Starting to see homes!

By Anthony Weston

At our October 27th Last Saturday event, the Planning, Design, and Development Circle presented the Schematic Designs for two prototype HM residences to an appreciative crowd of about eighteen members plus a few toddlers.

To set the context, Hope led us in a review of the key values that are guiding the development of our architectural plans.  It’s a wonder that there are more than 50 of them!  Using a large Wheel of Sustainability taped to the wall, participants selected pre-marked post-its and placed each value in the most appropriate category.  Here’s a sample:  Social values in play include shared spaces and resources, shared dwellings, supporting diversity, a balance of public and private spaces, accessibility for all ages and abilities, and connected flow between homes.  Ecological values include compact village layout, orientation to sun and wind, low energy demands, natural, local, and recycled/able materials, attractive outdoor spaces, kitchen gardens.  Culture/Worldview values include intimacy with the natural world, a movement from “I” to “We”, inspiration, beauty and creativity.  Economic values include economic viability, small homes, fewer possessions and more sharing, affordable housing and low building costs, self-build options, multi-use spaces, cooperative ownership model, flexible housing to meet different needs, and fairly comparable dwellings — no built-in inequality.

Next, I came forward (electronically, from Chile…) to briefly review the last six months of intensive planning work that have brought us to this point and that informs the plans we were about to unveil.

The “Building Block” plan is one: people who need a refresher (which us probably most people: it’s a complex thing) please refer back to this blog post from the Spring. and be sure to review Katy’s excellent slideshow linked to it.

I went on to explain how we came to be working with Jonathan Lucas of Asheville’s What on Earth Architecture. Under Jonathan’s guidance, PDD this spring worked out a set of “Design Goals and Considerations” to define the schematic design work that is now nearing completion. Among other things, we decided to move forward with two prototype designs: what we are now calling the Shared House (common living/dining/cooking/porch area with four 1-room suites that may or may not be lived in independently) and the Small Family Flex House (one-story 2 bedroom house with a 2-room attached suite, ditto).

Again a previous blog post reviews this in more detail.  Key takeaways for now are: 1) These designs are only schematic in the sense that they are just first sketches. We’ve taken a long step toward specificity – we can now see what some of the residences might actually look like – but these designs are certainly not “set in stone”.  We want feedback!  And 2) There will be other residential options. We chose these two for our first designs because they are quite different from each other and therefore help define a range of possibilities and also set some general features of layout and style, but there will be others: next up is probably a two-story and duplexable 2 bedroom family house.

Katy then unveiled the floorplans and elevations for the two prototypes. She walked us through each of them in turn. You can find them here and here. Please take the time to review them carefully, notice that both have multiple pages and quite a bit of detail. The elevations are several pages in.

The Last Saturday session continued with break-out groups to explain the plans in more detail, and to gather reactions, suggestions, and general feedback, which they then brought  back to the whole group for a debrief.

The general reaction was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic!  People repeatedly pointed to the thoughtfulness of the layouts, the flow of the spaces, the prospect of well-lit interiors, many outdoor spaces, and the earthiness of the colors and finishes as very attractive features. In fact the biggest complaint we got was a general dislike of the wet bar in the bedroom of the two-room suite, which is easily changeable with a few strokes at the architect´s keyboard.  Those of us who have had our noses to this particular grindstone for months (OK, actually, it´s really fun sometimes too, but still a long haul) are gratified and grateful all around – to the community, to Jonathan Lucas, and to each other – for a job done well. And now, onward!

Any HM member who did not have a chance to attend the Last Saturday meeting is also welcome to come by Hart’s Nest (with notice!) and review all of the attached documents including larger printouts of the plans.  Email inquires are also more than welcome to me at weston@elon.edu or Katy at katy@hartsmill.org.

Please do take the time to respond – this is the moment when things can be readily changed, and we need to hear everyone´s thoughts and suggestions before taking more definitive responses and suggestions back to Jonathan.

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