Sunday, November 9, 2008

Flexibility for Adaption

"Responding to unstable markets the design is based on a flexible grid, allowing alteration of the program by re-designating units. These ‘pixels’ are each 60m2 square and arranged around the central core of the building, which for flexibility consists of three bundled cores allowing separate access to the different program segments."

-MVRDV, Rotterdam

::Sky Village

additional information, including diagrams and floor plans:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Manifest Destiny Redux

Robert F. Kennedy Jr's article Obama's energy plan would create green gold rush discusses Obama's intentions to promote domestic alternative energy sources within the United States. Kennedy states that the vision to cease oil imports by 2012 would ultimately "sharpen our competitiveness by reducing our energy costs, dramatically reduce our national debt, stimulate our economy far more effectively than tax cuts by putting conservation savings in the hands of every American, and be the engine for creating millions of green-collar jobs that cannot be outsourced". The CNN article is provided below:

(CNN) -- Barack Obama is a transformational figure in American history who's been able to excite the same intensity of feeling among Americans as I saw during my father's 1968 campaign and my uncle John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign.

As a six-year-old, I attended the Democratic Convention in 1960 and traveled across the country in the Caroline K [the Kennedy campaign plane].

The excitement I saw then is echoed today as Barack Obama outlines his plans to get the nation moving in the right direction, to restore America's role as an exemplary nation.

America's dependence on carbon to produce energy has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and marred our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value.

A sophisticated, well-crafted energy policy designed to de-carbonize America is the centerpiece of Sen. Barack Obama's domestic economic package.

It will sharpen our competitiveness by reducing our energy costs, dramatically reduce our national debt, stimulate our economy far more effectively than tax cuts by putting conservation savings in the hands of every American, and be the engine for creating millions of green-collar jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Obama understands, as John McCain does not, that an intelligent energy policy is also the natural fulcrum for U.S. foreign policy and national security. As Obama has warned, "One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil. We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut." See McCain and Obama energy plans

Obama's policy, which anticipates eliminating imports by 2012 or earlier, is feasible and desirable. Respected economists and energy industry entrepreneurs, high-level business representatives from Fortune 500 companies and large investors are already enlisting to invest in the infrastructure to facilitate the transition.

Every nation that has taken serious steps to de-carbonize its energy portfolio has reaped immediate economic growth. Sweden announced in 2006 the phase-out of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991, the Swedes enacted a carbon tax -- now up to $150 a ton -- closed two nuclear reactors, and still dropped greenhouse emissions to 5 tons per person, compared with the U.S. per-capita rate of 20 tons.

Thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun and the tides, and from wood chips, agricultural waste and garbage. Growth rates climbed and the heavily taxed Swedish economy is now the world's eighth richest by gross domestic product.

Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe. Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy independent, and according to the International Monetary Fund is now the fourth most affluent nation on Earth.

There are many other examples: Brazil's efforts to de-carbonize its transportation system has resulted in the largest and most robust economic expansion in its history.

The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind. Solar installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation's electricity needs even if every American owned an electric car.

Obama's vision of de-carbonizing our economy begins with a market-based carbon cap-and-trade system designed to put downward pressure on carbon emissions. He will invest billions to revamp the nation's antiquated high-voltage power transmission system and press for cost-saving building and appliance standards that would cut our energy demand by half.

For a tiny fraction of the projected cost of the Iraq war, we could completely wean the country from carbon. Homes and businesses will become power plants as people cash in by installing solar panels and wind turbines on their buildings, and selling the stored energy in their plug-in hybrids back to the grid at peak hours. By kicking its carbon addiction, America will increase its national wealth. Everyone will profit from the green gold rush.

We will create a decentralized and highly distributable grid that is far more resilient and safe for our country; a terrorist might knock out a power plant, but never a million homes. And for the first time in half a century, we will live free from Middle Eastern wars and entanglements with petty tyrants who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic Village Awarded for Green Design

Henry Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, recently honored Chinese officials with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold award for the environmentally conscious Olympic Village.

The Olympic Village, which presently houses 16,000 athletes in 42 six to nine story buildings, is the first residential neighborhood in Beijing to be awarded LEED status. The village incorporates such sustainable design features as solar power and solar thermal power for lighting and hot water, various water reuse systems, custom heating and cooling systems, and rainwater collection.

Once the Beijing Olympics have ended in early 2009, the developers plan to convert the Olympic Village into a luxury apartment development. The residences have already generated significant publicity for the energy-efficient design elements, as 80% of the planned residences have already been sold.

::Olympic Village wins award for 'green' design, Associated Press

Image from Flickr user shajahanmoidin shared with a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Offshore Wind Farms a White Elephant?

Although the wind turbine industry continues to surge, the availability of construction commodities is steadily plunging. After years of fighting, Cape Cod NIMBO(cean)s may have beat Cape Wind's Jeff Gordon at his own game.

The economic viability of sea-based wind farms has been hindered by the decreased availability (thus rising prices) of:

  • Steel, aluminum, and copper

  • Construction vessels (such as The Resolution in Lincolnshire, depicted to the right)

  • High-voltage cables needed to link wind parks to the electricity grid

  • Cranes

  • Sea-bed platforms

This combination of material shortages and rising costs has delayed the European Union's $120 billion investment in offshore wind turbine projects--including the London Array. The proposed London Array, which was intended to supply enough energy for approximately 25% of London's homes, would have consisted of 341 wind turbines located on Britain's southeast coast.

