Re: Is the Common House a Public Building?
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 11:42:31 -0800 (PST)
Washington State here. RoseWind's CH had to be coded as public, as the 
only categories are residence vs not-residence. We were, however, classed 
in the simplest of many categories, same as a church parish hall or a 
club house. While less restrictive than the rules for, say, movie 
theaters or restaurants, this classification did bring with it many 
requirements beyond those for residential construction. We were able to 
negotiate some of them. 

The key to negotiating is understanding the rules, and reading the 
relevant (Universal Building Code) UBC stuff in searching detail. 

Some rules you want to follow anyway, like ADA accessibility. And there 
too, there are standard bathrooms that handily meet all the requirements, 
but you can also take the specs and work something out yourself, as long 
as you have the required dimensions for wheelchair turning, etc. 

They wanted us to have FOUR bathrooms, for our 2700 sq ft CH. This made 
no sense, but objecting on those grounds got us nowhere. However, we 
found that there were formulas for determining relevant square footage 
(ie halls count as less than dining rooms) and what we named a space, 
mattered. We are very much in the public eye, so could not do as one CH I 
know of did, and pretend the kid room was a "meditation room" etc. But it 
was as simple as whether we called it a recreation room or an exercise 
room. Choosing one name over the other got us down to a practical two 

We also managed to get them to back off (saving money), on specs that 
would have made our floors sturdy enough for elephant-training classes. 

The planning and building department wants to do things the quick and 
easy way. And if you are using an architect, their time is costly. So 
have a couple people get a copy of the UBC, or photocopy all the relevant 
parts, and do your homework. Kind of like dealing with the welfare 
labyrinth. They have to go by the book, but if you know the book, and 
comply with a regulation, they can say yes. If you study up, you may be 
able to get some more common-sense results, as we did.

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature) (very active peace movement here- see our 

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