Building and Development Philosophy: Cultural and Environmental Sustainability

Green Building: Going…Going…Green!

Today I want you to experience some of the philosophical journey we've taken to arrive at HomeTown.

Then, I want to explain what we mean by cultural sustainability and why it's so important.

Then I'll describe our recipe for a modern Authentic Neighborhood.

Then we'll take a tour of HomeTown and describe it's major components.

Somewhere along the way we'll talk about profitability and marketing.

I. What is cultural sustainability and why is it so important?

Amory Lovins, the brilliant physicist and founder of RMI once asked me: What kind of a house would the master carpenter, Jesus, build?

An equally good question is: What kind of a city would God develop? Listen to the answer given in the Old Testament of the Bible in Zech. 8:4. Zech, the prophet, wrote down God's plan for the ultimate culturally sustainable city where people live in peace and comfort:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis is a city or town that works for children and old folks. Because the old folks and the children are using the streets together, the children are learning from the old folks the principles and values that will allow them to grow old and then teach the same principles and values to the next generation of children, and so forth.

When we talk of sustainability in nature we mean that the ecology of a place works in such a way that the plants and creatures of the place reproduce so that the ecological balance and health of the place is maintained and sustained.

A community that sustains and maintains itself in health and comfort can only happen when a community is designed for children, and the children are enculturated by the adults and old folks that they are safely interacting with all the time. The old folks respect and watch the children, and the children venerate and learn the communities' traditions and values from the adults.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityA culturally sustainable town must have streets (not just the fenced in rear yards) that are safe for children to play in. Children can safely explore a world that is much larger and more diverse than their own yard. They can play safely in the streets with other neighborhood children without constant supervision.

Nature is ecologically sustainable because it is complex, diverse, interdependent, integrated, and decentrailzed. For our human culture to sustain itself, it must be founded on similar principles. Until the last 50 years, neighborhoods and communities had always incorporated these age-old natural values. They have been temporarily and inadvertently abandoned as we have accommodated ourselves to technology and the automobile. In HomeTown, the spheres of shared human activity are at once complex, diverse, interdependent, integrated, and decentralized within themselves and they bear these relationships to each other as each one relates with the other spheres of shared human activity.

Whether we want to or not we are designing and building homes in communities that become subcultures that either sustain themselves spiritually and relationally in health and comfort or they become places of social dis-ease and sickness. We have the power and wisdom to build safe, healthy communities in which children thrive and learn and grow and develop strong individual personalities within the context of mutual respect for everyone and everything in the community.

II. Our recipe

I have never had an original thought. Everything we do is based on wisdom and knowledge that has first been expressed by others. At best, we have taken the observations of others and combined them synergistically to create deeper, more profound reality.

Underlying our philosophy of design is the understanding from Christopher Alexander that the people of a place have a common design language consisting of design patterns embedded in their culture and in the culture or environment of the place. These design patterns are like words that by themselves mean very little but when you combine words carefully you can create a lot of meaning in a few words. Likewise when you combine the right design patterns thoughtfully and precisely you create what Alexander calls "dense space", space that is deeply comforting and nurturing to the human psyche, the Greek word for soul.

Robert Bellah is one of America's premier sociologists. Bellah's analysis of American culture at the end of the 20th century gave us the courage to take the risks to create communities that give people the opportunity to once again live more interdependently and interconnectedly.

Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer, environmentalist, and author who has lectured at Harvard, Stanford,, taught us that a community of people is inevitably rooted in a place and the ecology of a place and that in America there is an inseparable dichotomy between public and community and between public rights and communal autonomy, and that you cannot have a healthy, sustainable natural ecosystem unless you have healthy sustainable communities; i.e. they are mutually interdependent.

So our foundation is the Bible, Alexander, Bellah and Berry. The primary super structure consists of archetypal patterns from Pattern Language, CoHousing, Design for Children, Traditional Neighborhood Design, and Traffic Calming.

You can pick up a copy of our design bibliography in the back for specific references.

III.  HomeTown

HomeTown will have about 1100 homes in 8 distinct neighborhoods on 150 acres of former cornfield. It is in the City of Aurora about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago. All homes are detached, except for some that are attached at the garage. The price range is $100,000 to $300,000.

We opened our models four years ago and HomeTown has 500 sales. HomeTown is currently selling at and annualized rate of 150 homes per year.

