Keywords:Off-Earth Design, Space Architecture, In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU), Material Efficiency, Reusability, Sustainability, Form-Finding, Structural Design
Off-Earth structural design has been a subject of fascination and research for decades. Given that the vision of permanent lunar and Martian human presence is materialising, it is an opportune moment to reflect on the future applicability and challenges of off-Earth design. This article investigates contemporary thinking about off-Earth structural design – specifically focused on large-scale infrastructure such as habitats – and assesses it in terms of its sustainability. We suggest that the extra-terrestrial setting, which is characterised by resource, construction, and labour constraints, is to be analysed as an extreme case of the built environment on Earth. Subsequently, we propose that structural design methodologies originating on Earth can benefit both the off-Earth context, through their inherent material efficiency and use of local materials, and the on-Earth context, where unsustainable growth and material inefficiency dominate our built environment. As our planet rapidly heads towards a scarcity of construction materials and disruptive environmental change, what sustainability lessons can we learn from our past, and how can we apply these to extra-terrestrial construction? Finally, how can we use these lessons to futureproof our built environment?