Living Systems

reACT’s living systems include an interior hydroponic wall demonstrating how herbs and greens can be grown year round and minimize water use; an exterior vegetable garden demonstrating the Three Sisters system and how a kitchen garden can be sustained in an urban environment; two movable green walls demonstrating vertical gardening and wellness to be achieved through aromatherapy and connection to nature; as well as exterior landscaping that demonstrate the principles of xeriscape gardening.

Various water systems are used for different applications, e.g., the interior vertical hydroponic garden demonstrates one method of water conservation by using a closed-loop subsurface irrigation system with small amounts of trace minerals and nutrients. Leafy greens, salad greens, small herbs and small edibles will be grown using this system which will be placed in the kitchen. This growing system only uses as much water as the plants need and recirculates water to minimize water usage. By installing it indoors, edibles can be grown year-round and further limits the need for water replacement because there will be less evaporation in the climate controlled interior. Our hydroponic system dramatically reduces the amount of nutrients required to grow these edible plants, and does not require pesticides or herbicides. Our aim is to use recycled grey water for the hydroponic system, which will reach non-potable reuse standards.

Landscaping benefits from xeriscape techniques in order to conserve water. Essentially, xeriscape design achieves water conservation. The guiding principle is utilizing plants and designs that reduce the amount of applied water and maximize the use of natural precipitation. Techniques include: choosing soil that drains quickly and stores water simultaneously; choosing regionally-specific, native plants; using mulch or plants that shade the soil (such as in the Three Sisters System); using soaker-hoses or drip-irrigation systems to avoid overwatering and evaporation; not cutting turf too short and reducing its footprint as much as possible. Low maintenance is an added benefit of a xeriscape garden. Wherever possible reACT’s landscape utilizes xeriscape and uses rainwater supplemented with gray-water filtered from the house for drip-irrigation. Moreover, reACT’s SmartHouse System will monitor weather data in order to control the drip-irrigation actions.

Dismountable green-wall panels and planted trays can travel between the exterior and inside the greenhouse (courtyard) for protection from frost and inclement conditions. These vertical gardens will grow a mix of aromatic plants. There are numerous wellness benefits in less clement seasons as well, when the walls live inside the greenhouse; the indoor human-nature connection and the plants chosen for their aroma therapeutic qualities will aid in improving both physical and psychological well-being. Inside the courtyard, the plants will also have the ability to work to improve indoor air quality and create a more nature connected indoor atmosphere for residents.

reACT’s living systems are designed to aid homeowners in their understanding of food producing plants and their production techniques, especially in relation to water usage and waste. The exterior barrel-composter allows for homeowners to minimize waste from food scraps and maximize the potential nutrients for the exterior landscape gardens, all the while raising the homeowners’ awareness of their agency to cycle leftover nutrients from their edible plants to the soil and then back into their plants. The living systems plan demonstrates the integration of sustainable innovations possible for ethically producing local food, and improving food security in low-socioeconomic communities. By creating sustenance for homeowners on site, the ecological footprint of their eating habits will be reduced dramatically.

Another important role of the living systems is to aid the formation of functional food webs around the exterior of the house. By bringing in a diverse array of plant and soil life, we hope to encourage thriving communities of beneficial microbes, insects, and other pollinators that create stable and diverse food webs. By creating habitat for these smaller organisms, we allow for larger organisms to move back into their natural habitat. Creating these functional food webs in close proximity to our house praises and honors these important creatures that allow us to survive. No matter where reACT is placed geographically, vegetation shall be tweaked to fit the biome and corresponding food webs indigenous to that locality. The main goal of living systems is to create a sense of harmony and balance between the house, its human residents and the surrounding ecosystems, which we feel is a fundamental step that humanity must take in order to evolve into a sustainable future where we live in symbiosis with the living systems around and within us.