The physical structures that weave our daily search, sharing and storage of information on the intangible World Wide Web are growing exponentially, reflecting increased content, bit rates and online activity. The electricity consumption of data centres, transmission networks and end-user devices adds considerably to global carbon emissions. Currently, the emissions of the energy supply used to run the infrastructure of the Internet worldwide matches that of air traffic in global CO2 emissions (3.8%) and is estimated to double by 2025.
Hidden to the user’s eye, the way we build and use the digital world directly impacts our physical one. Our www carbon footprint imprints heavily on the ground and accelerates anthropogenic climate change, one of the main factors of increased disaster risk.
This platform increases awareness about designs for resilience. How can we design our information systems in a more sustainable way, decreasing their impact and increasing resilience?
Disaster Studios emphasizes this link between information and its ecological impact. The Website and Server project unearths the physical structure that carries the dialogue between sender and user, and it visualizes data and energy involved in running and using the online platform. The project combines energy-conscious web development standards and data volume transparency. The server is self-hosted and solar powered.
The website and server are a collaboration between Disaster Studios and the design duo Gregorio Gonella and Daniele Misso. The Website and Server structure were designed by Gregorio Gonella and Daniele Misso, and the website was developed by Alexandra Mjöll Young.
Addressing the connection between information bites and bytes, the Disaster Studio website is designed to combine energy-conscious web design and data transparency. The design follows emerging suggestions to increase energy efficiency in websites.
The site content is focused on text, using a reduced number of typefaces. Functional interactions are written in the system font Arial while all content texts are displayed as “toner efficient” Garamond in 50% black, which uses less light on screen and less black when printed.
The website’s black background reduces screen brightness and connected energy consumption. Images and videos are recognised to contribute most to website load. They are therefore introduced with care: as png images, compressed and displayed as text lines with size first which the user can choose to open.
The website informs its user about its own “weight,” both in terms of its total data stored on the server and the data the user is downloading.
Disaster Studios investigates the intrinsic capability of design to influence the lives of those with whom it interacts. The physical server structure that hosts the platform is the point of departure for the project to reflect on its own relationship with its users and the environment.
To re-evaluate its system interaction, the project isolates the physical host from the interwoven built environment and presents it as self-hosted, independent from large hosting infrastructures. The server is solar-powered and interacts with the natural resource limitations of its environment. The accessibility of the website it hosts stays within the limitations of what its sustainable energy source can provide.
At its core, this project establishes a direct, physical connection and redirects control over the server to the humans involved and the environment that surrounds it. The server is protected within a ceramic structure, set within an aluminium and glass composition, and is connected to a solar panel and battery. As a single data node, it is currently located in the Nordic House in Reykjavik, Iceland.