Eno Commons Cohousing Common House and the entrance to the Community from the car park.
The Cohousing Conference bus tour was cracking a rocking pace. We’d been to Solterra and were now arriving at Eno Commons.
About fifteen minutes or so out of Durham, Eno Commons took its name from the river that winds through these parts of North Carolina. Eno is also the name of the native Americans who once lived here – these were their lands. The Eno River State Park is popular for hiking, canoeing, picnicking and just enjoying the scenic ambience.
The site the cohousing community is situated on is described as “combining an open meadow, beautiful woods and a rocky creek, with the peaceful feeling of a rural setting”. It has lovely productive gardens and a real sense of wide open parklands edged by forest.
The houses of Eno Commons have two designs with either north or south facing yards.
The site plans helps explain it
Type A is approximately 1500 square feet two bedrooms, some have a third bedroom upstairs. Type B is close to 2000 square feet and can be four bedrooms. Some are ‘zero lots’ meaning on the lot line with an attached wall to maximise space.
Type A house is smaller but very liveable. The floor is an attractive colour and is simply dyed concrete scored to look like tiles with polyurethane on top to keep the richness of the colour and maintain the finish these householders are wanting for their floors. The small unit comprises two bedrooms, a bathroom, a laundry and a backyard.
The homes are very energy efficient. They are passive solar designed with an overhang. All have geothermal heat pumps – cycling water and a system that forces out the air. The members considered other options but found geothermal to be not only very expensive but unfortunately the forced air heat pumps with the big condensers outside were way too noisy. These forced air heat pumping geothermal units that they have chosen are quiet and they are not at all begrudging the cost of between $USD1300 and $1500. Their power costs went down. They have tax credits although these run out this year. They will recoup fifty per cent over the next five years and they are happy with good quality heating and cooling.
Eno Commons kept the building costs down by working with the builders. They enjoyed having choices and they had a great site supervisor which made all the difference. They also found that building together made it easier.
In the Common House, Sue, our guide gave us some sense of the life of the community. As well as meals they gather there for all sorts of events. Sue said that there are two stand-out experiences for her when she realised there was nowhere else in the world she would rather be. One was the terrible time of 9/11 when the two towers went down and the world fell into shock. The other was the overflowing joy and amazement watching the Obama Inauguration. Both of these brought people into the Common House to share with friends and neighbours what was going on.
“There was nowhere else I would rather have been than with Christina in the kitchen and my community.”
They have a community list server.
They bring together groups of interested people who have stimulating discussions, learning and teaching about all sorts of things Eg. like ‘Spiral Dynamics’ for instance.
“This is a great place to hang out. If we lose power we come to the Common House and play games by candlelight while the essential power is charging up.”
Hearing about the culture and dynamics of Eno Commons, the stand out thing that sets them apart is the way they approach Common Meals. The Dinner Teams are comprised of two or three people who plan, shop, pay for, prep, cook and clean up. They set up a three to four month sign-up schedule enabling people to decide who they want to work with.
“It’s a big job. Members just come and eat. Effectively people are receiving a gift from these community members with each meal. There’s constant gifting here.” Impressive!
In the Eno Commons model of dinners the meals always have a vegetarian option – they’ve “gone with the flow.” If there are guests the hosts just ask the cooks if guests are able to come.
With the cooking cycle being every three to four months, a two person team will cook twice in that time. They get a good turn up. There are only about four households who don’t’ attend out of the twenty-two.
About this time we were being strongly encouraged to get back onto the bus to head off to Elderberry and so ran out of time for more questions. The following information comes from their website.
“Eno Commons is a community of 22 houses clustered together on 11 acres in Durham, North Carolina. Our homes are either 1483 or 1974 square feet, with passive solar design and energy efficient geo-thermal heating and cooling. Homes are individually owned, but we share a common house (and common meals once or twice a week), a workshop, a playground, an organic vegetable garden, and lots of green space. We have neighbours at a variety of ages and stages, with lots of opportunity for socializing, project work, and community building.
We have 35 Adult Members; 18 Child Members and 3 Non-member Residents. The community has 61-70% women and 31-40% men with no transgenders at the moment. They accept visitors and they are open to new members.”
“Eno Commons is a safe, close-knit neighborhood with some remarkable facilities. By acting on our values of being energy efficient, environmentally friendly and inclusive, our neighborhood has created an affordable passive solar neighborhood and the first geothermal neighborhood in the Triangle area. We are also one of the first mixed-age wheelchair-accessible neighborhoods in the state.”