Mind & Matter


Hydroelectric Lighting

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Rendering of the hydroelectric lamp concept by Hierve.


Product manufacturers routinely attempt to make their technologies more resource efficient, but interesting breakthroughs may be found in the interrelationships between technologies that are typically discrete. Mexico City and London–based design practice Hierve offers an example of such a hybrid system in the form of plumbing-powered lighting.

The idea is simple: Take advantage of the pressure exerted by the movement of water through a conventional plumbing system, and convert some of this pressure into energy for use in powering light fixtures. The so-called hydroelectric lamps are connected to a building's water pipes, and have integrated microturbines that spin in the presence of moving water. Although such a system could work within an enclosed network, the Hierve designers celebrate the combination of water and light with a transparent light fixture in which one can see water movement.

Although one can appreciate the ingenuity of this hybridization of building infrastructure, further studies are required to determine how much power cam be reasonably harnessws from typical household plumbing, and whether the added resistance would require higher-powered pumps—thus reducing or eliminating the system's energy-saving advantages. Nevertheless, this kind of deep-systems integration approach is commendable, and could inspire many more breakthrough ideas.



Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Contempo Space | Time: 2:46 PM Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    Hopefully this will a be stepping stone towards a hydroelectric resurgence

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.