October 29, 2008 According to research from the Pacific Institute, more than five million people die each year from water-related disease, primarily due to inadequate access to clean water which, if it is available, often requires trekking over long distances to reach it. Gunwook Nam from South Korea has proposed a solution that harnesses people power - literally. The Human Pump concept uses a boardwalk structure fitted with springs that captures and stores kinetic energy from foot-traffic and uses it to pump underground water to the surface.
One of three winners of the 2008 "Re: Construct" competition for socially responsible design, the Human Pump design consists of a 12-meter-wide (just under 40 feet) structure that could be installed on roads or other places with heavy foot traffic. According to Nam, the Human Pump concept can be adapted to a number of situations including areas with contaminated land as a result of flooding. This could be useful when disasters, such as that in Burma earlier this year, occur.
The design doesn't specify exactly how the collected energy would be stored, but Nam envisions that one human step would create one drop of water, which means quite a bit of foot-power would be required to supply adequate quantities - but there are no shortage of humans about, and our numbers aren't exactly dwindling.
Necessity is the mother of invention as they say, and given the challenges we face in finding ways of supplying clean, cheap energy, it's not surprising that the idea of using foot-power in environmentally sustainable ways is beginning to enter the equation. In June this year for example, we reported on plans unveiled in the UK to use heel-strike generators to harness the power of pedestrians and generate electricity. What's even more commendable about the Human Pump concept is that it attempts to take two of our biggest problems - energy consumption and access to clean water - and roll them into a single, scaleable solution.
Re:construct, the fifth competition in Urban Re:Vision’s series of design competitions, encourages entrants to reveal practical and deployable ways to rethink everything from construction materials to energy systems.