The Carbon Balancing Act Roadshow

SUMMARY: Imagine a shimmering, energy-producing caravanserai, the Carbon Balancing Act Road Show. This traveling event appears as tensile structures on trailer rigs, animated by a play of light, transforming public spaces and parking lots with the message: we live within a dynamically-balanced, interconnected system. We can only use the power we can safely produce within that system.

PROBLEM SPACE: A lightweight solar tensile structure becomes an icon for change and a laboratory to experience the balance between energy produced and energy used. The mobile learning environment is designed to be carbon-neutral and self-monitoring. Visitors are enticed by visually dynamic demonstrations of energy flows, and explore their own active participation in reducing climate change.

SOLUTION: This educational campaign accelerates public acceptance by presenting renewable energy as a fun and understandable technology, part of the everyday landscape. Transported on hybrid electric/bio-fuel vehicles, the road show reaches geographic/demographic areas where the public may not realize the need for social and behavioral change. As consumers, their new understanding creates a demand for innovative products and services that provide economic opportunities to the business sector. Corporations see profit in the “green” energy market, creating a positive feedback cycle to ratchet up the industry. Voters are emboldened to call for government funding for a clean energy future.

The technology and vision to produce carbon-neutral electricity is available today, but there is insufficient funding for renewable energy technology on the scale required to sustain our lifestyles. This delayed progress of alternatives has been perilously coupled with the wasteful overuse of fossil fuels, threatening the balance of life-supporting systems. Without significant social change, unsustainable “business as usual” solutions such as nuclear power, clean coal, and carbon sequestration will be marketed as the only viable alternatives.

The Carbon Balancing Act Road Show’s tensile structure and supporting technologies become an inspiration for a new way of living and building. By reducing the ratio of material mass to building footprint, today’s tensile structures are the ultimate in structural expression and efficiency, facilitating daylighting and naturally exuberant spaces. With integrated photovoltaic systems, they are doubly effective and environmentally friendly.

R. Buckminster Fuller famously asked a group of architects “How much does your building weigh?” Lightweight building solutions address the huge amounts of energy used in standard building construction and material transport, which contributes more than a third of the annual amount of U.S. environmental pollution. For temporary exhibitions, mobile marketing could replace trade shows, which are routinely constructed and torn down, producing large-scale waste.

The BFI Challenge Grant will be used to develop the design, curriculum, funding, and logistics to launch an energy-producing deployable tent and transportation system for a multi-city tour. Traveling to urban and rural areas with populations ranging from 50,000 to over 2 million ensures a societal cross-section. We will oversee the manufacturing of the structure, its interior and transport rigs, as well as the planning and locations for the tour.

The photovoltaic tent skin and wind turbines produce energy stored by batteries in the “plug-in” bio-hybrid transport trucks. These rigs are hard-wired for quick installation, disassembling to become exhibition platforms. Interior fabric exhibits fold into the trailers for easy deployment.

The curriculum highlights the environmental benefits of low embodied-energy structures and carbon-neutral lifestyles. The ancient Roman architect Vitruvius proclaimed a building should have “”firmness, commodity, and delight.”” Inside the Carbon Balancing Act Road Show, fabric structures articulate three interactive environments. Soft interior surfaces are used for projection, acoustical control, and graphics.

An acoustical fabric theater, the “Firmness” or Structural Zone, features an animated story of how the mobile learning unit was constructed, transported and assembled on location. Materials will be considered from a Cradle-to-Cradle1 perspective, examining their environmental impacts from manufacturing, through lifetime maintenance to eventual recycling. Visitors fill-out a personal energy use questionnaire, also featured on the website.

The “Commodities Zone” demonstrates products and clean-energy technologies including photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind generation, bio-fuels, hydrogen-production/fuel cells, anaerobic digestion. It also features energy-saving technologies such as LED lighting, radiant floor heating, geothermal heating/cooling, Energy-Star® ventilation systems, grey and stormwater reuse, and composting toilets. Participating local green businesses promote services and products to encourage regional solutions.

The “Delight Zone” is fun and memorable, encouraging new habits one person at a time. An agora setting features green market stands with locally-produced food and a stage for resident experts, community issues, and entertainment. Energy consulting on an individual basis considers regional conditions and questionnaire responses. Each person leaves with their own plan for a carbon-neutral future.

