The Autonomous House - Various Views


Various Views

Here are some interior shots, but without furniture, it's difficult to get a frame of reference as to sizes. At 16 meters diameter, the ceiling would be approximately 9-10 meters overhead. These are older renderings, and my current designs are looking at a 3-floor living space (~3m ceiling height) with a sub-floor storage/utility area with a 2m ceiling.

Interior view.

Here's a wide-angle view. It looks a bit distorted, but take note of the relatively gentle slope at the rooftop. You can compare with the views above.

Interior view with a wide-angle lens.

Landing Gear

In case it isn't totally obvious by now, what we're talking about here is really much more like a spaceship than it is a house. But hey, we've now passed the year 2000, and quite frankly, I think it's time people had a futuristic dwelling option, if they so desire it.

It's not a spaceship in that it doesn't fly and doesn't have engines, but it should be designed to work just about anywhere on the land surface of this planet, and eventually, the Moon and elsewhere. It can be picked up by helicopter or airship and carried from one location to the next. It's going to have it's own hydroponic garden, collect its own power from renewable sources such as wind and sun, as well as use fuel cells and perhaps other methods to generate heat and light. (Perhaps a uranium hot rock to keep people warm who live in arctic and sub-arctic zones.) It's going to collect its own water, either from local streams & ponds, rainfall, or maybe even atmospheric condensing.

To this end, I've designed "landing gear" that rather closely approximates that of a spaceship. It's adjustable, articulated, and able to work on a variety of terrains. It's actually a conceptual cross between a bird's foot, and a human hand. Each leg has a platform "hand" at the bottom, 1 meter in diameter, with five "fingers" that can be used to dig into the ground, if needed, to grasp onto large boulders, or to be folded out of the way when not needed. I've taken the idea of "tread lightly on the land" to heart, and designed a house with approximately 7300 square feet of usable space, (inside and on-deck) that makes contact with the earth in only five places, and at that, covering approximately 4 square meters of ground area. (5 * pi * r2) = 5 * 3.14 * (.5)2 = 3.92 square meters.)

In addition, there will be a vulcanized rubber pad on the bottom of each foot, much like the material in car and truck tires. This will allow the house to do minimal damage to the area it's currently sitting on. In fact, according to some rudimentary calculations I've done, I suspect the house will exert less overall force on the land, per unit of area, than many of today's larger SUV's and pickup trucks exert, and much less than the larger semis and tractor-trailers.

The house will be able to raise and lower itself as needed, to auto-level on the often-unpaved parts of the planet. So it should be able to settle just as comfortably on the slopes of a mountain as a beach in the tropics, or an ice-flow in Antarctica or the Arctic Circle, or the top of a skyscraper in New York City.

The external view could look something like this:

External view with 'landing gear' legs

Here's a similar view, but with the outer shell made transparent. This shows the three main floors for living space, and there's a fourth "sub-basement" floor below the deck. The sub-basement area has about 600 sq. feet of area for storage and utilities. I plan this area for water tanks, fuel cells, battery arrays, waste recycling/composting and all the various life support systems that will make the house truly autonomous. This storage area is designed with a 2-meter ceiling clearance.

External view, transparent shell, showing
interior floor layout.
External view, transparent shell, showing
interior floor layout. External view, transparent shell, showing
interior floor layout.

The upper three floors each have 3-meter ceilings, and could have sections of the floors removed to create the vaulted spaces that domes are so well known for. This is just one configuration, and I intend that these houses will be configurable to suit the tastes and needs of the owners. The upper three floors, with no sections removed, total approximately 4700 square feet of space. The sub-basement floor has about 600 square feet, and the outer deck provides another approximately 2000 square feet, bringing us to the 7300 square feet of usable space I mentioned before. Not all of that is direct living space, and not all of it is inside, but even at 4700 square feet, it's several times more floor space than the average house in America has at the present time. And American houses, on average, are some of the largest houses (currently) in the world.

