Built Environment

Thinking Aloud ~ Meeting the exponential demand for creativity, ingenuity and Tacit Skills in the #oneplanetworld

An email to a friend

Hi Andrea

 It good to catch up again last night at the Lancashire Construction Best Practice Club event; This was a really interesting meeting and after  I mentioned Sugata Mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching. Here is the link to the TED Talk he gave last year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk60sYrU2RU

He has virtually proved that learning is an emergent property when small groups of students have access to information they can share.

I feel we are failing our learners if we do not lever the potential of social media and the internet to liberate the creativity all children possess and largely lose as they grow up with the educational model we have used since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution  . Ken Robinson makes this point in probably the most watched TED Talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Alison’s ideas and work with her Classofyourown Project www.classofyourown.com  is similarly inspirational and a vital tool in engaging children in the STEM subjects.

The problem, of course, as Alison has pointed out, is not with the children, it is with the Teachers and the industry, simply because they were not exposed to this concept of ‘emergent learning’ and the unlimited expectations of their mentors as they grew up.

In reality this educational model never served, but in this time of exponential change, where more children will be passing through education in the next fifty years than have ever done, we cannot create inspirational teachers fast enough to liberate the necessary creativity that will enable us to solve the problems presented in the One Planet World we now inhabit.

The other key issue of course is the necessity we have to reduce the resource and carbon intensity of the built environment by considerable amounts. We must liberate the creativity to do this by design, or resource availability at a price we can afford to pay as a society, will do it for us.

In all this a key point is being missed and this is the need to maintain and generate the ‘tacit’ skills our society requires as my generation passes from the scene. These are not created by this ‘Mitra’ process, powerful and vital though it is. Initiatives like Classofyourown are key to liberating these tacit skills as well.

These thoughts apply to all sectors of society of course not just construction, but the built environment does consume 50% of our resources.

Attached are two articles  that were in the Professional Engineers’ Handbook in 2005 and 2006. There is no point in my being unduly modest at this critical time and I feel they are both prescient and could have been written last week.

The third article attached is from the May 2008 edition of the CIBSE Journal and addresses the other key issue, our need to understand, as an industry the concept that the sustainability journey is just one of continual improvement towards perfect quality.

Kind regards



Sustainability and the Energy Gap sustainability-and-the-energy-gap2005

Building Towards the Future Sustainability, Building Towards the Future 2006

The Double-headed Coin Double Headed Coin – unformatted – BS


Rescuing Suburbia

Rescuing Suburbia


Posted by jeffvail on October 31, 2010 – 10:52am in The Oil Drum: Campfire

My presentation is about “Rescuing Suburbia.” I thought about putting a question mark after that title, but decided instead to take the position of a cautious advocate for the prospects of suburbia. I’m not even sure that suburbia needs “rescuing.” Instead, I’ll take the radical viewpoint that suburbia’s inherent flaws may turn out to be our civilization’s salvation, though in a rather unexpected way. [NOTE: I love this picture–it’s about as extreme an illustration of the failings of suburbia that I can imagine. In fairness, THIS is the kind of suburbia that I do expect to fail and be abandoned, the following comments notwithstanding……………

Full story and video at http://campfire.theoildrum.com/node/7061

Belkin launches gateway to bring Smart Meter data into the home

Belkin Launches Gateway to Bring Smart Meter Data into the Home

Published October 01, 2010

Belkin Launches Gateway to Bring Smart Meter Data into the Home

PLAYA VISTA, CA — Electronics manufacturer Belkin this week released the latest in its Conserve line of energy-saving products, and in the process moved the smart grid from version 1.0 toward 2.0.

Belkin’s new Conserve Gateway is a wireless router that connects to a home or business’s smart meter, and gives users real-time insight about energy use through a web-based interface.

As relatively straightforward as that technology sounds, it hurdles one of the big obstacles slowing the smart grid’s progress: The router makes a smart meter a tool as useful to residences as it is to utilities.

As utilities across the country rolled out smart meters for their customers, some areas have seen a backlash attributable to a combination of at-times faulty technology and poor education by utilities about the potential benefits of smart meters. In California in particular, but from coast to coast, politicians and individuals have begun putting the brakes on smart grid expansions.

Smart meters are currently part of the first phase of the evolution of the grid from centralized and disconnected to decentralized and interconnected, but the meters to date have primarily served as a way to ease utilities’ ability to collect data. Rather than sending employees out to read every meter, smart meters simply transmit the data wirelessly.

From http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2010/10/01/belkin-launches-gateway-bring-smart-meter-data-home?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+greenbiz/energy-climate+(Energy+%26+Climate+|++Greenbiz.com)&utm_content=Google+UK

Read more: http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2010/10/01/belkin-launches-gateway-bring-smart-meter-data-home?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+greenbiz%2Fenergy-climate+%28Energy+%26+Climate+%7C++Greenbiz.com%29&utm_content=Google+UK#ixzz11JoHemxS

China’s car-straddling bus — and its technical creativity

China’s car-straddling bus — and its creativity in clean tech

By Deborah Gage | Aug 6, 2010

This picture from China News shows China’s latest scheme for handling both its traffic jams and its air pollution — a combination bus/train that would straddle the road so cars could drive underneath it.

The project was exhibited in May at the Beijing International High-Tech Expo by the Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co Ltd., according to the news service China Hush.

It runs on electricity or solar energy. Passengers would sit on the top level (the bus can accommodate 1200 to 1400 people) while cars drive beneath them.

