Re: Building and Grounds Question
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2019 11:03:50 -0700 (PDT)
> On Aug 20, 2019, at 12:13 AM, Chris Terbrueggen <christopher402 [at] 
>> wrote:

> I am referring to how you manage the
> building and surrounding grounds of your community.  Is there a
> separation between outside contracts, major building operations compared to
> work that your members complete like landscaping and cleaning?

We don’t have many written documents outside of proposals to spend large 
amounts—solar panels, replacing decks, etc.

The Facilities Team handles big and small jobs but we also have CH cleaning 
pod, maintenance pod, landscaping pod, etc. Also a CH furnishings pod. Anything 
other than small maintenance would go to FT. We would form a working group for 
a special project like renovating the kitchen, increasing green features, 
installing solar panels, etc. Anyone interested can join those groups.

We used to have the Admin Team handle big contracts but it didn’t work well 
since facilities supervised actual work and knew when companies needed to be 
changed and why. Handing off tasks at the contract inevitably required double 
review and caused communications problems. Admin still signs off on all 
contracts to be sure they include all the right clauses about liability, 
payment. time periods, etc., but they don’t negotiate them.

Personally, I think a division that is possible is Buildings, Grounds, CH 
Interior, and Community. The Facilities Team is so overloaded that small jobs 
are not a priority. Having separate Grounds Team and CH Interiors Team would 
leave Facilities with major repairs and replacements on the infrastructure. Our 
sprinkler heads were just recalled which meant replacing all of them. Small 
units have 6-7 and large units have 20. It was hundreds of sprinkler heads and 
a lot of work to get bids and access to all the units. Then some were leaking 
and they had to come back out. Then when brought up to speed again, the 
sprinkler system wouldn’t hold pressure above 90 so we had to tear a ceiling 
out to find the leak. When they come to fix it the leak, the sprinkler system 
will be off for at least 48 hours. Fire Marshall says we have to have hourly 
walk arounds to check for fire and smoke.

That wipes out time and brain space for things like filling in all the places 
next to sidewalks where the land has settled and putting in a fan in one 
hallway where the heat is oppressive. Those float to the bottom of the to-do 

We are now at 20 years which means major work is due. The Team has spent months 
of making decisions, getting assessments of conditions, and getting bids. A 
small project like the platform outside an exit door to improve safety just 
doesn’t get done. 

In a sociocratic structure, the task areas would be divided between circles and 
then there would be a facilities general circle of 2 people from each 
sub-circle where the coordination happens. Theoretically that maintains 

>  Is there a
> separation between outside contracts, major building operations compared to
> work that your members complete like landscaping and cleaning?

This sentence doesn’t acknowledge that even outside contracts require a lot of 
time by members. Consultations, bids, oversight. etc. are full time jobs and 
members have to do that. Someone doesn’t show up, where are they? We said blue 
and they are installing black. The waterproofing behind a garden bed next to a 
building ins ’t being done right—call the manager. We have a management company 
but they don’t do that kind of onsite stuff — or charge $100+ an hour if they 
do. We do all the landscaping and cleaning unless it is a big job that needs 
special equipment like leveling the ground.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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