No Drought of Positive Steps at Thriving Communities

April 17, 2015

By Steve Villano

The historic and mandatory California drought restrictions imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown early this month have heralded a new era of limits for many Californians, impacting everything about the way we live.

The New York Times put it succinctly:

“A punishing drought—and the unprecedented measures the State announced to compel people to reduce water consumption—is forcing a consideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has been for so long been the State’s driving engine, has run against the limits of nature.”

And Governor Brown has framed the challenge well:

“You just can’t live the way you always have.  For over 10,000 years, people lived in California, but the number of those people were never more than 300,000 or 400,000.  Now, we are embarked upon an experiment that no one has ever tried:  38 million people, with 32 million vehicles, living at the level of comfort that we all strive to attain.  This will require adjustments.  This will require learning.”

Well, Governor Brown only has to look to Napa County to see a prototype for “learning” to live in a new type of community – a thriving community – and it’s not a few years off, but it’s here NOW.(  Working in tandem with the greenest of environmentally sensitive builders, Healthy Buildings USA ( – which has a decades-long record of building some of the most sustainable residences, commercial buildings and dormitories throughout the state of California – Thriving Communities has for the past several years anticipated this moment: when diminishing natural resources would point the way to living in a new, sustainable, and economically viable community, where neighbors become neighbors once again.

Using all recycled materials in its attractively designed, state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable homes and multi-family units, Thriving Communities is redefining the reality of living in a community.  In Harvest Village, a  “pocket neighborhood,” and Napa Creek Village, a 48-unit multi-family condo community, Thriving Communities & Healthy Buildings USA are going far “beyond green.”  Each community will be built for maximum conservation of energy, water and natural resources, by using solar energy to heat and cool each unit, collecting and recycling rainwater, installing a high-tech greywater system, and planting drought resistant landscaping.  Additionally, it is projected that 127,000 gallons of water will be saved each year at Napa Creek Village alone, over conventional construction and community design.  The time for building homes and multi-family units the old, conventional stick-built way is over.  Adjustments, like these, must be made.

Thriving Communities also envisions workforce housing for people who work and live in the same geographic area, reducing over-dependency on long commutes to get to work, and reducing carbon air pollution generated by automobiles still running on conventional fuel.  It’s one way to deal with the negative environmental effects of some of the 32 million cars that Governor Brown mentioned above.

The Net Zero Energy units will be environmentally healthy on the inside as well, with no formaldehyde, PVC’s, or volatile organic components used in any construction material.  That, combined with a tight building envelope with insulation standards that far exceed state standards, ensure these projects will have the healthiest indoor air quality possible.

Additionally, Thriving Communities are intentionally designed to maximize the positive health benefits of living in a real, working community, where neighbors share common facilities, have ample access to open spaces and community gardens, and look out for each other.  The positive personal health benefits of living in such a community have been well documented in medical studies, most famously the “Roseto Effect,” highlighted in a previous Thriving Communities blog (April 6, 2015).

At every level and in every way, the prototype for the post-drought blueprint is already here in Napa County, and Thriving Communities is leading the process of “learning to live” in a changing environment, articulated by Governor Brown.

For Californians, the future can be found in Napa County, in the simple lessons of our past: of living lives respectful of our limited natural resources, and of each other.  It’s the reason Thriving Communities was created. (