experiences processes designs of shared living
clippings from “Perspectives on Co-Living: Reimagining the Experiences, Processes and Designs of Shared Living”
identified a craving for community and connection, or a lack of quality affordable housing for their peer group, or possibly a desire for more flexible housing solutions that met their changing lifestyles that valued mobility … as technology dominates our attention, we find loneliness and #anxiety statistics in society spiking at catastrophic rates… relatedly, our lifestyles afford us more flexibility in how we desire to live and work … increasingly favour convenience, experience and access over ownership, status and security.
many of the intentional communities of the past collapse as they no longer meet the changing needs of societal norm … co-living initiatives are at the moment quite diverse in their offers, however, are accessible mainly to a population of individuals who remain in a certain age range and socioeconomic background (the sector has long been tagged with a millennial freelancer/digital nomad profile), leaving a lot of room for opportunity and innovative types of co-living spaces
aside from property development and operational co-living schemes, there are other opportunities to capitalize on the co-living phenomenon, such as through online marketplaces, innovation platforms, research labs and developing services and applications that can be layered onto already existing co-living offers
BMW’s MINI Living
co-housing has existed in Scandinavian countries since the 1970s/1980s, and can be defined as urban/semi-urban communal living where responsibilities (such as designing the development, financial management, carpooling, and child care) and communal activities (such as communal meals, film clubs, and permaculture gardening) are shared and where residents intentionally seek out living in community and sharing resources.
categorize co-living typologies; and the co-living sector is becoming increasingly attractive to actors on all scales of urban development, the sharing economy, hospitality and the real estate sector.
According to Ikea’s Space10, “this form of ‘living together’ is changing the way we approach housing, and it comes in different forms
destination spaces for flexible and nomadic young professionals, short-term stays, or residential in nature and cater to a diversity of modern urbanites who seek medium to long-term stays … the main differences between ‘residential’ and ‘destinational’ co-living spaces are the length of stays (very short-term versus short-medium term) and location (usually rural versus urban)
prominent actors getting involved in the co-living sector:
Purpose-based communities: values-driven communities that put a strong emphasis on having shared values around contributing a positive social impact to their neighborhoods and beyond.
- the best tools for collaboration (such as Enspiral),
- applying alternative financial and governance structures to their spaces (such as Embassy Network in California)
- encouraging social change by showing support and acknowledging current or previous change-makers in their community that have created positive impact initiatives through interactions made at their spaces. Some examples include co.space (State College, Pennsylvania), Cohabs(Brussels, Belgium) and Tech Farm (Stockholm, Sweden).
Private entrepreneurs: individuals who buy or rent a property and subsequently operate a co-living initiative in the space, doing so themselves and/or with a small team of community managers and an operational / marketing staff. These individuals are in charge of onboarding, operations, marketing and making sure rent, taxes and charges are paid to the property owner. These spaces are usually created with shared values/interests in mind and with a focus on sharing resources and experiences with a vibrant community of like-minded individuals. Some examples include:
Sharing economy innovators: startups that have grown to develop co-living spaces after their initial businesses have gained momentum and have received sufficient investing. (WeLive and HubHaus)
Hospitality operators: large hospitality companies are creating hybrid hotel/hostel/co-living brands with communal living elements in their spaces, some even creating separate brands geared towards flexible and location independent lifestyles. These brands resemble the co-living housing model in terms of the morphology of space, interior design, the services they offer and the flexible duration of the stays. This also allows these hotel operators to reduce maintenance costs (i.e. less cleaning services), have less turnover and reach higher rates of occupancy. lyf (Ascott China, Singapore), MOB Hotel of the People (Paris) and Zoku (Amsterdam, Netherlands).
Real estate developers: real estate property developers realize the potential for these spaces to become a significant model in the housing market. Some examples include BNP Paribas Immobilier (Paris, France), Capital Land (South East Asia) and Property Markets Group (Chicago).
- Some co-living spaces are owned and operated by separate companies who form partnerships, while others may share a complex with several other tenants such as grocery stores or gyms. For example, Ollie’s new project in South End, Boston, will be in partnership with National Development and their complex will be shared with a Whole Foods and a Marriott-branded hotel. Most co-living projects operate and own the space on their own, but may receive financial support from external investors.
“If co-living becomes more inclusive of different demographics and socio-economic backgrounds, then people will be able to live with each other despite of their differences. They might even be able to better understand each other, and respect their differences. In an age where we are becoming more and more siloed thanks to the social media bubbles we have created for ourselves, we are losing our connection to people from different walks of life, and we are losing our empathy for other perspectives. If inclusionary co-living becomes the new normal it will not only have a positive impact within a local neighborhood, it will have a positive impact for mankind as a whole.”
