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

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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