Day 3 had a wonderfully lively panel in the main arena hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Peter Madden of Forum for the Future gave a great talk identifying 5 key emerging trends, and Neil Bennett of Farells discussed the possible benefits of Londoners reclaiming the Thames as a resource, which I plan on looking at in a more technical way in a later post. What was most interesting in this talk though were some of the panel comments on the need to make sure that companies are addressing the main issues surrounding thier carbon emissions rather than making superficial changes. Though I can’t recall the precise wording, Peter Madden very memorably pointed out that it wasn’t worth spending thousands of pounds and man hours redesigning a yoghurt pot to be super sustainable if the the yoghurt itself, and the processes that went into making it, were the main source of waste and pollution to begin with.
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Ecobuild 2013 is over and it was great, made a tonne of great contacts and possibly made a small reputation for being ‘that guy who asks the questions’…
Day 2 had a great talk by Philip Tidd on how work is an increasingly mobile affair, and that a truly environmental office will reflect this, finding things to fill the 60% of the time an office space may be empty, and designing flexible office spaces to embrace the fluid nature of out of office work. Some of the basics of his observations and predictions can be found in this geekily titled article.
Just back from my first visit to Ecobuild 2013 at the Excel Centre, London. Having taken my time deliberately this morning I got in at 12:30, just in time for great talks by Jo Wright (Feilden Clegg Bradley), and Henry Luker (Max Fordham). Jo focussed on the HIVE library in Worcester. It’s an amazing looking building, but also an amazingly functional one. I wrote one of my first pieces on developing positive and negative pressure and so inducing air flow, from geometry derived from Prairie Dog mounds. While she alluded to a more aesthetic use of bio-inspired architecture in the shape and material of the roof of HIVE was reminiscent of barnacles, it was interesting to note this almost convergent evolution in functional building design with my work on the dissertation.
Academic researchers need to start making choices now about what they are working towards. Possibly more important, and probably more difficult to answer honestly, they need to start deciding why they are working, and where their work is going.
A while back I posted a week long biomimiquiz, which included tumbleweeds as a mine clearance device, as suggested by Massoud Hassani. Through reading Carl Hastrichs coverage of the topic, I found this fascinating, and to my mind well performed statistical analysis of their usage, highlighting the issues of what the author wonderfully describes as ‘the unicorn problem’. This is exactly the kind of work that biomimicry needs, something that can cut through what could develop into biomimicry as a design fashion statement to deal with the actual, realistic effects that we can expect from biomimicry process and design.
Termite mounds might offer so much more opportunity for biomimicrists than we currently realise. Possible the most famous ‘Biomimicry Template’ in functional biomimetic architecture is emerging as one of the most poorly understood. This situation is entirely understandable, though also highlights one of the biggest issues those following the design paradigm must surmount: How do we become an expert at everything?
As I began on Tuesday, the Eastgate Centre is good design. It is NOT good biomimicry.
To be fair, the project was partially designed on the science as it was understood at the time. But, as far as I can see only partially. The design falls down in terms of biomimicry on two points
1) Termite nests (probably) do not ventilate the way that Mick Pearce thinks
2) Termite nests do not stay within “1 oC all year around”
The first of these is an understandable mistake considering the published literature of the time. Recent research (last 5 years) has been, as far as I’ve been able to find, the first to start poking holes in long established termite mound ventilation models. Let me explain…
The Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe, is a very famous building to environmental construction. Designed by Mick Pearce in conjunction with ARUP, the mixed office complex and shopping mall utilises thermal mass and a specific air change schedule, using high rates of mechanical night cooling, supplemented by smaller rates of passive ventilation during the day to keep air fresh and at the correct temperature. In addition fan power requirements are reduced by stack effect ventilation through the building, and the buoyancy effect generated by the occupants’ metabolic activities. The ventilation costs one tenth of that of a comparable building, saving $3.5 million in energy costs in the first 5 years.
A few weeks back I applied to what I thought of as ‘my dream job’. I didn’t get past the paper application stage, but that’s just how things seem to go. For the application I was asked to write a ‘chatty letter’ explaining why I wanted to work for [Unnamed company] and why I thought I would be a good fit. To make it clear I have NO BAD FEELINGS towards said company, who may well be reading this. It was probably a slightly long-shot anyway.
The act of writing this chatty letter I found quite interesting, and obsessed me for a few days. I have never written so many vastly different drafts of a document in my life. I had dull academic ones, ones that were slightly too sycophantic, very arrogant ones which made me feel sick writing. In the end I took them at their word and sent them what follows. I post it here because I don’t think I have ever managed to so concisely document both my background and environmental thoughts, and felt it might give a little more context to what I write here, especially as my stats page and twitter account seems to indicate I have at least 30 readers who I have never met. So I guess thanks [unnamed company], at least I got something constructive out of the application process View full article »