Building urban energy resilience through education: The E-Pop Park
June 18, 2018
June 18, 2018
How can spending time at a park today help ease the problems of tomorrow? At the energy pop-up park (E-Pop), visitors don’t just have fun, they learn about energy, too.
It’s a beautiful day at the park with your family—except something is a little different. Visitors ride stationary bikes instead of taking turns on the swing set. People turn solar panels and windmills to face the sun and wind. Children play and dance on a light-up “creative floor” that responds to movement. If the parkgoers watching a large screen showing how much energy their activities are generating is any indication, this isn’t your average playground.
Welcome to the energy pop-up park—or E-Pop—a design concept created by Stantec smart city consultant Maciej Golaszewski (Vancouver, BC).
The United Nations predicts the world’s population will rise to 9.7 billion people by 2050, with over 6 billion people living in urban areas. For cities, that’s a population shift that comes with tremendous challenges, not the least of which is energy security.
So how can spending time at a park today help ease these problems of tomorrow? Two words: energy literacy. Engaged people, smart choices, and energy consciousness can make a difference, says Maciej. Only 12% of Americans can pass a basic energy literacy test, Benjamin K. Sovacool writes in his paper Rejecting renewables: The socio-technical impediments to renewable electricity in the United States.
With support from Greenlight—part of Stantec’s Creativity & Innovation Program, which provides financial backing for our people’s good ideas—Maciej designed E-Pop with the dual purpose of fun and energy education.
“Generating energy from human movement—like playing at a park—and connecting that with renewable energy technology in a hands-on environment is a unique way for the public to use their sensory and intellectual skills to learn about different forms of energy,” Maciej says. “I think that these outcomes on a larger scale, one where communities collectively make informed decisions on energy consumption, have the potential to create more sustainable urban living for our planet.”
“This is building urban resilience through education,” says Maciej, explaining the park will help show people how much effort is truly needed to create even a small amount of energy. Cycling for 2 hours at 100 watts per hour would produce 200 watt-hours of energy which could be used to power three 60-watt incandescent lightbulbs for 1 hour, or one 60-watt lightbulb for 3 hours. Maciej hopes that people of all ages will begin to understand how much energy is required to power their everyday lives, ideally leading to more awareness and reduction of energy use.
“People who live in urban environments are prone to effects of climate change and are facing uncertainty about their future energy supply, and many aren’t even aware of the issue,” he says. “We need to start being more conscious about our energy consumption on an everyday basis, and E-Pop will help start the conversation.”
“We need to start being more conscious about our energy consumption on an everyday basis, and E-Pop will help start the conversation.
Maciej has an ally in Max Donelan, PhD, professor of biomedical physiology and kinesiology at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University. Max developed the PowerWalk® Kinetic Energy Harvester, which uses energy created by walking to charge reusable batteries. Maciej consulted Max on how best to design the park to harvest kinetic energy.
“I think it’s great that Stantec is investing in a very creative, educational, interactive, functional park that will not just be a place where people can enjoy hanging out, but a place that will allow people to enrich their understanding of really important principles in our world,” Max says.
Like Maciej, the professor believes experiencing firsthand how much energy it takes to create even a small amount of power will help with energy literacy.
“Just like you have a physical sense of how much something weighs by lifting items of different weights, seeing how our human energy can be captured in different ways gives you a better sense of energy use, which hopefully will have a strong educational value with people who will hopefully conserve more energy,” says Max.
Maciej has the design. Now he needs a partner to bring E-Pop to life. Municipalities, utility providers, universities, or science centers interested in the gamification of energy literacy are at the top of his list.
“E-Pop has a lot of potential value to these types of clients, as they’re focused on developing basic energy literacy and educating people about their monthly utility bills,” he says.
The park’s lights and technology are designed to draw people in. Plus, the park simply looks cool.
“I definitely see something within the design that mimics precise natural patterns and represents my artistic side,” Maciej laughs, adding more seriously, “For a lot of cities and municipalities, their agenda is becoming more focused on how smart technology can address building livable, low-carbon, resilient cities. That agenda is closely tied to E-Pop.”