Unlocking the Intentional Community's Potential of Affordability & Health
Florian Becquereau, NW Intentional Communities Association
Kees Kkolff, Port Townsend EcoVillage
In this session we review what an Intentional Community (IC) is relative to conventional housing. To design an IC, the architect needs to understand its population and their intent. Unlike a typical population occupying conventional housing, IC residents are committed to social growth and seeking a level of trust between community members. We make clear that ICs are not for everyone. But, for those who aspire to own or rent quality housing that is increasingly seen as unattainable especially in high growth cities, ICs provide an affordable alternative. For those who struggle to balance work life with child rearing concerns, the opportunities to share solutions within a trusted community opens up in an IC. For elders who want to age in place within the comfort of their network of friends and family, ICs provide that opportunity. And for many of us that favor close community ties over toughing it out on their own, ICs provide a healthier alternative.
The core asset of an IC are the relationships that are formed and exercised between its members. The architecture of an IC facilitates the building and maintenance of these relationships. These relationships are like muscle fibers – the more of them there are and the more they are exercised, the stronger they become. The architect must also be aware that American culture is built around a story of the rugged individualist, responsible and capable of going it alone – an often unrecognized institutional bias. While our culture supports this story, neither the planet nor our psycho-social evolution does. In addition this story contributes to barriers of access to and affordability of our housing stock which has become painfully evident especially in rapidly growing cities around the world including Seattle. This story is clearly unhealthy and unsustainable.
Architects play a leading role in designing healthy and sustainable buildings. Their advocacy is prominent in design and technology for preventing mold, as an example, and reducing a buildings impact to the environment. However, when it comes the resident’s psycho-social health affecting mortality, social in-equality, and housing affordability, their leadership is too often silent. Understanding how community centric architecture can facilitate community building will empower architects to be conversant for housing that is not just ecologically sustainable and free of mold, but more psycho-socially healthy, equitable, and economically sustainable.