Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cradle to cradle

Passive houses are about energy efficiency and comfort. But as a juror in the re:design award I again became aware of how important it is to take a closer look at material life cycles.

Solving the problem by reusing our trash is not the way forward - it does not give us less trash, but just extends the life cycle of the material.

Energy efficiency and curbing CO2 emissions is todays trend. With so much free energy (there is 40000 times more solar energy hitting the earth than we need, we just have to figure out how to reap it's benefits more efficiently) the future will be how to deal with what is really scarce on this planet - materials - and how to avoid pollution in the confined space we live in.

One way forward is to put limits on consumption and tell everybody that we should be satisfied with less. If anybody believes restricting themselves voluntarily is the true nature of human kind, think again. It will never happen.

We always want more. Passive houses are a good example how energy efficiency (less consumption) can be achieved by more comfort and a better living experience. People want passive houses because it gives them more - with the benefit of using less. That is why the passive house movement is so exceptionally successful, even with slow or no government support.

The only reasonable approach to long term sustainability I have found is the Cradle to Cradle approach. Compared to energy conservation a less known, but similarly important concept. A simple concept but with very complex implementation - probably the reason for not making the news headlines today. But I am in no doubt, that when the have solved the efficiency and green energy problems of today, this is going to be the next Big Thing.

As a student I created a design of a dustpan and brush called "JAMES", that to a large degree fulfills the Cradle to Cradle concept, although at that time I did not know. It just felt the right thing to do. The Dustpan is made of one piece of highly recyclable aluminum (long before any unibody design from Apple :-)) and the brush is made purely from natural materials. The aluminum can be recycled without the loss of quality in a technical cycle and the brush can be given to rot and nurtures new life.

Targeted for ALESSI, the design unfortunately never made it into production, but they added it to their ALESSI Museum. Well, for a student that was success enough.

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