30 January 2008

Antarctic Colony Update: Colonize Antarctica

Antarctic Bases: Map Courtesy of 70South

The new blog, Colonize Antarctica, has some recent postings dealing with housing and building materials for the extreme frigid environment of Antarctica.
Building anything in Antarctica is difficult. The lack of conventional resources such as timber and the remoteness of the continent alone make traditional construction a challenge. This post aims to outline alternative methods of construction that may produce buildings suitable for an Antarctic colony.
Most of the structures built in Antarctica today are not well enough designed to serve a permanent colony. One fundamental flaw is they are built above ground and thus are subject to the forces of the wind and extreme cold. In addition to this most structures leak out heat through windows and doorways further increasing the energy required to heat them.

The easiest way to combat this would be to build structures underground. The permafrost in Antarctica would provide a temperature stable environment year round. I have been unable to locate reliable sub-surface temperate data for Antarctic permafrost at various depths. So, for the following example I will use estimates. If anyone has that temperature data please send it in or post it in the comments section here.___Colonize Antarctica
Using a custom designed mix of fibrous cement with a high insulation value may be a viable option for Antarctic construction. Some of the most well known mixes such as the ill fated Asbestos filled Fibro and the lesser known Papercrete likely wouldn't preform well in Antarctica. However, using a different fibrous material, such as hemp fibers combined with other insulating material may yield stronger and more well insulated structures. Standard rebar reinforced concrete could be used for load bearing walls and support columns.

Hemp fibers could be initially imported and later grown locally in large underground hydroponics bays. If a small cement factory could also be established, that would reduce the reliance on imports and make a partially self-sufficient Antarctic construction industry.

Fibrous cement is an amazingly versatile material and can be used for building everything from insulating shells for underground tunnels, interior walls, water pipes, to furniture and even novelty items. Certain mixes of fibrous cement can even be worked and sculpted like clay. Blocks or bricks can be poured in standardized sizes. Custom sized blocked can also be produced fairly easily. Entire walls can be poured into place if need be.
____Colonize Antarctica
There is more detail in the two articles linked above, on building methods and materials. Obviously, Antarctica is an unforgiving environment. Even with the best of planning, things can still go wrong--sometimes fatally wrong. There is little margin for error.
Other than undersea habitats, there is no other fixed habitat on Earth that offers the type of challenges that polar habitats offer. There is no better preparation for the type of vigilance required to survive in space, than living in an extreme Earth environment habitat or colony.

For humans to provide their own best chance of long-term survival, they must learn to live in extreme environments. It is a rite of passage--a necessary pathway to the future.

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Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

The Antarctic is an extreme environment and as such will surely select against those lacking the intelligence to survive in such environments (over the long term).

Space is another such environment.

Thursday, 31 January, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

But then, much of the intelligence required to live in the environment (currently) resides in the civilization which sends them - the engineers and such so the environment might be more likely to be selective towards people who can survive brief periods of accidental exposure to the elements. But if early colonists had to pay their expenses to set up the colonies it might select for entrepreneurs and later for people who are bold enough to move to such an environment.

I have seen an idea for inflatable buildings with inner mirrored surfaces to increase the amount of sunlight reaching a section of ground for solar power and or heat production. Despite being inflatable they are supposed to have tested well in wind tunnels. I suppose that they would be cheap enough to lose one occasionally and they could be folded up during winter darkness.

Isn't most land on the continent covered with moving ice sheets? Or is that not the case near the coasts? It might necessitate more mobile structures for long term habitation.

I like the idea but any attempt to move beyond today's small scale research camps to some sort of economically viable community would result in every left-winger on the planet, plus any of today's "claimants" to antarctic territory who could not afford to join the party, all coming out to demand the shut down of the projects. It will probably take a long period of gradual expansion to avoid a lot of political resistance.

Thursday, 31 January, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

There is a paint additive that came out a while back that increased the insulation of walls - it was made of tiny hollow spheres. Polar bears use a similar mechanism by having hairs which have hollow shafts. Hollow fibers would make sense for both strength and insulation. Varying sizes of fiber could be used to take advantage of varying strengths, insulation values and cost at inner, middle and outer layers.

Thursday, 31 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

At lesser latitudes, you can do a lot with solar-heated thermal mass in housing and work areas. At 70 degrees or higher, there isn't that much sun to be used.

You have to insulate very well, and you have to generate energy and heat. You can use thermal mass with generated heat.

Building underground helps in terms of reducing wind load. But rapidly shifting and building snow and ice can be a big problem for low-built structures. It will take a lot of planning.

Intelligence is important, but conscientiousness and serious attention to detail is even more important.

Thursday, 31 January, 2008  
Blogger DANIELBLOOM said...

wow, this is amazing news. thanks

danny bloom

polar cities website

Sunday, 25 May, 2008  

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