Six months ago (September 2020), the architectural team that is handling our revitalization process held a “model cottage charrette” to brainstorm ideas for improving our existing cottages. Suppose we could do anything we desired, within the existing footprint, to make a cottage better before the new tenants moved in. What might we do?

The report that came out of that charrette recently became available, and it warrants a careful reading. You can download it here. The most important parts, in my opinion, are the SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) analysis conducted as part of the original session; the recommendations from the architectural team (including changes to the layout, efficiency measures, and much more); and the answers to questions posed by participants when they received an early draft of the report.

The session was held in an empty cottage (#182) and the discussion focused on how that particular one-bedroom cottage could be improved. But most of the ideas would apply to any of our “traditional” cottages (i.e. everything but the “new” duplexes). That particular cottage has since been chosen for consolidation with its neighbor, so the floor plans shown in the report will not be implemented there. But that does not diminish the value of the options that are discussed, which would apply to cottages generally as they undergo renovation in the months and years to come.

The charrette process. The charrette began with introductions by all the participants. There were 24 in all, with 16 participating via Zoom. There were 11 residents (8 from Kendal and 3 from Crosslands). Five members of the architecture team participated, as did three KCC employees (including Seth Beaver, who kicked off the session), and four Warfel staffers.

The model cottage project was introduced as the “brainchild” of Kendal resident Owen Owens. He is considering downsizing, now that his wife has moved to our skilled nursing facility. Owen had prepared a list of criteria (Page 4 of the report) that he would be looking for in a new home. His list served as a framework for explaining the objectives of the project.

The SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis was conducted by Joyce Lenhardt, who used two large newsprint sheets taped to the wall to list the cottage’s strengths and weaknesses (as volunteered by the Zoom participants), and two more sheets to list the opportunities (things which could be improved) and threats (difficulties that needed to be addressed).

I won’t got into those lists now, since I covered them in a previous blog post right after the charrette and they are also spelled out in the report; but here are a few examples. The “strengths” included a nice view of the square, the “weaknesses” included the relative lack of natural light in the living room, the “opportunities” included opening up the kitchen to the living room, and the “threats” included the aging infrastructure.

The recommendations. The heart of this report is its recommendations for what could be done to turn an existing cottage into a “model” cottage. Pages 12 and 13 of the report list about 60 steps that might be taken. They range from “paint front door” to “provide low air return duct to pull cool air off the floor in winter”. About half of the items come from LenhardtRogers; the other half are from Moore Engineering (the engineering consultant for revitalization) and from Steven Winter Associates (sustainability consultant).

From my perspective, all of the recommendations seem reasonable and worth doing. None of them represent dramatic changes to the current equipment or layout.

There are two new floor plans (on pages 21 and 22) which provide subtle alternatives to the standard ones. The biggest difference is that they allow access to the bathroom without going through the bedroom (a useful feature when someone is resting or there are guests). The rearrangement is made possible by using sliding (“pocket”) doors for bathroom access.  

Questions and answers. The final three pages of the report are responses to questions from residents. Residents who participated in the charrette received copies of the report in draft form and were invited to ask questions about it. There were many interesting comments and questions in this section. The architectural team answered some questions, but left others unanswered. It was clear that residents had differing—sometimes directly conflicting—opinions about what they favored in a cottage.

It will be fruitful to return to some of the issues raised here later in the revitalization process. Questions needing further consideration include: What provisions need to be made for scooters? Is an open layout really what everyone wants? What about rooftop solar? Can the HVAC systems be in the attic?

More discussion to come…. I had naively thought that this model-cottage process would result in a definitive plan and an actual cottage converted into a “model”. That’s not what has happened, at least not yet. Instead, we have a collection of useful ideas about how cottages might be improved, but nothing definitive. Many of the ideas can be immediately implemented in renovating existing cottages, especially those undergoing consolidation or other major layout and structural changes.

But other ideas will have to wait. I suppose some may wait until there are cottages that need to be torn down and replaced. That day is coming; and when it does, it will give us the opportunity to fully consider what a model cottage could be.