zaterdag 8 mei 2010

Hohmes, a home dealing with some resistances

My desire to build this self-sufficient house comes from more than from desires for quality and freedom. It is more than the desire to live in harmony with natures’ purposes and abilities. It comes from more than the wish to built a sexy place and the fun of doing so and it’s not only about feeling well by taking care of my footprint.

There also is the desire to build a showcase. To give an example of what already is possible when it comes to sustainable building and living. And I don’t mean to set an example as a marking point for the future, but to set an example of what is already possible now. In fact the ambition to build this house also is built on a vision on energy, water and waist, which in a nutshell all come together in our homes and our way of living. In this posting I’ll only address my vision on energy.

If we look at our current energy infrastructure we look at an infrastructure that was developed when oil, coal and gas were everlasting fuels. Increasing pollution, increasing cost of pollution, increasing prices for the resources, and limited availability of resources combined with growing needs of energy were no topics as they are today. We still use the old production, distribution and supply model while facing uninvetable transition. As per transitions' nauture the transition will come slowly.

Looking at it’s characteristics we see that in every nation the energy suppliers worldwide are in hands of a few (utility) companies who produce electricity for widespread amount of customers, being people and companies who have to pay more and more for their primary resources every year. Those suppliers own our energy resources and make a profit out of their ownership. A safe bet since we all need warmth and electricity, just like we need water and shelter.

We also see that it is a high tech business that involves massive investments with amortisation and concessions over several decades which partly explains the oligopolic ownership. We also see that the electricity is produced on several spots in a country. To go short: it is a centralised organised industry: centrally in it’s ownership, investment, production, maintenance and services and with a fine mazed distribution.

If we look into the chain of energy production and wonder how our energy and electricity are produced we see that in most cases energy and electricity comes from fossil sources like coal, oil and gas. These also follow a centralised and commercial ownership and distribution ship and also are high tech and high cost driven businesses. And as we all witness again today in the gulf of Mexico: it is highly polluting as well. First we have to find the sources, drill for those sources than it has to be transported –in the case of oil: refined- and resold.
We all know the fossil resources are limited in availability. We have reached the point were we use more fossil energy than the amount of new fossil sources found: we’ve started to use previously found reserves.

We all know that burning fossil resources is polluting. The worldwide (energy) agenda is set by limiting greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) and we hardly hear about the emission of NOx (ozone destructive gas) and SO2 (acid rain) any more. The burning of fossil energy is the major contributor to all these emissions.

Whenever having the fossil resources at the electricity plants we (Dutch case) produce electricity out of these resources. At our very best we produce 440J electrical energy out of 1000J fossil energy entered. We loose 56% along the way at the plant. Before finding it’s final destination the electricity has to be transformed 3 times, resulting in 15% additional loss using the very best transformers available. And then it sill costs energy to have electricity travel it’s way trough the fine mazed distribution network to the end-user. Distribution in itself also means a loss between 5-15% depending on how far the electricity has to travel. We may conclude it is a highly inefficient model, since in the best case we loose 75% of our initial energy at the plant. Do note I’m only talking about the production and distribution to our homes and offices, not about the effort, pollution and loss that has to be made before starting to burn he fossil resources at the plants.

So we have a high tech, high cost, highly polluting, highly inefficient and a centralised organised energy model using resources that are running out while demand is growing every year –which makes prices going up even further- and we have a model that requires payments for services and profit for several owners in the chain, making it more costly by nature than without this ownership and needed services. Yet we stick to it. Why?

A reason may be that we are not in control, or tend to think we are not. We have no ownership. Another one may be we do not have a clear insight on costs of alternatives and that for the alternatives there is not yet a business model offered: who is to take responsibility for what at which cost and how will it be managed? So far nobody is asking and nobody is offering an alternative offering on a massive scale. One can have doubts waiting for the conventional energy suppliers to take the lead in proposing alternatives, mainly because it does not fit in their business model that follows the described centralised approach, following the ‘fossil way’.

