The Ekinoid Project: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the basic idea behind the Ekinoid Project?
The Ekinoid Project emerged as a large-scale solution to critical environmental problems which are in their infancy yet are already having a huge and damaging impact on the planet. There is a great need for housing projects that approach things in a revolutionary way and, to be honest, current housing policy and planning in the West and many of the emerging economies is antiquated in its approach and vision: we desperately need to use far less material in our construction of homes, we need to be independent of costly utilities and infrastructure, to use marginal land in order to reduce population pressure, to use land as efficiently as possible (i.e., not to use foundations), to be affordable (so that whole populations are not slaves to their mortgages) and to be simple to construct (so that whole populations become builders and caretakers of their own homes, their own environments).
Our spherical building solution answers all these needs: it is an exceptionally light structure yet still immensely strong, can be self-sustaining for energy needs (each house having some form of self-contained wind generation [a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine] and thin-film solar panel technology on or around each home), fully uses the land (as it is built over two metres above the ground), enriches the land underneath through composting all organic waste produced, will be cost-effective for materials and construction (and recycling), and can be constructed anywhere that will take a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Why a sphere?
A sphere is esentially the optimal shape for a pressure vessel, so any other shape will be weaker.
The arc (think: circle) is the strongest structural shape, and in nature, the sphere is the strongest 3-dimensional shape.
The reason being is that stress is distributed equally along the arc instead of concentrating at any one point.
(Storage silos, storage tanks, diving helmets, space helmets, gas tanks, bubbles, planets, etc. use cylinder or sphere shapes -- or both. Ask yourself, "how strong (and light) is the shell of a coconut"?)
How could the house be easily constructed?
There are many design challenges ahead for the Ekinoid Project. One of the main issues is the construction of the main rim-tensioned floor: This is literally the hub of the building. However we believe that this design challenge will be met, and that the rest of the build will then fall into place. The principal underlying the whole construction is that it should be as simple as possible - bolt together - that it should be modular, and accessible to anyone wanting to build their own house, regardless of their previous building experience.
Ideally, each home will be as easy to construct as possible: bolt-together, colour-coded parts, detailed instructions and videos, so easy and well-planned that they can be built onsite by cooperating individuals (unskilled in traditional building construction): You build your own home; then you help others build theirs.
Why is a spherical shape a good idea?
Many people react strongly, and negatively, to the very idea of a spherical house. We hear things like "it's impractical living in a circular space" and, it's very difficult to build something that has compound curves" - and these objections usually surface really quickly we've noticed ... And yet, how many of us have actually lived in a circular building, or tried to build something that has compound curves (using flexible materials)? I think there are two things at work here:
1. Conditioning: we are so conditioned to thinking in terms of living in rectangular boxes, using long-established (rigid) materials (wood, concrete, breeze/ash blocks, bricks, slates, plasterboard, plaster), and thinking in terms of straight lines - that we have become unable to freely think about the possibilities of curved shapes and flexible materials.
2. Seventies geodesic experimental homes: Spherical buildings also had a (mostly deservedly) bad press in the Sixties and Seventies, which has left a long-lasting negative legacy. Often these (geodesic) hemispherical homes had problems with leaks and were built (predominantly in the USA) by people living communally on the fringes of mainstream society who had pioneering ideas but not the expertise or materials to successfully build what they aspired to; and these communes all failed, bar one or two, for social reasons, within three or four years.
As to the practicality of living in a circular home, there are many instances of people living successfully in circular structures, currently and historically: Mongolian yurts, Iron Age round houses in the UK, pallozas in Spain, trulli in Italy, rondavels in South Africa, teepees/tipi, used by the tribes of the Great Plains, USA, the raun haus in Papua New Guinea, cob round houses in North America, igloos in Canada's Arctic and Greenland's Thule area etc. But again we often have a long-established negative conditioning around this kind of living: we associate this kind of dwelling with nomadic "primitive" lifestyles, basic living conditions, poverty. Wealth and status are on show in rectangular "solid" homes, not in "temporary", flexible, round homes. In other words, we have been taught to be prejudiced against (temporary, flexible) round structures for living in.
