Networking for Green Communal Living

This wiki collects relevant connections for the Reef 2.0 project together with Climate-KIC – a project to transform an abandoned building for “deep green” communal living. Welcome to contribute!

Content

1. Ecological Building Initiatives

2. People and Organizations to Contact

3. Resources


1. Ecological Building Initiatives

In alphanumeric order. :bulb: marks projects that we’re interested in visiting during the initial field study trip of The Reef 2.0 project.

  • :bulb: Calafou. Ecoindustrial, post-capitalist commune. The started from a very dilapidated industrial, large space, so could teach a lot about making such a space livable again with limited funding. Not sure how much they are into off-grid living and minimal footprint living, though.

  • Energiesprong. A very interesting concept and company doing energetic building refurbishment on an industrial scale, by manufacturing custom facade and roof parts in factories and just mounting them to the houses. See also this German article about it, and their various international chapters.

  • Fondazione Horcynus Orca (Messina, Italy). For details, see @alberto’s article “An innovative social investment model in Messina, Sicily”.

  • Koptisch-Orthodoxes Kloster Brenkhausen (Höxter, near Kassel, Germany). The place that @matthias wrote about in “Repairing the Monks’ Internet”. A rather large-scale restoration project of a historic monastery. They have some rather impressive before-and-after photos here.

  • Mount of Oaks. An organic farm in rural Portugal, also regularly organizing courses for ecological building techniques. Founded around 2006. Not really for an urban context, though – it’s about cob plastering, wattle and daub etc… @matthias had been in loose contact with them some years ago.

  • :bulb: Nea Guinea. A collective with a demonstration site and learning center at the outskirts of Athens, caring to promote local self-supply for rural and “rurban” living. They started in 2009 as a response to the economic crisis in Greece. While they do care about natural building techniques as well, this is focused on rather small-scale interventions:

    Natural building and bio-climatic architecture … Construction of compost toilet, Construction of a straw bale warehouse of 20m2, Construction of an earth oven with the use of the cob technique. … The natural building techniques used will include wood working, earth-bags, rammed earth amongst others. (source)

    However, the core element that can be learned from them is integrating the different parts of self-supply (food supply, energy supply, accommodation etc.) into one space for communal living.

  • :bulb: Ökodorf Sieben Linden. They have standards for ecological construction and pioneered licenced strawbale buildings in Germany (says Wikipedia). @felix.wolfsteller will be able to tell us more!

  • The Plant (Chicago, U.S.A.). An aquaponics farm in an old meat packing warehouse. See also this article about them.

  • Urban Smart Farm (Ghent): vertical gardening, LED aquaponics and more. ‘The Urban Smart Farm uses sea containers to grow herbs, vegetables, fish and shellfish in a sustainable way in the city. In 2016, Smart Farmers built this unique aquaponics farm as a commercial pilot installation. We learned a lot and will start a new project in 2018: in Urban Smart Farm 2.0 all techniques are perfected in a large-scale Ghent aquaponics cooperative.’

  • :bulb: Wir Bauen Zukunft (Northern Germany). A project for sustainable construction. See this article on edgeryders.eu and this article in National Geographic. They focus a lot on tiny houses (example) and other items that are particularly relevant for rural areas, though – there’s nothing about refurbishing a large, multi-story urban building.

  • YUST (Young Urban Style). Antwerp based YUST (Young Urban Style) is a reconversion of a former warehouse into a new housing complex with co-housing features and is an answer to the changing demography and housing expectations of new generations. The project comprises a total of 60 rooms and 38 living units for short and long stay and also serves as an event location, restaurant and co-working place. Specific attention was paid to maintenance, total cost of ownership and sustainability. Maximum focus on BIM, started from a 3D scan, proves to be the ideal tool to coordinate all technical stakeholders. The 3D model is also the basis of the materials passport for the building. These specific points of attention make it possible to (re) use the building as a BAMB (Building As Material Bank) in the future.

2. People and Organizations to Contact

People connected to sustainable living, esp. in Belgium. We may want to get in touch with them for the upcoming project. This is a wide net, including everyone from green consultants to digital storytellers and community builders.

In alphanumeric order.

  • Boaz Balachsan (Belgium). Graphic / web design, perhaps also storytelling.

  • Cosmopolis. Centre for Urban Research, Belgium.

  • FeBUL. Brussels Federation of Housing Union. They have a section on occupied spaces.

  • Sigried Kellen (Brussels). Participatory space designer; works in and around a fablab in Molenbeek.

