Architecture

Spherical "Ekinoids" to house future generations in off-grid towns

Spherical "Ekinoids" to house ...
Might the home of the future be spherical?
Might the home of the future be spherical?
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Might the home of the future be spherical?
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Might the home of the future be spherical?
A clay model of an Ekinoid was made in 2010 to illustrate the exterior finish
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A clay model of an Ekinoid was made in 2010 to illustrate the exterior finish
A copper Ekinoid proof of concept was fashioned in 2009
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A copper Ekinoid proof of concept was fashioned in 2009
A copper proof of concept was fashioned in 2009
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A copper proof of concept was fashioned in 2009
A frame model of an Ekinoid was built in 2011 to test structural rigidity
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A frame model of an Ekinoid was built in 2011 to test structural rigidity
A frame model of an Ekinoid was built in 2011 to test structural rigidity
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A frame model of an Ekinoid was built in 2011 to test structural rigidity
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A self-assembled spherical house may sound like a simple idea, but the founders of the Ekinoid Project are extraordinarily ambitious. It's thought that the global population could reach 9 billion by 2050, and to house some of those 2 billion extra people, the Ekinoid Project would see pop-up off-grid towns of its spheroid pods accommodate 10,000 people at a time in some of Earth's least hospitable places.

Spherical houses might sound like a gimmick, and an ineffective use of space, but the designers think that a sphere provides great structural strength while markedly reducing the amount of raw materials required for each sphere.

It's thought that Ekinoids would be made from either steel or glued laminated timber, which would be insulated or clad according to your inhospitable environment of choice. The deserts of Australia, Siberia, Mongolia and Africa are ripe for Ekinoid towns, according to the project website. Flood plains, too, become viable with the addition of an Ekinoid town, the website claims.

As is often the case, the off-grid rationale reads like a sustainable technology shopping list. The project website cites wind and solar power for energy needs, rainwater harvesting and gray water treatment for water, built-in sewage treatment and composting for disposing of the unspeakable, and hydroponics for food. Alas, no amount of rainwater harvesting equipment will actually make it rain: something to consider, perhaps, before spending your mortgage on Ekinoid 8,442, Sahara Desert.

It's claimed that a single Ekinoid can be built in a week by a team of four, including a skilled organizer. Having built one sphere, it's argued that those workers become skilled, and are able to supervise the construction of other spheres. In this way, the residents of an Ekinoid town would build their own houses (with a crane or two to unload and move the prefabricated kits as they're delivered).

The Ekinoid Project is currently seeking collaborators in academia: students get a research subject, the Ekinoid Project gets some feasibility guidance in return. The intention is for Ekinoids to be as affordable as possible, and it's hoped that all the necessary materials could be prefabricated for a cost of £50,000 (US$77,000).

The idea is still very much in the formative stages, but what information there is can be found at the project's website. It'll be interesting to see if this one goes any further.

Source: Ekinoid Project, via Boing Boing

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14 comments
Matt Fletcher
I guess I don't understand this concept. Please someone explain to me how a building with all outside surfaces exposed to the elements of a desert with a heat conducting metal covering is more efficient than one with it's floorspace covered mostly by the ceiling such as an igloo shape which reduces exposure to the elements by about 50%. Also explain to me how utilities and an entrance to such a building would be convenient. If you buried the bottom half into the ground this would work but that doesn't seem to be what is suggested here.
Rann Xeroxx
It's really not that hard to build a house, esp. a pre-fab one, and you can build one cheaper then 77K in material cost. My father-in-law and I build my 1000sqf house with 1000sqf basement + land + appliances, well, septic tank, etc for 65K 10 years ago.
The biggest problem building in the US is meeting regulations, some of which are pointless. This would not be a problem in a developing country.
Bob Ehresman
There is no upside to this design.
Someone wants to build a sphere house plain and simple.
Jon A.
It looks neat, but curved walls are typically inefficient. You can't put a set of shelves against one, for instance, unless you custom-build the shelves.
Of course if it was a cube, it would just be a house on stilts.
Also, building the whole thing out of copper in 2013 would be prohibitively expensive.
It would be great scenery for a video game or an RPG, though.
yrag
I've recent been researching self built homes. Here's two I find much more appealing, all ready in operation and at a better price:
http://www.rocioromero.com/LVsalesProcess.html (USA)
http-_www.i-domehouse.com (Japan)
VirtualGathis
To answer the question "Why a sphere?" I quote the article: "Spherical houses might sound like a gimmick, and an ineffective use of space, but the designers think that a sphere provides great structural strength while markedly reducing the amount of raw materials required for each sphere."
The point behind the Sphere apparently is strength and reduced parts. The unstated additional purpose is that it can be put on stilts with ease so it can be used in places that occasionally to periodically flood. The pictures all show a metal clad house but the article states that it can be built with laminated woods as well so in a Desert you would use a less absorptive cladding.
Personally I agree it is ridiculously expensive for its intended audience. $77K is more than some people make in a lifetime in “off grid” locations especially near deserts, flood plains, tropical jungles, etc. I think they'll be making these and no one will buy it. More affluent people who could afford one of these with a reasonable mortgage would live where a simpler house could be used. To expect affluent people to move to "Off Grid" locations is a bit rediculous as they would be moving away from work, medical care, etc. The Broad Group style sky scrappers built like an archology with work, food, and climate control incorporated would be a better bet for providing housing for the masses at affordable rates with proximity to work that could pay for the housing.
Slowburn
Sphere or just dome houses have a lot of unusable space I'll stick with boxes.
Jeff Rosati
"Strength" as a requirement implies that current structural systems are not adequate. That is plainly false. Also the Spherical shape encloses primarily unusable space for "humans living in gravity" ...
Scion
Though the article says the sphere was chosen because of strength and low materials needed for that strength I'd argue that per volume of usable space a cube would be cheaper and more efficient. Total cost of ownership would have to be considered not just the bare material cost to produce an envelope. Curved shapes are really difficult to build at any scale and trying to get a team of 4 to build a sphere that fits together in a week is unlikely unless they are 4 highly experienced and skilled craftsmen. The other major cost is outfitting the building with fixtures and fittings. Everything would have to be custom built and would necessarily take up too much space to account for the curvature of the sphere. The designer just wants a spherical house and that is that. I this house were under water or in a vacuum I could see the point, but it isn't. There is no surprise that our high density dwellings are rectangular sky scrapers and not bunches of grapes.
Stuart Anderson
Instead of making plans to house those "Extra 2 Billion People" I think we should be planning ways to not let that happen. I remember years ago there was a big push towards "Zero Population Growth" What ever happened to that? I think we need to go even further, and strive for a "Negative Population Growth".