Saturday, March 29, 2008

RIP design?

Interior specialist and New Design pioneer, Philipe Starck, has told German weekly newspaper Die Zeit that design is dead, and that all of his work has been" unnecessary and materialistic." He states, "I [am] a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact." As a result, Starck he plans on retiring in two years.

Say what he wants, but his Aprilia Moto 6.5 is purty. With gas prices booming I found myself window shopping for a commuter scooter, but I'd switch to one of these in a Mastercard minute.

Read on and see for yourself. Is design really dead?

Philippe Starck tells magazine design is dead

BERLIN (AFP) — Renowned French designer Philippe Starck says he is fed up with his job and plans to retire in two years, in an interview published in a German weekly on Thursday.

"I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact," Starck told Die Zeit weekly newspaper.

"Everything I designed was unnecessary.

"I will definitely give up in two years' time. I want to do something else, but I don't know what yet. I want to find a new way of expressing myself is a dreadful form of expression."

Starck, who is known for his interior design of hotels and Eurostar trains and mass consumption objects ranging from chairs to tooth brushes and lemon juice squeezers, went on to say that he believed that design on the whole was dead.

"In future there will be no more designers. The designers of the future will be the personal coach, the gym trainer, the diet consultant," he said.

Starck said the only objects that he still felt attached to were "a pillow perhaps and a good mattress." But the thing one needs most, he added, was the "ability to love".

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Minnesota Representative Bachmann tired of being oppressed by light bulbs...

Wow. Just wow. The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

Coming soon: a Freedom to Choose Lead Paint Bill.


Bachmann bill would reverse phase-in of energy-efficient bulbs

Mar 26, 2008 6:58 PM (20 hrs ago) By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, AP

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Rep. Michele Bachmann wants to put the brake on a national conversion from conventional incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Bachmann, a
Minnesota Republican, has sponsored the "Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act," which would repeal the national phase-out of the old bulbs.

"This is about freedom, this is about consumer rights," she said.
President Bush signed an energy bill last December that mandates phasing in energy-saving light bulbs starting in 2012.

Under Bachmann's legislation, the phase-out would be repealed unless Congress' Government Accountability Office can demonstrate that it would lead to real savings in energy costs, lead to significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and not cause a health risk to people.

Bachmann said she's concerned that the mercury content in fluorescent light bulbs could pose a danger.

"The least government can do if they are going to ban the household light bulb is provide evidence to back up their claims that there's some long-term benefit," she said. "Congress should not be in the business of promoting fads and Congress should always be in the business of watching out for the health, safety and budget bottom line of the American family."

The rest of the story can be found HERE.
Read the Star Tribune article HERE.
The original post was found via Rob Cockerham's

If you would like to reach Representative Michele Marie Amble Bachmann from Minnesota's 6th congressional district, you can contact her at the following locations:



Washington Office
412 Cannon HOB Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2331
Fax: (202) 225-6475

Woodbury Office
6043 Hudson Rd, Suite 330 Woodbury, MN 55125
Phone: 651-731-5400
Fax: 651-731-6650

St. Cloud/Waite Park Office
110 2nd Street S, Suite 232 Waite Park, MN 56387
Phone: 320-253-5931
Fax: 320-240-6905

100% pure solar power from concentrate...

At the Zenith of Solar Energy
Israeli energy startup Zenith Solar is pioneering a "concentrated solar power" method that is up to five times more efficient than standard technology

by Neal Sandler
Busines Week: Energy & Environment March 26, 2008, 1:20PM EST

Rooftops all over Israel look strikingly similar: More than 1 million households in the nation of 7.1 million people have solar panels that produce hot water—a relatively simple technology that gained popularity after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when oil prices shot up sharply. As of the early 1990s, all new residential buildings were required by the government to install solar water-heating systems.

Yet despite Israel's sunny climate and early lead in solar heating, it has been slow in adopting more sophisticated solar technologies that produce electricity from sunlight. Now, with oil hovering near $100 a barrel, a local startup hopes to build on the country's early embrace of sun power to carve out a new clean-energy business.

