Ecovillage Wiki


I. How to pay for an ecovillage: the wonders of real estate and creative building programs

Steps in Building an ecovillage John Dahlen 23 September 2011

First we have to get the land in the right place or certain conditions to make the first few ecovillages viable and hopefully paid off within 5 to 10 years.

Ideally 20 to 100 plus acres would be nice. We want to be able to preserve at least 50% of the land for food production and recreation. Natural wildlife areas would be great too. Permaculture and eatable forests as well as biodiversity are prime considerations. Also the cost of the land. It can’t be too expensive or else we might get lucky and partner with a timber landowner or someone trying to preserve their family farm they inherited. The land should be within 20 miles of a large city where our best market would be for professionals who would commute back to the city for work.

We would be shooting for a size of about 100 to 150 homes.

The key to this projects success is using a SMART growth design of clustered large townhomes 2 and 3 story tall. A team of key builders and construction workers who are multi-skilled and dedicated to the ecovillage affordable homes concept. Because construction work is so slow in 2011, there should be lots of qualified workers in this category. We will be able to use skilled and semi skilled labor. Our model will be some what based on Habitat for Humanity with group village building. I have built over 160 homes with habitat over the last 10 years. Using green building design, clustered townhomes 2 and 3 story, saving on materials, labor and land costs (as well as infrastructure), I have calculated we can build over 3200 sf 4 bedrooms 3 bathrooms for under $75,000 and possibly under $60,000 in construction costs. At $100 a square foot with land they would be worth over $360,000. We will offer outright sales for $250,000 and finance sales at $360,000 with payments based on income but around $800 to $1000 a month. These will probably be condominiums and initially be financed to the ecovillage building group as apartments with a $60,000 mortgage on each unit. There should be 32 homes (4 per building of 50x100) and 8 buildings in a large circle with Permaculture gardens as landscaping.

We will need the land and about $200,000 in operating cash. Each 4 unit building will cost about $240,000 in construction money and we will need 20% in cash or $60,000. Pre sales of one of each building for $250,000 will cover that building and hopefully we can pre-sell ½ or all of them before we build. The $200,000 will allow us to work on 3 buildings at once or a few weeks apart in phases. If we chose to finance them as apartments that would be $1.92 million but with an appraisal value of 11.52 million and a discounted sale price of $8 million. Positive cash flow of say $1000 a month per unit would be $32,000 and our expenses would be $13,200 at 5% for 20 years. Outright sales of 8 of them at $250,000 each would pay off the principal and we would have 24 paying $1000 a month or $24,000 for monthly income. These are ideal numbers but we have a lot to use as a cushion. The point is we can fund the rest of the ecovillage complex and infrastructure and pay off most of it so we have very low overhead for the villagers.

Other home types in the village: Some or many people will want smaller homes. Some will want detached homes or single family homes with some land around them. We have lots of leeway if we have enough land. The basic principals I’m following is to preserve as much land as possible for nature and food production and I’m trying to avoid urban sprawl. You can get a home anywhere if you want that type of system. We can have small one bedroom apartments, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, 1200 sf townhomes, domatories, places for singles, empty nester couples, senior citizens, independent and assisted living facilities. We can have a place for veterans, they can work on the farm/gardens or workshops.

I’m looking at a cohousing system with a self reliant, sustainable design and lifestyle that will allow the village to survive and thrive for 500 year plus, a multigenerational cradle to grave system. Our basic needs to be met locally and preferably within the ecovillage itself. Think of organization of towns and villages of 150 years ago in the country side of Europe and America. In our case we want all the conveniences of modern technology but not all the headaches and economic slavery that go with it paying for it.

We need to provide for our own utilities or at least have a great back up or supplemental system.

Energy: renewable energy farm, we build the collector devices in workshops on the village site. This includes Photovoltaic’s, Water heating, concentrated solar power, wind energy (ground and tethered, land and ocean based) biofuels, microalgae, ethyl alcohol, biochar and synthetic fuels, geothermal.

We will have work shops in Electronics, Automobile, Wood shops for cabinets and fine furniture, metal shops including blacksmithing, welding, foundry, fabrication, computer centers, research and development centers for all areas of research and product development.

Water: rain harvesting, waterless compost toilet systems, wetland water treatment system, wells, solar distilleries.

Making things with recycled materials, like from glass, metals, rubber tires, paper and plastics.

Organic farm: 2 full time faming families and helpers. CSA Community Supported Agriculture, Nursery specializing in eatable landscaping and ordimental plants, Green houses, aquaculture, free range chickens, dairy, horses ( if we have room, at least a few including a plow horse).

Community center with general store for evening meals a few days a week. Meetings, education classrooms, mail room. With a weight room and spa. This will also have rooms for spiritual meetings and church services.

We will have covered car ports with solar collectors for charging the Plug in Hybrid Vehicles (cars) and bike paths, walking paths, athletic courts for tennis, basketball, gymnastics, and baseball in the play areas.

I want places for creative people. Engineers, artists of all types, inventors, free thinkers. Looking for people who need time and space to make things happen and a place to build their ideas and dreams. We want to provide a space for them to create. Bring us an idea and we will try and make it happen. That’s the type of environment I want to have.

We also need people to make the small town/village work and that’s probably you in some capacity. Ive been working on this concept for many years and I feel its some type of destiny and there are certain key people who will be involved. You know who you are and where your suppose to do these things. Im trying to come up with the systems and structure to make these happen and paid off within 5 to 10 years so we are free of the big brother system as much as possible and free to work on or own spiritual paths what ever they may be.

I have lots more details on all these areas I have covered above. I live in Mobile Alabama and would like to see 5 ecovillages and their networks done around Mobile Bay and Pensacola FL. However, the concepts would work most anywhere you can get large land areas of 20 to 100 acres and not too expensive. Ill help with the designs and even come and help myself if I’m able. I feel that time is getting shorter and we will have more extremes of weather and other economic difficulties coming up. Many of you may not have perfect credit. You may not have building skills but other valuable skills that will help. If your willing to work hard and try and new concept, think about helping start an ecovillage with me down south or up in your area. Write me and Ill help where I can. I just hope we can get a few going soon. I will be building 10 large townhomes here in Mobile this winter and hope to use the equity from completing this project to finance the first 100 acre ecovillage outside of Mobile Alabama. John Dahlen