Designed in such a way that it can be largely constructed from locally sourced materials, Solarkiosk does not just aim to offer a solar-powered, affordable flexible, compact, lightweight and mobile but sturdy infrastructure that helps in starting a business in regions that are notconnected to an electrical grid, but what makes it truly special is that the architecture comes with a program that provides training and jobs to residents, and educates them on how to operate the units and maintain the kiosk, and on how to run a sustainable business. “Solarkiosk thus also goes beyond that business. It will not only bring economic growth to less developed parts of the world. It will also stimulate communities and enable people to educate themselves, especially at night, “ the designers claim. Yesterday, Solarkiosk was announced as one of the twelve winners of the Bundespreis Ecodesign in Germany .


An estimated 1.5 billion people world-wide live in off-the-grid areas, 800 million alone in Africa. Solarkiosk is a compact, autonomous modular business unit with integrated solar panels that is primarily meant for this approximately 16 per cent of the world’s population. Many people in these mostly rural regions are currently using expensive and toxic solutions such as kerosene lampsto illuminate their homes during night hours. Created in Germany by Andreas Spieß, Thomas Willemeit, Lars Krückeberg, and Wolfram Putzofthe Beijing-, LA-, and Berlin- based international firm Graft Architects, Solarkiosk wants to serve as an alternative, providing affordable energy, products, tools and services. It was developed as a kit of parts, lightweight and intended for assembly onsite. Setting up the kioskis easy, and it can also be easily transported to remote off-road areas when needed – the back of a donkey serving as a criterion. While the electrical parts of the design are brought along because of their quality and durability, the other elements of the module can be made from locally sourced materials – bamboo, wood, adobe, stone, metal, or recycled goods – which makes it partly a domestic product. For stability, the structure is anchored by pegs, with special detailing of all joints and assembly points on the inside of the building shell to make tinkering the kiosk from its exterior more difficult.
Depending on the local conditions the Solarkiosk can serve residents with services such as internet, TV and music, and act as a sales point of solar lanterns, solar home systems, scratch cards for mobile phones and other typical kiosk products. Available in a number to configurations, shapes and sizes, even the smallest Solarkiosk can provide enough power for solar lighting, mobile phone and car battery charging, a computer and even a solar fridge. Depending on local conditions, the operators can offer affordable additional services like internet, TV and music, while larger versions produce enough energy to run a telecom tower while still providing security. There is even the possibility to connect multiple units together to create a local grid. More importantly, Solarkiosk seeks to work with cooperations and business partners, GOs and NGOs, stimulating communities to educate themselves by night. The project also intends to provides qualified jobs to local residents, the typical Solarkiosk operator coming from the local community, and trained and certified by special programs at a nearby high school, university or NGO facility – teaching operators how solar products work, how to maintain them, how to run a sustainable business as a shop owner and how to be a participant of the Solarkiosk license system, which aligns the interests of all the Solarkiosk operators in a given region. Mobile telecom generally also requires a dense mesh of towers, and current efforts of supplying energy to them via expensive diesel generators can be quite problematic. As a result many communication providers are already expressing interest in the Solarkiosk, the designers add. A world’s first Solarkiosk opened up in Ethiopia near lake Langano in July 2012, and the designers are now looking for more business partners, GOs and NGOs who want to team up with them.(mb)