BFI Challenge & Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes

Here is the short Explainer Video about the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) that we promised – pure inspiration:

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

The quality is amazing. Credits go to Isaiah of Encyclopedia Pictura (video production company responsible for Björk’s Wanterlust animations), who is one of our True Fans. We plan to translate the video to many languages and to spread virally to recruit True Fans. If you are inspired – Subscribe! We’re at 155 True Fans.

You can download the raw file without the voice-over – for dubbing into other languages. The file in English is here. (note: the link at the end has been changed to – forthcoming)

From the video:

We used this video in our application to the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) Challenge. Further credits go to Brandin Watson, True Fan – for doing the first cut of the application – without which we would not apply since we’re simply too busy on the ground. In retrospect – who knows, we may even win.

Here is the rest of our application. The application is rushed, since some last minute fires prevented me from giving it full attention in a final edit. Nonetheless, it was a good chance to refine the message, and we thank Isaiah for the serious injection of clarity. Please comment on the application – how would you answer the questions? How to explain the power of GVCS in addressing pressing world issues? What to focus on in the application? We tried to stay simply on the GVCS, no more – not the lifestyle, political, ecological, or economic implications.

Global Village Construction Set

1. Summarize your proposal in 50 words or less:

We are developing the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) – an advanced industrial economy-in-a-box that can be replicated inexpensively anywhere in the world. The GVCS is like a Lego set of modular building blocks which that work together for creating sustainable, regenerative, resilient communities.

2. Describe the critical need your solution addresses:

Our goal is to eliminate the basic driving force behind resource conflicts. Our prototype village aims to demonstrate that we can create a complete economy from local resources on ~1000 acres via regenerative resource use – for ecological living with modern-day comforts, minus resource conflicts.

3. Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.

The GVCS provides people with technology to do more with less – to live a high quality life in ways that do not disrupt vital ecological support systems. By pushing the limit of resource use to the ability to utilize local resources via the use of high, appropriate technology – we can transcend the need for weaponry, to focus on ‘livingry.’ Key to this is the integration of open source methods – the methods of open, collaborative development that has already been demonstrated with open source software. We are extending this development model to hardware – and demonstrating ~8-fold cost reduction of resulting products. A global community of developers helps to produce designs, plans, and prototypes, until high-quality products, with improved performance compared to their industrial counterparts – are created at a fraction of the cost. We are at the initial stages of our experiment. We have 8 prototypes, 1 full product release, and 32 more items to develop. However, we have already demonstrated that parts, modules, motors, and even power units may be interchanged between different machines – like a Lego set for real construction – thereby producing breakthroughs in cost/performance ratios. By design – ecological integration allows for plug-and-play modularity and interoperability of many tools. This leads to lifetime design via principles of the modularity, design-for-disassembly, as well as transparency and simplicity. Moreover, the GVCS serves as a universal constructor – as it includes tools for CNC machining and automation, which allow for digitally-assisted self-replication of the entire package. The end results is that people now gain full control of their productive technology base, thereby transcending material scarcity – as a foundation for evolving to higher pursuits – or freedom from geopolitical compromises of resource conflicts.

4. How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?

We are creating an integrated ecology of products that provide all the needs of humans, and they are developed by a broad network of True Fans and supporters. We are proposing high-tech neosubsistence – or the capacity to live from local resources by use of advanced, appropriate technology, without requiring any compromise on quality of life. We are showing a clear and well-defined route for using existing technology, but using it in an integrated fashion to break performance/cost limits. We are also demonstrating the concept of technological recursion or bootstrapping – where access to one tool allows access to more advanced tools and techniques. In the limit, we aim to show that we can even produce aluminum from clay (or other metals) or silicon from sand – if we have the open knowhow and energy to do that – on a local level. This is beyond most people to imagine – but we approach it from the point that if we can get the cost of infrastructures down by a factor of ~8 – and apply this cost reduction to proven technology such as solar concentrator electric power – then solar electricity can be produced abundantly throughout most of the world. With access to such electricity, or even access to modern steam engines running on pelletized biomass – we can support the processes required for an advanced industrial economy. While this may be as much as 10 years into the future, we are showing initial results that are clearly validating our cost reduction, and therefore feasibility, requirements.

