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Spring Focus on Sustainability and the Environment : Characterization Study of Urban Cohousing Communities
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091523/00621
 Material Information
Title: Spring Focus on Sustainability and the Environment : Characterization Study of Urban Cohousing Communities
Series Title: Journal of Undergraduate Research
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Rueff, Brittany T.
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: Spring 2012
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: intentional community
urban design
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
 Notes
Abstract: The study proposes to characterize urban cohousing communities by developing case studies of cohousing developments located in urban settings. The goal of this research is to describe these communities and to identify the social issues that define the urban cohousing model. It aims to answer the questions whether cohousing is an urban phenomenon, and if so, what are some of its defining characteristics. This study reveals the lack of a precise definition of the term “urban” but does begin to assign cohousing communities into two categories: urban and non-urban. From this study, three defining characteristics of urban cohousing communities were found: building compactness (7.4 units per acre compared to 4 units per acre), the diverse/specific demographics (diversity of age, singles/couples membership), and the relatively large common house square footage (3,444.7 sq. ft.). Future work should define the term “urban” by population density and land boundaries in order to accurately define urban from suburban/rural communities.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: sobekcm - UF00091523_00602
System ID: UF00091523:00621

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University of Florida | Journal of U ndergraduate Research | Volume 13, Issue 2 | Spring 2012 1 Brittany T. Rueff College of Design, Construction, and Planning, University of Florida The study proposes to characterize urban cohousing communities by developing case studies of cohousing developments located in urban settings. The goal of this research is to describe these communities and to identify the social issues that define the urban cohousing model. It aims to answer the questions whether cohousing is an urban phenomenon, and if so, what are some of its defining characteristics. This study reveals the lack of a precise definition of the term but does begin to assign cohousing communities into t wo categories: urban and non urban. From this study, three defining characteristics of urban cohousing communities were found : build ing compactness (7.4 units per acre compared to 4 units per acre), the diverse/specific d emographics (diversity of age, s ingles/couples membership), and the relatively large common house square footage (3,444.7 sq. ft.). Future work should define the term by population density and land boundaries in order to accurately define urban from suburban/rural communities. INTRODUCTION A cohousing community is defined as a resident created and operated collaborative, pro environmental neighborhood character ized by its intention to encourage community. Some u nique architectural features of a cohousing community consist of a central pathway connecting the units (see Figure 1) ; a common terrace facing the units with ample seat ing ; nodes along the walkways ; front porches on the units that are typically x ; kitchens on the common side of the units ; rear facing private unit spaces ; and a common ho use with a kitchen, dining space, media room, laundry room, sitting room, workshop, craft room, music room, guest rooms, etc. that can be seen from every unit (Durrett & McCamant, 2007) Figure 1 Daybreak Cohousing, breezeway for socializing. Source: http://blog.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen/2008/10/_cohousing.html

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B RITTANY T R UEFF University of Florida | Journal of U ndergraduate Research | Volume 13, Issue 2 | Spring 2012 2 The cohousing movement originated in the 1960s in Scandinavia with Jan Gudmand Hoyer a Scandinavian architect who saw the need for a new housing option (Lindsey, 2008) Cohousing was brought to the United States in the early 1980 s by architects Charles Durrett and Kathryn M cCamant after they conduct ed research i n cohousing in Scandinavia (McCamant & Durrett, 2007). In 2009 in the U S 100 communities had been completed 20 commu nities were under construction, and 120 150 coh ousing communities were in the planning stages (Durrett, 2009). Today, there are over 229 completed /forming com munities throughout the United States ( s ee Figure 2) Figure 2 Map of United States C ohousing communities as related to the population density of their locations a dapted over population density map. Source http://www.mapofusa.net I n the United States, the creation of suburbia, where private residences are designed to focus on self has resulted in an absence of community (Miles, 2008; McCamant & Durrett, 2007 ; Meltzer 2005 ). The prevalence of suburbia also leads to urban sprawl ( defined as low density, car dependent development beyond the edge of service and employment areas (Environmental Protection Agency, 2003)), which causes loss of farmland, loss of wildlife habitat, incr eased air pollution, increased water use and pollution, increased energy consumpt ion, and social fragmentation (American Farmland Trust 2009 ) This type of development is wasteful : f rom 1982 to 2007 the United States population grew by 30 percent while developed land increased 57 percent (Clean Water Action Council, 2011) The concept of cohousing diminishes this type of development and creates community through the discussed architectural elements related to intentional neighborhood design. Additionally, the community compactness and sustainability of cohousing prevents urban sprawl. However, t hroughout cohousing literature, the concept of cohousing as a whole is reitera ted but there is an absence of defined characteristics of cohousing types, especially urban cohousing. U rban coh ousing should be characterized because cohousing cannot be further understood as a concept to become an American standard of development without solid charact erization Further, characterization will defin e a sustainable model for compact development While characterizing the urban cohousing model the study aims to answer the questions: Is cohousing a n urban

