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The Vision

A community of similar-minded people, of a variety of ages and social backgrounds, living sustainably (that is, environmental, social & financial sustainability) in a way that is a not-too-scary example to others.


The ideas describing The Village are, at present, written in the first person singular: it is currently my vision. As others read it and decide to join in it will change to the first person plural, and will incorporate other people’s ideas. How we manage the decision-making processes that will govern these changes has yet to be decided.

Some of the ideas in this document I cling to with quite some force; others I am very open to changing. We will see, in time, which are which!

The Village is currently a dream of a place where my wife and I would like to live. It may be a self-commissioned estate, a co-housing project, or a radically different commercial housing development. Many of the ideas in this document have been shamelessly “borrowed” from other sources: they are acknowledged at the end of this document.

Countryside

The Village will be centred around a community space that will include a FabLab (community workshop), social space, and retail space. The FabLab will be built first, to provide a workshop for the construction of the rest of the buildings. All the buildings will use Wikihouse technology and will be built to two important sets of standards: Passivhaus to maximise energy efficiency and minimise carbon footprint, and LifeTime Homes, to ensure maximum accessibility.  The underlying building philosophy is that of “A Right To Build“.

We will appoint an architectural practice (hopefully 00Architecture) to design the buildings and the overall site, with input from members. As the buildings will all use Wikihouse technology, we will build them ourselves, with assistance from professionals who have gained experience building other Wikihouse structures. All our designs will be Creative Commons licensed, and will be available to others via the Wikihouse library.


Alastair Parvin, 00Architecture, “A Right to Build”


Those who join the group early on will be able to influence the concept and design, both of the “urbanization”, the building designs, as well as the sustainability, accessibility, financial and community elements.

Click the logo to learn more

The Village may be a co-housing community, or it may be a housing community using what I call “The Asheville Pattern”—a commercial development built for people looking for an eco-village, but who don’t necessarily want to be involved in its design and construction—or a combination of the two. Either way, the community is central to the design of both the site as a whole and the individual homes.

20120421-GWiz-Fab-Lab

We will have a Community Centre with workshop space (FabLab), shared office space, retail space, accommodation for visitors, and community space where we can share meals, watch films, have parties or just get together and chat. The community will grow as much of its own food as possible, as organically as possible, using everything from individual and communal gardens, through Permaculture-style horticulture, “City Farm” production in the style of Growing Power of Milwaukee, up to agriculture, Managed Holistically, as described by Allan Savory or following on from the practices of Joel Salatin.  Precisely how either of these two approaches will be used depend upon what land we eventually find.  Given that we are hoping to be in central southern England, we probably won’t be aiming to reverse desertification, at least, not in the next few years!

More cows than we need?!

There will be space for livings to be earned, children to run, food to be grown, games to be played, gardeners to get creative, and lounging in the sun. When we have sufficient children living on site, we will investigate the possibility of having a Village School.

Each household will have its own house. Members will be able to have an input into the way our buildings are laid out and what they include.

The Village will own the land through a Community Land Trust and will provide low-cost, affordable housing to young country folk who wish to join The Village and help run our organic food production facilities.

FabLab LogoHMI


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General Principles

I have spent some time recently living in the United States, whose constitution guarantees a number of rights, but is less obvious on the subject of responsibilities. One of the effects of this is that many Americans believe that the Constitution not only guarantees them the right to believe as they will, but also gives them the right to impose their beliefs on others.

The Village will not do this!

The Village will welcome vegans and carnivores, Christians, Muslims and atheists, athletes at the peak of physical perfection, and those of more average abilities. Along with the right to eat what you want and worship how you want comes the responsibility to support the rights of others to do likewise.

We will have a responsibility to be kind to one another, and supportive. We all believe in the need to take care of our environment, but whether you wear rope-soled sandals or pure leather brogues on your feet is up to you. You are more likely to drive a Prius than a BMW, but, if you set a good example of cycling everywhere, you can’t impose two wheels on others.

Each member of The Village is responsible for their own economic well-being. I expect that there will be a number of Village enterprises which will provide a general income stream for the Village as a whole, as well as employment for whichever Villagers wish to take it up.

