Posts Tagged ‘innovation’
Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on April 18th, 2013
Source: DesignBuild Source
From the Arup media release “World first bio-reactive façade debuts in Hamburg“
The BIQ [Bio Intelligence Quotient] house will become the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade […] With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this passive-energy house generates biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionality such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.
The microalgae used in the façades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2.5m x 0.7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and used to generate hot water. […]
“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.” — Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader
The system will be officially presented to the media on 25 April 2013 when the biofaçade system goes into operation for the first time.
>>> You can read the original media release on the Arup Website.
>>> You can see more images of the building and read more about it on DesignBuildSource.com.au
Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on February 8th, 2013
Source: Mesh Cities.
Image from I Make Rotterdam.
From the article “Crowd funding city innovation” by Mesh Cities.
[…] We all know or suspect that riding a populist, demographically-driven wave is the essence of electability. This era’s politicians (generally) know it’s best not to think too big in terms of urban-improving expenditures. Time is better spent learning how to deftly kick the can of crumbling infrastructure down the road—increasingly potholed though that road may be. “Let my successor manage the impending crisis,” their inner voices might be heard to say, “I’ll lose the next election if I raise taxes to fix x,y, or z let alone build something new.” This attitude is closely related to the one that causes well-established, successful companies like Nortel to go from world leaders to market flameouts almost overnight. Why improve something that the investors think to be a world beater? Behind the scenes, however, key players are running for the exits with whatever spoils they can carry before the whole operation collapses due to inattention. There is an alternative to the destructiveness of this self serving, near-term thinking about our cities: Crowd funded urban innovation. It is not a fantasy. Some cities are already doing it.
Why is crowd funded urbanism different than what we’ve seen in the past? In a way, it isn’t. It is fundamentally old school thinking brought into the digital age. In the farming communities of our parent’s parents, when people saw something that needed doing they pitched in to get it done. That’s the way crowd funded urbanism works. See it. Fix it. New communications tools are shrinking our complex world to the point where direct action is possible even where political action is an oxymoron. Even better, in a connected world we can assemble best-practice solutions in one easily accessible place for everyone’s use. Talk about efficiency.
Take a look at I Make Rotterdam for one example of a crowd funded pedestrian bridge that is a prototype for this nascent, city-changing movement. The public in that city cared enough to invest real money in the project after being inspired by New York’s High Line Park (good ideas are contagious). What’s more interesting is that their commitment spurred local government to get behind the project as well. […] That’s the power of this idea. It is not about finding new ways of taxing people. What it is about is unequivocally showing where people want their communities improved so governments can act. Another example is the U.K.’s Space Hive. Broader in scope than I Make Rotterdam, Space Hive offers opportunities to tackle the needs of communities across the U.K.
Are these projects reinventing the way representative taxation will work a generation from now; or, are they just another example of online art projects that capture our collective imagination? We will find out, but our guess is that the future of cities demands better forms of community representation. These just may be the early models that will evolve to greatness.
>>> You can read the full article on Mesh Cities.
>>> Check out I Make Rotterdam, SeeClickFix, and Space Hive for some great examples of crowdfunded urbanism in action.
Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on July 4th, 2012
From “FarmHack: Collaboratively Retooling Agriculture” by Benjamin Brownell:
FarmHack is a network for sharing open source know-how amongst the distributed fringe of DIY agricultural tech aficionados and innovators. In the same vein as Appropedia or Open Source Ecology, a collaborative digital knowledge-base facilitates the harvest of crowd wisdom to address challenges and inefficiencies in modern ecological (and economical) farm operation. It is a project of Young Farmers Coalition and somewhat angled to the exuberant and tech-savvy eco-preneurial demographic, but inclusive and supportive of all open earthy inhabitants.
A primary focus of the organization is toward intensive development meet-ups, teach-ins, and hackathons, in person, on the farm. Just after landing at my new rural summer farm home and hack-factory in Vermont, I learned of one such get-together nearby on Lake Champlain. It appealed as a chance to meet peers, learn about the local Intervale organic agricultural enterprise collective, and practice some “agile” collaborative protocols in fresh context.