According to the Danish wind power consultant BTM Consult APS, "The price of offshore turbines rose 48 percent to 2.23 million euros ($3.45 million) per megawatt in the past three years." Since land-based turbines require less installation materials, onshore turbines are becoming the reality of wind energy industry's future. Comparatively, "land-based rotors cost 1.38 million euros per megawatt after rising 74 percent in the same period."

Despite this bleak outlook of wind energy's future, the steadily rising demand for turbine construction may encourage industrial companies to focus on the emerging wind energy industry. A boom in industry will allow the supply to become more compatible with demand, thereby reducing costs and securing the stability of the wind energy industry's future.

More at

Image from Flickr user Luc Van Braekel shared with a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Windows Become More Efficient than their Homeowners

The morale of homeowners has hit an all time low with yet another breakthrough development in energy-efficient window technology. Window glazings had homeowners doubling their morning coffee intake, and multiple-pane windows with argon gas fillings had homeowners running off to work on Sunday mornings. But finally--solar concentrators have some homeowners hitting the snooze button and calling it quits.

Engineers at MIT have recently developed a solar technology (known as "solar concentrators") for glass surfaces that may allow for a substantial 40% increase in solar cell power generation. The glass pane is painted with a layer of dye molecules (color choice to the buyer's discretion) that harvests sunlight across a variety of wavelengths. The sun's energy is then absorbed by the glass, and then is efficiently transported at different infrared wavelengths to the edges of the glass pane. The concentrated energy is then collected by solar cells that rest along the edges of the glass surface.

Not only does this technology increase the potential energy output of solar cells, but it also reduces the surface area needed for those pricey silicon solar cells as well. This cost effective energy development is likely to be applied to the windows of homes, where a portion of sunlight entering a home will be collected for solar energy conversion.

MIT has launched the company Covalent Solar to develop and market the product for wide-spread use. Jonathan Mapel, the co-founder of Covalent Solar, provides an explanation of the technology in a video.

::MIT Press Release
::Covalent Solar
::MIT's Technology Review
::Energy-Efficient Windows Guide

San Francisco's Recycling Power Trio

On trash day in San Francisco, the "Fantastic Three" are a home's curbside hero. Three colored plastic carts line up at the end of driveways to await collection--a black cart for garbage, a blue cart for recyclables, and now a green cart for composting. San Francisco has initiated a citywide composting program to strive for the goal of reaching 75 percent citywide recycling by 2010.

The city has provided the green carts are at no cost to residents with trash collecting services. Residents may place foodscraps, soiled paper, and yard trimmings in the composting container (as illustrated by this composting poster).

The compost is then collected and transported to Jepson Prairie Organics, a compost facility that then processes your leftovers from last week and sells the nitrogen-rich compost to vineyards, soil bagging operations, highway erosion and control projects, landscape material yards, golf courses, nurseries, et al.

The compost carts can be lined with compostable and biodegradable liner bags, which are increasingly appearing in the cleaning supply section San Francisco's hardware and convenience stores.

::Jepson Prairie Organics
::SF Recycling

Image from Flickr user ToastyKen shared with a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Boston's Green Initiative for Municipal Buildings

In continuing to set a precedent for fostering the growth of a state-wide environmental consciousness, Boston's Mayor Thomas M. Menino has recently enacted the Green Building Maintenance Order. The policy will act to require sustainable practices within the city of Boston's 400 municipal, government-maintained buildings and facilities.

The decision will serve to both "reduce costs and harmful chemicals from City buildings," and "improve operations" in general. Menino's Executive Order mandates a variety of green regulations, including setting guidelines for environmentally friendly cleaning and maintenance products / services, the expansion of each municipal building's internal recycling program, and establishing a "Green Operations coordinating committee" to generate further recommendations for sustainability within municipal operations.

A summarization of Menino's Executive Order, as revealed in a press release from the Mayor's office, is listed as follows:

1.All City of Boston departments adhere to the City’s new Green Cleaning Policy both for all City-managed building maintenance programs and for any new contracted maintenance services;

2.Within 60 days, the City of Boston Purchasing Agent and the Chief of Public Property, in consultation with City departments, shall publish Environmentally Preferable Procurement (EPP) guidelines covering all goods and services purchased for building maintenance and operations;

3.All City departments shall seek to expand recycling programs in all municipal buildings and new cleaning services contracts;

4.Within 60 days, the City of Boston Chief Information Officer, in consultation with City departments, shall issue a Green Information Technology Roadmap to further reduce municipal consumption of resources;

5.The City will establish a Green Operations coordinating committee to further pursue and develop additional measures to reduce municipal consumption and increase efficiency.

The underlying goals of the Green Building Maintenance Order certainly appear to focus on increasing operations efficiency and reducing financial costs incurred by excess consumption. However, the policy will serve to empower a green sense of thinking, regardless of the policy's primary motivators.

::Official Press Release's The Green Blog

Image from Flickr user Shortcipher shared with a Creative Commons Attribution License.