Can I Have My Own Kitchen? Cohousing Unveiled

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We’ve all heard the terms organic and eco-friendly. Locavore is the Oxford Dictionary’s 2010 Word of the Year. But have you heard the term cohousing? Kathryn McCamant, an award-winning architect and developer comes to Boise State Wednesday night to talk about a new concept that she says is revolutionizing communities across the world.

McCamant, author of Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, returned to the U.S. in the 1980s, bringing with her the cohousing concept from Denmark.

“I can’t imagine why anyone would live outside of a cohousing community,” McCamant told Citydesk.

McCamant said the concept is relatively simple: marrying fully-equipped homes with extensive community amenities.

A cohousing neighborhood typically consists of private homes (yes, that includes a high-end kitchen) with a communal dining area, garden, sitting area, children’s playroom, laundry, workshop, library, exercise room, crafts room, and one or more guest rooms. The environmentally-sustainable homes are built facing each other, making space for a courtyard, creating a strong sense of neighbor-oriented community.

For the uninitiated, cohousing is not synonymous with commune. Most cohousing communities do not have a common religious or political ideology. They’re made of individuals who want a life of community, while caring about environmental sustainability and efficiency.

But what might this mean to Boise dwellers? Many residents already live together, cook communal meals, and even share neighborhood yoga classes. Yet, there are many more living in single-family dwellings, eating meals alone, and not knowing their neighbors.

McCamant said cohousing offers an alternative to the alienation prevelant in modern society. While many may isolate themselves in gated communities to achieve security, she said cohousing offers a more permanent security, “Knowing your neighbor, and building relationships and bridges that make us safer.”

McCamant told Citydesk that her Wednesday night presentation will cover a variety of subtopics: intergenerational neighborhood design, shared spaces for meeting, community gardens, edible landscaping and energy-efficient and sustainably-designed buildings. McCamant said all these things can be incorporated to any degree into new Boise homes, whether buying into a cohousing community or are just looking to “green” or enrich your life.

“A true cohousing community or eco-village does not yet exist here. My hope is that this presentation will demystify the concept and engage the public in a conversation about the best possible future,” said John Gardener, associate vice president for energy research, policy and campus sustainability.

In McCamant’s words, “We’re not all best friends, but we’re all good neighbors.”

McCamant’s free presentation is slated for 7 pm Wednesday night in the Jordan Ballroom of the Boise State Student Union Building.