The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake tsunami disaster has had a profound effect on Japan. On the physical level, the shutdown of the country’s nuclear reactors has caused the Japanese government to set ambitious energy usage reduction targets in certain regions (you might have caught our recent article about Konarka planting “Green Curtains” at its offices in an effort to save electricity — the company has even gone so far as to set its thermostats higher and relax its dress code in the summer to give its AC units a break).
On the psychological level, according to the Japanese advertising agency known as TBWA\HAKUHODO, the earthquake and tsunami disaster altered the country’s fundamental view of the world, “bringing home to us the realization that infrastructure is fragile and energy is never guaranteed.” Which led the agency to address two questions: Can we live without modern infrastructure? And if so, what will the future of Japan look like?
If all this seems a bit of an ambitious line of thought, it’s worth noting here that TBWA\HAKUHODO is not your average ad agency. From the outset, it’s a company that sought to distinguish itself through innovation, and that innovation has taken the form of something called its Human Centered Open Innovation (HCOI) Lab, which was established to develop platforms to unite technologies and companies in creating unique solutions to consumer needs. Put another way, rather than simply marketing the products that its clients come to them with, this team analyzes human needs and desires to help companies develop products.
Together with its long-term client Nissan — as well as nineteen other companies — TBWA\HAKUHODO’s HCOI team took on the challenging of imagining what the off-grid future of Japan might look like. The result is an inspiring example of truly human-centered innovation: a house known as MIRAI NIHON, or Future Japan.
Mirai Nihon makes use of technologies that have been developed by TBWA\HAKUHODO’s clients but have not yet been commercialized. The base of the home is an Solar Design Laboratory’s Aerohouse, a basic, modernist box composed of engineered wood and plywood that can fit easily on the back of a semi truck, making the home mobile enough to set up wherever it’s needed. Off-grid power here is provided via Altima Corporation’s Organic Photovoltanic Film, coupled with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) system from Japan Capacitor Industrial Systems and a Home Power Storage System from NEC Corporation. A Home Energy Management System from Nissin Systems Corporation helps to ensure that the home operates at peak efficiency.