TreeHugger actually started as a design site, in a time when most green sustainable design was sort of, well, Treehuggerish. That’s we we have the ironic name, since the stuff that we showed was beautiful, useful and was going to make the world a better place.
That’s why the INDEX: Design to Improve Life awards are so interesting. Every two years the Danish non-profit organization invites submissions from designers, looking for products or concepts that improve life for people around the world, the kind of ideas that TreeHugger has always loved and promoted. But INDEX: Design to Improve Life celebrates good design with a big wad of prize money to help develop these ideas, and a big fancy black-tie gala that is televised, putting design in the national spotlight. Design is important in the Danish culture and they do everything they can to promote it.
This year there were over 1400 submissions and jurors have cut that down to 56 finalists; We will be looking at many of them in the buildup to the Gala on September 1. But some of them are already known to TreeHugger, and we have had a few critical comments in our posts.
The Droneport project in Rwanda in Africa is designed to support cargo drone routes capable of delivering urgent and precious supplies to remote areas on a massive scale. The specialist drones can carry blood and life-saving supplies over 100 kilometers at minimal cost, providing an affordable alternative that can complement road-based deliveries.
Poor Norman Foster, who barely gets credit these days for the new Apple Park project, gets no credit in this submission for the design of the timbrel vaulted buildings; the submission is really about the drones, but the images are of the buildings. The wonder of them is how efficiently they use local materials and craftspeople; they are incredibly thin and strong.
More at INDEX and on TreeHugger:Foster + Partners designs droneports for Africa "to save lives and build economies"
Amazing arches and domes built at Venice Architecture Bienale
Zera Food Recycler
The Zera Food Recycler is designed to fit seamlessly into your kitchen and make the most of your food — turning today’s food scraps into tomorrow’s ready-to-use, homemade fertilizer. It is capable of transforming a week’s worth of food scraps into homemade fertilizer within 24 hours and can recycle 95% of all household food waste, including meat and dairy. It was designed for anyone who wants to recycle household food waste and help reduce landfill waste, while e.g. also enhancing her own lawn and garden.
TreeHugger Derek had some concerns, notably cost and complexity. "I do think we need home-scale waste solutions, but I'd lean toward the lower-tech options, such as worm composting, rather than those that need a power outlet."
More at INDEX and on TreeHugger: This new gadget promises to transform food scraps into fertilizer in 24 hours
Apis Cor: A 3D-printed house in less than 24 hours
In a small town in western Russia called Stupino, a 3D printed house just went up in the middle of winter and in less than 24 hours. It was printed entirely on-site by a company called Apis Cor, who used a crane-sized mobile 3D printer, a specially developed mortar mix, and covered the whole operation with a heated tent. According to the company, the house’s total building cost came to around $10,000 – or approximately $275 per square meter. A recent estimate put the average cost of building a 200 square meter home in the US at about $1,350 per square meter – a comparable cost reduction of 80 percent.
The whole price comparison here doesn't hold up to scrutiny and I wish they didn't use it; the basic structure of a house is just a small portion of the total cost. This structure here is cheaper, but an overall price reduction of 80 percent is impossible. But then I have been a skeptic about 3D printing of houses and tend to favor mass production technologies, noting that " The whole point of mass production is to increase quantity and reduce cost per unit; The whole point of 3D printing is to make a one-off." But it's still an interesting technology.
More at INDEX and on TreeHugger:
3D house printer can crank out a thousand square feet per day
Russian company 3D prints a tiny house in 24 hours
Sundrop Farms’ Port Augusta farm is a 4,5-hectare greenhouse, powered by a 51,500m2 concentrated solar power plant consisting of 23,000 mirrors directing the sun at a 127-metre-high tower weighing 234 tonnes. The heat generated by this is used for three things: to keep 20 hectares of greenhouses at just the right temperature; to generate electricity via a turbine to power farm systems; and to desalinate seawater drawn from the nearby Spencer Gulf, using a distillation plant, which is then used to water our plants. The farm produces one million liters of fresh water every day by desalinating seawater drawn from 3km away.
Sami liked it, noting that " This process produces both renewable electricity for the greenhouse operation as fresh water for irrigating the tomatoes."
More at INDEX and on TreeHugger: A solar-powered greenhouse in a waterless desert, and a 100% autonomous bus
Woobi Play is a modular pollution mask that fits into a kid’s universe while still being able to perform at a professional level. It is designed to meet kids at eye level, involving them in interaction with the mask and making it more appealing for them to wear. Protection against air pollution requires education, and Woobi Play is designed as a solution to inspire behavioral change.
This mask really bothered me because it is just so wrong, that we have to dress kids up in masks before we send them outside. "It would be nice if designers (and politicians) would deal with the source of the problems and use their skills to get polluting cars and coal fired power plants off the planet, but no, instead our kids will have to wear masks in our smog-filled dystopian future." But it is cute.
PlasticRoad is – yes – a road made from plastic. It is 4 times lighter than traditional asphalt roads, has a 2-3 times longer expected live span than traditional paved roads, costs approximately 50% less, and can be built 70% quicker. The PlasticRoad concept consists of prefabricated, modular and hollow road structures made from recycled plastic. The hollow space can be used to temporarily store water (preventing flooding), power cables, and pipes (preventing excavation damages), with numerous other conceivable applications – sensors for charging EV’s.
I liked this, noting that "Asphalt is not pretty stuff. It emits 27 kilograms of CO2 for every tonne produced; it absorbs heat and contributes to urban heat island effects. Meanwhile, our mountains of plastic are rising faster than they can be downcycled into lawn chairs and plastic lumber." This roadway would use up a lot of that plastic.
There is some concern that it would degrade over time in sunlight, and that cars would go bumpity-bump at every joint. But my real worry is that we should be concentrating on using less plastic in the first place, given that it all comes from fossil fuels. Like Denmark's waste-to-energy plants, this kind of use of plastic could act as a disincentive to reducing consumption of plastics in the first place.
More to come, with a look at ideas that we missed here on TreeHugger.