We try to think of HomeTown through the eyes of a resident rather than through the eyes of a planner. A resident's interests radiate outward from his home to the street to the neighborhood.

The primary spheres of shared human activity in HomeTown are first the homes, then the typical Mini Neighborhood, then the Neighborhood with its Neighborhood Street, Neighborhood Park, and the corner store and café, then the public parks, and then the Village Center and school. Each sphere of activity is connected with pedestrian ways to the next larger sphere of activity. Pocket Neighborhoods are connected to each other as well as to the Neighborhood Park by oversized 6'-wide public sidewalks. Neighborhoods are likewise connected to the Public Parks. Each sphere of shared human activity and their connections provide for the most important element of any Neighborly Neighborhood--freedom and mobility for children and old people without dependence on the automobile (which they can't use themselves) along with the opportunity for children and old people to interact everywhere all the time.

IV.  Mini Neighborhoods

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe primary community-planning element in HomeTown is the Mini-Neighborhood, Neighborhood Pocket, or Micro Neighborhood, whatever you prefer to call it. HomeTown as a concept stands or falls on these Mini Neighborhoods. The Mini-Neighborhood is the most important place where people start to develop friendly relationships. They are really little clusters of CoHousing without the common house. We used the design elements of CoHousing extensively along with Alexander's patterns about clustering houses around a commonly owned or controlled courtyard.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe Mini-Neighborhood is the smallest and most intimate sphere of shared human activity. Each one has from 10 to 15 homes. This is small enough for a number of neighborly relationships to develop based on an interest in a commonly-owned common space, but also large enough so there is a critical mass of options and opportunities for daily neighborliness to maintain itself. These homes share a landscaped green and central gathering place with seating--a patio or gazebo with benches.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityEach Mini-Neighborhood has a symbolic gateway (a trellis, fencing, or some shrubs, etc.) that creates privacy, security, and a sense of common separateness. Each home has a front porch or patio that is sized to be usable.

Most front porches today are merely visual nostalgia symbols of the past designed only to look neighborly, not actually to be neighborly; however, HomeTown's porches and patios are designed for real, every day living. They are generally 7' wide, so there is room for a table and plenty of chairs. They are elevated and set off from the common open space with railings, fences, or landscaping, so they feel private and secure--yet people sitting on them are visually connected to the common open space. Every home has a livable front porch or a front garden patio.

In order to increase a sense of personal as well as shared ownership in the private open space; the owners may change the design of the space over time without the approval of the Homeowners Association.

There are two types of Mini-Neighborhoods: Living Courts and Living Lanes.

V.  Living Courts - A Child's World

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityA Living Court has 12 to 14 homes - just the right number of homes to provide the opportunity to develop several good friendships while recognizing that some folks want to keep pretty much to themselves.

The physical design of a Living Court can either promote or discourage interaction between people, resulting in either a lively or lifeless place. Providing a raised porch or small garden patio with at least two comfortable seating places in the front of each home overlooking the Living Court makes it easier for people to spontaneously meet and greet their neighbors.

The fact that there are no cars in the Living Court means that the Living Court can be designed to a human scale and a child's pace. A HomeTown Living Court is one of the few outdoor people places in the modern world that is not influenced by cars whatsoever. The children and residents live in the Living Court, the cars live out in the back. Residents, not cars, occupy the most valuable part of the site.

The homeowners (not the association) have direct control over the use of the Living Court and changes to it. In most condominium developments, the homeowners association completely controls everything. And the homeowners don't even have any control over the common land that's right in front of their own houses. People will not love and exercise special care and concern for land unless they directly control it. In HomeTown, the families who live in a Living Court directly control the rules and regulations, the uses, the installation of additional landscaping, etc. with respect to their Living Court. This gives the Living Court special importance to the families that live there. The opportunity to work together to create a special unique place creates a real camaraderie. It is very comforting to know that a small group of people you know and trust has direct control over the land in front of their houses. If a homeowner wants to add to the landscaping or plant flowers in front of his front garden patio or porch and if his neighbors agree to it, he can do it, and the homeowners association cannot prohibit it.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe Living Court functions like a big outdoor living room. Actually, it functions even more like a big outdoor great room - each family has its own gathering place and all the families share a larger gathering place where several families can sit and talk. The common gathering place has two benches at right angles to each other, which encourages informal, friendly conversation. The Living Court gathering place has a southerly exposure so people can sit in the sun.

