In the mid-1400s, Johannes Gutenberg famously invented the printing press, enabling a new and seemingly irreversible change in the amount of written information in the world. His invention quickly decentralized, democratized, and expanded human knowledge, and ultimately helped to usher in the modern age.
Roughly 500 years later, and though his invention still lacked a graphical interface, Edmund Berkeley created what is often recognized as the first personal computer. And 50 years after this, in a world newly saturated with desktop and then laptop personal computers, Steve Jobs broke open mobile computing, in both phone and tablet forms.
With these specific examples of technological development, a relatively easy case can be made that they provided a substantial net benefit to human life – to our understanding, welfare, and potential for natural progress. With the qualifier “net,” I mean simply that the benefits of these technologies exceeded their costs, or in naturalized terms, that each technology made us more, rather than less, adaptive as a species.
Early Printing Press & Troubled Modern Nuclear Plant
Importantly, it is essential to highlight that there are clear costs involved with each of these highly beneficial technologies, and indeed with all technology. For example, printing accelerated deforestation, computers clogged landfills with plastics and hazardous materials, and mobile computing led to countless lost hours of productive human life, via the taking and sharing of selfies and pet photos.
More seriously, these quick examples of technological costs or downsides of course merely begin what can be a long and substantial list of negative attributes associated with any new technology, even helpful or progressive ones.
Overall, the weighing of the costs and benefits of technologies – past, present, and proposed – is a complex task and one that is sure to be inexact or imperfect, even with great hindsight, owing to the natural veil that is complexity. But practically, we must and do make such assessments every day, whether as consumers, inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, regulators, or social leaders. And how well we make these technology-related judgments is critically important, since the future sustainability and progress of our species literally may be on the line at times.
In our changing, more globally conscious, and, for many, economically pressured times, material minimalism and ‘less is more’ thinking is decidedly in vogue – and this is particularly true as respects our housing choices.
Reducing our material footprint has many advantages, and the way we house ourselves is a principal factor determining the personal and collective mark we make on our planet, potentially leading to sprawl and ecological harm, or not.
Beyond improved ecological sustainability for us all, at a personal level material downsizing and the move to intentionally smaller and lower-cost homes can offer reduced stress, greater freedom, and even new happiness. In the latter case, this is through the ongoing opportunities for attentiveness, deliberateness, creativity, and joy from intentional or intrinsic living, qualities that small homes naturally and often unexpectedly foster.
Tiny, Mobile & Studio Homes – Opportunities To Explore Intentional Modern Living
In the move to smaller, more intentional living spaces, and leaving aside shared housing, three main strategies dominate – tiny homes, mobile homes, and studio homes. All have an appeal to those of us wishing to downsize, rightsize, or deliberatize the space we call home. But what are the relative advantages and disadvantages of each approach?
To explore this question, I’ll provide a brief overview of tiny homes, mobile homes, and studio homes, three housing options that similarly emphasize smaller material footprints and generally foster or require more intentional living. But perhaps more importantly, I will then provide a framework for thinking about these and other approaches to the way we house ourselves, perhaps helping and inspiring you to examine your own personal options for life that is more deliberate, created, joyful, and sustainable.
#1: Tiny Homes
You are probably aware that a “tiny house” movement is afoot across the developed world, and has been growing rapidly in popularity and scope since the Great Recession of 2008 (see Tiny House Movement).
Plant-covered walls are a popular trend in architecture and design today, reflecting our natural need and desire to have living nature around us. But not all so-called living walls or vertical gardens are created alike. Because of this, understanding their basic variations can help us to design, build, or buy living walls more optimally and advantageously.
Owing to their two quite different basic designs – green walls and green facades – and the high number of potential variations on these designs, living walls should be viewed as an extremely flexible design tool. In practice, they can be employed: 1) with nearly any type of building, 2) as both interior and exterior walls, 3) with either edible or ornamental plants, and 4) on almost any budget.
Living Wall Softens The Lines Of A Mid-Rise Modernist Hotel (LivinSpaces)
Indeed, after their initial construction costs, many living walls will steadily pay for themselves through superior building and environmental performance, in addition to offering strong and ongoing visual and psychological appeal.
Before we can intelligently design and create – whether an invention, a building, or a life – we need a clear sense of essential needs or requirements to guide our actions. As has been said, we are wise to always begin with an end in mind. Without this context or frame of reference, we will tend to act and create haphazardly, and achieve beneficial results only by chance.
