Addressing infrastructure needs in an environmentally friendly way
In nearly every industry the trend has been for smaller, customized, agile, and modular capabilities. Even in real estate we now see planned developments with retail, office, and housing co-located. And everywhere that these types of approaches are used they result in better, more robust products. They make life better for their residents and others who work or visit the community.
But we still have massive infrastructure that dominates our cities. Huge water/sewer systems, regional electricity generation, and massive supply chains are, as we have seen recently, often fragile.
But technology has evolved to the point that we can address all these infrastructure needs in a flexible, localized, and much more environmentally friendly way. We can create sustainable communities that are cleaner, healthier, and more livable.
To truly create a sustainable community, we must address both the individual buildings and the infrastructure that supports the community. Communications infrastructure has already evolved from wired connections to wireless. There are movements to localize additional infrastructure elements like power, water, and food.
In earlier articles for Think Realty, I discussed 3D printing for houses. The technology is here now to build a beautiful, well-insulated, fireproof, mold- and mildew-resistant, earthquake- and storm-resistant, carbon-negative, and net-zero house. While all the technologies must still be combined into a single project, a blend of 3D printing, panelized construction and volumetric modular could allow luxury quality homes to be built in a few days. This approach will cost less (perhaps as much as $100,000 less for a 1500 square foot home) and use sustainable and renewable biomass like hemp as the majority of the material.
Because 3D printing can print any shape, we can design houses that have more natural forms (straight lines are not natural). We can design homes that are more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. And we can design neighborhoods that follow natural design patterns like the golden mean, fractals, and spirals.
But in many areas of the country, other factors like water or power or sewer limit the ability to construct new housing. To complement the buildings themselves we need to create infrastructure that does not rely on massive, centralized projects.
To provide power, alternatives like the Marshall Energy “switch fuel device” uses a variety of fuel sources such as wind, biofuel, solar, and electromagnetic energy. These devices can be deployed at the neighborhood or small city level to supply all the power requirements for the local area. One device can support 1,000 homes. Essentially, technology like this can be the power plant for a development and will not require expensive extension of existing utilities or be subject to larger political factors that can derail a community project.
Similar to the power issue, providing water can be a huge challenge, especially in the Southwest. In many cases, municipalities will not expand because they have no capacity to provide additional water. And the ability to drill new wells is restricted by water rights and depleting aquifers. But there are technologies such as the Tsunami atmospheric water generator, that can draw water directly from the air to supply individual homes or small neighborhoods. The air naturally distributes water as humidity and there are trillions of gallons of water in the atmosphere. These systems are efficient and come in different sizes that can provide the water needs for a home up to a neighborhood or small city. Even in low humidity environments (down to ~7%) these devices can perform. Providing water from the atmosphere removes the requirement for water rights and the dependence on city water. And the water produced is pure and usable for whatever you need.
As we saw during the COVID pandemic, disasters can result in food shortages. Transportation of food can break down. But even in good times, long distance transportation of food places requirements on harvesting and processing that reduce the quality of the food both in nutrition and taste. New growing techniques, including hydroponics and vertical growing, allow for high density food production that can be accommodated in a relatively small footprint. Local residents can grow their own food in a common area or can support others to grow the food locally. This approach eliminates the food transportation issues and can provide much of the community’s food needs. The food is higher quality and better tasting. And the connection of the community to the land improves mental health and reduces stress.
By combining all these techniques to create a community, we can have a comfortable place to live that is largely self-sufficient and robust to disasters and the outside economy. This agile, sustainable community is a great place to live and work as well. There are several groups working to make this community concept a reality. The World Homes Initiative is beginning its efforts in the Southwest U.S. as is the Hemp Powered Community, which focuses on a seed-to-house development where the agriculture, processing, and building are all performed locally. These prototypes can be duplicated worldwide to solve housing shortages everywhere and reduce impact on the climate. Who is ready to live in a sustainable community?
Steve Streetman is a real estate consultant specializing in deal structuring and the use of cryptocurrency. Look for his book, “Cryptocurrency and Real Estate: how to profit as Bitcoin and Blockchain transform real estate investing” available now on Amazon in paperback and ebook formats. You can also find out more at https://www.CryptoREBook.com. Contact him for more information about the World Homes Initiative or the Hemp Powered Community.