The Autonomous House

(Because we're not living in the 20th Century Anymore... ;^) )

External view of autonomous house,
showing detail of geodesic shell.



I've had a long-time fascination with shelter systems. Specifically, I like to try and figure out ways to help people live happier, safer, warmer, more comfortable lives, and at higher standards than they are used to. Towards this end, I'm designing what is called an autonomous house.

An autonomous house is a shelter system that provides for all of its occupants' needs, while remaining independent of many of the umbilical cords that are commonly connected to homes. By these, I mean electrical lines, phone lines, water lines, sewer lines, and roads. These things root a house down to one place, and when one of the systems fails (such as a tree falling on a power line someplace), the occupants suffer, because their shelter is dependent on those umbilicals.

I'm designing and integrating systems that will allow a house to be free of these outside dependencies. Even, ultimately, to be moved around at the whim of the owners, very much like the freedom that boat and mobile home owners currently enjoy.

There are many, many details to this, and you can get a good intro to the whole autonomous house concept by reading this for starters. It gives more background, and details where I think housing is heading in the coming century.

The Autonomous House is just one component of a Global Dwelling Service, which is one aspect of the Reality Sculptors Project that we're hoping to develop over the next few years.

There are also lots of graphics, which I'll be posting and expanding over time. I've been doing a lot of work with 3D graphics programs over the past couple of years, following the idea that "A picture is worth a thousand words." I've actually found this to be quite true and what you see before you used to take me hours to explain to someone just by talking. Now, a quick scan through these pages gives you some idea of what it's about, mainly due to the images.


The main software that I've been using for these renderings is a wonderful modeling tool called Moray and the Persistence Of Vision Ray-tracer (POV-Ray). I have also used Rick Bono's excellent geodesic dome generating software, called simply "Dome". It's a great tool for doing geodesic calculations, as well as generating quite stunning visuals to help communicate ideas. That's what I'm hoping to do with these pages.

Design Notes

I won't go into lots of verbose descriptions here. The graphics should indicate some of what I'm working towards, and if you find this sort of thing intriguing, please join some of the discussion lists and post your ideas and questions there. Newcomers are always welcome!

Ok, I lied. I did, in fact, get quite verbose. :-) I've now broken this page up into sub-pages to focus on specific issues and designs, to make it faster-loading for folks, and easier to digest in smaller pieces. Unfortunately, this makes it a bit harder to browse all the pictures, but explore a bit, and you'll quickly get the idea.

Please understand that much of what you see here are conceptual models. While I have great gobs of details locked in my head, I don't put everything into these pictures, sometimes due to time constraints, and sometimes because I haven't figured out how to get the software to do what I want it to do! So think of these things as sketches. They are my renditions of various concepts I have about designing an autonomous house. They are meant to get you thinking, and if you find that they do, and come up with questions, by all means, join the lists and join in on the fun. :-)

Also, since these are still sketches, you're going to have to use your imagination in putting some of these pieces together. For example, while I'm planning on making the home out of a geodesic ellipsoid, I'm not (yet) able to get the Dome generator program to work out-of-the-box with the Moray modeler, so I've provided several views, and in some models you'll have to imagine that there's a geodesic framework around the body of the house, rather than the simple eggshell-like smooth sphere I use in some renderings. The image above is a much truer rendition of what I'm aiming for, but that involved a lot of manual hacking of the code, so I'm not able to generate those pictures nearly as easily as some others.


Patrick Salsbury

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