If we can turn this prejudice around and embrace the idea of using flexible materials, for long-term round homes, then we can more easily imagine the benefits of building homes as spheres: A sphere, in principle, allows an extremely strong-yet-light, thermally efficient, durable structure - and with flexible coverings / materials those issues around building with compound curves are resolved.
How could you build an entire city in this way?
All parts of an Ekinoid home/city will be delivered on-site for easy fabrication. We think one crane (possibly two) and a team of approximately four people (one skilled, three unskilled) would be adequate for the one-week construction time needed for each house; and after, these newly-skilled people (the new owners) might then help to build more Ekinoid homes, and support new owners/builders. This training would, in principle, work exponentially and would therefore service the whole new community in a very short time.
Because Ekinoid homes will all be off the grid, there will be no need to put in the infrastructure commonly demanded for normal utilities and services - which means that in many suitable areas roads, power lines, pipes, drainage etc., need not be built. What this will mean, in practice, is that far greater areas of land may be happily used for new habitation, at little extra cost. The local geography and conditions will define the structure of Ekinoid towns and cities.
How can the houses be completely independent of infrastructure?
To be independent of infrastructure you need to be able to access homes without using a local road network, to have no pipes for water and sewage or wires/pylons for power. Each Ekinoid home will use water captured locally (from the roof where possible, and then filtered depending on planned use), will compost all their own organic waste, will use a combination of thin-film solar panels and roof-mounted VAWTs (Vertical Axis Wind Turbines) to generate their power (Ekinoid towns may of course choose to share their power generation), locally, between each other). Of course there will be regions with little wind, low water and little sunlight so these will present challenges for energy production ... we will take each area on its merits and endeavour to come up with workable loca energy solutions. Internet access is still an unknown for us at this time, regarding large-scale access; it might be via satellite in remoter regions.
Why are these houses suitable for inhospitable regions?
When there is no need for foundations for houses, roads or piping then vast new regions of marginal land become easily available: moorland, tundra, desert, flood plains - all these become available to a 4-wheel-drive vehicle; and every house would not need a vehicle, there might well be a pool of vehicles shared by the local community.
The Ekinoid Project focuses on the idea that a spherical structure can deliver a practical, affordable housing solution, suitable for any environment. A structure whose parts can be both mass produced (locally, wherever practicable) and fabricated on-site - by unskilled hands (using detailed written and video instruction, as well as personal support from a previous Ekinoid-home-fabricator). Ekinoid homes will be designed to suit the local climate and terrain.
Structurally light yet exceptionally strong, the Ekinoid home will very significantly reduce raw material requirements, and will free up the land underneath; it will allow occupants to fulfil their own power needs (and meet their requirements for potable water and in-house sewage treatment [which will also benefit the land beneath]; and some of their food needs via in-house hydroponic production).
What is the current status of the project?
We are in the very early stages of development. As you can see from the website we have developed the idea to the stage of a Proof Of Concept regarding the structure and are now approaching universities locally in the UK to get various departments involved. But we are putting the call out globally - we would welcome involvement from companies, institutions and universities worldwide ... what we really hope for is a small, committed team of people who share our vision for this project, who can see the need to make this work, and on a huge scale.
The cost of an Ekinoid home?
Although we are at a very early stage in the design process, and it is therefore difficult to forecast precise costs, it is our challenge to try to produce all the necessary parts for an Ekinoid home (excluding white goods, furnishings, hydroponic systems etc.,) for around 50,000 GBP (approximately 60,000 Euros, 78,000 USD, 74,000 AUD); either as an outright purchase or under a lease agreement. We would seek to offer this in conjunction with governments and corporations willing to make large areas of land (previously designated as unsuitable) available, possibly with an annual management fee built in. If we could offer this package it would provide an extremely attractive, and clearly affordable, option to the public.
Copyright 2009 - 12: The Ekinoid Project.