Passive Survivability: Stop Depending on Others

Earlier this year, sometime this fall my apartment had a few days where there were power outages for a few hours each. It wasn’t so bad because by this time the weather was a lot cooler than it had been but even so it took this experience to realize just how reliant on electricity that I am. Not only was it difficult understand the concept of not being able to connect to the internet, but I also realized that all of the food currently in the fridge would be wasted if the outage lasted the rest of the day. But another thing to appreciate is that if this had happened in the heat of summer there would have been no way to stay inside that apartment for the rest of the day. This experience opened my eyes to just how reliant we are on outside sources to light and cool our apartments or houses and how difficult it is to survive without them. This is even more true for areas that have dealt with disasters and hundred to thousands of people have to evacuated just because their house are too warm or cold when if designed properly without so much reliance on systems they would not need to.

One example of this is last winter in Dallas and ice storm came and knocked out the power leaving many homes cold and uninhabitable except for one family, the Olp’s who’s house was prepared for such conditions. This house relied on natural flowing air to warm the house along with just a wood fire and was able to survive just fine on their own. Another interesting feature of this house is that even in summer it stayed around 75 degrees, only relying on air-conditioning at night.


Passive survivability is not only for people worried about natural disasters and power outages, but also for people aiming for sustainability because the two really go hand in hand, using natural systems where possible and finding self reliant systems where it is not.




One comment

  1. While I agree with the point that passive sustainability and self-sufficiency have a great deal to offer the sustainability movement, I temper that with the argument that for truly meaningful improvements in our relationship to the environment scale is paramount. Self sufficient structures have certain niche applications, and aspects of their design can be adopted to a wider market, but in many major areas of “sustainability” cooperation and networks deliver far better returns on investment. A house in the woods that is entirely off the grid performs it’s purpose for the owner (whatever that might be) and can be entirely neutral or even beneficial for the local and global environment. The technologies and practices developed for that house can be tested there and gain some traction in such applications before being expanded (solar panels, phase change walls, adaptable fuel furnaces), but not everyone can or will live like that, and it costs a great deal of money and land and effort to make such a building work. The majority of society functions very well and very efficiently not by being independent, but by being interdependent. Cooperation and pooling of resources leads to much more efficient systems, and thus improving these networks, rather than pulling away from them, is what will truly make for a sustainable world. Distributed power production is great, but being entirely off the grid is for most people unrealistic and unhelpful.

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