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@xj9

thinking about solarpunk settlements

file-20170719-13545-7rjaa1.jpg

solarpunk concept art is not realistic at all. like, how the are you going to make those flowing glass structures? that's a lot of metal and glass in some crazy shapes. i get that it looks pretty, but that is really advanced construction. just to work on the metal, you need an established energy grid so you can power welding equipment! no way you're just going to walk into the woods and build these futuristic glass towers. even then, where do you get the metals and glass? that is a very complex supply chain!

i understand that certain materials will have to be purchased in order to have a functional #solarpunk settlement, at least at first. solar panels are very advanced materials and energy is a crucial resource so we can make an exception until better options become available. the same applies to batteries, computers, communication equipment, &c. that said, i highly doubt the wisdom of going with advanced materials for everything.

wood, cob, and other natrual materials seem like a better fit for this kind of thing. they aren't as "future world" as flowing glass and metal structrures, but the chances that you can afford to build a home with these simple materials is a lot higher. especially considering the bootstrap process, where your access to energy will be very limited until you can assemble enough infrastructure to start producing electricity.

food prep, storage, and production

electric ranges draw a lot of energy, but the alternative is a dependence on some kind of fossil fuel for cooking. on the balance, forming habits around the availability of daylight is probably a more sustainable solution. refigeration can be very energy intensive, especially if you want to be able to store relatively large quantities of food. one possible solution is a cellar. this would be a labor intensive project, but a cellar can stay quite cool year around. it isn't a fridge or freezer, but there are a lot of preservation techniques that are compatible with the temperature ranges you could expect from a cellar.

ideally you could farm outside, but depending on the climate hydroponics or greenhouses may be necessary to produce enough food for the community. indoor/vertical farming can draw a lot of energy, especially in winter, so this might not be a viable option if the only energy source is solar. wind would help, but without a friendly climate this looks like it could be a big obstacle for solarpunk / walkaway communities in northern lattitudes. of course, people did manage to survive in these places before modern farming and energy production existed. maybe it would be worthwhile to see how they managed to provide for themselves.

@mikey
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@📱 Christian Bundy
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@bobhaugen
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@fwip
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@danhassandroid
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@bobhaugen

@xj9 good direction.Your principles make sense if adjusted for climates.

In our area (southwest Wisconsin) wood is, as of now and the foreseeable future, a perpetual resource if you follow sustainable forestry principles. Which means we can use it for construction, fuel, and energy generation using combos of solar, wind, and wood-fired electrical generators, if we are careful to regenerate the wood. Which is not a given, but people know how to do it.

We are in one of those regions which climate change is making wetter rather than dryer.

When I was living in west Dakota or New Mexico, adobe and cob were great building materials. Here, I tried earth blocks, even with stabilizers, and they just crumbled into dust, even under a roof. A Mandan-style dome built into a hill, which I have built before in other climates, would just rot into the ground here. But overground wood is great, and we could make bricks in wood-fired kilns. And a lot of stone, and we could use http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/articles/ceramicrete.htm

@habitatm45
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@luroc

Every time I start thinking about solarpunk I really end up wondering what kind of infrastructure and society you would assume. Is there some kind of common ground in the community? (I haven't read enough about solarpunk yet to be honest)

If you take the supply chain of energy generation for granted, I guess you could also take the supply chain for laminated timber beams('glulam') for granted which you can go quite wild with and get results quite similar to the picture in a rather ecological way, and if solarpunk is meant as a vision for the whole society i guess you would want to start building high rise buildings at some point to have settlements not sprawling too much into the wilderness.

I mean the building in the picture is still ineffective of course for reasons like not having good thermal properties which you touched upon...

I guess what I don't understand is if the diy- and "self-sufficient small communities"-aspect of solarpunk is coming from "we have to start somewhere" or "that is a good overall principle for the society". Would be glad if you could point me in some direction there.

@nanomonkey

Glass is actually a pretty decent material to work with, it is infinitely recyclable, transmits light and can be sandwiched to provide insulation. I've seen some greenhouse designs where a layer of bubbles are injected in for night time insulation.

