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article imageOp-Ed: Sustainable communities — Living in and embracing our environment

By Karen Graham     Feb 6, 2017 in Environment
I came across an interesting article that suggested that we should make every day "Earth Day" by going green and embracing our environment. I quickly discovered that in a number of regions around the world, that is just what people are doing.
It's one thing to educate our young people about the environment using presentations, films and coloring books to explain such issues as clean water, conserving our natural resources or reducing our carbon footprint. But to actually live with and embrace the environment in a sustainable way might be better.
For hundreds of years, humans have chosen to alter the environment when building our cities, shoving it to the side while we built our homes, skyscrapers, and highways. But global warming and the need for a sustainable standard of living in a changing world has forced many people to search for harmony with our environment rather than trying to control it.
In Europe, architects and urban designers are looking at smaller versions of green city initiatives, sort of a middle-ground in the development of green neighborhoods. We are going to look at three different, yet compatible projects going on right now in Europe that explain the idea of embracing and living with our environment.
Pentre Solar "eco-hamlet" in Wales
Built by Western Solar LTD, the Pentre Solar "eco-hamlet" in Wales is a neighborhood consisting of a cluster of six solar-powered houses, All are constructed using sustainable principles and advanced insulation technologies. Every home was built from the ground up using local resources in 80 percent of the construction.
The Pentre Solar  eco-hamlet  in Wales.
The Pentre Solar "eco-hamlet" in Wales.
Western Solar
Because of the technologies being used, they are different from any other homes in the region, yet conform to the highest standards in the rural Pembrokeshire area. The amazing statistic to come out of this project is that the homes only consume about 12 percent of the energy of a traditional home.
The Pentre development is the first of its kind in the country and is a test project to hopefully alleviate the fuel-poverty problems that exist in the UK. The Guardian reported in January that almost 10 percent of families in England cannot afford to heat their homes.
What is more satisfying to me is that with the company already planning on building at least 1,000 additional homes, they are using local labor so the money stays within the local economy, a great idea that could be implemented in the U.S. and other countries to reduce unemployment.
Regen Villages - A self-sustaining community
In Almere, 25 minutes from Amsterdam, Netherlands, you will find the first Regen Villages project under construction. The eco-village will house 100 families when it is completed in 2018. Founded by James Ehrlich, a senior technologist at Stanford University in 2015, Regen Villages uses a holistic approach to living with the environment in a sustainable way.
A conceptual design for ReGen Villages in the Netherlands.
A conceptual design for ReGen Villages in the Netherlands.
EFFEKT/Regen Villages
Regen stands for regenerative, where the outputs of one system are the inputs of another, in keeping with a somewhat holistic approach using a variety of technologies, including energy positive homes, renewable energy, energy storage, door-step high-yield organic food production, vertical farming aquaponics/aeroponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems.
But the recycling system is really forward-thinking - Compost from each home is used to feed livestock and flies. and the flies are used to feed fish, while the livestock provides fertilizer for gardens and vegetables. Rainwater is automatically collected and stored, while solar panels and a biogas facility generate electricity. Oh, I forgot to mention that each house is built inside a "greenhouse" envelope to maintain a consistent climate.
I would hope they would welcome an onsite veterinarian to make sure all the animals and fish stay healthy. But if this project sounds like something out of a sci/fi movie, remember it is already under construction, so it will be interesting to see how well it is accepted because it is going to take the type of people willing to wade in and get their hands a bit dirty embracing Mother Nature.
Verticle farming at ReGen Villages for food production.
Verticle farming at ReGen Villages for food production.
EFFEKT/ReGen Villages
Regen Villages have partnered with Danish architects EFFEKT, and plans for what is being termed the "Tesla of ecovillages” will include people in different villages being linked up via the cloud and able to communicate with each other while living "off the grid" through the Internet. Proposed EU funding of 300 million euros ($319 million) will enable projects in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Germany to go ahead during 2018-2022.
Going futuristic with the Aldin BioDome Reykjavík
Iceland is on track to becoming one of the world's leading green nations, making use of renewable energy sources and cutting the country's carbon footprint to almost nothing. Already a leader in geothermal energy, Iceland's capital Reykjavik is planning a series of eco-biodomes that will not only entice the locals but travelers, as well.
Biodome Reykjavík
Designed by Spor I Sandinn, Aldin is a fully sustainable biodome community powered by geothermal energy. The biodome community is located in the Elliðaárdalur Valley of Reykjavik and will feature a central plaza with plenty of open public spaces for social functions and public activities at the center, with a cluster if biodomes surrounding the central one.
There will also be a marketplace as well as cafes and even a working urban farm. The temperature will be maintained at a pleasant 25°C (77 degrees Fahrenheit) to accommodate tropical plantings and the farm. Hjördís Sigurðardóttir, the founder, and CEO of Spor I Sandinn says Iceland will show the world the agriculture of the country in new ways.
The central plaza will have a large public area  including restrooms  a marketplace and safes with a...
The central plaza will have a large public area, including restrooms, a marketplace and safes with a cluster of biodomes surrounding the central one.
Biodome Reykjavík
Sandinn says, “This glazed landmark Biodome will seek to reconnect people to nature in new and exciting ways, combining the experience of tropical temperatures, with a farmers’ market and an agricultural laboratory. Aldin will be a hub for minds and thoughts, a space for a healthy community to meet, shop, relax and socialize, as well as an authentic attraction for tourists.”
We will definitely have to look in on these eco-projects later in the year, and perhaps we may discover some new ones along the way.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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