Beyond physical functionality and appealing aesthetics, co-living spaces are using design techniques that encourage social interaction, collaboration and connection, and some recent trends such as micro-units and modular design are being integrated into these spaces to redefine the notions of private and public space … The way co-living spaces design the built environment for residents has the potential to increase productivity and creativity, foster spontaneous encounters and improve the overall well-being of its inhabitants.
part of why the co-living phenomenon is growing so fast is because individuals in dense urban environments feel lonelier than ever (40% of Americans report feeling lonely and loneliness is now being considered a growing health epidemic), receding to social media and online television series for their sense of belonging and connection.
technology has the potential to strengthen the co-living experience through services, tools and apps that facilitate many elements of co-living including communication, onboarding, sustainability, bookings, rental payments and so much more.
technology is adding value to the co-living experience by facilitating a holistic lifestyle that integrates all aspects of people’s lives
HomeMaker, A mobile app that links co-living communities with housing seekers and allows people to form their own communities (Source: Miranda Kay)
Al Jeffrey, who is the founder of Base Commons in Melbourne, says that co-living spaces need to be “making sure there is a platform (digital or otherwise) that is the ‘interactive connective tissue’ of the community and allows members to self-organize” #holocracy
EdgeRyders – a group of entrepreneurs and innovators who work with the UNDP and the Council of Europe to research new technologies and millennial culture – have a large GitHub network that emerged after their unMonastery collaborative shared living experience in Matera, Italy ended. According to their unMonastery GitHub website, they use this technology for knowledge sharing and organizational management:
“As a decentralized membership steered organization, we needed a criteria for inclusion. We settled upon a membership ‘fee’ of 100 hours of unpaid unMonastery labour as the marker for meaningful commitment, and─we sent out an invite to all those that had contributed this level of time to the initiative up until then. Now, finally back on track, this organizational documentshould outline how we anticipate the organizational structure will work in practice as both a membership base, organization forum and commitment management account.”
In regards to co-living management, tools like GitHub can be used as a measurement tool to track commitment and contributions, as a way to organize holocractic governance and to share and develop new ideas and practices. Holacracy Webinar
(SaaS) blockchain platforms such as Ubitquity help increase transparency in real estate deals by inputting property information and record documents directly onto the blockchain with secure recording and tracking methods. At the moment the use of these decentralized platforms is ripe with potential, and these technologies can catalyze the co-living movement into a leader of real estate, tech and social entrepreneurship sectors.
the potential for integrating IOT and decentralized technologies into co-living spaces and management is strong.
facilitate the creation of disruptive platforms for governance, finance, management and communication for shared living spaces
“Architecture plays the essential role in facilitating not only the meeting between residents but also the activation and behavioral roles that the residents take on. A well designed, inspiring and quality driven space is proven to encourage better behavior whereby residents are more considerate and committed to the wellbeing of their surroundings and the people they share it with”. Jamiee Williams, project lead at Ikea’s future living lab Space10
George Green, master’s dissertation The Logistics of Harmonious Co-living, Exploring contemporary co-living through design interventions; analyses the design of several co-living spaces in London (including The Collective and Roam) through Living Lab workshops he conducted with residents of these spaces.
Green found that “design for diverse use, creation of opportunity for informal meetings, and integration of environmental heritage” were critical elements of shared living design and that it ultimately “increases interpersonal bonds and individual and collective well-being”. Different techniques can be used to create these interpersonal connections including the arrangement and function of the furniture and artefacts used, the spacing of the rooms and different room types depending on the need for privacy or ideation and collaboration.
a housing experiment by Hungarian architecture firm BatLab, called ‘3in1’, which uses vibrant colours to add distinctions between zones within the space, showing the “value of transparent engagement opportunities and considered methods of integrating and familiarising new residents”.
Easterbrook, Matthew J and Vignoles, Vivian L (2015) When friendship formation goes down the toilet: design features of shared accommodation influence interpersonal bonds and well-being. British Journal of Social Psychology, 54 (1). pp. 125-139. ISSN 0144-6665
“changing nature of innovation is transforming spaces into open, flexible locales where separate professions and disciplines more easily converge”
living spaces encourage convergence not only between individuals with different professions and disciplines but also backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles and worldviews.
efforts in the use of ecological and upcycled materials, their ability to balance private and public space through modular design and integrating new residents through interactive design.
Barcelona-based architecture studio MIEL Arquitecturos’ Piso Salva 46, a multipurpose shared micro living space that values ecology, restoration and up-cycling. Architects, Elodie Grammont & and Miguel Angel Borràs, “play of opposites in a world of conformists”; they claim that the balance of privacy and common space allows for a “flexible co-existence”.
