Our 15-acre parcel on the southwest edge of Ann Arbor is surrounded by active, fallow or legacy farm fields, and barns, silos, hedgerows and dirt roads, placing us in a Rural Agriculture Zone according to LBC guidelines.

The site comprises old farm fields and hedgerows, with rolling topography of 3–30% slopes, and a small intermittent stream flowing across the west end. The prior monoculture farming practices exhausted the land’s fertility, using up the soil and exposing it to serious erosion.

Limits to Growth

Using methods of permaculture, we plan to restore the ecosystem so badly damaged by years of monoculture farming, and to halt suburban sprawl encroaching just to the north by returning this piece of land to its traditional use for food production. Beacon Springs will be registered as a working farm.

Historical records indicate that before its use for agriculture, this land was an oak-hickory savanna. Our plans focus on reinterpreting the native oak-hickory savanna such that, when combined with the permaculture farming, the two historical functions of this land will be optimized.

Urban Agriculture

The scope for the Living Building Challenge is limited to the area disturbed by the house-building project and driveway out to Tessmer Road, yielding an LBC Total Project Area of 2.5 acres.

Our Floor Area Ratio (FAR) requires that 50% of the project area will be used for food production. The portion of the LBC Total Project Area that is not physically covered by buildings, walkways or other conveyance areas will be planted, as part of the LBC project, using the same permaculture techniques planned for the broader Beacon Springs farming operation, producing food for the owners’ own table. The courtyard and south terrace gardens comprise a mix of food-producing plants, bushes, trees, and vines. These edible plants are supported by soil-building and nutrient-supplying native plants.

Habitat Exchange

To meet this Imperative, the owners made a donation toward a conservation easement acquisition sought by Legacy Land Conservancy. Founded in 1971, Legacy is Michigan’s oldest organization dedicated to the voluntary conservation of locally important land. To date, Legacy has helped protect over 8,400 acres (3,400 ha) of land that maintain fresh waters, working farms, and greenways in southern Michigan. Legacy has worked with over 100 landowners to protect their land in Jackson and Washtenaw counties.

In April 2016, Legacy was approached by the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan council to explore permanently protecting one of their six camps in the state of Michigan. Located on Wamplers Lake in southeast Jackson County, Michigan, this property’s 70 acres (28 ha) of wetlands help maintain local water quality through natural filtration, and the 40 acres (16 ha) of forest offer substantial habitat for wildlife. Permanently conserving this camp’s two forested lakefronts contributes long-term to lake water quality.

Car Free Living

Since the project is located in Living Transect L2, the project is exempt from Imperative 04 – Car Free Living – because transformation towards increased density and mixed-use development is not desired in this area. The project owners drive an electric vehicle, which demonstrates an effort to address the intent of this Imperative.

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