
The tour with Tatiana started with an explanation of their multi-streamed waste management systems. Starting in 2000 they made their commitment to sort all their waste. This entailed negotiating special arrangements with the municipality to have all their separate collections picked up. These include the ‘clean burn-ables’ which are separated to be stored and burnt by the Municipality for heating in Winter. Metals are collected with the help of an industrial can crusher. Glass goes into a special glass receptacle.
Munksøgård has a large ‘Booda Nooda’ (possibly not the correct spelling) but it equates to Murundaka’s ‘Open Closet’. (It was so tempting to get in and have a look around – but no time and no room in the luggage!!)
Munksøgård has a ‘Heating Group’. Their central water heater is quite substantial to service the whole community but they use the same fuel as Murundaka! Pellets of compressed sawdust fed into a big hopper. This system is also backed-up by oil because Denmark is no place to run out of heating! They say they like the pellets because they are responsible for the same amount of carbon emissions as the trees that took up the carbon in the first place so it’s a closed loop.
I googled to check it out ‘to be sure, to be sure’ … “wood and wood pellets contain what they call “modern era biogenic carbon”. That is, carbon is part of the modern era carbon cycle, as opposed to the carbon captures and sequestered over hundreds of millions of years but only now being released, as is the case of burning oil & gas. International greenhouse gas accounting methods developed by the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, classify wood and wood pellets as being part of the natural carbon balance of the ecosystem. – see more at Eco Heat Solutions
Munksøgård also have old style solar hot water on some rooves plus car sharing with two electric cars and seven others which get booked online. They negotiated to have a smaller than normal parking area the deal being that their small forest would be sacrificed if they needed more space – so far this hasn’t been necessary.
The old Munksøgård barn is part of the common amenity for all clusters containing a small eco-shop open from 4 – 6 every day. They also have a bicycle repair shop. If people want to rent some space there they can pay with their work as the old buildings need a bit of repair and maintenance.
The attic of the barn provides some much needed storage space.
The barn provides housing for their horses in winter.
And the outbuildings provide bike storage for the whole community. In Denmark it seems everyone has more than one bike!
The small community café at the barn is only open on Sundays and provides a welcome opportunity to meet up with other members living in the community.
Munksøgård has no specific ideology and no religious basis. Most people have jobs outside the community. The only pets they have other than horses (for which they take collective responsibility) seem to be rabbits. The community holds an Annual Animal Show for the wider community as a way to invite people in and have a bit of fun.
There are around seven other co-housing communities in the vicinity – five in western
Trekoner and two in the east.
In organisational terms they are quite organised. A proposal needs to be completed and distributed at least one month ahead of a meeting.
Munksøgård have a Playground Group.
Within the cluster visited they have a shared laundry where they tick off their loads on a tally sheet. The driers however, need coin, partly as a way to encourage people to use the external, undercover clotheslines.
The garden systems are interesting. Members can apply for a space in the garden but if they are not good enough, untidy or neglectful access to the space can be rescinded. There had been various attempts in the past to share garden beds – with varying success. The Young Persons’ community had a go but were inconsistent and eventually gave up. Only the Seniors shared garden was flourishing at this time.
The apple trees planted all over the place, are owned by everyone as are the horses and cows.
Each of the five communities within Munksøgård have their own common house and shared space. The Families Community Centre had a shared community room, kitchen, laundry and bathroom.
The community manages the separation of all human waste.
They collect urine from under the houses in tanks. This is then applied safely to the garden (obviously not the edible plants.) The other solid waste is filtered through a specially designed sand filter. This uses bacteria in the sand and small rocks over a substantial area, so that the end result can be released into the nearby stream and pass the regularly-administrated tests by the authorities.
The ample bike sheds and some other buildings’ roofs were covered with mussel shells. When asked, it turns out that they don’t have to eat all these mussels themselves. Loads of mussel shells are brought in every couple of years to provide good drainage, slow the discharge and some insulation.
One of the most interesting things about Munksøgård is the variety of their ownership models.
One dwelling group is privately owned as single-family houses, and one is a co-operative association (the residents own the houses collectively as an association but at the same time the residents also own privately a share of the house they occupy). Three of the dwelling groups are owned by Roskilde Building Association and these houses are for rent. Whoever moves into the rented houses is under the control of the residents. One of the three dwelling groups is only for young people, one is only for seniors, and one is open for all age groups.
They have a number of associations connected to the commonly-owned amenities. e.g. heat plant, waste water treatment plant, waste recycling station, old farm buildings, common houses etc. One association manages commonly-owned property of all five dwelling groups. Others serve other purposes.
There are a number of working groups e.g. snow clearing and road maintenance, maintenance of drains and waste water treatment, operation of the heat plant. Apart from technical working groups they also have working groups directed to social activities e.g. arrangement of parties, social activities in relation to certain national holidays.
There is lots more great info on Munksøgård to be found on their website … http://www.munksoegaard.dk/
From Munksøgård, after a lovely lunch with Giacomo and Julie and the other Italians on the tour.
Roskilde was very close. Irresistible with its Viking ships and old architecture it was well worth a quick visit on the way back ‘home’ to Lange Eng.