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Re: Constructive Criticism on Concept Communities to Eric

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  • Eric Hunting
    You pose a lot of questions and issues here that go beyond the level of my crude preliminary proposal and need much more research to work out, but I ll try to
    Message 1 of 17 , Apr 3, 2006
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      You pose a lot of questions and issues here that go beyond the level of
      my crude preliminary proposal and need much more research to work out,
      but I'll try to answer what I can.


      > Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 22:07:30 -0000
      > From: "Jeremy Noyes" <jeremy_noyes@...>
      > Subject: Constructive Criticism on Concept Communities to Eric
      >
      > Ive also been doing a lot of thinking along these lines and was hoping
      > discussion would swing back towards community design I've just read
      > both Eric's and Phil's posts have a few comments and a few questions
      > for both plans and would like to keep the dialogue going.
      >
      > First off let me state that I've actually been trying to raise the
      > money to buy the land to do something real like this. The reality is
      > more often than not that many people have interest and desire but not
      > funds to act upon their dreams of living in such a community.
      >
      > So a quick list of problems I've encountered would read
      >
      > 1) lack of money to purchase land and its corallary overpriced real
      > estate...along with difficulty financing unconventional projects.
      >
      > 2)finding a suitable parcel of land: having electric, water sources
      > southern exposure, a realistic commute to an urban center, internet,
      > cellphone or other high speed communications to tap into.
      >
      > 3)deed restrictions, conservation easements, overly zealous wetlands
      > regulations and septic regulations.
      >
      > 4)local zoning, subdivision regulations and drive way permits,
      > outright nimby-ism and corrupt or heavy handed government officials.
      >
      > 5) lack of money for parcel development including construction
      > materials, and heavy construction machinery (backhoes, dozers, well
      > drillers etc)
      >
      > thats not near the complete list but thats a start of what Ive run
      > into so far in the past few months.
      >
      > Eric Im going to attempt to address your post in digestable bites and
      > the same for Phils.
      >
      >
      > --- In luf-team@yahoogroups.com, Eric Hunting <hunting@...> wrote:
      >>
      >> Here's an article I've been working on lately for my planned Office Of
      >> Post-Industrial Technology web site. It is a proposal for a
      >> post-industrial demonstration community whose concept has been
      >> floating
      >> around in my mind for some time. Some may find this more or less
      >> relevant but I think it offers an interesting notion for land-based
      >> community development, though it's choice of architecture does
      >> definitely preclude the more conventional financing of new communities
      >> and probably is only possible with some kind of land trust.
      >
      > agreed...take a closer look at the legal frame work of Steve Davis 's
      > land trust in Acworth NH www.coldpondclt.org Steve's both friendly and
      > helpful and he's already been through the ringer on how to do this.
      > and also for reference.
      > http://www.privatelandownernetwork.org/#
      >
      >
      >> _____________________________________________
      >>
      >> dubbed this
      >> community a 'palace' by way of implying that it was a community
      >> focused
      >> on maximizing quality of life and pleasure by virtue of the personal
      >> time inhabitants recovered when their labor was reduced to meeting
      >> their own daily needs rather than earning a salary.
      >
      >
      > Query 1: Do we lose economies of scale, when we seek to despecialize?

      This is an important issue for the cultivation of post-industrial
      alternatives to consumer goods. As anyone who has worked in hand crafts
      knows, it's often difficult to craft items and come away spending less
      than if one bought a similar item from a store. Thus the 'hobby' of
      handcraft is predicated on the personal satisfaction of being able to
      creating something by oneself and 'craft' (in a professional sense) on
      adding value to the item in terms of superior artistic, design, or
      physical quality.

      But there is an argument that the concept of industrial economy of
      scale is an illusion built on willful ignorance and fuzzy math. That
      the reason that 50¢ box of pencils from China seems cheap is because we
      are ignorant of the full cost in energy, environmental damage, and
      social exploitation that is also spent on it. Thus we are effectively
      subsidizing the price of apparently 'cheap' consumer goods at the gas
      pump, at tax time, on the 'credit' of the environment, and at the
      expense of the deliberate impoverishment of people in other countries.
      If we could actually account for this that 50¢ box of pencils might
      have an order of magnitude higher price.

      In a more personally practical sense, though, this is not that clear
      cut. With the current technology at hand, many items will be cheaper
      when made oneself, others not. Economy of scale does indeed exist when
      a production technology defies down-scaling. At the same time, that
      hidden subsidy is often difficult quantify and often technologies of
      personal production must figure out how to produce goods at a far lower
      than normal cost in order to become apparently cheaper. Larger
      'durable' goods are an easier nut to crack than disposable consumer
      goods like paper products -and this is already well indicated by the
      way that existing industrial production for these goods is abandoning
      centralized manufacture in favor of distributed small scale 'job shop'
      production. On the turn of the millennium our civilization hit a
      significant milestone that almost everyone overlooked. On that year the
      amount of consumer goods produced by job shops for the first time
      exceeded in volume those produced through centralized factory
      production. Quite often apparent economy of scale for a particular
      product disappears when one fully calculates just the energy spent on
      the multiple stages of transportation in the chain from raw materials
      to the consumer's home. Already a few automobile companies are thinking
      about in-dealership assembly of cars on demand because of how much can
      be saved in energy overhead in the distribution chain. US corporations
      are somewhat behind in this evolution -THAT is the real root of
      Detroit's current problems today and not their antiquated design
      sensibilities.

      Overcoming the barrier of economy of scale is part of what this
      community would be seeking to do as part its technological and cultural
      development and there are three strategies to this; purely
      technological solutions where one simply devises new small scale
      systems to produce goods formally only possible with large scale
      systems, design solutions where one re-designs goods to facilitate
      their smaller scale of production or reduce their redundancy or rate of
      obsolescence by wear or 'fashion', and cultural solutions where one
      simply obsolesces certain goods of marginal necessity, reduces their
      per-person cost by sharing them among many people, or one accepts high
      cost for higher quality by virtue of superior return on investment.

      That last bit is particularly significant. It might be the most
      important of all cultural memes in the post-industrial movement. You
      see, sometimes being as cheap or cheaper than the existing product
      offerings is NOT the most economical solution when weighed against the
      ROI. This is a mistake that most poor and middle-class people repeat
      constantly because they've been cultured to have such short attention
      spans, not think long-term, and are ignorant of the actual value of
      most everything. One of the interesting things about rich people is
      that, while we commonly blame them for much of the environmental
      problems in the world (due basically to what their wealth is built on)
      they tend to actually live a much more sustainable lifestyle than most
      middle-class people. How is that possible considering the extravagances
      they surround themselves in? Because one of the reasons rich people
      stay rich is that they typically spend a far smaller percentage of
      their income to maintain their standard of living than poor and
      middle-class people do. They can afford domestic goods of such high
      quality that they not only have a much reduced rate of depreciation,
      they often appreciate! So when a rich person 'updates' their home in
      terms of style they can often do it at zero cost because they are
      usually no less than breaking even on the sale of their old stuff. Most
      middle-class people tend to seek a kind of volumetric parity with the
      rich. They mistakenly assume quality of life is defined by quantity of
      stuff and since they can't afford the quality of stuff the rich can
      they try to buy equivalent amounts of stuff at lower prices. The
      problem is that the stuff they buy is just plain crap. it lasts very
      short amounts of time under normal use and it's value turns to near
      zero as soon as it's out of the store! So the middle-class person is
      always getting a bad ROI for everything he buys. Always losing money in
      the process of maintaining his standard of living. If middle-class
      people thought more like rich people when they bought things and were
      more judicious about the volume of goods they actually need to be
      comfortable they could afford higher quality stuff that gives them a
      better ROI, reduces the overhead of their standard of living, and be
      well on their way to actually getting rich! In this context, the
      apparent economy of scale in production of many goods evaporates
      because the product is a bad investment to begin with. The cheap chair
      you buy at Wal-Mart is an inherently unsustainable product because its
      designed to turn into trash so quickly it's not even worth the raw
      materials that went into it. It's that logic of cutting down trees to
      make paper that turns into junk mail in your mailbox. Turning forests
      into landfills to communicate information to you that you don't even
      want.

      So the short answer is, yes, there is a challenge in production economy
      of scale to deal with but parity in that isn't the whole answer. It
      doesn't necessarily matter if you can't produce toilet paper as cheap
      as you can get it at the supermarket if you can make a bidet.

      > The palace seeks
      >> self-sufficiency not in some absolute manner but rather by cultivating
      >> within its community the necessary mix of people, skills, agriculture,
      >> and light industry to produce most, if not all, the goods members of
      >> the community might need.
      >
      > Query 2a: Do we have a list of the necessary skills and numbers of
      > people with certain skills required for basic community fuctioning?
      >
      > Query 2b: What size population does a town need to possess for it to
      > be able to support, ancillary service professionals, A dentist? A hair
      > dressor? A medical professional with clinic? etc.

