Re: list of "waypoints" DESIGN comes first.
From: Lion Kuntz (
Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 22:44:07 -0700 (PDT)
--- Robert Moskowitz wrote:

> I'm trying to put together in my mind, if not on paper, a list of 
> "waypoints" that we will/should encounter in moving from a group of 
> people who have expressed an interest in cohousing to a group of
> people 
> actually living in cohousing. My idea is that we can aim for these 
> waypoints and we can also ask for increasing levels of commitment as
> we 
> approach and pass them.
> Some of the waypoints I imagine include:
> Opt In
> Verification of Financial Capability
> Acquisition of Property
> Design
> Hiring of contractor
> Construction
> Move in
> If anyone can help me identify more, and/or put them in the best
> order, 
> I'd be very grateful.

Three years ago I addressed an online e-conference of 600 subscribers
following an international ECOCITY meeting and told them they had the
order wrong. Essentially the order you have written is the same one
that individuals use to build their dream house (minus the "opt in"
step) and about the same as used by developers building a spec
development project of hundreds of houses (with the "opt in" moved to
between construction and move in). There is no important difference if
the end result is co-housing or typical urban/suburban anarchy

The thing I told them then, and I tell you now, is design preceeds all
things. There are some subjects that people don't get to vote on.
Gravity is not subject to concensus opinions and determines 50% or more
of construction expense dealing with it. Climate is not subject to
consensus, but it determines your energy costs for the lifetime of
occupancy, and can easily be treble the construction costs over 30
years. In short, the home-occupant is usually not equipped to make the
rational decisions about design that need to be made.

R. Buckminster Fuller wrote a dozen books and travelled the globe
hundreds of times lecturing that design comes first above all other
priorities. Nobody got it then, and you still are not getting that.
Even if you were Bill Gates, if you wanted to build your house out of
cottage cheese and could afford to do so, it wouldn't work in the long
run, and not even in the short run with this extreme example.

With rational design the cost is no higher than it needs to be, and
probably far less than you expect to pay. That in turn affects
financial capability, land acquisition and building costs. Those who
wouldn't opt in to rational design would have otherwise dragged you
more towards cottage cheese housing than you would have been happy with
in the long run, and you would be better off losing those people at the
start. Opt in means opt into a design of both physical and metaphysical
community. It means the housing is not an insignificant leftover to the
"co" in co-housing, nor vice versa.

With design paramount, that means that acquisition of property has some
initial parameters, and it reciprocally means that the architecture
must be flexible enough to accomodate a property of chance purchase
opportunity or pre-ownership by a particpant. That means in turn that
design is a set of guidlines instead of a set of blueprints, at least
at this stage.

Here one may need to educate themselves a bit with a stack of books
from the public library, or building a stack of books for the group's
own library. At the least you should expect to go through $1,000 retail
value of books (whether library borrowed, or bought) which have things
to say about design. A series of "salons", small gatherings, pot-luck
dinner parties, or get-togethers to discuss these books can bring
prospectives up to speed about what design elements are indispensible.

The 20th century is a series of housing tragedies. In part the human
community failure of 20th century housing has spawned a co-housing
movement to repair some of the damages of 20th century thinking on the
housing subject. Unfortunately, so much else is wrong with 20th century
lifestyles embodied in the housing, that co-housing is a bandaid on a
hemorrhage. One critic I read recently called it middle-class gated
community racist enclaves, which senses a financial screening process
going on under the surface. I don't agree with that critic, but there
are subliminal financial screening processes at work which are embedded
in 20th century failed designs.

One writer in this group this day posted that there are $25,000,000 net
worth in their community of 43 households.  Do the math: $581,395.35
each. How many $40K/year teachers can afford to live there? $290 per
square foot if the homes have 2,000 sq.ft. per dwelling. Some condos
(and some co-housing is organized as condos) have higher monthly
association fees than people pay monthly rent for the same sized
housing in the same housing market area, and that's on top of the
purchase price.

Lack of planning at the design stage makes every subsequent stage cost
more. One writer to this group recently bragged that solar panels are
prohibited by their association rules, yet every $1 reduction in
utility bills is translated into $20 increase in resale value of the
home. Those rules design-in perpetual high utility bills and lower
resale values to boot.

Better to design-in rational energy policy and design-out people who
would saddle you with those kinds of rules. You will have more money in
your pocket from day one and more money in your pocket the day you sell

By the way, Solar Power can be a strong selling point. Here's a
building that gets a premium because it has a Gold LEED Energy
Efficiency Rating, and charges $2,475 for a studio to $$8,800 a month
rents. (About five and a half years paying rents equals the 
$581,395.35 equity in the above mentioned DC co-housing.)
The Solaire  (more info)   
  ""Rent Stabilized", "Full Service and Amenities, Environmentally
  City:   New York       Neighborhood:  Battery Park, Tribeca  
  Rent Range:   $2475-$8800 /mo  
  Unit Type:   Studio-3 Bed 1-3 Bath  
  Pets:   Cat OK, Dog OK
"... So far, the residential tower has about 80 prospective tenants on
a preliminary waiting list. It will offer market-rate rents, with
studio apartments expected to rent for about $2,400 a month and one
bedrooms starting at $3,000. ..."

Not that I am advocating SOLAIRE's building design. I use it as an
example of missed opportunities and flawed design logic.

Sometimes you need to walk through the disasters to learn what NOT to

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Sincerely, Lion Kuntz
Santa Rosa, California, USA
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