November, 2012 -- With infrastructure in place construction has started on the first block of houses. We have 39 of 40 units sold.
March, 2012 -- When we received updated cost estimates from Lecesse in January that were 3 million dollars over budget, we realized we needed to change course to keep our project affordable. We soon hired Ithaca green builder Mike Carpenter as our Construction Manager. Since then Mike has been going full-steam ahead, working hard to bring costs in line with where we need them to be. We have also created a core team to work closely with Mike until construction begins that meets with him weekly to talk through progress, resolve issues and handle items that need attention. We plan to begin site prep work in June and begin construction on the houses in August.
June, 2011 -- This TREE is growing and growing! We've been making a lot of progress toward building our neighborhood, mostly focusing on increasing membership and diversifying our home designs. The most obvious change is that we have decided to add an additional 10 homes to our neighborhood, bringing our total to 40 households. This will allow us to afford our wonderful Common House and neighborhood design with all of the conveniences and facilities we've planned for families and for aging in place.
Now we have some more available flats in the Common House on the 2nd - 4th floors, including studios as well as one and two-bedroom units. We've also added a new house type (code named Magenta !) that is a 2 floor, 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bathroom, duplex house. These homes will be among our most affordable units (less expensive than the similar Blue units which are built with an accessible 1st floor). Like the rest of our homes, Magenta duplexes will also be built to be extremely energy-efficient and our hope is that the addition of these Magenta units will allow young families and singles to become part of TREE more easily. So far, they're quite popular!
We're enjoying working with LeCesse Construction and Steven Winters Associates as we approach groundbreaking. They bring many years of experience in Construction Management and Energy Systems Research and Design to our project. So far they have inspired a tremendous amount of confidence and excitement in our members.
We continue to meet every 3 weeks to continue our planning, meet potential new members, share some meals together, laugh, problem-solve, roll with the punches, jump hurdles, and create our new home.
January, 2011 -- Wow! We've been so busy building TREE that we haven't updated in a while. Our energies have lately been aimed toward finalizing our designs and hiring construction management. We're also deciding how to apportion our common construction and monthly operating costs among our 30 households. The very cold early winter didn't allow for beginning infrastructure work but we're looking forward to an early start in the spring. Our finance, energy, and hiring committees have been putting in amazing amounts of work and we're all ridiculously excited for the next stage in our journey.
June, 2010 -- As of the writing of this column, TREE is currently at 26 JV households, with the remaining 4 single home units ranging from 2-4 bedrooms. The poetry of this headline lies in the inevitability of blossoming when careful planting and attentive cultivation take place. Poetry aside, TREE continues to meet every 3 weeks as a whole group, but more and more work is done on a daily basis by individuals and small committees on the many details that go into home and neighborhood development.
While we are guided by an exceptional team of professionals, who provide their expertise with regard to co-housing in an eco-village, architectural design, budgeting, ecological considerations, and construction management; TREE remains responsible for the choices we make as individuals and as a group, keeping our mission statement to build an affordable, largely accessible, and environmentally mindful community.
Decision by consensus as well as innate consideration of our own needs in the context of a greater whole continue to give us a solid framework for our discussions and choices. Now that we have approved the preliminary design, which has been presented to the Town of Ithaca—a first step toward town approval of our site and neighborhood development—we focus on choices of building materials, energy systems, and detailed revisions, aligned with our vision of sustainability and aging in place.
|May, 2010 -- TREE’s development has picked up momentum in recent weeks, with a rapid growth in our Joint Venture membership, as we are coming to the final stages of approving the neighborhood site and house designs. To date, two-thirds of our planned homes have been selected by current JV members and new associate members have joined as well, after taking a tour of the village and joining as guests in one of our regular TREE meetings. We are planning an Open House event on May 22, and look forward to sharing, in person, our vision and plans for TREE.
In our recent meetings, it has been exciting to discuss the details of our home’s interior design, while keeping our hearts and minds centered on our mission to build a highly energy-efficient, largely accessible, and multigenerational co-housing neighborhood—a safe haven for children, and an active, environmentally-conscious living experience for people of all ages.
