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The Ecovillage Model
Eco-villages are people-based initiatives to model sustainable, low-impact, human settlements. They are applicable to both rural and urban settings and accessible to all. Eco-villagers utilise green energy technology, ecological building techniques, and human-scale design to reduce exploitation of natural resources, facilitate community self-reliance, and improve quality of life.
They are about the creation of new settlements as well as retrofitting existing villages and urban areas. An eco-village is designed in harmony with its bioregion instead of the landscape being unduly engineered to fit construction plans. By thinking in terms of bioregions, sustainable settlements are planned considering water availability, the ability to grow food, and accessibility.
Many projects use the principles of permaculture for creating integrated, interactive and efficient systems for structural planning, food production and social needs in their community. Eco villages are human scale, (somewhere where you can feel you know the others in your community), fully featured settlements, (comprising housing, businesses, agriculture, culture, etc. as appropriate to the local setting), in which human activity is integrated harmlessly into the natural world, supports human development and can be continued into the indefinite future.
Robert Gilmans Definition of an Ecovillage
After working as an astrophysicist for NASA twenty-five years ago, Robert Gilman decided that "the stars could wait, but the planet couldn't." Since than he has devoted himself to the study of global sustainability, futures research and strategies for positive social change. He and Diane Gilman are cofounders of the Context Institue and In Context Journal.
An ecovillage is;
- human scale, that is, something where you feel that you know the others;
- a full featured settlement, it's not just a housing development, business or agriculture its all those things;
- in which human activities are integrated harmlessly into the natural world, this is an ideal, and lots of biological systems exist in a relationship with the surrounding world where they are part of cyclic flows;
- supportive of healthy human development;
- that can be successfully continued into the indefinate future.
Putting this into practice we encounter what I like to describe as the eco-village challanges. The first is the physical layer, biological systems: watewater treatment, food production, animals, etc. Then the built environment: the buildings, roads, etc. These are really important parts of what an ecovillage is all about, and in some ways perhaps the easiest parts. Underneath is the human part: the economic system and the governace. All these parts must be brought together.
In order to work out the practical economic parts you need some kind of communual glue: spiritual, emotional, cultural, something that enables you as a community to hold togehter when you go over inevitable rough spots.
Munkesogaard Ecovillage, Denmark
The Munkesogaard Ecovillage in the suburbs of Roskilde, Denmark provides a good model for future ecovillage projects. The image below shows a plan of the Munkesogaard project, other images of the project can be found on the Scandinavian Study Tour page.
The project is made up four co-housing units (see Cohousing for full description), each with their own community facilities. In the centre of the project is an old farmhouse which will be renovated to provide, community, office and work spaces for the whole community.
Model Ecovillage Guidelines for Development
The Guidelines below were developed by the future residents of an EcoVillage at Ithaca, California.
The substance of this document was developed over the course of nine months and involved the input of over 100 people.
EcoVillage at lthaca held four Land Use Planning Forums from September '92 to March '93 in which future residents, architects, landscape architects, students, professors, planners ecologists and energy experts met in task groups. This document is a compilation of what emerged from the Planning Forums. These are meant to be taken as guidelines rather than rigid requirements.
The EcoVillage Board of Directors approved this document on October 7, 1993.
Residential Neighbourhood Guidelines
- To foster the formation of a sense of community, both within neighbourhoods and within the Village as a whole, while maintaining residents' privacy.
- To support sustainable relationships among residents.
- To establish a sustainable relationship between human habitation on the land and the living matrix of plant and animal life.
- To encourage pedestrian and bicycle circulation, and to restrict vehicle access into residential areas.
- To maximize open space
- Five neighbourhoods will be built in the residential area, with construction phased over a period of ten to fifteen years.
- One additional neighbourhood may be included in the Village Centre Complex.
- Total site residential population will be about 500 people.
- Housing will be clustered, With a maximum area of two and a half to three and a half acres per neighbourhood, including common house and buffer areas.
- Neighbourhoods will fit into a design framework specified by the comprehensive plan.
- Neighbourhoods will surround an open, vehicle-free village green.
- The neighbourhoods will be tied together by a continuous pedestrian loop that passes through the central part of each neighbourhood.
- Each neighbourhood will accommodate 25 to 35 households, plus a Common House.
- The Common House will include facilities for community dining, laundry, and other neighbourhood-wide activities.
- Household dwelling units will be self-contained, but access to Common House facilities will tend to reduce the individual unit's size and cost.
- Neighbourhoods will have a pedestrian emphasis, and motor vehicles will be excluded from the neighbourhood proper limited access will be provided for emergency and service vehicles.
- Limited residential parking will be provided on the periphery of the neighbourhoods.
