ICONIC: Harvard Energy Feedback Sculpture

The winning design proposal of the Harvard Energy Feedback Sculpture is called Ora and was developed by INVIVIA of Cambridge, MA. Image courtesy of INVIVIA ©2015.

The winning design proposal of the Harvard Energy Feedback Sculpture is called Ora and was developed by INVIVIA of Cambridge, MA. Image courtesy of INVIVIA ©2015.

Iconic Energy Consulting initiated an exciting proposition that began in 2015: a sculpture on the Harvard campus that could change the way college freshmen view their energy use.

The Harvard Energy Feedback Sculpture project has the potential to display freshmen energy use and potentially other sustainability data in the form of an interactive work of public art. The sculpture gradually “comes to life” over periods of time when positive environmental consumer behavior achieves such measures as energy, water, and waste reduction goals outlined in Harvard’s Sustainability Plan 2015-2020.

The project would be installed in a well-trafficked, publicly visible location on campus and provide a visual incentive for Harvard’s newest students to work together toward meeting conservation goals and providing greater visibility for joint climate change diversion efforts across campus.

Partnering with Harvard’s Office for Sustainability, Office for the Arts, and Freshman Dean’s Office, Iconic Energy Consulting gathered panelists representing each office, as well as representatives from Harvard’s Planning & Project Management, the College, and the Graduate School of Design to assess the four finalists’ proposals. The selected proposal was designed by Cambridge-based INVIVIA, led by Professor Allen Sayegh of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

INVIVIA’s design, described as a “monumental, pure alabaster globe” standing eight feet in diameter, is called Ora. This proposed sculpture is made of biodynamic concrete, an innovative material which, when exposed to sunlight, can break down smog in the air.

Embedded into Ora’s concrete are thousands of fiberoptic threads — developed by Sayegh — that extend all the way to the center, from where a cluster of LEDs can broadcast varying amounts and patterns of light onto the surface of the sphere. An interior network of heating coils keeps the concrete exterior slightly warm to the touch, and a small subwoofer sits within the shell and provides the entire sculpture with a soft vibration that mimics a gentle heartbeat. Ora will use its small amount of energy needed from a solar-powered rechargeable Tesla home battery.

When participants reach energy reduction goals and increase healthy behaviors, that data will activate Ora’s interactivity. As proposed, dormitory electricity, water, and waste, as well as dining hall food waste measurements from freshmen would be compared to historical data and bring Ora’s lights and vibrations to life when goals are met.

Additional potential data measurements include health and well-being data, a significant pillar of Harvard’s Sustainability Plan 2015-2020, which tie behaviors causing climate change to more personal sustainability. Self-reporting that includes healthful and sustainable food choices, mindfulness activities, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle decisions can contribute to reaching Ora’s ultimate, most lively state, and several research opportunities could make Ora an innovator in engaging consumers in best practices in sustainable lifestyles.