Summary: Cobb Hill
Cobb Hill Cohousing, Inc.
Jeff Schoellkopf Design/The Design Group
Jeff Schoellkopf Design/The Design Group
Mark Albee, Albee Construction, Inc., Kevin O’Hara, O’
Hara & Gercke, Inc.
Cobb Hill Cohousing, Inc.
|Cobb Hill Cohousing, Inc.
Chittenden Bank, Socially Responsible Banking Fund
Owner occupied single family, duplex and flats.
DENSITY: 5 units per acre for
portion of land dedicated to housing, overall density is .1 units per acre.
Homes also have partially and fully finished walk out basements. Laundry:
Common with some private (Mtg room, kitchen, dining, workshop, guest rooms,
apartments, den with fireplace.
Parking: Common, separate from housing
Total site area: 265 acres
New construction wood frame homes.
Land cost: $347,745; Constr. costs: $5,033,954; Other costs: $87,756;
Total development costs: $6,349,069 ($276,046/unit) Completed 2003.
Cobb Hill - Hartland, VT
Cobb Hill is a Vermont
housing community of 23 families
which were built at moderate cost with several subsidized
affordable homes. The goal of Cobb Hill was to create an environmentally sound
community with an emphasis on preserving the surrounding agricultur
al landscape and developing organic farm
ing ventures. The project
included the restoration of two defunct farms with careful site planning in order to
preserve and enhance the agricultural land
and farmhouses were also preserved to be utilized as a
office spaces for the non-profit Sustainability
Institute, and to promote community uses among residents.
including the architects and planners, engineers, systems experts,
biologists, and contractors were all part of an
integrated design process. The residents to be were the
developers and played a very active role. During development, particular attention was
made to climate and micro-climate, solar access, hydrology, geology and habitat. The site for
Cobb Hill was selected for its rich soil, southern exposure and proximity to
the Hannover/Lebanon, NH area and Dartmouth.
The Cobb Hill plan
housing and a common house on four acres
of a sloping pasture. The site planning separated parking
and pedestrian friendly zones while preserving
over 250 acres of agricultural fields, pastures, and
forest. A majority of the land was put into conservation, and the funds generated were committed
to the affordable homes.
Cobb Hill consists of 14 new buildings, including seven single family
houses, five duplexes, one shared house and a common house with three apartments. The homes are
organized around a hillside village green. A one-lane road runs
up the hill to the north of Cobb Hill. Parking is located away from the homes, in order to minimize the
presence of cars and ensure safety. The sloping paths at Cobb Hill are designed to allow
cart access to residents.
generally modest in size, ranging from 400 square
feet apartments to 1400 square feet four bedroom homes. In
addition basements are well lit and provide optional use space. The community common
house is approximately 3200 square feet on the main floor and provides
for shared meals, larger events, and a community den with a stone fireplace. All the buildings
at Cobb Hill are oriented for sun tempering, natural ventilation, picturesque views and community
interaction. The building massing allows for buffering, winter solar gains and summer shading.
Maintenance is simplified by basic building form, metal roofs, vented siding, concrete foundations,
water resistant detailing and fiberglass framed windows.
All buildings have advanced water conservation features,
including composting toilets. Grey water is collected and
dispersed through a leach field at the foot of the hill. The leach field area was minimized in order to
preserve more land for agriculture. Cobb Hill utilizes
70% less water than
Vermont standards require.
Cobb Hill is a five star Energy Star rated
project and has been awarded two ‘Excellence in Design’
awards from Efficiency Vermont. All buildings are well insulated and
especially well air sealed. A central wood boiler with hydronic district distribution heats the
homes and provides hot water. Many of the homes have solar hot
water heating tied into the system
as well. Three energy efficient gas boilers are available for backup heat. Residents and consultants
gather data and track the overall performance of Cobb Hill.
The materials used to construct Cobb Hill include fly ash in the concrete foundations, 7” walls framed
with “I” studs, FSC lumber and dens–pak cellulose
insulation. Local wood is used for siding, cabinets and flooring. The exteriors at Cobb Hill are designed with
either shingle or vertical shiplap siding and all buildings have standing seam metal roofs. All building
scrap materials were actively recycled by the contractor. The community
at Cobb Hill composts and recycling bins are located throughout the facility. All the paints and stains used have
low VOC content. Low energy fans are used to ventilate the composting toilets and bathrooms and kitchens are also
vented on demand.
Lessons Learned from the architect -
Enlisting the builders early in the process
was key. The AIA CM/GMP process and contracts were helpful and the builder input during plans
development was important. Their commitment to green materials, systems, and quality was developed
through this process.
Making some allowances for future
needs has worked. Though all homes could not afford solar hot water systems at first- all were piped
from attic to basement to allow for future installation. At this point almost all homes have added
systems. Passive radon vents were provided and made
accessible, when several homes tested high for radon, in line vent fans were easily added to the
pipes and the problems solved. Provisions have been made long term to replace the heating plant with
some form of renewable based co generation, for combined heat and power.
It takes a village to restore a farm.
The micro enterprises now include maple syrup, hay, wool, lamb, eggs, chicken, flowers, an abundance
of organic fruits and veggies, and award winning cheese.
On the harder lessons- the more
communal living arrangements- in the Common House and a "shared" house- have been problematic, both
with banks and residents, the central energy system works great in winter but may be loosing more
energy to the ground in summer than should, more centralized wood storage near the boiler would be
good, and the grey water system has been clogging occasionally- this remains a mystery under
It takes enormous
commitment for residents to be their own developers. This took about 5 years from inception to move
in. And it takes significant designer and contractor e
fforts to coordinate a process with this many families involved and
a developing client base during the course of the process.
Great preservation of agricultural facility, it
increases the density but preserves farmland. This model could potentially help control regional
The design is a fascinating cluster development
on a working farm.
- Is this ultimately really affordable?