Question: If you did it all over would you scale up or down?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2021 20:43:04 -0700 (PDT)
I’m reading the Missing Middle Housing that examines the lack of duplexes, 
triplexes, four-plexes, mansion condos, etc. The kind of housing that was built 
before WW 2 and has disappeared. The author emphasizes the human scale of these 
houses compared to the current size of detached single household houses. He has 
some interesting discussions of cottage communities — 6-8 cottages facing 
across a small green — and Pocket Neighborhoods that function very much like 
cohousing. The outdoor area is a common area, have small common houses, 
neighbors intend to be a community.

As I read his descriptions of the impact these buildings could have on the 
housing market for those with less than 60% of the median income, I also a 
realized that they look so manageable. They are house sized, not apartment 
building size. 

We are at 20 years after move-in so we are facing some routine but major 
maintenance. We have 43 units in one U shaped building. 2-4 stories. Sprinkler 
head replacements (caused by a recall), the replacement of decks and balconies, 
major drainage corrections on the great lawn which has settled, replacing 
sidewalks with permeable pavers, etc.

Taking these on is a major task. It is advisable in most instances to hire a 
consulting engineer to evaluate conditions and direct us to a company large 
enough to handle a project this size. It takes the Facilities Team months of 
consulting with this and that person until we find the right one, then months 
of negotiating contracts, months of inevitable delays because the moon is in 
Mars, weeks of running interference while the work is being done, and then 
inspections and punch lists.

The conventional wisdom is that one building with 43 units costs less to build 
and requires less maintenance than 10 buildings with 4 units.  I’m wondering if 
this is really true when you look at the greater complexity of pipes, 
elevators, balconies on the 3rd floor, and using contractors that do large 
buildings. Suddenly it seems like we have a huge, complex building that few 
understand. It’s a constant learning curve for us.

Individual buildings in a variety of sizes are unlikely to need the same 
maintenance at the same time and the systems would seem to be human scale — 
like a handy person could fix them.There are many much smaller companies that 
work on smaller buildings. 

How are you feeling about what you built? Would you rather have more integrated 
structures or more variation and simpler systems?

Be sure to tell us what you have when you say yes or no.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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