Biospheric Urban Dwellings: Connecting Nature and the City


By Vincent P. Walsh Created: April 19, 2011 Last Updated: April 24, 2011
Related articles: Science » Earth & Environment
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Composting is a key component of sustainable waste management in biospheric urban dwellings. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Composting is a key component of sustainable waste management in biospheric urban dwellings. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

When everything is hyper-interconnected, for better or worse, everything matters. We are part of an amazing universe of over a 100 billion galaxies, a connected universe. In research, hyper-connectivity is no longer just an “add on”; it’s the bones of critical thinking research methods.

By integrating several academic schools of thought, professions, and technologies, the sum of the parts can add up to more than the whole, bringing to the forefront a new perspective on how we implement permanent and biospheric urban systems in the 21st century city.

Bridging the gap between theoretical and practical permaculture, biomimicry, and biospheric practice in the urban environment is at the heart of my research on biospheric urban dwellings.

Through a marriage of biology, ecology, and technology, my aim is to create stable, productive food, bio-waste, and dwelling systems that provide for human needs in harmony with nature.

Standing in a biospheric urban dwelling may feel like standing in your own Gaia—your own miniature world—that provides everything you need to live a truly local, healthier, productive, and resilient lifestyle. Miniature biospheric urban dwellings encompass a food production zone, biological waste facility, biotech façade, and solar capture platform.

Wikipedia describes permaculture as “an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies.” Biomimicry is “the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from them in order to solve human problems.” The biosphere is the broadest level of ecological systems encompassing all life on Earth. It is a closed and self-regulating system.

As technology becomes more powerful, smaller and cheaper energy, food, and water systems will be built from the bottom up. How will bio-architects in biological cities build sustainable dwellings in the 21st century? To be effective with this biomimetic strategy, we must act more locally by producing organic food, and by promoting ecological diversity within a population whose economy is a community rather than consumption-driven.

Research has shown that collaborative ecological systems and strategies persistently demonstrate a natural ability to withstand environmental change and increases in population density, with the potential to be interpreted and implemented in the design and operation of our cities. These adjustments can occur at various scales: regional, city, street, and building.

Once installed, these urban systems will contribute to energy autonomy and thus mute the processes that cause climate change. Eco-effective design offers a paradigm shift away from the “be less bad” eco-efficient, by promoting the concept of “waste as food” and establishing the “city as a forest.”


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