Posts Tagged ‘education’

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.

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 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.


CERES: Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 2nd, 2011

Image: avlxyz via flickr CC

CERES – Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies, is an award winning, not-for-profit, environment and education centre and urban farm located by the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia. Built on a decommissioned municipal tip that was once a landfill and wasteland, today CERES is a thriving, vibrant community. Over 300,000 people visit CERES each year. Many more connect with us through our innovative program taking sustainable education directly to schools across the State.

CERES is recognised as an international leader in community and environmental practice. CERES Organic Farm, Market, Shop, Co-ops and Café and Permaculture and Bushfood Nursery are unique social enterprises that offer new solutions and ways to combat climate change. Community groups such as the Bike Shed, Community Gardens and Chook Group that call CERES home are also vital to CERES culture.

All waste and water on the site is recycled and much of the site is powered by renewable energy such as wind and solar. CERES is now working towards making the site completely carbon neutral by 2012. CERES is a model for a possible future where innovation, sustainability, equity and connectedness are valued. Both as a place and a community, CERES is striving to create a new way of being.

Watch a video about CERES here or visit the website to explore the enormous range of projects, enterprises and opportunities CERES supports:

Adaptive Capacity: Design for Resilience and Resourcefulness

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 13th, 2011

Source: Core 77

© Shelterbox UK

From “Building Adaptive Capacity: Towards a Design for Sustainability 3.0” by Michael Sammet:


Designing to expand adaptive capacity means creating objects, templates and platforms that allow people and systems to survive and even thrive in a complex and uncertain planet. In a world increasingly shaped by peak oil, global warming, economic uncertainty and environmental disasters (Deep Water Horizon, Pakistani floods, Fukushima), designers are coming to grips with how to help users create local resilience and self-reliance. In fact, the concept of resilience has become an important term that designers are just now grappling with. An emergent property of systems that is related to the “longevity” tenet of sustainability but qualitatively different from its “no impact” focus, resilience is concerned with cycles of change and positive adaptation. Resilience thinking integrates social and environmental factors into a holistic framework that helps users prepare for —or even take advantage of—shocks to a system.

In their 2006 book Resilience Thinking, Brian Walker and David Salt explain the concept of the four phases of the adaptive cycle: rapid growth, conservation, release and reorganization. They argue that building adaptive capacity based on resilience, not optimal efficiency, allows systems to absorb and prepare for external disturbances without crossing thresholds that shift to another regime. Designers need to consider differentiated, integrated strategies for change rather than rational, efficient strategies that maximize and exploit the growth of early stages. These growth-focused systems certainly yield more substantial paybacks but at the expense of resilience, such that they are more prone to massive shakeups after significant fluctuations. As Salt and Walker explain, “any proposal for sustainable development that does not acknowledge a system’s resilience is simply not going to keep delivering goods and services. The key to sustainability lies in enhancing the resilience of social-ecological systems, not in optimizing isolated components of the system.”

Design for resilience, which has surfaced at the burgeoning conjunction of environmental science, localism and business scenario planning, is just now beginning to appear on designers’ radar and can be implemented on many different levels. At the most practical level, ShelterBox can help a group of ten survive major disaster for a prolonged period. Transition Towns are popping up all over the globe as people begin to redesign their cities in response to the rising cost and resource depletion of fossil fuels. Forage movements, permaculture projects and farmers markets are all examples of ways of building resilient food systems. After recent government interference of communication systems in the Middle East, resilience thinking led designers to consider how to create decentralized, localized Internet and cell phone systems, not just new, faster and lighter versions of the old models.

From a larger article on Design for Sustainability by Michael Sammet for Core 77.

Check out this excellent article about Food Connect’s small local network delivering food to residents in the Brisbane floods. KA

Visioning 2032: Short Films on a Sustainable Future

Posted in Visions by Kate Archdeacon on February 23rd, 2011

The Victorian Eco Innovation Lab (VEIL) has launched a series of thirteen one-minute films at Federation Square, which will run within the regular content on the Big Screen over the next few months. The films are responses to some of the questions VEIL has been asking since the project started in 2007:

What could a sustainable neighbourhood in Melbourne look like? How could we transform a number of our existing urban communities through design ‘interventions’?

