Dave Wiseman, a Web consultant and the general manager of EcoVillage, says that the development attracts a self-selecting group of people who, to varying degrees, are in search of a more sustainable and locally centered lifestyle.
Gravel, instead of pavement, minimizes harmful runoff into the Potomac River watershed. It also slows vehicular traffic, which in EcoVillage is viewed as a necessary evil. In pursuit of the goal of more pedestrianism, most villagers choose to park in lots scattered around the site’s periphery rather than in front of their homes.
Although it’s become almost mainstream to be “green,” residents of EcoVillage, founded in 1996, are on the cutting edge of the movement.
Prospective residents must conform to strict ecological guidelines that specify standards for everything from architectural design and construction materials to outdoor lighting and landscaping. Villagers can pick from six available floor plans or work with approved architects on their own plans. Currently, 14 houses are grouped in clusters on one-third-to-three-quarter-acre lots to minimize their footprint on the land. Another 14 lots, nine of which are for sale at $80,000 and up, await houses.
The au naturel scenery also reflects the village mind-set. Residents are gradually replacing invasive and imported plant species with indigenous ones, and in an effort at reforestation, they have planted more than 11,000 trees. Such land-management efforts have helped make the site a haven for birds and led the National Audubon Society to certify EcoVillage as a Home Wildlife Sanctuary. Eighty-five percent of its 90 acres are protected open space.
Hana and Gabor Funk — he does construction, she’s a stay-at-home mother of two — moved to EcoVillage about a year and a half ago, and they live in what is perhaps the village’s most ambitiously green domicile, a straw bale house. The straw bales, along with timber beams, are encased in thick, stucco walls that are both strong and insulating.
The Funks have a solar system on the roof to heat their water, as well as the house itself, via pipes that run under their floors. The heat is regulated with a daunting array of on-off options on pipes in the basement. After much trial and error, the couple learned that “supercharging” the floors every day from noon to 2 provides heat all day. If the sun doesn’t shine enough, an electric backup system kicks in to keep their house warm, but the Funks’ last electric bill was just $35. Hana Funk expects that, given the gray skies typical of the region in winter, the family’s winter electric bills will be somewhat higher.