I am happy to announce I finished my earlier project on time and submitted it for consideration in the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. I have spent nearly every spare moment on this project for the last two months, so I am very happy to complete it. I think it turned out well, too:
TENSILIGHT is a tensile fabric structure with a dished rooftop that collects rainwater and concentrates solar energy. It is designed to help small communities transition from a petroleum based economy to one that accommodates growth in an era of limited resources. The goal is to create enduring communities by partnering with an NGO that will provide education in organic agricultural practices.
I had to work quite hard to find examples of this type of structure built previously, I was able to track down an expired patent for a similar idea (USPTO 4,608,964). I am not trying to claim originality for all the concepts involved, but I do think this would be the first time these concepts have been brought together.
My brother is considering sustainable agriculture projects in both central America and Western Africa. Obviously anything near the Sahara makes you think about using solar resources, and I think it would be fun to develop this project for nomadic or semi-nomadic people. A rapidly redeployable instant infrastructure. That is what originally inspired the ideas of tents (fabric structures) and solar power combined with rainwater harvesting.
We chose to focus on Guatemala because it worked out better on the timing. They needed the water collection more than the power, and that is probably the easiest function to accommodate. Overall, both locations offer a good opportunity to focus our ideas.
We chose to develop this idea as a community center in rural communities, but I think it would also have merit for other uses in developed countries. A quick check of the latest USGBC LEED program shows that it could help a project qualify for up to 23 pts when used as a parking structure, so it would be a good option for several different types of projects.
The best part of this project was the opportunity to work with my family (see Group info) to develop the ideas and see the different talents and viewpoints that each person contributed. I am hoping to continue developing our ideas past the initial design and into implementation. All three of us enjoy our work, but I think this was somehow more enjoyable because we allowed ourselves absolute freedom to create.
If anyone has comments on the design, please post them here. The rules of commenting are in this earlier entry, but otherwise post whatever you want. This design is still in the early stages of development, so criticism or suggestions could be very helpful.