Design Q&A from Beta Sigma Phi

On Wednesday April 1st, 2015, we were invited to give a cohousing presentation to the women of the Regina Beta Sigma Phi Chapter.  Joanne and I were greeted and warmly welcomed by Vivian and Pat.  The presentation was well received by the group, and after the presentation Vivian and Pat presented us with beautiful yellow roses.  This made it our favourite group presentation to date!

A number of insightful questions were asked by the group and we felt inspired to answer these in greater depth via the blog. We’ve found that if one person is asking the question out loud, there’s at least another 10 that are also curious about the answer. We’ll be addressing a number of frequently asked questions over the coming weeks but decided to start with those related to the overall building design:

  • Will the building be made of wood or cement?
  • What walls were built to fire code?

The short answer to these is that the whole building is being built to code and will be wood-frame construction. But we felt that our architect Chris Kailing at Pattison MGM, could offer a more detailed explanation. Here’s what Chris had to say:

The 2010 National Building Code of Canada requires a 1 hour fire separation between the parkade and the upper floors, between the individual units and between the units and corridors. At the main level floor this is accomplished with a concrete slab. In the upper levels this is accomplished in the floors with the use of Gypcrete topping slabs and the use of fire rated drywall on the ceiling. At the unit demising and corridor walls this is accomplished with fire rated drywall. The exterior walls also have fire rated drywall from the interior and the exterior cladding that has been specified includes brick, stucco, and cement board (Hardie Board), which are all fire resistant materials.

Certain doors throughout the building must meet a specific fire rating as well. These include the unit entry doors and fire exit doors and doors to mechanical rooms. These will be solid core doors with a 45 minute fire rating.

Fire resistant ratings and assemblies (walls, floors, etc.) are quantified through a set of elaborate tests that have to do with temperature rise, flame spread, eventual failure of the assembly, etc. In a nut shell though, a one hour rated
assembly (wall, floors, roofs, ceilings) provide protection from catastrophic failure of that assembly for the designated time identified thus allowing adequate time for building inhabitants to exit to safety.

In addition to the required fire ratings the building has a fire sprinkler system which is designed to suppress fires at the location they start before they spread.

As future owners and residents of units at Prairie Spruce Commons, we’ve taken care to ensure that the design of our building will meet our needs for a very long time. If you have any other questions about the design of the building, we can share with you the short form design specifications for the building. Just swing by the Information Centre this weekend – we’d be glad to chat.

Stay tuned and watch for future blog posts with more answers to great questions we’ve received.


Prairie Spruce Commons is Sustainably Built

Several participants at our ‘Journey to the Heart of CommunitySustainabilityOpen House last month told us they were drawn to the event because of the words ‘Sustainably Built’ in our advertising in the Leader Post. This got me thinking more about the sustainable features of Prairie Spruce Commons. Sustainability is an economic, social, and environmental concept that involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The following are examples of some of the sustainability features of Prairie Spruce Commons.

Social Sustainability:

  • lots of shared common spaces;
  • respecting needs for private space and time;
  • exceeding sound proofing requirements between floor and between units;
  • perfecting our consensus decision-making skills;
  • widening the circle with Friends of Prairie Spruce and others who are interested in growing community;
  • meeting Universal Design standards to make it safer, easier, and more convenient for everyone; and
  • having fun together in community!

Environmental Sustainability

Economic Sustainability

  • reduction in energy costs because of exceptional energy efficient design of building;
  • reduction in upkeep in maintenance costs due to use of quality materials with longer lifespans;
  • lower required equipment and resource ownership through sharing (e.g. snowblowers);
  • car sharing option reducing maintenance and insurance costs;  and
  • lower food costs through community gardening and meal sharing.

You can clearly see our enthusiasm for sustainability in our Badham Boulevard Video on Vimeo.


Prairie Spruce Commons Wants Your Feedback!

Let’s come right out and say it: we’re seeking your help in figuring out your current perceptions regarding Prairie Spruce Commons, cohousing and the importance of community for long term health and happiness. So, we’ve come up with a short survey and we’re asking anyone and everyone to fill it out.

Question mark in EsbjergThe purpose of the survey is to explore the public’s awareness of, and interest in the Prairie Spruce Commons cohousing project. Your feedback will help us understand how you relate and perceive the Prairie Spruce Commons project and community. For example, you may be new to the concept of cohousing and would like to know more. On the other hand, you might already be interested in becoming a member, but cannot afford purchasing a unit. Or then again, you might love the concept of cohousing, but you don’t want to move away from your current house and neighbourhood.

Knowing where people stand on the spectrum of interest is critical to our own understanding of the market and the planning of future community building events. Based on your responses and new ideas, we want to plan events that will reach people in Regina and encourage them to think about the benefits of community life, including the cohousing option. We are also interested in hearing what barriers keep people from becoming members in Prairie Spruce Commons.

The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete and it is completely anonymous unless you choose to add your name and contact information.

We really value your participation regardless of your interest or knowledge about the project. We would also greatly appreciate if you could help us spread the word about the survey and our project. Please access the survey through this link: and please send the link to anyone who you think would be interested! We hope to receive all responses before December 20. Of course, we are always open to receiving your questions, comments and feedback at anytime via our contact page.

