Course Blog

Communal Living Systems (“Internet of trees”)

There is a constant nature involvement and surrounding annihilation, with its consequences such as loss of community behaviour or care for what is close to us[1] developing in a “Nature Deficit Disorder”[2]. Our circular system based on bioreactors aims to change this by bringing buildings back to life, where these will gain the metaphorical role of living systems.

To make this possible the core of our system (digestive system) will consist of modular bioreactors set up in series. We are conducting experiments with single organisms in each module, concretely Bacillus megaterium (Nitrogen fixation)[3], Arthrobacter globiformis (Potassium solubilisation)[4], and Pseudomonas fluorescence (Phosphorous solubilisation)[5]. The role of these organisms, which have different growing conditions and cooperativity/competition (in study), will be to extract one type/s of nutrient from domestic food/water waste in series (what one bioreactor cannot extract the following might). Further study of the system is centred in the use of microbial communities[6] instead of single organisms due to better stability, especially within nutrient fluctuations, competitors, and parasites/pathogens. Hence, communities have a better sense of use for a system that requires minimum maintenance and user operation. These communities also might come from different regions of the planet and sources[6], giving more sense to the modularity, since these will require different conditions (pH, oxygen levels, temperature, etc.).

The products resulting from the different reactors will be transported through mycorrhizal networks to the different plants of the surrounding (horizontal system) or existing/new building (vertical system)[7]. These receiving plants will mostly be edible, such as legumes (protein) or berries (better weather resistant) to feed the community, whose waste products can be used again to obtain a circular-like system. The initial idea is to place this system in the basement of buildings (ease and practicality) but also in near cabins/sheds, especially for horizontal systems.

There are still some aspects that have to be considered in the 10-year span. Some of these are spillage control to avoid eutrophication, ease of the system (use of simple panels to control correct functionality of the system or specialized people to perform periodical checks), ease obtainment and installation (if it is not easy and cheap is more difficult to be accepted), development of different modules (extraction of carbon from cellulose for example), behaviour and costume changes due to its introduction, social response, control/non-control of the system, control of the excess of input/output, etc.

A potential start for this project would be to start in small communities since these are more likely to adopt it. This is because of its characteristics such a more close relation with neighbours, need of collaboration for sustainability and progress, constant import of products and export of waste and presence of agriculture amongst others[8,9]. These communities might not be the ones with the biggest nature annihilation problems as postulated before, but are the most likely to adopt it, and perhaps, with the time, cities or its expanding suburbs might start adopting it.



  1. Hancock, T. (2018). Trevor Hancock: Our health depends on revering, not reviling nature. [online] Times Colonist. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].
  2. Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv. Workman Publishing Company
  3. Hesham M. A. El-Komy, Coimmobilization of Azospirillum lipoferum and Bacillus megaterium for Successful Phosphorus and Nitrogen Nutrition of Wheat Plants. Food Technol. Biotechnol. 43 (1) 19–27 (2005).
  4. Sarma, B. K. Agriculturally Important Microorganisms. (2016). doi:10.1007/978-981-10-2576-1
  5. Rodríguez, H. & Fraga, R. Phosphate solubilizing bacteria and their role in plant growth promotion. Adv. 17, 319–339 (1999).
  6. Rubin, Susannah Green Tringe; Christian von Mering; Arthur Kobayashi; Asaf A Salamov; Kevin Chen; Hwai W Chang; Mircea Podar; Jay M Short; Eric J Mathur; John C Detter; Peer Bork; Philip Hugenholtz; Edward M. 2005. “‘Comparative Metagenomics of Microbial communities.’ Science 308.5721 (2005): 554-557.” Science 308 (5721): 4.
  7. Bago, B., Pfeffer, P. E. & Shachar-hill, Y. Update on Symbiosis Arbuscular Mycorrhizas. Society 124, 949–957 (2000).
  8. Your Article Library. (2018). 13 Most Important Characteristics or Elements of Community. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2018].
  9. The Odyssey Online. (2018). 10 Characteristics Of Living In A Small, Nebraska Town. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2018].