The 2000 Watt Society: a vision becomes reality

2000 Watt SocietyWith a stunning presentation about the world´s energy consumption, Roland Stulz captured the audience in his keynote address at EcoMaterials 2005. He obviously had hit a nerve! Especially the younger generation preoccupied about the future were inspired. The Swiss architect involved in an innovative program called “Novatlantis” at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH presented a vision of the future called the “2000 Watt Society”. The program confronts the world-wide energy demand with a vision that calls for reduction of energy consumption in the northern hemisphere, and development of economies in a sustainable manner in the southern hemisphere.


The vision of a 2000 Watt Society calls for the reduction of energy consumption by a factor 3 to 6 in the northern hemisphere whilst the countries of the southern hemisphere should develop their economies with an increase in energy input by a factor 3 to 6. This additional energy input must by all means be achieved in a sustainable way with best available efficiency and technology.

Ecological footprint   
He introduced the theme by referring to the ecological footprint and awakened the audience to a new concept. The ecological footprint measures how much land and water a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes, taking into account prevailing technology. Today, humanity´s ecological footprint is over 20% larger than what the planet can regenerate. We maintain this overdraft by liquidating the planet´s natural resources.

Changes in land use and energy consumption are contributing factors, especially fossil fuels as a percentage of energy consumption. The overall outlook is expressed as environment - water use and climate change; sociology - people living in urban areas; and economy - oil prices.

Intelligent lifestyle
The 2000 Watt Society could be a solution. The key to sustainability lies in substitution, efficiency and selection. The transformation requires rigorous adaptation of the infrastructure, and an intelligent lifestyle. While this includes more security and health, more comfort, individual and economic development for everyone, sustainable urban development does not mean a lower quality of life. On the contrary, better materials and a higher degree of energy efficiency, the substitution of fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy, and modifying business practice will contribute towards a better urban environment.

While Stulz focused upon efficiency potentials - on renewables - and possible energy improvements in areas such as cars, light, motors, buildings, glass bottles, building heating and aircraft, it is the area of construction that was of particular relevance to the architects, engineers, constructors and materials researchers at the conference. As those who attended EcoMaterials 2005 came from five continents and definitely are aware of their role in initiating changes, it was an ideal public for new ideas.

Different housing demands require different solutions and through photos the audience was exposed to housing situations that created comfortable microclimates. Building materials such as Micro Concrete Roofing showed that small scale tiles can be produced with improved energy efficiency, as can more energy efficient brick production.

 Architects and engineers particularly were challenged with the idea of cooling strategies - natural cooling, whereby shading substitutes air conditioning as shown in photos of traditional cooling with shade as contrasted with modern high rises with air conditioning, or where cooling with reflection.

The Amstein & Walther office building in Zurich, Switzerland was presented as a living example. There are 220 high quality work places with daylighting, natural ventilation, natural heating and cooling. There is parking for only 24 cars, plus 10 micro-cars SMART managed for the business travel of A&W by Mobility car sharing company. The 200 employees mainly use public transportation. Fresh air flows through air boxes directly to work places. Heating is through a heat pump that draws energy from the ground and from the exhaust air. Cooling is through ground probes that are coupled with ground slabs for cooling.

Mobility is another area of general importance for development, especially in southern countries. Stulz presented a comparison of the share of the public transport between Los Angeles in the USA, where more than 85% of the citizens cover their daily distances with their car, and Basel and Zurich in Switzerland where only 20% use their car - most of the distance is covered  by  pubic transport, bicycle or on foot. Car sharing offers the possibility to link public transport with individual traffic and optimizes the environmental performance. Use of bio fuels such as biogas, alcohol or rape methol ester in automobiles enables a CO2 neutral driving. Challenges indeed!

You are here: Home Past editions Edition #19, March 2006 The 2000 Watt Society: a vision becomes reality


Wilfredo Santana
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