Editor’s note: With cold weather in the U.S. affecting even Florida, where frozen iguanas are dropping from trees and strawberry crops are in peril, this is a moment to evaluate the sustainability of current energy needs. Below, Bruce Sullivan talks about building new houses with less energy impact; for more on this subject, watch Dan Nocera present an idea for personalized energy at PopTech 2009, and find out about proposed “cash-for-caulkers” incentives for home weatherization the White House is considering.
In a typical year, millions of houses are built. Each house will last 50 to 100 years. Today each new house encumbers society with a debt of energy required to operate it over its life. The vast majority of houses built today are old-fashioned energy hogs, and each one is a missed opportunity.
Energy visionaries have set their sights on homes that create more than they consume. In ten to twenty years, every new building could be a “zero-energy building,” Or “net zero.” The technology exists today, all we lack is the proper motivation.
Zero Energy Habitat for Humanity home in Wheatridge, CO, a collaboration between Habitat for Humanity and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
A zero-energy building is one that creates more energy than it consumes over the course of a year. In order to achieve this feat, a zero-energy building will be small, efficient and grid-connected. Here are some key attributes:
· Smart design is the key. Homes must be designed for their climates and sited to take maximum advantage of nature’s gifts of sun, wind, water and light. Designs must make the highest and best use of material.
· Small homes use less energy. All modern needs (and many of our desires) can be accommodated in 400 to 500 square feet per person.
· Highly efficient structures that incorporate super-insulation and air-tight shells will not need central heating systems. Insulation uses no energy and never wears out .
· Renewable energy generation, such as photovoltaic (solar electric) panels or wind generators , will be essential. These systems must be connected to the utility grid. They will generate more energy than the building needs on summer days, but will require some energy from external sources at night and during winter.
The challenge is no longer technical. The equipment and know-how exist today. What we need is a commitment to this destination and a clear roadmap showing how to get there.
One big obstacle for designers and builders is that they don’t have a good way to estimate the efficiency of their projects during design. A number of proposals are now under review to establish a building efficiency metric and labeling system. One of these is the Energy Performance Score, which is simply an estimate of how much energy a building would use each year. A typical new home may have an EPS around 120. An “efficient” home might be 50, while a zero-energy home would be, well… 0. You can see that we have a long way to go from our current practice to reach zero energy.
Since on-site renewable energy generation may not be possible for all building sites, ultimately some homes would have to generate excess energy. And despite our yearning for decentralization, we will always need a utility grid with central power generation.
Enterprising young designers from around the world put net zero principles into practice every year for the Solar Decathlon, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. Twenty teams of college and university students compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house.
Zero-energy doesn’t have to be expensive. Many Habitat for Humanity chapters around the U.S. build very efficient homes. In Bend, Oregon, where I work, the local Habitat projects use small size, high efficiency and solar energy to achieve EPS ratings as low as 23. With annual energy bills of only a few hundred dollars, this is truly affordable housing. From there, it’s just a small step to true zero energy.
As the latest tech products and applications launch at CES this week, we are releasing Luis von Ahn’s talk about the power of big groups and small increments of time to solve problems computers cannot. What other forms of social good are possible in this new decade as we turn more attention to microcontributions of time and energy?
Computer scientist Luis von Ahn’s programs harness the human brainpower to solve complex problems. von Ahn invented ReCaptcha, a program that uses squiggly characters that humans easily decipher but blocks spambots – and helps digitize millions of old texts. The CMU professor also makes games that use human knowledge to improve computers. Find them at gwap.com.
- ZDNet on new questions for reCAPTCHA (December 2009)
While in Atlanta over the holidays, I asked Xavier Helgesen, Co-Founder of Better World Books, a few questions about what the social enterprise book company does—how they find used library books, why they are located in Atlanta (change.org blogger for Social Entrepreneurship Nathaniel Whittemore includes Atlanta in his recent post on burgeoning “regional innovation ecosystems”), and why Better World Books is a B Corp (find out more about B Corps in our December blog post):
Questions for Xavier? Tell us what you think in the comments—we are planning to highlight more B Corps in the coming months.