  • Isabelle N’diaye (Brussels). Urban planner and networker. Wrote the manifesto for Commune St. Vide (transl. The Empty Commune of Brussels), assembling efforts to channel political actions towards better use of vacant spaces in the city.

  • Observatoire des occupations à Bruxelles. Observatory on empty spaces in Brussels temporary used.

  • Frederik Serroen. Staff Member at bMa / Bouwmeester - Maître Architecte - Chief Architect Brussels.

  • Urbanistas (Brussels). Informal group of female urban designers ‘We are the Brussels chapter of Urbanistas - a women-led network for growing women’s leadership and empowering collaboration on ideas that make everyday life in cities better for everyone. https://www.urbanistas.org.uk/

  • Stefaan Vandist (Belgium). Green City Challenge, nature inclusive design. See also this Facebook event.

3. Resources

Anything relevant that is neither an ecological building building initiative we consider to visit or a person we consider to contact goes here.

In alphanumeric order. :bulb: indicates esp. valuable resources.

Has Likes

Initial update from my search for projects to visit: this is an interesting nut to crack :confused: There is a lot about industrial / commercial “green” refurbishing of urban homes and buildings, and also a lot about artisan / natural / low-tech / unconventional green refurbishing of rural homes and buildings. But nothing that is both artisan, green and urban.

For the (meager) preliminary results, see the wiki above. I think our best bet to find places to visit will be to look for initiatives that get one element right in an urban context: either heating, electricity, water, refurbishing for communal living, food supply or local production and recycling. To create the final solution for Reef 2.0, there will certainly be a lot of eclectic combining of different bits and pieces.

I need to focus for a few days on H2020 deliverables now, so I can only continue with this search from July. Hope that’s ok @alberto @noemi?

(Had some own ideas for refurbishing as well, involving CNC cut insulation blocks of corrugated cardboard that are declared “furniture” to circumvent regulation about licensed materials :smile: I think the goal has to be a system for DIY-able green refurbishing that is 5-10% the cost of industrial solutions. That would finally make it affordable for every houseowner.)

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yes, sounds like the feasible thing to do…!

I hear you, same here…

Maybe have a look at the participant list at that camp ouishare and the german ad agency a while ago, yannick was there…

Yes, that is: http://www.poc21.cc/

@matthias @alberto just to say that WBZ have an open day on July 28th, so if we go on a tour we can connect some locations - maybe we end up doing more than 3 for shorter periods. Thinks of it also as an opportunity to onboard people in the Deep Demo:

https://wirbauenzukunft.de/28-07-tag-der-offenen-tuer/?fbclid=IwAR0bbUyo4sTFnPaaLEoOrRJHuUeCArrR8x_DKXdHRY2te5VfxDwJQQzF33c

Hi there, I would like to share with you this project: Jellyfish Barge.

"Jellyfish Barge is the oating modular greenhouse for urban agriculture that generates its own fresh water and energy using only solar power.

Urban Agriculture is a proved strategy to provide fresh local food, as well as job and oppotunities to the cities. But, farming have to compete for land and wateraccess with other activities. Where to find hectares of farmland near the cities and millions of cubic meters of fresh water to irrigate crops? And, how to fully exploit Urban Agriculture potentiality to produce positive social and economic impact on urban communities?

Jellyfish Barge produces crops grown in high ef cient hydroponics. Water needed is extracted from the body of water where the greenhouse oats, whether salt, brackish or polluted water. All the need for energy is ful lled by sun power.
Thus, JFB doesn’t impact on existing land, water and energy resources of the city.
It just expands the capacity of the urban environment to provide job, economic opportunities, social relations and urban quality.

The connection module is a common space where developing a weekly market and didactic or leisure activities (solarium, tai chi or whatever people and associations want to do).
The greenhouse module can be an intensive production facility, the extension of bars and restaurants proposing self-grown vegetables, or a community garden. At last people can experience agriculture in their daily life!"

What about having a barge at the reef? :wink:

Has Likes

That is a brilliant concept. But doesn’t it take a lot of energy to desalinate water? I imagine the solar collectors would have to be quite large.

Yes, that’s what I thought too. I found two papers about that, if you’re interested. In fact, they are still researching.

