Housing for High Quality of Life
Remedy by art the harm that comes from chance.
Several planned residential units are needed and should be incrementally built. The Rural Villages enterprise should be created.
See Pew books and resources and Smart Villages.
Developing this concept has been very difficult, for there are significant competing concepts and tradeoffs that must be made. As in other enterprises and solutions for regional problems suggested within Rural System, the full rationale is not presented, only the significant aspects. The problem is, basically, that if most of the Rural System concept is rejected, the planned residential units enterprise will not be meaningful or appropriate. The counter argument is that housing, i.e., rural redevelopment, is badly needed within the county. There are needs for movement out of the floodplains, increased utilities (including water and sewage systems), and increased energy conservation. The needs exist whether Rural System develops or not. The sad accompaniment is that if Rural System does not develop, the housing will not be needed due to the mass migration and ghost-county conditions that seem likely to exist in the coming decade. Elsewhere, where travel distances are great and time and energy short, new communities have formed as community members study and work from their computers.
The planning difficulty, with the above, is the uncertain construction environment and market.
The factors that result in this proposed development are as follows:
The planned residential unit, a version of the well-known planned unit development (PUD) is recommended. The Unit will be called a terrace town or bench village.
The typical village will be characterized by
The proposed development is appropriate in counties and areas even without zoning and PUD ordinances. Land use planning for the county is badly needed. A comprehensive plan exists, but without supportive ordinances it is difficult for it to have more than the weak effect of policy. The Villages proposed may be an effective demonstration of the need for such ordinances and may provide leadership for similar units and associated planning in the county. New planning, zoning, and development concepts and techniques exist which, if used intelligently, can be of great benefit to everyone. The unit is a housing development with (Huntoon 1971)
Because there is limited zoning ordinance and few PUD ordinance, there are no special problems of the approach being suggested. Housing must be built; suitable space is limited; high densities are needed; land costs are escalating; a growing quality community will require quality housing; housing quality for low-income people is needed; new energy conservative structures and operations essential. Huntoon (1971: 9) defined housing needs as
|Rights with Feedback|
Here are the recommendations to overcome some of the problems outlined. They begin with Rights with Feedback. The homeowner owns rights to a house or apartment. These are owned, but must revert to an option-to-buy to Rural System. Instead of owning the land under the home (obviously impossible in the case of an upper-story apartment) he owns, in addition to his own housing unit, an undivided proportionate share of all the land of the unit, plus common facilities such as buildings, swimming pools, and walkways. Regular fees or equivalent work are paid to maintain these facilities.
The landowner-home rights problem is especially critical. The Rural System is not a philanthropic group, though often charitable. Its stock and share holders have expectations. There are major novel pathways to achieve the appropriate financial base for housing units. These include:
The other positive feedback is, the higher the assessed value of the property becomes, the lower will become the monthly payments or the higher will become the value of a worker hour spent in community work. This results from a part of the resale value from any dwelling being placed in a Village Fund, an account specifically operated to maintain and improve (but not expand or add to the Village.) The results are believed to be a direct, monetary incentive not only to maintain the place but to improve it, to take growing pride in it, and even to promote it. How to achieve this is not well developed but the options appear as follows:
1. Structures may be depreciated in tax work. But by good maintenance this does not occur. Thus at least the depreciation gains through strategic tax reporting by the corporation can be subtracted from the home owner's payments or added to the Village Fund.
2. By treating the units as though they were parts of a factory, the infrastructure of Rural System, the machinery by which Rural System objectives are achieved, then additional corporate tax benefits are likely to be gained.
3. When a property-owning person or family decides to move from the village, Rural System or the Village enterprise has an option to buy. This may be restated as "an obligation to buy at 85% of the current market price of similar holdings." The corporation may gain significant tax advantage by listing such obligations (i.e. if all decided to leave, the corporation would have to buy). This seems a very low-risk obligation. When a property is bought by Rural Villages and then resold, one half of the capital gains are placed in the Village Fund. This is used as creatively as possible to reduce as much as possible the rental and service costs to people living in the Villages.
4. A proportion of all rent goes into the Village Fund. In the first 4 years of residence no returns to residents are experienced from this fund. They pay monthly rents.