3. Finance and Economics / Next Stage
We estimate at least $2.5M for construction, management, coordinating, and publicizing a multi-regional tour,. Afterwards, the event structure and exhibits are updated and donated to a science museum or school for sustainability education.

Strategic Partners
The association with BFI helps enlist the Department of Energy in a national Carbon Balancing Act campaign, along with other funding agencies for environmental education.

Our three-tier partner program first solicits high-level (~$1M) corporate sponsors with green initiatives. We currently have marketing contacts at Caterpillar, Dupont, Fed-Ex, Google, Starbucks, Intel, Verizon, Whole Foods, and Aveda. Mid-size corporations are our next source, benefiting from participation in the “Commodities Zone”. Local businesses lease space for food, bookstore, and retail venues. We may charge admission fees for events.

Breakdown of BFI seed money:
60% Physical system design and engineering
20% Curriculum planning
10% Recruiting strategic partners and regional sponsors
10% Logistical planning.

4. Team Qualifications
To more effectively advance creative sustainable large-scale solutions, our businesses formed the Fabric Alliance in 2006 and became its Board of Directors. We are each seasoned specialists in our area of expertise.

Mary Carey is currently marketing and project-managing The Fabric Alliance. After receiving her BS in Environmental Design, her career began as a space planner at Yamasaki and Associates, where she purchased art through 1% for the Arts Program. Proposing tensile structures as shelter for the archery and rowing venues at the 1984 Olympics led to ten years of development and marketing for fabric exhibition products at Moss Inc. Formerly VP of Sales and Marketing at Transformit, she worked with Intel, Phillips, Colgate, Disney, Schlumberger, the Smithsonian Institution, Louis Vuitton, Target, and 3M. Recognized as a driving force for art, Mary received the Hazel Hays Award acknowledging significant contribution to industry. She has been an innovator with tension fabric since the early 80s.

Nicholas Goldsmith FAIA LEED AP is a Senior Principal at FTL Design Engineering Studio since 1978. Prior to joining, he was a designer for Frei Otto in Germany. He is an AIA Fellow and former Chairman of the Lightweight Structures Association. Nicholas has been in charge of design for many of FTL’s traveling projects, including the Carlos Moseley Pavilion for the Metropolitan Opera, a deployable theater for AT&T at the 1996 Olympics, the Harley-Davidson 2003 Open Road Machine Tent, and the 2005 Dyson D-Tour structure.

Nicholas has designed exhibitions including “Under the Sun” an exhibition on solar energy for the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and Smithsonian Institution and a worldwide traveling interactive exhibition for the United Nations (UNFPA). He has been featured in innumerable publications including an Architectural Monograph titled: FTL: SOFTNESS, MOVEMENT & LIGHT, published by Academy Editions in 1998.

Amelia Amon designs and develops solar products and installations under the company name, Alt.Technica. Projects include solar street lights with Solar One, and Solar Sapiens with Austin Energy; system components for the NY State Energy Research and Development Authority; solar interpretive exhibits for Liberty Science Center, the Heinz Environmental Center, the Schuylkill Center, the Sustainable Development Foundation, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; a solar fountain for the National Design Museum at Cooper-Hewitt, a solar freezer cart for Ben & Jerry’s; energy systems for rural women in India with the Institute of Policy Studies; She is co-founder of O2 International Network NY Chapter for environmentally-concerned designers, board of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association and former chair of the Industrial Design Society of America NY Chapter.

Cynthia Thompson is the founder and CEO of Transformit, an atelier specializing in tensile design and fabrication with 50 employees. Since 1988, they have pushed the boundaries of tensile art using light, form, sound and color with natural and high-tech materials. Transformit offers over one hundred ready-made products, developed by a team of artists and designers, including her partner, Matt Rawdon, VP of R&D. They have multiple patents related to tensioned fabrics.

Cindy has a BFA in Sculpture, a BA in Education, and an MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Her sensory-driven fabric forms are exhibited internationally. Cindy received the 2006 Maine College of Art Honors Award and the 2005 International Forum Product Design Award. Her greatest satisfaction is the success of her art as her business and its benefits to the employees and the community.