Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crowdsourced New York Apartment Pushing Limits

Analysis by Alyssa Danigelis Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:52 PM ET

Downsizing isn't a scary word for Graham Hill. It's a crucial one. The Treehugger founder recently bought a tiny apartment in New York and instead of moving right in he's asking the public for ways to transform the small space into a high-tech, low-impact home.

Hill's new project is called Life Edited, and it grew out of his observation that American homes have grown larger on average in the past 50-plus years, from 1,000 square feet to 2,300 square feet. We're like the punchline from George Carlin's comic routine about stuff. Having more stuff hasn't made us any happier, either.

The 420-square foot apartment is located in the Red Hook neighborhood in Soho, New York. When introducing the project at the Pop!Tech conference in Maine, Hill told the audience that he's hoping to transform it into a little jewelbox, one that's tiny, ultra-green, high tech and even luxurious.

Hill's project is an attempt to green his own living space and also to expose the public to great ideas. Many in the green industry don’t actually live very green lives, he notes. "You can sell an idea if you're actually doing it yourself," he told me. "In the green area, people say we don't want to be preaching to the choir. I think we can only be so lucky as to have a really strong choir."

In general, design contest work tends to happen in private. Most of the creative process never sees the light of day. To avoid that, Hill is crowdsourcing the designs for everything from a hideable kitchen and folding bike space to robot cleaner storage and efficient lighting. He's got an impressive, but not impossible, list of requirements. Design submissions open on October 27.

"The neat thing about crowdsourcing in this particular platform, people are encouraged to submit their designs early," Hill says. During the comment period, visitors to the site can see other people's ideas, give feedback, and the designers can tweak their submissions up until the deadline on January 10, 2011. The best entries won't just get recognition -- sponsors that include Cisco, Jovoto, Voltaic Systems, and Strida are offering more than $70,000 in cash and prizes.

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