Six key aspects to consider about space sharing

Author: Nicolas Francart, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nicolas_Francart 

There are many different ways of sharing space, from coworking to coliving, and even many different forms of coliving (eco-villages, shared apartments, student rooms with shared kitchens, etc). A recently published paper (https://doi.org/10.5334/bc.34) explores the drivers and barriers to space sharing. The article doesn’t provide a recipe for success for cohousing, but highlights 6 important aspects that deserve close consideration. How do they relate to your own cohousing experience? How would you answer these questions? Leave a comment and let us know!

  • What tangible benefits does space sharing provide for users? This nearly goes without saying, but the appeal of space sharing is that it can provide access to facilities and services that the users could otherwise not afford. Location and living in a community are also important for some users. However, poorly designed and overcrowded spaces can lead to lower well-being.
  • How is the community organized? Do the users meet regularly? Are they involved in important decision processes? How do they communicate? How are conflicts resolved…? The article shows various ways of organizing a community: a fully user-led initiative, one driven by a single entrepreneur, and one managed by a large external housing company. User-driven initiatives are sometimes championed as the most viable and sustainable, but many questions remain regarding which model is optimal.
  • What social dynamics are prominent within the community? Organization is not everything. Informal relationships, group dynamics and identity are an integral part of living together. How do members develop a shared view of what constitutes appropriate behavior in a community? Some communities establish explicit guidelines and rules, while others are more implicit. Common activities (such as meals) are important occasions to build this group identity. The way new members are brought in is also important: it’s easy to integrate people who already share the community’s identity, but too much homogeneity is not always healthy.
  • What does a “shareable” building look like? Most buildings can be shared, but could we design innovative new buildings explicitly with sharing in mind? Architects focus on function and flexibility, so that the building can adapt and fulfill different roles at different times. In some cases,  tenants can be involved early on in designing parts of the building, to make sure that the physical boundaries match their needs (for instance, shared areas should be open, visible and accessible, while private areas should enable some level of separation).
  • What regulatory barriers can hinder sharing projects? This depends on the country and the local building code. Regulations on rent, contracts, taxation and tenants’ rights do not always easily apply to co-living communities with a large amount of shared space. Is it legal to rent out very small rooms if spacious common areas are available? Can the property owner modify common areas without the tenants’ consent? Do tenants need a home insurance covering only their room or common areas as well? This is even further complicated if the building fulfills other functions, such as hosting events in a common room.
  1. How do we measure a shared building’s performance? Real-estate companies will adopt sharing only if it can be shown that it’s a viable alternative. New metrics and new business models might be needed, that do not focus on how much space can be rented out, but rather on how space is used. For instance, sharing can lead to less energy use per person, but energy performance is usually measured per square meter, which doesn’t showcase the benefits of space sharing. 

Category: Common House Design

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