5. Compare and contrast your initiative.

We are the only organization that we know of that combines appropriate technology, high technology, resilient community development, sustainable living, economic development, automation, open source product development, community construction, open source economic development, and livelihood topics – all in one effort. There are numerous examples of each of the above, too many to mention.

6. Describe your implementation plan.

The strategy is to pursue a combination of our 1000 True Fans crowd-funding campaign, where people subscribe at $10/month for 2 years (we have 152 subscribers so far), Production Earnings, and other grants. For the first, we plan on deploying a small version of 50 mile per gallon-equivalent, modern steam engine-powered Dymaxion Car with an on-board pelletizer to produce fuel pellets from newspapers. This will be deployed on an awareness/publicity tour on several continents to gather support, until the 1000 True Fans and other collaborators are recruited. Product earnings involve a 4-person flexible fabrication facility with earning potential of between $1-5k per person per week, based on digitally-assisted fabrication of tractors, cars, CEB presses, CNC torch tables, and all other tools of the GVCS. We have already demonstrated earning potential of $5k per automated CEB Press, where materials are $3k and we sell at $8k (still 6x lower than the competition). This is in addition to further proposal writing and viral distribution thereof through our expanding networks, leveraging forums such as the BFI Challenge entry, TED Fellows application, and other venues of mass publicity.

7. Provide details regarding the team and/or partners you have assembled.

Marcin Jakubowski, project leader and sparkplug
William Cleaver, prototyping – on-the-ground fabrication and testing
Isaiah Saxon, video production – producing Explainer Video genre material to clarify message to audiences
Devin Balkind, project website and funding development – we are currently deploying
Karl Petersen, Heat Engine project leader – 50 years of experience in modern, light steam power systems
Scott Gallant, Modular Building project leader – designed the latest modular housing units from CEB
Adam Mitchell, Resource Mapping leader – we are putting together a worldwide resource map to facilitate project development
Adam Schilling, Project Publicity and Advertising – currently his team is designing a massive multiplayer online game connecting the GVCS to real communities in South America, where game proceeds actually build real communities
David Wilhelm, Project Management – perhaps the key to scaling the project to massive parallel development (10-20 projects in parallel development); he’s a professional who worked with Fortune 300 companies, and has a large database of engineers and prototypers capable of delivering results.

8. What are the primary obstacles?

The primary obstacle is peoples’ awareness. It is difficult to get people to think out of the box – that totally sustainable, regenerative, resilient economies are a choice – and that we are proposing a solution to implement these technologies. To address this, we are testing the tools and building a real community. Even more importantly, we are putting considerable energy to creating essential Explainer Videos that help people to get their head around the concepts.

9. What range of funding is needed to bring your project to fruition.

We need about $10k per prototype, with 3 prototypes per Full Product Release, of each of the 40 technologies. This totals about $1.2M, which would allow rapid parallel development with the assistance of a professional project manager. The 1000 True Fans campaign is providing an ongoing stream of funding, and we aim to increase that to 1000 as our next milestone. For financial sustainability, we will use a combination of True Fans and product sales. We are currently building a flexible production facility with our CEB press – which will be run by 4 full-time digital fabricators. We will produce tractors, CEB presses, CNC torch tables, cars, renewable energy equipment – all the tools in the GVCS – for bootstrap financing.


  1. Kevin Atkinson

    Hi Marcin,

    I finally got around to doing the True Fan thing. Glad to be part of it.

