Alternative Shelter

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This section of my web site deals with alternative shelter and social design options.  Although it focuses mainly on some the exciting new innovations that are taking place in the building and alternate energy industries, it also includes the dark side of potential threats to human development and other unpleasant subjects, which are, nevertheless, relevant and important in today’s world view.  Because we live in a time of uncertainty, of climate change, and self-fulfilling apocalyptic visions of the future, I think it is critically important that people be given a positive vision of real alternatives to counteract all the fear and negativity. The doom and gloom shadow that has long been hanging over humanity since the turn of the century, beginning with the Y2K hysteria, has steadily worsened as we approached the Mayan Calendar end-of-the-world date of December 21, 2013, which, by the way, came and went without incident.  Fear based marketing campaigns such as these are mainly fostered by irresponsible and greedy promoters to stimulate survival oriented consumer purchasing.   Disinformation campaigns like this create massive profits for all the unethical corporations and doomsday profiteers that exploit the fear in people.

The mass media, on a global scale, has continued to perpetuate all the fear and apprehension for over a decade now and all the subsequent negative programming has scared many people into believing we are living in the end times and there is absolutely no hope for civilization. This is absolute rubbish!  The prophets of doom are nothing more than predatory criminals that take advantage of the ignorant and scared people who are instinctively just trying to survive.

There has been so much speculation on the possibility of a catastrophic extinction event occurring in our near future, but much of it has no real concrete scientific basis and exists only to promote television advertising and to sell books, newspapers, magazines, and survival products. There have always been numerous threats of some kind hanging over our heads, whether it be from plagues, or space alien invasions, a thermal-nuclear holocaust, solar flares, global warming, or a polar shift; however, quite honestly, we are powerless to do anything about them.  If a giant meteor impacts the earth, or an electromagnetic solar flare destroys our communication satellites and electrical grid, or green house gases destroy the ozone or the atmosphere, or if there is a polar shift, or if the Yellowstone super volcano erupts; then most forms of life on this planet will likely become extinct and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. So why worry about it now?  If it happens, it happens. Oue sera, sera!

This is not to say we should ignore real life threatening problems that present an imminent danger to us right now; certainly not.  There are some real pressing concerns that challenge mankind that we need to pay strict attention to immediately because our decisions and actions will shape survival outcomes. Events such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the rising sea levels due to global warming are real and must be addressed in order to minimize risk and danger. These situations haven’t gone away just because the news media has stopped reporting about them. Nor has the looming peak oil crisis been resolved. It is a fact that the rising water levels are currently changing the coast lines of southern Florida and this cannot be ignored.  Most of the glaciers in Montana’s Glacier Park have melted away in recent decades.  So yes, there are some dangers that are undeniably real and warrant our immediate collective attention in order to formulate intelligent and effective responses to these global threats.  If it is within our collective consciousness to deal with these crises, then we must take action soon before it is too late.  Awareness is the first step, followed by careful evaluation and planning, and finally, the implementation of responsible action on a collective basis.  We are all passengers on this planet, and there is no other place that any of us can run to in order to avoid these potential disasters.  Survival of our species is at risk and people need to grasp that concept and do as much as possible on a personal level to prepare for worst case event scenarios.  Odds always favor a prepared mind.

The prevailing fear-based mentality sweeping America has created an apathetic reaction or a paralysis , i.e., the deer in the headlights syndrome, which is not the kind of response or mindset we need to deal with whatever our species must face in the near future.  Climate change is very real and creates new storms and billions of dollars of damage every year along global coastlines. Inexpensive fossil fuel reserves are becoming depleted which will soon threaten supplies and restructure existing patterns of supply and consumption worldwide.  The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that a  global viral pandemic may just be waiting to unfold, and it is just a matter of time. Fresh water supplies are running out on a global level. Fisheries have been contaminated. Destruction of the rain forest is accelerating. Hurricanes and tornadoes are increasing in strength and frequency. Greenhouse gases are raising the temperature of the soil and oceans. Above all, the most immanent threat now facing the United States right now are the collapse of the electrical grid from solar flares or adverse weather conditions and, as a result, the collapse of the U.S. currency and the American/global economy. 

The domino effect that would result from any of these catastrophes would threaten transportation, refrigeration, food production and distribution, medical care, fuel availability, communications, and the very fabric of society leading to social unrest, chaos, and lawlessness. Anything that runs on an electric motor would cease to work. The Internet would disappear.  Without a doubt these are serious potential problems looming ahead for all of humanity, but most of these scenarios are still within our grasp to manage them and implement the best responses to ensure the highest degree of survival success for a large portion of our species should they occur. Sooner, or later, one, or several of these potential crises will emerge, so now is the time to make preparations for survival on whatever level you can participate.  You must take action now.  You must get prepared on some level now because there won’t be time, or available resources later on.

