By Doug Robnett, Haystack Heights Member and CIT (Construction Interface Team) Member
On Monday members of the CIT Team met with our architect, Charles Durrett; UD & P Development Manager, Leslie Louis; a representative from our contractor, Yost Gallagher; and a variety of engineers in a marathon day. UD&P is pushing hard to move the project along, so lots was accomplished.
This was with our Civil engineer, Scott. Molly Phillips and Abby on the CIT Team were present to take it all in. This is a critical front at this time as we really need to make the outdoor space not just work in terms of ADA accessibility, water mitigation, etc., but it also needs to be a beautiful and a functional living space that connects and transitions with the buildings. Most of the basic structural elements are in place. The details need to be worked out. Now we move forward with making sure we maximize the opportunity the redesign has provided (more green space) to make places where we can play outside, and which emphasize the aesthetics.
Afternoon Meeting #1
We met with Cory who did the original design on the district heating system (a network of insulated pipes from a central or building-by-building location) to provide radiant floor heating. The plan is to price out the units using some form of electric heat (not you parents’ baseboard!) and tasking Cory to design the two systems. One is a revised district heating system that may be more feasible now that the buildings are closer together. The other is to find a place in each building (architect magic) where we could put a boiler. This would allow radiant heat in the floors at least on-grade in B and C units and in each A unit. We will get the delta (which I now know is the difference in price between the electric and boiler systems) and bring it to the community for a decision.
Afternoon Meeting #2 - Sprinkler Designer
Who knew this would be such a thrilling topic? We met with the sprinkler designer. He was really happy that we are talking with him at this point in the design. Lots of money to be saved if we can connect into the domestic water supply instead of running dedicated water lines (that is usually is the default). Chuck is going to have to figure out how to use the Special Theory of Relativity to make space inside the walls larger that the space outside the walls, but he seems up to the challenge. This was a very positive meeting.
Afternoon Meeting #3 - Structural Engineers and Framers
Another thrilling meeting to end the day! Lots of in the sticky details such as type of sheeting and what to do with rafter tails. Leslie is really good at always pushing for ways to do things that don’t compromise quality but push prices down. Probably the most significant change is that they are going to design the B and C units to be able to structurally handle gypsum on the second floors, so if we go to radiant heat we don’t need to redo the engineering. The team was quite impressive in terms of knowledge and commitment to cost discipline.
There will be another meeting next week on the 28th with Leslie, Chuck, Yost Gallagher, and engineers. Timelines are tight and Leslie is pushing hard so stay tuned!
As a regular feature in our monthly newsletter and blog posts, we are going to highlight some of the rich experience, talents and skills of our members. Cohousing tends to be a magnet for bringing together people intent on improving the world around them through a variety of ways, so we’ll have plenty to share with you in the future. In this vein, we happen to have (at least) two experts in the arena of community building who also happen to be married to one another: Bob Stilger and Susan Virnig. Bob is the founder and president of the nonprofit, NewStories, launched in 2000 because it seemed pretty obvious to Bob that we needed new stories about how to live well on this planet. “What do we do when the future we thought was before us disappears?” is a guiding question for his work. Bob’s book, AfterNow: When We Cannot See the Future, Where Do We Begin? published in 2017, is available at www.AfterNow.Today and on Amazon. It is “an invitation to go ahead and create the lives and communities we want - NOW.” We thought starting with Bob, drawing on his many years of community facilitation, would offer us all important insights into successful community cultivation. Sarah Conover was the interviewer.
Sarah: What is your “elevator speech" when you describe your work to someone?
Bob: I help people remember how to listen to each other, to trust one another, and to co-create new possibilities in a rapidly changing world.
Sarah: Do you consider your skills to be that of a community organizer or something different?
Bob: I am a witness, a steward of knowledge, a host of generative conversation and a guy making my way, one step at a time.
Sarah: How would you define “community?”
Bob: Community is a nested system. I am community. We are community. The larger world around us is community. We are distinct and we are inseparable. We are one and we are many.
Sarah: What are your educational degrees vis a vis community building?