Our architect, energy-engineer consultant, and landscape designer continue to team up toward finalizing our plans and the initial presentation of TREE’s design drawings to the Town of Ithaca. We are pleased with our progress, as we continue to meet our projected time-line, with each step of the process being completed through a thoughtful and community-oriented consensus process.
March, 2010 -- With the turn of the seasons, TREE is ready for its own kind of Spring—looking forward to our approval of Jerry Weisburd’s preliminary house designs and neighborhood layout; Rick Manning’s creative site plans; and an impressive set of drawings to show our prospective members.
We continue to grow in numbers and anticipate that with the detailed architectural drawings, those interested in TREE will be able to have a more concrete sense of the type house available from those remaining for selection. Just this week we added two new JV members! We are pleased to report that all of the larger units in the Common House, also known as the Sustainable Living Center (SLC), have been selected by current members. A few smaller flats are available, along with several 2-4 bedroom single unit homes. All are designed with attention to sustainability, passive-house design, affordability, accessibility, and interconnection with other homes and the natural environment.
Drawings of our Common House have really brought that structure to life and include a dining area for the whole neighborhood, a cafe space with hearth, children's play area, large craft area and laundry facilities, a large "quiet" room that will also serve as a dance area, rooftop terrace and possible greenhouse, storage areas, guest rooms, and office space. An elevator and staircases will provide access to all spaces, even for persons in wheelchairs.
We anticipate proceeding according to our original timeline, with meetings every 3 weeks, as we have done now for over 2 years. It is amazing how much can be accomplished with commitment to shared values of ecologically-mindful, community living!
January, 2010 -- TREE’s progress continues to unfold steadily. We have recently celebrated the half-way mark of Joint Venture membership recruitment, added several new Associate Members to our group and welcomed numerous visitors into our meetings from near and far. Our members and visitors at the last meeting included folks from Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Italy! In addition to our scheduled meetings at EVI we continue to communicate via email and in our website chat room.
Various committees, such as the Energy Committee and Site Design Committee, have been meeting more frequently, to facilitate informed choices by the group in these areas of our site and house plans. We remain committed to building sustainable homes with minimal energy use, which serve a multi-generational, diverse neighborhood that is oriented toward a Common House and EcoVillage as a whole.
Our next meetings will include a presentation of the detailed homes and Common House designs by Jerry Weisburd, and participation in a village-wide workshop on decision making by consensus. We wrap these practical dimensions of our TREE neighborhood development with fun group activities and shared meals toward the building of a warm and socially interconnected community.
November, 2009 -- Our TREE is continuing to establish its roots and spread its branches! Our outreach efforts have resulted with many inquiries, numerous visitors from near and far, and a rapidly growing membership. We continue to engage in community building activities to get to know each other more personally and to deepen our connection to the group process of establishing our neighborhood community. We have enjoyed delicious dinners and potluck breakfasts during our regularly scheduled weekend meetings.
Most recently we have approved a need-based, joint venture payment plan, and have awarded the family membership discount to our newest family members. We have also approved the option for members, who are unable to attend a meeting in person, to call in via a phone conference line.
We are now in the midst of finalizing the generic house plans, as we continue to work closely with architect, Jerry Weisburd of Cotere according to our programing plans. In addition to studio and 1-4 bedroom, fully accessible apartments in our Common House, the most current plans include two basic house sizes, the smaller of which is designed as accessible/adaptable for aging in place.
We have hired an energy engineer, Lou Vogel of Taitem Engineering , who is coordinating with our architect and the group on the implementation of energy saving features in the house design. Our overall site plans are firming up as well, and we have hired landscape architect, Rick Manning , who is collaborating with our architect and works closely with TREE, as well as with the EVI village association toward the integration of all three neighborhoods into a unified and community enhancing environment.
July, 2009 -- TREE members met on July 18 & 19 to review the program documents and to work on membership recruitment. We approved both the neighborhood and the village programming documents. The Village Association has also approved the village programming document so now we're ready to move on to the design phase! Our meeting was productive and engaging. Much work was done and we enjoyed sharing meals with each other in the Frog Common House. The meals included produce from the Westhaven Farm CSA, right here at Ecovillage. Black raspberries are in season and were enjoyed by all. We've planned the rest of our meetings for 2009 and invite any of you who are interested in attending one to contact
. You can see the meeting schedule on the calendar in the right margin of this page.