The entry to the Living Court is defined by a "gateway" - a trellis or some shrubbery. This psychological gateway clearly defines the transition from the public sidewalk and street to the semi-public Living Court. It is a very effective passageway and transition. Strangers do not feel comfortable entering it unless they have business there because they know they are on someone else's turf and they are probably being watched. Almost unbelievably, in this day and age, some of our homeowners feel so safe and secure that they often leave their doors unlocked.

The wide 5-foot sidewalk functions as the "main street" of the Living Court and as a "kids street." In most other condominium developments, this main sidewalk is only 3' wide which is so narrow that 2 people cannot walk side-by-side - nor can kids pass each other on their trikes and bikes. The front door of each home is highly visible from this sidewalk, and the sidewalk is highly visible from several rooms in every home. This makes the entire Living Court much safer and more secure.

Maximum visual access to the Living Court from inside the house is crucial to casual surveillance and spontaneous neighborliness. Most Living Court homes have a living room and dining area with large windows overlooking the Living Court. In most homes the Owner's Suite also overlooks the Living Court. Finally and even more importantly, most homes have an "interior window" over the kitchen sink that looks across the dining area or living room out through large windows into the Living Court.

Outside the front entry is the semi-private garden patio or porch. This quick access to the front garden patio makes it easy to "pop in and out" many times a day. The semi-private seating area on the garden patio or porch increases opportunities for casual, spontaneous socializing. On nice evenings people relax for hours in this comfortable place as they enjoy nature and just watch the world go by. A study of courtyard homes has found that when there is a comfortable garden patio or porch in the front on the courtyard, people will spend more than two-thirds of their outdoor time there - and they will more than double the amount of time they spend outdoors.

Unlike some townhouses and other condominiums, every HomeTown home has a rear yard or a side yard. You can make the yard as private as you want by installing a 6' fence. Most of the yards are enclosed by garages on two sides and the house to the rear is about 70' away, so there is almost complete visual privacy. Because the yard has walls on all sides, it feels like an intimate outdoor room and it lives like an extension of the house inside.

These yards have a wonderful feeling that combines intimacy, nature, security, animal life, plants, dining, and flowers that is rarely found in outdoor spaces today.

HomeTown's Living Courts are especially important places for small children. Children cannot sense that something is "arriving" until it hits them - this is why children are so vulnerable to speeding cars because their sense of motion and movement is so very limited. This is why children intuitively feel so safe in a Living Court. There is a hierarchy of spaces that children intuitively relate to. First, there's the private garden patio or porch on the front of the house. Because it is attached to the house, and separated from the Living Court, the patio or porch is an emotionally safe zone from which children can venture forth. The "gateway" at the entry to the Living Court is a natural emotional barrier that small children usually won't go beyond because they can no longer see the front door of their house. The entire Living Court thus becomes a safe playground. Children prefer hard surfaces (concrete sidewalks, patios, etc.) to grass for 65% to 80% of the time - the oversized walks, patios, porches, and gathering places meet these needs. The 5' sidewalk is a "kid's street" - it's wide enough for tricycles and Big Wheels to pass each other. The kids draw a lot of chalk art on the common patio and sidewalk. Easter egg hunts and Halloween parties and birthdays are all celebrated in the Living Courts.

In HomeTown the outside spaces around the home are most important to small children. Research has shown that children under 5 feel safer and more secure if they are within eyesight of the front door of their home and within 30' of the front door. For children to develop their interpersonal skills they need to be able to play freely with other children where parents can observe them without interrupting them. For children to develop motor skills and to satisfy their inquisitiveness, they need areas close to home they can use casually and for brief spurts of time without relying on adults, because adults do not have as much time as children need to meet their intermittent, random developmental time needs. The porch with its railing or the garden patio with its landscaping provide an intimate outdoor room where kids quickly imagine a "house" for play. There is a wide range of play around the front door involving the structure and the landscape and critters - ants, ladybugs, caterpillars, etc. Toddlers love to just run up and down the front walk and sit on the steps. Preschoolers love to ride their tricycles and bicycles up and down the "kid's street."

A HomeTown Living Court is a special place for families with small children. The Living Court is truly a child-friendly environment that offers more opportunities for play and spontaneous interaction than any other housing type.

VI.  Living Lanes

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe other archetypal Mini Neighborhood is a group of 10-12 homes on a private Living Lane. The most desired house location in suburbia is a cul-de-sac. A Living Lane is a cul-de-sac that ends with a hammerhead instead of a huge paved 90' circle. As a result no one will drive on the Living Lane unless they are visiting someone who lives on it because it is too laborious to stop, back up, turn around and drive back out!

Why do people want cul-de-sacs? They're the only streets in suburbia without high speed traffic: and, because outside cars don't influence them so much, people feel like they are more in control of them and they feel safer. Because the Living Lanes are private the city did not object to them. The Living Lane is a curved, winding street whose view is terminated with a house at the end. A Living Lane shares all the other features that are common to livable, neighborly Mini-Neighborhoods – gateway landscaping, a gathering place, safe places for children to play without constant adult supervision, front livable porches and garden patios.

The garages are on the side of the house which are set back beyond the plane of the front house façade to minimize their impact.

You are probably wondering how we got this past the fire department? This Living Lane is connected to another Living Lane to the West via a Fire Lane that looks like a driveway; so the fire truck can drive through. This fire lane/driveway also serves as a pedestrian and bikeway connection to the next Living Lane.

As a result, we have a very fine pedestrian and bikeway grid, which is a crucial encouragement to pedestrianism. However, we have severely limited the automobile to our main Neighborhood street.

The private Living Lanes allow us to attract what we call the middle third of the market – those buyers who want a more neighborly lifestyle but also want a lot of privacy. These are the buyers who like a little more neighborliness, but they still want conventional suburban houses with front accessed garages. We provide the best of all worlds – the quintessential cul-de-sac, a narrow private lane that's safe for kids and tough on outside cars, a neighborly cluster of houses with a shared gathering place and play place, all combined with a conventional suburban house with front access garage.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis is a picture of Walnut Lane in Boulder on Walnut Street, about a mile east of downtown Boulder. It is the quintessential Living Lane. It is worth a trip to Boulder to see. This is the kind of fire engine a street should be designed for.

Shari Story

VII.  Authentic Neighborhood

A group of Pocket Neighborhoods along a public street constitutes a Neighborhood of 120 to 150 homes with 300 to 400 people. Within a typical Neighborhood, there are always several different types of housing. In the first Neighborhood, which constitutes all of Phase 1, there are single family detached Living Court homes on the east side and single family detached Living Lane homes on the west side. Within each of these types of housing, there are homes that are designed for empty nesters, some designed primarily for first-time buyers who are mostly singles or young marrieds without children, and others designed primarily for first or second move-up buyers with small children. The prices of homes within this one Neighborhood will range from $100,000 to $250,000. While the Pocket Neighborhoods are usually relatively homogeneous, the Neighborhoods are generally somewhat heterogeneous with a rich diversity of ages, incomes, and family types - just like older small towns.

People need an identifiable special area to belong to. They need to be able to identify where they live as distinct from others. HomeTown is a series of identifiable neighborhoods. Each Neighborhood has its own unique identity like a small town. And each Neighborhood lives and feels like a small town.

Alexander's research has shown that identifiable neighborhoods share several common characteristics:

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of Sustainability  1. They have relatively small populations.
2. They are relatively small in land area.
3. They must be protected from high speed traffic and dominance by automobiles.
4. They must have boundaries such as green belts, parks, or other demarcations.
5. They must have restricted access with relatively few roads or paths leading into them with gateways at the boundaries.