As we’re nearing the end of a year and the end of a decade, it’s time to look back and ahead.
Photo: Gardard Eide Einarssons’s installation on the Louisiana Museum photographed by Finn Broendum.
With at least three formative events in this young 21st century (9/11, the Tsunami, and the Great Recession) providing some sort of apocalyptic arch and instilling a profound sense of anxiety, it is no wonder that former visionaries are gathering at conferences asking “Where did the future go?” But, at the end of the day, the end of all days didn’t occur, and as the New York Magazine points out in its comprehensive review of the “Aughts”: “The Times is still published every day. There are more bicyclists on the streets than sanity would dictate.” Plus, we got Barack Obama, Mad Men, the iPhone, Twitter, and Foursquare…. and and and….
In the last days of a restless decade, we can lean back and enjoy again, with cautious relief, a modicum of optimism. When even the newsletter of management consultancy Arthur D. Little – not necessarily known for being conducive to enthusiasm – arrives in your inbox with the bold subject line “The Future of the Future,” it indeed seems to indicate that, yes, the future has a future again.
Therefore it feels appropriate to end this year, this decade, with a super-list on the future curated by super-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (and first presented in his lecture at the “Where do we go from here?” symposium at the Louisiana Museum during the UN climate conference in Copenhagen):
"The future will be….
(List compiled by Hans Ulrich Obrist; via @Andrian Kreye/sueddeutsche.de)
The future will be chrome. Rirkrit Tiravanija
The future will be curved. Olafur Eliasson
The future will be in the name of the future. Anri Sala
The future will be so subjective. Tino Sehgal
The future will be bouclette. Douglas Gordon
The future will be curious. Nico Dockx
The future will be obsolete. Tacita Dean
The future will be asymmetric. Pedro Reyes
The future will be a slap in the face. Cao Fei
The future will be delayed. Loris Greaud
The future does not exist but in snapshots. Philippe Parreno
The future will be tropical. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster
Future? …you must be mistaken Trisha Donnelly
The future will be overgrown and decayed. Simryn Gill
The future will be tense. John Baldessari
A future fuelled by human waste. Matthew Barney
The future is going nowhere without us. Paul Chan
The future is now – the future is it. Doug Aitken
The future is one night, just look up. Tomas Saraceno
The future will be a remake… Didier Fiuza Faustino
The future is what we construct from what we remember of the past – the present is the time of instantaneous revelation. Lawrence Weiner
The future is this place at a different time. Bruce Sterling
The future will be widely reproduced and distributed. Cory Doctorow
The future will be whatever we make it. Jacque Fresco
The future will involve splendour and poverty. Arto Lindsay
The future is uncertain because it will be what we make it. Immanuel Wallerstein
The future is waiting – the future will be self-organized. Raqs Media Collective
Dum Spero/ While I breathe, I hope. Nancy Spero
This is not the future. Jordan Wolfson
The future is a dog/ l’avenir c’est la femme. Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
On its way; it was here yesterday. Hreinn Friðfinnsson
The future will be an armchair strategist, the future will be like no snow on the broken bridge. Yang Fudong
The future always flies under the radar. Martha Rosler
Suture that future. Peter Doig
‘To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow’ (Shakespeare). Richard Hamilton
The future is overrated. Cerith Wyn Evans
futuro = $B!g(B Hector Zamorra The future is a large pharmacy with a memory deficit. David Askevold
The future will be bamboo. Tay Kheng Soon
The future will be ousss. Koo Jeong-A
