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Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities

Fundamentals of Design

(a post-petroleum preparation and permaculture practicum)

"With every passing day it becomes clearer to us that as civilization continues to self-destruct, we need to discern how we prefer to spend our time and energy, and with whom. What we least want to do is mimic the culture of empire by limiting our focus to logistics, thereby losing sight of our deep humanity. We know that we cannot survive alone. Even if we have learned every physical survival skill imaginable, we still need our fellow human earthlings in order to navigate collapse. Moreover, if I and my companions in collapse cannot deeply listen to each other and speak our truths with compassion, even if we survive, it will be within an internally vacuous emotional domain that would render survival nothing less than absurd."

— Carolyn Baker and Sally Erickson, "We Can Survive But Can We Communicate?"

This workshop is based on designing and living in actual communities. This is the real stuff, not just theory, from some of the best village designers, people with collectively more than a century living in and co-creating intentional communities and ecovillages. The 8-day course covers principles of site selection and the built environment, the market for sustainable community, why people chose to live in ecovillages, financial aspects, work issues, the permaculture design process, restoring old sites, wildlife protection, bonding, decisionmaking processes, transforming conflict and constructing happiness.

With Greg Ramsey, who has been awarded United Nations "Architect of the Year" recognition for his seminal influence on sustainable development internationally, we will learn the craft of master planning. Roads, water systems, access, utilities, viewscapes, street anchors, and the pattern language of hamlets, villages and towns, are all examined from the master architect's and city engineer's viewpoint. Greg shows us not only what needs to be considered, but how to go about researching, mapping, sketching, and creating finished drawings and models for presentation.

Diana Leafe Christian teaches the principles that underlie effective group interaction. All groups need a roadmap to help them navigate the process of co-evolution. Ecovillages face unique challenges from the built environment, the legal environment and the human ecology of neo-tribalism after a millennial hiatus to the Age of Reason. It helps immeasurably to have well-trained facilitators who are familiar with the inner terrain of group dynamics and can cultivate the trust required to transcend differences and petty disputes. Skilled facilitators are like midwives. They help the group, as a whole, move into the shared understanding from which good decisions emerge. Well-performed facilitation makes meetings enjoyable and leaves participants wanting to come back for more. We spend fully half our workshop learning about the "invisible architecture" of community, because cultivating mutual respect, sharing and collective healing are critically important to surviving the era of peak oil and rapid climate change. These are skills and methods that are largely ignored in modern times, but were recognized and venerated in earlier eras. Diana guides our recovery.

Albert Bates designed the curriculum for this workshop after working on the curricula for the two-week course in Crystal Waters, Australia, the month-long ecovillage design course offered by Gaia Education Associates in Scotland, Brazil, Italy, Germany and elsewhere, and the semester or longer advanced courses employed by Gaia University and others. With fellow ecovillage pioneers Max Lindegger, Declan and Margrit Kennedy, Hamish Stewart, Peter Bane, Andy Langford, Liora Adler, Jonathan Dawson, Lucilla Borio, Ina Meyer-Stoll and others, Albert has been instructing ecovillage design and developing coursewares for educational professionals since 1995.

Taken together with the Fundamentals of Permaculture, this course completes the requirements for a Permaculture Design Certificate.

Ecovillage Training Center, 931-964-4474 ecovillage at thefarm dot org

Sustainable Villages: Fundamentals of Design
Course Architecture

First Evening
Design principles
Functional elements of a village
Definition: ecovillage

Following Week
Designers tools & terms
The pattern language of community
Site assessment and design process
Vision and goal setting
Coalescing core group
Community glue
An architecture of place
Shelter: immediate & enduring
Professional support and co-design

Community financial stability
Reducing consumption
Capital formation
Resource management
Income generation
Cultural ecologies
Natural building (hands on)

Communications and conflict resolution
Consensus process (exercise)
Stages of community life
Catalyzing and managing change
Anticipating crisis and chaos

Village Design Charette with the experts (3 days)

Design exercise presentations
Follow ups and networks
Review and closing

Who should attend: community activists working with social issues; students with an interest in sustainable design; community redevelopers; builders; social architects; educators; non-governmental organizations; urban, rural and regional planning and design professionals. 

