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Archive for February, 2012

Solar Mosaic: Invest in Solar Projects Anywhere

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 28th, 2012

Source: Solar Mosaic


Photo: © Solar Mosaic

One of the biggest barriers to converting to solar power has always been the initial outlay involved in the installation of panels, and connecting to the grid where necessary. In the last ten years the concept of a Solar Lease, similar to that of a car lease, has led to the expansion of the industry with traditional investors being banks, energy companies, and private equity firms. US organisation Solar Mosaic, based in Oakland California, have opened up the idea of solar leasing so that anyone can invest in solar projects to help local communities and “Bank on the Sun”; “Mosaic is a platform where people come together to create local clean energy in their communities and around the world.”

The Solar Mosaic website explains how their platform works:

1) Invest in a Project
Choose a solar project to invest in. Each project has been carefully vetted by Solar Mosaic to ensure that your investment creates local clean energy, green jobs and benefits a site host that is financially secure and has a good roof.

2) Your Project is Installed
After you and all your friends invest in the project, the project will be installed. You’ll receive updates as your project is funded, installed and connected to the grid.

3) Get Paid Back
As your investment produces clean solar electricity, the building owner will save thousands of dollars on their utility bills. Low monthly lease payments along with other incentives will go towards paying you back. All of our current projects operate under a zero-interest loan model, meaning that if you put $100 in, you’ll get $100 back over the number of years specified in the project.

 

What’s in a name?
Tile mosaics are works of art where many pieces come together to form a whole. In the same way, Solar Mosaics are solar projects where many people come together to fund a solar installation.

Mosaic is a place where you can create and fund solar projects
The solar economy is undergoing unprecedented growth. We’ve created Mosaic so you can invest in solar power anywhere and take part in the solar revolution.

Mosaic is helping to build the new energy economy
We’re a new way of financing and unleashing solar for communities across the world. Mosaic’s mission is to democratize the financial and environmental benefits of solar.

The projects are powered by people like you
Together we can create a world powered by 100% clean energy. We are excited to have you join Mosaic. Sign up and invest today.

 

Solar Mosaic have also produced an interactive guide to help in the development of your own solar project.

Read more about Solar Mosaic and their current projects on their website.


Jayride: Ridesharing to save money, reduce emissions, and meet people.

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on February 28th, 2012


Photo: Mosman Council

Carpooling and ridesharing are about sharing your travel. By filling spare seats in your car you can save money, reduce your carbon emissions, meet people and have fun. There are plenty of reasons to carpool. Australian based start-up Jayride helps you get from A to B, suggest carpooling and ridesharing opportunities, as well as buses, shuttles, and other options if there are no carpools operating where you need.

From “Meet Jayride, Anthill 2011 Cool Company Award Winner [Social Capitalist Category]” by Anthill Magazine:

Looking for a lift from here to there? Jayride wants to be your thumb.

Since 2008, the business founded by businessman/ride-sharing advocate Rod Bishop and web developer Ross Lin has been one of Australia’s leading sources of carpooling… wait for it… evangelism.

Jayride, one of the Anthill’s Smart 100 earlier [last year], uses a slick website structure to link auto drivers and riders. But if the business’ service stopped there, it would be nifty and little more. What makes Jayride cool is how it pushes its brand and how it has plugged in a revenue model designed to keep the company motoring along and driving toward its ambitious goal of extending beyond Australia.   As Bishop puts it: “Traditional carpool marketing sucks. A traditional slogan such as ‘it’s cool to pool’ means nothing, and it’s certainly not cool.  “By contrast, Jayride teams up with music festivals, solving transport problems and piggybacking Jayride onto the festival’s branding. Jayride touts itself as the ‘ultimate warm-up act,’ letting guests ‘meet fun randoms’ and ‘have great roadtrips with likeminded music lovers.’”

3,000 cars carpooled to Splendour In the Grass festival, with 500 people using Jayride. Jayride targets students, and helps tourists see sights in ways that are greener and more fun.  Jayride, which to date has about 7,000 members who have shared 80,000 rides.

