Redefining Clubbing: the Sustainable Way

Maassluis, NL: Four years ago, in the creative city of Rotterdam, the idea of Sustainable Dance Club was born.

The concept emerged when the creative minds of Enviu, a sustainable organization located in Rotterdam, Döll, a Dutch architectural firm, and Michel Smit, former director of the club Off_Corso, joined forces with the mission to make partying on planet earth -- just a little bit cleaner.

“It all started as a project for a club in Rotterdam where they wanted to organize a sustainable party…During one of the initial brainstorming sessions all kinds of ideas were – uh – stormed, and one of the ideas was to use the energy of the people inside the club…different kinds of angles were launched there… and somebody else came up with the idea of using the kinetic energy of moving and dancing people and to maybe convert that energy into electricity. That’s how the idea of the Sustainable Dance Floor was actually born,” said Commercial Director of SDC, Jaap van den Braak, in an interview at the SDC’s engineering center.

How does the Sustainable Dance Floor work?

“The floor is being lowered a little bit, like ten millimeters. That energy is enough for the internal mechanism to get a high velocity speed at the generator and that generator is then, of course, producing electrical energy. So what we do is transform human mechanical energy into electrical energy,” said Eric van Duin, SDC’s head engineer.

Duin explained that this electrical energy could be used to power just about anything – in this case the LED lights of the floor and small audio systems. The amount of energy generated depends on the number of people, size of the floor, and what the people are doing. For example, the energy is less when people are just moving or dancing as opposed to when there is a large group of people jumping on the floor.

The floor itself is broken down in modules with the minimum rental at four modules. On average, van Duin explains, one module can produce 15 watts, though peak levels reach up to 35 Watts.

What is the cost to rent a Sustainable Dance Floor?

“What we didn’t really expect at the beginning is that our system was that expensive that many nightclubs couldn’t afford it,” said van den Braak of the cost of the Sustainable Dance Floor.

“Especially over the last few years where investing heavily in new technology and sustainability was just not a priority…because times were just difficult for nightlife…so that was a bit of a bummer for us of course, on the other hand, we adjusted by seeing an immense opportunity in the event field…so not installing the dance floor long term, but temporary installments for all kinds of events worldwide.”

Cost to rent a Sustainable Dance Floor is broken down by single modules, per day. One module costs 60 euro per day, with the minimum rental being four modules. The contract sum depends on where the event is being held (cost to transport the dance floor) in addition to the size of the dance floor.

Sustainable Dance Club saw their biggest success with a club in Rotterdam called Club Watt where the dance floor was installed. Unfortunately, in the past year Watt closed down due to financial issues unrelated to SDC.

“We had no influence on the daily operations of the nightclub…Unfortunately for us, because we connected our name to it [Watt] that’s where a lot of misunderstandings came from. A lot of people and a lot of companies thought that we were actually closing down, but it was the nightclub that closed down and we were still continuing what we were doing,” said van den Braak.

As a result of many clubs in the area being unable to afford SDC’s dance floors, many installations were being rented for corporate events and showcased in other venues across the world:

“Installations are being done mainly in museums these days. So the high-tech, innovative, sustainable solution is very educational for the people that go to the museums and especially to science centers where younger people come and they are being explained to how difficult it is to generate power. Because if our system shows one thing it is that it is really tough to generate a lot of power just by dancing and jumping up and down,” said van den Braak.

Two of these museum exhibits include U.S. locations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Miami, Florida. SDC also houses some of their technology in a science center in Australia and is currently working on bringing their work to Trinidad and Berlin.

What is the future of SDC?

SDC reached for the clubs and landed in corporate events and museums, but that wasn’t enough to deter these ambitious tree-huggers all together. In the near future, SDC plans to work on improving the technology of their Sustainable Energy Floor, a product modeled after the Sustainable Dance Floor though with the mission of being more affordable.

Meanwhile, SDC will continue to rent their floors out to corporate events and other venues, while working on new technology to expand into other popular arenas as well:

“We see our future is right now at a place where it can go into different directions…So, renting out the system to parties, festivals, corporate clients et cetera but also to purchase it in all different kinds of venues…One other thing that we are also looking into right now is implementing our technology in gyms so when you’re looking at [university] fitness [centers] we would love to see our product in that kind of atmosphere…so people generating electricity while they’re doing a workout. It’s one of the fields that we’re focusing on right now,” said van den Braak.

Clubs, festivals, gyms – Sustainable Dance Club is determined to use their technology to make for a cleaner planet. For more information about Sustainable Dance Club or Project Helder visit their websites at: http://www.sustainabledanceclub.com/ and http://projecthelder.nl/2011/Project_Helder___film.html.

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