Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tree Houses!

I think all of us, at least us boys, have dreamed about having tree houses since we were kids. Well Patrick Dougherty has figured out how to live out out fantasies. Sort of.

Mind Blowing Nest Houses made of Living Trees

Please follow some of the links in this article to learn more about Mr. Dougherty's art and ideas and how some modern designers are thinking about how to use tree houses to build the sustainable homes of the future.

Obviously there are some practical limitations to using trees to build homes. Namely the slow speed of growth. But just the idea of this is fascinating to me. The environmental activist inside of me hopes that more work goes into the investigation of this particular idea. It might work out very well for limited areas with specific needs that fit the advantages of tree houses.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This week we talk about wind (sort of)

Last week I talked about solar power and how I am becoming more focused on that lately because of classes I'm taking. Well this week I get to talk about wind in an indirect manner. Vestas, a Danish wind turbine manufacturer, has it's North American headquarters in my hometown of Portland Oregon. Well they recently released news that they are building a new headquarters building and they are going for LEED platinum.

New Vestas Headquarters in Portland Shoots for LEED Platinum

This is the kind of project that makes me proud of being an Oregonian. We have drawn companies to our State that are really focused on renewable energies and sustainability. Vestas is making a big time statement here by going for Platinum. It's a very difficult rating to get and requires quite a bit of investment. By doing this Vestas is also basically making the promise that they are here to stay in the Portland area which makes me very happy as well since Vestas is on the short list of companies that I'd really love to work for here in the Portland area.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Solar Power!

Okay I need to get better at this blogging thing if I really want to become good at it. I like to write. I have strong opinions. For some reason I just haven't found the impetus to blog regularly. I vow that I will do so more often in the future.

So I decided to go back to school. I'm interested in alternate energy and sustainability and, luckily for me, there is a program that coincides with my interests at my local Community College. I've enrolled in the Solar Voltaic Associates program. I even finished my first term with all A's! Yay me! Anyway, so now I'm more interested in Solar technology and I notice articles about it more often. Like this one.

Solar Powered Train Station

Why is it that the Chinese are ahead of us in high speed rail AND solar power? Or at least solar integration. Sigh. This kind of thing is exactly what we need to get things moving again in this country. What an awesome idea. Train Stations have giant roofs of empty acreage just begging to be made use of. Personally I see this as a sort of peanut butter and chocolate kind of thing.

So exciting to see projects like this get off the ground. Even if it is happening thousands of miles away.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A little, but never too late

So this article talks about a giant pump in New Orleans.

It's a few years too late to be any help to Katrina victims, but not too late to help other future people in the region.

On a purely Tim Allen kind of MAN level this pump really makes me go "Ooohhhh Ah ah ah ah."

I just want to see it run and watch the water pour from the outlets in huge gushing rivers. It's too bad that it took 5 years to get around to starting this particular project and that it will be another year or more before the pump is in place.

Why does it take so long to get projects like this started? Why weren't we already talking about something like this before Katrina smashed the place flat? It's frustrating to me that we seem to move so slowly on things that are really important and yet another part of our society is waiting in line for literally hours to get the new iPhone or some such other tech thing.

It's not that I don't have my own hunger for cool gadgets. It's not even that Cool gadgets don't have their place. I just think that we put so much pressure on companies to turn around new technologies for new cool doohickies and yet we allow slow development of things like this pump system that would truly be a boon to the very livelihoods of a significant portion of our society.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Soooo anyway. It's been a long time sine I posted something. I think that more than two months between posts qualifies me for some type of terrible punishment. The question is what would that punishment be? I don't know. Sigh. This is a side effect of how terrible I am at writing letters to my family as well. I'll try to do better.

So today I was inspired to talk about power generation and by this new project that was just green-lighted by Secretary Salazar. Please read the article found at the link below:

Cape Wind

I am very excited by offshore wind power. For one thing building these towers is a great engineering challenge. The ocean is an incredibly corrosive environment and so we have to factor that into our design. Additionally the ocean is not an easy environment to build in in the first place. Tides must be considered and will have an effect on this project in terms of scheduling. Drilling is a challenge in water anyway but in ocean water, at the depths that will be necessary to place foundation columns, it will be especially challenging. One of the concerns brought up in the article is the archeological concerns of the native tribes. This will add to the challenges as all of the proposed sites will need to be scouted excessively to rule out the presence of native artifacts.

One thing that I hope they will consider in this project is combined power generation. I see no reason to limit the project to wind power alone. The designers should be looking at ways to tap into the tidal forces in the ocean waters as well. Since a large part of the project cost will be in building the means to transmit the generated power from offshore to the existing grid we should not squander that effort by limiting or power generation capability.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hometown Pride Feels Good

Sorry for taking so long to post anything again. My last two weeks have been hectic.

Anyway I wanted to get back an track with my next post and at the same time give a little shout out to my hometown of Portland Oregon. The Federal Building here in downtown is currently getting renovations that will update it's energy usage and do some other things that are helpful for the environment. You can read it here:

In Portland, Growing Vertical

It's sort of related to one of my earlier posts about urban gardening. This project won't include farm-able plants like lettuces or anything like that, but it uses plants in a different way. For this project the designers have styled a lattice that goes up the southern side of the building where vined plants will grow. During the spring, summer and early fall these plants will provide shade for the building, reducing the power requirements for air conditioning and cooling of the building. In conjunction with a few other changes this will mean an overall reduction of 60 to 65 percent less energy needed.

Not only that but it will be beautiful. Right now the building has a large bare concrete facing that is not very nice to look at. But when it is overgrown with lush green plants and glowing the the summer sun it will not only provide a nice cool shade but it will also make for a more beautiful city to live in.

Makes me proud that it's happening here in my hometown.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Urban Parks

Today I want to talk to you about a trend in urban renewal that I really like. Reclaiming blight and making it into parkland.

New York's High Line Park

The High Line was a subway train line in active use in New York City from its construction in the 1930's until 1980. After being decommissioned the elevated tracks just stood their and began to decay. Nearly twenty years of detritus accumulated in and around the tracks. Year after year more and more wind blown seeds would fly up there and germinate, ultimately creating a sort of wild pasture an mile and a half long.

Unfortunately the structure, though still basically sound, was slated for demolition under Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1999. Then a group called Friends of the High Line began to support saving the structure and turning it into a modern urban park.

The City invested more than $40 million to turn the High Line into a park and it was opened to the public in June of 2009. Now what was once a beautiful but somewhat dangerous and mostly unknown urban wilderness is now a safe and beautiful strip of green wending it's way through the city. Now the entire city can appreciate the High Line.

The reconstruction of the park included sustainability features such as water filtering systems that catch all of the rain water for use in irrigating the plants instead of continuing to damage the structure. This is a great way to re-use resources and make a part of the city that was blighted more livable again. In fact now that the park has opened more than 30 projects have started in the area along the park alignment.

Please take a look at the link I provided above. I'm sure that you'll find the park to be beautiful.