Friday, August 3, 2007

Cost efficient solar is coming.... has some excellent articles I haven't been able to put down. Everything from biotech to nanotech to energy-related articles, covering the gamut of all that is new and fresh. I HIGHLY suggest this site, including these two articles [1 2] on the greening of concrete. Registration is free, so be sure to check it out.

Solar Power at Half the Cost

A new roof-mounted system that concentrates sunlight could cut the price of photovoltaics.

A new mechanism for focusing light on small areas of photovoltaic material could make solar power in residential and commercial applications cheaper than electricity from the grid in most markets in the next few years. Initial systems, which can be made at half the cost of conventional solar panels, are set to start shipping later this year, says Brad Hines, CTO and founder of Soliant Energy, a startup based in Pasadena, CA, that has developed the new modules.

Read more.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Tapping the trailer park...

Are tornadoes emissions free?

Louis Michaud is a madman, but like most people gone mad he's obviously brilliant. Oddly brilliant. Brilliant to the point of being crazy. How about I just call him a dreamer.

Anybody with a tooth can tell you just how powerful a tornado really is, but Michaud wants to tell you how powerful it could be. His dream is to harness the power of the vortex for energy gain, and although the idea sounds vaguely similar to my Hurricane Drink Mixer, I'll let it slide.

Michaud has spent his life's work, about four decades, studying tornadoes and hurricanes. He believes it is possible to engineer man-made vortexes (a word?) in a controlled environment in order to produce clean, emissions-free energy...enough energy to power 200,000 homes at full-scale!

"I'm talking about a 200-megawatt device, which would be 200 metres in diameter," says Michaud. That's enough electricity for 200,000 homes.

"The vortex would be one to 20 kilometres high, and have 10 turbines (at the bottom) each producing 20 megawatts."

Read the rest of the article in the Toronto Star.

The Vortex Engine Patent from Wikipedia:

The concept of a Vortex Engine, independently proposed by Norman Louat [1] and Louis Michaud [2], aims to replace large physical chimneys with a vortex of air created by a shorter, less-expensive structure.

Michaud's patent claims that the main application is that the air flow through the louvers at the base will drive low-speed air turbines (21), generating twenty percent more electric power from the heat normally wasted by conventional power plants. That is, the vortex engine's proposed main application is as a "
bottoming cycle" for large power plants that need cooling towers.

The application proposed by Louat in his patent claims is to provide a less-expensive alternative to a physical
Solar updraft tower. In this application, the heat is provided by a large area of ground heated by the sun and covered by a transparent surface that traps hot air, in the manner of a Greenhouse. A vortex is created by deflecting vanes set at an angle relative to the tangent of the outer radius of the solar collector.

A similar proposal is to eliminate the transparent cover.
[3] This scheme would drive the chimney-vortex with warm seawater or warm air from the ambient surface layer of the earth. In this application, the application strongly resembles a dust-devil with an air-turbine in the center.


The Colorist: A Practical Handbook for Personal and Professional Use


Book Description

The Colorist seeks nothing less than to demystify color aesthetics. After three years of extensive travel and research, color specialist Shigenobu Kobayashi has devised a stunningly simple method for pinpointing personal color preferences. A series of clear-cut exercises allows you to accurately define your color sense and then locate it on an "image scale" in order to select compatible color schemes for home or office, or even wardrobe.

Next, Kobayashi illuminates the underpinnings of color in everyday and ornamental settings, revealing the hidden technique beneath each successful color scheme. He introduces a full range of colors for all moods and tastes, then presents eight psychological color types to assist you in putting your own color profile to practical use in the bedroom, den, playroom, or office.

With over 500 color photographs, 50 charts, and hundreds of sample "color-scale chips," the Colorist not only delivers a unique method of defining color sense but provides invaluable insights into the art of using color, making it an indispensable guide for home owners, decorators, artists, and designers-indeed, anyone who works with or enjoys color.

About the Author

SHIGENOBU KOBAYASHI graduated from Hiroshima College of Technology and received his master's degree from Waseda University for his work in the field of color psychology. In 1966, he founded the Nippon Color & Design Research Institute (NCD) and has since become a leader in the field of color psychology. Kobayashi is the author of over 30 books on color in the Japanese language, with total sales in excess of 400,000 copies. Colorist is his third English-language publication, following A Book of Colors (1967) and Color Image Scale (1991). Kobayashi is also an active participant of the International Color Association (AIC) and a lecturer at the graduate school of the Musashi Institute of Technology.

