Global design, cohousing, and economic necessity catalyze green housing project in Oaxaca, Mexico

Initially, David Hornic appears to be the most likely candidate to lead a housing project in the state of Oaxaca, one of the most southern and poorest states in Mexico; Hispanic sparse to be generous, until early this year he had never ventured into this part of the country, as he had never He designs or builds almost a house, and he lived almost all his life in Schenectady, New York, where he typically lived as a Jewish middle class.

But Hornic has a vision, born from other life experiences that made him more qualified than most of them to move forward with the project. “There is one thing about me,” he explained on his first trip to Oaxaca, “that once I do something, you know that it has already been thought out – and then there is nothing to stop me.”

For more than three decades, Hornic has been a family physician diagnosing and treating American adults exclusively … through home visits. He and his wife, Roberta, his partner in medical practice, have learned that where and how we live traditionally seldom leads to graceful and easy aging from an economic security situation.

The answer, as I came to the conclusion over the past few months of guardianship from Hornick, at least to create a blueprint for the solution, is to import some of the properties of cohousing and as many key elements as possible from global design, to a region of the world where concerns can be addressed in a way The best – Oaxaca … for beginners. And that's exactly what Hornic did.

Cooperative housing

Cohousing communities are usually designed as a series of attached or single family homes along one or more pedestrian pathways or grouped around a patio. Although the concept originated in Denmark, since the early 1980s it was promoted in the United States, and since then similar societies have developed that use the basic concept across other countries in the Western world such as Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand.

Each community includes a larger building, a "shared home", which forms the community center for the community where neighbors can meet, eat and attend activities that are not traditionally required on a daily basis (i.e. laundry), and even host guests in small apartments. The last two points have implications for reducing the total cost per resident, as the area that is not normally occupied on a daily basis is removed from individual homes.

While in the purest paradigms, residents are actively involved in designing their own neighborhood, in which case potential members don't spare this effort – Hornick has devoted his adult life to assessing Americans' needs as their stages in their lives change. Accordingly, great progress has already been made in the Oaxaca project, and in fact, there is a website that addresses those interested in pursuing a lifestyle change for the foreseeable future. It now includes pictures of the proposed paths of the ground, site plans and architectural drawings for the two models at home.

Hornick prefers avoiding commonly used terms like intentional or cooperative housing, as well as housing, just for “neighborhoods” and “communities”. The former imports the idea of ​​unanimous decision-making, which he does not think is applicable. However, he envisions a "resident board" (perhaps similar to a condominium board) to help with neighborhood suggestions. This indicates that his approach is realistic and his model is possible. The project emphasizes the acceptance of the participants to one of the primary objectives: energy efficiency; respect for the environment; use of locally produced “green” materials (in construction and others); affordability. A global design that enables people of all ages to grow and mature well.

Universal design

UD can be defined as the creation of products (including communication systems) and environments (including landscapes) that can be used by all people, as far as possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. It is often associated with exclusive treatment for the elderly and the injured. Indeed there should be no doubt that in the context of the Oaxaca project, this concept will be very attractive to those in their fifties and the elderly, many of whom conclude their careers and start a new phase of life, "retirement." But the project's use of holistic design addresses more – compatibility with the natural progression of functional changes throughout the user's lifetime, according to Hornic.

How does UD handle all ages and ability levels and thus make the project attractive to families at every stage of life? Hornick explains:

"We are all helpless and powerless. We cannot reach most light switches until we are about four years old, long after we are able to stand and walk. The functional ability (usually) improves until mid-to late teens, and then begins to Decline.

"Optical switches can be lowered to three feet so that children as well as people on wheelchairs can move around the shoulder. Round door handles can be replaced by lever handles that hold the hands of the joints, but also allow people attached to grocery-filled arms to open a door with a free attachment, steps can be replaced with slopes , Even at the entrance to the house, the intensity of illumination can be adjustable to accommodate visibility while blurring with age, and the shower stalls can be built without any slight increase – moreover, there are literally a hundred or more designs and other alternative products that An oasis on the market that can be considered, which does not detract from the "natural" function or aesthetics of the home.

Hornick has been consulted on projects for renovating older apartments that include the production of prototypes for adaptive design. The Oaxaca project enables its wealth of knowledge and experience to be implemented using a slightly different direction.

We are in an age when an increasing number of individuals and couples in North America are disappointed with the work mindset to go down, which are the less-than-ideal environments in which they feel compelled to live and raise families, and increase the inaccessibility of basic goods and services including health care Recently, both workplace insecurity and shrinking nest eggs.

Oaxaca scheme

Building on Hornic's due diligence, Oaxaca proved a potentially attractive site for developing a prototype of what was initially called, when it first called me for advice in November 2008, "the retirement community." Perhaps this initial profile was intended to spark my primary interest without having to ask many difficult questions to answer. I signed it, and I have since enjoyed hosting David in our house, providing it to a number of professionals who can benefit from it to advance the project, and advise him regarding potential land plots.

