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SWAAG_2016

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SWAAG_2016

  1. 1. ASSESSING ENIVRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE DESGIN IN ECOLOGICAL INTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES: EXAMPLES FROM TEXAS Christina W. Lopez Department of Geography Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas ABSTRACT This thesis builds a new model for assessing ecological intentional communities’ (EICs) environmentally responsible design, with a geographical perspective, by amalgamating concepts from the Built Environment Sustainability Tool and the Living Environments in Natural, Social, and Economic Systems frameworks. Goals of the research were to 1) identify ecological intentional communities in the state of Texas, 2) determine if a relationship exists between their location in the physical environment and proximity to the built environment with their abilities to implement environmental-enhancing practices, and 3) to assess these capabilities and categorize the communities on a spectrum of environmentally responsible design. The overall objective was to determine if ecological intentional communities provided a framework for future development on a larger scale to generate a more sustainable society. The study found 11 functioning communities in Texas, identified advantages and disadvantages to location and proximity, but no clear relationship between the factors. Ecological intentional communities were categorized as either regenerative, sustainable, or green on the spectrum of environmentally responsible design. This model, and study, serves as a foundation for assessing communities’ capabilities of design through a geographic lens. METHDOLOGY In constructing a new model for assessing EICs, five categories with their subcategories were created to gage their placement on the spectrum of environmentally responsible design (pictured below). A survey with both closed and open response questions was used to obtain the data. As applied in the LENSES framework, open responses allowed for the study to account for unknown practices. The BEST framework tallies points based on capabilities for sustainability. Here, a binary system of a 1 or 0 was applied to award “points” to those communities who had a higher level of capabilities through their design. Through this process, the EICs were then placed into a category on the spectrum of environmentally responsible design: Restorative, Sustainable, and Green. RESULTS 11 EICs were found in Texas (see below). The green dots represent established communities – or those that have been functioning at a physical location. Blue dots are forming communities; this means they have land and are in the process of fully applying their community vision. Of these, 7 were rural, 2 urban, and 2 suburban. Because of their accumulation of points were close, they are placed into 3 broad categories: restorative (integrated with nature), sustainable (no harm, neutral), and green (attempts of progress). Restorative Sustainable This category includes EICs: 7 (rural), 8 (urban), 5 (rural), and 4 (rural). EIC 7 is located in Cedar Park. They practice aquaponics, garden through Permaculture designs, and use livestock (chickens and goats) for dairy products and pest control. While a conventional single family home serves as the community center, most of the members live in additional structures, similar to the tiny house pictured below. EIC 8 is an urban community in Houston. They produce some food organically, and use rainwater or greywater for garden irrigation. EIC 8 is 1 of 2 communities able to use bicycles and public transportation as methods of transit. Solar power is used for water heaters and their electricity is produced from solar and wind energy (as an option through their electricity provider, not produced by the community). EIC 5 is situated in rural Dale, they use wicking beds (raised beds that draw up water only when needed) along with other types of Permaculture designs for food production. Their livestock (chickens, turkeys, goats, and a cow) are fed organically, free range, and are used for eggs and dairy only. In addition, rainwater is collected and greywater is used. They also have composting toilets to reduce water usage. EIC 4, located in rural Sanger, is part of a 76-acre tract of the Texas Land Conservatory. As part of their conservation efforts, they only have native, free-range wildlife and do not house livestock for their own use. The community produces their own solar, wind, and biomass energy on site. EIC 4 is the only community whose major source of energy is solar power produced on site. Their homes were designed sustainably, using Ferro-cement Earth- bermed domes that are partially buried in the ground, and have Junipers to serve as windbreaks from cold northern winter winds. Further, greywater and composting toilets are implemented for reduced water consumption. Green Green design can be considered as implementing environmentally responsible practices that attempt to progress somewhat past conventional living standards in the United States. These practices comprise: organic food production, soil care, recycling of waste, repair of items, purchasing new instead of used, and composting food waste or feeding it to animals. The communities in this category are EIC 2 (rural) and EIC 9 (urban). Two photographs below show housing types at EIC 2. And the main house for EIC 9. CONCLUSION The author endeavored to conclude whether these types of communities could be used as a framework for future development on a larger, more mainstream scale. However, it can be concluded that currently the structures of Texas’ cities’ laws and enforcement tactics are not conducive to a productive, self-sufficient community within its bounds. In addition, rural settings offer difficulties with access to income, additional food, education, entertainment, and miscellaneous resources. Producing enough renewable energy on site to serve an entire community’s needs off-the-grid has not yet been achieved by any EIC studied. Therefore, this study was not able to confidently support the conclusion that EICs can be used as a framework for future environmentally responsible design on a larger scale. Lastly, this “pilot study” provides an approach future scholars can apply for assessing environmentally responsible design. Category Communities Scores Restorative 6, 3, 1 33, 30, 29 Sustainable 7, 8, 5, 4 24, 23, 22, 21 Green 2, 9 20, 16 EIC 6 is located in suburban Arlington. They ranked highest because of their inventive housing styles (pictured left), there ability to produce no landfill trash, and reduction of energy consumption. The first picture on the left is a partially buried vehicle. There is an entrance in the rear and serves as a living space for a community member. Beneath, a cob cottage with salvaged wood houses another community member. The final picture is a rocket stove - a wood-burning stove made from cob – and is used, along with a wood-burning grill, to cook all the food for the community. Images obtained with permission from www.gardenofeden.com. EIC 3, in rural Campbell, uses rainwater harvesting for agricultural irrigation and have built structures from compressed earth blocks (similar to adobe). Energy is generated on site through solar and wind; this is the only EIC that uses both renewable energies. Furthermore, they are also the only EIC to barter as a means of waste reduction and avoidance. EIC 1 is located in Bedias, and they used papercrete (re-pulped paper with clay or concrete) for construction of structures, earthen floors, and mulch pits for cooling and heating their homes. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thank you to Dr. Colleen C. Hiner for aiding me through this process as my advisor for this thesis. Additional thanks to Dr. Weaver and Dr. Huebner for serving as committee members. Your time and energy are much appreciated.

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