Floods, droughts, hurricanes, forest fires – once rare weather phenomena are becoming more prevalent and powerful due to climate change. And it is impossible to deny this. At the same time, more people are moving to cities around the world. This is a dangerous combination, as the urban population is more exposed to the risk of destruction from the effects of global warming. Millions of people around the world can be at risk only because of where they live now.
But the simple resettlement of populations at risk will not do anything – for example, moving a fishing village will leave people without means of subsistence, and moving industries to cities will mean more destruction of the natural environment. We need to find a more sustainable long-term solution – to create houses that are tough enough to survive frequent and extreme natural whims without increasing carbon emissions.
Experienced designers, architects and engineers worked hard to find a solution that could satisfy both of these problems: they developed houses that could survive future conditions on Earth without damaging our environment even more. Here are some of the most creative ways by which we can adapt our habitats and mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
Systemading – the practice of creating permanent settlements on structures located in areas of the sea that are beyond the jurisdiction of any country – is becoming increasingly popular. In April 2017, this term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, and at the same time a new way of life appeared that uses 71% of the practically unoccupied surface of our planet – the ocean.
The sea level is growing even faster than predicted by experts, so private firms, governments and researchers are increasingly turning their attention to the oceans. The open waters remote from any land are not the most attractive or accessible place for settlement, but as the ice caps melt and flooded populated areas, we may have to evolve and become accustomed to living in water.
Many projects, some in development, and some completed, set the task of turning the ocean into a new land by means of sand or embankment. Similar projects, for example, in the United Arab Emirates, significantly expanded the inhabited territory.
But adding sushi does not mean solving the problem with tides and rising sea levels. Alternative: settle on the surface of the water on a floating island.
The concept of a settlement on the water is not new: the inhabitants of Lake Titicaca began to build their villages hundreds of years ago on floating, interconnected rafts of floating reeds.
Seasteading Institute, a global team of biologists, engineers, investors and environmentalists, gathered in 2008 with an ambitious goal: to design a modular, fully functional and floating “eco-village”. The Floating Island Project was to use concrete structures for floating platforms, also anchored at the ocean floor. These islands can be moved and rebuilt in accordance with the needs of the inhabitants of the island. Its original design allowed 250 people to live on 11 platforms with the possibility of further addition. Instead of living independently on land, the “floating island” was built especially for protected waters, and it can still be accessed from the shore.
In January, the government of French Polynesia, a collection of 118 islands stretching more than 2000 kilometers in the South Pacific, signed a memorandum with the Seasteading Institute and its affiliated Blue Frontiers start-up to begin developing a pilot floating island project as early as 2020.
Seasteading Institute proposed to build the first island village in 2020 in the lagoon off the coast of South Tahiti. Floating islands will be tied to the ocean floor about a kilometer from the shore, with platforms the size of a baseball field. “We will have a bungalow, we will have apartments, apartments, research facilities, an underwater restaurant,” said Joe Quirk, president of the Seasteading Institute, in an interview with NBC News. “It will be an independent tourist attraction, a demonstration of a stable society.”
The Institute will use the floating village of Tahiti to test a number of sustainable technologies, such as the use of recycled plastics and local coconut fibers as building materials. This will show whether people can live this way and whether ecotourism can be a viable basis for the local economy.
Floating islands are particularly urgent for French Polynesia – the proximity of narrow islands to the sea makes them vulnerable to rising sea levels over the next century. The newest model predicts that by 2100 under water will be from 5 to 12 percent of the islands. Thousands of residents live a few meters above sea level, so a disaster can occur at any time. And it’s not just a rise in sea level – stronger and frequent storms caused by the warming of the seas may pose an even more serious threat.
Mounting at the ocean floor means that the floating island itself will be strongly affected by bad weather. Even staying in calm waters can have a devastating effect on the islands. Access to basic needs like fresh water and fuel will also be a problem – floating communities will find it difficult to completely get rid of dependence on continental support.
House of yacht amphibian
Going to the ocean can be useful not only for those who need it most, but for those who seek luxury. Design company Arkup promises working from the energy of the sun “luxurious and livable yachts” for those who have an extra 2-3 million dollars.
The rectangular 25-meter Arkup has four bedrooms and more than 371 square meters of luxury. Electric thrusters at the bottom of the yacht are moved by a ship. Four 13-meter hydraulic blades (long tubular projections) at each corner lift it above the surface of the ocean.
The company promises to bring modern, environmentally friendly technologies to its livable yacht. The vessel is fully powered by solar energy and contains its own water treatment systems, as well as local waste management, allowing the vessel to operate outside the power grid.
More severe storms of the future will probably not be a problem either. Arkup’s architect and partner Cohen Oltuis said that a life-sustaining yacht can withstand winds at 251 km / h, which is equivalent to category 4 hurricane.
While the initial costs of this kind of life will definitely be large, renewable energy and rainwater cleaning will mean that the yacht owners will not have to pay any bills. And perhaps taxes.
Arkup plans to begin construction of the first prototype in 2017 in Miami. Oltuis believes that more and more floating households will appear in Miami, Tokyo and New York in the next 5-10 years.
To weather the storm
Climate change is more likely to make hurricanes more intense. The season of hurricanes in 2017 fell into this trend – although the storms were no more than usual, they were very powerful and beat a 124-year record.
