How a Small Vermont Farm Can Lead to Urban Resilience Solutions

The Guardian has started a new series about people who are helping to create more resilient cities. This first piece takes a look at a Vermont farmer’s story. Here’s a quick look at the piece:

“This series may be about building resilient cities, but it starts on a farm near Brattleboro, Vermont. That’s where Alex Wilson has renovated an old farmhouse into – as he calls it – a “passively resilient home”. Alex is a pioneer in the green building movement, starting the highly respected website BuildingGreen in 1992. BuildingGreen preaches largely to the converted – those in the sustainable building industry – but that’s a pretty small group, not nearly enough to make a difference. As flooding, ice storms and hurricanes start making people very anxious, the issue of resilience has to reach a much wider audience,” the article begins.

It continues:

“So, in 2012, Alex founded the Resilient Design Institute to broaden the reach of the sustainable building movement. ‘I want even climate change deniers to boost the energy performance of their homes. Doing so will keep their families safer during power outages and other disturbances, and it will benefit all of us,’ Alex explains. ‘The motivation of safety, for many people, will be a stronger motivation than ‘doing the right thing’ or trying to mitigate climate change. But the benefit in reducing carbon emissions will be the same.’”

Alex has started with his own home. According to the Guardian, he’s been renovating his farmhouse, which is 200 years old, as a “test-bed” for what Alex calls “passive resilience.” He’s used fossil fuel-free foamed glass insulation underground and Portuguese cork above, according the Guardian.

“What gets me excited about resilience is that it provides yet another motivation to create extremely well-insulated, green homes,” Alex told the Guardian.

The article says he believes high insulation levels help create habitable temperatures in a home, even if heating and cooling systems aren’t operational.

“I have often referred to this as ‘passive survivability,’” Alex told the Guardian. “Insulation is boring, but it does the heavy lifting when it comes to making our homes resilient.”

The article continues: “It’s a different way of thinking about resilience. Some homeowners go out and buy diesel generator sets, which are only temporarily useful when the power goes out; insulation makes the home comfortable, saves money – and fights climate change.”

Alex does a few other sustainable things:

  • Gets his water by using gravity from a pond built 100 feet up a hill
  • Gets his electricity from solar panels on his roof
  • Started farming this year and hopes to get 75 percent of his family’s food from his property
  • He’s also getting a cargo bike so he can still get into town (a six-mile journey) if he runs out of gas.

The article concludes:

“In fact, there are many lessons to be learned from Alex’s farm that can be applied to our towns and cities: building durable, well-insulated buildings with simple, redundant systems out of easy-to-fix local, renewable materials in strong, caring communities makes sense just about anywhere. That, and get a bike.”

 

For the original article, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/nov/14/finding-solutions-for-urban-resilience-on-a-farm-in-vermont