The Project


The overarching goal has been to design a project that will actually increase the vitality of life and life-support systems in every way possible (rather than degenerating them as almost all other human systems do). The project endeavors to do this NOT despite human needs, but in the course of meeting them (namely Ron’s and his friends’ and family’s and neighbors’, but also all living species members for the foreseeable future).

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.55.11 PM


No project is an island, and regeneration and resilience do not happen in fragmented systems. Ramboland is an endeavor focused on a neighborhood, and in terms of its real, specific nature, AND as it represents fields of practice and industries (see Philosophy for more).

In our community meetings, we discovered that we have several neighbors with special needs and use wheelchairs. These neighbors are using the existing driveway on our site and then an insufficient grass alley to access their wheelchair ramps in the backs of their houses. Suddenly we didn’t hate asphalt quite as much! We also found that these, and other neighbors were not only tolerant of, but very excited about the resource surpluses (energy, water) and ecosystem regeneration work we are doing, enabling us to expand our area of influence on this project beyond the otherwise arbitrary property line.

Likewise we’ve found many schools interested in building their educational programs and research around the project.   


(but the building IS pretty cool)

Rambo Model rotate
Animation courtesy of Julia Grimes and Kevin Malawski.


The Rambo Project (aka Ramboland), will far exceed ADA requirements, and has been designed not only with Ron’s needs in mind, but with Ron’s insistence, the needs of any other future occupant with any level of special needs. In addition to extra wide doors, automated mechanical and electrical systems, suspension system between bedroom and bathroom, adjustable height furniture, cooktop, sink, and appliances, and even wheelchair accessible planter beds, and a wheelchair accessible ecologically restorative “yard”, the whole site is designed to be accessible to all citizens.

Rambo Sketchup animation
Rendering by Kate Pechinka, animation by Max Zahniser




Ramboland Location. Lancaster City, PA




Modeled energy use: 5,000 kWh/year (electricity, not counting water treatment systems)

Energy supply from a complete rooftop solar array: 40,000 kWh/year 

Every feasible measure is taken to reduce energy consumption of the home. This includes careful massing and orientation of the building, wall and roof construction details, insulation, window performance, and equipment selection.

A battery system will be used within a smart-micro-grid, to eliminate all utility costs, and even generate some income (net-metering legislation currently allows a very limited amount). Our water smart-micro-grid will require some a-typical energy uses, but not nearly the surplus the energy system will produce. Excess energy beyond this will be shared with neighbors and provide power to systems that benefit the surrounding area. If funding permits, one or more accessible electric vehicles will be added to the smartgrid, and perhaps shared with other neighbors in wheelchairs.  

Screenshot 2016-07-19 21.06.47
Typical energy use profile for a home of this size and in this place (left), and the project (right)




From the 5000 gallon rainwater collection cistern, extensive natural and technological water treatment, and low-flow and low-flush fixtures, the property is designed to be a net-positive hydrologic system, needing NO municipally supplied water or sewer connection, and sustaining all living systems on site while having a positive impact on groundwater.

water sankey
Water system map by Max Zahniser




The only human activity that really trumps buildings in terms of environmental impacts in a couple of categories, is agriculture. We are producing and wasting more and more food, with less and less nutrition, and more and more massive negative impacts, particularly on our water system.

Ramboland will feature an edible food forest style approach focusing on sound, native permacultural techniques to grow fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs all around the yard. A “no mow” design made of “steppable” plants and flowers will replace a traditional grass lawn in areas with no vegetation or living space. Any yard “maintenance” is really just food harvesting.



In concert with the indoor water uses and treatment strategies the whole site will be totally self-sustaining from a water standpoint, using ZERO potable water for irrigation, and to produce a percentage of Ron’s diet using food forests, gardens, and other Permaculture, assisted succession, and cutting edge sustainable landscape approaches.


The greenest material is the one you DON’T buy. Unless you’re reclaiming something destined for landfill or other not-so-green disposal. Reclaimed/reused materials are often also much better for indoor air quality, as they are usually old enough to have either largely off-gassed any emissions already, or didn’t have as many chemicals in them to begin with as compared to new materials today.

Like all optimization, we start with minimizing the needs. In this case the need for material use. The average new building has 8000 chemicals in the (source: greenguard). For the sake of lifecycle product and material impacts, as well as air quality excellence, which is key to Ron’s future health and comfort, we are using a simple materials palette of as many reclaimed wood and steel elements as possible. We’ll use no typical ceilings, flooring materials (beautiful polished concrete floors are also great surfaces for wheelchairs), and nearly no virgin (new) materials at all, particularly within the breathing zone.

Project Rambo_Int Rend_02

Rendering by Kate Pechinka




In addition to other indoor pollutant source control strategies, and aggressive air filtration systems, indoor plants will help to effectively remove CO2, VOCs, and other indoor air pollutants that are brought in by occupants and their belongings, and will also produce much higher than average levels of indoor oxygen. The project is designed for exceptional daylighting, as well as views to indoor and outdoor vegetation (proven biophilic effects), and natural airflow. This is all optimized in concert for the sake of Ron’s and other occupants physical, mental and emotional health.


Rendering by Kate Pechinka


The project is targeting and on track for LEED for Homes Platinum, and Living Building Challenge. We are also considering the WELL building standard.


The City of Lancaster’s first official Sustainability Demonstration Project! The City has been incredibly supportive, as has the PA State Department of Environmental Protection. The project has also been embraced by the architecture department at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and the architecture course at Franklin & Marshall, and is being included in a water systems research project at UCLA, as well as Indoor Air Quality, Lighting, and Energy research projects with other schools and companies.
For design progress images see our Facebook page.


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