The Village will, I hope, be an example to other people, on how they can change their lives to live more sustainably. As such, it is my fervent wish that The Village won’t be seen as too large a conceptual leap for most people: we will be living in comfortable, attractive houses, not domes made of old tyres (nothing wrong with that, but a dome-shaped house made of old tyres will only attract a small number of highly committed eco-warriors). I hope that The Village will inspire a large number of people to make small, achievable changes, as well as a few making the big leaps.

The Village will provide the resources, training and support for people to become more involved with Making, Recycling, Growing, Up-cycling and Repairing. To borrow Will Allen’s motto, we will be about: Growing, Blooming, Thriving.

Learning About The Village

The Village is not a “one-idea” phenomenon, but rather an integrated set of ideas which will, we hope, lead to a harmonious whole. Rather than include everything, in detail, in this document, I will briefly introduce the key ideas, and leave you to follow up the web links, read other websites, and watch the various videos. I realise that not everyone will be interested in everything: that’s fine. But even if you are a vegan who never intends to don a pair of wellies in your life, it’s probably a good idea to spend 20 minutes watching the Allan Savory TED talk and learning a little about Permaculture and Aquaponics!

On this web page, pretty much every picture is clickable, and will take you somewhere on the web where you can get more information.  If you find one that doesn’t, do let me know!  I recommend reading as widely as possible, watching as many videos as possible, and deciding which part of The Village you most want to become involved with.  Yesterday I was talking to someone who said that you can get government money to support various initiatives, “if you know how to jump through the relevant hoops”.

We need an awful lot of hoop jumpers to get this idea off the ground (or should it be onto the ground?)

 Sustainability

Many lifestyles today are not sustainable, from the corporate executive with a horrendous and unthinking carbon footprint, consuming and despoiling the world’s resources, to the person who is always living on credit, expecting handouts from others in order to survive. We come together in the Village to find ways to make it easier to live in a sustainable fashion.

Environmental: Energy

By creating buildings built to Passivhaus standards, using Wikihouse construction technology, and recycling our waste wherever possible we will have made a giant leap forward both in saving energy and reducing our carbon footprints, but also reducing our household bills and making our economic sustainability easier. Our houses will also be built to recycle and recover both the heat from the air in our heating systems, and the heat from our waste water.

By providing the resources for as many of us as possible to work within the Village, we will be able to drastically cut the number of “commuter miles” that residents have to travel.

Environmental: Food

By growing as much of our own food as possible, and bulk sourcing what we can’t grow ourselves from our local area, we will also reduce the carbon footprint of what we eat, as well as improving the health of Village residents.

Social

Diana Leafe Christian

I have been interested in some form of communal living for most of my adult life, and have sampled and visited many experiments in communal life. I think pretty much every radical housing experiment I ever visited has now fallen by the wayside. Very often that was because the members had very unrealistic ideas about how the finances would work, but also because they nearly all thought that clinging to their own idealistic views would make it all work out!Governance of the community can go in one of two directions. One is that used in most village life in the 21st century—a few politically-minded people run for office and make all the decisions, and everyone else pays little or no attention. The other is that we look for a different model, where many more people take some responsibility and everyone is encouraged to take an interest. It is this model that I have found is frequently the downfall of “intentional communities”. We just don’t know how to manage that.

Susan and I have come across a woman who seems to have solved this problem. Currently a part of the Earthaven community in North Carolina, Diana Leafe Christian is a world expert on “Sociocracy” or “Dynamic Governance”. And I am the only world expert on a process that I call “Together We Can” which gives people a different model for relating together whilst respecting everyone’s wishes.

I hope that The Village core group would attend, either in the UK, or wherever, one of Diane’s workshops. I believe that this will go a long way to ensuring the social sustainability of The Village.

Financial

Many of the co-housing communities that I have observed in the past have foundered through financial naivete. Members of The Village must be able to demonstrate that they are financially self-sufficient. It is the aim of the community design that it will be easier to achieve this while living in The Village than living elsewhere: it will cost less to buy a home, living costs will be lower, etc. In addition, The Village will have co-working spaces that will make it easier to set up and run a small (or even larger!) business, and The Village will have shared resources to help keep costs down.

gringer_Piggybank-pink

Next, The Village will run enterprises that will generate income to further reduce the costs for people in The Village, and lastly, The Village itself, and many of the enterprises that are run by members of The Village, will offer employment.

