From: Sally S. Leach (
Date: Fri, 12 May 95 10:31 CDT
I've followed the discussion re architects with some skepticism;  I am an
architect, working on Cohousing, and so I thought I'd just listen in a bit.
Recently I went to interview a young couple who were interested in developing 
their land for Cohousing.   To date, they have about $115,000 in
the project, with land at $33,000 and a partially completed structure as a
"starter common house".

A short conversation revealed that they wanted from 8 to 12 units on 3.3
acres:  no available water supply or sewer.  Relying on septic will likely allow
them only two units (at my suggestion, they are now checking on their
countie's requirements).  With no water supply, they are hoping to rely on a
rain catchment system and a 20,000 gal tank...they will have to remain a
long distance from the septic system for any well...or they can sign on to
a new company providing very expensive water.

In short, their land is unlikely to support enough units to work at all.  I
suggested that they contact a nearby ranch with the prospect of purchasing
additional land;  naturally, they were dismayed at that prospect.

The real answer to finding an architect capable of designing a well founded
community is not to limit the search to someone having done cohousing and
submitted to some form of "non-intrusive" investigation.  One should find an
architect with extensive site planning experience, an interest in cohousing
and some talent, as displayed by his past building experience.  Then one
should track down his references and try to determine whether or not he
might be suitable.

A simple visit with an experienced planning consultant could have saved
these folks about $50,000 of wasted money, time and effort;  I am hopeful
that they can get more land...what they have is gorgeous.

I wonder if there are any other folks out there who feel that "designing
one's own community" is the process of deciding how one wishes to live
in and with that community, what the elements of the community will be and
how the relationships of the total community can better be enriched and

Much less important (and certainly easier) is the actual process of deciding
where buildings and walks and drives will be:  if the groundwork in the
preceding paragraph is done well.

I expect that a Cohousing client will have a major imput into this
effort, and also, to work diligently with me when the program is complete
and the design is started.  I fear that the emphasis on "do it yourself
design" has been part of what misled the young couple mentioned above.

In regard to that, if I attempted to repair my own car, it would require a
major outlay for tools, years of study and some aptitude...and it would
probably either never run again, or I would have to take it to the mechanic
to undo the mess I made.  All at greater cost and loss of time than if I had
gone to a "professional" in the first place!  That probably applies to the
design of Cohousing as well.

Thomas Leach, Architect and Planning Consultant

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