we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Extremophile Niche Design

Maybe McLuhan had it right. Given the consistent range of human nature persisting throughout history, it seems unlikely that promoting a wide-spread love of Nature as a prerequisite for saving the Natural world will be enough to get the job done. The good news is that this might not be necessary, for if the minds of the majority of the human race are in fact a direct reflection of the built world in which we live — our human “niche” — it might only be necessary to provide a believable vision of the future for those who build it: the philosophers yes, but ultimately, the architects.

Some of my favourite Extremophile Choices

Locate (or better yet, relocate) your building to have as little impact as possible on Natural habitat. (Choose a site that is as unproductive as possible, but even when it has low Natural productivity be mindful of endangered species.)

Size (or better yet re-size) your building to the smallest possible footprint. Much can be done with built-in furniture and transformable spaces.

Materials should come from eco-friendly sources. This doesn’t necessarily mean “natural” materials, but rather materials that disturb Natural ecosystems least. (Notice that carefully extracted and processed minerals — steel or CO2-enriched cement — are sometimes a better choice than organic materials that are grown in farmed systems that displace Natural systems.)

Energy costs for material manufacturing, transportation, and construction on site should be minimized.

Lower life cycle cost makes some materials (like steel roofing) a better choice than materials that must be replaced every twenty years or so (like asphalt roofing). But of course cost effective recycling can sometimes offset shorter material life cycles.

Storage and recycling can be built-in and organized to eliminate waste. Ideally, the occupant should be challenged to produce zero waste by the design itself: no dedicated space for waste bins, just built-in recycling and composting facilities that encourage sorting (and therefore mindfulness) at home. Systems for the recycling of water will be a very challenging innovation, but ultimately a necessary feature, in houses of the (hopefully near) future.

On site food production might be a worthwhile extension of ‘buying local’ to eliminate much of the energy cost and waste in the present food distribution system. Rooftop gardens or partly excavated (for frost protection) greenhouse projections mean less habitat cleared for, or more habitat reclaimed from, large-scale farming on the best Natural soils.

Sharing resources and spaces is an idea as old as a tribal village and as new as a modern city. We can do much to eliminate inefficiency, waste, and ‘sprawl’ even in the country just by reducing the number of private roads that access nuclear family homes, each with it’s own ride-on lawnmower and snowblower. (For that matter there are many advantages – both for Man and for Nature – in our sharing not only these occasionally-used devices, but sharing our kitchen and dining spaces as well.) One of the most important ecological principles any developer should become familiar with is MacArthur and Wilson’s Theory of Island Biogeography, which says species diversity is greater in larger tracts of un-fragmented habitat.

I invite all visitors to this site  to submit your own plans based on the criteria above. If these plans are original, and they can be sold through this site, we can negotiate a commission or simply refer back to you. If they are used for promotional purposes or as demonstration units for the ecotourism project, your contribution will be cited.

ENDesign is a division of Christenson Construction. Ken Christenson’s personal BCIN for design is 33008, and his 50 years of experience as a tradesman (licensed as a Carpenter, Electrician, and Plumber) is available to assure your new home, addition, or renovation projects is as efficient and trouble-free as possible. Please leave a call-back number at (705) 342-5485, or email:inquires@christensonconstruction.com with questions or information about your project. — Ken Christenson.