Breath Brick (2015 R&D Award Innovative Architecture)

Break Brick

  • Sustainability Problem:

Effects of air pollution cause 3.3 million premature deaths each year[1] and majority of household pollutants are due to domestic fire for cooking and/or heating homes. The aforementioned are acquit in developing densely populated cities – Beijing, Manila, Nairobi, Cairo, etc.  Access to air filtration systems are limited to a variety of  issues, but the most common are socio-economic and infrastcture.

Category: Clean Air, Energy Efficiency, Energy Savings, Infrastructure, Innovative, Sustainability


  • Breathe brick is a porous concrete module that forms an air-filtration façade. Pulls in air and separates heavy particles and drops them to collection bin at bottom of the façade. Filter can separate 30% of fine particles and 100% of coarse particles.
  • Simple inexpensive framework, brick and coupler. Coupler are manufactured from recycled materials and can take on most structural forms.  
  • Breathe brick system can operate as active (integrated into existing HVAC system) or passive as independent system.
  • Breath brick is electric free.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.17.04 PM Breathebrick03


Organizational Stakeholder:

  • California Polytechnic State University – School of Architecture
  • Homeowner (especially no access to electricity, densely populated cities developing countries, and governments interest in reducing air population)


Next steps for deployment:

  • Waiting for patent approval
  • Refining design to expand to alternative modular forms
  • Regulatory approval in several development nations as sustainable and clean technology product
  • Funding for production




Reconnecting with our Food Chain Through Smart Supermarkets

Sustainability Problem: Lack of Food Transparency

Few people today know where and how their food is produced, its journey, and what the overall life cycle is of the product.  This disconnect can cause people to make uninformed decisions at the supermarket, leading to poor health and an unsustainable lifestyle.

Sustainability Technology: Supermarket of the Future

To combat this opaqueness, Coop Italia (Italy’s largest supermarket chain), worked with Accenture and Avanade to develop a futuristic supermarket that enhances the food purchasing process through a more welcoming, innovative, and informative shopping experience.

Their flagship store in Milan uses interactive food displays and smart shelves to provide a more customized and immersive shopping process.  Coop Italia’s interactive tables display information pertaining to a product’s nutritional facts, origin, allergen/pesticide levels, disposal instructions, its journey and overall carbon footprint using augmented reality and sensors.  All shoppers have to do is hold up the item of interest to a reflective/smart screen.  Vertical shelving allows for easy product navigation and discovery, while enhanced labels provide a deeper insight into each product.  Real-Time Data Visualization screens add an extra layer to the supermarket and shopper relationship by displaying company values, daily sales/promotions, top selling products by category, and cooking suggestions.

Unlike traditional supermarkets, the products are organized and situated together by similar ingredients (i.e. canned tomatoes can be found next to fresh tomatoes); and shelves are shorter, providing the store with a more community-like feel, similar to the much-loved open-air/farmer’s markets of today.  These design aspects move away from the overwhelming and disconnecting feel of traditional supermarkets and instead provide a warm and enjoyable atmosphere.

There are many upsides to such a novel supermarket.  In providing a holistic view of products, end-users can factor both the social and environmental costs to the traditional price and quality qualifiers.  Understanding the true cost of a product allows for a more informed purchasing decision.  Additionally, consumer’s buying choices can directly impact the way food is farmed, processed, and delivered; forcing all companies within a supermarket’s value chain to engage in more sustainable practices to stay relevant and provide increasing value.  Finally, this dynamic two-way communication helps turn a once tedious chore (grocery shopping) into a more fulfilling and fun experience!

“Supermarket of the Future Opens its Doors, Coop Italia and Accenture Reinvent the Grocery Shopping Experience”  Accenture, 12/6/2016,
“An MIT professor designed this supermarket of the future — take a look inside”  Business Insider, 1/11/2017, Leanna Garfield


  • Consumers looking to eat healthy and reduce their impact on the planet
  • Supermarkets wanting to enhance customer engagement and their ESG practices
  • Farmers because they will have to disclose their farming and transporting practices
  • Food companies because they will be required to disclose the processing, packaging, and transportation data of their products
  • Shareholders of the supermarket since they will have to assess the ROI for making the transition to becoming “smarter”

Technology Implementation & Distribution:

Bring awareness (marketing campaigns, social media) about the smart supermarket by communicating its potential to both traditional supermarkets and end-users.

