Statistics on cohousing usage and square footage requirements
From: Janey Harper (
Date: Mon, 24 May 2021 14:28:37 -0700 (PDT)
Thanks Sharon, for all information you shared below.  


It has affirmed my modus operandi:  Plan for what you (think you) value and
people will "participate in" that valued activity and use that space.

Info about numbers of those participating regularly in meals, etc. very

Also affirmation of ensuring as much of the space as possible is flex space.




I agree with all the things Ann mentioned and the research of Rebecca
Disbrow, except for one thing ? we have not had the experience that renting
or allowing outside groups to use the CH has been felt as a good use of the
CH or that it adds value even if it does add income. We allow any group who
needs a space in an emergency, office retreats, occasional neighborhood
meetings particularly large ones, etc. So the CH isn?t ?off limits? or
strictly private but having a group there on a regular basis reduces the
spontaneous use of the common house, adds complexity to maintenance and
monitoring safety, and increases wear and tear. Members can reserve the
space anytime for their outside events but we ask that repeated events be
posted for objections. Having the living room used every Thursday night by
any group ?gets old.? But it feels rather rich to have a place that we can
offer for use. When a cohousing community is forming, they have always been
allowed to meet here.


> much the community kitchen/dining room/lounge area REALLY gets used in 

> cohousing communities.


This is an area where planning might lead reality ? if the community wants
the kitchen to be a center of activity then planning it that way will
eventually produce it. We didn?t have an active weekly meal for the first
few years, then we had 1, then 1 meal and a brunch. Use really took off when
people moved in who liked to cook and used the kitchen for baking on
Saturday morning and left cookies on the counter. And who wanted to cook for
more meals. The cooking gave them energy. 


So things change and can be changed.


> my goal is a K/DR/L space large enough to allow for the entire 

> community to be together in comfort for meals 3-4x a week, and for all 

> other whole community gatherings.  We're guessing a population of 

> 40-50.


Katie?s community has a very active meal program and says about 1/3 of the
community will appear at any one meal. And the more meals you have the fewer
that will be at any one meal. If you only have one a week, more than 1/3
might attend.


Our largest meals are celebrations or special dinners of one kind or another
? Chili Cook-off, Pesto Festo, Pi Day, etc.


We bought 50 chairs when we moved in and they are mostly used but we rarely
run out of chairs except at the largest meals maybe 1-2 times a year. People
spread out onto soft furniture with no tables. We average about 80 people in
residence including the children. We?ve never talked about  needing more
chairs inside.


> My designer/developer is suggesting that 1200 square feet is adequate 

> for the K/DR/L common amenities space (+ bathroom).


I?m not a good estimator of SF at the scale of the CH but one piece of
advice is to keep the space flexible and let uses develop. We had a music
room at first because we had a composer who wanted to use it and others who
did or wanted to practice instruments there. The composer found that the
room was too noisy to compose there and of course all those other people
forgot about their instruments. And when we wanted to do a sing-a-long, the
room was too small.


It became a ?game room? used by mostly teens for Wii, TV, video games, and a
meeting room in the evening for teams. Now it is on its way to becoming a
homework and quiet hangout room.


The key to attracting households with or wanting children is to have a kids
room whether you have any children or not. Unless parents and potential
parents can see it, they won?t believe it. And they are wise because it is
very hard to get space uses changed once they are working well for something
else. And to get the money approved to make the changes for that first


I think we need a question that evaluates the importance of the room to each
resident, or potential importance. People say build for what people are
actually doing, not what they want to be doing. I think that is only half
right. The real value is on the facilities that are very important to the
people they are important to. I like living in a community where people are
using the workshop and the exercise room whether I ever use them or not. And
the workshop does benefit the general maintenance and repair of the CH and
other activities.


Maybe measuring the dream is not a waste of time or money, even if the dream
doesn?t come true right away. Dreams give people energy and hope. I?m sure
every person enjoyed looking at the drum set in the music room even if only
2 teens ever touched it.


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