We were first treated to a tour of the Intervale Center, and the predominantly “hacked” implements and equipment of its Farmers’ Cooperative, such as automated greenhouses, root vegetable washer (designed in conjunction with University of Vermont engineering students), salad greens dryer (Amana brand washing machine uncased and set to spin), four-barrelled flame-throwing weed exterminator, and electric tractor-to-be. Use of these is on a per-hour honor system basis, with a proportional pooled fund (plus lots of good-natured volunteer effort) to cover maintenance, repairs, and new purchase. It’s effective, productive, and proliferating (link is an “idea worth sharing” pdf pamphlet on farm equipment co-ops from University of Sasketchewan Center for the Study of Cooperatives).
Rural areas–so many in stark economic decline today–are in fact a wealth of raw materials, practical skill, and entrained devotion towards creative repurposing and sustainable initiative. Some of the best comfort and satisfaction about life on and with a piece of land, is that there is always plenty to “do;” to explore, to evaluate and improve upon, to hack away at in a mechanical or strategic manner–with room for creativity and eclectic flair–leading directly to concrete (frequently delicious and/or nutritious) result.
Commercial crop production and domestic animal management is intensely context-sensitive and dynamic vocation. It’s frequently demeaning and discouraging. It’s relatively crap pay. And, it is occasionally a paramount satisfaction returned for gritty labors in the public interest that are literally life-giving. Sustainable food systems are the long-range engine and “money supply” of our civil society. Open sourcing the know-how and effective story lines of successful ventures within this realm will invite citizens back into the processes and rewards of collaborative solving for abundance, ecology, community, and culture.
Read the full article by Benjamin Brownell on Shareable.
AlertNet have released a special report “Hungry World“. We heard about it via Nourishing the Planet, who featured the article “Top 10 Food Trailblazers” in their newsletter recently. The report includes articles on a range of issues to be considered when we think of feeding the world in 2050, such as Africa feeding the world; Growing food in cities; Land grabbing for food security, and food commodities speculation. As well as the articles, the report also features a “package” of videos and a series of blogs. It’s all too much to try and include here, so follow the links and explore!
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 10th, 2012
Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre
“Many economic and technological solutions that address sustainability are ecologically illiterate and too linear and single-problem oriented.”
From “Time for social-ecological innovations” by Sturle Hauge Simonsen:
Humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature. If we are to stay within the planetary boundaries, major transformations are needed in the human-environment interactions. This includes innovations that can increase human well-being and at the same time enhance the capacity of ecosystems to produce services.
In a new book entitled “Social Innovation — Blurring Boundaries to Reconfigure Markets“, [Stockholm Resilience] centre researchers Per Olsson and Victor Galaz provide the first comprehensive description of the concept ‘social-ecological innovation’.
They define social-ecological innovation as “social innovation, including new technology, strategies, concepts, ideas, institutions, and organizations that enhance the capacity of ecosystems to generate services and help steer away from multiple earth-system thresholds”.
The chapter is part of a book edited by Alex Nicholls of the University of Oxford and Alex Murdock from London South Bank University. The book focuses on new innovations “that can grapple with the central real-world challenges of our time”.
“We need to move away from quick technological fixes and foster new types of social-ecological innovation,” argue Per Olsson and Victor Galaz. “Many economic and technological solutions that address sustainability are ecologically illiterate and too linear and single-problem oriented. To solve the many complex and interconnected human-environment challenges of today we need a change of mindset.“
Olsson and Galaz point out that there are numerous examples of major socio-technological advances that have improved human life. The flipside is that too many of them have degraded the life-supporting ecosystems on which human well-being ultimately depends. Current large-scale transformations in areas like information technology, biotechnology and energy systems have huge potential to improve our lives in a sustainable way. However, this can only happen if we start working with, instead of against, nature. “Too often our societies change without improving the capacity to learn from, respond to, and manage environmental feedbacks. For example, a systemic shift to biofuels might slow climate change but lead to destructive land-use change and biodiversity loss,” Per Olsson explains.
Olsson and Galaz also warn about the tendency to apply single, technological solutions to complex problems. “This enhances the self-reinforcing feedback that keeps us on unsustainable pathways. Social-ecological innovation focuses on the interactions among a multitude of innovations that together can break current lock-ins and lead to systemic change.”
As a scientific approach, social-ecological innovation links research on social innovation and institutional entrepreneurship with resilience thinking and research on social-ecological systems.
Olsson and Galaz list a number of criteria for the kind of solutions they view as social-ecological innovations. In summary such innovations should:
- Integrate both social and ecological (and economic) aspects.