Latin American sites have distinct advantages over Canadian and American future project sites. While staying in the north of Rio Grande may initially look attractive due to the language, ease of access to friends and family as well as return visits and cultural familiarity, Oaxaca has been chosen because of its unique set of advantages:

1) Road transport access is constantly being improved and improved through the costly road system in Mexico, which already extends from various locations along the American border directly to the city of Oaxaca; and through more convenient flight paths (such as the ability to avoid Mexico City using the non-stop continental service From Houston, Mexico from Los Angeles);

2) Its highly acceptable climate, 12 months a year, attractive on an individual level and for solar energy provision;

3) Proximity to Pacific Coast beach destinations such as Puerto Escondido and Huatulco;

4) A modest cost of living (i.e. employment, public transportation, entertainment, food and taxes) for the United States, Canada, and even the northern half of the country;

5) availability of plots of land at reasonable prices, sufficiently fertile and with sufficient rainfall and groundwater to support partial self-sufficiency in terms of agricultural production;

6) A number of prospective development sites to choose from, more than half an hour's drive from downtown Oaxaca, ensuring proximity to restaurants, cafes, galleries, museums and other cultural institutions, as well as healthcare professionals and hospital facilities;

7) The emerging expat community (including programs facilitated through the Oaxaca Lending Library in English) with support from Canadian and American consulates;

8) The locals who receive non-Mexicans, motivated by both recognition that Canadian and American immigration translate into more work and higher wages for a relatively low economy, and an innate desire to embrace foreigners with open arms;

9) Understanding by many professionals, craftsmen, businessmen, and the government what the project hopes to achieve, and the potential for growth more than that in other parts of the state.

Each of the "eco-village" sites identified on Hornick is equally attractive, meets all standards, and easily promotes a set of common goals. The development of San Juan del Estado consists of 25 acres, about 30 minutes from downtown Oaxaca, and San Lorenzo Cacutepec is located on an area of ​​75 acres and only 15 minutes from the city. Each is located about 10 minutes from the city of Etla, known for the bustling Wednesday market and the production of dairy products, especially the well-known Oaxacan cheeses (queso, and the most famous "chord cheese", known as quesillo).

Each of the projects will contain 30 separate homes with an area of ​​about 1,000 square feet, the shared house, protected corridors, green spaces and gardens, its own water and energy sources as well as a waste disposal facility, providing independence from the fluctuations of municipal, state and government facilities.

Hornic stresses that with more than 300 sunny days a year, communities will be able to generate and store electricity using light energy technology. Hot water will be produced using solar water heaters. Indoor temperatures will remain comfortable throughout the year using solar heating and cooling technologies – such as building locally mined stone walls (known as "cantera") or clay or mudbrick, depending on the relative direction of the sun and prevailing winds.

But self-sufficiency has its limits, and somewhat reliance on the broader Oaxacan community will be a staple. Hornic plans to develop relationships with residents of neighboring towns and villages interested in hiring as a housekeeper, gardeners and personal care assistants. In addition, there is a well-established practice in Oaxaca State, where arrivals involve locals in a common language arrangement, where informal meetings are held a few hours a week to help Oaxacans with their English and arrivals with Spanish.

Hornic confirms: "… both locations will receive health care services through home care professionals who will live on site and also via online video conferences with professionals at well-known centers of excellence." Several years ago, he was advancing his own medical practice along these lines. Of course, in the current world of technology he does not see distance, political boundaries, or differences in language and other aspects of culture as obstacles. "Of course there are challenges, but with perseverance they are easily overcome," he continues. "Look at where I was just a few months ago, with the idea and the index finger pointing to a strange location on the globe – and look at where we are now." Indeed, Hornick and his team of professionals (including Prometeo Sánchez Islas, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Oaxaca) continue to work hard on the project.

While visiting Oaxaca Hornick, she paid special attention to the cost of living index, to the point of depicting sales prices in the supermarket (which caught the attention of store management). He is currently trying to outline other costs such as transportation; medical insurance and other expenses; housekeeping, maintenance, landscaping, and gardening (although he believes it is important for residents to participate in these activities to exercise and maintain a sense of job and purpose). "I am trying to come up with a" soft "character to enable interested parties to determine whether they can survive on social security alone." Reassure. But one thing is for sure – the cost of living should be less than 50% than most of them live in the United States or Canada.


Hornick plans to start selling homes before the end of summer or perhaps to fall, with little discount for those who choose to get involved early in the project, as a sort of start in development. For him, and for most of his team, the motivation behind it is pure altruism, setting out a sense of urgency on the part of many Americans, Canadians, and even Mexicans, and being in an enviable position to be able to treat him this way. , Without a profit motive.

Meaning that he is a pioneer, he started with a dream for a better, more respectful, easier and more fulfilling life for others in a new environment, a virgin land to continue to borrow. He intends to put his roots in Oaxaca, practice medical practice, and encourage others of similar means to follow suit.

It was clearly different for those who have had the instinct and instinct to find something better for hundreds of years opening the American border. Today there are more necessities, but no gambling. After all, it shouldn't be too difficult to make a lifestyle decision Deciding on a new lifestyle, between $ 100,000 and $ 150,000 to create a good quality new home, in a safe and secure southern climate. Especially for those who were already thinking about change.