Jay Harmon, a prominent sustainable innovator, said “Nature is clean, green, sustainable… If you don’t copy nature, you’re wasting your time.” Well, I have to say that whomever created our home might not have looked at nature for the best solution in design, but they definitely used [at least part of] the basic life pattern of the necessity for an inside and an outside. Just like organisms in nature, our house provides us with so many things that keep us safe and healthy.

The main objective of a house is that it provides shelter – a basic human need. The outer shell and framework meets the life pattern of the necessity for an inside and outside. The house’s outer shell is made of bricks layered to form sturdy, resilient walls. These walls create a protective barrier against weather, other people, insects, animals, and also create a personal inside environment for living. Just inside the brick outer layer are wood slats lined up adjacent to one another to create an inner wall and ceilings. This wood provides a surface for the plaster which is the final layer.

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Occurring along each wall, are also windows in various sizes, that are made of the old “wavy” single-pane glass to offer a nice view to the outside world – almost like an eyeball is to an organism. On the top of the house is a roof that is made up of thick shingles on the outside that are layered like the scales on a butterfly’s wing (pg. 10 Exploring the Way Life Works). Beneath the shingles, there is wood, then plaster. Inside of the plaster of the roof and walls is the chamber of the house. The walls succeed in created an outer shell that is specific to the outside world – resilient in all kinds of weather, sturdy and thick for protection against intruders, and straight and level to create a shape that is livable for humans. Other than the basic properties of the outside shell, there is not much else that is self-sustaining for our home. It was not built with nature’s inspiration of self-regulation patterns. You’re right, if you’re thinking our house, 100 years old in 2011, was build with no insulation at all!

Photo: http://www.physorg.com/news202054025.html

Hence, many aspects of this design have not met the pattern of inside / outside. I think of the earth as an organism and how the atmosphere regulates the earth’s temperature by protecting life from the sun. Our house should do the same and regulate the inside temperature as well as insulate us from the cold in winter. I am still boggled as to why nothing was designed with more of that thought process. Our home’s structure could be greatly improved by deepening the way it incorporates this life’s pattern. The idea of homeostasis could be applied to achieve a balance of temperatures in all seasons — the way that water, earth and air make up the outer shell of the earth. The outer shell needs an “inner membrane” — a layer of insulation that helps to regulate temperature by containing the hot or cold within the walls.

Photo: http://critterconsulting.com/info/?p=28
 We could use vegetation as a regulating layer and material that uses the sun’s rays to heat the house. The sun’s rays could be turned into energy in the summer and stored so that it could be used in the winter when it is cold. The walls of the house could be ventilated and “breathe” like we sweat in order to cool down. Like a dog sweats through it’s mouth, maybe our walls could have openings that let out the hot air and act as a dehumidifier in areas that have high humidity. The roof could be utilizing the sun’s power as well as having some sort of wind-harnessing system to generate air movement throughout the house in the summer. Just as fat helps us to insulate, a similar insulation could be placed in between the bricks of the outer shell and the inside walls.

The life pattern of outside / inside has taught me many valuable lessons about improving the design of the common house. There are elements and materials all around us that provide energy (free!) as well as heating and cooling powers. In addition to the power of the elements around us, it is so important to look at other organisms and how they “self-regulate” temperatures inside and outside the body – including humans. We plan on getting insulation in our home and new windows as well as look into a “green” solar roof, but I still feel there are many more natural processes that could further improve overall functioning of our home as a type of “organism”.

April 12, 2011

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