Designing eco-friendly houses should be simple right? To make sure you have an eco friendly house it should be as simple as using green building materials and getting it LEED certified.
The truth is designing a sustainable house & community is more than just the building. At EDEN Partners we use something called the “Scale of Permanence”, first created by Australian P.A. Yeoamans, and then modified by Regenerative Agriculture expert Darren Doherty.
The idea here is to design in steps those things that are most permanent to least permanent. Using this model it prioritizes the things we can change & which will have the largest effect. When we implement changes, we ensure we are environmentally sound by following this set of simple rules.
Sure climate changes, but climate is the one thing that we cannot change. Average temperature and rainfall dictate all aspects of design, water, to access, forestry and buildings. You can modify this using micro-climates and general layouts, but not by much.
Using modern digging equipment it is possible to change the shape of the land, but it is expensive and costly to implement. Geography will dictate access, forestry and buildings, but most important where to strategically place water catchment ponds.
Water can either be a destructive or life giving force. Being able to store, distribute and harness water is the key to any eco-friendly development. It is only first by taking care of water, and slowing it’s flow that the rest of the property can be designed.
Roads and pathways are our next feature in the scale of permanence. Roads should be placed strategically on ridges or on contour to collect rain water, while reducing maintenance costs. The way roads are placed today, do not take into account the flow of water, meaning compounding costs to maintain roads.
Trees grow slowly, but in many cases will be around far longer than the buildings humans will put up. Trees are of a huge benefit to the local environment. Trees provide fuel, timber, carbon, habitat for wildlife, cycling water, and balancing temperatures. Placed along roads, this can soak up water that would otherwise damage roads.
Creating eco friendly houses requires setting “permanent” placement of buildings. Keep in mind that all buildings must take into account the trees, access, water, geography and climate before. This will change the materials used, the design, positioning, and we hope in the future, a total rethink of how property developers approach building design.
More applicable to farming, there are a couple of ideas that carry over. Do the bare minimum when it comes to fencing and only fence what will be in place for more than 3 years. With fencing, it is important to stick to topological lines, on ridges or on contour. In addition, utilities, power lines, water, etc. should all be placed next to roads or fences, so as not to mistakenly damage the electricity & water buildings are dependent upon. This is simply logical design.
Good soil supports healthy plants and trees. Luckily, regenerating soil is easier than most people think, and can be upgraded with good management. It is though good management of soil, that our designs, eventually support local economies from the yields of trees & plants on the land.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that people can now work from their homes. While dependent on remote work, there is also the possibility to change your surroundings, for increased sources of income. Community gardens and food forests can provide an important contribution to livelihoods, a subsidy to family budgets, and even profits for the community as a whole with mature food forest systems.
Water, food and energy are what we all depend on to survive. As the world turns to renewable energy, switching from extraction of fossil fuels, to photovoltaics and wind. On a small scale, these solutions provide an energy efficient and adaptable society, not dependent on a centralized grid. Mature properties can meet all their energy needs with biomass & wood chips.
It is this approach, using the scale of permanence that gives us a framework to design eco-friendly houses, and sustainable communities. In fact, this approach we hope one day will become the golden standard for all property developers. 100 years of cheap energy & bad practices, means current designers create costly designs & increased maintenance cost.
Just imagine, that if our road systems were instead used to collect water, and placed to avoid damage by water?
In short, human society is in need of a rethink in total systems design. To create eco friendly houses, it is not just the building, but the whole scale of permanence that needs to be taken into consideration.
What also needs a new way of thinking? Sustainable investing. Be sure to check out the next article, What is the most effective type of impact investments? It’s not just conservation…