RE: Programming the commonhouse
From: Paul Conahan (
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 1996 15:33:50 -0600
Here are my two-cents regarding Rob Sandelin's message on programming
the common house:

Rob's summary is the method our group used to program both our site plan
and common house, and in my opinion, is an incredible way for cohousers
to go through the design process.  It is truly satisfying to come up
with ethereal goals, and wind up with a physical site/building plan that
satisfies all of the groups wishes.

The point of this message is this:  Although the programming sounds
pretty straight forward, I would HIGHLY recommend that your group use a
trained facilitator who has experience with programming sites/common
houses.  The reason for this is that programming can be one of the most
emotionally charged group experiences you will go through since the
goals of the group smack head-on into the personal agendas of each
household.  Granted, if your group truly believes in, and truly
practices, consensus, such conflict may be ok.  If not, your group could
really spin its wheels for a long time.  People who have programmed for
other groups will know where the hot spots are likely to be, and can
defuse them before they get out of hand.  Also, an experienced
programmer can also save TONS of time by nixing bad ideas (based on
clear explanations based on experience) or offering ideas gleaned from
first hand knowledge of other common houses.  

Our group used Chuck Durrett and Katy McCamant from Berkeley, and I am
sure there are other people out there who are experienced common house
programmers.  We spent a long week-end with Katy programming our site,
and then another long week-end programming our common house (and we had
a usable site plan and floor plan within a few weeks after each
workshop).  Nearly everyone in our group agreed that the process would
have taken weeks longer had we done it ourselves, and we still would
have missed things.  Chuck & Katy are also architects (as well as the
authors of the Cohousing book), which really helped our process and
final design.  Since the layout of the site and design of the common
house are integral to fostering community, I again strongly encourage
groups to use experienced programmers so that your group can learn from
and improve on other common houses (that your facillitator has
programmed or has visited), and avoid expensive mistakes.  Lastly, if
possible, try to visit as many other common houses as you can, as a
group.  This was not a viable option for our group since cohousing is
still scarce in the Mid-West.

Thanks for listening,

Paul Conahan
Ann Arbor Cohousing Community
Closing on our land on November 6; BIG party on the 7th!

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