For the good

Sustainable Practices

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The Economist Intelligence Unit has launched a new competition that asks a wide array of citizens– students, business executives, and energy experts to develop ideas and solutions to the world’s energy challenges. Focusing on three primary topics: skills for innovation, diversifying our energy mix, and ensuring access to energy in developing countries the initiative hopes to create awareness and a productive dialog on environmental efficiency. Participants will submit a written essay, video, or infographic. The winner will participate in a webinar on March 25, 2014 and debate with four energy experts on how to best address climate change and the future of alternative energy.

Incubating New Ideas

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Two New York City initiatives are creating spaces that foster collaboration and design discourse. The American Design Club was founded to support the work of emerging designers. By creating a platform for sharing ideas, resources, and inspiration, the club offers designers across the nation a virtual space for connection and cross-pollination. Meanwhile, The New Museum has announced their plans for a creative incubator that hopes to challenge traditional notions of the art museum and will house more than 60 start-up companies and entrepreneurs. To secure a place at 231 Bowery, prospective participants will have to be selected by committee. One of the first to announce their occupancy is Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation’s research lab Studio-X.

(Image via Art In America)

Campus Dining

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French designer Matali Crasset is working with France’s university system to re-create the dining experience for students. She designed two new dining concepts for university campuses in Toulouse and Orleans, both promoting good, fresh, healthy and low-cost meals, in fun and colorful settings. “Mini M” is a market concept that sells inexpensive, well-balanced and fresh foods, and “Mini R” is a quick-service cafeteria promoting community and flexibility in dining.

Design in Times Square

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The Times Square Advertising Coalition (TSAC) and Times Square Arts worked with New York’s AIGA to create October’s Midnight Moment – when, at 11:57pm every night of the month, a short film by designer Andrew Sloat will be projected on all the screens in Times Square. Sloat’s film shows a series of cards with letters, which change manually in a flipboard style, reading excerpts of the US Constitution. The final showing is tonight.

Easy Monitoring

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Students at Brigham Young University created a pretty genius way for parents to keep an eye on their newborn’s vitals while they sleep. Owlet is a little bootie that fits comfortably onto babies’ feet, and includes sensors and an accelerometer. It connects to an app on parents’ smartphones, giving a visual read-out of the baby’s oxygen level, heart rate, skin temperature, sleep quality, and sleep position. The project was recently successfully crowdfunded, and plans to share essential gathered data with researchers working on SIDS.

Greenest Homes

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Designer Julia Torres Moskovitz’s book The Greenest Home, released this summer, came about from her frustration with the lack of case studies and information around building passive houses. Her team at Brooklyn’s Fabrica 718 designed New York’s first passive house, consuming 90% less heat energy and 75% less overall energy than the typical home. Moskovitz’s great book details 18 of the best-designed examples of passive homes, with project plans, photographs and construction techniques to help others forge ahead to build their own. Check out this interview with the author.

Kid Design Lab

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The New York Hall of Science is getting kids into the making and building process, through 5 new zones comprising a larger, 10,000 square foot “Design Lab.” Each of the spaces will be built out to encourage different design-minded functions – the Maker Space, completed last year, houses activities related to computer programming and 3D printing. They also will teach kids elements of the design process: from problem ideation, to testing, iteration, documentation, and sharing solutions.

Collaborative Healthcare

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The Gates Vascular Institute in Buffalo, NY is setting a new standard for innovation and healthcare with its considered and thoughtful design. Architects Cannon Design created the building and its various labs, departments and rooms, to encourage transparency and collaboration between typically silo’ed practices. The building is centered around a 2-story  “collaborative core,” where researchers and doctors connect and interact, sharing knowledge that can be passed on to improvements for patient experience.

Silken Seating

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Istanbul-based designer Meb Rure uses silk fabric scraps from Nepal as upholstery for her Recycled Silk Chair, Ottoman and Stool. She created the bases from American white oak, and wraps balls of foam with colorful silk strands to provide the cushioning. The production of the furniture provides work opportunities for unemployed women in Nepal, who create the upholstery by hand.

Conscious Consumers

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Many of us now keep tabs on where our food comes from – but what about clothing and other goods? Ethica is a new online retailer working to make it easier and more transparent where clothing comes from, and how it gets to your closet. They sell wares from socially and environmentally responsible sources, dividing each product into five ethical qualities – Sustainable; Made in the US; Trade Not Aid; Handcrafted; and Vegan. Everything they sell fits into at least one of these categories, making it a good buy on all fronts.

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