September 28, 2021
As human beings, we understand the intrinsic value of water. Our cells, organs, and tissues are made of water. It sustains us as living creatures. It sustains the plants and animals we eat to survive and thrive. Simply put, water is us.
At Enso Village, we have a deep commitment to water – honoring its worth, recognizing its life-giving and life-sustaining properties, and learning from both our earned wisdom and our past mistakes so we as humans may strive to better utilize it.
Because fresh, clean, safe water is not necessarily a renewable resource for all of us. And valuing water means valuing our future.
Creating the “Enso standard”
One thing that should be noted about Enso Village: From its very beginning stages, this community capitalized on its opportunity to think big. That’s why the Zen-inspired model has been able to take shape in numerous ways throughout the community that’s already forming.
“The leadership for this community is determined to create something specific, in a very specific place, and for a very specific resident,” said Abena Darden, senior associate with Thorton Tomasetti, a global scientific and engineering firm. Darden has been with them for more than 12 years and provides senior-level support for projects in the Bay area and the Pacific Northwest, including for Enso Village.
“Because of that deep commitment, the leadership for Enso Village has put sustainability first.”
That sustainability-first approach includes Enso Village’s financing sources, Green Bonds. These types of bonds are designated bonds designed to encourage sustainability and to support climate-related or other types of special environmental projects.
More specifically, Green Bonds finance projects aimed at energy efficiency, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, fishery and forestry, the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, clean transportation, clean water and sustainable water management. They also finance the cultivation of environmentally friendly technologies and the mitigation of climate change.
Enso Village, which has made a commitment to long-term sustainability and environmental stewardship, was approved for the offering through an independent third-party review — a requirement for issuance of the bonds.
From the very outset, Enso Village’s stakeholders “didn’t want to be beholden to any one specific green rating system,” Darden said. “Instead, they wanted to collect the best aspects of the thinking, process, and ideas around sustainability and create something that would resonate with future residents.”
For example, before construction ever began, community stakeholders, designers, and architects focused on building materials. They purposefully avoided any materials on the Red List — materials containing chemicals that have been designated as harmful to living creatures or the environment. They chose instead to use best-in-class materials that would protect the health of residents and staff.
Darden said Enso Village is truly unique from other projects she’s been involved with, mainly because Enso Village’s team is more sustainability-driven than cost-driven.
“Cost is obviously a factor, but hasn’t been the first question,” she said. The first question is always, how can we do more? How can we advance sustainability and advance this community? And then we look at the numbers.”
The Enso model for water stewardship
Our water isn’t truly “our” water. It comes to us from many miles away – in Healdsburg’s case, from the Russian River. And the Russian River springs from the Laughlin Range just east of Willits, almost 70 miles northwest.
So the question becomes, how can we be the best stewards of the water that has been given to us?
At Enso Village, good stewardship takes many forms: Being good stewards of the water to be consumed, as well as the water used for landscaping and irrigation. It also includes rainwater that falls on-site at the community.
Darden, who’s been called the “water guru” because of her passion for thoughtful water usage, pointed out that Enso Village has integrated purposeful strategies at different levels to tap our water’s full potential.
That includes plans to install fixtures in residences, like low-flow toilets and high-performance shower heads that offer the same water pressure but actually use less water.
“We have been very strategic in choosing fixtures that wouldn’t compromise performance,” Darden emphasized. “Quality and performance will not be impacted. Residents won’t see any reduction in quality at all.”
Darden said these types of features aren’t a new concept; the technology has been around for years. However, deciding to install water-conserving fixtures goes back to Enso Village’s commitment to lead the way in terms of thoughtful design.
“This really is emblematic of the greater goal, which is to be a Zen-inspired community,” she said.
In other places on campus, designers and advisers have looked at ways to capture and recycle stormwater through water retention systems, thereby lessening the burden on the watershed. They’re also researching rainwater collection features for use in irrigation throughout the community.
Once future residents move in, there will be opportunities for them to create plans for water stewardship. Susan O’Connell, Enso Village’s Spiritual Director, said this will be part of the community preference process.
“This is an example of how residents will provide sustainable solutions,” she said. “It’s possible that together residents and leadership could create a manual for what it means to live in a sustainable home and how water plays a role as a resource.”
Ultimately, Darden said, the goal is to recognize water as the life-giving resource it is and honor its value by using it wisely. Already, when Darden figured how much water each person at Enso Village would consume each day – through irrigation, residence usage, staff consumption, kitchen process loads – the total came in at around 35 gallons per person.
The city of Healdsburg’s current water restrictions? As of summer 2021, they restricted water use to 74 gallons per person per day.
“That’s considered a drastic restriction,” Darden said. “We’re pleased to show we’ll be at less than half that amount because of the choices and the commitment we’ve made.”
And that, O’Connell added, is a perfect example of putting the wisdom of our experiences into practice for the greater good.
Become more connected to water and its priceless value.
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