THE NIPPON COLOR & DESIGN RESEARCH INSTUTUTE (NCD) acts as a color and design consultant firm to over 300 major Japanese corporations in fields as diverse as automobiles, home appliances, cosmetics, food, department stores, and home construction. Along with its theories on the psychology of color, the institute's Color Image Scale has been applied to numerous projects, and software based on the image scale has been developed.

Remembering Rotterdam...

It isn't very often that I'm floored by landscape installations, but West 8's City on Fire/City in Bloom is a sight to be held.

The temporary installation commemorates the 1940 bombing of Rotterdam by the Nazis - a moment the razed an entire city to the ground. The flower sculpture is comprised of 64,000 red and purple flowers meant to illustrate the history of a once-burning city, now in bloom. The display was supposed to run through the end of June, but was extended by popular demand.

Here's an awesome video on the construction and preparation involved. The video begins with a German poem in the first 53 seconds, but moves on after that:

Additionally, West 8 was also chosen to map out and mark the fire limits (Brandgrens) of the city. From the website:

The Rotterdam Brandgrens (the fire limits) marks the areas of the city that were destroyed by the bombing on 14 May 1940 and the ensuing fires that broke out. The bombing only lasted fifteen minutes but managed to destroy practically all of Rotterdam’s city centre. Earlier this year CBK Rotterdam invited designers Wieki Somers, Atelier van Lieshout, Studio Anthon Beeke and West 8 to present their ideas on how to mark the fire limits. A jury was asked to choose one design. On Monday 14 May 2007 the winning design by West 8 was announced by vice mayor of Rotterdam, Lucas Bolsius.

West 8's design uses light objects to mark the fire limits. An iconic image of a flame is incorporated in circular light objects on the ground and in several information stations, that together form the marking. The image of the flame shows a visual connection with Zadkine's statue commemorating the bombing of Rotterdam. The light objects come to life at night when the solar-powered LEDs illuminate the icon. This physical marking of the fire limits is coupled with information about the historic meaning of the bombing, accessible through the information stations and a website.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doorknow no knob...

I have been a HUGE fan of Yanko Design's website for quite some time. Although the vast majority of the products proffered by Yanko are waaaaay out of my econmical reach, the designs themselves are unique without being overly trendy.

Believe it or not, that trait has grown difficult to come by as of late. It seems like designers and designees are growing more and more preoccupied with form over function. Every now and then, however, something comes along and slaps me in my face. A function so obvious, you wonder why it wasn't thought of sooner.

Yanko Design's Doorknow Signal: Lock the door? Handle is gone!

Cal Academy Cool Roof...

The California Academy of Sciences is currently working on a rebuilding project, with emphasis being placed on the Academy's scientific research and its role in protecting life on earth.

As a natural history museum, the Academy felt it imperative to incorporate as much organic material into the construction and application. The result is one of the coolest green roofs I've seen in a while, planted entirely with wild greenery indigenous to California.

Below are windows on the Morrison Planetarium roof. The windows will let in natural lighting for the aquarium tanks, while the rest of the dome will be a living roof covered in plants. It's not often you get good construction shot, but the Academy is documenting their construction from start to finish. It will be a fun project to keep an eye on.

Even cooler (pardon the pun) is the wall insulation, fabricated using recycled denim blue jeans.

Their involvement is pretty inspiring. Check out their Climate Change Blog if you have time.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ebbs and flows...

Here's a little something for all you Landscape Architects out there...
There's something about "topographic" modular design that I can't resist. I think it's the overall simplicity. With the ever-expanding development of rapid prototyping technologies, it's easy to look at designs like these and want to recreate them in the home or office. It's a basic, simple construction that calls for the pieces to be cut, then put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Scaled-down, this piece could be easily reproduced in an hour. The problem is I want to build one scaled-up! View the spec sheet.

From the website:

The appearance is a crucial part of the total product. The strong graphical impact of the design draws people attention and makes them want to test the bench. It makes a solid statement in any environment, especially when placed on a lawn where the grass grows into the design and the Topografi (Swedish for topography) merge into the shapes of nature. The painted MDF version allows interior designers and architects to choose any color of the Topografi to optimally integrate its appearance into their project.

Because topography is all the rage! Topo plates!!!