Perhaps Fuller's two most brilliant successes were the failures of his Wichita House and 26-foot- diameter Fly's Eye dome.
Such structures dominating the global landscape would undoubtedly create more technically efficient methods for nuclear family living but, in that they would augment the present prevailing lifestyle of separation in which people use their own automobiles, powered by fossil fuels, to travel from their home, to their work, to visit friends, and for personal pleasure, they would foster an inevitable state of alienation among the human race.
From another perspective, many weekend commuters feel good about themselves as they drive in their SUVs to their second homes in the country, located on several acres of land and outfitted with all the latest green technologies. They have, after all, created a sustainable living environment with a white carbon dioxide footprint that helps to save the planet by combating global warming.
There are at least three problems with this scenario. Fossil fuels used to travel to these remote locations can offset the green benefits to cause a net black carbon dioxide footprint; the cost to buy the land and build on it a home with the requisite environmental design features ranges from a few hundred thousand to literally millions of dollars, serving as a de facto barrier to entry for the majority of the population; and human beings are social animals so asking them to live on large, isolated plots of land would require a lifestyle change unacceptable to most.
Given this, many would concur that what the world needs now is a cost effective method for people to congregate in small communities that are self sufficient with respect to food, energy, and work. Fuller, in his design and promotion of the 50-foot-diameter Fly's Eye dome and Old Man River City (OMRC), seemed to anticipate the need for an alternative approach to communal living. This article explores the volume production of a small urban community that supports living in a manner suggested by OMRC.
A 30 to 40 home housing development, self-sufficient with respect to food and energy and containing work and office spaces for the homeowners, can be built in urban areas and create a white carbon dioxide footprint without requiring the residents to make a drastic change in their lifestyle.
An integral part of a standard community will include a greenhouse, using terraced grow beds in a configuration starting at ground level and rising to a rooftop setting, supplying vegetables, herbs, flowers, house plants, fruit, fish, and livestock (chickens, pigs, rabbits, goats, etc.) so as to provide basic food requirements. This community will use insulation, below grade heat sources and sinks, wind generators, solar, and biomass to seek energy self sufficiency. Carbon dioxide levels, light type and intensity, organic nutrients delivered via a hydroponic process, temperature, and greenhouse moisture content will be adjusted as necessary to achieve maximum plant growth. Wastes will be recycled with a goal to achieve zero release to the environment.
So as to obvert the necessity to own an automobile, a hybrid van will make periodic trips from the community to shopping malls, an airport, a bus terminal, a train station, and entertainment venues. Residents can thus work, live, and play in an urban setting of energy and food independence that has a truly white carbon dioxide footprint.
A proposed company with the tentative name of Microfarm™ Independence Centers will be incorporated to design, build, volume produce, operate, and maintain these communities. One possible design will be in the shape of a truncated, terraced tetrahedron with space and weight reservations on the top for an observatory. A greenhouse farm will be on the sun-facing side with business spaces and condos on the other two sides. All homes will open outward to an exterior privacy patio and inward to a community center.
This is a housing alternative with so many attractive features that it should be able to sell itself but every marketing course in every MBA program in every College and University in the world maintains that, no matter how good the product, it is necessary to take a proactive approach to selling it.
Therefore, an international marketing campaign will employ a cruise ship embarking on a world tour to showcase a model of this community. The AEGIS (Amalgamated Entertainment, Games & International Shopping) Microfarm™ will be patterned after Fuller's floating Triton City but it will be designed for travel on the high seas and outfitted with greenhouses, penthouse and luxury staterooms, standard staterooms, crew quarters, an entertainment section with state-of-the art facilities, a carnival section featuring traditional games and rides, and a shopping section with retail outlets from world class companies. A tour, with stops in ports around the world, will employ a combination rock concert and carnival atmosphere to attract people to the exhibits and will use the lion's share of profits to subsidize the construction of communities that will shield the poor and homeless in the host country from the effects of poverty.
A 20 year goal to build 10,000 of these communities might seem grandiose to some but actually, in that they will be providing food, energy, and housing to just over one million people, or much less than one tenth of one percent of the global population, it is a very modest objective. Moreover, to the extent that people are interested in this approach to sustainable living, but not in the truncated, terraced, pyramid shape of this specific proposal, others will be quick to offer competitive designs, limited only by the almost unlimited imagination of real estate developers.
A notice from the Buckminster Fuller Institute that "Each year a distinguished jury will award a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a solution that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems in the shortest possible time while enhancing the Earth's ecological integrity"- suggests an expansion of the concepts proposed herein could be a competitive entry in this contest.