Born from architect Paolo Soleri's ideas of "arcology"—theoretical habitats that marry architecture and ecology to maintain high-density populations by reducing the overpopulation and environmental-impact problems common to urban areas—the Green Century Institute was founded to spread the word. After attending several Arcosanti conventions—which addressed Soleri's ideas—in central Arizona, Michael Gosney started up the San Francisco-based group to see if he could manifest some of those ideas physically. Now, GCI is working to make a San Francisco Bay-area eco-city, known as Califia, a reality by 2015.
The idea of the eco-city isn't wholly uncommon around the world, of course—various European and Brazilian communities have managed to create urban, sustainable developments. But in America there is, to date, no model. Califia aims to create one for large-scale eco-city projects (about 7,000—10,000 people) in the U.S. and around the world. By focusing on ground-up initiatives such as sustainable energy use, food production, and building materials; creating both urban and natural spaces; and developing a values-based system of cooperation and pooling of resources among neighbors, Califia essentially aims to be the LEED of municipal development.
Unlike existing eco-cities, GCI is also working hard to develop a social network that will serve as a foundation long before builders ever even break ground. With an existing online wiki already developing, they see the human element—not just sharing space (co-housing, community, and social spaces, will be elemental, for example) and resources with neighbors, but actually knowing them—as an essential piece in maximizing Califia's potential.
The team behind Califia is already in talks with some major developers about getting this project off the ground, and aim to build it in several phases over the next ten years, eventually housing 10,000 residents. ::Califia