I am have been asked by many people intrigued with our project what our RareBirds Housing Co-operative project is all about- who are you? and what are you doing?… and why are you doing this?
It would certainly be very easy to quickly provide a ‘quick and easy’ statistical overview as a response to those questions.
The RareBirds are nine lively adults, three couples and three singles, or six co-op memberships in total between us.
We have been incorporated as a housing co-op for almost two years.
We are building a shared 6,000 sq. ft. three level house with a shared kitchen and living space.
The house is about 15 minutes walk west of the downtown core of Kamloops.
The total value of the project is $1.2 million. We are self-financed and each member invested $200,000. The house will be completed in February of 2014, we hope!
I could answer the question about who we are and what we are doing this simple way with these stats.
Or I could answer by giving more emphasis to the house itself. After all, the house is the most visible aspect of who we are and what we are doing.
Thus, the response might include some features of the sustainable design of the house and some of the environmental building practices that have gone into the construction. I might describe some of the technical details.
We have active and passive design elements to conserve energy and lessen our ecological footprint.
We paid close attention to the orientation of the house and how best to use the land.
The house is double insulated- both within and without the sheeting of the house reaching an R rating in the walls of R-27 and the roof of R-50 values.
A solar hot water system consisting of three panels and a 120 gallon storage tank will provide an average of 75 gallons of hot water per day.
There are 27 250 watt solar panels installed on our south facing roof with an array that is built to eventually provide a total of 45 panels. We are approved as one of about 270 BC Hydro net metering projects. Our system connects to the distribution system; we receive credit for the electricity we generate. These will generate a total of about 11 ¼ kilowatts of electrical energy or approximately $1200 per year of electricity at current utility rates.
We are using a heat pump for our heating and cooling.
By bringing together six typical Canadian households into one, we are able to reduce both our per person consumption of energy but also reduce the duplication of many day-to-day household items and equipment, such as household appliances.
So, I could answer these questions about who we are and what we are doing by referring to our approach to sustainable design and building.
One other option that is always available for a response is the story of how we got here.
It has been about a three year development.
That initial meeting of friends came about because some of our group had viewed a documentary: ‘how to boil a frog’. It was not a cooking film… it was a documentary about how to live more simply. Indeed, you could say that a slowly boiled frog drew the interest of some birds!
This prompted a desire to gather some other friends together to see if there might be an interest in a shared living arrangement. At this first meeting, the group only had a vague idea in mind- but soon a growing set of intentions and a common shared purpose was articulated.
We drafted a Living on Purpose document early on to help guide us:
The purpose of our Intentional Community is to create a model that will enable us to live into the possibilities of social and spiritual transformation.
· To create more financial freedom and emotional enrichment for each of us by living interdependently, mindful of environmental responsibilities and sustainable practices in our community living.
· To create an inclusive environment that embraces our extended families and welcomes our friends
· To create sustainable practices which embody our values
That initial gathering was the nucleus of an emerging idea that gained clarity and scope as we met together for that first year.
We spent months of focused learning and research about the options of shared living; there are many models and experiments going on.
We settled on a combined/hybrid model of a registered self-financed equity housing co-operative and an intentional community with shared kitchen and cooking rather than independent living units.
We incorporated as a BC housing co-op in January 2012.
As we worked on our way-of-being together and we researched further aspects of common life, we started an active search for both a suitable property and additional members.
In July 2012, we purchased a ½ acre lot near the downtown core of Kamloops.
Our project was successful through public hearing and rezoning and after a process of design and approvals, the construction began in May.
We have our full membership and are now accepting interested people onto our waiting list.
We have also sold our homes along the way to provide financing for the project… thus, the period of house sitting and co-habitating with friends is at last coming to an end in a few months!
This is a quick scan of our story… but it still misses some of the heart of the answer to the questions:
Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing this?
I am grateful for the four simple words in the C4 Approach to Community SustainABILITY.
Opening them up this morning with you helps me to come closer to a deeper level of response.
We are curious birds!
I have to admit that I do tend to prefer the word ‘wonder’ over ‘curiosity’. Curiosity is very valuable- it is a mental process of trying to know more and understand more… this is all good.
Yet, wonder is more of a heart word.
Wonder holds some of the mystery of life.
One of our touchstones that we refer to in our group decision process and sharing together is this:
“when the going gets rough, turn to wonder”
And we ask that question first about ourselves… I wonder why I am reacting in this way to what is going on?
Curiosity and wonder have been gifts to us along the way.
We have accessed a few guides to help us along the way… someone to guide us through incorporating as a co-op, our architect to assist us with designing a building, a builder to help us construct the home… but we have mostly relied on our own creativity and pondering together to determine our way forward and to answer the most essential questions: who will you be and why are you doing this?
We realized early on that no consultant will be able to answer those questions for us.
One creative element that we have worked on is how we meet together in a circle process and in consensus decision making. This process of deep listening, silence and careful practice is still evolving and fine tuning but it has served us well.
Nine people using the same kitchen… each member cooking for the house one night each week… coordinating groceries, chores, guests, and events…
Do I need to say more about the value of communication?!!
We have also been aware of how valuable it has been to communicate not only internally but with the broader community: in telling our story.
Telling stories is powerful.
We find out that a crazy scheme over a glass of wine with friends just might be actually taking place somewhere… maybe even in our own city.
So we are making an effort to communicate our story, as much as we can.
Find us on Facebook!
I have been reading some of the writings of Peter Block recently. Peter is an American writer and social thinker who has reflected on what it means to create community.
He believes that when people truly collaborate they are accessing latent resources that already exist among them.
It is not just making decisions.
It is an energy release- an activation of gifts hidden from view or ignored or underestimated.
This has been our experience as we navigated through a myriad of decisions.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this morning. If you are in Kamloops and would like a cup of coffee and a tour of the home, please contact us via our website or by talking with us today.
We would love to know what you are doing, as well.
That is after February when we are moved in… unless you have experience in building retaining walls, then you can come next week and bring a pair of gloves too!