Solutions for Self-Reliance

How to Calculate the Resilience of Your Home

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Hi folks.  With all of the bad news in Europe (financial panic is now spreading to Italy), it’s probably smart to find out if your home is fit enough to withstand whatever comes next.  Here are some ways to find out.  I’ve also got some tips on how to design and share DIY systems with people around world, since getting good at this matters.

Is your home fit?  Here’s a way to find out.

The global financial crisis is now in its fifth year and given what’s going on in Europe right now, it’s just getting started.

One question you should be asking is: is your home fit enough to carry you through what follows?

What do I mean by fitness?

It’s simple.  Is your home producing everything it can?

NOTE:  Another way to measure fitness is to use a financial approach.  How much do you owe, how much does it cost to maintain, etc.  Calculating this, in light of a potential catastrophic loss of income and wealth during a massive financial crisis, is a good topic for a future letter.

Although there isn’t a commonly accepted way to measure a home’s productivity (it’s an almost alien concept in today’s dependent, consumer driven world), I think we can figure out how to do it.

A good place to start is the rule of thumb measure for obesity that we already use:  the body mass index (BMI).

The BMI is simply a person’s weight divided by the square of their height.  Although the BMI isn’t the perfect way to measure obesity, the method it uses is enough for our purposes.

Before we press on, take a look at this chart of obesity across the US.  It’s a pretty scary chart, particularly when you consider that less than 20 years ago, the entire chart was blue and light blue (less than 14% obese).   Why did this happen?  Dependency.  People gave up the production of food, energy, water, and other essentials at the local level.

What happens to a dependent lifestyle/home/way of life when it is put under extreme stress?  The same thing that happens to an obese body under intense stress:  it fails catastrophically.

 

So, is there a way to construct something like the BMI for a home?

I’ve come up with two ways to measure of a homes fitness.  Essentially, it calculates how dependent you are on outside goods and services (if you have a better way to do it, let me know).

  • The amount of food, energy, and water you purchase outside the home, divided by the total amount you consume.  Another option is to calculate this by what is produced locally in your community rather than your home.
  • The total amount of land you own, less the amount you put into production (solar, gardens, etc.).  I suspect this could be calculated nationally given good satellite surveillance and pattern recognition software.

Regardless, by either measure, nearly every home in the US and the EU is grossly dependent.   I suspect that most of the US map would show that households have 90-100% dependency (particularly in western regions due to water dependency).

With storm clouds on the horizon, it’s time to get our homes and communities into shape friends.

If you do get them into shape, you won’t be sorry.  I can attest that the connection between working on resilient projects and fitness will do wonders for mind, body, and life.

 

Some Tips on Sharing

Over the next decade, we’re going to see the emergence of a countless number of resilient communities all over the world.  To help them launch and become successful, we’re going to need lots of networking between communities.  Some of this networking will commercial, but much of it will be sharing and participating in open source project to design and build resilient systems for our homes and communities.

What do I mean by “system”?   A “system” is anything that has multiple parts that work together in a cohesive way.  In practice, that means anything from the design of a house to an irrigation system to vertical garden system to a software control system for aquaculture.

So, it’s probably safe to say that designing DiY systems that you can share (with people nearby or online) will be a very useful skill to have.  Here are some simple design principles from the great folks at Wikihouse on how to do that (I featured Wikihouse in the letter “Is designing your resilient dream home getting any easier?“).

 

Be lazy like a fox‘. Rather than solving problems from scratch, adopt and adapt other people’s solutions, and then give them credit. Linus Torvalds thought of this phrase.
Design for materials and components which are reasonably cheap to buy, low-carbon and fully recyclable or biodegradable.  [Use materials that are lying around, plentiful locally, and those that you can produce yourself.]
Design is disruptive when it lowers the threshold. Design systems that can be assembled with minimal formal skill or training, and without the use of power tools.
As a general rule, design for the climate, culture, economy and legal / planning framework in which you live, and you know best. Others will then be able to adapt the design to suit their environment.
Share your work as much and as openly as possible, it might come back better. At very least you’ll have contributed to solving a common problem. All components on WikiHouse are shared under a creative commons license, and authors are always attributed.
It is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits” – John Maynard Keynes.  [ One of the few ideas from Keynes I actually like.  Simply, use the Internet to trade ideas that eliminate the need to ship stuff. ]
Design to dismantle. The easier it is to dismantle structures or replace individual parts, the better.  [Modular design makes it easier to do this.]
Design for mistakes. Try to design components which either make it impossible for the assembler to get it wrong or are designed in such a way that it doesn’t matter if they do.

 

Your not willing to let a dysfunctional global system dictate the course of my life analyst,

 

JOHN ROBB

 

 

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