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CHARACTERIZATION STUDY OF URBAN COHOUSING COMMUNITIE S University of Florida | Journal of U ndergraduate Research | Volume 13, Issue 2 | Spring 2012 3 phenomenon? What are some of its defining characteristics? SUMMARY OF LITERATURE Within the literature cohousing communities are characterized as environmentally friendly (Bang, 2005) and family oriented (Christian, 2003) They are also an example of smart growth development : they mix land uses ; use compact neighborhood design ; preserv e open space, farmland, natural beauty, and environmental areas ; and strengthen and direct development in existing communities (Benfield & Terris, 2011 ). Additionally, c ohousing communities are intensive and democratic and provide a sense of community. Fenster (2000) believes the cohousing organizing principle is to resolve the competing desires for the inclusivity of the community and the exclusivity of privacy. The community serves as the notion of a greater collective that can be invoked while hanging wet clothes on a common line and represents an ongoing goal, something towards which cohousing enables its participants to a major step Privacy, in terms of control over an or life as well as the collective control over the use of its land, represents the core of selfhood Cohousing attempts to correct and eliminate isolation within our current communities, the growth of private residences within urban sprawl and crime in the inner city neighborhood Within cohousing lit erature there are limited references on the topic of urban cohousing especially in the Cohousing Listserve an internet data base that connects cohousing residents, researchers, and advocates through an email style format and posts o n average 3 4 postings per day Also, the pioneers of American cohousing, McCammant and Durret t do not make the distinction between rural and urban cohousing, nor is it mentioned any where else Through out cohousing and non cohousing literature, the term urban area is as 4 units or more per (Cohousing Directory, 2008 ) This definition coincides with the 2010 United States Census, which defines urban area as a dense ly populated area where 50,000 people or more (United States Census, 2010 ) METHODOLOGY The data fo r this study was collected and analyzed through a literature review of most studies about cohousing in the United States Data collection methods also include d a content analysis of the Cohousing L istserve and the Cohousing Directory available from the Cohousing As sociation of the United States and first hand information gathered through participation in the 2010 National Cohousing Conference in Boulder, Colorado Within this study, o utliers with 20+ acres were not included in the common house square feet data, the community unit size data, the community acreage data, and the community member size data due to their location outside of the city and their agrarian focus. RESULTS Through the analysis of the 2011 Cohousing Directory and the use of the United States definition of urban the 229 cohousing communities in the United States were d efined as either urban (113) or non urban (229) Basic counts and percentages were used in an attempt to answer the research questions. Results suggest that m any communities featured in the Cohousing Directory claimed to be urban However, when paralleled with the United States Census definition these communities could be best categorized as non urba n (a populated area consisting of 49,999 people or less located adjacently to urban areas). Similarly many communities that claimed to be non urban could be clearly d efined as urban. This suggests that cohousing communities most likely use subjective criteria to classify whether they are urban or not ( s ee Figure 3 ) Figure 3 Urban cohousing communities measured by number of communities. D ata collected in this study indicates that cohousing communities defined as urban are between 1 unit per 0.1 acre and 7.4 units per acre This indicates that urban cohousing communities are high density developments that exceed the Cohousing Listserve statement that an urban community is units per (Fisk, 2008) and aligns well with the corresponding United States Census definition ( s ee Fig ures 4 and 5 )

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B RITTANY T R UEFF University of Florida | Journal of U ndergraduate Research | Volume 13, Issue 2 | Spring 2012 4 Figure 4 Community unit size measured by number of units. Figure 5 Community acreage size measured in units of acres. Data also reveal s that the average u rban cohousing unit houses one to two occupants. This implies that most cohousing households are either single adul ts or couples ( s ee Figur e 6 ) The urban cohousing common house is similar in square feet to that of the non urban. This implies that the common house size does not depend on the size of the community site or the demographics of the differing community type. An urban and non urban common house is usually between 2000 and 4000 square feet ( s ee Figures 7 and 8 ) Additional general statistics for the urban cohousing communities reveal that they are not culturally diverse ( residents are 91% Caucasian ) and are age diverse ( residents rang e from 0 80 years )

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CHARACTERIZATION STUDY OF URBAN COHOUSING COMMUNITIE S University of Florida | Journal of U ndergraduate Research | Volume 13, Issue 2 | Spring 2012 5 Figure 6 Community member size measured by number of members. Figure 7 Common house square feet (urban) measured in units of square feet. Figure 8 Common house square feet (non urban) measured in units of square feet.

