Oct 25, 2016 | By Alec

Even the most optimistic futurist will tell you that significant challenges await future generations. Natural resources are dwindling as temperatures rise, while populations are booming – a perfect recipe for fundamentally changing ecosystems as we know it. Those optimistic futurists will simply argue that science finds a way around these challenges, and that might very well be the case. Mihai Chiriac from DS 10 Studio at The University of Westminster has just showed them one option with his concept for Aquaponic Future Housing, 3D printed aquaponic homes that create miniature ecosystems in urban areas that can sustain vegetable and even fish growth.

This remarkable concept reached the spotlight of the Inhabitat’s Biodesign Competition, eventually receiving an honorable mention as a finalist – with algae concepts taking home the gold in early October. However, Chiriac’s concept is especially appealing as it envisions home construction using simple recycled plastics and creating an almost completely self-sufficient living environment.

Key to that solution is a closed-loop aquaponics system, “a symbiosis between hydroponics and aquaculture.” The three-level 3D printed home essentially houses a hydroponic environment, in which plants can be grown without soil in a grow bed positioned above a water tank. In that tank you can find the aquaculture, or the farming of edible fish and other aquatic life forms. The waste from the fish tank (including uneaten food made from the plants) is transformed into the essential ammonia-rich nutrients that the plants need, creating a closed loop of food growth. In fact, it could yield more food per square foot than any other form of agriculture.

At the same time, the plants create a healthy, green living environment for the actual occupants, and provides a way to escape the neglected urban spaces of today’s world. But as Chiriac explains, the decision to opt for 3D printed bioplastics is also a logical one. “The building uses novel structures and fabrication, proposing lightweight bend-active aquaponic towers, which sustain growing crops and fishing,” he says. “The towers enclose inhabitation units which are 3D printed using bioplastic created in-house from vegetable starch. This flexible house of the future acts as a Rep-Rap 3D printer using robotic fabrication for both weaving carbon enhanced bioplastic rods as well as extruding bioplastic layers.”

It’s an intriguing concept that puts a completely different spin on the concrete-based construction 3D printing solutions we have seen so far. For while more cost-effective than existing construction approaches, those concrete-based programs do nothing to regenerate urban brownfield sites or make more efficient use of limited available spaces – which will come under increasing pressure to house a very rapidly growing population.

3D printing in these sustainable materials, however, not only efficiently uses that space but is also the first step towards removing pollutants from the region by simply not introducing more. In fact, the waste the inhabitants produce can be immediately turned into more bioplastics for the neighbors’ homes. “Similarly to aquaponics,” the Sheffield designer says, “it enables a cradle-to-cradle lifestyle where fresh organic food and construction materials are produced in-house by the inhabitants.” Could these be the homes of the future?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Dave wrote at 10/27/2016 9:44:41 PM:

The article refers to a closed loop system whereby the nutrient rich water after basic filtering and conversion to nitrates nourishes the plants in the hydrponics section. The purified water returns to the fish. And Bob's your uncle.

mick wrote at 10/25/2016 5:25:18 PM:

ok tell me this. What do you do with all that nutrient rich wast water?

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