Design Review: A Tool for Urban Homesteaders

By June 12, 2012Building Ideas

On Friday afternoons, we meet as an office for design review meetings.  We each take a turn coming up with the topic for the week, whether it’s presenting a project on the boards, developing an idea on our minds, or visiting a project under construction.  Basically, anything that helps us gain new perspectives for our work is fair game.  For last week’s design review, we left the office to attend Salt Lake Mayor’s Green Team Meeting. Here’s what was e-mailed to us in advance:

“Have you ever wondered if you could generate enough solar to power your household needs? Or how much food you could produce in your backyard if you took the time to garden? Come hear Kevin Bell, Salt Lake City’s GIS Coordinator, discuss how Salt Lake City has quantified the sun-shed and the food-shed by developing a new technology that can be applied to sustainability in many ways.  The tool he has created allows Salt Lake City residents to quantify how much food they can grow in their yards and the size and placement of a solar array on their property.”

Well, we wondered.  So we learned more about The Solar Salt Lake Project. Utilizing initial data collected by the NSA prior to the 2002 Olympics (for security measures) that was further developed by environmental number crunchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Kevin Bell and SLC Geographic Information Systems developed a tool for analyzing solar potential for individual properties and neighborhoods within the city. We used this online tool recently to help guide sustainability decisions on a potential LEED H project in the Avenues neighborhood and found it informative and easy to navigate. Whether your interests are quantifying how much sunlight your garden plot has or where the best solar thermal orientation is in your neighborhood, this resource is invaluable for the urban homesteader or anyone seeking to maximize the solar potential of their property.