Resource-Based Design

May 2010

Resource-Based Design

May 29, 2010 7:51 PM
Reg Matson & Lawrence Alvarez



Toronto's transition toward a resilient city depends on small-scale solutions, and a recognition of Toronto's position to become a regional leader in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil.
Our multi-phase outline will first address Toronto's transitional phase -- in which we will showcase production techniques integral to our city's long-term vitality -- and secondly Toronto's end-goal phase -- in which we will address foundational social changes necessary for future resilience. Production techniques will focus predominantly on energy and food resources, while social changes will showcase resource-based governance.
We desire to update society to present-day scientific knowledge and technological capability. This shift will propel Toronto toward resilience through the incorporation of resource-based decision making and technology-based design solutions. We conclude our transition plan with a forecast of Toronto's position within a network of global resilient cities that overcome our civilization's impending climate threat and redesign opportunity.

PHASE 1 - Primary Techniques for Growth in a Post-Carbon Economy

Input energies are captured and stored in the system for as long as possible. The saying 'Make hay while the sun shines' reminds us that energy is abundant, but that we've only a limited time to harvest it. -- Permaculture design principle

Energy Production:

Toronto's resilience will depend upon the Permaculture principle of energy conservation -- that by using techniques such as rooftop gardening and water harvesting, we can preserve natural energy inputs within the local system for as long as possible. In our current system energy is wasted. We build shelters that simply resist the elements, instead of shelters designed to incorporate them into energy capture, utilization and conservation. But if we designed structures that harnessed wind (for example) using vertical turbines stacked like chimneys, rather than deflecting it into pedestrian corridors and out of the system as quickly as possible, we would overcome the wasteful energy practices that today oblige us to rely on cheap fossil fuels.

We will design a system to conserve these input energies for as long as possible for the most effective functions as possible, namely:

  • Restore windmill line with Strand Energy Windjammers,
    • Using existing technology in a surprising way, his vertical-axel windmill has a unique system of adjustable, exterior fins that create, and utilize, the venturi-effect. Angled to the wind, the fins direct an existing airstream to the “sails” at much higher speeds - effectively “jamming” the air into the sails to increase power production. This is much the same way as a sailboat harnesses the wind to go faster than the wind itself. Mr. Strand discovered that his innovation brings the turbine up to its maximum speed 40% faster and maintains 25% more useable power production in gusty and changing winds. Additionally, it addresses many issues that the current Wind Turbines simply do not." -
  • Utilize solar energy in the form of replacing streets with gardens,
  • Implementing water harvesting design on rooftops redirecting rainwater into gardens and water storage devices,
  • Utilizing geothermal in our area for summer cooling and winter heating.
  • Piezoelectric energy harvesting in public spaces.

We want to move to a slow energy environ, where we:

  • Eat local (minimize the distance between energy input and energy consumption),
  • Eat whole (minimize the steps to refining an input energy source into an immediately usable energy resource),
  • Eat organic (minimize the environmental impact of our energy harvesting),
  • Conserve our energy within the system for as long as possible (maximize on our return on investment).

Food Production:

A post-carbon economy will render our current automobile infrastructure obsolete. In response, we will convert most of our automobile infrastructure into agricultural infrastructure -- redesigning side-streets into gardens, parking lots into small orchards, and garages into energy-efficient cold storages. Converting our city's 'gray spaces' to grow nutritious produce is the most effective means of reducing Toronto's reliance on food imports and fossil fuels.

Methods for converting Toronto's automobile infrastructure into food production include:

  • Depositing two feet of top soil onto north-south residential streets, suitable for Brassica crops (broccoli, cabbage, kale)
  • Ploughing up parking lots and establishing orchards that utilize polyculture plant guilds for natural pest protection
  • Incorporating vertical gardens onto south-facing walls city-wide, for added crop production and year-round thermal regulation
  • Add greenhouse structures to already existing structures where viable, and designate urban spaces with sufficient sunlight to future greenhouse development.

Toronto's city layout is unusual among northern-hemisphere cities insofar as it uses mainly a north-south street pattern, which limits the sunlight available to residences and the street. However the sunlight that reaches these north-south connector roads is sufficient for the production of nutritionally-dense vegetables such as broccoli and others from the Brassica family -- all of which thrive naturally in Toronto's climate -- without the need for much soil depth. This means the labour-intensive task of ploughing up asphalt is unnecessary for major crops.

For securing Toronto's long-term resilience, fruit and nut trees provide greater productivity 5-15 years onward, and require that we plough asphalt for sufficient soil depth. This labour-intensive task is best addressed in increments, and in areas where there is enough room for sunlight, branch growth, and polyculture guilds -- such as in parking lots. Apple, cherry, and walnut trees are example crops for such a practice, while herb gardens grown in between trees will divert pests.

