Sustainability in Action: A Community-Based Design Embracing Material Re-use and Environmental Interaction
by RJ Magoon
Having lived and worked in the Pioneer Valley for eighteen years, my project is designed to not only represent how sustainability functions within rural communities, but to also act as a catalyst for further inspiration on the part of local residents to live more sustainably in their day to day lives. The design
provides a physical outlet for one to carry out sustainable practices (such as gardening and growing one’s own food), and could most appropriately be constructed within a park or a center of the community where sustainability and recycling is seldom practiced.
Originally inspired by the efforts in Holyoke, MA to provide community gardens to downtown residents, my concept is manifested through the construction of a free-standing, three storey structure which houses three separate community gardens, as well as a shrine to sustainability in the center of
the building. Though the initial frame calls for store-bought lumber and plywood, the structure is designed to show how easy and cost-effective it is to re-use organic materials and byproducts and, thus, make them an integral part of our lives.
For example, the multi-leveled gardens can easily be heated and maintained in the wintertime through wood and Plexiglas panels on the exterior of each garden cell, into which passersby can quickly deposit their recyclable bottles and containers (once they are filled with water) which, when sunlight hits them and heats the water inside of them, will provide heat for each garden plot in wintertime conditions.
In order to provide fresh water for both the filling of these recycled bottles and the irrigation of garden plots, storm water collection systems on top of each garden cell distribute both rainwater and snow (melted by the exterior bottleheating panels) into each plot by a vertical hosing system. Over time, rain water is dropped into the central sanctuary space, where, in the summertime, a freshwater pool provides relaxation and refreshment, and, in the wintertime, allows for interesting ice sculptures and natural, environmental art to take place. In order to enhance these natural ice formations, natural vegetable oils may be used in order to dye the ice.
In addition to irrigation and heating, the structure is also designed to provide effective and creative waste management opportunities for the surrounding area. For example, in order to insulate many portions of the structure, walls made of scrap metal can be filled with common waste by pedestrians, and later emptied by truck. In the winter, hay bales can also be used as insulation. In order to encourage local composting, gardens are also maintained atop composting plots, within which compost is deposited by pedestrians or nearby residents, and later dropped onto lower plots in order to naturally create soil.
Overall, the proposed structure shall be instrumental in not only representing sustainability, but also inspiring members of the Pioneer Valley, local pedestrians, and even passing visitors to take part in enjoying, contributing to, and appreciating the structure’s self-sustaining systems and the benefits of living sustainably on a regular basis.