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Editor's Blog

Open Source Ecology
February 7, 2013


Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters building the Global Village Construction Set - a modular, DIY, low-cost, open source, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

The aim of the GVCS is to lower the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing. Its a life-size lego set that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, or in the developing world.

So far OSE have prototyped 8 of the 50 Machines. The organization is 100% crowd-funded. See http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/622508883/global-village-construction-set

Transformative Nature of Enterprise

We are interested in transformative economics, or those economics which tend towards community and global resilience, while having qualities that, proactively, move the world away from: concentration of societal power; perennial warfare; loss of meaning; bureaucracy; globalization of economic activity; newspeak; loss of freedom; and so forth.

Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Systems Design

Systems design refers to design of economic paradigms which consider the whole human and natural ecosystem, and the relationships involved, not just an isolated part of that system. For example, non-systems thinking may lead one to conclude that a modern steam engine for transportation is a bad idea compared to biodiesel or fuel alcohol because the thermodynamic efficiency of a steam engine is two times lower than that of diesel engines or gasoline engines. The systems design perspective will claim that the steam engine is a great idea, because biomass pellets can be used as fuel, and the yield of cellulosic biomass per acre is about 10 times higher than the yield of oil or alcohol. The systems thinker will continue, by stating that if the whole system is considered, biomass pellet production is much simpler to accomplish, and that biomass-growing areas can be integrated with other uses such as orcharding or livestock raising, and the systems thinker will continue to make other claims that such an energy source allows for absolute decentralization of production and resilience of communities using the simplest means possible. The point to be made is that the systems thinker can continue to make a large number of claims on how a particular activity is desirable based on a number of systems connections, which the non-systems thinker dismisses as simply not being part of the question.

We believe that destructive non-systems thinking is so pervasive in our society, that in general, individual and societal decision-making is completely partisan, thin on logic, and downright retarded. We are including a metric for systems design in the OSE Specifications to raise awareness of this issue, with a hope, which even if futile, attempts to bring a glimmer of light to the situation.

Transparency of Production Model and Development Process

The development process for products, and their production model, should be transparent to any interested observer. This allows for study of, input into, and improvement of the topic of interest. Transparency allows feedback loops to become active, and empowers those who are interested in learning more about a topic. Transparency is one of several qualities of a distributive, economic process.

Transparency of some program implies that the program is open to suggestions, correction, or replication of itself, stemming from an ethical foundation of the given program. Therefore, tools such as non-disclosure agreements, patents, trade secrets, and other means of protectionism are inconsistent with the creation of transparency.

Development Process

1. Participation in the development process is entirely voluntary. No compensation for alienation is necessary. As a result, the best designs are produced from the commitment of passionate stakeholders.

2. Anyone may join or leave the development group at any time

3. Collaborative development process utilizes the input of diverse stakeholders

4. Steps and results of the development process are documented

Creation of Post-Scarcity Levels of Production

Post-scarcity levels of production imply the availability of effective tools of production, including both hardware and techniques - which allow for the ample meeting of human needs. Post-scarcity levels of production also imply that local, nonstrategic resources can be utilized effectively, reliably, and with the capacity to produce significant surplus. The goal of attaining post-scarcity levels of production of something are thus synonymous with a particular community being able to transcend physical survival as a basis for evolving to pursuits beyond mere survival.

Simplicity and Low Cost

The design and implementation of any product or service should be the simplest from both the fabrication and cost perspective, such that it is the most readily replicable. Attaining simplicity is indeed the most difficult design challenge. Most people confuse high performance with extra features, because they externalize the hidden liabilities that accompany the extra features. Simplicity is synonymous with efficient resource use. Simplicity should also apply to the fabrication procedure of an object. As such, simplicity is also synonymous with low cost. The basic design philosophy of OSE is to include simplicity in design and fabrication - ie, design-for-fabrication should be applied.

Lifetime, Modular Design; Design-for-Disassembly; Design-for-Scalability (DfS)

(Note: For mainstream reference on lifetime design, see the work of Saul Griffith)

Simplicity of design promotes the features of lifetime, modular, and scalable design-for-disassembly (DfD).

Lifetime design implies that the value of a product does not depreciate over time. This implies freedom from labor required to replace a certain product, which has direct implication for one's access to free time.

Modular design is a design which allows different modules to be used and interchanged, giving the user control over and flexibility with the object of use.

DfD means that parts of modules may be replaced readily, by taking the module apart. This has profound implications to lifetime design.

DfS is more than a design that can be scaled. It is the principle of designing things with ease of scalability as one of the features - ie, design that can be scaled easily. This is a slight improvement over design that can be scaled, in that DfS includes explicit features that make scalability easy.

Scalability means that a basic building block can be used to make larger or smaller versions. This contributes to low cost and efficiency.

