Listening to CoHousing Wisdom vs. Doing it yourself
From: Joani Blank (
Date: Sun, 4 May 1997 03:20:40 -0500
I guarantee that even if you take advantage of every bit of cohousing
wisdom available to you from consultants and people in other cohousing
groups, you'll still have plenty of issues to process and work  and bond
on. Believe me, it is much easier to find out as much as you can about the
way others have done all aspects of cohousing especially focusing on what
works and what doesn't, then make a decision that works for your particular
situation. Folks, this IS research. It is not being a bunch of automotons.
Always remember--as one coho wag said--you are not designing your dream
home, you are designing your dream community. 

As far as listening to consultants goes, I'm all for it. For example, I saw
the plans for one common house which included a sitting area as large as
the dining room.  I've visited 10 or so coho communities, all with sitting
areas that work pretty or very well, and the sitting area is usually no
more than one fourth the floor space of the dining area. Also nobody but
coho experts (consultants or experienced residents) can tell you certain
things like good placement of the kids' room in relation to the dining
area, or what percentage of your members can be expected to be eating
common meals routinely, or the advantages of having the laundry  on the
same level as the dining room instead of in the basement, the social risks
of having attached garages, or how many gates or fences are needed or
advisable between your property and the rest of the community, or what
issues are almost always sticky for cohousing groups, (pet policy, house
colors, name of the community, to name a few that are ususally difficult). 
About architects. Very few architects have designed cohousing before, which
means that they often have a really hard time with design that is as
participatory as cohousers insist on. It may be quite hard for them to
believe that you want to have fairly standardized and modest  individual
residences in order to put more of your resources into your common house
and common outdoor space, or because most of the households are eager to
simplify their lives and reduce the amount of "stuff" they own and maintain
as they plan their move into cohousing.  In a group with which I am very
familiar, when the group first tackled unit plans, the architect listened
respectfully and dutifully drew in (optional) second bathrooms which at
least 5 households requested. Within a month or so, every household who
thought they would have to have a second bath had changed their mind and
decided that one bathroom would be adequate. 

Joani Blank 

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