Environmental disruptions and technological advances have always influenced where and how people live. Early humans may have left Africa after rapid fluctuations in rainfall destroyed their food supply, and the opening up of the American Southwest occurred roughly in parallel with improvements in air-conditioning technology. In the decades ahead, a warming planet and a booming population will again alter where we live and how we construct our homes.
DESIGNERS: MUSTAFA BULGUR AND SINAN GUNAY
The most immediately disruptive force could be a rapid rise in sea levels. A coalition of scientists from Denmark, England and Finland predicted last year that by the end of this century, melting ice and thermal expansion will drive up the world’s sea levels by more than three feet. It’s unclear how many people that would displace, but the damage could be vast—approximately 10 percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas lower than 30 feet above sea level. Land that remains above water will face increasingly frequent storm surges and flooding. The residents of coastal cities could head for higher land, or they could do something distinctly more drastic: They could add a second city above the water.
Other architects have proposed a different approach: homes that require no land at all. Zigloo, a firm in Canada, envisions a narrow underwater skyscraper, deeper than the Empire State Building is tall, that by collecting rain for freshwater and using sun and wind for power would provide a self-sufficient home for 2,000 people (zigloo.ca). Gro Architects in New York proposes harvesting tidal motion to power a network of floating single-family homes (groarc.com). And with the Sub Biosphere 2, architect Phil Pauley imagines a completely submergible habitat for as many as 200 daring aquanauts (philpauley.com).single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.