Creativity Our Planet

Building sustainability block by block

Part of the Lego display at the recent national convention in Wellington. Photo: Llewe Jones
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Tiny Lego blocks showing ways sustainability can be advanced wowed the crowds at a recent national convention in Wellington.

The visionary Low Carbon Kāpiti 2025 display attracted much attention at the National Lego fans convention, BrickCon-NZ at Te Papa.

Lego enthusiasts of all ages used the popular blocks to build a model of the Kāpiti Coast in the year 2025  to inspire people to build a low carbon future.

Models included buildings, vehicles, people, trees, animals and landscape features.

The full-sized model, 6 m long and 1.8 m deep with a painted backdrop of the foothills of the Tararua Ranges, had already been displayed at Coastlands Shopping Centre in Paraparaumu in April.

The Lego display attracted plenty of attention at Coastlands in April.

Zero carbon by 2050

“The completed display represented a section of the Kāpiti Coast in the year 2025 where we had started to make the significant changes we need to move to a low carbon economy and get on track to be zero carbon by 2050,” says Low Carbon Kāpiti co-ordinator, Jake Roos.

Jake says the reaction in Wellington was good and people understood what the display was attempting to say.

Low Carbon Kāpiti is a grassroots community organisation of local people who want to see greater action to reduce the effects of climate change.

Advancement of concept

The display concept was developed, in 2013, from a conversation between Jake, who then worked at Kapiti Coast District Council, and workmate, friend and ideas man, Ben.

Jake wrestled with how to show the difference between LED streetlights and the old-style orange sodium streetlights in the middle of a sports field on a sunny day during the 2014 Sustainable Home and Garden Show.

He would have had to put the lights in a blacked-out marquee but wondered what would entice people in. And what would the lights illuminate anyway? It was Ben who “uttered the fateful words, ‘What about a Lego town’,” Jake says.

A sustainability theme was chosen to highlight the ways people could meet the challenges of climate change. Participants built models that included renewable energy, walking, cycling (including a multi-storey bike park), public transport and electric vehicles with more dense housing around transport hubs plus tree planting and urban food production.

A section of the Lego display that includes a wind turbine and houses built on the hillside away from the impact of rising sea levels

The aim was to build community through this collaborative effort, help people improve their skills, foster their creativity and educate both the project contributors and those who see the completed display. It was about the challenges the community is likely to face in the future and how people could work together to overcome them.

Children help with the build

The display was built by 43 Lego enthusiasts aged from five years old up to adults.

Kāpiti Coast is a low-lying and sandy area between the Tasman Sea and the Tararuas. Much of the Kāpiti Coast is at risk from rising seas and stronger storms.

Jake says the project showed different responses to climate impacts like rising seas, without stating which was better.

The 6 m of coastline in the layout was divided into three approaches – there was a “managed retreat” section with relocatable houses and houses on poles and, even, floating houses.

The 6 m wide display used Lego models to show what Kapiti Coast, on track to become carbon neutral could look like from the beach to the Tararuas in 2025.

“There was a natural area with dunes and, finally, a sea wall, which was undergoing repair and had no beach at all. We also featured new houses being built in the hills, and flood water control measures, such as wetlands and urban rain gardens/swales. There was also a rescue base – basically, a new emergency service for responding to climate-related disasters.”

There was a new hospital with an organic waste recycling and energy plant next door powering it, and a new rescue base to deal with the increased number of natural disasters.

There was a school, a marae, shopping precinct, swimming pool, museum, sports stadium, eco-sanctuary, marine reserve and an ocean-cleaning boat.

Responses when the display was on show at Coastlands included:

It’s an awesome model and uses creativity and imagination. Creativity is one of my school values.”

“I think it is amazing” and “I think the display is incredible.”

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For more information:

To learn more about the display click here

About Climate Change and Health

Information is available in the following paper from the 2014 NZ Medical Journal:

‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’ click here.

Health opportunities from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easing pressure on health budgets include: rapidly phasing out coal; switching from car trips to more walking, cycling and public transport; healthier diets lower in red meat and dairy; and energy efficient, warm homes will all cut emissions while also reducing the diseases that kill New Zealanders most and put our children in hospital – cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and car crash injuries.

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