If we are to develop low-carbon resilient suburbs in Melbourne, we need to have some vision of what a desirable future living scenario is, and the changes we can make today to set us on a path there. The films are a glimpse of that potential future. The animated films are a culmination of four years’ worth of work by students and staff from Swinburne University, RMIT University, Monash University and the University of Melbourne, as well as from Melbourne design professionals. Each presents a different area of sustainable design innovation. These include new infrastructure schemes for water, food, energy and public transport, along with innovative design strategies for suburban development and new local employment opportunities.

The films can be seen here, on the VEIL website, or they can be downloaded from Vimeo (once you log in).

SustainableCitiesNet is a project of the Victorian Eco Innovation Lab.

Urban Cultivators in Romita: Sembradores Urbanos

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on November 25th, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

All photos: K. Archdeacon 23-11-10

From Appropedia:

Sembradores Urbanos is a nonprofit urban agriculture demonstration center and outreach group in Mexico City started by three women living in Mexico. There vision is to transform urban soil into green, productive, and sustainable spaces. They opened the The Center for Urban Agriculture Romita, one of the first urban agricultural community spaces in Mexico. The center demonstrates a variety of urban agriculture and organic gardening techniques as well as serving as a space for workshops and courses. Sembradores Urbanos helps give talks at schools and businesses, puts on community movie nights, and helped start the Barter Exchange Merkado de Trueke in Plaza Romita. They also help install gardens in homes and apartments, hospitals, and juvenile detention centers with local volunteers.”

VEIL colleague Dianne Moy made sure I knew about Sembradores Urbanos before I came to Mexico City, so I visited the site yesterday afternoon.  More than three years after the launch, the demonstration projects have increased in diversity, always following a simple, effective approach – making it, naming it and illustrating it – which is lucky because my Spanish is non-existent.  This tiny corner of Romita is hidden away in a typically dense neighbourhood, so the gardeners here struggle with the same issues many city-dwellers face – small spaces, limited sunlight, polluted rainfall and nowhere for deliveries of compost or other bulk supplies.

The main website is in Spanish, but the Appropedia article on the project has links to most of the gardening techniques and planting information – both sites are well worth a look.

(I noticed a jar of seed-bombs on the shelf there – will have to keep an eye out for guerilla gardens around the city.)

Introducing the Smart Grid! via Mexico City

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on November 19th, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

A Smart Grid, described by Siemens as the “intelligent network infrastructure” that supports the “systematic optimization of the energy system”, would allow energy production and consumption to become more aligned, reducing waste in energy production and increasing consumption awareness through smart meters, tariffs and smart appliances.

Siemens have erected their Smart Grid Dome in the Plaza Santo Domingo, here in Mexico City.  The interior dome acts as a projection screen for a multimedia introduction to Smart Grid Solutions, while touchscreens around the walls divide the information into (roughly) Grid Management and ICT, Renewable Energy, and Scales of Application (Industrial, Commercial, Residential).  The information is a mixture of technical specifications, background information, current research, case studies and proposals.

While it may seem like shifting to smart appliances and meters does not reduce the need for “stuff” (and what we do with all the “non-smart” stuff when it’s not wanted anymore), there are opportunities to combine Sharing Services and Product Service Systems (PSS) with smart grids.  For example, a smart grid might encourage people to set their smart washing machine to run during off-peak supply for wind power – say at 3 in the morning.  In this model, everyone still owns a washing machine.  But what if your local laundry service did the same thing – using less resources and energy while creating a central point for water-saving infrastructure? (Local Laundry Service?? Check out this pedal-powered laundry service in Buenos Aires.)

More to come on this…

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Building as Teaching Tool for Sustainability

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 18th, 2010

Image: Ross Barney Architects

From an article on World Architects about the James | Swenson Civil Engineering Building by John Hill:

As sustainability continues to take hold in the architectural profession, the most desirable projects enable designers to express green features, making them educational devices to the clients and users. Chicago firm Ross Barney Architects has done such a thing to great effect at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. The architects answered some questions about their design of the James | Swenson Civil Engineering Building.