- Neighbourhoods will be designed to allow for the possibility of home occupations and cottage industries.
- Within the constraints and spirit of the Comprehensive Plan, future residents have the freedom to plan their neighbourhood's housing, exterior spaces, and amenities according to their own desires and needs.
- Future residents will choose the professional assistance they wish to engage on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis.
- Danish Style Co-Housing provides a proven residential community model consistent with EcoVillage's goals, and will be the basis for the first neighbourhood(s).
- Other housing models may be considered, if they provide at least as much basis for community as Co-Housing.
- Design will support the needs of children, the elderly, and the differently abled.
- To the extent possible make buildings and other facilities wheelchair accessible.
Village Centre Complex Guidelines
- Village Commons Commercial Centre
- To reduce vehicle travel by establishing an on-site commercial centre.
- To create a gateway to the village (together with the water elements) which will create a memorable impression for all visitors.
- To develop on-site employment opportunities for village residents
- To create a dynamic, village atmosphere through activity, people and movement.
- A small lake will provide recreation and beauty, and will include pathways to connect the Village Centre with the Education and Research Centre.
- Open space incorporating a fountain, sculpture, water, playground, bandstand, amphitheatre, plantings, gardens.
- Commercial buildings including environmentally oriented shops and cottage industries, offices, bed and breakfast inn, restaurant, post office.
- Second-story residential units may be included
- Visitor's Centre Goals
- To provide an introduction to EcoVillage for casual visitors.
- To provide a low-key social space for residents and employees.
- To create a hospitable, aesthetic, and calming mood.
- Includes informational materials, EVI model, videos.
- Probably includes a cafe.
- EcoVillage Education and Research Centre
- To serve as a focal point for teaching about sustainability in all its aspects.
- To provide a source of inspiration for people who would like to replicate the model of EcoVillage.
- To support educational programs, including continuing work with Cornell classes, international conferences, week-long workshops, summer apprenticeships, Elder Hostel programs, an alternative elementary school, etc.
- To support research activities such as permaculture applications, aquaculture, bioshelter design, building materials, etc.
- Facilities will be built in phases as resources become available.
- Educational activities will include initial programs which do not require construction, such as a community garden project With local school children or apprenticeships in organic agriculture.
- A demonstration Eco-House will double as an EVI Design Studio and meeting place.
- The EVER Centre will include a Reception area, EVI office space, and large dining hall serving organic produce on site.
- Classrooms and auditorium space will be added later.
- The EVER Centre may include some dormitory rooms.
- Laboratory space will be built in increments as resources are available.
- To produce a substantial part of the food for EcoVillage on-site, including a diverse range of fruits, nuts, and vegetables with the possibility of some eggs and dairy products (such as goat milk)
- To develop, demonstrate, and teach sustainable technologies and methods, including organic farming, minimal use of fossil fuels, and building long term fertility.
- To foster economic vitality and affordability by providing livelihood for people and by providing affordable food.
- To foster native natural systems and species.
- To encourage community involvement by being a focal point of community activities and by raising people's awareness of their ties to the land.
- The agricultural systems will be based on permaculture.
- The use of animals will be limited by the carrying capacity of the land in order to form a sustainable permaculture system.
- Fish will be farmed in aquaculture ponds designed for that purpose.
- West Haven Community Farm will include educational programs, a community farming project, community supported agriculture, a farm stand, an apprentice program, and seasonal celebrations.
- A co-operative food cannery will include a commercial kitchen and winter storage
- An EcoVillage Community Garden will be established.
- The West Haven institute: Centre for Earth keeping Research will include co-operative research with Cornell as well as possible internships.
Transportation and Circulation Guidelines
- To encourage pedestrian and bicycle circulation.
- To reduce the impact of motor vehicles.
- The site road infrastructure will be kept to a minimum, consistent with safety and minimum convenience requirements.
- A network of pedestrian and bicycle paths will be designed and built to provide a primary circulation system.
- A pedestrian loop will circle through and tie together the neighbourhoods.
- The pedestrian loop will provide primary emergency vehicle access to the residential neighbourhoods.
- Reduce vehicle impact through mass transit, a computerized ride-sharing system, vehicle sharing, bicycle support, an initiative for high-efficiency, renewably fueled vehicles, and a general policy that encourages on-site work, shopping, and recreation.
- Neighbourhood vehicle access will be restricted to the periphery of the residential neighbourhood area.
- Neighbourhood peripheral roads will be low-speed, low-cost roadways, designed to handle trucks delivering food to the common houses, but not heavier emergency vehicles.
- Other alternatives to vehicles, such as a small electric rail system, will be explored.
Natural Resources and Recreation Guidelines
- To preserve, restore, and create natural areas to the greatest extent practical, including wetlands and woods.
