Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holistic neighbourhood infrastructure in Bonnyville Housing Co-op

The Three Little Pigs housing co-op in Bonnyville uses eco-efficient design, repeatable construction and neighbourhood scale utilities to make a greener rural neighbourhood. The Communitas Group, along with the Workun Garrick Partnership developed a prototype neighbourhood in Bonnyville that deliberately avoids municipal services.

Between not for profit construction, community involvement, and green design, the concept makes social, environmental, and economic sense. As a prototype, it makes a strong case for this type of community. Rather than trying to make each house independent, they will integrate the infrastructure at the community scale, which will save money in the long term.

The site shack and the panel shop are the first thing to be built. The factory produces the panels for the 35 homes in the development. Repeatable building modules help expedite the construction and keep costs down. After the construction is done they can move the tools to another housing development and renovate the factory space for something else.

The houses don't need furnaces either. Instead, they use a district heating system with no natural gas connection. The furnace burns willow that has grown on site, and takes advantage of the wood that has been redirected from the landfill. They grow willow on site, and by maintaining a 10 acre wood lot on the site, they can have free wood heat in perpetuity.

They avoid needing a storm water system by retaining all the storm water on the site. They treat all the waste water on site too, and avoid needing to connect to the municipal sewer. They use composting toilets, and plan to use the fertilizer to help the willow grow.

Somebody is going to need to operate these facilities too, which means there will be a maintenance job for somebody who lives in the development. Notably absent from the scheme is integrated retail, but 

This sort of holistic thinking at a neighbourhood scale makes everybody better off, and not just with low utility bills. You get to know your neighbours too. If this sort of life appeals to you, you're probably not alone. Find kindred spirits and build your dream.

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