The future will be…grains, particles & bits. The future will be…ripples, waves & flow. The future will be…mix, swarms, multitudes. The future will be…the future we deserve but with some surprises, if only some of us take notice. Vito Acconci
In the future…the earth as a weapon… Allora & Calzadilla
The future is our excuse. Joseph Grigely and Amy Vogel
The future will be repeated. Marlene Dumas
Ok, ok I’ll tell you about the future; but I am very busy right now; give me a couple of days more to finish some things and I’ll get back to you. Jimmie Durham
Future is instant. Yung Ho Chang
‘The future is not.’ Zaha Hadid
The future is private. Anton Vidokle
The future will be layered and inconsistent. Liam Gillick
The future is a piano wire in a pussy powering something important. Matthew Ronay
In the future perhaps there will be no past. Daniel Birnbaum
The future was. Julieta Aranda
The future is menace. Carolee Schneemann
The future is a forget-me-not. Molly Nesbit
The future is an knowing exchange of glances. Sarah Morris
The future: Scratching on things I could disavow. Walid Raad
The future is our own wishful thinking. Liu Ding
Le futur est un étoilement. Edouard Glissant
The future is now. Maurizio Cattelan
The future has a silver lining. Thomas Demand
The future is now and here. Yona Friedman
is a fax best to use as facsimile G&G FAX is: THE FUTURE? SEE YOU THERE! AS ARTISTS WE WANT TO HELP TO FORM OUR TOMORROWS. WE HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. ITS GOING TO BE MARVELLOUS. LONG LIVE THE FUTURE WITH LOTS OF LOVE ALWAYS AND ALWAYS. Gilbert & George
The future is without you. Damien Hirst
The future is a season. Pierre Huyghe
The future is a poster. M/M
We have repeated the future out of existence. Tom McCarthy
The future has two large beautiful eyes. Jonas Mekas
less, few tours in my future. Stefano Boeri
Future is what it is. Huang Yong Ping
The future is the very few years we have remaining before all time becomes one time. Grant Morrison
FUTURE MUST BE HERE TODAY. Jan Kaplicky
Future is more freedom. Jia Zhangke
My art is very free, I don’t know what to do in the future. But I am positive. Xu Zhen
The future is inside. Shumon Basar, Markus Miessen, Åbäke
NO FUTURE – PUNK IS NOT DEATH ! Thomas Hirschhorn
The future will be grim if we don’t do something about it. Morgan Fisher
The future is reflexive and coming together. Olafur Eliasson
The future is listening. Shilpa Gupta
The future lies in the unknown. Ann Lislegaard
Nothing stinks, only thinking made it so. Sissel Tolaas
What the future is, you only know next morning. Die Zukunft kann man nur ueber Nacht definieren. Peter Sloterdijk
The future is a disease. Peter Weibel
This week, new videos and the accompanying mp3s from Zee Avi, John Forté, and Zoë Keating, three of the talented musicians who graced the PopTech 2009 stage in October. Find out their upcoming tour dates and how to support their music with the links below.
If you are still seeking gift ideas, you might donate a goat (and hear a new track with Zoë!), contribute to the PopTech Social Innovation Fellows’ organizations, join the PopTech Impact Fund, and purchase books from 2009 PopTech speakers.
Shortly after posting self-styled videos on You Tube, singer songwriter Zee Avi woke up to 3,000 emails one morning. One offered her a recording contract with Brushfire Records. Since then, Avi left her home in Kuala Lumpur for Los Angeles. Avi performs melodic, melancholy songs tinged with irrepressible optimism.
John Forté is an accomplished musician and producer who recently released StyleFREE the EP, his first album since serving seven years in federal prison. Forte’s career was interrupted by a 14-year sentence for a first-time non-violent drug offense; Former President Bush commuted his sentence in 2008.
Cellist Zoë Keating uses a cello and a small box of electronics to create a one-woman avant-garde orchestra. A former member of the cello-rock trio Rasputina, Keating has played live on radio and television, in the Nevada desert, in medieval churches, punk clubs, and in venues across North America and Europe.
More music in 2010!