Each HomeTown Neighborhood has identifiable gateways. You know visually when you enter your neighborhood. For example, the traffic circle and gazebo at the south entry to HomeTown serve as the gateway to the first three neighborhoods. When you turn off the traffic circle and onto Four Seasons Blvd., you see the Neighborhood Park directly ahead of you - you know you've left the world, and you are home.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityEach Neighborhood has a single Neighborhood Street which functions like the spine of the Neighborhood - it is like Main Street in a small town. The Neighborhood Street has safety platforms, neckdowns, and sharp turns to make the street safer for children and pedestrians. These devices slow down cars to about 15mph and give the street a more human scale. The 6' wide sidewalks are "family wide." Three people can comfortably walk on them side by side. Most subdivisions have 4' to 41/2' wide sidewalks. HomeTown's 6' wide sidewalks become pedestrian streets. They are wide enough to accommodate a plethora of pedestrian activity.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe Neighborhood Street is designed to City standards with parking on both sides and trees in the parkway, which makes the wide sidewalk safer. The houses are set back from the sidewalk 10' to 20'. The closeness of the houses to the sidewalk along with the house entries, porches, and bay windows create a sense of enclosure for the streetscape, give the street a human scale, and make the street safer and more lively. The overall effect is that of a linear park with the Neighborhood Park as its focus. The continuity of the landscaping is enhanced by the lack of driveways and garages facing the street. All garages are accessed from Motor Courts or Living Lanes. As a result, driveways are usually 170' to 200' apart. Also, since there are no garage doors facing the street, the facade of houses is much more interesting, varied, and articulated. The street no longer looks like a place where cars live. For the first time in 50 years, it looks like a place where people live. Neighborliness and pedestrian convenience and safety take precedence over automobile speed and use. The result is a high level of visual interest along the street, which encourages pedestrianism and social interaction.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityAt the heart of each Neighborhood is a small Private Neighborhood Park. The Neighborhood Street and its sidewalks lead directly to the Neighborhood Park. You cannot enter or leave the Neighborhood without feeling the Park's presence - without feeling you're a part of the Neighborhood. In most subdivisions, parks are on the land that is not suitable for housing, i.e., leftover, poorly located places. In HomeTown, a small Neighborhood Park is at the heart of each Neighborhood, on the most visible land.

HomeTown's Neighborhood Parks have many benefits. Each home is within 1-2 blocks of a Neighborhood Park. Each home is no further than 3-4 minutes from a Neighborhood Park. The Neighborhood Parks are humanly scaled - they are not too big. Each one has a gathering place.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityEach Neighborhood Park has as many houses as possible facing the park so there are always lots of "eyes on the park" which increases safety and security. The Neighborhood Street has a neckdown and tight turns at each end of the Neighborhood Park, which forces cars to go slow naturally. This increases safety for children in the park and along the street.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe first Neighborhood Park has a huge green spruce Christmas tree and a Pavilion with a cedar shake roof and cupola on top. The usefulness of the Pavilion is extended by large patios on two sides and with shrubs and perennial flowers all around it. The Pavilion will be used for amateur concerts, Neighborhood holiday parties, individual homeowner parties, children's meetings, just hanging out, and all kinds of community activities. The Christmas tree is set on the center line axis of the Neighborhood Street. The Pavilion and Christmas tree are a visual terminus of the Neighborhood Street.

Across the Living Lane from the Pavilion is a Tot Lot with an exciting, colorful, challenging play structure and two types of swings, for tiny tots and for bigger kids. Adjacent to the Tot Lot is a seating area with two benches where moms can exchange news while they watch the kids in the Tot Lot.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityHomeTown's post office and the Corner Store and Café will be across the street from the first Neighborhood Park. It goes behind the street light. The Corner Store and Café is an old-fashioned general store. You can have coffee with friends, pick up some groceries, have an ice cream cone, buy the paper, enjoy a sandwich, pick up your mail, meet your neighbors, have your kid's party, pick up morning coffee and rolls on your way to work,

The store has large windows overlooking the Pavilion and Neighborhood Park. The store also has a large, wraparound, covered veranda overlooking the Neighborhood Park. The store's covered veranda will be one of the most favorite respites in HomeTown - a place for people watching, park watching, people meeting,

The store also has a mezzanine upstairs that will function like a community family room. Outside the mezzanine is a wide wraparound deck that will be a favorite summertime overlook of the park.

VIII.  Safe Streets

HomeTown is designed the way communities were built before the automobile and truck came to dominate street design.

A "high speed residential street" is an oxymoron of the worst possible kind. A good residential street cannot allow high speeds. Only arterial streets should be designed for high speed trucks and cars. Residential streets should be primarily designed to live on not to drive on at high speeds.

Up until World War II residential streets were designed by planners for families to live on. After World War II the specialization, efficiency and engineering that were used to win the war were applied to street design by engineers. As a result, specialized civil engineers have designed streets to drive on, not to live on. Most streets are designed for cars and fire trucks and snow plows, not people. The residential street that a family lives on is designed for the cars and trucks of people who don't even live on the street.

As a result; a person living on a typical subdivision public street today knows that she has no control over the street she lives on; she knows that the person driving on the street has more rights with respect to the street than she does; she knows that the street belongs to a "public" who doesn't live there; she knows that the street is not designed for her family; and that the street is safe for high speed cars and trucks; but that it is not safe for people - specifically her own children who live on the street.

