Community Interaction & Privacy
Ecovillages incorporate a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhood. Village residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. In our model, private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, gardens, playgrounds, and a common house.
Banner photo by W.L Tarbert, via Wikimedia Commons
The model originated in Denmark in the early 1970s, when a group of people decided they did not want to live in the types of housing available to them. They felt isolated, and wanted something more resembling the neighborhoods they grew up in. When Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant studied the various EcoVillage (Cohousing) groups in Denmark that had struggled successfully with local governments, financial institutions, and the trend of the housing market, they decided to bring the idea back to the U.S. In 1988 they published Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves.
Two decades later, there are over 180 EcoVillage communities built across the U.S, with many more being developed. Spurred by The Cohousing Association of the U.S., developers are finding that green, pre-sold, community-oriented villages are an attractive alternative to typical condos, New Urbanism, sprawling developments, and separate homes.
The basic principles of an Ecovillage are simple:
- residents organize to plan their community,
- the design promotes community interaction,
- each family owns their own home, supplemented by extensive common facilities,
- the residents manage the community,
- the residents operate using a non-hierarchical structure, and
- residents have their own income sources.
Within the framework of these basic principles, a wide variety of different communities has emerged. Some were developed almost entirely by the residents themselves, while others started when an ecovillage developer purchased land and then advertised. Village communities average around 25-35 families, with a wide range of income levels, ages, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and leadership skills. There are rural, suburban, and urban communities.
Most projects are energy-efficient, more green than neighboring projects and often have received awards for multi-family design. They are built to last; the turnover rate is exceedingly low because the members experience a richer, more fulfilling life, and many residents opt to "age in community." Hence, the property values of most EcoVillage communities have increased dramatically as have the properties in the immediate neighborhood. People are willing to live in smaller homes, work with others to maintain the common property, and share resources such as guest rooms, storage, cars, and equipment because they want the interaction of community, the common meals, the celebrations, and the energy-efficient life style. As one green developer said, "Without the social component, 'green' architecture is not green!"