Open Source Ecology

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Open Source Ecology develops open source technology for sustainable living. See Appropedia description for a concise overview of work.

The OSE experiment takes place at Factor E Farm.


Wouter Tebbens:

"To get to a more complete vision of the commons in industrial manufacturing, the Open Source Ecology movement presents a radical proposal. “Imagine if you could build cars, industrial robots, engines, and other things in your own back yard. The only problem is, these require billions of dollars of infrastructure in the current industrial system. Not for long – if we succeed with the Open Source Micro-Factory.” Marcin Jacubowski and a growing community around the world is contributing to this vision. Their first objective is to produce the 50 tools for producing most products for modern comfort – the “Global Village Construction Set”. See my other post with an in-depth case study on Open Source Ecology (OSE).

In short, OSE bases on freedom, open development and self-sufficiency. Local communities are started, working together through global networks. Their principles include ecology and design for durability and reuse (modular, standardise, repairable, …). Also on the level of exchanging products and services with the market, their business plans and knowledge is shared with other groups who would like to follow the example. They call it the “distributed enterprise”. The resulting machines are around 8-10 times cheaper than off-the-shelf industrial versions – but may require self-assembly. The factory model they are working on is one of maximum flexibility, while aiming for efficiency and high performance. We could call it a job shop, or microfactory." (


"The goal of OSE is to engage people in a sustainable lifestyle as a means to addressing pressing world issues. We do this by providing the opportunity to live sustainably at our land-based facility. This facility is an intentional communy known as Open Source Enterprise Learning Community. In this community, a sustainable lifestyle involves providing many of the basic needs from on-site resources - food, housing, energy, transportation, and culture. We engage in what we call neo-subsistence, or technologically advanced subsistence that blends ancient wisdom and new technology to provide a high quality of life. The lifestyle includes meaningful work, service to the greater global community, and leisure to pursue one's true interests. Neo-subsistence involves wise utilization of resources and best practices that keeps overhead low and helps us to focus on our mission. To advance the goals of neo-subsistence, we engage in research aimed at developing goods and services to outside markets. These goods and services aim at the highest level of ecological integrity and quality that contributes to local prosperity in a global setting" (Marcin Jakubowski)

What is Open Source Economics?

"Our mission is to extend the Open Source model to the provision any goods and services- Open Source Economics. This means opening access to the information and technology which enables a different economic system to be realized, one based on the integration of natural ecology, social ecology, and industrial ecology. This economic system is based on open access- based on widely accessible information and associated access to productive capital- distributed into the hands of an increased number of people. We believe that a highly distributed, increasingly participatory model of production is the core of a democratic society, where stability is established naturally by the balance of human activity with sustainable extraction of natural resources. This is the opposite of the current mainstream of centralized economies, which have a structurally built-in tendency towards of overproduction."

Methodology Open Source Product Development

The collaboration cycle includes:

  • Feedback throughout
  • Fabrication, potentially in distributed locations
  • Resource donations
  • Quality markup
    • technical drawings
    • 3D computer models
    • economic analysis
  • Further design
  • Worknet workspace as initial development, ending in dedicated wiki webspace
  • Technology administrator: for each product


Detailed Description


"In practical terms, OSE is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters building the GVCS. What is the GVCS? It is a set of 50 industrial machines that it takes to build a small-scale civilization with modern comforts. The OSE project is currently engaged in the focused effort to design, prototype, and test these 50 machines to attain product release for all of these machines – with 3 prototypes per machine – by year-end 2012.

Let me repeat. OSE is currently focused on deploying the 50 GVCS tools, as defined on our main website, by year-end 2012. The GVCS 50 is a big, hairy, and audacious goal. With proper strategy and alignment, the GVCS is quite doable on the 2013 time scale. This is because we are not inventing anything new – just innovating – by repackaging powerful and proven industry standards of performance into their open source, low-cost, no frills, yet high-performance counterparts – and publishing all the results.