Thanks for your help and participation!


Cat Like

Monty the Cat

I am a bit like a cat: I love to follow the sun, only I usually have a book with me. I imagine my book and I wandering through Prairie Spruce Commons from cozy seating area to cozy seating area, warming in the sun beside the walls of windows that exceed standard building energy requirements (actually meeting LEED Gold certifiable standards).

There is much to learn from cats. I lived with a cat for five years and loved that cat, but I developed allergies to them. I am now working with my naturopath to build my immune system so cats and I can cohabit. I expect this will also help me with my slight allergies to some dogs. I have not needed to do this particular immune strengthening until now – but I want to learn from the dogs and cats who will be my neighbours in Prairie Spruce Commons and this will be a lot easier if I am not wheezing. I already know and like their people who are working together to create both the community and the building of Prairie Spruce Commons. Prairie Spruce Commons will have 27 units and 13 of them are already reserved. This leaves 14 units – perhaps one is calling to you? If you have a cat or dog you might want to check with them as to what they are sensing is in their future.



Badham Boulevard Steeped in History

Saskatchewan Legislative Building

For the residents of Prairie Spruce Commons, Badham Boulevard will be their new address.  In the spirit of community and friendly neighbours, this location is so fitting for Regina’s first cohousing complex. The area was formerly used by the Qu’Appelle Anglican Diocese property for a school and nunnery.  The diocese was established in 1883 and became a strong community of parishioners who provided ministry through major trends and events such as drought, immigration and settlement, war, and the Great Depression. In 2005 20 acres of the land was sold to Fiorante Homes and Commercial Ltd who will create a high-quality residential development that will respect the former Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle buildings’ provincial heritage designation. In a place steeped in history, Prairie Spruce Commons will make history by building Regina’s first cohousing community.

The actual street, Badham Boulevard, is named after Mike Badham.  Mike was passionate about Regina and he was committed to making Regina a better place for everyone.  He was an educator for most of his career. Later he was a city councillor. Mike died in a tragic accident in 2006. Throughout his life he was a community volunteer who served his community with pride. In respect for all he had done for Regina, a park and this street was named in Mike’s honor. Prairie Spruce Commons is all about community – I think Mike would be very pleased that it is being built on his street.

JoAnne N.

Susan Pinker's The Village Effect

“Drawing on scores of psychological and sociological studies, Pinker suggests that living as our ancestors did, steeped in face-to-face contact and physical proximity, is the key to health, while loneliness is “less an exalted existential state than a public health risk.” That her point is fairly obvious doesn’t diminish its importance; smart readers will take the book out to a park to enjoy in the company of others.”

– The Boston Globe 

Psychologist, journalist and author Susan Pinker was recently on the CBC Opener to discuss her new book “The Village Effect“. In the interview, Susan recounts her research into a Blue Zone in Sardinia where men and women live much longer lives than normal. Her study revealed the importance of social, face-to-face contact. Susan states that there is no better predictor of an individual’s health and happiness than the quantity and quality of face-t0-face contact, and community integration that person experiences. Surrounded by neighbours, colleagues, friends and family, the Sardinians she studied live long and healthy lives due to the natural release of positive neurobiological chemicals such as oxytocin (trust builder, and stress reducer) and cortisol (stress reducer).

Prairie Spruce Commons, Regina’s first cohousing community, is designed to facilitate contact between neighbours. We recognize that the friendly contact we plan to experience among our neighbours is just as important to our healthy lifestyle as a healthy meal or physical exercise. Cohousing aligns with the “Tend and Befriend” attitude that the Sardinians take to so naturally.


One is the Loneliest Number

Image Courtesy of Jon on Flickr

Did you hear the one about the young man who decided to test the quality of his personal connections with his Facebook friends? He invited them all to a party. But when the time came to party no one showed up and he was left all alone.

This anecdote isn’t intended to criticize Facebook but it speaks to the nature and quality of human relationships, an essential factor in loneliness. It ties into the “Connected-ness, Companionship and Community” theme of keynote speaker Michael Lavis at the annual “Celebration of Inclusion” hosted by the Regina and District Association for Community Living. The annual Inclusion Awards night recognizes individuals and organizations that increase opportunities for community members who have an intellectual disability to contribute in a real and meaningful way to life in our society.

Michael Lavis, the Executive Director of Creative Options Regina (COR) spoke on the topic of loneliness because some members of our society may have more difficulty than others in establishing close relationships with other people, people other than family members, with whom they are personally and emotionally connected. His presentation drew on research that suggests loneliness is on the rise. All demographics are affected and today 40% report feeling lonely, which is up from 20% in the 80’s. Among the causes and risk factors are segregation and having few or non-existent meaningful relationships.

Michael went on say loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health. To combat it we need to increase our understanding of the value of positive supports and relationships in health and recovery. We need to look for signs of loneliness, make quality relationships a top priority, and create an environment conducive to such relationships.