      The answer to both these questions is that we don't yet know and this
      is what community projects like this have to work out in
      experimentation. Certainly, more research can be done ahead of time to
      get these closer to the mark at the start but it will still only be an
      educated guess and it's going to change over time. Bear in mind, this
      proposed community is NOT intended to be totally self-sufficient at the
      start. It's job is to try and figure out what that takes at the current
      and imminent levels of technology. Chances are that absolute
      self-sufficiency is not possible with any near-term technology because
      of the way environment, climate, and local culture effects the spectrum
      of practical production -especially with agricultural items and items
      based on scarcer materials. There will still be situations where the
      location and culture of a community makes it a bit better or worse at
      producing certain kinds of things and that these difference must be
      smoothed out in exchange with neighboring communities. We can only
      whittle away at the problem at this point. There's no turn-key solution
      here.

      >> There is no 'profit' motive because, unless someone is extremely lazy
      >> or the technology at hand insufficient, one should typically need to
      >> work very little to live very well -especially with the leverage of
      >> contemporary technology at their disposal.
      >
      >
      > Query 3: define lazy...would there be a manditory participation to
      > tending the community gardens, barn raisings, teaching duties etc to
      > ensure that people enjoy the good life at their neighbors expense?

      The community and personal needs will have to define that. Some people
      need very little to be comfortable, others a bit more. Some people are
      magnanimous, others more exploitative. When a community decides it
      needs or wants certain shared facilities they have to define the rules
      for its shared maintenance and if those rules aren't followed and the
      facility not properly maintained it goes away. Access to some
      facilities might be contingent on committing to its specific shared
      maintenance or a community might adopt compulsory work share for
      everyone for everything in the community as part of residence
      requirement regardless of what the individual does or doesn't use.
      Either way can work and both have their trade-offs. Thing is, when a
      community achieves the right balance and population, this is usually a
      pretty good deal.

      In many cohousing communities communal meals in a community dining are
      very popular because of the work and money they save for the individual
      and the socialization they encourage. Food costs less in bulk and
      kitchen work is close to the same in terms of man-hours whether one is
      feeding a few or a hundred -as long as you're not doing short-order
      cooking. So for the cost of one evening's work in the community kitchen
      out of a month a person might get meals made for them all month. That's
      a pretty good deal. But in some cohousing communities this doesn't work
      because the population is too small so they might have communal meals
      only once a week or once a month as a special event or just not have
      communal dining at all. And there are intermediate solutions too, like
      the meal 'assembly' facility. These are becoming popular in cities as
      an alternative to take-away food. They're places you go where the
      ingredients for meals are pre-prepared but not cooked. So you go and
      pick out what ingredients you want, assembled them in a partial
      kitchen, and take them home to cook. You get fresh food at less or
      similar cost to packaged food with about the same convenience as
      take-out. Working women with families like these places because they
      can still produce a traditional family meal without the full time and
      effort. In the communal kitchen context, the shared labor is only in
      the preparing of these ingredients. They don't have to cook or wash
      dishes.

      Again, this all comes down to experimentation. Many cohousing projects
      start out with plans for a lot of facilities but then, when they sit
      down and work out or experience in practice how much work everyone has
      to do for them, they decide it's not really worth their effort.
      However, with this post-industrial community we have a culture focused
      on the goal of minimizing personal labor so more such facilities may
      become more practical as people apply their ingenuity to figuring out
      how to reduce their shared labor overhead.

      > (that people today do not
      >> routinely question why they often spend as much work time to make a
      >> living as Medieval serfs in an age of such advanced technology is
      >> astounding!)
      >
      > Silly Eric...most people don't think period how else did civilization
      > get to the point where you work 30 years to pay off a house that
      > should only cost you 2-3 years income.
      >
      > Residents seek a high level of comfort at a minimum in
      >> material property ownership by sharing with and within the community
      >> many of those facilities they might individually be unable to make (or
      >> afford) solely for themselves or which are not used frequently enough
      >> to justify ownership; pleasure and comfort facilities like swimming
      >> pools, saunas, baths, gardens. Entertainment facilities like large
      >> book
      >> and media libraries, theaters, and dance halls. Work facilities like
      >> state-of-the-art workshops, craft studios, or labs. Health facilities
      >> like clinics, exercise rooms, and gymnasiums. All these things
      >> available within a casual walking distance and nearly as immediate for
      >> use -albeit shared- as if they were in one's own home.
      >
      > Query 4: Was this an exhaustive list of shared community facilities
      > and if so...Is there a building priority for what is necessary to have
      > built first eg a building to house construction machinery and
      > tools...before the play house.

      No, this is just a suggestive list. The community has to work out what
      things they need in what priority. One can realistically only pre-plan
      the fundamentals, based mostly on the utilities infrastructure of the
      community; water, power, telecommunications, waste management. A
      clinic, for instance, might have a high priority for a community
      starting out in a more remote location with a larger population. A
      community closer to a city with pre-existing medical facilities might
      have that at a lower priority. The key here is being able to implement
      these things rapidly when people decide they are necessary and minimize
      losses if they don't quite work the first time they are implemented.
      The more flexible the architecture the less one should have to
      pre-plan.

      > One can see a
      >> certain analogy here to the royal palaces of the ancient past where,
      >> although everything might be created for and owned by a monarch, the
      >> many luxuries of the palace were shared by a large community of
      >> more-or-less permanent residents of the royal court. A very different
      >> model of 'communal' living compared to the majority of notions which
      >> seem rooted in the idea of a sacrifice in standard of living for the
      >> sake of social and environmental ideals. Here people are coming
      >> together in order to obtain a better standard of living, not for some
      >> experiment in group masochism.
      >>
      >
      > group masochim ...yes I have noticed the lack of bathing facilities in
      > some of the hippy-esque establishments. However happiness is often
      > found to coorelate well with individuals to either engage or disengage
      > from the group at will...living in a city apartment I often did not
      > sleep well because my neighbors choose to be loud at night...is this
      > palace one single structure? and if so how do you do simple and
      > necessary things like sound proofing?

      I envisioned it as a transforming single structure which might adopt a
      Chinese Mansion configuration over time. In Bolo'Bolo P.M.'s vision of
      a palace community is very much a Chinese Mansion or a sort of eco-tech
      equivalent of the walled Medieval town -there's a fanciful illustration
      in the book. However, the first European bolo projects have been based
      on conventional urban apartment buildings.

      The noisy neighbor problem familiar to urban residents today is partly
      a problem of slip-shod apartment design (inadequate demising walls) and
      partly the product of the urban culture. It's more commonly a problem
      in older subdivided buildings or smaller multi-unit homes relying on
      conventional light framing for their walls, as opposed to more properly
      engineered apartment buildings relying on heavier construction. Because
      of the lightness of the Tomatech structural system this is definitely
      an issue for using a single conjoined community structure -as is fire
      control. But it's largely an issue of materials used in key demising
      walls. Acoustic foams are the obvious solution and similar mineral
      foams offer utterly impervious fire walls with little mass. Airkrete -a
      preferred insulation product for non-toxic homes- is also commonly used
      for lining in blast furnaces and can be easily incorporated into wall
      panels like any other foam insulation. I have also considered the use
      of a winged structure. In other words, residential units are not
      necessarily perfectly adjacent side-by-side. Instead, they form
      radially extending wings off a core structure which might host an
      interior avenue linking them.

      Still, it will definitely require a certain mind set for people to live
      in close proximity. People with a tendency to make a nuisance or
      -conversely- be constant complainers or bickerers will not last long in
      a real community. They either grow-up, wise-up, or get lost. There's no
      perfect solution here and the problem is exacerbated by a growing
      cultural misanthropy in industrialized countries. Civility isn't
      fashionable these days. But, if we are indeed approaching peak oil and
      a mass migration of the population due to global warming, we better
      bloody-well get used to it.

      >> This is a critically important point for the palace concept.
      >> Sustainability of civilization in our increasingly strained
      >> environment
      >> depends on increasing the resource efficiency of human life, making
      >> attractive and super-efficient urban habitat necessary for both ours
      >> and the environment's survival.
      >
      > agreed, little islands of productivity sanity and self sufficiency
      > with high urban like density so the activites of life are easy to
      > walk to and commute to
      >
      >
      >
      > Yet for decades contemporary culture
      >> has tended to demonize the city, encouraging people to seek a better
      >> quality of life by fleeing it
      >
      > actually people don't flee the city center because of the density
      > ...they flee it to get away from other people...often escaping towards
      > a higher class structure at the periphery and leaving the
      > undesireable s in the city center..."the hollowing-out" effect.