Bob: I have a PhD in “Learning and Change in Human Systems” from the California Institute of Integral Stories. My deepest learning, however, has come from literally thousands of conversations with people around our little planet who are discovering how to make a difference that makes a difference.
Sarah: What got you interested in community building and process? What life experiences?
Bob: People got me interested in community building. This sea of difference we call humanity which, at is core, is often the same. When I was ten, I started work for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland and I worked there until I was twenty-five. Science was our focus; community was our ground.
Sarah: Can you give us some examples in which you’ve played this role in the past? Presently?
Bob: I am involved in many things. They range from co-hosting an annual learning journey to Fukushima for Japanese people, to being part of the facilitation team for a global first people’s gathering on climate-forced displacement. I am working in the fire disaster areas of Northern California to pioneer regenerative approaches after disaster. I am in constant dialogue with amazing people everywhere on our planet as we find a way forward in a time of disaster, collapse and possible extinction.
Sarah: Can you give us some specific anecdotes and examples of successful community building from a few of these experiences?
Bob: One of my favorite hidden stories is the story of Onagawa, Japan. A beautiful fishing village of 10,000 people in NE Japan that was totally destroyed in the March 11, 2011 tsunami. They have managed to reframe it as a once in a thousand-year opportunity and come-together to create a new vision for how they will live together, keeping beauty and safety at the center. You can read more about it in Chapter 9 of my book - AfterNow: When We Cannot See the Future, Where Do We Begin?
Sarah: Can you give us some ideas of what frays a community’s strength?
Bob: Lack of listening, lack of trust, a rush to get things done, and putting off the hard conversations for another day. Community takes time. You can spend it building community, or you can spend it dealing with the fallout.
Sarah: What are some of the obstacles communities like ours—a new community—can expect to run into?
Bob: Too much to do and too little time. A shirking away from the obstacles. A loss of a sense of humor. An insistence on certainty when uncertainty and ambiguity are the rules of the day.
Sarah: What are some basic ground rules for a healthy community, and how does a community hold itself to these rules?
Bob: For me it is more about principles and values rather than rules. Principles and values that are returned to when things get rough, as they always will. Values that I invite into the center of any community — be it the temporary community of a workshop or gathering or the long term place-based community — are respect, curiosity and generosity.
Sarah: Can you speak a little about “trust” in maintaining a healthy community? What does that word mean to you in this context?
Bob: Trust is something that grows over time. What’s most important is having enough trust to take the next step, and the next. Trust is not an absolute or a universal, it comes in parts and pieces at first. It is essential in building community, but not monolithic. Within our community it is often most present in different groups who find enough trust there to have a willingness to trust the whole.
Sarah: Can you speak a bit about the human need for “belonging” and how that plays into a community’s vibrancy?
Bob: A sense of “I belong here” is the core of any community. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of Beloved Community which is, at its core, a community of belonging. It is the sense of all of who I am is welcome here.
Sarah: How have you facilitated both trust and belonging in your work with groups?
Bob: I work a lot with people’s stories, inviting vulnerability and intimacy. I avoid ice breakers—the ice is fine, thank you very much — and invite people into the conversations and explorations of what their hearts yearn for.
Sarah: What’s a counter-intuitive aspect of community building that no one would have expected? Can you give an example? For instance, our son told us that if a person moves into a new neighborhood, they will connect to neighbors much more readily if they ask them for a favor because people like to be generous and it opens something between them.
Bob: One of the tribes of Vancouver Island has a core principle in their worldview: “It is unkind not to ask for help.” I guess I don’t really have a sense of what is counter-intuitive. In some ways, I don’t have much perspective here.
Sarah: Is there anything important about community building I didn’t get at with these questions, and if so, what?
Bob: We just need enough — enough clarity, enough trust, enough confusion, enough of a sense of direction. We make the path by walking it, one step at a time. We each need to discover what we will stand for and then find enough courage and clarity to step into the unknown. We need each other. We are not alone.
Check out Bob’s new mini-book on Amazon, FutureSessions: A Pathway to Co-created Action