What are we talking about when we are talking about a resilient home? For me, it means a high-performance property that merges shelter, water, renewable energy, food, and even revenue generation. It should be able to provide a secure and lasting source of land-based wealth. That wealth should use and restore nature’s abundance instead of relying on fluctuating market and currency forces.
The Problem of Fragility
Over the past century, we’ve settled around centralized infrastructures that claim to be cheaper and more efficient. The sad reality is that this is not true. Today, the average home acreage or farm is completely dependent on a network of grids to function to ensure we can meet basic needs, like having access to clean water, waste disposal, food, power, and transportation. To make matters worse, these individual grids are dependent on each other, making the whole system fragile. Water depends on power and power depends on water. Food depends on fossil fuels, fertilizer, and water. Waste disposal depends on water and power. You don’t have to dig far to uncover the fragility that exists in these major grid systems to see most human settlements are sitting on a precipice of risk:
- Water: BBC did a piece titled “The 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water—like Cape Town”
- Food: Jim Rodgers, a well-known investor, has been betting on declines in global food production. (When billionaires start hedging against the system we depend on, it’s worth paying attention.)
- Fuels: It will likely take decades for us to transition away from oil and gas, which is where most of our heating fuels, fertilizers, and transport fuels come from. (The transition I’m most concerned with is for home heating, believe it or not.)
- Waste disposal: Megacities are possible through the indiscriminate use of energy and water. The decline of both will yield the loss of one of the most critical municipal systems—the sewer.
- Then there is the impending collapse of aquifers like the Ogallala, which brings us into black swan territory.
I’m not raising these points to be a fearmonger. As an engineer, I get paid to think about risk and to create mitigation strategies. My company, Adaptive Habitat, gets hired to design resilient home acreages and farms to mitigate risks so people can live their lives. I view land and the infrastructure it contains as tangible wealth and a form of insurance. If more people took this approach with their properties, the inherent fragilities of the world would largely vanish. It is the complete dependence on centralized industrial systems that leads to black swan consequences.
The Solution in Resilience
The solutions to these risks are not difficult, but they demand conscious effort and sound designs. Managing these risks doesn’t mean we all have to be off-grid hippies. The necessary technologies and systems have never been more accessible. Here are a few solutions to the risks stated above:
- Wastewater can dealt with through the use of onsite grey water systems, composting toilets, gravity septic systems, and the addition of backup power.
- Power risks can be managed with grid-hybrid systems (see last week’s post!) that will function with or without the grid.
- Thermal fuels can be mostly designed out of the system through the design of low energy passive solar homes and deep energy retrofits of existing ones. In some jurisdictions, these homes are only marginally more expensive and don’t need any fuel to stay above zero and only small amounts to bring it up to room temperature.
- Food can be grown in gardens, perennial food systems like food forests, aquaculture systems, and passive solar greenhouses. The food systems you design will be based on the size and scale of your property and what you are trying to achieve.
- Transport fuels are essential for getting around, but they also underpin most of the other necessities stated above. The transport industry will likely be the first to transition away from fossil fuels; in the meantime, fuel efficient or electric vehicles and reduced travel will have to suffice.
The work of designing properties for resilience takes us all over North America and increasingly around the world. It’s a time-consuming process, and because of this, we can only take on a few clients per year. It’s encouraging that more and more we’re finding people who want to learn how they can design and manage their land for resilience. If you’re one of them, our Adaptive Habitat program might be right for you.
Are you ready to design, create, and maintain a resilient property that you can depend on during uncertain times? Check out our Adaptive Habitat Program, available either in a FREE self-study package or an expert-guided and guaranteed program!