In HomeTown we took the design of the realm in front of the home out of the hands of the engineers and put it back into the hands of planners; and as much as possible we designed the streets and lanes for the people who live there, not for other people's cars and trucks.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityBy design, automobiles which use the streets and lanes must respect and give deference to the people who live there. The lifestyle of people who live and use the streets was given preference to the movement of cars. The glitch is that some of the older historic, timeless, human-scale patterns of street design have been very negatively impacted by the raw power of the automobile - a 1½ ton high-speed projectile.  The perfect example is the old-fashioned grid street.

About thirty years ago, after several children had been killed on neighborhood streets, a group of residents in Delft, Netherlands took street safety matters into their own hands. The city had torn up a street for normal replacement. The residents in a matter of days replaced the street themselves in such a way that cars had to go slowly so kids were safe. Thirty years later "traffic calming" is standard practice throughout Europe in residential neighborhoods - it's the way most new neighborhoods are designed.

In the Netherlands these low speed, pedestrian oriented streets are called "Woonerfs". Roughly translated, Woonerf means "residential district". The entire distance from the front of one house to the front of the house on the opposite side of the street is considered to be a residential district in which pedestrians and automobiles have equal rights of passage and use. To balance the unnatural power of the automobile, the Neighborhood Streets and Living Lanes in HomeTown are designed so that they can only be driven on at safe, slow speeds. Various "Woonerf" type "traffic calming" devices are being installed to accomplish this objective - traffic circles, raised pedestrian crossing platforms, neck downs, tight curves, etc.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis picture was taken from the median of a high speed arterial looking at the main entrance and the main collector street into a community in Bonn Germany of about 5,000 people. The truck is parked, you can see that the safety platform and neckdown is one car width wide.


Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis picture shows the same collector street at a neckdown and raised linear platform that bisects the pedestrian only shopping street.

n HomeTown we have taken the best of these new traffic-calming methods and combined them with historic, timeless, human-scale neighborhood design principles.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis is the first device – the traffic circle near the entry. You can only drive in it at about 15mph. This is the gazebo in the traffic circle. It has become the icon of HomeTown.


Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis is the second device we use - a safety platform combined with a neckdown. It has a design speed of 12mph according to the Netherlands street design manual.


Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis is the third device - neckdowns combined with sharp offsetting turns at each end of each Neighborhood Park.


In HomeTown we have restored much of the physical safety and human scale that residential streets had before the automobile destroyed the delicate balance between the public's needs and the resident's needs.

We have freed our residential streets from the tyranny of high speed automobiles and trucks so that the residents who live on them can enjoy them.

IX. Children

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThese are the town planners for HomeTown. Alexandria and Victoria are the oldest of my five grandchildren. I reviewed every element of design in HomeTown with these young ladies in mind. HomeTown was designed for children – for my grandchildren.

Many families buy their first home because of their children - or in anticipation of having children. However, very few families make the special needs and growth potential of their children an active part of the decision as to whether to buy a home in a real neighborhood or an average subdivision.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityAs a country, the only real asset that we have is our children; as parents, there is nothing more important to us than our children. Most builders do not design houses and neighborhoods "for" children because children don't make the home buying decision. Most young families buy their first home "because of" their children. Shouldn't the house that's bought "because of" children be in a REAL neighborhood that is designed "for" children?

HomeTown has been designed "for" children - from the streets, to the parks, to the Living Courts and Living Lanes, to the homes themselves - like a small town. Research shows that children spend 35% to 45% of their playtime running and walking, 10% to 15% on bicycles, tricycles, or other wheeled toys, and 25% to 35% just sitting or standing. The Living Courts, Living Lanes, public walks, Neighborhood Parks and public parks all are designed to more safely accommodate these activities.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityAs importantly, parents want to feel that their children are safer and more secure with regards to cars and strangers. The only way to accomplish this is with Living Lanes and Living Courts. Strangers have no reason to go there so they feel uncomfortable being there and they know they're being watched.

We have already talked about how HomeTown's Living Courts are special places for children.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityBecause HomeTown's Living Lanes are private lanes, not public streets - and they feel private; the owners, not the public, control the lanes - this is a tremendous advantage for the children. The Living Lane becomes a "Woonerf" type lane where children and cars both have full use of the lane. The entire area from the front of one house to the front of the house across the lane becomes a zone where children can play more safely. The Living Lane itself becomes a playground. Drive down a typical Living Lane and you'll drive around the big wheels, tricycles, and wagons strewn all over the lane. The Living Lane and the front yards are like a big private park.

