The Ecovillage Axis
Ecovila Urbana Sta. Margarida and Ecovila Rural São Luiz
Barão Geraldo (Campinas – SP – Brazil)
Already internationally recognized, the Project is now in its final approval stages at Campinas city hall.
The first ecovillage located in na urban área in Brazil is already in its last stages of implementation at Barão Geraldo District, in Campinas. The “Santa Margarida” ecovillage project was developed as part of architect and urbanist Flávio Januário’s PhD research, taking place at the Architecture and Urbanism Institute of the University of São Paulo, entitled “Guidelines for the development of Urban Ecovillages”. The project will unite 51 families at the boundaries of an already urbanized area in Barão Geraldo, and is in its last approval stages at Campinas city hall.
According to the author, who idealized the Santa Margarida project as an experimental part of his PhD research, the urban ecovillage is an allotment with ecological character, based on sustainability’s principles, guided by a social, environmental and economic balance (read text below).
“Concepts applied when elaborating the Santa Margarida Ecovillage project take into consideration – for both infrastructure systems and buildings and community activities – the characteristics of its own bioregion and also international concepts for characterizing an ecovillage”, says Flávio.
These concepts have been discussed, in July 2013, by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) event, in Switzerland, to which representatives of ecovillages in 51 countries attended, including the Santa Margarida Urban Ecovillage, which represented Brazil along with Arca Verde Rural Ecovillage, from the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
GEN, a UN consultant for sustainable settlements, recognizes ecovillages as one of the 100 best practices for the planet’s sustainable development. After presentation of Santa Margarida Urban Ecovillage project at the conference, GEN’s chairmanship and CASA (Council of Sustainable Settlements in the Americas) - GEN’s affiliate at America’s continent, named that the Flor do Anhumas Institute (the management organization for Barão Geraldo’s project) would act as an extension of GEN and CASA in Campinas city metropolitan area. “The goal is to widen the ecovillage network and to propagate sustainable information and practices”, says Januário.
The ecovillage Project is in its final approval stages at the Urbanism Department in Campinas City Hall, and shall initiate the construction works in June or July, 2014 – a dry time in that region, with the infrastructure implementation in an area of 87 thousand square meters, next to the Anhumas Stream margins, respecting the 50 meters belt of Permanent Protection Area defined by the municipality.
“In Brazil there is still no urban ecovillage implemented with enough guidelines to characterize an actual ecovillage. What we have are green neighborhoods, with some houses and families living according to sustainable concepts or residential units in urban areas that also follow such concepts. Santa Margarida – if the city hall collaborates by properly analyzing projects within the deadlines – will probably be Brazil’s first urban ecovillage” affirms Januário.
Urban ecovillages, apart from the rural ecovillages that have been implemented in many regions in the country, must follow sustainability models by paying attention to the problems faced today by Brazilian cities – that vary from soil permeability and rain water outflow for flood control to urban mobility, sustainable construction practices and domestic waste and garbage treatment (read text below).
“In the case of Campinas, the proposed integrated systems for urban ecovillage Santa Margarida do not disrespect current legislation, but complement it, making the use of the urban space a lot more efficient, with quality and low cost”.
The musician and cultural agent Cabeto Rocker Pascolato, who along with his wife and daughter is the first resident in an already built and preserved space at Barão Geraldo’s ecovillage, was one of the responsible for forming the group that enabled the purchase of the area for the project implantation (read text below).
Cabeto says that the entire group has interest in sustainability and community living. “That was fundamental for enabling the project, since our undertaking has rules and standards that must be permanently followed by residents, because the urban ecovillage’s concept goes a lot further than its physical structure and implementation phase”, he affirms.
Residents, according to Cabeto, intend to have Santa Margarida serve as a role model for other similar enterprises. “And that is why visits from interested and well intentioned people are very welcome”, he affirms.
87 THOUSAND m² AT ANHUMAS MARGINS
The 87 thousand square meters area in which Santa Margarida will be implemented was acquired three years ago by future residents that wait for the Government to authorize the construction works. “Campinas has a culture of doing it wrong and then regularizing it [projects], we want to give an example by doing it legally right from the start, and we are penalized for that. Furthermore, the city hall does not possess real incentive mechanisms for positive enterprises like ours; an extremely environmentally impacting enterprise for the city is approved with the same interest by the government, if not faster. Great corporations clean the land, cut down all trees and remove existing constructions, make large land withdrawals and execute the minimum infrastructure, only changing the scale depending on the target audience. A project like that is a lot easier to analyze, since it is standard”, evaluates architect and urbanist Flávio Januário, author of the Santa Margarida urban ecovillage project.
