Re: Design programs
From: mark (
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 13:19:00 -0600 (MDT)
Hi Becky:

Please forgive me if I sound presumptuous, and please understand that I speak only for myself, not for the community of which I am a member.

Despite your group's apparent sophistication in architectural design and group process, it would be entirely worth considering the possibility that you do not know enough about specifically cohousing-related elements of design, or about processes involved in design programming by consensus. There is more to it than might be apparent, and I can only suggest that you look carefully at how this has worked for other groups. There seems to be a tendency-among the independent thinkers and overachievers who populate cohousing groups-to imagine that what happened to everyone else won't really apply to us. Oddly enough, it almost always does.

Our group included members with substantial design experience, and early on we tried (with professional assistance) to do our own programming. This was a waste of time, money and energy, none of which we possessed in overabundance at the time. The documents and decisions we produced were, as far as I know, of no help when we finally hired Chuck and Katie to lead our programming process(es). Even had these been relevant at the time they were produced, in my view it is important to involve all members in programming as close to the time of construction as is practical. Needs, tastes and priorities change, and new members joining at different points in the process shift programming in one direction or another; you certainly want everyone as invested as possible in what is to be built, and you do not want to encourage a dynamic in which new and old members perceive themselves as having different interests or levels of (emotional) investment. That dynamic will likely cause entirely enough trouble without building it deliberately into your group's history.

I would also emphasize that Chuck and Katie's assistance was invaluable to us in many ways, not the least of which was in helping us to identify and narrow down the "what" to which your post refers. There are a wide variety of criteria relevant to cohousing design which even those with multifamily experience and interest in cohousing might not know to include in the programming process.

Of course, your experience may differ, and of course I hope this is helpful and wish you the best.


(Bellingham Cohousing...located, for the geographically inquisitive, in Washington State)

Hi all,

I am on my community's design committee, and our current mission is to
develop a design program. We're at least a couple of years out from
construction (land in the subdivision we've chosen will go up for sale
sometime after the end of 2002).

We have a couple of architects on our committee. We have decided to hire an
outside architect.

From what I've been able to glean searching this list's archives, most
groups have created the design program in collaboration with their
architect, in a couple of programming workshops. Due in part to the timing
of our project - we would prefer to only retain an architect after we've
secured our land and can prove financial reliability - we're considering a
different approach.

We are considering developing a thorough program document as a group,
specifying our priorities, needs, budget, etc., then turning this document
over to the architect and requesting him/her to make decisions about
specifics. There will naturally still be plenty of communication between the
group and the designers, but we are hoping this will allow group
participation without danger of micromanagement. According to one of our
architect/committee members, a thoughtfully developed program, followed by
reasonably free rein, can allow an architect to meet the client's needs very
creatively. In other words, we decide what, and the archtect decides how.

Has anybody else used this approach? Does anybody have suggestions or
comments about it?

Some group background - most of our members are experienced (and trained) in
group-process and consensus techniques. We have members experienced in
multifamily residential design, who've studied cohousing extensively but
have not built or lived in coho before. There is no cohousing in our region
yet, though there are some other projects in process.

Thanks in advance for your input!

Becky Weaver
Central Austin Cohousing
(Austin, Texas, where the bluebonnets are blooming and it's shorts weather

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