Here are close-ups of a "foot/hand", one with all of the fingers folded in, and one with fingers extended. The second image shows more of how it could grip a boulder or local terrain. Winches and cables could provide extra support in extremely steep areas, by casting out anchor cables that loop around rock outcroppings. (Much like a spider spinning its web to secure itself in precarious positions.)

Detail of foot with fingers folded in. Detail of foot with fingers extended.

Here are some pictures underneath the house, showing how the legs can independently adjust to the terrain, without lots of digging, grading, or pouring a large concrete foundation, as is common with current construction. (Click for a larger image.)

Detail underneath house.

A shot of the underside with legs fully retracted. This is probably somewhat like what the house would look like as it's being delivered to you by helicopter or airship. :-) You can also see the rubber pad on the bottom of each foot in this shot. I envision it to be very similar to tire rubber, and about 1 inch thick. (Click for a larger image.)

Detail underneath house.

Note the deck braces, the railing, and the auxiliary propane fuel tanks. The tanks and railing begin to give a decent sense of scale. The railing posts are 1m tall, and the tanks are 1m in (short) diameter, about 3m long overall. The propane tank is modeled from the one currently servicing my dome, which holds approximately 300 gallons of propane when filled. (393 gallons water-capacity) This view has the house equipped with six tanks, mainly for symmetry's sake. :-) These would be optional and add-ons as needed. If you're in the tropics, you probably wouldn't need them nearly as much as if you were in Antarctica, Northern Russia/Siberia, Alaska, Northern Canada, or other arctic climates. And if you're in a cold polar zone, you probably want as many tanks as possible, because the propane delivery person isn't likely to just drop by. Of course, a uranium hot rock is probably one way to beat the cold, but we still have to figure out if there's a safe way to manufacture them. You're more than welcome to help us address this issue, or others.

This design, with the propane tanks so close (in fact, attached) to the house, will almost certainly fail to pass current American building codes. (Thanks to Tammy Snyder for pointing this out.) Although, to be perfectly honest, I rather expect that this entire design will probably throw the American building code people into fits. :-) In any event, it's meant as a global solution, and is designed specifically for places where they don't *have* codes, much less infrastructure or even people (yet). I'm sure it will function quite well in zones where there are codes, and the problems will most likely be political, not technical. :-)

Recent Renderings

Here are some of my most recent renderings. Detailed explanations will be coming. For now, notice the interior walls on the second floor, the movable wall panels on the first and second floor (blue colored and able to fold up and get out of the way.) Also a nice interior view that captures the feel of the space, and some external views showing a variety of wall-window combinations. (These can be done either with standards opaque-wall and clear-window panels, or with light-shuttering LCD panels. In the case of LCD panels, you can change the window configurations at your whim, and draw creative patterns with the panels.

Some of these have been sized at 1024x768 or 1280x1024 and make excellent wallpaper. :-)

External view showing both solar
water-heating and photovoltaic panels. External ground-level view showing solar
panels and fuel tanks. External view showing second floor wall 
details. Note the folding blue partition on the second floor (folded up 
near the wall, and the extended version of the same thing on the first 
floor. Internal view from second floor 
balcony. External view, fully opaqued. External view, partially opaqued. External view, with even more windows around
     second floor.
There's lots more. Check back here, as I'm continuing to add more to it. If you want, you can dig around here to look at some of the raw images that I might not have worked into the pages, yet. They won't have any explanations on them, yet, but the pictures tell a lot. Also, if you're a 3D modeler, or have suddenly found yourself inspired to give it a try, they by all means, jump in and have fun! Contact me, or post a message to domesteading and let us know what you're interested in. I'd love to have others help visualize this concept. We can begin to share model files and build other views to help convey this idea to others.

And if you've made it this far, congratulations! You are obviously interested in this sort of thing, so perhaps you'd consider joining in on some of our discussions and help us design and create the future? We're always looking for sharp folks with good ideas.

start over...

Patrick Salsbury

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