One of our goals at Saba Cooperative is for the location, layout, and materials used on the grounds and in the structures to be ecologically and economically sustainable. We intend to use local and natural building materials and to utilize passive and active solar collection and storage systems for energy. Because of our cold climate, a significant concern for structures is heat retention, and we intend to utilize the support of nature for this purpose using passive solar, thermally-massive, and earth-sheltered designs for the community center, living quarters, and greenhouses. We plan to harvest and store rainwater by integrating water catchment and storage systems into building designs. Towards the abolition of waste, we intend to recycle all gray-water and use composting toilets instead of a septic system.
Additionally, Saba’s goal is to provide a sustainable food system that meets the community’s food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems. Saba commits to the use of permaculture principles to promote conservation and regeneration of healthy ecological conditions not only for the current community, but for generations to come. Permaculture differs from conventional agriculture in that it is based on working with, not against nature, observing nature’s patterns and then integrating those insights into a sustainable land-use design. The anticipated application of the permaculture design will integrate local wildlife, edible forest gardening, pasture-paddock chicken raising, biologically diverse perennial polyculture herb and vegetable gardens, and the utilization of patterns found in nature in the gardens, greenhouses, and structures.
Grounds Concept Map (click to zoom)
Saba Center is the envisioned community center and main structure at Saba. The partially-earth-sheltered building will be composed of a rubble-bag foundation, a post and timber frame, strawbale insulation, and the walls covered with an adobe type mixture. The ceiling will be composed of round logs radiating down from the peak, insulated and water-proofed, and finally topped with a durable roof suited to this climate. Saba Center’s structural design will incorporate a large solar greenhouse on the southern side, an earth-sheltered root cellar on the northern side, and a large open kitchen/dining/living room on the first floor. Private and shared sleeping and treatment spaces will be on the second floor, and will open out into an airy open gathering space complete with a rock-salt zen garden, a waterfall, and a balcony looking down into the greenhouse. All bathrooms will feature composting toilets and graywater will be recycled to the gardens. Below are some early concept sketches:
2 – Spiraling Forest Gardens
Saba intends to cultivate a permaculture food forest at the edge of the woods, integrating perennial fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines, and perennial vegetables which have yields directly beneficial to humans. We intend to practice organic no-till methods that emphasize building healthy soil by adding layers of organic compost on top, preserving a natural balance of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobial bacteria, and ultimately contributing to increased yields and improved overall ecosystem health.
3 – Solarium Spa
A large, earth-sheltered solarium will feature a long swimming pool, multiple solar-heated hot-tubs, and a sauna. Useful plants that enjoy warmth and humidity will be integrated into the space, and the huge thermal mass of the pools will assist in regulating temperatures.
4 – Regenerative Polyculture Pastures
Saba plans to use pasture paddock chicken-raising techniques in an effort to provide chickens with a large portion of their natural food needs, (plants and insects,) through cyclical pasturing, allowing the perennial polyculture to regenerate and preventing overgrazing. An open-bottom, moveable chicken coop will provide the chickens with a familiar place to lay their eggs and to roost at night while avoiding the manure build-up associated with stationary coops, ultimately contributing to happier, healthier chickens. One or more passive-solar structure(s) in the middle of the pastures will catch and store heat in thermal mass to help keep the chickens warm during the harsh winter. In return, the chickens will provide us with fresh eggs, pest control, fertilizing, and light tilling.
5 – Pond Habitat and Aquaculture System
One or more ponds at Saba will catch and store rainwater and run-off, providing the ideal habitat for moisture-loving plants, a variety of fish species, and ducks. We hope to use some of Sepp Holzer’s methods in the design and layout of the ponds. By laying out the ponds lengthwise parallel to the prevailing winds we hope to increase the oxygenation of the water, and by strategically placing thermally massive rocks and hugelkultur wind-breaks, to cultivate micro-climatic conditions.
6 – Open-Air-Market/Street-Theatre Above and Studio/Workshop/Gallery Below
An earth-sheltered passive-solar structure with a small greenhouse on the southern side will serve as a year-round studio/gallery/workshop space where members and guests can pursue a variety of creative and artistic endeavours. On top of this structure will stand a ring of pillars holding up a reciprocating roof frame with a removable shade umbrella, providing an open-air market space during the warmer months, and an outdoor “street-theatre” style venue for concerts and other performances. Below are some early concept sketches:
7 – Woodland Amphitheatre
With just the addition of stones found on the land, Saba plans to sculpt an amphitheatre in a clearing in the woods, providing a secluded forest venue for outdoor gatherings and a place for quiet contemplation of nature. Below is an early concept sketch: