Independence Technologies Competition

Independence Technologies Competition (ITC) rules for downloading

International Conference on Sustainable Design, Engineering & Construction (ICSDEC) COMPETITION PROBLEM STATEMENT

Can today’s systems of collaboration support rapid, bottom-up decentralized planning, production, presentation, testing and deployment of solutions? That’s where you come in!
Beginning in 1896 with the work of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Svante Arrhenius, more than a century of scholarly study by public, private and international institutions has produced greater volumes and more specific research about climate change and its threats. (See “BACKGROUND” at the end of this Call for Proposals.) Such studies are fueling a rising urgency regarding the need for practical solutions.

While international cooperation to study the issue of climate change has evolved and improved over time, there is no similarly coordinated effort to identify and deploy practical solutions.

Since the industrial revolution, workers and consumers have embraced the concept of “top-down” development of products and services, in which corporations “create” ideas and hundreds or thousands of people produce (and consume) any manner of things: automobiles, mechanical systems, toaster ovens, etc. Similarly, governments create and enforce regulations that apply directly and indirectly to commerce, land use and other dynamic processes that yield environmental impacts.

Today, technology can empower bottom-up change quickly through decentralization of decision-making. Technology can enable small numbers of people – even individuals – to propose and effectively market ideas and products with far-reaching impact. Development and deployment of practical solutions to the causes and effects of climate change need to keep pace with the need.

In keeping with the ICSDEC 2015 theme of “The Net-Zero Smart City,” the ICSDEC 2015 Independence Technology Competition (ITC) seeks policy and technology proposals that, if implemented, could yield a net-zero global and annual carbon dioxide (CO2) contribution due to human endeavors by 2050. (Climate change models feature many greenhouse gases. The 2015 ITC focus is exclusively on CO2.)

Proposals should estimate both positive and negative impacts qualitatively and quantitatively. Proposals should identify significant barriers to the adoption at the scale necessary to achieve estimated impacts.

ICSDEC 2015 seeks proposals that are deceptively simple in concept and application. Deceptively simple concept proposals typically come with a catch: “if only THIS were true, our concept could be implemented around the world tomorrow.” ICSDEC 2015 Independence Technology Concept Proposals must identify and characterize the associated challenge(s) to effective implementation.

All ITC Concept Proposals will be published in an open forum that will be available online. At the end of the conference, a “winning” entry will be selected, and merit recognitions will be awarded.

Proposal Category

  • Technology, defined as follows:
    • The use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.
    • A machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is created by technology.

Proposal process

  • No later than April 1, 2015, submitters shall email their submissions to the following email address: The email submission must include the required information. See “Submission requirements/format” below.
  • The ICSDEC ITC initial screening jury will review initial submissions for completeness, and notify submitters of deficiencies.
  • Submitters must address any deficiencies identified by the initial screening jury and resubmit no later than midnight May 1, 2015.

It is ICSDEC’s intention not to restrict eligible proposals by requiring potentially expensive formats such as video, but video is encouraged whenever a picture or image will effectively communicate the idea.
The proposer is responsible for affirming that his or her idea is either original material (not the intellectual property of others) or belongs to the public domain (intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited or are inapplicable.)

Submission requirements/format

  • Initial and final submissions should be emailed to The email should not be larger than 25 MB. Entry emails must have the following information:
    • Subject field: The “subject” field should begin with “ITC” followed by the title of your submission.
    • Email body: The body of the email should contain the proposer’s name(s), mailing address, email address and phone number, affiliation and the text in 6(c)i and 6(c)ii below (copied and pasted).
    • Attachment and/or link: Either one attachment or one link to the full proposal should be included in the email.
  • Attachments/links should be in a readily available and reviewable digital format, such as pdf, jpeg, mp3 and supported YouTube video file formats. (Follow this link for information about uploading videos to YouTube: You will need first to have a YouTube account, which is free.)
  • Video and audio submissions must be five minutes or less in duration. Other file types will be accepted, but the proposer should take care that his or her entry email is not larger than 25 MB.
  • All submissions must be in English. English subtitles are acceptable for videos in other languages.
  • Clarity and brevity are highly encouraged.
  • A complete submission should include the following elements:
    • Proposer information: name(s), mailing address, email address, phone number
    • Submission title
    • Affirmation that the concept is original or belongs to the public domain
      • I affirm the Proposer Representations noted below, and confirm that I have reviewed and complied with any that are relevant.
      • Representations by proposer:
        • The proposal I have submitted for review is either (choose one):
          • original, has been written by the stated proposers and has not been published elsewhere OR
          • already in the public domain (intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable – no one’s “permission” must be granted.)
        • The proposal contains no libelous or other unlawful statements and does not contain materials that violate personal or proprietary rights of any other person or entity.
        • I have obtained written permission from copyright owners for any excerpts from copyrighted works that are included and have credited the sources in my proposal.
        • If the proposal was prepared jointly with other authors, I have informed the co-author(s) of the submission and that I am submitting on their behalf as their agent.


  • In the application email:
    • Proposer information (name(s), mailing address, email address, phone number), submission title, affiliation and affirmation that the concept is original or belongs to the public domain (see Section C.6 above.)
  • In the attached pdf or video link:
    • Problem statement
    • Proposal: detailed summary description
    • Impacts (include proposed metrics of effectiveness)
      • Positive: qualitative and quantitative
      • Negative: qualitative and quantitative
    • Challenges to implementation
    • Next steps to implement

Final Judging process and criteria

Entries that pass through the initial screening will be subject to a two-stage judging process. The ICSDEC 2015 participants will constitute the final jury.

