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friday :: september 3, 2004
space architecture: space house on earth

An ESA-designed house that uses technology designed for space could become the basis of the new German Antarctic station, Neumayer-III. The new station has to meet stringent laws set up to protect the Antarctic environment, which is where the use of space technology comes in.

The idea of designing a 'SpaceHouse' for use on Earth was actually born five years ago, just after the large earthquake in Izmit, Turkey in 1999. "We started wondering whether some of our advanced technologies developed for space exploitation could provide completely earthquake-safe housing," says Fritz Gampe, Senior Technology Transfer Officer in ESA's Technology Transfer Programme (TTP).

"The initial objective was to use the same ultra-light CFRP (carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic) composites that ESA uses onboard its spacecraft for large self-sustained structures, antennas and solar panels, to make a self-supporting lightweight shell-like structure able to withstand severe earthquakes. This approach is in sharp contrast to many contemporary design solutions that use ever more steel and concrete to withstand the induced forces."

The design that engineers and designers came up with is a sphere-like structure - one of the most stable self-sustained shapes. As it stands on legs it is isolated from any movements underneath it as it basically glides on top of the Earth. In its current design the SpaceHouse can withstand vibrations from earthquakes of up to 7 on the Richter scale, wind speeds of up to 220 km/h and up to 3 metres of flooding specifications that came out of discussions with the insurance industry for a typical European location.

The house is designed to be autonomous. It uses energy-efficient solar power as well as advanced systems for recycling and cleaning water. Another idea, now on the drawing board, is to include a system to remove pathogenic particles in the sub-micron range from the air.

The technology used in the SpaceHouse design could also be of interest to the European housing market. "The construction sector is one of Europe's largest, employing 28% of Europeans with a turnover that is nearly 10% of GDP. Yet it cannot be said that this sector is one of the most technologically innovative, even if in recent years a multitude of new materials and processes have been used," says Fritz Gampe. "The fact that space habitats have to support life in hostile environments by relying on leading-edge technology means that the latter can also be a valuable source of innovation for the building sector back on Earth. Many of our space technologies have already provided original solutions to problems on Earth. New requirements for sustainable development mean that space technologies could also provide interesting and profitable solutions for the building sector." >from *Space Houses on Earth*. August 24, 2004

related context
space architecture after '2001' by constance adams
> first yuhangyuan in orbit: china's first manned spacecraft in orbit. october 20, 2003
> space art: mir campaign 2003. april 2, 2003
> iss, expedition 1. november 2, 2000

let's start with an antartic station !

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