Downsizing isn't a scary word for Graham Hill. It's a crucial one. The Treehugger founder recently bought a tiny apartment in New York and instead of moving right in he's asking the public for ways to transform the small space into a high-tech, low-impact home.
Hill's new project is called Life Edited, and it grew out of his observation that American homes have grown larger on average in the past 50-plus years, from 1,000 square feet to 2,300 square feet. We're like the punchline from George Carlin's comic routine about stuff. Having more stuff hasn't made us any happier, either. Joke's on us, I guess.
The 420-square foot apartment is located in Soho, New York. When introducing the project at the Pop!Tech conference in Maine, Hill told the audience that he's hoping to transform it into a little jewelbox, one that's tiny, ultra-green, high tech and even luxurious.
Hill's project is an attempt to green his own living space and also expose the public to great ideas. Many in the green industry don’t actually live very green lives, he notes. "You can sell an idea if you're actually doing it yourself," he told me. "In the green area, people say we don't want to be preaching to the choir. I think we can only be so lucky as to have a really strong choir."
In general, design contest work tends to happen in private. Most of the creative process never sees the light of day. To avoid that, Hill is crowdsourcing the designs for everything from a hideable kitchen and folding bike space to robot cleaner storage and efficient lighting. He's got an impressive, but not impossible, list of requirements. Design submissions open on October 27.
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"The neat thing about crowdsourcing in this particular platform, people are encouraged to submit their designs early," Hill says. During the comment period, visitors to the site can see other people's ideas, give feedback, and the designers can tweak their submissions up until the deadline on January 10, 2011. The best entries won't just get recognition -- sponsors that include Cisco, Jovoto, Voltaic Systems, and Strida are offering more than $70,000 in cash and prizes.
As far as the technological aspects of the project, Hill is open to low tech and high tech ideas. He talks about strategic cooling for computer server farms, realistic teleconferencing, and a whole-apartment function that allows all non-essential appliances to be turned off in the same breath as graywater systems, LED lighting, and insulation. The apartment will be renovated next year.
Living comfortably in a small apartment is nothing new -- just ask this veteran renter -- but the difference here is editing belongings down to the minimum while maximizing the space so that everything has multiple functions. Successful designs should transform the space so it doesn't feel like sleeping in the office or cooking in the bedroom.
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"I’m not trying to say that everyone has to live in 420 square feet," Hill says. "But I’m saying think about it. Maybe you only need 1,800."
Photo: Treehugger founder Graham Hill in the Life Edited project apartment. Credit: Graham Hill.
Discovery News Tech reported live from the POPTECH! conference in Camden, Maine, Oct. 20 to Oct. 23. POPTECH is "a global community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers, and doers from many different disciplines, who come together to explore the social impact of new technologies, the forces of change shaping our future, and new approaches to solving the world’s most significant challenges."