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Creating affordable and sustainable, nature-integrated homes for independent living
Housing Needs

Age and Disability. As we age, downsizing becomes an appropriate strategy for containing cost of building and maintaining our homes. Downsizing also minimizes the ecological footprint and smaller size requires less material, labor, cost of financing, energy needs, and maintenance than larger conventional “green” houses.  These homes will take into consideration the future needs of residents while creating bold and progressive green housing today.

The number of adults older than 65 (U.S.) is expected by AARP* to double by 2040, growing from 40 million to 81 million.

Currently, more than 5 million Americans are 85 and older and by 2040 that could grow to more than 13 million.  Approximately 7 in 10 are women. 


BuildingCircles Community Homes
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Older adults for the most part would prefer living in their own homes for as long as they can.  An AARP survey recently found that 89% of adults 50 and older hope to remain in their homes as they age.

53% of adults 85 and older own their own homes.  More than 50% are “aging-in-place” with independent living. The other 50% has had to find other solutions, many times including premature nursing home residency.

* ''Strategies to Meet the Housing Needs of Older Adults," Keith Wardrip, AARP Public Policy Institute, March 2010



AccessibleTrail Illustrates 
Nature-Integrated Universal Design 
Mendocino, California 
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Age-in-Place Planning.  Our community-oriented clients will be older adults, both individuals and couples, who have determined that they will build housing in their late middle age to early elder years that will serve them into the future for as long as possible.  This age-in-place planning (see A Final Resting Place by columnist Liz Taylor) can be achieved through universal design, downsizing, low maintenance, and a supportive community based on affinity and humanist core values.  The primary and accessory dwelling homes we offer can ultimately be “converted” to assisted living to maximize independent living and avoid premature institutional “care.”  For more about aging in place, see Aging-in-Place Gracefully on Vashon in the op-ed column by Robert Bornn and Laura Worth.

Also note  ''Quiet Crisis: Age Wave Maxes Out Affordable Housing, King County 2008-2025," published 2009 through the collaboration of six public agencies, Cedar River Group, LLC, and others (including Senior Housing Report, Senior Housing Report Appendix, and more.  http://www.agingkingcounty.org/housing.htm


Cultural Context.  Research shows that individuals termed "Cultural Creatives" represent approximately 20% of American adults (see The Cultural Creatives by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D. and Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D).   One of their primary defining characteristics is an extremely strong concern about environmental health.  Through personal history or current interest and activities they share progressive and humanist values.

BuildingCircles designs will appeal to those with a strong commitment to living authentic green lifestyles and who want their homes to reflect their values while experiencing personal comfort and security.  They will also take pride in being among the first to adopt the BCO home design because it can help to point the way to comprehensive environmental and world housing solutions.  They will enjoy the cachet of a one-of-a-kind, lovely house at a reasonable cost.

BuildingCircles Community Homes
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Modern culture tends to design houses that serve as monuments.  Because they are typically multi-story and not nature-integrated, they require enormous spaces between them to permit a reasonable amount of visual and acoustic privacy.  In contrast, BCO homes are nestled into more natural shapes with a lower profile.   They may significantly reduce visual and acoustic challanges through nature-integrated designs.  They may also ultimately achieve a more sustainable density in rural or even outer urban areas.

World Housing Context.  One third, or 2 billion of the world’s people today are living in substandard, unsustainable conditions.  In only 20 years, if uncorrected, this group is expected to increase to 6 billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population at that time (9 billion people).   The UN estimates that 50 million new houses will need to be built annually just to keep pace with population growth (www.unhabitat.org).  That is approximately equivalent to replacing the entire housing stock of the United States every two years.  Additionally, ongoing large-scale disasters require millions more.

The majority of the world's housing significantly contributes to climate change.  As the number of people escalates, efficient, non-polluting use of energy, water, and land for human shelter and agriculture will increase in importance to the point where global security will depend on the fair distribution of life-sustaining resources.