- Improve human life without degrading the life-supporting ecosystems (preferably even strengthening ecosystems) on which we ultimately depend.
- Deal with multiple social and environmental challenges simultaneously (be sensitive to the fact that solving one problem often creates new ones, there are no ultimate solutions).
- Work more directly for social justice, poverty alleviation, environmental sustain- ability and democracy than profits for individuals.
- Break and/or help avoid lock-ins and create social-ecological feedbacks that help us stay within the safe operating space for humanity as defined by the planetary boundaries.
- Include the creativity and ingenuity of users, workers, consumers, citizens, activists, farmers and businesses etc.
- Utilise the power of social networks and organizations nested across scales (from local to national to regional to global) to enable systemic change at larger scales.
Photo via Studio Osk
You are invited to a film / discussion evening in Sydney on 30 March, hosted by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.
We’ll be showing two short films. One is called Growing Change, and is about food sovereignty movements in Venezuela. For more info see: http://www.simoncunich.com.au/
The second is Food Fight and tells the story of workers in small-town Victoria trying to collectivise their closed-down tomato factory. For more info see Friends of Goulburn Valley Food Hub on facebook or check out the proposed Food Hub design by Studio Osk.
It’s going to be a great night. After the films we’ll have a group discussion with a few people there to answer questions including the makers of the films and some other folks involved in food sovereignty campaigns in Sydney and elsewhere.
A facebook event has been created: https://www.facebook.com/events/259945067424956/. Please RSVP to the event at this email growingchangesydney
March 30, 6:30pm
AMWU office, 136 Chalmers Street (near Central), Sydney
Entry: By donation; some food will be available
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.
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.
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on November 3rd, 2011
Photo: Roots of Health
From “Working With the Community to Foster Deep Roots of Health” by Molly Theobald:
Roots of Health, an organization based on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, views maternal and reproductive health as concerns that impact the well-being of entire communities.[…]
Roots of Health and its staff of young nurses and teachers, work directly with mothers and children, to bring reproductive and maternal health, nutrition, and education into the community.[…]
Roots of Health is also providing families with the tools they need to improve their nutrition.
One of these tools is a vertical garden—a large plastic drum with 40 holes cut evenly around the sides. These holes create an area for planting that is more than six times greater than the top surface of the container. The drum is filled with compost-enriched soil and planted with seeds such as eggplant, chili, pumpkin, okra and various indigenous leafy greens such as alugbati and pechay. Straw is used on the top surface as a mulch to help the soil retain moisture and nutrients.
The soil used in the vertical gardens is a homemade mixture of soil, charcoal, which acts as a conditioner, limestone, to reduce the acidity, and compost, to add additional nutrients to the soil. In this way, the vertical garden is its own self-contained and fertile growing space, producing healthy and nutrient rich harvests that are isolated from ground pollutants and pests.The organization prefers to use the plastic drums because the plastic stands up best in the humid, tropical weather, explained Marcus Swanepoel, Media and Program Manager for Roots of Health.
The drums cost approximately $15 USD each and the organization provides them to families in exchange for a small deposit. The vegetables grown in these vertical gardens not only help to improve nutrition for mothers and their children, they are also helping to diversify the diets of the entire community. Each drum produces enough food to supplement household diets, with surplus left over to be sold within the community. And households have really made the vertical gardens their own, adds Marcus. “I know some families that have set up poles on the top of the drums in order to grow beans—that isn’t something we taught them to do. They are doing it all on their own.”[…]
Read the full article by Molly Theobald, or visit the Roots of Health website.
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 11th, 2011
Investa’s Trigen Image via The Fifth Estate
From “Australia’s first trigeneration ‘precinct’ is up and running!” by Craig Roussac:
[…] Sydney now has its first trigeneration precinct, where one building’s engine can power another one’s energy needs. Why was it necessary? To answer that question, let’s clarify a couple of things. First, when we say trigeneration we’re really describing a more elaborate form of cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP). Cogeneration describes a system where the waste heat from a natural gas-powered engine that generates electricity is captured and used on-site. In instances where that waste heat (thermal energy) is directed through an absorption chiller to generate cooling, the system is referred to as trigeneration. Using gas as a fuel offers a significant reduction in carbon emissions when compared to coal-fired power generation, and the heat reclaim adds to the system efficiency. Sounds good, doesn’t it? As always, the devil is in the detail – particularly in warm climates such as those enjoyed by most Australians.
