Happiness is, on the one hand, an entirely subjective matter; what makes me happy may differ markedly from what brings a smile to your face. On the other hand, researchers have been developing and refining techniques to measure happiness and it turns out there are some common elements that make us all happy. This is especially true with respect to the areas where we live. Proximity to water, human-scale architecture and planning that facilitates human interaction and a sense of community matter greatly when we decide to buy a home. Which brings me to an extraordinary project: Spirit Bay, the brainchild of David Butterfield and the Trust for Sustainable Development (Trust).

For twenty-five years, David and the Trust have designed and built some of the most advanced sustainable communities in North America. Beginning with Bamberton on Vancouver Island in 1989, and progressing through such flagship projects as Civano in Tucson, Arizona; Shoal Point, a brownfield re-development in Victoria, British Columbia; and Loreto Bay in Baja California Sur, Mexico; the Trust has consistently used leading-edge scientific, economic, social, cultural and financial analyses to carve out a niche as one of the world’s preeminent leaders in sustainable community technology. Spirit Bay is the culmination of everything David and the Trust have learned.

Spirit Bay is a small, close-knit, waterfront village where every decision has been based on creating an environment most likely to promote human happiness. A unique partnership between the Trust and the Beecher Bay First Nation, Spirit Bay is built on a reciprocal foundation of environmental, social and economic sustainability. This means the homes have unprecedented access to water; the architecture is both aesthetically beautiful and designed for human enjoyment; the landscape promotes healthy living; and throughout the village there is an abiding respect for the beauty of nature.

At a time when notions of “community” and “resilience” are being fiercely debated, Spirit Bay lights the way ahead by showing in a very authentic and tangible way that a modern human settlement can be created that works with nature, helps people live together and grow together, and perhaps most importantly, forges connections between people and place that truly touches people’s hearts and changes their lives. I invite you to visit www.spiritbay.ca to learn more about this exemplar of all that is good in sustainable community development.

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