The Buckminster Fuller Challenge Celebrates
Five Years of Winning Solutions!
The Buckminster Fuller Institute celebrated its fifth year of The Buckminster Fuller Challenge at Cooper Union in New York City on June 6th, 2012. Named "socially-responsible design's highest award" by Metropolis Magazine, the prize program has attracted and awarded bold, visionary, and tangible solutions to the world's most complex problems. Answering Buckminster Fuller's call for a design science revolution to make the world work for all, the winners from the last five years of the Challenge exemplify the kind of breakthrough approach urgently needed to solve humanity's most vexing challenges.
The five winning entries set forth inspiring solutions to restoring the havoc wreaked by coal extraction in Appalacia, re-designing urban mobility, reversing desertification, restoring our coastal marine environments, and re-thinking building performance.
We invite you to learn about these inspiring initiatives by reading below and by viewing this short video on all the winners.
And keep up with further developments on these and other Challenge entries by joining our mailing list. We look forward to announcing our next call for proposals in the near future.
John Todd, Ecological Design Inc. Solutions for Water Planning and Treatment. Attribution: John Todd.
Renewable Energy Vision for Appalachia
Dr. John Todd's 2008 Challenge winning project, Comprehensive Design for a Carbon Neutral World, set forth a revolutionary concept for the design of an entirely new economic model for Appalachia, a region that has been despoiled by extractive industries. Dr. Todd is an ecological design pioneer, responsible for imagining a symbiotic relationship with nature in order to heal our water and soils. His highly advanced ecological design principles are the fruit of Dr. Todd's decades-long practice developing technologies around the world that build healthy symbiotic relationships between nature's living systems and modern human needs.
In a 2008 interview with Metropolis Magazine, Todd describes how Fuller was an inspiration in his ongoing research. In his June Keynote address at Cooper Union, Todd re-emphasized this approach to his work - "Over the last several decades, we have begun to decode the language of nature, and out of that language, we begin to discover nature’s operating instruction, and I consider this to be at the core of the transformation of the planet."
His current work is focused on water restoration in harbors, using boat moorings equipped with miniature restores as an experiment in how to filter and clean the nitrogen pollution that comes from the groundwater, the septic tanks and the atmosphere that then overwhelms the eelgrass communities. Four structures of systems attached to the mooring, houses kingdoms of life to filter and purify the water, remove nutrients, and as a potential byproduct, also generate oceanic foods.
Top Left: CityCar Footprint Comparison. Bottom Left: MIT Lab Team. Right: CityCar and Roboscooter in New York City. Attributions: Smart Cities Group.
Re-designing Urban Mobility
2009 winner Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems (SPM/MoD), submitted by an interdisciplinary student team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab (MIT), designed and tested a complimentary set of electric powered vehicles (bicycle, scooter, and car) with extraordinary innovation in efficiency, safety and convenience. They have addressed what is referred to by transportation planners as the "first and last mile" problem - the ubiquitous gap between final destination and the nearest public transit stop. The team also developed a compelling economic model and business plan informed by in-depth case studies that continues to attract public and private support.
Winning the Challenge in 2009 was instrumental in taking this vision to its next level. Ryan Chin of the MIT Media Lab team, shared with BFI the wonderful news that "the prize monies directly contributed in part, to (their) ability to secure agreements that would lead to commercialization efforts in Europe and advance research in the area of urban mobility." The Media Lab team was able to attract an investor - Denokinn, an industrial sponsor from Spain, and their partner companies - to refine the design and technology of the CityCar to allow for its commercialization by industry. Branded "Hiriko," a full-scale version of the stack-able, electric CityCar was unveiled at the European Union Commission headquarters on January 24, 2012.
Follow their news at http://www.media.mit.edu/news.
Left: Tightly herded cattle - the tool used to reverse desertification and restore water. Right: Herding team with Allan Savory at far right. Attributions: Allan Savory.
Reversing Desertification of the World's Grasslands & Savannas
The work of the Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM), the 2010 Challenge winner, is a living testament to Allan Savory's breakthrough methods for reversing desertification and its insidious impact on livelihoods, biodiversity and climate change. Allan Savory has transformed large swaths of parched and degraded areas of the ranch into lush pastures replete with ponds and flowing streams even during periods of drought through a dramatic increase in the number of herd animals on the land. Savory's seminal work on the subject is called Holistic Management - A New Framework for Decision Making.