      This is true. Bear in mind, though, that slums aren't accidental. they
      are deliberately created, usually as a means to isolate and exploit
      social and ethnic classes and sometimes as a method of accelerating the
      deterioration of obsolete urban regions in order to create an excuse
      for radical 'urban renewal' schemes favoring the financial interests of
      political insiders. Increasingly today they are created simply as class
      dumping grounds. The urban areas of New Jersey such as Camden are a
      good example of this. NJ long had a scheme referred to by some as the
      American Apartheid. Predominately wealthy towns in the northern parts
      of the state would buy-off their legal obligations for low-income
      housing by agreeing to pay portions of the debt incurred in slum-prone
      cities like Camden. No such city in the world ever truly gets out of
      debt so this scheme allowed the northern towns to remain predominately
      white and upper class no matter how much the population in the state
      grew. Reinforcing this practice, virtually all police departments in
      the wealthier and suburban parts of the state have an unwritten policy
      of picking up any homeless people that happen to find their way into
      their communities and dumping them in these slum zones. (and to think
      the nuckleheads of network news only just 'discovered' this practice in
      LA. They ought to take a look around. It's a universal practice) Many
      homeless in the northern parts of the state would literally hide in the
      remaining forests and green belts to avoid these sweeps -a fate I often
      feared for myself being disabled in affluent and predominately
      republican Morris County. The Apartheid analogy came from the practice
      of the northern corporations -predominately telecommunications
      companies- to bus in black workers from these dumping ground
      communities to do menial labor in the communities they aren't allowed
      to live in. If anyone bothered to look, they would discover similar
      arrangements throughout this nation.

      Portions of a city can become functionally obsolete because of their
      inability to change. But they really deteriorate by willful neglect of
      the city government and populace around them. Residential space can
      never really be completely obsolete. Property values of residential
      areas can decline by virtue of shifts in the organization of
      transportation systems and the focus on new development in other areas
      but there is no 'market' excuse for the slum.

      > and 'getting back to nature'. You can't
      >> preserve the wilderness by moving into it. You preserve it by leaving
      >> it alone!
      >
      > cluster developments and leaving open spaces are in fact gaining
      > popularity amoung builders and developers but have yet to sink in to
      > conservationists and town planning boards.
      >
      >
      > So what is actually needed to improve the sustainability of
      >> human civilization is a way for making living in high density
      >> desirable. A way for making life in an urban environment better than
      >> the suburbs or the edge-of-wilderness homesteads that many misguided
      >> environmentalists fantasize about but which, if generally adopted,
      >> would destroy the environment as surely as if we paved the planet
      >> whole.
      >
      > All of the palace ammenties---but how do you get people to not hate
      > each other---sound proofing I would guess is only the beginning.

      Like I said, this is a cultural problem and it may take both a cultural
      as well as an architectural solution. Barring mental illness (which is
      a real problem given some estimates that 1 in 4 Americans have some
      form of mental illness) the 'bad neighbor syndrome' is largely the
      product of anonymity; of the state of mind of being anonymous in a
      mega-society indifferent to the individual and which one is not
      responsible to. Rates in vandalism often relate to this issue - since
      people will not treat an environment with respect when they think it is
      the property of a faceless corporate or bureaucratic machine as opposed
      to an actual community of real people they can identify with. (it's
      absolutely no mystery why teenagers typically beat the crap out of
      their school buildings...)

      When the city began being re-engineered to suit the needs of the
      Industrial Age a radical transformation of society was instituted, a
      re-engineering of the human psyche along with his habitat. Old World
      cities typically featured a spontaneously evolved organic organization
      based on the nested radial clustering of space. A physical
      representation of a hierarchy of social propriety transitioning from
      the intimate or personal to the public with the extended family
      compound at its base, through to the village scale cluster or
      neighborhood, and then up to a sectional level often defined by ethnic
      groups, religious affiliation, trade speciality or social class. A
      central physical loci of communication and activity -a court or square-
      was featured for each level of this hierarchy, serving as an interface
      between the levels of the hierarchy. Walls, alleys, and streets would
      define the physical boundary of each cellular unit, creating at each
      level a different level of community identity often expressed in the
      architecture. This arrangement mirrored the organizations found in
      tribal communities and produced strong community networks within the
      urban fabric, often resulting in rivalries between tribe-like groups
      that sometimes resulted in warfare and other times resulted in the
      accumulation of political and economic power that rivaled that of kings
      -and sometimes dictated their fates. Though far from a perfect
      environment -prone to rigid social classes that were impossible for
      individuals to move out of, prone to class and race exploitation,
      limited in personal privacy, often impossible to adapt to changing
      technology or municipal infrastructure needs, and often turning into
      gigantic death traps in the event of fire, disaster, or disease- social
      support systems through the community network were strong and families
      could find stability in their locations for centuries. This is how
      cities have been formed for the majority of human history.

      New World cities -and Old World cities by expansion and retrofit- began
      to adopt the grid as a means of solving the safety, transportation, and
      communications problems of the old city, making it safer for larger
      populations and better suited to new industrial activity, new forms of
      real estate speculation, new transportation technology, and ostensibly
      a new egalitarianism in the democratic society. The reality, though,
      was that the needs of the factory and schemes of social class control
      dominated the effective rationale for the adoption of this form. The
      grid destroyed -or at least resisted- community by eliminating the
      nested physical loci of socialization common to both old cities and
      virtually other pre-Industrial age communities. Personal ownership of
      urban property became progressively rarer, pushing upward on the social
      class scale and making virtually all urban residents tenants of people
      progressively more distant from the communities of the properties they
      owned. The hierarchy of social propriety was flattened -reduced to just
      two levels of personal private space and fully open and exposed public
      space- fostering social isolation by limiting one's community identity
      to that of the incoherent macro-community. Community identity was
      replaced by anonymity, reducing identity to a faceless, rights-less,
      and powerless individual in a mass of humanity indifferent to him and
      which he has no concrete responsibility to. The extended family was
      broken apart and replaced by the more portable and exploitable Nuclear
      Family, it's economically non-productive members discarded to
      factory-like care facilities. Under the guise of social equality, this
      actually made it harder for working classes to organize and exercise
      power. The dark side of that 'individuality' American culture gives so
      much lip-service to. To survive in this new alien, exploitative, and
      often hostile urban environment a new psyche had to develop, one which
      is expressed in the behavioral quirks country folk commonly observe in
      their urban counterparts; a brusqueness that verges on rudeness, a
      chronic haste and impatience, a sense of constant competitiveness, and
      a fundamental misanthropy that is typified by indifference toward how
      one's actions impact one's neighbors and the ability to turn one's back
      on victims of crime and to obliviously walk past the sick, drunk, or
      homeless one encounters on the street. There is a common misconception
      that the negative aspects of urban life are some kind of unavoidable
      natural consequence of putting large numbers of people in a small area.
      This is false. These things are the side effects of a deliberate
      strategy of social control and class exploitation. These problems did
      not exist to the degree they do now until the Industrial Age, even with
      urban densities as high as exists today and with levels of municipal
      hygiene far worse.

      How then do you create a dense habitat where people can get along? By
      creating an environment that physically defines clear and nested
      boundaries or propriety while encouraging socialization at key loci of
      human traffic flow and thus cultivating community identity and
      civility. By fighting anonymity. Architects designing cohousing
      complexes will often refuse to build structures above a certain height
      because of the belief that the higher one is above the street the more
      the sense of anonymity grows. People tend to feel psychologically
      connected to others when observing their activity and above a certain
      height the view of activity at street level becomes obscured. I think,
      however, that this is little simplistic. It probably has less to do
      with the height of a building than with the 'social collision rate';
      the statistical incidence of human interaction and exposure to human
      activity. The hierarchically compartmentalized old city provided a
      psychologically healthy minimum social collision rate while buffering
      the individual against too high a rate. The nested levels of enclosure
      created by walls and buildings metered the exposure to human activity
      and intereaction. You got different levels of serenity -from the
      private and still personal space to the noisy and lively large city
      section square- which a person could move between according to their
      varying state of mind and desire for interaction. There was often a
      lack of personal privacy, by modern standards, but there was insulation
      from the total urban throng as well. Local redundancy in service
      facilities coupled to a limitation to foot traffic reduced the traffic
      volumes one had to face in getting around the city and meeting one's
      daily needs. Replacing numerous small redundant service facilities with
      progressively larger and more centralized ones (following that factory
      model again) the grid city chokes its thoroughfares with nearly
      continuous traffic and extreme amounts of human and mechanized traffic
      at regular intervals determined by corporate work cycles, draining the
      3D volumes of buildings and driving them all into the street at the
      same times of the day. It's no surprise this is a major source of
      stress for the urban inhabitant.