It goes without saying that electricity is almost always useful in buildings, wherever you are. Heat, on the other hand, is useful for much of the year in cold climates, but its benefits are greatly reduced in mild climates such as the one we’re blessed with in Sydney. The obvious solution for warm-weather situations where you don’t need much heat is to convert it into another form of thermal energy known as “coolth”. Hence the popularity of ‘trigeneration’ in this part of the world.
Investa installed a trigeneration plant along with a host of other environmentally-friendly features at its new 6-star office development, Coca-Cola Place in North Sydney. Ideally such plants are designed and operated to strike a balance between electrical loads and thermal loads. That is to say, you want to run the generator for extended periods at peak efficiency and have sufficient demand for thermal energy to take up all the waste heat from the electricity generation process.
Reciprocating gas engines need to be heavily loaded. If the electrical load drops below 60-70% the engine has to stop. If there isn’t demand for all the waste heat, you merely have a gas ‘generator’, not co- or trigeneration. What Investa found was that efficiency measures which were driving down electricity demand were compromising the efficient operation of the plant. It was sitting idle almost all the time. Because the base building is operating so efficiently, even with increased demand for electricity during warm weather (due to air-conditioning) the problem didn’t go away because the electrical load would drop right off whenever the absorption chiller kicked in. There was simply no way to run the building efficiently and also operate the trigeneration plant. This appears to be the choice faced by many owners of trigeneration plants.
Investa’s solution was to lease the building’s entire Energy Centre (plant room) to a specialist operator and enter into two 12-year energy supply agreements to round out the package. The arrangement links the Coca-Cola building and Deutsche Bank Place via the electricity grid. Because Investa’s partners, Cogent and Origin, are licensed electricity retailers, they are able to manage the electrical loads between the two buildings on the National Electricity Market. Effectively the system now services an electrical load of a combined 70,000 sqm highly efficient building coupled to the thermal load of a 28,000 sqm building. This is sufficient to allow for daily and seasonal fluctuations in energy demand while still allowing the plant to run efficiently for up to 14 hours per day. Most of the thermal energy will now be captured and used efficiently most of the time.
Read the full article by Craig Roussac for Green Buildings Alive.
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 4th, 2011
From “Human power generates new business energy” by Richard Maino:
Go for a walk and help power your town or city. That could happen soon on the streets, according to a UK inventor who says a paving stone in a busy area is stepped on by more than 50,000 pedestrians every day. To harness that power, young graduate Laurence Kemball-Cook came up with the idea of the energy-harvesting floor tile he calls Pavegen. It is the first device of its kind to capture this energy and transform it into electricity. When fitted in heavily pedestrianised areas it can power street lights and bus shelters, providing localised energy independence.
Pavegen is celebrating a contract for the massive Westfield shopping centre on the site of the London 2012 Olympic Games & Paralympic Games as well as its first permanent installation in a school walkway. Some seven million people are expected to walk through Westfield in the two weeks of the 2012 Games and all of them will step on Pavegen tiles. The tiles are made of 100 per cent recycled rubber from old tyres. Every time someone steps on one, it flexes a dynamo technology that stores the kinetic energy produced. The tile glows to show pedestrians they are creating power. The footfall energy could power street lighting, information signage and other applications that spring into life when people approach them.
The tiles can be used almost anywhere. Pupils at a boys’ school in Canterbury, southern England, are now lighting up a corridor simply by walking through it. And the Pavegen tiles will also help the Olympic site’s Westfield shopping centre to meet its stringent targets for environmental sustainability, making it one of the greenest shopping arenas.
Flexing just five millimetres, the Pavegen slabs absorb the kinetic energy produced by every footstep, creating 4-10 watts of electricity. The energy is stored in the slabs in a battery for up to three days or distributed to nearby street lights, information displays and even electrical appliances such as computers and fridges. The energy generated from five slabs can illuminate a bus-stop throughout the night and, with heavy use, a Pavegen installation could pay for itself within two years, with each slab targeted to have a five-year lifespan. The technology is suitable for indoor use and Pavegen is finalising the design for the outdoor units. Only five per cent of the footfall energy goes to the low-energy LED lamp to make the tile glow, while the remaining 95 per cent powers the tile’s environs.
Read the full article by Richard Maino.