Harvesting Information for AllWays

I pulled into a parking space right in front of Condor Chocolates. As I did so I wondered if my old friend would score as good of a parking space when she arrived. Although I already knew what I wanted to order, I took some time browsing there delectable selection of chocolate truffles, chocolate bars, and the like. Then I sat down to wait on her. She showed up soon enough, riding on a scooter which she locked to the parking meter I had paid for my parking place. She too was temporarily mesmerized by the chocolate truffles and decided on a box of them for her parents. 

We placed our orders, me going with the hot chocolate and warmed up salt and caramel brownie, she with a shot of a dark chocolate beverage. After catching up and settling in I turned our conversation to AllWays. I read to my friend Lachele’s mission statement of our idea for a non-religious non-profit. It reads as follows:

“There are two main barriers to the adoption of alternative, lower-cost, sustainable, and locally sourced home building techniques.  The first is a lack of local knowledge about the techniques.  Few are willing or able to risk the time and money for a housing experiment.  Even if a technique is very successful in some other area, there is no guarantee that it will work locally.  Even when people are interested in taking such risks, the local building inspectors have no solid knowledge of the utility and safety of the new building technique, so they are understandably reluctant to approve the design.  The second barrier is that lenders have no easy metrics for determining the risk of such structures.  Specifically, they lack “comps”: comparative homes in the area.  

“Our group wishes to accelerate the adoption of environmentally sustainable techniques.  It stands to reason that these barriers should be addressed in order.  That is, there must be experiments in building made before there can be comps.  We propose to begin an alternative housing techniques incubator.  We plan to secure grant money for this purpose.  We hope to build homes and have people live in them.  In return for reduced housing costs, the occupants will agree to have their homes inspected regularly and occasionally displayed to the public.  Of course, we will work closely with engineers and other housing safety professionals.”

Immediately she asked, are there any other communities that are doing this in the Southeast? She said that in order to get any of the other commissioners or government personnel on board they will want to see examples of what we plan to do, real life examples. She cited Orange Twin and Tina Tinsley’s Earthsong as local example communities to look to. In particular she wanted us to look at Orange Twin because they were able to push through a conservation community ordnance that might be of some use to us now. Also looking at how they did that could be useful. Earthsong has a cob-construction building on the property which would be of interest for us to look at. 

The second thing that she mentioned is that the Athens-Clarke County Land Use plan is being created this year for the next 20 years. She said there would be public input sessions and if we wanted to change or modify current land use codes now would be the time to do it. 

As to possible allies in the Athens Clarke County government she gave me several names. But here again my friend reiterated that should have a stack of research showing examples of what we hope to accomplish. Lastly, she shared with me the contact information for and architect designer.  He was key in pushing through the changes in code and the conservation community ordnance for Orange Twin. If we want to know how that is done we can contact him. 

We also discussed composting toilets. My friend had looked into them some years back and discovered that the State of Georgia had restrictions on composting toilets. I discussed with her the viability of shitting in a 5 gallon bucket then storing the poo in my shed until it composted. We discussed the labor of having to empty the toilets. I told the story of how the Pagan Cluster gathered at a home in Boone, NC. There were 5 gallon buckets to go to the bathroom in. However only the same few people would empty them. In order to get more support for emptying the buckets of shit, they marched through the center of the gathering, swinging the 5-gallon buckets, chanting: ”Ho—ly—Shit. Ho—ly—Shit.“

Thoroughly buzzing from all the chocolate and sugar, we said our goodbyes, promising one another it wouldn’t be so long. For me, it was thoroughly refreshing to meet with a friend who is both interested in some of my doings and also has something to add. 

Our AllWays group has its work cut out for us. 

  1. Find examples of housing incubators across the Southeast
  2. Read up on the Land Use Plan and come up with changes we would like to see.
  3. Research restrictions on composting toilets