[…]

Jayride notes that consistent carpoolers save 1.38 tonnes of carbon emissions a year — a save about $2,400 over the same period. By helping Australians fill empty seats in cars, buses, trains and ferries, Jayride takes a bite out of gridlock and the nation’s fuel dependency.  Jayride’s founders actually didn’t devote themselves full-time to the business until the middle of this year, when they put the revenue model in place. Now they’re ready for the long haul.  “The coolest thing about Jayride,” says Bishop, “is that it has found its niche problem and designed a niche solution that has the ability to deliver real, effective change in people’s lives.”

Jayride recently received $400,000 in seed funding to continue expanding their service and coverage.

Check out jayride.com for more details.

 


Chinese Wheelbarrows: Low-carbon, low-infrastructure vehicles

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on February 16th, 2012

Source: Low-Tech Magazine


Image from Kris de Decker

From “How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow” by Kris de Decker:

For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances.

The Chinese wheelbarrow – which was driven by human labour, beasts of burden and wind power – was of a different design than its European counterpart. By placing a large wheel in the middle of the vehicle instead of a smaller wheel in front, one could easily carry three to six times as much weight than if using a European wheelbarrow.

The one-wheeled vehicle appeared around the time the extensive Ancient Chinese road infrastructure began to disintegrate. Instead of holding on to carts, wagons and wide paved roads, the Chinese turned their focus to a much more easily maintainable network of narrow paths designed for wheelbarrows. The Europeans, faced with similar problems at the time, did not adapt and subsequently lost the option of smooth land transportation for almost one thousand years.

Transport options over land

Before the arrival of the steam engine, people have always preferred to move cargo over water instead of over land, because it takes much less effort to do so. But whenever this was not possible, there remained essentially three options for transporting goods: carrying them (using aids like a yoke, or none at all), tying them to pack animals (donkeys, mules, horses, camels, goats), or loading them onto a wheeled cart or wagon (which could be pulled by humans or animals).

Carrying stuff was the easiest way to go; there was no need to build roads or vehicles, nor to feed animals. But humans can carry no more than 25 to 40 kg over long distances, which made this a labour-intensive method if many goods had to be transported. Pack animals can take about 50 to 150 kg, but they have to be fed, are slightly more demanding than people in terms of terrain, and they can be stubborn. Pack animals also require one or more people to guide them.

When carrying goods – whether by person or by pack animals – the load is not only moved in the desired direction but it also undergoes an up and down movement with every step. This is a significant waste of energy, especially when transporting heavy goods over long distances. Dragging stuff does not have this drawback, but in that case you have friction to fight. Pulling a wheeled vehicle is therefore the most energy-efficient choice, because the cargo only undergoes a horizontal motion and friction is largely overcome by the wheels. Wheeled carts and wagons, whether powered by animals or people, can take more weight for the same energy input, but this advantage comes at a price; you need to build fairly smooth and level roads, and you need to build a vehicle. If the vehicle is drawn by an animal, the animal needs to be fed.

When all these factors are taken into consideration, the wheelbarrow could be considered the most efficient transport option over land, prior to the Industrial Revolution. It could take a load similar to that of a pack animal, yet it was powered by human labour and not prone to disobedience.

Compared to a two-wheeled cart or a four-wheeled wagon, a wheelbarrow was much cheaper to build because wheel construction was a labour-intensive job. Although the wheelbarrow required a road, a very narrow path (about as wide as the wheel) sufficed, and it could be bumpy. The two handles gave an intimacy of control that made the wheelbarrow very manoeuvrable.

Handbarrow

When the wheelbarrow finally caught on in Europe, it was used for short distance cargo transport only, notably in construction, mining and agriculture. It was not a road vehicle. In the East, however, the wheelbarrow was also applied to medium and long distance travel, carrying both cargo and passengers. This use – which had no Western counterpart – was only possible because of a difference in the design of the Chinese vehicle. The Western wheelbarrow was very ill-adapted to carry heavy weights over longer distances, whereas the Chinese design excelled at it.

