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As the world slowly wakes up to the importance of off-grid living, our knowledge is becoming valuable, or should that be invaluable?

When a nation as advanced as Japan shuts down its nuclear reactors and starts going off the grid a house at a time, you know the rest of the world will follow, eventually.

So Off-Grid.Net is opening a Net-Zero consultancy service to offer individuals, architects and businesses access to the huge range of skills and resources within our community.

What’s a Net-Zero building, you may ask? Well, a wigwam is a good example. An architectural historian might refer to it as a Native American dwelling, but by today’s standards the wigwam is a super high performance building. As the construction industry continues to be a major contributor to climate change, it’s become imperative to dial back our modern architecture to function more like the wigwam and less like the gluttonous consumers of energy and water our buildings became in the 20th century.

So if you want the 21st Century equivalent of a wigwam, get in touch with founder Nick Rosen – nick@off-grid.net. If you want to offer your services -whether you mine for geo-thermal energy, or design green roofs, get in touch, we will be building a resource directory.

The answer to rising energy prices and the need to stop polluting the planet is net zero everything. We can harness ancient wisdom to new technology and learn from structures like wigwams which were designed to be water and energy independent. The same goes for any other traditional building type: igloo, teepee, log cabin, etc. No emissions are generated by shipping materials to the site, or during the construction process. There are no factory-made building products that contain toxic substances that are now banned by the Red List. These buildings employ passive strategies to heat and cool and are naturally ventilated. In today’s world of green building certifications, the wigwam would be beyond LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certified.

“But” you say, “Where will I charge my iPhone? How will I hose off my car?” No one expects our modern buildings to come without the luxuries of water and energy. The question of the day then becomes: how can we provide all the comforts of modern life that have become necessities rather than luxuries—thermostats, toilets, outlets and irrigation—while getting to net zero?

It’s possible and happening, and not just by radically awesome outsiders like Earthship Biotecture, Cal-Earth, and Arcosanti whose off-the-grid structures look like hippie fairy tale houses. The recently completed Bullitt Center in Seattle is a six-story 50,000 square-foot commercial office building that is net zero water and energy, meaning that on an annual basis it collects more solar energy and rainwater than it consumes. The building uses technology including solar shades on the windows, composting toilets (that don’t emit an odor), a water cistern, greywater reuse systems, and a large umbrella of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof.

there are some real challenges here. For example, how to get to net zero water in a notably dry climate like Southern California. Think drip irrigation.

Now that we are realizing the vision of creating a built environment that is ecologically restorative, there is a lot of work to be done to bring this mainstream and retrofit our outdated building stock. Creating a “new normal” takes time, but the rate of change in the building industry has been happening at a hyper accelerated rate. While the newer and more aggressive Living Building Challenge has only certified a handful of buildings to date, the LEED green building rating system was first launched just 13 years ago in 2000 and now has 10.4 billion square-feet of building space participating internationally.

As we continue to curb consumption, increase efficiency, and innovate building technology, our call to action is to bridge the gap between the demands of modern living and our desire to build projects with a lighter impact on the Earth. In taking a long view forward, first take a long view backward. We’ve already been to net zero with the wigwam. Let’s do it again—this time with plenty of plug outlets.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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