It’s another sunny spring day in New England, which means that I’m headed outside to add more compost to my garden. However, before I do that, I want to share this idea with you first.
Like you, I’m very open to different approaches to building resilient communities. What matters most to me is that they get built. We’ll eventually see which approach was the best when people vote with their feet.
One of the ways that makes it possible to build resilient communities very quickly is to build them as a “master planned” commercial housing developments.
Let’s evaluate this a bit.
Master planned developments have been extremely popular in the United States since the 1960s. What made them different from standard developments was the sheer scale of amenities and infrastructure offered as part of the housing package. Amenities from pools to club houses to office parks, but mainly a golf course (or two).
Well, needless to say, master planned “golf course” developments aren’t selling as they used to. In fact, there’s no reason to believe that they will ever recover, given the trajectory of the economy. Due to uncertainties and lost wealth, people are staying where they are.
Replacing the Golf Course with Food, Energy, Water, and 3D Fabs
So, what would happen if we switched out the golf course and the other amenities at the center of these master planned communities and replaced them with features that matter?
Let’s do a little math next to see if the expenses involved in building a resilient community are even in the ballpark of what’s possible.
The standard golf course used in a master planned development costs $12 million to design/build and $5,000 a day to maintain. This expense is baked into the cost of every home that is sold. Further, community agreements spell out the community golf privileges and the dues they are required to regularly pay.
Homes with expensive golf courses have sold, and sold, and sold over the years. The model works. Now let’s shift the model. What could $12 m buy in terms of community resilience?
Answer: Nearly all of the essential infrastructure necessary for community resilience. A farm. An orchard. Power storage. A smart micro-grid. Water harvesting built-in. The list goes on and on. In short, it is enough to build a community that is productive rather than a black hole of waste.
Let’s go on. What could a maintenance budget of $5,000 a day buy?
Answer: It could pay for core team necessary to professionally grow food, produce energy, and conserve water. To staff a local fab. Also, the staff that could help you grow, make, and do through instruction and coaching — so, forget the fitness trainer, why not a resilience coach to keep you fit in mind and body?
So, since this works in concept, is there a market for resilient developments?
I believe there is. There is a large and growing group from young to old and everyone in between. A group that will only grow in time as the dive deeper into the long emergency.
All we need to do is build them, and they will come.
Your never old enough to golf analyst,
PS: Thanks to the architect Andres Duany.