Nonetheless there are alternatives using a complete opposite model. Take wind and sun for example:

Instead of having a centralised ownership, production, responsibility and maintenance, an individual, or a small group of individuals, can be owner of a local installation. It is local, low tech, low maintenance and relatively has a low investement. The initial investment is more than the monthly energy bill, but over time cost less. Instead of using a limited amount of resources wind and sun are renewables for as long as the sun will shine. Instead of being polluting these sources are clean, having zero emission. Instead of having to drill for, transport, refine and distribute the resources, wind and sun are available for harvesting purposes everywhere and every day. Instead of having to pay for profit of suppliers paying for the resources, wind and sun can’t be owned by any one and are available for free. Instead of loosing 75% of the initial energy we loose 0 if we would live in a 12 Volt house, between 5-10% if we would live in a 220V house and up to 15% if we would share our energy in a grid with our neighbourhood: it is much more efficient. But who wants to talk about loss when there are no losers involved?

One only will have to invest in technique to harvest, store or distribute the energy. For that one may need help from authorities (law), banks (finance) and technicians and building contractors. All, including the new owner, probably will need some examples to set a new mindset. Examples to learn from as to built a case and make a proper offering. Meanwhile products and services are already available and already prove to be cost efficient. Technology is ready, it only comes to implementing it. In the Netherlands grid parity between solar energy and conventional energy is expected within 5 years (source: Senter Novem april 2010). Imagine a solar panel still delivering 80% of it’s initial energy after 25 years and prices of conventional energy going up every year while maturing techniques and economics of scale will further decrease prices of solar installations and you realise you already have a winning case today.

I think a self-sufficient household that shares its data can only but help in gaining information, knowledge and can give insights to all involved in the transition we’re facing. I am convinced it offers improvement and opportunities to all of us and adds to quality of life at the same time.

maandag 3 mei 2010

Hunt for a plot

It has been some weeks since I last published steps and thougts. Main reason is I have been sollicitating municipalities, hunting for a piece of land in a period of elections. That is bad timing. In the Netherlands and certainly in the Amsterdam area there is little spare land left. Without cities -with their mandatory territory- helping, I certainly won't stand a chance. Now I'm facing both at the same time.

Meanwhile I presented my vision, ambition and plans and shared my proposal appealing for a building plot to several cities' aldermen, that are between terms of office. In that walk ending with my foot between their door I have witnessed a clear dinstinction in municipalities' attitudes: or they invited me to come over and reacted positively after hearing my presentation, or they immediately turned away, not inviting me over, saying they don't have any means of helping not showing any will to explore any alternatives. They might help me find some plot that suites my projects' needs and that can fit their development plans, for example adjacent to existing plans or areas. In the Netherlands that is the way developpers of urban spaces make a living: they buy land with a farming destination and after a period of time it legally becomes a building site. Value is created out of nothing. It is a billion euro ballgame paid for by future owners. Besides our fiscal law that facilitate 100% deduction of mortgage cost from our gross income it explains for a good deal why houses in the Netherlands are much more expensive than in surrounding countries.

For my project where harvesting warmth, sun, wind and rain is at the core of it's raison d'etre such a piece of land may very well help me out. The "farm" will need just a very small plot to fullfill the needs of it's residents, that in some way are farmers indeed. The roof will have a surface of approximately 125m2 to harvest sufficient rain water, and wind and sun must freely flow on the spot, besides some space is needed for cisterns. That's all I'm looking for.

The plot probably will have a rural character, yet not too far from a city as it does not make sense to pursuit a sustainable way of living reducing our footprint and at the same time having to bridge many kilometres for work and social and cultural life. That is, if I would burn fossiles to move around, but I don't need to. Time to take mobility into account whenever it comes to correct dimensionning of the electrical infrastructure: batteries for a car or scooter needs to be filled as well. Once filled but not used for mobility, the batteries can serve as buffering units.

So, what am I'm going to do now? While waiting for feedback on possabilities within the Amsterdam area and while re-addressing local authorities, I will set up a not for profit organisation to raise funds and sollicitate companies that may benefit from association with this project and investigate how to work together.

