On a packed night, the action on the dance floor at San Francisco nightclub Temple gets pretty hot. And while that might help make this a popular destination for the city’s clubbers, it bugs the club’s director of sustainability, Mike Zuckerman. After all, the energy the dancers exude is wasted. But that will soon change, because the club is moving forward with its long-planned installation of a new dance floor, complete with piezoelectric energy harvesters that will convert all that bumping and grinding into green energy. It should be plugged in and running on human sweat by September.
Zuckerman says that Temple won’t be the first sustainable nightclub to use its dance floor for on-site power generation – there’s one at Club Watt in Rotterdam and there’s another in London, at a club called Surya.
But the dance floor is something Paul Hemming, the club’s founder, have been trying to make a reality for many years. It’s one of the elements of Temple – and adjacent businesses Prana restaurant and Zen City Records, which collectively form the Zen Compound – that Hemming first sketched out in a notebook while conceptualizing the business in 2004.
The floor is the work of Elizabeth Redmond, co-founder of Powerleap, who conceived it while developing her senior thesis project at the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design. Powerleap will install a small piezoelectric dance floor at Temple – just 100 square feet – that will generate enough energy to support the LED lights embedded inside the tiles. So, no, these tiles aren’t going to do much to lessen the bottom-line power consumption at Temple.
Indeed, there are plenty of detractors who say that trying to use piezoelectric crystals to harvest human energy is futile, because of its low yield (just check out the comments section of this Ecogeek story on Redmond’s work). Still, Hemming feels that the value of the piezoelectric dance floor is greater than the small amount of energy it will generate. “It has great marketing value,” he says. “I have not tracked out our return on investment [for the dance floor] but it’s more symbolic than financially driven.”
So is this greenwashing? Perhaps it would be, were it not for the other efforts afoot at Zen Compound, which range from using kitchen grease for biofuel, composting its waste food and corn-based consumables, serving in compostable containers, using low-flow toilets and spending the extra dough on organic food and non-toxic cleaning supplies, as detailed here and here. The club also has plans to install solar panels and wind turbines on site.
And Hemming asserts that the dance floor is really just a demo, which, if it proves successful, could be expanded across the club, to produce more significant amounts of on-site power generation. This could also entail installing energy-harvesting tiles on the club’s staircases in order to catch the foot-falls of patrons prowling – I mean, moving – from one level of the club to the next.
The company that developed the energy-harvesting dance floor at the Watt club are now taking the product on the road for a demo tour and Zuckerman says he’s interested in hosting that boogie-floor as well – instead of piezoelectric crystals, the Watt floor uses a mechanical system for generating energy, as illustrated in this video.
“We want to be a testing ground for new technology,” says Zuckerman.