June, 2009 -- Current members of the TREE group met with Jerry and Claudia Weisburd to create the programming document for EcoVillage’s third neighborhood and the “Crux” or center of the village. In June, the members of TREE went through the neighborhood programming document in painstaking detail to consider every point and make amendments to the document. At the same time, the whole Village and TREE worked on the programming document for the village center.
Particular attention was paid to designing homes that will be accessible for those interested in aging in place as well as growing families. To that end, we are planning the Common House design to include eight apartments of one to three bedrooms, with elevator access, and wheelchair accessibility. There will also be 11 duplex units providing 22 houses in the neighborhood. Twelve houses will be designed for wheelchair accessibility with a bedroom and full bath on the first floor and a second bedroom and half bath on the second floor; there will be 8 houses designed for families with two or three bedrooms and a full bath on the second floor. These larger houses will be visitable by people in wheelchairs. A great deal of thought and discussion has gone into the hopes of building to Passiv Haus standards but final decisions will be made after careful cost analysis.
Likewise, we are considering building a green roof and living wall for the Common House which we are planning to include a kitchen and seating to accomodate the whole neighborhood, a children's play area, a cafe, yoga/exercise/meditation space, and more.
Two more households have joined as Joint Venture members and there are two more associate member households. We're getting lots of requests for info and are meeting lots of visitors at our meetings. With each new household our group is becoming more diverse!
March, 2009 -- In early March, Jerry Weisburd, our CoTerre architect, met with members of TREE and EVI's Big Picture committee to work on design pre-programming for the “Crux” -- the central area that will connect all three neighborhoods. Jerry will continue to work on programming for a Crux site design.
Ten new households from as far away as Arizona and New Mexico have attended one or both of our past two meetings in February and March, and three have joined at the Associate Member level. Welcome guests and new members!
At our March meeting, we did a fun team exercise, requested by CoTerre, to help us envision what we want and don't want in our common house. Some common themes emerged through all the different ideas: inside-outside connections; cozy comfort and practicality; quiet areas separated from rooms where noisier activities will take place; and of course, plenty of storage! Accessibility was a common denominator.
TREE has agreed to hire a financial consultant, Greg Pitts, to begin working with our finance committee. In addition, we agreed to the contract with T.G. Miller, an engineering firm that previously worked with FroG and SoNG, to conduct a hydrology study of the north field and survey for contour mapping. Results of both are needed for TREE design and construction.
Our next meeting will be on April 4-5. All are welcome!
February, 2009 -- Associate Member households became Joint Venture (JV) members at our last meeting on January 31-February 1, and one couple who has faithfully attended TREE meetings for months took the leap to become an Associate Member! Welcome to membership – our group is growing!
TREE JV's agreed to move ahead with the next exciting phase of CoTerre's contract – the design phase. We expect to sign that part of the contract at our upcoming meeting.
A key part of TREE's design phase is the programming workshop that CoTerre (Jerry and Claudia Weisburd) will be holding for us over the first weekend in May. Much of Saturday, May 2 will involve the whole Village to consider the Crux (the Village center where all three neighborhoods meet). Late Saturday afternoon through Monday will be devoted to TREE programming with active input by Joint Venture paid partners.
Sara Silverstone will hold an evening workshop on March 24 in the Rochester area for anyone interested in learning about TREE, or wanting to explore membership. It will be from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at Brighton Town Hall, 2300 Elmwood Ave., and childcare will be available. Contact Sara at
Our next meeting will be at Ecovillage on March 14-15. We hope to see you there! If you have never attended before, but plan to come, please contact Pat Pingel at
January, 2009 -- TREE has hired Jerry Weisburd, who designed and built the first neighborhood at EcoVillage, to be architect and development manager of the project. An initial feasibility study has been completed with good results. The group seeks more people who want to join in the planning process for the new neighborhood, including the design of the homes, and the Common House. There are financial incentives for getting involved sooner rather than later.