Next posting probably will share a vision on energy, water and waste that -besides notions of quality (read previous posting)- form other foundations of this house.

maandag 1 maart 2010

Hohmes - a qualitative way of living

Whenever I think of delicious apple juice I taste fresh apple juice, just squeezed out from crunchy apples. Sweet, refreshing, nutritious. It tastes and looks different than the ready made apple juice; the one that looks like tea or whiskey.
Whenever thinking of delicious vegetables I see knotty shaped, wild growing, ferm veggies that come in a variety of forms and sizes all having their individuality. They taste and look different than their pre-slized, blown-up and perfectly similarly shaped sisters, cleaned, and conservated in nitrogen in some cellophane bag.
Thinking of pristine pure water, in mind I hear a montains' creek or imagine cristaline spring or well water, maybe a flower refreshed by morning dew or soft rain. Bathing in rain or dew seems heavenly to me.
If I may have to choose between getting warmed by the sun or a fire versus by a hot air ventilation or a in-house radiator I irresistably choose for the two first.
I no longer need to explain if I would choose fresh air from a breeze over a blowing van in a sealed room, daylight over bulb light.

So, why not integrate those preferences in my house, in my life? Why not pursuit these simple yet heavenly pleasures? Why not take full advantage of sun, rain, wind, warmth, light? All clean, natural, widely available and usable on the spot, of excellent quality, not polluting, contributing to personal health and pleasure?

I fancy the direct experience of the pureness and quality of the fruit of nature and the sense of freedom as well as the satisfaction of being pampered. Both literally as well as in a metaphorical sense. And, altough I've lived in Amsterdam over 20 years, I guess I like the idea to live in or with nature, being part of it, enjoying it's quality and feeling related to it. In exchange I'm happy to make an effort, as it takes some efforts:

Compared to passive consuming, I will have to be active myself and take responsability. Squeeze out an apple and rinse the fruit press. Open a window. Harvest sun and rain. Have the water cleaned. Check filters. All these efforts also give birth to something that would not exist without the effort: a relation or connection with the fruit of the effort. And the effort itself can be rewarding as well, just as is the fact that I'm doing well to myself, my family and environment. While not being dependant on others, personally taking care and responsability of my primary needs, and saving money over a period of time besides. The latter is a mere extra. In passive consumption none of those experiences, rewardings or advantages exist.

Besides the responsability and action needed I will need to cope with nature's imperfection, work on reducing it by handling with it's impredictable variation in availability. I think that's manageable with some basic engineering.

When the sun shines or if it simply is a light day I'll produce electricty. When it's windy I'll make some more. I may be producing more than I'm needing for heating and electricity purposes. The sun will directly heat my water for most of the time of the year and warm my house directly and indirectly. But I will also be happy with the (superfluous) rain we have, knowing it's refilling my well with drinking and cleaning water of the highest quality:

It is not chemically treated, has no chemical additives, nor any residues of hormones or medicines as in regular drinking water, it has much less calcium and no nitrates, it is much softer. Softer to drink but also softer for the skin, as well as for all metal heaters that will live longer. That delicious, pure, soft water needs less soap to clean and the taste of a cooked meal -certainly the vegetables- as well as of my coffee and tea, will noticeably improve. If I would miscalculate the size of the well and need to be connected to the water grit I'll only use the regular drinking water for cleaning purposes or maybe flush it as not to spoil that outstanding rainwater.

In Hohmes I have made choices. I choose for quality at the core of the house, as described above, resulting in autonomy in and responsability over my primary needs. It will be reflected in the way the house is built, in the material chosen, in it's relation to the (direct) environment, in it's water heating and electricty infrastructure and as a consequence: in the way we will live in and around the house. Yet I'll strive to have the maximum done without my intervention and keep live and techniques simple, design a system that needs basic maintenance or monitoring more than daily action. That is exept for the fruit press in the kitchen.