Its creators claim the straddling bus could reduce traffic jams by 25 to 30 percent, partly by getting people out of their cars and partly because the bus would move along with the cars underneath it rather than being one more vehicle on the road.

See full story and video at http://www.smartplanet.com/technology/blog/thinking-tech/chinas-car-straddling-bus-and-its-creativity-in-clean-tech/4934/

What are Feed-In Tariffs and why have they been introduced?

By Matthew Easter, SEC Industrial Battery Company

What are Feed-In Tariffs and why have they been introduced?

In the broadest sense, the UK Feed-In Tariffs (or FIT’s as they have become known) are a financial incentive being introduced by the UK government to encourage home owners and businesses to fit renewable energy systems to their properties and generate electricity on a local scale. There are a number of reasons why they have been introduced but, at the most basic level, like many other countries we urgently need to address the fact that our energy consumption requirements continue to increase, whilst in contrast our ability to generate electricity using traditional methods will decrease in the years ahead, as fossil fuel and nuclear power stations are decommissioned but not replaced. The other key objective of this scheme is to facilitate a significant increase in the amount of power we generate nationally from renewable methods, with the aim of meeting the EU target set for the UK of 15% through renewable energy by 2020.

How do the Feed-In Tariffs actually work?

From April 1st 2010, the UK Feed-In Tariff scheme will start and homeowners or commercial businesses/property owners can apply to receive money for every Kilowatt Hour (kWH) of energy generated using approved renewable energy systems that they buy and have installed on their property. There are several different types of renewable energy system included within the FIT scheme, as follows……………

Fullarticle at http://www.lowcarboneconomy.com/community_content/_tips_did_you_know/9207/rss

Reducing the Resource Intensity of Learning etc – a systems approach


Underground data center to help heat Helsinki

In the chill of a massive cave beneath an orthodox Christian cathedral in Helsinki, Finland, a city power firm is preparing what it thinks will be the greenest data center on the planet. 

Excess heat from hundreds of computer servers to be located in the bedrock beneath Uspenski Cathedral, one of Helsinki’s most popular tourist sites, will be captured and channeled into the district heating network, a system of water-heated pipes used to warm homes in the Finnish capital. 

“It is perfectly feasible that a quite considerable proportion of the heating in the capital city could be produced from thermal energy generated by computer halls,” said Juha Sipila, project manager at Helsingin Energia

Beneath Helsinki’s Uspenski Cathedral a new data center is being built whose heat will help warm homes in the Finnish capital. 

(Credit: Jrielaecher/Wikimedia Commons)

Finland and other north European countries are using their water-powered networks as a conduit for renewable energy sources: capturing waste to heat the water that is pumped through the system. 

Due online in January, the new data center for local information technology services firm Academica is one way of addressing environmental concerns around the rise of the Internet as a central repository for the world’s data and processing–known as “cloud computing.” 

Companies seeking large-scale, long-term cuts in information technology spending are concentrating on data centers, which account for up to 30 percent of many corporations’ energy bills. 

Data centers such as those run by Google already use around 1 percent of the world’s energy, and their demand for power is rising fast with the trend to outsource computing. 

One major problem is that in a typical data center only 40-45 percent of energy use is for the actual computing–the rest is used mostly for cooling down the servers. 

“It is a pressing issue for IT vendors since the rise in energy costs to power and cool servers is estimated to be outpacing the demand for servers,” said Steven Nathasingh, chief executive of research firm Vaxa. 

“But IT companies cannot solve the challenge by themselves and must create new partnerships with experts in energy management like the utility companies and others,” he said. 

Data centers’ emissions of carbon dioxide have been running at around one-third of those of airlines, but are growing 10 percent a year and now approach levels of entire countries such as Argentina or the Netherlands. 

Energy savings
Besides providing heat to homes in the Finnish capital, the new Uspenski computer hall will use half the energy of a typical data center, Sipila said. 

Its input into the district heating network will be comparable to one large wind turbine, or enough to heat 500 large private houses.

Full story at  http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10405955-54.html


Examine use requirements and design before choosing lighting fixtures

Examine Use Requirements and Design Before Choosing Lighting Fixtures

By Lindsay Audin
December 2009

When looking at the life-cycle cost of lighting, it pays to parse all the pieces: not just the prices for fixtures, lamps, and ballasts, but also the costs for power to run them, the labor to maintain them, and services to dispose of them. Savings are possible that could cut the overall cost of illumination by 5 to 15 percent.

Most estimates are that 80 percent of the cost to operate a fixture is energy, with the remainder distributed between labor and parts. But such charts may not include the initial cost of the fixture, lamp/ballast disposal, and other charges. Fortunately, options exist to minimize these and other factors, including energy.

For the purpose of looking at the lifetime costs of lighting, and opportunities to contain and reduce them, the following examples use a typical recessed 3-lamp, 4-foot linear fluorescent fixture with standard T8 lamps and an electronic ballast. All costs are in today’s dollars, without escalations.

Start With The Task

Most spaces are illuminated to achieve tasks such as work, instruction, or sales. Each has an appropriate lighting level, but finding such excessive levels is common. Some corridors are lit as brightly as offices or classrooms, despite the fact that a much lower level may be satisfactory. The same may be true when a task changes. One college library space was converted to a cafeteria, with no adjustment to lighting levels. Many offices now filled with LCD screens are still lit as though typewriters were in use. The end result in all three cases is roughly double the necessary light level, which then doubles the operating and maintenance costs………………

full story at http://www.facilitiesnet.com/lighting/article/Examine-Use-Requirements-and-Design-Before-Choosing-Lighting-Fixtures–11343