HomeTown ends the dog days of summer when kids become bored by 10:00 in the morning because they can't play outside anywhere except in their own rear yard and on their own boring swing set. With their short attention span, they've "been there and done that!" In HomeTown, children can participate in an endless array of interesting activities without the necessity of "mom's limousine service." Children rarely meet automobiles that don't belong to HomeTown residents or guests because outside cars will not use HomeTown as a short cut - they can drive around HomeTown faster than driving through it.

X. Evironmental Sustainability of the Community

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityHomeTown has the ability to be as environmentally sustainable as the market will accept. The specific following conservation components are currently included in the plan:

1. There will be 1100 homes in HomeTown on 146 acres. That's 7.5 dua, and all of it is SFD. The average density for SFD in Chicago is 2.5 dua; i.e. we use only 1/3 the land that other builders use to build 1100 homes; i.e. we conserve and preserve 300 acres that will remain farm land or woodlands forever.

2. Living Lanes and Living Courts have an east-west axis, so houses face north or south for optimum passive solar orientation. Only about 10% of the windows will face east or west, which are the worst solar orientations.

3. The typical single family detached community has three times as much street and utility improvement. The typical single family attached community has two times as much street and utility improvement. This community uses about ½ to 2/3 the "embodied energy" in the original installation of the improvements. There are comparable savings to the City in maintenance, repair, snow plowing, paving replacement, etc.

4. Most exterior house lighting will be fluorescent, which is about four times more efficient than incandescent.

5. HomeTown is designed to encourage pedestrian and bicycle activity by providing the opportunity (subject to market demand) for many commercial, retail, employment, child care, and recreational activities to be within walking distance of the homes in the Village Center.

6. PACE, the provider of public suburban transportation, has collaborated in the design so that HomeTown will be served on the inside with public bus transit with connections to RTA commuter trains, major employment centers, and major commercial centers.

7. HomeTown uses native grasses and landscape materials where possible to minimize maintenance, watering, fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

8. And at HomeTown all construction waste is recycled.

XI. Energy Conservation of Homes

The Basic Approach - Synergistic Systems approach: 1+1=3

  A. Synergy: Each subsystem accomplishes multiple objectives

  B. Developed structural, insulation, and heating systems that don't significantly add to the cost of structure, but on net save a lot of heating cost.

  C. Heating/Cooling System Design
I. Calculate all the heat losses for each major building component

    II. Use Architectural Energy Corp. REM Design computer program.

    III. REM also projects annual heating and cooling costs.

    IV. REM also lets us quickly determine the effect of changing component specifications.

  D. Method: Reduce all components of heat loss:
I. Simultaneously

    II. Moderately

    III. Example-an uninsulated basement is 50% of heat loss in a well-insulated home

  E. K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple and Small

    I. If it costs a lot, we find another way.

    II. Basic Components of the System

    III. Framing System: 2x4 @ 16" or 24" o.c.
a. Optimum Value Engineering Details

b. Less lumber means more insulation

      c. Thermal break - 1" polyisocyanurate.

      d. R-20 walls

    IV. Ceiling - R-40
a. Blown fiberglass

      b. Cathedral batts - treat like non-ventilated wall

    V. Window System
a. Double glazed

      b. Low-e

      c. Argon filled

      d. R-2.5

    VI. Airtight construction - think of as a balloon
a. Drywall as air barrier

      b. Use foil back drywall or polyethelene as vapor diffusion barrier

      c. Urethane foam, closed cell gaskets, and caulk

      d. Continuous mechanical ventilation

      e. All baths ducted to one hardwired fan.

      f. Operates 27-7

      g. Very careful details at tubs and stairs

      h. Drywall to window - "J" channel with vinyl fins

    VII. Simple, inexpensive heating system

    VIII. House orientation
a. Face front north or south

      b. Use few windows on east and west walls

IX. Miscellaneous components
a. No plumbing in exterior walls

      b. Fluorescent lighting in halls, kitchens, baths and exterior

      c. HomeTown's homes are projected to cost less than $200/year to heat. We guarantee for 3 years that the heating cost will not exceed $400 per year.

