How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.


0. Create the Intention

Research, travel, reading, talking, meeting people. Attend a training through the Global EcoVillages Network.

1. Establish a Vision

Clarity, forming a group, outline ideas.

Commitment # 1 - to form a group to create a community

Work out ways to run meetings, to celebrate, to bond as a group.

Work out ways to deal with conflicts. US list: Pets, parking, pesticides, firearms, wood stoves, smoking.

2. Form a Legal Structure.

    Commitment #2 – to take the time for meetings, to build your community

    Coop, corporation, non-profit society. Chris Hanson advice. What will the local banks or credit unions accept, for a mortgage?

3. Search for the Right Land

    Needs clarity on goals, ideas, dreams

    Ready to put money down to secure an option to buy

    Commitment #3 – $1,000 - $5,000 per household, to finance the process.

4. Buy the Land

Need to spend money on feasibility studies, engineering.

Need to think about need for zoning, allowed and potential density, ALR, size of houses, neighbours, suitability for earning a living, etc

Commitment #4 – Commitment to a specific site.

5. Engage in the Planning Process

50% research, 50% relationships.

For the planners: density, design & overall approach ("does it make sense?")

For the engineers: water, sewage, roads, fire access, setbacks

For yourselves: overall design, agriculture, forestry, permaculture; types and style of housing, clustering, alternative energy; water, sewage, local economy.

Legally – (a) Rezoning; (b) Development Permit; (c) OCP changes.

4 Readings, + Public Hearing.

Relationships (a) with staff on Islands Trust, & CRD; (b) with neighbours; (c) with Salt Spring CRD Directors

Commitment #5 – Commitment to hiring professional help

6. Detailed Building Plans

Eco-building – host of issues.

Wood/straw/rammed/earth. Reclaimed wood.

Passive solar, energy efficiency, windows, walls

Solar, wind, ground-source heat, zero-energy design. BEDZED

Renewable & recycled materials

Non-toxic building materials. Plastics.

Building permits - Cost issues

Development Permit –

Commitment #6 – Commitment to construction financing, loan packages

7. Construction Starts

Commitment #7 – Commitment to regular payment

8. Moving In

Commitment #8 – Commitment to be ready to have your house sold, to move in, and to pay your new mortgage.


1990, north-west South Africa. 35 members, aiming at 60 – 100

Traditional 2000-year-old Tswana designs using earth and thatch as well as buildings constructed from large earth-filled bags with fired-brick dome roofs. Locally available and recycled materials were used for foundations, walls, floors and roofs. sustainable building systems with natural waste treatment and the permaculture approach for designing food self-reliance. This includes using modern techniques of unburned mudbrick, passive solar design, appropriate technologies of rainwater collection, compost toilets, grey-water irrigation and solar water heating.


1987; 83 lots, over 20% of the 259 hectares. Many businesses; ecovillage design courses; 200 people; 30 businesses; Goal – 250 –300 people. ‘home occupation’ zoning

Basic human needs (clean air, water, food, work, social interaction, spiritual freedom, recreation, shelter) are interconnected ,not artificially separated.

Wastewater is utilized on site

Rainwater is collected on site

Energy saving is part of policy, not an add-on

Careful choice and use of materials

Clustering of housing to enhance social interaction

Planning takes economical and environmental sustainability as the basis for design.

"When we first put our ideas to the local authority the legal framework and political climate were unfavourable. The accepted wisdom was that rural areas should not be subdivided below 40 acres (16 ha). In Queensland new villages were not permitted (although exceptions existed for mining companies). The combination of agricultural, residential, manufacturing, educational and recreational use of land was discouraged.

However, by patient negotiation and discussion with the local authority we were able to work through these issues, and we have shown that people and agriculture are a healthy combination and are actually interdependent. We have learned that ‘no’ need not be the last answer and that politicians can be convinced with well researched arguments.


1986 – 44 houses that were workers residences at an old arms factory

Retrofitted, using building biomethods

70 adults, 40 children

Much community share activity, celebration

Car-share coop, community kitchen

TORRO SUPERIORE, ITALY (near French border, by the Mediterranean)

Medieval stone village, uninhabited for ages. 14th century

1989 – restoring the 166 rooms. Non-profit society

Educational centre, ecovillage training

50% community owned, 50% privately owned

12 adults, 5 children. 30 members.


1968 1500 people, 40 different nations 100 communities of varying sizes


1982 – travelling artists, travelling theatre group