Inhabitat is reporting live tonight from Elsinore, Denmark where the world's largest design prize was just awarded to five different projects that have the potential to change people's lives for the better across the globe. With a total prize of €500,000, the INDEX: Award is the only design competition that focuses specifically on projects that are functional, usable, desirable, and above all, that have the power to impact people's lives in a positive way. A whopping 1,123 nominations were received from 72 countries, which were finally whittled down to five winners by a jury in five categories: community, work, home, body and play and learning. So without further ado, the winners are...
SKY URBAN VERTICAL FARMING SYSTEM – WORK CATEGORY
DESIGNED BY: JACK NG
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: SINGAPORE
How it’s changing the world for the better: The demand for fresh, locally-grown produce is at its highest levels ever, but with limited land, many urban centers are forced to source most of their fruits and vegetables from other areas using fuel-intensive transport. In Singapore, which has a population of five million packed onto just 715 square kilometers of land, Jack Ng’s Sky Urban vertical farming system is changing the game by reducing the country’s need to import produce from neighboring regions. According to Ng, the low-carbon solution drastically reduces the amount of land, water and energy needed to grow fresh veggies, and outputs at least 10 times more produce per land area unit than traditional farms.
Composed of 9-meter-tall vertical farming towers housed within a greenhouse structure, Sky Greens utilizes a hydraulic-powered system that rotates each tower’s 38 growing shelves throughout the day in order to maximize sunlight and water. The towers only use 0.5 liters of water per day, and water is also recaptured and reused within the system.
The Sky Urban vertical farming system already supplies a Singaporean supermarket chain with three popular Asian vegetables at a cost of just 20 cents more per kilogram than imported varieties.
DUOLINGO – PLAY & LEARNING CATEGORY
DESIGNED BY: DUOLINGO
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
How it’s changing the world for the better: Perhaps you want to talk to your grandmother about her childhood in her native tongue, or be able to ask your cute foreign neighbor out to dinner. Named iPhone App of the Year, TechCrunch’s Best Education Startup, and Google’s Best of the Best two years running, Duolingo is a language education program for the modern age that is addictive as it is effective. Unlike other language tools, it is free to anyone with an internet connection, and breaks lessons down into easy-to-digest lessons that feel more like a game than work. Once players complete a level successfully, they are rewarded with ‘Lingot’ coins, reinforcing the play-like nature of the game. According to independent research, around 34 hours spent on the program is equivalent to an 11-week university semester.
But the proven power of Duolingo to teach people languages is not its only benefit. Harnessing the power of its 70 million registered users, the app is also able to use the skills of its worldwide players to decipher the entire internet by presenting previously untranslated sentences on crowdsourced text platform.
PEEK RETINA – BODY CATEGORY
DESIGNED BY: PEEK VISION
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
How it’s changing the world for the better: If you were about to lose your eyesight, wouldn’t you want the chance to do something about it? There are approximately 285 million blind people in the world, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a staggering four out of five of them could have avoided their visual impairments with proper preventative care. Peek Retina is a portable, low-cost design solution with the potential to reduce global blindness by 80 percent.
Using an inexpensive plastic clip that can be affixed to most smart phone cameras, Peek Retina allows almost anyone to shine a light into the eye and look at back of the eye. Photos can also be taken to produce high-quality images of the retina that can be used to diagnose disabling eye conditions such as cataracts, signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease.
TESLA POWERWALL – COMMUNITY CATEGORY
DESIGNED BY: TESLA ENERGY
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
How it’s changing the world for the better: We all know about the global need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move towards renewable energy sources, but one of the largest barriers to true energy self-sufficiency has been the difficulty of storing clean energy such as solar and wind for later use. The Tesla Powerwall is a solar-powered rechargeable lithium-ion battery that functions as an energy “piggy bank” of sorts, allowing homeowners to capture energy generated during the day and use it at night.
The Powerwall system comprises a roof-mounted solar panel, a battery to store surplus power, and an inverter to convert solar power into electricity. In addition to allowing homeowners to generate and store energy on a daily basis, the Powerwall can provide electricity in emergency situations.
THE OCEAN CLEANUP ARRAY – COMMUNITY CATEGORY
DESIGNED BY: THE OCEAN CLEANUP
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: THE NETHERLANDS
How it’s changing the world for the better: Inhabitat readers are no strangers to the Ocean Cleanup Array and its 21-year-old founder and CEO Boyan Slat. When we spoke to the pioneering Dutch engineering student last, he was developing his plan to deploy the world’s first sustainable system to remove plastic pollution from the world’s oceans using the power of natural currents. Plastic pollution in our oceans is currently a colossal problem with approximately eight million tons of plastic thrown into waters every year, killing up to 100,000 birds, fish and other marine life annually. The Ocean Cleanup Array will be a system of floating barriers that will be positioned at the center of gyres, or circular currents in order to amass pieces of plastic debris. In essence, the array will allow the ocean to clean itself by acting as a giant funnel concentrates floating garbage using the motion of sea currents. Based on research conducted by Slat’s team, a single 100 km floating barrier deployed for 10 years will be able to eliminate 42 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The plan is for the collected plastic to then be removed from the ocean and recycled into new materials or oil through the process of pyrolysis. Unlike other solutions which would require additional energy to drag giant nets through the seas using boats, The Ocean Cleanup Array will be self-sufficient and safe for marine life.
Slat and his team recently returned from a 30-boat reconnaissance mission and anticipate that they will be able to start the cleanup in 2020.