ReGen villages: The Tesla of Ecovillages

Last time we covered Eco-villages and today it is time to talk about ReGen villages!

ReGen Villages is the new big thing and went viral in the summer 2016 after a small conference at Biennale Arcitettura 2016, which is an exhibition for architecture held in Italy. If you did not catch the articles written about this amazing project here is some info about it and why we should all be celebrating the amazing people behind it.

ReGen villages is a new modern version of Eco-villages and it looks like something taking out of a futuristic fairy tale. It is based around the same principles of sustainability as the Eco-villages, but in a more high-tech format.

Underneath every ReGen village there will be a regenerative platform that ensures that the output of one system is the input of another. For example the bio-waste from the households that is not compostable will be used in the bio-gas facility. Compost will be used to feed livestock and soldier-flies, soldier-flies are feed to the fish and the waste from the livestock is used as a fertilizer in the gardens. Additionally the water waste from the bio-gas is filtered into the water storage leaving behind the ‘grey water’.

On the top of all of that the ReGen villages will of course collect the rainwater for use as a water storage and additionally use solar energy to keep the place running.

The centerpiece of the village is food, which professional ReGen staff will manage and take care of. Every household will pay a monthly fee in return of this food, but there will also be the opportunity to volunteer at the local centers, which will offset some of these monthly fees. This essentially gives everyone the opportunity to be as involved as they feel like and have the capacity to.

All of this is not some pipe dream that might be happening one magical day in the future. This is happening right now! The very first ReGen village in Europe is currently being build right outside of Almere, which is only 25 minutes from Amsterdam, on a certified organic piece of land called Osterland. They expect to break ground there in the beginning of 2017 and have the first 25 houses build in the end of the year.

I was extremely proud, when I learned that Danish architects had partnered up with this project. The architecture firm EFFEKT is not only helping with the development of the ReGen village in the Netherlands but is also helping making the structure adaptable all over the world. The idea is to start in the northern part of Europa, where the countries all share a similar climate and the project will then focus on warmer climates as the process moves on.

All the ReGen villages will have sensors embedded into their facilities, which sends important data into the cloud, so that ReGen villages in similar climates can learn form each other and collectively improve. The sensors will monetize energy use, farming efficiency and living patterns within the households. This strategy is very similar to the way Tesla uses machine learning to analyze date gathered from the autopilot systems in its cars – hence the title.

 

The Price

This seems good and all but all of that has to be very expensive for the average family, right? You are probably thinking that only rich people will be able to live like this. Well, you are wrong

The vision is to have as many people as possible living in these types of villages. The cost of a house in the newest ReGen village in the Netherlands will start around £170.000 ($212.000) and about £425 ($530) a month for food and services. So, even though this will eliminate some people, the cost of living in a ReGen village is not actually so expansive that it is not doable for a lot of households out there.

 

The Market

So, is there a market for this? Are people interested in this alternative way of living that the ReGen villages offer? Hell, yes! After the project went viral in the summer of 2016, 14.000 emails were sent to the project and 3.100 families signed up for the first 100 homes.

People from all aspects of life seems to be interested in this. The young college student, the families with children and the elderly couple, who wishes to downsize.

Governments and companies are on board as well. Not only are they willing to cooperate, they want to collaborate. They want to compete. According to their Facebook page the ReGen project signed a MOU (memo of understanding) back in November with the municipality of Lund in Sweden about developing the first ReGen village in Scandinavia.

James Ehrlich, the founder of the project, is currently in discussions of buying sites in Belgium, Norway, Germany and – guess where – Denmark! I better start saving up some money, because I will definitely be living in a village like this in the future.

The Downside

Now, lets look at the possible issues about these ReGen villages.graph_going_down

The idea is to get as close to self-sustainability as possible, but of course this isn’t possible for every ReGen village. Depending
on where the village is located there will be a shortage of either water or food. The residents eating habits will wary as well and therefore some products and processed food will have to be imported from elsewhere.

However, James Ehrlich, the founder, remains optimistic and he claims that a village could produce enough fresh food to take care of 50-100% of the needs of its residents.

Going of the grid completely will be difficult, since most people are customized to internet access and cable TV. In addition some kinds of waste the community will be unable to reuse and will therefore have to be carted away.

Another area where ReGen villages will perhaps show to be complicated is the need and desire to create new houses fast. ReGen villages does take some additional planning and before building the houses and facilities, they actually begin underground by making water cisterns, then permaculture and food forests above ground.

The question also remains how the ReGen model will be adapted to already existing megacities. To create room in the most intense inner parts of cities like Shanghai, London or New York will be a big challenge.

 

Expansion to the Development world

The vision is to expand the ReGen model to warmer climates and this includes the developing countries.

In opposition to the richer countries the needs in developing countries are simpler but far more urgent and Ehrlich believes that each village in a developing country will be able to be 100% self-sustainable. A ReGen village will be incredible useful in a developing country, since it in such a country often is a struggle to simple get clean water. With the ReGen model organic healthy food and clean water will be in close proximity to each family’s home, which will dramatically increase the living standards of the people living there.

James Ehrlich plans on using the proceeds from the first village in the Netherlands to build similar villages for low-income residents in sub-Saharan Africa and rural India. Such a village could even impact positively on the neighboring communities, if they produced more food and nutrient-dense soil than they needed.

Sinus Lynge, co-founder of the architect firm EFFEKT, believes this suburban development in Osterland is the mere beginning of a de-urbanisation. People are interested in living a sociable life with the community and eating organic healthy food, all of which the Regen models offer.

With the integration of ReGen villages in our society we hold the potential to solve some of the challenges we currently face with a growing population, scarcity of resources and high CO2 emissions. An average family currently uses about 8100m2 during regular agriculture in order for them to be self-sustainable. With a ReGen village that number will be reduced to about 639m2 and the average size of a ReGen village will be around 15.450m2

The burden on municipal and national governments will be reduced as well, since a lot of distribution of resources will be exchanged within the ReGen village itself.

I suggest:

EFFEKT’s page about their work on ReGen villages

ReGen’s Facebook page

A Ted Talk about ReGen villages by James Ehrlich

Article by Business Insider

Article by FastcoExist

Article by The Guardian

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