Re: question about getting ready for common house design
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2006 11:19:12 -0700 (PDT)
Go visit at least 3 or 4 other cohousing groups common houses, take lots of
pictures. Whenever possible design spaces that can be multiple use rather
than a single use, for your needs will probably evolve over time with use
and so a library might turn into an office, then into an extra guest space
and then into a daycare place. Be generous with outlets and phone jacks. Get
professional advise on lighting placement.  Be careful about  building
special spaces for activities that only a couple of members do, like pottery
because when those members move out your dedicated space is then not useful
anymore.  I recall a group that built a bike shop in order to try and keep a
potential member, who left the group before move in anyway. It became a
rather expensive dead storage space.  Also, think modularly if finances are
an issue, sometimes you can design a building to be built in phases if you
plan it right, so the first phase of kitchen and dining hall, can later be
painlessly remodeled to add other spaces. Get professional advice and
opinions about materials for floors, acoustics, and energy systems. Avoid
large group meetings to make decisions about technical issues like where the
fuse box goes and let the architect's) do their job. Cut through the
impossible to permit and finance alternative building fantasy crap early to
save yourself lots of painful unproductive meetings unless this is clearly
your groups mission, too often a small handful of members with lots of lofty
notions and no practical experience can hijack design discussions with ideas
that have no basis in ever becoming reality (like complete energy
independence with a $700,000 solar panel roof). Get a professional with
cohousing design experience to help your kitchen design, it will save you
huge amounts of time and money and arguments.  And finally, be willing to
let go of your notions of perfection, it will make you happier with the
process, and the end result.

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood resident 15 years, 357 days.
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School
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