Invitation to Participate in the Planning of a Solar Village

Dear friends,

This goes in particular to some architects and planners, but also to the Global Villages list in general because I hope we do not leave anybody out who might be interested.

In a nutshell, this is about the attempt to opensource a whole village design process and constitute a learning example for communities around the world. Very basic questions will be asked, and although local circumstances and the structure of participants are very special, there are lessons to be learned for similar endavours around the world.

So what is it? As most of you know, there is a 30 acre site in Missouri, a one hour drive away from Kansas City, called the Factor E Farm. This site was established by Marcin Jakubowski and Brittany Gill about three years ago to host a research and development center for the development of a set of technologies they originally called the “Global Village Construction Set”. These technologies aim at enabling people to live in circumstances of greater freedom and independence, by simply enabling them to maintain the basic infrastructures of life in a locality themselves as a group, community or local society.

We have seen several experiments witch communities and ecovillages around the world from New Alchemy, the Farm, Findhorn to Arcosanti, we have seen legendary places that often fall short behind their aspirations but have been influental inspiring nevertheless. What is special about this endavour in Missouri is that it is totally designed around the new possibilities of the internet and global communication. The idea is that all technology involved should be understandeable and replicable, according to climates and circumstances, in most areas of the world. The resonating power of many communities should enhance the knowledge and abilities of each single one. In one word: the bottomline is Open Source.

In the course of the presentation of this approach in Austria, it was the agreed purpose of Marcin, the founder, and me, the networker, to overcome some limitations that so far plagued the project. The prime goal is to make the project as a whole more comprehensible for outsiders so they can pitch in with their qualifications and do part of the work – simply
because there is no better place in the world you can invest your work into. No pension fund and no monetary compensation can create the security and perspective that a fully developed Global Villages infrastructure can give us and the rest of the world.

Now we want to go right to the heart of the matter and involve you, the architects.

We think there is a lot to be learned from an Open Source planning process. We think there will be always advantages to engage a knowledgeable person in one phase of a project to come up with a good solution to a complex set of questions, draw on experience and deep embedded intuitional knowledge formed by years and decades of studies. But
we also think that on the other side, Users should be knowledgeable too and take active poart in the design process. In fact that makes your work much easier and makes the result less prone to mistakes and the curse of overlooked details.

You have to think of many things when you start to build the first house, and that is exactly where we are at.

As a side result to Marcins trip to Austria several new people volunteered to participate from afar or locally on the project, among them is Inga, a translator by profession, who will move from Austria to Facrtor_e_Farm and wants to catalyze both the emergence of the planned solar village and the
liveability of the structures. So “Inga’s house” is the centerpoint here, but this comes with the necessity to build a good masterplan for the whole village and consider many questions to be answered correctly.

Thats where you come in. Please respond to Ingas ongoing design specifications and the basic discussions.

Please inform yourself about the general idea of a solar village by considering the following pages. Here is a sitemap.

The location of the village is in the Western Area of the farm, which is
supposed to be a living, gardening and demonstration area.

The idea is that about 30 people will eventually be living and working at
the farm, with a flexible scheme that also holds families.

Basic assumptions are outlined here.

Factual information is collected here.

And a caveat:

“We have not mastered our living environment to date. As such, we hope
that a high-production (3000 brick per day) CEB machine, and a sawmill,
combined with stabilized brick floors and central hydronic hybrid heating
– will allow us to demonstrate that we can build comfortable housing
readily with almost all local materials. We have not succeeded at this
with the earthbag and cordwood structures – because of the large time
requirements for building and finishing irregular, round structures. We
still aim to put in stabilized CEB floors in these structures, and finish
stuccoing at some point – but that is a priority secondary to the above
goals and our skill base will evolve with this year’s experiences.”
Weblog post on the solar village,

So what is needed?

Answers, and in this phase both practical answers and visionary answers,
to the following questions:

  • What could be the overall design of the village, expandeable and
    modular? How would a public space or village square be placed?
  • Keeping in mind that this place has a definite goal and is more than
    hust a regular living and housing comunity, how could a certain degree of
    co-ownership and common responsibility be established? (Covenant)
  • How can local resources and systems be integrated?
  • Good ideas for methods, procedures, functionality, aesthetics? Bring in what you know best!! Even if its a small detail!

Please be as subjective as you like and add ideas for the house baised on
the constraints outlined above, and write a letter to Inga and Dustin:
Dustin Tusnovics volunteered to guide the communication professionally.

Ingas mail is: Inga von Boehm-Bezing

Dustins mail is: “dustin a. tusnovics”

Ideally, your letter should become the core of your Wiki page.

There will be regular team meetings on Skype. Ingas Skype Handle is
ingeburg66 and Dustins is dustin.tusnovics

I will observe the process but not actively take part in it unless

All the best

Franz Nahrada


  1. Franz

    from Michel:

    Hi Franz,

    I’m not an architect, so I can’t participate, but it seems to me that a crucial aspect of success is to decouple the open source developments of the plans, from the different concrete locations where they could be applied,

    It seems to me that the different aspects should be clearly separated, and put online, so that different online communities can improve the project under different modules, which can then be integrated in different ways in different locales, even as one locale, Marcin’s in this case, would give the most impetus and form the real core of the project,

    But it seems to me that success depends on seeing it as a true open and global project,


  2. Franz

    from Vinay: – Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps

    might be useful in terms of having a language to discuss the infrastructure aspects of the project.

    enthusiastic to see how this house project progresses. good luck!