Editor’s note: Heather Fleming is a 2008 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow and the CEO of Catapult Design, an organization that develops “human-centered products” for BoP (bottom of the pyramid). Below, she tells us why her company works from a co-working space for social entrepreneurs in San Francisco.
“It’s kinda like a third world command center,” is how Tyler Valiquette, (Catapult Design co-founder) described his first visit to 972 Mission, now Mission*Social, a co-working space aimed at social entrepreneurs in San Francisco.
Mission*Social in San Francisco’s SoMa
Indeed, Mission*Social is stocked with organizations serving communities in India, Rwanda, Guatemala, the DRC, Zambia, Kenya, etc. and it’s got the extensive Skype conferencing setup to prove it.
Founded by Inveneo, a leading non-profit in ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development), Inveneo’s CEO Kristin Peterson describes the space as a “DIY environment” for its tenants.
Each conference room has monitors, speakers, and web cams rigged to the walls for frequent international video Skype calls; next to the kitchen is an open work area for assembly and de-bug littered with monitors, keyboards, wires, and electrical components; most of the IKEA furnishings in the space are perched on wheels to make changes fast and easy.
Mission*Social in San Francisco’s SoMa
Catapult moved into Mission*Social at the beginning of October, joining Samasource and Inveneo. We immediately felt the benefits of sharing space with other mission-driven companies. Within two and half months of moving in, we’ve tapped Inveneo for legal resources, solar vendor recommendations for our client work in Rwanda, an accountant for the 2009 tax season, and even guidance on IRS filings. Resources like this are invaluable and save newbies (like me) loads of time and grief.
Co-hosting Catapult’s holiday party with the immensely popular Samasource fueled the expansion of our social circle. And naturally, being in a proximity of twenty feet with Inveneo has already resulted in a joint proposal on a new project.
The solidarity component also plays a valuable role in a space serving social entrepreneurs. Did I mention that I now get to sit next to two successful female CEOs running technology organizations?
Generally, San Francisco’s loft spaces in the South of Market (SoMa) area are some of the most viable and affordable office spaces for budget-minded social entrepreneurs—within walking distance of Catapult: blueEnergy Group (providing sustainable energy to marginalized communities), Impact Carbon (improves accessibility of clean tech for the international carbon market), Public Architecture, and many others.
The SF Chronicle, directly across the street from Mission*Social, recently announced that the TechShop, a membership-based DIY workshop, and the Hub, a network supporting business incubation, are moving in next year. And appropriately, the site of the upcoming TEDxSoMa will be in a popular SoMa co-working space, ParisSoMa.
Mission*Social is now open for those seeking permanent space as well as those passing through San Francisco. A final perk? The eclectic SoMa neighborhood is one of the only places in San Francisco where you can both guild your teeth and buy a cup of the city’s chicest coffee on the same block.
Great blog posts on the co-working trend:
- Change.org’s Nathaniel Whittemore, “Top Trend of 2010 #4: Coworking and Startup Incubation”
- The Guardian, Bobbie Johnson, “Co-working Silicon Valley Job Crisis”
How many times have you heard the words ‘investing in people’ as a nonprofit slogan or a corporate tagline or touted as an international development policy? That phrase has been recycled into many different avatars in as many contexts. But what if you took this phrase literally? What if you could actually invest directly in people, the way you would in a company, and receive dividends per an equity stake in their future income?
Hold your horses – this isn’t as crazy as you think. Investor, visionary, and fan of PopTech Rafe Furst, just invested in “Marge,” someone he believes is a superstar in the making, for a lifetime share in her income. Furst wrote an incendiary blog post about his decision, spawning a litany of polarized opinions ranging from praise (“brilliant”) to aversion (“this is a form of slavery”) to personal attacks (“you’re an a@# with more money than sense”). Change.org’s Social Entrepreneurship blogger Nathaniel Whittemore picked up the story and began a discussion with a number of social entrepreneurs and investors.