Designed to display the building systems as a pedagogical tool, the building showcases the structural, and mechanical systems as well as stormwater management techniques. The building acts as a working classroom for the students using the space. Structurally, the building utilizes precast concrete walls, precast hollowcore floor slabs, and steel. The puzzle piece precast walls of the structural lab educate that precast can be formed into any shape, while still forming together in a unique pattern offering slot windows throughout the finished concrete box. The south wall of the space retains the exterior tilt-up braces and kickers that are used as temporary supports during the construction process to feature the process of this construction.



The oversized scuppers serve a functional role in preventing rainwater from overflowing the storm sewer system and causing environmental damage to the local stream beds. Water is directed from the rooftop, down the scuppers, and into a trio of above ground Corten cylinders, which distribute the water into an underground French drain. This reused greywater fills the flume in the Hydraulics Laboratory for student experiments, or gradually filters back into the hydrological system of the site. In addition to the French drain, a number of other stormwater retention strategies were employed, including; an intensive green roof over 30% of the total roof area, rain gardens with non-irrigated native plantings, and permeable pavers. Through the combination of greywater reuse and the implementation of low-flow restroom fixtures, a 56% reduction in water usage was achieved.

Read the full article by John Hill.

Showcasing Sustainability and Design: Sustain 2010

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 15th, 2010

Image: One of the winning designs – Energy Trumps, from Embodied by Rich Gilbert

Sustain is a showcase for the work, issues and arguments that relate to the ever-more-complex arena of sustainability within the Royal College of Art (UK). The RCA offers a unique forum: we can open up and explore issues without the pressure solely to present solutions; and we bring the ‘systems’-thinking creativity of cross-disciplinary discussion to the presentation and discussion of sustainable practice in art and design disciplines.

Sustainability represents a key emerging institutional need across the creative and cultural industries. Our goal at the RCA is to inspire and challenge a new creative generation across the UK to embrace and address sustainability in their work, demonstrating how principles of sustainability and responsibility can fuel innovation, and support and enhance real-world strategies for change.

The Sustain Award 2010 was presented on 23 September. All the works included in the Sustain 2010 Exhibition can be seen online.

Further reading: The Challenges of Teaching Sustainability: the RCA’s Approach on core77

Soap Operas (Storytelling) for Education (Behaviour Change)

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 6th, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From Makutano Junction Soap Opera by Molly Theobald:

The last place most of us look to for useful information is television soap operas. But Makutano Junction, a Kenyan-produced soap opera set in the fictional town of the same name is not your average TV drama. Broadcast in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and throughout English-speaking Africa, Makutano Junction doesn’t deal with the evil twins, amnesia, and dark family secrets typical of U.S. daytime dramas. Instead, the show’s plot lines revolve around more grounded (although not necessarily less dramatic) subjects like access to health care and education, sustainable income-generation, and citizens’ rights.


In Episode 8 of Season 6, which aired in 2008, the character Maspeedy gets into trouble for soaking seeds. Seed soaking works by essentially tricking the seed into thinking it has been planted, allowing it to soak up in one day as much water as it would in a week in the soil. This speeds up germination and significantly shortens the time between planting and growth, leading to a vegetable harvest in a quick amount of time.

But the other characters in the show are unfamiliar with this practice and, when they discover Maspeedy’s project, have him thrown in jail because they are convinced that he is brewing alcohol illegally. After some plot twists and a little slapstick humor involving two trouble-making characters who attempt to drink the water in order to get drunk, the truth comes to light and Maspeedy is released from jail. He then teaches the rest of the town the simple technique of soaking seeds to speed plant-growth time.

After the episode aired in May 2008, thousands of viewers sent texts to Mediae requesting more information about seed-soaking techniques. These viewers were sent a pamphlet with detailed instructions on how to soak their own seeds. Follow-up calls— which were part of a study to test the effectiveness of the show’s messaging— revealed that 95 percent of those who had texted for more information had found the pamphlets helpful. And 57 percent had tried out seed soaking even before the pamphlet arrived, just based on the information provided on the show. Ninety-four percent said that they had shared the information with up to five other people.

Read the full article by Molly Theobald on Nourishing the Planet.