PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

Takoma Village Cohousing Final Report Summary

December 2001

A PDF version of the complete document is available.

Executive Summary

[IMAGE: Connection between common house and apartments, showing fiber cement siding and metal roofing.] The Takoma Village Cohousing project served as an interesting demonstration project for PATH. Most importantly, the project can be judged to be a success. Approximately 16 technologies were incorporated into the project. There have been numerous press items about the project, including articles in national magazines. Due to its location in Washington, DC, it is highly visible. At the same time, the success of the project points up the importance of the entire team -- developer, architect, builder, residents -- and their ongoing commitment to the goals of the program. On the down side, the project also demonstrated that in the field, cost and familiarity usually override new techniques and materials.

Located in northwest Washington, DC, Takoma Village consists of 22 townhouse-style buildings, which are divided into 43 one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom units. The project is an example of urban cohousing. Each member of the cohousing community owns their own apartment (similar to a condominium). There is a shared common house with recreation areas, living room, kitchen, and dining room for group events. There is also a shared "green" in the center of the project for gardening. The project is in close proximity to the Metro line.

The Takoma Village Cohousing project has provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate both positive and negative aspects of the PATH initiative. On the one hand, the developer/architect was open to incorporating new ideas, technologies, and approaches into his plan. Moreover, his company's specialization in affordable housing and housing for the elderly tied in nicely with the PATH goals. In addition, the Takoma Village Cohousing group residents were extremely interested in energy efficiency and sustainability -- two of the PATH goals. The working relationship between the architect/developer and the community's design team was very effective, with all proposed ideas being examined in an open-minded fashion. This allowed for lively discussion on a wide variety of technologies throughout the process. Unfortunately, when the project was bid, the issue of cost and cost overruns arose. It was at this point that some technologies were dismissed. It is safe to say the higher cost of technologies was a significant barrier. The other issue that affected the decision to use a technology was additional time needed, or perceived additional time needed for implementation. This became an even bigger problem as the project fell behind schedule due to poor weather. It should be noted that additional delays were encountered within the DC permitting process due to holiday schedules and historic district approvals. This delay in permitting is an area that needs some investigation. Efforts to streamline the permit process should help, but the status quo in this area will likely continue to undermine attempts to incorporate new technologies.

Ground was broken in November 1999. A ceremony was planned and attended by various federal and local agency staff. Everyone was enthusiastic, as the project was viewed as a positive addition to the community. Additional delays due to unforseen site mitigation slowed down progress. At this point the general contractor opted for "business as usual" in order to ensure that additional time was not spent. This was particularly true with OVE. On the whole, however, because of the keen interest on the part of the architect and the community, the following sixteen technologies were incorporated into the project:

[IMAGE: Foundations are made with slurry, a recycled post-industrial byproduct that does not diminish the strength of the concrete.]

Discarded technologies included solar hot water (passive and PV) due to cost; OVE due to contractor resistance and scheduling (the project was behind and the GC felt they would get further behind); plastic composite window frames due to cost; greywater heat recovery devices because of framing issues and apartment configuration; tankless water heaters because of cost (but another plan was devised to provide desuperheating in combination with the geothermal heat pumps system); bamboo flooring due to cost; and drywall clips.

Content updated on 9/13/2006

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