Moving Forward: Solar Village

Jeremy and I had some serious discussion on the goals for this year, and here are our conclusions for the Core Team from the conversation:

  • CEB Press and LifeTrac taken to product release by end of 2009 – led by Marcin
  • Hexahatch taken to product release and Sawmill taken to first prototype by year end – led by Jeremy
  • Solar Village Prototype built with 4 cluster living units by end of 2009
    • Hydronic heating, with Babington/wood hybrid furnace and solar design
    • Off-shelf floorboard hydronic radiators
    • Stabilized compressed earth brick floor
    • Site-milled lumber for roof and framing
    • Living roof
    • Enclosed solar porches

We are considering putting the Solar Village at the location marked by the white circle on the map, which you can navigate at the wiki. The location is good for drainage, and is close to existing infrastructure.

That’s all we can do under the assumption that we have 2 full-time people on site. The above program aims to address comfortable living using natural building materials. 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.

For now, we’ll be going square – with CEB brick. Though I think round structures feel the best, round or rounded structures are too difficult to build with the presently-available square brick.

We have the sawmill design near completion. We still need to source the cutting blades and submit the complete design for review.

We are thinking that with the CEB press in production, we can afford to simply buy the Babington burner off-shelf. This leads to the next priority – a below-bedrock, deep water well.

The deep water well is huge in importance. We can live with our rainwater catchment and shallow well for now, and if all were to go well, we will have a proper well rig as well. This would build on our well-drilling experience from last year.

But for now, CEB, LifeTrac, Hexahatch, and Sawmill are the definite goals by year-end 2009. Home and hearth is first. The central water system and kitchen space inside the workshop addition will do for now.

We’ll need good design for the Solar Village. We also heard that a local guy does solar CEB heat-retaining walls, for houses that never drop below 45 Fahrenheit in winters here. We’ll have to visit him as well.

As we move back into Global Village Construction Set technology development mode, some points of clarification arise. First, after long discussions with Edward Miller, who invited us to present at Monmouth College – I think we’ll start identifying our work more with Resilient Communities instead of Global Villages. I think that Resilient Communities are a term that is entering the mainstream. Jamais Cascio just got an article published in Foreign Policy on the topic.

Resilient embodies sustainable, regenerative, and other features – all the properties close to the Construction Set and OSE Specifications for Distributive Enterprise. So, Resilient Community Construction Set (RCCS)? Of course resilient communities are globally-interlinked. They are autonomous – but not in the sense of isolated – but in the sense of controlling their own destiny – just to clarify what autonomous means. Autonomous communities should be grounded in local production and global exchange – so they could trade with equally autonomous partners around the globe, while avoiding geopolitical quabbles.

Regarding building the community at Factor e Farm, we want to clarify that we would like to get back to the monthly product development cycles – where we do development leading to prototyping on a monthly timescale. This cycle includes crowd review and funding. As such, we should be able to generate a specified amount of value per month. We have demonstrated around $2k per month fundability last year, and we are setting a goal of roughly $1k generated per month for any new developer accepted to live on-site at Factor e Farm. Our gatekeeping is high after our recent experiences. We feel that we need to keep standards high – consistent with goals of developing world-class open product development capacity.

This leads to major issues with scalability. The project has scaled to only 2 full-time developers. This means that we can potentially double our rate of product development, but that is also not nearly close to delivering the entire GVCS on time – in the 2 year period proposed at the beginning of this year. We believe that strong gatekeeping – coupled with clear expectations – will actually increase project success instead of limiting the amount of on-site collaboration. We do, however, realize that the audience of potential developers is small, for a multitude of reasons.

At present, we have only 38 True Fans subscribers – to whom we are grateful for believing in this work sufficiently to put their money where their mouth is. That means we have a guaranteed budget of about $380 per month, smaller than the $10k/month that we were hoping for in the near future. This is not a lost cause, as we also think Factor e Farm will enter a new plane upon our first product release, for which we have sufficient funding. We will also return to the crowd funding, and our strategy is to work 100% with donations, until we reach production.

Most, if not all, of our issues at present are caused by limited resources. We think that we will enjoy a significant spike in interest, on all fronts, with our first product release – not to mention the capacity to generate value by production.

So we’ll see what happens. Really, nobody said that building the world’s first, replicable, open source, resilient community would be easy. For certain, none of us have a clue what that process will really evolve into.

10 Comments

  1. Andy Mahoney

    Interesting read. With regards to the babington burner atomizing nozzles.

    I manufacturer them to order.

    http://homebrewpower.co.uk/Babington-Burner-Nozzles-For-Sale.html

    Andy Mahoney

  2. Edward

    These goals are great. With regard to your current situation, I think these priorities are perfectly in order.

  3. Moving Leads | GLOBAL MATRIX LEADS

    […] Moving Forward | Open Source Ecology […]

  4. Lost Chief

    Why not build the roof with bricks? I researched this while looking into CEB at first. Just need to build a wood frame to arch the bricks over. Seen pictures of CEB brick roofs covering spans of over 70 feet. No i dont remember where but if/when i do i will post the link.

    I think its a waste to use lumber for the roof instead of CEB. And a CEB roof should hold much more materials on top over wood. One pic i saw of a roof of bricks that spanned i think about 50 feet had like 10 people standing in the middle and this was an open front building for musical performances of some sort.

    My view is to use limited lumber to make the frames to build the ceb roof and save the wood for sales or flooring to help with your cold area.

  5. Marcin

    The first step is to master quality control on regular walls. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with arches, domes, and vaults without an experienced professional on-site to lead the project. There’s a course at Auroville Earth Institute that we should consider attending if we cannot invite a professional here:

    http://www.earth-auroville.com/?nav=menu&pg=training&id1=5

    Any experienced CEB roof builders out there?

  6. […] This fits into the context of Solar Village. […]

  7. Amatul

    Milling Lumber
    and
    melting down roadside cans and dirt into metal
    Im still so so SO excited about these, as everyone needs boards and metal on farms, etc to live…. who do you know who lives without wooden boards or metal..? almost nobody. thus village would have very valuable trade guilds for building and for generating local income asap.

  8. […] II comes from 2 feet below ground level on the Western part of the land parcel, marked by the white circle on the map. The soil fraction appears to be about 40% clay on top, a small fraction (<10%) of silt, and the […]

  9. […] “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, http://openfarmtech.org/weblog/?p=632 […]

  10. Darrell

    This is all pretty cool, something I’d love to be doing myself, and my family is looking forward to a farmette in the not too distant future. It’s 2011, how is all this going?

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