Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Watergrab Solved

There is a way to get Southern Nevada more water without devastating the Rural Nevada environment and leaving present Las Vegans indebted for life for water not even for them.

But first; allow me to point out that the Southern Nevada Water Authority's (SNWA's) watergrab of Rural Nevada water is a terrible idea. It's a Ponzi scheme. Though SNWA won't admit to it any longer, the real reason for wanting more water is to sustain unsustainable growth – most of it not even in Las Vegas. SNWA has put short-term developer and investor profits over the sustainable future of Nevada. 

Unfortunately, water efficiency and recycling aren't enough for them. They're committed to getting more water – and we have to deal with that.

So, here's how we get them more water:
Give them the irradiated water off the Nevada Nuclear Test Site... No, not really. But when you think about it; if that water had not been irradiated, that's where Southern Nevada would have been going for more water. They wouldn't be paying billions extra to leapfrog the Test Site. They shouldn't have to.

The Federal Government owes Nevada for the water they irradiated.

Over 60 years ago; the U.S. Federal Government decided, without input from Nevada, to blow up nuclear weapons on Nevada soil. Over the years, billions of gallons of Nevada groundwater was contaminated. In conscious decisions that were made by U.S. leaders, Nevada water was determined to be acceptable collateral loss. And now we need it.

The U.S. owes Nevada for the water they irradiated. This ought to be a sure thing in civil court. But we don't want the money. We want the water.

Now, before anybody starts asking for Federal money for the watergrab, remember; if the U.S. were to pay for the SNWA watergrab pipeline network, it wouldn't really mean more water for Nevada. The watergrab just takes water from another part of the State.

What Nevada needs is more water. The only way to get that is with desalination. Because that is the only way the world is going to get more fresh water.

And how do we get that water from the coast to Southern Nevada? We don't. All we have to do is trade the desalinated water for more water from the Colorado River. The coastal cities of California will get more water – which will free up more water for Colorado River dependent farmers (some Southern California farmers sell their water to the cities), and for Southern Nevada. Win-Win-Win.

What should be done is; the U.S. Government should commit to the technical development of offshore desalination plants. Sooner or later, someone will have to construct pilot desalination plants off the coast of California. And if the government is involved, this can be done in a way that helps all water users. By providing desalinated water to our coastal communities, we can free up more water upstream on our rivers. This means more water for everyone.

It only makes sense that America plan ahead to make more fresh water for Americans. Politically, it's definitely time. Almost the whole nation is in drought.

The cost of desalination has dropped drastically since Pat Mullroy pulled together SNWA from competing water districts in Southern Nevada (with the obvious intent of bullying Central Nevada).

What seemed like a good idea 20 years ago is now the more expensive decision.

Besides, if they take the water, it won't be there when they really need it.

SNWA could still do the right thing. Now that they have the water rights to valleys hundreds of miles away, all they have to do is nothing. By sitting on those water rights, SNWA could save these valleys (and the adjacent mountain ranges) beautiful natural high desert environment for decades. Saving water for when we really need it is the wise thing to do – and it's far less expensive.

For their immediate needs (wants); there is a less expensive potential source than the watergrab – and Las Vegans might even get major financial help paying for it. The U.S. still owes Nevada water. Moreover, California needs more water. And California has a lot of political clout.

If Nevada and California got together in Congress – along with many other States now in drought; we could pass legislation to develop offshore desalination plants. These desalination plants would be tsunami resistant, earthquake resistant, terrorism resistant, unaffected by sea level rise, insignificant contributors of salt to the deep ocean, out of the views of coastal communities, and if designed right; run off of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and/or wave energy.

America needs more water. The only way to practically get more fresh water is desalination. The only way to practically desalinate is to do it offshore. And the only way this will happen any time soon is if our nation pulls together like on the development of the interstate highway system.

