Often the hardest thing about choosing to join cohousing is finding out information about what life is like in these communities. Diana Leafe Christian has written a book Finding Community (New Society, 2007) full of information. She
"presents a thorough overview of ecovillages and intentional communities and offers solid advice on how to research thoroughly, visit thoughtfully, evaluate intelligently and join gracefully. Intentional communities or ecovillages are an appealing choice for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle -- a lifestyle they are unlikely to find anywhere else."

In an article for Mother Earth News, one of the concerns she tackles is " I’m afraid I won’t have enough privacy or autonomy ." To address that she includes an example from our own architect Chuck Durrett and and developer Katie McCamant:

In a well-planned community whose members value sustainability, people’s needs for privacy are built into the site plan and building design. To do otherwise would likely drive many people to leave the community — which of course wouldn’t make it sustainable! So most likely a community has planned, physically and socially, for its members’ needs for privacy.

Cohousing architects build privacy into their site plans and densely clustered buildings in several ways: by facing the fronts of the houses towards a common green, with all backyards facing into fields or woods; by placing the more public rooms like the kitchen on the front of the units, not far from the pedestrian pathway, and placing the “private” areas such as living rooms and bedrooms on the back side of the units, closer to the backyard; by arranging exterior windows so people can’t see into the windows of adjacent buildings.

Once in Fort Collins, Colorado, I observed a meeting of the then-forming Grayrock Commons Cohousing community. Chuck Durrett and Katie McCamant, the architects who brought cohousing to North America, were leading a session on the community’s overall site plan. Chuck was up at the front of the room with preliminary sketches of roads and clustered townhouse duplexes and triplexes.

One couple had drawn their house across an internal road, at some distance from the other houses, because, the people said, they wanted to ensure their privacy. Chuck was describing to the group how the physical design of a site totally affects the social aspects of community life — one of the original principles of cohousing design. “Please don’t let the front porches of some housing units face into the backyards of other housing units because you’re seeking privacy,” he cautioned. “And please don’t separate out some units from the others. It won’t really create a sense of privacy but it will reduce the sense of community you’ll feel with the rest of the group.”

Katie, who was in the back of the room next to me, leaned over and said that in all the cohousing communities they knew, they’d never once heard a complaint about the lack of privacy. But they sure had heard plenty of concerns about the lack of community!