Underground Facility Design for Keeping Your Mind Above Ground
By Michael Bakk
Date: November 10, 2006
Exterior Design Problems
Compared with an above ground building, the exterior design of an underground facility for the moon has a difficult set of problems for the designer. By its name you can guess, most or all of an underground building will not be visible by the occupants before occupancy. While a facility for habitation and research on the moon, would often be placed underground to shield the radiation, navigating and a feeling of orientation need to be accomplished in other ways. Their lack of visibility can confuse and disorient people while making use of the facility. Therefore, since only a small portion of the exterior design is visible, it carries additional importance and must be designed sensitively to perform the requirements of the building and while creating a pleasant environmental design that is integrated with the rest of the underground building.
The exterior of a building above ground is mostly appreciated aesthetically. Likewise, an unobtrusive, below grade building with a well-landscaped and detailed design still can’t compare with looks to an above ground facility. Using some design methods that will be discussed in this article, it can still be a positive aesthetic experience. The contradiction in designing an underground research station or building is to join this unobtrusiveness. Essentially to "make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear".
There are three key exterior design problems related to most below grade facilities:
1. As it is mostly not seen, the building will not have its own distinct image.
2. As there is nothing above the ground that can give a sense of size or interior
configuration, occupants can grow confused and/or agitated with their environment.
3. With only a few building portions exposed to the surface, building functions such as main entrances may visually dominate the surface of an underground facility.
4. With the wide range of cultures and personalities that may occupy an underground facility. Some may have a fear of the underground and feelings of discomfort that need to be prepared for during the initial design.
The first problem listed above, the lack of a distinct building image, is important to the people using it. The designed environment must give the occupants a sense of security. It must be established by a harmonious sense of the direction and intuition between themselves and the outside lunar surface. In our case it would be the analog research station on earth. Furthermore, this intuition is the product both of sensation and of the instant memory of previous experiences. It is important for the users to interpret landmark information and guide themselves accordingly. The unusual sense of environment of an underground facility may limit the amount of previous associations that a person can use. This interpretation of the building to get their bearings straight is largely intuitive of a person’s internal compass while working in any facility. Care to provide design elements are important to assist the occupants with this intuition. Also, special attention must be paid to facilities with these inherent drawbacks to create an environmental image that enhances security and a feeling of well being. Thus, create a positive transitional experience while adapting to their stay underground.
Inability to See Overall Size or Configuration The second problem is the inability to perceive an overall size and layout of the facility. The key is to create a sense of organization and structure for the occupant. The best way to do this is to educate them on the internal organization principle for the facilities design. This will be accompanied with design elements that will enable people to create a mental image of the facility and understand the reason for the elements location. It is this overall misunderstanding that is a major cause for confusion in a below-grade facility. An underground building will simply have to be designed with a structured and well-organized interior to compensate for the inability to perceive what the exterior may look like.
Entrance Design Issues and Problems
In almost any building below grade, the entrance has a critical role. It gives the researchers a sense of beginning; it can set the mood of an environment; it immediately starts to strengthen the sense of orientation for the interior of the building; and it represents a place of physical and psychological transition between the interior and exterior. It is critical to the positive transition of the occupants’ sense of direction. This will enhance the starting point of a development of orientation as the entrance controls the organization of the building layout.
The problem of designing a successful starting point to an underground facility layout is not simply a matter of making the entrance easy to find, it is the layout of the elements of a successful entry sequence. The most important element of a successful entry sequence is legibility and sense of space. Legibility refers to the use of visual cues to help maintain orientation, distinguish boundaries, and determine the function of a building. In particular, a legible entry sequence should make a clear direction for traveling and communication of the facilities function. The subjective term "sense of direction" refers to places with a distinctness of directional identity. This is a facility with architectural qualities that create a satisfying experience and a feeling of well being.
Glass pipe drains from the labs to a acid nutralizing tank
Fear of the Underground
The downward movement of an entrance can create discomfort and fear if architectural qualities are not considered to change these feelings.
