About the Artist

Melle Smets works as a conceptual artist, curator and researcher in the public area. His work is focused on creating new meeting places in the public area. He uses existing social structures and local customs as a basis, presents an alternative view on the living environment and turns ideas into actions, to trigger change and get people involved in shaping our environment.

Kris De Decker is a research journalist and founder of Lowtech Magazine. This magazine covers news and insights into the environment, energy and technology. Whereas the solution of major issues is often sought in high-tech approaches, Lowtech Magazine tries to find low-tech solutions. Since man has gained experience of making life on earth comfortable for many centuries, a huge source of knowledge and skills is available. This reservoir is opened up by Lowtech Magazine.

About the Search Question

For the Department of Search, Melle Smets and Kris De Decker investigate the possibilities of a zero-footprint energy supply. Fossil fuels, like coal and gas, are not inexhaustible and cause problems like climate change, air pollution and geopolitical tensions. Various alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, have the drawback of not always being available in proportion to demand (think of the large difference in hours of sunshine between summer and winter, for example). However, there is another way of generating energy: man.

Next year, Smets and De Decker will be working towards realising the prototype of a Human Power Plant. The research consists of two phases: a research phase in which information is gathered and a network of experts is built, and a prototyping phase of the Human Power Plant. In the context of this process, all kinds of issues pop up. Technical aspects of what is the best way to generate human energy, and how many of these power plants are necessary to supply the entire campus with energy. From a social point of view, it is interesting to find the best way to motivate as many people as possible to participate. Should they be paid for this, and if so, how much? From a health perspective, we might wonder how we can produce the largest possible amount of energy in a healthy way and remain happy as well. And finally, there is the challenge of sustainability: is human energy really sustainable? Are there any technical flaws in the system, and will the use of human energy actually lead to less energy consumption?

www.mellesmets.nl / www.lowtechmagazine.be / www.humanpowerplant.be



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Department of Search

The initiative of the Department of Search was taken by the Aardschap Foundation and the municipality of Utrecht in collaboration with the Utrecht Science Park Foundation and Universitity Utrecht. The Zero Footprint Campus programme is also made possible by The Art of Impact, Mondriaan Fonds, provincie Utrecht, K.F. Hein Fonds, Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds en Stichting Doen.


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