Since the survival movement has gained a lot of momentum in recent years due to all the negative speculation about doomsday from natural disasters, as well as a lot of resulting fear; a growing audience is starting to emerge with a strong curiosity about these issues.  The survival shows on television have raised some concern and attention among large segments of the population.  People are starting to wake up and take notice.  Consumers are buying and storing emergency foods and preparing bug-out kits and plans in increasing numbers. Consequently, I think it is incumbent upon local governments in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa to promote survival education through school systems in there countries, and along with it,  alternative shelter construction techniques, and alternate energy technology, as viable housing options during emergency response. I think every state in the United States should create demonstration zones that would allow the development and exploration of alternative building technologies such as straw bale homes, earth ships, earth bag homes, domes, adobe, pyramid homes, cob, tiny homes, off-grid homes, and other unconventional building methods and materials that may not strictly conform to existing building and zoning codes, but may, nevertheless, provide a practical housing alternative in case of a disaster such as a large tsunami or hurricane. How else will new innovations ever reach the public consciousness, let alone the market place?  People can’t learn this kind of stuff in college, or elsewhere, because no one currently is experimenting very much in alternative housing concepts because of existing legislative prohibitions. The current insurance and financial market coalitions resist or prohibit  the development of any alternatives that might threaten conventional practices or undermine the existing housing market.

If demonstration projects of alternative housing projects were allowed and implemented, and promoted, then this single action would allow people to visit the project sites and explore the various alternative technologies available, and perhaps gain some hands-on experience, which they, in turn, could implement into their own lives, or teach it to others. This is not happening now, except in small, isolated locations. Fortunately, there is a growing proliferation of this kind of alternative knowledge being developed and distributed on the Internet.   But due to the political opposition to alternatives, there is very little opportunity for anyone to actually witness the practical applications of alternative energy use or building methods first hand, or to experience real-world situations, or visit with people who are actually doing it.  When a disaster strikes, conventional housing systems will break down and leave large numbers of people homeless, especially along the coastlines of the world.  They will need to know how to create shelters using other methods and materials, but will be caught off guard and left unprepared.

Maverick architect, Michael Reynolds, was one of the first activists to push back against the system and pioneered his alternative housing concept in New Mexico several decades ago. He was successful in getting the state to allow his alternative shelters, which he named “earth ships”, to be built out of recycled or repurposed materials, mostly using scrap vehicle tires and glass bottles.  Mr. Reynolds used natural and recycled materials to build energy-efficient free-form designs, off the grid,  out on the desert mesas of New Mexico to demonstrate to people that there are functional low cost alternatives to conventional housing.  As long as this knowledge is available to human populations, and should some catastrophic event actually happen, then mankind wouldn’t have to start over from scratch and relearn how to build functional shelter all over again.

The evolution of structures used as dwellings has changed significantly in recent history, and especially in the last century.  Housing has come a long way from our ancestor’s small log cabins, tepees,  and sod huts.  Much of this change has occurred as a direct response to an expanding awareness of public safety and health issues in housing, neighborhoods, and communities with regard to fire protection, air quality, water quality, traffic, law enforcement, and the use of toxic chemicals found in domestic materials and home environments.  People living in communities have organized to create rules and standards for the common good.

The most significant influence on the design of houses, however, in recent decades, has primarily occurred due to economical factors such as the use of new materials, new methods of construction, increased housing demand, more availability of land, mass production of materials and equipment, and low mortgage rates resulting in more availability and affordability.   With this constant and dramatic change in housing design unfolding at a rapid rate, the building regulators, insurance companies, and financial sector collaborated to control the housing industry so that minimum levels of performance and quality standards were followed in order to preserve property and protect life safety and health.  As a result, more communities and jurisdictions adopted building codes and zoning regulations to determine the pace and direction of the growth in their areas.  So over time, the regulations have allowed more Americans to have better, safer, and more affordable housing in a wide variety of designs and styles, which also has provided them a good investment.

Unfortunately, more regulation and existing market driven economic factors have also produced a system of economic slavery where more and more Americans must pay off large mortgages over fifteen or thirty year periods just to maintain a roof over their heads.  They owe a large mortgage debt, so off to work they must go, which is somewhat a form of indentured servitude.  Since Americans are highly mobile and constantly moving into new homes on average of once every five years, this means most Americans are always in the front end of a mortgage loan contract paying more on the interest and less on the principle.  In fact, fewer Americans these days actually stay in their homes long enough to retire a mortgage loan. More Americans are renting more than ever before. Many Americans consequently don’t build up much equity in their home investments, or they find it takes them much longer to do so because of  there increasing mobility.

This section of my web site discusses various alternatives to the existing housing market.  It is admittedly not for everybody since most Americans are already trading their time for money and must go into debt in order to have shelter and live close to their source of income.  There is little extra time available to most people to build a house and a career at the same time.  By contrast, this information is offered more to those who want to live a freer and less restricted lifestyle without having to service a huge mortgage loan for most of their adult lives.  This alternative information examines the use of unconventional construction methods and materials to create low cost structures in unregulated locations that are safe and comfortable, and yet in due time,  will still  become valuable and beautiful dwellings, on a pay-as-you-go basis.  This information discusses alternative energy use and unconventional housing methods including: cob houses, domes, pyramids, straw bale, pole frame, Gabion wall, earth berm, earth bag, passive solar, solar, shipping container, wind power, off-grid, tiny homes, and similar subjects.

(Sorry, the remainder of this page is under construction)