- Our Model
Smart Urban Villages are not traditional developers. We are primarily designers and community facilitators - with a comprehensive model for long-term maintenance and management of residential communities. We design, contract builders to construct and then help manage each community, so unlike traditional developers, we're community partners for the long-term. Our success depends on your happiness.
Lease, not buy
SUV will offer long-term leases for the homes in the villages it designs, builds and operates. The standard lease term in the model is 5 or more years (with no lock-in) and will renew automatically if desired - so there is no need for residents to obtain a mortgage. This helps community members avoid the need for large bank loans, so they can save for other things in life and live in a place that feels like home, not a short-term rental. Short and medium term renting involves extra stress and often the need to move every few years, which is costly and very inconvenient. In the SUV model, residents can treat the homes like their own - tailoring them to meet many of their personal preferences, such as wall colours, fittings, kitchen layout and flooring.
Sustainable Design and Development
All of the villages will use passive solar design as a core principle. The buildings will be orientated to suit the path of the sun and minimise impact on the environment. The community will be able to reduce its on-going operational energy and water costs due to the superior sustainable design of the buildings, which will be independently certified before completion. Our villages will also be designed to ensure volatile organic compounds and other toxins are avoided.
The health of community residents is a high priority and will be further enhanced by the social features of our villages. There is now substantial research on the health impacts of social isolation. Indeed, it's been established that "the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity".
Other design principles include:
- Designing for the local site and climate.
- Orienting living areas to the North (in the southern hemisphere) to maximise thermal energy performance of the home (confirmed via a NatHERS Star rating) and hence reducing utility costs.
- Using the right type of glazing, in the right locations, to allow light in - but not excessive heat.
- Maximising cross flow ventilation, to reduce mechanical air conditioning demand and supply fresher air.
- Incorporating bi-directional ceiling fans as they are much cheaper than air conditioning systems.
- Providing real-time building activity feedback to residents through active monitoring systems, so they can adjust their comfort and reduce energy and water costs.
- Using reflective roof colours and roof gardens to reduce heat gain and remain cooler in summer.
- Using lightweight materials on the facade to avoid heat gain, and using internal thermal mass to stabilise indoor temperature.
- Superior insulation in roofs, walls and the floors, to provide year-round comfort.
For more information on smart design see Your Home guide – a free Government resource developed by Australian experts in sustainable house design.
Professional Management and Operations
To avoid the need to use a volunteer-dependent Body Corporates, which are notoriously difficult, time consuming and a burden to community volunteers - SUV will provide professional management for each site via a caretaker and local contractors. This will enable residents to get on with living, rather than worrying about infrastructure maintenance and technical issues they are not familiar with or skilled at managing. This will save money in the long run because a single contractor will be responsible for maintaining each specific domain: electrical, plumbing, maintenance etc - rather than everyone having to employ ad-hoc contractors, separately.
Shared Decision Making
Residents can make suggestions on improvements to the infrastructure as times goes on, and the SUV community management team will combine these with professional advice to ensure villages are well maintained. Beyond the essential and high level operations of each community, residents will be encouraged to participate in the grass-root community decision making, if they want to and have time. For example, the local residents might decide when shared meals at the community hall are provided, when events are run in their hall or which crops to plant this season in the community garden!
This is a bit different to a pure cohousing model which suggests residents should make all the decisions, typically using a consensus decision making approach. Our experience suggests such models can be taxing on volunteers and struggle to deal with critical items in a timely manner. We believe many aspects of cohousing and ecovillage models are highly desirable though; for example, holding monthly (optional) community building gatherings to prioritise ideas and resolve any issues. Other typical community gatherings include birthday celebrations or community lead workshops on all manner of things such as bicycle maintenance or how roast vegetables to perfection!
Outstanding Community Facilities
Like ecovillages and cohousing communities, our communities will have a range of common facilities that will be available to everyone living in the village.
Depending on the specifics of each site, our communities will typically include several of the facilities listed below:
- A swimming pool
- Children's play area
- Community library
- Community halls and dining area
- Community kitchen - built to a commercial standard.
- Food coop – to buy in bulk
- Green spaces
- Community garden / fruit trees
- Games room
- Online community portal (email list and profile system for event notifications and sharing lifts, food, tools etc)
- Guest rooms for visitors or travellers, friends, WWOOFERS
- Community garden for growing organic vegetables.
- Retail facilities such as a café
- Spaces for residents to rent for their small businesses
- Storage areas
- Multiple share cars for those that wish to avoid the expense of car ownership
- Car parking, though less than regular developments as share cars and access to public transport are central design features
- Shared air conditioning/heating systems
- Shared renewable power e.g. solar photovoltaics
- Workshop space
- Space for art displays.
Shared Meals and Events
Shared meals and healthy eating are common in vibrant communities around the world. SUV helps facilitate shared meals both by providing simple processes for community members who wish to participate to self-organise on a rotational basis or through the use of local chefs cooking on-site for residents. This could be twice a week or five times a week, depending on demand - with residents attending only if and when they feel like the meal on offer. Due to the 'bulk buying power' of communities, these meals will also be cheaper than dining out.
Online Community Portal
Every resident willhave the option to subscribe to various online forums or email lists which will enable them to hear about upcoming events, share ideas and share resources. Many ecovillages use these daily and save time and money by being able to access resources or assistance more quickly and easily.
Naturally the details of the model are site specific and will evolve over time, however as you can see, this way of living has a lot of advantages - with many of these great aspects already in operation in different communities around the world. We have combined these into a holistic living model we believe will speak for itself.
We are open to your feedback and innovative suggestions as we move forward. We also welcome contact from landholders, potential residents, local government representatives and industry professionals worldwide. Please register your interest above so we can keep you in the loop.
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