The Ekinoid Project: super-strong, super-light Sphere Homes
Off-the-grid towns - Anywhere
To hope to address the emerging, gigantic challenges of the 21st century we need innovative, scaleable, practical solutions. As things stand, world population will plateau at 10 / 11 billion people by 2100 - and committing (now) to creating scaleable, distributed population centres will be a crucial part of sustainably transitioning to a global society that supports these numbers.
Imagine self-assembling enough homes in one place to build a functioning, sustainable, off-the-grid town for 10,000 people - in only 6-12 months. And then repeating these round-house clusters in 10,000 other places - potentially on what is (currently) designated as marginal land (i.e., land that may be only be 'marginal' because it is outside our traditional bricks-and-mortar perception of what constitutes usable building land).
The next building revolution? Modular.
We agree with Zhang Yue of Broad Group and Broad Sustainable Building that the revolution that has yet to hit 'building' will be modular - but whereas Zhang Yue envisages a vertical solution - enormously tall skyscrapers being erected in days (he built a 57-storey building in 19 days, for instance) all across the world we think the solution, or at least a good part of it, will be lateral (and spherical) to spread out, reclaiming marginal land in the process, and keeping a high-quality of life in place, just above the ground.
Build Up - or Build Out?
Maybe the question for Chairman Zhang (and everyone else) is: "Given the choice, which modular building would you choose to live most of your life in - vast skyscraper-cities or single homes (connected into communities) widely dispersed across many landscapes?"
"Sphere Towns": All-Terrain-Friendly
A hollow sphere can be light yet exceptionally strong (think of what a ping-pong ball endures), and the spherical Ekinoid homes will, in the same way, be exceptionally strong yet very significantly reduce raw-material requirements (down from around 150 tonnes [roughly the weight of a standard 2-bedroom house in the UK] to around 20 tonnes - reference: SEI 2007 PDF: page 10; also see specific material composition). At the same time they will increase the space available inside from around 80 sq.m (again, roughly the size of a standard 2-bedroom house in the UK) to around 240 sq.m - and this does not take into account all the land underneath.
Ekinoid round homes will also allow occupants to fulfil their own power needs using solar (see here for the best Solar PV Research Cell Efficiencies) or wind power - or biogas gasification (NB: This is a 2.4Mb PDF file to download) - and meet their requirements for potable water by using cheap and effective treatments to rainwater runoff, using, for instance, Berkey Water Filters, or maybe a variation on the LifeSaver. The Ekinoid home will also properly address grey water management - and use in-house sewage treatment and composting; UD (urine dirversion) toilets also make a lot of sense to use - especially as urine is an effective agricultural fertilizer. It will also provide the means to cleanly and efficiently supply most of the occupants' food needs (via a hydroponic crop system around the glass/ETFE stairwell [ETFE is recyclable]).
The Ekinoid Project focuses on the idea that a spherical structure can deliver a simple, practical, affordable housing solution, suitable for many more environments than traditional buildings. And it is a structure whose parts can be both mass produced and fabricated on-site - maybe by using *inverse infrastructures (downloadable PDF file: 120kb) and unskilled hands (using detailed written and video instruction, as well as personal support from a previous Ekinoid-home-fabricator).
Looking at PV Options
We're awaiting the results of a consultation with BRE Solar (looking at the cost-options for PV (Photovoltaics) for Ekinoid homes. We'll put these up on the website when they arrive.
Update (14.1.2015): The PDF report is in - and it looks like there are a number of good, cost-effective options (NB: This is a 867Kb PDF file to download) for off-the-grid solar.