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Sustainable Futures

The exhibition Sustainable Futures currently on show at London’s Design Museum highlights pioneering approaches to sustainable design and asks: can design make a difference?

By Katie Dominy /asdf 08-04-2010

The exhibition, which is centered around five themes - Cities, Energy and Economics, Food, Materiality and Creative Citizens - features the work of designers and studios who are pioneering innovative approaches to sustainable design. 

From carbon-neutral cities in Abu Dhabi to recycled clothing from discarded parachutes through to projects designed to inform the consumer as to his/her energy use, the focus is on awareness. Even the exhibition design was considered – made of FSC-certified pine timber and recycled honeycomb cardboard panels (X-Board), the display installation can be easily demounted for future use or recycled entirely.

Grow Your Own by Jochem Faudet is a greenhouse designed for urban dwellers, allowing them to grow their own food. Faudet developed the concept while studying for his MA in Product Design at the Royal College of Art, London. Faudet wanted to grow his own vegetables, but had no garden – only a roof terrace.  This small greenhouse is designed for patio gardens and roof terraces and is intended to be as much aesthetic showcase for vegetables and plants as it is functional greenhouse.

Faudet researched greenhouses sold at garden centres and discovered that very little attention had been given to their overall appearance as a design product. In addition, Faudet’s green house is designed as a ‘ hassle free self-sufficient system’ in which rainwater runs down the specially angled roof into a water tank that can store up to 300 litres of water. There is an automatic pump to irrigate the plants and the windows open automatically when the temperature reaches a certain level, to ensure an even level of heat. Faudet says that with his greenhouse, ‘going on a holiday or having a busy life is no longer a reason not to grow your own.’

Two concepts from the Philips Design Probe programme were included in the exhibition. The programme imagines - often controversial - future living scenarios based upon expert research that is then developed into experimental concepts designed to spark ideas and debate.  

Biosphere Home Farming explores the idea of growing highly nutritional food within your own home. A varied range of mini-ecosystems are placed on top of one another to create a Biosphere Home Farm that occupies minimal space within the home. The prototype has edible plants as the top layer, then algae, crustaceans, through to a fishtank as the bottom layer. The farm makes use of water filtration, recycling of nutrients and optimum use of sunlight.

The Diagnostic Kitchen allows people to take more control over what they eat. Instead of relying on the manufacturer’s packaging information on nutritional values of a product, the Nutrition Monitor allows the consumer to scan food and analyse the results based on his/her body's needs. The Nutrition Monitor relies on a wand for scanning and a sensor that’s swallowed – empowering the consumer to measure his/her calorific and nutritional requirements. The wand could also be used to analyse food in a supermarket before purchase, allowing the consumer to make an informed decision.  

The C,mm, n (pronounced ‘Common’) is a car concept featuring a zero-emission hydrogen engine. A collaboration between the technology universities of Delft, Eindhoven and Enschede and the Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment has resulted in a concept car design that will be constantly improved by the input of designers worldwide. The vehicle’s technical drawings and blueprints are freely available online and designers are encouraged to add their own ideas and modifications that are then shared with the whole online group, as well as the C, mm, n teams.

The open source model ensures that the development of the car meets people’s needs and takes on board their use of the vehicle, in contrast to the traditional model of car designing that focuses on the commercial aspects and tends to merely seek to outperform its rivals or predecessor.  

Sustainable Futures – Can design make a difference runs until 5 September 2010 at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London.

Main image & image 1: Jochem Faudet
Image 2&3: Diagnostic Kitchen
Image 4: Biosphere Home Farming
Image 5: C,mm, n

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