Three distinct models of people-to-people investments emerged in the ensuing discussion:
I. Furst found a single superstar he trusted who he thought was worthy of investment and added a lifetime equity stake to a deal built on a personal relationship of mutual trust. The Personal Investment Contract (PIC) Furst placed in the public domain is just three pages long because it stems from that trust. Furst’s deal is replicable by other investors but not scalable because of its personal nature.
II. SE Fund: Equity investment can be a funding apparatus for select superstar social entrepreneurs through a nonprofit trust issuing shares in their aggregated future income. Four entrepreneurs in the discussion put their lives on the line, eager for this type of investment. Interestingly, they all plan to re-invest the funds in their own organizations, whereas Furst’s original intent was for such funds to ease the investee’s life and not replace investments in their startups. He sees the two types of investments as complementary.
III. Enzi: People investments can be scaled in the context of education. Whittemore included me in the discussion because I founded Enzi, a social venture that lets people invest in students’ education in return for a share in their future income for a set period of time. Enzi is currently conducting a pilot at Stanford and securing investments in its first class of Masters EE students.
The following issues arose for discussion across these three models of people investments:
I. Legality – Can investments in people for an equity stake in future income be considered legal? Yes, certainly. Furst and Enzi had legal counsel write the people investment contracts in use. SE Fund advocates will consult a law firm in the new year to sort out possible tax issues that might arise with their model. Depending on the number and types of investors involved, any people investment model might have to investigate securities law.
II. Buyout clause – While it’s psychologically important to have a buyout clause from a future income contract, it can serve different purposes, depending on the model. Furst’s contract has a buyout clause that he considers a red herring – if it isn’t triggered, it’s a bad deal for somebody. A potential SE Fund investor was hesitant about including a buyout clause because it might incentivize the investee to leave the social mission-focused world for a high-paying job to afford buyout. Since Enzi’s investments are specifically for education and don’t involve lifetime income, its buyout clause is more akin to an early loan payoff for students who experience financial windfall such as cashing out on the soaring star of a startup company.
III. Investor preferences – Most people agreed that social return, not just financial, is an enormously motivating factor in all these people investment models. According to Furst, depending on whether the investee was ‘for-profit’ (ex. businessman), ‘non-profit’ (ex. researcher), or in-between (ex. social entrepreneur), he would rely on the percentage of income, the buyout, or a blend of both for his return.
A potential SE Fund investor was willing to take a discount on financial return for the entrepreneur to remain focused on social mission. If his investee jumped ship for the security of McKinsey, he would consider his investment a failure. Another investor considered it a worthwhile deal only if she could add value to the investee beyond money, in the form of a network or connections.
Enzi will entertain the preferences (ex. major, school, national origin) of investors who can invest in a fund of students with those criteria. We believe we’ll attract investors who altruistically re-invest their returns in other students as well as those who are drawn to sound financial returns.
IV. Investee preferences – Furst didn’t disclose much about his investee “Marge” except to say that he shared a close mentor relationship with her.
The entrepreneurs considering the SE Fund deal have personal preferences regarding their investors. One entrepreneur cautioned – ‘you become who invests in you.’ He would take the deal if only for the privilege of having someone he trusted and respected literally invested in his future. Some were inclined to have several investors as a board of trusted directors for their lives while some hated the idea of pitching to a forum of angels because one dissenting investor can influence the judgment of others.
Enzi aims to unlock latent potential in students. Its income-aligned education funding keeps students from fixed-amount crippling debt, enabling them to pursue their passions. In addition, students are paired with investor mentors who help support their professional growth.