Multipurpose Modular Design

Objects should be designed so that they are made as building blocks, or modules, of other or larger objects. This way, objects can be modified. Instead of a whole object having to be replaced to add new functionality, a module may be added. This gives products a flexibility that is built into their very nature, such that the user has additional control with minimum expense. Modularity may sometimes be synonymous with inter-operability, and may sometimes be synonymous with scalability. It may contribute to lifetime design if an object is 100% modular and each module may be replaced. Modularity also means that an object may function as a building block of other objects. In all cases, modularity implies that an object may be modified. The combination of flexibility, adaptability, scalability, interoperability are desirable. These features expand the range of applications, increase lifetime, reduce cost, as well as provide and retain high value. In a material world, these are features that contribute to wealth and prosperity. In a nutshell, modularity provides large value and has low associated costs. These are good implications for individual and community well-being.

If modular design is followed, then the type of interoperability of using building blocks leads us to a Pattern Language of technology. In this pattern language, the modules or building blocks serve as the sentences of a larger language, or technology infrastructure.


Products should be designed so that they can be scaled up or down - such as by addition of new modules, or using multiples of a part in parallel. For example, a solar concentrator system designed according to the principle of scalability should be a linear design (see Solar Power Generator), so that it could be enlarged either by lengthening or widening the array.

Localization of Material Sourcing and of Production

For community resilience, ability to use local resources is key. While it is important that a community have this ability for essential needs, it is optional, though desirable, for other nonessential items.

Using local resources may necessitate that a given community have additional technology to produce a certain item. For example, if a given community does not have the conditions to grow a certain crop easily, it may want to invest in the additional technology required to grow that crop successfully. Or, if a certain community does not have adequate water, it should invest in well-drilling or roof-catchment technology, instead of importing water from unsecured sources.

A community should thus, in general, strive to increase its technology base to accommodate the provision of all essentials, and not settle on its ability to trade to procure these essentials, as trade may be vulnerable to disruption. Trade is quite acceptable for non-essential items, such as musical instruments, since disruption of such supply does not threaten the survival of a community. The level of technology in which a community is autonomous should be determined on practical grounds.

Moreover, in today's world, we already hear about 'produced locally.' We should add 'sourced locally' to our vocabulary - as resilience implies not only local production, but also local sourcing. Local sourcing typically requires that a community have additional technological infrastructure and knowhow for providing the necessary feedstocks.

Localization Levels

  • Level 1 - production is local
  • Level 2 - sourcing of materials used in production is local
  • Level 3 - raw material production is local
  • Level 4 - production machinery used in the production process above is open source and locally fabricated

Localization applies to the creation of natural economies, or those economies based on the substance of their own, natural resources, free of supply chain disruptions.

An example of Level 3 is that local aluminum is made by Smelting aluminum from local clays.

If localization is taken to all the 4 levels, for all necessities of sustaining its population - that means that a region is autonomous, and as such, has no built-in tendency to wage war for others' resources. This is the critical point of localization - its benign effect on global geopolitical struggle. In simple words, people don't kill and steal.

The GVCS 50


3d Printer

an additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is printed by laying down successive layers of material, just like a printer except in 3D.

3d Scanner

a device that can generate a 3D digital scan from a real-life object, where the file can be used to reproduce the object in 3D with a device such as the 3D printer or CNC Precision Multimachine.

50 kW Wind Turbine

a device that produces electrical power from wind energy, scalable in units of 50 kW.

Aluminum Extractor from Clay

a device that produces aluminum from clay by dissolving the aluminum from aluminosilicate (clay), and then electrolyzing the resulting compound to form pure aluminum.


a piece of excavating equipment or digger consisting of a digging bucket on the end of a two-part articulated arm for digging trenches or large holes.

Bakery Oven

device for heating various forms of dough into breads and other baked goods.


a device that compresses hay and other light and dispersed materials into more compact bales.

Bioplastic Extruder

An extruder takes a charge of plastic and extrudes a sheet or other profile of useful form, such as greenhouse glazing or water tubing.


a high-traction, heavy earth-moving machine indispensible for building ponds, berms, and other permacultural earthforms, as well as for other tasks such as building roads or clearing land.

CEB Press

a high performance machine for producing Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB) from onsite soil, at production rates of up to 16 bricks per minute.

Cement Mixer

a device that homogeneously combines cement, aggregate such as sand or gravel, and water to form concrete.


a machine used for reducing wood or other materials into smaller parts, such as chips or shreds.

CNC Circuit Mill

a computer-controlled device that can produce electrical circuits by milling and drilling on copper-clad circuit boards.

CNC Precision Multimachine

a multipurpose, precision CNC machining and metal cutting device for milling, lathing, drilling to make precision parts; includes surface grinding and cold-cutmetal sawing.

CNC Torch/Router Table

a computer-controlled cutting table for metal where a moving torch head is used to produce precision metal parts in a fraction of the time that it takes to do so manually .

Dairy Milker

device which harvests milk automatically from milk-producing livestock.

Dimensional Sawmill

a dimensional sawmill is a circular blade sawmill with 2 blades that is used for producing dimensional lumber in one pass.

Electric Motor/Generator

a device that functions as a motor when energized with a voltage, which can also function as an electrical generator when it is spun.

Gasifier Burner

a clean and efficient burner that gasifies the material that is being burned prior to combustion.