5. After 4 years, rent is paid but an annual rebate or Village bonus is paid to residents from the Village Fund. This rebate is based 60% on within-village contributions to the fund, the other 40% on contributions from other villages.
6. The less the general repairs and maintenance, the greater will be the fund, but this can work against the quality of the village (i.e. just do not maintain anything). The interaction of premise 3 (above) and this one are believed to have a long-term positive effect - an optimization of reasonable maintenance and long-term community values.
7. Specific repairs that must be made that are caused by individuals through carelessness or anger will be paid by the individual and the annual bonus forfeited. A citizen board will rule on such cases.
8. Monthly rental rates will be based on the nature of the facility and incentives will be provided for length of residence. This will be approximately a 4% decrease per year of residence after the first 4 years.
9. Monthly rentals will also be subject to an average region-wide, age-class-specific, ability-to-pay index. This is shown in the above Figure. The rent is scaled (multiplied) by the index.
10. A person or family that lives in a village for 25 years may then live there at no further rental costs other than base monthly maintenance and service costs. They receive the annual bonus.
11. If a person moves after 20 years of residence, the only real benefits secured are those from the sale of the property rights to the Village Enterprise.
12. If a first-generation family of a property owner (for more than 10
years) desires to live in a Village, i.e., to move from the family home to a nearby dwelling, they may acquire property as it becomes available or apply for new construction with a down payment. That family will enter the rent-payment schedule at the mean age of the husband-wife and will not be subject to the 4-year no-bonus provision.
These provisions are complicated but can readily be aided by minor computer programs. They assure:
The village can:
Overhead wires are a visual blight and can be eliminated. "As these pole-free residential cities develop, other builders will doubtless be inspired to follow the footsteps of these pioneers. Actually, anyone starting a new major community today would be in a hazardous position if he initiated a long range project with visible wiring" (Bestor 1964:28).
Because the land is owned, the primary disadvantage to developing planned residential units is eliminated. The second disadvantage, the need for large amounts of land is evidently missing. There are thousands of acres of commons within Rural System tracts.
Planning and architectural services will be needed. There are many excellent firms specializing in such developments. There being no zoning or PUD ordinance, only health codes are involved. Presentations and public hearings, though not required, will probably be desirable.
Not only housing but other facilities must be built; in fact the operational group facilities for the entire group must be built with the first group of units built. This results in an apparently excessively high cost per income-producing unit. Much of the units sales appeal will result from these facilities and landscaping so these must be complete before any Village opens its gates.
When a decision is made that there will be villages then best locations can be selected with GIS help. Each village will have a different density; each will be designed for the site, i.e. the site determines the appropriate density.
To present an overview, however, to show the scope of the villages, I expect the density to be about 8 living units (LU) per village acre (20/hectare). "Suburban sprawl" currently averages 2.4 LU/gross acre; urban densities are 7-10 LU/gross acre and as high as 32.4 in Manhattan.
Housing is planned for 15,000 people (10,000 new, 5,000 replacement). At family size of 3.2, there is a need for 4700 living units. There are 20 villages proposed, thus each has an average size of 235 living units. Where a policy of 8 living units per village acre is effective, then each village is about 30 acres. Where the average width may be about 210 feet, the length would be about 6200 feet or 1.2 miles. On a mountain-top removal job the tracts could be laid out 5.5 acres by 5.5 acres. I repeat, these are average figures. Each village will be unique. There is no need to create new building sites. There are 20 "benches" already available. Some are abandoned mines, others are undergoing mining now. Many acres more are to be mined.
Now comes the detailed site selection and design of the villages, a task for architects, construction engineers, and subdivision planners working closely -- it will be essential -- with ecologists and environmental designers. Space is not the limitation. Now it can be seen there are four other major factors.
1. Water supply - to be addressed under a later, but essential to recognize. This supply will usually have to be addressed by small pond reservoirs as deep as possible, with small surface area, and with evaporation protection, and with an auxiliary well supply, and inlet facilities for trucking water to the villages in emergencies.