To your point, I don't think there is a universal house design for all climates and environments. A key element should be to work with what you have on hand, instead of shipping materials from half way across a continent/world. This is why earthen structures are so amazing...you just use the earth from the land you're building upon. If it's a wet environment, you stabilize it with heat or chemical means (bricks, lye or portland cement) and use sufficient drainage. In dry environments one can often go without these precautions.

In Napa Valley, I had the pleasure of visiting a vineyard who had built a giant tunnel into the ground and back out. Outside temps were around 105 F (40 C), while inside was around 60 F (15 C) naturally. So nice!

Solar sintered ceramics and glass seem like a solar punk building material to me...

@xj9

@nanomonkey 🤔 i suppose the bootstrap point can be in a different place than i'm thinking. i guess part of the question is how much does it cost to build one community powered entirely by renewable energy? the problem is that a lot of modern society is built on inefficient patterns. if you really want to build a new kind of sustainble culture, it seems like you have to give up a lot of the stuff that we consider "normal" and replace it with substitutes that provide the needed function without the unaccounted externalities.

@luroc i think self-sufficiency is a valuable pattern for promoting more efficient use of energy. i can't find a convicing reason for shipping food half way across the planet when there is enough local produce to go around. there are places where this isn't true, but ideally that is a problem we can solve with hydroponics and other agro-tech. seems like the same logic would apply to building materials, with exceptions for essentials like solar and other advanced resources.

@xj9

i'm far from an expert here, but it seems like energy is a big obstacle for certain kinds of tasks. i wonder what alternative energy sources are out there that we could harness for solarpunk settlements? %cKL5BuY...

maybe the solution isn't harnessing more energy, but using it more efficiently? what are the limits there?

@joeyh

There's a tension in solarpunk between it being aspirational, and it being prescriptive. If it's treated as a traditional genre, it has to somehow have a common look and feel, but treated as a goal, a much more messy space of many different approaches opens up. So I don't get much out of the illustrations that all feel somehow the same.

@macehga
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@Dominic

@luroc asked,

I guess what I don't understand is if the diy- and "self-sufficient small communities"-aspect of solarpunk is coming from "we have to start somewhere" or "that is a good overall principle for the society". Would be glad if you could point me in some direction there.

Speaking for my self, I think it's a bit of both.

There is certainly a big aspect for "we have to start somewhere", because we do. Even if we were the ones who decided how the world was organized, and could unilaterally order everyone, "hey we gotta live efficiently within the planet's resources" we'd still need to carefully roll things out one step at a time. Also, because we don't even know what will work well yet! So we need to experiment, and it's way easier to do a small scale experiment!

Secondly, I think there is an aspect of "good overall principle" at least, there is something in that sort of lifestyle that is intrinsically appealing. But, on the other hand, again, smallness gives the freedom to experiment. I also don't think you should take this too literally: instead take it metaphorically: it's about the social relations that hold society together, and that being explicitly village like, or something like that. So I think we are attracted to the idea of solarpunk because we want something different. But this too is a have-to-start-somewhere, really, because a community of radicals who want to do everything differently, will become very different when lots of people start to get on board.

But the idea that everyone on earth should live in a little village and grow their own food, (anarchoprimitivist model) I'd say: No. I'm pretty sure no one waving the "solarpunk" flag advocates that as the singular solution to the world's problems (especially since solarpunk is explicitly tech-positive), although that's not to say that there are not people who do want to live like that.

@mc_crypto knight
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@elavoie

@xj9

maybe the solution isn't harnessing more energy, but using it more efficiently?

From my point of view, this is the key challenge. If we aim for a 10-100x reduction in energy/resource usage, I believe we will be in the right ballpark. For example, an electric bike uses 300x less batteries than a Tesla, or said differently you can equip 300 people with electric bikes rather than a single one with a Tesla. A 15 kg bike uses also 100x less material than a 1.5 ton car.

