Clive van Heerden,
Senior Director,
Philips Design
 
Amsterdam, the Netherlands --- (METERING.COM) --- December 14, 2011 - A concept “home of the future” has been unveiled by the Dutch electronics giant Philips – but its not the hi-tech home filled with “smart” appliances and devices that we normally cover in these columns.

Rather, the so-called Microbial Home comprises a domestic ecosystem based on biological processes that challenges conventional design solutions to energy, cleaning, food preservation, lighting and human waste.

In essence in the Microbial Home the home is viewed as a biological machine to filter, process and recycle what we conventionally think of as waste – sewage, effluent, garbage, waste water – with each function’s output another’s input.

According to Philips, our world is sending us warning signals that we are disturbing its equilibrium and that a drastic cut in our environmental impact is called for.

“Designers have an obligation to understand the urgency of the situation, and translate humanity’s needs into solutions” commented Clive van Heerden, senior director of Design-led Innovation at Philips Design. “We need to push ourselves to rethink domestic appliances entirely, to rethink how homes consume energy, and how entire communities can pool resources.”

Key concepts in the Microbial Home include:

  • Bio-digester island, the central hub in the system, consisting of a methane digester which converts bathroom waste solids and vegetable trimmings into methane gas that is used to power a series of functions in the home
  • Bio-light, which uses different biological technologies to create ambient light effects, including bioluminescent bacteria, which are fed with methane and composted material (drawn from the methane digester) and fluorescent proteins that emit different frequencies of light
  • Larder, which is designed to keep “living food” fresh by using natural processes and consists of an evaporative cooler and vegetable storage system built into a dining table.

Others concepts include an urban beehive, which is a concept for keeping bees at home and harvesting the honey that they produce, an apothecary for home-centered health monitoring and diagnosis, with the focus on early warning and prevention of disease, a filtering squatting toilet that filters effluent while channelling excreta to a methane digester, and a Paternoster plastic waste up-cycler that uses mycelium to break down plastic packaging waste.

The electro-mechanical age may have caused the problem, but it could also help us find the solution, Philips believes. Technological development has enabled us to mimic nature’s processes. Now all that is lacking is a collective change in consciousness to take us into a Biological Age, one where materials can repair themselves and where by-products are no longer waste but fuel for other systems.

Only one question remains, the company asks: what part do we want to play?