Is the GVCS 50 the optimal choice of technologies required for creating an advanced civilization? While we have studied this question intensely, we don’t know the answer until we build and test the set – both the individual machines and how they synergize towards an integrated infrastructure. Instead of speculating which machines are the optimal choice, we are building them proactively, on our specified timeline. Until the tools are put together into a working whole on a small, manageable scale – we simply don’t know how they will work out. Nobody has done this experiment yet. Our goal is to obtain data points on the performance, robustness, feasibility, and sufficiency of the GVCS – towards creating a more-or-less complete economy for an advanced civilization. The goal is simple: to reinvent the community-based solution of re-localized economies as a route to generating true wealth and autonomy for communities.

Our solution is a community-based solution – meaning that we are designing these tools as an integrated tool-set on the scale of a community. By community, we mean a prototypical village on the scale of Dunbar’s number (around 200 people). We theorize that a community of this size can produce all of its technology from local resources (trade is ok, but it is poor design to rely on trade for essential resources such as food and energy). Because the technology set is recursive in its nature – ie, the set contains machines that can make more complex machines – there is no a-priori limit on the technological complexity that can be achieved in such a system. Our goal is to explore the careful balance between technological complexity and quality of life. Our goal is to optimize quality of life such that material constraints simply cease to be the driving force in human relations. To put it another way – we are interested in creating the infrastructure for lifestyles where people actually have time for what is most important to them – as a foundation for evolving to freedom." (


Wouter Tebbens:

"Open Source Ecology has shown initial prototypes for various machines, but needs still a long way to reach maturity. The initial results, further blueprints, crowdfunding, plans and models show however the path to reach that." (

"So far there are 8 out of 50 of the machines prototyped, and Jackubowski hopes the full set will be developed by 2013. On average, the machines are 1/8 cheaper than industry standards to buy, and much less expensive to maintain." (p. 85 at [1])



"This year – we are focusing on demonstrating the effectiveness of our equipment in construction and agriculture duties. For construction, we will be using the open source tractor, CEB press, sawmill, and other supporting tools such as soil pulverizer, cement mixer, auger, backhoe, trencher, hay baler, hay rake, hay cutter, and others. We will demonstrate infrastructure building and housing construction – including double CEB walls filled with strawbales for super-insulation.

To accomplish the above, we currently have 5 people on site, of which 2 are dedicated project visitors. 2 more people, including a surveyor and professional fabricator – arriving within a week. Our progress relies on the quality of our team, both on-site and off-site. There are some things that lend themselves to remote collaboration. We’re building our remote CAD, prototyping, video editing, and documentation capacities as we speak. On the other hand, there are things that show a low level of success from remote collaborators. For example, out of the hundred or so design/prototyping offers from remote contributors, only a few have yielded any meaningful results – something like maybe 3-5%. The key to increasing the success rate is finding volunteers with direct stakeholdership in using the GVCS. For Factor e Farm people – there is no question on stakeholdership – we want to use the tools to provide clean food and energy, to produce lifetime-design equipment, to build housing, and to reinvent the economy in general.

The success of this project relies on building the team at Factor e Farm as a local implementation – fueled by global input. FeF is not only the developer, but the test case for the feasibility of the civilization-creation experiment. By year-end, we would like to build our permanent on-site team to 6-8 pioneers – the nucleus necessary to produce the developments that are necessary to make our larger growth happen. In particular – by growth we mean the 200 person community – the social experiment based on the GVCS and planned for building between 2012-2014.

The immediate core development team should include: project manager, construction manager, fabrication manager, farmer, documentor, Designer/CAD/CAM expert, power electronics expert, site manager/cook, and documentor. You can see more about these roles on our wiki. Currently, we have a project manager/fabricator available (Marcin), a documentor/fabricator (Thad), a CAD leader/remote team organizer (Chris), and 2 Dedicated Documentation Project Visitors (Ryan and William).

The basic strategy for the immediate division of labor is:

1. Project manager – to provide GVCS development leadership

2. Construction manager – to build comfortable, on-site housing for our development team – and to develop methodology for rapid, on-demand housing construction – for the purposes of scaling operations

3. Fabrication manager – finish the existing and continue new production runs, produce further construction equipment necessary for infrastructure buildout. We are planning on prototyping the sawmill, cement mixer, auger, trencher, and backhoe in the 2011 season.