Offshore desalination is inevitable. The only question is; will we decide to drain all our groundwater first?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My 7 Generation Vision


I wish to:

  • participate in an effort to ensure the world seven generations from now will be at least as wonderful as the world we inherited.
  • to wholistically make a better long-term world for ourselves.
  • to do good.
  • to respect all life.
    ...and to learn from it.
  • to respect all traditions.
    ...and to learn from them.
  • to grow wise.

My vision is a future much like the one we now enjoy, but better – because we learned from our experiences.

I will be submitting this proposal to my (Native American/Western Shoshone) Newe (Ely Shoshone) Tribal 7 Generation Planning Team:


Nature is tenacious, Nature is relentless, Nature will survive... with or without us.
Be like Nature... or pay the consequences.

(Even if you follow no other links, please check out the first two.)

We live in a world that is constantly changing. The most successful ecosystems, species, and people are the ones who can change with these changes – while retaining their best attributes... Resiliency.

Humanity's most resilient quality is that we can change our minds. And by changing our minds, we change our actions. And by changing our actions, we change the world. If we can figure out a better way, and follow that path; we could create a better world for generations to come.

We will have to utilize a combination of foresight, insight, adaptability, and creativity. This will not be easy. But our ancestors have survived tougher times. And we have their wisdom to help us on our journey.

How did our ancestors gain their wisdom? By observing their world. By learning from Nature.

The most amazingly complex and successful systems we humans have ever witnessed are right before our eyes – in the natural world. For example; the closest thing to perpetual motion we will ever witness is commonplace in nature. Life can go on almost indefinitely. And we are a part of that – even more.

So, what can be learned from these natural systems that so far surpass our own inventions and industry?

Cradle to cradle manufacturing/construction/agriculture is based upon the observation that the most sustainable systems are cyclical. There is no such thing as waste in nature. In fact, waste is food for a different part of the cycle. Nature is far more efficient than most anything our post-modern industrial civilization calls “systems.” We can learn from that. Ecologically intelligent design is not beyond our capabilities. Moreover; we can economically profit from ecologically intelligent designs. In fact, in the long run, the benefits of good design should be far greater than the short-term profits of wasteful industries.

Societies that focus on short-term profits ignore long-term consequences (externalities).
Good design doesn't ignore consequences. And there are lots of good ideas already out there. We can reduce waste, pollution, oppression, and illness by eliminating “externalities” that the short-term greedy ignore.

There are already existing factories that utilize ecologically intelligent design. There is a textile manufacturer in Europe, that in the process of utilizing water for manufacturing, cleans the water. The water coming out of the factory is actually cleaner than the water going in. And this is just the beginning of the effort.

Ecologically intelligent design already exists. Unfortunately, ecologically stupid economic policies have yet to be phased out.

So, why hasn't our present society adopted better ideas? Technological inertia. Those who have succeeded in the previous industrial revolutions want to keep their income stream – and they seem to care more about the survival of their companies than the consequences to others, life on Earth, or even their own descendents. With the money we've paid them, they are powerful, and they have corrupted our political and economic systems to keep consumers functioning like addicts for things they don't actually need anymore – or at least wouldn't need if there were better alternatives more readily available.

In the name of “free-market” capitalism, monopolies have taken over most every industry. And as expected with monopolies, eventually we grossly overpay for substandard quality and no choice. And as expected with inefficient systems, eventually they collapse – leaving an enormous mess to deal with.

So, what do we want? The answer is obvious... we want to eat our cake and still have it too. We want abundance. And of course; nature has found a way to maximize abundance. For example; a pine nut tree grows far more seeds than it needs to reproduce. A pine nut tree creates abundance. Yet there is no waste. There is no pollution. We can learn abundant sustainability from natural processes such as this.

Ironically, our present economic system rewards scarcity (if supply drops, prices are expected to rise). Consequently, those who wish to take advantage of our economic system don't want abundance. They want scarcity, so they can maximize their profits.

