Struts & glass and a couple of lungs to breathe

The Biosphere 2 Complex

Construction on Biosphere 2, that would originally support the life of eight participants, commenced in 1987.

The internal network of steel struts, coated to prevent deterioration.

Since large internal supports were out of the question, architects employed a design of interconnected steel struts and air tight, steel framed, high performance glass.

But, because the structure was so tightly sealed, engineers needed to devise a method for dealing with the diurnal changes of the internal atmosphere.  Their solution was a set of giant lung-like diaphragms that accommodated not only the increased air expansion during the hot daytime hours, but the contraction at night when the air cooled; thus preventing damage to the superstructure.

The enclosed tropical biome

When completed in 1991, the structure enclosed 7 million cubic feet of space with the highest point looming over the rainforest at 91 feet, and occupied a little over three acres of Sonoran desert near Oracle, Arizona.

A four-inch thick, welded substructure of steel combined with a highly sophisticated system for recycling the air, water and nutrients sealed the ecosystem from all outside elements.

One of the several artificial rock outcrops in Biosphere 2

However, the one component overlooked at the time that perhaps contributed to the demise of the Biosphere 2 project, was the extraordinary amount of concrete used for building rock outcrops in the landscape.

 (to be continued . . . )
Next week’s episode: The inside story 
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About © Rita Boehm

Copyright 2015 Rita Boehm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Photographs, artwork, and/or related text are available for licensing. Contact writer for further information
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