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Grow/ing a Sustainable/Community

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Although I benefit tremendously from understanding something about what my colleagues and fellow professionals are accomplishing in the realm of sustainable design and construction, I have continued to feel like your average informed citizen. Many individuals ask “what can I do?” when overwhelmed by the information we all get in the media on climate change. I have found my own answer to that question with a recent decision to relocate to a compelling new community on Bainbridge Island.

Grow Community on Bainbridge Island is being developed in accordance with the “One Planet Living” model, (www.oneplanetliving.net) One Planet Living resembles the 2030 Challenge for buildings on the scale of communities.  The ten principles that provide a framework for design are: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable materials, local and sustainable food, sustainable water, land use and wildlife, culture and community, equity and local economy, and health and happiness. The Grow Community has taken specific steps or laid the groundwork in specific ways for each principle in the overall model.  Some principle features of the community include a solar option for every house, a solar powered electric car share, community vegetable gardens, carefully selected construction materials, high density, and a walkability rating over 85.  Another great advantage is the knowledge that all of your neighbors have made through their purchase of a home a major commitment to the values expressed by the ten principles.

One Planet Living also shares a basic outlook with the Transition Town movement. However, transition towns are working to adapt and convert existing towns from 20th century assumptions to 21st century prescriptions for energy use, waste, transportation, and lifestyle. One Planet Living provides standards and goals for new construction that will reduce the impact on planetary resources through construction and lifecycle; it is an aspirational model for planners, developers, and designers.  There are currently 12 communities worldwide, with three in North America.

Grow Community is being developed in three phases; Phase One is currently mid-way through construction, while Phase Two is still in the design stage. The vision and values for the community were conceived by the developers of the project, Asani Development, and further developed in collaboration with the designer of phase one houses, Davis Studio Architecture + Design. The community is bounded by Grow Avenue to the west and Wyatt Way on the north. Phase one consists of thirty individual lots; most are sites of single family houses, but there are a few duplex structures included. The next phase is being designed by Cutler Anderson Architects and will include a wider variety of housing types.

Three or four families have already moved into the first completed units on Grow Avenue. The rest of the site remains a patchwork of houses in various stages of construction and completion. Families that have purchased the Phase One houses have already begun gardens and have organized a number of community events. They are invited to visit their houses under construction on a regular schedule. It is pretty exciting to see the progress of our own more conscientiously sustainable future already underway.

I chose to write about Grow Community because I wanted to share construction photos of my own house for the same reasons your good friends like to show you sonograms of their babies-to-be.  Though that is an overtly personal motivation rather than a professional one, I also wanted friends and students in the department to be aware of this example of a project right here in the Puget Sound that is a demonstration of ideas and values that we often discuss.

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