A number of fundamental psychological issues may present themselves including claustrophobia, fear of entrapment, panic or negative cultural and even status associations. These associations may increase the occupants’ sensitivity with an entrance design that is artificially lit, dark, confined, and/or confusing. The aspect of underground facility entrances needs designs that require an understanding that the entrance is not an isolated architectural and generally simple element of the design. Elements like a simple analog airlock with a vestibule type door or a simple foyer should be avoided. Alternately, the entrance is part of a continuum that includes the building exterior and entry approach. For example, creating an entrance that is recognizable and appealing is one aspect of the overall site and exterior design. Also, creating a spacious well sun tube lighted entrance within the building is a beginning of an overall pleasant interior layout that enhances orientation. Some techniques are to be considered that can create the transition of a relaxing environment. As one proceeds downward into an underground ramp or stairs it becomes an integral part of the entrance transition. Ramps that allow a gradual decline for all occupants can also provide access for disabled researchers or disabled visitors. Often these individuals will tend to feel dependent, disoriented, and degraded when access is not available at the main entry. Allowing mobility-impaired individuals to use main entrances makes for a more comfortable transition for all the individuals who will occupy the facility.
Thus, Compared with an above ground building, the exterior and interior design of an underground facility for the moon has a difficult set of problems for the designer.
Most or all of an underground building will not be visible by the occupants but the entrance will provide the transition and hints to the layout that will create a casual and relaxing environment that can be the key starting points to a positive experience. A facility for habitation and research on the moon, would often be placed underground to shield the radiation. Navigating and orientation can be accomplished by the creation of a structured organized layout. Only small portions of the exterior elements are visible to the occupants. These will carry additional importance to alleviate fear and create an increased feeling of well being. A designer who is sensitive to perform the requirements of the building and creating a pleasant environmental will make the transition to living underground or the moon a more pleasant experience. >
Emergency showers and scott air packs in the hallways is standard for this lab
Large supply fans
Heating panel made of moon dust
Heating the Habitat Demonstrator
By Michael Bakk
Date: November 16, 2006
It is important to have the ability to heat as well as store heat to keep the habitat supplied with adequate warm temperatures. Differences must be considered, as the demonstrator is to be on Earth not the moon. The moon’s belt line temperatures, in the shade are –270 degrees C and two feet over in the sunshine it is already 100 degrees above. The ideal location to set up camp on the moon however is the North or the South Pole regions. The nearly constant sunlight has a more constant temperature of about –50 degrees C and is a little more manageable for equipment. On Earth we have an atmosphere unlike the moon so the system will be similar but for demonstration purposes, we will not build it for high load conditions like –56 degrees C as will be needed on the moon.
At the Calgary Space Workers Society we have experimented successfully with heating a liquid through a copper tube system were the tubes are submerged in a composition of our simulated moon dust and a glue type resin. As our simulated moon dust is like the real thing it contains 67% Basalt or lava rock and 20% silica or glass plus some other ingredients that are not as important to this experiment. These two active ingredients are ideal to allow the Sun to collect heat. While the heat is absorbed it is pulled away with the liquid in the copper tube. Thus, we have heat for use in the habitat and for storage.
The circulation needed for heating the habitat is to be constant to allow the panels to be heated to a high temperature and avoid the over heating of the panels. Two pumps are used for this, one that is a high volume pump/low velocity and one that is a lower volume/higher velocity pump. The high volume/low velocity pump is to be used during times of intense sun radiation and the lower volume/higher velocity is to be used during lower intensity sun radiation. Circulation is important to keep the panels protected. A set of dampers may be installed to close the panels in the case of pump failure. The dampers can also to control temperature fluctuation on start-up. It is critical that the habitat has a constant heat being supplied from the panels, as the heating storage can also become a depleted. People and plants will start getting cold quickly and the required slow start up of a heating system could cause a critical situation.
