As with our recent musings on probiotics for buildings, sometimes it’s fun and productive to think about the distant future in the microbiology of the built environment.
And Royal Philips Electronics (Netherlands) has done just that with their futuristic “Microbial Home” project. I’m not saying every one of their ideas will work, or that I’m in love with their new-age-y descriptions of everything… But I really like the overall concept. Here’s their description:
“The Microbial Home is a proposal for an integrated cyclical ecosystem where each function’s output is another’s input. In this project the home has been viewed as a biological machine to filter, process and recycle what we conventionally think of as waste — sewage, effluent, garbage, waste water.”
And of course, to do basically any of these things we’ll need lots and lots of microbes.
Here’s the basic objects in the “home”, and how they use microbes:
Bio-digester kitchen island: This uses bacteria to produce methane and heat, from kitchen scraps and human solid waste as energy sources.
Larder: This is an evaporative cooler, (using heat from the kitchen island) to keep food fresh and reduce microbial growth. Above this is a miniature garden.
Urban Beehive: Just what it sounds like, and don’t forget the antimicrobial properties of the honey, or the beneficial bacteria required for happy beehives.
Biolight: My personal favorite, a funky green light that uses bioluminescent bacteria fed with methane and compost from the kitchen island.
Apothecary: Not convinced this will work, but the idea here is a total monitoring system in the bathroom that gives you feedback on your health and recommends changes in your lifestyle/diet. I do like the emphasis on microbial indicators of health, ranging from analyzing microbial volatile organic compounds in your breath to regular examinations of your microbiota in the shower and toilet (by unspecified means).
Filtering squatting toilet: No microbes here, other than analyzing feces for your microbiota, and then feeding the bacteria in the kitchen island.
Paternoster plastic waste up-cycler: Feed recyclable plastic to fungi in the dark for a few weeks, then allow them to sprout into edible mushrooms. Cool.