Alice Alexander's blog

Could Living in Cohousing Save your Family $100,000?

While many intuitively understand the benefits of living in a close-knit neighborhood, some people need numbers to convince them. That's why members of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage on the Maine coast conducted their own study to find out how much money typical residents will save in energy costs and in-kind goods and services.

The result? Over twenty years, a family of four would save between $80,000 and $130,000.

Transitioning to a Net-Zero Home

"Everyone knows that Americans consume resources at a rate that is not sustainable," Jeffrey says. "I always thought I was making my contribution by recycling and driving an economical vehicle. At the same time I was living in an enormous house that, in a third world country, could house 10 families. Before we insulated the attic we were using close to a thousand gallons of oil each year. This is not a sustainable number for two families, as we had a rental apartment in the home."

Bored with Consensus

I was recently selected to join a nonprofit board and attended my first meeting via teleconference. Although the bylaws stiplated that decisions would be made by consensus (I'd done my reading), the meeting was full of calls for votes, motions, and seconds. Uh oh. Had I wandered into the wrong meeting? Unfortunately, I hadn't.

The Best Morning Coffee in the World: Bellingham Cohousing

Bellingham cohousing, like other cohousing communities, does have some common dinners but their real point of pride is their coffee hour. Every morning from 10 to 11, since the community was completed in 2000, coffee is served (well, self-served). On their website, the community invites visitors to join them during that hour. I timed my visit to take in the experience.
The day Kristin and I visited was a good test of the power of the coffee hour. It was rainy and overcast. It was a weekday morning and the whole community had just gathered the night before to celebrate the wedding of one of their own. Would they really show up again, about twelve hours later?
.... a great opening for me to pose the question I get asked most often when I describe cohousing to people who have never heard of it before: What if you don’t like someone in the community?

Tune-Up Experiences: Enhancing Cohousing Communities

[We received these two responses to our inquiry about experiences of those who have sought "tune ups" to enhance their communities. Both engaged in a process with Laird Schaub. There are many professionals who offer facilitation services with cohousing experiences.]

From Michael Madera, New View Cohousing (Acton, MA)
In April 2015, Laird Schaub engaged in a ‘tune-up’ retreat with us over 4 days, 2 of which were in facilitating full day plenary meetings.
His influence and wisdom helped us shift many expectations and set up many more effective processes for considering issues and managing our affairs as a community. He challenged us through reflections and comparisons from over 50 coho communities as well as with his active and highly structured facilitation style.

A Word from Chuck [Training Program for Architects]

[Editor's Note: Chuck Durrett with McCamant & Durrett Architects is developing a training program for architects, detailed at the end of this blog, which is reposted from A Word from Chuck: Reporting from the National Cohousing Conference in Durham, NC from MDA's newsletter.]

When Katie & I traveled to Denmark in 1984 and studied the details of how to help plan a well functioning cohousing community, we watched the best in the world do it, day after day. We visited the best and we visited the worst and we examined in great detail, what made them different. We interviewed many hundreds of residents who had organized, co-developed and co-designed the communities. We interviewed dozens and dozens of architects, developers, bureaucrats and bankers. We looked at product; we learned Danish so that we could understand the process and partiality, the difference between a thoroughly capable process and a weak process.

The 100,000-mile Community Tune Up

I've been a group process consultant for 28 years. For the first 26 years most of my work was focused on weathering storms, or training groups in foul weather drills, so that they could better handle heavy seas themselves.
In the last 18 months, however, there's been something of a sea change. In addition to the crisis management work I've always gotten, I've been hired to help five different cohousing communities struggling with who they are, 12-20 years after move in. Plus I've gotten inquiries from a handful more who are thinking about hiring someone to help with reinvigoration, to reset their gyroscope. Apparently it's a trend.


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