Common house-temperature
From: Laura Fitch (
Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2008 11:30:30 -0800 (PST)
Why not use a programmable thermostat and raise the temperature during
typical use times (3-8 pm)?

Laura Fitch, AIA, LEED
Kraus-Fitch Architects, Inc
110 Pulpit Hill Rd.
Amherst, MA  01002
lfitch [at]

-----Original Message-----
From: Kay Argyle [mailto:kay.argyle [at]]
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 6:43 PM
To: 'Cohousing-L'
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Urban cohousing: Common house on roof?

Some of our residents argue for keeping the common house at 72F to encourage
use.  They haven't been able to persuade the rest of the community, since
others don't think the temperature is the problem.  It would be nice,
nonetheless, if we could say, "We'll try it this winter and see what
happens," without busting the budget (looking at a 10 pct assessment
increase this year, as it is ...).

Check into ways of heating/cooling individual rooms when in use: a ceiling
fan, an electric baseboard heater, a furnace-rated gas fireplace, zoned
heating with a separate thermostat (programmable, with an override, so it
resets itself afterwards), or a through-the-wall high-efficiency room air

Even if construction budget constraints mean you can't afford to install
such things to start with, wire for them.  If you don't do it during
construction, it means, at best, that the wiring will cost several times as
much later; you may find (as we have) that it's nearly impossible later. The
electric window openers, including wiring, were cut from the plans when the
group was trying to qualify for a construction loan.  Opening and closing
the clerestory windows is such a struggle that it's a twice-a-year job, not
twice-a-day as the architect intended - meaning the common house's
passive-solar heat-chimney design is a liability instead of an asset.

The mailroom entry is an airlock, which leads into a coatroom. Excellent
design for reducing heat exchange - unfortunately, it's on the less-used
street side of the building. On the side facing the homes, French doors open
directly into the dining room. It took about a week of winter weather for
the community to decide to leave them bolted. Five months of the year,
anyone sitting by the fireplace near the side door alternately roasts and
freezes as people go in or out, but that's an improvement over half the air
in the building exchanging.

For events, some hosts deliberately push a table across the double doors, so
guests will stop and look for another way in, instead of forlornly rattling
the handle until someone inside notices and motions to the door further
along the porch.

The windows, although high-E, were installed wrong, so periodically a pane
of glass slips down in the frame, and the wind whistles through the gap
until we can get it repaired.

Throw in a high clerestory and a mezzanine, and you can forget keeping the
dining room comfortable without contributing heavily to global warming. We
can't close the sitting room off from the dining room; thus the sitting room
is also cold.  Resist efforts by your architect to design cathedral ceilings
or an open floor plan (and hope you have a good building inspector!).

Wasatch Commons
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