Archive for March, 2010

Water Treatment Facility As Parkland

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 30th, 2010

From “Hume: New waterfront park does double duty” by Christopher Hume

When is a park not just a park? When it’s also a water treatment facility.

The best example in this city is taking shape at Sherbourne and Queens Quay. These days, the site doesn’t look especially park-like; in fact, it’s a sea of mud as work crews pour concrete on the enormous channel that will run the full length of the site carrying clean water to Lake Ontario.

The as-yet-unnamed park is one of 14 public spaces already constructed under the aegis of Waterfront Toronto, the agency created in 2001 by the three levels of government to oversee revitalization of Toronto’s old harbour lands. From the start a decade ago, the organization’s strategy has been based on the proposition that if you build the infrastructure, they will come.

But Waterfront Toronto has taken the concept an important step further. As Sherbourne Park – its temporary name – will illustrate so dramatically, in this case, infrastructure won’t just make the area inhabitable, it will itself be inhabitable. This notion of using design to transform a public utility into a public amenity has never made more sense than now. It’s not new, of course, but the idea that everything we build in a city should do double- (even triple-) duty is one whose time has come[….]

The intention was not simply to incorporate an industrial process – storm water purification – into the park, but also to reveal, even celebrate, that process. At a time when Canada’s infrastructure deficit stands at $123 billion, such exposure couldn’t be more welcome. These are the systems, usually out of sight and out of mind, that provide the basic urban functions we take for granted but can no longer afford to do so.

And so Sherbourne Park is also the Sherbourne Park UV Purification Facility. Beneath a pavilion designed by Toronto architect Stephen Teeple, water will undergo ultra-violet treatment. It then flows into the channel through three sculptures that rise nine metres above ground. The channel, which will figure prominently in the stormwater management system for the entire East Bayfront stretching from Yonge to Parliament Sts., also includes a biofiltration bed for further cleansing.

“The days of the singular perspective are over,” argues Vancouver landscape architect Greg Smallenberg. [….]  “We are in a new world of collaboration. Today the feeling is that if we have to build something anyhow, why not build something worthwhile. Waterfront Toronto really gets that. The politicians are also getting it, which from my perspective is probably the biggest advancement of the last few years.”

Read the full article by Christopher Hume.

The Future of Personal Transportation in Megacities of the World: Study

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 29th, 2010

Source: University of Michigan Transport Research Institute via Going Solar Transport Newsletter

Image: Real-time Bus Map by kecko via flickr CC

From “The future of personal transportation in megacities of the world” by Luoma, J., Sivak, M., Zielinski, S.


This study examined the future personal transportation in megacities of the world. Of particular interest was the future role of personal vehicles. To span ranges of geographical, political, and economic factors, the following 15 megacities were included in the analysis: Chicago, New York, London, Moscow, Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Sa?o Paulo, Bangalore, Calcutta, Delphi, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. The current and future values of the following factors were considered: population, wealth, level of motorization, public transportation, and modal split. Also discussed were selected urban transportation plans and strategies.

Based on the analysis, projections through 2025 were made for each megacity for changes in ownership of personal vehicles; distance traveled per capita by personal vehicle within inner core, for commuting, and for leisure; and for number of road fatalities per capita. The forecasts include the following:

• The largest increases in personal vehicle ownership will occur in the four Indian megacities and Shanghai.

• There will be no increase in the use of personal vehicles for inner-core transportation in any of the megacities.

• No increases are expected in the use of personal vehicles for commuting. • The largest increases in the use of personal vehicles for leisure traveling (and the largest increases in road fatalities) will take place in Shanghai, followed by the four megacities in India, Rio de Janeiro, and Sa?o Paulo. Overall, no substantial decrease in the reliance on personal vehicles is foreseen in the next 15 years anywhere in the examined megacities. To the contrary, an increased role of personal vehicles is forecasted for the megacities in India, China, and Brazil.

The above trends are based on treating the different transportation modes as independent and exclusive options. However, there is growing implementation and use of new mobility networks—integrated networks that provide a variety of connected and IT-enhanced transportation options door-to-door. Although such networks are expected to reduce the reliance on personal vehicles, the magnitude and nature of this effect remain to be ascertained.

