The value of thinking about the "things"

Village Hearth Cohousing recently completed the Design Development and Prioritization Workshops (Workshops 5 and 6) with McCamant & Durrett Architects. Through the years, groups often ask me, “why do the workshops matter?” My answer is simple: Cohousing isn’t about reinventing the wheel. As you read on, you’ll see how the later workshops are just as important as the earlier ones and why each plays an integral role in the success of a cohousing community– in making it theirs, the one that fits like a glove, one that they own, emotionally. They are where trust it built. These participatory design workshops are where the community is built, not brick-by-brick but decision-by-decision.


Design Development:

At the surface, the Design Development Workshop (Workshop 5) is focused on stuff: hundreds of commercial products. The details and even the “stuff” have a profound impact on the success of communities, right alongside large-scale decisions like the site plan and common house design.

For example, consider your windows. A typical homebuilder in your area might select one window brand, while we might select another. There are many other reasons we have selected this window, but ease of operation and clarity of view alone make it ideal for senior cohousing; as you walk home and see a neighbor at the sink doing some dishes, you can wave to them, they can easily and quickly open the window, and you can chat or make a date to meet up at the common house. Altogether, the ensemble of products will form a tapestry that makes your house and your community feel like home.

This workshop is also important for the success of a community in the context of the development process. The Design Development Workshop is not just about energy efficiency, but that’s a big part of it. The process we facilitate -- based on years of experience and researching specifics to your region -- will enable you as a group to arrive at high-quality decisions by making effective use of your time and effort.



This workshop is where costs that are perceived to be potentially above the budget are prioritized. Amenities are prioritized based on lifestyle, sustainability, facilitating community and all of the other goals and values of the group. Some amenities can be offered as options on a household-by-household basis (e.g. washing machines hook-ups, etc.) and others omitted completely (and others added.) The workshop process ensures that all members’ input is included and evaluated, at the same time, with all the necessary information on the table, using a very deliberate process.

The Prioritization Workshop is a very values-laden workshop. While reconciling little creature comforts, it will be important and sometimes challenging to keep the big picture in mind (community, cost, aesthetics). Though these little creature comforts are equally important because if we’re going to make community real, we have to make it even more comfortable than typical homes—which turns out to be very easy to do.

Both Design Development and Prioritization Workshops symbolize a huge step forward to getting a cohousing community built, including maintain a control on budget and finding what works for the entire community. This structured and intentional process allows groups to arrive at high-quality decisions in a matter of months, rather than other communities we have watched arrive at lower-quality decision after years of wasted time and energy, too much acrimony, and too many people dropping out of the group as a result.


If you’re interested in learning more about how the design workshops can influence the creation of your community, let’s talk.