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)

1 – Saba Center

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:

8 – Tiny Home Designs


10 Responses to Grounds

  1. david says:

    Where are you?

  2. Saba is currently in the process of finding the right piece of land to fulfill our needs. We’re exploring options in western new hampshire.

  3. Sarina says:

    Hi, I wanted to know if you are interested in any water therapy instructors as well. Peace & light Sarina

  4. Absolutely! Water therapy seems like it would be an integral part of the Solarium Spa space.

  5. Alex Anon says:

    You guys should consider domes or yurts, as they are considerably more cost efficient for a start-up community such as the one you are considering. Not every building has to be one, it could simply be a jumping off point for future buildings of a more permanent nature. You may also run into less building code issues with such structures.

    14 – 16 foot domes (or yurts) also make fairly affordable residences that provide a greater degree of privacy than a communal dorm (you could also space them out among the ten acres, lending to a very uncluttered appearance such that they architecturally and aesthetically blend into the forest). I realize that many intentional communities utilize a shared dorm concept, but that is obviously not a fixed requirement.

    • Saba says:

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the feedback! Actually, the first structure we anticipate building once we acquire the land is a yurt, for exactly the reasons you mention. We plan on living in this yurt and practicing permaculture on the land as soon as we get there. While it would be nice to get Saba Center built right away, we’re planning on starting small and simple, with the goal of realizing our vision one step at a time.

  6. My oh my, you have some serious regulatory hurdles ahead of you! Good luck with that. Happy to see you will start small with yurts. Since you are still looking for land, perhaps the land you find will be in proximity to an abandoned school or church or other large shelter. Sometimes it makes more sense to recycle existing infrastructure to do a number of things: A) avoid effort & expense of new construction B) create a link to the surrounding community C) Re-invigorate rural community.

    BTW, IMHO, you will not be able to afford, emotionally or $, to accept all that will be attracted to your promise of barrier-free shelter & board. Sad but our existing health-care systems have left the landscape littered with the seriously broken and even the environmental/alternative sub-culture will provide you an endless stream of cons, can’t commits, summer-trippers & predators of many stripes.

    Risky business, but if not you, who?
    I co-founded a shamanic ecovillage which lasted 10 years, am an sb builder & inventor/artist so happy to consult pro bono on whatever would assist your cause.

    David Cameron
    Projects Coordinator
    The Blockhouse School
    South Shore Social Ventures Co-op Ltd

    • Saba says:

      Hi David,

      So far the hurdles have not been too difficult. We’ll see as we move forward. Regarding the population of the community, we obviously intend to be responsible with how many can sustainably stay on the land. I also trust that our member consensus decision-making process will prevent any aggressive guests or visitors from staying in the community. As far as people looking for summer, seasonal, or retreat-like stay, we are always open to discussion.

      It seems that you have skills and experience that could definitely benefit us in Saba’s pursuits. Thank you so much for your offer of assistance. We intend to have project dates posted in the near future and we’ll be looking to sign up volunteers soon!

  7. Brandon Burns says:

    Greetings friends! Are you still looking for land or are you settled? Eye am a fellow visionary, mystic, and healer- and this project (and many others like it) interest me immensely. It is my intention to collect experience and information, offer support in the realization of these dreams into reality with work, ideas, etc. and otherwise continue the propagation of such commUnities until my family’s true home is revealed. Your ideologies are a perfect match for my own, and my heart sings at the possibilities you all have so courageously offered. Please keep me posted on the materialization of this manifestation, and if eye may offer you a strong back, a focused mind, and a soft, open and unguarded heart in your endeavors it here, it is now, my beloved reflections!

  8. missrisner says:

    How many cleared acres are you seeking? And how many wooded? I may have space for your group, but it’s in Maine. If not, I’d like to use your ideas for my own intentional community. How many people do you plan to accommodate?

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