Re: Questions on setting up a Design Team
From: Ted Chesky (
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 09:10:07 -0700 (MST)
Hi Debbie,
This is a description Great Oak Cohousing in Ann Arbor MI put together 2 years 
ago when we formed our Design committee. Hope it's helpful,
Ted Chesky

Design Committee Proposal
What They Will Do
This committee will serve as the conduit for communicating design issues within 
the community, and between the community and developers. The committee will 
also track design decisions and monitor their execution. 

How We Will Form It and Who Will Be On It
The membership of Design will be those who volunteer to serve. If a large 
number of people want to serve on Design, they may choose to form subgroups 
around interest areas (alternative energy, pool, etc). No fixed terms have yet 
been established for committee members. It is important that there be 
continuity in the design committee so that its institutional memory is retained 
and we maintain a smooth working relationship with the development team. 
Although the Management Agreement suggests that the Design Committee will 
evolve into the Construction Committee, we may opt to organize Construction 
differently, since that committee could require very different skills and will 
by necessity have greater decision-making authority.

Job Description
* Review and research design issues identified by the developers or community 
* Analyze and present the pros and cons of given ideas so that the community 
can make informed decisions efficiently.  
* Help the community organize and prioritize design decisions.
* Review project drawings and specifications provided by the development team 
and convey their recommendations on design/construction issues to the community.
* Keep detailed log of design decisions (e.g., we want bike sheds) and make 
sure that these decisions remain in the designs as development continues.
* As planning progresses, representatives may be designated by the committee to 
handle design/construction issues related to specific buildings or unit types.
* The design committee is not a decision-making body. Ideas originating within 
the design committee will be researched and presented to the community for 
review and approval in the same manner as other ideas. 
* Execute the will of the group by communicating its decisions to the 
Developers via the Steering Committee.
Our Expectations for Behavior
The most important piece is that when you serve on this committee, you are a 
servant of the group, working to accurately communicate its desires to the 
architects and developers, with an attitude of being helpful, open, and 

Pros and Cons

Could appear to be a center of power (in a negative sense), particularly if 
community feels its decisions are ignored or distorted in transmission to 

Members of the committee will likely be those who are most interested and 
knowledgeable about design issues. They may have a lot of design ideas of their 
own. Members of this group will have a close working relationship with the 
developers and must be careful to focus on executing the desires of the group 
rather than promoting any personal agenda.

Situations may arise where the will of the group regarding a certain topic is 
uncertain. Members must take great care that their biases not lead them to 
assume a degree of certainty that is not in fact present. By doing so the 
committee could, in effect, end up making decisions that are not properly 
theirs to make. Again, the Design committee is not a decision-making body. 

The Committee should not become so focused on the agenda of the group that they 
become insensitive to the needs of the development group and/or the constraints 
under which they work. 

Committee will serve as the group's 'institutional memory,' ensuring that 
decisions are not accidentally lost in the shuffle or distorted in some way.

Members can evaluate and organize information about their specific 
interests/expertise (e.g. solar power) and bring it to the attention of the 
full community.

Committee can make community design decisions more efficient by filtering out 
ideas that are impractical due to cost, building codes or other reasons.

Developers will be able to consult with a single person or small group 
regarding the community's wishes and can thus obtain quicker feedback.

Ted Chesky
Chief Pilot and Creative Director

ted [at]
734.944.8735 fax

135 East Bennett, Suite 12
Saline, MI  48176
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