The most efficient velomobiles can go 34 km/h with 100W (reasonable effort for an average person). When you factor in the time you spend stuck in traffic when driving a car, that's only a factor of 2-3 slower than a car on average.

But building a velomobile is labour intensive and the market is too small for mass production. So I think the key to make them accessible to the nascent solarpunk community is to train people to learn how to make their own and have accessible and cheap, potentially nomad, makerhubs to build them. The Atomic Zombie plans are a great place to learn how to build your own bike from inexpensive components.

@Inês
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@L A U R A
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@mlg

I am a complete fanatic for cob, and natural building in general. "Hand sculpted house" was perhaps my gateway drug into a completely new lifestyle. The first project I was involved in was building a backyard garden shed/greenhouse structure over a summer. We bought a few yards of sand and ~6-8 bales of straw and roof panels. Everything else was salvaged waste like broken sidewalk (urbanite), wood from pallets, old doors. 0 power tools used, only electricity consumption was playing music while building.

Building is really fun. Mixing cob can be done by dancing/stomping the materials + water on a tarp. Building is grabbing chunks of mixed claylike material, and stacking it on top of the walls being built and working it in with your hands or sticks. Building is also accessible to anyone of any shape, age, size, or ability since there are no standard sizes of materials you have to be able to lift and maneuver, and the worksite is safe and fun the whole time. At the end there is no waste/packaging material to haul away and the only impact on the surroundings was a hole that all the clay was dug out of, which could be filled in with any leftover sand. The whole process felt so much sane to me than spending at least 10 times more money for manufactured material shipped from the other side of the world to act as walls.

However, I also sometimes feel conflicted because I'm also generally very interested in the ideas of Buckminster Fuller. His take on housing, the Dymaxion House, was to repurpose military and aerospace manufacturing capacity to build super high tech, efficient, mass produced housing. ANd even though it offends all of my natural building principles, I have to admit something high-tech like the Dymaxion House does seem pretty cool and probably appealing to some people.

While I of course dream of living in a natural building, my current path has me living in a doublewide manufactured home, and while it isn't high tech or as well thought out or dome shaped, it does have a certain cheapness and efficiency that's easy for a tasteless person like myself to appreciate. So in the immediate term I've decided to stick with the existing functional shelter, and start with a few other projects that I'm more excited about getting started with.

@Dominic

@elavoie you should build a cardboard fairing for your bike and see how much difference it makes! my bet: a surprising amount!

@Dominic

The dymaxion house was a great idea but a terrible business plan - it depended on mass manufacturing to bring the cost down, but it's obviously gonna be a very niche product, what crazy person wants to live in a circular silver house? (I would, but I am a crazy person, most people are much more conservative) to really succeed most plans need to either work on a small scale, be viable and useful for a small group of dedicated crazies (bootstrapping - "have to start somewhere") and then scale up gradually. OR, make a massive gamble on a huge upfront investment, but of course 9/10 of these fail, so for this plan to work it needs to plausibly offer a return of 100x, at least. If the pitch is "affordable housing for all" I'm not sure if the later strategy is viable, because there is already so much money to be made from the current system of artificially scarce housing.

Maybe there is a middle ground, like, cob house 3d printer? okay that's going too far, maybe just a machine that does the mixing, enabling you to build more quickly? I imagine it would be very satisfying to occupy a house you built using nothing but your own physical labour though!

@elavoie

@Dominic Yes! I now have all electrical components, I will experiment with multiple versions of trailers to test the solar panels and batteries in multiple trips. Then we will see! I will get to the aerodynamics eventually!

@mlg

Bad businessman was a self-admitted fault, IIRC from one of his books. I think the explanation was he realized early on that it could take decades for a new invention to get introduced, tested, certified, and accepted by society before it could be produced and he preferred to continue inventing as much of the technology his vision/goal would require (my interpretation/summary of the goal is: all physical needs met for all humanity while remaining within the energy budget of the planet's incoming solar energy, via creation of technological "artifacts').

