The Ekinoid Project
Off-The-Grid Towns for all environments, all people.
Self-assembly, spherical homes to make off-the-grid towns
To hope to address the emerging, gigantic problems of the 21st century we need bold, gigantic-yet-simple solutions. A likely reality is a population increase to ten billion people; and committing to new population centres - in ways that are supportable and highly efficient - will be crucial.
Imagine self-assembling enough spherical houses in one place to build a sustainable, off-the-grid town for 10,000 people - in around six months. And then repeating these sphere towns in 10,000 places on what is (currently) designated as marginal land ...(i.e., land that may be only be marginal because it is outside our current focus of what land might be useful for settling new communities; and that our current use of common building materials and rigid planning systems means they cannot be designated as useful land.)
Imagine these "Sphere Towns" thriving in virtually any environment
A sphere is structurally light yet exceptionally strong, and the Ekinoid home will hence very significantly reduce raw-material requirements (from around 120 tonnes down to around 20 tonnes - reference: SEI 2007 PDF), and will free up the land underneath; it will allow occupants to fulfil their own power needs using solar/wind power - or biogas gasification (if there is suitable biomass available) - 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 effectively treat grey water and use in-house sewage treatment and composting; 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 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.
Build each home / town using unskilled labour (the homeowners)
Ekinoid homes will be designed to be as easy as is pratically possible to fabricate (ideally using no expert knowledge or skills), house a family of three/four, and will take under one week to build. Ideally, the main structure should last over 100 years (and then be recycled).
How is this scale of build possible?
All parts of an Ekinoid home 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 train new owners. This training would, in principle, work exponentially and would therefore service the whole new community in a very short time.
Imagine 10,000 Ekinoid Project towns
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, with none of the usual infrastructure costs.
Using land unsuitable for conventional dwellings
Areas we may consider generally unsuitable for human settlement (because we have become used to the idea of expensive infrastructure also having to be in place) might be suitable for off-the-grid towns : Australia is three million sq. miles (Population: 21 million people), Siberia is five million sq. miles (eight times the size of Europe, Population: 40 million people), the Sahara desert is three million sq. miles (it's around 25% of all of Africa, Population: 4 million people), Mongolia is 600,000 square miles (Population: 2.7 million people), i.e., there are vast areas of the earth which have hardly any population at all.
There is also the real prospect of safely encouraging large communities in areas not suitable for conventional dwellings e.g., flood plains: the main structure of the Ekinoid home sits seven feet (over two metres) off the ground. Every year about 18% of Bangladesh floods during the monsoon, yet during a severe flood 75% of the country may be affected, however the waters are rarely over knee height.
Mixed-use farmland: Using grazing lands for Ekinoid Towns
The land underneath each Ekinoid house remains useful and accessible. So, for instance, Ekinoid homes could easily be spread across certain types of farmland; grazing animals could still have access to the land underneath and around; or it could be used for crops/gardens/storage/parking. Also, traditionally poor land - moorland for instance, only good for grazing a few sheep, could not only be easily used for Ekinoid towns, the use of organic waste and brown water from each house to treat the land would greatly increase its overall fertility.
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.
The Ekinoid Project: Goals
- 1.Designing the Ekinoid home in such a (bolt-together, colour-coded) way that it can be built onsite by cooperating individuals (unskilled in traditional building construction): You build your own home; you can help others build theirs.
- 2.That an Ekinoid home can be completely constructed within one week.
- 3.An Ekinoid home can be easily joined to another Ekinoid home (via the stairwell); the stairwell will act as an common access to up to four Ekinoid homes.
- 4.The Ekinoid home will be suitable for all land-based environments across the globe.
The Ekinoid Project: Issues
- Ekinoid homes, having a spherical (steel or possibly Glulam) frame, will be extremely strong, robust and light. This will make them ideal for any environment on earth - the spherical shape retains its strength in any conditions. However, different environments (rainforest, desert, arctic, proximity to sea water etc.,) are going to need subtantially different claddings ("skins") and insulations. Wherever possible we would like to factor in the use of local materials (to minimise the transportation of materials, support the local economy etc.).
- A sphere has the maximum volume to minimum surface area ratio of any shape in Nature (25% more than a cube): Ekinoid homes will therefore be inherently easier to control temperature fluctuation through insulation than traditional rectangular homes.
The Ekinoid Project: Needs
- 1.Seed funding for the initial project, extending to the building of a full-sized prototype.
- 2.Facilities to research, design and build a full-sized Ekinoid prototype - ideally testing a range of materials, to allow for different environments; desert, humid, cold, high rainfall etc. For this we would particularly welcome the commitment of one or more universities, specialising in architecture, structural engineering and materials research.
Universities, we need your collaboration.
The Ekinoid Project is seeking active, ongoing collaborations with one or more universities. We want to forge partnerships (in industry and) with universities regarding architectural, structural engineering and materials solutions, and we want to involve product designers, graphic designers, 3D-graphics artists, town planners etc. The Ekinoid Project will provide excellent long-term research-based projects for groups of second/third-year, Masters and PHD students, in all of the aforementioned areas.
Please Note: We are based near St Austell in Cornwall, UK. However, we are very happy to work remotely with any sympathetic bodies worldwide. We don't care where you are, so long as you can share our vision. This is a global project - we are looking for global partnerships, global solutions.
Copyright 2012 - 13: The Ekinoid Project.