Demonstration Site: Takoma Village
Takoma Village, located in northwest Washington, DC, consists of 22 townhouse-style buildings divided into 43 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. The project was completed in January, 2001, and a ribbon cutting event was held on May 4, 2001. Takoma Village has garnered a fair amount of attention for being DC's first co-housing project, where residents can take a turn at cooking a group meal, share the cost of some condo-owned appliances and equipment, and be a part of what's come to be known as a 'conscious community'. The building itself also speaks to more mainstream values, in that it clearly illustrates the role of affordable, energy efficient, infill construction as a catalyst for urban renewal.
Indeed, there are many in the National Capital Region who regard Takoma Village as a particularly welcome addition, and have been following its progress on these pages and in the press. Attractive, reasonably priced, high quality housing is a scarce commodity in Washington, and sustainable, resource-efficient housing, within the reach of most middle class homebuyers, is rarer still. However, with PATH's help, Takoma Village is showing other area builders and developers how it can be done. More importantly, the project has taken shape right in our Nation's own backyard, where policy-makers and lawmakers can see for themselves how sustainable, green buildings serve as a real asset. Regardless of one's personal beliefs or political affiliation, designing for efficiency and performance makes good economic sense -- especially as energy costs continue to rise and availability of affordable housing can no longer be taken for granted.
Refining a Sustainable Design
This PATH Demonstration Project originally broke ground in November 1999, at a ceremony attended by leaders in housing, finance, media, and local government, along with a number of the community's future residents. Through the design development and bidding stages, some innovative building technologies, initially investigated by PATH, had to be scrapped in order to keep construction costs -- and the purchase price -- well within the affordable range. Nonetheless, many PATH-evaluated technologies and design enhancements survived the 'value engineering' process, and were incorporated in the finished project.
Foremost among these are
geothermal heating and cooling (a system that relies on the relatively constant temperature of the earth below the frostline),
low-VOC(volatile organic compound) paints and finishes, and
optimum value engineering (OVE). OVE seeks to reduce material usage without compromising strength and durability. The developer/architect worked closely with the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium to integrate geothermal systems in individual units and the common house. In addition, barrier-free ground floor flats were designed to exceed current accessibility requirements.
Other technologies included blown-in cellulose insulation (a product that fills gaps in wall cavities and around utility chases with a dense fibrous material derived from recycled newsprint),
solar domestic hot water systems,
fiber cement siding, renewable framing materials (engineered wood, steel, or combinations thereof), and low-emissivity, aluminum-framed windows with thermal breaks. Augmented by the highly efficient geothermal heating and cooling system, this design resulted in a thermally efficient structure that contributes to the residents' comfort and reduces their monthly utility bills. Rounding out Takoma Village's energy saving and green building features are
horizontal axis clothes washers (located in the Common House),
HVAC ductwork installed within the conditioned space,
recycled content carpeting, and
low toxicity wood preservative.
During the design process, energy analyses were performed to ensure that insulation levels and glazing would be optimized. Post-construction diagnostic testing was performed to qualify the project under EPA's ENERGY STAR Homes program. In advance of testing, PATH worked closely with EPA to develop a Builder Option Package specifically geared for Takoma Village. An alternative to an ENERGY STAR rating, the Builder Option Package takes into account the project's higher levels of insulation, use of ground source heat pumps, and overall HVAC system performance.
Owners met weekly during the planning process to address a wide range of issues, suggestions, and ideas. Design preferences and other concerns were then brought to the developer/architect for review. Unlike most multi-family housing developments, where the eventual occupants have little or no say in the design process, a large percentage of Takoma Village property owners were on board from day one. Many of them played an active role in the decision process, developed a good rapport with developer /architect, and gained a better understanding of what's involved in seeing a building from concept to completion. In a real sense, they started forming a community long before the first moving trucks arrived at the site.
To further promote an integrated, 'whole building' design approach, the architectural research and consulting firm, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) provided technical assistance to Takoma Village throughout design development and construction. SWA took part in green building materials/systems research and selection, performed energy analyses, and provided logistical support to both the design team and owner's group representatives.
Residents are enjoying their new homes, and it's apparent that members of the Takoma Village community appreciate the many advantages of an energy and resource efficient urban development. Takoma Village is more than just the National Capital Region's first cohousing project. Located in Washington, DC's upper Northwest sector, Takoma Village represents a renewed commitment to affordable, energy-efficient, environmentally conscious, urban development.
Since this project's completion, Architect/Developer Donald Tucker of Ecohousing in Bethesda, MS has since worked on another cohousing project that was awarded an NAHB 2005 National Green Building Award.
To find out more about the Takoma Village Cohousing Project, visit
This project has been completed
Content updated on 9/13/2006