4. Farmer – produces the food for the community as the main step towards health; does earthworking in preparation for the next growing season; builds fertility via bale mulching and mob grazing techniques; produces lumber; produces square straw bales with haying equipment (already secured) for superinsulation.

5. Machine Design/CAD/CAM – generates any design, CAD, and CAM files to support immediate machine/equipment development needs

6. Power Engineering expert – this includes both power electronics and electrical motors/generators. Just like we have created the modular mechanical infrastructure – the power engineering enables the Universal Power Supply. This is the machine infrastructure for power generation, induction furnace, chargers, electrical generators, welders, inverters, plasma cutters, laser cutters, and any devices that are based on electrical power.

  7. Site manager/cook – maintains infrastructures and feeds the team

To move the prototyping work forward, this is the job of 1, 3, 5, and 6 above. The built environmetn/food/fuel/ and entureergy infrastructures are provided by 2, 4, and 7.

For one, I need to free my time from fabrication and construction duties to focus on higher-level project and strategic development tasks. Basically, we are at the point where we have resource offers coming to us – but not a team to handle them. I should be focusing on building that team. To free up my time, the most important need is to recruit a fabrication manager and construction manager. Contact me if you can help.

Project Scaling: Preparation for 2012

The goal of the team/infrastructure building of 2011 is to gain a solid foundation for scaling Factor e Farm operations as an open source product development center/experimental post-scarcity community. Our first attempt at the truly scalable open source economic development method will begin in 2012.

Think of it this way: if we have a construction manager on site, we could build simple housing, on demand, on a 2 week time scale – using our equipment. If we have a full-time farmer, we can feed our people with clean food. The site manager/cook feeds and fuels the operation. The design/fab team cranks out prototypes as soon as they are designed. With a fabrication manager, we can test the economic feasibility of our products, and earn to bootstrap further development. The world showers us with further gifts to turn this concept to reality.

It starts with a solid team of iconoclastic pioneers. I should emphasize that all of us at Factor e Farm are full-time volunteers. We feel that this is the only way to attract people who are truly committed to the depth of our mission – as opposed to those who are getting paid to do the work. This is an effective filter. Personally, I am amazed and grateful to see the synergy of a dedicated group putting in endless hours of sweat late in the night to create this reality. People and resources seem to enter exactly when we need them – or when we are ready for them. We are fully committed, have no outside jobs, and rely solely on crowd funding, resource development, production earnings, and our own resources.

Plan for 2012

Starting January, 2012 – my goal is to transition to full-time project management – assuming that our development and infrastructure team is in place. I see this rolling out as 2-3 full-time, volunteer project managers at FeF. For this to succeed, we need to develop a large pool of qualified, subject matter experts so we can have options to choose from.

While we are able to gain lots from volunteers, there are some services that nobody will offer for free – unless we master the project breakdown method suggested here. In any case, we will need to cover about $5k materials per prototype, or about $750k just to roll out the prototypes as soon as we design them. There are some low-cost mechanical devices like the universal auger ($500 in materials), but there are also very expensive ones, such as $50k+/prototype for the aluminum extraction from clay. The budget may be as high as $4M when everything else is considered." (




"Here is the strategy in a nutshell: Full product release of tractor, power unit, and soil pulverizer – to add to the CEB press – by year-end 2011. Build the living and working infrastructure by year-end 2011 – showcasing and shaking down our machines. Produce professional quality documentation for these four machines by the same time. This in itself is a huge goal – paving our way for rapid parallel development starting January 1, 2012 – as we will have built up our infrastructure and team – and more importantly – track record of delivering solid and replicable results. With all the distractions coming at us, we commit to not getting waylaid from producing solid results.

It is one thing to build the prototypes – but a much more difficult task to shake down and document the prototypes to the level required for viral replicability. We want to sow the seeds of viral replicability by this year’s end – by brute force simplicity of design, clarity of instructionals, and robustness of the equipment. We have demonstrated the economic feasibility and performance of our machines. The next milestone is replicability.

