Notes from The Reef Brussels' design session

Today @Nadia , @Noemi , @Matthias and I had a long session to discuss some aspects of the future Reef.

Overarching narrative

The Reef feeds into Edgeryders’ overarching narrative. Matthias sees it like this:

Edgeryders channels the emergent response to the impending crisis. It takes a form that we call Open Village: a set of documented tools, norms and templates for small-scale, semi-independent societies. I have in mind Nepalese villages, and how dramatically better life there could get if we deployed some of appropriate tech (think blimp cargo drones) and some appropriate economics (think network barter). But open villages do not need to be actual villages, they could also be city blocks, for example. The Reef is one of the labs where we invent and test new ways to live in an open village.

Inventing ways to live (and the artifacts to it with)

The Reef will be more interesting if it is not afraid to rething and re-invent everyday life. This will probably translate into its own aesthetics. For example, you could do a lot of furnishing using Euroboxes. They stack precisely on Europallets, which means The Reef is easy and cheap to reconfigure or even move from one location to another. The underlying concept is similar to open source software projects: developer build a applications which can be proprietary or bespoke, but almost always they use open source components like libraries and standards. Similarly, The Reef can be low-lovel standardised, so that it is easier to copy, fork and expand.

Economics

We ran some back-of-the-envelope numbers on two realistic scenarios: the current pre-Reef space in Rue Pierre Decoster (200 square meters, 4 bedrooms, in Forest. Estimated rent: 2.4K per month including building charges and expenses) and FOAM, on the Canal and close to Sainte-Catherine (600 square meters, hypothesis of 5 bedrooms. Estimated rent: 3.3K per month including building charges).

Our goals were: affordable, high quality communal housing; pleasant office space at good value-for-money for the ER company; possibility of using the office for extra networking and relationship building (co-working, small events); one extra room available to ER for residencies (to be rented out on Airbnb when not in use either for ER or as a guest room).

Out method was to allocate 700-1K EUR per month to the company; charge about 450-550 EUR for a single room (including charges; so about 4-500); charge slightly less than double that for a larger double room (700-850). If it adds up, it is sustainable. We would have a minimum of three Edgeryders permanent residents (Nadia, Noemi and Alberto) occupying three rooms. Ideally we would have one more, or one couple. This would be probably a possible next hire, since the two remaining partners do not seem inclined to move to Brussels. One room is needed as a spare (guest toom, residencies etc.). Any extra room would be rented out to permanent non-Edgeryders residents.

For the scheme to be viable, people need to be able to take up residency in the building; and the landlord needs to be willing to rent to a company.

Results:

  • The smaller Decoster space is sustainable, but limited in the sense that the larger networking function becomes difficult to serve. The office is too small for co-working. 
  • The larger Canal space is sustainable under the condition of having five bedrooms (which means three bathrooms at least). On the plus side, broader networking is a good fit (huge, beautiful, central space) and the central location makes rooms easier to let. 
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