Okay, so I haven’t posted in a while and for several very good reasons. For one I have had some life changes with my working situation that has thrown me off a bit – I am starting to get back on top of that and getting back to moving forward with this. Second, it is spring and lots of planting and garden work needs to be done – I have been busy trying to get things prep’d and ready. Third, I have been stumbling on the design aspect of the living building challenge and that is what I want to talk about today.
So I have been going at this with the standard commercial design process in mind – concept – schematic design -design development – construction ready. In this standard process the idea starts out fuzzy and get’s refined to reality. I have come to the reality that this process is severely flawed and doesn’t create a sustainable balanced product. So I am rethinking the process and going to go at this a little differently – I seem to do things differently from others anyways so why not the design process.
I have noticed that one of my key elements that I need to address before proceeding with the design is my energy budget. Where am I going to pull my energy and resources from, what is my theoretical maximum limit and what safety or fluctuation factor am I going to have. This is important, it determines how and what types of systems I have in the building. Of course I am going to stick with my base premise of making sure the base living systems are simple and manual at the very least with powered convenience layered on top as available and supported by my power budget.
Also, I need to develop a resource budget – for things such as water, material for the methane generator, light, garden, etc. These play into how the structure gets designed. If I have limited heating resources then I need to boost my envelope performance until I can break the basic minimum with fluctuation factor. If I have limited water storage capacity then I need to design for water conservation – for example I have been toying with a simple shower water filtration system that would allow for a minimal amount of water to be used by recirculating it through a simple sand filter – this would also help to conserve energy as it would minimize the amount of heat needed to bring it up to temperature since we are not heating fresh but just reheating.
One thing I have going for me is that I am doing this in three stages – the first stage will be to compare the operation of conventional and non-conventional sustainable techniques. So I don’t need to have all of this accomplished by the first stage since I will be doing minimal changes to the existing structure. The second stage will be to evaluate the operational characteristics, make some functional changes as needed to run smoothly and fit real life. Third stage where I need to have all my information ready and complete will be the final push – that’s where I take what has been working, what has proven itself and match it to my budgets to finish the structure and create a sustainable living environment.
So back to the drawing board in a sense, time to rethink the process. The whole owner – designer – builder relationship just isn’t ever going to be feasible or reasonable in designing sustainable homes. I have read about the integration already, but it is going to have to be a whole team effort with everyone putting in effort. The engineers and architects will be there to help define system limits and the contractor there to define functional construct ability limits, the owner helping to make decisions on what he prefers. The engineers will most definitely need to take a stronger stance, actually embrace the role of protecting the public as they should and inform the owner and other team members what basic systems need to be in place, sustainable, and simple – water, air, heat/cool, shelter, etc – basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
When considering energy and resource budgets, I am further convinced as to the inadequacy and ignorance of our standard commercial construction practices. They lack the diversity and robustness to be sustainable and functional for a progressive world, they are a drain and blight on our community and future – these buildings should be stopped from being constructed, existing structures should have to be converted to support themselves, and the design community be reeducated to develop naturally adaptive self sustaining buildings that are a positive attribute to the community and the natural surroundings.
My design is going to take a bit longer than I expected, but I think I will have a better chance of reaching a realistic goal than I would if I just tried to rush through it like all the other standard construction projects out there. I know this was long, had a little ranting in it, but in the end I hope you got a little out of it and wish me luck as I continue forward.