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UK music industry: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 26th, 2010

Source: IOP Science via Environmental Research Web

Carbon soundings: greenhouse gas emissions of the UK music industry, C Bottrill, D Liverman and M Boykoff


Over the past decade, questions regarding how to reduce human contributions to climate change have become more commonplace and non-nation state actors—such as businesses, non-government organizations, celebrities—have increasingly become involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives. For these dynamic and rapidly expanding spaces, this letter provides an accounting of the methods and findings from a 2007 assessment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK music industry. The study estimates that overall GHG emissions associated with the UK music market are approximately 540 000 t CO2e per annum. Music recording and publishing accounted for 26% of these emissions (138 000 t CO2e per annum), while three-quarters (74%) derived from activities associated with live music performances (400 000 t CO2e per annum). These results have prompted a group of music industry business leaders to design campaigns to reduce the GHG emissions of their supply chains. The study has also provided a basis for ongoing in-depth research on CD packaging, audience travel, and artist touring as well as the development of a voluntary accreditation scheme for reducing GHG emissions from activities of the UK music industry.

Read the full article,

Switch Off for Earth Hour: Saturday 27

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 25th, 2010

Source: Climate Action Calendar

Image: Perth Skyline by EarthHourGlobal via flickr CC

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Approximately 2.2 million people and 2,100 businesses took part in the first year.  In 2008, Earth Hour involved between 50 and 100 million people in 370 cities and towns around the world, including Chicago, Toronto, Copenhagen, Dublin, Atlanta and Bangkok took part.  An independent survey found that 58 per cent of people in Australian capital cities joined in by switching off their lights.

In 2009, the concept truly went global, with Earth Hour triggering people to “switch off” all over the world – from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to Times Square in New York. Millions of people in over 4,000 towns and municipalities in 88 countries took part.  2009 was also an important year for the UN climate negotiations. In December 2009, world leaders and climate negotiators gathered at UN climate talks in Copenhagen to agree to a deal to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which Australia ratified in 2007.

Switch off your lights for an hour at 8:30pm this Saturday, March 27

Visit the website for more information on actions in Australia & around the world.

Call for Rooftop Agricultural Greenhouses: New York

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 24th, 2010

Source: Bright Farm Systems

From Call for Rooftop Agricultural Greenhouses:

On February 17, 2010, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer published his second report on the future of New York City’s food system – FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System. This groundbreaking report outlines a wide range of initiatives and policy changes which, if implemented, Stringer suggests will dramatically improve the quality and environmental sustainability of New York City’s food system. At the top of the list of recommendations is a call for the development of rooftop agricultural greenhouses. The report argues that, New York City should “establish food production as a priority … for personal, community, or commercial use by the year 2030.” To achieve this, the report recommends, among other production approaches, “the development of rooftop agricultural greenhouses.” BrightFarm Systems welcomes the report’s recommendations, and thanks the Borough President for his support of sustainable food policy. We are particularly pleased to endorse the call for changes to be made, or exceptions granted, to zoning and building regulations which currently inhibit the development of New York’s rooftop farming industry. Greenhouses installed on a roof currently count towards a building’s FAR (the rules dictating the height or volume a building can be built to). BrightFarm Systems has long argued that classifying greenhouses along with commercial and residential space in this manner is counter-productive and unnecessary. We welcome the Borough President’s call to address this and similar policy barriers, and to create a simple mechanism for the consideration of worthy rooftop greenhouse projects.

1970s 2-bedroom flat: Medium-density retrofit

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 23rd, 2010

Source: Ecovation via The Ecologist

From “Eco-renovation of a 1970’s 2-bed flat“:

“Our 1970’s flat in North Oxford had had very little work done to it since it had been built. We bought it a year ago and have undertaken an eco-renovation, learning as we went along. This was made slightly more challenging by living in it while all the work was done but at least we knew what was going on!  Our intention was to create a light, low energy, low-water usage, low-carbon, healthy living space for ourselves. Where it has not been possible to reuse, we have tried to use products that are natural, have low embodied energy, use minimal energy, are from an ethical source and that have minimal toxicity. We are hoping to demonstrate to our neighbours and others that one does not need a huge house in the country and pots of money to “go green”.”

The rest of this excellent article goes into detail about problems, solutions, materials, products and suppliers.  The decisions and compromises that the occupants made are carefully outlined.  This article is a rare insight into retro-fitting (or “eco-renovating”) a flat rather than a house.  -KA

Persuading your local train station to plant fruit trees

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 22nd, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Persuading your local station to plant fruit trees” by Laura Laker

Armed with just a good idea and big dose of enthusiasm you can transform a bleak area into a mini orchard. Plus, the best way to approach a station manager…

When I approached Harringay Green Lanes station in September I never expected either to be as lucky as I was, or the interest my idea of growing food at stations would generate.  Having worked all over London, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for trains at the city’s drab, grey, open-air waiting rooms. A couple of years ago I found myself at a particularly bleak North London station, hemmed in with high walls.  All that greeted the weary commuter was an array of flat, grey surfaces, topped with an often grey sky. Looking at the forlorn planters around me I felt strangely inspired.

Then last summer I joined Transition Town Finsbury Park (TTFP), a group in its early stages, focusing on local food production. The idea behind Transition Towns is that groups form to improve local sustainability, tackling issues such as food, transport and waste, to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil on their communities.  The support of the group gave me the courage to follow my idea, and less than a week after a living-room meeting with three encouraging Transitioners I was approaching local stations. At the first, a staff member looked at me as if I’d suggested lining the platforms with ornamental teapots.

Later that day I knocked at the portacabin door of Harringay Green Lanes Station. I was met by station supervisor, Sharma, who invited me in for a cup of tea. Looking around the station, I realised how much potential there was, namely in a strip of land about three metres wide running along the north of the site.  It was no plush meadow by anyone’s standards, overshadowed by the eastbound platform and covered in long grass and well-established buddleia, but I saw an opportunity to show passers-by it is possible to grow food even in unlikely places….

Read the full article by Laura Laker on the Ecologist.

End-of-life Design: Lighting Sustainability

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 19th, 2010

Source: IOP Science via  Environmental Research Web

Reducing environmental burdens of solid-state lighting through end-of-life design, C T Hendrickson, D H Matthews, M Ashe, P Jaramillo and F C McMichael; Green Design Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, USA


With 20% of US electricity used for lighting, energy efficient solid-state lighting technology could have significant benefits. While energy efficiency in use is important, the life cycle cost, energy and environmental impacts of light-emitting diode (LED) solid-state lighting could be reduced by reusing, remanufacturing or recycling components of the end products. Design decisions at this time for the nascent technology can reduce material and manufacturing burdens by considering the ease of disassembly, potential for remanufacturing, and recovery of parts and materials for reuse and recycling. We use teardowns of three commercial solid-state lighting products designed to fit in conventional Edison light bulb sockets to analyze potential end-of-life reuse strategies for solid-state lighting and recommend strategies for the industry. Current lamp designs would benefit from standardization of part connections to facilitate disassembly and remanufacturing of components, and fewer material types in structural pieces to maximize homogeneous materials recovery. The lighting industry should also start now to develop an effective product take-back system for collecting future end-of-life products.


1. Introduction

2. Current state of design for LED SSL products

3. Product life cycles and green design principles

4. Green design of LED lamps and luminaires

4.1. Design for reuse and servicing

4.2. Design for disassembly

4.3. Design for product and component remanufacturing

4.4. Design for materials recovery

4.5. Establishing product take-back

5. Conclusions



UK Solar Feed-In Tariff (FiT): Ongoing Debate

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on March 17th, 2010

Source: Environmental Research Web

Image: borya via flickr CC

FiT for purpose? by Dave Elliott:

The debate on the UK’s new Feed-In Tariff (FiT) has been quite lively, with the Guardian’s George Monbiot arguing that, with solar PV being still very expensive, the way the FiT provided the support needed was economically regressive.

It does look that way at first glance – those that could afford to invest say £10,000 in PV might get £1000 p.a. back for the electricity they generated and used, paid for by all the other consumers, who would be charged extra via their electricity bills. It’s been suggested that this would lead to a £11 p.a. surcharge on bills by 2020.  However, in a rebuttal to Monbiot’s analysis, Jeremy Leggett from Solar Century said “the average household levy in 2013, when tariff rates are all up for review, is likely to be less than £3” and he added “this is far less than the average saving from the government’s various domestic energy efficiency measures over the same period. So there is no net subsidy. The levy is not ‘regressive’ at all”.

The extra cost is certainly small, since the expected size of the FiT scheme is small, only maybe leading to 2% of UK electricity by 2020, so maybe this is not a major issue. But it is good to see that the government has now announced a “green-energy loan” scheme (part of its new “Warm Homes, Green Homes” strategy) under which energy-supply companies and others (e.g. the Co-op) may offer consumers zero or low interest loans for installing new energy systems, to be paid back out of the resultant energy savings. Details have yet to be agreed, but up to £7 bn may be made available over the next decade in this way – although it seems it will start off slowly, from 2012 onwards.

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Laundry Efficiency: New Models of Service

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 15th, 2010

Source: Springwise

We’ve seen eco-minded laundromats before, but when pickup and delivery are included, the greenness can only go so far. Unless, of course, you’re the Laundry Company of Buenos Aires, which uses pedal power to collect and return its deliveries for free.  Clothes washing and a variety of related services are all available from the Laundry Company, which supports a tree-planting program to keep its business carbon-neutral. All customers are given a reusable fabric bag for their clothes, thus eliminating the disposable plastic coverings that normally get used. The Laundry Company also uses low-temperature machines and detergents designed for minimal environmental impact, resulting in energy savings of 40 percent, it says. Best of all, pickup and delivery—available at no extra charge—are made on foot or by means of the company’s bright red tricycles.

Source: Springwise