Passive House and Net-Zero Energy: guest presentation Nov 9

Architect Mark Carsten Anderson will bring us up to speed on the basics of Passive House and Net-Zero Energy high-efficiency energy standards for buildings, and why we might care. Q&A with a builder he’s worked with afterward.

Enjoy a potluck supper with others starting at 6 pm. Please register and pay in advance so that we can arrange the space appropriately.

TCCN members $8/non-members $10. Also, deals for families.

If you’d like to help set up for the event, show up around 5:30 pm. Or  if you can, plan to stay and help clean up at the end. Pitching in to help is a good way to get to know others who also are exploring cohousing.

 

Book review of “Tribe”, a deep dive into the foundations of our pull toward community

BOOK REVIEW
Tribe: a book on homecoming and belonging
by Sebastian Junger

When I went to the National Cohousing Conference, held in Nashville in May, I kept hearing the book Tribe being referenced. Now that I have read it, I understand why. There is a reason we and others are so drawn to cohousing. Without ever mentioning cohousing, Junger explains why the idea of community is so central to all human beings. And community is what cohousing, at its core, is all about.

To quote the book, “Decades before the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin lamented that English settlers were constantly fleeing over to Indians, but Indians almost never did the same.” Why? One of the things that was tempting about native life to white settlers, Junger notes, was its “egalitarianism.” That he says, is built into our genetic structure because “genetic adaptations take around 25,000 years to appear in humans” and we have not lost our egalitarian instinct that hunter gatherers needed to survive 5,000-10,000 years ago. These hunting groups likely formed coalitions to counter any male that tried to be dominant, the book says, because it would have been counterproductive to the group. Our current society is based on selfishness and status, while the hunting groups were based on sharing and cooperation.

I would guess many of us have struggled with authority. This may be part of our genetic make up, and it is possible that a part of us recognizes that as authority goes up, community goes down. Mainstream society stresses individualism over community. Junger quotes anthropologist Richard Boehm’s 2007 study of present day hunter-gatherer societies. Boehm notes that, “The human conscience evolved in the middle to late Pleistocene as a result of hunting large game. This required cooperative, band-level sharing of meat.”

We evolved as a communal species, and when that sense of community dwindles, we can lose a part of ourselves that wants more than individual status and material wealth. The book is full of examples of that sense of community, its fulfillment and its purpose happening in ways and places we would not normally guess to be possible. One of those is the current U.S. combat veterans ironically being happier during combat than they were upon coming home, likely because of–the book says–their loss of closeness and the breaking of intimate bonds that combat life gave them. This may explain some their subsequent PTSD upon their return.  

Another example comes from the time of the bombing of London by the Nazis during WWII. Experts had predicted that up to 4 million people would have a psychiatric breakdown in England.  But “as the Blitz progressed, psychiatric hospitals around the country saw admissions go down,”the book notes. “Even epileptics reported having fewer seizures.”

Why did this happen? “When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose…. with a resulting improvement in mental health,” H. A. Lyons wrote in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1979.

I think the reason the book Tribe was referenced so often at the National Cohousing Conference was because people there believe that the cohousing model puts us back into a situation that we are very suited to. Cohousing creates a structure that is egalitarian, not based on authority, and similar to what hunter gatherers practiced. It puts us in a setting that allows for the privacy of one’s own home, but subtly and continually routes us past the common house where we can encounter others in a nonthreatening way.  And since these people, like us, “are actively engaged in a cause, their lives have more purpose, and there is a resulting improvement in mental health.” The cause that people are actively engaged in is cohousing itself. That cause is the common good of keeping the cohousing group viable, functioning, and sustainable. That cause that becomes a purpose, is realizing that what I do impacts my neighbor, and that we are all in this together. This is probably why, studies show, that people in cohousing live longer and volunteer in the larger community more than people outside of cohousing. We are meant to be in community, and we do better when we do.

–Brian PaStarr, TCCN board member

Energy Fair information table

Cohousing info table at the MREA Energy Fair in September.

Hundreds of Energy Fair – St Paul attendees stopped by to learn about cohousing and pick up our tiny eco-friendly flyer. This was TCCN’s first outdoor information table, which we shared with Bassett Creek Cohousing. Thank goodness, on those hot and sunny days, that we had a dining canopy for shade (many thanks for the loan, Paul Wehrwein) and some rocks to keep paper items from blowing away. If we look tousled, yes, it was windy. Thanks to TCCN friends for coming by to say hello. And a big heap of appreciation for Fred Olson for his creative troubleshooting and help with the booth set-up.

Kathy, Becca and Brian staffed an information table at the MREA Energy Fair at Harriet Island Regional Park on Sept. 9-10, 2017.

A visit to a recently completed cohousing community

Through photos, Becca gives us a sense of the building–its exterior and interior spaces–at Portland’s PDX Commons cohousing.

Photo Essay of a Visit to PDX Commons (Portland, OR)

By Becca Brackett

In July, I got a chance to visit PDX Commons, a mixed-use senior cohousing community. Lew Bowers, a member there, gave me a tour about five days before their move-in day.

I was especially interested in PDX Commons because their site is quite small: half an acre. How did they fit it all in? The Bassett Creek core group anticipates a similar tight fit in an urban location.

Here is a view from across the road. Food carts used to be in business on their lot. Now, those have moved to a parking lot across the street.

Here, Lew is in front of the gate leading to a sidewalk on the west side of the building. It can be locked for security.

Aaron, the construction manager for Abbott Construction, stands in a retail space on the ground/sidewalk level. They do not have a tenant yet, but there are other small shops nearby as well as the food trucks.

Here is the parking. One can drive in off Belmont Street. Note that the “open” window actually has a metal security lattice. Unlike some areas, Portland did not require one car parking space per unit.

Portland did, however, require bicycle parking. Here I am in the bike area. Also, each unit has a cage of general storage, here shown above the bikes; additional storage units may be in another area.

The main entrance for PDX Commons is to the right of the garage door and to the left of the retail. It brings you into a “living room” of common space. Lew is standing under the skylight in the center, and beyond to the right is a fireplace.  They plan to make this inviting with couches, bookshelves, etc. The stairs (and elevators, not shown in my photo) lead up one level to the patio and the dining and kitchen areas.

At the far end of the living room is a door to a small amount of outdoor space, the use of which is as yet undetermined; because this area is possibly a future hot tub location, another door goes through to a restroom/changing room.

Lew took me up the elevator to the second floor patio. All the units look out onto this patio. This shows the rooftop patio looking towards the street. A table is spread for their opening celebration.

The walkways, with wooden railings going in front of the units, serve as corridors to get to one’s unit and social space. Two bump outs on the fourth level will be conversation areas.

The design with the common patio on top of the lower level gives a very connected outdoor space to the residents.  At the same time, it is a very private space, not visible to people going by on the street, or even to their neighbors out the back.

Here, we are looking toward the dining room with big sliding glass doors.

Going into the dining room and straight on into the kitchen, I am opening the oven in their kitchen.

Lew on a walkway–you can see a bump-out of the walkway on the top level for a conversation area.

This photo shows the width of the walkways.

I got a view looking west towards Downtown Portland, which shows the solar panels, and how the end unit on the “arms” of the building are wider. Where the wooden framework ends and the siding of the unit begins, those are the big units.

On the other arm of the building, see how the dining and kitchen area are attached. PDX considered a green roof, but ended up not doing it. However, all their drainage water goes into planters on the back perimeter of the property. Conforming to federal water-quality protection standards for runoff, Portland building code says you have to contain your drainage.

I left energized with the possibilities for the Bassett Creek location in Minneapolis!

Becca Brackett is a board member of Twin Cities Cohousing Network and a member of the Bassett Creek Cohousing Core Group.

Next public information meeting: Sept. 14

The next information meeting is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, September 14, 2017. A casual buffet meal, prepared with care by our enthusiastic volunteer kitchen crew, is part of the evening to simulate a cohousing group meal.

There will be an ice-breaker activity and information about the basics of cohousing, core group updates, and other announcements. Register now so we know to expect you.

View the Facebook event.

Be sure to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, TCCN News to receive updates.

Midsummer Social on July 20

You’re invited to the Midsummer Social of the Twin Cities Cohousing Network (TCCN) on July 20. TCCN is hosting a casual meal and time for socializing. The kitchen crew will be preparing a cohousing-style, family-friendly buffet meal. Sign up now  to attend!

It was last summer when a group of local cohousing people re-energized the Twin Cities Cohousing Network (TCCN). Join us as we relax and celebrate our progress of the last year. 

