Discussion at Yahoo SolaRoof Forum on DIY activity is heating up!
As most of you will know I have been away from Canada for a long time - since 2001. Now I am spending more time again in Montreal and I will be in New England some if my plans work out. Sola Roof technologies (which is spelt out in 6 related patents that issued to me as inventor) are now dedicated to an Open Source community that I named Sola Roof. So, this is a package of know-how for working with bubbles, liquid solar capture and liquid thermal mass storage, the control of temperature and humidity without need of ventilation, the control of the building envelope temperature (with dynamic bubble process) for heating and cooling benefit, the best use of high-tech cover materials such as laminates and coated scrims and fabrics for tension skin structures, and even a method to make UV stable laminates and composites.
The advanced tension skin structures I am still working on and now have in commercial production in Malaysia and some projects will be moving ahead in Europe.
But in the distant past, I worked with film covered steel frames during my R&D activity in Valleyfield, Quebec. I did not especially want to go in that direction with my commercial work because I consider this construction to be a bit primitive. However, I do agree that tunnels with double frames and polyethylene covers are a good solution for low cost DIY projects. I have long supported the goal of establishing a strong community of users and developers of DIY solutions. That is why we set up this forum and also the Sola Roof Wiki. To encourage personal and family use - and even community projects for local self reliance in food. This is a "grow your own" initiative. I also want to support local and informal food supply in the "south" where 85% of food is produced and consumed locally and where Sola Roof can strengthen the small farmer and family farm.
This personal use of Sola Roof is distinct from the commercial use, which will go out to businesses that supply through the current food "chain of supply" the majority urbanized populations. This is the pattern of consumerism that has firm hold on the people of the northern hemisphere but is not well established in the south. I refer an article on the importance of the rural farmer and the local and informal food supply serving the vast majority of people who live in the South, tittled,"Who will Feed Us". So, the movement that I would hope to inspire is a DIY community of users who together contribute to support families and communities battling with hunger and homelessness due to poverty and disaster. I am asking users and supply chain to Pay It Forward to help others who would not otherwise have the means to gain the advantage of a Sola Roof greenhouse - but who actually have the greatest of need and most urgent situation. Say every tenth family farm unit would be a Pay It Forward project supported by users and suppliers where the kit and the know-how would get delivered to community based, social enterprise projects to grow their own food, sustainably for the long term. This is the DIY Food challenge that I propose.
As to questions of slow uptake by commercial sector - it is bewildering to think of the stone wall that is holding back excellent but radically disruptive technology that is technically possible. My view is that commercial suppliers are motivated only by profit and simple solutions will often destroy the "profit structure" of an industry. So, when the principle benefit is going to users rather then the entrenched supply chain that offers conventional products, then you will see strong resistance the innovation. But DIY is not dependent on a supply chain and therefore a strong development on this level will create a disruption that will make it impossible to hold back the Sola Roof solutions.
I am feeling good about the timing now for my purpose to see low cost and very effective DIY kits going out to a community that has the goal of self-reliance. And I also am confident that such a community will willing share with others and can Pay It Forward. How much? That is not important - it is the intention that counts and the collective result will be radical. I welcome all who have the "hacker" skills to make 2010 a breakthrough year.
Also, I will answer Sherwood's long message in detail. But the short answer is that Sola Roof is not rocket science. With the right skills lots of people can do it. With good kits and more packaged information to guide people, just about anyone could build a project. So, this is excellent DIY territory and perhaps the time is right to push ahead with growing this community. We are now almost 1000 and with successful projects to follow we can start an exponential growth that will benefit lots of people. - Sola Roof Guy