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June 29, 2009

City Scale Climate Engineering: Expanding the Eden Project Concept into Houston and other City Domes

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Discovery Channel's Mega-engineering discusses a proposal to place a dome over Houston if climate change threats fully materialized. The Houston dome would even be more economical even without addressing climate change but as a more efficient way to keep residents confortable than using air conditioning for cars and buildings. A detailed cost and efficiency analysis might show that such structures and a retrofit of many cities could be economically and environmentally justified.

Economic benefits:
1. Removes or greatly reduce the need or cost for individual hurricane and weather insurance
2. Shifts the costs for air conditioning and temperature control of buildings
3. Reduces/shifts environmental damage from structures under the dome to the dome

If we rethink and retrofit how we climate control cities, it could turn out to make more sense than climate control for all the buildings inside the city.









For such dome cities all vehicles under the dome should be zero emission and electrically powered.

For farming/agriculture in a climate change scenario where such domed cities are common there should be vertical farming (farming in high rise buildings).




Eden Project
These city dome proposals are an extension of the work of famed architect Buckminister Fuller and of the Eden project in the UK where domes were actually built.


One mile wide Buckminster Fuller proposed dome

The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in the United Kingdom, including the world's largest greenhouse. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world.


Sir Robert McAlpine and Alfred McAlpine constructed the Eden Project and MERO designed and built the biomes. The project took 2½ years to construct and opened to the public on 17 March 2001. It is made of steel and thermoplastic

The Rainforest Biome, which is the largest greenhouse in the world, covers 1.559 hectares (3.9 acres) and measures 180 feet (55 m) high, 328 feet (100 m) wide and 656 feet (200 m) long. It is used for tropical plants, such as fruiting banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo, and is kept at a tropical temperature.

The Mediterranean Biome covers 0.654 hectares (1.6 acres) and measures 115 feet (35 m) high, 213 feet (65 m) wide and 443 feet (135 m) long. It houses familiar warm temperate and arid plants such as olives and grape vines and various sculptures.

The biomes are constructed from a tubular steel space-frame (hex-tri-hex) with mostly hexagonal external cladding panels made from the thermoplastic ETFE. Glass was avoided due to its weight and potential dangers. The cladding panels themselves are created from several layers of thin UV-transparent ETFE film, which are sealed around their perimeter and inflated to create a large cushion.

Eden Project has received £130 million of funding from various sources.

How stuff works describes the construction of the Eden Project

Eden's designers decided not to use these traditional materials in their greenhouses -- they went with glazed ethyl tetra fluoro ethylene (ETFE) foil instead. ETFE foil is a perfect covering for a greenhouse because it is strong, transparent and lightweight. A piece of ETFE weighs less than 1 percent of a piece of glass with the same volume. It is also a better insulator than glass, and it is much more resistant to the weathering effects of sunlight






More technical details:
- The dome can be made of Texlon ETFE which can protect the city from 180 MPH winds, water and fire.
- Houston dome area would be over 21 Million square feet.
- Houston Dome's broadest panels will be 15 feet across. It will take 147,000 panels to cover the city of Houston



FURTHER READING
Monolithic domes at nextbigfuture.

Bolonkin air supported city dome for missile protection and other uses.

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