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Scalable, Portable, Automatable and Closable Ecosystem (SPACE) House: A Research Proposal
Thrivability Solutions Network
Solving Global Pollution, Poverty and their Consequences
The idea is to assemble existing technologies and multi-use plants in new ways so that they can endlessly regenerate every single basic necessity required for humans to thrive, in eco-friendly ways; anywhere, anytime and in the smallest space possible. A high efficiency, four-season greenhouse can be upgraded with most of these existing technologies. The goal is to achieve self-sufficiency of all necessities for one person within 1000 square feet, or smaller. These augmented modules (one per person) are then attached to an energy plus house equipped with composting toilets.
Global overpopulation and its consequences; like climate change, famine, homelessness, disease, death, crime, terrorism, war, etc. pose increasingly difficult challenges for us and future generations. Most complex problems are best understood after they have been broken down into their basic components; so that their interactions can be analysed, in relation to the problem and similar phenomena. Had Earth’s human population levelled-out at 100 people in a large region of abundance, then most of these problems would not exist, at least not at their current levels. What do humans need to survive? We need food, shelter, clothing, etc. A Closed Ecosystem (CE), like a domed city or a space colony, simulates the Earth's ecosystem, but on a much smaller and more controlled scale. Can we design a CE with integrated renewable necessities? Yes, but building a domed city to experiment with and master is ridiculously expensive and risky. Does a single, smaller device exist that produces all of these things? No. What collection of devices and techniques can provide all necessities within the smallest footprint possible for a family of four? Can this collection be combined into a single, all-in-one device? Can this single device be versatile and mobile? The SPACE House is that device.
Statement of Problem
Problem I am trying to solve – Overpopulation and its consequences, like pollution, global warming, wars over dwindling natural resources, poverty, etc. pose a significant threat to our children. “Fewer than 800 million people populated the Earth in the mid-18th Century. Today, barely 250 years later, we are more than 7.5 billion and will continue growing until 2050, the moment at which forecasts point to a stabilizing of the world population.”
The end to the population growth will not mean the end of the above-stated problems:
“The world’s ecological deficit is referred to as global ecological overshoot. Since the 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot, with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year. Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year. We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester.”
Humanity faces three courses of action to reduce our global population:
Quick and inhumane – a large portion of the population suddenly dies, through war, disease, famine, terrorism, etc. = This is clearly unacceptable.
Slow and painful – globally reduce our birth rate to levels well below the death rate and reduce our consumption to only basic necessities and only at subsistence levels = Mere existence is undesirable.
Intermediate and informed – focus on making space colonization safe and easy, thus reducing global population pressures via humane and voluntary mass emigration = responsible and ecofriendly mass expansion throughout our solar system and beyond.
Create a small ecosystem which ensures that a family of four can indefinitely, easily and safely thrive in ecofriendly ways, in any environment. This small scale makes it safer, cheaper and less complicated to develop, than say a domed city or a space colony. It can then be refined and upgraded to become scalable, portable, automatable, closable and mass-produce-able, thus reducing overall costs to the consumer and to society-at-large. It enables safe and responsible human expansion into hostile environments, such as; the desert, the ocean, outer space, other planets, etc. This prevents poverty, pollution and overpopulation, in humane and ecofriendly ways, by design.
The EON Greenhouse Module
The Ecosystem Of Necessities (EON) Greenhouse – endlessly regenerates every single basic necessity required for humans to thrive, in eco-friendly ways; anywhere, anytime and in the smallest space possible. The estimated size is 1000 sq ft per person:
Using new combinations of existing technologies and multi-use plants, it regenerates: clean energy, organic food, clean air and water, medicine, construction material, clothing, etc. within 1,000 sq ft per person. Automated farming robots can be added to handle all of the planting, growing and harvesting chores. All compostable waste, including human waste, is recycled. EON Greenhouses can be stand-alone or attached to the roofs and/or sun-side walls of conventional homes. Existing high-tech greenhouses, like those designed by Ceres Greenhouse Solutions, could easily be upgraded to become EONs. Upgrading all manned buildings with EON Greenhouses, worldwide, eliminates: global poverty, global pollution, climate change and all of their enormous associated costs. Investing carbon tax revenues into fully-automating the mass production of EON Greenhouses would make them easily accessible to everyone.
The SPACE House
The Scalable, Portable, Automatable and Closable Ecosystem (SPACE) House concept - is any eco-friendly house with enough Ecosystem Of Necessities (EON) Greenhouses integrated with it, to support its inhabitants:
These fully-self-sustaining home-sized habitats are designed to support a family of four. They can be upgraded to accommodate more. They could be mass-produced and built apart or together, in endless configurations. They could be used to build new homes or to upgrade existing houses. They could be used to build or rebuild neighborhoods, towns and cities. They could even be the foundation upon which to design orbital colonies filled with plug-n-play SPACE Houses that do not need municipal water, sewer or energy infrastructures. We can use the SPACE concept to colonize space in a safe and responsible way, thus eliminating overpopulation and its consequences on Earth.
How does the SPACE House compare to other Closable Ecosystem solutions?
European Space Agency’s Melissa
Melissa uses a Closed Loop Concept:
“The driving element of MELiSSA is the recovering of food, water and oxygen from organic waste carbon dioxide and minerals, using light as source of energy to promote biological photosynthesis. It is an assembly of processes (mechanical grinding, bioreactors, filtration, wet oxidation, etc.) aiming at a total conversion of the organic wastes and CO2 to oxygen, water and food.
It is based on the principle of an "aquatic" lake ecosystem where waste products are processed using the metabolism of plants and algae which in return provide food, air revitalization and water purification.”
The SPACE House includes a robust Closed Loop that can accept outside inputs. In addition to food, water and oxygen, the SPACE House recovers clean energy, clean heat, biofuel (which can be cleanly converted into hydrogen), clothing, medicine and completely recycles human waste. It also renders expensive and ecologically destructive electricity and water works infrastructures useless and thus recyclable.
University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2
Biosphere 2 uses the domed city approach:
“The University of Arizona Biosphere 2 consists of a unique large-scale experimental apparatus housing seven model ecosystems, a team of multidisciplinary scientists, a broad science education and public outreach program, and a modern conference center. The seven model ecosystems are: 1) a mature rain forest with over 90 tropical tree species, 2) a 2600 m3 ocean, 3) forested swamps dominated by mangrove trees, 4) a tropical savanna grassland, 5) a 1400 m2 coastal fog desert, 6) three desert hillslope grass-shrubland landscapes, and 7) Biosphere 2, its campus, and associated buildings and facilities serve as a 162,000 m2 model city and urban ecosystem. The Biosphere 2 Science Program addresses societal grand challenges related to water, environmental and energy management through design of large-scale experimentation in each of these model ecosystems. These experiments support the development of computer models that simulate the biological, physical and chemical processes to predict ecosystem response to environmental change. In return, these coupled-systems model simulations inform scientists about the next level of experimentation needed to advance understanding of these complex systems’ responses that can be tested against observations in natural systems.”
It is far easier and less expensive to design and build a dome for a city filled with SPACE Houses instead of conventional houses. SPACE Houses are already designed to be self-sufficient in completely eco-friendly ways. The only way they disturb the surrounding ecosystem is by their mere presence. Thus, they should be strategically placed to minimize ecological harm, while maximizing exposure to sun and wind. The SPACE House could benefit from the many lessons learned from Biosphere 2, like incorporating the lung to regulate seasonal variations in atmospheric pressure and heat levels, not using concrete (at least not the type that absorbs oxygen), etc.
University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF)
The CESRF explores plant growth in a large variety of highly controlled and precise growing environments and conditions:
“The Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility and its Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture program are an essential part of Canada's contributions to plant research and development for space and closed environment related activities. The prospect of a higher priority for advanced life support research objectives in the Canadian Space Agency's Long Term Space Plan and the strong support of NASA's Advanced Life Support (ALS) community provide a clear incentive and opportunity to promote our capabilities in this area. In addition, our ongoing contract with the European Space Agency's MELiSSA Project promises to expand to include a broader scope of objectives in life support studies.”
The CESRF would be invaluable to help configure and calibrate the EON Greenhouse for any and all varieties of growing environments and conditions.
NASA’s Advanced Life Support
Ames Research Center’s ALS develops high tech replacements for nature’s processes:
“Role of Ames in Advanced Life Support
NASA Ames is providing ALS research and development of innovative technologies for use on the International Space Station, crewed transit vehicles, and surface habitats. The primary research and technology development emphasis is on air regeneration, water recovery, solid waste processing, and system integration, modeling and analysis tools.
Recent ALS Technologies Developed at ARC
Water Recovery – Vapor Phase Catalytic Ammonia Removal (VPCAR)
VPCAR is a single-step water recovery system that requires no consumables or maintenance for three years. The Equivalent Systems Mass metric of VPCAR (the combination of total system mass, power, volume, etc.) is five times better than the current state-of-the-art ISS (International Space Station) water recovery system. At TRL 5-6, VPCAR is a key candidate life support subsystem technology baselined for missions beyond low Earth orbit.”
The complementary technologies of the ALS and the SPACE House could easily be integrated into the SPACE House to back each other up as redundant Life Support systems. There is never enough redundancy for life support, when you live in hostile environments, like space.
Making the SPACE House into the new standard for the typical house solves a great many problems, everywhere:
All of this translates into unlimited excellent jobs!
The end goal is to develop portable, all-inclusive, and self-sufficient human habitats of all shapes and sizes where humans can responsibly thrive anywhere here on Earth or, that we can pack up and bring with us to use off-planet.