And, of course, if people fall upon hard times, the community will do its best to help. But the bottom line is that every household within The Village is responsible for its own economic survival, preferably without relying on government-funded social security, because our aim is to show that our lifestyle is sustainable, and if a significant number of people in the community rely on social security to survive, then it isn’t. It will be The Village’s job, as a community, to help all residents out of this trap.


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The “Asheville Pattern”

The Asheville Pattern” is a term that I have invented to refer to a phenomenon that I have only seen in America. I’m about to be a bit long-winded: I apologise—stay with me!

SubDivisionIn Florida, where we have lived for some time, they have “sub-divisions”. As near as I can get in British terms, a sub-division is a housing estate, almost definitely with a name, where all the properties are of a similar style, and the land around the properties is landscaped. The sub-division may be (but not necessarily) a gated community. It almost definitely will have a wall around it.

What it will have is an “HOA”—a Homeowners Association. They will collect fees from everyone (no getting out of it—joining the HOA and paying fees is a legal necessity of living in a house in that sub-division). They will maintain the landscaping, and take you to court if you don’t keep your lawn mowed, or paint your front door a garish colour. A sub-division may have a communal swimming pool, and if they do, the HOA will maintain it, collect fees, make up the rules, etc. In some places, the HOA can even determine whether you can buy a house and move in: Susan and I own two investment properties in one sub-division, and we had to get the agreement of the HOA before the house purchase could complete.

The members of the HOA stand for election, get elected, run the HOA. HOAs and sub-divisions are the beginnings of an intentional community. The one we live(d) in, in Florida, had a social event every other Saturday evening.


And then we discovered Trilogy. Trilogy takes the idea of a sub-division plus HOA to a whole different level. A developer with a LOT of capital has bought up many acres of land, has put in all the road ways, divided it up into sub-divisions (big, posh houses, smaller houses, apartments, etc.) and has put in masses of facilities: swimming pools, tennis courts, gym, restaurants, bars, community rooms—everything you could want. When I first heard about Trilogy I was appalled and arrogantly dismissive (“plastic, artificial” is what I thought), but when we went and visited, and had a look around, I saw that I could easily be tempted to sell up and move in. And the property prices were much lower than I expected, and the HOA fees were lower than where we already lived!

And then I discovered Asheville, NC. North Carolina is definitely in the American “bible belt”, but Asheville is different. Someone described it as “the rhinestone buckle in the bible belt”. It is full of people who believe that global warming is happening, and are “eco-conscious”. If you’ve read this far through this document then I’m fairly confident that I can say, “people like us” (PLU). Well, a number of developers around Asheville (also known as West North Carolina, or WNC) have noticed that, and have built communities for PLU. They are commercial developments—the developer has done all the work. All you have to do is find the cash, buy the house of your dreams, and move in. But it is designed to appeal to people like us. Eco-friendly buildings, lots of garden space, re-cycling built in. Here are three of them:

Whisper Mountain

Whisper Mountain is the home of Southern Living Magazine’s “green” Idea House … Whisper Mountain, in the heart of western North Carolina, near the charming, nationally recognized city of Asheville, is a place surrounded by natural beauty and culture. …

Here at Whisper Mountain, we have created homesites, trails, and many other exclusive amenities that tread lightly on the earth and offer the best values in Western North Carolina.

Visit the heart of our community, Sky Valley Lodge, crafted from 160 year old hemlock timbers, fully equipped with an exercise room, sauna, spa, and decks with 30 mile views. Picture camping in our tent camp next to a lovely mountain stream, overlooking hundreds of acres of protected forests and parks with miles of trails. One to six acre home sites are carefully positioned at elevations up to 3,800 feet. Envision magnificent 360 degree long range mountain and valley views.

This is Whisper Mountain, where you will find the very finest of North Carolina home sites, a vibrant community with active property owners, and a development partner to help you plan your future smart living choices. … Living in balance with nature and embracing the land…this is what it means to make your home at Whisper Mountain.

The Villages at Crest Mountain

Villages Crest Mountain

Asheville Sustainable Community

The Villages at Crest Mountain is a comprehensive green-built neighborhood 4.5 miles from downtown Asheville, North Carolina. This affordable intentional eco-community embraces social interaction and fellowship, organic food production, renewable energy, healthy built construction, rainwater harvesting, and shared resources.