Those are deliberate choices and altough not always a duality have to do with genuine versus imitation, original versus stemming from, slow versus fast, living in relation to versus living separated from, freedom and autonomy versus dependancy, active production versus passive consumption, nature and biosphere versus industry and technosphere, quality versus quantity.

maandag 15 februari 2010

Paradigm shifter

In my pursuit to built a mutidisciplinary team and need to check my project with specialists I also sollicitated Mr Anton Aan de Stegge. He is Hollands' largest independant builder of resedential houses, leads over 40 construction companies with a turnover of over a billion euro per year. Main reason for me to hear his opinion on my project is his indisputable reputation as a pioneer when it comes to innovation, in particular concerning rationalisation, standardisation and industrialisation in the building process. Since the eighties he has strived to built houses at lowest cost possible, when he realised his children would have to work and save earnings for at least 15 years before even being able to start buying their first home. A thought he rejected and qualified undesirable in that era of time. He sat together with Ministers and municipalities and cut cost in the building process where possible by maximally integrating aspects of the building process. Later he took the initiative to set up a MBA with/at the TSM business school to share and deepen knowledge on integral building management. An innovator in this traditional sector could only but help the project with his profound experience and insights.

After a warm welcome, we sit in his greenhouse of his old mansion overviewing his estate and he starts firing questions: "why do you want to built in the Netherlands? We're an overregulated country when it comes to building law. Why do you pay any attention to the fact your project maybe doesn't fit within law restrictions? Why do you gather so many stakeholders, all with their own interests? Why do you want to produce your home in a industrialised way? Why do you stress the novelty in your project? Do you think innovation comes from technological innovation?"

Without threatening but serious and with raised voice: "If you're a paradigm shifter I don't even want to talk. I've spend millions and decades to change and know things evolve slowly."

For all his questions he offers lessons he generously shares. On the topic of change and transition he says: Firstly liquidate the number of stakeholders that hold interest in your project. Liquidate them. Instead of adding players. The less parties the better, the bigger the chance you'll be able to realise your initial plan. Secondly focus on your predecessor(s) or forerunners(s). That is were you can hook up with, more than in what currently is established. Thirdly, look for room to do what you want to do, avoid restrictive conditions. Think of building law, fire & safety law, govermental restrictions. Instead, look for room to experiment.

He continues. "It is not easy to have building processes changed, to have transitions in building put into reality. The reality is that if we all would want change in whatever direction, change -even with governmental support, wether nationwide or local- is difficult to achieve if not achieveable at all. I've witnessed so in projects and seen it in my personal attempts. Being in charge of many building companies I have not been able to influence the change in the building process to a great extent. We could do more and everyone agrees: change is possible and needed. And some mayors and other relevant political leaders also shared this notion based on their own experience, that even if they personally supported transition with a vast majority they didn't succeed in realising the desired change. Why? There simply are too many stakeholders, too many independant professionals and people involved to have full control of the processes which is needed in transitions. You can't rule them."

"This holds true if there is consensus, if there is support for change, whereas in reality people or organisations do not want any changes at all. People in control want to stay in power, they are comfortable where they are and they are where they are due to the status quo. Their interest is to keep it that way. Don't expect to find partners for your plan in the establishement. If you hear they want some change, look at what happens in reality. They may adopt plans, or even raise funds to start several studies and give attention to the plans and studies, which is the best way to neutralise plans and changes. No one will be able to say they didn't do anything and at the end of the day you'll see little truly is done, nothing has changed. So don't try to change a sector or come up with innovation in that perspective. Nobody wants it and if people would, nobody could."

