Infrastructure & Building
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”
― R. Buckminster Fuller
The infrastructure and building domain is responsible for any building or maintenance tasks that arise within the community, whether that might be fixing a leaky faucet, pumping up bike tires, or building new compost toilets.
We apply as many natural building techniques as possible and follow permaculture design principles when we plan maintenance or new building projects in Suderbyn. In order to minimize both the environmental footprint and amount of resources used (time, money, materials, etc.), we focus heavily on the permaculture principles of observation, planning and circular systems.
Who are we?
The infrastructure team is a very flexible and oft-changing one. Everyone in the community can partake in the tasks related to this domain, but usually there are at least a few residents present who dedicate most of their time to this domain. Additionally, the levels of expertise and experience vary a lot between residents of Suderbyn. Those who are more knowledgeable share that knowledge with others. They do this by answering questions, guiding projects, and/or hosting workshops. At times when there are no or few “professionals”, the internet and books help us where we need it. Suderbyn is a place to learn, so there are no requirements of previous experience and everyone can participate in most tasks.
What are the tasks and ambitions of the domain?
- Maintaining: the property, workshop-areas, infrastructure (buildings, energy-systems, internal spaces etc), carpool, bicycles and more.
- Building new structures or upgrading existing structures
- Developing facilities for entrepreneurial activities
- Creating and maintaining a learning-environment connected to the domain, its processes and tasks
- Holding workshops, practical or theoretical, connected to the domain (e.g. energy solutions/systems, natural building techniques, architecture/design, small DIY projects (cutlery, tools, musical instruments etc), beautification or artistic expressions (sculpturing, painting, craftsmanship)).
Limiting factors of the domain
Although there are plenty of opportunities, it is good to know beforehand that some of Suderbyn’s plans are hindered by local legislation. The presence of a military base in the area limits the options to build additional living structures in this part of Gotland. We would, for example, like to build “tiny houses”, but can not do so due to the withholding of permits. We are still improving our existing structures and adding necessary additions, and there is definitely never a lack of projects on the domain’s list despite these limitations.
Besides these legal barriers, the lack of a stable expert workforce can sometimes make things difficult. When there is a task that requires high levels of expertise, but none of our current residents feel comfortable attempting it, this can cause a time delay and often lead to the necessity of employing an expert.
In order to keep track of the work and plans, we meet once every week (everyone is welcome to join). During these meetings, the list of ongoing and future tasks is examined, and the tasks with highest priority are presented first. The maintenance, repairing or problem-solving part of the domain can sometimes demand prioritization as we aim to act according to the needs of the community. Anyone can sign up to be the “engine” of a task, but they can also simply offer to help where help is needed.
What can volunteers expect?
Volunteers can expect to gain knowledge and experience in a broad variety of building and maintenance related tasks, often from a permaculture perspective. They can expect to choose their own workload, by being free to sign up for whichever tasks they are interested in and feel comfortable attempting. If they are interested, they can choose tasks which might seem challenging, and they can rest assured that they can always ask for help and advice if they require it; this is a place to learn, and immediate perfection is not expected.
What does the domain expect from volunteers?
Generally, the most important characteristics of volunteers interested in the infrastructure domain are strong motivation and desire to learn. Expertise is valuable, but this can also be gained quickly. Besides these things, work within this domain goes more smoothly if the volunteer is able to acknowledge when they need help or when they might have made a mistake; if they are able to follow Suderbyn’s structures and respect its practices; if they can work well with others (even though independent work is possible most of the time); and if they are open to the idea that some problems might have multiple solutions