2. Air pollution - wood and coal burning may have to be regulated to protect the airsheds. Large developments can destroy the area. The analyses of Fosberg and Fox (1976) should be performed. The smoke produced by 235 living units plus back-country units may foul an airshed. This can be easily planned and numbers, design, and/or energy systems regulated to match the volume and dynamics of each airshed.
3. Travel - cost, energy, and pollution can be controlled by regulated mass transportation to the villages and work centers. A twice-daily car-caravan over the roads should be prevented by every means possible.
4. Infrastructure - Small units lose certain economies of scale (e.g. a fire station, a police station, a village council). It gains in many ways (e.g. fire prevention and control, local security and crime prevention). There cannot be a "shopping center" at each village. Instead, there can be periodic chartered bus "shopping sprees" to a large city, a planned village event. Local village stores, towns, and the sprees can meet all of the purchasing needs without the capital investments and high risks of elaborate retail structures. They can be planned events with city retailers, including sales and discount group buying.
These back-country areas are to be designed and promoted for a special group of people who do not like the slick resort, ski scene, or sea shore. They want to get away; to get back to nature and want their own place (an easement, not a fee simple purchase on Rural System) to find education, physical, and mental health in returning to nature and in primitive pioneer life.
If "long-weekends" as an employment cut-back strategy grow, these sites will become increasingly popular.
The system is made feasible with modular building assistance, trails, pack strings, parking areas, corrals, limited security, and reasonable access to many other facilities, services, and amenities of Rural System. Construction is limited to that approved by the architectural group within System Central (to avoid slipshod, unsafe, and incompatible structures). Long-term easements allow people property rights at low costs and access to the wilderness-area "commons." Each person or group of buyers has rights and privileges of ownership with first options for renewals (99 year leases).
I can imagine each group of homesites, say 7 of them, being clustered around an object of special significance -- and improved stream stocked with brook trout; a stream with an active beaver colony; a spectacular fern-covered cliff --worth returning to see; a large pond; a small pond with a waterfall (perhaps built); a ski-run for natural snow (only); a cove of very large trees; a meadow; a spectacular viewing site for the sunsets.
As in other aspects of Rural System, forest fires are an important consideration, but one not of undue concern if a forest fire damage management system is created.
|Summary feeling: "There has not been a fire for a long time; there probably is not much danger of fire here now."|
I have not analyzed the fire control services existing region-wide. Mr. Clark Boyer, Virginia Division of Forestry, has expressed keen interest (in 1982) in the previous concepts of Rural System U.S. Forest Service (1977) reported that in 1970 fire losses to farm property were $242 million, more than in 1960. Total fire losses in rural America exceed $1 billion annually. Only about 26,000 rural fire departments existed, and of these, virtually all needed assistance in organizing, training, and equipping fire fighting forces. Only 10% had satisfactory master fire plans. Sustained local volunteer training remains a problem. Equipment, especially communications equipment, is said to be a key need. The communities served by Rural System probably have at least some of these characteristics. The staff and participants can see this as a limitation or as an educational "market."
A Council will be formed to resolve problems, address key issues, seek to achieve accord and harmony, and negotiate on behalf of the people of the villages.
Citizen participation, much discussed and sought after, will be in 5 major forms. The first is in weighing objectives. Median values will be used. The Council will explain the methodology and seek its continual improvement.
The second method is through Invention Sessions. These efforts to seek names of and sources for solutions to problems. These are idea sessions and, in so far as possible, a nonjudgmental, open, free-flowing session is encouraged. Staff then compare the relative goodness of the options, alternatives, and inventions--especially as they may perform in achieving weighted objectives.
The third is in risk assessment. The Council, or panel, or by a well-devised questionnaire, will express perceived risks of failing to achieve the citizen-stated objectives.
The fourth is in assessing demand or the amounts needed. The minimum amounts needed and the outer thresholds must be estimated.
The significance of this approach to citizen participation is that it is directed and the results can be turned to practical use. It allows citizens to do what they need to do, i.e. express value; it allows experts to do what they do best; and it allows the interaction of the two in the Invention Sessions. It overcomes, when used periodically (e.g. annually), all known objections to present citizen participation procedures, and sets an easily understood and dynamic process. By breaking the process into four parts, prior confusions and entanglements can be avoided.
