urban village

Are you ready to live in the sustainable urban villages of tomorrow?


A sustainable urban village based on bio-mimetic design

I had the opportunity to meet with Alrie Middlebrook, the founder of the California Native Garden Foundation, in San Jose, California. The California Native Garden Foundation has developed a model for a sustainable urban community based on bio-mimetic design. Our conversation introduced me to how land use designed for urban areas could be socially viable.

The guiding principles can be depicted by the life cycle of a plant. Plants provide a point of cyclical connection between the soil, water, air, food, waste, and energy, meeting all their needs within a single stationary place.

A plant completes its lifecycle from a seed to its full growth intact to its roots, all in the same place. In the same way, Alrie’s approach aims to provide all life-supporting systems to a human being right where they live.

Santa Clara Sustainable Agrihood, located at the former Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC) site in Santa Clara, is a prime example of Alrie’s idea. For the first time in California and in America, a working farm and community gardens are the prominent open-space features of a multi-generational medium-density, low-income senior, affordable and market-rate urban community incorporating rural elements that sequester more CO2, produce abundant food, promote biodiversity and clean the air. This is a revolutionary use of land adjacent to six stories of urban apartment buildings.

How the village was developed

To develop this biomimicry model, Alrie’s research proposed ten categories that comprise the fundamental needs of humanity: soil; air; water; waste; energy; food; terrestrial and marine ecosystems; transportation; environmental education; and human health and well-being.

The ten tenets that serve as the foundation for urban land use are as follows:

  1. Restoration of Local Ecosystems – Returning to using what nature provides locally
  2. Soil Health and Soil Building – Returning the soil, using microbes, to a condition where it can provide for everyone
  3. Air – Reducing sources of air pollution by producing food locally
  4. Water – Using local sources of water to support water requirements
  5. Waste – Moving toward zero waste by using microbes and eliminating the need for landfills
  6. Energy – Using local renewable clean energy sources to support
  7. Regenerative Food Systems – Converting diets to use more local resources
  8. Sustainable Transportation – Reducing the need for car and other fossil fuel sources to do activities outside of the local community
  9. Ecology Education – Knowledge is power; the key is to enable our children to be the stewards of sustainability in the future
  10. Human Health and Well-Being – The health of the body is connected to the health of the earth

The model is for the sustainable urban village is here – and the time to use it is now

Alrie’s urban village model is based on the connections and interdependence between life cycles. To mimic nature is to bond closely and form networks that are impenetrable and support the renewal of life above all else. By mimicking nature, we have a better chance of success in Silicon Valley than anywhere on Earth. The place is here. The time is now.