Then, 2012 is rapid parallel development. If our 6 month plan is infrastructure building/4 product releases/documentation – how does work on the 2012 plan fit? The 6 month plan is the foundation for the parallel development of 2012. A solid core infrastructure for project management is the core of the next 6 months. This is our commitment with the resources that we currently have – and new resources can change this at any time.

The greater global effort beyond FeF could help tremendously by identifying a large team of qualified, remote developers. Success on the overall 50 machines requires that we recruit a team of bidders/designers/prototypers for each machine – as each machine goes through a multi-step development process from concept to field testing and iteration. This enables us to access large sources of funding. Without a deployment team, we cannot take in money. Thus, if we have a solid team of bidders/designers/prototypers – and their capacities are clear – then we are in a position to move rapidly.

In principle, it would be good to have 10 bids per project – or close to 500 bids. Recruiting this talent and bid proposals is a full time job for many people, so if you are eager to jump into the project remotely, this is the most valuable task that you could take on. With the team in place, resources can be tapped, and risk can be minimized if we have a number of bids to choose from. From my experience, the key is having options, so our chance of success on each project is maximized.

In the meantime, there is also a number of more-or-less active projects in the background: steam engine, solar concentrator, industrial robot, sawmill, car, CNC multimachine, laser cutter, torch table, ironworker machine, 3D scanner, CNC circuit mill, 3D printer, and universal power supply.

Strategically speaking, I think we can find all of the bids/designers/prototypers by leveraging global collaboration of the crowds. To act on the resulting information – I think the best strategy is 2-3 full-time project managers at FeF, working with me. Then I predict a fast-and-furious parallel technology rollout process that sets new standards for open source economic development. At the same time, if we have design sourced from remote developers, then our local FeF fabrication team can prototype these as soon as they are created. Prototyping can be rapid when the designs are available – so a team of 2-3 experienced fabricators could do this on-demand. This reqiures our 3000 square foot workshop to be ready, and to be populated with about 3 times more fabrication equipment than we already have.

My next steps are getting the fabrication manager and construction manager onsite. If my time is freed up, I will proceed to defining a strategic roll-out sequence and budget. This can help us to align the overall effort to a more direct path. With additional resources, we will proceed beyond a machine design to the open-sourcing of the individual components – such as stepper motor fabrication and oxyhydrogen generator production for the CNC torch table – for reducing the cost of the different machines.

In our tactical approach, we still focus on volunteers. We think that the identification of bids/designers/fabricators can easily be sourced from the crowds. We are intending that the 2-3 on-site project managers are also volunteers – as that is the filter that pretty much guarantees that the motivation and intention of our team remains uncompromised. With our on-site fabrication team, we can build the prototypes at the cost of materials. We will pay for whatever design we cannot get for free. That is our current plan – and note that it can and does changes dramatically – but this is our present plan with existing resources.

As a final note – the above is the development plan. Developing the tools is not the same as using the tools. The developers are primarily multidisciplinary engineers, but the users can include everybody. We are creating a human interface to technology which allows the user to be in full control over the technology. We are just providing the tools at this stage – and we are not discussing the profound societal implications at this point. It is our hope that transcendence of material constraints (artificial scarcity and related ills) is just one of the positive effects, but the greater hope is nothing less than evolving to freedom as the human species." (

How it all (could) work

taken from

February 12th, 2008 by Brittany

“When solar cell companies develop cheaper panels, then we’ll switch to solar power.”

Did you ever hear someone say this?

Instead of waiting around for solar panels to become affordable, why don’t we collaborate and make them ourselves.

By we, I mean anyone who’s interested in affordable, ecological energy production. We all have some kind of skill. What if we collaborated: networkers, designers, fundraisers, engineers from all walks of life, and came up with optimal, user-friendly, durable, inexpensive, and cheap to produce solar cells (or an even better alternative)?

And while we’re at it, why not optimize all the tools for sustainable and just living, while keeping them at an affordable price? Imagine if every town grew its own fuel, made its own bricks for building, and gathered energy from the sun for heat and power. These technologies do not have to be controlled by large, centralized entities. With a little collaboration, these tools can be at the fingertips of the world.

At Open Source Ecology we already started the process. Materials for the world’s first open source compressed earth block (soil brick) press prototype cost under $1500. Comparable machine cost over $25,000.

