Re: Common Hse design Q's
From: David Mandel (
Date: Sat, 10 Aug 1996 04:25:54 -0500
>Greeting from Sunny (and HOT) Santa Cruz!
>We have 2 questions in our search of the "Perfect" common house design:
>1.  What rooms or activities have you found to be suitable for "multi-use"
>and what have you found necessary to be "single-use" rooms?
>2.  What types of noise reduction methods have you found to be effective? (We
>will be using an acoustical engineer, but wanted some input from all of YOU!)
>Thanks to all of you who hang out here to guide us "Infants" down the right
>Matt Paiss
>Western Drive CoHo
>Santa Cruz, Ca.
>(408) 427-1304

1. All rooms have been multi-use in some form except the toilets, and I
once heard a random suggestion to put a darkroom in one of those. The
laundry room, too, I guess, isn't used for much else, except perhaps
gossip. And a lost and found of sorts, and a file cabinet with all our
records that just fits next to the third washer, and a bulletin board with
fliers of community interest.

One serious issue that has evolved is our RFKASTR -- "room formerly known
as the teen room." We very rightously allocated this room -- the only
upstairs room -- to the older kids from the very start. It was way
underused and sometimes abused so we let them spray paint it with garish
pictures on the wall, got a large TV with VCR, added an old Mac computer
... and it was still underused and in a not unrelated phenomenon, sometimes
left trashed for weeks at a time. In the past it was occasionally used by
others for one-time things (massage night, for instance) but that required
tracking down enough teens so that all involved felt secure that permission
had been granted.
        The room has recently been converted into a multiuse space. A
calendar at the bottom of the stairs allows any person or group (including
older kids) to reserve it for a meeting, party, video night, whatever. And
as long as it's not reserved, spontaneous use is encouraged, as long as the
users sign in on a paper also posted next to the calendar. If teens (or
others) are caught there not having signed in there will be dire
consequences. It hasn't happened yet as far as I know.
        So far everyone seems pretty OK with the change. I haven't heard
complaints from the teens. They wouldn't dare, publicly, after all the
warnings they got, and besides, they can still use it 90% of the time if
they wish.

        A corollary change that was part of the decision is that no longer
are the older kids responsible for keeping the room clean. (That wasn't
working: "I didn't make that disgusting mess." ... ) Instead, all older
kids are assigned to one of the weekly chore teams (we have six), and when
their team's week comes up, they are expected to sign up for a task or two
just like the adults. It may be cleaning the RFKASTR, or it may be mowing
the lawn or sweeping the sidewalks or washing the common house windows.


2. I can't encourage you more to get some good anti-noise design in your
common dining room. The issue apparently didn't occur to our architects and
we didn't raise it in time. Now we suffer, especially when it's too hot or
cold to eat outside. We've had a committee studying it and even paid an
outside expert for recommendations, but actually doing something about it
would involve time and some money, very touchy things. Pardon the slight

Outdoor eating space helps a lot when the weather permits. Shushing the few
people who consistently feel the need to shout across the room, thereby
forcing everyone else to talk louder, is obnoxious but sometimes helps.
Dimming the lights (in winter when it's dark enough outside to be noticed)
has a positive effect. So build in dimmers or add them later.

Have fun designing.

David Mandel, Southside Park (Sacramento)

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