On-site amenities enable residents and families to enjoy a simple, natural lifestyle in step with cutting-edge sustainable technology: VCM is proud to boast:

  • Stylish, healthy built and energy efficient homes
  • Community-wide rainwater catchment
  • South facing lots for optimal solar orientation
  • Community walking trails, gardens, greenhouse, orchards, vineyards, edible landscaping and berry patches
  • Covered gathering areas and childrens play ground (planned)
  • Social Governance program and Community Home Owners Association
  • Two acres of central green space
  • Proposed community center with tavern and co-op featuring local organic beers, artisan crafts, and organic foods
  • Offering two distinct phases, giving option of smaller affordable homes adjacent to acres of green space or larger elevated wooded lots offering panoramic views.
  • The Villages at Crest Mountain offers a comprehensive, sustainable neighborhood with prices well within reach of the majority of Asheville homebuyers. Our primary objective is to maximize the sustainability of the land while keeping prices affordable.

Hickory Nut Forest

Hickory Nut Forest, an emerging Eco-Community located in Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is a gem amidst the magnificent Hickory Nut Gorge. Out your back door, you can hike for miles enjoying the serenity of nature surrounded by “forever-wild” mountain forests, soaring cliffs and pristine, cascading streams.

This is a unique eco-friendly community close to Asheville that combines land conservation, green-built homes, organic gardening and renewable energy from wind, water, sun, and geothermal sources. Here, you can be part of designing a “net zero energy homes community,” that creates more renewable energy than it uses.

Asheville, with its vibrant culture is only a short drive away. Here you can enjoy a wide variety of art, music, drama and diverse cuisine.

Discover what it’s like to live in this peaceful, sacred place in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Explore your vision for a sustainable future. Let us know what you think. 

I encourage you to go to these three websites, download their various brochures and PDFs, and have a look at what these communities offer. They may not be your idea of co-housing—there is something about them that jars with something within me. However, the older I get, the more I feel the appeal of moving in to a house where someone else has done all of the work, and I just get to live a lifestyle that appeals to me!

Why Consider the Asheville Pattern?

There are two key ideas within our plans for The Village that make for a much lower cost development than you might expect in the UK: using a Community Land Trust to acquire the land, and using Wikihouse technology to build the buildings. If the initial members of The Village group are, like us, late-middle-aged couples, ready to down-size, then it is likely that we will be able to buy our own part of the community for a price well within our available capital. This means that we could become co-developers of a UK-version of an Asheville Pattern community.

The advantages of this are:

  • We don’t have to find all the members we need before we begin
  • We have a smaller group of people making the key decisions—faster decision making
  • It will be easier to sell the other properties in the community once we have something to show.


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Sources and Acknowledgements

Below are listed the sources that have affected my thinking in drawing up this document. My thanks to all the original thinkers who have inspired me.

Community Land Trust: http://www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk

Co-working Space:
Factur Labs: https://www.facebook.com/FacturLabs & http://factur.org/
Artisan’s Asylum, MA: https://www.facebook.com/ArtisansAsylum & http://artisansasylum.com/
Innovation Warehouse: http://www.innovationwarehouse.org/

Fab Cities: at http://www.FabLabsUK.co.uk/fabcities

FabLabs: http://www.fablabsuk.co.uk/

Growing Power (Aquaponics, Vermiculture, City farms. Will Allen): http://www.growingpower.org/

Hickory Nut Forest, West NC, USA: http://www.hickorynutforest.ecofriendlycommunities.com/

Holistic Management and Planned Grazing (Allan Savory): http://holisticmanagement.org/

Joel Salatin: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

K1 Co-housing, Cambridge, UK: http://www.cambridge-k1.co.uk/

Lifetime Homes Standards (design for accessible buidings) http://www.lifetimehomes.org.uk/

Passivhaus Standards for Low-Energy Buildings: http://www.passivhaus.org.uk/

Permaculture (Bill Mollison): https://www.tagari.com/

Sociocracy (Dynamic Governance: Diane Leafe Christian) http://www.dianaleafechristian.org/
Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community,
Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities

The Villages at Crest Mountain, Asheville, NC, USA: http://villagesatcrestmountain.com/

Valldaura Self-Sufficient Lab, IAAC, Barcelona, Catalonia : http://www.valldaura.net/location/

Whisper Mountain, Asheville, NC, USA: http://ashevillemountainlotsforsale.com/

Wikihouse (Alastair Parvin): http://www.WikiHouse.cc


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