Living on 2,000 Watts

GFRY Studio

Living on 2,000 watts is harder than it sounds—that's roughly a sixth of the average rate of energy consumption in America.* But GFRY Studio, a graduate course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, challenged students to devise products for an ultra-low energy diet. Their solutions were displayed in Milan recently, and range from the abstract to utilitarian.

Cara Ellis' Digeotruss Structural System, fabricated using digital routing, was used as the lattice for organizing the individual projects:


Bo Rodda's Active Cloud Lighting System would cut energy use by reacting to movement, throwing light only where needed—down a dark hallway, for example. Or, with the flick of a wrist, you could turn on a reading light:


Matthew Stewart designed a solar shade system that uses discarded wood, and a computer program that analyzes a building's orientation and shape, to determine eqactly where shades would most reduce energy use:


Jungwhan Chei's Deep Space Lighting is bendable, and customizable to varying needs:


John Kinstler's Pyrodyne and Fuel Briquette Press Station turns organic waste into high-energy biogas: 


Watt Watch, by Daniel Sommer, uses Energy Star data to compare the power consumption of appliances around the house:


Also by Daniel Sommer, a folding garment bag for bicycle commuters—why doesn't someone already make this?!


A prayer wheel by Taikkun Yang Li transforms spinning energy into electricity. (More about that here.)


Tuan Nguyen's Urban Sun is a computer program that calculates bulding heights within a city, to optimize sun exposures (though don't expect urban planners to use this one to raze city blocks any time soon):


Related: Prayer-Powered LED Lights

*Thanks to every one who chimed in to comment on the Watt/Kilowatt issue. Just to clarify, the 2000-watt idea apparently comes from the 2000-Watt Society, which aims to bring world energy consumption down to 2,000 watts—-that's joules per second—by 2050. Don't confuse that with kilowatt hours. Many people have pointed out that you could easily live on 2000-kW per hour. Long story short, a group of extremely OCD Swiss scientists studied energy consumption around the world in kilowatt hours, did lots of division, and found that Americans, for example, consume 11,200 joules per second—or 11,200 watts. They then formed the "2000-Watt Society"—which seems to have inspired the name of this exhibition. Please, no more comments about energy bills! Phew. I'm glad that's over. 

More information at the GFRY Web site and at Inhabitat.

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  • Cliff Kuang

    Actually Nick---I think if you follow the link to 2000 watt living, you'll see where the number comes from. It's 2,000 watts of energy, averaged to every second of every day (watts being measured by the second). The number comes from watt extrapolations from average kWh figures from various countries. Not a very useful figure, I agree---But it is what both the exhibition organizes and the 2000-watt Society goes by.

  • Nick DiGiacomo

    Better (living on 2000 watts), but still not right. The electricity you use is measured in kWh, just like the water you use is measured in gallons. A 2000 watt electrical service is analogous to the size of the pipe delivering you water - it tells you the maximum you can get at any moment (peak), but the total you consume depends on how your usage varies during the day and is almost always less than that.

    The only correct way to talk about energy consumption (who is using more or less) is to specify how many kWh (kilowatt-hours) they use (and are billed for). Here's a good example:

  • Cliff Kuang

    Hi Nick---Right you are. We cut the reference to "per day." Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Nick DiGiacomo

    Nice pictures, but you're title - 2000 watts per day - doesn't make any sense. Watts are units of power - i.e. energy per unit time - so they already reflect a RATE of energy consumption.

    So if you had a 2000 watt electrical service in use for 24 hours, you would be living on 2000*24 = 48000 watt-hours/day (or 48 kWh). If you look on your electric bill, you'll see that kWh is what you actually pay for - not watts or kilowatts.