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Lean Living

January 24, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Solargon 30 is by far our most popular model. The energy rating for this 700 sq. ft dwelling is under 300 dollars a year to heat and cool. With it’s passive solar design and exceptionally efficient SIPS thermal envelope it far out performs conventional dwellings. To see more go to “our other Blog” on at the links.

Willett Progress

October 8, 2010

                         

   Scott Kirk and Solargon owner Dave Willett admiring  the newly finised back deck.     

                       Fall colors looking southeast toward the beaver ponds.

   West facing side with entry deck to front door. For more pictures go to the WEB ALBUM

Sand Creek Foundation

July 3, 2010

 

With foundation completed Dave and Sally have been busy with coating the foundation walls and getting ready for foundation insulation. They will be applying 2″ blue board to the exterior of the foundation and under the slab in the Southern Solargon.

Willett Cabin Home

April 17, 2010

 

  Pictured above is a conceptual drawing of a Solargon project to begin this spring  in Sand Creek Park, a high plains community in northern Colorado. Comprised of two Solargon 30’s and a 12’x12′ link this mountain cabin home will have great views of distant mountains and back yard ponds with beaver and moose. The owners have spent the entire winter with the manufacturer and builder designing this beautiful 2,229 sq. ft. home. Off-grid building has its challenges with all that goes into designing the comforts of life without the the grid and hookups.

Solargon Community Discussion Group

April 3, 2010

  How do we move towards sustainability?    By Steve Clark

  Sustainability has been a buzz word for discussing the human/environment interactions for many years now. It has become kind of like the old saying that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.  Most of the discussion about sustainability issues in modern human life centers around the use of resources and the damage that is being done to the life supporting environment. Oil is a good example because it is both a resource that is rapidly being depleted and its use is causing potentially catastrophic damage to the environment.  Few people start the discussion by questioning any of the assumptions that have made oil an “necessity”. Most people have some vague notion that  we can continue the fossil fueled consumer lifestyle by simply finding a clean green energy source. They seem to think the existing built environment and our society can just be painted green and go right on.

   Every aspect of modern society from the buildings to the food supply to the transportation system was developed based on the assumption that there are unlimited supplies of cheap fossil energy and that there is no downside to using them. Those assumptions are clearly wrong and the implications of this are beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

  The question becomes, “What  actions make the most sense at this point?” Should we expend a great deal of energy trying to keep the systems, technologies, economy and rules that are based on these flawed assumptions in place and simply try to make them “sustainable” or should we try something completely different. Both courses of action have pros and cons. The idea that we simply need to make some minor changes is clearly the path that the cons who are profiting from the structure of today’s society would like you to believe is possible. There are lots of ads whose message is “relax don’t worry”. We are the experts and will continue to provide you everything you need. They certainly don’t want anyone questioning assumptions much less taking responsibility for themselves.

  If we continue to slave away trying to keep a sinking ship afloat we may reach shore …or we may not.  It may make more sense to build a lifeboat and set out in a new direction.  As there are no guarantees either way  the decision can be based on determining which of the options will allow for the most attractive lifestyle.

  Many attempts to create sustainable options are only possible as long as the existing economic/ technological /political structure continues to function. These are illusory attempts at sustainability. Paolo Soleri once said “ Self sufficiency is a concept with no basis in reality.” This from the man who designed Arcosanti. None the less, if it is clear that aspects of the present system are fatally flawed some experimentation with “lifeboats” is prudent and quite possibly of great importance.

  Many attempts to create alternative models are regressive – abandon the present systems and start from scratch. Going “back to the land” hoping to use human labor to try and wrest an existence from the land is not an attractive model. Many early attempts by europeans to colonize newly “discovered” lands failed. Without continuous resupply from the “civilized” world it was simply impossible to survive on human labor, unless one was able to develop a stone age skill set. Some sense of what it was like was recently portrayed in the movie The New World.  The early colonists were trying to recreate civilization in a stone age hunter gatherer world. They could either work themselves to death trying to build civilization from scratch or go native.

  I like to garden but very few gardeners get the majority of a years supply of calories from their own labor. We were liberated from subsistence agricultural labor by the mechanization/industrialization of agriculture and despite the many problems with this system this is a good thing.  A friend was speaking to a farmer recently and when asked about kitchen gardens he said it seemed much to tedious and he didn’t have much interest. He did his weeding at 150 acres and hour. The liberation from manual labor subsistence farming is what has made modern society possible. 2% grow the food for the rest of us. Most of what we all do to make a “living” is strictly speaking superficial. Our basic needs are met by a very small portion of the economic workforce. The implications of this are very positive. Modern agriculture has many problematic and unsustainable aspects(nitrogen fertilizer being one) but it is an unquestionable success at efficient use of labor and resources to feed the world’s present population.

 Almost everything else in an economy is to a large part excessive consumerism. To understand sustainability we must question consumerism and address the concept of sufficiency.  This is very problematic for economists but they may be the most endangered segment of a future sustainable society.

  Again an example that addresses the difficulty of getting to sustainable from our present condition is energy use, specifically our electric power system. Society has become so completely dependent on central power plant grid supplied electricity that no one ever questions the assumption that we need massive continuous supplies of this elusive stuff. We have no concept of how much we use because it is invisible but we certainly like the many energy services it provides. And because it is such a subtle and cheap way to provide energy services we use it in frivolous and unnecessary ways and we waste huge amounts of it for which we receive no real benefit. Energy guru Amory Lovins’ most recent accounting gives an idea of how far beyond sufficiency we have been encouraged to go in terms of electric generating capacity. “… the U.S. has the potential to save 1.2 million gigawatt-hours—equal to displacing over 60 percent of America’s coal-fired generation.”

  Like many other possible examples of excess consumption we are blissfully ignorant of how far beyond sufficiency we have gone. I often ask if we have reached peak energy stupidity yet. The answer is no. In the discussion of what a sustainable society might look like this is the first priority and one which causes many problems for economists who consider growth the unquestionable first assumption of all capitalist economic policy. What would it do to the national economy to eliminate over half of the $200 billion a year coal power business? That thought will give economists nightmares right up until the climate is no longer cooperating with the farmers to feed society.

  Clearly we need to make some pretty radical reassessments of our society. Start by questioning the assumptions.  It is important that we clearly see what our situation is. We need viable scenarios as we move towards understanding what a sustainable future society will look like.

  Given the estimated time constraints for the possible failure of certain presently unsustainable systems, the development of sustainable community models is urgently needed. There are many barriers to the creation of such models. Some of these involve human behavior. Some of the most difficult to overcome are institutional. It would certainly be tragic to see great human suffering caused because we couldn’t change the existing set of rules but this is one of the reasons there are not many viable optional models today.

  Some examples of model sustainable communities are to be found. The Amish can be viewed as one possible example. Gaviotas in Colombia is a very inspiring story. And several communities are discussed in the book Builders of the Dawn and also in the out of print Context Magazine which is available on line. http://www.context.org/index.html

       “Using well-developed dialoguing and visioning processes involving the entire community, people could develop new ways to organize themselves with community-supported agriculture, barter and alternative currencies, solar and wind energy, holistic and complementary medicine, and co-ops of all kinds.” —Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson

  Essential to the concept of sustainable community is the need to live within our daily renewable energy income. This is made easily achievable with energy efficient design and building materials. The existing built environment is almost entirely dysfunctional, built based on the flawed assumptions of unlimited supplies of cheap fossil energy. We have known for many years how to plan developments and design buildings to use very little energy. With the use of proper insulation and passive solar design it is possible to reach renewableenergy self sufficiency in our homes. One example of such a building is the Solargon.

  Our chosen means of personal mobility, the car, is a truly amazing example of excess gone… well, excessive. We have the means to design and build very efficient models of personal mobility that can place our transportation energy needs well within the reach of personal home renewable energy systems.

  These technologies and concepts taken together with the idea of a group of people with a shared sense of the values involved in creating a sustainable community, the concept is easy to envision. However it seems to be difficult to achieve otherwise wouldn’t we all be living sustainably?

  If you are someone who has dreamed of sustainable living and would like to explore the means to overcome the barriers and develop a Solargon village please contact solargonhomes@gmail.com  information on The SolargonCommunity Discussion Group.

 More at Citizens for Clean Energy

Solargon 2020

March 26, 2010

In the town of Lyons, Colorado is a unique project under way. By the river in Apple Valley is a Solargon project that combines two Solargon 20’s stacked vertically. This is the first arrangement of this sort although we have put Solargon 20’s side by side and connected them with a link. To see more about this project click here.

Solargon Before Manufacturing

February 21, 2010

Pictured above is one of the original Solargons pre manufacturing. With its 9’x8′ walls it is over 400 sq. ft. and is now in its third location in Paonia, Colorado. It had a 4×4 skylight which resulted in too much solar gain. This was replaced with a cupola. With a solar array and in wall heater this off the grid dwelling is quite comfortable. Do you want your own Solargon? Write me. I will write you back.  solargonhomes@gmail.com