Francis Aguillard, Rice University Architectural Researcher and Urbanist, refers to this balance as a ‘gradation of shared living spaces’:
“This (usually) non-dichotomous thinking also seems to give way to an idea that we need a gradation of shared living spaces. So it’s not just about my private bed/room and the public kitchen, common area, and outdoor patio, but rather about different scales of sharing: between my flat-mate and myself, maybe among four flats or a floor or a group of friends, and then lastly the whole house, building, and in some cases the broader public. This idea of different intensities of sharing is one that I think needs to be investigated further and is a good starting point for thinking about how to foster connection, exchange, collaboration, and vulnerability”.
MINI Living’s ‘Do Disturb’ installation at the Salone Mobile Milano 2016
livability design – architecture that encourages social connection as well as recuperative communing with nature. Cohabs is a co-living network in Brussels whose spaces are sleek and modern looking, sourcing furniture from second-hand markets and using mostly wood for the design of their houses. They apply other sustainable approaches such as green appliances, rainwater harvesting systems, smart energy monitoring tools and they encourage locally and organically-made foods and composting waste.
Cohabs also just recently acquired a 4,500 m2 abandoned theatre complex that they will reconvert into an “urban laboratory for thinkers, entrepreneurs, artists and doers from around the world”. This acquisition is an interesting use of vacant space in an urban setting, and if done correctly Cohabs could integrate the architectural heritage and social history of the neighborhood into the design of their new space.
Individuals can make large savings by not having to buy furniture and kitchen amenities/supplies and are increasingly seeking access to experience and services rather than ownership. The idea of being able to move into a new home without having to own anything and not needing to purchase as many household items is appealing and there is somewhat of a trend of people moving into co-living spaces for these conveniences rather than community experience.
large co-living developments are not experimental enough in their design, which limits the opportunity for personalization and resident engagement:
“Unable to control the space around them, and adapt its function to their individual or collective needs, residents struggle to take control and build confidence in their immediate environment, which is being reflected in short tenancies.”
when looking at the results from Space10 and Anton & Irene’s One Shared House 2030 research project, 80% of people responded that they thought only the common areas should come furnished in co-living spaces and that they would furnish their own private space.
Another finding was that over half of the respondents agreed that architects (27%) and designers (34%) are the best suited to organize a co-living community, compared to individuals in the real estate, social work, business, community organizing, tech and government sectors.
These findings may represent a call for a more user-centered approach to the design of co-living spaces, and although co-livers appreciate the convenience of furnishings and the provided services, they may also seek more decision making power in the immediate environments that they call home. With a creative use of space, co-living operators have the potential to increase the wellbeing and creativity of their residents by focusing on designing spaces that facilitate interaction, value ecological standards and regenerative design approaches and are centered around the needs of their communities.
communication skills, storytelling techniques and onboarding guidelines
strong importance on having balanced communications amongst residents and between residents and operational staff is crucial for creating an unforgettable shared living experience.
Community facilitators have an important role in identifying and applying different communication techniques into the shared living experience of each of the residents living in a specific co-living space.
Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life,
Mind Tools’ The 7C’s of Communication,
Colin Craig’s conflict resolution Iceberg Model
Kim Scott’s Radical Candor feedback tips
potential for storytelling in social work has also been widely supported, so much so that strategy guides for grantmakers have been published that give advice on how funders and nonprofits can use storytelling for needs-and-strengths assessments, community organizing, public education, and program evaluation. Storytelling and social change guide
the community experience starts with the onboarding process; the importance of setting the appropriate expectations from the first entrance, and propose offering new members “Personal Co-living Experience” style guides, chances to present themselves in front of the rest of the community (through a pitch session, for example), orientation nights, buddy systems with established residents and clearly clarifying shared values from the beginning.
Swedish co-living operator TechFarm, and their set of strong values around ‘conscious co-living’ and ‘entrepreneurial problem solving’, which include remaining curious, courageous, communicative, committed and compassionate, among other values.
there are also a few communication techniques that are important for maintaining strong relationships and connections with their fellow community members.