This idea is taught in most schools of design and engineering. And yet, the needs and requirements we uncover and pursue as creators can be superficial, far from essential or penetrating, and less apt to lead to true innovation or breakthroughs in human value. Too often, we seek, see, and fulfill only limited requirements or expedient outcomes. And thus, we leave or give to others the opportunity to see more fundamentally into life’s many needs and requirements, and the chance to surpass us and our work on the back of their deeper or more enduring insights.
Life Is Full Of Options, But Which – Or What – Is Most Essential?
There are of course countless examples of this – new designs, technologies, and products that radically upend existing and more narrowly or poorly grounded approaches – and I will leave you to pick your favorites. One of mine is the case of homebuyers, who often begin with very fixed ideas about the type of home they want, but often can be led in wholly new directions by exposure to alternatives that better understand and reflect or express their essential needs.
As I suggested, a way to see, design, create, and live more essentially, and thus more intelligently and innovatively, is to delve fundamentals – when approaching an immediate challenge or presented set of requirements, and more broadly. By extension, the ultimate expression of this process is to seek and pursue our or other’s most essential needs, in any area or across all areas of modern life and endeavor, and perhaps helping to re-create and eclipse how life is structured today entirely.
A key principle behind ArchaNatura is the idea that we can do more with less – and perhaps much more with much less – through more attentive design, the creation of new technologies, and the creative uses of existing technologies, or via new techniques.
The practical advantages of creating and functioning more generally with this goal in mind can be enormous, especially when our efforts are sustained and diverse. And this is true whether we are the creators or beneficiaries of the value-oriented new designs, technologies, and techniques that reliably result from the approach.
How Might We Achieve Far More With Far Less Today?
In addition to immediate benefits from specific advances, a sustained more with less focus offers a number of practical advantages as a strategic approach or framework for work and endeavor of all kinds. First, it turns even seemingly mundane tasks into naturally engaging and meaningful opportunities for creative action. At the same time, the approach also tends to keep us grounded as creators and more likely to produce valuable, as opposed to merely interesting, breakthroughs.
Third, when sustained and probing, the approach can lead to innovations and learning that steadily and progressively build upon one another, or naturally compound, thereby tending to produce more frequent and important breakthroughs, compared with more piecemeal or less value-oriented approaches. And finally, by stressing resource efficiency and solution effectiveness, the approach naturally promotes greater modern sustainability.
I’d like to introduce you to an alternative building technology of sorts, one called the Y-beam.
Y-beams are fairly easy to use, require no heavy lifting or specialized machinery, and almost always prove unexpectedly powerful when employed in building and design. In practice, Y-beams can be used by anyone and in any type of construction. Indeed, Y-beams even may be the most transformative, cost-effective, and simplifying design and construction technology ever created!
Modern Building Created Without Adequate Y-Beam Use?
Now, you’ve probably heard of an I-beam already, which of course rhymes with Y-beam. But there the similarities definitely end. While I-beams are structural elements that have the shape of the letter “I” in cross-section, by contrast Y-beams have no particular shape. Similarly, while I-beams are usually rigid and straight, Y-beams are completely flexible and can be bent or molded to any design imaginable.
As a practical matter, Y-beams can be used during any phase or aspect of construction. But they are best employed early in the building process. By this, I mean at least beginning with site and foundation preparation, and ideally well before this – in the design and site selection process. On the other hand, perhaps the least desirable use of Y-beams is after project completion, even as this may be their most common use. That said, Y-beams can be successfully used in retrofitting or redesigning existing projects that were envisioned or built without them, or without enough of them.
So often, in life and in the designs we create, we begin with the beginning only in mind, or only a few first steps – and not the end or full context and impacts of our actions.
To some degree, this is natural. It is genuinely difficult to predict our final ends or see our total impacts with high accuracy. But this fact does not counter the idea that we should clarify and pursue ends, rather than focus on beginnings and first steps. As we can validate for ourselves, there is real power in having our ends in mind before and as we act, even if they prove simplistic in hindsight and shifting over time.
Three Essential Qualities For The Mastery Of Creative Change full size
As a practical matter, to begin with our ends or outcomes in relatively full view, we require a few things. One is of course vision, a natural and practiced ability to imagine change and see how actions might unfold to produce change. This capacity to envision depends in part on comfort with expression and creativity, and in part on patience and a willingness to pursue the details of imagined change.