contact: Sharifah Taqi
tel: 718 290 9283





August 20, 2013, New York City – The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) is proud to announce the Semi-Finalists for the 2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

“We received a record number of entries this year, making it more difficult than any year from the past six years, to narrow down the pool to these 19 extraordinary initiatives”, said Elizabeth Thompson, BFI’s Executive Director, “once again our distinguished jury will have a very tough job selecting the top entries”.

The jury will engage in the final phase of the vetting process over the next six weeks and will convene in person for the final deliberation in New York City on October 7th, 2013. Join us in New York City for a public discussion with the jurors as part of the city-wide Marfa/NY Climate Change events at the School of Visual Arts on the evening of October 7th. Stay tuned for program details.

These nineteen proposals currently under consideration have undergone a rigorous review for adherence to the entry criteria. Each project has been through up to four rounds of vetting by the members of the Challenge review team, undergoing extensive analysis and discussion. An in-depth interview was then conducted with the individuals or teams behind the top contender strategies in order to delve deeper into the more technical aspects of their projects, as well as to understand the underlying principles informing their work. “It is a significant achievement to advance to this stage of the selection process, especially this year, with our growing number of partner organizations offering additional enhancements to semi-finalists”, explained Sharifah Taqi, The Buckminster Fuller Challenge program manager.

BFI invites you to take a deeper look into each of the projects below. They represent an exemplary body of work — including whole systems solutions as well as targeted efforts toward a gap within a system — each addressing a pressing global issue around sanitation, materials, water, energy, disaster prevention, poverty, food and ecology. They are all truly inspiring, and while only one project will receive the cash prize, they all deserve and need our support, so we are especially excited that our sponsor, Interface Inc., is committed to providing an immersion opportunity for a finalist or group of finalists this year. Stay tuned for more by joining our mailing list here!

2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semi-Finalists:


  • The Loowatt System, a self-contained human waste collection and processing system that, rather than being faced with the typical costs of centralized sewage treatment systems, creatively converts human waste into energy and fertilizer, improving local health conditions, while providing economic opportunity.
  • SOIL, a non-profit based in Haiti, provides locally-built dry toilets complete with a system for collecting, hauling and composting solid human waste and turning it into valuable fertilizer, reducing risks to human health from exposure to raw sewage while generating local employment and improving agricultural productivity by enhancing the soil fertility of degraded farmland.
  • Mushroom Packaging is a new class of home-compostable bio-plastics made from living organisms, mushroom mycelia, developed by Ecovative. Their high-performance, environmentally responsible alternatives to traditional plastic foam packaging, insulation, and other synthetic materials offer a revolutionary, truly sustainable alternative to the current toxic plastic foam materials that pollute and burden the modern world.
  • Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science collaboratively develops inexpensive, open-source monitoring tools and techniques in order to ‘democratize’ science and empower a grassroots network of ‘citizen scientists’ to be able to accurately measure environmental problems, and, when necessary, challenge inaccurate government and industry environmental health data in order to demand accountability.
  • Bioenergy Value Chain, or Abellon Clean Energy, is a comprehensive clean-energy system: they buy excess agricultural waste from local farmers (typically either burned, causing air pollution and respiratory illness, or ineffectively composted, releasing methane), and turn that plant material into efficient and clean-burning ‘pellets’ that can then power industrial plants, businesses and small homes. .
  • Healthy Watersheds for Clean Energy symbiotically addresses poverty and deforestation by mobilizing communities in remote northern Nicaragua to monitor and police their forests and to practice ecologically-sound agriculture by working with them to install non-polluting, low-impact micro-hydro electrical generation facilities, showing them that the electricity and clean water is dependent on the vitality of the forests in their watershed.
  • TBS River Regeneration works to restore river systems and local rural economies in India by drawing from ancient water wisdom, empowering local communities to build small traditional rainwater harvesting structures (johads) as well as by developing local and national awareness and education programs.
  • The Green Chemistry Commitment, an initiative to get university chemistry departments to commit to integrating Green Chemistry into their academic curricula and transform how chemistry is taught and practiced in order to eliminate the numerous devastating neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals that characterize modern life and damage the global ecosystem, replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • IBJ Legal Training Resource Center works to prevent falls in the gap of worldwide legal systems, rather than exposing wrongdoings after the fact, they are training attorneys and legal officials in legal best practices and creating a global legal community that can be supportive and protective of lawyers working in difficult contexts.
  • Voltree Acoustic Early Detection Sensor System harvests power from a living tree to convert its chemical activity into small amounts of electric current and to ‘read’ its levels of dehydration, disease, fire risk, even potential seismic activity and CO2 levels, anticipating emerging challenges in agriculture and forestry in order to prevent such things as insect infestations and fire.
  • 100,000 Homes Campaign, an ambitious campaign to spark a “national movement to house America’s most vulnerable homeless people” by reframing the issue as a health crisis and transcending entrenched mindsets to figure out how to effectively collaborate and how best to allocate existing financial resources.
  • Fundacion Paraguaya aims to eliminate poverty in Paraguay using a bottom up strategy that combines granular analysis and data collection, grassroots financing, precise targeting of services, and coordination on a national anti-poverty effort.
  • Echale a tu Casa, an elegantly integrated model that combines community empowerment, local technical capacity building, a novel, affordable financing system, and cutting-edge but culturally appropriate “green” building techniques to improve housing conditions for otherwise underserved populations in Mexico.
  • MASS Design Lab is a research project of MASS Design Group, exploring the integration of public health, economic development, environmental performance and education into a comprehensive formalized architectural strategy through a rigorous assessment process and immersive community component.
  • Build Change aims to radically reduce the number of people who die or are injured in natural disasters, especially earthquakes, by widely disseminating best-practice building and retrofitting methods in the most seismically at-risk regions of the planet.
  • PITCHAfrica: Waterbank Schools, a building prototype in Laikipia, Kenya, is a working demonstration of the remarkable leveraging power of water catchment as a socially integrated resource awareness and community engagement tool. .
  • Ento is introducing insects to the Western diet. As agricultural productivity cannot keep up with global food demands, edible insects potentially have positive environmental benefits globally as well as on human health.
  • Olazul, a non-profit organization working to improve coastal community livelihoods in developing countries, is developing a more sustainable model of shrimp farming, and contributing to the restoration of ocean ecosystems as well as increasing support for marine conservation. .
  • Cooperafloresta, using both rediscovered traditional ecological knowledge and modern agricultural science, Cooperafloresta is accelerating the natural succession of flora and fauna in agriculturally degraded areas of Brazil, going further than ‘organic agriculture’ and Biodynamics by using agroforestry techniques to bring major environmental and socio-economic benefits to poor rural communities.

To view all the 2013 Challenge entries that opted to publish their work, visit the Idea Index, a web based publishing system created to enhance the opportunity for proposals to receive support.

 About the Challenge

Established in 2007, the Buckminster Fuller Challenge aims to support the development and implementation of solutions with significant potential to solve the world’s most pressing problems in the shortest possible time while enhancing the Earth’s ecological integrity.Winning the Buckminster Fuller Challenge requires more than a great stand-alone innovation. Entrants must put forward an initiative that concentrates on a well-defined need of critical importance within the planet’s carrying capacity and takes a whole systems approach to addressing that problem. If for example, a solution emphasizes a new design, material, process, service, tool, technology, or any combination, it is essential that it address multiple problems without creating new ones down the road – strategies should be integrated – dealing with key social, economic, environmental, policy and cultural issues.For more information, visit
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About the Buckminster Fuller Institute

The Buckminster Fuller Institute is dedicated to accelerating the development and deployment of solutions which radically advance human well being and the health of our planet’s ecosystems. We aim to deeply influence the ascendance of a new generation of design-science pioneers who are leading the creation of an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity.Our programs combine unique insight into global trends and local needs with a comprehensive approach to design. We encourage participants to conceive and apply transformative strategies based on a crucial synthesis of whole systems thinking, Nature’s fundamental principles, and an ethically driven worldview.By facilitating convergence across the disciplines of art, science, design and technology, our work extends the profoundly relevant legacy of R. Buckminster Fuller. In this way, we strive to catalyze the collective intelligence required to fully address the unprecedented challenges before us.

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