  3. Franz

    from Dustin:

    Dear Franz,

    thanks for this brilliant introduction and to Vinay for the infrastructural maps,
    I guess we should soon work on a scheme (with that trace!!) as to keep structured
    so that the main focus does not fall behind, and Inga’s house can be realised in August!!

    reminds me a little of the research project I am working on when I talk about transdisciplinary research!!



  4. Marcin

    From Franz:

    I would like to introduce Dustin Tusnovics, architect from Vienna who has
    volunteered to coordinate the expert side on Inga’s house project.

    Dustins main theme is architecture and communication, as you can see on
    his website here:

    It is very interesting for me that he is involved in a poverty relief and
    urban design project in Southafrika, the ,Montic Skill Center in the
    Township Magagula Heights; 40 km from Johannesburg – but he never heard of
    Frithjof Bergmann there.

    If you look at his website you will see that Montic Skill Center is
    * a poverty relief project realized with help of his students from the
    University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg.
    * that the project was realised in five weeks by 25 students from Europe
    and 20 people from the local community.
    * that the idea of involvement as driving force for a project has worked

    Thank you Dustin, for joining the Global Villages Network
    ( and I havve also invited you here to our
    mailing list. Since you adressed the yahoo group but are not a member yet
    here I forward your replies here.

    I will not document the whole process in this mailinglist, but I invite
    you all to take a peek at the OSE Wiki and look at the progress of things:

    1. Marcin

      From Dustin:

      Dear Global Villages community,

      I am architect and as such I think we have to structure the entire process
      a little,
      as we otherwise risk to miss the point, but the challenge is big:

      we should divide general considerations from concrete site specific ones
      as a start,
      but also then work out general building advice and specific indications
      for Inga’s house.
      as I can see this has already been started.

      general considerations:

      * 100% natural building components that are to be realised with low tech
      open source technology:
      so we talk about mud, straw, timber, bricks, some glazing will eventually
      be necessary, etc.
      * other general considerations could be linked to the construction
      technique used, as each material has specific
      requirements, problems and advantages!
      * then the building size and orientation should be looked at as lots of
      energy can be saved in this way, i
      would say.

      but to more site focussed topics

      1) Inga was asking Mr. Hecken (see the video about constructions in Africa

      > “All your buildings are located in very hot climate Zones. Ours is in a
      >moderate climate zone similar to Alps. If heat or cold, houses need
      >insulation. Wow do you handle the problem? A member of the ground team in
      >Missouri suggested to use polyurethane foam or something similar (see [
      > ] but I am totally opposed. This
      >does not comply with our philosophy!

      I would definitively not want to live on some kind of a foam to isolate
      from the ground,
      unless one uses foam all over!! but I guess you have already decided not
      to use it!!

      it is not very natural and second, any rain water could eventually damage
      the building,
      especially if it is made of sun dried bricks. As we discussed in Vienna, a
      thick layer of rocks would be a good
      and simple platform for the building to rest on, or in alternative a
      construction that permits air to
      circulate under the building, but at the same time prevents water to get
      there (pipes??)

      air is a fairly good insulation.

      I alternative one could also use a simple ‘concrete slab’ but as Missouri
      is comparable with Carinthia, I am not sure if this would be really that
      simple and sustainable.

      even in such a simple questions there are many options!!

      2) Inga is raising doubt if the people at FeF will be able to construct a

      >Marcins opinion: “A round vault is much easier than a round dome (only
      >round in one direction)”.
      >Without knowing much, when I described my wishes for the house I said it
      >should have 7 by 7 meters or something like 45 to 5o squaremeters.

      well, it might be very tough to go for a dome (circular!!) on a square
      (7x7m) house,

      I would suggest either a circular house and a dome ore opt for two vaults,
      resting on some kind fo a central load bearing structure, which could also
      be an arch??

      or else another option would be to have two vaults intersecting in the
      centre, but again a lot of skill required??

      3) use sundried bricks without protection??

      I would say that some of the African and Jemenite experience of beautiful
      historical buildings that due to NO
      maintenance are disappearing, due to rain in winter and drying in summer!

      Francis buildings [
      ] do show and alternative,
      a big roof that prevents bricks from exposure to rain etc, but would also
      be good to collect rainwater,
      prevent the building from overheating in summer, getting the air to
      circulate underneath, and
      also be the right means (the cantilever can be calculated due to the sun
      inclination see: [

      for 21.December as the shortest day with an inclination of 23.84° (sounds
      really very flat!!), and see:


      for 21.June as the longest day with 70.72 °, so in gthis way we can
      determine the cantilever of the roof
      to shade in summer and let the heat in in winter!!


      so, this is a little start from my side and a sign that I am around.
      will be happy to sort of get some sketches done to explain and assemble
      the ideas as we move on,
      but I am also still trying to catch up with all the information available
      as I was away for 10 days!!

      I don’t want to sound to pragmatic, but in order to make all this open
      source I guess a lot of structure
      is needed as every body is sitting at some angle and we are to realise
      Inga’s house first,
      but a lot of this will also be of great help to my own project in Africa,
      and I guess many others to follow!!

      looking forward to hear more,



      dustin a. tusnovics + partners
      architects – trieste/vienna

      Dipl.Ing.-Dott.Arch. Dr.techn.
      University Lecturer & Visiting Professor
      [ ]
      [ ]

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