Re: Shared Walls or Single Family Houses?
From: Mac Thomson (
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:08:17 -0800 (PST)
Joani listed many advantages of shared walls, that I would agree with, but my recollection is that the construction cost of shared walls and exterior walls was actually about the same for us. That's because of the extra sound proofing and fire prevention work necessary for shared walls. This is something you could check with a local builder experienced in both wall constructions.

We built both duplexes and detached homes here at Heartwood and both custom homes (development corp (us) sold ready to build lot to member) and production homes (development corp sold completed home and lot to member). I'll list what I consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

   - saves space
   - long term energy savings

- generally less appealing to buyers (While we recognized that the space savings of building duplexes for the community was good, when folks actually picked their own lots, we needed to give a $12K discount for duplex lots for enough people to pick them so that our demand matched our supply of duplexes and singles.) - impossible to get passive solar (south windows) if shared wall is running east/west - nearly impossible to build shared wall custom homes (We had a number of folks who wanted to build custom homes and get the $12K shared wall discount so we made that an option. It was a mistake, IMHO. The two families in each duplex thought more of building their own custom home and then attaching it to the neighbor's home rather than one building with 2 homes under one roof. We ended up having to let them build very close together detached homes instead.) - noise between units (We built very good sound proof shared walls which work fine for units occupied by adults, but for families with kids, the kids' noise gets through the shared wall.)

   - freedom of window placement
   - more market appeal

   - uses more space
   - less energy efficient

   - freedom of design and construction
   - allows for members to build their own home

- more expensive (Our custom homes averaged about 50% more per square foot than our production homes.) - construction can drag on for years (In our case, we made it a goal to have all home construction completed within 2 years. As it turned out, the production homes were done in one year and the custom homes in 7 years.)

   - much less work making decisions about design and construction
   - much less expensive

   - limited design choices

Having the design and production choices of building a custom home is a 2 edged sword. You can do whatever you want, but it's a helluva a lot of work to research and sift through all the options and then manage the construction. Our production home buyers chose from a limited menu of choices with no customization possible -- except flooring and lighting, where folks could do whatever they wanted. This was pretty rigid, but folks still had plenty of choices and it saved us tons of money. As it turns out, the production homes are all now painted, furnished, and decorated so differently that there is plenty of individuality. The big advantage, IMO, of all the custom homes we have here is that we have some really amazing natural built strawbale, straw-clay, and pumice-crete homes.



Mac Thomson

Heartwood Cohousing
Southwest Colorado

"In all things of Nature there is something of the marvelous."
         - Aristotle

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