By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
There was a time when the subsistence economy ruled, relying on trade of natural resources to provide for basic needs, mainly through agriculture. Communities were normally comprised of a few families whose goal was to work together socially, economically and practically.
In fact, it seems to be human nature to live in small groups. Prior to 1800, 2% of humanity lived in self-sustaining, rural villages and small towns. But global industrialisation changed the game exponentially, and now, it’s estimated that by 2050 the vast majority of the population of planet Earth will be jammed into urban environments with strained power grids and depleted food matrices that will be unable to support consumption demands or guarantee continuous access to good, clean water.
But, as sustainable development become of major concern during the late 1980s, the 21st century has triggered several initiatives to reprise a socio-economic structure that would be more sustainable. Many cities have changed their urban planning accordingly, and several top architectural firms have challenged themselves to design the most environmentally conscious of buildings.
Riding this wave is the Copenhagen-based office practicing in the fields of modern architecture, design and visionary urban development and planning: EFFEKT. This Danish company has partnered with ReGen Villages, a global real estate development company geared towards building off-grid neighbourhoods, founded by James Ehrlich in California. The project they came up with is remarkable, and has even been defined as the “Tesla of eco-villages.”
ReGen Villages aims to create its first development outside Amsterdam. ReGen stands for regenerative, where the outputs of one system are the inputs of another. The concept has a holistic approach and combines a variety of innovative technologies, such as energy positive homes, renewable energy, energy storage, local organic food production, vertical farming aquaponics/aeroponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems.
ReGen Villages holds the potential to face some of the challenges of the third millennium, such as the population explosion, the increase of construction projects, scarcity of resources, the growing global food crisis, as well as reducing the global CO2 emission and diverse kinds of pollution in our cities.
This project has all the potential of setting a model towards a sustainable future, in environmental and social terms. It shows us how a neighbourhood that can grow its own food, produce its own energy, and turn its waste system into a closed-loop regenerative system.
ReGen Villages sets a framework for communities to reconnect with that long lost model of subsistence economy by coalescing it with the technological progress of the 21st century that will lead to an eco-system that restores biodiversity and uses only renewable energies. Villages include several public squares that are equipped with electric car charging stations, and there are also vertical aquaponic farming spaces. The community shares water storage facilities and “waste-to-resource” systems. In addition, there are areas for livestock, communal dining, playgrounds, and community learning centers.
The first ReGen Village pilot community is to be developed in Almere in Netherlands, with 100 homes breaking ground this summer. Multiple other pipeline developments will commence initially on sites across Northern Europe in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the UAE – encompassing the northern climate region context for ReGen Villages.
Not only will ReGen provide food, energy and shelter for its residents, maybe best of all, it will also provide them with independence in an increasingly food-and-energy insecure world.