Showcase proto-types in different countries (done in Milan’s 2015 World Expo) which can help to increase the buzz and interest about this innovation.

Begin and continue to bring farmer’s and companies on board so product information can be provided in a more seamless/real-time fashion.

Select cities/areas for testing to work through any technology/operational hurdles, (current test city is Milan).

Use feedback from initial customer reactions to enhance and/or customize the user experience.

By: Bhoomi Shah  , Columbia UNI: brs2147

In response to Gillian Mollod’s Designer Davorin Mesari turns city residents into farmers blogpost:


I love this idea! Using this technology people can pick only as much as they need for their meal, resulting in less food waste (which is usually compromised mainly of fruits and vegetables) and less need for refrigeration storage. And considering that more people are now living in an urban environment, this is a great way to help people connect/reconnect with the joy and benefits of gardening. Finally, since each container consists of 16 pods, it provides customization capabilities that allow individuals to grow a nice selection of their own preferred fruits/veggies.



Modern Wind Tower

Modern Wind Tower in Masdar City, UAE

The Problem
In many places around the world, and especially during the summer when temperatures rise, a big chunk of the energy being used in buildings goes into cooling. In countries in the Gulf region such as mine Oman and UAE, summer is virtually a year long season and so many households have their air conditioning units on all day as the air temperature outside is unbearable. The problem with air conditioning units is that they produce a lot HFCs. These are amongst the most potent greenhouse gases being produced through human behavior and contribute to climate change. So how do you cool the air temperature in exrtremely hot cities with an impossible climate?

Technology: Modern Wind Tower
This technology has been around for a long time in Arabia but as countries have progressed and their architecture “modernized”, they chose to leave behind some smart features such as the natural wind tower (pictured below) for the now harmful air conditioners. These towers can still be seen on old buildings in parts of Arabia.

Traditional Wind Towers

These towers suck in high speed wind which are generally faster as you go up in the desert. The air travels down through the tower and “washes” away heat in buildings by providing a constant air current and circulation.

A new breed of wind towers has been designed and they take innovation from these old Arabian wind towers. The idea is the same but they now have sensors that can track air movement and direction to efficiently suck in more air. Another added feature is that they have installed humidifiers that cool the air as it travels through the tower to further speed up the air cooling process.

New Improvements Made to Traditional Wind Towers

Residents and companies in hot climate areas, manufacturers of technology/sensors used, construction companies.

Next Steps
Market this new technology as clean/natural, inspired by old techniques used by our “own” ancestors (assuming target market to be Arabian Gulf region) that substantially reduce GHG emissions. Promote use of wind tunnels with construction/engineering companies since it won’t effect project delivery dates by much if pre-planned. Once installed, this technology is of low cost. Air monitoring/management provided by manufacturing company for a low fee.

By: Ahmad Al Zubair (aa4098)

Resources used:



Smart Home energy consumption system

Sustainability Problem: 

Citizens in the city have multiple energy consuming appliances which results in peak loads on grids which can be expensive, difficult to maintain and is unsustainable.

Technology Solution: eCoach, Twingz

Using IoT, the technology predicts consumer appliance load and shares it with the energy companies in the area. It also shares analysed data to the consumer itself, so that they are made aware of their energy needs.

Over time this prediction becomes increasingly accurate which helps the energy companies to plan out a needs assessment, it helps the consumers to understand how they can save costs by effectively using their appliances. All of the information is made available in real time over mobile apps.

This is done by attaching the IoT device to the electric meters of the house.


