More From The SustainRCA Show 2013

The SustainRCA Show & Awards is a celebration of sustainable design thinking at the Royal College of Art, London. See our previous article for the winners of the Awards… read on for the work of more students selected from programmes across the College – spanning four categories: Moving Minds, Solutions for Society, Inspired Products and Visionary Process.



Diana is focused on looking at waste as a resource, to empower small businesses and communities. The idea is to create an alternative service for waste collection in order to fuel a series of local waste labs, which would transform waste into functional products for public use. Local waste, local collection, local process, for local use.



‘Glass Lab’ is the first initiative of Diana’s ‘Waste Labs’ project. Collected glass bottles are crushed on-site and combined with a vegetable bio-resin binder to produce strong and weatherproof products, such as bollards, street furniture, tiles and lights.



Like many of today’s electronic components, the Chinese Mitten Crab comes from Asia. This species invades rivers, posing a potential threat to native ecosystems. As well as damaging natural biodiversity, the crabs burrow into the river banks, increasing erosion. They are considered a pest crab and so are a potential local resource.


Chinese Mitten Crab. Photo Credit: The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), GB non-native species secretariat.

Jeongwon Ji has extracted Chitin polymers from crushed crab shells and is perfecting chemical-free production methods to make bio-plastics for the casings of electronic products.

jeongwon-ji-web-cmd-04 jeongwon-ji-web-cmd-06

These ‘BioElectric’ new materials are expressive and tactile and, although production time might be longer, the hope is that this non-toxic process can improve the work lives of those who manufacture our electronics.


PETER KRIGE – INNOVATION DESIGN ENGINEERING  Ekasi Slum Transition Workshop (Supported by The James Dyson Foundation)

By 2030 the global slum population will double to two billion. How can we alter this world-scale problem of urban poverty? ‘Slum Transition’ describes the process of transformation from urban poverty to a low carbon and resilient future. It redirects slums away from adopting unsustainable infrastructure, towards leading the way to improved quality of life.

EKASI Township - South Africa

‘Ekasi’ is an organisation that uses human-centred design and collaborative workshops as tools for slum transition. Its first workshop, with partners of Imizamo Yethu Township in South Africa, focused on heating and handling water in the home. Water is limited there and, once collected, it’s stored and transferred between plastic containers. The water is then heated using kettles, or in large pots on the stove, to wash, bathe and do laundry.

EKASI Township - South Africa 1

The workshop resulted in products that allow slum residents to heat water and shower in unplumbed homes. The simple low carbon system, which consists of a solar thermal heater, water unit and pressurised shower, is more convenient, reduces accidents and saves water and energy.


The products were developed into final designs in London, but can be fabricated from low cost, locally available parts, within small workshops in the township, helping to stimulate the local economy.



With phosphorous being ever depleted and a vital ingredient for industrial food production, we need to look for alternative resources within our expanding cities.


The ‘Pigeon Tower’ is a proposal to domesticate feral pigeons and put their waste back into the nutrient cycle as a natural urban fertiliser.


The Tower creates a designated habitat for the birds. It attracts them by providing food waste from surrounding businesses. At the same time it collects their droppings, processing them into fertiliser, which can then be sold.



The human body has evolved over millions of years to be in tune with the light that comes from the sun. Sunlight improves our mood and health by triggering the production of essential hormones that are critical for our body’s equilibrium. Due to urbanisation and our change in lifestyle we now spend a higher percentage of time indoors and are often subjected to artificial light.


‘Sun Sill’ is a device mounted under a window to automatically track and redirect sunlight indoors, which can then be reflected to wherever it’s needed.


It maximises the health benefits of natural light, while also reducing the reliance on electric lights that unbalance our natural bodily rhythms. See an overview of the project in the video below.


Michail believes our idealisation and romanticism about ecology is holding us back from finding ways to interact with nature. Neo-nature suggests a new way, in which we let go of our presumptions and emotions. His project, ‘Animalia’, puts forward alternative ways to conserve coral reefs, by speeding up the coral’s evolution through genetic modification, allowing it to adapt to new environmental conditions that put the species in danger. Michail proposes that corals can be devised in various way…


To create beautiful temples of nature, allowing plankton to pass efficiently between it.


They can be seeded in areas where tsunamis might hit; the coral takes 70% of the impact, thereby saving human lives.


They can be utilised by energy companies; precisely hydrodynamic coral is extremely efficient at slipstreaming powerful water currents, to be exploited for harvesting electricity.

See the video below for animated coral simulations.

Vast & Troubled Oceans

This project is a cautionary tale that portrays our troubled relationship with our vast oceans. It focuses on the unseen effects of our toxic throw-away plastic culture.


The intention is to suggest how this might affect seemingly distant geographical areas and cultures on our planet. A speculative travelogue chronicles a toxic journey, from the Sea Gypsies of the Indian Ocean to the Inuit Eskimos of the Arctic Ocean.


Design and Typography by Neasden Control Centre

Fish whose stomachs are full of plastic debris highlight the problem of oceanic plastic pollution. As involuntary garbage collectors they represent the global scale of our neglect.


Very likely, within the next 10 years fish may cease to exist. And what will we do then? Tell tales…(see Vimeo for associated video Story2 V T O sustainRCA BAI LAB) …tales of 1000 foot waves, month long storms and sea creatures the size of luxury liners, shanty fish factories, squat workers, floating sea gypsies in the ungoverned empty high seas……and plastic. A lot of plastic. Plastic that is forever… Whether they are stories of fact or fantasy will no longer matter.

The project was summarised at the show by a fantastical model of a Shanty Fish Factory, against a 3-dimensional backdrop of the Toxic Journey Map.



Kayleigh’s project aims to address the future of the supermarket and show how cities can become more self-reliant. Hyperlocal Market encourages local food sales by connecting urban growers and makers with their local retailers and consumers.


This platform fosters fair and professional trade through its Website, App and Tools. If you’re a seller, you simply become a member, upload your products and sell them to your neighbours.


Buyers can type in their postcode and browse the food that’s being made and grown in their area. Customers can select a product, pay with PayPal or cash, then collect from the producer.


LAUREN DAVIES – DESIGN PRODUCTION  The Alchemist’s Dressing Table

The Alchemist’s Dressing Table is a collection of tools for making natural cosmetics at home, inspired by beautiful ancient rituals and the transformative powers of alchemy.


The palette of copper and maple wood are chosen for their traditional and folkloric symbolism. Cork is used for its insulating properties, borosilicate glass for its heat resistance and stainless steel for strength. All components were fabricated in collaboration with London-based craftsmen.


The distiller can be used to make hydrosols and essential oils.


The hand held tools comprise of a pair of copper tongs to be used with plant material, a stirrer, a mixing tool and a set of measuring spoons (TBSP, TSP, ½ TSP, ¼ TSP).

The piece reignites a dialogue about our relationship with nature and the materials we use. Lauren believes this could be the future of cosmetics for the modern woman who has a desire to be more in control of what she uses on her skin and the impact to our environment.


The tools help women create a stronger connection to their personal beauty rituals and a more magical relationship with nature’s intricate mysteries.

PIPPA MURRAY – DESIGN PRODUCTS  Moulding our Woodlands, Just Wood

Pippa is a research and materials-led designer who champions grassroots industries for a sustainable future. Her work explores solutions that harness ecological processes and materials. British hardwoods have provided a diverse resource for industry through the ages. As a furniture maker she finds them constantly surprising and rewarding to use.


During this project, she investigated possible applications for hardwood, starting at the beginning of the material’s story, the woodland. For nine months, she based herself in a 45 acre woodland, North Cumbria. This area represents only 0.0028% of the 649,000 hectares of unmanaged woodland in England today.



‘Moulding our Woodlands’ uses wood shavings, an otherwise waste by-product from existing woodland practices. She utilises the inherent properties of the material throughout the process, from its energy output, to its self-bonding capability.


By developing a method of moulding just wood, with no other additives, to make a table leg, this project demonstrates an example of batch production in a sustainable, cost effective way. This everyday component was chosen as it must be made to be similar each time and it must be strong. Take a look at the video below for an explanation of her production technique.

By increasing the commercial potential of unmanaged woodlands, Pippa’s project aims to bridge the gap between bespoke craft and the mass market.

YANA NAIDENOV – SCULPTURE  How a Stone Learns to Fly

How a Stone Learns to Fly is a sculpture built with rammed recycled newspaper pulp. It draws from the technique of earth-ramming, which can be found in certain rural locations, and, in more recent years, in eco-buildings.


Yana combined this with a sculptural form that borrows from Brutalist and bunker architecture and plays with material perception, weight and gravity. It’s a kind of sculptural proposition, in the sense that it tests the material. She collected newspaper, – a material that’s easily sourced – pulped it in batches and rammed the pulp into moulds with a piece of wood.



‘Brighter and cleaner…free from moth and rust and full of colour…built up of synthetic materials in which man, like a magician, makes what he wants for almost every need.’ Victor Emmanuel Yarsley OBE, British Chemist and plastic pioneer. 1946



Plastic Island is a research project on the brief ‘Paradise’, looking at plastic as a past paradise that has now come back to haunt us. Once called the material of the future, plastic is highly resistant to degradation. The project looks at the dilemma the UK is currently facing, due to over-consumption of plastic and our inability to dispose of it efficiently.


Plastic Island is a proposal for an entirely plastic housing scheme, for a regeneration site prone to high flood risk, in Purfleet. It integrates plastic recycling and manufacturing factories, to produce things such as housing amenities, plastic trees and landscaping.





Plastic Island sits on the borderline between fantasy and reality, being both a feasible scheme as well as a symbol of warning to society.

BENEDIKT GROß – DESIGN INTERACTIONS  Avena+ Testbed (Agricultural printing and landscape) 

Avena+ explores agricultural ‘printing’, which is digitally aided sowing of crops. The aim is to make biogas farms less disruptive to the environment by improving the connectivity of flora and fauna and increasing biodiversity.


Benedikt tested out the concept, actually ‘printing’ a plot of land in southern Germany using GPS and mapping technology. The tractor plough followed the GPS, planting 85% oats and 15% varieties of herbs and flowers.


In the end, in the biogas facility, the harvest of many different fields will be combined to a “whole crop silage” to produce energy, so it’s not a problem to harvest the oats and the flower mix at the same time.


The video below shows the mapping and planting process in more detail.