The ultimate goal is infrastructure lite.

Something which is seldom reported or even remarked upon is the way in which the miniaturization of technology is allowing problems to be handled and services to be produced, at source, rather than produced or processed at a central location.

To my mind if you practice source separation at source, ie not dealing with wastes from residences, and industry together, then you know exactly what you’re dealing with and can deploy simple technology to deal with it.  This is  especially true if you can ensure that organics and inorganics don’t get mixed together.

As well as being simpler it would also be cheaper.

An example of this would be treating sewage. It’s a complex mix of toilet flushes, paint dumps, agrochemical leakage and everything else you can think of. This is very complex to treat and if there’s one relationship that always seems to hold it’s that the more complex a problem is the higher the required capital investment will be. This of course leads to someone developing a business for it, turning it into a monopoly, getting money from the government to pay for it, paying minimum wage or less to the workers (whose tax dollars helped pay for the research in the first place) and then going buying a yacht or two. That’s where we’re at right now. Paying people to do things we could do ourselves.

I’m serious.

So that brings me to Infrastructure Lite. What do I mean by infrastructure lite? Well, consider an apartment building that collects water on its roof, uses it and then recycles it back to the roof. Imagine a building that uses the sanitation system as a supplementary power source so that every time you really have to go, you know that your efforts will be helping to power your residence. Imagine a sanitation system that doesn’t bring in drinking water and turn it into a toxic pollutant then dump it in the ocean, but rather derives energy from it and turns it into organic liquid fertilizer and compost; the building blocks of plant life. Such a building, would be in a temperate maritime climate completely independent of the water mains and the sanitation system. Imagine also that a proportion of your food requirements were met from your roof, using the products from your sanitation system. If you were to combine the savings together how much money would you be able to gather together to pursue further improvements?

A significant amount every month I would imagine.

How quickly would you be able to improve the insulation in your building? Or, add a wind turbine on the roof? Purchase high efficiency equipment?

The biological systems are self-perpetuating so they’re the bottom of the pyramid as far as improvements go, but the savings the produce would mean that you could start working up to things that didn’t grow themselves, such as wind turbines, biodigester, LED lighting, additional insulation, natural lighting systems, the energy reduction monitoring systems etc etc.

In high population density areas this would still be a real challenge. After all a ten storey apartment building isn’t going to get enough off the roof to feed everyone in the building, but imagine you live in low density area where you not only have a flat roof, but a back yard and a front yard. Would you be able to get the majority of your food needs from it. I think so.

Band together with three to four other families, get the turbine, get the neighborhood biodigester, become your own utility. More importantly you’d be doing this in areas where the cost of infrastructure maintenance was so much higher and so much more vulnerable to failure because the people are so spread out.

Now, I’m trying to do this in Tokyo, so the challenge is greater.  However for me, the  rooftop ecology is merely the beginning, and we’ll get to the beginning soon I promise. But when this baby starts to make money through generating savings, we’ll be reinvesting the profits to generate income from further savings from within the buildings we operate on top of.

This business is the thin end of an enormous wedge and the further we push it the bigger slice we’ll get, they’ll get, you’ll get. It truly is a win-win proposition.