In Geneva, Switzerland, Equilibre Housing Co-op is actively trying to lower its environmental footprint by using straw bale insulation and solar panels. A renewable, naturally occurring material, straw is also an excellent insulator. Straw panels are very light and can be 120+ minute fireproof.
The co-op also runs a sewage water recycling system. Big tanks of 26,000 litres are used to store rainwater, which is then used for toilets. Co-operative housing is a popular option in Switzerland – in Zurich 18% of dwellings are housing co-operatives. Switzerland has a total of 2,000 housing co-ops, which provide 5% of the Swiss housing stock.
Straw insulation was also used by the Chamarel les Barges Coop in Lyon, a housing co-op set up by senior citizens. The co-op’s four-story building includes 14 one-bedroom apartments of 45 m², two two-bedroom apartments of 63 m², as well as public spaces on the ground floor, including two guest bedrooms, a common room with a kitchen, a workshop, a laundry room and an office. The apartments were designed to be functional for people as they age.