Common spaces – making decisions!

Hi @reeflings !

There is currently a helping circle between Team Building and Team Faciliation to enable the Reef to reach a decision on the common spaces. This decision will translate into a “Common spaces programme” document, similar to the one we did for the individual units.
This is a top priority, as these spaces are connected to our community’s fulfilment, engagement and financial planning. The choices on common spaces will also have an impact on individual choices (e.g. do I need a washing machine?…).

There is quite a lot of related information spread across many of the Edgeryders threads and Nextcloud documents, so this post will attempt to do the following things:
• Summarise the situation
• Provide some elements to structure your reflection on this topic
• Highlight the outstanding questions
• Provide the discussion points that we might address at the next plenaries

The situation so far…

We recently conducted a survey of Full Members to establish our priorities (the full survey can be found here: Login – Nextcloud). The survey resulted in the following list, in order of priority:

Comes out as absolutely non negotiable
• Shared kitchen and dining (with bar)
• Multi-purpose room
• Lounge room or corner/living room
Comes out as desirable
• DIY room
• Guest room (with shower)
Comes out as nice to have (in the top 4 for less than 50% of people)
• Laundry room
• Coworking space
• Rooftop terrace/vegetable garden
• Jacuzzi
It is not clear at this point if everybody considered “rooftop terrace” and “laundry rooms” as givens, or if they might not have thought about it as an option. So we may need to get clarity on this to establish where we are really at.

This information was shared with the architects, and they made the following (initial) proposal (Next steps with the architects, till end of 2024 - #5 by els) with regard to the 190 m² brut of common space in the current plan:
• Multipurpose room and kitchen: 100 m² net
• Laundry room: 12 m² net
• Bike shed: 60 m² net (negotiable)

They suggested adding a multi-purpose mezzanine (about 20 to 25 m²) to the main common space (at a cost of €15,750), to be used for :
• Living room / kids play room as in l’Echappée / guest room and shower
There are some limitations with regards to the height under ceiling of the mezzanine, as the building itself cannot be higher than 10m.

The architects also suggested the possibility of creating extra space at level -1 (at a cost of €34,800), which could be used for:
• Workshop: 20 m²

Insofar as accessibility is concerned, the current plans foresee one elevator in the Obelix building (the front one). Adding elevators in each of the other buildings would imply :
• Additional estimate cost of €70,000/elevator
• Because the elevator will take extra room and lower the number of m2 available for units, the price per m² for an apartment will also go slightly up (€25/m² per lift)

Some specific questions from the architects are:
• How many bikes spaces do we want? (see proposal: Login – Nextcloud)
• Whether an atelier on the -1 level is both desirable and acceptable?
• Can we articulate our wish list in terms of ‘common functions’ rather than ‘common spaces’?
• What do we want to do regarding elevators ?

Some other questions we might want to ask ourselves:
• Given our current surface constraint, what would be our priorities beyond the “non-negotiable”?
• Can we have a space that will not be accessible for all (mezzanine)? And if yes what functions would be acceptable in it?
• Are we thinking “kids” enough?

The financial implications :
As you will have seen above, there are financial implications for many of the decisions that we will face regarding the common spaces. Questions that we will need to answer include:
• Are we, as a group, willing to go over the current price per square meter to increase our common space? And if so, by how much?
• Are we, as a group, willing to use (all or a part of) the money from the 2–4% (exact percentage to be confirmed) more that newer members may pay to increase our common space?

We have a discussion of the common spaces as an agenda point at the next plenary, in which we can begin to address some of these questions. Feedback and comments welcome below, as someone’s arguments might help another one decide one way or another.
Our objective at this point is to come to a decision by 1st of July, as the architects will need this to start working on the actual project. As there are so many outstanding issues and questions, the helping circle thinks that a dedicated workshop regarding the common spaces would be useful, as there will not be enough time during the next two plenaries to address everything. This point will be raised with the group on Monday…


I considered that the laundry room is a no-brainer. In the Nordics all condos have them, not just cohousings! I also considered that the rooftop terrace is not allowed in Jette, was that wrong?

