@jennypenny: Very interesting video. I am in a sentimental mode (likely due to fact that half my face is melted), so it made me think of a very good old friend who married a Swedish man and had babies at the same time as me. He was a super-handy stay-at-home Dad, and he installed a water-pipe-under-floor heating system into their old house in Michigan, and baked delicious little spicy cookies, which we all munched on as our combined pack of tow-headed babies ran around half-naked playing with each other. (sigh)
Anyways, I found the bit where she talked about how the e coli levels in their gray field were too high to drink the water very relevant to my own project. This is a very good example of how science comes into conflict with regulations in a way that is frustrating to people who understand the science. Unfortunately, idiot-proof is the current standard. In the realm of urban agriculture, lead remediation is a huge problem because the manner in which lead makes it way into human food chain is not well-understood, so it is easiest to just slap down a rigid ppm regulation. This sort of rigid thinking also comes into play when weighing whether or not to EVER administer an antibiotic to a farm animal. It's like some suburban mom who drove her Prius to the Magic Melon Market is demanding that some small farm operator, who is attempting to operate ethically-in-the-moment in stewardship, treat her dairy cows like they are the children of some religious cult that rejects all modern medical treatment. Ignorance towards rigid efficiency is always the enemy.
I would also note that passive, off-grid, self-sufficient and/or closed-loop are not synonymous, and will not necessarily be maximized simultaneously, and the manner in which any one of these descriptors can be maximized will depend on many site factors and budgetary or initial input or continued maintenance considerations. For instance, the process of generating electricity with wind is much more low tech than generating electricity with PVC, so if you wanted to design a system that could potentially be re-built to provide some electricity after some apocalypse-level crash of civilization then that might be your choice. However, if you wish to simply purchase an off-grid solution that will require the least maintenance over the next couple decades then you would probably choose PVC.
In a northern climate, providing enough heat for a human to be able to sit in a chair and read or type in some reasonable range of comfort, and cook food to level of safety and digestibility, will probably be best designed to include some use of biofuel. IOW, self-sufficient, off-grid, and closed-loop are best maximized in design that does not maximize passivity. Rocket-stove surrounded by thermal mass is the most frequently offered solution. I would definitely run into trouble with code if I attempted to integrate a DIY rocket-stove into a space meant to be occupied by humans. I might get away with it in a greenhouse that is less than 200 square feet or a temporary (not tied to foundation) structure.
How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage