Feeding yourself - The concept of a zero-emissions home

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Courtesy of Fishace Ecological Engineering

The discipline of Ecological Engineering is an emerging field mimicking ecological processes, within natural or constructed imitations of natural systems to achieve engineering goals.

Applying ecological engineering to a future, carbon intensive environment considers the transport of nutrients and energy within our local micro-systems to integrate and maximise eco-efficiencies. Zero emission philosophy converts most humanistic linear processes to integrated closed loop systems, it’s applied sustainability and coined ‘closing the loop’ - channelling local resources between human actions and the environment.

To illustrate this point further, we can begin with the human biological machine, consuming and utilising natural resources with waste outputs (including average 1KW/h output) manageable under pre-technological and low footprint environmental conditions. By understanding collective individualism we can develop machines, not only to treat waste but reuse as organic components for useful by-products and/or industrial clustering.

We generate an average of around 1kg of waste products from our bodies each day, whisked away via our energy intensive wastewater treatment systems to mainly produce sludge and polluted wastewater.

Now, most small rural settlements would know of the humble septic tank. It basically digests our household wastes and produces methane. Wouldn’t it be nice to capture that methane with a biogas digester (known throughout Asia as a generator of cooking gas), as a substitute for LPG; which we inefficiently suck from the ground and transport for the barbeque.

How about another ecological engineering example; the Algae Photo-Bioreactor (APB), a living converter of carbon dioxide to fuel, that can feed from all types of organic waste including high strength vehicle exhaust emissions. It’s worthy to note, an APB’s main exhaust is oxygen and clean water.

Couple this with solar thermal energy producing steam, from exchanging water through sunlight driven, hyper-saline ponds scalable to any project’s size. Household electricity is produced by hybrid solar photovoltaic panels or wind energy systems. Even the high consuming electrical kettle can be substituted for a stove kettle simmering on a wood (locally grown) oven range, with exhaust gases connected to an APB.

The home itself can be designed and built using a mixture of stone filled gabions, straw bales (for insulation) and rammed earth, whilst local or reused timber is sought for the atrium centred A-framed building.

The gardens are productive as there is carbon rich; inert, bacteria free compost from the digester to culture food, with food and garden scraps returned to the digester for recycling. Rain water is collected from the sloping roof for human consumption whilst ‘A Class’ recycled water is used for irrigation. Backyard aquaculture can produce fish protein.

This planning concept delivers a self-sustaining home requiring little input.

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