dr. rachel armstrong wants your light to come from bacteria

rachel-armstrong-living-architecture-3Can you solve nature? Dr. Rachel Armstrong knows you can’t … instead of looking for answers to nature, she suggests you integrate natural elements into your living.
I attended a lecture at Indianapolis Museum of Art by Dr. Rachel Armstrong, a Senior TED Fellow, scientist, innovator and generally brilliant woman. Dr. Armstrong’s biography on the IMA website describes her focus on “a new approach to building materials called living architecture that suggests it is possible for buildings to share some of the properties of living systems.”[1]

I’ll admit that a lot of what Dr. Armstrong spoke about wasn’t something that I thought about on the regular, but I was blown away with her ideas for creating a real sustainable world. I find myself thinking about it more and more. The converted!

She describes the current efforts for sustainability are really only “refined industrialization.” When Dr. Armstrong thinks of sustainability, she is not just thinking of buildings with garden roofs, she’s thinking of building walls that eat carbon monoxide and produce oil, soil or even food. That is sustainability. A structure that interacts with its inhabitants and perhaps more importantly ties us back to nature.

She described her work on a project called Future Venice … in much simpler terms, I’ll break it down for you. You know Venice is built on very soft soils, supported by wooden structures, surrounded by water, and singing gondoliers. You know that Venice is sinking. Dr. Armstrong proposes that protocells (chemical agents that behave in lifelike ways) be used to grow an artificial limestone reef underneath the Venetian foundation.[2] In her lecture she described the protocells as chemicals that withdrew from the light and in my head I imagined dropping these chemicals in the water and having them interact with the subterrianial elements to build back Venice’s foundation. Pretty rad.

Here is Dr. Armstrong describing the process at TEDGlobal:

Read more about her project here: http://www.inpossible.me/future-venice.html

In describing how architecture can interact and be truly sustainable she described, during her lecture, such ideas as lighting by bacteria. Currently, Phillips is testing whether this idea can be mass-produced so to provide energy-free lighting for households. The way this technology works is that household waste, combined with fluorescent bacteria fed methane would produce a lovely green glow similar to the light that fireflies give off. Read more about what Dr. Armstrong was describing and what Phillips is pioneering here: http://earth911.com/news/2011/12/05/philips-bio-light-lighting-made-from-bacteria/

A sustainable living is important to me but I never thought about it like this.  I thought about being vegetarian, composting, unplugging all my electronics at night. I thought about reducing my carbon footprint. Sustainable living is about living a carbon-negative life and learning all that is going into making that a reality for people was very exciting.

If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Rachel Armstrong speak, I suggest you do. Bring a tape recorder because you’ll want to re-listen to what she has to say.

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