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Unlike the terms “cluster” and “group,” compound implies a whole formed by necessary and contributing parts; each part has an essential role in defining the character of the whole. In spite of the defense-related connotations of the term (complexes that are walled or fenced for protection) compound fits into the framework of adaptation and hyperlocal urbanism because it suggests synergies between the elements that form the compound, which is a prerequisite for self-sufficiency and resiliency. Thus, there is a level of self-sufficiency as well as symbiosis implied by the term compound. This implication fits well with the concept of hybrid land use; each building forming the compound accommodates an activity or use that supports and forms the life of the compound and makes it a whole.


The compound is a cross-cultural concept common throughout history in support of self-sufficient lifestyles, from the ranchos of the American Southwest to the palazzos of Italy on the Hutongs of Beijing. It is multi-generational and multi-use, accommodating a diversity of activities. It is the smallest increment of management, security, and self-sufficiency.

Compounds are the basic building blocks of the Adaptation Village Model (proposed by the book Urbanism For A Difficult Future). The basic compound lot in the Adaptation Village is approximately one-third of an acre (120 x 120 feet) and is allowed the capacity up to six buildings. It accommodates various building types including some suitable as workplaces. The density and composition of the residences vary, depending on the location and the current needs at any given time. Smaller compound lots may be added to the mix to increase diversity by dividing a basic lot into two (to obtain two lots either with 60 x 120 feet dimensions each, or one 80 x 120 feet lot and one 40 x 120 feet lot). The structures may be occupied by a large or extended family, or a family and caregivers, as well as others who rent (for living, for working, or for both).

A compound is a hybrid in its land uses. In addition to residential use, a compound typically accommodates light manufacturing and production, limited retail, and cottage farming. The compound enables gradual growth and succession. Structures can be added one at a time or remodeled to accommodate new users and uses as needed. It provides financial resilience for the households in two ways: it allows productive activities within the lot and it enables renting. Instead of owning a large house and be responsible for all of it in the first day of purchase, which is the case for a typical suburban property, a household can build a small structure on the compound and add others later. Owning the large suburban house is nothing but a liability and a financial burden; it doesn’t produce any income. Whereas the compound offers an investment that provides growing return in time via the rental spaces offered and the productive activities accommodated on the lot. The mixture of uses and activities requires limits and controls so that they can coexist harmoniously within, and with adjacent compounds. These activities incubate an economy that contributes to the larger scales in which it nests. A dynamic development code is needed to increase synergies. Such a code must evolve as a part of a regulatory​ culture where the management of local productive activities is merged with code enforcement. The regulatory procedures that guide construction and management need to be based on the principle of subsidiarity.

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