A Little Give and Take

Prairie Spruce Commons met this weekend with a daunting task. We found the unit prices that we were getting to be too high. Recognizing that we have to be able to sell the remaining units we were left with two conclusions; first that we would have to get rid of our most expensive units in favour of smaller more affordable units and second that we needed to trim the budget to reduce the overal cost of the building. Having to give back some of the wonderful features we have designed into this building was a highly charged and emotional task. Would people want to cut things that were dear to me or are the things I think we should cut dear to others.

It was a tough two days, but in the end we had trimmed a few areas where we had made rooms bigger than they needed to be, confirmed some things that we have always planned to cut and removed an initiative that we had reconsidered. But Wait!

In addition to the cutting we also found some things that we felt were underspecified and needed to be improved. We allocated additional money for improved windows, allocated new money to adopt a geothermal cooling loop on the advice of our mechanical engineer, and we are requesting a quote on upgraded shingles.

What came out of these meetings was a reconfirmation of our intent to build a building that is above and beyond what is normally built. We have chosen to spend extra on things like insulation, windows, heating infrastructure (in floor radiant),  geothermal cooling and we are still persuing grey water recycling. We are prepared to add Solar Voltaic panels when the time is right and we have a long term maintenance view choosing long term investments over short term savings.

We have found that on a square foot basis, when you include the massive amount of common space, our units are in line with other condos on the market.  The big difference is that we are cohousing! We have chosen not to build swimming pools or pool rooms. Instead we have built usable spaces and have chosen to build with the future in mind.
This is what the building will look like.The best parts, of course, are the parts you can’t see: the people that will make up this community.

Consensus Decision Making

I have chaired many committees and have lots of experience with Robert’s Rules of Order. When I first heard about the use of consensus decision making and it’s use in cohousing, I was intrigued about this new way of making decisions. I learned that in consensus, the test is not “am I in favour” of the motion or not, but rather “can I live with the decision. ”

In voting, a proposal is presented, amended, and voted on. Some will be opposed to the proposal but will be out voted and a proposal that is approved is said to have the support of the majority of the constituents. Those who voted against are simply ignored as part of the minority. This is the form of decision making we are all aware of. Usually decisions are pretty cut and dried and the number of dissidents small so voting works well, but when the number of dissidents is large we have a large number of disappointed voters.

Consensus requires that everyone can live with a proposal. When everyone has to be ok with a proposal you have to listen to and accommodate everyone. This can take time and it is the extra time which is listed as the main impediment of consensus. It does take longer, especially as you are learning to do it, but as we gain experience the time difference is minimized.

The decision made by voting is often felt to be the best decision, but it is the best from the perspective of at best the majority, but generally the decision is only optimal for the person who made the proposal or latest amendment. In consensus the decision is a compromise and people sometimes think that this is a sub-optimal decision. Whether the decision is the best decision or not, comparing the initial proposal to the final decision shows that many times, the decision made by consensus is a better decision then what would have been arrived at had the proposal simply been voted on.

In addition to making better decisions, consensus decision making doesn’t alienate minorities, results in better buy-In for the decision which makes it more actionable and doesn’t erode the sense of community that cohousing is all about. Consensus decision making is right for cohousing. It might be right for a lot of the worlds problems.

Bike Sharing at Cohousing Community

It is a gorgeous spring day (soon) and you feel like taking a bike ride around the lake. There is a sweet breeze stirring the blossoms on the flowering crab trees and the tulips are waving their colourful heads in a dance of joy. But wait, you remember you don’t own a bike! What to do, what to do?

Ah, but you are a member of Prairie Spruce Commons and the solution is right outside your door: the bike-share.  A collection of bikes (including a two-seater) have been donated by members of Prairie Spruce Commons who are infrequent riders. These bikes are shared with the whole community.

You unlock a bike, swing your leg over and push hard hoping to remember how to do this. Soon you are wheeling your way around the lake, your calf muscles remembering how to both push and release. The willow trees are waving to you, so are the friends from Prairie Spruce Commons who are regulars, spinning past on their own personal bikes. This is not a dream. Well perhaps the part about the flowering crab trees, the tulips, and the waving willows is a dream on this day, but soon and very soon they will all emerge.

At Prairie Spruce we have committed to having space for a ‘bike-share’ as well as space for our personal bikes (for those who are regular riders). We are committing to diversity, to community, and to a lighter footprint.

Creating Community Lines

Chris and Joanne discuss flexible options for modifying the nanny suite next to this 3rd floor “B unit”.

Look for the lines; look for the lines on the landscape, and where those lines intersect, that is the heart of your village. – Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City speaking to Mary Hines on Tapestry.

Conversation nodes, green terraces, raised garden beds, boot racks, sliding glass doors on the kid’s playroom/yoga room, dining tables gleaming in the light of the setting sun, the aroma of cedar and pine wafting up in the workshop. What is the common denominator?

These are some of the intersection lines that will create the heart of our village; and these are spaces that are part of the architectural drawings for Prairie Spruce Commons. It was exciting to meet with the Pattison MGM team on Sunday March 16th and take a guided tour though the drawings. Thanks to Reid Pattison, Chris Kailing, and Danielle Farebrother we had wonderful digital CAD drawings as well as detailed drawings of the building, individual units, and the elevations to help us visualize the intersecting lines of our future village. The Pattison MGM team have been working intensely with us over the past three months, listening and responding to our needs and desires, as we have been listening to one another and getting a sense of the community we are creating.

The drawings are almost complete and the next phase of consulting with the developer, Vince Fiorante of Fiorante Homes and Commercial Ltd, is beginning. The intersecting lines are moving closer to becoming three dimensional spaces where we will create the heart of our village.

This is a community that is ever evolving, and we anticipate with excitement the individuals, families, couples, cats, and dogs, that are interested in creating life together at Prairie Spruce Commons. Could that be you? Our next information session begins at 2:00 on Sunday March 30th at Connaught Library (3435 13th Avenue, Regina). This is a great way to learn more about Prairie Spruce Commons.

On the eve of a momentous decision

It is an exciting time here at Prairie Spruce.  We  are awaiting the presentation of the results of our  schematic design. This is our time to approve the work done by our talented architectural team. From here until we move in much of the building work will be done by others. That is good, we have a lot of work of work to do. We need to find the rest of our neighbours.

Looper Cocktails at PSC

Tonight PSC had it’s first (of many we hope) Looper cocktail party. At a Looper cocktail party each person brings their own drinks and an appetizer to share. They bring their own dishes and glass wear and take their garbage and recycling home with them.

Henning and Joanne brought the tradition back from their trip last year when they did America’s Great Loop on their sailboat Flying Free.

Looper cocktails allows someone to host a group of people without it being responsible for all the preparations, the food and drinks, or the clean up. We would just gather on the largest boat in the marina to swap stories, advice, and laughter.

It’s a bit difficult to have true Looper cocktails in Saskatchewan at -25…but no one missed the sand in their shoes or wet bottoms from riding in dinghies.

Our first official information session

On a cold Tuesday evening this previous week, Prairie Spruce held our first information session. It was held at the university of Regina and we had about twenty people who came to see what cohousing is all about. Dave Larue began the evening with a viewing of the new video from cohousing.ca and then presented a presentation entitled “What is cohousing”.

The presentation concluded with information about where and when Prairie Spruce is to be built. After a short break consisting of coffee and a delicious spread of baking brought by the members, we had a question and answer session. Questions about cost, where we knew each other from, why such a great idea only had 8 members, and about the common house were answered.

We left the meeting confident that we had several future associate members from amongst the attendees. We have already scheduled our next session for January 9 at Atlantis coffee. As this session has limited space we ask that all wishing to attend, register on EventBright by clicking “buy” on the right.

Cohousing Information at Atlantis Coffeehouse

Prairie Spruce Commons is holding an information session about Co-housing, a better way to live. This session will include an explanation of what cohousing is; what a cohousing community looks like; rural and suburban communities; urban communities; what is in the common house; how cohousing is built; and our future community in Canterbury Park.

Atlantis Coffee House, 1922 Hamilton Street at 7:00

Space is limited so only those registered in eventbright will be admitted.
Eventbrite - Cohousing Information Session (smaller more intimate)