As Earth’s population continues to swell, it becomes increasingly clear that the dominant model for resource management and distribution is not designed to cope. A global crisis rages around a shortage of healthy food, clean water, clean energy and waste to resource management, as the ‘big city’ economic model struggles to support the health and happiness of those within it. The brightest minds are working hard to develop new, more sustainable models for community and economy, as we move towards a world that will in thirty years need to support a population of 10 billion people.
One of those bright minds is James Ehrlich, founder of ReGen Villages. ReGen Villages is a start up / real estate development company which is planning to design and build small, self-sustaining, regenerative ‘neighborhoods’ all around the world. As a resident of a ReGen Village, everything you need to live a happy and healthy life will be available within the footprint of your community.
A ReGen Village will uphold five core principles: energy positive homes, door-step high-yield organic food production, mixed renewable energy and storage, water and waste recycling, and empowerment of local communities.
Power positive homes that run on renewable energy will be built into a regenerative infrastructure. This means that the output of one system will become the input for another. Household waste is fed to black soldier fly larvae and aquatic red worms, who digest their own body weight in matter each day. They then become food for fishes, chickens and the small animals within the community, so that there’s no need to outsource feed.
The fishes then fertilize aquaponic gardens – multi-layered systems that combine fish farming and hydroponic agriculture, with plant roots submerged in nutrient-rich solution rather than soil. These gardens, together with other seasonal gardens fertilized by livestock waste, provide fresh fruit and vegetables for residents.
Greenhouses are attached to individual homes. Together, the houses form a “shared local eco-system.” Everything is designed to work in a perfect cycle, building resilient communities that thrive in abundance. Ehrlich says, “We think this is the best solution for the next two to three billion people coming to the planet in the next 30 years.”
Each village will house 100 families on about 50 acres. It will include several public squares equipped with electric car charging stations. Members of the community will share water storage facilities. There will be communal dining areas, playgrounds and community learning centers. Ehlrich envisions that his communities will also be disaster-resistant, remaining functional if the current power grid were to be compromised by a hurricane, for example.
In an interview with Singularity Hub, Ehrlich explained that he is not ‘anti-city’, expressing his belief in urban resilience. He continued, however, to say that the burden on local and national governments needs to be reduced.
James Ehrlish speaking about ReGen Villages with Alison Berman of Singularity Hub.
“Humanity actually needs to start spreading out in the right ways. With drones and high speed transit, the Hyperloop One, broadband internet for curriculum, we can reach these kinds of outlying areas and people don’t actually need to be going into the cities as much, or even at all. That’s a better case for balance between the mega cities and these regenerative communities that can be built en masse around the planet.”
In June, 2016, ReGen Villages went viral after a successful press announcement from the Venice Biennale. On August 25th 2016, the start up was presented to the White House for the Office of Science and Technology Policy as part of a round table discussion on the nexus of food, water, energy and waste at the neighborhood scale. It has since been nominated for a Global Solutions Award by Singularity University. Ehrlich also won the won the Global Grand Challenge award in the shelter category at last year’s Global Summit.
ReGen Villages has already started to build its pilot community in the Netherlands. The neighborhood of Almere, 25 minutes east of Amsterdam, will consist of 25 homes. The company is also planning projects in Sweden, Germany, Norway and Denmark, and considering sites in China, Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Head to the ReGen Villages website to find out more, and stay updated with this exciting new prospect for sustainable living.