The Reef community workshop series : Reflections from the codesign sprint

Thursday 28th Nov, the Reef community workshop series was attending its 3rd session at Metrolab Brussels

The community was strengthened by the inputs of its core members from Manuel to Ugne, Vincent, Cynthia, Louise, Noemi, Alberto, and Matthias.

Plus, this 3rd workshop welcomed aware participants in fields related to coliving such as Matthew from conscious coliving, Kai from Happy Pigeons presented on edgeryders by Noemi (Happy Pigeons Co-living in Berlin). We also welcomed Luk co-founder of Woon Coop. A cooperative that developed a mixed model between rental and ownership active in Belgium.

I am deeply thankful to everyone who attended this workshop.
I am also thankful for everyone who feels a sense of belonging for the Reef community whether you had a chance to attend a workshop or not.
This post is an open door to put perspective on the concrete ideas we expressed !

@noemi facilitated us the way to collectively shape the Reef onto 3 main areas :

  • Living Together
  • Green behaviors
  • Governance

Feel free to endorse or not, comment, spread knowledge and references. Sharing is caring !

Living together

From the Kitchen, to sewery courses, to knowledge sharing and time-banking, the codesign sprint was a fruitful discussion to draw a qualitative map of all the collective habits that could be endorsed in the Reef.

Things we agreed on
The Reef would be modulable to get space for privacy, intimacy, and common areas. Yet, this requirement for modularity doesn’t tell if the building has to be vertical or made with separate buildings. Accessibility for everyone is a common criteria. Here we consider both people with disabilities, temporary guests, diversity of households typologies, background, experiences, skills and potentialities to expand.

The Reef would create a space for a third party that we define by now as a facilitator or a mediator. This person would be someone standing on the first line and trustworthy.

Green behaviors

1. Shared green behaviors

Everythings starts with the skills and passion we got in the first place. If you practise yoga, then let’s practise yoga in a common area and present this practise to others inhabitants and users of the place :slight_smile:

Green is also about being savvy. Kitchen issues offers a room to create modular initiative (open kitchen some days, collective cooking, récup, table d’hôte, workshops…).

2. Time is community

How could possibly The Reef offer more emphasis on the time and skills people offer to the community ?

Initatives such as time-banking have been raised as relevant examples.
You can get an explanation here on the website of les grands voisins in Paris. Basically they created a trocshop, you pay workers and clothes with either time for the community and/or metro ticket.

3. The Reef as a vehicle for Decarbonization

How could The Reef possibly be self-sufficient energetically wise ?

To go deeper on that topic, @matthias initiated an inventory of technical solution for The Reef and beyond.


Matthew who just released the 1st edition of the more than edgy coliving insights and @alberto talked about governance structure for the Reef.
Alberto compiled all this in-depth discussion in a topic on edgeryders.

Just to sum up and get clear ideas

coliving concerns primarily businesses providing branded multi-party residential
products with a service layer. Most of coliving experiences are focused on commercial and rental model that have the opportunity to make a market impact and reach a large number of people.

Are Not concerned by this definition : student accommodation and, with some exceptions, intentional communities and co-operatives which are typically driven by owner-occupiers without a profit motive.

  • PROS
    people rent the space from the operator, and they tend to get an inclusive service to run the rent, utilities, maintenance, cleaning, laundry

  • CONS
    when the service is too perfect then the level of convenience is high and the necessity of community building is weakened

cohousing : People buy a living unit which is part of a larger context; sometimes they even develop it together

  • PROS
    strong community spirit

  • CONS
    easy to cash in but difficult to cash out if needed

What to keep in mind ?

  • The Reef governance model might draw its own line between coliving qualitative living and co-operative ownerships
  • To prevent negative aspects of both coliving and cohousing The Reef governance model should prevent high turnover rate (like in traditionnal coliving) and investors insecurities (like in cohousing)
  • Some of the Reef convenience would be DIY and community based
  • A broader perspective on cooperative models allows to make a difference between investing bodies and effective inhabitants and users of The Reef

The Reef community thanks Metrolab Brussels for kindly hosting us in their wonderful offices.


Edgeryders inputs on the Reef

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Thank you, it’s a really nice (and nice looking) summary. I added it to our official company blog!

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Noting the difference between coliving and cohousing!

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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.