We see an example of scarcity driven decisions with the Southern Nevada Water Authority's (SNWA's) watergrab of Newe water. Instead of saving underground water for when they really need it, Southern Nevada “developers” want to "use" it as soon as possible. This is how they can enrich themselves at the expense of unsustainable growth. And when we run out of water, these “developers” associates can charge even more to the desperate people who were suckered into owing them money.

Unlike the “growth is good” (until there is nothing left) empire builders, our Newe people emphatically desire to live sustainable lives. And the most critical part of sustainability is the development of food, water, and waste self-sufficiency.

We hope to locally develop sustainable systems of food production, water use, and waste recycling. Our ancestors, living naturally, accomplished this for thousands of years. And, with ecologically intelligently designed systems, we can do an even better job now.

However, there are some external threats to our food production and water use.
  • First, some Nevadans want to eliminate pine nut trees from Nevada. Pine nut trees have nourished our people so well for so long that there would literally be no Newe people if there were no pine nut trees. Our ancestors would have starved to death. To consider this source of abundant free food a “phreatophyte” – a pestilence to be burned for biomass – to divert their water to less sustainable non-native agriculture or highly polluting mining – is incredibly short-sighted.
    To best deal with this issue, all we have to do is nothing – live and let live.
  • Second, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has been issuing far more hunting tags than the herds of deer and elk can support. Just in the past few years, the population of elk here in White Pine County has dropped drastically. In those past few years, it appears that NDOW has issued more tags than there are elk here! At this rate, there won't be any more elk to “manage” in a few years.
    To best deal with this, we need to isolate NDOW funding from hunting tag sales.
  • Third, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) wants to export massive amounts of groundwater from our Native hunting lands. Water flows downhill, even underground. If SNWA completes this theft of water, the valleys will dry up. And then the foothills will dry up. And then the mountains will dry up. And then everything will burn. And then we will have nothing left to hunt.
    To best deal with this; we need to build offshore desalination plants to provide more water for California in exchange for more water for Nevada from the Colorado River. The Federal Government owes Nevada for the water that was irradiated under the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. We don't want money. We want water. The Federal Government should help us build offshore desalination plants. This is how Nevada can get what is owed to us – and not have to burden Southern Nevada with billions in debt to pay to take water from the other side of the Test Site.
The effect of these three exploitative actions, considered together, systematically deny the Native Newe people the capacity to develop sustainable systems of food and water use. Taken together, these acts of free-for-all pillage are grave threats to the long term existence of the Newe people. Whatever the intent, effectively they are trying to take away our viability as a people.

Not that we are insisting on going back to the old ways. It's just that some of the old ways worked – and we hope to continue them. Being food and water locally self-sufficient just makes sense. This should be our responsibility. In fact; it should be our right to live sustainably.

Nevada is one of the least populated States in the Union. This makes us also vulnerable to more populated States' oppression. The form of this oppression has been the gradual pressure to make Nevada the dumping site for the Nation. A just society doesn't force its toxic waste on its most vulnerable. It should be our right to live free from the unwanted poisons of other States.

Not that we intend to be isolationists. Interdependence with the people of the rest of the world is crucial to solving our, and the world's problems.

For example; Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS), also known as fast-track breeding, or smart breeding is a far safer and more effective technology than Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). And because MAS is simply scientifically monitored breeding there are no patent laws to enrich the monopolies (by keeping us dependent). MAS technology can be used to adapt crops to our climate here. Possibly; we could even utilize this MAS technology to develop foods from local plants that today do not yield crops.

MAS (smart breeding) technology could also be utilized to develop much more powerful herbs. (Either way, we need to grow medicinal herbs locally – and seriously consider alternatives to conventional hideously overpriced health “care.”)

To learn about game-changing technologies such as MAS, we need to be proficient at finding useful information on the Internet. This means we need training and access to the Internet. Education itself is fundamentally changing. We are all now beginning to learn from each other on the Internet. (And even more important, at least for while, there exists the potential to get more honest information on the Internet than advertiser supported media.) The Newe people need to be a part of that.

