Re: Design programs
From: Racheli&John (
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 09:40:01 -0600 (MDT)
 From Racheli
(Sonora Cohousing, Tucson).

We had a series of programming workshops with Katie and Chuck.
The way these workshops were very useful was that they made
everyone aware of the myriad of issues needing consideration, and
started us on the road to negotiating them.  It also made it clear
that we need to prioritize, and gave us process-tools for doing so.
Another advantage was that they had a wealth of information
concerning physical/social/other aspects of cohousing life elsewhere...

There were some ways in which the workshops were less successful:
The assumption was that by going through them we'll end up with 
many fairly finalized consensus decisions.  Yet, Chuck would barely
be out of town when arguments would start over this or that issue.
ie: the status of the decisions made was vague, and a cause of much
friction later on.  IMO the reason is that real consensus decisions
cannot be made in such haste, and under so much pressure.  (And
believe me: when you pay a whole lot for a workshop, there is a lot
of pressure).  Another important reason is that we had no information
concerning cost of many of the items - and this information is 
vital for making reasonable decisions.  It took, in fact, a very long time
before any reliable information became available.

There are other issues, but the ones I mentioned above are the primary
ones, in my view.
I think that getting Chuck and Katie (or some other knowledgeable
people) to do these workshops is useful, but I'd re-define their purpose.
As I see it they need to be seen as producing a draft, which needs to
be worked on further as more information comes in.  This would also
allow people who join the group later to be part of the decision-making
Contrary to what someone else suggested, I'm convinced that if we paid
extra money to hire a good local architect to use the programming 
as a basis for final design we would have ended with a better product.
For example: It's early April, and many of us have had to turn on
the airconditioning by now, because our south-facing windows don't
have enough of an over-hang, and some of them are too low for any
overhang to work...  (The local architect we had was chosen for being
cheap, not for knowing where the sun happens to be at any given time
of  year :(  ), and architects from elsewhere don't always know the
full reality of a local climate different from theirs'.
Also, a good local architect would be aware of the particularities of
local town/county codes and regulations, and would be available
when there is a need to negotiate/push variants through...


>     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 

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