Regenerative Design (Why Low-Tech Rules)

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How do I live a more healthy lifestyle that is as free from electronic, chemical, light and noise pollution as I can be? As Occam’s Razor states, the simplest solution is most often the correct one. To my mind, this is true whether you apply lateral or linear critical thought to the creation of design as processes. Then you add the splashes of art, the rhythms of music and nature, the touch of sounds upon the ears and body, the scents and the quality of the air, the dance of light in all seasons, and lastly, the tactile sensations of materials.

I firmly believe that the answer is Regenerative Design. It goes beyond the United Nations idea of “Sustainable Development”, which produced a catch phrase and definition too vague to be useful and zero acknowledgement of the damage to the earth that has already occurred. Here is how we at The Warrior Rising define Regenerative Design:

“Design that applies natural, low-tech solutions as a first choice, and examines the predicted effects of the system’s impact environmentally, socially, and financially.”

Regenerative Design cannot be considered solely in terms of individual systems, such as electrical systems, food production systems, or cooling systems. Although that method is one possible starting point, all the systems must be planned in terms of short and long term symbiosis, especially when it comes to a regenerative design paradigm. A simple, yet scalable, measurement system is a key to unlocking such a design undertaking.

Our system of measurement is a simple combination of two already existing ideas. The combination keys on performance and tracks from birth through creation and use to regeneration. This is again about setting the bar high and discovering where we have to walk under the bar a bit to achieve a completed home.

One is not likely to hear from a Design Professional, Builder, or Regulator of the impressive functionality of the “solar chimney”. Upon first hearing the term, it is likely to conjure up an image of some type of heating system. It would then be surprising to discover that indeed the opposite is true. Solar Chimneys are an amazingly efficient ancient cooling system that boast an effective lifespan, enduring for centuries (if not longer). They need no advanced technology or materials, have few moving parts, and require no electricity or fossil fuels, and little continual maintenance, unlike their modern cousins in a planned, obsolescence design paradigm.

Solar chimneys can, and often do, require a human operator to function at peak efficiency. They can have a slightly higher front-end cost than modern air conditioning systems, but when measured out over centuries, any argument about cost is won by the solar chimney before it begins.

Now, one might ask why such a system is almost unknown in the modern builder’s lexicon? When you dig into the realms of regulation, application, and proprietary products, the answer is both complicated and simple at the same time: Money drives the building industry, and when a natural system begins to gain momentum, some corporation or individual is there to try and patent that system by modifying it in some way (even if ever-so slightly). Manufacturers want their product used, so they lobby to keep open source systems on the periphery of the building world by marginalizing those systems. That is done in a number of ways:

  1. Making fallacious claims of the systems’ effectiveness, in regards to the engineering and durability, while they push modern building methods that are toxic and prone to failure. For example, one water leak incident in a modern home translates into costly repairs and insurance premiums. One fire and there is no home to repair, and every thing you owned is gone.
  2. They posit claims such as: “Why would you want to go low-tech? You might as well live in a cave!” or “Don’t you want a modern Smart House that reminds you to breathe?” Low-Tech is always more affordable, durable, and easy to repair; however, we are still looking for a low-tech computer.
  3. They will make silly, ignorant, or unsubstantiated claims about regenerative building systems and offer no proof other than parading about their “many years of experience,” all the while failing to mention that they have neither seen, nor worked with, the systems they are deriding.
  4. They will push regulators, businesses, associations and unions to reject these systems in practice and in code.

There is good news, however, in the form of how to get what you want when it comes to regenerative building. There are good people out there in all fields, all over the world, that are excited and accepting of these regenerative building systems. So here are a few tips on how to get there:

  1. The first and best way is buy a piece of land with no mortgage. Without the bank’s restrictions and owning your property free and clear, you are actually able to sidestep a lot of restrictions; but you have to be willing to stand your ground.
  2. If you are under a mortgage and dealing with a code-heavy area, then you need to win allies to your cause. Sometimes this is easy. When it isn’t, it is usually a matter of first developing an early relationship with the people who will have to satisfy. If they present a problem, then climbing the ladder is the way to go. No one wants to be seen as the ogre, and a gentle (but firm) approach of going over someone’s head can work.
  3. Attempt to get your project deemed a prototype or experimental build in your area and partner with a University and Government agencies to measure performance. You shouldn’t have too difficult a time finding these people and they often have budgets for this very thing.
  4. Fight the good fight by getting these systems accepted in your area.

Here is a short, helpful list of building systems we have identified as Regenerative and fit the Low-Tech Mantra:

  1. Stabilized Rammed Earth (or Unstabilized Rammed Earth)
  2. Stone Masonry (and Slip-Form Stone Masonry)
  3. Timber Frame
  4. Post and Beam Infill for (Earth, Cob, Strawbale, Adobe, Wattle and Daub, etc.)
  5. Earthbag (AKA Superadobe)
  6. Log Home
  7. Cordwood Masonry
  8. A bevy of other systems!

Finally, if you can find a regenerative building professional or company in your area, reach out and have them help you through the process! Whoever you choose, they should convey a process that is easy and smooth. If you feel any resistance, keep looking!

A Healthier and Happier lifestyle takes a little work, but has an enormous payoff.

Featured Image by Amin Karimi | TasteIran

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