This challenge also represents an economic and political opportunity to propagate sustainable land stewardship. By supporting fair distribution of water, food, and shelter, the resulting new communities will help create wider economic and social stability. This, in turn, will act as an indigenous counterweight to local and regional instabilities.

BuildingCircles Community Homes
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Additionally, more than 40% of the world's land has been removed from natural ecosystems by human settlements (including agriculture and animal raising impacts).  Currently, much of the world’s most fertile, flat land has been converted from agriculture to meet our increasing human shelter needs.  Conversely, the world’s moderate slopes, ideal for terraced and roof agriculture and for capturing solar energy for human habitation are seriously underutilized.
Globally we see:
  • poor land use planning for maximizing human density with high agricultural yield. 
  • chronic energy and water shortages and waste. 
  • pollution and lack of composting and other alternative sewage and water management. 
  • a short life cycle for conventional building technology. 
We believe BuildingCircles dwellings can ultimately have a catalytic effect on world housing in the next 5-10 years.  Once established, it is anticipated that this innovative approach may stimulate development by NGOs, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations to design and build higher volume, lower-cost versions.  They can be designed to use specific regionally available resources and meet local needs in variety of locations worldwide.  This may even be achieved in some areas that lack sufficient infrastructure, through modular housing, manufactured off-site, that includes self-contained subsystems for solar heat and power and on-site water management.  This BCO approach to affordable sustainability may serve to guide others toward housing innovations that are both pragmatic and human-friendly.  In addition, if adoption is widespread, the homes using BuildingCircles' approach may also improve energy and water efficiencies while significantly reducing CO2 pollution from housing.

BuildingCircles'  blueprint for awe-inspiring, living buildings points toward future net-positive energy and seismically stable residential communities. These open clusters of three to five homes per acre may be a viable alternative to suburban sprawl, exurban gentrification, and typical rural land use. Their relationship to the planet as nature-integrated living buildings will, as side benefits, offer stabilization of slopes, terraced gardens, and overall better utilization of marginal lands from the Cascades and Northern Boreal forests to the Sahels of the world.

It should be noted that with nature-integrated dwellings and other living buildings (see BCO links page) it may be possible to inhabit areas that might be too marginal with conventional land and housing approaches.  One simple way to visualize this is to imagine that the world population has grown to 10 billion people by 2060.  With 10 billion people a land mass approximately the size of the United States would be large enough to house low-density rural settlements with 5 persons per acre.**  When the actual current and anticipated urban density is factored in, new areas of population would be significantly less populated than only 1 person per acre (even with 10 billion people on the planet)!  It is anticipated that the population will stabilize as the world economy improves for all its citizens.  However, we need to find ways to populate marginal land because unsustainable urban density and suburban sprawl is a poor solution to population growth.  The development of living buildings that can restore the local ecology and collect their own energy and water is one solution.  For more than half a century the means to achieve these goals has steadily improved to where it is both feasible and imperative to take the next step in world-relevant housing.

** 10 billion people/5 people per acre = a need for 2 billion acres.  2 billion acres/640 acres (per sq. mile) = approximately 3 million sq. miles, or approximately the land mass of the U.S.


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The Small Print:
This site is for educational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional consultation.  No claim is made or implied that the ideas, inventions, illustrations, and documents on this site are applicable to anyhousing, building, or land use project.  Nor does the site represent in any way consulting services of any kind.  Nothing on this site is an offer to sell, transfer, license, or use intellectual property.

Copyright (c) 2006-2010 by Robert Bornn and Laura Worth.  All rights reserved. 
BuildingCircles, LifeSense Institute, AdvancedGreen, and Creating affordable and sustainable, nature-integrated homes for independent living, and enchanted naturalism are trademarks of Robert Bornn and Laura Worth.

Renderings by Robert Bornn and Nancy Henderson, AIA, LEED, AP.
Floor plan by Nancy Henderson, AIA, LEED, AP.
Illustrative Site Plan Courtesy of Barbara Oakrock, Oakrock Design Studio

Photos by Robert Bornn
Web site by Laura Worth Web Design.