Recent Bay Area TEDx Sustainable Cities Series Features Presentations on Arcology

Last Saturday, Cosanti Foundation president Jeff Stein presented at an event organized by a group based in SF called TEDxMission. The name of this particular event was called TEDxMission 2.0 The City. It featured discussions with leaders in the sustainability field. There was a specific focus on innovative ideas and technologies relating to urban design (and particularly in terms of the Bay Area): “to share the powerful narratives of urban innovators and organizers, stewards and artists, builders and tastemakers.”

Besides Stein, the other speakers I recognized were (my thought is that these people could be a potential network resource for making Arcosanti more sustainable):

  • Brock Dolman is a permaculture expert who is well known on the west coast. He is a Occidential Arts & Ecology Center Lecturer  (OAEC) in Occidental CA and a guest lecturer at the Regenerative Design Institute in nearby Bolinas. Sewing Circle is an intentional community  small ecovillage/intentional community that is interwoven with OAEC similar to the way Cosanti Foundation is with Cosanti Originals at Arcosanti.
  • Geoff Lawton excited a lot of people by what he was able to achieve in Jordan on a dryland permaculture project that showed much was possible even in a very desolate desert environment. Considering the challenge that Arcosanti faces in growing food in a similar climate, he might be a great link towards increasing agricultural productivity.
  • James Hanusa has been active in the Bay Area Sustainability community. We crossed paths via the Global Summit 2010 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Currently he is CEO of the Urban Innovation Exchange a SF “economic development organization that co-creates innovation ecosystems rooted in sustainability and culture with an experiential approach.” Most recently according to their website, they enabled a design charette between Rio and San Francisco for the Bay2Rio+20 Group. Hanusa is doing work that seems to fit well with Michael Gosney’s presentation to TEDxMission at an earlier event: “Designing the Control Panel for Spaceship Earth.

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UNM Ecology Arts Students Visit Arcosanti

Now that I have some spare time, I am going through my notes and pictures and posting some of the more notable experiences from my last few years at Arcosanti.

One of the memorable experiences for me was in September of last year students from the Land Arts of the American West Program at the University of New Mexico explored and engaged with Arcosanti and the surrounding site for two days in September of 2011. This was a chance for me to learn about the Land Arts movement and some radical ideas about artistic collaboration and co-creation.

On Sept 14 2011, 10 students and two instructors from the Ecology Arts Program at the University of New Mexico participated in a “synergy” at Arcosanti. The focus of their efforts was to help better organize the worm farming/vermiculture system at Arcosanti, which I was in charge of at the time. I am not sure this was the ideal project for them at Arcosanti, but I was impressed that they tackled it with such passion and dedication.

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May Meeting Leads to the Construction of the First AgriPod Greenhouse in the USA

Linda pulls me in Dick’s push cart in a lighthearted moment after using the cart to move the solar hot water panel out of storage.

This is a continuing series of posts about my travels though the USA earlier this year with my friend Linda Ford. We had the chance to explore several projects promoting Appropriate Technologies and alternative living during the trip.

After leaving Strawbale Studios on May 7th, 2012, Linda and I went down to Athens Ohio where SolaRoof/AgriPod founder Rick (Richard) Nelson was to meet with Richard (Dick) Hogan for the first time. While there, I had the chance to get to know Rick and Dick, who later in the year built the first AgriPod greenhouse built in the USA.

The AgriPod system is a unique two level greenhouse design. It is designed especially with consideration to Rick Nelson’s SolaRoof design; an innovative a passive solar heated and cooled greenhouse growing system that uses bubble machines to fill a cavity space between the inside and outside of the structure with bubbles to insulate.

Also notable was our opportunity to diagnose a broken solar hot water system, fix it and then take our first solar hot water shower – all in the same day!

Over the last several years, I have considered the possibility of developing a Solaroof prototype at Arcosanti, Arizona. I discussed this plan with them, including some of the possibilities and challenges for developing a prototype AgriPod at Arcosanti.