Potential actions to achieve the objectives of The Rural Villages
1. Employ a manager for The Villages responsible for the full development of at least one prototype village, and planning for and developing subsequent villages.
|Table 1. Design criteria for the bench village. These criteria as one united set among which tradeoffs may be made, and provide the basis for judging the quality of the village.|
2. Employ an architectural group to design the first village. Follow the design criteria shown in Table 1.
3. Select potential sites using the residential primeness maps.
4. Develop a real estate staff or employ an existing group that is sympathetic with and loyal to the overall objectives of Rural System
5. Develop computer systems useful in creating budgets and subsequently useful in accounting systems for the Villages.
6. Employ or engage Corporation accountants and legal advisors to work out potential budget strategies.
7. Make capital available, through foregone coal receipts or other devices.
8. Employ a manager for the first village. This person is to be responsible for the full maintenance and operation of the village but not for marketing, sales, collections, or negotiations of rights or discussions of bonuses. The person's responsibilities are for efficient cost-effective operation and life quality enhancement of the residents.
9. Build the first village using concepts from Table 2.
|Table 2. Design suggestions and criteria for the village housing.|
|1. Use centralized on-site natural gas heating for the village
2. Use gas freezers and coolers
3. Use well insulated houses based on site specific heating-cooling degree days (Anderson 1981)
4. Provide clothes dryers
5. Eliminate fireplaces
6. Use centralized solar hot water heating
7. Use earth-sheltered housing with solar collectors
8. Use heat pumps and utilize nearby mine temperatures for their heat-exchange potential
9. Recycle all possible water; use several water sources and use-types
10. Dispose of waste water carefully by irrigation in established forests where selective cutting is done
11. Develop new toilet facilities, including separate urinals as well as Clivus toilets
12. Recycle all waste
13. Include kitchen facilities for waste separation
14. Dissipate waste heat in winter through green houses, streets and walkways, and garden plots
15. Have garbage dried by solar heat, and burned, to supply 7% or more of the energy needs of the village
16. Provide a sub-unit especially designed for the future option of a type of live-in and nursing home for the elderly. The elderly can obtain housing and stay in them or move to a site within the village to experience some efficiencies and special attention and care. Where this opportunity may be exercised by the Village Enterprise, the elderly will be integrated as fully as possible into the community - full care, attention, security, basic needs, education, recreation, and abundant contacts with the village people of all ages.
17. Ramps and ease of access throughout the
18. Meet revised state building code (1977)
19. Design throughout for safety
20. Design for easily repaired security alarm systems
21. Demonstrate conclusively from computer studies that the best possible tradeoffs and design elements are being selected
22. Use glass where possible and where thermal properties can be compatible with the design
23. Use fire-safe materials
24. Use outside noise barriers (as earth mounds near roadsides) and make these compatible with building form and design
25. Consider layered fiber, rock wall, and reflective insulation
26. Install low-voltage automatic electronic controls on lights, heat, etc. including timers to conserve energy
27. Consider high output fluorescent lamps with reflectors built into the structures and related furnitures
28. Develop cisterns for all buildings
29. Develop lateral dispersal of roof and patio waters into dikes and multi-purpose storm water basins
30. Develop gardens compatible with structures and readily maintainable and of minimum susceptibility to pests and diseases
31. Develop fountains wherever possible with minimum energy costs. Consider wind driven pumps
32. Use flags
33. Use street graphics and tight sign controls (see Architectural Enterprise and the Review Board)
34. Minimize susceptibility to termites
35. Use appropriate storm windows
36. Use all possible architectural techniques of natural cooling
37. Develop a total housing monitoring system with a panel that displays water use, energy use, indoor-outdoor temperatures, etc.
38. Develop parking areas that are energy efficient, easy for snow cleaning, have minimum runoff, have minimum heavy metal pollution
39. Have minimum heating-cooling system backups
40. Use lowest possible ceilings
41. Design smallest possible housing with built in features (a galley-like storage-use facility)
42. Use wind power to recharge electric batteries
43. Use Clivus Multrum waste disposal systems. Locked outlets must be accessible from a below-the-edge roadway. Personnel may make collections without disturbing the inhabitants (an easy-access basement door and ramp facility.)
