Archive for June, 2011

Support Systems: Rebuilding for Resilience

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on June 30th, 2011

Source: The Fifth Estate

From “Resilience planning for wild weather and climate change” by Leon Gettler:

Queensland, the state of floods and cyclones that devastated property, has become Australia’s laboratory for sustainable building, for creating resilient homes, offices and structures in the face of climatic volatility. In a radical scheme, Grantham residents who had confronted a deadly mountain of water in the floods, have been invited to apply for land swaps to higher ground after the small southeast town was declared the first designated reconstruction area under the new Queensland Reconstruction Authority’s powers. The local council is working with reconstruction authority to create the land swaps.

Green Cross Australia, the non profit group working with developers, insurers and the Property Council of Australia to encourage sustainable thinking, plans to launch a Harden Up portal in August.

The scheme is a world first. Using social media, it aims to makes people aware of the history of the weather patterns in their region, helps prepare them to protect their homes, families and communities and encourages them to share their insights. People will be able to tap into the portal to assess the weather patterns in their suburb or town over the last 150 years, using data from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. They will be taken on interactive multimedia tours and encouraged to share their insights through a page on Facebook. The exercise is not only about creating awareness, it’s about empowering communities and giving them the know-how and information needed to create more resilient housing.

Green Cross Australia has also run Build It Back Green workshops that seek to reduce household greenhouse gas emissions, improve community resilience through good design and engagement, invest in green school infrastructure, invest in commercial, government and public buildings, invest in green infrastructure projects and develop solutions for low income residents that reduce energy, water and waste.

Significantly, the Build It Back Green model is now being used by 7000 Victorians whose homes were destroyed in the Black Saturday fires. It is also now being taken up by residents in Perth who faced the bushfires there in January.

Read the rest of this article by Leon Gettler on The Fifth Estate.

Transport Emissions: Behaviour Change More Important Than Technology or Efficiency

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 28th, 2011


Image: icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey via flickr CC

From “Behaviour change, not technology, is key to cutting vehicle emissions” by Nadya Anscombe:

When it comes to reducing emission from light-duty vehicles (LDV), researchers in the US have shown that technology alone is not the solution. In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL), Jalel Sager and colleagues from the University of California show that to meet greenhouse-gas emission and climate-reduction goals for the year 2050, the way in which we use LDVs has to change.

Co-author Daniel Kammen told environmentalresearchweb: “Reducing LDV emissions is often thought of as a technological challenge, with efforts going into the development of more efficient cars or fuels that produce fewer greenhouse gases per unit energy. However, by decomposing transport-sector emissions into technological and behavioural drivers, we show that even significant technological advances will be insufficient to meet climate goals, unless the growth in LDV use slows or reverses.”

To quantify the carbon dioxide mitigation challenge for the transport sector, the researchers surveyed 2007 LDV usage and fuel economy in an economically diverse set of countries. They found that the large differences in per capita LDV greenhouse-gas emissions (range: ˜100–4000 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year) are principally explained by differing national per_capita LDV use (range: 300–13,000 vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) per year), rather than to fleet average fuel-efficiency and carbon-intensity factors, which reflect the broadly similar car technology worldwide.

The researchers forecast that meeting greenhouse-gas targets through technology developments alone would require universal deployment of one or more of the following clusters: electric vehicles running on nearly zero-carbon electricity, cellulosic biofuel-powered vehicles achieving 300 miles per gallon (0.78 l per 100 km), or gasoline-fuelled vehicles achieving in excess of 1000 mpg (0.24 l per 100 km).

“These performance levels exceed even the most optimistic technology scenarios for the year 2050,” said Kammen. “This shows that reducing greenhouse gases emitted by LDVs is a behavioural issue, not a technological one.”