Please register and pay in advance so the cooking team knows how much food to buy and prepare. Here is the link. We encourage you to share this information. Invite a friend, neighbor or relative who is exploring housing alternatives, and share our Facebook event with your networks.

Doors open at 5 pm for setup…come then, if you wish. The buffet dinner will be served at around 6 pm. If you have time and would like to have the satisfaction and camaraderie of volunteering to cook or clean up, please indicate this on the registration form.

Visit to Oakcreek Community senior cohousing in Oklahoma

A TCCN board member and her partner visit a senior cohousing community in a midwestern college town. Take a look at their photos and observations.

Text and photos by Lynn Englund

My partner and I were fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Oakcreek Community in Stillwater, Oklahoma this spring. Oakcreek is a senior cohousing community not far from Oklahoma State University.

interior view of common house with vaulted ceiling and fireplace
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon, and soon were talking with residents as they came and went through the common house.

group of chairs in Oakcreek common house

After we had settled into one of the three lovely guest rooms, a resident offered us a tour of the grounds and explained that the community is made up of three “pods” of eight houses each. The pods are clustered around the common house.

several houses and a walking path

Homes come in four sizes, ranging from 702 square feet to 1190 square feet. Their arrangement is specific to cohousing. One of each design is laid out in a 4-unit, townhome-style block which faces another similar unit of four homes across a gently curving sidewalk. Our guide stated that by doing this, they intentionally located the facing units much closer than typical construction of units across a roadway, making it easy for people to talk to each other from their front steps.

Bright colors set off each unit from its neighbor. The garages and parking areas were to the side, easily accessible by all. Oakcreek is situated on more than 7 acres of land in a residential area. The common yard has a park-like feel with shade trees, large areas of lawn, wildflowers and garden plots. Blooming shrubs and flowers landscape the small front yards.

wildflower field at Oakcreek cohousing
After returning from a tour of the Oklahoma State campus given by a resident who is a retired faculty member (who discovered common interests and connections with my partner), we were invited to join “happy hour” at 5:00 in the common house. A handful of residents gathered with a beverage of choice around a table to catch up with each other and share news.

table and chairs in common house at Oakcreek
Since there was no common meal that night, we dined out, then returned to our comfortable room. In the morning, I put our sheets and towels in the washer in the common house and slipped a note of thanks with the small fee for lodging into the envelope that had been left for us.

There do happen to be units for sale, and if you’re curious, feel free to check out their community’s website for details.

outdoor labyrinth at Oakcreek cohousing

 

National cohousing conf highlights, dinner, story circles+ on May 25 | Register now!

Several Twin Cities Cohousing Network members are attending the national CohousingUSA conference in Nashville. Come hear them share what they saw and experienced. The kitchen crew will be whipping up a spring meal, and registration is open. You can sign up here if you plan to attend.

It helps our team of volunteers when you register and pay in advance. That way, the cooking team knows how much food to buy and prepare. Here is the registration link.

We encourage you to share this information with a friend or relative who is exploring housing alternatives, and to share our Facebook event with your networks.

Doors open at 5 pm for setup and conversation; dinner runs from 6-6:45 pm and then the program starts. If you have time to volunteer to cook or clean up, please indicate this on the appropriate section of the registration form.

By the way, if you’re going to the national conference, too, we hope you’ll bring a story to share, too.

Save the date – May 25th, in the evening

For the next Twin Cities Cohousing Network gathering, our star kitchen crew will cook another group meal, cohousing style. Our meal will again be followed by an update from the local cohousing core groups, other announcements, and then a story circle session at each table.

Details and registration will be available soon. Please check back, and sign up for the monthly TCCN News e-newsletter to be informed about this and other events.

Baked-potato bar, story circles, core group updates & more

Registration is now open for the next TCCN evening meal + program that will be occurring March 30th.

Cohousing is more than a form of housing. It’s about people committing to being mutually supportive within a cohousing community. Learn more at the next meal + program. Sign up for the March 30th event here.

Twin Cities Cohousing Network offers these meal + program events to give you a hint of what it might be like to live in cohousing. Meet others interested in the cohousing concept. Build shared history with folks who could become your future cohousing neighbors.

Thursday, March 30, 2017. Doors open for setup at 5:30 pm. Dinner starts at 6 pm.

Further details about the evening’s schedule, with the registration and payment forms, are at this link.