DESIGNER: ROBERT FERRY
One of the paradoxes of global warming is that even as it leads to flooding in some parts of the world, it will lead to severe water shortages in others. According to the United Nations, climate change is likely to reduce rainfall in drylands, which cover 41 percent of the land on Earth, including much of the American West. In 2007, the U.N. estimated that desertification could eventually affect some one billion people in at least 100 countries.
Yet architect Robert Ferry of Studied Impact Design, which operates out of Pittsburgh and Dubai, proposes that deserts need not be unlivable, or even uncomfortable. His Positive Impact House, a 3,200-square-foot single-family home, is not only designed to draw enough water and cool air from the environment to sustain five people, it will also send energy back into the grid.
Most of the year, the natural flow of air through the house’s windows would be enough to cool it. But during the hottest months, a fan would draw hot outdoor air into an underground chamber, where the temperature is 50ºF to 60º year-round, and then into the basement and up through floor vents. As the cool air warms back up again, it rises and escapes through a 200-square-foot interior courtyard, whose slim vertical cavity would create a wind tower.
Nearly all of this technology is in small-scale use today. A nonprofit group called FogQuest is harvesting fog to provide water to Ethiopian villages. In Zimbabwe, the Eastgate Centre shopping mall uses huge, perforated, chimney-shaped structures to draw air in from the outside. (Zimbabwe is hot, but air that moves is cooler than stagnant air.) And in Orange County, California, the Groundwater Replenishment System makes sewer water suitable for drinking (gwrsystem.com).
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.