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The Oil Silo Home: A Vision For Post-Petroleum Living

Once we’re not using oil anymore (by choice or because there isn’t any more), there is going to be a lot of abandoned infrastructure. Here’s a vision for using oil storage facilities more beautifully and sustainably.

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When Eric Tan and his partners in the architecture collective PinkCloud set out to design a sustainable living space, they knew they wanted to avoid new construction.

So they started looking for existing structures that could be repurposed. "We set out to find an object that was abundant, large enough to fit a few families, and available for cheap," says Tan.

The result is the Oil Silo Home.

According to Tan’s estimate, there are 49,000 spherical oil silos at refineries worldwide. They’re currently used to store liquefied petroleum gas. But if (or, perhaps, when) we shift away from fossil fuels, we may have a sizeable surplus. Tan and his partners—Leon Lai, Sarah Roberts, and Nico Schlapps—think these silos could be turned into a "100% self-supporting housing solution for the post-oil world."

Each Oil Silo Home is divided into three separate units—one designed for a young couple, another for a family of four, and a "multigenerational" unit for six. There’s a central elevator that provides access to the apartments, prefabricated balconies around the outside, and a garden on the roof. The awkward spaces at the top and bottom of the sphere are used for mechanical equipment and water storage, respectively.

PinkCloud designed the Oil Silo Home to create more energy than it uses, with solar panels, natural lighting, and passive heating and cooling. And with its "strong structural rigidity, flexible suspension, waterproof shell, and aerodynamic design," it could presumably endure whatever extreme weather events might be in store in future decades. According to PinkCloud, these silos could be decontaminated and retrofitted on site, transforming entire refineries into sustainable communities.

If the idea seems far-fetched, well, perhaps it is. But PinkCloud’s aim with this project is, at least in part, to challenge our assumptions about what housing should be. Tan says that many Americans still cling to the notion that the ideal home is a large, single-family structure on its own private plot of land. "As a young design firm we hope to harness the power of the Internet to change such perceptions."