This article originally appeared in Transition Magazine, a project created by students taking the Burch Field Research Seminar in Spain and Germany.
“I have lots of friends here and it is only a 500 meter walk to school. It’s great living with people who all support each other.”
Berlin, Germany-In 2010, eight friends joined together with a common vision. They wanted to live together and create a place focused on community and sustainability. The group consisted of architects and urban planners, who worked together to create and build Spreefeld cooperative housing in Germany’s capital city.
The community is extremely energy efficient. Homes heat passively and utilize geothermal heat in the winter. Residents also reduce consumption by sharing—whether with objects like the community boat or with space, such as the community event room.
Spreefeld is located beside the Spree River, along the west side of the Berlin Wall. The area is rich in arts, culture, and community-based grassroots projects such as urban gardens.
Transition Magazine writers visited the compound as part of Creative Sustainability Tours Berlin. Tour guide Larissa Tsvetkova explained that teenagers and children in the community are particularly mature because they constantly interact with adults.
Transition interviewed two teens about living in co-housing. Benedict and Cfibar (who declined to give last names) both moved to Spreefeld with their families a year ago. They are 14 and 15 years old, respectively, but as Larissa explained, their social skills are well beyond their years.
Transition Magazine: Do you two live in the same building?
“No, I live in this building and Cfibar lives in that one,” Benedict said pointing up. Spreefeld is composed of three different buildings with apartments on the top level and community buildings on the bottom floor.
“Even though we live in different buildings, we spend a lot of time in the community rooms together downstairs,” Benedict said. “Each building has a different community room. The far building has a room for events like birthday parties. This building has a kindergarten and a woodworking room.”
TM: Does your community have other events that bring people together?
“Yes, this community is…how do you call it? Zusammenarbeiter. We all work together.”
“Every Saturday we work on community projects like the garden,” said Benedict. “There is always something to fix or build. Once a month we also have a meeting with the whole community to discuss progress and next projects.”
TM: Can you explain how the apartments work? Do you live with other families?
“I have my own room and share a bathroom with my parents,” Benedict said. “I also have my own balcony. We share a living room and a huge kitchen with eleven other people. Those common rooms are both downstairs from my room.”
TM: Overall, do you enjoy living here?
“Yes, very much,” both agreed.
“I have lots of friends here and it is only a 500 meter walk to school. It’s great living with people who all support each other.” Benedict said.
Caroline Lindquist is a senior undergraduate at UNC. She is majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Energy and Sustainability. She is minoring in City and Regional Planning and Entrepreneurship. In summer, Caroline studied renewable energy and sustainability on a Burch Field Research Seminar in Germany and Spain. Following that she worked for the Planning Department in Traverse City, Michigan. Her favorite word in German is “schnabeltier”.