What is an Ecovillage?
EcoVillages provide models for living sustainably - economically, ecologically, and with a strong social conscience. You may refer to the Global EcoVillage Network at gen.org for a wealth of information on an international network of ecovillages. Also, go to the EcoVillages tab. Please note that for the Township Zoning Ordinance we created a very specific definition of an "EcoVillage." Altair has a non-profit entity as part of its organization to foster educating the community-at-large (as well as its members) as part of its mission, and this helps fit the definition of an EcoVillage.
Altair Ecovillage follows a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods. Residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.
Old-fashioned sense of neighborhood village communities are usually designed as attached or single-family homes along one or more pedestrian streets or clustered around a courtyard. In the U.S., they range in size from 7 to 67 residences, the majority of them housing 20 to 40 households. Regardless of the size of the community, there are many opportunities for casual meetings between neighbors, as well as for deliberate gatherings such as celebrations, clubs, and business meetings.
The Common House is the social center and "living room" of the community, with a large dining room and kitchen, lounge, recreational facilities, children’s spaces, and frequently guest rooms, workshop, and laundry room. Communities usually serve optional group meals in the Common House at least two or three times a week. The need for community members to take care of common property builds a sense of working together, trust, and support. Because neighbors hold a commitment to a relationship with one another, almost all cohousing communities use consensus as the basis for group decision-making.
The idea originated in Denmark, and was promoted in the U.S. by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in the early 1980s under their translation of the Danish concept of “living community” as "Cohousing." Worldwide, there are now hundreds of village communities, expanding from Denmark into the U.S, Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, and elsewhere.
In this type of community, you know who lives six houses down because you eat common meals with them, decide how to allocate homeowners dues and gratefully accept a ride from them when your car’s in the shop. You begin to trust them enough to leave your 4-year-old with them. You listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with them at first, and you sense that you, too, are being heard.
Residents generally aspire to “improve the world, one neighborhood at a time.” This desire to make a difference often becomes a stated mission, as the websites of many communities demonstrate. For example, at Sunward Cohousing near Ann Arbor, MI, the goal is to create a place “where lives are simplified, the earth is respected, diversity is welcomed, children play together in safety, and living in community with neighbors comes naturally.” At Winslow Cohousing near Seattle, the aim is to have “a minimal impact on the earth and create a place in which all residents are equally valued as part of the community.” At EcoVillage at Ithaca, NY, the site of three adjoining cohousing neighborhoods, the goal is “to explore and model innovative approaches to ecological and social sustainability.” Many other communities have visions that focus specifically on the value of building community. Sonora Cohousing in Tucson, AZ, seeks “a diversity of backgrounds, ages and opinions, with our one shared value being the commitment to working out our problems and finding consensus solutions that satisfy all members.” Tierra Nueva Cohousing in Oceano, CA, exists “because each of us desires a greater sense of community, as well as strong interaction with and support from our neighbors.”
Where Did the Housing Model Originate?
Please go to the latest News for the Members Time Line which gives a good idea of what is involved. Our first workshop will be the "Getting It Built" Workshop, where we will explore everything from marketing to group process, financial to physical design. Meanwhile, however, we hold monthly Discussion Groups in conjunction with Site Tours and Potlucks on a variety of topics from Permaculture to Passive House.
What is the Timeline and the Development Process?
Depending on the size of the home, we hope to stay within a $250,000 to $350,000 price point for the town homes, a greater amount for duplexes. This is comparable to other homes available in the Kimberton area, but it includes two major components that differ: a) the cost of the home includes a share in the common facilities (based on a percentage of total square footage of built space), b) the energy bills will be very low, because we are planning to build tight building envelopes, utilize centralized mechanical and electrical systems, and because we work together to keep the costs low. The shared spaces allow residents to downsize comfortably.
There will be a monthly "maintenance" fee, again very low, because residents choose which services they want to do themselves. A portion of the fee will go to capitalize future projects the community wants to add.
What is the Cost?
We're not there yet! Residents meet to write a whole range of documents laying out how we want to live together. Some examples of the work we need to accomplish:
-pet policy, common meals, kitchen use, community TV, maintenance, community internet, communications among residents, gardening practices, accounting, visitors, renters, work fair share, collecting the monthly association fee, facilitator training, meeting schedule, committees, using the Common House, working with neighbors, resolving issues, childcare, elder care, teens, nursing support, car sharing, environmental sensitivity, monitoring energy use
The list goes on and on! Come join us and help determine how we want to live! We are discussing our Values, reconfirming our mission, and adding members.
See our News page for the most recent draft of Healthy Green Living.