Student designers create environmentally sustainable ‘Ecoville’

Ecoville, there are no greenhouse gas emissions.

There aren’t even gasoline engines. Just noiseless cars powered by compressed air and bikes aplenty — with lots of city storage spaces.

If it all sounds like a dream, unfortunately, that’s because it is.

Ecoville is the dream of Associate Prof. Brian Burns, realized through the work of 30 industrial design students.

Faced with serious global challenges like food shortages and climate change, Burns tasked final-year students with inventing products for a better, sustainable city.

Ecoville was unveiled at the 31st annual Graduation Exhibit that ran from April 18 to 21.

“If I were to find myself in Ecoville on a dark and stormy night, would I recognize it and want to live there?” asks Burns.

Based on the thought-provoking projects that were displayed during those three days, it looks like he found his answer.

“Yes, absolutely,” he says. “A lot of quite subtle changes would make dramatic differences.”

Take student Dennis Cheng’s invention: A countertop eco cooler. At first glance, it might seem like an industrial strength Tupperware set. Cheng actually found a way to use water evaporation to naturally cool and thereby preserve food.

“It’s by no means a fridge,” says Cheng of the container that keeps food five to 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding temperature. “You’re not going to be able to put meats (inside).”

But it’s an important product with potential to ease global food shortages, reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food transportation and even save on your grocery bill since nearly one-third of food stored in fridges is wasted, as it gets buried beneath bags of leftovers or forgotten about in the vegetable crisper.

Michael Grigoriev came to his air-powered car by a similar thought process. Why waste fossil fuels when emission-free technology already exists?

His car ­— similar in appearance to a Smart car — could travel at a top speed of about 50 km/hour for 50 kilometres and “embodies the same type of elements as a bicycle, in terms of sustainability.”

“People can understand how it works, they can repair it themselves,” he says. “It’s a really simple motor, far more simple than a complex gas engine,” he says.

Instead of looking forward for a new hydrogen fix, Grigoriev looked back at technologies that already exist. Compressed air cars have been around since the 1920s.

“The cars we have now are way too much for what we need,” says Grigoriev, adding that cars only carry 1.2 occupants on average.

“Our cities are being affected (in a negative way) by our dependence on the automobile.”

With all of the world’s environmental problems, it can be easy to feel down — that’s where Brenna Holvey’s therapeutic fashion comes in.

The student designed a hood — lit on the inside by lithium battery powered LEDs — to provide light therapy for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The product also aims to “reconnect” people with their natural environments.

“The whole idea behind it is just to get people outside,” said Holvey.

A full list of projects can be viewed at: http://www.id.carleton.ca/exhibition/graduates.html.

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Daniel Reid

By Daniel Reid

Whether it’s scientific breakthroughs, political manoeuvres or loaded technical jargon, Daniel Reid loves to untangle complex ideas to make them accessible to everyone. He is currently an editor at @newsrooms and is a former web editor at @CTVNews and homepage editor at @TheLoopCA. You can argue with him on Twitter at @ahatrack.

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