Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Creating a Green Community

Dispelling Rumors about Cohousing

Since ours is the first cohousing community in Iowa, there is often confusion about what makes this development different than the usual. And because it is being created by a group of people who will live there rather than a commercial developer, some folks worry that this is just another hippy commune. To help dispel those misconceptions, here are some things that cohousing is NOT:
  • We won't have a shared economy
  • We don't have a common set of beliefs or a common religion
  • We are not a cult or commune
  • We don't have a leader; all residents share responsibilities and leadership
  • We are not owned by a management company
To discover what we actually ARE, you can go to our website and read in great detail about us: iowacitycohousing.org.

Our Passion for Green:

One thing most cohousing communities do have in common is a strong interest in sustainability. As we look at the ecological crisis on this planet, it only makes sense for us to use sustainable practices and designs in our plans. This philosophy is far-reaching, covering almost every decision we make. We are building small homes, much smaller than the average American house. This works because we are also building a Common House. The Common House will house two guest rooms, a laundry, a large lounge, an activity room, and a children's play room. And although each home will have its own kitchen and dining room, the Common House will also have a large kitchen and large dining room for times when we want to eat together. Some of us hope that will happen at least twice a week, for sharing the responsibility of planning and cooking meals sounds very appealing!

Our attitude toward the land is another important theme. Even though we must clear the scrub growth from the area on which our homes will be built, we want to use the wood chips from those small trees for composting and mulching. Once the buildings are finished, our plan is to use edible landscaping for most of the housing area. We have some experts in permaculture among our members who will guide us as we nurture the soil and tend the many trees we will be planting. And half of our land, the part that is at the top of the site, will be free to have permanent orchards and gardens, prairie, and a gathering space.

One of the most sustainable decisions made by our group is the location of Prairie Hill, on a vacant infill lot within the city of Iowa City. This means that no new sewer lines, roads, water lines or utility lines will have to be built to provide us with city services. And our prime location gives us easy access under our own power (without the use of fossil fuels) to many of the places we need to go, whether grocery, restaurants, entertainment or a myriad of other things we might need or want.

Other sustainable aspects of Prairie Hill Cohousing:
  • The siting of our homes: We gain both passive solar advantages and have the proper orientation for photovoltaic panels. We're within walking distance of our neighbors and the common house. Our development is compact, which leaves more land for other purposes.
  • House designs: LEED certification will ensure that both the final home built, the materials it contains, and the building techniques used are to a high sustainability standard. Our choice to use all electric heating and cooling means that the homes will be well situated for the societal non-fossil fuel based energy supply.
  • Landscaping: Soil Quality Restoration over much of the site will not only enhance growth of plants, but also better retain rainwater on the land. We'll be planting native turf as well as a section of prairie, resulting in less required maintenance and better retention of rainwater. And following principles of permaculture, much food will be grown in both annual plantings and on perennial trees and bushes.
If you live in Iowa City, you may have observed the changes to our land in the last couple of weeks. Big machinery and huge piles of woodchips dominated the scene until a few days ago. Now the site is cleared and it is possible to imagine the layout and aspect of our buildings. We are ready!

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