- To foster non-human life and vitality and diversity.
- To provide a rich interface for pedestrian interaction with the natural areas through an extensive trail system.
- To set aside wildlife habitat preserves.
- To regenerate the forest through extensive plantings in certain areas.
- To provide playing fields and playgrounds near residential areas.
- To create an ongoing Earth-keeping process of cultivation and monitoring.
- To design the site to allow West Hill Community recreational access to Eco-Village land, while ensuring some level of privacy for residents.
- To create a Natural Resources Archive to gather information about natural areas as they are named and developed historically.
Water and Wastewater Guidelines
- To match a diversity of supplies with appropriate uses.
- To create systems in which as much water as possible will be recycled on-site.
- To minimize water use through strict conservation practices, allowing water to be supplied in sustainable quantities.
- To design water systems for this relatively wet climate.
- Municipal water will be the primary source of water for most dwellings. As groundwater resources are developed, this can begin to be replaced.
- Water systems should be designed with the flexibility to adapt to future innovative technologies.
- Rainwater collection to be used (as quantities permit) for toilet-flushing, laundry, showers, and/or gardens.
- Greywater systems should be used unless costs and permit requirements outweigh the benefits. Greywater plumbing will be separated at construction, to allow for hook up at a later date.
- Sewage (blackwater and unusable greywater) will initially go to the municipal sewer. As financial resources are found and the regulatory hurdles passed, a biological wastewater facility will be built on site. This treatment system will produce methane and remove excess nutrients from the water. The effluent from this system (if approved by authorities) will be used to recharge the groundwater, for aquaculture, and for watering fields; thus, the water and nutrient loop will be closed.
- Agricultural water will be supplied by rainwater and surface water, With the possibility of eventually tapping groundwater. Surface water will be collected and treated through developing a series of marshes and ponds to cleanse the water and to provide a lovely setting for wildlife and recreation.
Solid Waste Guidelines
- To reduce the amount of solid waste generated on-site.
- To promote re-use, recycling and composting.
- Support village-wide bulk-buying programs.
- Institute on-site trash tag system.
- Provide convenient facilities for source separation and composting.
- Provide for re-use of unwanted goods and materials.
- Explore feasibility of on-site material processing and recovery facility, and develop markets for recovered materials.
- To demonstrate a comprehensive approach to more sustainable energy use.
- To reduce energy use through efficient transportation systems.
- To use strict conservation practices to minimise energy use.
- To use the most environmentally benign sources, particularly renewable solar, wind and biomass.
- To provide for a smooth transition to renewable energy sources.
- To maintain an acceptable level of comfort and convenience.
- Provide education and technical support on conservation and renewable energy to residents and the community at large, including demonstration of energy-efficient, passive solar housing and renewable energy systems.
- Pursue village-wide energy projects; possible options include methane recovery from sewage, wind generation, a cogeneration plant to provide heat and electricity, and forming our own on-site energy utility.
- Seek funding for energy features, including grants, private investment, and utility incentives.
- Establish a series of residential energy standards. Residential standards are based on commercially available state-of-the-art technology. We recognize that energy features increase the initial cost of a housing unit, and that this is inevitable given EcoVillage's mission. However, these standards are not intended to be financially prohibitive, and if they can be so shown they will be re-negotiated. Summary of proposed energy standards:
- Thermal performance standard: residential heating load shall be less than 1 btu/square foot/degree day. This is much better than State requirements, but not exceptional for a well-constructed, superinsulated house.
- Electrical conservation standard: design shall include daylighting, task lighting, high efficiency lighting; appliances shall be commercially available state-of-the-art,
- Renewable energy standard: design shall be sun-oriented; primary water heating source is solar.
- Renewable transition standard: space and water heating systems shall allow multiple renewable inputs; Utility systems shall be readily accessible for modification; suitable south-facing roof surface shall be provided for future solar collectors.
Building Materials Guidelines
To select materials which are environmentally sound while not prohibitive in cost.
Building materials selection criteria include:
- Health effects, including toxic adhesives and finishes
- Embodied energy, including transportation to site
- Other environmental impacts of manufacture or demolition
- Energy properties: storage or insulating, depending on use
Cultural & Ethnic Diversity
- To create a living and working community that reflects the diversity of the City of lthaca and Tompkins County.
- To include groups seeking to maintain or create a distinct cultural identity.
- Identify groups that would contribute to diversity, and set goals for participation
- Conduct outreach and community involvement programs (Community Farming Project, Yoff return visit, Tibetan Resettlement Project),
- Build understanding and connection through workshops on multicultural issues and racism.
- Lower barriers to residency through lower-commitment housing (rental or rent-to-own) and subsidized low-cost housing
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