Noise [was universal]
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 07:48:34 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 22, 2008, at 9:54 AM, Catya Belfer-Shevett wrote:

Personally, I agree with you.  A friend and parent i respect very much
comes at this from the point of view of choosing NOT to restrict natural speech when possible. So, obviously there is room for disagreement on this.

This speech is like yelling. From 40 feet away, even a floor away in another hallway, it still sounds like yelling. Parents are more immune to it because they are their kids and they have learned to tune out the noise. I notice that I am less aware of noises from the kids with whom I have closer grandparent and grandparent-like relationships.

I do wish I had a decibel meter that would make a beeping noise, like those signs on the highway that measure your speed. I would set it at the level that damages hearing or the one required by DC code for noise in parks or the next yard. It would probably go off continually during meals and when parents gather to allow kids to play in the commonhouse while they cook meals in the community kitchen or just read the paper.

We have been trying to set community norms on "intergenerational" behavior for 2-3 years at least. It keeps getting bumped off the meeting agendas so we can't even discuss it as a full community. We have a perfectly good noise policy but it only applies to noises that invade your private unit -- which outside noise does. Some parents want outdoor noise, at any level, to be acceptable from 3:00-8:00 every day, regardless of other resident's ability to have their windows open or sit outside or listen to music or sleep.

I'm not criticizing my community when I say these things -- I think they are common to all communities in one way or another. I think telling these stories helps forming communities to plan ahead for potential conficts -- design better and establish expectations. And for older communities, I think these anecdotes make them feel they are not alone -- or lucky they have avoided these particular conflicts.

Our design includes an almost completely enclosed piazza with three- four levels of units facing it. The noise from ground level is amplified as it goes up. When 10 year olds are kicking a soccer ball against the brick wall around the fountain, most of us (I haven't taken an exact count) who live on the piazza, approx 21 units, cannot sit outside and talk without raising our voices, which gets uncomfortable for us.

We have the same situation with 3-6 year olds who are "finding their voices" and yell off and on for hours as they play. Or scream when they play tag or tease. Their play area is in the piazza and parents aren't comfortable with them playing on the green without closer supervision than the older kids need. As a former mother of small children, I often find myself unconsciously going out just to check that no one is hurt. You can't tell sometimes.

Indoors we not only have two story ceilings that remind kids of a gymnasium, but the cork floor I mentioned before is about 40 feet long in two directions -- side to side and back to front. It is about 4 feet wide and encourages running -- even racing and ball bouncing.

Not all the children yell or scream when playing, so yelling and screaming is not part of the definition of "child." And a few adults yell, they just have very loud voices. But I haven't heard any adults screaming lately.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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