On the role of technology as innovator Mister Aan de Stegge is clear: "Every technical problem has it's technical solution. This is also the case in your project, but don't dive to deep into technology as a solution for the next step you'll have to make. The problem is not within the technology, so your answer isn't there either. Besides, technlogical innovation often is not at the core of innovation at all. Transposing well-known techniques from another sector of another application into a new one can result in innovation as well. Manufacturing processes from car manufacturing in building can result in a revolution. Be aware that with technological innovation often non desirable technological gadgets and functionalities come along that can prevent and frustrate an innovative step. Companies find it hard to produce simplicity." As an example he takes the television: "I just want a tv than can be switched on or off, that enables me to zap trough it's channels and that has adaptable volume, but I can't buy it anywhere. In most of products, also in software, one only uses a fraction of possabilities, rest is undesired extra gadgets and complexity with it's threats of failure. Keep it simple. Companies and specialist tend to make solutions too complex. I believe in your project if it's made simple, not if it starts with building innovation and if it's stuffed with technological gadgets. As such, I look at domotics as a inhibitor as well. In it's complexity it can give rise to problems more than being problem solving: what if a sensor is dead, or if some button or indicator fails? Monitoring yourself, or having people monitoring systems for you is much more reliable -maybe more expensive but more reliable."

Regarding technique and industrialisation in building: "In the Netherlands we have outstanding know-how and if we would apply all the knowledge we have we would even be able to offer 'mass customisation' in domestical building. We can built quick and at low cost and are one of the best in the world in bringing together disciplines troughout the building process. Yet I still see ways to improve. For example to cut in disciplines and roles and responsabilities. In fact you only need 3 disciplines: a technical, responsable for all that comes with the infrastructure and wiring (water, electricity, heat: installation), the constructor, responsible for constructing in stone, glass, steel and wood and a finisher, responsable for the finishing (painting, tiling, paving, plastering). Now we have much more sub disciplines involved."

"For the use of ICT in the building process, for example to deliver prefabricated parts, you would need volume. If not, the set-up cost and engineering cost will by far outrun handwork and be cost-inefficient." He has lived the example himself, as on one of his houses on his property has had 2 exact the same extensions each built in a different way, as to compare cost. The prefabricated, computer engineered part had engeneering cost that were five times as high as the total cost of the part built by handcraft, altough it was built in one day and the craftman part was built in 5 days. Moral of the story: standardisation needs volume to pay for itself. "Don't try to make industrialisation a starting point of cost reduction for one or a few houses. You will only be busy managing the processes which will make your house cost millions instead of some hundred thousands of euros's. Industrialisation or prefabrication in itself, just as technology, is not necessarily bringing your project alive. It may follow if the concept is a success"

"Around the globe Finland probably is the best in the overall integration of the building process. Government and companies work together, like they did with Nokia. Alas you can't copy paste everything and building is culturally determined. For example over here constructors use iron frames to work on ceilings, even if it is but 50 centimeters of height, whereas else builders prefer to walk on stilts. Here people want to live in brick houses, grouped side by side, elsewhere people prefer wooden houses, standing alone."

After 2 hours Mr Aan de Stegges teaching has massively knocked down some of the fundaments of my approach. I was looking at my plan as an innovative project, that was about a new way of building, that would lean on technological innovation, and would satisfy many stakeholders' interests, bringing together many specialist troughout several disciplines. A project that looks for Partnerships in (governmental) establishement and at the same time cross the boundaries of building law and a project that would use standardisation/prefabrication as point of departure. None of these seem very usable or productive concepts in his opinion.

His lessons however aren't a knock-out. I may look at the opposite, or look at suggestions he made between the lines, or considering giving up without spending many yeras of work, time and money, saving frustration. "If you want to industrialise, you will need volume. For that look for others that share your way of living. For that focus on the living concept: how does a day of life in your house looks like? What is it like? What makes it unique, what does it takes, what does it gives? Some 35% of the people built there houses themselves. Focus on the concept of living and go look for peers. When analysing databases on income, age, social, economical, cultural and educational background it seems there is a relation between who we are and where or how we live. And if you can't find any peers up front you can always decide to built the house for yourself and I would be happy to help you building your house."

That probably would be a one off, hand made, wooden, low tech house, maybe with followers in a later stadium.

