The Buckminster Fuller Institute has announced the Semifinalists for the 2016 Fuller Challenge.
Now in its 9th annual cycle, The Fuller Challenge remains the only award specifically working to identify and catalyze individuals and teams employing a whole systems approach to problem solving. One of the earliest contributors to the field, The Buckminster Fuller Institute celebrates the uptake of whole systems design approaches across all sectors of society.
The nineteen proposals submitted from these outstanding teams have undergone rigorous evaluation for adherence to the Fuller Challenge criteria by the members of the Challenge Review Committee, corroborating that their work is visionary, comprehensive, anticipatory, ecologically responsible, feasible, and verifiable.
The semi-finalists include:
The African Design Center: Led by Rwandan designer Christian Benimana and the MASS Design Group, this project aims to transform the African built environment through a comprehensive program to recruit and train the next generation of African designers and architects. In the next two decades, Africa will experience a population boom of likely over one billion people. There is a dearth of African architects to design the many units of housing, clinics, and schools required by this growing population. In all of East Africa, only 1,200 registered architects serve a population of 160 million. The vision of the African Design Center is for African designers to lead the effort to plan and develop the enormous amount of urban infrastructure that Africa will need, and to do it with sustainability, cultural appropriateness, local materials and artisanship, and human health and wellbeing as core principles. The first step in their effort will be a flagship campus in Kigali, Rwanda, which will be an apprenticeship-based institute and a hub for collaboration, as well as a research center in materials innovation in light of local crafts traditions. The intent is to create a continent-wide movement, reminiscent in some ways to Europe’s Bauhaus, that can inspire a sustainable design revolution in Africa, which urgently needs innovative, effective solutions to its demographic, climatic, economic, and socio-political challenges.
Build Change: Over 200 million people worldwide live with the constant threat of being killed by their house collapsing in an earthquake or windstorm, as the death toll in Ecuador’s recent earthquake so tragically illustrated. Build Change is a unique international initiative working to boost natural disaster preparedness on a large scale by engaging holistically with all the stakeholders: homeowners in the poorest, most vulnerable, “informal” areas; local builders, planners, engineers, and architects; and municipal, regional and national governments. Theirs is a preventive, “whole-systems” change approach that combines universally recognized, cost-effective, state-of-the-art seismic retrofitting and construction techniques adapted to each cultural context using locally produced materials, financing mechanisms for homeowners, preparedness education, community outreach and capacity building, and policy-level efforts on building code improvements. Build Change has worked in a wide range of locations, including Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Nepal on both pre and post disaster projects. Theirs is a preventive systems change approach, bringing all of the elements and stakeholders of the construction value chain together in order to fund, incentivize, and widely disseminate disaster-resistant building practices. Build Change demonstrates the most effective and comprehensive approach to global seismic preparedness we have encountered.
Cooperación Comunitaria: In 2013, hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid devastated the West of Mexico, causing 200 deaths and affecting over 230,000 people. In the steep La Montaña region of Guerrero, home to 85% of that state’s indigenous population and one of Mexico’s most marginalized localities, landslides crippled communication and infrastructure, destroyed crops, and irreparably damaged more than 5,000 adobe homes. It is Mexico’s most seismically active area, and adding insult to injury, winds there can reach 110 km/h. Cooperación Comunitaria has envisioned and is implementing a comprehensive model to radically improve these marginalized populations’ living conditions by working with communities to rebuild—combining sound geological and engineering risk analysis with local indigenous wisdom. They engage with local people in the placement, design, and building of affordable, seismically sound, eco-friendly, culturally appropriate dwellings using local materials. The organization works on education and training programs, sustainable economic development through agroforestry and agro-ecological projects, as well as the revival and revitalization of local indigenous culture, including its herbal and medical traditions. This is an exemplary, multi-faceted initiative that combines science and local traditions in a comprehensive approach community resilience.
PITCHAfrica’s Waterbank Schools are working demonstrations of the remarkable leveraging power of water catchment as a socially integrated solution to resource scarcity. Waterbank Schools start with a harambee, bringing teachers, students, and parents into the communal construction process, using local materials and labor. The schools harvest rainwater on their rooftops and store water in a central cistern that includes a ceramic filtration system. The classrooms are positioned to face in toward the rainwater-harvesting courtyard where gardens are planted to grow crops. This system serves students, faculty, and the surrounding community with clean, accessible water, and the building acts as a learning tool and community training and knowledge hub for a whole region. In a world in which one billion people are living without access to clean water and water-borne illnesses are rampant, this simple design offers an elegant and practical way to improve sanitation, health, and education (especially for girls, who are often the ones tasked with water collection in their families and often miss school for that reason). Since being recognized as a Fuller Challenge Finalist in 2013, PITCHAfrica has completed a second campus in Kenya with a storage capacity of 2,500,000 liters distributed across 7 new structures, supplying irrigation for 10 acres of conservation agriculture. The organization is seeking to replicate its transformative model at additional demonstration sites throughout Africa, and is encouraging global dissemination of the model for a variety of structures and contexts.