We need to share what we know, learn from others, and innovate from what we have learned. Open source designs and open manufacturing will help us radically economically.

For example; it would be beyond our capacity to build a car (or complex tool) out here in the high deserts. But we could build a part for the car and trade it with other communities for other parts until we have all of the parts for the car. Even out here in rural areas, we have auto mechanics. But if building a car is too difficult for them, we could trade parts for the car's construction elsewhere.

With a somewhat advanced local manufacturing facility, functioning much like a library, we could share our tools (such as a computer controlled milling machine, 3D printer, 3D scanner, and possibly a solar furnace) to make parts for many items. By being more interdependent, we can be more independent in ways that matter.

The same is true for energy interdependence. Here in the high deserts, we have ideal sunlight for photovoltaic energy generation. Eventually, we can locally source all of our energy – and store it on cloudy days – or share with other communities on an energy grid much like the Internet (a smart grid). This true energy independence has been called the Third Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, this may be what U.S. power companies fear most; losing business by no longer selling power. However, these power companies could morph into power traders, monitoring everyone's profitable export of power to other communities. (This would actually give Mt. Wheeler Power more to do – and more to charge for.)

Locally sourced energy and resources are key to our future success. And it can be done. Life does it all the time. We need to mimic nature to make our tools. Biomimicry can even help teach us how to create a community like an ecosystem.

Think about it; if all we have to build with here is dirt, make adobe. And in time, with the efforts of scientists, engineers, and tinkerers all over the world; we should be able to make (or at least build with) recycled materials, bioplastics, liquid wood, biocomposites, nanomaterials, and even self-constructing materials.

Of course; the most important material we have to work with is ourselves. By learning from nature and all of humanity, we can create a better world for ourselves – and everyone. We need to train our people to be mentally healthy and wise. At present, schools are forced to only teach technical skills and jails are generally functioning as warehouses. Religious organizations have tried to teach right from wrong, but apparently it isn't working. The evidence is obvious. The ratio of Christian prisoners to the prison population is about the same as the ratio of Christians to the population outside. Obviously, our people's mental health is falling through a crack in our systems. Psychologist coaches can help us significantly (without challenging anyone's religious beliefs). By training to face our fears, learn from our mistakes, challenge our perceptions, live in integrity, and love life and happiness so much we instinctively work to maximize our long term happiness; we will have the capacity to create a better world.

But individual mental health is not enough. To create a better world, functional governments and economic systems are absolutely necessary.

As societies, we need to make the right decisions. We need to build resilience into our political systems. What we have now is a State and National electoral system of required bribes. What we have now is legislation for sale. No politician, by them self, can fix this. But we, the people, can. We have to. If we don't, the abundance tactics mentioned in this document can just be deemed illegal – because the oligarchy says so. (This has happened in history.) Or even more likely; the oligarchy enriching industries can just get more tax breaks and subsidies to make it look like doing the right thing is too expensive.

Our political systems need resilience.

One straightforward way to achieve the will of the people is through direct democracy. We don't want to vote on every issue, but we should vote on the most important issues. Individual representatives can be manipulated in a number of ways. It's much harder to manipulate us all. We can achieve direct democracy at the Tribal level by including five policy questions on the ballot when we have Tribal Council elections. Each member of the Council can pick a question. Results of the election can be used as a mandate for the Tribal Council in the next term.

Until we achieve a true democracy at every level of government and true wisdom about our economy, there are still a number of attributes we can bring to our economic and political systems which would improve things greatly. Those attributes can be summed up in an acronym; VICI – Visibility, Integrity, Choice, Interests.