44. Develop outside wall colors with energy conservative albedo for insolation days on each site
45. Plan attic fans and air exchange systems compatible with insulation plans
46. Install individual room thermostats
47. Shield exterior air conditioning equipment
48. Use mobile awnings or "cool shade screens" where needed for insolation regulation
49. Provide structures for interior drapes
50. Insulate heat ducts
51. Plan landscaping to influence building heating and cooling
52. Build an arbor of optimum width for summer vines along the southern side of the building
53. Use porous walkways and paving
54. Position house to achieve viewscape as compatible as possible with maximum passive energy placement
55. Hide night-light sources; use reflected light
56. Avoid use of toxicants, asbestos, or any substance about which there are currently doubts as to their carcinogenicity or terratogenicity
57. Maximize privacy by orientation of doors and windows
58. Maximize security by defense areas, warning and burglar alarms, lights, placement of vegetation, and other physical means
59. Provide a security gate and personalized high-technology locks
60. Maximize building compactness
61. Minimize heat loss from chimneys
62. Fireproof all buildings
63. Locate children's play area so parents may see them from windows of houses
64. Employ fruit trees in landscaping
65. Use ledge reflectors and white reflective paints
66. Minimize north-side windows
67. Optimize total window design
68. Use underground utilities
69. Install fire sprinkler system
70. Minimize susceptibility of roofs to forest fire brands
71. Enclose exterior meters; add sensors that report usage on the interior monitoring panel. Use centralized monitoring
72. Monitor infrared radiation from all buildings
73. Minimize maintenance costs and time
74. Make all parts of the building that can wear out or break in 50 years, easily replaceable. Require no replacement of parts about which there is doubt of availability over the 50 years.
75. Maximize the benefits index for all structural members, i.e. benefits per unit of energy required to produce it over 200 years (i.e., consider energy of one-time steel member to a 3-time replacement of a wood member)
76. Achieve classic esthetic proportions
77. Use foam concrete where feasible
10. Study it carefully and apply feedbacks at every stage to create an advisory computer system by which subsequent villages can be more effectively planned, designed, built, checked, and operated -- all with greater perceived resident satisfaction and lower costs to the Village Enterprise.
11. Investigate an enterprise to build architecturally approved summer wilderness cabins at very low densities (1 per 50 acres). These would be remote and primitive sites for people who want a real back-to-nature retreat, few amenities, and pioneer-like activities. No electricity or power saws would be allowed, and all structures would be accessible only by trails. these are patterned after Winter green, Inc. (Rock fish Valley, Virginia) "back country" sites. About 2000 acres or 40-50 such units will be proposed.
12. Consider employing Richard L. Ragatz Assoc., Inc., Consultants in Vacation Housing and Recreational Communities, Eugene, Oregon 97405 to advise in the back-country layout, design, operation, contracts / and promotion.
13. Contact student (2003)Melissa Gobrecht (Architecture, Va Tech) who is working on an active solar heating platform for buildings. It, combined with passive energy and earth energy, may provide substantial financial gains and opportunities in land with steep topography.
14. See Bird-Safe Building and plan for or retrofit buildings in NYC Audubon publication of the Bird-Safe Building Guidelines, written by Hillary Brown, AIA and Steven Caputo. A manual for architects, landscape designers, engineers, glass technicians, developers, building managers, city, state, and federal officials, and the general public. It reveals the magnitude of bird-collisions with glass and describes the conditions that cause these deadly collisions. Bird-safety in buildings is integral to the sustainable building movement, and the guidelines suggest strategies that complement the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating system. To download a pdf of the Guidelines visit http://www.nycaudubon.org/home/BirdSafeBuildingGuidelines.pdf or request a printed copy of the Guidelines, email firstname.lastname@example.org
See correspondence with Smart Villages of India
15. See dome structure (courtesy of Grant Rimbey, CNU, ELEMENTS; Architects, Interior Designers, 600 South Magnolia Avenue,Suite 150, Tampa, FL 33606 Tel 813.251.0565 , Fax 813.251.0567, AA 0002341
16. Interact with Young Professionals of the New River Network.
See Gardens Group.
See Treelink for community forests.
Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 3, 2005