Design Winner: Footsteps to Pump Drinking Water

Urban Re:Vision — a think tank, media company and real estate developer sustainable urban development advocate all rolled into one San Francisco for-profit — has announced the winners of its latest competition, Re:Construct. The award series recognizes creative solutions to sustainable design problems.
The three winners in this competition were asked for “inventive ways to create new types of structures or techniques — or renovate old ones.” Here’s what they came up with: a human-movement powered water pump, a structural building block made from repurposed maps that can’t be recycled, and a folded-metal sculpture that uses the movement of the sun to project a time-based poem on the ground below it.
Our favorite is the Human Pump. The brainchild of South Korean designers at Studio L (which doesn’t have a web site), the Human Pump uses walking, playing and other movement on a wooden deck to compress springs; that compression is used to pump groundwater in areas with water shortages or contaminated surface water, according to the project team.
It’s a great idea — using wasted energy from human movement to power a system that would supply drinkable water to developing regions. While it’s not clear if the Human Pump would generate energy, or rely on direct compression, kinetic energy is gaining popularity. Currently, energy-harvesting sidewalks, floors and infrastructure have been demonstrated in university labs and serve as green-tinged publicity for nightclubs, gyms and Asian transportation systems. The Human Pump applies the technology in places where it can have a big impact on local quality of life. In the words of the design team, “It is new self-sufficient invention for future.”

The Urban Re:Vision awards will eventually culminate in the development of a city block that aims to incorporate the winning ideas in all five design challenges (energy, transportation, commerce, community and construction). I participated in the judging of the previous competition, Re:Connect, and learned first-hand that the ideas — both winners and losers — range from the practical to the purely conceptual. The winners in this competition are similarly diverse, but the Human Pump could be a good candidate for inclusion in the first development project.
Currently, Urban Re:Vision is in discussion with four or five cities about potential sites. Dallas is likely to become the home of the first Urban Re:Vision development, says Nicole Cassani, Urban Re:Vision’s marketing manager. Urban Re:Vision is the brainchild of Stacey Frost, an architect and founder of Archiventure. The company shares space in San Francisco’s South of Market district with Architecture for Humanity.