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LifeSense Institute
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1. What is LifeSense Institute?
2.  What Are Our Resouces and Expertise?
3. What is the Vashon Energy Project?
4. What is Project Solar Harvest
5. Where are other Passive Annual Solar Heat Storage systems located?
6. Why this particular solar technology over others
7. Are other people working on this technology?
8. How does this new invention generally compare to other solar energy systems?
9. What is a “neighborhood grid?"

1.   What is LifeSense Institute?

LifeSense Institute is dedicated to improving quality of life on Vashon-Maury Island and beyond with imaginative, creative solutions to some of the complex problems facing people today.  We will facilitate scientific and social innovations to achieve affordable, human-friendly, and ultra-green ecosystems.  LifeSense Institute is a nonprofit Washington corporation.

Initially LSI'sVashon Energy Project is offering public education about passive annual solar heat systems (PASHS) through its Project Solar Harvest

2.   What Are Our Resouces and Expertise?

      Founders and Management

President, Robert Bornn
Vice President, Laura Worth, MSW

Robert Bornn has a longstanding history of environmental and shelter design for alternative communities beginning in the 60s with an alternative residential artist community on an island in Maine.  He published the 70’s journal, Island Quarterly. 

Robert Bornn and Laura Worth have more than 25 years experience in organizational management, having raised more than $3.5 million to finance their projects.  They have extensive experience building small teams of motivated and expert professionals dedicated to significant projects like a new miniaturized, radiotelemetric polysomnograph and devices for the special needs community.  They have managed R&D and designed and managed the clinical research of Robert’s medical device inventions at UCSF and Stanford University.  They obtained FDA permission to market their devices. They are seasoned in joint ventures and product licensing.  Management will contract with well-established organizations for the manufacturing, installation, and service of these technologies.


Jon McWhirter, Ph.D., P.E., Engineer.  Jon McWhirter has a professional career in energy and energy conversion technology spanning over 25 years.  He has a doctorate in thermal sciences and has worked as a professor, consultant, researcher, and international fellow.  Jon has authored technical papers in several topics relating to energy conversion and storage. Jon teaches engineering part-time for the St. Martin’s University satellite campus in Bremerton.  He is a registered professional engineer in Washington and Idaho. With two young children living on Vashon Island, he has a vested interest in the island’s future and well-being.  (home page)

Nancy Henderson, LEED AP founded ArchEcology, LLC out of a passion for housing and sustainable design.  She has over 13 years experience most of which has been focused on multi-family and mixed use developments.  While at GGLO she chaired the Sustainable Design group for five years.  During that time she lead in-house education efforts which resulted in a third of the office becoming LEED accredited, adoption of an Environmental Policy, and development of an Environmental Management Plan.  Projects pursuing LEED certification went from one in 2001 to more than 15 in 2006.  She also founded the Affordable Housing Action Team to develop a focused expertise in the office to specifically address the unique needs of affordable housing.


3.  What is the Vashon Energy Project?

The Vashon Energy Project of LifeSense Institute educates about new solar heating technologies and service innovations for affordable earth-friendly habitation, non-polluting energy sources, and improvements in organic food production (e.g., solar heated, year-round greenhouses) that are suitable for Vashon-Maury Island and other locations that experience seasonal limitations to solar exposure.  Our initial demonstration installation was Project Solar Harvest

4.   What is Project Solar Harvest

LifeSense Institute's Project Solar Harvest presented a public demonstration at Earth Fair showing the principles behind the collection, storage and retrieval of energy from the sun for year-round heat in Northern latitudes.  Similar systems have been commercialized for use throughout much of the world.  These system innovations demonstrated by Project Solar Harvest are currently under development by Robert Bornn and Jon McWhirter, Ph.D., P.E. of BuildingCircles Organization.  The demonstration was at Island Earthfair on Vashon-Maury Island, Washington in August 2006.