Real world-impacting products through world collaboration. People from Iceland, the Canary Islands, India, and elsewhere are working with us: Networking, designing reviewing designs, fund-raising, and field testing. People contribute because they know that everyone benefits when technologies and science are in the public domain. Furthermore, when everyone contributes, designs reflect the needs of people, rather than of corporate headquarters.

Drop us an email, let us know what you think. Check out our website ( and pass along our information to interested networks, family, and friends.

We look forward to hearing from you."

Franz Nahrada of GIVE in dialogue with Marcin Jakubowsky


"Marcin: FeF is an experiment. It is a development laboratory for tools, technologies, and techniques that lead to post-scarcity by means of optimal production techniques. (optimal is a loaded word. It includes all principles of OSE)

Franz: Production Techniques alone cannot be key to the design of Global Villages. From the very beginning a Global Village is equally experimenting with consensus - building technologies that allow a commununity to really take care of its metabolism. The commons will be the liveblood of future societies again. Maternal values will become important for the introduction of flow economies.


Marcin: Its presently technocentric approach is only a step for developing resilient economies. FeF is dedicated to becoming a first, living example of such a resilient community. This is on top of being a development laboratory for the required tools and techniques. We are interested in forming a foundation for replicable, post-scarcity, resilient communities.

Franz: Is it more important to maintain small steel furnaces in every village or will there be still urban centers? We dont know. All we know is that each and every technolgy is shaped by social preferences. It is merely impossible to discern positive social preferences from the drawing board. Without having a society of users from the beginning, the designers view might be extremely flawed. Thats the structural limit of FeF and I do not see it met by the step model.


Marcin: Its approach is radical, in that we're developing an integrated toolset for creating resilient communities, which make no compromise related to global geopolitics.

Franz: I do not know what you exactly mean by geopolitical, but there is a factual necessity to run along with powers-to-be and not be atacked by them. The art of a true revolutionary is to grow the new form of society like a seed within the old, make it convincing, appealing and attractive, both in terms of structural leverage for the dominant classes as well as in terms of expanding freedom for the supressed. That requires compromises, skills, negociations and communication, social and polit-economical insight and knowledge - and also dedication and clear vision. Its deplorable that almost nowhere you find these qualities unified. A myth of mere "resistance" has successfully crippled our emancipatory potential for decades, which was mainly, but not only forming on the political left.


Marcin: We believe that complete, post-scarcity economies can be created on a scale as small as individual land parcels of village scale, by using modern technology and ancient wisdom.

Franz: That is counter to my belief. Even Mao did need a larger regional area for a peoples commune, the renmin gongshe would encompass about 5000 single households. Thats also the number Claude Lewenz estimates for village town to develop a local economy, that supports a decent level of life with a sophisticated level of technicalities and culture. Even if we take away the 94% of professions that are more or less deeply affected by monetary dominated society, we need many new professions to facilitate the complex function of a resilient and sustaiunable microcosm. - Even that said, the total optimum distribution of population will never be 100% villages. There will be enough remaining endavours where economy of scale remains. The rough formula for global villages is 80% villages, 20% cities. there will be renaiscance of the Small Towns as well. The total economy will adjust to that base, and cities will perform hub functions by means of telecommunication, like telemedicine, but also physical functions, like hospitals.


Marcin: We understand that a prerequisite to such communities is personal and political growth and transformation on part of the individuals taking part in this experiment.

Franz: the meaning of growth and transformation is manyfold. In fact the ultimate purpose of global villages is health; its the total enjoyment of our physical side, which carries a spiritual core within connecting us with heaven (our aspirations) and earth (our nature) and all beings. Our purpose now is to bring these different side in harmony, rediscover and enable with the help of technology the healing power within us. Health is another world of becoming whole. Global Villages will allow us to choose and enjoy among all possibilities that human cultures have created; they will be diverse in approach and also resonate to different sides of the human being. They will also be social experiments. This is not just about replicating - its about evolving." (

More Information

  1. Essay by at
  2. Open Source Technology Pattern Language work begun - [2]
  3. Factor E Farm

  • Overview of Projects - here.