Reconstruction of communities destroyed by such storms will be slow and expensive – in August, Hurricane Harvey caused damage of $ 180 billion, becoming one of the most costly natural disasters in US history. Obviously, houses need to be built in such a way that they are as durable as possible, especially in regions prone to hurricanes.
Design company Deltec Homes creates living quarters designed to withstand catastrophic storms. The model of the Deltec house is completely round, so that the wind bends around the structure, rather than concentrating on one side. Internal structures supporting the floors diverge like spokes on the wheel, which further strengthens the structure. Frame lumber used in Deltec homes can withstand up to 1,200 kilograms per square inch, which makes it twice as strong as the usual carcass material.
The windows are made of especially durable glass, resistant to unfavorable weather conditions. Unlike conventional windows with vinyl or aluminum frames, hurricane-resistant impact-resistant windows can withstand winds of up to 320 kilometers per hour. Glass is processed so that it does not crumble into small pieces, which is one of the greatest dangers for people when hurricanes cause damage to buildings. Each house costs from 225 000 to 320 000 dollars, depending on the size.
Deltec has built more than 5,000 homes in more than 30 countries. So far none of them have been destroyed by severe weather. “I think it’s inevitable, whether in 10 or 50 years, that the vast majority of homes will eventually build this way,” says Deltec CEO Steve Linton.
Environmentally friendly housing
Struggle against severe weather is just one way to combat climate change. The traditional construction of houses requires energy and materials that exacerbate the effects of climate change.
Reducing the impact of a new home on the environment can be achieved through the selection of environmentally friendly materials and renewable energy sources – another great way to mitigate the effects of global warming. For example, builders can choose recycled or natural materials – straw, unprocessed lumber and non-toxic paints and finishes.
Simon Dale, a homeowner and builder from the UK, brings the concept of a “green” home to the extreme. In the pioneer eco-village in Wales, he built a house that looks very much like a home from Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Hobbit. The house in which Dale, his wife and his two children live, costs only 4000 dollars, and it took four months to build it.
The house hugs the hill, protecting it from the weather. The frame is made of oak, extracted from the local forest. Floors and metal structures are made of scrap metal. The building is isolated with straw.
Although such environmentally friendly houses are difficult to implement on a global scale, they create a precedent. They show that the construction of houses of this kind is indeed possible.
Tubular lunar settlements
As the world’s population grows, and climate change makes the Earth’s conditions unpredictable, people may have to seek shelter elsewhere. Moreover, the work is already underway – for decades we have scanned the heavens in search of planets that could shelter human life, searched for water on the surface of Mars and built (at least mentally) rockets capable of carrying 100 people to Mars at a time.
The moon seems to be the closest possible step for further exploration of space, many space experts believe. People have not been on the Moon since 1972, but they can soon return.
Overcoming the harsh living conditions on the lunar surface and creating a permanent base is not an easy feat, because the Moon is not very hospitable for people. One day (and night) lasts up to 14 Earth days (and a full day is just over 29 earth days). The Moon has very little atmosphere, so people will have nothing to breathe, and temperatures fluctuate dangerously – rising to 123 degrees Celsius in the daytime and falling to -233 degrees at night. Flows of charged particles regularly wash the landscape, making life on the Moon difficult and dangerous.
Instead of building a base on the lunar surface, where it will be vulnerable to severe conditions, we could build a habitat in newly discovered lava tunnels. According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, these massive cavities are large enough and permeable to accommodate entire cities.
At the Global Lunar Conference in 2010 in Beijing, scientists developed a detailed idea of how the lunar base might look in 2050. Buildings should be domed to match the wavy lines of the surface of the moon.
“Inside the lava tubes there will be round domes through which we can see the blue Earth and the midnight Sun,” says Bernard Foin, executive director of the International Working Group on Moon Research.
Jan Werner, Director General of the European Space Agency, has his own idea of what life on the Moon can be like: a “lunar village”. Although the village of Werner should be the result of international cooperation, the design firm Foster + Partners has turned it into a full-scale 3D rendering. The dwellings are represented by a number of connected domes, and the colony itself is supposed to be built near the southern pole of the Moon in order to maximize the arrival of sunlight.
In the absence of an atmosphere that could protect people from meteorites and solar radiation, designers see the use of local materials to protect future residents.
Construction begins with a lunar landing module, on board which there are two inflatable domes, which will be the first outline of the habitat. Then the robotic 3D printer will spend three months collecting lunar dust, carefully digging up the soil layers and forming a foamed protective layer around the inflatable dome. The completed structure accommodates up to four people.
To the Moon and beyond
The creation of the lunar base can only be the first step as people move further into the solar system. Mars has long captured public imagination, and private space agencies, funded by the state and government, are working to send manned vehicles to the Red Planet. Nevertheless, there are still many obstacles ahead that need to be overcome before placing a permanent base on the planet – the atmosphere of Mars consists mostly of carbon dioxide, the temperatures are very low, and dust storms are dangerous.
In 2015, NASA launched its first competition to create 3D print homes, encouraging participants to develop Martian homes using local resources and 3D printing capabilities.
Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office won the first prize for the creation of Mars Ice House. This project uses a 3D printer to encapsulate the structure in a thick layer of ice extracted from the surface of Mars. Ice forms a blanket around the central dwelling – a two-story structure, delivered to the Martian surface from the Earth. The space between the ice blanket and the outer part of the dwelling forms a buffer that protects the inhabitants from harmful elements on the surface of Mars.