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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Density that Works: EcoVillage Concepts

Tompkins County, New York

Federal Funding: $375,450
Project Timeline: February 2011 – February 2014

Latest Update

Construction of two of the three EcoVillage demonstration projects, TREE and the Aurora Pocket Neighborhood (APN), is moving forward since breaking ground in June 2012. APN framed all three of its new units, and TREE has installed most of the necessary infrastructure of its 40-unit development. TREE membership has increased to 38 committed households, each of which has invested 20% of the estimated house cost. This money financed pre-construction and initial site work. TREE is also working with Buffalo-based Solar Liberty to plan for the purchase and installation of photovoltaics for 25 houses. The TREE group is acting as its own General Contractor and has formed two leadership teams and several supporting teams to manage the project’s development. Tompkins County released a Request for Proposals to develop a parcel of land using pedestrian neighborhood zone standards and has received a number of expressions of interest. The County continues to conduct public outreach through presentations, events, and media, and has hired a local team (STREAM Collaborative) and a national firm (Brandloft) to assist with marketing and outreach efforts.

Project Summary

Leading by Example in Three Pilot Communities to Show Benefits of Sustainable Development

Tompkins County has set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% from 2008 levels by 2050, with an interim goal of a 20% reduction by 2020. In order to meet this goal, the County is creating three pilot projects modeled after the award-wining sustainability community, the EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI). The County is using lessons learned from EVI and partnering with the EVI Center for Sustainability Education to update, document, and package EVI best practices for widespread use, creating model building codes, policies, and zoning ordinances to support sustainable development practices, and applying these principles in three different settings as pilot projects.

The first pilot project will be a rural hamlet, known as TREE, which has a target to achieve an 80% reduction in GHG emissions compared with typical American homes. The second pilot project will demonstrate sustainable development practices in a classic urban neighborhood. The project, the Aurora Pocket Neighborhood (APN) will create a micro-neighborhood within walking distance of downtown Ithaca, and will demonstrate a comfortable community with 5-8 homes on one urban lot with shared gardens and 80% less GHG emissions than a comparable community. The third pilot project will demonstrate a sustainable village using 26 acres of County-owned land slated for development. The County will issue an RFP for developers to create densely clustered, walkable neighborhoods of 37-45 homes, while maintaining open space and easy walking distance to public transportation and community services.

As the pilot projects are launched, the County will monitor and evaluate the projects for building systems performance and GHG emissions, including monitoring during construction to evaluate building envelope integrity. Ultimately, the County will share these models through educational materials, workshops at municipal and professional conferences, training workshops for professionals, and web-based materials. By sharing the story of these model communities with planners, developers, local government officials, sustainability professionals, educators, community members, and students, Tompkins County hopes to set an example for sustainable development across the country.

Community Characteristics

Population 100,583
Area 476.05 square miles
Government Type County
Community Type Multiple
Median Household Income $46,506

Program Results

  Reported Results (as of September 2012) Projected Cumulative Results
Annual Direct GHG Reductions n/a 475 mt CO2e
Annual Overall GHG Reductions n/a 7,884 mt CO2e
Annual Cost Savings n/a $169,834

Media Coverage

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