As transportation infrastructure becomes obsolete in the absence of cheap fossil fuels, Toronto's fast food and restaurant industry will change radically, utilizing local supplies of food or else ceasing to function. This will provide vacated structures previously used for food consumption, and allow us to convert them to the task of food production and storage. Structures with substantial glass enclosing (as is currently common among fast food locations) are also prime candidates for greenhouse conversion.

A resilient community will use an integrated waste management system, whereby waste is used in compost-generation, and waste-water in irrigation.

We recognize a large scale overhaul of our labour market. Some sectors of employment will become obsolete. A commuting population will now 'move' locally, transport their food locally, and the culture of an automobile-centric city will change. A community centred upon the bicycle will emerge in response. The immediately implementable technology exists for the installation of light rail corridors and monorails (such as the Scarborough RT).

In a resilient community, the separation between private and public property will as emerge secondary to the welfare of those whose lives derive sustenance and meaning from it. A community grown in response to these large scale issues will, by default, be a community of collaborators, for there is no other way to succeed. Competition yields less than a group united in open-source contribution.

Eating local, organic and whole will feed us, holding the energy within the system will sustain us. This is an efficient and successful model.

Sunlight destined to heat empty pavement will instead go directly into plants (for what will emerge as a more plant-based food supply) i.e. grape vines growing along the sides of buildings, also working as thermal integration during the extreme temperatures. Eating organic will involve a shift to a plant based food supply, including polycultural processes, eliminating pesticides, while crops that are planted in guilds serve as natural pesticides and herbicides for each other.

In Summary:

A resilient community will centre itself upon food production and energy integration. It will move towards a more plant-based food supply, utilizing existing automobile infrastructure in an integrated approach to food production. Polyculture with a permaculture principle will ensure a cohesive system.


Our current economic models are leaving one in 6 on our planet without access to clean water (if water at all), food, and shelter. Yet we contain wealth enough in Toronto’s leadership potential alone to foundationally address global scarcity.

First: Identification of areas of improvement with current system

An environment of high scarcity (in, for example, oil accessibility) causes an inflation in price, and simultaneous devaluation of the purchasing power of each single dollar.

Our current system, which necessitates infinite growth on a finite planet, is a barrier to efficiency and sustainability.

Working toward a profit requires a product to become obsolete. This is so a replacement may be reinjected into the market, and this creates an economic model based on the obsolescence of individual products.

Though current technologies exist that could, in contextually-relevant implementation, revolutionize our systems of production, there is no far-reaching understanding of its current state. Informing a population as to its yesterday-ready applications will be crucial in moving to a more technologically unified society.

There is no need for paralysis when an system based on conspicuous consumption of hydrocarbon energy becomes obsolete, for alternatives exist.

Second: Suggestion of viable alternative

If we had approached leading thinkers/scientists from the early 1900’s and explained that in just over 100 years they could hold in their hands a device that captures electronically transmittable photographs, makes complex mathematical calculations, coordinates your position in relation to the universe to within 2 meters, sends libraries of information instantaneously, and allows one to speak to anyone on Earth at anytime, they would surely think it incredulous, and you ridiculous.

Yet here we are.

Not only are we here, but you are able to get this device now for less than your shirt.

So it is when thinking of the future.

We exist as emergent organisms constantly adapting to our changing environment, and must recognize that future modes of large scale organization could very well exist beyond the "THINK" of current institutional frameworks. We must recognize too that any institution resistant to change leaves itself vulnerable.

A new economic model of resource management must be adopted, a methodology that recognizes:

  • the Earth is a symbiotically interdependent natural system, with and within which we must exist (for we are its custodians),
  • everything is emergent, and to embrace change is to be humane,
  • collaboration, not competition, is the most effective, efficient, and immediately relevant stance a society can adopt,
  • our current system, that leaves one billion without access to that which is necessary for survival and perpetuity, is, given the present state of technology, archaic,
  • it would be criminal to perpetuate such a system for the sake of tradition, comfort or fear,
  • our technology is neither good nor evil, but exists as a projection of the (moral) behaviour rewarded by the existing societally accepted norms,

In the Final Analysis…

It is not enough to move toward a new economic model that localizes energy and food production, for we exist within a closed system, a single planet. When telecommunication devices can bridge two sides of the Earth in an instant, our solution must take into account the planet's entirety.

Through the promotion of a resilient community, a resilient city, regional resilience, we move toward a planet utilizing resources and the basis of its economy.





Resource-Based Design
RSS feed