Located in the Bristol, Vermont Historic District, the Bristol Village Cohousing Project (BVCH) exemplifies the notion that honoring a town’s past helps keep it vital for the future. With its 21st-century version of community living, BVCH enhances Bristol’s historic character by creating density downtown, preserving and restoring a late 19th century streetscape, and showcasing modern strategies for energy efficiency.
A community within a community, BVCH offers fourteen dwelling units within steps of Bristol’s bustling Main Street. With three multi-family buildings and five single-family cottages, BVCH invites families of different sizes and economic means to share resources and common space while preserving privacy in their own homes, probably not unlike Bristol’s residents a century ago. Clustering development within the downtown district helps local businesses, and offers residents convenient access to transportation, shopping, schools, and other services. This enhanced activity strengthens the historic downtown district.
Part of Bristol’s historic charm comes from the grid of closely-spaced residences typical of the mid-19th through early 20th centuries. BVCH renovated three historic homes (c. 1860’s and earlier) along North Street and added a similar style structure that respects the street context. Renovations ranged from simple upgrades to full reconstruction. The Peake House at 16 North Street, which serves as BVCH’s Common House, received accessibility upgrades. The dilapidated fourplex at 12 North Street was completely rebuilt save for its historic façade, which was carefully set aside and reattached on a new foundation. A new triplex filled a gap in the streetscape, restoring the traditional even spacing for downtown residences. And the renovated home-turned-duplex at 8 North Street underwent a deep energy retrofit from the inside, with increased wall depth and air sealing. The timber-framed structure with clapboard siding attached directly to the framing required careful details to maintain airflow behind the siding, while improving air sealing and insulation from the inside.
In addition to upgrades at 8 North Street, BVCH creatively used modern building science for project-wide energy efficiency. Many south-facing windows take advantage of passive solar gain. Comprehensive air sealing, air-tight triple-glazed windows, electric and heat pump hot water heating, heat recovery ventilation, and air-source heat pump heating systems combine to provide affordable strategies for smart energy use. Standing seam metal roofs with southern exposure accommodate rooftop-mounted photovoltaic systems, offsetting 25-30% of the community’s energy consumption. All of the newly constructed buildings meet Efficiency Vermont’s High Performance Home standard.
By bringing more people into the historic downtown proper, honoring Bristol’s charming character, and incorporating forward-thinking building technology, BVCH contributes to the continued appeal, v