Prize for Aesthetically Lowering Energy Use

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From: Ernest N. Prabhakar (
Date: Fri Feb 11 2000 - 09:11:07 PST

I figured there's some FoRKers who might be interested (at least in the
concept, if not participating). The email is from my Uncle Jaswant, my
first relative to graduate from MIT, who now does business consulting for
the government in India. The sort of person I'd like to be if I grow up...
Ernest N. Prabhakar, Ph.D.

From: "SRI" <>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:32:24 +0530
Subject: Prize Contest about design for a Viridian Home Electricity Meter

The attached .RTF note was sent to me by a fellow member of the Balaton
Group (a group of people concerned about long-run Sustainability of our
society). You may know of some good new ideas related to the topic of this
Prize Contest, or you may know of a person who might be interested in
entering. Please read (and print out or post it) and circulate the Note. It
is a very genuine effort and a great idea as far as I can see.
J G Krishnayya
Prof J G Krishnayya,
Systems Research Institute,
Pune 411 037, India
Tel +91-20-4260323 Fax c/o 444-7902 Res 843930

The Sustainability Institute

in cooperation with

The International Network of Resource Information Centers
(aka the Balaton Group)



A Total of $8000 USD in Prizes

will be awarded for excellence
in the design of a functional and aesthetically dazzling


The Viridian Electricity Meter is a household energy consumption meter that
resides in a prominent place inside the home. Its purpose is to provide
accurate, compelling, and artistically fascinating feedback to homeowners
about their current energy use. Users are rewarded aesthetically for
reducing energy consumption (and for switching their energy source to a
renewable one). In other words, the more sustainable their energy
consumption, the more beautiful and fascinating the meters display.

Viridian Meters should be technically accurate, artistically creative,
adaptable to many different cultural contexts, marketable, and above all,
very, very cool. Commercially produced Viridian Meters should be capable of
generating consumer desire. The ideal Viridian Electricity Meter would be
so attractive, people would simply want one, regardless of whether they
personally cared very much about saving energy.

Design specifications and submission instructions (below) should be followed
carefully. Background on the Viridian design movement follows.

Background on The Viridian Movement and the Viridian Meter

The term viridian -- a word referring to a bluish shade of green -- was
adopted by U.S. science fiction author Bruce Sterling as the name for the
design movement he initiated in 1999, and launched formally with a Manifesto
on January 3, 2000. The intent of the Viridian Movement is to stimulate the
reinvention of everyday products and technologies in the industrial world,
so that they are both environmentally benign and aesthetically superior to
products now in use. (To read more about the Viridian Movement, visit its

The concept of the Viridian Electricity Meter originated with Stefan Jones,
a member of the Viridian Curia (an international core group of designers and
writers, linked by internet). The Meter began, like most Viridian ideas, as
an imaginary product, for which Bruce Sterling wrote the following imaginary

"One of the most offensive artifacts of the twentieth century is the
standard household energy meter. This ugly gizmo clings like a barnacle to
the outside of your home, readable only by functionaries. Clumsily
painted in battleship gray, this network spy device features creepy,
illegible little clock-dials, under an ungainly glass dome. Look a bit
closer, and this user- hostile interface deliberately insults you, with a
hateful anti-theft warning, and a foul little lockbox.

"This crass device is designed to leave you in stellar ignorance of your
own energy usage. It publicly brands you as a helpless peon, a
technically-illiterate source of cash for remote, uncaring utility lords.

"But today, thanks to the Viridian Electrical Meter, the tables are turned.
The Viridian Meter is not some utility spy device, but a user-owned art

The purpose of the competition is to bring forward as many different design
ideas for the Viridian Meter as possible, to increase the likelihood of
discovering one or more ideas with the potential for being manufactured and
distributed in the mass market.

The competition sponsors therefore encourage maximum design creativity and
diversity in reinterpreting the Viridian Meter concept, together with
technical accuracy, functional utility, and consumer ease-of-use.

Procedure for Submissions

The Competition will proceed in two rounds. In the first round, entering
teams or individuals will submit a one-page written description of their
proposed Meter, a one-page description of the individual or team submitting
the design, and (optional) a one-page artistıs conceptual drawing or
technical schematic drawing of the proposed Meter. The written description
should be clear, colorful, and compelling, while also conveying the
following key facts:

-- Visual appearance of the meter
-- Manner in which information on energy consumption will be displayed
-- Basic technical description of how energy usage will be monitored
-- Intended position within a residence (e.g., wall-mounted, table-top,
-- Materials and components to be used in construction

Participants should also indicate whether they are able to construct a
working prototype of their design.

In the second round, up to fifteen Finalists will be invited to submit a
more detailed schematic proposal and, if feasible, a working prototype.

The competition judges will then select anywhere from one to eight winners,
depending on the quality of the submissions, and divide the prize money as
they see fit.

Winners will have their work featured on a competition web site, and their
designs may be introduced to potential manufactures and retailers. Features
articles about the competition will be written and submitted to leading art
and design magazines. Entrants will retain all rights to their designs, but
Finalists will sign agreements allowing the Sustainability Institute to
reproduce images of their submissions.

Submissions on paper should be sent to:

Sustainability Institute/Viridian Competition
PO Box 174
Hartland Four Corners, VT 05049 USA

Email Submissions should be sent to:

If your submission is also available on a web site, please include the URL.

For additional information, please write to the address above or send an
email to

Competition Timeline

Deadline for initial submissions: May 31, 2000

Announcement and notification to Finalists: June 15, 2000

Deadline for Finalist submissions: August 15, 2000

Announcement of winners and prizes awarded: October 1, 2000

Note: All submission documents become the property of Sustainability
Institute and will not be returned. Please retain copies for your own

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