How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.

Village Homes,
Davis, California

Village Homes, built in the 1970s, is one of America’s most desirable, sustainable and financially successful communities.


  • 70 acres, 240 single family homes & apartments, completed 1981

  • 12 acres greenbelt & open space; 12 acres common agricultural land

  • 4000 SF commercial office space

  • 1995, homes sold for 13% more than equivalent homes.

  • Crime rate 10th for Davis as whole

  • Total return on investment - 30% pa


  • Houses clustered in groups of 8 surrounded by common space.

  • Twice the density of nearby Sacramento, even with 25% open space

  • Passive solar design

  • Natural swales saved $800 per lot. Used for parks, walkways, gardens, & amenities. Couldn't convince officials swales would handle stormwater run-off - bond to pay for retrofitting in case they failed. Then 100 year storm - system worked fine, handled run-off from neighbouring subdivisions where conventional storm drains failed.


  • Car access by back lanes. Front streets designed by residents - grass, gardens, barbecue pits.

  • Average car ownership 1.8 per household, compared to standard 2.1

  • Pedestrian paths, traffic calming, narrow streets, trees, lower air temperature

  • Average walk to grocery 10'. Many residents walk to work.


  • Sweat equity program for low-income construction workers

  • Homeowners Association owns & manages household commons, greenbelt commons, agricultural lands (orchards & vineyards), community centre.

Community & Food

  • By 1989, much of Village Homes food grown in neighbourhood

  • Annual household bills 1/2 to 1/3rd of surrounding neighbourhoods because of local food and energy saving.

  • Frequent harvest festivals and other gatherings

  • 80% of residents participate in community activities

  • Homeowners Association owns household commons, greenbelt commons, agricultural lands (orchards and vineyards), community centre. Association makes management and financial decisions re open space, recreational facilities, harvesting & distribution of produce, allocation of revenue from office space and rental units

  • Community gardens on west side - portion used for commercial organic growing

  • Villagers pick fruit for breakfast - edible landscape produces oranges, almonds, apricots, pears, grapes, persimmons, peaches, cherries & plums.


  • Approvals problems - took most direct to City Council, over heads of staff. City Council had 3 environmental activists on it, who did their homework.

  • Local realtors discouraged anyone from visiting. Took them 6 months and rapid sales to change their attitude. Today. Coldwell Banker Residential calls it 'Davis's most desirable subdivision'