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.

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.