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The environmental impact of NFTs is "horrible" says architect Chris Precht

NFT The environmental impact

The environmental impact of NFTs is "horrible" says architect Chris Precht

Architect Chris Precht has abandoned plans to sell digital artworks backed by NFTs due to the environmental impact of mining the digital tokens.

In a video posted on his Instagram account, Precht said that non-fungible tokens offered creatives an exciting opportunity to make money.

But he said the carbon emissions associated with creating the tokens was "horrible".

"This leaves such an ecological guilt for me that this time, I have to say no to that," he added.

Above: the designer has created three digital artworks. Top image: Chris Precht

Precht said he created three digital artworks with the aim to sell them using blockchain technology. But he calculated that this would consume as much electricity as he would use in 20 years.

"Just to [mint] one token through the blockchain equals out the same amount of electricity I usually use in one month," he said.

"So one token equals one month of electricity," said the architect, who co-runs Austrian studio Precht with his partner Fei Precht.

"And I didn't want to create just one token; I wanted to create 300 tokens because I had three art pieces and I wanted to make each one in an edition of 100," he added.

"So for this one drop, I would have used the amount of electricity I usually use in two decades."

Ethereum cryptocurrency said to have "ludicrously high" carbon impact

Precht based his calculations on a controversial blog post by computational artist Memo Akten, who investigated the "ludicrously high" carbon impact of Ethereum, a cryptocurrency that is commonly used to buy and sell NFTs.

"While not as bad as Bitcoin, a single Ethereum (ETH) transaction is estimated to have a footprint on average of around 35 kWh," Akten wrote.

"To put that into perspective, this is roughly equivalent to an EU resident’s electric power consumption for four days."

The artworks are called Remoteness, Distance and Isolation

The hype surrounding NFTs has led to rising concern over their environmental impact. Cryptocurrencies require enormous amounts of energy as each coin needs to be "mined" by computers solving complex problems.

Another article posted on Quartz calculated that: "Over its lifecycle, the average NFT will accrue a stunning footprint of 211 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 513 miles in a typical US gasoline-powered car."

NFTs could enable studios to raise money for physical designs

However, Precht admitted that NFTs offered small creative offices like his own studio a potentially lucrative source of revenue.

"We're living in an age of efficiency and profitability and creativity gets not nearly valued enough," he said.

"As a small studio here in the mountains of nowhere, with the quite large social media platform, they would have been a very interesting way of creating alternative stream of revenue."

They resemble the coronavirus virion

Speaking to Dezeen, the Austrian architect said: "I’m convinced about its opportunities and what it means for architects, especially young, small offices like ours."

NFTs could allow studios to sell digital versions of their designs and use the money to build real versions, he said.

"In the long run, it also widens the playground immensely with the designing of the digital world," he added. "I could imagine a scenario where Bjarke [Ingels] could charge more for a building in the virtual than in the real world.

Digital artworks are a statement about the pandemic

Precht's digital artworks feature examples of his architectural projects repeated and turned into spiky spheres reminiscent of the coronavirus virion.

"Those three pieces are a statement about the current times we're living in, how the pandemic shaped the different world and about the tools that architects have to react to that," he said.

"So that means more balconies or terraces, for example; better urban places and better urban plazas for the cities, and how we can revive the countryside, living close to nature, understanding our environment, and maybe de-densifying cities.

"All of the three pieces are shaped like a virus or like a breathing new world," he added.

Interest in NFTs has exploded in recent weeks with artist Krista Kim selling the first virtual house for over $500,000 while a jpeg artwork by Beeple sold for $69 million, making it the all-time third most expensive artwork by a living artist.

Architecture projects by Precht include The Farmhouse, a proposal for high-rise apartments combined with a vertical farm, and Bert, a modular tube-like timber dwelling that would allow people to live close to nature.


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