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The Green City of Greenville 2121: Land of the Sunflowers

The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've overcome all social problems and also grown greener to become super-ecofriendly. This week, we showcase the urban future of Greenville, South Carolina.

Greenville is a city with a delicate little secret. Its wooded peri-urban roadways are home to the rarest and most endangered sunflower on Earth; Schweinitz’s sunflower. Only twenty small pockets of the plant exist, each containing just a few dozen specimens. Not that many people really care about this situation except a few botanical enthusiasts.

That is until, later this century, when a local firm launches their new kit-form off-grid home; dubbed 'The Sunflower Home'. Because they are easy to construct, inexpensive, and self-sufficient -- they sell like hot cakes. The roof is paneled with a solar array to provide for all energy needs, and water is collected from the roof and channeled to holding tanks in the walls.

Greenville 2121

However, people always wonder why they’re called 'Sunflower Homes' since they look nothing like sunflowers. To explain, the designers then have to tell the story of heliotropism; the sun-tracking behavior of various types of plants. This behavior allows plants to maximize their collection of solar rays as they turn the faces of their leaves and flowers to slowly follow the sun in its daily journey across the sky. The most famous of the heliotropic plants are the sunflowers. If you can draw the path of a sunflower bloom as it moves across a plane to follow the sun, then fashion that shape into a 3D building, you end up with the shape of the Sunflower Home.

The popularity of the Sunflower Home, by 2121, works in three ways to conserve the remaining pockets of Schweinitz’s sunflowers. Firstly, it increases public knowledge of the plight of the rare sunflowers. Secondly, the designers invest a good proportion of their profits back into conservation programs aimed at protecting rare sunflowers. And thirdly, because the sunflower home fits softly into the landscape, it is much lighter on the environment than conventional buildings.

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