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How to construct a self-sustainable home?

Image credit: London Permaculture

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 21, 2020
What are the things I need to limit my dependency on others and also live a decent life? What are the problems I will face? How do I solve them?

Everyone talks about sustainability. It makes more sense in this pandemic season. Although maintaining a self-sustainable household is a time- and energy-demanding task, some of us want to strive in that direction. Let this session be a guideline for those.
Here are a few baseline rules or assumptions:
  1. I would like the self-sustainable home to strike a balance between nature and the modern lifestyle. I want to try and accommodate all natural alternatives possible but there are a few things that I cannot go without (for example, electricity to operate all my appliances and farming tools, wi-fi, and phone and internet connectivity - for social contact and in case of emergencies). Can I run all my appliances on solar power? If yes, nothing like it. But what about cloudy weather? Sometimes when it rains, I cannot see the Sun for about 2 weeks straight.
  2. I understand I would need to grow food and hence need a sizeable area. What size farm can feed an average person? How do I distribute the area into farm area, living area, etc.). However, I will be dependent on others (the purification plant) for a source of water. I would like to keep this dependency for now for the sake of all readers, who come from diverse geographical locations and may not have a ready source of water in their stipulated areas. Comments on what crops, fruits I can grow will be helpful.
  3. For meat-lovers, a few farm animals may be required. What crops are they compatible with? What about pasture? Can fish ponds be created? How to make them sustainable? Let hunting and fishing be an option but it may not be available (legal) for some readers. Therefore, solutions both with and without hunting/fishing will be helpful.
  4. Comments on the design of the house to minimize efforts and maximize gains will be helpful.
  5. I understand I will require an initial investment to construct such a place. Will I require a job (a regular flow of income) afterward? If not, can I sell goods from the farm? Will it be sustainable?
  6. Let us assume that there are 2 adults and 2 children staying in that area. If your solutions require more helping hands, please indicate a ballpark figure.
  7. I do not intend to have a total social disconnect. I like visiting friends and neighbors and having people over. For those who want a social disconnect, what additional requirements do you have? What about emergencies?
  8. I understand this list may change based on your contributions below and I will keep updating it.
Are you living such a lifestyle? What are your thoughts on it? Have you given it up? Why?
5
Creative contributions

Organic waste handling

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Yahi Menezes
Yahi Menezes Aug 22, 2020
Theoretically, any organic matter generated within the house could be made useful. Common sustainable handling alternatives could be divided into two types, depending on the metabolism of the microorganisms that promote the process: composting, which usually consists of decomposition occurred in aerobic conditions (with oxygen), and anaerobic digestion (AD), which occurs in the absence of oxygen. One alternative doesn’t exclude the other, they can be combined, depending on the available materials and desired products. Composting may be the best choice for solid and drier materials (like some food and crop residues), since aeration usually requires porosity in the mixture of waste, so that the oxygen reaches the aerobic microorganisms, although some content of wet material may be added in order to achieve optimal moisture. The resulting compost, a solid grainy-textured material, can be used as plant fertilizer. A liquid fraction may be produced - the leachate – which can also be used as fertilizer. AD may be the preference for liquid and wetter materials (like sewage, animal manure and some food wastes), since most of their content naturally remains in anaerobic conditions. AD generates a set of products. Solid and liquid products can both be used as fertilizers; liquid may also be used as flush water, depending on treatment conditions. The gaseous products, generally called biogas, consist mostly of methane, which can be used for heat/electricity generation and/or be burned in the cooker. Some useful links: Quick Guide for Home Composting: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/44638/compostbrochure.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y About Anaerobic Digestion: https://www.epa.gov/agstar/how-does-anaerobic-digestion-work https://www.britannica.com/technology/wastewater-treatment/Sludge-treatment-and-disposal
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
This is especially necessary for areas poor with organic material (rocky Mediterranean islands come to mind) where people surround their plots of land with rocks to prevent the wind and storms from blowing away all the soil.

