Does the cohousing group establish the design criteria for the development project that will become their home?


Yes and No. There are two major things to consider before establishing cohousing: the fundamentals of cohousing and the development industry.


Cohousing Fundamentals: Households who join the group, join because they would like to share in the fundamental ideas of cohousing; living in a community where interaction with neighbours is a regular part of life, including weekly meals together, but having one's own dwelling unit. Cohousing experience from around the world indicates that 20-30 dwelling units work best. Specific to seniors cohousing, we add the need for “aging in place”.


Development Industry: The project will be built in an urban area of Ottawa, comply with Ottawa's Official Plan, the Ontario Building Code and all other governing regulations. It will have the legal structure of a condominium. In order to secure financing, it will have to be very much like other condos, just with a greater proportion of common spaces and a significant design nuance to allow for it's community intent. This project will aim to sell at market rates, so budget is another criteria in developing cohousing. Each unit will have to carry it's share of the cost of common spaces.


From the above, the following design criteria is extrapolated:

  • cohousing community in an urban location

  • 20-30 homes (dwelling units), each owned by individual households (condominium)

  • each dwelling unit would contain a kitchen, bath, living, dining and bedroom(s)

  • market rate units that trade off a spare bedroom for increased shared amenities

  • dwelling units would have no internal stairs and bathrooms and bedrooms would be designed to allow “aging in place

  • common amenity space, co-owned by all, would include (at a minimum) a kitchen/food prep area, a dining room, mail boxes, main entrance lobby, care-giver's suite

  • a significant amount of outdoor space would be designed to be shared

  • common parking spaces (less parking required than usual condos)

  • spaces oriented to allow for interpersonal interactions (both indoors and out)

  • a delightful, welcoming place that feels like home

So what does all this mean then? What will the place be like? What's left to design?


Design work will be divided into two phases: schematic design & design development.


In this phase, the architect has all the necessary information to complete the schematic design for any urban site in Ottawa, using the criteria above. Urban sights are tight, and schematic design is very much dictated by building codes, budget constraints, and by-laws. The architect will consult with City planning staff and industry experts, in order to design the volume and massing for a proposed urban cohousing development. For the sake of simplicity, during this phase, common facilities will be sized at ROSALINE TO DO. The project manager will provide cost estimates for the development. A completed schematic design that is possible for a specific site will be presented at the conclusion of STUDY GROUP I of the cohousing community formation process.


Once a site is selected, fine tuning of the design can commence, based on the schematic design layout for a specific location. In this phase, the architect will facilitate the cohousing group in making decisions about the size and organization of the common spaces, the precise number of units and the number of bedrooms in each, balconies, the 'look' of the building, the materials, fixtures, finishes and design details. The architect will then complete the design work, and provide the group with a site plan, building plans, unit plans, common area plans, and a 3D model of the outside of the building. This phase will take place during STUDY GROUP II of the cohousing community formation process. Once the group approves the drawings, the units will be available for pre-sale to group members. It will then be a few more years for the project to be fully constructed and ready for move-in.