Prairie Spruce’s Answer to Cities for People Challenge

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

–Jane Jacobs

Prairie Spruce Commons is our way of saying YES to the invitation the Cities for People has issued:

At Cities For People, we see every city as an invitation. An invitation for interaction, innovation, change, inclusion, learning, love and growth. An invitation to think beyond the way things are and have always been, and come up with new ways to make where we live support how we would like to live.

I have been reading the Cities for People website and find it inspiring. It is helping me get out of the narrow marketing place where I have been stalled,  into a more transformative place. Yes, we need to have people purchase units, but reading Cites for People reminded me we are investing in more than walls and windows and doors; we are investing in a healthy vibrant community.


An Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Condominium in Regina?


At Prairie Spruce Commons we believe in building environmentally and socially sustainable condominiums in Regina. Environmentally, this starts with the building; solar panels on the roof, grey water ready, design to optimize natural light, in floor heating and cooling and gardens on several roof tops. The building is designed for the future. Minimizing the impact of housing over the next 50 years costs more up front but with this investment into your home, you can save a lot of money over the long run on utilities and upkeep. Plus, you can sleep soundly at night knowing you’re making Regina just a little bit better.

Prairie Spruce Commons is socially sustainable because we’re centred around the concept of community. Sharing with others, caring for others and being respectful of the people around us. Being a part of a community is healthy for the mind body and soul. Humans needs community to feel good, to feel like they’re a part of something, to feel needed. At Prairie Spruce we’re all a part of a special team that makes the living space that much better.

How many condominium developments actually encourage a sustainable development in Regina? Not enough! When it comes to building large structures in your city, you have to look at he sustainability of them and what the impact on the environment will be over time. The more sustainable condominiums in Regina the better.  

Field Notes from the Farmer's Market


Early morning, clear skies, soft breeze, and the smell of sweet onions wafting from the Hutterite’s vegetable stand over to our side. People walk/wheeling slowly as they carefully consider, anticipate and line up to buy the first gifts of the gardens.

Me and the men haul out our booth from the back of Murray’s truck and set it up. It’s not hard but it takes a few people working together to do it.  Once it is up and looking good we sit and visit. Cohousers always seem to have lots to talk about.

A continuous Prairie Spruce Commons presence at the Farmers Market is one of our cornerstones marketing strategies this summer.

Mornings at the Market pass easily, peacefully and happily as people come by one by one or in throngs …. You never know!

This summer I am reading So Far From Home by Margaret Wheatley.  It is an excellent and challenging read about how we can accomplish our work, sustain our relationships, and willingly move forward to serve in this troubled time.  She writes: ‘in this universe relationships are all there is, the fundamental prerequisite for anything to manifest’.

The Farmer’s Market is all about relationships including humans with each other, Earth and food.

It is all about relationship, even marketing!


Travel and Cohousing

Travel & cohousing… Do the two go together? From where I’m sitting, on this red rock at the shoreline where the Gulf of St. Lawrence kisses the white sand of Prince Edward Island, cohousing and travel are perfectly matched. 

We are here for a two week vacation with family and friends. Others of the Prairie Spruce community are at home in Regina, hosting information sessions, staffing our booth at the Farmers Market (stop by for a visit), getting the word out about this wonderful new adventure that is taking place in Regina. Others are at their cottage at the lake, one household is traveling in Denmark and one household is traveling and Sweden. In cohousing we share in the play and the work, that’s what a community is about. 

An additional bonus of cohousing is the international community. Membership in a cohousing community allows you to visit other cohousing communities across the globe and book the guest space. Check out the locations of a few cohousing communities around the world:

So, where should we book our next trip?

Brenda (& Ruth)

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.