There are several basic factors to consider when building a sustainable home

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Deru Xu
Deru Xu Aug 26, 2020
There are several basic factors to consider when building a sustainable home: food, water and energy. (1) Food. First of all, I think it is feasible to use hydroponic technology and soil cultivation to establish a greenhouse ecological planting system. Vegetable greenhouses are the main facilities for planting off-season vegetables, and the requirements for greenhouse vegetable cultivation are relatively high. This is an efficient agricultural crop planting technology that is environmentally friendly and can generate economic benefits. The high technical cost is one of the shortcomings of this technology. A well-designed system may cost thousands of dollars, but only the herbs or vegetables needed by four or five people do not need to be too expensive. The best choice can be varieties with low temperature tolerance, low light requirements, strong resistance, high humidity tolerance, high yield, and short planting time, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and green peppers. Second, establish a small comprehensive farm that can grow fruit trees and breed chickens and ducks at the same time. Chickens and ducks can kill insects and weeds for fruit trees, and their dung can be used as fertilizer for the biogas system. (2) Water source. In this case, I recommend digging wells to collect water and rainwater. Of course, we need a set of household water purifiers to purify the collected water. The household water purifier adopts multi-stage filter elements for water purification treatment, and filters the collected water without adding any compounds to produce pure water that can be directly consumed by humans. It can remove harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and organic phosphorus in the water. (3) Renewable energy. First of all, solar energy is the easiest source of energy. Household photovoltaics mainly use the idle resources on the existing buildings of the family, such as roofs, wall facades, balconies, courtyards, etc., to install and use distributed photovoltaic power generation systems. It is recommended to first consider the installation location and installation area of photovoltaic modules. Generally speaking, south roofs or east-west facing roofs are more suitable for installation. In addition, you can also consider installing sun sheds, carports or sunshades. In addition, solar water heaters are essential products. Second, we need to consider the situation where the electricity demand is relatively large. According to Yahi Menezes' suggestion on "Organic waste handling", I also suggest to establish a biogas system to obtain electricity. The residue after biogas production can be used as organic fertilizer.

Efficient use of energy (maximum conservation)

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 21, 2020
Depending on your geographical area you would either be battling fluctuating and extreme temperatures or humidity (or both if you're unlucky). If you're also battling water shortage you might want to think about moving or organizing local terraforming efforts to plant forests en masse. Some things to consider: 1. The right choice of materials (snow/rainfall, relative humidity - mold) to minimize upkeep/repairs 5. Very thick walls made of heat-insulating material that isn't prone to mold formation 2. Efficient hydro-insulation of the roof and walls if you are brave enough to build underground (wouldn't recommend it in flood-prone areas) 3. Built-in air circulation with heat recuperation 4. Low power consumption electronics. Even so, use only what you absolutely need 5. Building underground or semi-buried (green roof at the very least)
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic9 months ago
Earthships pretty much do all of the above https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVp5koAOu9M
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic9 months ago
This earthship is quite modern https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7SUjcwXY8w

Vertical Farming to Produce Food

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Jamila
Jamila Aug 23, 2020
Vertical farming practices could be used as part of the self-sustainable home. Vertical farming is a method used to grow crops vertically in stacked layers. Vertical farms can grow crops without soil using solutions packed with useful minerals and nutrients (hydroponics) or using mist/air (aeroponics). Vertical farming may be a great alternative to other farming practices. As vertical farming uses less water compared to greenhouses and other farming practices. Furthermore, the vertical farming method releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, meaning that it has a smaller carbon footprint. The positive aspect of this method is that it allows the production of fresh produce even if there is not enough land available or if the soil quality is poor. However, this method does have its own limitations too. Vertical farming can use up a lot of power to grow these crops. In the future, if this method used self-renewable energy instead, it would be even better and more sustainable. Resources https://www.eitfood.eu/blog/post/is-vertical-farming-really-sustainable https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ww2TP_tU7o
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni8 months ago
Thank you Jamila! Why does vertical farming require more power?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
The power expenditure comes from artificial conditions such as hydroponic nutrient delivery, lighting, ideal climate. Being able to sustain this with renewable power would be ideal.

Arcologies

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 26, 2020
Isaac Arthur covers Arcologies - self-sufficient habitats extensively in this video

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General comments

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni9 months ago
Thank you Darko! This has always occupied a tiny part of my brain. I hope this session flourishes enough (with both criticism and constructive suggestions) to create a holistic guideline for sustainability enthusiasts.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic9 months ago
Very interesting session. I almost jumped in a few times while reading the description but decided to postpone my contributions as the session turned more demanding and systemic with every additional rule:)