Before returning home I'm invited to another house on his estate where Mr Aan de Stegge passionately works on engineering, designing, nurturing and restoring rare and unique cars, and woodworking besides. There I witness he owns an electric car. How preppy and modern it seems, but it isn't, on the contrary. The car is over a 100 years old and at that time already drove at a speed of 40 km per hour for 8 hours at a stretch. "There were no problems of infrastructure in those days as it uses 5 batteries of 12v and could charge electricty using the 60V infrastructure of those days. Technological solutions always are available and always are there, but they only are adapted broadly if people massively want them, they never are at the starting point of that will." So I conclude that change is a psychological and sociological issue and a matter of business. This stresses the importance for a showcase that can persuade others involved on the improvement of personal and environmental quality and have it done with positive return on investements compared to the benchmark of traditional housing.

I have shifted my paradigm on the project thanks to a talk with Mr Aan de Stegge and will write about the personal quality of living of my concept in my next posting.

dinsdag 5 januari 2010

Initial drawings

After several postings using merely words, here are the initial drawings of the plan as developped back in 2005 (to the right)

These drawings will serve as a starting point for the realisation of the current project that has a very comparable set of queries.

Most important changes are that the house will be suited for permanent living for four persons with implications on dimensions and comfort. And I tend to add to this previous concept the notions that architect Jon Kristinsson shared with me. As he puts it, a house is more than a living-machine. A house also possesses a soul, often to be found in the attic of a house, as a place where memories are stored. Yes, we all need place to place parts of our past life, yet if I want to create a smart, affordable and sustainable house I will have to limit the number of square meters built. I think there's a way to cope with this as we'll see.

maandag 28 december 2009

a vision on Copenhague summit

Looking back at the end of the year, after the Copenhague summit, I feel encouraged to pursuit my personal small scale initiatiave to develop a way to live in a sustainable way and choose for quality of rural living.

The poor result of The Copenhagen climate summit by the end of December showed that a multilateral treaty that worldwide aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, finding consensus on how to realise that, setting targets and sharing costs in doing so is not within our governments' reach. Altough we all are related, sharing the same global problems, our leaders act as if we were divided. Maybe a part of it is due to the fact that we are not used to direct investements while returns partly flow in on a longer term. A longer term than the re-election of our political leaders take. Of course there's more than that.

Prior to the Copenhague summit, "Climate gate" re-opened the discussion on the role of (the IPCC on unvealing information regarding the impact of) human CO2 emission in relation to global warming and climate change. During the summit it became clear that Clinton/Obama did not want to accept a treaty that they would find difficult to sell at home -history repeats itself- and that China did not want to be judged as a major contributor in absolute CO2 emissions but as small contributor in terms of CO2 emission per capita and as a consequence doesn't want to sacrifice economical growth to the extend needed to contribute keeping global warming under the 2 degrees Celsius. Europe, too divided to act as a solid and coherent player, asked the others to strive for more ambitious commitments but didn't succeed in it's plea nor can it solve this global problem by herself.

If my project was about reducing CO2 I would have learned from this summit that our governments on a global level fail to take substantial steps. Since there's no collective consensus all there is left is local or personal initiative that can speed up developments in the right direction. Even if there is no 100% scientific proof on the relation between human CO2 emission and climate change there is a lot a reasons to look for alternative ways of building, heating and living:

Suppose in the future we will have a 100% scientific insight on the impact of our behaviour on global warming -and we already have reason to think in that direction as CO2 is recognised as a green house gas and we do emit a rapidly growing vast amount of it every year- we might not be able to do anything anymore. How to repair climatical changes and life in oceans and earth, changed global amounts of warmth, rain and dryness and changed seasonality and changed ecosystems?

Secondly cost may be irreversibly high -building huge dams and dikes around the world to fight floods, offer shelter or even new life to hundreds of millions of people ? Probably it will be so expensive to adapt to climate changes that we will not be able to carry the burden by then, as is stated in the Stern report.

Thirdly if we globally support industries (for example agriculture, aircraft)with subsidisation or lowered taxes why not pay comparable attention to clean industries that may benefit from support while offering massive employement and economical and social benefits in return, and cheaper cleaner energy besides? The sooner, the less competetive disadvantages, the faster developments of the industry will lead to cheaper, better functioning alternatives. Economics of scale -(global) consensus- is key and can only but help.

