First Place - High School

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 13: Climate Action

2020 Youth Design Challenge

This design concept was developed by participants in the Institute’s Youth Design Challenge. The descriptions below are from the team’s competition entry materials.

School: Orange Cube Art
Location: Montrose, CA
Coach: Jai Won Lee, Haeun Kim
Team members: Na Yeon Kim, Ryan Joongi Cho, Asen Ou Kim, Yeunseo Seo, Min Sung Park

Video Pitch

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Innovation Details

To solve for extreme changes in weather and provide a solution for natural cooling, Moist Brick was created as a concept for a building material that would condense water from nighttime air and collect it on the surface as an evaporative cooling system for buildings. The team was inspired by the hydrophilic hairs on the surface of some plants and the Texas Horned Lizard, which uses to move water from anywhere on its skin to its mouth. The brick’s curvilinear form not only mimics the ‘horns’ of the lizard, but also to allow each brick to partially shade itself and its neighbors when they are stacked and assembled as a wall.


What is the problem addressed for this Challenge and how is it related to climate change?

One of the direct problems that humankind will face due to climate change is extreme changes of weather. The temperature keeps rising, and so do the number of air conditioning systems. It is not too hard to expect the tragic cycle of more hot weather brings even more demand for air conditioning and thus, even more need for power. The world has new solutions for cooling in buildings due to rising temperatures, but most of the applications are often impossible to approach without a specialist.


What does this design solution do? How does it solve and improve a problem?

The idea is to make the green building more widely used in the general public. Noticing that those eco-buildings are perceived as a special building to the general public or that it would be impossible to apply to other buildings, the team designed a building block system that allows for people to easily introduce natural cooling to their ‘usual architecture’. Each block, which can be used just like other constructional blocks, collects water during the night and utilizes them for evaporation cooling during the hot day.


How was this solution inspired by nature? What organisms inspired it?

The team wanted to find the most effective way to collect water and looked to the Texas horned lizard’s skin pattern. That led to making a building block that uses capillary action for evaporation cooling. Also, the team learned that some plants use hair-like surfaces to collect water. The bricks were designed to have a similar hairy surface to maximize the water collection.