Kammen cites several success stories of cities that have relatively low greenhouse-gas emissions from LDVs because of relatively compact urban development. For example, citizens of Hong Kong, Seville, Turin, Valencia, Lisbon, Bologna, and Moscow use between 5,000 and 11,000 MJ per capita per year for travel through these relatively compact areas, with more than half of all trips taken by foot, bicycle or public transport. Meanwhile, in cities with higher personal vehicle use, such as Chicago, Houston, San Diego or Washington, inhabitants use 44,000 to 86,000 MJ per capita per year, with less than 16% of all journeys accomplished through non-motorized or public means.

As well as improved urban planning and public transport, the researchers say that pricing policies and parking and congestion fees have also been shown to influence travel behaviour. Steadily increasing fuel taxes have proven especially useful in many developed countries, for example Germany, in reducing VKT and encouraging automakers to increase fuel efficiency over time. They point out that “the US, with some of the lowest fuel taxes in the developed world, seems ripe for such a measure”.

“There are so many opportunities available to us to reduce our greenhouse gases from LDVs,” said Kammen. “The question is, can we implement them quickly enough?”

Read Nadya Anscombe’s article (and associated links) on Environmental Research Web.


From Here to There: Marketing and Branding Public Transport

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 23rd, 2011

Source: The City Fix

In an attempt to give public transport a competitive edge, EMBARQ has released a report on marketing and branding public transport. The reports aims to help guide cities and public transit agencies in making mass transit a competitive and desirable alternative to private vehicles. Titled, “From Here to There: A Creative Guide to Making Public Transport the Way to Go,” the report hopes to encourage cities and transit agencies to think critically and creatively about how to make public transport the preferred way to travel.

The purpose of the guide is to help transit agencies develop strong and successful strategies to achieve three important goals:

  • Attract new users that currently use private transport, such as cars and motorcycles,
  • Retain existing public transport users who might feel compelled to buy a private vehicle, and,
  • Secure political and financial support from government officials.

By taking a cue from the private sector, which routinely and successfully influences consumer behavior, the report applies eight branding, marketing and communications tactics to the public transport sector.

  • Brand and identity
  • Internal communication
  • User education
  • User information systems
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Public relations and external communications
  • User feedback systems
  • Online engagement

“For some time, it has been clear that cities need to create high-quality public transport systems to improve the urban environment,” the report explains. “However, not until recently has it become clear that cities must also convince the public that these high-quality systems are in fact high-quality.”

The recommendations in the report are by no means prescriptive or exhaustive. The report is merely a starting point for exploring ‘best practices’ in the public transport marketing and branding world. With the launch of “From Here to There,” EMBARQ hopes to start an open dialogue that will enhance public transit and the very quality of our cities.

This report is only the beginning of EMBARQ’s efforts in helping public transport become a stronger alternative to private vehicles. We will also launch a series on online engagement for public transport starting in October 2011. Stay tuned!

Download the report in English and Portuguese.


Using ICT for Water Management in India

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 21st, 2011

Source: Springwise

From In India, mobile water tracking system updates local residents:

The reliability of water supply is a major issue for millions of households in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Although water is meant to be delivered to communities via a piped supply on a rotational schedule, the water often isn’t being piped when it should be — leaving families waiting indefinitely for supplies. Hoping to provide a solution, we recently came across NextDrop.

The NextDrop system, designed and set up by a team of Stanford and Berkeley graduate students, began operations in Hubli, India last year, having won a grant from the Gates Foundation, according to a report on MobileActive.org. In order to communicate with residents when the water is available, valvemen call the NextDrop interactive voice response system upon opening their neighborhood valves. NextDrop then texts the inhabitants of the area the news that water is being piped 30 – 60 minutes before it arrives, as well as texting the engineers at the utility live data on the water delivery. Residents are then contacted randomly to verify the accuracy of the data supplied by the valvemen.If there is any conflict between the data supplied by the valvemen and the residents, the engineers are alerted. These engineers are also able to step in if the valves are not initially reported open when they should be.

According to mobileactive.org, the Hubli pilot initially launched with 180 participating families across five water valve districts in Hubli, and NextDrop now plan to go on and expand to encompass 1000 households covering 25 valve areas over the next year. Crowdsourcing may be one of the simplest ways of solving social problems we know of; relying on the participation of those it benefits. What other social problem could you apply the model to?