On the European wheelbarrow the wheel was (and is) invariably placed at the furthest forward end of the barrow, so that the weight of the burden is equally distributed between the wheel and the man pushing it. In fact, the wheel substitutes for the front man of the handbarrow or stretcher, the carrying tool that was replaced by the wheelbarrow.

Superior Chinese design

In the characteristic Chinese design a much larger wheel was (and is) placed in the middle of the wheelbarrow, so that it takes the full weight of the burden with the human operator only guiding the vehicle. In fact, in this design the wheel substitutes for a pack animal. In other words, when the load is 100 kg, the operator of a European wheelbarrow carries a load of 50 kg while the operator of a Chinese wheelbarrow carries nothing. He (or she) only has to push or pull, and steer.

[…]

The decay of the Chinese road infrastructure

The importance of the Chinese wheelbarrow can only be understood in the context of the Chinese transportation network. Prior to the third century AD, China had an extensive and well-maintained road network suited for animal powered carts and wagons. It was only surpassed in length by the Ancient Roman road network. The Chinese road infrastructure attained a total length of about 25,000 miles (40,000 km), compared to almost 50,000 miles (80,000 km) for the Roman system.

The Chinese and Roman road systems were built (independently) over the course of five centuries during the same period in history. Curiously, due to (unrelated) political reasons, both systems also started to disintegrate side by side from the third century AD onwards, and herein lies the explanation for the success of the Chinese wheelbarrow. As we have seen, the one-wheeled vehicle appeared during this period, and this is no coincidence. Increasingly, it was the only vehicle that could be operated on the deteriorating road network.

[…]

Lessons for the future

Of course, it was not only the wheelbarrow that kept Chinese communication running after the second century AD. At least as important was the impressive network of artificial canals that complemented it. This infrastructure became ever more important after the detoriation of the road network. For example, the Grand Canal, which ran from Hangzhou to Bejing over a distance of 1800 km, was completed in 1327 after 700 years of digging.

In Europe, the first (relatively modest) canals were only built during the 16th century, and most of them only appeared in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Chinese wheelbarrow alone could not have given Europe an equally effective transport infrastructure as the Chinese, but there is no doubt that it could have made life in medieval Europe a great deal easier.

The story of the Chinese wheelbarrow also teaches us an obvious lesson for the future. While many of us today are not even prepared to change their limousine for a small car, let alone their automobile for a bicycle, we forget that neither one of these vehicles can function without suited roads. Building and maintaining roads is very hard work, and history shows that it is far from evident to keep up with it.

In this regard, it is important to keep in mind that we won’t be as lucky as the medieval Europeans who inherited one of the best and most durable road networks in the world. Our road infrastructure – mostly based on asphalt – is more similar to that of the Ancient Chinese and will disintegrate at a much faster rate if we lose our ability to maintain it. The Chinese wheelbarrow – and with it many other forgotten low-tech transportation options – might one day come in very handy again.

Read the full article (there’s a lot more, with pictures too) by Kris de Decker on Low-Tech Magazine.


More Than Money: Report on reciprocal exchange systems

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on February 14th, 2012

Source: Experientia


Image from the More Than Money Literature Review

From “More than money“:

It’s increasingly clear that we live in collaborative times. Many of the most interesting innovations of recent years have at their heart ideas of sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, exchanging or swapping. These are age-old concepts being reinvented through network technologies and a cultural shift driven by the more civic minded millennial generation.
The [More Than Money] report, with the subtitle “Platforms for exchange and reciprocity in public services”, was commissioned by NESTA and nef in an attempt to learn the lessons from the past and to provide a framework for understanding the many different approaches to complementary currencies and other platforms for reciprocal exchange.

An associated literature review brings together the existing evidence of impact, outcomes and cost that exist across reciprocal exchange systems. Time banks, complementary currencies and peer-to-peer platforms for collaborative consumption are all examples of these reciprocal exchange systems, and to structure this review we have created a typology of different types of systems to organise the evidence.

