Ready, Set, BUILD!! (collectively!)

This is part 1 of a series on baugruppen, private owners collaboratively building affordable multifamily projects. Read parts 23, 4, 5 and 6.

where no satisfactory, affordable property is available, independent citizens are taking matters into their own hands and founding building cooperatives, which now play a forward-looking role in modern housing – detail [konzept: gemeinsam wohnen]

I’ve done a lot of sleuthing/stalking/translating since out last baugruppen post (lit: building groups – and geez, that was really over a year ago?!?). Meanwhile, my interest/obsession/adoration for this type of urban innovation has only grown (exponentially, at that!). Some of those tasty morsels were posted on my twitter feed (@bruteforceblog) over the last week. Alex Steffen thought it would be worthwhile to present 10 of the best baugruppen/baugemeinschaften I’d come across to date. Since it’s just too difficult to whittle them down to 10, I’ve instead collated a number of strong concepts I like about baugruppen/baugemeinschaften (many previously discussed, and not exclusive to BGs), which we’ll interlace with demonstrative examples and links galore. Since all five of our readers like to rib me about posting consistency, we’ll be rolling out those concepts in an ongoing series to revamp le blog  (punks!).

Now a number of folks have asked if baugruppen are co-housing, and that’ll get a ‘yes, no, sort-of’ response from me. My knowledge of co-housing stems from the Danish model – low rise housing (e.g. rowhouses) densely organized around common areas and a Common House, where group dinners and events occur. For the most part, baugruppen are multi-story, multi-family buildings (think condos) rather than detached or semi-detached housing. There is no requirement for community space or common facilities in baugruppen, though many incorporate them (commonly: gardens, community rooms, roof terraces). However, like co-housing, baugruppen incorporate a participatory planning process. The largest difference is probably that baugruppen are funded without developers (self-financed), whereas co-housing communities can be self-financed or developer-financed projects. In the end, mostly semantics, though I tend to think of baugruppen as urban concepts, co-housing as suburban/rural concepts. Yes, I’m aware that’s not entirely accurate, but this ain’t your blog and my mind’s made up. For more on Danish/co-housing history, check out Grace Kim’s excellent thesis (pdf) or cohousing.org.

Baugemeinschaften are for the most part baugruppen – German can be fairly technical, but the terms are roughly equivalent. Utilizing both terms online results in more projects worth researching. For ease of reading, I’ll be using the abbreviation ‘BG‘ for both.

In various offline discussions I’ve had over the last few months, I’m more and more convinced forming a baugruppe would be an excellent way to get affordable, green digs tailored to your lifestyle, especially in cities with high land prices, without massive gentrification. In fact, short of City/State-owned development groups similar to Neue Heimat Tirol, I would venture it’s really the only way. Seattle could certainly benefit from their inclusion (hint, hint: local banks, DPD & City Council!).

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