Mother Earth Living

America's Top 10 Green Cohousing Developments

Looking to live in a community of like-minded eco-warriors? Check out our picks for the best of the best nationwide.
By Matt Hirschfeld
January/February 2009
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Casa Verde offers an eco-savvy take on the classic American neighborhood.
Photo by Mary Lynne Ashley
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Cohousing residents actively participate in their neighborhoods’ design, maintenance and operation. They often share common meals, recreation areas and gardens. Though most cohousing developments are environmentally conscious, these eco-friendly communities scored highest on our list of green criteria. Their communities include alternative energy solutions, recycled flooring and cellulose insulation, Energy Star appliances, community solar ovens and efficient lighting.

1. Heartwood Cohousing
Bayfield, Colorado
In rural southwest Colorado, 75 residents share common facilities and more than 250 acres.
■ Common area includes guest rooms, laundry and exercise rooms, library, game room, kitchen and dining room.
■ Solar-powered pump and gravity-fed water system move irrigation water to landscaping around homes.
■ Residents grow food and raise animals.
■ Two natural gas wells
■ All community and private homes are Energy Star-qualified.
■ Straw-bale workshop uses sustainable lumber.
■ Pathways and roads increase water permeability.

2. Metro Cohousing at Culver Way
St. Louis, Missouri
Community developers are restoring three commercial buildings to create 40 condominium units and shared spaces.
■ Powered with solar energy and methane generated onsite
■ Common facilities and homes use ground-source heat pumps.
■ Rooftop gardens filter and slow runoff and reduce bills.
■ All buyers receive 25-year property tax abatement.
■ Panel system made from Structural Concrete Insulated Panels (SCIPs) for walls, floors and ceilings

3. Milagro Cohousing
Tucson, Arizona
Twenty-eight homes are clustered to save more than three-fourths of the Sonoran Desert land as a nature preserve.
■ Common house includes kitchen, meeting room, library, playroom, storage rooms and laundry facilities.
■ Powered by roof-mounted solar panels
■ Passive solar design with adobe walls and concrete floors
■ Roofs collect rainwater for basins or storage cisterns.
■ Permeable parking lot and driveways
■ Community solar oven

4. Casa Verde
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Within walking distance of schools, hospitals and parks, the community houses a coffee shop and an arts center.
■ Site of former rose greenhouses required soil cleanup
■ Energy Star-qualified
■ All south-facing roofs have hookups for solar panels
■ Recycling program, garden and common house including dining room, kitchen, playroom, laundry facilities and patio
■ Recycled cellulose wet-blown insulation
■ Recycled-content flooring, exterior decking and carpet

5. Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm
Peterborough, New Hampshire
Located on 70 acres along the Nubanusit River, this 29-home
community conserves farm fields, riverfront and woodlands.
■ LEED Platinum certification
■ Central pellet boiler plant uses locally produced biomass fuel to provide heat and hot water.
■ Low-toxicity building materials and fresh-air ventilation system with heat recovery
■ Two-thirds of homes on site of abandoned hotel
■ Stormwater treatment uses grassy swales and rain gardens.

6. Daybreak Cohousing
Portland, Oregon
The community’s 30 units are designed simply to reduce costs and support high-quality infrastructure including insulation, moisture protection and radiant floors.
■ Common house with bicycle storage, spiritual space, kitchen, living room, laundry room and storage space
■ No onsite parking: Community located along major bus routes and near mass transit line.
■ Energy-efficient with radiant floor heating and efficient cooling; common house designed for passive cooling
■ About 96 percent of original buildings reused
■ Stormwater treated onsite through a series of bioswales

7. CoHo Ecovillage
Corvallis, Oregon
The 6.8-acre site is a mix of open meadow and fir, oak, apple and maple trees within walking distance of bus routes and downtown.
■ Common house has solar hot water.
■ Six of 34 homes are designated for income-qualified families.
■ Energy Star appliances and efficient lighting
■ Homes 30 percent more energy efficient than code requires
■ 90 percent of stormwater runoff managed onsite with bioswales and constructed wetlands
■ 100 percent recycled polyester carpet

8. Cobb Hill
Hartland, Vermont
This 270-acre community is focused on sustainable land management and is home to The Sustainability Institute.
■ All units have solar installations for domestic hot water.
■ One wood-burning furnace provides heat to all units.
■ Farm stand sells community-produced vegetables, cheese, eggs and maple syrup.
■ All structures except pre-existing barns are Energy Star.
■ Composting toilets with a graywater leachfield

9. Arboretum Cohousing
Madison, Wisconson
This community includes several renovated pre-World War II structures and two new multi-unit buildings.
■ Preplumbed and prewired for a mix of photovoltaic and solar hot water systems
■ 15 percent of units are targeted for affordable housing. Two units are part of the first-ever collaboration between Habitat for Humanity and a cohousing group.
■ Radiant floor heating
■ Cabinets made with local wood by a local manufacturer

10. Burlington Cohousing East Village
Burlington, Vermont
Vermont’s only urban cohousing community is close to the University of Vermont, Fletcher Allen Heath Care and Centennial Woods, a 68-acre nature preserve.
■ One-third of units have down-payment grants for incomeeligible residents.
■ Urban infill site
■ All units except a pre-existing house and barn are Energy Star-qualified.
■ Shared central heating plant reduces number of boilers.


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