Re: Fwd: Why buildings should be dumb boxes
From: Philip Dowds (
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2018 02:55:29 -0700 (PDT)
> On Aug 25, 2018, at 2:32 PM, Sharon Villines via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:
> On Aug 25, 2018, at 1:57 PM, Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds [at]> wrote:
>> One of many things I was told, as a first year architecture student, was 
>> that “Corners are expensive.”  I was not told, however, that corners are bad 
>> because they cost money.  Rather, the point was resources are finite, and 
>> need to be deployed wisely.
> But many cohousers are working with architects and contractors have not told 
> communities that they can make their projects less expensive by reducing the 
> number of corners. While the central point is that "resources are finite, and 
> need to be deployed wisely”, people need to know what things cost in order 
> deploy wisely. I am certainly not an architect, but I’ve worked on a fair 
> number of planning committees for various types of buildings and never been 
> told that corners are expensive.

It’s true that some designs are what I would call “over-articulated”, and what 
others might describe as having “too many corners”:  Designs where every room 
in the building is expressed by two or more exterior corners; and indoors, 
every piece of furniture, and each distinct activity, is received and 
celebrated by its own alcove.  I encounter these things from time to time, and 
usually want to the find the architects and tell them, “Stop designing!”

However, for residential clients struggling with a budget, I would not start my 
advice by telling them to cut corners.  Or to go for cheap materials.  Instead, 
I would emphasize other strategies, like standardizing the floor plans (e.g., 
make do with one or two types of 2-bedroom layouts, rather than five or seven), 
and multi-family buildings (which often can obtain considerable efficiencies in 
the envelope and HVAC).  Interestingly, cohousing offers embedded opportunities 
for one of life’s best money-saving strategies, which is … sharing.  When 
everyone agrees to time-share specialized amenities like a guest room or crafts 
room, then many households find they need not invest in a comparable privatized 
version within their own dwellings.


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