Anatomy of a Neighborhood
Table of Contents
A neighborhood is composed of 20 to 30 dwellings that share a few areas and pieces of infrastructure. Dwellings are restricted to a volume that is just large enough to provide for everything you would want in your home: 60 cubic meters. That is a volume of 3m x 4m x 5m, which in feet is 10 x 13 x 16, and it can be any shape, as long as that is its volume.
While this is quite small, the nature of the moon and Moon Town allows such homes to be comfortable. The allotment of locally manufactured materials and construction services that comes with a plot provides for many creative layout solutions not possible on Earth. Large pieces of furniture and whole rooms often are made to fold out of the way when not in use, or simply hung on a wall. Lack of gravity makes it easy to do the folding or unfolding yourself, or people often have an electric mechanism for that. Lack of gravity means beds, chairs, and sofas can be quite comfortable while also being quite minimal and light. In fact standing is so much easier that sitting to rest is not important. It’s common to just lean. Stairs can be quite compact and vertical, taking up little space and sometimes being integrated into shelves or other furniture.
Plus, as mentioned, a lot of facilities are shared by everyone in a neighborhood – kitchens, laundry, baths, and workshop. You can certainly put a kitchenette and a shower in your home, but you also need to put in the air filter and dehumidifier units they require, and people often prefer not to. Such units are large and noisy. People often prefer to have the extra space that comes with a home that has only a fridge, a food warmer, a generous sink and a sort of deluxe sponge-washing setup.
Toilets are of the composting variety, meaning urine is collected in one chamber and feces in another, and a minimal amount of water is used. The fecal material is baked in the chamber to kill the bacteria. When a chamber is full, a sensor in it detects that and signals for it to be emptied. A robot can do that from the outside of the dwelling. The fecal material is taken to be processed as a component of manufactured soil, the urine is processed to separate out the chemicals that aren’t water – some of which are useful.
Just as it is far easier to jump and lift things (including yourself), it’s also far easier to crouch, crawl, and duck. Dwellings take advantage of this with loft spaces that are serviceable even though they are only 4 feet high. A home office, spare bedroom, game room, or some such, might be lowered from a ceiling when wanted and still allow normal use of the floor underneath because the occupants can move around crouched almost as easily as they can standing.
The materials provided for construction of homes are stone, metal, and glass. Any one of them can come in a foamed or sintered version with enough voids to be light, but still strong. They can be 3D printed into almost any shape and with a bit of thickness or reinforcment still provide sufficient structural strength for any application in a home. Fiberglass fabrics are made with fibers so fine and pure, they make good fabrics for such things as curtains, carpets, meshes, and tapestry. Put this together with a weather-free, low gravity environment where all utilities are provided, and within their tiny volumes, dwellings are very vibrant and artistic spaces.
The members of each neighborhood design the facilities they share. Just as in the case of homes, materials and fabrication services are allotted for common spaces as part of residence packages. The area provided for each neighborhood is large enough to accommodate everything nicely, though again, approaches impossible on Earth are an important aspect of that. The main floors of habitats are hefty. They are designed to support lots of mass, as most of the content of habs comes later, as they are filled in. Mostly, those floors are supported by cables from the hab ceilings rather than from below. Those cables are often used to support later construction, as are the walls of the hab. In the gallery habs, the main floors are separated by about 12 meters. A neighborhood’s area extends half-way to the floor above, and the floor below, and includes nearby hab walls, ceiling, and foundation. So really, it is a volume, not an area, and it’s treated that way. It is common to make openings in the hab floor and build down one or two stories, as well as building upwards.
Neighborhood water tanks hold enough water for each dwelling to fill their household tank of 200 liters once (which is enough for a few days) and also supply the shared facilities for a few days. A standard tank is 10 000 liters. They are connected to the walls above and below the main conduits that hold all the pipes and wires providing the habs with resources. A set of three tanks for waste water is also located in each neighborhood. The waste water is poured into the first tank, then it is pumped through a filter, processed further in a chamber, and pumped into the second tank. Other processes happen in a set of pumps, filters, and chambers between the second and third tank. Once the water enters the third tank, it should be drinkable. But rather than going into circulation from there, that tank is emptied by service robots, tested, and returned to the main tanks that supply multiple habs. Only from there is it sent out to be consumed again. Overall, the intention is that on average, about 200 liters of water will need to be reprocessed back into drinking water each week for each resident.
Different neighborhoods take different approaches to their common facilities, depending on the nature of their particular neighborhood space, and their particular personalities. The main air filter and dehumidifier station for the shared facilities, with the baffles and insulation that goes around it to make it quiet and efficient, is sometimes placed between the sections of the facilities, and sometimes squirreled away from everything in some especially useless bit of their volume. The robots that access it to do maintenance and repair are quite agile and don’t need much accommodating in order to do their duties.
Kitchens and Dining
A dining area always accompanies the kitchens, and might be placed in the garden area, which most neighborhoods design into their space. Neighbors often feel like dining together and will also often have more visitors than they can dine with in their own homes. Kitchens are well appointed for a wide variety of cuisine and preparation. Living as they are in a pretty restricted environment, great food is important to both the physical and psychological health of the citizens. The robotic equipment is able to reliably produce dishes that are complex and involve precise methods, things like sous vide, souffles, and mole. For those who prefer to not cook, with a little human oversight the robots are extremely skilled at turning available ingredients into tasty dishes and keeping food waste to a minimum. For those who enjoy cooking the kitchens have every kind of do-dad and you can get robotic help with as much or as little as you like.
