Friday, February 27, 2009

My Future Resort (p5) - Economics of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee, and outsourcing it to a crowd of people in the form of an open call. As an easy example, the Wikipedia's Crowdsourcing entry I just linked to is crowdsourced. Someone in a crowd made the move to write an entry on crowdsourcing, and various other people in the crowd over the years have added content to it. There was no employee to write the content, yet somehow the content is there and is just as good as what an employee could do. Crowdsourcing works, when implemented properly!

The term was coined in 2006 by Wired magazine, and in it's short amount of time it's had some amazing results. There's a list of examples here and here, but probably the most amazing to me is Wikipedia's success at being the biggest and most up-to-date encyclopedia, well beyond it's textbook counterparts.

Bringing this idea to the nudist venue has already happened at Sandy Terraces and a few other places, but leaves a lot to be desired. The economics side of it is working -- instead of members giving Sandy Terraces extra money for them to hire a maintenance crew, members can keep the money but are tasked with doing the maintenance themselves. The problem is that being forced to work is what nobody wants. This was one older group's main complaint against VVRC, which is why they aren't members.

Remember that a majority of the laws that impede our freedoms are the type where a choice is made for us. We have the choice to wear our pants baggy, but when the choice was made for us by lawmakers, it was struck down as unconstitutional. Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? I prefer a choice, which gives each person to option go either way depending on their circumstances. Going Pro-Life under some conditions can kill both the baby and the mother. Would you prefer a clothing-optional beach, or having the lawmakers make the choice for us? In my opinion, it's better for lawmakers to regulate the choices instead of making the choice for everybody. What authority do they have to decide what's best for me, when they don't even know me? I should have the option to smoke if I want to. I don't, and I don't like smelling smoke, but smoking shouldn't be banned because of my opinion. The government is doing the right thing by increasing the tax (a lot) on cigarettes to cover the cost of increased healthcare related to the them, and letting people make the choice. Why hasn't that idea of choice been carried over to nudist venues?

Here's how I would do it.

Let's assume that Alice and Bob are poor college students who want to tent camp at VVRC for the weekend. (I'm using names from here.) Based on their rates, it would be $26 per day grounds fees and $11 per night to camp. Three nights and two days would be a total of $74, which they both think is a bit expensive for their budget, especially since they need to put on clothes and go to town for decent food. (Remember they have no fridge or kitchen in a tent, so food is limited.) So far, it's a bit discouraging for them. And people wonder why the college generation doesn't go to campgrounds like these...

At my resort, they would have more choices thanks to a crowdsourced approach. They would be charged the same, but would have the option of very specific discounts. I'd have a markerboard in the lobby with all the tasks that need to be done, with due dates if needed, dollar amounts, volunteer spaces, and verification spaces.

Every week, there is a task of "mowing the lawn" worth $10. Also, there are a bunch of rocks that made it to the bottom of the pool so Carol (another guest) added the task to clean them out. The owner deemed this to be worth $4. Alice decides that she can clean the pool, and Bob decides that he can mow the lawn, so they both write their name in. They spend an hour or two working, and this reduces their bill to $60. (Victor "verifies" their work to ensure it was done satisfactorily, and closes the task on the marker board.) Both agree that it was well worth it, and they saved the resort from hiring someone to do the task. Alice and Bob are willing to go to the resort for the weekend, because they know they can do some work and bring the cost down to their budget while enjoying a clothes-free mini vacation.

Many resorts instead offer a discount to the younger generation. Has it been working? I don't have the numbers, but I'm guessing that it hasn't. My approach is better in two ways. First is that it gets people more involved through radical transparency. At the resorts I've visited, I've always felt like an outsider and am unable to help out. Full-time members have a connection that keeps them loyal and involved, and that same connection could be made with newbies over a weekend. Second is a part of prospect theory, where people make more aggressive decisions when faced with a loss. This human attribute is obvious when nude beaches are at risk of being closed. We fight hard to keep them open, but nudge softly when trying to get a new one. Stores make use of this attribute when offering coupons. Resorts can make use of this by charging the full price initially, and giving credit when tasks are completed.

Let's expand the idea further. Some resorts also keep motels, which Alice and Bob might want to rent instead. Each room could contain a markerboard just like the one in the lobby. A task might exist for "prepare the room for the next guests" worth $20. Alice and Bob can choose if they want to clean up after themselves and get a $20 credit, or have the resort hire a housekeeper (or volunteer) to do the task for the same price. If Alice notices that the motel room needs an improvement, such as fixing the door seal or replacing the shower head, she can add the task to the marker board and have management assign a dollar amount to it. If she's quick, she could get the door seal fixed and earn the credit on her own bill. (A rule may need to be made about this though, so the same person cannot identify and fix an issue, because they may try to create the issue for a discount.)