      These kinds of things we can design architectural solutions to. We can
      craft an environment that recreates that hierarchy of social propriety,
      those varying levels of serenity, and metered social collision rates.
      We can eliminate rigid work cycles that throw huge numbers of people
      into each other's face at regular intervals. We can employ a redundancy
      in common public facilities to prevent an over-scaling of centralized
      facilities. We can sequester the automobile and keep its noise,
      pollution, and physical hazard out of the community. But the psyche
      cultivated over generations of the Industrial Age is probably a much
      tougher nut to crack. The social isolation we've become accustomed to
      has produced a society like a pack of feral children, devoid of the
      social skills and civility common to our ancestors. And this is a
      problem much greater in the US and other New World communities, as
      demonstrated by the fact that American cohousing projects have tended
      to have a much more protracted and difficult group planning phase than
      European ones. A lot of learning is needed and -hopefully- in the right
      physical environment this can happen. But there's no question that a
      lot of people are not going to be able to cut it and will be weeded out
      of the new community. Age and freedom of pre-existing family
      obligations would probably have much to do with this.

      We also need to account for the fact that the concept of family is
      evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. Even Danish style cohousing
      communities have a tendency to focus on the Nuclear Family. But this
      form of family is a cultural aberration invented by the Industrial Age
      and now becoming an anachronism. It didn't exist 200 years ago and it
      will rarely exist in the future. The structure and composition of the
      contemporary family is now becoming as demassified as everything else
      in the culture. So communities today need to be able to accommodate a
      spectrum of households that range from the actual traditional
      multigenerational extended family to innumerable combinations and
      numbers of genders, races, ages, married and unmarried people, related
      and unrelated people, biological and adopted children. This is the real
      world. This is what are culture is now. And the denial about this that
      much of the western society has tended to perpetuate is unproductive.

      > We need -for sustainability reasons- a new
      >> city that embodies a new popular perception of the 'good life'.
      >>
      >> P.M.'s work has inspired some attempts at creating model palace
      >> communities in Europe. These have so far been -logically enough- urban
      >> based and designed around repurposed urban residential structures such
      >> as residential apartment buildings or obsolete industrial buildings.
      >
      > Query 5: What is the cost threshold for getting into somehting like
      > this. I looked at a three unit apt building in a slum in Harrisburg
      > back in 2001 cost 36K...of course now the real estate bubble needs to
      > deflate first.

      Do you mean for the individual? Based on what the Tomahouse pricing for
      their most economical form is like, probably about $12,000 or 10,000
      Euro minimum. Probably about twice to three times that on average. Mind
      you, this minimum is for apartment-sized spaces starting at something
      which is almost like a Japanese 'rabbit hutch' two room apartment which
      relies heavily on built-ins for space efficiency. Look at the Bale
      style cabins on the Tomahouse site as an example. Most Americans
      wouldn't find that tolerable outside of the vacation cabin context but
      college students would think it generous. Much personal space needs are
      eliminated by communal facilities. You don't need a full kitchen if
      there is a communal dining hall. But I don't think we need to set
      strict limits on maximum size either as long as the space one wants to
      add can be effectively integrated into the rest of the structure.
      Obviously, it doesn't make much sense for people to be plugging a
      McMansion into a community where most residences are apartment-sized.
      But we don't have to compel people to live in rabbit hutch apartments
      either.

      >> But that is much more difficult to do in other regions of the world
      >> -especially in the generally less progressive US cities. It would be
      >> cheaper and easier to rebuild the Taj Mahal on the Moon than an
      >> eco-village in New York City. In the US everything new tends to be
      >> driven to the fringes of civilization. That's why you find most of the
      >> sustainable (not to mention Modernist, Post-Modernist, and
      >> alternative)
      >> architecture in the US sitting on the edge of wilderness and
      >> concentrated in places like the desert Southwest. That's why the
      >> Biosphere II had to be built in the deserts of Arizona while the UK's
      >> Eden Project could be built a convenient train ride away from London.
      >
      > Agreed as mentioned municipal law makes things much more
      > difficult...cost also drives new concept contruction to the edges.
      >
      >
      >> This is very frustrating because going out to the wilderness to prove
      >> this concept is exactly the WRONG thing to do. It's the cities that
      >> need to be made more liveable. But it seems that, in America, in order
      >> to demonstrate how to fix the city you are forced to make new ones
      >> from
      >> scratch and obsolesce the old ones. A 'flat earther' mentality tends
      >> to
      >> dominate the American city -a seeming cultural parallel to its
      >> physical
      >> stratification and the social decrepitude it cultivates.
      >
      >
      > I agree the cities are where it makes sense to start in some cases
      > becuase they are already centrally situated where natural resoucres
      > and natural trade routes are built...but again the cost is prohibitive.
      >>
      >> For some time this author has pondered what strategies might be
      >> employed for the demonstration of a model post-industrial community.
      >> Why has the contemporary city become such an abject failure as
      >> effective sustainable habitat when, in theory, it should be the most
      >> sustainable and sophisticated form of it? I believe the root of the
      >> problem rests in the city's inability to physically evolve over time.
      >
      > Eric it takes more energy time and money to tear down build and build
      > new...often times simply because of the permits and legal hurdles
      > involved. Only developers with deep pockets can consider reshaping
      > city center property

      My point, though is that the only reason this is so expensive in
      energy, time, and money is because of bad design to begin with, because
      of the inherent inflexibility of architecture which encourages
      obsolescence. If flexibility was built-into the architecture to begin
      with, adaptation wouldn't be so difficult. You wouldn't have to always
      tear down to effectively and fully adapt. This is what I mean by
      'functionally generic' architecture. The functional roles of urban
      buildings are often too hard-wired into their design. Why aren't most
      urban buildings as spontaneously adaptable as most office and early
      urban factory and warehouse buildings? Certainly, this can't always
      help with radical infrastructure reconfiguration but there too the
      problem could be ameliorated by urban substructure that is similarly
      functionally generic. We put so much underground in the city and need
      to change it with such increasing frequency, why is it not
      pre-constructed like a space frame? Why isn't the urban underground as
      functionally generic as an office building too? Why isn't it the
      'passive backplane' of the city?

      >> Cities to date have been unable to effectively accommodate change
      >> because their infrastructures are too functionally specialized and
      >> become buried by superstructures that are likewise too specialized.
      >> The
      >> contemporary city is unable to accommodate change except by retrofit
      >> as
      >> the costs and inconvenience of demolition become too great. The fiasco
      >> of Boston's recent attempt to make what are ultimately rather minor
      >> adaptations of its infrastructure are a clear demonstration of this
      >> problem. Consequently, as cities age their cores become more
      >> stratified
      >> in form and function and begin to rot from the inside out as they
      >> become increasingly dysfunctional.
      >
      > It not the buildings that are the problems buildings can and often are
      > repurposed its the regulatory process that drives the cost up to the
      > point where building ex-urb just makes more financial sense.

      This is true but I tend to see this as a symptom of urban decrepitude
      -a bureaucratic expression of the physical resistance to change. Its
      often a direct product of corruption -deliberate resistance to changes
      by newcomers for the protection of old vested interests who fear
      changes that effect their property values.

      > And yet we still design and engineer
      >> buildings and communities as though permanence is a fact despite
      >> obvious signs to the contrary. And the consequences of this is an
      >> unnecessarily high economic and environmental cost to accommodate
      >> change, if if can be accommodated at all.
      >
      > I happen to disagree with you rather storgly here...buildings at least
      > their shells should be designed to be rather permanent...as one
      > maintence time and cost reduction would be freed up for following
      > other prosuits...who really wants to have to re-roof their home on a
      > regular basis.
      >
      > The building shell should provide a location with: natural light, dry
      > building surfaces, indoor temperature control (65-70 F), protection
      > from the elements (wind and rain) and a sewage or water reclaimation
      > system...the first thing that comes to mind is a south facing shallow
      > cave built to last 500 years or more...so providing a livable location
      > isn't a time or energy consuming process and frees people up to work
      > on other thigs. Take a look at Arcosanti's energy envelope idea. in
      > the Solare concept http://www.arcosanti.org/

      I don't think we're in disagreement here. I think you are just missing
      what I mean by 'functionally generic' architecture. We're actually
      talking about much the same thing. The difference is that I'm talking
      about the permanence of function. Regardless of whether a building is
      built to last and remain the same for a thousand years or be
      spontaneously demountable, its effective permanence is determined by
      the permanence of function -and there is no such thing anymore. So for
      a building -no matter how it is built- to survive it must be able to
      avoid obsolescence by adapting to the changes in function demanded of
      it. Its life span is keyed to its flexibility. The building built to
      last a thousand years is still no match for the wrecking ball.

      The total physical transformability of the Ever-Changing Palace is only
      feasible up to a certain scale and within certain environments given
      the current technology. Beyond that, one is compelled to use structures
      which are not fully demountable and therefore must be freely adaptable
      instead. That is what I mean by 'functionally generic'. A combination
      of superstructure and infrastructure which accommodates the universal
      functions of load bearing, weather barrier, and utilities 'backplane'
      but which is otherwise devoid of any other specific purpose. That
      specific purpose is established by the use of freely demountable
      retrofit components. So even if we can't get full demountability -can't
      get form to spontaneously change with function- we can get a form
      generic enough to accommodate any function. This is actually what the
      basic structural systems of Soleri's arcologies are like. The arcology
      -given current technology- cannot freely transform in the short term
      and so is functionally generic instead. It is all 'loft space'. As
      similar strategy is also going to be necessary for communities like
      Aquarius, as I plan to explain in another article I'm working on right
      now.

      There is no virtue in structural permanence and no down-side to
      demountability. What matters is flexibility, which the demountable
      structure has a potential advantage with but not exclusive ability for.
      The need for non-demountable structure is a limitation imposed by
      scale, the limits of construction technology. and bureaucracy. In the
      city and with the limits of current technology and scale of structures
      it IS usually cheaper to adapt a building than demolish it and build a
      new one. But that assumes it can be effectively adapted, and that's not
      always the case. If the structure cannot accommodate new function
      efficiently then it become dysfunctional and you're then on that road
      to decrepitude as this inefficiency turns into a negative impact on
      performance, convenience, quality of life. If it can't adapt at all,
      it's days are numbered. It will be left to rot until the demand for the
      new function it cannot accommodate becomes so great that it makes the
      cost of demolition practical. None of this is about the way a building
      is constructed. It's about the way it's designed. Most buildings are
      originally specialized in design and THAT is the critical mistake. That
      is what makes them dysfunctional later on and what dooms them to
      eventual demolition. Even when buildings have been specialized in
      design, some of those original design accommodations allow for more
      flexibility than others because their original purpose demanded some
      degree of flexibility or just simply left a tough structure with very
      large spans. The 'lofting' movement was founded on the conversion of
      obsolete industrial buildings from the turn of the 19th century.
      Industrial buildings have to be flexible because they have to
      accommodate a frequently changing spectrum of machinery and work. The
      inherent flexibility of these large span industrial structures coupled
      to their old fashioned brick and mortar construction made them quite
      suitable for residential adaptation. (not so contemporary industrial
      buildings because they are now commonly built with prefab steel frame
      structures designed to be disposable, making them cheaper to demolish
      than adapt!) And yet when the giant apartment buildings of the 1960s
      projects went obsolete there was no hope for them. Residential space is
      the bottom of the adaptation spectrum because its the one function that
      adapts to the widest variety of forms. Factory loft, barn, church,
      store front shop, aircraft hanger, shipping container, cave. They can
      all make fine homes. But the other functions are more demanding. When a
      building specialized for residence fails at that function, that's
      usually the end. (though in some cases free-standing houses can be
      turned into shops and restaurants based on location) A fraction of the
      age of those turn of the century factories, and yet they all got
      demolished because there was no hope of using them for anything else.

      More contemporary buildings are starting to be designed for flexibility
      as developers and real estate investors have learned the hard way what
      makes buildings go obsolete. This sensibility still seems to be limited
      to commercial development. Municipal and residential development
      doesn't get it. The larger commercial buildings have become the more
      mixed-use their designs have been. When I was a kid I used to dream of
      living in the World Trade Center because, originally, it was planned
      for mixed use. It was going to be a whole city within the city, hosting
      not only offices but hotels, apartments, shops, clinics, all the
      services of a town. The Renaissance Center in Detroit is a similar
      mixed use building as is the Petronas Towers and all the biggest of
      urban buildings. To accommodate this these structures have to be
      functionally generic. Commercial developers are slowly starting to
      realize that, with little changes in the original design scheme, the
      full spectrum of functions embodied in urban architecture can be
      integrated into the typical commercial office building by virtue of the
      inherent flexibility of the office building design. This flexibility
      makes this kind of building a safer investment. They're still not being
      designed for this as effectively as they could -they're still parroting
      the anti-social logic of the Industrial Age grid city and are more
      focused on the projection of corporate image than the cultivation of
      functional community- but they seem to be slowly learning. It seems
      that city governments are hampering the trend in mixed-use commercial
      development more than anything else.

      > Urban architecture should
      >> logically be functionally generic and its infrastructures engineered
      >> for dynamic on-demand adaptation, but it rarely is.
      >
      > but if youre going into an urban center you have to repurpose what
      > building are already there 24 inch hallways and stairwells included.

      You don't strictly _have_ to. Urban centers aren't immune to the
      wrecking ball or demolition blasting just because of their location.
      And it is not unusual in places like New York for buildings to
      magically 'disappear' overnight or spontaneously -and conveniently-
      self-demolish by fire as a solution to obstacles like historic
      preservation reviews. As I noted, slums are sometimes deliberately
      created to accelerate the deterioration of a deemed obsolete portion of
      a city. If you can force large numbers of structures into being
      condemned, the cost of and obstacles to demolition aren't such a
      problem and if you hold out long enough the city itself will pay for it
      to rid themselves of the eyesore. And now even these sorts of
      contrivances are no longer needed in the US. Cities now have the power
      to use eminent domain to evict anyone from anywhere and gift property
      to developers if they think it is somehow 'better' for the city.

      Obviously, the grass roots redevelopment movement doesn't have this
      sort of power. Without the full cooperation of government and
      developers, they can only repurpose existing structures if they can. If
      they can't then there's no point in making a half-baked attempt that
      leaves you with something different but just as dysfunctional. You then
      have no choice but to leave this dinosaur to its own devices and
      inevitable extinction. The interesting thing is that you often can
      repurpose a lot of architecture in spite of itself by virtue of the
      very high adaptability of residential space. Many cohousing projects
      have done well repurposing existing buildings. And with technologies
      like heliostats we can even make garden atriums in abandoned subway
      tunnels if we want. The obstacles are usually more bureaucratic than
      architectural. The dinosaurs are more often in city hall than on the
      street. The biggest adaptation problem is often not the buildings
      themselves but the street layout and underlying utilities
      infrastructure. These are always much harder to change than the
      buildings on top of them because 'rewiring' the urban infrastructure
      has wide area impact. If the infrastructure is dysfunctional everything
      built on top of it is likely to become dysfunctional at some point as
      well. This can't often be fixed piecemeal and it is generally
      impossible to rewire it wholistically by flattening the whole city and
      rebuilding. So volumetric solutions are attempted -the city abandons
      failed infrastructure systems in place then rewires by tunneling under
      or building over the old structures, though this is typically very
      costly. Unfortunately, they tend to make the same design mistakes again
      and again with everything new they add.

      In my M3 game I have a similar but more comprehensive volumetric
      solution for the scenario of an eco-community trying to take over a
      city. I envisioned three basic strategies for 'urban settlement'. One
      is based on taking over obsolete industrial zones by converting old
      factory and warehouse buildings into eco-villages. The next is based on
      taking over residential areas by buying up townhouses one at a time
      until one controls an entire city block, then converting them to focus
      inward toward a park center in the middle of the block. The third is
      based on taking over large commercial buildings a floor at a time until
      one can turn them into proto-arcologies by making them into
      self-sufficient towns. In all these cases the community faces a growth
      barrier at the street boundary of the city block and the solution to
      that is to bridge over it in the short term then, when one has control
      of a quad of city blocks, one builds a tunnel over the existing streets
      and just buries them and the rest of the antiquated urban
      infrastructure in place by creating a new foundation layer complete
      with new infrastructure on top of them. The flaw in this fanciful and
      admittedly costly notion is that the city must be willing to cede use
      rights to the space over the streets in exchange for maintaining the
      transit right of way along them in these built-up tunnels. This has
      actually been done in the past so it's not entirely impossible but I
      assumed it would require the player group's community to own so much
      urban property and to have become so critical to the city economy that
      the government simply cannot say no to them. However, as Global Warming
      becomes a more acute problem for cities this might be the only solution
      to cope with it. New construction may be required to establish a new
      street level independent of the old one in order to lift the whole city
      above rising flood levels on a building-by-building basis. Cheaper to
      do that when a building is newly constructed than to try and lift it
      whole later. This may make for some interesting changes in the form of
      the city in the near future. Lower levels of new buildings may be
      designed as extensions of their foundation in anticipation of the need
      to abandon them to the development of a new higher street level.

      > . Why then is not the contemporary city similarly based on
      >> a passive backplane -a functionally generic sub-structure through
      >> which
      >> all the components of infrastructure can be hosted and freely changed?
      >
      > because people didn't probably think this far ahead when considering
      > urban planning and building 100 years ago ;)

      That's true, but what's the excuse for the current planners of new
      cities? They continue to make the same mistakes, learning nothing from
      the past hundred years -let alone thousand years- of urban development.

      > Why then isn't the suburban house reduced to a
      >> free-standing loft space in anticipation of this?
      >
      > because it sells better when finnished...its realator bias.
      >
      >
      >
      > Wouldn't that make
      >> such normal renovation vastly cheaper, easier, and less wastefull?)
      >>
      > yes but some people want a finnished home that they can readilly move
      > into.

      Then explain the loft? Developers now build new loft buildings
      specifically for residential development. They are very popular and
      very profitable. Obviously, a suburban 'loft house' would not be very
      attractive if it was nothing but a skeleton on a concrete pad. Only
      crazy people like me see the potential of something that looks like a
      steel frame park shelter. But a basic facade is no big deal and very
      few houses are sold pre-furnished except for rooms that rely heavily on
      built-in fixtures; kitchen and bath.

      >> Thus I have arrived at the notion of creating a human habitat designed
      >> -or rather un-designed- to wholly embrace spontaneous change, and
      >> thereby embodying a fundamental principle of the post-industrial
      >> culture.
      >
      > Eric the time and effort involved in moving ones belongings from one
      > city to the next or even across town is tremendous...more often than
      > not college students leave the furniture at their old place and use
      > whats been left at the new apt they move into...imagine how hard it is
      > to move a couch now lets look at the difficulty of taking your walls
      > with you too... even so called mobile homes aren't really mobile
      > becuase of the expense of moving them from place to place.
      >
      > the closest working analogy I can think of at the moment is everyone
      > living in RV's and parking them in a climate controlled air craft
      > hanger.

      I agree that moving is most definitely a hassle but this has not
      prevented middle-class people from accumulating so much stuff they
      routinely rent storage space outside their homes to hold it all. The
      volume of the structure of a house is quite small compared to the
      volume it encloses. The materials (and by extension the modular
      components) for a 2500 square foot home can be packed into a single 40
      foot container. So this seems a nominal issue to me. Conventional
      furnishings are a hassle to transport because they aren't designed to
      pack efficiently, making them wasteful in transport volume, difficult
      to prepare for transport, and very prone to damage. Housing components
      don't have to be similarly flawed.

      Also, while it's not something one can take advantage now, if a modular
      building system became sufficiently ubiquitous in use its components
      become a fungible commodity by virtue of their demountability and
      direct reuse. They would have a secondary market that would allow the
      more generic components -like base framing- to be freely sold in one
      place and repurchased in another. This would further reduce the cost of
      housing by allowing people to buy used components for most of a home
      rather than completely new ones.

      Many US expatriates today have found that, while it has become
      increasingly difficult for Americans to get into any other country,
      long duration tourist visas are obtainable and allow for people to live
      overseas indefinitely by alternating between different countries at
      regular intervals. But it's not always practical to be able to buy
      homes on demand when one is compelled to relocate. This has led to some
      exploring the development of container based homes which consist of
      adapted shipping containers that can be packed up whole and shipped to
      wherever in the world one wishes to go, needing only the lease of land.

      And about the RV in an plane hangar, there is actually an existing
      analogy to this. I know of at least one retired couple who decided they
      wanted to enjoy that nomadic RV lifestyle many retired people pursue
      but at the same time they felt they could not do this continuously and
      had a nice piece of property they wished to have a permanent home on.
      Instead of having to worry about a vacant home when they were on the
      road and in order to save on the cost of both RV and home -considering
      that these big RVs now easily surpass the costs of permanent homes-
      they decided to use the RV all the time by creating an insulated
      shelter from a prefab industrial building for the RV that supplemented
      its features making it a fully comfortable stationary home for the
      period of time they stayed on their own property.

      > In many cases very
      >> promising kit-of-parts systems have been employed in but a single
      >> project, quickly shelved and forgotten by their own inventors.
      >>
      >> But there have been some bridges across this perceptual gap. Many
      >> designers have realized the potential of repurposing component systems
      >> that are already mass-produced for industrial applications.
      > <<snip>>
      >>
      >> One of the most versatile of industrial building systems today has
      >> recently become available in housing-scale components; aluminum T-slot
      >> profile. Produced by such companies as Bosch, MK, and 80:20, T-slot
      >> was
      >
      >
      >
      > Query 6: Do we have a COTS source list for these and the costs?

      You will have to check the web sites for these companies. Their parts
      catalogs and price lists are readily available. I've had a few print
      and CD versions of all three of these companies parts catalogs and some
      of them also offer CAD files for the parts or even turn-key programs
      that let you experiment with assemblies of them. Some of these
      companies also provide source lists for third party components and
      carry some in their catalogs when they have proven to have sufficiently
      frequent demand. However, the new larger scale profiles do not seem to
      have any on-line information available for them yet -at least not for
      the American market. The Tomatech company is getting them directly from
      Germany even though the smaller scale components are commonly
      distributed by local divisions of these companies in many countries.
      Thomas Register is chock-full of third party components for these
      profiles. Aside from these newer large components, there is nothing
      new, rare, or exclusive about these components. They've been around for
      something like 30 years.

      >> Though experimented with for roof truss
      >> systems, their connector systems were designed to best suit a kind of
      >> post & beam framing geometry that offered the most efficiency of
      >> parts.
      >
      > Query 7: Where is the citation for a cost comparison with convential
      > post and beam construction and say something like straw bale walls.

      Doesn't exist yet. I'm not sure I've ever even seen this for a
      comparison of post and beam and straw bale. This seems to be something
      people normally work-out on a per-project analysis, possibly because in
      any given location these building methods vary greatly in cost
      depending on materials availability and local contractor skill base.
      More research would be needed to work this out.

      > two new prefab Modernist home
      >> products; the iT House and Tomahouse. Based on simple efficient
      >> pavilion structures, these two products have demonstrated the
      >> potential
      >> for a plug-in architectural platform based on this framing technology.
      >>
      >> I have concluded that this new large profile T-slot framing offers the
      >> current best bet for a fully demountable building system for this
      >> proposed Ever-Changing Palace project and have selected the TomaTech
      >> MPC (multi-purpose cabin) building system (see www.tomahouse.com) as
      >> the likely core structural system to start with. Though the structural
      >> profiles themselves are the product of traditional mass production
      >> industry, they represent not so much a product as a sophisticated kind
      >> of raw material with unlimited potential for adaptation and invention.
      >
      > Query 8: How does this system stack up thermally against conventially
      > constructed and insulated buildings?
      >
      > ...there's little point to building something that can't be reasonably
      > heated...and if you decide its best built inside an earth sheltered
      > struture or energy envelope...then why go to the extra kit cost when
      > you can just as easily live in the "cave structure" to start?

      I haven't seen this data yet. Right now Toma is focusing on houses for
      the tropical resort market so the off the shelf kits are most
      definitely limited to that climate without a surrounding climate
      control structure. There is no technical reason why they can't be as
      fully insulated as any other kind of housing. It's simply a choice of
      materials. There IS an issue of thermal leakage through the framing but
      this is probably no worse than that of conventional light gauge steel
      stud framing which has the same issue. Indeed, it may be less due to
      the fact that the post and beam style structures have less structural
      surface area.

      Due to the mild climate in the markets Toma is now targeting, the
      current kit homes only need a small electric supplemental heater. There
      is no reason, though, why the system cannot integrate radiant floor
      heating or any other kind of heating technology. Indeed, it may be
      possible to integrate radiant heating into the hollow profiles of the
      floor system. No one has tried it yet but they work just fine for other
      plumbing applications. It's a normal use for them in industrial
      applications too.

      >> In other words, they are a 'smarter' lumber. Their ability to
      >> integrate
      >> the smaller profile components and take advantage of a vast catalog of
      >> special purpose hardware offers great potential for the user-created
      >> habitat in the post-industrial context and their fabrication
      >> technology
      >> -already classifiable as a light industrial activity- may lend itself
      >> to future in-community production and recycling. It also helps that
      >> these framing systems would likely be the first choice anyway in the
      >> development of new user-developed machine tools. Every factory-made
      >> machine tool one can now buy off-the-shelf can be readily duplicated
      >> using this framing system -and in fact many of them were probably
      >> prototyped using it!
      >
      >
      > Query 9: Do we have on hand a solar furnace design capable of melting
      > down scrap metals to produce the raw unmachined T slot beam components?

      I don't have this but I have heard of people working on them. T-slot
      profiles are extruded and pretty much come out finished from the
      extrusion systems save for anodized coatings. The technology is not
      especially sophisticated but I have heard that American aluminum
      extruders -for reasons I've been unable to get explained- have a much
      harder time<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    • Eric Hunting
      ... Yes. The difference is in the degree of climate control. A full skybreak is basically functioning like a greenhouse. Structures inside it may or may not
      Message 2 of 17 , Apr 3, 2006
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        On Mar 29, 2006, at 2:19 PM, luf-team@yahoogroups.com wrote:

        > Message: 2
        > Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 19:20:49 EST
        > From: RanulfC@...
        > Subject: Re: Constructive Criticism on Concept Communities to Eric
        >
        > Great, now I have two responses PLUS trying to find a time/spot to
        > finish
        > Erics post. Thanks folks ;o)
        >
        > Question though Eric, is it possible to 'do' a partial skybreak? My
        > understanding of the concept was that it had to be a 'whole' break to
        > achieve
        > internal climate stability??
        >
        > Randy

        Yes. The difference is in the degree of climate control. A full
        skybreak is basically functioning like a greenhouse. Structures inside
        it may or may not need additional insulation depending on how well the
        enclosure handles solar gain throughout the year and whether or not
        supplemental heating in the enclosure is provided. A partial skybreak
        is functioning primarily as a rain and wind barrier. It provides some
        temperature moderation by blocking heat losses from wind and rain and
        from some solar gain but structures in it must still be insulated. The
        benefit here is primarily in the increased flexibility of the
        underlying structure which, though still needing insulation, doesn't
        need perfectly waterproof and airtight construction. Given sufficient
        overhang, one could clad underlying structures in textiles or untreated
        plywood if desired. The original Fuller skybreak concept was only
        optionally fully closed. When temperatures allowed, it was intended to
        be raised to open its perimeter as a way of moderating temperature in
        warmer climates or possibly to even exploit the 'chilling machine' or
        'reverse stack effect' of reflective domes as a means of natural air
        conditioning. The massive skybreak used for the Old Man River City
        project was to be a partial skybreak, fully open at its base perimeter.

        Eric Hunting

        hunting@...



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • ben lipkowitz
        Holy crap, Eric. Excellent post! I m going to print this out and hang it up on the wall. It pretty much sums up my current goals and dilemmas perfectly. Where
        Message 3 of 17 , Apr 5, 2006
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          Holy crap, Eric. Excellent post! I'm going to print this out and hang it up
          on the wall. It pretty much sums up my current goals and dilemmas perfectly.

          Where do I sign up? :)

          I especially like this paragraph:

          > Another point here is that instead of assuming a specific number of
          > specialized skills and work, the community would seek to spread
          > knowledge and skills among all its inhabitants. People's trade
          > specialties would come according to their talents and preferences but
          > everyone in the community would be expected to strive for knowledge of
          > how to use all the tools in the community and understand -as much as
          > possible- how all the products on which their standard of living is
          > based are made. This is the key cultural revolution here; industrial
          > literacy. You can't understand the value of something if you understand
          > where it comes from and how it's made. So it doesn't need some balanced
          > spectrum of specialist tradespeople. Any particular technical specialty
          > needs only one relatively skilled person at the start who's expected to
          > spread that knowledge among everyone else. What the project really needs
          > is very inventive generalists with a wide base of skills.

          However I am skeptical that the sort of technically minded geeks that
          would be involved in getting this project going would have the
          interpersonal and leadership skills necessary to impress these values onto
          their successors. (Namely, the average bloke, and the other 50% of the
          human race.) I hate to say it, but politics, propaganda, and psychology
          will play a large part in determining the success or failure of the
          community. If this sounds excessively Machiavellian, you could view it as
          a communication problem or an application of memetics. Since I hope we can
          all agree that competence is a Good Thing (tm) then it boils down to
          demonstrating the validity of that meme and superiority of that way of
          life.

          competence: 1: noun. A sufficiency of means for the necessities and
          conveniences of life. (webster)

          One interesting synergistic effect of making everything you use is that
          "hardware hacking" or sticking random bits of junk together gets a whole
          lot easier. This is because you typically use a small range of standard
          fittings and bolt patterns, and design with interchangeability in mind.
          Spare parts are easily swapped and take up much less space than they would
          if you had to store multiple different products. The "demountable
          building" principle applies much more frequently at this level than it
          does when moving buildings around. For example say you need a contraption
          to perform one specific task for a short period of time. The money that
          would otherwise be wasted on a single-purpose tool can instead be invested
          in a bulk purchase of quality reusable hardware building blocks.
          Standardization is great when it's working _for_ you and not against you.

          I was serious about "where do I sign up" but I'm a tinkerer not a cat
          herder. I had some short-lived hopes for Jeremy's intentional community
          but they seem to be headed a different direction.

          Keep up the good work Eric!

          -fenn
        • RanulfC@aol.com
          Eric; A question... What about trying to duplicate the Tomahouse idea/design with more local product such as: _http://www.futuraind.com/_
          Message 4 of 17 , Apr 11, 2006
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            Eric;
            A question... What about trying to duplicate the Tomahouse idea/design with
            more 'local' product such as:

            _http://www.futuraind.com/_ (http://www.futuraind.com/)
            _http://www.tslots.com/downloadsRequests/tslotsCatalogDownload.htm_
            (http://www.tslots.com/downloadsRequests/tslotsCatalogDownload.htm)
            Haven't been through the entire catalog, but with specific questions I can
            ask them since they are right where I live. (OK, where I LAST lived.. I knew I
            kept seeing a large sign for T-Slots but never made the connection...
            Sorry:o)
            Jeremy: Pretty much the 'major' cost of a skybreak is getting it built,
            along with any regulatory problems. This actually DOES tie into the
            "House-In-A-Hole" concept... but I will have to go into that later.
            Randy


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Eric Hunting
            ... I agree with all your points here. There is a definite problem with social skills among the contemporary technorati. I myself -due to the lifestyle imposed
            Message 5 of 17 , Apr 18, 2006
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              On Apr 5, 2006, at 2:30 PM, luf-team@yahoogroups.com wrote:

              > Message: 3
              > Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2006 13:47:42 +0000 (UTC)
              > From: ben lipkowitz <fenn@...>
              > Subject: Re:Constructive Criticism on Concept Communities to Eric
              >
              > Holy crap, Eric. Excellent post! I'm going to print this out and hang
              > it up
              > on the wall. It pretty much sums up my current goals and dilemmas
              > perfectly.
              >
              > Where do I sign up? :)
              >
              > I especially like this paragraph:
              >
              >> Another point here is that instead of assuming a specific number of
              >> specialized skills and work, the community would seek to spread
              >> knowledge and skills among all its inhabitants. People's trade
              >> specialties would come according to their talents and preferences but
              >> everyone in the community would be expected to strive for knowledge of
              >> how to use all the tools in the community and understand -as much as
              >> possible- how all the products on which their standard of living is
              >> based are made. This is the key cultural revolution here; industrial
              >> literacy. You can't understand the value of something if you
              >> understand
              >> where it comes from and how it's made. So it doesn't need some
              >> balanced
              >> spectrum of specialist tradespeople. Any particular technical
              >> specialty
              >> needs only one relatively skilled person at the start who's expected
              >> to
              >> spread that knowledge among everyone else. What the project really
              >> needs
              >> is very inventive generalists with a wide base of skills.
              >
              > However I am skeptical that the sort of technically minded geeks that
              > would be involved in getting this project going would have the
              > interpersonal and leadership skills necessary to impress these values
              > onto
              > their successors. (Namely, the average bloke, and the other 50% of the
              > human race.) I hate to say it, but politics, propaganda, and psychology
              > will play a large part in determining the success or failure of the
              > community. If this sounds excessively Machiavellian, you could view it
              > as
              > a communication problem or an application of memetics. Since I hope we
              > can
              > all agree that competence is a Good Thing (tm) then it boils down to
              > demonstrating the validity of that meme and superiority of that way of
              > life.
              >
              > competence: 1: noun. A sufficiency of means for the necessities and
              > conveniences of life. (webster)
              >
              > One interesting synergistic effect of making everything you use is that
              > "hardware hacking" or sticking random bits of junk together gets a
              > whole
              > lot easier. This is because you typically use a small range of standard
              > fittings and bolt patterns, and design with interchangeability in mind.
              > Spare parts are easily swapped and take up much less space than they
              > would
              > if you had to store multiple different products. The "demountable
              > building" principle applies much more frequently at this level than it
              > does when moving buildings around. For example say you need a
              > contraption
              > to perform one specific task for a short period of time. The money that
              > would otherwise be wasted on a single-purpose tool can instead be
              > invested
              > in a bulk purchase of quality reusable hardware building blocks.
              > Standardization is great when it's working _for_ you and not against
              > you.
              >
              > I was serious about "where do I sign up" but I'm a tinkerer not a cat
              > herder. I had some short-lived hopes for Jeremy's intentional community
              > but they seem to be headed a different direction.
              >
              > Keep up the good work Eric!
              >
              > -fenn

              I agree with all your points here. There is a definite problem with
              social skills among the contemporary technorati. I myself -due to the
              lifestyle imposed on me for so many years- fight with misanthropy on a
              daily basis. However, I'm very encouraged by the experiences of the MIT
              Fab Lab projects. They found that when the creativity of people is
              sufficiently stimulated their ability to learn and share the techniques
              to use even the most cutting edge fab tools was astounding. They could
              setup these fab labs even in rural parts of Third World countries and
              people were picking it up and inventing their own new artifacts and
              products in days. The freedom of direct interactive experimentation was
              key here. And kids definitely have a much easier time of it because
              they don't have the timidness toward machines adults have. They don't
              yet have the inhibition to give a damn about whether they are doing
              something 'right' or 'wrong' with a new machine or worry about it
              potentially breaking if they make a mistake -because adults foot the
              bill when that happens. For them 'right' is whatever works after
              experimentation. Now, a lot of nerds are terrible teachers. But they
              are good 'leakers'. They leak all kinds of information in every
              direction. So they teach a lot in spite of themselves. Thus even one
              totally introverted but savvy tech can keep whole IT departments
              humming.

              I do definitely agree that psychology and politics are going to make or
              break any new community -especially one that starts out with a
              cohabitation density. This is especially problematic in the US. Our
              society hasn't been this politically and culturally polarized since the
              Civil War. But community concepts like this will definitely tend to
              interest the Left-leaning demographic more than the Right. The Right
              still leans distinctly toward a primitive Industrial Age mode of
              thinking and while the Left is not immune to this either, more on that
              side of the fence are likely to 'get it.' There's no such thing as a
              Right-wing progressive -unless it's 'progress' by some Ayn Rand form of
              psuedologic. There's no doubt that there is a distinct risk of failure
              by social discord. That's unavoidable. One can only hope for sufficient
              people of reason, patience, and tolerance -rare as they seem to be
              these days.

              Now, one might anticipate that because we're talking about a lot of
              technology that this sort of project would tend to interest males more
              than females leading to a serious gender imbalance. This might be the
              case early on but I suspect that later on this may not be the case. My
              reasoning is that the statistical rates of entrepreneurship among women
              in the US is HIGHER than among men. Women are statistically more likely
              to engage in entrepreneurship in the US today then men, though they do
              tend to pursue activities more in the service sector. There is still a
              bit of a gender bias in engineering, architecture, and industrial
              design but none in the arts and crafts and this kind of community is
              going to interest the artistically creative as greatly as the
              technically inventive. And ultimately we're talking about a setting for
              whole families so spouses will be brought along and wind up using these
              tools for domestic purposes whether they have a specific interest in
              the technology or not. So in the long term I expect a gender balance
              should emerge.

              You are perfectly correct about the virtue of designing with
              interchangeability in mind and how this tends to emerge naturally as
              people start making things for themselves. In fact, many of the early
              proponents of Post-Industrial technology strongly advocated this sort
              of thinking. Ken Isaacs' Living Structures was based on this concept.
              He devised a system of furnishings based on simple module components
              people could make for themselves with a few tools. The building system
              encouraged spontaneous reconfiguration of parts for the sake of
              maximizing the possible use from the same small amount of materials
              -which is easier than having to make new stuff every time you need your
              habitat to accommodate a little change in use. His building system,
              called Matrix, ultimately became the Box Beam and Quik Sticks building
              system that was popular among solar energy experimenters until the
              ubiquity of T-slot framing superseded it. The Industrial Age tended to
              design everything as discrete products as it favors redundant
              consumption and rapid obsolescence. But today when people start
              designing things for themselves they tend to favor systems rather than
              products as this not only favors utility and economy, it favors
              personal customization. Thus we can anticipate the Post-Industrial
              culture to replace collections of discrete and obsolescence-prone
              devices with assemblages of reconfigurable components; the personal
              computer that gets used for all communication and entertainment media
              as well. The chair that turns into a bed that turns into a table that
              turns into a shelf unit. The car that becomes a truck, van, farm
              tractor, or portable generator. Most every kid plays with Legos so it
              astounds me how the virtue of this concept keeps having to be
              'rediscovered' over and over by adults.

              I'm a bit at a loss as to how to get the Ever-Changing Palace project
              started. It really needs well-heeled sponsors of some kind who are
              intrigued by the novel architecture, novel technology, and the sort of
              sophisticated set of experiments its proposing. It's not inconsistent
              with other experimental architecture projects. I imagine it appealing
              to the successful semi-retired technology entrepreneur. I just wish I
              travelled in such social circles... I have established a running
              correspondence with Frank Toma of the TomaTech company and he
              definitely seems interested in anything that might help generate
              attention for his products but isn't in any position to finance this
              sort of project. Grants are a possibility -but unlikely coming from any
              government agency or foundation in the US. Experimental architecture is
              more commonly awarded grants in Europe and Asia. There's little
              interest in that here. I'll just keep tossing the idea around.

              Eric Hunting

              hunting@...



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Eric Hunting
              ... It s possible. One of the great virtues of T-slot framing is that there are a lot of manufacturers of it and they all conform to the same dimensional
              Message 6 of 17 , Apr 25, 2006
              • 0 Attachment
                On Apr 21, 2006, at 3:55 PM, luf-team@yahoogroups.com wrote:

                > Message: 1
                > Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 23:42:52 EDT
                > From: RanulfC@...
                > Subject: Re: Re:Constructive Criticism on Concept Communities to Eric
                >
                > Eric;
                > A question... What about trying to duplicate the Tomahouse idea/design
                > with
                > more 'local' product such as:
                >
                > _http://www.futuraind.com/_ (http://www.futuraind.com/)
                > _http://www.tslots.com/downloadsRequests/tslotsCatalogDownload.htm_
                > (http://www.tslots.com/downloadsRequests/tslotsCatalogDownload.htm)
                > Haven't been through the entire catalog, but with specific questions
                > I can
                > ask them since they are right where I live. (OK, where I LAST lived..
                > I knew I
                > kept seeing a large sign for T-Slots but never made the connection...
                > Sorry:o)
                > Jeremy: Pretty much the 'major' cost of a skybreak is getting it
                > built,
                > along with any regulatory problems. This actually DOES tie into the
                > "House-In-A-Hole" concept... but I will have to go into that later.
                > Randy
                >
                >
                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

                It's possible. One of the great virtues of T-slot framing is that there
                are a lot of manufacturers of it and they all conform to the same
                dimensional standards so the parts can be interchangeable. There are
                some minor differences in profile design, some having special features
                like minor variations in the standard profile to improve performance,
                different kinds of interior volume configurations, or things to change
                their appearance. And most companies have a few exclusive forms of
                profile, accessory parts, connector parts, and so on. One must also
                deal with two primary dimensional standards which aren't
                interchangeable; English dimensions (which is used primarily in North
                America) and Metric. The catch right now is that no manufacturer in the
                US is selling the larger scale profiles, apparently because the
                extruders here cannot handle profiles that thick. (I've heard this
                complaint from other developers trying to get novel aluminum building
                systems to market) At the same time, none of the European companies
                selling the large profiles will sell them in the US. They all sell
                product here but you can't find these in their catalogs -perhaps again
                due to the fact that no one can make them here. I had studied the use
                of the smaller scale profiles for my own housing but large structural
                members require the use of 'compound' members (single posts and beams
                made by bonding other thinner profiles together and filling them with
                foam) or trusses. That proved to be much too expensive. There is one
                company in the US that is using the larger profiles. It's a company
                founded by architects that sells a prefab home called the iT House.
                They appeared at about the same time TomaTech did and are apparently
                getting their components from Bosch, who is also supplying plumbing
                hardware and appliances for them. But they don't sell the profiles or
                parts. Only these fully finished homes. Right now TomaTech seems to be
                the only company selling a kit of parts specifically for housing but
                not limited to one house design. So they seem the most convenient
                starting point. And their parts costs seem cheaper than most US
                suppliers can manage.

                Eric Hunting

                hunting@...



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • RanulfC@aol.com
                What are we defining as large scale profile pieces? RAndy [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                Message 7 of 17 , Apr 26, 2006
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                  What are we defining as "large scale profile" pieces?

                  RAndy


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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