Sustainability

February 5, 2021 - fieldnotes

Resilient Zero Carbon Homebuilding

Buckminster Fuller thought of the Earth as a spaceship, and mankind as the sensing apparatus. Because humans have the unique ability to detect when systems are damaged, make repairs, and reestablish harmony onboard our planetary vessel. Building construction and operation accounts for approximately 40% of global energy demand. Conventional homes are vulnerable to extreme weather and laden with potentially toxic substances.

Geoship is a whole systems approach to a complimentary housing industry, with new supply chains and production technologies.

Our Approach

  1. Maximize Efficiency Throughout
  2. Minimize Life Cycle Energy
  3. Reclaim Non-Toxic Waste Streams
  4. Generate Zero Waste
  5. Do No Harm
  6. Build To Last
  7. Make Everything Recyclable

Maximum Efficiency

Every part of a Geoship Dome is cast from a precision mold with special ceramic mixes we make inhouse. This gives us exquisite control over the shape and composition of each part and the structure as a whole. Our ceramic domes weigh about 80% less per square foot than a wood box. The geometry and composition of each part contributes to the integrity of the whole.

“[The geodesic dome is] the lightest, strongest, most efficient means of enclosing space known to man.”

– AIA

Life-Cycle Energy

Analyzing the Life-Cycle Energy of a building is an emerging science. Different methods arrive at different results. One method is Life Cycle Energy (LCE) = Initial Embodied Energy (IEE) + Recurrent Embodied Energy (REE) + Operational Energy (OE). For benchmarking purposes we included the building envelope, foundation, glass, and flooring. The appliances, electrical, plumbing, and kitchen sink were not included.

The dome we’ve modeled here has an inside diameter 27’ and is 17’ high. The base floor is 572sf and the partial loft is an additional 300sf. It has an 11” wall cavity filled with cellular ceramic insulation (R44 to R66). We included 30 triangular triple pane windows (15% Window/Wall Ratio), and a cellular ceramic earthing floor with 9” of subfloor insulation. The rebar and mesh reinforcing is a combination of basalt fiber and hemp fiber.

This dome has ~15,903 KWh of Initial Embodied Energy (195 KWh/M2). Our domes don’t require paint, siding, or roof replacements, so the Recurrent Embodied Energy is low. The
longer service life, smaller sizes, zero waste, carbon sequestration, and potential waste stream utilization of our ceramic domes will further reduce embodied energy and CO2 emissions.

We estimate operational energy will average 1,230 KWh/M2 over 50 years, which converts to 165 KWh per month (about $20/month). The dome is highly insulated, has minimal thermal bridging, and a tight envelope. Ceramics reflect over 80% of radiant heat. A small array of solar panels should provide enough operational energy to support the all-electric powered dome.

Waste Stream Reclamation

Ceramic injection molding is an adaptive technology. Many different geopolymer chemistries are possible including; phosphate-bonded ceramics, carbon-bonded ceramics, magnesium oxide cements/ceramics, some alkali activated cements, and calcium sulfoaluminate cements.

A wide range of organic aggregates such as agricultural waste, hemp fiber, and wood chips can be used. Inorganic waste streams like ash, recycled glass, and captured CO2 also make great aggregates. Phosphates can be reclaimed from wastewater treatment plants. Magnesium and Potassium can be reclaimed from seawater desalination plants. The main waste stream from Lithium mining (for batteries) is a type of Magnesium that we can use in the ceramics. Part of our mission is to help build a cradle-to-cradle ceramic raw materials industry as we scale.

Zero Waste

The installation of ceramic domes does not require cutting of any type. The injection molded parts fit perfectly. Geoship production plants reuse water and our goal is zero production waste.

Do No Harm

Some level of ecosystem degradation is likely wherever there is resource extraction. We plan to work with third party organizations to perform a full life cycle assessment on every raw material we use. Customers will receive a beautiful transparency report detailing the life path of each raw mineral in their dome. As Geoship scales we will partner with suppliers and drive positive change. Our multi-stakeholder cooperative model is designed to offset ecosystem degradation by driving ecosystem restoration projects.

Built to Last

Our all-ceramic composite domes are engineered for a service life of 500 years. There is nothing to burn, rot, rust, or corrode. If the dome were underwater for long periods of time, it would only get stronger, and eventually dry out. Phosphate ceramics are naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. If damage occurs you can mix ceramic yourself and permanently repair the dome with the same material it’s made from. Ceramic homes can be resurfaced with ceramic material.

Recyclable

Ceramic panels are completely inorganic and non-toxic. At the end of the very long life, they can be pulverized and used to make new ceramic panels. The ceramic material also makes excellent fertilizer. Emerging vortex wind technologies can molecularly separate the ceramic, for very efficient recycling.

“It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting high technology from weaponry to livingry.”

— Buckminster Fuller