Prairie Spruce Commons is just such an environment. It is a community that is intentionally designed to facilitate positive interactions amongst its members and which operates on the principles of being respectful, caring and sharing. We foster a sense of belonging. Have you found that sense of belonging?


Walk~Wheeling the Lines of our Common House

Prairie-Spruce-Level-1-Common-House--400x284“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

I keep my eyes wide open all the time

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

I Walk the Line, by Johnny Cash

That old song has been singing to me since our community walk~wheeled** the tape on the floor outlining some of the common spaces of Prairie Spruce Commons.

And what the heck does the third line of that song mean anyhow?  No clue here!

Lil and WarrenWarren and the Design Committee spent hours on their knees at the Prairie Arctic Trades Training Centre where we were lucky to be guests for the day.  The massive indoor arena with a smooth cement floor was perfect for marking out, with masking tape, the more than 2000 square feet of main floor common space.  Common kitchen and dining room, lounge, kids space, entrance (front and back), elevator, guest room, accessible bathroom, common laundry, office, workshop, storage closet, powder-room and yes hallways.

Prior to the much anticipated walk~wheel, the plan was that all 15 of us, or so,  would follow Warren into the ‘taped-on-the-floor Common House,’ and listen attentively while he oriented us to what was what. Are you kidding!?  Right off the mark we were like a herd of cats with all our curiosity, questions, and excitement.

Once we settled a little and even figured out which way was north we found that walk~wheeling a space adds new dimension to pouring over architectural drawings.  Like feeling a space and experiencing it and rubbing shoulders with the neighbours too. 

Current research in organizational theory says that the most successful and resilient organizations are those that solicit, welcome and integrate feedback. It’s called the feedback loop.  Walk~wheeling the lines gave us opportunity to experience the feedback loop. Some things in the design seem perfect while others need some minor adjustments.

‘because you’re mine I (we) walk~wheel the line.”

Hope you knees will be okay in a couple of days Design Committee.


** My preferred language so as to acknowledge those among us who get around by wheeling in strollers or wheelchairs.

Our Site Sign is Up!

We heard a rumour last week: our sign was going to be up on the lot soon.

To say there was anticipation would be an understatement. We checked the site daily, sometimes more than once a day. Then the posts were up and finally a group email was sent to let us know that the sign had been spotted on Friday, November 14, 2014.Prairie-Spruce-Site-Sign-400x284

Anticipation has transformed to excitement. The sign on the lot on Badham Boulevard is announcing this to be the site of “Regina’s First Cohousing Community”. We see the sign as an invitation to take action.

Why should you do this? Why should you check out this new form of housing that is coming to Regina?

  • You should do this because this is an exciting development in housing that in just 40 years has spread to many countries and proved successful.
  • You should do this if you are single, a single parent with children, married, married with children or retired.
  • You should do this if you want to own your own unit or may be interested in renting a unit.
  • You should do this if you think when people share everyday chores that it makes less work and you laugh a lot while doing them.
  • You should do this if you see yourself living in a building that functions as a community. A place where when you come home everyone knows your name.
  • You should do this if you want to live a more sustainably happy lifestyle.

Don’t hesitate to contact us at any time. We’d love to chat with you over coffee and tell you about our amazing community.




What's In Your Toilet?

In most Canadian cities we could drink out of our toilets. Doesn’t sound too appealing, but we could if the toilet bowl had been thoroughly sanitized.  The same water that comes out of our taps is used to flush our toilets. In a world of increasingly scarce fresh water does this make even an ounce of sense?

I remember the first time I was told there is no new water. All the water on Earth is the same water that was here since the earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. This seemed impossible to believe. Water is always shape shifting: ice bergs, snow, hail, rain, rivers, lakes, oceans, glaciers, fog, mist, frost, ground water, tap water. But it is always the same water!  The same water has been cycling for 4.6 billion years.  But it is not in the same condition it was even fifty years ago. In Canada at any given time, there are usually 1000 boil water advisories in effect. Safe drinking water is essential to life and we are using it to flush our toilets!

There is an alternative. It is called grey water recycling. Grey water is defined as wastewater generated from sinks, showers and baths, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as toilet flushing, landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands. Grey water often includes discharge from laundry, dishwashers and kitchen sinks.  In July 2012, Bruce Nagy wrote the following in Plumbing and HVAC, The Voice of Canada’s Mechanical Industry.

It is probably wise to be skeptical about the next big thing. But sometimes it is just common sense; like the coming move toward more grey water recycling, especially in cities……… Whichever systems are used, there should be plenty of commercial and residential grey water and rainwater business available to contractors in the coming years. One could even say it’s the next big thing!

The Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Regina uses a grey water recycling system that is part of the research work of Dr. Stephanie Young. With the guidance of Dr. Young, the  design for Prairie Spruce Commons includes plumbing infrastructure for grey water recycling.  We plan to work with the City of Regina to seek approval to be a multi-residence grey water research site.

Our Prairie Spruce Commons Community is excited and eager to be a leader in environmental innovation in Regina. Are you the type of person that is passionate about sustainability issues and wants to be part of the solution? If so, we’re looking for more early adopters to join us on the quest to Green Regina.