This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

threeACTIONS Project

A lot has happened since last posting here.

Since March 2011, I have been working in collaboration with public policy graduate student Megan Hoye, on a project we have titled the threeACTIONS Project.   

The project explores how combining many individuals’ understandings and personal experiences can affect how design solutions are realized at a larger infrastructure and policy scale. Participants will choose three actions from a list of 50 which they are personally interested in exploring, and they will commit to these sustainable actions in their lives for a period of three months. 

They are grouped into cohorts of people who chose similar actions, creating small groups who can share and track each other’s experiences and providing support and incentive to continue. In addition, experts on topics of water, waste reduction, energy use, local foods and transportation systems will be brought in to further inform and encourage participants.  
The goals of this project are threefold.

First, to connect participants to information and experts which can help grow their knowledge of sustainability issues.

Second, to help individuals experience new lifestyle habits that challenge their norms and assumptions about sustainable living, while expanding their openness to future change. 

Third, to use this body of shared experience to inform policy and infrastructure level change to make efficient and sustainable choices the easier, less expensive and more enjoyable choices. 

There is no invaluable experience. If a chosen action is found to be impossible based on a person’s current living situation, it is important to document their struggles. In the same way, people who are successful with their actions provide valuable information about their successes. We want to provide individuals with a supportive community of diverse participants with whom they can build shared values about issues relevant to their experiences during and after the project.  

This kind of approach allows design to expand upon the making of sustainable environments, going beyond building performance. 

There is an attitude that sustainable design must fit within the parameters of the kind of lifestyles we are used to living instead of allowing the buildings themselves to empower and teach inhabitants to live in more sustainable ways. This approach leads to solutions such as low-flow water fixtures which allow inhabitants to use less water, but they don’t create a need for people to have any understanding of these systems. While building performance and material construction are crucially important pieces of creating sustainable living environments, our work as architects should not end there. 

The pilot program of the threeACTIONS Project will begin in June 2012 and can be followed through our facebook and twitter pages as well as our website:

If you are in the Minneapolis, MN area and are interested in being a participant in the project, apply on our website!

This post is likely to be the final post on this blog as my focus changes from the individual experience of my project to bringing these issues to my local community.  Thank you to all the anonymous readers who have all had a supporting hand in the creation of both of these endeavors!