XII. Marketing

More or less across all target markets, there is about 1/3 of the market that wants REAL Neighborly Neighborhoods and TND; there's another 1/3 of the market that wants more neighborly relationships, but they don't want to give up the street accessed garage and big rear yards; the other 1/3 of the market wants their castle with a moat of drainage swales around it, and they don't really care if they know their neighbor at all-or for that matter, anyone else in the whole subdivision. We simply write off that last 1/3 of the market.

However, there is no one else in our market who can appeal to the other 2/3 of the market as well as we can. If we do a good job we essentially have 1/3 of the market to ourselves, since no one else in Chicagoland has a comparable Authentic Neighborhood land plan in our price range. The real key to our competitive success, though, is the middle third of the market that wants to live in a neighborly neighborhood but they don't want to live in a conventional TND with alley loaded garages. This is where our land plan gives us such a competitive advantage. We have a TND type streetscape with alley loaded garages, a Neighborhood Park, and all the other things I've described that go into an Authentic Neighborhood; but off of this TND traffic calmed street we have a relatively conventional, archetypal cul-de-sac that many suburban homeowner and every builder would kill for. The primary differences are that it is private, traffic calmed, safe for kids, and much more neighborly.

As a result, we go to market with two different themes:
1) Single Family Homes at Townhouse Prices
2) The Neighborly Neighborhood Lifestyle

For the first year we advertised exclusively SFHTP because the concept of an authentic neighborhood is so forgotten that the market will not believe that you are really capable of delivering on the promise until the lifestyle environment is built and people can emotionally FEEL it. This spring we have started to do some lifestyle advertising. I expect that by fall we will be running half-and-half – half price and half lifestyle. We are about 30 days away from setting up our website which is 100% lifestyle oriented. It will be very visually oriented with lots of photographs augmented with thorough lifestyle benefit explanations and devastating comparisons to conventional subdivisions.

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThe most important marketing decision we made was to put our models smack dab in the middle of the first neighborhood, on the Neighborhood Park with the parking across the park and across the street, so that people have to walk in the Neighborhood, cross a traffic calmed street, pass by the Pavilion and Christmas Tree and walk through the Neighborhood Park.

This decision to put the models in the middle of the first neighborhood hurt sales for the first year, but now people are beginning to walk into the models with a pleased but puzzled look on their faces and say something like, "this place is different' – as in a positive difference that they emotionally feel but they can't begin to explain why they feel so good!

Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of SustainabilityThis emotional feeling is almost entirely what HomeTown is about. It is almost entirely what will result in a unique and higher perceived value that is already beginning to cause people to take themselves out of the housing market when they get to HomeTown. This is exactly our goal – to create such a unique emotional reaction and attraction to HomeTown that people come into the sales office to determine what house best meets their needs, already having emotionally decided to buy in HomeTown. In other words, we want prospects to have already changed their focus and decision from comparing HomeTown to other subdivisions to deciding which home and homesite in HomeTown best meets their needs.

As a result, our sales consultants use a much more relational approach with the prospect. We do not let a prospect look at the models and then when they come back through try to hard close them on the one they say they like.

Because we have so much house type diversity and land plan diversity, our sales consultants spend a few minutes with each prospect when they first walk in to determine what land plan type and what house plan is most likely to turn them on. They are then invited to concentrate on that specific model. Our sales staff has become so experienced at this that they target the right house and land plan type about 80% of the time. As a result, the prospect rapidly develops a lot of trust and confidence in the sales consultant who has in the prospect's eyes truly become a new home expert in relation to the prospect's needs.

XIII. Summary

Let me try to tie this all together. HomeTown is a community that is as culturally and environmentally sustainable as the general housing market will accept and the regulating authorities will allow. The primary environmental sustainability features presently include:

 • Higher housing density which saves land and leads to cultural sustainability
• Houses with a good solar orientation
• Lower "embodied energy" and long term maintenance of street and utility improvements
• Use of native plants and grasses
• Recycling of construction waste.
• And house heating cost of $200 per year.

Cultural sustainability is achieved by designing according to timeless patterns that nurture the human spirit. The focus is on designing for the nurture and safety of children and permitting their safe, unattended use of ever greater realms; because when you draw children together in play and friendships you automatically draw the parents into neighborly relationships. We have accomplished this by using the concepts of CoHousing and Traditional Neighborhood Design overlaid with proven European traffic calming measures wherever cars go.

The result is a community that 2/3 of the market will be strongly attracted to, but can't find anyplace else in Chicagoland which results in high perceived value and high profitability.