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  • 02.07.17

This Wonderfully Warm Biodome Will Let Icelanders Escape Their Cold, Bleak Winters

As the snow swirls outside, Icelanders can relax in the 77°F heat and eat food from the farm contained in this geothermal-heated dome. Can we get these to the U.S. by next winter?

In Reykjavik–where the sun barely rises over the horizon in the winter, temperatures hover around freezing, and streets are often covered in snow and ice–one entrepreneur plans to build a tropical oasis: a renewably powered biodome filled with plants, hammocks, and an urban farm.

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On a gray day in February, it will give locals, or Iceland’s growing number of tourists, a place to escape. Inside, the temperature will be a toasty 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

“When you enter the BioDome you can take off your outdoor clothing,” says Hjördís Sigurðardóttir, founder and CEO of Spor i sandinn, the startup creating the biodome. “You sense immediately a different atmosphere, like you’re entering a new world. You may choose to sit down at a farm-to-table restaurant or take a yoga session in the tropical dome . . . If you didn’t manage to finish some tasks from work, you can find a perfect space beside a tree and harness the power of nature while working for an hour or two.”

The biodome is designed to run on geothermal power, which is abundant in Iceland, and to use little energy.

“Artificial light will be used during the dark seasons in as smart a way as possible, both for plants and human senses,” says Sigurðardóttir. “All materials will be carefully selected according to sustainable standards, as well as the design of the whole concept–from smaller things like shopping bags up to the whole structure of the buildings.”

The urban farm will run experiments in growing produce, and offer locals the opportunity to grow their vegetables and herbs. The company plans to rent out space to restaurants and businesses that focus on health and sustainability. It will also sell branded products, such as dried bananas grown on site.

“Like other western countries, we are dealing with lifestyle diseases here in Iceland, and we want to inspire people to make healthy choices in food and lifestyle,” she says. “This development is in line with the city’s vision of becoming smarter and more sustainable. A part of that is inventing services and infrastructure into the cityscape to improve livability for inhabitants and guests.”

Just stepping inside might make people a little happier and healthier. “To be surrounded by green vegetation increases well-being and creativity,” she says.

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The project is still in planning and may be completed by late 2018 or early 2019. Sigurðardóttir hopes to turn it into a franchise, building biodomes across Iceland and other Arctic countries.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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