Designing and Specifying CH Kitchens
From: Joani Blank (
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 2005 17:59:14 -0700 (PDT)
Interesting to read Chris's and Katie's differing ideas about Common House kitchen and appliance specs. And here's what an amateur cohousing enthusiast who has visited 52 completed communities, and eaten common dinners in about eight has to say about stoves and dishwashers.

Stoves: I saw for the first time last week (at the brand new Jamaica Plain Cohousing) a common kitchen with two regular residential stoves side by side each with its own regular hood. That seems like a good alternative.

Dishwashers: Unless you regularly have more than 60 diners at common meals, I'd vote for two high end (quiet and stainless steel lined, but not fast, i.e., Braun, Miele) dishwashers. Advantages over a commercial dishwasher ahead:

It takes a lot less time to "do the dishes." Diners or whoever clears the tables puts dishes into the dishwashers as they come into the kitchen. (The beautifully designed Miele will hold 30 place settings if you don't have deep bowls or very large diameter glasses). The dishwashers are whisper quiet so if you need to start them while people are still hanging out in the dining room they won't even realize the dishwashers are running. Or you can wait until every last dish is in them, and start them later, even as you are leaving the kitchen after the rest of the clean-up. Next common meal you set the tables right out of the dishwashers, and altogether skip the extra step of stacking them on shelves.

With a commercial dishwasher, however, the people doing cleanup are filling and emptying/shelving one rack of dishes at a time, lifting the racks into and out of the dishwasher (also one at a time) and stacking the dishes (which can occasionally require drying) on the shelves or in cabinets. The racks can be very heavy when full and with the under-counter dishwasher, racks need to be lifted up and down--quite risky to persons with back problems which many of us have these days. There's a lot of steam produced, and though the washing cycle a is indeed very quick (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes), it might have to be run 10 or 12 times or more, and it is quite loud. I've asked in communities that use commercial dishwashers how much total time and human power it takes to do the dishes, and the lowest number I've heard is two people for 20 minutes, ranging up to 40 minutes.

In meal systems like ours, the same team does the entire meal from menu planning through cleanup, and adding 20 minutes of "hard labor" for one or two people dealing with a commercial dishwasher would not make our cooking teams very happy.

In case there is some overflow beyond the capacity of two dishwashers, additional dishes can be rinsed and stacked neatly as they come into the kitchen, and one person can return to the kitchen when the long cycle--an hour or more--is finished, empty and reload one dishwasher, start it and leave the kitchen, which shouldn't take more than 5 or 6 minutes. Alternatively, if there are a dozen place settings that don't fit into the two dishwashers there's no law against washing and drying them the old fashioned way, although if people in your community are especially concerned about germs, there might be objections to this.

One more thing. If you do get two residential dishwashers, do not hook them up adjacent to the same sink--If they are running at the same time the disposer/drain should not be asked to handle two. If you only have one sink/drain to work with just be sure that you don't run both dishwashers at the same time. (Yes, someone would have to come back into the kitchen after an hour and push the Start button on number 2.)

Joani Blank
who initially tried to convince her community to go with a commercial dishwasher.......they said no mostly because of the risk of back injury from lifting those heavy trays.....

Swan's Market Cohousing
Oakland, CA

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