We should evaluate what's going on here from the resort's perspective. Older people come in and pay the normal price to enjoy not having to do any work. Younger and middle-aged people, who are able to do the work and generally have smaller budgets, come in and volunteer for some work to enjoy a cheaper stay. As the resort owner, everything costs the same no matter who does the task (volunteer or hired hand). Overall, the crowd will promptly identify tasks and the tasks will get completed in a timely matter by those with the greatest desire for a discount. As resort owner, all you need to do is associate costs with the tasks and keep the process running smoothly. There is no need to collect everyones money, and track all the things that need fixing (or forget about them), then hire people to do tasks or do them yourself (if you remember, eventually). Remember, you (the owner) can always volunteer for tasks just like everyone else.

Does this type of thing work? In a broad sense, the backpacker community is already doing it. Young people (mostly non-US people) like to get out of school and travel the world for a year before settling down. They have the option to stay at a hostel, which is a minimalistic motel with no room service or housekeepers. Basically, they're paying for a bed in a room with other guests. If they can't afford a typical hostel, they'll find one that offers a free room. Fruit plantations in Australia are an example -- backpackers can stay for free and get free meals, and some profit, as long as they work in the fields picking fruit. Many resorts, some even nudist ones, offer a free stay to backpackers who are willing to work. [UPDATE, 2010: The linked nudist resort has slowly become more of a sex venue, but they still seek workers.] If you take a week-long vacation to another country as a tourist, you'll likely be dealing with backpackers in some form who are working to pay for their much longer (often up to a year) vacation.

The idea is spreading... More recently, a local jail started using the crowdsourcing concept. Inmates can get out earlier by doing cleanup work, which saves the jail from bringing in a worker for $30/hr.

Fancy resorts, like the Terra Cotta Inn, may not have success with task-based crowdsourcing. I doubt that a businessman would be happy to walk into a room and see "remove huge spider web from behind TV. $1" on the markerboard. Fancy resorts are expected to have housekeeping, and hide the internal activities of maintenance. Is it possible to find crowdsourcing success in places such as this? Perhaps, but only if I keep expanding the idea.

In a typical resort, the owner charges people enough to make profit and cover costs of maintenance and improvements. We've already short-circuited the cost of maintenance by crowdsourcing it, so people don't have to pay for maintenance costs if they do it themselves. Can we do something similar for improvements?

Alice thinks the resort needs an indoor hot tub for the winter months. Bob thinks it needs another volleyball court for the tournaments. Both have found one to purchase and have figured out how much it would cost. I write both ideas on a markerboard and place a bucket below each one. In order to buy them, the bucket (or related account) needs to meet the purchase price. The amount in each bucket is public. The buckets need to show progress or the idea will be removed and the money will be split among other active ones. This is an evolutionary approach to allow the popular ideas to continue, while performing natural selection on the bad ideas.

Any guests that pass through would see the idea for a winter hot tub. If they like it, they'll donate to that cause. The best ideas would get the money, and eventually be implemented. This is better than an owner taking all the money and implementing what they think would be best. People are more willing to donate money if they know exactly where that money is going -- at least I am.

If Carol doesn't have much money to donate, but wants to contribute to the winter hot tub idea, she has an alternative option -- a fundraiser! She can organize a fundraiser and drop the profits into the winter hot tub bucket.

Volunteer fire departments often have suppers or breakfasts to raise funds. The department buys all the food and works the event, and generally makes good profits from the event. A workplace that I know of has improved this form of fundraiser. They call for a volunteer to organize a lunch. The volunteer sets a date and figures out a lunch, then calls for other volunteers to donate the specific food items that are needed. Once it's all together, one of the volunteers cooks the lunch, and a few others take the money during that time. Employees pay for the lunch, which is about the same price but easier than going out, and all the profits are donated to charity. Volunteers organize this sort of lunch event at least 30 times per year, and end up with over $10,000 going to charity. It's a win-win situation for everyone, which is why it's still going strong.

Volunteer-driven meals are a great idea for a resort, but only work if people have the motive to organize them. Motive in this case is that the proceeds would go to the organizer's choice improvement idea. For a whole bunch of other fundraising ideas, Habitat for Humanity has 6 pages of them. [UPDATE: Link gone, but here's a search.] Some fun ideas could be sports tournaments, parties, craft/bake sales, auctions, and raffles. Get creative! If Alice and Bob knew that proceeds from this weekend's spaghetti supper was going towards that winter hot tub, they'd plan to go and might even volunteer to bring spaghetti sauce.