Fourthly, despite the argument of CO2 emission we do face indisputable and limited amounts of natural resources that ask for adapted behaviour. Prices of energy are expexted to continue to increase for oil, gas as well as electricity. Using current pricing the Dutch governement expect grit pricing parity between solar and conventional electricity within just over a decay (senter Novem report December 2008). Bear in mind that prices are increasing and that solar panels are expected to deliver up to 80% of their initial power even after 25 years, having an amortisation of over 3 decays. Not one decay. If it is not for the environmental reasons only to adapt our behaviour, than be it for economical reasons.

Last but not least, pursuing alternatives for fossile energy will diminish dependancy of sometimes dictatorial regimes that worldwide supply oil and gas, reducing geo political tensions and coming from that: war and costs resulting from geo-policies that have a high price. Both in a finanicial way, as we all are paying for the consequences of those tensions, even tough we do not find it's cost in our energy bills, as well as in human capital. No one owns wind, nobody can own the sun, at the same time everybody can harvest energy from wind and sun and benefit from it. Those resources are free, eternally available, renewable by nature, clean, and we do not need to go drill for it, refine it, nor transport and distribute it over thousands of miles, nor protect it's way from the source to the customer. Most renewable energy flows freely, without intervention.

I think decentralised energy and water production both economically, socially, environmentally and geo politically is a smart path to pursuit. And by the end of 2009 I'm more convinced than before that we will have to do it ourselves. My project however is not (only) about that. Altough it touches it's subjects it is not about politics, nor is it about environmental preservation or economics. The Hohmes project is about quality, it offers a way to connect to the environment, to one's behaviiour, and from that point of view it adds to quality of life in numerous ways. It offers a higher standard of water management and aims at a higher quality of drinking water, and it offers to be more in control of primary resoucers and pursuits the possability of mobile living. Did I forget to mention that it also is about beauty and the fun I have in developping it and the hapiness I expect to find living in it? Well, it's mentionned now.

zaterdag 12 december 2009

first steps: team up

How will I make this adventure attend it's purpose? It feels like I'm building a mountain that nobody is asking for. And nobody knows how to built it as it wasn't done before. Nor is there any direction or path, let alone signage that mark the way to go. Yet I'm walking on it as you read this. I'm not an architect or engineer nor am I a building contractor or a construction worker. It did not prevent me to completely re-engineer, redesign and rebuilt our French house with my bare hands and I guess I like to travel this unknown road.

A close friend of mine used the notion of a one man army to characterise an energetic part of me. I don't consider that as a virtue nor very valuable but like to approach the metaphore in my attempts to give birth to the Hohmes project as if it was a fact.

If an army would get involved in a battle, I would say it's effectiveness also depends on it's allies. I will team up and look for professionals that add value, within their role and responsability, but also outside that. People that are willing to think outside their own field, eager to listen and understand the rest of the process they are part of. I will look for people that are specialists and that are attracted to the idea of interdisciplinarity as a way to strengthen their own.

Measured on the earthscale, in Holland we live with 16 million on a swampy stamp that for a part lays under sealevel. Available building sites there are as rare as mountains are. To go short: if you don't have a municipality on your side don't even dream to start a building project. No site, no building. Certainly not if it considers innovative building. A building that is unique in it's ability to be placed off grid and pursuits zero carbon emmitance and aims at energy neutrality, may have elements in it's concept that are not dealth with in Dutch building law (nor European law). Think about cleaning your own water. Think about not using the sewerage and producing clean wastewater. Or maybe a low voltage circuit is applied in the house whereas law only addresses 220/230V circuits. Or maybe the facades of the house will follow the sun: how will a civil servant judge a design or its facade if it doesn't have one, but several facades, changing over time besides?

There is no guide as there is no existing landscape I'm walking in, no path that can be known. The way is created per every step made. Best I can do is walk and look for fellow travellers which I will. Both in local authorities as well as in specialisation within the several disciplines.