How is our Martian House different to a house on Earth?

Mars has a thin atmosphere and high levels of radiation. Our Martian house is designed to protect the people that live in it. The lower floor is designed to be underground, maybe in the lava tubes that are already on Mars. It could be prefabricated on Earth, re-using life support systems from the rocket, and dropped into the ground on arrival. It contains a special Environment Control and Life Support System room with all of the life support systems to keep you alive on Mars. The upper floor will be sent flat packed and inflated on arrival, this will make it as light and small as possible to transport. The walls would be filled with the Martian soil (regolith) on arrival, making use of local, readily available materials. This soil could be solidified using a bacteria that has been tested in the Sahara desert to solidify sand. Our prototype uses air, instead of regolith, so that we can reuse it. 

Concept design – Hugh Broughton Architects

We have an airlock on the way in to stop the air escaping and to allow people arriving in spacesuits to remove them safely before moving into the house itself.

On the top floor, there is a big window because during our workshop process lots of people spoke about wanting to be able to see the stunning landscapes of Mars, to enjoy the scenery and appreciate where they are. In a solar storm, the radiation risk is higher, so people would have to go downstairs and stay underground. But for limited times, they would be able to enjoy the views and sit in our hydroponic plant living room. This area is part of a research project ‘Growing Liveable Worlds‘ led by artist Katy Connor, to explore new ways of living well with plant species. There will also be space to make food in a kitchenette, where some of the salads and herbs grown in the living room may also be eaten. 

As well as the Environment Control room, the lower floor (underground on Mars) has two small bedrooms. These are people’s only private space, something that was very important to most of the people that we met in our design workshops. They will be filled with people’s ideas around; comfort, personal possessions and identity. There is also a small toilet and shower room. Our toilet has been provided by Duravit, prize winners in the NASA luna loo competition. Duravit has designed us a Martian loo, with low water use and no toilet paper. 

Throughout the building the lighting, which has been designed and donated by Whitecroft Lighting, provides a homely feel. We ran a competition to design a 3D printed pendant light fitting, which saw entries from Bristol school children to international designers. The winning entry is installed at the top of the stairs. 

The house is powered by solar panels, designed to support a low power lifestyle. On Mars, a second power source would be needed for backup (in case of a dust storm for example). However, our house is a work in progress so we are inviting you to help us decide what that second power source should be. Will we be cycling to power our laptops for work, or will we grow algae for a bedroom night light? 

Our Martian House is not complete. We will be working with the public to fill it with colours, designs, inventions and ideas for future living. What we are showing you is just one version of a Martian House. This is not a final design, but a conversation starter.  It is a place to research, experiment and start conversations. We all have a stake in the future and a role to play. Looking at Mars offers a clear lens to think about how we live on Earth here and now.

Visualisation of Building A Martian House in M Shed Square. Image credit Hugh Broughton Architect and Pearce+