The visionary architect Buckminster Fuller believed that a single design could save the world. That ethos is being carried forward by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, which every year holds a contest to create a design with maximum social impact; the winner gets a seed grant of $100,000.
The 33 finalists, chosen from 285 entries , were just unveiled.
The grand prize winner will be announced on May 4. The grand prize winnner was announced today, May 4th, and it goes to the ongoing City Car project at MIT , overseen by William J. Mitchell. The idea is to produce an on-demand network of short-range vehicles—thus solving the scaling problems in public transportation .
The vehicles would be checked out at activity hubs, such as train
stations and shopping malls. Their roofs would use solar cells to
generate their own power, and sell excess power back into the grid:
In addition, we culled eight more of our favorites:
Bonnie L Y Chu proposes a system of cyclone proof shelters  that can be built from hand without any construction experience, using prefabricated molds which guide the process:
V. S. Gardiner designed a portable toilet  that transforms waste into fertilizer--a double boon for subsistence farmers with inadequate sanitation:
Charlie Paton, Michael Pawlyn and Bill Watts aim to replant the Sahara desert, through a simple system that creates fresh water from seawater  using solar evaporation. They believe the system would create a new, self-sustaining source of abundant fresh water:
Kickstart creates simple tools  that people in the undeveloped world can use to start their own businesses. The most popular tool so far has been the Super Money Maker pump--a hand-held water well that allows subsistence farmers to create larger operations:
Much in the wild-eyed tradition of Buckminster Fuller himself, a team of architects, mathematicians, and computer scientists proposed a system of computer programs that could automatically generate building designs . New designs would respond to previous ones, ensuring rational urban development. They'd be built on site, using rapid prototyping. Perhaps 100 years off, but fascinating nonetheless:
A staggering portion of the world lives in slums without proper sanitation. Umande Trust, working in Nairobi, is addressing this by building communal latrines that generate biogas , which fuels the sanitation process and subsidizes the project's expansion:
Styrofoam and numerous other building products consist of as much as 70% petrochemicals. Eben Bayer, Gavin McIntyre, Edward Browka found a fungus that, when applied to agricultural byproducts, produces a drop-in replacement for Styrofoam :
Urban farming? Don't laugh--numerous groups are pursuing the idea . It's even been estimated that transforming the New York City's roofs into small gardens could provide fresh fruits and vegetable for all six million people in the city. Stacey Murphy Landmines Productions designed a system of urban farms and distribution networks  that would use incidental green space to form a local farming co-op:
[Via Bustler ]