Read the full article on Springwise for related articles. or visit NextDrop to find out more

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50 Ideas For The New City: Poster Campaign

Posted in Tools, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on June 20th, 2011

50 Ideas For The New City, from Urban Omnibus

With this poster campaign, we want to turn the language of ubiquitous marketing — in which every bus, taxi or construction barrier is a canvas for advertising anything and everything — on its head by using a similar language to share examples of creativity and innovation in the urban realm. We want to spread these ideas to the whole city. And we want to hear your new ideas too. So starting next week, (now live!) at UrbanOmnibus.net/Ideas you will find 50 ideas for New York already explored on Urban Omnibus and a space for you to share one of your own. We hope, in some small way, we can help re-enchant the urban environment as a landscape of possibility, a realm of action and intention, and a place that represents — and deserves — a long and evolving history of creative ideas.

Read more about the posters and click through each image or blurb to find the essay that led to the idea.

The poster campaign was part of New York’s Festival of Ideas for the New City.

On May 4-8th, the Festival of Ideas for the New City brought artists, designers, politicians and community organizers to downtown Manhattan, infusing the city with a commitment to creativity and dedication to place. Through a string of lectures, panels, workshops, a street fair and over a hundred art installations and openings of cultural projects, the Festival brought to mind a sensibility which first made the neighborhood a forefront for the avant-garde. For four days, a dizzying array of visionary thinkers, makers and practitioners shared ideas and projects that might help articulate what kind of city we want, as well as some concrete examples of how to get there.

Read more about the Festival in this recap by Caitlin Blanchfield.

 


Connecting Urban Agriculture with Schoolyards and Backyards

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on June 17th, 2011

Source: Springwise

From Urban farming expands onto school grounds:

Community-supported agriculture is not an unfamiliar concept for regular Springwise readers, nor are the often-associated add-ons of bicycle-based produce delivery and compost services. Canadian Fresh Roots Urban Farm offers all of these; what sets it apart, however, is a series of partnerships it’s formed with local schools in the Vancouver area to create urban farms on school land.

Fresh Roots produces and distributes organically grown food through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program as well as pocket markets and restaurant sales in the Vancouver area. Much of the produce for that program is grown by local urban farmers and in participating neighborhood gardens, but of particular interest are the organization’s new partnerships with local schools to use school land. At Queen Alexandra Elementary, for example, the relationship began last year when the Vancouver School Board bought a share from Fresh Roots’ CSA for its cafeteria salad bar program. Since then, however, the partnership has expanded to include a model urban farm on school land, thereby adding to Fresh Roots’ production capabilities while creating an outdoor, hands-on, experiential classroom for the school community. Similar partnerships have since been forged with two other local schools, and Fresh Roots invites the participation of others as well.

Read the full article on Springwise for related projects.


Our Cities Ourselves: Traveling Exhibition

Posted in Visions by Kate Archdeacon on June 16th, 2011


New York Project Architect: Terreform and Michael Sorkin Studio

The exhibition Our Cities, Ourselves commissioned 10 architects to imagine how a specific area of their cities should be transformed towards 2030, when the global urban population is expected to be 60 percent. All of the renovation projects explore how cities would be if they were redesigned for people, not cars, and follow principles for sustainable mobility drafted by Jan Gehl and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Most projects seek to create more public space and introduce alternative transportation to solve pressing issues in the selected cities.  Jemina Veloz, This Big City

Our Cities Ourselves shows the visions of ten of the world’s most fascinating cities from ten of the world’s leading architects. These cities have proven to be leaders in innovation in sustainable transport and are fertile ground for further transformation.

Our Cities Ourselves is a program of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. It is designed to attract interest and stimulate debate, enabling ITDP to maximize its impact in cities throughout the world. The aim is to think about what sort of cities we want to live in, the sort of street we want to walk along, and the sort of future we want for ourselves and our children. Looking ahead, how will each of us help create our cities for ourselves? The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy works with cities worldwide to bring about sustainable transport solutions that cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of urban life.

