Hints for competitors in EDF’s 2012 Sustainable Design Challenge

Eiffel Tower

I was in Paris earlier this week as one of the Judge’s for EDF’s Sustainable Design Challenge. If you are not familiar with EDF, they are the world’s largest utility company and while they operate in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle-East and Africa, they are headquartered in Paris.

There were 31 entries in the competition coming from a variety of design schools, universities and even an American high-school. As well as prize money, the eight selected finalists will be helped develop their projects over the next year and they will be displayed at the EDF pavilion at the 2012 London Olympics. This is even more impressive when you realise that the EDF pavilion at the Olympics will be one of only five pavilions there.

The quality of the thirty one entries was, in general, quite high. The thing which disappointed me though was the seeming lack of engineering knowledge amongst the entries. Many seemed to be of the opinion that small piezoelectric generators can generate vast qualities of electricity (they can’t!).

More disappointing though was that three fundamental energy technologies were totally ignored. While some of the entries used wind generation, none used solar as a key technology. Similarly, none referenced energy storage and not a single entry used any smart grid technologies.

Part of this has to come down to the fact that the participating schools were more design than engineering schools, but still, these were fairly big technologies to have been ignored.

Other than that, the competition was spectacularly well run and kudos to EDF for raising awareness of sustainability in design in the running of this competition. This will be an annual competition, so for participants in the 2012 EDF Sustainable Design Challenge – you now know what you need to work on 😉

This was the entry by the US high school – it was one of 8 selected to be a finalist:

Photo credit Tom Raftery