FutureStructure

Kinetic Tiles Bring New Meaning to Power Walking

Washington, D.C., has recently become home to a new kind of sustainable energy.

by / December 2, 2016
Every day 10,000 people pass over 240 sq feet of Pavegen tiles on Connecticut Avenue, just feet away from the White House. Pavegen

In the wake of an election that hugely questioned the future of clean energy and climate change, Washington, D.C., city officials partnered with British company Pavegen to create a real-life example of what sustainable energy could do. The source? Footsteps.

In Dupont Circle, which sits less than a mile from the White House, 194 kinetic tiles were installed into a portion of the sidewalk, along with small stone benches and flower planters. The corners of the triangular, glass-reinforced plastic tiles balance on a connector that unites the tiles to the 68 generators below. Each footstep causes the tiles to slightly wiggle underfoot

Leif Dormsjo, head of the district’s Department of Transportation, received a $200,000 grant from Sustainable DC for the project, which became a partnership among the city, local businesses and Pavegen CEO and Founder Laurence Kemball-Cook.

After failures in his early engineering career, Kemball-Cook told the Washington Post that he felt compelled to continue seeking solutions to ecofriendly power and climate change. The idea for the tiles came to him on a busy day in a London train station.

“I had this light bulb moment,” Kemball-Cook told the Post. “What if we could utilize footstep power?”

The city estimates that an average of 10,000 people will walk over the tiles daily, which would produce enough energy to power the park’s LED lights for six hours. To engage the public, there are also interactive lights that turn on when people activate the tiles.

So far, the downfall of these tiles is cost (this small-scale project cost just under $300,000 total), but as with most sustainable energy technology, cost is projected to drop with further development and use. Kemball-Cook uses electric cars as a model. “We compare ourselves to Tesla," he told the Washington Post. "Tesla had a really expensive car that had very low range when it first came out. Now the price has dropped significantly, and the range is going up.”