Zenith Solar, based in Nes Ziona near Tel Aviv, is a pioneer in a new type of solar energy that uses mirrors and lenses to focus and intensify the sun's light, producing far more electricity at lower cost. Compared with traditional flat photovoltaic panels made of silicon, this so-called "concentrated solar power" technology has proved in tests to be up to five times more efficient. That puts it on the verge of being competitive with oil and natural gas, even without government subsidies.

A Boost to Israel's Energy Supply
"Our goal is to utilize every suitable roof, backyard, and open space in Israel to turn households, hotels, and factories into net producers of electricity and thermal heat," says Roy Segev, the founder and chief executive of Zenith Solar. Founded in 2006, the startup has raised $5 million from a handful of private investors in Israel and the U.S. Now it's trying to raise an additional $10 million to $15 million to cover the cost of commercializing its technology.

The opportunity is compelling. Israel's National Infrastructure Ministry estimates solar panels for water-heating already satisfy 4% of the country's total energy demand. With technology like Zenith Solar's widely installed, the figure could jump to more than 16%—a big boost for a country now almost totally dependent on imported energy.

Zenith bought the rights to the solar technology from Ben-Gurion University and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute. A joint Israeli-German research team from the two organizations designed a working prototype, which consists of a 10-sq.-meter (107.6-sq.-ft.) dish lined with curved mirrors made from composite materials. The mirrors focus the sun's radiation onto a 100-sq.-centimeter (15.5-sq.-in.) "generator" that converts light to electricity. The generator also gives off intense heat, which is captured via a water-cooling system for residential or industry hot-water uses.

Tested over the past few years at Israel's National Solar Center in the Negev desert, the prototype achieved astounding results: A concentration of solar energy that was more than 1,000 times greater than standard flat panels.

Avoiding Costly Panels
One of the biggest advantages of Zenith Solar's approach, especially in today's market, is its limited use of polysilicon. Skyrocketing global demand for traditional photovoltaic panels has led to a worldwide shortage of the material and lifted prices tenfold in the past four years.
"Photovoltaic material accounts for 80% of the cost of standard systems," says David Faiman, chief scientific officer at Zenith, and a 30-year solar-energy veteran who was part of the development team. "Our technology succeeds in reducing this to less than 10%, while at the same time obtaining very high efficiency."

After further refining the technology, Zenith plans in the coming months to take its first major steps toward commercialization. Two large-scale test installations are planned for this summer at a kibbutz and a factory. The company will put 86 of its 7-meter-high dishes on an acre of land at Kibbutz Yavne to provide the community of 250 families with more than a quarter of their energy needs. The second project will replace fuel oil used to produce heat at a large chemical plant in central Israel.

Read the rest of the Business Week article HERE.
Read an older article from Reuters HERE.
Read a Next Energy News article HERE.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You'd work differently if you paid the bills at work...

With the recent surge in interest of household energy monitors, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their development and transition in to user-centered building automation monitoring devices/displays.*

Hydro One, Canada’s largest power utility, recently completed a 500-home pilot project in which homeowners in five different Ontario cities were given indoor displays that allow them to track their electricity consumption in real time (they used technology from Blue Line Innovations). The study, the largest ever conducted in Canada, found an average 7 to 10 per cent reduction in electricity use over the course of a year, when compared to the same months and seasons in the previous year. Their findings support similar conclusions, including a similar study out of Oxford University.

I think it would be interesting to work in a building where the power usage is publicly monitored. It wouldn’t even need to be a digital display, but could instead incorporate colors/ambient lighting in to a lobby or entrance. If a building is running at peak energy and output on any given day, the colors shift to reflect the gross output (while I admit that it would be slightly incongruous to install a large electricity-draining light feature to monitor power usage, that’s where the designers would do their design magic, installing the feature with some technobabble something-or-other that doesn’t drain from the existing grid).
Basically, I know I’d be more inclined to turn off a switch or think twice before I plug in my peripherals during peak energy hours. And while we all should be so inclined to do so on a daily basis, reminders don’t hurt.

