29 Jul Open Letter to Steven Borncamp
This letter was written after the invitation by the RoGBC to join the Living Building Challenge During our meeting on 18 July 2013
Thanks for meeting with us on 18 July 2013 in Bucharest and thanks for the information that you sent us!
Regarding ‘’Living Building Challenge’’ I must say that I like this MUCH better than the LEED program as an addition, in particular the aspects of being ‘’Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative’’ which sits at the very foundation of the concept of Building the Future in Vama Buzaului.
The foundation of the agreement that we have with the community of Vama Buzaului is that we will bring socially just and social-economically just development to Vama Buzaului, built on their legacy, culture and pastoral and natural ecology.
Legacy, culture and the pastoral ecology is the Capital of Vama Buzaului. It represents the very values that the people of Vama Buzaului have created, that they want to live and that they want to keep.
At the same time Vama Buzaului is partly a poor community where parents have aspirations for their offspring of more prosperity and more empowerment; this is one of the fundamental essences of humans, living individual cycles of life and handing over a new future to their children.
This is our promise to the People of Vama Buzaului, to the Council of Vama Buzaului and to the Mayor of Vama Buzaului: to help build a future for Vama Buzaului that develops socially just prosperity and empowerment founded on the Capital that Vama Buzaului possesses. One can only build on top of Capital if one protects this Capital with all ones might and main as it is the Capital that is the foundation and that is the means.
The People of Vama Buzaului live in the richness of their wealth, their Capital, Qualities that have become extinct elsewhere. However, today, too many live in poverty in the midst of this wealth. The People of Vama Buzaului have the right to meaningful prosperity. The question of course is what is ‘’meaningful’’. Is it more consumerism? Or is it empowerment to live personal dreams. Today too many are shackled by the toil of everyday, a fate they do not deserve, a fate that they have a right to relinquish themselves from.
A greater level of meaningful prosperity places pressure on footprint. How does one balance this pressure? The question is simple, the answer quite complex.
The base plan for Vama Buzaului is to develop durable and meaningful prosperity on high-end agro- and eco-tourism. Why high-end? The Capital of Vama Buzaului is delicate and cannot be sustained if too many tourists enter this space. Each tourist places a footprint; this footprint will need to be compensated. Compensation for this footprint will need to be funded through income derived from the tourism, e.g. taxation.
Coming to building the ‘’Living Building Challenge’’ dwelling in Valley21: The ambitions of ‘’Living House’’ are very high and we would be thrilled to build it! Ultimately there is only one success factor for our initiative with Vama Buzaului and that is to propel Vama Buzaului into national and international media as a unique development and collaboration between people, local government, academia and private enterprise. A project co-governed by the RoGBC would substantially help us achieve this goal!
At this point the following is the issue: reading the Living Building Challenge document it is clear that it says a lot of very sensible things, things that we wholeheartedly support, things that come very close to ‘’Building the Future in Vama Buzaului’’. It is however impossible to say at this very minute that we can meet sufficiently its guidelines. In particular the problem could be the footprint that Valley21 places and that each individual dwelling places. Within the context of Valley21 this is true. However the compensation that we are planning sits elsewhere, the compensation that we planning sits in our collaboration with the government and people of Vama Buzaului to build a plan for all of the community’s footprint, so the footprint on a space of 8400 Ha (and not just the 70Ha of Valley21) and the footprint on a Natura2000 Park of a similar size of 8400 Ha.
Vama Buzaului is required to put in place a new General Urban Plan for all of Vama Buzaului by end of 2016. We, Building the Future in Vama Buzaului, are working with the mayor of Vama Buzaului, Tiberiu Chirilas, and the council to optimize this plan; this Plan is the place where we will find these compensations.
Further, we have set a deadline, together with the mayor, to have in place (through a formal council vote) a new strategic plan for Vama Buzaului by December 2016.
So summary: yes we are keen to look into building a first ‘’Living Building’’ dwelling, however this must be placed in our ambitions with the entire municipality of Vama Buzaului and we would need substantial support from the RoGBC.
One of the drivers would be to be able to pull forward the start date of first construction, possibly even to 2014.
If you are interested to continue this discussion we would need to establish an understanding of the likelihood that we can meet the strict guidelines of Living House to achieve certification. To this end I would suggest a conference call where we go through the document to perform a first virtual scoring in a question and answer / debate session.
Building the Future in Vama Buzaului & the Municipality of Vama Buzaului