Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sustainable Design Inspiration

I've been doing some design work for the Children's Museum of Indianapolis on topics related to water and the environment for their upcoming exhibition on modern Egypt.

I thought I'd share information about two organizations that are developing simple, even elegant, design solutions to solve literally life-and-death problems related to water use in developing countries.

The first is KickStart, a non-profit organization that develops and markets new technologies in Africa. I was especially impressed by their "micro-irrigation" technologies --- essentially simple, durable, easy to maintain people-powered pumps. Some of their designs are called "Money Maker" pumps to indicate that from a small initial investment rural economies can grow through increased farm profits and local jobs.

The second organization is PlayPumps International. As you can see from the video above, they have created water pumps that are powered by children at play. The PlayPumps are installed near schools, and double as a water pump for a local community as well as a merry-go-round for children.

The PPI approach is great on several levels: first, using kid-power frees up villagers (primarily young girls and women) from spending several hours every day on collecting safe water from remote locations. Secondly, the educational opportunities for girls increase since they now have time to go to school instead of getting water. Lastly, PlayPumps International has been creative and entrepreneurial in getting sponsors (and even mounting advertising on units!) in order to expedite the process of providing pumps and installation for interested communities.

Museums can support the work of PlayPumps and KickStart by showing off their technology, thereby making visitors aware of the work of such organizations (like the wonderful exhibition, "Design For the Other 90%" organized by the Cooper-Hewitt.) But perhaps, more importantly, museums can inspire visitors to consider the broader issues related to the intersection between sustainable design and basic environmental issues by making them aware of the need for such technologies in the first place.

Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to subscribe right now via email (or your favorite news reader) with the tools on the right side of the blog.