I have been working on plans for building an Open Eco Center (perhaps more than one) which would be a visitor center at properties in beautiful rural settings. These facilities would also have a residential purpose and provide living space for guests that would stay some time at these facilities to study, research, for healing or just for rest and recreation. Therefore these projects will pioneeer the concepts that we can use to build Eco Villages?, which are preferable to the single family home sprawl of current low density urban development.
I do not advocate "the single family home" as an appropriate pattern for community development. But the base level of societies will remain the family unit and if we can create self-reliance and Eco Living? capabilities at this "cellular" level then our larger communities will naturally express this inward character of sustainable living.
Many people are aware of a few mega-projects that have been built as “ecological” environments such as Biosphere II in Arizona and the Eden Project in England. These projects are impressive due to their scale of the structures; however their operations and design are not truly sustainable. These projects did not openly seek out new concepts and methods for sustainable living that are in the process of emerging but rather they privately developed an expensive design that is not efficient or sustainable yet is designed to excite media and public interest and then associate an "educational and research" component with this inappropriate technology. It is the Field of Dreams approach: "build it and they will come". These projects are touted at being environmental but they are not.
Such mega projects are not producing results that are accessible to individuals and families who would like to see new options for unsustainable living. We all need these new methods whether we live in the midst of plenty and or are trapped in poverty or overtaken by natural or man-made disasters. This is why I am suggesting breaking with the previous project planning scheme and work constructively from the family space upward to the villa (extended family) and village (community) level. I am aware that some mega-community design approach such as the Arcology School of design pays attention to this fine texture of the mega community but approach the problem by fitting the fine texture of a community to a macro concept. It will be interesting to create the DIY building components as person friendly modules and let this fine detail be resolved at the base level and express truly unique Eco Village? and larger Eco City? patterns; small scale patterns evolving to larger scale design - ground up, grass roots process of design.
I think that all the essential technical solutions are at hand and that the primary need is to work on integration and pulling together the "whole systems". I am only suggesting that the crystallization of the fine pattern of sustainable living can be achieved at a small scale (has immediate applications to homes) and has to do with a learning process - not jumping into a large scale design where engineers will push the project into old patterns and timetables will overwhelm the creative process. Therefore I am recommending that we create network of Open Eco Center? projects that are residential facilities for small groups of Eco Living? "pioneers". They will not be competitive but would rather cooperate and share best practices. They would be self funding and operate in a self reliant style as a "living laboratory" that would spin off methods that are accessible to families, individuals and professionals - for a fast diffusion of know how.
I should have news soon about the projects and expected time tables for implementation.