Gris by Alberto Vasquez. Sustainability Award, Students
Alberto Vasquez received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in industrial and product Design from Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, graduating in 2014. During the course of his studies, he gained experience on work placements at Co&Co Designcommunication, Innomed Medical and the Central Hungarian Innovation Centre Budaörs, and in 2013 founded his own design studio, Igendesign.
We asked him three questions about his water recycling system, Gris, which won the Sustainability Award in the Students category.
1. What problem does your project offer a solution for and how does it work?
In 2015 South America was facing the biggest water crisis in history. The main reasons for this are climate change, deforestation and the explosive growth of cities. Some houses in São Paulo are without water for twelve hours a day. But when the dry season begins in April, the inhabitants have to live with four to five days per week without water. Water isn’t a question of eco-consciousness here anymore, but a potential source of serious social conflict.
Today’s household water recycling systems are expensive and complicated – definitely not designed for people in developing countries. Gris can dramatically reduce domestic water usage and it can also be integrated into millions of peoples’ homes: it’s a realistic and feasible solution that is affordable and as simple as a bucket.
It consists of a grid of collecting tanks that are laid on the floor of the bathroom, under the shower, to collect water while a person is taking a shower. The collected water can then be reused for other purposes in the bathroom or other possible uses such as flushing the toilet, watering plants, washing the car, cleaning the floor, etc.
2. How did your design process unfold; what steps did you take, what were the challenges?
Two years ago I moved to Colombia with my wife to be near to my parents and spend a year in the little village where they lived, deep in the Andes.
During that time, I was able to experience first-hand how in South America the dry season has become longer and drier over the last decade, and how this leads to serious social conflict. In many small towns and villages similar to the one where we were living, the water network is supplied by local water reservoirs, and when there is very little rain the water resources are reduced.
In our village there were several instances of farmers who lived closer to the water reservoir hijacking the water flow to give it to their animals. This is obviously unfair to the community, but on the other hand, if the farmers’ animals die, the farmers themselves will starve to death. I saw how such situations created conflicts that endangered whole communities; how water scarcity ruined families and neighbourhoods.
3. What are your criteria for “good” design and what role do you think design will play in the future?
I think the problem with many of today’s products (especially when they require the user to change his or her behaviour) is that most of them are designed to be optimal rather than realistic. In the case of Gris, you can’t convince millions of people to adopt a solution that is expensive and complicated to install. They’ll only adopt it if it doesn’t change their daily routine and is as simple and easy to install as something they already know and are used to, no matter how “high-end” that solution might be. So I think that design will slow down a little bit in the future and result in objects that are more intuitive and have a deeper connection to our habits, even in the technology industry.