Sadly he seemingly missed the mark on how receptive society would be to the ideas he was throwing out. He produced a ton of material and I've only scratched the surface, and I've got to believe there are at least a few ideas buried in his work that are worth revisiting with todays technology. An example, a ~$15k 3d printer can print carbon fiber reinforced plastic that has strength:weight ratios comparable with aluminum.
Maybe put a fresh coat of paint to fit modern tastes a little more than the Jetsons aesthetic. Keep the functionality of the dome but put a new skin on it.

With cob, some builders make a very powerful and beautiful appeal to for using only human labor that intertwines state of mind, minimization of reliance on industrial products, community inclusivity, etc. It's very poetic and I couldn't do it justice with my own words since I'm not a writer, but i'd highly recommend 'hand sculpted house'.
There is also a lot of interest in cob that is more purely practical and economical, and from what I've read heavy machinery like tractors/bobcats are the ideal and can mix enough in a few hours for an entire building if all the materials are available and there's space. On a slightly smaller scale are cement/mortar mixers or tillers which are less effective and less labor saving. My opinion is the mixing is where you'd want to invest money/fossil fuel energy to save labor, building with hands is really fun and could be pretty quick if you had unlimited mixed cob.

Even though cob was my gateway as I said before, the more I learn about different styles of natural building the more I'm convinced there are certain techniques suited to different climates, local resource availability and people's preference.

I think it would be sad for humanity if we burn up the last of our fossil fuels manufacturing drywall and cement and shipping it across the planet to build walls instead of using that energy to build solar panels, wind turbines, etc. and keeping dino juice as emergency backup.
High tech buildings are probably necessary for labs, workshops, and that sort of building.
But for my home I'd just like solid walls, roof, nice climate, and maybe some light. I'd like to do that and keep it maintained with minimally manufactured products, and maximally local products.

@Jaszczur
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@Dominic

@mlg yes, definitely. I think he did succeed greatly at inspiring many people (my self included) but if we are actually gonna carry that forward, we need to combine that optimism with a better "business model" i.e. a more realistic plan to develop and roll it out. hence, we have to start somewhere.

@xj9
Re: %bB/W/jCq0

i wonder how much energy you could generate with solar heated water and turbines or stirling engines 🤔

depending on the climate and the amount of energy you can actually capture, this could be a cheap alternative to solar panels

%ANMeAPs...

@MK's Manyverse (Redmi Note 3)
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@Alberto
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@Alberto

Building is really fun. Mixing cob can be done by dancing/stomping the materials + water on a tarp. Building is grabbing chunks of mixed claylike material, and stacking it on top of the walls being built and working it in with your hands or sticks. Building is also accessible to anyone of any shape, age, size, or ability since there are no standard sizes of materials you have to be able to lift and maneuver, and the worksite is safe and fun the whole time. At the end there is no waste/packaging material to haul away and the only impact on the surroundings was a hole that all the clay was dug out of, which could be filled in with any leftover sand.

I really like this take.

@w
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@xj9

taking a step away from 100% DIY, it might be worth exploring mobile homes as an alternative housing option for walkaway communities. they have a market outside of our niche, but also fit many of the unique requirements that we have. there are some challenges (at least historically) with insulation, but that shouldn't be too difficult to fix aftermarket. the renewability of the manufacturing process depends on the manufacturer, but it may be possible to start a cooperative to do this ourselves at some point in the future.

mobile homes are attractive because they can be installed without a permanent foundation, which significantly reduces their impact on the housing site, they are relatively inexpensive compared to traditional housing options, and they require much less DIY work to be livable. in terms of developing a fully off-grid housing option, they also make it easy to experiment in a grid-adjacent location before pulling the plug and going independent.

in a community setting, it would be interesting to develop a distributed smart grid that can balance energy reserves across the community automatically. this would apply equally to trailer-mounted solar, other available renewables, and backup energy sources (such as bio-diesel generators).

