SustainRCA Show & Awards 2013

Part of the London Design Festival, and one of our absolute favourites of the year, SustainRCA Show & Awards, featuring a selection of some of the best work of Royal College of Art graduates. Projects propose an exciting vision of future living, while tackling a wide range of perspectives on the sustainability challenges we face today.


Clare Brass – senior RCA tutor and Head of Sustain RCA – and her team coordinated the show. Throughout their studies Clare inspires and supports students to embrace sustainability in their work and builds liaisons with external organisations to generate student-led solutions to their social and environmental challenges.


Diverse new applications for the humble loofah; a toolkit for de-mining more safely; a waste-to-resource sanitation system for India; and an epic technical drawing charting the progress of humanity are the winners of the SustainRCA Awards 2013.


Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, and one of the judges, said: ‘These are designs for hard times and big problems. They will make a huge difference to a huge amount of people and to the environment.’ The exhibition is free and open to everyone. 10am – 6pm daily, 20 Sept – 4 Oct, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU. Take a look below at some of the work on show:



Built using multiple layers of paper and incorporating projected moving image, ‘The Neo Tower of Babel’ is a large scale technical drawing that charts the development of civilisation, noting feats of technological and architectural progress. It marks the advance from fire to gas light, the industrial revolution and the advent of nuclear power. It poses the question: how do we feel about our notion of progress and is this something we want to continue to build on?


Take a look at the drawing in action, here:


‘Luffa Lab’, developed by Mauricio, who was born and raised in Brazil, explores the inherent qualities of Luffa (Loofah) fibres, as an alternative to synthetic materials.


‘Luffa Cylindrica’, a member of the cucumber family, is antimicrobial, biodegradable, lightweight and highly absorbent – features that make it viable for a wide range of applications – such as low cost splints.



Other applications include paper, protective packaging and its use as an absorber of toxic dye waste from denim processes. The Luffa’s highly absorbent fibres can be used to soak up these harmful dyes, which would otherwise be discharged into waterways. The resulting coloured Luffas can then be formed into acoustic wall tiles.



The plant is fast growing; it can even be trained to grow into specially shaped moulds. By finding new uses and markets, there is scope to help develop the Brazilian community economies that are built around Luffas.


India is currently witnessing a massive internal migration. By 2030, 40.6% of India will live in urban areas. This shift poses challenges for the sanitation infrastructure of India. 80% of Indian cities do not possess even a partial sewage network.


Lack of facilities causes new migrants to return to the socially accepted, traditional rural practice of using open spaces for defecation, causing fecal contamination to become the leading cause of water-borne diseases in India.


The Gu Bank concept gives migrants in urban slums an incentive to deposit fecal matter in a ‘Gu Bag‘. The bag is for one-time use and is the result of user testing in India. Made of soy based wax paper, it is anaerobically decomposed in Gu Bank’s bio-methane plant to produce clean fuel. Each deposit earns the migrants credits, which can be redeemed for bio-methane cylinders, for cooking.


The Gu Detector is a hand held sensor which ensures that the bags being deposited are filled with human waste matter. It checks for the hyrdogen sulphide trace emissions and methane from the Gu bag. This is to prevent the misuse of Gu bags. The checking takes place by an attendant before deposition into the Gu Skip. See how the bag works in the video below:


Undetonated landmines and explosive remnants of war are one of the most enduring barriers to development in post war territories, trapping some of the poorest communities of the world in poverty.


Chris’ de-mining kit is a collection of tools that aim to prevent injury to local teams involved in manual mine clearance. It addresses the existing inadequate training and equipment. The hand-tools are built to resist the most powerful blast-mines. By making the process safer, it offers potential to re-inhabit and cultivate land, relieving immense population pressure.


The development of Blastproof has been guided by the stories of individuals who have worked with mines over several decades. Chris has collated the insights into a book, which illustrates the complexity of the problem.


Those are the winners. Each will receive a fellowship at the Royal Society of the Arts and will be supported through the organisation’s entrepreneurial Catalyst Programme.

We’ll be featuring more of the exhibitors, coming soon. Scoot on down there now, while the show’s still on. It’s free and open to everyone. 10am – 6pm daily, 20 Sept – 4 Oct, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU. See here for more information.