November, 2006
Solar Energy Charts
(courtesy of BuildingCircles Organization and Jon D. McWhirter, Ph.D., P.E.).

Chart 1: Average Annual Available Solar Energy by Month
Chart 2: Thermal Storage and Use for Annual Solar Heat Storage System

August, 2006
Project Solar Harvest
Photos and Report from Earthfair 2006
Vashon Island, Washington
(courtesy of BuildingCircles Organization and inventors, 
Robert Bornn and Jon D. McWhirter, Ph.D., P.E.).

5.    Where are other Passive Annual Solar Heat Storage systems located?

A variety of successful international solar installations using much larger underground masses have suggested that our overall approach has precedence.

In Canada… Drake's Landing Solar Community

In Europe… International Energy Agency
   Energy Conservation through Energy Storage (IEA-ECES)

In Japan… Trends in Japan: Novel Energy Storage Systems

6.    Why this particular solar technology over others? 

Projected equal or lower cost and higher aesthetic value makes it more likely to be adopted in a widespread and effective manner.  Long-term it may help provide energy independence from established market sources.

7.   Are other people working on this technology?

Hundreds of professionals are currently working on many different versions.  Here are some older background articles. 

Index to Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage Newsletters (Archive 1978-1993)

8.  How does this new invention generally compare to other solar energy systems?

  • The proposed system is an amalgam of several good, proven ideas and a few new ones.  It should create a more harmonious balance with weather in the Pacific Northwest.  The thermal reservoir’s primary function is to heat space and hot water, not to produce electricity. 
  • Typical south-facing daily passive systems:  are not reliably in phase with Puget Sound’s unusual weather conditions.
  • Photovoltaics:  Only generate electricity when the solar gain is sufficient; require a battery (very expensive and large batteries; wasting enclosed, heated space for the batteries; batteries are short-lived, can be hazardous, and require disposal as toxic waste) or grid storage when the solar gain is sufficient (doesn’t help you or your community when the grid is down). 
  • Parabolic reflector farms and rings of mirrors concentrate the sun but require configuration in industrial size troughs and towers with highly visible presence and some high temperature hazard. 

  • Other annualized underground storage systems: these are expensive to install and are used primarily in larger subdivisions or municipalities.  Experimental owner-builders have also had varied success with small, individual earth-sheltered homes.

9.  What is a “neighborhood grid?"

A neighborhood “grid” consists of approximately 10-20 houses that are geographically proximal, sharing common systems in any combination of the following for cost efficiencies and convenience:

  • heat (space and water)
  • electricity
  • water
  • sewage
  • communication 
  • access (shared electric transportation)
  • sharing of tools and equipment 
  • sharing costs of service/maintenance (less costly than individual “homestead;” may be more reliable than distant generation of power and accompanying transmission losses and costs).

This FAQ is for educational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional consultation.  No claim is made or implied that the ideas and inventions herein are applicable to any other manufactured housing, building, or land use project.  Nor do they represent in any way consulting services of any kind.  Nothing herein is an offer to sell, transfer, license, or permit the use of any proprietary method or technology described herein.  Nor should anything herein be construed as an offer to buy, sell, or transfer securities.  Relevant information will be provided upon request.

Contact Information
Robert Bornn, President
LifeSense Institute
P.O. Box 2443
Vashon Island, WA 98070
(206) 463-4284


The Small Print:
LifeSense Institute is a Washington State nonprofit corporation.
LifeSense Insitute is registered for solicitations under the Washington State Charitable Solicitations Act, RCW 19.09.
LifeSense Institute is not currently a tax-exempt organization under IRC 501(c)(3).

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 any
housing, 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 proprietary technology.

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Copyright (c) 2006-2009 by Robert Bornn and Laura Worth.  All rights reserved.
LifeSense Institute, BuildingCircles, Vashon Energy Project, Project Solar Harvest, Solar Harvester,
Imagine * Facilitate * Share, and Alternative energy for life are trademarks of Robert Bornn and Laura Worth.

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