This international exhibition is currently on show in Buenos Aires. See Events page for further details.


Retrofitting Solar Panels to Existing Structures: High Speed Rail

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 15th, 2011

Source: guardian.co.uk

From “High-speed Euro train gets green boost from two miles of solar panels” by Damian Carrington:

A two-mile-long Belgian rail tunnel, built to shelter trains from falling trees, will from Monday provide a double environmental benefit by hosting a unique solar power project. The high-speed line running from Paris to Amsterdam passes Antwerp and a nearby ancient forest. To avoid the need to fell protected trees, a long tunnel was built over the line which has now been topped with 16,000 solar panels. The electricity produced is equivalent to that needed to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year, and will also help power Antwerp station.

“For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects can be delivered within a year because they don’t attract the protests that wind power does,” said Bart Van Renterghem, UK head of Belgian renewable energy company Enfinity, which installed the panels. “We had a couple of projects lined up around London with train operators and water utilities, but they have been put on hold.” Van Renterghem said this was due to the UK government’s controversial review of subsidies for large-scale solar power projects, which will lower the returns available.

The UK government argues that solar technology is too expensive, but Van Renterghem said he had seen the cost of cells halve in the last two to three years thanks to economies of scale in Germany, France and Belgium. The new Blackfriars station in London, which will span the River Thames, will host the largest single collection of solar panels in the UK when it opens in spring 2012. The roof of the new station will have 4,400 panels and a capacity of 1MW, enough to provide 50% of the station’s electricity. However, the development is not dependent on the level of government subsidy for solar power as the £7.3m bill was paid by the transport department’s environment fund.

Read this article by Damian Carrington on The Guardian.


Capturing Body Heat for Energy in Buildings

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 14th, 2011

Source: Green Futures


Image: Symo0 via flickr CC


From “New installations in Stockholm and Paris harness the body heat of commuters” by Sam Jones:

Swedish realtor Jernhusen is investing SEK 1 billion in the regeneration of Stockholm Central Station, including an innovative geothermal system to capture and channel the body heat of its 250,000 daily commuters. Heat exchangers in the ventilation system will convert surplus low-grade body heat into hot water, which will then be pumped to heat office space in the nearby Kungsbrohuset building, also owned by Jernhusen. The plans, due for completion in June 2012, also include the replacement of all lighting in the station with LEDs, with the aim of obtaining Green Building certification.  The system could reduce the energy costs of the office block by up to 25% – a significant saving given Sweden’s cold winters and costly gas. The common ownership of the two buildings makes the transfer of energy a clear win, but – says Klas Johnasson, one of the developers – if real estate owners collaborate, there’s no reason why the project could not be replicated on a commercial basis.

A similar initiative is underway in the Paris Metro at Rambuteau station. Warmth generated by passengers in the platforms and corridors, combined with heat from the movement of the trains, will supply underfloor heating for a public housing project, topping up the local district heating network. The apartment block, owned by Paris Habitat, is connected to the station via a disused stairwell which will house the pipes, eliminating excavation costs that would otherwise have made the project too expensive to pursue. As a result, Paris Habitat expects to cut its heating bill by up to a third.

Read the full article by Sam Jones for Green Futures.


Better Place: SBS TV Interview

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 8th, 2011

Australia’s SBS Television program Dateline recently interviewed Shai Agassi of Better Place. Watch the video or read the transcript for an update on the Better Place Centre, where visitors can test the cars, and more information on the battery switching technology:


Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi thinks he can turn the dream of mass-selling electric cars into reality… and he believes it’s all going to happen in the space of a few years. Video journalist David Brill visits the heart of his Better Place company in Tel Aviv, where visitors are queuing up to try out the cars. But they also want to hear how he’s going to tackle the problem of limited battery range, which has put the brakes on the electric car market until now. Agassi is already building a network of stations for recharging and switching batteries in Israel and Denmark, and now has Australia and the rest of the world in his sights. So does it finally spell the end for the world’s dependence on oil?

WATCH – Click to see David’s report.