Hay Cutter

a device that cuts grass, hay, straw, or other light biomass for haying, baling, or combining.

Hay Rake

a mechanical implement for a tractor that rakes hay or other light materials into windrows or other formations for drying or baling.

Hydraulic Motors

a mechanical actuator that converts high-pressure fluid flow into rotation.

Induction Furnace

an electrical furnace in which the heat is applied by induction heating of metal, providing clean, versatile, compact, energy-efficient, and well-controlled melting compared to flame furnaces.

Industrial Robot

a robotic arm which can perform certain human tasks – such as welding or milling – for performing tasks that are not better done by humans.

Ironworker Machine

a device that can instantly cut steel and punch holes in metal thicknesses of 1".

Laser Cutter

an industrial machine that can make precision, finish cuts in a wide array of substrates, such as metal, wood, or plastic.

Linear Solar Concentrator

an infinitely-scalable, linear device which concentrates solar radiation onto a linear target for generating heat or steam toproduce electricity.


a bucket attachment to a tractor that can be used for digging or loading of soil and other loose materials.

Metal Rolling

a metal forming process in which metal stock is passed through a pair of rolls to produce a desired shape, such as flat bar, angle, or u-channel.


a small-scale harvester-thresher for mechanical harvesting of any grain crops, with a cutting swath of about 3 feet in width.


a small, 18 hp version of the full-sized tractor for powering a wide range of implements in agriculture and utility duties.

Modern Steam Engine

an engine where an external heat source is used to turn water into steam, and the steam in turn moves reciprocating pistons to provide shaft power.

Nickel Iron Batteries

long-life batteries that have a track record of lasting 50 or more years.

Open Source Automobile

a wheeled motor vehicle for transporting people.

Open Source Truck

a larger version of an automobile with a bed for transporting loads.

Open Source Welder

a device used to make strong, permanent bonds in metal by melting and fusing the metal.


a device that compresses shredded pieces of biomass or other substances to compact, flowable pellets.

Plasma Cutter

a device to cut metal using a plasma torch.

Power Cube

a multipurpose, self-contained, hydraulic power unit that consists of an engine coupled to a hydraulic pump.

Press Forge

a device for shaping metal by the application of a shaping die and a continuous pressure or force.

Rod and Wire Mill

a subset of metal rolling, used to make shafts, rebar, thin rods, and down to wire.

Rototiller and Soil Pulverizer

a tractor implement that tills soil with blades via rotary action.


a set of mechanical shovels that prepare soil for planting without causing a hardpan typical of rototiller tilling.

Heat Exchanger

a device that transfers thermal energy from one medium to another, such as combustion heat to generate steam from water.


a versatile, 4-wheel drive, hydraulically-driven, skid-steering tractor with 18 to 200 horsepower capacity for agriculture, construction and other utility duties.


a piece of construction equipment that uses a cutting wheel for digging trenches, laying pipe, cable, or drainage.

Universal Power Supply (UPS)

This is a combination power supply for applications from off-grid power to supplying power to welders, induction furnaces, and plasma cutters.

Universal Rotor

a tractor-mounted rotor that can be fitted with a wide array of toolheads, such as string trimmer, posthole digger, tree planting auger, slurry mixer, and many others.

Universal Seeder

a tractor-pulled seeder than can plant any seed, from small seeds like clover to large seeds such as potatoes.

Well-Drilling Rig

a device for digging deep water wells.




Design Principles of the GVCS 

  • Open Source -  freely publish our 3d designs, schematics, instructional videos, budgets, and product manuals on our open source wiki and we harness open collaboration with technical contributors.
  • Low-Cost - The cost of making or buying our machines is, on average, 8x cheaper than buying from an Industrial Manufacturer, including an average labor cost of hour for a GVCS fabricator.
  • Modular - Motors, parts, assemblies, and power units can interchange, where units can be grouped together to diversify the functionality that is achievable from a small set of units.
  • User-Serviceable - Design-for-disassembly allows the user to take apart, maintain, and fix tools readily without the need to rely on expensive repairmen.
  • DIY - (do-it-yourself) The user gains control of designing, producing, and modifying the GVCS tool set.
  • Closed Loop Manufacturing - Metal is an essential component of advanced civilization, and our platform allows for recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies - thereby allowing for cradle-to-cradle manufacturing cycles
  • High Performance - Performance standards must match or exceed those of industrial counterparts for the GVCS to be viable.
  • Flexible Fabrication - It has been demonstrated that the flexible use of generalized machinery in appropriate-scale production is a viable alternative to centralized production.
  • Distributive Economics - Encourage the replication of enterprises that derive from the GVCS platform as a route to truly free enterprise - along the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.
  • Industrial Efficiency - In order to provide a viable choice for a resilient lifestyle, the GVCS platform matches or exceeds productivity standards of industrial counterparts.

2012-2013 Plan

OSE Project Outline 2012-2013. from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

For more information see: http://opensourceecology.org/http://opensourceecology.org/wikihttp://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Civilization_Starter_Kit_DVD_v0.01, and http://opensourceecology.org/gvcs.php

Get involved: http://opensourceecology.org/join.php

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