EffectsofincreasedseawatersalinityirrigationongrowthandqualityoftheediblehalophyteMesembryanthemumcrystallinumL.underfieldconditions.pdf (1.5 MB)
SeawaterpotentialuseinsoillesscultureAreview.pdf (617.0 KB)

If I got it right, though, this barge can be also used on non saline water. I imagined that, in the future Reef, there could be space for it on the roof, where rainwater could be collected. I mean, like a roof pool of rainwater (which is not scarce in Brussels!) in which the barge could float.

Is it daydreaming?

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As an oldster who lived in a cooperative community and studied communes and social change communities I just want to put in a word for the importance of paying attention to how you are going to build, deepen and nurture relationships in this community. I recommend having your core group include people who are skilled in facilitation, relationship building and conflict resolution and having them work deeply first with the core group and then with the larger group as you expand. Most of us were not raised or trained to live well with others (collaboration was called cheating in school). You actually need to dismantle traditional, hierarchical culture and practice new values.

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No daydreaming…unless the roof is not strong enough for all that weight.

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Strong agreement. And if nobody is that practiced in facilitation and conflict management, then keep a very open mind, don’t be afraid to give or receive feedback (while keeping it as civil as possible, which is not always easy), and always try to find something to like in every other person. You will need to fall back on that at times…(I lived collectively for 12 years.)

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Right. Or, if there will be a garden, a rainwater pool in the garden :wink:

Completely agreeing. Facilitation in co-living is key, and we’ve seen it with several temporary iterations we did: unMonastery (house/cave in Italy), OpenVillage (house in Morocco), maybe even the house in Nepal, and finally The Reef (prototype Brussels).
John, @asimong, @simonedb, @rmdes and many other edgeryders contributed to bringing this point home often over the years.
I find that those who have practiced this more often than others have done it because they put governance and facilitation at the centre of things. But others (myself included, up until know) are very focused on the project(s) accompanying the co-living - so on the work dimension. And there, community members seem to be more unruly. At this point, I would argue that focusing on getting things done takes away attention from personal dynamics and feelgood of the community, because it takes it as granted. Rationalizing this, the expectation is that if everyone shares common goals with the work, than the ethics of it would carry personal relationships too.
In reality, I found that’s the wrong way to do it.

Have you had direct experience in communal living, June?

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Yes for about a dozen years! We had several very skilled facilitators in our group of about 14 adults and eventually 5 children. And we all learned basic facilitation skills. We did lots of conflict resolution. I learned so much and grew tremendously as a person but it was very wearing and I finally left.

However, I think that instead of all getting together to make all decisions together (which tended to reflect the unhealthy family dynamics of our birth families), we would have benefited from teal/sociocratic processes of using circles and advice where smaller groups make decisions.

Also boys of the post WWII era were raised to be little princes which made for a lot of men who wanted things to be their way and they never really shifted their patriarchal ways. Still a lot of unawareness of privilege among men today and an unwillingness to see that not shifting their hierarchical values and behavior will doom projects such as this in the long run. Might want to share this article by Tema Okun that helps us see all the subtle aspects of hierarchical culture.

I also think co-housing models which are a more networked than communal are more likely to succeed - coming together for meals is more voluntary. It’s helpful to minimize areas that need communal decision-making.

Would be glad to think more with others interested in this.

June

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You still making research?

Has Likes

Hi Simone! It’s because me and Alberto wish to move forward in Brussels with a bigger space..

Also boys of the post WWII era were raised to be little princes which made for a lot of men who wanted things to be their way and they never really shifted their patriarchal ways. Still a lot of unawareness of privilege among men today and an unwillingness to see that not shifting their hierarchical values and behavior will doom projects such as this in the long run.

You hit the nail on the head with this comment. Being one of those boys, and in a situation where every other male was of the same era (this was in the 70s), we had to work on that over and over again. It’s like doing laundry. It never ends – because it can’t. Way too much conditioning to just say, “ok I’m over it now!”

Sometimes men are useful for certain physical attributes, but otherwise the idea that women do W and X and men do Y and Z is destructive nonsense. But it is so ingrained.

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ok, good luke.
let me know when the game gets serious

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@Matthias since we are nearing the start of this project in Brussels and building our team, which places you would prioritise for a visit, were you to choose? I think it is worth starting to plan the trips… Or at least block our calendars.

I’d definitely go to Sieben Linden and Calafou, and perhaps to Nea Guinea. (Wir Bauen Zukunft is also relevant (somewhat), but you have been there already.)

But even these projects are not really satisfactory to learn what we’ll need to know for refurbishing the Reef 2.0 site. And I don’t really know where else to look …

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