Everyday choices like paper straws and cloth bags aside, have you ever wondered what a completely sustainable system would look like? How the idea of sustainable development manifests into a physical structure or system? How would this function? What would be the different elements it contains? What would make it sustainable? What kind of obstacles would be there? If you’ve ever had these questions, you’ve come to the right place. The NeighbourHub located in Fribourg, Switzerland is a prime example of the above. Winner of the Solar Decathlon Competition, 2017 (a collegiate competition challenges teams to build highly efficient buildings which are sustainable and to make use of renewable energy). NeighbourHub is the result of a shining collaboration between four of Switzerland’s premiere universities: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg. It is an example of inter-disciplinary work, a culmination of architecture, design, business, community, sustainability, and engineering.
Off Grid and Independent Living
Not only does the project imbibe sustainability in its design principles but, NeighborHub aims to create a community spirit by offering a place dedicated to learning and exchanging ideas for the co-creation of a more sustainable design The hub is meant to serve multiple functions such as a workspace, a conference room, a community dining space, a local market, an area for gardening, as well as provide a functional living and sleeping space. NeighborHub’s multipurpose spaces are designed in a layered format to ensure maximum airflow through cross-ventilation. It is Switzerland’s first wholly sustainable ‘Solar House’. Solar panels are integrated on the east, south, and west façades of the building. Meanwhile, the roof is used for water harvesting and as space to grow plants.
You can always bank on SLX Learning to bring you the latest content from the most exciting sustainability events and conferences from around the globe! We were present at this community-first example launch and took some shots. Watch our short video on the NeighbourHub to get a better idea of the space and the collaboration it encourages:
But inter-disciplinary projects and collaboration was not what the picture always looked like. Let’s go back in time a little bit.
A SILO is a huge structure used to store grain in agriculture. When we say huge, we mean… at least 90 feet tall. Why are you suddenly reading about a SILO? Where did the need to store this much grain arise from? The industrial revolution took Europe and the United States by storm after the middle of the 18th century. Hundreds of new inventions led to technological advancement and increased convenience when producing all sorts of things: textiles, automobiles, steel, electricity, steam engines and more.
Naturally, this scale of change brought with itself, far-reaching change; ripples felt all over the world. One of these ripples was increased ‘super-specialisation’. The problems of super-specialisation are apparent everywhere, in every field of human advancement. As we learn more, we start to see them clearly. Critical areas of knowledge such as human medicine and patient treatments are plagued by super-specialisation. The safety, utility and sustainability of the physical structures we inhabit are also affected. However, several European countries have been actively trying to tackle this problem by prioritising and moving further into interdisciplinary thought, action and education.
Examples of interdisciplinary thinking
Another example of Swiss evolution and breaking out of Silos is our learning hub, where we attempt to create solutions for a more sustainable world through inter-disciplinary collaboration. We use blended learning to leverage tech in our bid to catalyze lifelong learning! Other interesting features of NeighbourHub are that it is a modifiable building with flexible furniture, movable fittings and intuitive interior design. We have incorporated similar features on our blended learning online platform, where you can cherry pick courses from an array of relevant topics. The content itself come in multiple formats such as Nano courses, Deep Dives, quizzes, videos, articles and, real-life events and experiences.
Just as NeighborHub is being used for research purposes within the Smart Living Lab to enhance user comfort, improve user interactions and streamline energy management in ways that are good for the planet,
. hub.slxlearning.com has a dedicated community building team where solutions for a more sustainable world can be co-created by industry leaders, researches and other stakeholders just like yourself!
All the activities in both examples link back to eight key areas of action: mobility, water, waste management, food, biodiversity, the selection of materials and renewable energy use and learning about them. An interesting tidbit about the past of this hub of sustainability: The BlueFactory used to be a beer factory which was shut down because it was financially and logistically tedious to maintain. In other words, it was unsustainable! Innovation is about a smooth and intentioned U-turn and both BlueFactory and SLX Learning are working hard at moving towards sustainable practices. Our office in Switzerland is located in the BlueFactory innovation quarter, because we at SLX are dedicated to nurture and engage with vibrant communities that realise the potential, and importance of reuse of resources and sustainable development.
An Interdisciplinary online learning hub
SLX is your one-stop shop for blended learning in Switzerland. An interdisciplinary approach combining cultural insights, tech innovations, sustainability practices and historical content. Visit our e-learning hub to test your knowledge through gamified assessments and engage in interesting discussions with an active community!