In conclusion, my resort will make use of the following ideas:
  • Charge a normal rate, but give people the option to save money by working on tasks. Rich people will relax and enjoy the resort, poor people are willing to work and still enjoy the resort. Backpackers use this method and it works.
  • People are able to add tasks for others to work on without having to deal with management. Management oversees the tasks by assigning dollar amounts, and can verify that tasks are completed correctly by volunteers. This basic process is commonly used in writing software.
  • Lower the amount of maintenance in order to lower the number or complexity of the tasks that need to be done. A great reference for this is the book "Make your house do the housework" -- it's completely full of great ideas to minimize work!
  • Maintenance costs remain the same, but the method can increase the number of low-budget (younger) guests and increase the quality of the resort. It's a form of "steal from the rich, give to the poor" which seems to work for Robin Hood.
  • Improvement costs can be eliminated once a foundation is in place. Improvement ideas are generated by and funded by the public, and the best popular ideas would make it to implementation. This is standard brainstorming and crowdsourcing, and should work as long as people stay motivated by wanting stuff.
  • With motivation to generate money, fundraisers would happen often and many would provide food, tournaments, or chances to win stuff in situations where it wouldn't normally be available. This would improve resort quality, keep things interesting, keep things active, and generate money for improvements. Fundraisers work very well in small communities, which is why they are so common.


Friday, February 20, 2009

My Future Resort (p4) - Diversification

Diversification is important for nudist venues because there aren't a huge number of nudists. For a store, they might be able to sell one thing and be successful because of the huge number of people that might want that one thing. Nudist venues rely on making a select few people happy, and we all know that their tastes vary widely.

The global maximum that I talked about in the intro post is probably impossible, because the environment and the people within it are always shifting. The goal is to satisfy everyone all at once. That means that the ideal venue must diversify, such as offering time-shares, luxury hotel rooms, motels, RV camping, tent camping, seclusion and privacy, public gathering grounds, trails, every reasonable recreation or sport, dining, shared kitchen, and everything else that people might want and the resort can possibly provide. How can a resort pull this off?

It's not easy, but they need to do it anyway. Because interest might fluctuate in any single investment, it's ideal to invest in a lot of different things. The RV lots might be the most popular accommodation today, but as gas prices rise people will be looking to rent a motel room instead. Be sure to have a place for them to plug in their electric vehicle too.

It's my opinion that the campgrounds who are beefing up their RV lots are moving in the wrong direction. They should be building cabins and motel rooms. Better yet, they should be bringing in some recycled green prefabs to use as housing. From what I've read, a decent green prefab is fairly cheap when compared to building something new on the site and is already full of green ideas. However, RV lots are a whole lot cheaper to build! RV's also don't increase the taxes.

My opinion here shouldn't count at all for deciding what to invest in. Typically, this decision is left to the owner of the campground or resort. The owner might make some good decisions and make profit, or they might make some bad ones and go bankrupt. How can they predict the future?

It's my hypothesis that optimal diversification would happen through a crowdsourced evolutionary model. Don't worry if you have no idea what that means -- details are in the next part of the series, and are specific to deciding what to invest in.

Let's first focus on some ideas.

1. Cover as much as you can through iterative development. Start small with something that works. As All Nudist once described: "We went to one [party] where they had a galvanized stock tank (for you city folks, that’s a big metal tub) propped up with a propane burner under it in the garage in the middle of the winter!" (I suggest a Rubbermaid 300 gallon tank for just over $200. Build a simple passive solar heater and you're set!) Luxury will evolve as the items get investment: Sell the tank and get a bigger one. Buy another heater. Sell the whole thing and buy a real hot tub. Get the idea? If it's almost never used, and nobody wants to use it, it's good enough. A more common scenario is that people want to use it but it isn't good enough. This is addressed in the next part of the series.

2. Specialize in something. Places that don't are seen as average, but specializing in something will bring in a unique crowd and be known everywhere. VVRC does a beautiful job of this -- their annual car show brings in enough profits to pay the yearly land taxes, and to pay for lots of entertainment and other stuff for the event. The rest of the summer, the campground is somewhat average and doesn't get a high attendance. Everyone knows of the event, and they make it a point to be there. Other unique nudist things include the Bare Hare Duathlon, Bungee Jumping, and Parasailing. Specializing in a specific nude activity isn't as profitable as specializing in an event. Events draw big crowds all at once, instead of drawing a niche market like those nudist parasailers. Remember my nudist ship idea from part 2 (Land)? That would be a special event at every port it visits. Nudists in the area would want to check it out because of how rarely it would stop by.

3. Consider different markets. There's no reason to turn away those nudist parasailers just because your resort has no water. If there's interest, consider an event where people bring their own equipment and use some nearby water. If there's no water close, consider a conference. I've attended a tech conference in the middle of corn country, so it's possible to create something out of nothing. A later post in this series focuses on how to successfully bring in groups with conflicting views.

