Re: Designing common house
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:59:53 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 13, 2013, at 1:32 PM, Lynn Nadeau / Maraiah <welcome [at]> 

> 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.

In addition, I would recommend asking a maintenance person at a local condo or 
large community center to look at your designs. They know what is easy to 
maintain and what isn't. Many architects don't even think of this. 

A horror story from a list on theater restoration. The theater had always had 
lights in the ceiling, hundreds of small lights. When the architectural firm 
did the restoration, they discovered that the lights could no longer be changed 
from the attic. They had to use very tall ladders to change them. The architect 
never considered how the lights would be change or why the attic was designed 
the way it was.

We have a similar problem with lights that can't be changed or cleaned without 
a major production.

> 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.

Excellent idea. Hard to remind yourself to keep this up but it will save you 
time and money. Look amongst your members and see if you can find a detail 
person who will take on this whole task rather than expecting each team or each 
project leader to do it. They won't. Some people love to do this but they are 
likely to get discouraged if the records are partial. Better to just let them 
do it. And thank your lucky stars you have such a person.

> 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?

Another excellent idea. From time to time people ask why do we need storage in 
the CH. This is the list!

I would add that the shelves for cleaning materials need to be shallow so the 
bottles are not 2-3 levels deep. You will want everyone to help with cleaning, 
particularly when they spill something in the TV room, and they need to be able 
to find things easily. They won't be as familiar with supplies as the regulars 
are and will just walk away or do a halfway job if they can't find things.

> 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.

Definitely. Have a donations policy. Having consumables donated is not as large 
a problem -- like paper plates, etc. -- but people will plop things down in the 
middle of the room or even hang them on the wall. The kids room gets filled up 
very fast.

When we moved in, we had lots of donations. We put them out and put a small 
ballot on them with a column for checkmarks and one for X's meaning no. If an 
item had several X's it was rejected. If it had only one or two the person in 
charge of donations found the people and worked out their objections. Often 
this could be done by putting the item in a less obvious place or explaining 
that a poster was not a political statement.

> 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.

Also an excellent idea. And one that can help you. We've had detailed reserve 
studies and "limited" reserve studies. You want a detailed study that will help 
you accurately calculate costs. If you have a list it will be much easier. Our 
detailed studies have included a maintenance study. These studies help you not 
only estimate savings but tell you when things need to be done AND how much it 
will cost. You can use the estimates of cost to determine if the bids you get 
are in line with what your expert determines it should cost.

This is such a good question. More communities would benefit from asking 
questions like this.
Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.