Terraform Earth

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Civil Engineering category.

Green Roofs for Container Housing

I have been contemplating a very sustainable desert community. They could save lots of money and time if they built dwellings out of used cargo shipping containers. But how to keep them cool in the desert? Green Roofs.

The shipping containers would be cheap. They could be cleaned and refurbished to become modular housing components. And by putting a green roof on top, they could keep the dwelling in the cool shade. The containers would have the structural strength to support a green roof since they were designed to be stacked like blocks.

Building soil filled planter boxes on the sides would provide further shade, some insulation, and even thermal mass effects. That last aspect is where the sheer volume of dirt would keep the dwelling cooler during the hottest part of the day and warmer at night.

Posted via web from Dan’s EcoGeekery


Ridesharing for freight/packages

I was listening to a podcast about an Open Source group that is trying to build free services for improving the connectivity within cities at little or no cost. So I’ve posted a comment to the DIYCity.org site, and I thought I would copy that post here.

In this time of tightening belts, offering each other services outside of the normal range of commerce can allow individuals and small groups to prosper while spending less. So what if the ridesharing goes beyond people only?

I imagine needing to get a book/lamp/banner to a friend/colleague some distance away, but preferring to use something more appropriate/locally efficient/cheaper than UPS/FedEx/Post Office. Maybe I could look up a driver going to that location, and offer some gas money/bartered goods/bartered services for taking my object to its destination.

Apparently, a delivery ridesharing scheme already works amongst some grocery vendors, saving delivery costs when Brand A bread is going to the same place as Brand B coffee. As with that case, ridesharing for packages might require some small groups that limit membership so they can better collaborate and coordinate amongst themselves. But I expect the majority of traffic would come from one-by-one arrangements.

Ridesharing for stuff introduces new efficiencies:
– less delivery trucks are needed, reducing traffic and carbon footprint
– trade that would go to national/multinational corporations (UPS/FedEx) stays local
– this would add a neighborly networking social benefit that the standard delivery services don’t offer
– with a reduced cost barrier to the movement of goods, exchanges can happen that might not have otherwise, improving a city’s efficiency
– drivers can feel better about their personal carbon footprint
– this may be the first way to offer deliveries via electric or hybrid vehicles
– during disasters or movement restrictions from epidemics, this could offer additional robustness to a system for moving goods by remaining more localized

This notion has been nagging at me for a while. Driving a vehicle that doesn’t change cargo capacity to fit my needs of the moment had always seemed inefficient. This notion is a step towards an ideal efficiency, made more possible with the increase mobile connectivity and location tracking of today’s gadgets.

Of course, there would be some trust issues. These might be partially overcome by:
– establishing a reputation system like eBay’s
– posting the pickup and delivery to Twitter (a kind of tracking)
– posting camera phone pics of the exchanges to Flickr (a kind of documentation/advertising)
– keeping the typical value of the objects pretty low (implying less direct competition with the bog corporate services)

I would welcome suggestions, proofs of concept, or criticisms. I might include such a system in a story I’ve been working on, so I would prefer to make adjustments if the notion is fatally flawed.


What do you get when you cross Skyscrapers with Parks?

Fora.tv recently posted a speech by Dan Winey, the Managing Principal for the Asia Pacific Region with Gensler, about another sustainable building design for a tower in Singapore. It uses an outer skin to relieve wind load and house 14 story atriums at multiple levels. It captures rainwater, graywater, and possibly blackwater for a water demand reduction of 40%. Wind turbines at the top and geothermal at the bottom. And a greatly reduced need for structural materials with less wind load.

I expect that this kind of design will happily accommodate the new materials technologies like fullerenes and carbon nanotubes, which have been tested at 60 to 100 time stronger than steel. [e.g. nanotube reinforced plastics, carbon nanotube reinforced aerospace materials]

One potential I don’t see discussed very much is that these stronger, lighter materials could also become smarter. CNTs (Carbon NanoTubes) and nanotubes of various other compositions have shown remarkable versatility. I am reading articles about nanotubes conducting electricity, acting as solar PV cells, photoreceptors, LEDs, peizeoelectrics, etc. So a CNT toughened plexiglass might also serve as a display, inform a building monitoring system of structural stress, and collect some electricity from sunlight.

Larry Niven long ago suggested the notion that our buildings might approach space ships in some design aspects. Right now we would like to see a building that can capture energy from its surroundings, operate a nearly closed environment within the building, and withstand the scale of threats on faces in space. The same way we want a shuttle to hold up against a micro-meteorite impact, we would also like our buildings to be less threatened by truck bombs, suicide planes, anthrax envelopes and food poisoning scares.

When I read articles about recycling greywater, I never read about water’s potential for slowing bullets & shrapnel. A biological waste water remediation system could also make the occupants safer from terrorist attacks. I think I would really appreciate an algal farm in between me and an explosion. How much is that worth in the ROI planning? Civil engineering and architecture need to adopt Amory Lovins’ approach of making the design challenges more inclusive, less myopic.

– ecogeekdan

EDITT Tower in Singapore

“The EDITT Tower (Ecological Design In The Tropics) is set to be built in downtown Singapore. It’s design integrates a gray water system, central recycling, passive heating and cooling and solar panels. Half of the surface area of the building will be covered in local, organic vegetation. If that isn’t enough, sewage from the building’s inhabitants will be converted into biogas. Go Poo Power!”

via 2Modern Design Talk