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Flexergy: Resilient, Adaptable and Thermodynamically Congruent Infrastructure for an Uncertain Future

Unpredictable changes in global climate, economies plagued by chronic instability and energy insecurity with volatile fossil fuel costs are all manifestations of the pervasive uncertainty that defines our time. This instability is symptomatic of the undermining of a worldview of constant growth and inexhaustible resources that disregards biophysical limits and our interdependence with natural systems. Communities can confront this uncertainty through: 1) design that increases the capacities of a system to assimilate change rather than for a predicted set of conditions, and 2) integration of human and natural systems towards a co-evolutionary symbiosis that is able to perform within the biological and physical constraints of our planet.

Photo of Esteban Matheus
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Flexergy is a methodology for communities to re-evaluate the way they concieve, deploy and maintain energy infrastructure. This strategy presents a new model that will help change assumptions that are commonly left unexamined as new technology is forced to work within a system that is constrained by old ideas - thus avoiding the full potentials of innovation to be unleashed in the assimilation of renewable energy.

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This strategy/discussion would target planners, energy planners, urban designers on both the public and private sectors.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

We keep constructing the built environment - from electrical outlets to nation-wide oil pipelines and massive hydro dams - on old ideas of how energy infrastructure should function. These old ideas are biased towards top/down, single-function, non-renewable rigid infrastructure which need to change if we want to have any hope in the large-scale adoption of renewable and effective energy that needs to happen.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

A collaborative analysis of existing infrastructure and its energy context of one city, from source to sink, to identify where there is opportunity for early intervention.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Expertise from those on-the-ground who have faced some of the challenges of operating within old infrastructure models. Also scholars who are working more closely with thermodynamics, exergy and related concepts as well as ecologists who are more knowledgeable of how energy is transfered through trophic levels in natural systems.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual

4 comments

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Esteban,

Creative concept. I think your idea to make buildings adaptable, resilient, and sustainable is a great idea. For buildings specifically, you might be interested in looking at LEED's energy criteria for buildings.

http://www.usgbc.org/leed

An OpenIDEOer you might be interested in bouncing ideas off of is Benjamin and the Avava team. They are currently looking at smart housing but would definitely be able to point you in the direction of some challenges you are looking for guidance on :).

https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/renewable-energy-modular-housing-smart-communities

Also, may I suggest creating a user experience map so we can fully visualize your idea?

https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/4d9f8db8-8d5e-4331-ab6c-4d44cc659589.pdf

Looking forward to seeing your experience map :)

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

We love Natalie's suggestion to create a User Experience Map: http://ideo.pn/user-exp This would help folks grasp your idea from a human-centred perspective. We're excited to see what you'll come up with...

Photo of Esteban Matheus
Team

Thanks for your great comments. Yes, I agree that breaking down the issues and potential solutions into smaller community-focused actions would be helpful. We will take a look at the user experience map.

Photo of Valerie Gardner
Team

Would you consider merging with the idea of how "new" nuclear can provide the "safe, distributed and reliable" clean energy back-up power to a flexible, pre-dominantly renewable energy-powered grid in the future. Even countries like Denmark, with as much as 40% renewable power, are still reliant on coal to provide back-up power when it's night or cloudy or not windy. Take a look at this idea, to discuss a rapid "roadmap" towards fossil fuel reduction until we can get majority renewables power, with nuclear providing the majority of the power that is need: https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/let-existing-and-new-nuclear-power-help-in-the-battle-against-carbon-emissions-stop-opposing-it-when-it-is-critical-to-our-ability-to-break-the-global-dependence-on-fossil-fuels-in-the-time-frame-that-will-save-our-planet-from-the-worst-impacts#