  • Consumers
  • Energy Companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Real estate companies


  • One way is that the start up company Twingz, will send their experts to install the IoT devices, and the app – at your home.
  • Then they work with the local energy companies and sync their databases to share the data.
  • Insights developed are shared via the app to change consumer behaviour


The company Twingz is based out of Austria and has recently received Early stage funding and accelerator support from the StartUp Bootcamp in Amsterdam.

They have a variety of products that supplement this IoT technology.


UNI – vk2384

Biodegradable Eco-bags

  1. Sustainability Problem: Waste is a recurring problem that has persisted through decades of innovation towards unnatural manufacturing and processes. Delving deeper, plastic waste is a big issue because they do not degrade easily. It can take hundreds of years for plastic to break down. With an estimated worldwide consumption of 1 trillion plastic bags every year, a better solution is needed.
  2. AVANI Bio-Cassava Bag could be the solution:
    • 100% biodegradable, compostable and disposable – degrades within 90 days
    • Made from cassava starch and all-natural resins, 100% renewable – contains no conventional plastic
    • Safe for consumption – dissolves in lukewarm water
    • Can be recycled along with paper
    • Durable – look, feel and perform like plastic



Plastic you can drink: A solution for pollution? | CNN

Cassava carrier bags: Indonesian entrepreneur tackles plastic scourge


  1. Stakeholders:
    • Supermarkets, grocery shops
    • Retailers
    • Hospitality industries
    • Food & Beverage industries
    • Consumers all over the world
    • Waste Management Facilities
  2. Next steps:
    • Invest more on advertising and outreach
    • Mass production could be a significant progress
    • Innovate further by introducing new products/alternatives and concepts


By: Timothy Wiranata

Columbia UNI: tw2618

SolarPuff: A Unique Little Solar Light

  1. Technology (

This inflatable personal solar lamp, was designed through the integration of photovoltaics with thin film substrates. Inspired by origami balloon this water-resistant light source offers people without direct access to electricity, the ability to become less reliant on traditional expensive and pollution-intensive kerosene lanterns.

The collapsible-cube shaped lamp consists of 10 LEDs with a lithium polymer battery. The small cube weighs on 2.6oz and is made from PET which is both water-resistant and recyclable. It offers 3 different light settings, operated by a push button: 1 push for low, 2 for high and 3 for blinking or distress setting. On average, the SolarPuff will be fully charged in 8 hours of bright sunlight, providing 8 to 12 hours of light.


  1. Sustainability Problem

Many communities without access to electricity (estimated 1.6 billion in the world) have to resort to the use of kerosene lanterns to light their homes. The lack of reliable lighting vastly limits their ability and options to carry out activities once the sun goes down. Furthermore, the burning of kerosene lanterns has severe knock on effects due to the toxic nature of the indoor air quality as a result – 2 million children reportedly die each year due to this. Not only an environmental problem, but also an economic one; these families spend 30% of their income on kerosene fuel. The SolarPuff can help alleviate these burdens by offering a free and safe alternative for lighting.

  1. Stakeholders
  • Partner NGOs
  • Community Leaders
  • Local Government
  • Development Aid donors
  • Consumers
  • Designers
  • Material researchers


  1. Implementation Process

Applicable in numerous different countries, across cultures and even income levels, the SolarPuff technology has huge potential as an innovative type of decentralized infrastructure. The clean design and flexible use options make it an attractive product to both the developed and developing world.

The organization has a website for online purchase of an individual or set of these solar lanterns. 10% of online sales goes to aid the mission. The products are also stocked in shops like the New York UN HQs gift store as well as the MoMA Design store. This entrepreneurial team works closely with local NGOs on the ground in places like Haiti, Ghana, Syria and Nepal, to distribute lights to refugees, disaster victims and communities disconnected from basic infrastructure. Appealing to both those who need them and those who want them, the design-oriented strategy of this technology allows it to maximize its reach.



Kickstarter, SolarPuff: A Unique Little Solar Light:

Inhabitat, The foldable Solight Solarpuff solar-powered lantern provides off-grid light where there is no electricity:

Inhabitat, Help kickstart this little SolarPuff lantern that could save the world:

MoMA store, SolarPuff: