Off-grid Demo Tiny Home & Shop with Rain+Snow Cisterns for Food Crop Terracing by Tiny Home Off-grid
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SUBJECT: Your proposal in the Climate CoLab
Proposal: Off-grid Demo Tiny Home & Shop with Rain+Snow Cisterns for Food Crop Terracing
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2015 Climate CoLab Judges
This proposal contains a bunch of disparate ideas that have been strung together into a whole, and I will try to evaluate the key aspects of this proposals. The first is the techniques proposed for an off-grid, net zero home building. The ideas here seem to be drawn from the Earthship Biotecture concept (http://earthship.com/) which although questionable from large scale deployment point of view, nevertheless a viable concept that has been (and continues to be) implemented in practice. Earthship designs have sewage recycling systems that have been tested in the past, so it is unclear what is novel with the proposal, as there is a large body of prior work to be drawn upon from. The second is the use of hemp mortar. The author claims to have done some simulation modeling to prove its effectiveness from a thermal point of view, but the image shown in the proposal is hard to interpret to evaluate this claim— using insulation externally is not a new idea, and is being increasingly required by code. Likewise, there is no data provided to back up the claim of fire resistivity. Third is the use of vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) in an arrayed fashion based on Dr. John Dabiri’s work, which can potentially generate slightly higher amounts of energy than from a traditional turbine layout. This by itself merits a proposal of its own—if the author had examined this work in more depth, he would have found that these arrays are highly sensitive to wind flow direction, and can work effectively only within a narrow range. I would challenge the claims that the use of these denser layouts would immediately generate more energy from the turbines. Also, the author proposed to build the turbines himself—which in itself is a huge undertaking with an unclear purpose as there are a number of VAWTs available in the market today (albeit fairly expensive compared to their horizontal counterparts). Ultimately, while the author needs to be applauded for this undertaking, the proposal as a whole lacks the focus needed for generating a viable solution. I would not recommend advancing this proposal to the next stage.
The Contribution proposes a range of steps to achieve off-grid, net-zero methods spanning from sustainable buildings to on site generation of renewables and microgrids to food production; It aims at implementation of ‘earthship principles’ in a specific design on a specific site (farmhouse?). The proposal is very detailed including plans and calculations; it is addressing, among various other topics, the demand (housing) and supply side of energy in buildings. It outlines many practical measures for small scale improvements and addresses economic levers such as investing rather in equity that pays off (renewable energy generation, houses) than paying huge electricity bills. A broad mix of conceptual elements / technologies is mentioned, yet many of the techniques and technologies are existing and already well applied. Therefore it remains unclear where the innovation / originality lies. Also, it is unclear why the technologies were chosen and how they are interlinked. A stronger focus on innovative and scalable technologies would have been beneficial. The approach focuses on very specific and local conditions, addressing rural settings and ‘farm-ranch-scale living’. Even though this is great for a specific project, the scalability and thus the impact is questionable. The proposal hard to read and is quite confusing, it is lacking structure and clarity. Each section new ideas are outlined very without giving deeper insight and often not linked to the other ideas mentioned. This makes their feasibility and economics hard to judge. The proposed timelines seem very short and there is no background given how this would be achieved, for example for the windmills. At this point I would not recommend the project for the next stage.
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