And the Green Design Awards Go To...

A recent slew of contests highlight the best in sustainable design

| May 3, 2007

They may not have the sensational cachet of Oscar contenders dolled up in designer duds, but a recent spate of awards have put a spotlight on a different kind of design -- the sustainable kind. And the real winners are the Earth and ecominded consumers.

On April 26 the Next Generation design competition announced its 2007 winners. The competition is organized by the design guru magazine Metropolis and draws together young designers from myriad fields, such as urban planning, community building, product design, environmental management, and housing solutions. Top honors this year went to the Lunar Resonant Street Lamp from the design group Civil Twilight. In order to reduce both light pollution and energy consumption, the lamps will use photo-cells, which work like a dimmer switch, to adjust their light output in relation to moonlight. So, the romance of moonlit nights will be saved from glaring streetlights, and the energy grid (and the environment) will be saved from an unnecessary drain. The runners-up in the competition were spread across a number of industries, from LED displays in showers and faucets that monitor water usage, to new types of highway walls that absorb airborne pollutants, and plugs and outlets that help conserve energy usage by regulating electricity while appliances are on standby.

In February the architectural firm organicARCHITECT announced the winners of its 2007 organicAWARDS, which recognize leaders in the design industry for their ecoconscious products and services. This year's awards highlight a quirky collection of products, such as the EcoSmart Fire -- a small metal box that uses clean-burning fermented sugarcane to create a bright open flame that looks more like a futuristic lantern than a fireplace. The awards also celebrate designers who use innovative technology to create green products, such as the Organic Concrete created by e-studio. The permeable surface of the concrete allows for plant growth while the porous material is able to retain water and slowly release it over time, which makes for a green surface even in the dry season.
Far less quirky but equally focused on the environmental impact of design, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Committee on the Environment (COTE) have announced what they consider the top ten green projects of the year. AIA and COTE look not only at the ecological and social impact of buildings but also at how these factors influence design. Some of the 2007 winners include the Artists For Humanity EpiCenter in Boston, whose roof-mounted array of photovoltaic cells is the largest in the city and provides renewable energy to the entire building. Another honoree is the Z6 House in Santa Monica, California, which was built with six project goals: zero waste, zero energy, zero water, zero carbon, zero emissions, and zero ignorance. One of the most visually striking projects is the Whitney Water Purification Facility in New Haven, Connecticut. The building is set into a hill and uses the temperature of the surrounding ground as a heating and cooling system. Though the building's sleek and modern design makes for a striking contrast with its natural surroundings, ultimately it has a limited impact on the neighboring ecosystem and the native wildlife.

Go there >> The 2007 Next Generation Design Competition Winners

Go there, too>> The organicARCHITECT 2007 Green Product Awards

And there>> The AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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