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B RITTANY T R UEFF University of Florida | Journal of U ndergraduate Research | Volume 13, Issue 2 | Spring 2012 6 CONCLUSION S This study reveals the lack of a precise definition of the term The urban definition is insufficient due to the absence of space parameters (urban is a densely populated area that consists of 50,000 people or more within an undefined area unit) Without a clear land boundary agrarian /rural communities can be considered urban due to their area ( city, county) consisting of 50,000 or more people. Though the urban definition is inadequate it begins to place the cohousing communities of the United States into two separate categories urban, non urban that can be analyzed. S eparating the communities into two separate categories answer s the question of whether cohousing is a n urban phenomenon C learly it is not : out of the 229 communities within the United States there are only 113 urban communities However, there still is a need to further categorize each American cohousing community according to an accurate definition of urban, suburban and rural. The data collected through this study starts to categorize an urban cohousing community T he building compactness wa s discovered to be on average 7.4 units per acre compared to the defined 4 units per acre The data hinted at the urban cohousing demographics (diversity of age : 0 80 year age scope singles /couples membership : 1 2 people per unit ) which may give insight into future marketing for this type of cohousing community Furthermore, t his study define d urban cohousing by understanding the term urban which contributes toward a better understanding of cohousing as a whole Future work should define the term by population density and land boundaries in order to accurately define urban from suburban/rural communities. Additionally, future studies should explore the issues underlying the creation of urban cohousing communities and inform the overall sustainability (solar panels, walkability of the community amenities, etc.) of each community REFERENCES American Farmland Trust. (2009). Farming on the e dge r eport Retrieved from http://www.farmland.org/resources/fote/default.asp Bang, J. (2005). Ecovillages: A p ractical g uide to s ustainable c ommunities, 1 281. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books Benfield, K., and Terris, J. (2001). Solving s prawl: Models of s mart g rowth in c ommunities a cro ss America Island Press, Washington D.C. Christian, D. (2003). Creating a l ife t ogether: Practical t ools to g row e covillages and i ntentional c ommunities New Society Publishers, Canada. Clean Water Action Council. (2011). Clean Water Action Council i ssues Retrieved from http://www.cwac.net/landuse/index.html Cohousing Association of the United States (2011). Retrieved from http://www.cohousing.org Cohousing Directory (20 08 ) Retrieved from http://www.cohousing.org/directory Cohousing Listserve (2011). Retrieved from http://www.lists.cohousing.org Durrett, C. (2009) The Senior c ohousing h andbook: A c ommunity a pproach to i ndependent l iving New Society Publishers, Canada. Durrett, C., & McCamant, K. (2007) Cohousing : A c ontemporary a pproach to h ousing o urselves Ten Speed Press, California. Environmental Protection Agency. (2003). Almanac p olicy i ssues Retrieved from http://www.policyalmanac.org/environment/archive/urban_sprawl.shtml Fenster, M. (2000). Community by c ovenant, p rocess, and d esign: Cohousing and the c ontemporary c ommon i nterest c ommunity Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law 1, 3 54. Guinther, L. (2008). Cohousing: Its c haracteristics, e volution, and e merging t ypologies (Master s t he sis) University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati OH Jeske, M. (1992). Motivation for the c ohousing c ommunity: A s tudy of t wo g roups (M a ster s thesis) The University of British Columbia Vancouver BC Meltzer, G. (2005). Sustainable c ommunity: Learning from the c ohousing m odel 1 173. Retrieved from http://books.google.com Miles, M. (2008). Urban u topias: The b uilt and s ocial a rchitectures of a lternative s ettlements, Routledge New York. Scotthanson, C., & Scotthanson, K. (2005). Cohousing h andbook: Building a p lace for c ommunity Retrieved from http://books.google.com/ Torres Antonini, M. (2001). Ou r c ommon h ouse: Using the b uilt e nvironment to d evelop s upportive c ommunities (Doctoral Dissertation) University of Florida, Gainesville, FL United States Census. (2010). Retrieved from http://2010.census.gov/2010census/ Wann, D. (2005). Reinventing c ommunity: Stories from the w alkways of c ohousing Fulcrum Publishers. Williams, J. (2005). Designing n eighborhoods for s ocial i nteraction: The c ase of c ohousing Journal of Urban Design 195 227. Retrieved from http:// ebscohost.com