A new urban neighborhood on Bainbridge Island, Washington, is arguably the most resilient—and healthiest—in the entire United States. Grow Community is not the first place to have net zero energy homes, community gardens, carsharing, or any of its other features, but it’s the first community to have all of those features, by design, from its inception.
Each home in the new development, from apartments to single-family homes, can run entirely on solar power. The ultra-efficient buildings are insulated to save energy, and include heat pumps and heat recovery ventilators. Wood siding comes from local, sustainably managed forests. But green buildings are only a small part of the community’s design.
"The average footprint for food and transportation is three times the footprint of a home," says Jonathan Davis, the architect who led the project. Both were considered as integral parts of the development. The location was carefully chosen to be a short walk or bike ride from the ferry to Seattle or nearby shops. Residents will have access to community bikes and a shared fleet of cars—the first car being a Nissan Leaf that plugs into its own dedicated solar panel.
The homes are bordered by community vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and residents will also have the chance to participate in a working farm within walking distance.
The design also aims to help neighbors actually meet each other. The site is divided up into "microhoods" that are grouped around a common yard, and each of the grouping is connected by a series of pathways. No one can drive home; the parking lot is deliberately remote so that people have to walk home, and have the chance to run into each other. Each home has a front porch, and the common yards have community gardens and other shared spaces for people to interact.
Right now, the development is partially completed—22 out of 24 single-family homes are underway or finished, and construction will begin shortly on two small apartment buildings. Eight homes are occupied. The new residents include the architect and his own family. "Someone recently said it must be like my own personal Sim City, and it is," Davis says, as he watches his creation unfold.
The development is the first in the U.S. to meet the stringent requirements of the One Planet Living program. "It’s a really big-picture look at sustainability," Davis says. "In a way, Grow Community provides an easy basis for everyone living there to reduce their environmental footprint."