California Suburb Design Reduces Crime by 90%, Heating Costs by 70%, Water Consumption by 33%
By Jon Kennedy
The Village Homes community began development in 1975 and is located on 70 acres near downtown Davis, California. It consists of 225 homes, 20 apartment units, a Community Center with several businesses and an inn. Residents share 23 acres of parks, common areas, orchards, vineyards, and greenbelts. This design saved $800 per household in upfront costs
Commonly owned land comprises 40% of the total acreage. Members of the community have access to two large parks, extensive walking and bicycle paths, vineyards, several orchards and two large common gardening areas.
The principal designer of Village Homes is Michael Corbett. He and his wife, Judy, conceived of the idea as a way to encourage a sense of community, protect natural resources, and conserve energy. The concept addresses numerous issues ranging from availability of basic necessities to our needs for safety, social interaction and sustainable living.
Vineyards and fruit trees comprise a significant portion of the landscaping. There are 30 varieties of trees in the community providing fruit that is ripe and ready to eat nearly every month of the year. Residents are free to take as much harvest as they want from any portion of the edible landscape. The almond trees are the only food source that are off limits. Instead these nuts are harvested and sold for $3000 annually. This income is applied to the community’s maintenance fund.
Water conservation and usage was addressed with the layout of the Village Homes road system and land contouring. Rain runoff drains away from streets and into large channels. A network of creek beds and ponds ensures rain water is absorbed into the ground and supports the many trees on the property. This deliberate approach to landscaping saves 1/3 of the irrigation water requirement compared to surrounding developments..
All of the homes have some form of solar design built in. Weather in Davis is ideal for solar, so the streets were purposefully laid out in an east-west orientation. Home sites are arranged north-south to help houses with passive solar design take advantage of the sun’s energy. The angle and length of each home’s roof overhang on the south facade ensures optimal shade in the summer and allows sun to enter the home in the winter. Solar energy contributes 50% to 70% of the community’s heating needs.
The sense of community has withstood the test of time and makes a great impact on the residents. Neighborhood interaction is facilitated by organizing the homes in clusters of eight. Each house faces a shared green space, which is linked to other green spaces via bike paths and walkways. Sports fields and numerous playgrounds are interspersed throughout the common areas, and regular community events keep folks engaged and crime rates low.
A study showed that residents at Village Homes know 42 people in the neighborhood on average. For a standard suburban neighborhood in the U.S. that figure is 17.
The average resident in Village Homes identifies 4 of their best friends as living in the neighborhood. The suburban national average is 0.4.
Crime is 90% less than the city average.
People who choose to live here realize this community is one of the world’s best examples of sustainable development. The home designs and conscious landscaping ensure the environment is maintained in a condition that future generations can inherit and enjoy. Village Homes promotes sustainable living through land use (orchards, vineyards and preserved natural habitats), water run off management, solar construction, food consumption, organic pest management, and environmentally conscientious sources of building materials. The community was phased in over 5 years to allow for careful construction and sustained work for the builders.
Many people ask the question “why isn’t this standard design yet?” While more people are making personal choices that have global implications, developers tend to be reluctant to spend money today if the payback will not be recouped quickly. Additionally city planners are unfamiliar with this approach and typically avoid the unknown. Quality of life and well being of future generations are rarely factored in when performing economic forecasting or cost justifications. As mindsets continue to change, communities with similar visions will be increasingly prevalent.
Mike Corbett: Founder and Developer
2657 Portage Road East
Davis, CA 95616
Phone: (530) 750-2939
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