I guess you already thought about it, but one way to improve this is to make sure parents are well represented in the helping circle…

I also thought this, just not sure if everybody is on the same page with it…

It seems that a rooftop terraces is probably not allowed in Jette, but that doesn’t necessarily exclude the possibility of having a rooftop potager space…

Definitely a step in the right direction :slight_smile:

  • speaking as a member of team building -

Answer of the architects on ‘rooftop potager space’: we can ask the question to the commune or make a proposition. I don’t know how they will react. At l’échappée, they’ve created there rooftop potager without a permit, In Spiegel there is no rooftop potager, in brutopia, there is a terrasse, but without a permit

another one is: an indication of the m2 of each common function

speaking as a reefling/full member -

  • i’ve evolved in my thinking since filling in the ‘common spaces survey’ and i could live with just the absolutely non negotiable. What i do find absolutely important is that the common living room is a private /intimate space (excluded from the neighbourhood-sharing-parts)
  • i’ve got a feeling that the common guest room is important for some people, but would like to know the frequence at which it would be used, and by how many reeflings (inviting friends/family/…). To know if we cannot look for other solutions. On the other hand putting a guest room in a mezzanine , seems like a doable extra cost (funded by 2-4%). Or integrate it in a multifunctional room: maybe, depending on the answer of ‘frequence of usage’
  • for the atelier: i can live without but i guess it would be nice to have a common storage for common tools, so the proposition of the architects (20m2) could for me be reduced to a space of 2-3 m2 (?) in the cellar
  • laundry room: it’s not a huge space we would need, and i guess this space can be found somewhere.
  • accessibility: i think definately all common spaces should be on the ground floor or accessible by the elevator. For the possible guest room and possible ‘tool storage place’ : not sure…
  • i would stick to 1 elevator
  • i wouldn’t raise the price/m2 of the units, but could live with using part of the 2-4% . I would like to use some of the money for the garden as well, as -if i understood well- no budget is foreseen for this. I think we should also leave a certain part as safety. I wonder e.g. where the money for the ‘assurance tout chantier’ would be coming from (and might be around 20.000). I also still have a slight fear that the parking places , now estimated at 30.000 might be worth less (as they are not indoor any more, but ‘outside with a roof’). If they would be 10.000 euro less worth, that means that it’s an extra 5*10.000 = 50.000 we need to come up with, not a big amount, but it all adds up…

speaking as Mieke

  • Mieke can life with the absolutely non negotiable
  • if something of the ‘desirables’ is added, Mieke would prefer the DIY room
  • Mieke would like the have a laundry room, but can also foresee some extra m2 in her private unit if needed
  • Mieke would like to see if there are no other solutions to be found for the '‘desirables’
  • Mieke is not willing to raise the price/m2 of the units, but is willing to use part (but not all) of the 2-4% money
  • Mieke prefers to keep one elevator, the one foreseen in Obelix

Thank you for the detailed update.

Here are our household’s views.

While this thread isn’t the place for another concern, I feel the need to mention it as it might explain our position : while common spaces are important, sustainability comes first for us. This means that we would give priority to using any money to maximizing sustainability (solar panels, heat pumps, water conservation, rainwater use) to enhance the Reef’s robustness.

We used the rating scale provided for the private units (essential/important/neutral/not preferred/inconceivable) as we felt it summaries pretty well our position. Please read the term “should” as personal preference.

A. Budget:

  • Exceeding current price per m²: Inconceivable. The budget is already tight for our household, so we am not in favor of increasing the cost per square meter.
  • Using 2-4% markup: Not preferred. This money is uncertain and shouldn’t be relied upon (hope for the best, prepare for the worst strategy). Its first use should be for covering financial costs for unoccupied units. Any leftover funds should be used for building robustness (water conservation, energy saving), the garden (not yet budgeted), and common space equipment.


  • Future-proof designs: we recommend that the architects design options for additional spaces that can be phased in over time, should there be any budget left at the end/in a few years when we will ascertain our needs better, or maybe they can be things we could do ourselves as DIY.
  • Creativity with existing space: we believe we can still find ways to maximize the use of spaces already included in the budget, and we look forward to the workshops to brainstorm over it.