Read this article on the Experientia blog.


Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on February 8th, 2012

From “The Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)” on No Tech Magazine:

The ‘Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit’ (SUDU) in Ethiopia demonstrates that it is possible to construct multi-storey buildings using only soil and stone. By combining timbrel vaults and compressed earth blocks, there is no need for steel, reinforced concrete or even wood to support floors, ceilings and roofs. The SUDU could be a game-changer for African cities, where population grows fast and building materials are scarce.

In “Tiles as a substitute for steel“, we highlighted the medieval art of the medieval timbrel vault, which allowed for structures that today no architect would dare to build without steel reinforcements. The technique is cheap, fast, ecological and durable. Shortly after the article was published in 2008, the timbrel vault made a comeback with two rather spectacular buildings: Richard Hawkes’ Crossway Passive House in England, and Peter Rich’s Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa.

The cardboard formwork technique described last week promises to bring even more dramatic architecture, but at least as interesting is the news that the catalan vault is now also applied to a much more modest form of housing: the Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU), a low-cost family dwelling built in Ethiopia.

Though less spectacular at first sight, it could form the proof that even megacities can be constructed without the use of steel, concrete or wood.

The double-story building, which was completed in last summer, is entirely made from soil and presents an economical and ecological solution to many of Africa’s most urgent problems. The SUDU stands in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a country with a population of more than 80 million (growing at an average 7 percent per year). The building is a joint project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).

The SUDU combines past technologies from different continents, resulting in a new approach to low-tech construction adapted to specific local conditions. In the Mediterranean region, where the timbrel vault originated, the tiles have traditionally been made from fired clay. In the SUDU, the construction technique is united with the African tradition of cement-stabilized, soil-pressed bricks, which use locally available soil. This technique is called compressed earth block (CEB) construction. The SUDU has been built largely following the same techniques used for the Mapungubwe Centre in South Africa.

Read the full article to find out more about resource pressures and engineering details.


Traffic Roundabout: Award-Winning Civic Space

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on February 1st, 2012

Source: City Parks Blog

Photo: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects

From “A Design that Celebrates the People”: Normal, IL Traffic Circle Wins Smart Growth Award as New Civic Space” by Colleen Gentles:

[In December last year], EPA announced the winners of the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. We are excited to report that Normal, Illinois is the recipient of the award in the Civic Places category for their traffic roundabout.

We’ve written before about how the town’s new traffic circle has successfully managed traffic flow at a busy five-way intersection, diverted thousands of gallons of untreated stormwater away from the nearby creek, and become the town center by bringing residents together in an attractive public space. The more recent news is how the traffic roundabout is spurring local economic development with the construction of a multimodal transportation station adjacent to the circle, courtesy of a U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Both the transportation hub, which will eventually have high-speed rail service and create an estimated 400-500 new jobs, and the circle take advantage of the town’s existing infrastructure, bus service, and the historic central business district to attract even more residents to the new town center.

“The one-third-acre roundabout does much more than move cars. It invites pedestrians with shade trees, benches, lighting, bike parking, green space, and a water feature. People have lunch, read, and play music, and the open space invites community gatherings such as a holiday caroling event. It is the anchor for a community-wide revitalization and is part of Uptown Normal’s LEED-ND Silver recognition.

A popular rails-to-trails conversion, the Constitution Trail, leads to and around the roundabout, helping both to revitalize Normal and to bring people from surrounding areas to Normal’s central district. A new Children’s Discovery Museum on the edge of the roundabout already receives over 140,000 visitors per year, and a hotel and conference enter have recently opened nearby. One indication of the success of the redevelopment is that property values in the district have increased by about 30 percent since 2004.” Smart Growth Awards

According to the short video, this traffic circle was almost banned to pedestrians. It’s a good thing town officials fought back. [Watching the video, it looks like there are weekly farmers markets held on the roundabout too.  KA]

Read more about the project here, as well as the other winners from the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.

The roundabout was designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects.  Check out their site for more photos and project details.

Photo: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects