Buckminster Fuller Institute Challenge Application
Published on The Buckminster Fuller Challenge (http://challenge.bfi.org)
Global Village Construction Set
Summarize your proposal in 50 words or less:
We are developing the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) - an advanced industrial economy-in-a-box that can be replicated inexpensively anywhere in the world. The GVCS is like a Lego set of modular building blocks which that work together for creating sustainable, regenerative, resilient communities. Describe the critical need your solution addresses:
Our goal is to eliminate the basic driving force behind resource conflicts. Our prototype village aims to demonstrate that we can create a complete economy from local resources on ~1000 acres via regenerative resource use – for ecological living with modern-day comforts, minus resource conflicts.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
The GVCS provides people with technology to do more with less – to live a high quality life in ways that do not disrupt vital ecological support systems. By pushing the limit of resource use to the ability to utilize local resources via the use of high, appropriate technology – we can transcend the need for weaponry, to focus on 'livingry.' Key to this is the integration of open source methods – the methods of open, collaborative development that has already been demonstrated with open source software. We are extending this development model to hardware – and demonstrating ~8-fold cost reduction of resulting products. A global community of developers helps to produce designs, plans, and prototypes, until high-quality products, with improved performance compared to their industrial counterparts – are created at a fraction of the cost. We are at the initial stages of our experiment. We have 8 prototypes, 1 full product release, and 32 more items to develop. However, we have already demonstrated that parts, modules, motors, and even power units may be interchanged between different machines - like a Lego set for real construction – thereby producing breakthroughs in cost/performance ratios. By design - ecological integration allows for plug-and-play modularity and interoperability of many tools. This leads to lifetime design via principles of the modularity, design-for-disassembly, as well as transparency and simplicity. Moreover, the GVCS serves as a universal constructor – as it includes tools for CNC machining and automation, which allow for digitally-assisted self-replication of the entire package. The end results is that people now gain full control of their productive technology base, thereby transcending material scarcity – as a foundation for evolving to higher pursuits - or freedom from geopolitical compromises of resource conflicts.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
We are creating an integrated ecology of products that provide all the needs of humans, and they are developed by a broad network of True Fans and supporters. We are proposing high-tech neosubsistence - or the capacity to live from local resources by use of advanced, appropriate technology, without requiring any compromise on quality of life. We are showing a clear and well-defined route for using existing technology, but using it in an integrated fashion to break performance/cost limits. We are also demonstrating the concept of technological recursion or bootstrapping - where access to one tool allows access to more advanced tools and techniques. In the limit, we aim to show that we can even produe aliminum from clay (or other metals) or silicon from sand - if we have the open knowhow and energy to do that - on a local level. This is beyond most people to imagine - but we approach it from the point that if we can get the cost of infrastructures down by a factor of ~8 - and apply this cost reduction to proven technology such as solar concentrator electric power - then solar electricity can be produced abundantly throughout most of the world. With access to such electricity, or even access to modern steam engines running on pelletized biomass - we can support the processes required for an advanced industrial economomy. While this may be as much as 10 years into the future, we are showing initial results that are clearly validating our cost reduction, and therefore feasibility, requirements. Compare and contrast your initiative.
We are the only organization that we know of that combines appropriate technology, high technology, resilient community development, sustainable living, economic development, automation, open source product development, community construction, open source economic development, and livelihood topics - all in one effort. There are numerous examples of each of the above, too many to mention.
Describe your implementation plan.
The strategy is to pursue a combination of our 1000 True Fans crowd-funding campaign, where people subscribe at $10/month for 2 years (we have 152 subscribers so far), Production Earnings, and other grants. For the first, we plan on deploying a small version of 50 mile per gallon-equivalent, modern steam engine-powered Dymaxion Car with an on-board pelletizer to produce fuel pellets from newspapers. This will be deployed on an awareness/publicity tour on several continents to gather support, until the 1000 True Fans and other collaborators are recruited. Product earnings involve a 4-person flexible fabrication facility with earning potential of between $1-5k per person per week, based on digitally-assisted fabrication of tractors, cars, CEB presses, CNC torch tables, and all other tools of the GVCS. We have already demonstrated earning potential of $5k per automated CEB Press, where materials are $3k and we seel at $8k (still 6x lower than the competition). This is in addition to further proposal writing and viral distribution thereof through our expanding networks, leveraging forums such as the BFI Challenge entry, TED Fellows application, and othe venues of mass publicity.
What are the primary obstacles?
The primary obstacle is peoples' awareness. It is difficult to get people to think out of the box - that totally sustainable, regenerative, resilient economies are a choice - and that we are proposing a solution to implement these technologies. To address this, we are testing the tools and building a real community. Even more importantly, we are putting considerable energy to creating essential Explainer Videos that help people to get their head around the concepts.
What range of funding is needed to bring your project to fruition.
We need about $10k per prototype, with 3 prototypes per Full Product Release, of each of the 40 technologies. This totals about $1.2M, which would allow rapid parallel development with the assistance of a professional project manager. The 1000 True Fans campaign is providing an ongoing stream of funding, and we aim to increase that to 1000 as our next milestone. For financial sustainability, we will use a combination of True Fans and product sales. We are currently building a flexible production facility with our CEB press - which will be run by 4 full-time digital fabricators. We will produce tractors, CEB presses, CNC torch tables, cars, renewable energy equipment - all the tools in the GVCS - for bootstrap financing.