Here’s some ambient smart monitors for the home from Springwise to show you what I’m talking about:

Wattson, first of all, is a sleek, aesthetically pleasing device that shows homeowners through both numbers and colors how much energy they are using in their home. Consumers begin by attaching to their electricity meter or fuse box a transmitter device, which can measure both single and 3-phase systems. That, in turn, beams information directly to the freestanding Wattson device elsewhere in the house, where it instantly displays current usage. Wattson's LED display can represent energy use in euros, dollars, yen or pounds, while its pulsing, colored light also reflects the amount of electricity being used, ranging from cool blue for small amounts to red for high energy consumption. The wireless Wattson display is portable, and when appliances are switched on or off, it indicates how much energy they use. Homeowners can store up to 4 weeks of energy-use history on the device and download it for analysis on software that comes included; a forthcoming community feature will let Wattson owners compare their usage. Wattson was listed in Stuff Magazine's "Cool List" of the top 10 gadgets of 2007. It is priced at GBP 149.50 from UK-based DIY KYOTO.

Home Joule, meanwhile, resembles a nightlight and plugs into any outlet in a home. The device displays not just energy usage, broadcast wirelessly by the consumer's energy meter, but also the real-time cost of energy, which comes wirelessly from the energy company. The colour of light emitted by the device represents the costs of the moment, with yellow and red light indicating expensive energy costs, while green means energy is cheaper. The idea is that consumers can then modify their consumption accordingly, switching off discretionary appliances at peak times of the day. The Home Joule is from Ambient Devices and is currently available only to customers of Consumer Powerline's demand-response program.

Finally, though not truly an energy monitor, we can't resist mentioning
Ambient's beautiful Energy Orb, which also emits different colours of light to represent pricing information. This time, however, the device emitting the light is an egg-shaped orb that plugs into an outlet. The Energy Orb has been adopted by Pacific Gas & Electric and other US energy companies, and is priced at USD 149.99.

With energy prices heading nowhere but up, so, too, will demand for devices like these. One to get in on early, especially outside the US!


*Keep in mind that I have zero planning/architectural experience, but what can I say? It’s fun to think out loud and predict grandiose changes in trends when working from the industry sidelines. I’m privy to my stupid ideas/thoughts/comments/all-office emails and nobody gets hurt.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lacking Creativity?

Aren't we all? I think this blog is proof of that...

Anywhoo, the good people over at Creative Something developed a Top 10 websurf to help get your design gears in motion.

Think of the following sites as a common cure-all for creativity block (it's like writer's block, only the glasses have thicker/blacker frames). They are intended to inspire...or at the very least, spur your plagiarism genes.

To get you started, here's ten through six:

10. Bauldoff is “a greeting of multifarious stimuli as observed by… author, Joe Bauldoff”. In other words: a superb source for creative inspiration through links, videos, and images of amazing design work, artwork, and all that jazz.

Computerlove is a social network for creative talents, and a beautifully-simple source of creative inspiration. Featuring new and talented creative designers, students, and artists, Computerlove is guaranteed to inspire you.

Tutorial Blog was one of the very first designer blogs I subscribed to. The blog provides creative design inspiration and articles, but is focused on tutorials for creative professionals. If you ever need a little bit of inspiration, Tutorial Blog is a good place to go. If you need unique design tutorials, Tutorial Blog is perfect.

Signal vs. Noise is the inspirational blog of online business-software developer 37signals. Signal vs. Noise is one of the most professional-yet-laid-back blogs I have have read, and everything posted there is always worth taking a minute or two to read.

FFFFound is an image bookmarking website, where members of the site blog about images they find online. You have to be invited by someone who is already a member to bookmark your own images, but browsing what others have found is free, and incredibly inspiring. Note that some artwork shown on Ffffound may not be safe for viewing at work.

Read the rest of Creative Something's Creative Websites HERE.