4. Target the people you want. Sun Ray Hills features a tavern, small pool, and room for a few games. Tent camping is discouraged, because there isn't much for food there and no place to make your own. There are no rooms or cabins to rent, further discouraging the younger and poorer crowd. And there's nothing for kids, which discourages families. If they are targeting the middle- to upper-aged, they are doing a great job! With only rooms to rent, food available, a spa, and a no kids policy, the Terra Cotta Inn is targeting couples of any adult age. If your resort has a problem with bringing in younger couples, women, or kids, take a close look at what you offer. If a few happen to stay at your resort, ask them why others might be discouraged. Nude & Natural magazine has discussed this a few times. See "Give the Young What They Want", issue 23.4, "Age Gap", issue 25.4, and "Tallahassee Naturally Comes of Age", issue 27.1. Tallahassee Naturally is doing a great job of recruiting the groups they want.

5. Compete with life. I talked about this before (part 1, part 2). If there is a job to do, someone can make a living at a nudist venue. Otherwise, your nudist venue needs to compete for that guest with the other (often textile) venues in the area. Nudism is seen as a novelty that people pay extra for. They are willing to drive a long way to your venue just to skinny-dip. This is changing, however. People with money are buying big houses with pools, exercise equipment, home theaters, hot tubs, and everything else they want. People without money are going to free beaches, and going with the cheap (textile) options for recreation. Somehow, your resort needs to win over these people. You need to compete by offering better facilities and/or cheaper facilities that most people use in their daily life, or events that are unique enough to get them out of their houses.

6. Listen. Diversifying is a process that is both practical and creative. The creative ideas need to be worked down to a practical level in order to implement them successfully. The practical side is made up of the owners and the regulars to the venue. The creative side is made up of kids and newbies to the venue. Make it a point to ask for their creative ideas, then run them through a "practicality filter". 99% of the ideas might be too far out there, but that 1% could be just what the venue needs and could bring in more people and more profit.


Monday, February 16, 2009

My Future Resort (Intermission)

I'm a bit nervous about posting the next four parts. They will certainly challenge the traditional way of thinking, and I can only imagine what sort of response I'm going to get!

So far, the focus has been on finding the perfect land and building efficient things on it. This is a somewhat obvious goal, with an equally obvious problem -- it costs money. And money is something that isn't abundant in most nudist campgrounds and many resorts. In order to get money for stuff, I believe that there needs to be a new social framework in place. This will be described in the next four parts.

Not all of the previous ideas cost money though. Here is a recap of the ones that are almost free:
  • Build bat-houses to keep the insect population down.
  • Replace commonly used light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED.
  • Install low-flow showerheads.
  • Collect rainwater in a barrel for watering plants.
  • Wash clothes and dishes by hand.
  • Use the microwave instead of the stove-top.
  • Shut things off when not in use.
  • Install timers and motion sensors to help with shutting things off.
  • Label electrical devices with their costs.
  • Recycle used veggie oil if any is available.
  • Have a garden.
  • Landscape to keep buildings in the shade during the summer. (Trees and vines)
  • Ventilate better to keep places cool.
  • Tell people to take a dip if they're hot -- don't turn on the AC.
  • Turn down your tank water heater.
  • Build passive solar water heaters for a water tank pre-heater and a pool heater.


Saturday, February 14, 2009


If you've been a reader since last October, you'll recognize the humor in this card. If your new, you might need a hint. My girlfriend couldn't help but get this card for me, even though we don't really celebrate Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Future Resort (p3.3) - Heat and AC

According to the report I mentioned before regarding home electricity use, heating is about 10% of the bill, AC is about 16% of the bill, and water heating is about 9% of the bill. That's a lot of money! Now how do we bring those costs down?

If you're still in the planning stages, it's the best time to start thinking about heating and cooling costs. Good design can go a really long way in reducing these costs! If your buildings are already in place, consider some of these options when it's time to remodel (or sooner if it's cost-effective).