Storage of the heat to be drawn off for the habitat must be adequate to keep the building warm and heat domestic hot water at all times. As we have already mentioned, the moon dust is a great conductor of heat. If we use a large insulated tank filled with it, we can use it to store heat. Water is also a great conductor of heat, so we can circulate copper tubes through it as well to transfer the heat from the panels. As we have plenty of moon dust on the moon we can use as much of it as necessary in case a shut down of equipment is required.
On the moon, the temperatures are less manageable than on earth, but the principle is the same. By the use of heating panels we will collect the heat to be used. To control temperatures we can use the pumps that transfer the heat to storage. The pumps will back each other up in the case of a failure. Moon dust is also kept in tanks to absorb and store heat so that the occupants may survive an unexpected shut down. It is important to store the heat for a habitat even though the demonstrator is on earth. On the moon, like the Earth, heating can be done easily with today’s technology. <CSW>
AcknowledgmentsMoon Miners Manifesto #200 by Peter Kokh
heating panel for the moon
Almost lab conditions to make moon dust
Apollo 11 samples had 67% basalt in the moon dust
Plant Food for the Moon
By Jim Oldfield
November 23, 2006
Plants utilize nutrients in order to grow, flower, bear fruit and seed. In a natural ecosystem, nitrogen and other cycles ensure a constant supply of these nutrients from the soil, atmosphere and other living organisms. In human-based agricultural and horticultural systems, these nutrients are supplied through fertilizers. These fertilizers are composed primarily of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium bearing compounds (N-P-K), in addition to much smaller quantities of other elements. In order to use plants to support human life on the moon or in other extra-terrestrial environments, it will necessary to supply these elements. As many of them - such as nitrogen - are not abundant beyond earth's atmosphere (which is 78% nitrogen), it will probably be necessary to provide an intial supply of these elements, then augment them through local resource extraction.
Nitrogen (N) is used primarily in the manufacture of proteins, nucleic acids and hormones. If a plant has insufficient nitrogen, it will present with poor growth and yellow leaves. As nitrogen is so important to plant health, a nitrogen deficient plant will also be more susceptible to many diseases.
Phosphorus (P) is used to produce nucleid acids, phospholipids and proteins. This element drives plant growth and deficiencies present as sickly, stunted plants.
Potassium (K) is also used in protein synthesis and is reponsible for the development of healthy root systems as well as stems.
N - P - K fertilizers are typically thought of as Leaves - Flowers - Roots stimulators, when one considers the primary use of each element. Hence leaf crops, such as lettuce and spinach will require larger proportions of nitrogen than would a carrot, which would lean more heavily toward potassium as a primary fertilizer.
On earth, nitrogen fertilizer may be produced in any of the following forms: ammonia, nitric acid and ammonium nitrate. Each of these is used under different conditions, but ammonia fertilizers could prove to be too hazardous to employ in an enclosed biosphere with humans. Human and food wastes, processed through aerobic and anaerobic processes may be utilized to recycle nitrogen and other elements back into the food chain.
Some crops - especially the legumes beans and peas - have the unique ability to 'fix' atmospheric nitrogen in nodes on their root systems. In a symbiotic relationship with specific soilborne bacteria, these bacteria fix nitrogen in root nodules, providing a source of nitrogen directly to the plant. The osil may be inoculated with other bacteria to further contribute to the enclosed nitrogen cycle (see illustration, courtesy Wikipedia).
The other nutrients, phosphorus and potassium are typically applied in eart-based agriculture form processed chemicals. In a closed-cycle process such as will exist in a moon or space-based system, recycling human and plant wastes will be the most viable means of suplying these nutrients. As more people are added to this artificial ecosystem, it shall be necessary to 'import' more of these raw materials into the loop.
Jim Oldfield lives in Calgary Alberta and dreams of researching and vacationing beyond the reaches of Earth's gravity well.
Next Meeting December 2, 2006
Tower Aerospace Inc. at
105, 1530-27th Avenue N.E.
9am to Noon
For the location of our meetings and our Research & Development Centre contact an active member to be nominated to join our society or contact Captain, Michael Bakk with your CV or background information for membership nomination