When Jack Wall and Kamala Bauers first walked the 75-acre mountain property that would become the home of the Floyd EcoVillage, they saw the site as an opportunity to fulfill their shared vision of living off the land with others in a multi-generational intentional community focused on energy efficiency and sustainable agriculture.
The couple’s interests in community and energy efficiency have been long standing. Decades ago, and at different times, they each lived in one of Floyd’s first intentional communities, which Bauers describes as having been more of an extended family. She remembers the benefits of simple living and sharing resources, of gardening, cooking and eating together. “It was an inexpensive and healthy way to live,” she recalls.
More recently, Bauers and Wall have put their interest in clean energy into practice with a succession of building projects designed to reduce energy consumption through passive energy gains and provide needed energy through renewable sources.
In 2007, before breaking ground at the EcoVillage, they built the Hotel Floyd, a designated “Virginia Green Lodging” establishment in the heart of downtown Floyd. Constructed with the latest green technologies and sustainable building materials and furnishings, the hotel’s themed rooms showcase the art, furniture, music and culture of Floyd County.
Following the completion and success of the Hotel Floyd, the couple began construction at the EcoVillage property of a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified office building for Wall Residences, their regional business that has been providing residential foster care for individuals with disabilities since 1995. The 4,700-square-foot building with a timber-framed entrance and foyer is a model of green building technology with a geo-thermal heating and cooling system and 82 photovoltaic solar panels that provide most of the building’s energy needs.
Drawing on their experience in green building, Wall and Bauers began construction on the EcoVillage, two miles from Floyd’s one stoplight, in 2010. “We’re getting better at understanding how to build cost-effective, energy-efficient buildings and buildings that basically don’t use any energy. Our intention is to be a net-zero energy community,” says Wall, who was director of Mental Retardation Services for a Virginia Community Service Board before founding Wall Residences.
Sustainable local economy is another interest the couple promotes through their own businesses and through the non-profit local boards and organizations they serve on, such as SustainFloyd and The Partnership for Floyd. As innovative business leaders, they designed the EcoVillage with an economic plan at its center as a way to ensure its success. “The objective is to create opportunities for jobs here on the land,” says Bauers.
Initial jobs will be in commercial gardening and food preparation. Working residents who are interested in food production will provide soups, salads and sandwiches, made with food grown organically on the property, to Wall Residences employees and other EcoVillage residents. Wall and Bauers also envision the development of EcoVillage value-added products, such as fruit jams, salsa, pies and casseroles that could be sold to the public. “We’re putting the orchard in this year,” Wall reports.
The first two homes of a projected 25, clustered in co-housing style, are completed and occupied. A single family net-zero energy home is owned by Wall and Bauers. A nearby passive house duplex is occupied by two families that work on the property at the Wall Residences office. Options to rent, buy or build at the EcoVillage offer a range of possible fits, making community membership more accessible to more people.
Wall and Bauers recently hosted an afternoon gathering of community leaders and individuals of the larger Floyd community to share plans for the EcoVillage and to hear what others are doing. As the sun lowered in the sky, a group of educators, small farmers, holistic health practitioners, artists, environmental activists and others passed the village chicken coop on their way up the hill from the clustered home site for a tour of the property. Wall led the group to the village campground and bathhouse and showed them the site where eight earth-bermed (partly earth-covered) efficiency apartments and five off-the-grid earth-bermed homes are ready to be built.
The off-the-grid residences will look down on to the EcoVillage pond and the community center that will be used for retreats, conferences and celebrations. The community center, which will be available for public rental, will house a commercial kitchen and a high school in its lower level. Wall, who serves on the board of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, describes the high school as “student-directed with a holistic model and a focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), as well as on academics.” He says he hopes to have the school open for the 2012 school year.
The village’s close proximity to town is a plus as well. A back-road bike trail and the availability of a village truck and an electric car will make it possible for residents to live without the expense of a vehicle if they choose to. “You won’t have to go somewhere else to work if you don’t want to,” says Bauers, explaining that home-based cottage industries are encouraged.
The property includes spring-fed creeks, mountain views and a nature trail, which runs along the perimeter. Plans include a commercial garden, a barn for animals, a stocked fish pond, honey bees, a greenhouse and a meditation cabin tucked into the woods. “It’s exciting,” Wall says, adding that he’s open to the possibilities and ideas that others will bring to the community. ~ Colleen Redman
~ The following is reprinted from the November issue of Natural Awakenings of Southwest Virginia. For more information about the Eco Village, call Jack Wall at 540-392-4381 or visit FloydEcoVillage.com.