15-0202 v2.1/Living Aleutian Home/Aleutian Islands Agricultural Viability (Part I)

QUESTION

Part I

Due to the unique nature of the Aleutian Islands as compared to agriculturally viable Lower 48 sites, we would like to be considered for an exception similar to 102-E1 11/2009: Sensitive Ecological Habitats:

“There is an exception for projects whose primary purpose is related to protection or interpretation of sensitive ecological habitats… in order to avoid introducing elements that could compromise or threaten the viability of the existing bio-network.”

While the project is not “related to protection or interpretation of sensitive ecological habitats”, the Aleutian Islands themselves are a sensitive habitat. For the following reasons, we believe that removing the native vegetation from the site and planting more would actually be detrimental to the sustainability of the site and the project:

- While about 4,000 (of the 34,000) square feet of the site consists of a native tundra environment with edible plants, which will be preserved during construction, the rest is mainly a brushy alder species. Alder’s main ecological role is a pioneer species, to invade barren soils and provide organic matter and nitrogen-fixing services. We believe that removing this ground cover would be detrimental to the health of the site because of the limited topsoil. It is likely that if they are removed, the thin layer of topsoil currently protected by the alders would blow or wash away in the Aleutian winds and rains before the new plants could get established, permanently damaging the ecological viability of the site.

Natural resources are abundantly available in the surrounding area, so much so that subsistence lifestyles and practices are still common on the Aleutian Chain. There is no lack of native edible plant species in close proximity. To use fossil fuel driven machines to rip up what is growing already on the site (and protecting the site from erosion), then import plants from far away, to amend soil using more imports so that they can survive, just to grow plants whose function would be equally served by wild plants already established and productive nearby, seems counter to the goals of the LBC.

Please consider these factors while considering us for an exception to the Urban Agriculture Requirement. Perhaps documentation of subsistence harvesting of wild edibles near Sand Point would suffice as proof of local food production or reduction of the required area such that the existing 4,000 square feet of tundra vegetation would suffice.

ANSWER 

"The whole of the Aleutian Islands is not considered a sensitive ecological habitat as defined in the Standard under I-01 Limits to Growth. If it were, building there would not be allowed under the Living Building Challenge unless the project's primary purpose was related to protection or interpretation of said habitat. Therefore, a new exception will not be created. However, there are several ways this Imperative could be met. 1. If there is an ecologically based reason to exclude an undisturbed portion of the property from the Project Area, that is allowed on a case-by-case basis. See the May 2013 Site Petal Handbook (SPH), Project Area and Figure 2 on p 4-5. Such an exclusion would increase the FAR and therefore reduce the area of agriculture required. If the project team believes that the Project Area should exclude part of the site for ecological reasons, they should submit documentation (site plan and other supporting data) to the Institute for confirmation. 2. Ethnobotanicals, for edible or topical use, are an allowed alternative to traditional agricultural strategies (see SPH p.17). 3. This Imperative can be met by Scale Jumping if there is not enough available land on the project site for the amount of Urban Agriculture required (see SPH p 19).


Post ID 2114

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