    An funny coincidence: this is my second chance to be on the same webpage as the Wanderlust guys: a couple years ago I scored a post on motionographer, and the post on the amazing wanderlust promo was next after mine:

    (I’m the guy doing the weird, interactive video effect)

    What is it with openfarmtech and film/vfx geeks?

    Hm. Answering my own question: we build imaginary worlds on film, and probably envy someone like you building a new world for real.

  2. LucasG

    I’ve added stuff to

    If someone helps with the transcription (1st step), then we can time it (2nd step) and translate away (3rd step).

    I suggest we tell which tools work to edit the video etc. Help each other out so we can flashmob this into existence.

    Hey, it’s only 2 minutes x 20 languages or so! 😉

  3. Adam Mitchell

    This is brilliant! — a sign of how powerful an open, collaborative approach can be!

  4. Marcin

    Here’s the script from Isaiah:

    Script for GVCS in 2 Minutes:
    Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that for the last two years have been building…
    The Global Village Construction Set – a set of the 40 Industrial Machines that it takes to create a…
    small civilization with modern day comforts.
    The Global Village Construction set is like a life-size Lego set, in which motors, parts, and power units can interchange.
    Thus far, we have prototyped 8 of the 40 machines and have published all of the…
    3d designs…
    instructional videos…
    and budgets on our wiki.
    The cost of making or buying our machines are, on average, 8x cheaper than buying from an Industrial Manufacturer.
    The compressed earth brick press is our first product release and is the world’s first high performance, open source model. This machine allows one operator to load raw dirt right from the building site to create an insulative, strong building material. Our machine can do 16 bricks a minute. Thats 5000 bricks in a day – enough for a solid home.
    The MicroTrac Walk Behind Tractor is a perfect solution for small scale agricultural uses or where land features require a more flexible tool than a full size Tractor. The front mount allows attachments for tilling, mowing, and chipping.
    The LifeTrac Multipurpose Tractor is the backbone of Global Village Construction Set. The Lifetrac combines the power of a skid loader with the functionality of an agricultural or construction tractor.
    This year we also completed prototypes for our Drill Press, Self-replicating Torch Table, String Trimmer, and Soil Pulverizer.
    As you can see, we’ve got a lot more to do.

  5. LucasG

    Thanks for the script.

    I’ve zeroed the timing so now it’s a matter of finding the starting second for each section or phrase. Please look at to see if it’s done already, before doing it yourself!

    Once that is done, we enter parallel work for each language. I’d like to do Spanish: copy the text, translate, then record an audio file with the proper timing.

    If adjusting to time is difficult, I’d suggest recording with clear gaps so that segments can be adjusted by someone else, maybe using Audacity or similar audio software.

    After that, and maybe centralising the process again, the audio file can be used together with the raw voice-less file to create a language version, and published.

  6. Pawe?

    thnx for english version… polish translation is on the way 😉

  7. LucasG

    I’ll start with Spanish then! Timing can come in parallel! 😉

  8. Alex

    Hey Marcin, you speak Polish! It would be awesome if you did a Polski voice over =)

  9. LucasG now has the .srt file which can be used to create either subtitled videos or translated-voice versions (or both).

    If you speak a language other than English or Spanish, please translate away.

    Then someone (yourself or others) will use that to do the videos, which will be linked from here.

    True Fans x 10 anyone? 😉

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Luke Closs, Kit R. Kit R said: BFI Challenge & Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes (Factor e Farm Blog) video #resilience #eco […]

  11. Micah Glasser

    Bravo! I applaud everyone who has put effort into this. Marcin, if Bucky was still alive I’m convinced he would be a True Fan. I tell everyone I meet who I think might be interested about Open Source Ecology and the idea behind a GVCS. It can be very difficult to get the brilliant simplicity of these ideas across sometimes. So this video will be great. Now I can just whip out my smart phone and say “hey check out this video. This is something I’m really interested in right now.”

  12. Brandin

    The video is awesome! I am really glad that I was able to help out with the application. Keep up the inspiring work!