Heating / Cooling technologies and ideas for hot / cold places:
  • Passive solar: If a roof has the right overhang and window placement, it will let in light during the winter months and block light during the summer months.
  • Thermal mass: Better for hot days and cold nights, a thermal mass will keep the temperatures average by absorbing heat during the day and emitting it during the night.
  • Landscaping: Plants such as trees and vines have a unique and useful feature -- they grow leaves to soak up all the sunlight during the summer and drop them all as winter starts. Similar to the roof overhang, light hits the building during the winter and is blocked during the summer.
  • Geothermal: A geothermal heat exchanger is a great all-purpose system for places that need both heat and AC. More about this one later...
  • Underground: Places that are build in or partially in the earth have less of a temperature change to deal with. It's easy to keep the place at 75 degrees when the outside temperature is 65 degrees year-round.
Heating technologies and ideas for cold places:
  • Passive solar: Bring in as much light as possible, and have it hit a dark-colored thermal mass. The thermal mass is generally a floor, but earthships use a wall. See here for other ideas.
  • Water-based heating: Water-based heating systems are generally more efficient than ones that use air. For nudists who like to go barefoot, an in-floor water-based heating system feels wonderful! Warm feet make people feel warm all over.
  • People: Gather a bunch of them in a small place and things will warm up. Parties are suggested.
  • Fuel: Burning oil, natural gas, or propane has a big disadvantage with the rising cost of the fuel. Corn burners were a good idea until corn-based ethanol took off and raised the price of corn. It seems the best thing to burn is wood, but obtaining a large amount of it each year is hard work. Wood pellets are easier to transport, but hemp pellets are more efficient. Industrial hemp is actually a safe and high-yield crop that grows more and faster than wood, making it good fuel if it would gain popularity. If you go with wood, make sure that your burner is a "woodgas" or "gasification" burner. (Cozy Heat's products, for example.) Not only are they much more efficient, but the emissions are much cleaner as well.
  • Fireplaces: People often supplement their heating systems with a fireplace in a common area. Make sure that your fireplace has a cold air return so that it doesn't suck the heat out of the place.
  • Bathroom and kitchen vents: Don't use these unless needed, because they suck the heat out of your place as well.
  • Windows: A big source for heat loss is through windows. Consider using vacuum insulated ones.
  • Insulation: Prevent the cold from creeping in by adding insulation everywhere you can. A good list of insulations with R-values is here. Also, check out the BrightBuilt Barn in Maine that is so well insulated that it doesn't need a furnace. Buy as much insulation as you can afford!
Cooling technologies and ideas for hot places:
  • Passive solar: You may be thinking that the sun makes heat, so how can it be used to cool a place? The answer is a solar chimney, which gets hot inside and forces the air to rise and exit. The air that exits can be replaced with cool air from an...
  • Earth tube: It's a long underground tube that air travels through. Since the ground temperature is cool and constant, the air becomes cool as it travels through the tube.
  • Basement: since basements are in the ground, the air in them gets cool. Allow outside air to enter the basement and travel upwards through the house through grates in the floor.
  • Whole-building fan: The electric version of a solar chimney. It's a fan that sucks the hot air from the top of the house. This run by a solar panel might be cheaper than building the chimney.
  • Windows: Have windows at the top of the building to let heat out, and at the bottom shaded-side of the building to let in cooler air. Or, just open windows on all sides and let the wind through. Plenty of windows will prevent a building from being stuffy and hot. Don't use this if your using one of the solutions above that brings in cooler air.
  • Evaporative cooling: In dry climates, evaporative cooling works very well. It can produce ideal nudist temperatures with far less electricity than AC. The only downside is the extra water usage.
  • Green roof: If your roof is covered in moist dirt and plants, it will stay cool. This works best only if you have a flat roof.
  • Water: Most people choose to cool off in the pool or with a quick cold shower. This is easy at a nudist resort since they are already in their swimwear. If a pool is nearby, don't worry so much about keeping your buildings cool. Passive cooling should be enough, and an occasional dip in the pool will make the hot days more comfortable.
Staying cool is much easier at a nudist resort since our body's natural form of cooling takes over. The ideas above are probably enough for any southern resort. Is a full AC system really needed?

Back to the topic of geothermal heat exchangers. If you don't know what they are, here's a simple explanation: They are a box that use electricity to make one side hot and the other side cold. Refrigerators and AC units use this as well. Refrigerators make the inside cold and the back hot. AC units make cold air inside the building and hot air outside. Geothermal units make either hot air/water or cold air/water for the building, and make the opposite for the ground outside.

These shouldn't be confused with "geothermal energy", as-in the method used to generate power using hot rocks deep underground. Iceland uses this for almost 90% of their electric and heat, and the runoff forms the huge clothing-optional "blue lagoon". It's too bad systems like this don't exist on a small scale, so just ignore this paragraph.

If you need a heating or cooling system for a building, make sure to check out the common form of geothermal. I know someone here in Wisconsin who installed a system in their medium-sized house, and it uses an average of $40 in electric per month though the winter. This is far cheaper than gas, and far easier than burning wood! (They had both previously.) On the hot summer days, they flip the switch and it produces cold air instead.

Heat exchangers always make a little more heat in the process. In winter, this is good since the building needs heat anyway. In summer, they need to get rid of the extra heat. Most have a water hookup that circulates water to the hot water heater, providing free hot water for most of the summer. This assumes that you have a hot water tank.

If you're like my future resort, you probably won't have a tank of hot water. Instead, I'd use the excess heat from the geothermal system to heat the pool. If the venue has a lake that doesn't freeze, it will work with the geothermal system. Instead of using the ground for one side of the heat exchanger, it can use the lake instead, and might heat it up a few degrees depending on how big it is.

For hot water, there are two ways to reduce cost. First is to use less, and second is to produce it only on demand. There is no need to keep a big tank of water hot all night if nobody is using it. Additionally, most hot water tanks have electric heating elements that kick on while the water is in use.

The main way that hot water (and some water in general) is wasted is when people turn on the shower and fiddle with the knobs to get it the right temperature. They also might have to wait for the hot water to travel through all the pipes, and to warm up all those pipes. People shower a lot at nudist resorts, so getting cheap shower knobs and inefficient hot water is a bad move. I already mentioned low-flow showerheads to conserve water in part 3.1 (Water) of this series. The way to reduce waste further is to produce water of a perfect temperature on demand.

For a single shower, use a simple tankless heater. The Marey models are cheap and easy to attach to existing showers. Make sure to calibrate the water pressure so that the shower is close to 106 degrees F when it is full-on. When a person turns the shower on, it'll be instantly perfect! For a multi-shower system, like for guest rooms or a big pool-side shower room, check out this 6-port water mixer with a digital interface. Combine that with an Eemax 12 GPM tankless heater and you should be set. (Or get a 25 GPM model for the whole building.)

For other areas such as sinks, washing machines, etc, get the size that you need. Eemax makes tankless water heaters of all types and sizes. InSinkErator makes several different types as well, mostly sink faucets and some small tanks for kitchen use.

Hot water tanks have been keeping good pace though, and some claim to be more efficient than the tankless ones. It's difficult to tell which might work better for your venue, but make sure to do your research on both. Remember that less water will be wasted with the tankless, and it'll be a better user experience. I'd love to push a button and have instant perfect water showering over me. However, another way to achieve this is to turn down the water heater.

A good roundup of tankless water heaters can be found in this review.

For a good pre-heater to a water tank, or heating pools, make sure to consider passive solar water heaters. In hot climates, they are so easy to make that you could build one yourself. Get a pipe, paint it black, and put it in a black colored box with a window facing the sun. To move the water, get a small water pump and power it with a solar cell. Using a solar cell, it'll only move the water when the sun is shining and when the water is actually getting heated. Here are some other links to get you started: tank, multi-tank, cheap, beer. For winter installations, the box needs to be insulated well in order to get hot. Antifreeze or glycol is used instead of water, and the heat is pulled from it using a heat exchanger or a small pool. A person I know is planning to build a system like this, and will set a pressurized water tank in a small pool of antifreeze or glycol that will be circulated through the solar box outside. I'll have to report back on how this works next winter.

Before I end the section on sustainability, I should bring up the topic of supplemental heating. It's a good idea to have a backup method of heating, just in case the primary fails. It's also a good idea to use it on the coldest winter days to take the stress off the primary. In my opinion, the best and cheapest option is to burn something. I talked about the different fuel types above. I think corn or industrial hemp (if legal in your country) is a good option if grown locally as part of a garden. In fact, a big garden is a good idea for a resort with acreage. People love to garden nude, and nearly free food is always a plus.

On the other hand, wood is sure plentiful around our area which makes it a great backup for heat. I know a person who uses wood for both heat and hot water. What about the summer? They burn it for the hot water, but are looking into using passive solar instead. He actually enjoys the work of cutting the wood. The cost of pumping the hot water is very small, so they probably have the cheapest heating system that I know of for both water and space heating.

Hopefully by now you have plenty of ideas for greening your venue, and cutting costs. Being efficient is a great way to be profitable. Undercut the other nudist resorts, and you'll dominate the niche market. Undercut the textile resorts, and you'll do more than just succeed -- you'll change attitudes of the general public by showing them a better way of life.


Friday, February 6, 2009

My Future Resort (p3.2) - Electric

Electricity is the common medium for energy. Electric current can cause things to make heat, move, or light up. Everything can make use of electricity in order to work, but some things choose to skip it -- such as cars. (However, cars are changing to either all-electric or hybrid which uses electricity as the common medium.) The good news is that electricity can be generated with heat, motion, or light as well. For your venue, which do you have an abundance of?

In part 3 (Sustainability), I mentioned that to make profit you need to charge more or spend less. For this part, you need to make more or use less. In part 3.1 (Water), the best we can do for water usage is zero, therefore meaning that it doesn't cost anything. For electricity, we can actually make profit by selling it back to the grid if we have an abundance of it. It's possible to have a utility bill with a negative number!

To start, it's best to focus on reducing the amount of electricity that gets used. Perhaps the easiest and cheapest thing you can do is in lighting. In part 3 (Sustainability), I did some quick math to show that replacing one light bulb with a CF saved money in the long-run. But, that's bad advice pretty soon. Compact fluorescent bulbs are being replaced with a much better bulb -- LED. They are quickly coming down in price, so switching to those instead for the most commonly used lights is probably worth it. According to this comparison:
  • Incandescent: A typical 100 watt bulb puts out 1700 lumens, uses 100 watts (obviously), and lasts about 1,000 hours before it burns out.
  • Compact fluorescent: Some that I purchased in 2008 also put out 1700 lumens, but use 26 watts, and are rated to last 12,000 hours.
  • LED: Scaled up to 1700 lumens, a LED bulb would use about 17 watts, and last over 50,000 hours. They're also better for the environment.
My favorite solution, which produces almost 14,000 lumens from a 21 inch diameter tube, is sunshine. There is absolutely no reason why an electric light should be used when there is abundant sunshine. Skylights, windows, the DIY solution I linked to above, and this dish that pipes sunlight inside are enough to get sunlight everywhere. I have never understood why so many buildings have solid walls and a solid roof, with electric lights inside that are on all day.