The area belonged to Margarida Genevois, widow of french chemist Bernard Genevois. The couple lived there for 22 years, since 1944. She created a child care course, a small day care center (cribs were made from onion boxes painted blue) and made a women’s journal teaching what she had learned at a course for war nurses. Later, in São Paulo, city to which she moved, she presided the Commission for Justice and Peace at the São Paulo Archdiocese, that gave shelter to the military dictatorship opponents, denounced tortures and searched for missing people, ate the early 70’s.
Today, besides from the main house in which the Genevois couple lived, the swimming pool and a 2 thousand square meters green area with exuberant landscaping surrounding the house are the social headquarters and the “common area” of the ecovillage, a place that everyone respects and agreed to preserve as a tribute to Mrs. Margarida’s life story.
Highly coveted by real estate developers, since it is in one of the most valued urban regions in Campinas, the purchase proposal was only accepted after a detailed work performed by architect and urbanist Flávio Januário José, author of the ecovillage project.
Januário remembers that the ecovillage project presentation, bearing the promise to maintain the area for decades preserved by Margarida and her husband intact, was decisive. “She always performed social works with the neighborhood children and community, and she was happy with the project’s idea and with the destiny of her land”, he tells. The names of the neighborhood and of the ecovillage are a tribute to her.
Although the final value paid for the realty is perfectly within market values, the money that current owners had to disburse for the area and for the entire infrastructure to be implemented is way below the prices of equivalent lots in the same region.
FAR FROM CONVENTIONAL
The ecovillage’s housing proposal differs greatly from the conventional ones. Based on international experiences, the first proposal is to include diversity. “We take into consideration cultural, social and economic diversity in our enterprise. Besides people, diversity should also include the environment and other living beings, as to build a space in harmony with everything that is essential to life”, explains project author Flávio Januário, architect and urbanist.
He says that at the beginning of the project’s elaboration, the group actually thought of creating big and small lots, merged together, to allow for the participation of families with different incomes, but that wasn’t possible due to current legislation.
“If the zoning law allowed for varying land and building typologies, mixed use and open blocks that would provide people with free movement along lots, the ecovillage could have a much more social inclusive character, besides far more efficient lighting and ventilation qualities, The zoning law as it is constitutes one of the biggest social segregation factors. They’re invisible walls”, he sentences.
To enable the Santa Margarida ecovillage Project within sustainability’s principles, Januário proposed the creation of three institutional tools that are already functioning: the Cajueiro Estate Administrator, that aims at economic balance, created in partnership with architect, urbanist and bio-builder Edoardo Aranha; the Flor do Anhumas Institute of Bio construction and sustainable practices, responsible for social, environmental and educational activities, created in partnership with “Garôa musical” from also associate and first resident in the ecovillage Cabeto Rocker Pascolato; and the Association of (future) Residents of Santa Margarida (AME Santa Margarida), that possesses the function of assuring consensus between the 41 families that are already part of the project.
SYSTEMS ARE CONNCETED
At Santa Margarida Ecovillage, all trees in the area were registered and cataloged one by one, so that the streets design would cause the minimum possible impact. The street layout, the sidewalks and the common use areas, as well as the houses, must respect the highest possible maintenance of trees. “In some points, we made street curves to avoid cutting down many exotic and native species, preserving jabuticaba trees, lynchee trees, chestnut trees, copaiba trees, ipes and many others, that are more than 50 years old”, says Januário.
The infrastructure project predicts integration of all systems. The streets use the “traffic calm” system, a track narrowing that repeats itself along the entire path, as to force automobiles to reduce their speed. At that narrowing point rain gardens will be built, that work as a complementary drainage system. The gardens are integrated with bioswale that also allow rain water absorption and filtration through the soil.
House constructions must be performed in accordance with sustainability rules, and within specific ABNT (Brazilian Association of Technical Standards) standards.