  • Prior to conference start, the ICSDEC ITC initial screening jury will assign initial rankings based on completeness and merit, identifying up to 10% of all applicants as “finalists.”
  • On the final day of the conference, ICSDEC attendees will serve as the final jury and select one “winning entry” and award merit recognitions. 
  • ICSDEC 2015 participants will be directed to consider the following parameters:
    • Proposal completeness.
    • Clarity and brevity.
    • Net impact of proposal, both qualitative and quantitative, using metrics that are credible and verifiable to the extent possible.
    • Thoroughness of description of challenges to implementation.
    • Practicality of next steps.
  • Winning entries will be selected via blind balloting
  • All proposals will be published on the ICSDEC 2015 website. The website will be updated after the conference to include the results of the judging process.  


  • Elsevier and ISEEK will sponsor a crowd-funding campaign designed to 1) raise awareness of the issue and challenges identified by the winning entries, and 2) raise funding towards implementation. Elsevier will promote the competition in “Elsevier Connect”, an online publication that is widely distributed and enjoyed in the scientific community. 
  • Proposers of winning entries will be invited to serve on the ICSDEC 2016 Screening Jury.
  • Additional prizes to be announced.


  • Submissions will be accepted until April 1, 2015.
  • Initial screening for completeness will be completed by April 15, 2015, and proposers will be notified of any deficiencies that have been identified in their submissions.
  • Proposers of deficient submissions will have until midnight May 1, 2015 to address the deficiencies identified.
  • Revised submissions will be posted on the ICSDEC public website beginning May 2, 2015.

In 1896
In the late 19th century, Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius, a physicist and Nobel Prize-winning chemist, formulated a calculation of the absorption of infrared radiation by atmospheric CO2 and water vapor. In 1896 he was the first scientist to attempt to calculate how changes in the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could alter the surface temperature through the “greenhouse effect.”  He was also the first to predict that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and other combustion processes were large enough to cause global warming. (Arrhenius believed that a warmer world would be a positive change.) His ideas remained in circulation, but it was not until about 1960 that a majority of scientists began to agree that global warming could actually occur.

1950s and 1960s

Through the first half of the 20th century, when global warming from the greenhouse effect was theorized, the few scientists aware of the theory imagined that it was a good thing. In the late 1950s scientists began to believe that atmospheric CO2 levels might be rising. Roger Revelle speculated in Time Magazine that the greenhouse effect might exert "a violent effect on the earth's climate." In the early 1960s, observations showed that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was rising rapidly. In 1963 a path-breaking meeting of climate and atmospheric CO2 experts and other scientists on "Implications of Rising Carbon Dioxide Content of the Atmosphere" was convened by the private Conservation Foundation. Participants in the meeting began to frame greenhouse warming as an environmental problem — something "potentially dangerous" to biological systems and human life. In 1965 the U.S. President's Science Advisory Committee reported that "By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2... may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate..."


By the 1970s, governments were creating laws requiring formal "environmental impact" assessments. Tools were created to study and forecast effects of deforestation, acid rain, and many other human endeavors on natural ecosystems and on human health and economic activities. A 1977 report on "Energy and Climate" from a panel of geophysicists convened by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences identified potential consequences of rising greenhouse gas levels, including loss of ice in the Arctic Ocean, rising sea levels, serious disruption of marine ecosystems, migration of important commercial fisheries and unspecified consequences for worldwide agriculture. The panel concluded vaguely that "world society could probably adjust itself, given sufficient time and a sufficient degree of international cooperation. But over shorter times, the effects might be adverse, perhaps even catastrophic."


In the early 1980s studies from the U.S. EPA and NAS elaborated on major coastal and other impacts, effects on disease vectors and unanticipated effects. The 1980s also saw internationalization of climate research efforts, with the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) calling for an internationally coordinated effort to study policy options. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988.  Studies continued the trend toward predicting more numerous and specific kinds of environmental damage. By the late 80s, experts were concluding that some ecological systems might be unable to adapt quickly enough to rapid increase in temperature.
In December 1983, the Secretary General of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar asked the Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, to create an organization independent of the UN to focus on environmental and developmental problems. The organization, the World Commission on Environment and Development, became known as the Brundtland Commission. In December 1987 the Brundtland Commission released Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report. In the report, the term "sustainable development" is used and defined. That definition is well known and often cited: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". It contains two key concepts:

  • The concept of "needs", in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."

Nearly thirty years have passed since publication of the Brundtland report.

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the United Nations “Earth Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Its objective is to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC sets no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions and contains no enforcement mechanisms, but provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called "protocols") that may set binding limits on greenhouse gases. The UNFCCC was opened for signature on May 9, 1992 after an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced the text of the Framework Convention as a report following its meeting in New York. It entered into force in March 1994. As of March 2014 the UNFCCC had 196 parties.
The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that extends the 1992 UNFCCC and commits parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It assumes that (a) global warming exists and (b) man-made CO2 emissions have caused it. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on February 16, 2005. There are currently 192 parties.  The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. A second commitment period, the Doha Amendment, was proposed in 2012.

21st century dialogue

In the long run climate change is a massive threat to human development and in some places it is already undermining the international community’s effort to reduce extreme poverty.

Human Development Report 2007/2008

The effect of climate change is already straining the disaster relief system and the threat of extreme climatic events in the future is likely to generate higher demands for disaster assistance that will prove more costly. We cannot afford to stand-by and watch as the destructive effects of repeated climate disasters overwhelm vulnerable communities the world over. We must respond and adapt quickly to the challenge. This all requires a rethink of humanitarian action.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs/December 4, 2014

United Nations report raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level on Monday, warning of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood. The report from the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters. And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.

The Guardian/March 31, 2014

The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises. The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts. The Defense Department will begin by integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, from war games and strategic military planning situations to a rethinking of the movement of supplies.

The New York Times, October 13, 2014.

*With gratitude to the American Institute of Physics.