“Circling is a group meditation/sharing process to allow groups to explore any given topic and allow open dialogue around it … Purpose of these is to create space for openly sharing. Important that these are facilitated carefully as to allow vulnerability to be shared and the undercurrent of group dynamics to rise to the surface.” - Base Commons founder Al Jeffery
principles must be upheld by community members, but also staff, the staff has a responsibility to keep a strong level of engagement with residents and respect each of the members’ ideas, feedbacks and projects that align with the set of shared values defined by the operator and/or group
Showcases: The Collective We Are The Collective photo and video series, Sun and Co.’s Meet The Colivers, People of Roam and Cohabs’ Meet a Member series. Such external communications are an important tool for marketing and sales, but it also helps in the realm of investments and developing an attractiveness for city planners and potential partners. Marketing tools help demonstrate the social and cultural capital that exist in co-living spaces, making them an important measurement for impact investments, for example. This can also help traditional real estate developers wanting to enter the co-living market get a better understanding of what these spaces offer to residents. Additionally, these tools give co-living spaces visibility to city planners and policy makers who could be interested in co-living spaces in terms of territorial marketing strategies, in order to highlight them as innovation spaces that contribute vibrant dynamics to the social, cultural, human and economic capital in their cities.
co-living operators can provide residents with a sense of autonomy through decision making powers. These elements of empowerment add to an authentic shared living experience that inspires individuals to become engaged and participative.
The ‘co’ in co-living can mean many things to a co-living operator and its residents: it can range from a type of corporate, commercial and convenient co-living offer to a more collective, (e)cological and community focused experience.
experience for the convenience rather than the community, however, many individuals do come for both.
“Like the metaphor of chi gong and other martial arts practices that use the opponent’s energy against themselves, co-living attracts customers which desire more convenient lifestyles and yet once they engage with the experience, they become active participants in the community. They transform from customers who consume to members that contribute. The magic is in the design”.
“Co-living offers an exciting opportunity to empower individuals to live to their full potential. To do so, well-being must be embedded into the core offering and design of the communal experience. Being well is about being connected to oneself and thus, intuitively knowing what we need to feel well. When we are connected, our intuition drives our actions toward being well”.
Ryan Fix, Co-founder of PUREHOUSE LAB
operators must implement experience design, shared values, rituals, events and curation techniques into all phases of the co-living experience (from onboarding to communal events to maintenance responsibilities); weekly rituals such as circling sharing processes or weekly games nights
living in community intentionally designed to foster authentic leadership qualities such as authenticity, compassion and integrity.
Neighborhood hubs are “gathering places where community members can build relationships, strengthen their community, work collectively towards a more sustainable way of living” and “intentionally bring people together to carry out services, activities, programs and events that serve the local community”.
many spaces already implement measures in order to do so with their own residents and local partnerships with community organizations for their surroundings.
OpenDoor’s Euclid Manor space in Oakland, California places a strong emphasis on being a local actor for positive change: “The theme of Euclid Manor is transformation and social impact. Residents are passionate about creative positive change – in themselves, in the community and in the world – and realize this through a slew of resident-led creative projects and social ventures’.
Happy Bern Lab “gives space to local heroes to transform their neighborhood, gives space to social change-makers to take a break and experience the beauty of abundance (without having to pay for food and rent), gives space to let deep, transformative conversations emerge and to re-discover human collaborations”.
Co-living spaces are full of social, cultural and human capital that can be shared with local communities to become actors of change within their neighborhoods. The sharing of these resources, talents and ideas with community groups and residents from their surroundings (and vice versa) means that co-living spaces can build strong ties within and outside of their buildings in order to become strong participants of social sustainability in their cities.
building a strong community should be placed at the forefront otherwise co-living just falls under the category of another serviced apartment residential complex in the real estate sector.
community as a service; strong sense of connection with other residents and their local communities, opening up individuals to new possibilities and opportunities for a journey of personal transformation; co-living spaces can become hubs of growth, leadership and awareness
the development of co-living spaces is dependent on the zoning regulations and public policies of specific cities and countries, and the value of the real estate market in those areas as well. This can make developing co-living spaces complicated, since the model is often a mix between residential (private studios), commercial (paid services and spaces such as co-working hot desks and events rooms available to purchase from people outside of the co-living space) and sometimes even manufacturing (with the addition of a makerspace into the co-living space, for example). These hybrid spaces don’t fit into traditional zoning regulations and it makes it hard for co-living initiatives to approve their spaces for construction and/or operations.
“In terms of policy, the biggest planning limitations to co-living spaces can be found in the zoning regulations of cities… the co-living concept still does not exactly fit into conventional zoning rules, making it even more challenging to find a common ground of where and how ordinances can be applied to this context.”
Ana Paula Emidio
calls for the need for housing policies to go beyond the single-family/multi-family binary that is currently all too familiar in cities around the world.
Single Room Occupancies (SROs) that force residents renting an individual bedroom in an apartment with shared kitchens and/or bathrooms to co-sign a single lease for the entire unit. A law in New York City in the 1950s prohibited the creation of new SROs and states that no more than three unrelated people can live in the same household at the same time.