About The Farm: Live and work in an ecovillage for a week and get a sense of the issues. The Farm is one of the largest and best known intentional communities in the U.S. Located on 5000 wooded acres in south central Tennessee, it is home to approximately 200 persons today. Founded in 1971 with a spiritual commitment to simple living and self-reliance, The Farm has pioneered a wide range of social and physical technologies appropriate to low-cost, high satisfaction community living. The Farm community offers examples of solar building design, micro-enterprise, mushroom cultivation, large scale composting and food production, and regenerative hardwood forest management.

Greg Ramsey comes from a 30-year family tradition of conservation planning. He spent the first 13 years of his life in France where his father, George Ramsey, the professor of architecture at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, developed the architectural theory of sustainability design and natural construction. Greg received B.S. and M. Arch. degrees from Georgia Tech where he continued his study of traditional towns and villages. He has earned several awards for his built projects that embody conservation and sustainable development principles, including the 1998 and 1999 AIA Georgia Excellence in Design awards for sustainability. Recent clients include the Catawba Indian Nation, Progressive Redevelopment of Atlanta, The Sierra Club, Lake Claire Cohousing, East Lake Commons Cohousing, Georgia Urban Forestry Council, and many others. Greg leads tours of the Provence region of France every year to meet with master planners, preservationists, cultural historians, naturalists, and afficianados of ecological design. You can view some of Greg's recent projects at He likes projects which redevelop "brownfields;" old industrial sites of the type that litter the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Warsaw, and Bucharest. He lives in one such old brownfields site in Atlanta, which now grows bamboo, apples, and squash where there used to be a railroad cinderyard.

Diana Leafe Christian is author of Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow an Ecovillage or Intentional Community (2004), and Finding Community (2007). She is the former editor of Communities Magazine and lives in Earthaven Ecovillage.

Albert Bates has been called one of the "fathers" of the sustainability movement. He is the principal founder of the Ecovillage Training Center in Tennessee where he has taught sustainable design, natural building, agriculture and technology to students from more than 50 nations. He is author of eleven books on law, energy, history and environment, including Climate in Crisis (1990) and The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook (2006). He holds a number of design patents and was inventor of the concentrating photovoltaic arrays and solar-powered automobile displayed at the 1982 World's Fair. He serves as an advisor to sustainable community experiments in Russia, Israel, South America and the Middle East. He holds a B.A. from Syracuse University, L.L.B. and Juris Doctor degrees from New York Law School, and is a licensed ham radio operator and paramedic. He is founder of the Ecovillage Network of the Americas and has served as President and Chairman of the Board of the Global Ecovillage Network, where he currently serves as United Nations Headquarters Representative.

Occasional Guest Instructors:

Scott Horton has taught at the Permaculture Institute of Northern California, as well as in Oregon and Mexico. In 2001 he founded La Semilla Besada, a Permaculture site in Northern New Mexico he plans to develop into a retreat and teaching center. He is editor of The Permaculture Activist, North America's leading voice of the Permaculture design movement.

Maria Martinez Ros has been working in Latin America for more  than 10 years in ecovillage design; coordinating groups, managing production, teaching, developing educational strategies, instructing in health and ecological subjects, and involving local communities in ecology, health, human development, permaculture and the arts.

Andrew Goodheart Brown is a well-versed, highly skilled and inspirational biologist. If he is not here teaching he may be off counting whales in New Zealand or primates in Uganda, or working in firetowers in Alaska. He is one of the founders of Earthaven ecovillage near Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Ily Longstocking, an urban designer, architect, researcher, and teacher on topics of sustainable settlements and building, is on the Faculty of Architecture, Dept of Sustainable Technology and Design, Delft University of Technology. She has lived in and designed experimental communities in The Netherlands and works for the DIOC, the Delft Ecological City.

Murad Al Khufash "The Crazy Palestinian" was a founding director of the Marda Permaculture Farm in Nabluus, Palestine, and developed the heirloom seed collection project there. He now works for the Palestinian-Israeli Peace thru Permaculture Project.

Course fees include tuition, manuals, meals, and lodging. Prices, dates and instructors subject to change. Check with our calendar for the latest. Discount for payment a month in advance or for registering a friend. Non-refundable deposit to register.

Visit the Ecovillage Training Center

Global Village Institutei4at animation
for Appropriate Technology
184 Schoolhouse Rd, PO Box 90
Summertown TN 38483-0090 USA

ecovillage at thefarm dot org