  • Visibility – the people really need to know what's really going on. When we can see the crimes, the excess, and the dysfunction; we can know something needs to be done about it.
  • Integrity – price integrity in the market is simply; the item is priced at it's actual value. Tax breaks, subsidies, and free government favors (like military interventions) can hide the true cost of a product. Gasoline, for instance, would cost about three times as much if the true costs were represented. Without price integrity, we get fooled into thinking that gas (and other antiquated products) are cheaper than innovative new products.
  • Choice – monopolies often control markets for their own unfair gain. When there is no choice, there is no competition. When there is no competition, there is no innovation. When there is no innovation, you get stuck buying the same old crap you didn't like the last time – but the price went up.
  • Interests – societies work most productively when their peoples' interests are aligned. Teamwork. But when someone (or everyone) finds a way to cheat and get ahead, everyone's interests are no longer aligned. As long as bad behavior gets rewarded better than behavior that helps everyone, we have to expect bad behavior. We need to learn how to better reward good behavior. (The first attribute, visibility, may help with this.)

Achieving systems of government that function well is going to be amonumental task. But the cost of total system failure is far greater.

Any government that cannot make key decisions that prevent its ultimate collapse is in dire condition. America's present government cannot regulate it's corrupted big banks and investors. America's present government has recently renewed 24 billion dollars in subsidies for big oil (an industry that presently makes more profits than any in history). America's government has us in protracted wars that really only benefit the profits of the military/industrial complex. America's government has allowed China to beat us at our own game – capitalism. And the list goes on... Global corporations have become more powerful than our government. And big business profits have become more important than the survival of our Nation.

For example, when China raised its tariffs and manipulated its currency; multinational and American corporations manipulated U.S. Government to not retaliate to what was essentially a trade war. The consequence is thirty years of U.S. manufacturing jobs (and a whole lot of our wealth) moving to China.

Corporate corruption of – and big business manipulation of governments has become true for almost every nation on the planet. European nations are suffering through austerity measures in part because of debts owed to American banks involved with the financial meltdown in 2008. What's worse, multinational corporations now play nations states against one another.

The only way of dealing with organizations that are essentially above national laws is to enforce world laws – based upon agreements of nation states. This has been the goal of the United Nations and other world organizations for quite some time. But, if nations such as the U.S. are manipulated by multinational corporations to opt out, worldwide agreements cannot be made.

Ideally, what the world needs is a set of world-wide economic laws based upon science – voted for by the people of the world.

Concerning worldwide issues; everyone needs to fairly participate in governing the world. We need rational rule of law that no organization is above.

At present, a powerful world-wide oligarchy is forming. We are going to end up with a one-world “government,” whether we like it or not. Everyone knows the oligarchy wants to run it. But; we the people need to decide what that government should be like – not those who would have us as their slaves.

And we also need to develop a more just form of rule of law. Fully accepting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a good start. And granting rights of some form to all life on Earth is a good next step.

At present, plants and animals are more or less treated as property or pests. Even U.S. extinction laws are now subject to the whim of Congress. In other words, whole species of life are now at risk to the whims of corrupt politics. This is dangerously irresponsible. The cocoon of life that supports us all deserves the right to continue to support us all.

And moreover, future generations of humans have no rights. These are our decedents. They deserve rights. How would we feel if our ancestors didn't care whether we made it or not?

Our Newe ancestors lived self-sufficient and sustainable lives for thousands of years. We can build upon that knowledge and experience to create a future even more resilient – even more abundant – even more interdependent – even more independent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Functional Fortress

The adobe building I have designed here is an open source design. I intend to build a prototype this summer. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment or email me at rickspils@excite.com

The perfect home is an island of serenity...
even in a troubled world.

A well designed house should last for generations.

A sustainably designed house should heat and cool itself – passively.

A completely well thought out house should be designed to be bulletproof – literally bulletproof... and flood resistant, and earthquake resistant, and hurricane force wind resistant.

A wisely designed house should be made from inexpensive, locally available natural materials (or with materials that can eventually be recycled).

The ultimate home design will have a deep empowering connection
with the environment.

