What’s the relationship between the terms “ecovillage” and “cohousing”?

While the connotations of these two terms often lead to different interpretations, they may be used interchangeably.   Ecovillage may bring to mind a more land-oriented, often more rural development, while cohousing is more likely to be used for an urban community.   But these differences are by no means definitive.   While individual ecovillages and cohousing communities are quite diverse, they are based on the same principles of sustainability and community, and they are formed and often operated in the same ways.

Will Rachel Carson EcoVillage be age-restricted?

Rachel Carson EcoVillage is a multi-generational community that welcomes people of all ages.   Multi-generational cohousing attracts a wide range of household types: single people of all ages; couples and single parents of infants, toddlers, and school-aged children; couples whose children are grown; and couples without children.

How many units will there be?

We will have 35 units of various sizes.   Refer to our Design Update & Development page to see the various layouts of the units.  Cohousing communities in North America range in size from 9 to 80 households.   CoHousing Solutions, an experienced developer, recommends 25 to 35 units to achieve a balance between development economies and social dynamics.   Communities of this size are small enough to know all your neighbors, but large enough to accommodate a diversity of people and distribute responsibilities.

Cohousing attracts a wide range of household types: single people of all ages, couples and single parents of infants, toddlers and school-aged children, couples whose children are grown, and young couples without children.

Are the units “complete” with kitchens and living spaces?

Yes, each unit is complete with kitchen and living space.   Our two studio units, which are located upstairs in the Common House, combine living/sleeping space due to their smaller size.

What will the sizes of the units be?

The sizes will range from studios to units large enough to accommodate four bedrooms.

Will any units have bedrooms on the ground floor?

Yes, all units will have ground-floor bedrooms and bathrooms.   We are designing the units for aging in place.

Will the units be attached to each other?

Yes, for savings of both first costs and monthly energy bills.

What makes the buildings “high performance” buildings? How will the units be heated and cooled? Will they have solar panels?

Nestled in the woods, our homes will take advantage of the cooling power of trees in the summer and warmth from the sun in the winter. The buildings will be super-insulated for energy efficiency and durability.   Our project has received Design Certification by the Passive House Institute, the “gold standard” of sustainability programs.   The design of the buildings has been based on computer simulations of energy and the management of heat and moisture in the building envelope.   This can reduce the waste of energy by more than 75%.   To eliminate combustion from inside the units, they will be heated and cooled electrically.   Our state-of-the-art heat pumps are not only efficient but incorporate an energy-recovery unit and compressor, which eliminates any outdoor unit.   We will be using ‘green’ power, electricity from renewable sources.  

Won’t high-performance buildings be more expensive?

With an experienced team, the cost of a Passive House certified building is no more than 3% above the cost of a conventional building.

 Will there be private outdoor space?

Yes, each unit will have its own small outdoor space.

What will the common facilities include?

The Common House will include a large dining room, a kitchen, mailboxes, and workshop.  

Will there be space for members to grow some of their own food?

Yes.  In fact, there may be several options for gardening.

What’s meant by “healthy” materials?

Healthy materials are non-toxic.   A healthy environment is created by avoiding any materials that have been shown to have a negative effect on health.   Our design standard includes excellent air quality in the units.

Where is parking?

Rachel Carson EcoVillage will be neighbor-friendly, and cars will be parked at the periphery of the development.   By walking from their cars, residents are more likely to encounter their neighbors with a quick hello or a longer chat.   The interior of the site will be car-free.   Groceries can be transported in wagons kept near the parking lot.

Each unit will have one parking space.   We are also organizing a shared car club.   In the community’s parking lot, we anticipate installing electric car chargers.  

The site will allow for emergency vehicle access and moving trucks.

There are a number of ecovillages and co-housing projects out there – what makes this one special?

The ecovillage will be located on land currently owned by the Sisters of Divine Providence, adjacent to LaRoche University.  Like us, the Sisters have a strong commitment to sustainability, the environment and social justice and we look forward to working in partnership with them.

The site is in close proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, one of America’s most livable cities, with world-class arts, music, entertainment, educational, medical facilities, and a booming high-tech hub.

Will there be any opportunities for EcoVillage members at LaRoche University?

We are in early discussions about our ongoing relationship with the university and its vibrant Center for Lifelong Learning.

If you have other questions, please join us at an introductory meeting, where you’ll have a chance to hear from EcoVillage members and get the latest news.