Community Living: New Urbanism, Ecovillages, Cohousing

Eco-friendly communities across the U.S. are bringing green-minded people together to help them share and maintain a sutainable lifestyle.

| January/February 2007

  • Cobb Hill Cohousing’s 260 acres include one of the villages that comprise the town of Hartford, Vermont, along with several farms, agricultural lands, forests, streams and ponds.
    Photo by Robert Mauer
  • Residents at Cobb Hill Cohousing in Hartland, Vermont, devote 10 hours a week to sustaining the community. Some members work full time on the farm, which produces vegetables, cheese, eggs and maple syrup.
    Photo courtesy Cobb Hill Cohousing
  • Rows of Walla Walla onions grow in one of Village Homes’ many common area gardens.
    Photo by Judy Corbett
  • The residents of the first elder cohousing community in the United States––Glacier Circle Senior Community in Davis, California––gather for a group shot.
    Photo courtesy Glacier Circle Senior Community
  • The 'Round-Top' 824-square-foot, three-story homes at Tryon Farm feature a screened third-floor porch and deck nestled into the tree canopy
    Photo by Robert Mauer
  • Tryon Farm offers a variety of home designs. This cheery dining room is in one of the 'C' cottages in the woods.
    Photo by Robert Mauer
  • Future residents of Silver Sage Village meet to discuss the model of their elder cohousing community in Boulder, Colorado.
    Photo courtesy Silver Sage Village
  • The many farms and gardens at Cobb Hill provide organic produce for all members plus enough to sell at local co-ops and farmstands.
    Photo courtesy Cobb Hill Cohousing
  • Village Homes solar houses feature a solar greenhouse for space heating and solar water heating.
    Photo by Judy Corbett
  • The Farmstead (pictured) was the first completed settlement at Tryon Farms in Michigan City, Indiana. Other settlements include The Pasture, The Dune, The Village, The Meadow, The Woods and The Pond.
    Photo by Robert Mauer

Alternative housing communities have existed for years, but as interest in healthy, green living grows, community living is being transformed from a fringe notion to a practical way of living together and reducing environmental impact. Here are three common types of communities popping up in North America.

1. New Urbanism

Reminiscent of compact, walkable European towns, New Urbanist developments typically have central business and shopping areas surrounded by housing––from apartments to single-family homes. Devoted to sustainability through reduced auto traffic, these communities have access to public transportation, and ideally everyone lives within a 10-minute walk from the town center. Neighborhood open spaces are designed to encourage community and discourage car culture. In the United States, 648 New Urbanist projects exist, are under construction or in the planning stages, according to New Urban News.

New Urbanism Spotlight: Village Homes, Davis, California

More than 30 years ago when architect Mike Corbett and his wife, Judy, bought 60 acres in Davis, they envisioned Village Homes as a sustainable, green community before most people even knew what that meant.

The Corbetts designed all Village Homes streets to run east/west, which allows all the houses to face south, facilitating the use of solar energy for space and water heating. Most of the 220 homes and 40 apartment units are clustered in groups of eight along narrow, winding streets. The clusters are surrounded by open space—40 percent of the total acreage—and most homes face common areas, which are linked by a network of paths. Homeowners decide how their common areas are landscaped, creating a tapestry of gardens, playgrounds, barbecue pits and outdoor art galleries. The open spaces also contain a natural irrigation system made from a network of creeks, swales and ponds that allow rainwater to soak into the ground rather than collect in storm drains. Of the commonly owned lands, 12 acres are dedicated to fruit and nut trees and row crops.

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