Update May 2023

Big changes are afoot!

Active members and those following the monthly Almanacs will already know that we are moving away from the development plan that we have followed since pursuing our Master Plan Development rezoning eight years ago. We are only now (May ’23) in the process of working through this reorientation with General Circle, but the Planning and Development Circle has been leading the rethinking. For a Powerpoint slideshow outlining the new directions, please go here.

What changes, what stays the same?

We are still “designing an ecovillage”, as the text below describes (everything below the red text is the older text). However, it is likely that more of the design initiative will shift to individual member-residents and small groups. For sure we are still looking for low impact, sustainable and regenerative design and construction practices both on the community and the individual-residence scales, and we’ll have to spell out standards for design guidance. Likely also, we will make sure to develop at least some of our current schematic designs, as displayed in this tab under “Resident Aesthetics”” and “Living Options”, to the point that members who wish to proceed with them can easily do so. How and how much we revise the site layout, meanwhile, is still under consideration, but here too the goals listed below – design for cooperation, conviviality, and accessibility – remain a top priority. 

More soon! As things begin to firm up, P&D will be looking to set up an FAQ and Discussion Board so that all community members can stay on top of developments and have questions answered. The best way to do so, of course, is to get actively involved yourself! All Circles will be needing help as things heat up. Remember, as the saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to help create it.  Now’s the time!

–aw  5/15/23

Original text:

It is both daunting and thrilling to be designing an ecovillage! Not only will this be the place where we spend much of our time and interact in so many different ways as a community — it will also be a physical embodiment of our values. We have the challenge and the opportunity to embody our ideal of a convivial community and ecologically regenerative way of life in wood and clay and glass, at the same time making it affordable and widely accessible… and to make it wonderfully inviting… and just plain wonderful.

This and the other pages in this “Village Design” section of the Common Ground Ecovillage website offer you a detailed overview of our evolving designs both for the village as whole and for individual structures and living options within them. Please check out all the pages. Be aware also that (as the individual pages also explain) many aspects of the design work are under development as we speak – we are on the move! – but this also means that we can’t yet display finished and “final” plans or give exact figures for costs or sizes. We will update as best we can, of course, and your questions and input are always welcome: please email Anthony at weston@elon.edu.


The ECO-  part of “eco-village” means: tuned to ecological impacts and imperatives and in conversation with the larger land. Some key aspects are:

Low impact. We need to consider our materials and building methods, the energy and other maintenance demands of the buildings over their lifespans, and their reuse or biodegradability after that. For example, we decided early on that we will not build with any kind of extruded polystyrene foam (Styrofoam), even though it is quite inexpensive and durable compared to most of the other options, because it is all too durable – you can’t ever get rid of it. Instead we’re looking at “natural” materials for walls and insulation, primarily earthen materials, though they are not as easy and not necessarily as cheap in the short run, and pose their own challenges for construction and maintenance. But they are available right on or near our land, and when their life as part of our houses is over, they can readily return to it. Thus we walk our green talk…

Sustainability is a more ambitious goal: ways of building and living that do not drain or deplete the land or soil – or ourselves – and therefore can be continued indefinitely. For us, this means things like planning for extensive use of passive and active (photovoltaic) solar energy, and rainwater collection from our roofs, and, again, building with our own clay (we’re well supplied with it – a blessing) and local straw, along with promoting our larger communities’ learning about earth-building methods.

Regenerativity means actively repairing damaged and degraded soil, land, waters, and ecologies. For example, we’ll more than compensate new impervious surfaces (roofs, pavement) with kitchen gardens and rain gardens right in the village. Also, the village is sited so as to leave the bulk of the land lightly burdened, shading off into gardens, then farm, then lightly-managed woods and untouched marshes, allowing forest and animals to recover from decades of over-farming and clear-cutting. Bees, chickens, and (farther out) wilder animals will be invited back into a flourishing and diverse ecology.  (For more on regenerative thinking, go to this blogpost.)

Natural forms. Our buildings will be proportional to each other and together form a connected flow. Layout will also acknowledge and mirror the flow of the land. Finishes will incorporate local materials and ornaments will include natural design elements. We’ll look for creative and unique decorative elements like stained glass, tile, mosaics, curved walkways, spiral patterns, window/door trim that follows tree shapes, gateways/fences made from sinewy branches, and decorative boulders.


Planning for an  eco-VILLAGE requires careful and sustained attention to the social interaction patterns it creates and supports, both within the buildings, between them, and between the village and the land.

Design for cooperation. Normally a residential development would be a collection of private and relatively self-contained homes that randomly co-occupy a site. Largish homes, turned away from or simply paying no attention each other, likely on large lots, with little care for the spaces between (except for fences, maybe) or to the common life. But we aim first and foremost for a community. We plan to build in a way that provides for privacy and intimacy when we want and need it, but just as importantly is designed for interaction, cooperation, and mutual reliance at many other times. Many of us eagerly anticipate living cooperatively with people within a dwelling unit as well as within our larger community.

Design for conviviality. Artful design of all public spaces will nurture and prompt a wide range of joyful and rewarding social interactions. The Common House will not only be efficient and functional but commodious and inviting. Outdoors, or halfway between “in” and “out”, will be porches (screened and open), patios, courtyards, outdoor kitchen(s), play-spaces, gardens, picnic areas, and much else. Careful and inventive design of the “in between” spaces can turn them from dead spaces between private homes into centers of attraction and sometimes surprises (art, chickens, children…).

Design for accessibility. Common Ground Ecovillage will be physically accessible and welcoming to as many potentially differently-abled residents as possible, and will provide for residents throughout the lifespan (noting that children have distinctive needs and capacities too). We are building multi-use adaptability into flexible spaces and also planning to build on the strengths of interdependence (v. independence), readily enabling community assistance as needed with cleaning, meals, and laundry. For more, see our General Approach to Accessibility Questions.

Other pages in this Village Design section

Village layout: All of the structures must fit on our allocated village site and fit together in a lovely way as well, supportive of convivial community life and in flow with the land as well.

Common House: Here you will find up to date information on the Common House design.

Living Options: This page details and illustrates the different living spaces/options currently being planned, designed to enable and support a variety of different individual, family, and group living situations.

Residence aesthetics: Here you will find perspective drawings for two residential structures, illustrating the exterior aesthetic currently planned.

Some further design-related documents

For more detail, linked here are further key documents re. design goals:

Selected Principles and Intentions key to the design process.

Architectural Background This is an old document, prepared initially for our very first architectural consultation in 2017. It’s ambitious, too. But we are still trying to live up to it!

General Common Ground Ecovillage Design goals and Considerations. General part of the initial design programs for residences and Common House.

Cooperative Housing for Cooperative Living – a re-conception and celebration of the current Living Options, by Hope Horton.

General Approach to Accessibility Questions

(rev 5/15/23 aw)