Re: Designing common house
From: Lynn Nadeau / Maraiah (
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2013 10:33:04 -0800 (PST)
Some bottom line thoughts from a long-built community, on common house design:

Multi-purpose: your kid room may end up an art room or a TV room, as population and interests shift. Choose basic features to be of general use: cupboards, shelves, etc.

Low-maintenance: Magic elves will not maintain it. Someone will need to do the cleaning, laundry, repairs, replacement of parts, dealing with lights, heat, electronics, carpentry, plumbing. Keep that in mind and prefer simple to complex. Consider a shoes-off policy, with benches and slippers in the entry hall. Use lots of dirt-catching matting around entry ways. Before you decide to have any dedicated area (library, exercise, guest, office, teen, workshop) be clear who will be responsible for it over time. Choose long-term quality materials as much as possible.

Document everything: Start an extensive notebook or other record of What We Did When. Brands, paint colors, product descriptions, fabric names, how long the roof is supposed to last and what it cost; who installed something, who is recommended to maintain it, what construction leftovers (tiles, shingles, etc) are stored where. Also file in an orderly way all the warranties, instruction books, manuals for appliances and equipment. Take photos of the insides of walls, during construction, with labels posted (kitchen south wall), showing where you have pipes, wires, etc.
You will be very glad ten or twenty years from now.

Storage: you'll want places for cleaning supplies, extra tables and chairs, holiday decorations, hand tools, tea bags, candles, summer furniture, outdoor games, backstock of toilet paper, and much more. Make a list of what all may need storing and keep adding to it. Include a lockable storage area for anything you might want more secure: a projector? archival files?

Budget a line for environmental upgrades: most eco options cost more and often get eliminated item by item. A line item money amount to spend for this gives you a guarantee that you will put at least that much into environmentally more virtuous choices.

Social connection: use interior windows and pass-throughs to visually connect what's going on in different areas.

Gatekeep the Stuff: Don't just let people drop off their donations. Have a team to contact before donating furniture, dishes, books, videos, tools. Document what's donated vs loaned. It's easy to get swamped in cast offs.

Universal access: follow regulations and also make choices of faucets, door handles, etc that accomodate differing physical abilities.

Reserves: At some point you'll need to document what you have that will eventually need replacement, from the dishwasher to the roof. You might as well start making notes from the beginning: it's harder 10 years later.

Hope this helps,
Maraiah Lynn Nadeau
RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA

On Feb 13, 2013, at 8:17 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:

Specifically, I'm thinking about guest rooms, laundry, bike storage, workshops, large meeting room, small meeting room(s), lockers, pigeon holes for post, therapy rooms, teenage space, office space, outside party space...

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