The Samford Valley is a very beautiful location featuring good-natured people, lots of trees and wonderful, sweet-smelling fresh air. It has been selected mainly because of convenience to Brisbane. The largest blocks of land around Samford are mostly about 16-20 hectares (40-50 acres), which should be enough for a small ecovillage.
The challenge of the Samford Valley is lack of rainfall - the dams around there are currently very low. Fortunately our ecovillage design will include all the water catchment and recycling technology needed to overcome this issue.
Brisbane is a popular and fast-growing city, and large blocks of land are difficult to locate. Samford Valley is a compromise - it is only about 20 minutes drive from the CBD, yet there are still a number of medium sized blocks that will be suitable for this development. Most available blocks of an acceptabe size in this region are around 16 hectares. Using a rule of thumb of one hectare per household, the project is expected to include 16 houses plus a community centre and other shared facilities.
While this is rather small compared with other ecovillages, we believe the project will be very unique, popular and worthwhile, and will hopefully inspire other similar developments at this scale.
The population for Silvergreen will therefore only be around 50-60 people, ideally about half adults and half children.
Let's look at a few of the other ecovillages around Oz to compare:
Table 1: Ecovillages in Oz
|Name||State||Total Area (ha)||No. houses||Avg. area/household (ha)||% Natural||Lot sizes|
|Crystal Waters||QLD||259||83||3.12||80||avg. 6094m2|
|Kookaburra Park||QLD||196||124||1.58||74||avg. 4047m2 (1 ac)|
|The Ecovillage at Currumbin||QLD||109||144||0.76||50||600 - 8000m2|
|Somerville||WA||162||104||1.56||70||400 - 1750m2|
|Fryers Forest||VIC||121||11||11||96||4047m2 (1 ac)|
As you can see, there is some considerable variation in size and population density, with an average area per household of about 1.5 ha. The last two ecovillages in the list represent the extremes.
Silvergreen will therefore be on the higher density side, which is hard to avoid on a relatively small block of land close to the city, because land is more expensive and less available. Even so, house lots will be twice as large as a typical 0.1 ha (¼ acre) suburban block, and in actual fact, residents will each own 1 hectare of land, which is 10 times the size of a suburban block. Since capital growth comes primarily from appreciation of land value, the residents will be well off financially - this will be a great investment.
For the sake of a preliminary design, we are working with the following figures:
- 20% of land allocated for housing (3.2 ha)
- 30% for common land - that's community buildings, roads, shared infrastructure, permaculture gardens and farmland (4.8 ha)
- 50% natural and rehabilitated (8 ha)
Features of the Site
There are a few other features we need to look for in an ideal ecovillage site.
1. Proximity to civilization. Not everyone wants to live out in the sticks, and indeed, the whole point of this business is to bring ecovillages to the masses. The site must be a short drive to the nearest population centre, and ideally near a train station or bus stop.
2. Partly or wholly cleared. A fully vegetated site won't be ideal, because we don't want to have to cut down any trees to make room for houses. If we select a site that has been partly cleared, then rehabilitation of the cleared land becomes part of the project. While this is an extra expense, it will increase the environmental value of the ecovillage - we will be able to promote what a positive effect the ecovillage has had on the land. Also, if there has been some clearing we have more flexibility about how to lay out the site.
3. Fresh water sources. A creek, stream, river, lake or dams will really add something to the site, providing water for irrigation and for animals.
4. Good soil quality. We need to be able to successfully grow a wide range of food on the land, so soil testing will be essential before purchasing a site.
6. Correctly zoned and in harmony with council regulations. Although these obstacles can sometimes be overcome, things will go much easier if the land is in the correct zone (i.e. residential or semi-rural) and if the project does not conflict with local council.
A Single Builder
This is something that we will be doing which is a little different. Because most ecovillages are put together by a group of independent like-minded people, rather than a property development company, the houses (if they are built from scratch) are often quite different. For example, at the Ecovillage at Currumbin, the residents can build any kind of house they like as long as it is within certain design parameters.
However, there are significant benefits to be had from using a single builder:
- The whole site can be constructed as a single, integrated system, making the ecovillage more beautiful and harmonious, and streamlining the integration of homes with the site's energy, water and information systems.
- Leveraging cost benefits through re-use of design elements, drawings, and engineering requirements.
- Cost benefits from bulk-buying of building materials.
- Huge reduction in overheads that would be incurred if architects had to check every design.
- Only having to educate one builder about the design goals of the ecovillage.