I'll be covering the topics of heat (including water heating) and AC, both huge electric users, in the next part (3.3). For now, check out this list of household electric users and follow along as I hit some of the bigger ones:
  • Refrigerators/Freezers: Use the outdoors instead if it's winter and cold enough, or a basement year-round if you have one, otherwise the best you can do is an Energy Star one.
  • Clothes Dryer: Hang clothes outside if possible. This sometimes results in them being a bit stiff, but they will soften during wear. Even in winter, clothes will mostly freeze-dry outside after a while. Or better yet, hang them inside and they will add humidity to the air. Go naked as often as possible to reduce the amount of clothing that needs to be washed. (In the winter, heating may cost more so bundle up instead of going naked.)
  • Clothes Washer: Go with a front-load Energy Star, since front-load machines use less water. Hand-washing is an option too, but is more work. If you're only looking to kill bacteria and remove odors (and nothing else), skip the washer and just freeze them.
  • Dishwasher: Washing by hand is always best, but go with an Energy Star if needed.
  • Electric Range Top: Check out an induction one for a shared or commercial kitchen. For homes, it might be a bit expensive as an investment. As always, go with an Energy Star. Microwaves are more efficient than range tops, so use them instead whenever possible.
  • TV Systems: Computers can play most anything now, and have cheap tuner cards available. This is assuming that your monitor doesn't have a TV hookup built in.
  • Computers: Unless your playing the newest resource-intensive games, you don't need much of a system for playing videos or surfing the net. Check out this list for low-wattage PC's. I'm a proud owner of a Zonbu, which can play movies and do most everything I need. (I don't have the subscription -- instead I installed Xubuntu Linux and use a USB HDD. The Zonbu OS works great out of the box also.) All-in-all, the Zonbu averages 10 watts and the HDD averages 5 watts.
Some obvious advice is to shut things off when not used. Humans can do their part in shutting off lights and other stuff when not in use, and timers and motion sensors can do their part as well. If lights are on outside, it doesn't make sense to have them on at all during the day. At night, it seems that too many lights are on. Do outdoor lights in common areas need to be on after 2am? If not, put them on a $16 timer so they are lit from dusk until 2am. Do bathroom lights, or lights in common areas, need to be on all night? I'd make them all motion sensor driven. Either light-switch replacements or screw in solutions exist for around $30.

For resorts that have guests with electrical hookups, consider measuring the electrical usage for each site (or each permanent site at least). Users who use too much can face additional charges, or get a refund if they do not use much. A super-easy way to do this is by using a kill-a-watt on each site, assuming the hookup is less than 15 amps. (I'm sure higher-amperage versions exist too.) Program in the cost per kilowatt-hour once, and reset the meter when someone moves in. The accumulated electrical cost is then displayed in real-time. If people know their electrical usage isn't "free", they'll be more likely to conserve it. Even if you don't use a kill-a-watt in this way, it's still a good investment because you can find out just how much each electrical device is costing you per month.

A less obvious idea is to put a small label by light switches and appliances, which shows the cost per hour of when they are on. It won't limit people's ability to use them, but at least they'll know it isn't free to leave things on all the time. Also, they can make smarter decisions about what to have on. As an example, we have a 23 watt CF room light and a bright 500 watt halogen light in the living room. It's easier to turn on the big one, so it took a conscious effort to break the habit and use the cheaper one instead.

Now that the electrical consumption is minimized, it's time to switch over to generating it.

Is your venue sunny? Don't just brag about it, use that sunlight for another form or profit! Solar panels are getting cheap and getting common, which make them a great investment. There is a huge variety available, so you'll need to look around and choose one that works for your venue. If you have a new building in the works, consider using it to focus extra sunlight onto your array.

Is your venue windy? Put up a wind turbine. They are normally more cost-effective than solar cells if both options are available. Hills make great funnels for wind, so a turbine at the top edge of a hill would work best. Buildings can also direct the wind if positioned correctly.

Is your venue by a river or stream? Consider hydro power, since it is the most cost-effective solution when compared to solar and wind. If you only have rain or city water, they do have small ones that can make use of it. I'd love to see a resort put one of these in their shower rooms to light the area as the showers are running.

Is your venue on a hot spring? Not only can it provide all the heat you need, but it can provide the electricity you need as well. Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska got funding to build a low-temp geothermal power plant that supplies all of the power they need.

Does your venue have a restaurant? Or are you good friends with a restaurant owner? Waste vegetable oil is an energy source that restaurants often pay to get rid of. Culvers is one of the first chains to start using waste veggie oil to power their cars. No company car? Use the "vegawatt" to turn it into electricity and free heat.

Other creative solutions include piezoelectric, which turns any motion into small amounts of electric. Clubs in Rotterdam and London are using this in the dance floors with pretty good returns, and researchers are moving this to other actions such as walking and driving. Also, don't forget about human power, like the gyms that let people generate the electricity.

Minimize electrical waste, and maximize electrical generation to whatever extent you can afford. I presented the basic ideas for doing this, and thousands of individual solutions exist. Picking the best one for a venue depends greatly on the venue, so I leave that task up to you.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Missed News (2/2009)

The "Missed News" series is for all the random stuff I found interesting, but was missed by other popular bloggers.
  • Here's a few entertaining predictions from the 1909 New York Times, one of which deals with feminine beauty.
  • Also from NYT, their article "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Worries" was one of the top 10 travel stories for 2008.
  • It's clear that the younger generation is desensitized to nudity, let's just hope that they can separate sex from simple nudity.
  • I made it on Nudiarist's Best of the Naturist World series. It's quite an honor! I'd better see him on that list eventually too...
  • Although he would've satisfied his own ideals (of not being anonymous) with a clothed picture or mug shot, Nudiarist finally posted a nude photo of himself. Congrats! Be sure to post a comment of support if you haven't yet. It's a brave step that more of us need to take. Rick and All Nudist (can't find the original post to link to - way too many to look through) have taken similar steps recently as well. Keeping with the spirit, another blogger has joined in as well.
  • Here's an interesting study on how cities can overwhelm our brains.
  • People dressed in naked suits are always funny.
  • The story about the ban on skimpy swimsuits in Florida has already been covered by other bloggers. But, they missed the story about Grenada banning swimsuits and baggy pants in areas other than the beach.
  • The "best job in the world" looks like it would suck. Why would we want to wear clothes on a island beach for 5 months? I can think of better jobs...
  • In our area, it's a really bad time to own a driveway or sidewalk. Help is on the way with a snow shoveling robot.
  • Speaking of snow... I mentioned it, then All Nudist did it, then we did it as well.
  • The pictures I posted were on the WWNCW in an area that search engines aren't supposed to index as per the robots.txt file. In other words, it shouldn't appear at all in Google's searches, right? Google is indexing it, sort of. They have the text from All Nudist's link and the URL, but no text. Shame on you, Google!
  • Warnings on video games? It's a step in the right direction. At least they'll make it known that studies link it to violence, and parents might hesitate to buy it.
  • Wired magazine has picked up the story about nude kids and cell phone cameras. I love Wired, and I know they have a huge reader base, so I bet things will start to change.
  • Here's a neat new project from a nearby university: A map that shows how many miles your food has traveled. It's nice to know that my Velveeta Mac&Cheese (and ingredients) have traveled 28,173 miles. Mmmm, tastes like carbon.
  • I know there are a lot of geeks that read this blog, so when I saw this cartoon I thought it was too funny to pass up even though it has a sex theme.
  • We're still waiting for other nudists to join us on Faceboat. We're so lonely...
  • Here's a funny sign for the not-so-skinny dippers.
  • Speaking of signs, why doesn't Mazo Beach get a sign like this one? The DNR would point out that it's not an official beach, but would warn the unsuspecting.
  • PETA is at it again, and it makes me hungry.
  • Google's anti-privacy crusade is costing lives. Where is PETA on this issue?
  • I always seem to have news about the "Technology Against Privacy" issue. From this Wired article (first page, last paragraph), the person tries an experiment: He sees a stranger take a picture in a public park and never sees them again, [insert a few easy steps here], he knows exactly where she lives and has seen every room in her apartment. It's scary that a connection like that can be made.
  • In other privacy news, here's an example of a hidden camera at a nude beach. If you frequent South Beach and see this person, please punch him for me.
  • Bloggers have been pointing out this him and her chair set. Where is the nude model for the "him" version?
  • Tom is encouraging nudists to support nudist resorts more.
  • One of my readers has started his own blog. He's mentioned Wired magazine and being nerdy, so he's already on my good list.
  • NakedJen had her facebook account deleted, probably due to the name, and is calling for others to write to facebook about it.
  • I'm on TrueNudists and Skinbook as AcademicNaturist. Make sure to say you're a reader of the blog if you add me as a friend.
  • I'm also new on Twitter -- is anyone else? I added my Twitter feed to the side panel, and will use it for more personal thoughts than what I post on the blog.
  • Is it really illegal to sleep naked in Minnesota?
  • Also in Minnesota, a religious zealot smashed his SUV into a Planned Parenthood office. To be fair, someone should smash their SUV into his church or house.
  • Don't forget to put on a condom before riding a bike.