Imagine a neighbourhood designed around solar power, shared community gardens and active transportation options. The homes would be energy efficient, built with locally sourced and renewable materials, and finished with paints and sealants that do not add to the body’s chemical burden. With low-flow fixtures and energy-efficient appliances, the homes would be easier on the planet than conventionally built houses. Services and amenities would be within a 5-10 minute walk from homes. Making it easy to meet neighbours would be built into the design.
That 8-acre community exists on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. Phase I of Grow Community has been completed and sold out. Two additional neighbourhoods are still in the planning stages. They will be built on 5 acres of land, with 3 of those acres being kept as green space. In addition, Phase II will include a community center and childcare facility. In an effort to make the community open to people without the means to buy a home, one- and two-bedroom units are set aside for rentals.
At the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012, Bio Regional (founders of the One Planet Living program) officially endorsed the Grow Community for its commitment to sustainability and high quality of life. Asani, the sustainable development company behind the Grow project said:
We are creating a new type of neighborhood, where health and happiness are an integral part of the living experience, where residents can live comfortably, knowing that their footprint on the planet is considerably lighter and their time is free to focus on the things that matter to them.
Interest in earth-friendlier housing and neighbourhoods is growing. Many of the eco-villages that are springing up to meet the need are located at a considerable distance from services and amenities. They would not be attractive for those of us who like to lace up our shoes and walk to grocery stores, banks, libraries and movie theatres. The Grow Community is urban infill, which means it is close to all those things.
I did not see many options for one-story dwellings, which means people may have to move on as their knees become less stair-friendly. In a neighbourhood meant to be multi-generational, that is a drawback. But overall, the Bainbridge Grow Community is an exciting development that is making the vision of a sustainable, community-oriented neighbourhood a reality. They give me hope.