Wednesday, June 20, 2007

metropolis winner: civil twilight: lunar-resonant streetlights

This year’s Next Generation prize from Metropolis will foster and finance the development of a bright idea that has energy reduction and consumption & efficiency as its core concept. The San Francisco-based team of Anton Willis, Kate Lydon, and Christina Seely suggested a proposal for lunar-resonant streetlights that would make energy use more practical by placing dimmable LED bulb cluster and highly sensitive photo-sensor cell on existing streetlights that would respond to moonlight (more efficient and require less maintenance). The team, calling itself Civil Twilight elaborated on a master's thesis by Anton Willis for architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Inspired by the work of the artist James Turrell and by ancient astronomy-based architecture, Willis looked for ways that the urban environment could respond to lunar and tidal ebb and flows. Post graduation, he wanted to transform the esoteric project into relevant cultural impact—the way the moon itself once did before the advent of electric light.

Enlisting his friends as collaborators Kate Lydon (in the UC Berkeley graduate program) and Christina Seely(a photographer documenting light produced by cities); all passionate about sustainability and energy issues, they form an ambitious trio. “You cannot grow up here without an awareness of the land and the water and the light because of the way the bay is formed and how dominant the sunset is,” Seely says. “You’re tied into the rhythms of nature, even in a highly urban area.”

The idea of sustainability as a personal connection with nature is one of the proposal’s key ideas: Would we feel closer to nature if we could see the stars and moon from urban rooftops and backyards? The trio thinks that the "wonder and awe" of the natural world is a great way to motivate people towards more sustainable behaviors. How much energy would we save if we relied on the moon, when we could, for nighttime lighting? Civil Twilight’s research indicates that streetlights account for 38 percent of the electricity used for lighting in the United States—outputting close to 300 million tons of carbon emissions a year.

Currently the collective is applying for a patent on the light and working with an engineering student at Berkeley, who will build a prototype. They hope that the plan can someday be adopted on a global scale by independent entities like colleges or corporate campuses as early adopters.

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Anonymous Mahei said...

Great Idea!! about all the city offices?

3:57 PM  

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