Re: Design programs
From: Berrins (
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 23:02:02 -0600 (MDT)
In a message dated 4/5/01 2:28:41 PM, becky_weaver [at] writes:

    Programming the activities that are to take place within the Common House 
(CH) with the architects was probably the most important step we took.  If 
your architects are willing to do this with you, then you can get this step 
done by yourselves.   However, what activities you can actually afford to 
build for is much more complicated.
    It's difficult to know if you can afford the amount of space you need for 
all the activities you want to do until the builder prices it out, and for 
that you need rather specific design drawings, with the size of the building 
and large design elements, (eg, high ceilings).  Outside architects can 
certainly do these drawings, and you can give them a lot of leeway in shaping 
and "styling" the building.  But you'll need a price before you can move on 
to the next step.
    Once you get that price back, you will likely need to edit, and that 
takes community input, because at this point you may find your priorities 
shifting.  The builder may have suggestions; these often involves details, 
like cheaper woods or a slab floor vs. a full basement.  Some of these 
decisions you may be able to let an outside architect make (types of wood), 
others you will need to make yourself (basement or not).  Sweat equity and 
framing for finishing rooms later will also save money and allow you to build 
a larger structure.  These decisions will require input from the builder (how 
much you can save) and the members (how much work are we willing to do, and 
lets not forget anything we decide to do later will still cost money).  
Finally, you may decide to combine activities in some rooms to save money, 
but what goes with what?  Very few of these decisions are "micromanagement."
    This is a highly simplified version of the process Pathways went through. 
The tweaking and shifting and cut offs and do-laters were some of the hardest 
decisions we made, but got us a wonderful, highly usable space that is the 
best anticipation of future use in a CH that we could afford.  Plus, design 
decisions, including minor details (like which ceiling fan to get) can 
actually be fun, not to mention great community building exercises.
    How about developing a list of details you are willing to let go of and 
let the architect and builder hash these out budget-wise.   Otherwise, I 
suggest you stay involved in the process.  A design committee can do a lot of 
the set-up work for group discussions (get your architects on that one!). 

    Roger Berman
    Pathways, Cohousing
    Northampton, MA. US 

<< 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. >>

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