Common have already had troubles complying with New York City’s Department of Buildings’ Building Code and Housing Maintenance Code.
what the sector needs is more flexibility and ingenuity that allows for hybrid spaces to thrive without the constraints of strict, decades-old housing codes and zoning regulations.
“So we need to push for cities to start considering the positive effects that co-living and co-housing can bring. It shouldn’t be about the money but regarded as projects that move the city forward, truly promote diversity and foster stronger social links… Our policies need to incentivize real estate developers to create housing concepts and frameworks that foster more people sharing spaces, for instance where not everyone has their own guest room that only gets used twice a month. So if cities make it more attractive for real-estate owners to develop co-living and cohousing concepts it could really be a game changer.” -
“We need to join forces to convince City Councils and real estate developers that co-living is the future. It is both financially interesting and makes the city more connected, increasing diversity and helping cross-finance people who can’t afford to live in cities anymore.”
Jonathan Imme, founder of The Arrivers in #Berlin
difficulty of finding affordable and available land and the issues that come with needing to refurbish existing apartment stocks to accommodate the needs of shared living spaces.
Implementing more sustainable practices into the values and infrastructure of co-living initiatives can also be a way to create more harmony in the discussions between operators and planning authorities.
Mokrin House in rural Serbia just recently received an award from the local municipality in which the space is located, the City of Kikinda, for promoting modern and alternative living in rural surroundings. Coconat recently won a similar prize from the State of Brandenburg in Germany, as the ‘Demographics Example of the Month’.
‘e-lofts’ in Alexandria, Virginia, falls under a commercial residential mixed-use high-density (CRMU-H) zoning, a dual-use concept that allows “businesses to write-off up to 49.9 percent of their home office space if located in their apartment unit”. This means that individuals and/or companies can either rent an apartment, rent office space or do both
Santa Cruz’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Development program, which allows for the addition of separate units to pre-existing homes, which include a “separate kitchen, sleeping, and bathroom facilities, attached or detached from the primary residential unit on a single-family lot”.
Co-living operators need to put a genuine emphasis on affordability by partnering with city councils, policy makers and national housing programs, whom could help by providing funding for co-living spaces to become housing schemes that also provide social housing options, for example.
Co-living operators now have the choice whether or not they want to become agents of gentrification that only seek profitable returns, or whether or not they have a genuine community and social purpose that aligns with other citymaking actors that strive towards sustainable and positive resilience and change.
this nascent co-living movement of the past few years is quickly emerging as a new asset class
co-living has bright prospects of becoming a primary typology for the real estate sector as a whole
the global majority flocking to cities at an ever increasing rate (some stats show 60% living in cities by 2030), we must drastically rethink how we live and share resources. Then there’s the loneliness epidemic infecting modern society en masse, and studies are showing that individuals in social isolation have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems and higher levels of stress. As this publication seeks to demonstrate, appropriately designed co-living spaces can provide alternative lifestyles and support systems that respond directly to these health epidemics.
co-living is not limited to housing, but rather it seeks to integrate various aspects of our life into a cohesive, convenient and collaborative communal experience that offers a higher quality of living for all.
quality lifestyle that prioritizes affordability, equitability, diversity and accessibility for all. With this social sustainability in mind, there is also a strong potential for the hybridization of shared living spaces that are designed as eco-systems to include co-working, fabrication labs, cultural and green spaces, urban agriculture, social housing, holistic health and education centers and co-living accommodation under one roof. These types of hybrid spaces can become neighborhood hubs and contribute positively to their neighborhoods while reducing their footprints of their cities through social and ecological sustainability measures.
Xavier Cazard and Valérie Decroix, PUREHOUSE LAB’s Communications Research Forum Coordinators;
Ana Paula Emidio, PUREHOUSE LAB’s Policy Research Forum Coordinator;
Guillaume de Jenlis, PUREHOUSE LAB’s Services & Tools Research Forum Coordinator;
George Green, PUREHOUSE LAB’s Space Research Forum Coordinator;
Fabrice Simondi PUREHOUSE LAB’s Co-founder, President and Business Research Forum Coordinator;
Ryan Fix, PUREHOUSE LAB’s Co-founder and Community Research Forum Coordinator.
Irene Pereyra, Co-founder of Anton & Irene;
Simon Caspersen and Jamiee Williams, Director of Communications and Project Lead of Space10;
Al Jeffery, Founder of Base Commons;
Francis Aguillard, Rice University Architectural Researcher and Urbanist
Sponsors: Entrecom, BFS Investissement & AccorHotels