  13. LucasG

    This is my first attempt, using avidemux + mencoder with posibly wrong parameters. It’s visible with funny character-set, and not audible.

    I’ll try to make a better version tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you want to see it, go to

  14. LucasG

    After a few failed attempts, even with help from some friends, I ended up borrowing a Mac and converting the h264 file into an m4v file, which I then uploaded to my youtube account & then added the srt file with the transcription.

    The result is here: or here:

    And, with a bit of luck, it may be visible here:

    If you want to do another language, copy the transcription to the proper place below, in the same page, and translate away!

    1. Marcin

      Kdenlive .on Linux can also handle h264 files.

  15. LucasG

    Second attempt to include the video as a clickable image:

  16. Bill

    This is a very cool concept, and it’s wonderful to see you building it all as well.

    What are these tools powered on? I imagine thought has gone into how these would be “sustainably” fueled? Forgive me if I missed information on this, just give me your basic philosophy and practice when considering the energy involved in the construction, maintenance and running of these tools.

  17. LucasG

    Used audacity to create an mp3, then openshot to mix mov and mp3 into an mp4, then uploaded to youtube.

    Here it is:

    If people send me their mp3’s I can mix and upload.

    I just hope people don’t send me fake mp3’s!

  18. […] to the world of Open Source Ecology. See… for the corresponding update. This is the best short video that we have published to date. We used […]

  19. LucasG

    Polish translation added. It doesn’t show up fully automatically yet, so if someone helps me with that I’d be grateful. But it’s visible:

  20. elifarley

    Hi everybody,

    I have changed the link to the videos both here and in the wiki front page. Now the video is universalsubtitles-powered, meaning that anyone can edit a translation or add new translated subtitles without even leaving this page! Also, it’s nicer to have all translations available in the same video, I think.

    I have also uploaded the Polish translation, improved a bit the English transcript, and then created a Portuguese translation, with the help of Google Translator Toolkit, which by the way can load an SRT file and make the process of translating easier – recommended.

  21. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kit R, Open Source Ecology. Open Source Ecology said: Blog Comment on BFI Challenge & Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes by elifarley […]

  22. […] quality of life,” writes Marcin Jakubowski, the project leader and “sparkplug,” on the group’s blog. “It is difficult to get people to think out of the box—that totally sustainable, […]

  23. […] Image credit: Marcin Jakubowski/Open Farm Tech […]

  24. […] credit: Marcin Jakubowski/Open Farm Tech Jaymi has already raved about 11 open source projects that make free information rock, and we know […]

  25. Dean

    Hi, I found you guys through Universal Subtitles (you’re ranked highly in our stats today!)… this is an awesome project! Have you considered a kickstarter project? I think that might be a great place to go (you could even offer equipment there and/or pre-sell to help cover initial R&D costs). Anyways, good luck and let us know if there’s anything more we can do to get the word out.


  26. […] info here. Filed under: art, open source hardware — by johngineer, posted January 11, 2011 at 10:41 am […]

  27. Marcin

    Here is a blog in Russian:

  28. Marcin

    Here is an excellent overview of our work from a True Fan:

  29. […] Global Village Construction Set [OSE via Gizmodo] Tagged:2kcivcivilizationculturefiraxisscience […]

  30. […] as just the beginning.  They hope to provide ways to build whole communities. According to their blog, they plan to develop the “most essential machines for building a ‘small civilization with […]

  31. […] Nutzungsduer erhöhen und vielseitgier sind. Doch es geht sogar noch eine Nummer gößer: mit dem Global Village Construction Set. Das wird in der Kurzbeschreibung als Lego-Set modularer Funktionsbausteine zur Errichtung […]

  32. SVEA

    A MANURE SPREADER WILL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL YOU CAN MAKE, to accompany the tractor or horses or oxen.

    Read Holy Shit, Managing Manure to Save Mankind by Gene Lodgson