B. Spaces Included in the Budget:

  1. Multipurpose Room and Kitchen: Essential
  • Open-Floor Concept: The space should be easily convertible to an open-floor layout with movable furniture and multifunctional items. A bar-height table, rather than a standalone bar, would be ideal. The key is high modularity.
  • Clear Separation: There should be a distinction between Reef-only and community spaces. I would like to store personal items (e.g., board games, books, cooking utensils) for group use and but also for personal use (e.g., work-from-home materials, sports mat).
    This separation should be modular (sliding walls or wide doors) to connect spaces when needed (to accommodate for larger gathering) and manage noise levels so that both quiet and kids-friendly spaces can be accomodated.
  • Garden Access: Wide windows and doors opening to the garden would extend the space for summer activities. A terrace could be built later, depending on the budget and garden space.
  1. Laundry Room: Neutral
  • Personal Washing Machine: We already have a washing machine and might keep it in our apartment. It is highly probable we will not be using this function.
  • Alternative Use: I prefer using the 12 m² for:
    • A fun room (playroom, study room, arts and crafts, board games, console games) for the Reef’s children.
    • Split the commons in two buildings if essential for others.
  1. Bike Shed (60 m² net): Essential

C. Spaces Proposed by Architects at an Additional Price:

  1. Mezzanine/Guest Room (with shower): Not preferred
  • Location Issues: The guest room in the mezzanine with a low ceiling and its location in Obelix poses logistical challenges for guests staying in other buildings and/or people with mobility issues.
  • Deferred Construction: Include the mezzanine in the plans but postpone construction until we have sufficient funds. This could be later in the project or after a few years of savings when we better understand our needs (e.g. living room, co-working).
  1. DIY Room: Not Preferred for the underground option.
  • Other than the budgetary issues, an underground DIY space might not be ideal due to ventilation, fire risks, soundproofing, and material transport issues (over-utilising the elevator ?). We do think we should explore configuring the underground cellars for tool storage (6-10 m²).

D. Remaining Spaces from the Questionnaire:

  • Coworking Space: Important. I hope to use quiet areas in the multipurpose room for co-working needs. The mezzanine could also serve this purpose.
  • Rooftop Terrace/Vegetable Garden: Not preferred for now. We need to understand the sustainability measures (solar panels, etc.) before agreeing to this.
  • Jacuzzi: Inconceivable. I don’t see how a jacuzzi aligns with my sustainability goals.

E. Accessibility:

we think one elevator in one building should be enough, considering the extra costs. The stairwells in the other buildings should be designed with accessibility in mind (wide enough, having space to install add-on chairs).


Here’s a couple of points from my side:

  • An elevator in every building to me is not only common sense, but also something that should be self-evident in a cohousing that takes inclusion as a key value. We don’t know what the future brings: someone can get disabled after a heart attack or an accident, someone could get a disease that leads to paralysis, someone could get a child with a disability, some of our loved ones could lose mobility, … I personally find it inconceivable that we would say “bad luck” if that would happen to someone living an apartment on a higher floor.

  • I would like to keep the discussion open on increasing the price of the square meter by 50 euro. First because this more or less means that if we all decrease the surface of our unit by 1 m², we could increase the surface of the common spaces without an extra cost. Second because I think that it is impossible anyway to count on the 4370 euro figure to be the final one.


hi full and associate members (@reeflings ),

As discussed yesterday in the plenary, the plan is to organize a half-day workshop (not online) to progress on the common spaces topic.
If people have experience or ideas for this workshop, you are welcome to join the helping circle ‘common spaces’

Here is a poll to see your availability:

  • Saturday 29/06 9:00 - 13:00
  • Saturday 29/06 13:30 - 17:30
  • Saturday 29/06 16:00 - 20:00
  • Sunday 30/06 9:00 - 13:00
  • Saturday 06/07 9:00 - 13:00
  • Saturday 06/07 13:30 - 17:30
  • Saturday 06/07 16:00 - 20:00
  • Sunday 07/07 9:00 - 13:00
  • Sunday 07/07 13:30 - 17:30
  • Sunday 07/07 16:00 - 20:00
  • Saturday 13/07 9:00 - 13:00
  • Saturday 13/07 13:30 - 17:30
  • Saturday 13/07 16:00 - 20:00
  • Sunday 14/07 9:00 - 13:00
  • Sunday 14/07 13:30 - 17:30
  • Sunday 14/07 16:00 - 20:00
0 voters

i am ok not participating…

The poll has spoken, and the workshop to continue the discussion of the common spaces will take place on Saturday 6 July from 9h to 13h…


@reef-associate @reef-full
message of chris just above…

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As discussed : L’échappé is booked from 9 to 1 pm for the circle
At 1 pm - Exploring member could join for a visit with Marie (commun spaces - 1/2h)
Then we go can go eat somewhere closeby.


@reef-full , @reef-associate : we got an answer from Tivoli about organising a visit and also discussing how they got to making a decision about their common spaces. It would be on thursday 11/07.

