|building codes, zoning, affordable housing, etc.||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Kristen Simmons (simmonskristengmail.com)|
|Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 11:51:30 -0700 (PDT)|
I wasn't going to get involved on this discussion, but I can't seem stop myself! Building codes, elevators and other things: As an architect, I highly recommend that all developing cohousing groups consult with a licensed architect for their common house design. Your architect is familiar with the appropriate building codes in your jurisdiction. Building codes are determined by each state and are sometimes amended by municipalities. They also change over the time. To further complicate things, applicable codes sometimes overlap and contradict each other, and they are subject to different interpretations by the local inspector and fire marshal. This stuff isn't easy (or much fun). If you feel uncomfortable with your architect's code interpretation, you can hire a code consultant, whose specialty is code interpretation! By the way, building codes are designed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of building occupants. Something that might be ok for a single family home may not be ok (or code compliant) for a common house which is used by many different people, i.e. the guests who visit for the weekend who are unfamiliar with the building. Accessibility codes address the needs of any user with special and different needs, not just wheel chair users. A critical component is the accessible means of egress (in case of fire), which an elevator might be a part of. Modern building codes, by the way, were create in response to tragic (and preventable) building disasters. such as the Cocoanut Grove fire in which 492 people died. Affordable housing: Here in Boston, we don't use this term lightly. There is a legal definition and city requirements for affordable units to be a part of any development. Stony Brook Cohousing, which is now forming, will have units that meet the city requirements. We also hope to have low cost housing. Speaking for myself here, when I think of low cost housing, I think about the first cost of buying my home,and also the costs of using and maintaining it. The biggest cost to homeowners (after their mortgage) is utilities, including heating, water, electricity, etc. Designing low cost houses that are expensive to use or maintain is not a solution for people who have limited incomes. (By the way, mechanical systems that deliver heating, water, etc. total about 30-35% of the cost of a new house. Invisible things like mechanical systems, structure, sound proofing, etc. are frequently quite costly!) Locating housing far away from cities is another way to reduce housing costs, at the expense of potentially increasing transportation costs and environmental impact of transportation. Zoning: Whether zoning is good or bad is a discussion for another day. Certainly zoning can be used to exclude somethings which maybe shouldn't be excluded. On the other hand, home values (and safety) are maintained when zoning prevents hazardous uses from locating in residential areas, for example. The best way to avoid both building codes and zoning is to move to the sticks. Zoning can always be appealed and frequently is. Many projects, including cohousing developments, require variances. This is just one of the costs of doing development. Conclusion: Have been in the building profession a while, I amazed that anything ever gets built. Ever. The complexity of everything and the sheer number of people involved, including architect, owners, financiers, contractors, laborers, etc. is beyond belief, even for simple projects. Cohousing groups take this on, while also making their goal of community a reality. It takes a lot of faith. Or a lot of ignorance. :-D One of the reasons that I didn't want to get involved in this discussion was because some posters seemed to be judging others on the list. Maybe that was not the intention of the posters. But it did make me want to stay away. This is very different from my experiences with built cohousing communitieis. I have visited a number of cohousing communities and talked to members of many others. I invariably struck by the thoughtful, caring people I have met. Regards, Kristen Stony Brook Cohousing., now forming in Boston, MA www.stonybrookcohousing.org
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