The baths have a mix of private shower stalls for one or two people with anterooms for changing, and one to several hot tubs of various sizes. The showers use a combination of methods to use water very efficiently. Heat lamps keep occupants comfortable despite water not flowing constantly, but only on demand, for wetting, soaping, or rinsing. Pressure is high so that a diffuse spray of droplets will do the job of the much higher flow of normal shower heads. The stalls come with gentle, full body air driers that remove almost all need for a towel. The tubs take advantage of plentiful electricity for processes that keep the water clean and hot for a number of days before replacement. Between uses all the water is drawn off and subjected to a combination of x-rays and high pressure ceramic filters before being returned to the tub. There is a turn-around time of a couple of hours before all the water has been cleaned for a new user, or a pair or group of users in the case of large tubs. Use of things like chlorine, bromine, and fluoride never occurs in water, and rarely within the habs for anything. Preventing the accumulation of compounds containing these elements in the environment is too important. The fertility of precious soil could be reduced if contaminated.
Although fabrics are made locally out of basalt and other glass fibers, they don’t work all that well for clothing. They aren’t absorbent at all, don’t come in many colors, and they get frizzy and scratchy quickly. Most clothing is imported and is quite expensive. You want it to last, so you want to clean it gently and handle stains astutely. Add to that the need to use only a select group of environmentally friendly cleaners at the minimum required, and once again, it is best to launder clothes in a central facility using equipment that is heftier and better able to do a good job than people are. Clothing isn’t tumbled in a hot drier, it’s hung in an airing room where fans create a constant, warm, gentle wind. Since dirty laundry is collected from a lot of people, it can be sorted well into loads of different colors and fabrics for washing at the best temperature, with the best-suited cleaners, and the appropriate agitation. Stains are spot cleaned individually. After everything is clean it’s folded nicely for you and delivered, right into your closet if you want. The robots will even fix tears and sew on buttons.
The workshop area of a neighborhood provides space for handicrafts, within reason. If you want to do something that produces dust and smoke, you can do it there. Extractors will keep you and your neighbors safe. If you want to weld, forget it. Tell the robots how and where you want something welded, and they will take it outside and do it for you. Same with circuit boards – set them up, they’ll do the rest. Some hobby arts options have been specially created. There are sintered stone blocks and even some artificial stones produced that are suitable for hand carving. There’s no clay for pottery, but plenty of ceramic glazes that you can paint onto other substrates and send to be baked in one of the many and varied industrial furnaces. Glazes are used instead of paint all the time, the town is set up for that. That permits a form of painting without paint fumes or paint chemicals going into the water. Glass beads are also produced for the citizens’ pleasure. There are a few other things like that. If you have imported things for your crafts and you need a well-ventilated area, it can be done in the workshop as long as the fumes and waste aren’t too noxious. The workshops have a variety of tools and furnishings for common projects. Especially ambitious undertakings may need to be done in labs or fabrication facilities belonging to the town as a whole.
Carousels (Health Centrifuges)
To stay healthy on the moon, all people must spend some of their time under a full Earth gravity. This is done by climbing into your neighborhood’s carousel. When stowed, it’s just a wedge hanging underneath the floor of the neighborhood it belongs to. When set up, the wedge is fanned out to a full wheel, and it looks rather like the wheel of a motorbike on its side. People climb down an access tube at the hub, and walk out to the part that looks like a tire. That area is hollow and spacious enough inside to stand up in comfortably. When spinning, centrifugal force pushes people against the rim of this space with the force of a full Earth gravity. The rim is tilted so that the net force on you, which is not only the centrifugal force but the gravity of the moon pulling you down, is perpendicular to the floor, meaning you can stand up and move around.
It doesn’t really feel like the gravity of Earth and takes considerable getting used to. For instance, the radius of the carousels is restricted in First Gallery to 16 meters, otherwise they don’t fit. A person 1.6 m tall standing on the rim has their head 1/10th of the way to the hub, meaning it is moving 9/10ths of the speed their feet are, and so is only being pulled towards the rim 9/10ths as hard. The ability of these details to induce nausea in someone moving about is extremely high.
We won’t know how much gravity for how long is necessary to avoid serious health problems for people living on the moon, until we have years of data on dozens of people at least. We can only guess, and the first lunar residents will be in the same position. In Moonwards story, we shall guess that a person has to be in a full gravity environment for at least 2 hours a day, and can’t skip that for more than a few days without starting to feel the consequences. This is completely a wild guess. Heavy exercise might extend the time one can spend away from the carousel. Having any of a range of injuries or illnesses will probably extend it. The price for neglecting this health maintenance would be wasting of your joints, muscles, and bones, unless you had a careful and intensive exercise regimen replacing it, and even that likely would only work for so long. Circulatory, metabolic, and sensory problems are all also possible, or probable.
So. Neighbors come and go from the carousel at all hours and it’s usually running. It has enough space for people to spread out for privacy, or cluster in groups to hang out. Cloth dividers are easily deployed and moved around as fits the current set of people and their activities. There are lots of cushions, mats, and blankets available. Folding tables and chairs are hooked onto the wall. People always do some exercise while they are there, and might do any of a wide variety of other things – read, watch stuff, hang out, play games. People convalescing sometimes are there a lot more, they might sleep there for a while.
Neighborhoods commonly sell things now and then or have tiny ongoing businesses in their midst. These things are done in people’s spare time or as a supplement to other employment. When such a business is active enough, it moves to the market area.