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Coral Reef Villa

Design your house with light and shadows, then grow it from coral
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This idea is to allow you to grow your own house. It involves minimal human effort, as once you've set it up the coral does all the hard work.

First you need to lay a firm concrete foundation in the conventional way. On top of this you erect prefabricated sheets of aluminium to form a large crate, big enough to contain a house. Fill the crate with water and nutrients, and seed it with carefully chosen varieties of coral, and the coral will grow and form reefs inside the box.

To turn this into a house, you need to control where the coral reefs grow, in order to form walls. This is done with light. Many species of coral, because they derive most of their energy from photosynthesis, will only grow in the light. So you can guide where the corals grow by placing a mask over the top of the chamber, so that the only light shines vertically down in thick beams where you want your walls to be. The coral will grow vigorously inside these beams, but will not grow in the shade.

The mask needs to be thick to ensure that the angle of the beams doesn't change as the sun moves across the sky. It will consist of a top layer of translucent material. Underneath this is a thick (c. 2 metres) sheet of polystyrene, the sort you get in packing crates. The plan view of the walls is cut in this. The sides of the slots are painted matt black to prevent reflected light. This arrangement will ensure that the light always shines straight down.

Once the walls have reached the desired height, simply drain and dismantle the box. Then you can add a roof, some rugs, a bit of furniture, and knock out a couple of windows.

Of course, this won't grow overnight, but because it grows by itself you can just set it going and wait until it's finished, coming back every now and then to replenish the nutrients. It should only take a couple of years for a bungalow. If you choose your corals right, you will have a beautifully coloured dwelling that will be the envy of all your stone-clad neighbours.

spacemoggy, Jun 08 2004

Biorock http://www.biorock.net/
More info on controlling the shape of coral [Worldgineer, Oct 05 2004]

New Atlantis http://www.biorock....ublications/Achive/
Similar, but at sea. [Worldgineer, Oct 05 2004]

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       Make sure you use black polystyrene, or you'll get a lot of reflected light and no clearly defined walls.
Worldgineer, Jun 08 2004
  

       Good point. Amended idea to include it.
spacemoggy, Jun 08 2004
  

       Aren't certain corals deadly poisonous? And how would you stop it growing without it dying?
harderthanjesus, Jun 08 2004
  

       I had assumed it would die in the end, or when another layer is grown on top.   

       I would however recommend adding a (solar powered?) heat pump to tightly control water temperature, as coral is very sensitive to temperature.
Worldgineer, Jun 08 2004
  

       //deadly poisonous//
another good point. idea amended again.
And sorry, [harderthanjesus], the coral dies. But think of all the trees that get to live because you didn't build your house out of wood.

//sensitive to temperature//
In that case a heat pump should be a wise investment.
spacemoggy, Jun 08 2004
  

       But wouldn't it smell after it had died?
harderthanjesus, Jun 08 2004
  

       No. The bulk of coral reefs is not made of living creatures, but of the shells of millions of deceased coral critters. Have you ever seen coral? It's like a rock. People wear it as jewellery. And they build houses out of chunks of coral.
spacemoggy, Jun 08 2004
  

       It will stink initially, but you could treat it with chemicals, or just ignore it for a year or so.   

       That salt water is going to eat your aluminum enclosure up - the electro-chemical reactions between the metal and the water might be harmful to your coral construction workers.
normzone, Jun 08 2004
  

       You could switch to glass - both easy to remove from the finished product, and useful for watching your workers work.
Worldgineer, Jun 08 2004
  

       Glass it is then, but I'm going to need some none-transparent walls around the glass to control the light. Just wooden planking would do. It would be cool to come and sit in the dark and watch your house grow. Especially if you put some fish in there to flit in and out of the sunbeams.
spacemoggy, Jun 08 2004
  

       Nice idea, but how would you get plumbing, electrical, heat, etc in the house - isn't dry coral really brittle? Cutting holes through walls/floors/ceiling to lay down the basic utilities might make it structurally unsound. I would recommend this as a nice little garage to put in front of your house, but not the house itself. You could also start smaller and build a house for your dog first and see how that turns out!
anonymous_coward, Jun 08 2004
  

       A doghouse? I think a personal topiary, such a mailbox post, would be more practical.
dpsyplc, Jun 08 2004
  

       Sadly a _very_ long time. Decades or centuries. The coral dies, but so do you. Croissant for your great-great grandchildren.
david_scothern, Jun 14 2004
  
      
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