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How Green are Modular Building Systems?

Someone in my network is looking for help regarding help on an effort to find modular housing for a project proposal in Libya:

I have had a request for a sample for modular housing in Libya, 5-10 units @ 100′ sq. each.

Any promo materials you have please forward and I can let you know if they’re interested… please allow 30 day turnaround from your submission

I had learned a little bit about modular systems in my past research on ecological design. In contemplating the email I realized it would be interesting to use the email as an opportunity to find out what is available as way to update my knowledge of the sub-field and update my knowledge of the field.

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Documentary about Biophillic Design Features Arcosanti

Bill Finnegan came by and took some footage of Arcosanti for his documentary about Biophilic Design. Finnegan has a production company called Tamarack Media.

Biophilic Design is a term coined by the neo-Darwinian ecologist E O Wilson who has sought to demonstrate the links that humans have with their environment and consider design processes that reinforce more conscious living through Biophilic Design.

Biophilic Design is quite similar to Ecological Design concept developed by Sim Van Der Ryn and also the Biomimicry concept developed by Janine Beynus, but with a focus on how buildings call actually promote more thoughtful interactions with nature.

The documentary is a companion to the book published by Wiley and editted by Stephen R. Kellert, Judith Heerwagen and Martin Mador titled Biophilic Design : The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life.

From the GreenArchitect.com blog post about Biophilic Design:

Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life is an incredible new resource from Wiley to advance the art and science of this emerging design practice in architecture. As the book states, “Biophilic design is a new approach to sustainable development that incorporates the positive experience of nature into the design of the built environment.”

Chapter 2: The Nature of Human Nature (Edward O. Wilson)Chapter 3: A Good Place to Settle: Biomimicry, Biophilia, and the Return of Nature’s Inspiration to Architecture (Janine Benyus)

Chapter 12: The Extinction of Natural Experience in the Built Environment (Robert Pyle and David Orr)

Chapter 13: Biophilia and Sensory Aesthetics (Judith Heerwagen and Bert Gregory)

Chapter 17: Towards Biophilic Cities: Strategies for Integrating Nature into Urban Design (Tim Beatley)

Chapter 19: The Greening of the Brain (Pliny Fisk)

Chapter 22: Transforming Building Practices through Biophilic Design (Jenifer Seal Cramer and William Browning)

Chapter 23: Reflections on Implementing Biophilic Design (Robert Fox and Robert Berkebile)

Related Articles and Research:

Arcosanti Visitor Provides Insights about Baja, Ecological Design and Healthy Living

Being a tourguide at Arcosanti provides a chance to interact with the diversity of people passing through.

The other day a guy from Mexico came by and took a tour with me – Peter. His family is from Spain but he has spent much of his time in USA. Somehow we got to talking about the Yestermorrow Institute and I said a friend was thinking about going. He said he interned at Yestermorrow and that it is a great program for hands-on learning about Ecological Design. He also mentioned that he had been working on a designing a project with Tony Brown; a local Prescott based architect that founded the Ecosa Institute (which I attended in 2000). Tony was helping him to plan out a project in Baja California that was to be a center for ecological design in the region where he lives. Unforunately, one of the financial backers of the project pulled out at the last minute. Peter currently runs a organic restaurant and community center in San Jose del Cabo in Baja California Sur, Mexico. He says the community is a diverse place and some are open to alternative health, healthy eating and living…although the urban built environment sounded a bit dismal and what you would expect in a Mexican coastal tourist community.

He told me that on his way across the country he stopped to meet artist Alex Grey which he said was one of the highlights of his trip.

Peter also mentioned staying about six months in Auroville during 2001. My friends David Tollas and Nadia Begin also spent a year there in 2005 (or around that time) so I introduced Peter to them and they had a chance to connect and it turned out they had some mutual aquaintances including Daniel Greenberg of Living Routes (which as a learning program that goes to Auroville).