Comfort Zone | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet
Yours, Mine, and Arugula
By Chelsea Conaboy
Noel White, Johanna Wilson-White, and their two children enjoy Nubanusit's car-free common areas; help raise chickens, cows, and pigs; tend a community vegetable garden; and relax on the traditional porch of their energy-efficient home.
"Nubanusit is multigenerational, so our kids are connected to people of all ages," says
"I'm actually kind of a private person," Wilson-White says of cohousing. "You have to be honest with yourself about what your social limits are."
Living in downtown Peterborough, New Hampshire, husband and wife Robin Hulbert and Shelley Goguen Hulbert felt connected to neighbors but had little space to garden. When they moved to the outskirts of town, they had plenty of land but missed their close-knit community.
So the couple helped build a neighborhood that fit them: a cohousing development called Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm. The cluster of 29 cedar-sided homes sits on more than 70 acres a mile from downtown. Residents make consensus-based decisions about the property and can meet for meals in the common house, a hallmark of cohousing projects.
The superinsulated homes have triple-paned windows and rely on a heating system that burns locally sourced wood pellets. In 2008 the U.S. Green Building Council awarded LEED platinum certification, the group's highest accolade, to a four-bedroom home at Nubanusit.
That's all well and green, but Nubanusit stands out because its residents can do more eco-good as a group than they could as individual homeowners.
The homes are small for suburban dwellings--ranging from 1,150 square feet for a two-bedroom to 1,888 square feet for a four-bedroom--with the idea that the common house provides extra space when needed. It offers a comfy sitting area, two guest rooms for overflow company, a playroom, and an open space perfect for small events or yoga practice.
The chance to farm organically was a big draw for Johanna Wilson-White. Nubanusit residents manage two dairy cows, five pigs, 200 broiler chickens, a vegetable garden, and berry patches. Eventually, they hope to produce half of their food.
Wilson-White, her husband, Noel, who telecommutes to his job, and their two children moved here about a year ago from a Boston suburb. She works on the garden, cares for the chickens one day a week, and plans to help with the dairy operation. The farm is "beyond what one family can just pick up and do," she says.
The neighborhood offers less strenuous social opportunities too. On Nubanusit's first Fourth of July, a small group of residents started an impromptu parade on the property. Others joined in, decorating bikes and dogs and a pony. One man carried a sign that read, "Hooray for the red, white, and blue--and green!"
On the Web What's your idea of a green living or work space? Tell us at sierraclub.org/sierra/shelter
Photos courtesy Dave White/NHCo-housing; used with permission