Receiving the Buckminster Fuller Challenge award has, among other things, made possible the construction of new homes for the herders at the Africa Center for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe. In Savory's own words: "BFI's recognition has proven highly influential. The effects are still snowballing, and although we would have difficulty proving it, I personally believe that many benefits and opened doors were directly due to BFI and would not have happened without (that) recognition." One such recognition includes Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerholder working on a documentary about Savory's farming systems with the goal of winning him a Nobel Prize in agriculture.
View videos of Allan Savory describing his new development and housing dedication ceremony and listen to Allan Savory describing reversing desertification on Public Radio International's Living on Earth.
Left: Working with Blue Ventures local communities learn to manage fish stocks sustainably. Right: The local community association is responsible for all aspects of the areas marine management. Attributions: Garth Cripps.
Restoring the World's Coastal Marine Habitats
Blue Ventures, the 2011 Challenge winner, has worked with local communities to conserve threatened marine environments. Their highly acclaimed integrated conservation programs work with some of the world's poorest coastal communities to develop conservation and alternative income initiatives to protect biodiversity and coastal livelihoods. The 2011 Challenge Jury found Blue Ventures' "multi-scaled approach to the interrelated challenges of biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation embodies the spirit of the work pioneered by Buckminster Fuller," proclaiming it as "an adaptable design template guided by a clearly defined preferred state for Marine Protected Areas worldwide."
Already, Blue Ventures' work has guided fisheries policy and legislation, and been replicated by coastal communities, NGOs, and government agencies across hundreds of kilometres of coastline. Al Harris has said that "media coverage of the award raised our profile to a totally new level, and this opened doors to a world of new partnerships, many of which are now working. And of course winning the Challenge was the tipping point that enabled us to strengthen the organization to be ready to take our work to scale."
Recent results of Blue Ventures' fisheries research has demonstrated for the first time that community‐based marine conservation brings direct economic benefits to traditional fishing communities, creating a powerful incentive for expansion of marine conservation efforts at scale in tropical coastal communities. This research is undergoing peer review and will be ready for publication in the Fall of 2011. Meanwhile, they have launched workshops to share their findings with
community members and government officials to help kick-start efforts to develop policy and financial support for integrating the model within small and medium fishery supply chains across the region.
Left: Hawaii Preparatory Energy Lab, certified under the Living Building Challenge in April 2011. Attribution: 2010 Matthew Millman Photography, Courtesy of Flansburgh Architects. Right: BFI's President David McConville and Executive Director Elizabeth Thompson awarding Living Building Challenge OmniOculi sculpture at Cooper Union. Attribution: John Belt.
New Standards for Building Performance
2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge winner, Living Building Challenge, defines the highest possible level of environmental performance, envisioning a built environment that is fully integrated with its ecosystem. It pushes the building industry to re-imagine business as usual, and it transforms building occupants from passive consumers into active stewards of increasingly scarce resources.
The 2012 Challenge Jury believes that "the LBC team's advocacy work at the local and professional level, its proven ability to navigate the political realm, and its work in the developing world all reveal that this is a wide-reaching initiative that squarely addresses issues of social justice, fairness, and equity as an integral part of the building process. Addressing needs that have otherwise been marginal or absent in design and building standards, it is a direct challenge to business as usual, and is evidence of a high level of systems thinking and potential broad global reach."
By identifying the weaknesses in current green building practices, defining an ambitious vision for a truly sustainable building industry, and providing a clear path to get there, the International Future Living Institute is charting a new and critically needed course in an industry that arguably remains one of the most consumptive -‐ inspiring a new level of collaboration between building owners, construction trades, architects, engineers, and regulators. The LBC's model of regenerative design in the built environment could provide a critical leverage point in the road-map to a sustainable future and is an exemplary trimtab in its potential to catalyze innovation in such a high impact, high consumption industry, one heretofore notoriously slow to improve, and very wasteful with resources.