Partnering with Dutch architectural company EFFEKT, US-based company ReGen Villages sought to build a self-sustaining community in Almere, The Netherlands. The clean-powered community will make its own food and manage its own water without relying on the outside world.
Previously featured in our “5 Pioneering Self-Sustaining Communities” list, we dig deeper into these villages to answer questions regarding their designs, their ability to self-sustain, the cost of living and how basic needs for residents will be fulfilled.
ReGen Villages futuristic design
A quick look at the master plan feels like stepping into the future, with buildings having a transparent-glass-greenhouses-look. CEO of ReGen Villages James Ehrlich says that the look is “intended for a cold weather climate context,” such as that of northern European countries.
“It is our intent to utilize a combination of sustainable and circular economic building materials, such as Scandinavian timber products for our internal home cores, along with the latest phase change materials that make each home energy-positive, durable, resilient and most of all comfortable and aesthetically pleasing,” he says.
He adds that the reliance on the greenhouse envelope concept can help elongate the warm season and allow people to have additional living space during the cold and wet winter months. Such design will also become helpful in case residents want to grow their personal fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. The self-sustaining villages will include different home sizes; from the “tiny home” to the single family home, villas and co-housing units.
“Additionally we are looking very closely at a combination of purchasing, renting and term-lease options that will also include both affordable housing schemes and some portion of government subsidized living arrangements within each community structure,” ReGen Villages’ CEO says. “Therefore, we will better be able to address these questions on cost ranges within the next few weeks as we map this out for our first pilot community in Almere in The Netherlands.”
The price range is expected to be €250,000 and up, Ehrlich adds, highlighting that “some of these parcels and typologies could be creatively financed for home buyers.” He also explains that a different pricing structure will be offered to those who will rent and to the subsided agreements that will be included. Between 300 and 400 people will move into the first ReGen Village in Holland’s Almere.
“In The Netherlands, we anticipate approximately three to four family members per villa, where the national average is 2.2,” Ehrlich says, explaining that the smaller homes and co-housing units are more intended for singles and couples.
“In Malaysia, however, the average family size is nearly 10 people, so we can easily imagine 800-1,000 people living in this part of the world in ReGen Villages.” he adds.
Basic needs: Food, water and energy
“We anticipate we can realistically cultivate and harvest 50-60% of the total nutritional inputs for residents,” Ehrlich says. He adds that crops such as cocoa, bananas, rice, wheat and mangoes will not be cultivated, as these crops either require a large land mass or different weather. Planted products will include leafy greens, protein rich legumes, fruit, berries, herbs, spices and a mix of fish, fresh water shrimp and crawfish in the village’s aquaponic and aeroponic systems.
“We believe that we can over-produce some wonderful artisan food that can either be bartered for some of these other ingredients, or sold on the open market to help reduce the cost back to our residents,” he says. The village will also manage chickens, eggs and goats as well as rabbits, turkey and other protein sources. ReGen Villages will have small farms and the choice of animals raised will mainly depend on cultural tastes, he adds.
The nutritional products produced in Almere can be replicated in other “developing economics,” Ehrlich argues. “We believe wholeheartedly that ReGen Villages can produce nearly 100% of all the diverse nutritional inputs in a ‘developing economic’ context – such as rural India, or Sub-Saharan Africa.”
But the ability to plant crops and raise farm animals does not necessarily mean that a village can be self-sustainable. So how exactly will the village manage to be independent?
“We start with our ‘motherboard’ of regenerative and resilient platform integration – where the output of one system is the input of another,” the ReGen Villages official says.
“Beneath the ground we have geothermal, cisterns and aquifer development [both for precious water conservation and thermal battery storage], then we develop custom permaculture and food-forest plans for each complete village [based on each climate region and cultural expectations],” he adds. “Then we implement energy-positive homes based on our global architectural framework partner EFFEKT managing local architects in each region, and along with Arup for global engineering support and technical platform partners – we integrate the very best, most durable and resilient set of components for generating and storing clean power and mitigating waste into resources.”
The company is planning to diversify the energy sources it relies on, depending on the region where the village is being constructed and the availability of the energy sources in that particular region. Energy sources will include: geothermal, solar, solar thermal, wind, biomass and platforms for load-balancing, storage and thermal differential systems.
As for water, the company relies on its relationship with Wageningen University in Holland to assist with ongoing research and developments.
“We start each ReGen Village development under the ground, managing every drop of precious water from a variety of perspectives – potable hydration, capture and conservation of the same, energy storage and transfer, waste-to-resource reclamation and any small bit of effluent left over could be recycled for flush and in-floor geothermal heating and cooling,” Ehrlich says.
Ehrlich says that the “motherboard” can be implemented anywhere, and by forming partnerships with local universities, construction companies and architecture firms for research and development, ReGen Villages is a concept that can be applied everywhere.
“ReGen Villages then stays involved inside each community as a management company – where all of the systems are managed by us as a concierge level of services for a monthly fee,” he adds. “However, if any resident wishes to volunteer inside a ReGen Village, either in the garden areas or other aspects of the community, we will deduct this volunteer effort from their [partner’s] monthly fees.”