Bogota, Colombia, 2012-03-25 -
In a world rich with resources it seems unlikely that so many people world round are neglected by their governments in the provision of their basic human rights. This is however exactly the case. When the government and the large economic conglomerates are unable or unwilling to execute their social responsibility, it is up to us the common citizen to take action. This is how the Opentap came to be.
We as industrial designers have been privileged to recieve a great education, and we feel it is our personal responsibility to give back to the community. In this case the return comes in the form of our intellectual capital which we push forth to develop low cost furniture solutions that anyone can manufacture for themselves. The proposal is an open source one which means we have no ownership over the project itself as it is only a platform to promote creativity and innovation freely for the betterment of our world.
What if everyone had access to information and resources that would enable us to live in dignity? Resources such as chairs for studying, sharing and relaxing, tables for working, playing and conversating. Storage, to protect our belongings and conserve our food.
What if eventually all the items of furniture that provide a dignified living standard would not have to be purchased and their functionality, durability and quality did not depend on our budget?
Create an Open Source platform that allows people who earn a very low income or in the case of Colombia, people who have been affected by the winter crisis, to create or have easy access to the furniture needed for a dignified standard of living.
Ensure the project’s sustainability (social, environmental and economic). We must build mostly with local materials and simple technical-mechanical processes which are readily available to the vast majority of people.
Develop a communication scheme that allows for a quick, easy distribution and implementation of this system throughout the country, continent and the world.
Make the system simple enough that almost anyone can build the furniture solutions within a very low cost and have it tailored to their needs.
Get to the functional core of these typologies to ensure highly efficient solutions that last a lifetime and can be reutilized and modified indefinitely.
The initiative will become a platform to share innovation and ingenuity on behalf of all people who have been homeless and are now forced to look out for themselves and their community.
To promote the value of environmentally, socially and economically sustainable models which generate added value not only to a few, but to all, in coherence with the proper allocation of our natural resources.
The beauty of being galvanized
The project came to be as we were engaging in low cost product design development , as we had very little money ourselves it seemed like a good idea. We turned to ready-made solutions as we have had many times before. We had already experimented with galvanized piping and its fittings to execute low cost / high impact product displays, so we were very aware of the many benefits of this constructive system.
It is estimated the a galvanized pipe would last over 70 years under regular conditions, exposed to water, heat and pressure. So you can imagine how long could it last under a lot less extreme conditions, say your living room.
This piping system has become a standard construction material world round ensuring a very ample distribution network which has allowed to find the piping in almost any region of any country. This ample distribution lead to 2 other main advantages which are, the standardization of the product which ensures quality and compatibility, and the low cost technology required to cut and thread the pipes which is also readily available in any mid-sized hardware vendors even in the poorest countries.
The galvanized pipe is a very affordable material since it is massively produced. The amount of piping needed for a single piece of furniture is very affordable. This is rare in unitary productions since cost usually decreases with an increment in the production units. This is still the case, however we start off with a low unitary cost which seems quite encouraging in terms of the cost reductions we could achieve in larger productions, taking the system to the realm of “extreme affordability” and “Ultra low-cost”.
What about the environment?
The process of galvanizing can contribute positively to sustainable development initiatives because of its longevity, quality, structural capabilities and recyclability, ensuring a minimal environmental impact. To validate the environmental properties of the material, we refer to LCA and Life Cycle Analysis for the galvanizing process, validated by the American Galvanizers Association. The LCA is the environmental impact study of a process or product, and includes the measurement of energy consumption and emissions (Liquid / Solid / Gas) during the production of raw materials and final product manufacturing, through use and at the end of its useful life (recycling / reuse / disposal). The LCA is one of the most accurate assessments of how "green" a product or process really is.
The system aims to reduce the number of materials and processes used. Our intention is to generate and offer highly efficient designs. As the galvanized pipe has excellent structural quality properties, we are able to use a minimum of material to meet the structural needs of the furniture. Its large capacity allows us to use additional materials which are functional and affordable. Designs engineered to generate the minimum of waste material. We avoid the use of glues or adhesives.
This piping can be easily reused. Through small interventions such as additional cuts and threading a piece of furniture can be easily converted into another by removing or adding single sections. Reusing would mean that the product´s life cycle is a closed one if the users wish to see it through.
The lack of complex industrial processes, the modularity of the system and the simple disassembly of the furniture make for products that are almost entirely recyclable. The repair of the furniture is very simple and affordable since each of the parts can be disassembled and replaced.
Wandering into the future
We are aware that what we have in our hands is but a seed, an idea. An idea which we have had the opportunity to validate through theory and empiricism. Others have also seen value in the proposal and we are now finalists in a national design competition which deals with social responsibility and housing needs. But the true potential we foresee is still far from reach.
Communicating the idea
In order for this project to achieve its true goal, an online platform still needs to be developed along with other means of distribution that could reach those who truly could benefit with such assistance, since they rarely have means or technical knowledge to access the internet.
The power of many
As far as design the issue is the same. The whole point of presenting this as an open source platform originates in the fact that we understand that the altruistic contributions no matter how small they might be are the main key into an exponential development of the technique. We can only go so far, and our knowledge is limited to our unique set of experiences, so we believe that in order for an idea to truly serve all it must be developed by all.
Opening the tap
The potential also resides in the vast number of piping typologies, fittings and low cost technical interventions available. It would be virtually impossible for any number of people in a closed group to explore the possibilities which are brought forth by the system, that is why we extend an invitation to designing and building for yourself. Just share what you learn.
MT 01 table
The MT 01 table model is assembled without screws or adhesives due the angled cuts in the surface put together with the legs placed at 45 degrees. The structure of the table also gives a very definite aesthetic identity that adds aesthetic value to the proposal. The solution of the 45 degree fitting at the bottom allows for an easy conversion of height that allows the alternative to go from a coffee table to dining table.
ET 01 shelf
The ET 01 shelf model is easily scalable in all directions for an easy adaptation to multiple needs and to any space due to its symmetrical design and construction method. The perforations in the pipes allow the relocation of the shelves themselves. Since the system is kept up by weight and friction while leaning against a wall it requires no complex or permanent installation allowing relocating the furniture with ease.
ST 03 chair
The ST 03 chair model is based on a popular weaving technique widely used in most regions of our country. It requires no technical skills or specialized tools. This solution also generates a multitude of customization options (due to the existence of an ample color catalog in the woven materials) that would suit the personal tastes of users. This aspect of customization creates a great advantage for the user since they can adapt the furniture to their personal taste and transform it easily.