The Functional Fortress was designed from below ground up – to be sturdy, safe, energy self sufficient, low maintenance, and sustainably made.

...........................Functional Fortress drawing to be added later...........................

All life gets everything it needs from the Earth and the Sky.
The life that does this best owns the future.

The Functional Fortress was designed to get everything we need from the Earth and the Sky – to create your island of serenity.

Below the Functional Fortress floors:

Temperatures just a few feet below the surface of the Earth approach a constant 57 degrees F. A floor intimately connected thermally to subsurface Earth will be cooler in the Summer and warmer during Winter. This physical state has inspired people to build underground and earth-bermed houses. They work great. But one does not have to bury their home to (passively) heat and cool it from the thermal mass of the Earth.

The Functional Fortress was designed to inexpensively insulate a tunnel to the temperatures of the depths. A mixture of perlite and scoria is buried in a 5 foot deep trench around the base of the building – forming a thermal “moat.” Perlite is an excellent insulator and scoria has many voids for the perlite to fill. Scoria is also structurally sound. This mix is up to 3 feet thick, creating a tunnel of thermal insulation isolating earth temps at the surface from earth temps beneath the building. Therefore, in the Summer, heat will sink into the floor. And in the Winter, heat will source from deep within the Earth.

The Bombproof Adobe walls:

The walls of the Functional Fortress perform more functions than McMansion walls. The most important of these functions is to last – up to hundreds of years... While of course, being a desirable home for as long as the building lasts. Adobe structures have lasted for up to 800 years – and when well maintained, still look great. Moreover; when designed right, adobe is downright practical.

One of the primary features the Functional Fortress walls have is that they store thermal energy. (Most stick built and SIP homes miss out on this feature entirely.)

Actually, the ideal wall should have two thermal skins; an external skin to insulate, and an internal skin to store thermal energy. This way, the temperature fluctuations from day to night can be dampened inside the house while the temperature fluctuations outdoors can be ignored. Of course; if you're going to store thermal energy, you need thermal mass. Adobe is an excellent inexpensive candidate for thermal mass material.

Adobe construction has historically been very labor intensive. One had to make all of the bricks before they could even get started on the building. But that isn't necessary anymore.

Adobe doesn't have to be made into bricks. Much labor can be saved by stuffing adobe into sacks and allowing them to dry in place. This “super-adobe” has shown itself quite strong – and even more stable than traditional homes in earthquakes. A recent design improvement; “hyper-adobe” (see picture) utilizes open mesh tubes – which allows a better bond between the “sacks” – which makes the adobe wall even stronger. But even this design can be improved upon. Bombproof Adobe walls are designed with two rows of 12 inch thick hyper-adobe in steel mesh tubes, reinforced with MgO cement, steel rebar, and fiberglass – on a conventional reinforced concrete foundation. This makes the Functional Fortress adobe walls literally bomb force resistant (of course, the windows and doors won't be – but that can be designed around).

Adobe is a practical and adaptable building material. Mixed with MgO cement, it is water resistant. It can even be modified, with naturally occurring materials, to be used as an insulating layer. Mixed with pumice or perlite, 12 inches of adobe can provide as much as R-30 insulation.

But what's really special about adobe is that it's just hardened dirt... you know; rock. It's not out of place in nature.

And, of course, 24 inches of rock can stop most bullets.

And, of course, rock is fire resistant.

And by the way, if it floods, there is no drywall or wood to get wet. Just mop the Functional Fortress out, and you're ready for the next flood.

The Functional Fortress SIP roof:

The final primary component of the integrated system is the roof. The ideal roof is light and strong. (There isn't enough rainwater here in the high deserts for turf on the roof.)

Stainless steel SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) with polyurethane insulation are the lightest, strongest, least flammable, longest lasting, VOC safest, and best insulating option for ultimate durability. Steel SIP panels have withstood 140 mile an hour hurricane force winds with only minor damage.

