SPOKANE, Wash. – The concept of an experimental, self-sustaining community in the Hillyard neighborhood has been approved by the city and its department of health, and citizens have volunteered to live there for a five-year trial.
Washington State University landscape architecture students led by associate professor Bob Scarfo spearheaded planning for the village during the spring, and the project team is working to purchase land.
The Hillyard Village Project emulates New Mexico architect Mike Reynolds’ world-renowned work with “earthships” – environment- and people-friendly sustainable community living concepts.
The project started in 2010 after months of discussion between Scarfo and Hillyard community members about developing green industries in the area. Retired city and land planner Richard Burris is heading the project.
Structures would be built from recycled materials. Citizens would volunteer to live in the community for five years, using and monitoring passive energy systems, waste systems and self-perpetuating food and water systems.
“We’re going to reach a crossroads given current energy issues, so it would be nice to know ahead of time the kind of construction that will reduce certain energy needs and strain on the power grid,” Scarfo said.
WSU students worked with eight high school students from Spokane’s On Track Academy. The high school students designed the systems for the village, while WSU students designed features that encourage interaction with the surrounding community.
One feature is a weekly market area on the southwest corner of the lot that many people walk through to get to school, catch the bus or go to work. There is also a stage in the center of the village that would serve as a community gathering place.
“We want to invite people into the village,” Scarfo said. “Let them walk through and see how people are growing food in front of their homes, using passive energy systems and interacting.”
Another idea is to bring in WSU nursing students to work at the Northeast Community Center across from the planned site. The center offers medical and dental assistance to low-income citizens.
“We tend to get caught up in the fact of creating physical objects, but designs should not be products to put on a piece of land,” Scarfo said. “They are living parts of the community.”