Cohousing doesn’t mean living in the same house as other people. Cohousing communities combine the support and shared amenities of an apartment building with the privacy and satisfaction of single-family houses. A new cohousing village opening this month in Bristol, Vermont, stuck to its principles by building everything to Efficiency Vermont’s High Performance energy standards.
Bristol Village Cohousing is unusual in that the entire community was built on previously developed land. The 2.5-acre lot was created by combining four adjacent properties on an existing road. The site plan retains two of the original houses on the land (a colonial becomes a duplex and an Italianate becomes a Common House), and the façade of a third (which becomes a fourplex). A new triplex faces the road on the fourth original property.
By repurposing existing properties for cohousing, the development achieved several desirable goals. No site clearing was required, giving the project a low embodied energy. The community is a short walk from Bristol’s town center, reducing residents’ reliance on motor vehicles and further reducing the ecological footprint. And the development fits its surroundings with minimal visual impact. The quartet of grand houses facing the street blends into the neighborhood and hides the five single-family cottages on the back of the site.
Community gardens, a common green, a workshop, a storage barn, and the Common House’s well-equipped kitchen and dining spaces reduce each resident’s individual needs. These common elements greatly enhance the smallish size of the fourteen individual units (900 to 1500 square feet), which means residents save on construction and utility bills without sacrificing lifestyle. As a result, Bristol Village is prime for perhaps the most appealing thing about cohousing: the instant community of support that inhabitants get from one another.