On a roof; light, strong, and thermally insulating qualities are best accomplished with materials that can be recycled. (Besides; massive adobe roofs have a history of occasionally collapsing on their inhabitants.)

Structurally, the Functional Fortress roof is designed to stand on its own. It could even be bolted together as a shade, without walls. There are two reasons for this. First, if the roof stands on its own, there are no structural requirements for the adobe walls to meet to hold up the roof. Second, the steel vertical I-beams will help strengthen the adobe walls.


The ideal fortress only keeps out what you don't want.

Though efficient, the Functional Fortress is not a super-efficient home – by design. Homes need to breath, because those who live in homes need to breath.

  • In Summer, vents low on the North side of the house inhale cool shaded air – and vents at the top of the roof exhale hot air.
  • In Winter, a solar hot air collector heats outside air and vents it into the house. The fresh air intake is at the bottom of the collector. As the air heats, it rises, and pushes air into the house – with or without a fan. On the other side of the house, the room temperature air is vented to the outdoors – after it is ducted under the porch to melt ice.

Of course, the Functional Fortress is mounted with PV solar modules to generate electric power for the homeowners.

And, of course, the Functional Fortress is passively solar heated. A row of windows on the South facing wall will bring in sunlight and heat in the Winter. The South eave of the roof will shade these windows in the Summer. On top of that, at the crest of the roof is a row of windows facing Southward. Light from these upper windows will heat the back wall. These upper windows are inset beneath the North facing roof so that they too will be shaded by the roof in the Summer.

Again, what makes passive solar heating so special with the Functional Fortress is the huge thermal mass in the interior walls. The massive twelve inch thick adobe interior walls will store solar heat all night – and in the summer, cool a building all day.

The roof crest cooling vents:
The row of roof mounted passive solar windows aren't just to let sunlight in. They are designed to adapt to outside temperatures. In the Summer, there are automatic vents just above the windows that open during the day to vent out hot air. 


In the Winter, there are insulating panels that cover the insides of the windows at night to keep warmth from escaping.

The windows work together with ceiling fans to blow warm air out in the Summer – or down towards inhabitants in the Winter.

Actively controlled motorized vents and thermal barriers will significantly increase the home's efficiency and reduce the need for human oversight. However, the vents on the lower North walls will only require passive controls.

The North window/ cooling vents:

During the Summer, the self-functioning automatic hinge (often used on greenhouses) on the exterior vent is temperature sensitive to ventilate during the summer days and close automatically at night. Therefore, the interior windows can be left open all summer (with a bug screen).

In the winter, the lower vents on the North side of the building can be completely closed off by disconnecting the hinges (unscrewing an adjuster). And solid foam insulation can be placed between the window and the vent. In this configuration, the lower widows will function as a well insulated part of the wall in winter.

This window/vent design only requires one to set up the windows twice a year – once in the Spring, once in the Fall.


Sometimes, the safest fortress doesn't look like a fortress.

With all of the design innovations, one might be led to believe that the Functional Fortress would look significantly different from homes one might find on the market today. Not really.

The bags/tubes that are filled with adobe can be made to look a lot like logs on a log home. And if the builder wants to fill in the rounded shapes with stucco, the walls will just look stuccoed.

The windows and doors will have adobe arches above them (a necessary characteristic of adobe construction).

But, from a distance, if you didn't know the design; you wouldn't notice it standing out.

When you would notice the big difference of the Functional Fortress would be when you enter the home. The walls are two feet thick!

On the inside; the look can be much like traditional adobe homes – or the homeowner can create their own look.

There are design constraints that limit the shapes of the Functional Fortress. A builder cannot just throw one up in any shape or oriented in any direction like most homes today. But when you think about it; that's a sign. That is a sign that the design has been optimized to get the most from the sun.

The Functional Fortress has been optimized for sustainability, durability, economy, and low maintenance comfort for the inhabitants. On the other hand; McMansions are designed to maximize quick profits for the builder.

It's time to rethink why we build.