Sprint to the Reef ! Co-design communal and green living. Join in Brussels November 28th


Many of us share spaces with others, but how can we make it easier to live together in a way that saves us costs, helps us live more ecologically, while really enjoying each other’s company?

Imagine the future is now. You live in a community home with 20 other people. How do you make yourself and others happy in this community?

We start from The Reef: a concept and future residential space where inhabitants have individual apartments and privacy, but share common spaces like kitchens, living rooms, and office(s). In the space, ecologically meaningful activities happen, and inhabitants are free to choose or initiate what interests them most. Over time, everyone transitions to a happier, healthier, greener, more social lifestyle. The Reef is in the design phase and anyone is welcome to get involved as a workshop contributor, a future inhabitant, or just a supporter!

Agenda 28th November: A co-design exercise to figure out collectively what would be The Reef from inside:

16:00 - 17:00 Intros & Getting up to speed with the project so far.

  • Who is participating and what is your motivation?
  • What is the work which has been done so far by the team and community? Presentation of a preliminary report to set a common knowledge base.

17:00 - 18:00 Group work:

  • The Dream: how do we build the culture of trust and shared values among those living together? How do you deal with conflict? what legal organisation forms are best fit to help us have a good agreement?
  • The House: is it enough to have green technology or do we need our behavior to change to preserve environment resources? how do you ensure everyone has access to common spaces, but also privacy? If you’re an extrovert or introvert, what would you need from others to feel at ease?
  • The Community: what projects can you and everybody in the house make that reduce the collective carbon footprint? How will we engage the neighbors to participate and make the Reef an exemplary community?
  • What is your question that you want to see addressed? Add it in a comment below and we will include it in the Agenda!

18:00 - 18:40 Food break: sharing a communal meal

18:40 - 20:00 Open discussion

  • Reporting from the group work
  • Future plans

Who you can meet:

20:00 - Drinks!

LOCATION: Metrolab, Quai du Commerce, 48, 1000 Brussels


The workshop will collect documentation and synthesis about shared aspirations that can be implemented at The Reef, and enable those who wish to continue together to build their future home.


After you register, please wait for our confirmation (number of participants is limited to 15). Working languages are English and French.

The workshop is organised by Edgeryders. We are global network and a social enterprise. Our mission is enable projects for the common good and make them sustainable and rewarding for everyone involved (open, inclusive, participatory processes). In the past three years, some of us have experienced co-living and working together from a shared office in Brussels, and The Reef is our project to find a bigger residential space and bring together more people who wish to live affordable and healthy urban lives by joining forces.

Learn more

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@BaobabUrbain: is there a French version of this?

@BaobabUrbain @manuelpueyo can you check the updated Agenda and see if it look OK for now? We will prepare the breakout sessions next Thursday 28th at The Reef, before we go to Metrolab.

i will have a look tonight. cheers

Here are some reflections / notes from that workshop, as collected by me . The notes are specifically from the “technical group”'s work in the group session, of which I was a part.

The question that we discussed – from various angles – was: How can we make buildings more ecologically sustainable? Relates to building materials, household appliances, the inhabitants’ “behavior of living” etc… Notes by contributor:


  • Influenced by Brent and Robert Vale’s book “The Autonomous House”, an influential book in the 1970s. They approached a house as an input / output device. An “earthbound spacecraft” that should be self-sufficient. They thought about the flows going in and out: air, water, sewage etc… And then how to minimize the flows.

  • The capital consumption (embodied energy etc.) to build a perfect building has to be considered when thinking if a building is ecological or not. (Comment by Ilaria: That’s the basic idea of circular economy.)

  • Insulation: Usually you’d first insulate, then heat (as much as still needed). But there are challenges: Adding wall insulation on the outside of existing buildings is a problem. Because it may inhibit windows from working. And if you add insulation on the inside, the thermal mass of the building is of not much use for keeping the room temperature constant.

  • Directly heating buildings with wind turbines would work. It’s the same hydraulic brake technology as on aircraft carriers, where the jet capture wire has to be slowed down rapidly.

  • In older years, hot fill dishwashers and washing machines were standard. Not anymore. Reason? The policy seems to be an all-electrical energy supply now. At least in Belgium.

  • When teaching physics in school, Malcolm asks children the ethics of moving from slaves to power tools and robots. A power tool is like having 20 servants. Even music was non-electric 200 years ago. Not anymore.

  • Should we employ people to clean the place, or do that with robots? This is an interesting moral question. Cleaners nowadays are annoyed if they have no automated equipment – even if offered pay for longer hours of work in compensation.

  • Resource hint: “Center for Alternative Technolog”, Wales.

  • Malcolm has a rainwater system, from the early 20th century; then suddenly it started to stink; even the toilet smelled worse after flushing; the cistern had to be cleaned from the inside; before one could do laundry with it; the FAC website has the equipment for rainwater tech.


  • Might converting a building to be green be more expensive than building a new one? (Comment by Malcolm: Even if so, it’s also valid to make a conversion as a demonstration project of what can be done.)

  • In France, there is a lot of subsidy for insulation etc… (In Belgium, not so much, according to Malcolm. Due to historical building status, the commune even wanted to have single glazing back in his building at one point.)

  • What low-tech solutions are there in order to not be addicted to market-provided high-tech solutions? Because that’s needed to really be sufficient with the existing resources.

  • Can low-tech solutions work in urban areas?

  • Would generating electricity for the building with bicycle generators work? (Comment by Matthias: It’s just not enough. If you cycle 24 hours a day, you’d generate 2.4 - 3.6 kWh, out of the 6.5 kWh a typical person uses per day, taking the example of Germany.)

  • To be ecological, it also has to be fair. In Isabelle’s work with utilizing abandoned buildings, the principle is that everything is based on free contribution, and everything has a value. This is “ecological relationships” as the basis.


  • Wood burning is polluting. In Milan, they proposed a law that says chimneys can only be used beyond 200 m altitude (“in the mountains”). But that got not implemented in the end. A lot of pizzerias would be affected, so they were against it. The problem here was that Milan is in the Padana plain, an industrial region with no wind and mountains around. That creates air pollution issues.

  • With open source tech, a lot of things become affordable for everyone.

  • Caring for the environment (the culture) is a closed, bourgeois club these days. It costs energy to choose ecological behavior. It has to open up. Changing behavior only happens when you see the value.

  • Not everyone has the passion for the environment. People need to see the value for their own lives to engage in ecological behavior.


  • Behavior setting theory is a nice framework for effecting behavior change by incentives in the physical environment. Could be well integrated into green buildings, as it deals with the connection between behavior and things that we found to be important for low-resource-use living.

  • Recourse link: Low-Tech Magazine.


  • The Romans did not achieve the industrial revolution (even though they were short before that) just because they did have slaves, and did not need machine power.

  • What are behaviors / rules for common living that make buildings more ecological?

  • It’s necessary to define to what degree / extremeness you want to be ecological with your building. It’s easy to be extreme, in a way. But when it means that the comfort level drops too low, you have to warn people before they join, or visit.

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