by Anthony Weston
The Planning, Design, and Development (PDD) Functional Circle has just concluded schematic design for the Common House, and we are also in the midst of another key planning initiative, “Raising Sights 2020”. We also just hosted a very active Last Saturday event on that theme. Want to know more? We thought so…
There it is (click for a full-size version)! We’re working schematically at this point – trying to capture the spirit and the function of the eventual building; actual features may somewhat differ – but we are delighted to offer a worked-out visualization for the first time. This is a view of the building as it could look approached on the ground from the south (main community path) side. You can go here for many more images and details.
PDD has been developing the Common House design for since January 2019. Many other members have been involved through Noodling Groups that advised us on the overall design program, while another, partly-overlapping group thought through the Common House kitchen in detail. Sustained back and forth with our architect, Jonathan Lucas of Asheville’s What on Earth Architecture, consolidated and evolved the plans, as we also consulted with County regulators and other advisors. It was an involved process for this central and complex building! Just last week we were finally able to roll out the designs for a first and very enthusiastic look by General Circle.
Again, you can find out much more by going to the “Common House” page under the “Village Design” tab on the community website (or again, just click here). Do note, while you are on the website, that there are other pages relating to village design as well; specifically you might want to revisit the Residences page also to get a sense of how Common House and residence styles coordinate.
Oh and maybe you are wondering what is that spiral structure on the roof? It’s a vertical axis windmill. Think of it as a sculptural but moving and functional element, merrily spinning away as you approach the building, flashing a bit in the sun and powering some of the building’s lights inside when needed. Indeed, we’re an ecovillage!
Here is the floor plan (click for a full-size version):
Again, there is much more detail here.
We are thrilled to share these designs with the community and to finally be able to concretely envision this building that will be so central to the life of the community both functionally, physically, and in spirit as well!
Raising Sights 2020
As we consolidate architectural visions, we are approaching a point at which we want to be able to launch into detailed design development – making decisions about materials, methods, finishes, etc. – as well as undertaking detailed design for village site engineering – making decisions about basic infrastructure, siting, etc. This poses our next big set of challenges and opportunities.
Many of these design decisions will be difficult or costly to change later. At the same time, we are also aware that in the run-up to this moment we have also gradually and unintentionally made some accommodations to more standard (sometimes called “realistic”) ways of doing things, as we deal with outside professionals as well as try to come to terms with persistent trade-offs such as cost issues. Meantime new technologies are constantly emerging that offer unexpected and potentially wonderful new paths to some of our most ambitious goals (so what exactly is “realistic” isn’t always so clear). Both the urgency of our ecovillage project, and the methods and technologies that might support and further it, have only increased since we began this work together, and we want to be sure we are doing the very best we can now as we move toward specific, on-the-ground design commitments.
Accordingly PDD has decided that before proceeding any farther we need to take a critical pause and revisit our basic values and goals, return to our highest ambitions, and raise our sights wherever possible, while remaining practical at the same time. Our new initiative is therefore called “Raising Sights 2020”. It’s developed into a look at four of the most basic objectives of our overall project – which we’ve articulated as Self-reliance, Climate action, and building a Healthy and Happy community within a Thriving Living System – and trying to specify how it might play out across four key sectors for our engineering and architectural planning: Energy, Water, Materials, and the Land. What does self-reliance specifically mean when we are thinking about materials? What does climate-change adaptation mean when we are thinking about water use? – those kinds of questions.
We shared our answers so far at the Last Saturday event on February 29th (which just happened to be Leap Day also – a fine occasion for a leap forward together!) Here’s what we offered (click for a full-sized version).
This is very schematic too, of course, and still in process. By design we are sharing our “sight-raising” right in the midst of undertaking it. It’s a project for all of us! Community members offered many useful questions and feedback at the Last Saturday event, and are welcome to continue to do so by emailing PDD through me at email@example.com.
But we are also poised to take a further step now. Within the framework of this matrix, we want now to undertake RESEARCH on specific objectives to determine just how practical our goals are. Are they realistic? Can we go farther? Specifically, how? What are the best current practices and the most ambitious achievable goals in these areas?
PDD is organizing to carry out some of this research ourselves. We also expect that we’ll need to consult and hire experts in some of these areas to advise us in some technical matters, as well as contacting other communities and projects that have taken innovative and ambitious steps in some of these directions (e.g. DC electrical grids; alternatives to community-wide wireless; actually applied permacultural methods; etc.).
AND – WE NEED YOU! We are hereby calling for any and all interested community member to also join this research work. We called for volunteers at the Last Saturday session and will soon be in touch with those who did about beginning the work. But every member and friend of the community is welcome and indeed urged to join as well. In fact you can email me to that effect right now. We are preparing a guide for the research work and will begin setting out specific assignments shortly. Please jump in! (Again: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Exciting and urgent work for all!