AUTONOMOUS BUILDINGS + NEIGHBOURHOODS

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Can we create a better future by changing our approach to housing and neighbourhoods?

We believe that housing and neighbourhoods shape our communities and that new paradigms of community offer us our best and possibly only hope for creating the profound social change needed to usher a better future.

Stornoway Research Centre (SRC) is a research hub focusing on housing, neighbourhoods and communities. SRC brings together architecture, engineering, planning as well as the social sciences to create new living arrangements that enable vibrant, resilient, self-sufficient and sustainable living.

The mission of this research centre is to contribute towards making the civilizational transition from status quo to a just and restorative way of life based entirely on renewable resources.

“… Modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man” (Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. E.F. Schumacher). Can one, however, even hope to change the nature of society or its system of production given that, as a whole, the institutions that give rise to them form a tight and internally consistent web entangling and holding us onto the current course?

How long can a finite planet support exponential growth in consumption-based economic activity, energy use and emissions?  The growth imperative inherent to our civilization has pushed Earth’s systems beyond their natural variability by severely altering the planet’s land surface, atmosphere, oceans, coasts, biological diversity, water cycle and biogeochemical cycles.  These perturbations to planetary systems, once unleashed, cascade through the natural environment and interact with each other in complex and unpredictable ways, occasionally engendering positive feedbacks, and always exacting a toll on life and well-being.

Massive change at the scale of human civilization seems inevitable given the unsustainability of our current course.  Will this massive change occur in a catastrophic, unmanageable and disruptive fashion or will we successfully design a smooth and timely transition into a non-destructive future civilization?

As a rugged individual acting in isolation, one stands to contribute very little towards this transition.  As engaged members acting collaboratively within informed communities, however, one can become a valuable engine for change.  Engineers, architects, urban planners and social scientists can play a very important role in designing both this alternative future and the transitional path that will bring us to it.

To be successful, any effort towards this transition must be comprehensive in nature, take an inclusive and integrative approach and be based on a profound understanding of the complex interdependencies between the visible and invisible forces and institutions that need dismantling.

We believe that changing our approach to housing, neighbourhoods and communities can produce profound social change.  In other words, by changing the way we live, thereby, bringing our needs in balance with the on-site energy, water and food budgets of natural flows, we will no longer be exposed to the vulnerability of relying on distant suppliers and ghost acreages, and we will, consequently, break the extractive, institutional tethers that diminish us and our natural environment. We believe that there is a better alternative to the houses and neighbourhoods being built today, or built over the past several decades, which are highly effective instruments for trapping us within living arrangements of dependence and financial servitude.

Highly complex, fragile and globalized supply chains

Few understand and even fewer control today’s highly complex, fragile and globalized supply chains. Yet, our lives are fully predicated on the smooth and continuous flow of goods and services through these vast pipelines. Where’s the wisdom in this arrangement?

Stornoway Research Centre

Towards Self-Sufficiency and Local Resilience

Autonomous Buildings and Neighbourhoods

We are interested in buildings and neighbourhoods that support energy, food and water autonomy in the operational needs of households or communities. We are currently completing an autonomous barn / greenhouse and designing, for construction-start in 2017, an autonomous house, as proof-of-concept.

BIPV-T Collector and Balance of System

A building-integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) system extracts heat, in addition to electricity, from its PV modules. By actively extracting heat from its modules — and thereby reducing their temperature — a BIPV-T system reduces temperature-related losses in module efficiency. We are interested in BIPV-T because it could provide, as a single energy system, all the heat and power required by a building

Heat Pump Technologies

Heat extracted from a BIPV-T collector is made available to a building for use either directly, for low-temperature applications, or through the mediation of a heat pump, for higher temperatures. In our northern climate, heat pumps form an essential component within a BIPV-T energy system — both for space-heating as well as domestic hot water.

Autonomous Greenhouse, Year-Round Food Production and Bio-Intensive Mini-Farming

Energy, water and food are all essential facets to achieving self-sufficiency. Our climate, unfortunately, does not facilitate easy, year-round food production. Nevertheless, a thin layer of appropriate technologies combined with rediscovering the wisdom of ancestral practices holds great promise to solving this challenge.

Precipitation Harvesting

To come.

De-globalization and De-growth Through Convivial Self-sufficiency

To come.