We are waiting on an answer about how many can join. When we have an idea of that and of how many we would actually be, we will see about opening this to exploring members as well (and I’ll put it in the summer schedule then).
So can you fill in the poll below? Thx!

  • I’ll be joining
  • I won’t be joining
0 voters
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In the evening I guess?

Yes! Waiting on exact time!

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Hi @reef-associate and @reef-full members !

Following our post two weeks ago (Common spaces – making decisions!) and the decision taken in the plenary to organize a workshop dedicated to listing the functions desired for the common spaces (as the architects have requested that we do), the Common Spaces Helping Circle (CSHC) has prepared a second questionnaire for all Associate and Full Members to fill in, available in this Google form. Your answers to the questionnaire will be analysed by the CSHC and used as preparation material for the actual workshop. (The raw data of the surveys will also be made available.)

Date of the workshop: 6 July from 9h to 13h (at L’Échappée, Laeken)

It is strongly recommended that you first read Alberto’s recent post on the topic of how buildings learn (How buildings learn: some reading as we prepare to discuss common spaces and other building-related matters), and also this blog post that Lucia came across (The Common House - The Heart of a Cohousing Community — Schemata Workshop). I’m not sure if the books and/or philosophies of the latter post are good or not, but it’s a very nice account of why it’s important to try and think well about what we’re doing here :slight_smile:

Please could everyone who wants to have a voice in this process (of deciding on the common spaces) fill in the survey by Wednesday evening, so that we can process the results before the workshop on Saturday. We intended to make this available much sooner, but it has been no small thing to put it together, particularly in a period when so much has been going on with the Reef. It should take about 15 minutes to complete, although it can be done much quicker if there are functions that you don’t have particularly strong feelings about, and it can be returned to more than once rather than do it all in one go.

The decisions that we make, or choose not to make, will play a big part in the functioning of the community that we are all planning on being a part of. For this reason, we encourage people to take the time to fill in the survey and participate in the upcoming decision-making processes. We are also optimistic that we will all continue to approach this discussion with openness, honesty and a willingness to compromise, because that’s how we roll :slight_smile:


A reminder to all @reef-associate and @reef-full members that the deadline for filing out the common spaces survey (link in previous post) is officially tonight, and unofficially Thursday lunchtime… thanks !

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Hi @reeflings !

Anyone interested in viewing the results of the common spaces survey can find them here: Login – Nextcloud

Thanks @els for collating them for everyone :slight_smile:

Could anyone from the common spaces helping circle (@els @LuciaM @Sarah) tell me if it would be possible to provide the survey in a readable format for the Exploring Members, so that the results will make more sense for those who didn’t fill it in?


Hi @mieke @els @SophieC @Sophie_B @ugne @manuelpueyo @MariaAM @Sarah @LuciaM and @joannes !

The common spaces workshop takes place this Saturday morning at the l’echappée cohousing in Laeken. We will begin at 10am, not 9am as it said in the original poll, and finish at 1pm. I believe that we will be able to have a tour of l’echappée immediately afterwards, and we may be joined by some Exploring Members for that. Subsequent food, drinks and frivolity possible, as always…

Joannes has very kindly offered to facilitate the workshop using his ‘tried and tested’ storytelling approach to cocreating common spaces. It’s really important that we start on time on Saturday, to have enough time to do the technique well. He and I will be there from about 9ish, so feel free to come early, especially if you would like to have a good look at the way that l’echappée have organised their common space, with the guest room mezzanine, etc…

(@Sarah - who do we have to contact to be let in at 9h?)

In the post above this one, you will find a link to a correlation of the common spaces survey results. It is highly recommended that people attending the workshop have a look at them beforehand, although if you don’t find the time to do that, Els will be giving a brief presentation of them at the beginning of the workshop.

For the rest of the workshop, we will be using a ‘day-in-the-life’ approach, where we break into small groups and tell stories about a day at the Reef during the week, or the weekend, or a holiday. This will be followed by presentations and reflections, and lead to cards of functions arranged in a hypothetical Reef space (Joannes - feel free to jump in with more detail if my very brief summary isn’t doing the approach justice). Finally, there will be some reaction rounds, and an attempt to put the results of our time together into a form that adds another constructive element to our process.

For those who can’t make it, the presentations and reflections following the group work will be recorded and made available on this thread afterwards.

Looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday…