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The Biosphere

A week ago I shared my vision for a modular living unit dreamed up by my New Mexican colleague. This week, I want to talk about his other major design idea for the modular hexagonal living units: a community focused biosphere. The question we asked ourselves was: could the individual units be assembled in such a way that they create a large, enclosed environment? As someone who loves futuristic video games, I found this intriguing – individual living pods both physically and socially forming a community environment!

So off I went, using variations on one-level, single family pods as a perimeter. The spline system I designed for tying individual panels together for each unique unit worked nicely for tying multiple units together. The first ring of units was, for reasons which will soon be obvious, oriented outward, each with its own deck and entry. At key points around the hexagonal ring I placed modified pods with specialized spaces inside for communications, storage, security, emergency response and basically anything that might be communally beneficial in a harsh environment. These modified pods also formed the pass-through gates that led into the biosphere’s interior. I use the word biosphere for this conglomeration of units, when finished, was true to the idea of a self-sustaining environment designed for habitation. Don’t worry, I won’t be inviting Pauly Shore as a house guest.

Creating a stacked two-story pod was more challenging, but the modularity of the system simplified some aspects of the design. Specifically, uniform bathroom and kitchen modules were easy to locate, but with some creativity could also be altered to allow a degree of uniqueness in finishes and orientation. The two story units featured an entry, living/dining space, kitchen and small bathroom on the bottom level, with a pair of bedrooms and a bathroom above, connected by a simple stairway. The upper units offered windows on both the interior and exterior ring sides, potentially allowing for some spectacular views.

So what happens inside this giant donut? Well, that is where this project got really fun! My colleague wanted a central utility tower, so I gave him one. The bottom level is a giant cistern, collecting water from the communal roofs much like the Earthships I have been posting about. Actually, the roofs are a key component in the sphere’s sustainability model. The individual living units I talked about last time each had a sloped roof with central peak (think six pie pieces sloping down and outward) with a perimeter gutter collecting water and feeding the smaller tanks under the unit. But on this larger conglomeration of units I placed larger metal roofs, taking advantage of their durability and modularity to cover the two levels of living units each in its own angular roof. Because of the geometry of the tessellated hexagons, there were “odd” corners created so triangles between two adjacent units where the lower roof could help to form an exterior deck. We also opted for photovoltaic panels – active solar water preheating panels would also be an option to help limit energy use!

Check back tomorrow as we delve deep into The Biosphere!

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