Re: Common house design, rooms, and room sizes?
From: R Philip Dowds (rpdowdscomcast.net)
Date: Wed, 4 Feb 2015 05:04:56 -0800 (PST)
See below.

> On Feb 4, 2015, at 7:35 AM, Douglas McCarroll <list.cohousing-l.001 [at] 
> brightworks.com> wrote:
> 
> 
> Hi All,
> 
> We (http://villagehillcohousing.org) are in the process of refining our
> common house design, trying to find the right balance between usability and
> affordability. On the one hand we'd like to have a common house that meets
> all of our community's needs. On the other hand we need to conserve
> expenses wherever we can in order to make our community affordable to a
> diverse group of people.
> 
> Your input would be helpful on the questions below. This is a rather long
> list. Please don't feel that you need to answer all these questions -
> instead we suggest that you use your judgment as to which to answer, taking
> into account a) how much time you have available, and b) what info you
> think might be most helpful to our group and other groups who are in the
> process of planning a common house.
> 
> Thanks!
> 
> Your friends at the currently a'bornin' Village Hill Cohousing  :)
> 
> 
> How many households do you have in your community?
32
> 
> 
> Does your common house have a dedicated "kids room" for younger children?
Yes.  It’s readily visible from other important spaces, so parents feel that it 
can be OK to leave kids in by themselves — at least, some kids, some times.
> 
> If so, how large is it?
About 220 sq ft; we may considering how to enlarge it.
> 
> Do you wish it was larger? Feel it could have been smaller? Is it just
> about right?
See above.
> 
> What works well (or not) to make this room attractive to kids?
Better answered by the parents (not me).
> 
> Other comments?
> 
> 
> Does your common house have a "noisy activities" room (for ping pong or
> similar activities)?
Not really.  We had a tight site and a tight budget, so a large “rumpus room” 
did not make it into the plan.  We’d like to have a ping pong table, but don’t 
have a good place to put it.
> 
> If so, how large is it?
> 
> Do you wish it was larger? Feel it could have been smaller? Is it just
> about right?
Right now, our common dining room is also our all-purpose room.  We are pushing 
tables and chairs back and forth with considerable regularity (which, of 
course, is hard on the wood floors).
> 
> What is it used for?
> 
> How much is it used?
> 
> Other comments?
> 
> 
> Does your common house have a dedicated "teens room", or a room where teens
> tend to congregate?
We did, once.  No self-respecting teen would go near it.
> 
> Is this the "noisy activities" room? (If so, you can skip the next four
> questions.)
> 
> If so, how large is it?
> 
> Do you wish it was larger? Feel it could have been smaller? Is it just
> about right?
> 
> What is it used for?
> 
> How much is it used?
> 
> What works well (or not) to make this room attractive to teens?
> 
> Other comments?
> 
> 
> Does your common house have one or more guest rooms?
> 
> If so, how many, and how large are they?
One small guest room.  Seems adequate for our needs, most of the time.  But 
keep in mind that many or most of our households have “over-bought” housing, in 
the sense that they have a “spare” bedroom for visitors.  If your community 
wants to commit to “small” dwelling units with few “spare” bedrooms, then two 
or three guest rooms would be a better choice.
> 
> Do you wish you had more guest rooms? Feel that you could have made do with
> fewer?
> 
> Do you wish that it/they were larger? Feel that they could have been
> smaller? Are they just about right?
> 
> How often are guest rooms used? If your registration log exists in some
> easy-to-access electronic form, might you be willing to share it? (My email
> is douglascoho <at> brightworks.com.) If not, a rough "percentage of nights
> occupied" figure would be helpful.
Guest room is occupied several times a month, on some occasions for a week at a 
time.  Scheduling and reservations are handled (and handled well) by a single 
volunteer.
> 
> Other comments?
> 
> 
> Does your common house have a "living room", i.e. a quiet room with couches
> etc. suitable for small groups?
Yes, we just invested in renovating one, and splurged on an HDTV flat screen, 
plus comfortable couches and folding meeting tables.  It is now the most 
popular room at Cornerstone.
> 
> If so, how large is it?
About 400 sq ft.
> 
> Do you wish it was larger? Feel it could have been smaller? Is it just
> about right?
Just about right.
> 
> Other comments?
> 
> 
> Does your common house have an exercise room (with a treadmill etc.)?
Yes, and we are considering enhancing it — which may involve some swapping 
around with other spaces and uses.  But this is a little controversial, since 
we’re located in Cambridge, MA, and have several options for membership health 
clubs within a short walk.  (Nobody drives to the health club, Right?)
> 
> If so, how large is it?
> 
> Do you wish it was larger? Feel it could have been smaller? Is it just
> about right?
> 
> Other comments?
> 
> 
> Finally, do you have any thoughts that you'd like to offer regarding what
> changes you might make to your common house if you were able to go back and
> redesign it?
My most important advice would be:  You will get only one shot at this, so aim 
well.  And high.  Eliminating the options that seem “too expensive” today may 
be considered serious mistakes in the future, when the pain of paying for the 
common house is long superseded by the annoyances of a common house that 
doesn’t work for you.  In general, our regrets in life are more about the sins 
of omission than the sins of commission.

R Philip Dowds
175 Harvey Street, Unit 5
Cambridge, MA 02140

land:     617.354.6094
mobile: 617.460.4549
email:   rpdowds [at] comcast.net
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