The major differences between the three models lie in motivation, desired outcomes, and scalability. Furst has already determined that “Marge” is a winner and is motivated to add value, both personal and financial, to her hard work. His desired outcome is the value they will collectively generate over her lifetime. He pointed out that his model is inherently non-scalable because everyone has different ideals for a superstar candidate they would link with for life. The motivation of the SE Fund is to use people investments as a solution for the funding problems social entrepreneurs face, and the expected outcome is the social impact on the world that these entrepreneurs will generate on account of the investment. The SE Fund can be scalable if its advocates are able to agree on the right mix of investors and entrepreneurs. Enzi is motivated to create a paradigm shift in education finance by providing equity investments in education as an alternative to student loans. Its desired outcomes are removing the financial barrier to education and facilitating increased lifetime earnings and improved quality of life for students. Enzi’s model is scalable: it offers time-limited contracts explicitly for the purpose of education and lets several accredited and non-accredited (‘retail’) investors collectively invest in funds of talented students.
It’s exciting to witness the evolution of these people investment models. Though they target different stakeholders, they can and should coexist – they have potential to be powerful forces of social change. Here’s one vote for people investments as a panel topic at SoCap10! Do I hear another?
Ashni can be contacted via email (ashni [at] enzifutures [dot] org) or Twitter (@ashnimohnot).
New York Designers Propose Ideas for New York Transportation, Navigation, and Waterfront Development
Two weeks ago, GOOD and CEOs for Cities held a Manhattan event where Alissa Walker, a design writer, and Scott Stowell (of NY design agency Open) moderated six design teams proposing solutions to New York societal problems.
Below, excerpts from presenters Jake Barton (Local Projects) on the appeal of bicycling as alternative transportation, Brett Snyder (Cheng+Snyder) and Guy Zucker (Z-A Studio) on wayfinding in Times Square, and Colin Brice and Caleb Mulvena (MAPOS) on waterfront development in Sunset Park:
What do you think about these proposals?
“You’ve got to start from the bottom and work up. And if you don’t, I guarantee it will always be too costly.” Dan Nocera, PopTech 2009
With global leaders in discussions about climate change, PopTech releases three talks this week from energy researchers approaching the problem from other angles. MIT chemist Dan Nocera shows how we can move from the grid to personalized energy, spatial designer Laura Kurgan demonstrates there are no neutral maps, and scientist Nicole Kuepper creates photovoltaic cells out of nail polish, inkjet printers, and pizza ovens.
MIT Professor Dan Nocera believes he can solve the world’s energy problems with an Olympic-sized pool of water. Nocera and his research team have identified a simple technique for powering the Earth inexpensively—-by using the sun to split water and store energy—-and thus making the large-scale deployment of personalized solar energy possible.
Architect Laura Kurgan is the Co-Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University. Kurgan visualizes complex political and social data to advocate for social reform. One project, “Million Dollar Blocks,” shows how the government spends more than one million dollars to incarcerate prisoners who live within a single census block.
Ph.D. candidate Nicole Kuepper has been passionate about solar energy since she received a toy solar-powered car for her 8th birthday. Kuepper has recently patented a simple low-temperature process for printing low-cost solar cells that could make solar energy affordable across the developing world.
- Watch a video of Nicole working on photovoltaic cells in the lab
- Read the abstract for the UNSW inkjet solar cell scientific paper
- Learn more about the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering
For more, follow PopTech photographer Kris Krug’s Flickr photostream for the latest Copenhagen images, find out why activists the Yes Men (who presented at PopTech 2006) helped coordinate and release a fake press release on behalf of the Canadian government Monday.
More climate change links:
What do you think about these energy ideas? Where are you following COP15 coverage?
This year at PopTech, choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, who directs Chunky Move (an Australian dance company) spoke about designing movements for dancers that play with light.
To play with light, his Chunky Move dancers interact with software designed by Frieder Weiss, an “engineer in the arts.”
Frieder is in New York this week with Chunky Move for their “Mortal Engine” run at BAM (performances until Saturday, details below).
He talked yesterday afternoon about his EyeCon software (released for use), the unreleased Kalypso program used in “Mortal Engine,” how his lighting is live, why sound can be less accessible than light, and the frozen project he is working on next:
You can buy tickets to Chunky Move at BAM, tonight through Saturday.
And here is Gideon Obarzanek’s 2009 PopTech talk:
Questions for Frieder? Leave a comment below.