@nanomonkey

Be careful purchasing a mobile home, most are made from fairly toxic substances: pressed wood high in formaldehyde and plastics that off gas VOCs. Also every time a mobile home is moved it settles the insulation and often breaks caulking seals which will lower your insulation value considerably. It may be worth your while to look into building a small cabin, or a tiny home on a trailer using solid wood or metal. If using metal, I'd look into the new aerogel insulations as they are incredibly thin and high R values.

@elavoie

In the process of building a solar bike, I have realized that the energy capacity of Li-ion bike batteries (300-850 Wh) is perfect for a full day or two of autonomy for portable electronic devices. Having the electrical infrastructure built around those would serve both for transportation and home usage.

@nanomonkey

@xj9 Have you thought about a greenhouse as your first "home" structure? You may not need a permit to put one up, and you can use it to start vegetables during the winter.

A tent or yurt inside of greenhouse during the winter stays pretty cozy. Or you can use a stove inside the greenhouse, and/or water containers to capture daytime warmth. If the area of Utah you are in gets too hot/sunny during the summer you can throw 50% shade cloth up and make it into a shade structure.

I'd also look into earthen structures such as Earthbag construction or Super Adobe such as Cal Earth teaches?

@polylith
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@xj9

@nanomonkey

mobility is appealing, but i'll admit that i still have a lot of research to do before i can make an informed decision on this topic. thanks for the links/feedback!

honestly, this community is an amazing resource. thank you for being here :heart:

@bobhaugen

@xj9 thanks for starting this thread, got pretty interesting. And probly not over yet...

@abekonge
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@donblair
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@luroc

mobile homes are attractive because they can be installed without a permanent foundation, which significantly reduces their impact on the housing site...

@Dominic Yes! I now have all electrical components, I will experiment with multiple versions of trailers to test the solar panels and batteries in multiple trips. Then we will see! I will get to the aerodynamics eventually!

I'm thinking through how to build an electric car-bike / mobile home combo at the moment based on concepts taken from the open source xyz space frame bikes , the twike, recently announced self propelling trailer etc..

There are thoughts constantly popping to my head about reclaiming public parking space with your trailer aka mobile power harvester, a lifestyle where you only travel the distances the sun will take you or starting a foundation that can provide certifications for self-built machinery to actually use them (in germany).
It's bit annoying actually because I should write my thesis right now ;) but after I pushed myself through that I will eventually write up a summary of that stuff.

There is the super helpful elweb wiki but sadly it's only available in german. Maybe some translation service can output some useful information.

@Dominic

@xj9 mirco/nano grids have come up before:

A major reason that "tinyhomes" often have wheels is it shifts it into a different legislative category, and the paperwork becomes much simpler or disappears all together.

Of course there are also advantages to being able to move something, having an easily movable format (such as shipping container). Then you could have a community that grew easily, even moving the entire thing to a new location.

With a big enough plastic sheet and a fan, you can just blow air into it and get an instant dome, how big the fan needs to be depends on the leaks of course. hmm, leaks would scale with respect to surface area but volume is the cube of that, hmm... A mobile home inside a bubble would be very solarpunk I think.

@misty

I'm in Utah. My camper is sitting on a giant rock surrounded by dirt, shrubs and short trees. I also happen to have a GIANT mound of earth just waiting to be used for #earthbag shelters. I can't build one on my own though. I figured that out. I can't get the time off work needed to do it either. Weekends are not guaranteed. I could do a 14' diameter one without a building permit. Cost? Maybe 500$ do it yourself work. ...

My friend also wants to use the giant mound of earth for a firing range or an overly elaborate root cellar. Ha. Ha. But since neither of us has the time or resources to make what we want out of that mound of earth, it just kind of sits there. I'd love to have 3 of them out here. Ok, four. One to sleep in, one for supplies, and one for a bathhouse of sorts. The fourth one would be for my friend when he realizes he DOES want one to sleep in too.

Thinking outloud -- if I had six months off, all the bills were paid during that time, I could build one out here, maybe two.

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@todrobbins
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