The Seventh Generation principle is an Indigenous Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy centered on being mindful of how one’s actions today might affect the Earth and all its inhabitants seven generations from now. As a society, we thrive on progress and momentum—whether that’s as simple as checking off a personal to-do list, or as complex as attempting to solve the housing crisis, sometimes moving forward means looking back at the wisdom of the past.
These concepts are core tenets of Futur, a regenerative-housing initiative founded by Eliot Livingston Wilson, a Hudson Valley native who splits his time between Hudson and Germany.
While sustainable housing practices are often looked at as a way to design and build homes that minimally impact the environment, regenerative housing seeks to maximally impact the environment—but in a positive way. A regenerative home is one that considers sustainability and restoration through every aspect, from its effects on the surrounding landscape, to the type of materials used, to the wages paid to those building it.
Regenerative design encompasses increasingly common practices like passive heating and cooling, permaculture, renewable energy, and LEED-certified standards and then goes further to ensure that the home provides more than it consumes in terms of energy, carbon footprint, and community. It’s not just sustainable, it’s renewing. And Wilson sees the Hudson Valley as a prime locale for Futur’s two main housing concepts: HÔM and ZÔM.
These sustainably produced dwellings are integrated into the landscape, becoming an extension of the natural environment, and built in a way that’s mindful of climate, carbon, and the needs of modern humans. “We set out to solve three main problems,” Wilson explains. “One: The central problem is a relational problem; the relationship between ourselves and the planet is often distorted. How can we shape that relationship in a way that mirrors that we are part of nature and we should emulate it? Two: To ensure supply chain processes are as regenerative as possible and develop a home building system from the ground up without petrochemicals, toxic varnishes, paints, and more. Three: Affordable housing.”
Space to Grow
What Futur plans to produce are homes and structures that intersect age-old techniques with modern lifestyles. HÔMs are larger and maintain a contemporary feel with Indigenous structural elements, while ZÔMs are more of an ideal starter house or tiny home with a slightly more whimsical aesthetic that gives a Jørn Utzon-meets-Tolkien vibe. There are endless variations of the two options, as individual projects are tailored to the needs of the client and the specific landscape.
But each design is modular. HÔMs and ZÔMs are both encased in hempcrete insulation, a durable blend of hempstalk and lime, which is mold, pest, and fire resistant. The wooden framing is sourced locally from trees that arborists would otherwise use for firewood or chipping, and the roof is made of solar-powered-tile shingles. Passive heating and cooling techniques are implemented, such as a skylight that provides a chimney effect in summer, allowing hot air to escape while pulling cooler air upward from a subterranean duct. Futur also works with Hudson Valley Timberworks and Restoration and Vermont-based permaculture design firm Whole Systems Design to collaborate on projects.
“We create a space for people to grow their own food, too,” he explains. “The system is intended to be flexible and we tailor it to very specific needs. It’s sculpting in a permacultural way.”
Pricing is currently not set in stone, and that flexibility is a key part of how Futur’s future will be shaped. “Housing is not a privilege, and it shouldn’t be a privilege to have housing that is healthy—not attacking our immune and endocrine systems each day. We want to further explore the ideas of how housing should be financed; to not charge by the square-foot, but by a portion of someone’s income. However, to get to a place where we can say they’re truly affordable will take time,” Wilson says.
As of January, Futur began a new project with Obercreek Farm, an organic farm and CSA in the Wappinger hamlet of Hughsonville. Construction begins this summer on a ZÔM module prototype that the farm can use for storage and community needs.
The idea for HÔM and ZÔM came about as organically as the lines of their hempcrete doorways. Born and raised in Livingston, Wilson attended Hawthorne Valley School, where a holistic relationship with nature was encouraged. As part of a senior project, he chose to focus on sustainable design, in which he’d already developed a keen interest. “I asked an architect in the Berkshires to help me design a home for my mother. She was a single mother and I thought that if she could have a home that encouraged financial autonomy, it would be a leg up for her; I then realized that by helping my mother, maybe these principles could do the same for our collective mother,” he says.
Wilson went on to study both architecture and fine arts with an emphasis on land-based sculpture in college at Alaus University in Germany, where he was highly influenced by the country’s emphasis on sustainable building practices. While there, he designed and sculpted a project built into the earth of a meadow. The intention was to add dimension, but no one predicted what happened next: Endangered species ended up settling into the undulations of the design.
“In Germany, I moved about 100 tons of earth to sculpt a spiral. This changed the meadow from being one plane with one ecosystem to seven planes with their own microclimates and ecosystems,” he says. “Five species of endangered newts began to settle there. This was deeply formative for Futur.” Through this occurrence, Wilson was able to witness for himself how working with nature, not against it or atop it, could bring about both beauty and new life. While abroad, he developed early prototypes for the structures Futur offers.
“When someone purchases a regenerative home, on day one their carbon footprint is reduced by one-third, and potentially by up to 80 percent shortly after,” he says. “Nothing that I’m proposing is new; in fact, it’s ancient. It’s thousands of years old. The First Nations people set the example—we inherited a country that had been stewarded, not exploited. All of the solutions are here, we just need to go about it all with a creative, integrative approach.”
This notion of ecological preservation through the lens of regeneration is a repeated cycle through Wilson’s own lineage. As the great-great-grandson of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church, design, conservation, and moxie are in his blood. Church’s self-designed Persian-style estate, Olana, still stands as a National Historic landmark, museum, and testament to the importance of land preservation.
“He was an enormous inspiration for me seeing landscape as a medium to be sculpted in harmony with nature, not destructive or imposing,” Wilson explains. “My family has been in the Hudson Valley for more than 300 years; I’ve certainly been impacted by the decisions made seven generations prior.”
Though a regenerative housing concept can apply globally, Wilson and his team focused on the Hudson Valley with intentions beyond the obvious personal connections.
“Based on climate trends, our region will fare better than others in the coming years and we will likely absorb populations of the areas most impacted by climate change,” Wilson says. “This is the loudest clarion call for us to step up.”
The vision for Futur includes teaming up with local conservation organizations to create communities or villages, where the means of carbon sequestration could lead to land trusts that can further reduce the cost of housing while creating more awareness around regenerative living.
“We all know in our hearts that the way things are can’t go on,” he says. “We look at climate change and, for many, it can be scary. But I want to encourage people not to look away, because by facing that fear, you’ll receive the extraordinary gift of real, tangible hope. Let’s see this as the greatest opportunity we’ve ever been given.”