We designed our community and buildings to reduce our footprint on the natural environment and promote our health by efficiently using energy and water, reducing exposure to chemicals and pollution, and avoiding waste and environmental degradation.
Through permaculture design and wastewater recycling, we have created a lush landscape with minimal use of potable water. The trees planted in common and private spaces help in energy conservation by providing shade and by the effect of evapotranspiration, which cools the air around the houses.
Our adobe homes are greenbuilt to save energy costs. Their passive solar design features a high thermal mass with 14” adobe walls and concrete floors - slow to heat up and slow to cool down. This is enhanced by having more windows on the south side than the north to catch the warmth of the winter sun. Overhangs and awnings shield these windows from the higher, hotter summer sun. Deep shady porches are placed on the north side of the houses.
Insulated, vented double roofs allow hot air to rise before penetrating the building. The compact shape of our units (joined together in blocks of two to four) reduces exposure to hot or cold outside air. However, on cool summer nights many residents open north and south windows to let the air flow cool their house. A high efficiency heat pump with heat exchanger allows more precise temperature control.
A long driveway leads into our Tucson Cohousing Community's parking area. We were committed to creating a driveway and parking lot with ecological, non-petroleum-based products or concrete. After some searching and a few missteps, we landed on the following materials with which we are well pleased:
We paved our driveway with Stabilizer Solutions' StaLok® paving material. StaLok® is a paving material made of crushed stone mixed with engineered polymers. With this material, we are able to patch potholes with a few shovelfuls of stockpiled material sprinkled with polymer. The patch is subsequently compacted by auto traffic. Our driveway was one of the first applications of this material to a motorized road surface.
We covered our parking area with a product called Gravelpave2. Gravelpave2 features a porous, geotextile fabric molded directly to a one inch high integrated ring and grid system. It is made of 100% recycled plastic and is anchored with galvanized anchors. The fabric base retains gravel, is fast draining (allowing water to percolate into the soil below), and deters weeds. The ring and grid system holds the gravel in place, thus greatly reducing maintenance. Bacteria in the gravel help break down polluted runoff.
Broad footpaths provide the access to the 28 family homes and pedestrian walkway. There are only three homes directly accessible by vehicles which were designed for handicapped access. Homeowners use wagons or carts to carry small loads and groceries. The community owns an electric golf car, which we all use to carry large, heavy loads.