Phil Pauley, a London-based concept designer, has unveiled his vision for Sub-Biosphere 2 – a self-sustainable underwater habitat designed for aquanauts, tourism and oceanographic life sciences as well as long-term human, plant and animal habitation. If this sounds like a strangely familiar concept, it’s because Pauley’s system is based on the successes of the Biosphere 2 project – a man-made closed-ecological system in Arizona that was used by researchers to explore the possibility of sustainable living in a closely-monitored environment.

Sub-Biosphere 2

Unlike Biosphere 2 – which features above-ground biomes including a rainforest, an ocean complete with coral reef and wetlands, grasslands desert, Pauley’s vision focuses on developing self-sustainable living under the water. The Sub-Biosphere 2 (SBS2) will have a central supporting biome powering and controlling eight interactive living biomes – each representing a different eco system. According to Pauley, all life-support systems for air, water, food, electricity, and other resources will be sustained by the innovative control of variant atmospheric pressures that occur at depth. The SBS2 will also act as a seed bank supporting the human, animal and plant life in the biomes.

The SBS2 will be able to float or submerge and as it dives, the pressure at depth against the forces of air would act like a heart and lungs, sustaining the life within the biomes. The central support biome will monitor the life systems from within its own operations facility.

Pauley developed this underwater habitat concept way back in 1998, and his current work continues to focus on sustainable and innovative design. He hopes to generate enough investment and support globally to establish a team that could take the SBS2 project through the research, testing and construction phases. This would allow him to focus and consult on how best to promote its development.

The Biosphere 2 Project

Biosphere 2 was constructed between 1987 and 1991 to develop self-sustaining technology that could eventually be used for space colonization. Set over three acres, it was a totally sealed environment (i.e. nothing went in or out), it had a steel and glass top and contained all the humans, plants, animals and bacteria required to live a sustainable life. Between 1991 and 1994, two missions with crew members known as "Biospherians" entered the Biosphere where they lived in the enclosed and isolated artificial environment. In the first mission, the inhabitants suffered from oxygen depletion but eventually discovered the scientific reasons and proved (to some extent) that this sort of living was viable. The project was a highly public exercise but valuable research came out of it that helped to further ecological understanding. The second mission was terminated in 1994 and the site is now managed by the University of Arizona where it serves as a center for research, teaching and learning about Earth and its living systems.

Some put the eventual failure of the Biosphere 2 project down to human nature – caused by either factional splits within the group of Biospherians, feelings of isolation or problems with the management team. So time will tell whether Pauley will be able to overcome the problems associated with confining human beings into his SBS2...

Read more about Pauley’s design ideas at his personal and business websites. For information about the Biosphere 2 see the University of Arizona's website about the research centre.