Open Village Construction Set

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= a collection of open-source, appropriate technology tools that can be integrated into the village economy.



Kevin Carson:

"I would like to call everyone's attention to the work of the Open-Source Ecology group, and its Factor E Farm demonstration project. Factor E Farm provides constant updates on the progress of specific projects at their blog.

OS Ecology's central focus is developing what it calls an Open-Village Construction Set: a collection of open-source, appropriate technology tools that can be integrated into the village economy.

Because they are open-source rather than relying on proprietary designs, and because they use locally available and vernacular materials as much as possible, they are extremely inexpensive. Just as important, the machinery is replicable, using locally available materials (including scrap and waste from the industrial economy). This means that once the initial prototypes of all the machinery are built, the entire system is almost infinitely replicable using only the labor of the people who want to adopt it.

The projects furthest along the road to completion are:

1) the Compressed Earth Block (CEB) press, which uses rammed earth as a building material, and can be produced at 20% of the cost of the cheapest available proprietary design.

2) the Life Trac, an open-source tractor, which can run on biomass fuel produced on-site, and is intended to serve (among other things) as power source for the CEB press, the sawmill, and the multi-machine (about which see below).

3) the solar-powered steam turbine generator. This project abandons the possibly futile hope of getting the unit cost of photovoltaic power competitive with that generated with fossil fuels, and instead uses a solar collector to power a steam turbine for operating an electrical generator. OSE hopes to get the unit cost down to $1/watt.

There are some 28 projects in various stages of planning. Unfortunately, limits in funding and available labor force OS Ecology to focus on a few projects at a time and put the others on the back burner.

For example, one vitally important tool ultimately envisioned in the Construction Set is the multimachine, which has been independently prototyped elsewhere, but has yet to be integrated into OS Ecology's on-site project. The multimachine is a multi-purpose machine tool, providing the equivalent of a cheap desktop metal shop, which can also be used to produce other multimachines from scrap metal.

In "The Unplugged," Vinay Gupta wrote of a movement of people "buying out at the bottom" by using "Buckminster Fuller's means to promote Gandhi's ends." This is the largest and most advanced single project I'm aware of for putting that philosophy into practice. It is very much of a kind with what the Village Earth Appropriate Technology Library, and the Intermediate Technology Development Group have attempted. But it goes much further in 1) promoting village-scale manufacturing technology and integrating machine production into the village economy, and 2) attempting an organized prototypiing effort aimed at distributing it as an open-source package.

The OS Ecology project relies heaviy on crowdsourcing for its funding, and on the work of volunteer laborers living at the Factor E Farm site. Marcin Jakubowski and the rest of the team are working in near-emergency mode trying to get as much of the Open-Village Construction Set as possible prototyped and the complete designs publicly available. The more on-site labor and the more funding is available, the more projects that can be developed simultaneously. The goal is to get the construction set, as a whole, on a sustainable path toward unlimited growth by fission and replication, and to promote its adoption wherever people can benefit from it.

The urgency is heightened by increasingly ominous signs that the old corporate industrial economy is entering a "perfect storm" of terminal crises, from the culmination of a century's worth of chronic overaccumulation, Peak Oil, and all the rest of it. The OS Ecology team want to get the building blocks out there, and the knowledge of them as widely dispersed as possible, in order to have the infrastructure for resilient local communities in place on the ground and ready to start replicating itself virally. As Jakubowski told me by private email, this might be what pulls us out of Great Depression 2.

Marcin would be grateful for any help he can get. This includes funding. More importantly, it includes contributions of sweat equity by anyone with engineering, shop, or other tech skills who'd like to help on-site for room and board. And I'm sure he'd also like to hear from anyone involved in similar projects in the human-scale technology movement, who might have suggestions for collaborative effort and mutual support.

In short, Marcin et al are working under a deadline, and putting everything they've got into the effort. For anyone with the time or resources to help, I can't recommend this strongly enough as a worthy project.

You can subscribe to contribute $10/month, or make a one-time donation via PayPal, at the support page."

Marcin can be contacted at [email protected]

More Information

  1. Open Source Ecology
  2. Factor E Farm
  3. Global Villages