Daybreak Cohousing

Schemata Workshop is winner of AARP Livable Communities Award

[caption id="attachment_938" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Daybreak Cohousing"][/caption] Last Friday, Schemata Workshop was recognized by AARP and the National Association of Home Builders for thedesign of Daybreak Cohousing.  We received the Livable Communities Award in the Architect category and we are thrilled to receive this honor.

[caption id="attachment_941" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Daybreak Cohousing Private Home"][/caption]

Daybreak is an intergenerational cohousing development of 30 homes in Portland, OR.  Construction was completed in late in 2009.  The 1, 2, and 3-bedroom homes are fully independent, but they also share 7,000sf of common area (called the Common House) that includes a commercial kitchen, large dining room, childrens play room, library, laundry facilities, workshop, indoor bike parking for 90 bikes, 2 guest rooms, yoga studio, and craft room.  From the window of each kitchen residents have direct sight lines to this Common House.  All the homes are connected to one another via an exterior walkway that allows the life of the community to be seen and experienced daily.  The walkway also serves as sun shading for the south facing windows.

[caption id="attachment_939" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Daybreak Cohousing"][/caption]

A description of the project as well as photos and a video can be found at

It is notable that 2 of the 5 awards were granted to cohousing projects.  I wonder if this is a tipping point for cohousing - will it truly inform a new paradigm for the American Dream?  One that is not defined by the single family house with 2-car garage and white picket fence, but instead a dream that is depicting seniors and kids working in community gardens, or unrelated adults preparing a community meal, or helping one another with errands in a physical setting that reinforces community interactions and shared resources...all the while enabling residents to maintain the privacy of their individual homes.  Now that's an American Dream that I could aspire to!  (And I know there are still a few homes available for sale if it appeals to you as well!)

Thanks to our design team (noted in previous blog post about Daybreak, but bears repeating)!  Swenson Say Faget Structural Engineers, Lando Associates Landscape Architects, MGH Civil Engineers, Urbsworks, Maria Cahill, Melissa Medeiros, and Liz Fekete!  And to our most excellent General Contractor - Gabe Genauer of B&G Builders.

related articles:

(We know that an interview was aired on a number of Oregon and Washington radio stations, but if you find more links for news articles, please let us know!)

Transparency, Curiosity, and Compassion

I live at Daybreak Cohousing ( Daybreak is an intentional community of neighbors who want to know each other and interact with each other on a daily basis. See our website or the national cohousing website: if you want to know more about us or cohousing in general. As with most communities, we have adopted a process/guide to help us effectively communicate with one another. We have adopted the “Mutual Learning Model”.

Transparency, Curiosity, and Compassion are the three key elements in the “Mutual Learning Model”. I find them to be invaluable in having clear, useful and productive conversations. They are particularly useful when having difficult conversations, which all of us have in life – be it with your partner, your family, your neighbors, or your colleagues.

Tuesday night, Emily Newberry with Wizense, Inc. (, came and talked to our community about these concepts. She helped to make this way of communication more present for us once again as it has been quite awhile since our community has focused on how we communicate. I found it to be a wonderful  reminder of how to be together and what is important to us.

These are the guiding principles underlying Roger Shwarz’ 9 ground rules (, which we have also adopted. Ground rules are ways of talking and communicating with each other that are mutually agreed upon. They help groups talk in a way that supports each other and furthers communication to get to joint decisions.

“Transparency is being fully who you are and being honest about what you know and believe and how you see things.”

“Curiosity is being genuinely interested in what others have to say and what they know.”

Compassion is temporarily suspending the belief that you have the right answer and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes to get what it is like to know what they know and reason the way they do.”

When you do all this, you can ‘play in the sandbox’ together. You begin by inviting the person/people you want to have a conversation to join you. This is much more effective than arm wrestling and being in the place of the “Unilateral Control Model”.

Thank you Emily and Daybreak for a great presentation and reminder! May we all continue to learn together!

Permaculture in Seattle

[caption id="attachment_268" align="alignleft" width="700" caption="Permaculture Gardens at Daybreak Cohousing"][/caption] While designing Daybreak Cohousing in Portland, we were first introduced to the term "permaculture."  At the time, I imagined it was a radical and complicated way to plant and grow food.  However, in the past 4 years, I've come to learn that a lot of what I believe in relative to urban gardening/farming is actually imbedded in the principles of permaculture.  How did I find this out?  After numerous people I'd be talking to would say "hey, what you are describing sounds like permaculture."  So after the last person who said this to me, Jason Niebler - Program Director for Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Program at Seattle Central Community College, I bought the book Gaia's Garden...and so starts my journey.

The journey includes creating an urban farm on the rooftop of our future cohousing development on Capitol Hill.  Based on early conversations with Jason, it sounds like we can grow food for the 10 families who will reside in the community as well as enough to sell to local restaurants and possibly to neighbors at the Farmer's Market.  That is still a few years off, so till then, we will dream and plan.  And when we move in, our 3000sf rooftop farm will be open to the public - for tours and general information.  No more food deserts - we want to grow hyper local food that is nutritious, organic, and sustainable.

Until that time, you can learn more about permaculture at the 2010 Northwest Permaculture Convergence.  Since the meeting is taking place in an urban setting this year, the focus of the Convergence is on Urban Permaculture and the Invisible Structures that weave our lives together as part of the city commons.

Mark Lakeman of Portland's City Repair is the keynote speaker - and he's quite an inspiring!  After hearing from him, you will want to create your own community tea house adorned with butterfly wings and paint a magnificent mandala in your neighborhood intersection.

The event takes place this weekend - September 17-19 at South Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA.  More info can be found at

Daybreak Cohousing - One year later

Mike and I spent the weekend at Daybreak- it was a great chance to see how the buildings are weathering and what is working/not working for the residents. Each time I visit Daybreak it feels like I'm coming home. And each time I leave, I look forward to my next visit.

Read More