Could oil silos be the eco-friendly homes of the future?

Posted on 28 July 2016.

An architects’ collective came up with an original idea. If all the oil reserves were exhausted, the refinery silos could be converted into ecological, energy self-sufficient homes.

Enough space to house 500,000 people.

Imagine the picture. It is 2156. You wander out on to your balcony. You greet your neighbors with a wave, sit in your deck chair and let your gaze drift over the surrounding buildings, the last remnants of what was once called an "oil refinery". The beginning of a science fiction movie? No... The futuristic scenario dreamt up by a Danish architects’ collective, who call themselves PinkCloud.

A futuristic idea

It all started with two observations: oil reserves are being depleted year by year, and the world’s population is exploding. Why not use the consequences of one to serve the other? Explanation.

The hydrocarbon refining process produces liquefied petroleum gas. This gas is stored inside gigantic spherical silos. Assuming oil resources will soon be exhausted, the silos would be abandoned. However, there are more than 49,000 of them in 660 refineries worldwide – and they are robust and waterproof structures.

PinkCloud’s idea? To turn these silos into modern, comfortable and eco-friendly housing. The project is known as "Oil Silo Home". Rather than building new, the idea is based on intrepid upcycling that would make a new type of housing available to people.

The collective believes that one silo would provide a living area of 500 m2 - enough to accommodate about 12 people in different apartments. Multiplied by the number of silos in the world, this would provide sufficient space to create homes for more than 500,000 people!

Tomorrow’s ecological housing

Oil Silo Home was designed to be a positive energy building, which means it would produce more energy than it consumes.

First step: cleaning the silo. Bacteria and micro-organisms would be introduced into the silo to destroy the remaining hydrocarbon residues. Once decontaminated, the silo could then be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere - or simply left in place, turning the old refineries ecological zones.

The building would then be fitted with all the latest green technologies. It would be completely covered with solar panels, its spherical shape meaning it would capture solar energy all day long day and all year round. It would also be equipped with a rainwater recovery system for use in the flush toilets.

Plant walls would filter the air, a solar water heater and a power supply terminal for an electric car would be built in

Of course, all this is just a prediction and the post-oil era is not yet a reality. But the PinkCloud scenario does give us food for thought about the new sustainable housing that could well be invented. And obviously, the only limit is our imagination!