Should we succeed in our mission, we will have shown that even the most humble of prefab houses -- the last thing anybody thinks of when they think "low carbon footprint" -- can be transformed into an environmentally friendly homestead by ordinary people on a modest budget. It won't happen overnight (that's the modest budget part). We have a long road ahead of us. Nonetheless, we're excited about this opportunity to use an already extant structure. In many ways, choosing to retrofit rather than building new on open land is one of the most environmentally-friendly approaches one can take.
So how is this different from any number of hippie families building an eco-groovy house off the grid? We're not a single family, but a group of experienced intentional community dwellers who recognize that opting for cooperative living over the prevalent single-family template is probably the single most radical and effective thing people in first world countries can do to reduce their impact on the environment.
But more on that in a future blog post. First, a brief tour of our splendid generic every-home.
When building an environmentally friendly new structure, one of the very first considerations is placement for maximum passive solar benefits. Solar 101: orient the building to maximize southern exposure, and cram your south-facing wall full of windows. Guess what our south-facing wall looks like?
We will till up the front yard and convert it into garden space this spring. We will grow a reasonable portion of our own vegetables, though we will also buy or barter for locally grown produce from our neighboring intentional communities. We have also discussed having chickens and/or ducks for eggs and meat. Maybe a goat or two for milk. We expect to expand our agricultural space and output as we get more members and potentially acquire more land.
Inside the house, we have set up the front dining room as office space for Garden Medicinals and general SESE work:
We're going to ditch our wasteful electric heat pump system for a woodstove or two. We're going to insulate the hell out of this place, everywhere. Maybe with salvaged foam. Maybe with straw bales. Set up a composting toilet system. Use rainwater catchment for our graywater needs, greatly reducing the use of our wells. Set up a solar hot water preheating system on the roof. Convert our lights, computers, and well pump to solar PV power. Look into ways to minimize our use of electricity-dependent cooking appliances. Replace our electric stove with gas or wood. And much more.
Sounds damn ambitious, we know. But intentional community living has provided us with a huge advantage: we have all lived in communities where many of these measures have been put in place. We already know what it's like to deal with composting toilets, solar hot water, wood heat, and energy systems that require some mindfulness. Not only that, but our friends and neighbors at nearby Twin Oaks, Acorn, and Living Energy Farm have many, many years of real-world experience with what works and doesn't work. We have a wealth of technical knowledge and advice available to us when we need guidance and informed opinions, just down the road.
All of this, of course, can really only begin once we've clarified how the process of transitioning into an entity separate from Acorn will proceed. Or indeed, if it will proceed. Stay tuned. Meantime, research and planning continues.