The book of the mimicry of the living

The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is 5 years into its mission to  “help the world develop a deeper understanding of the lunar environment” and pave the way for mans return to the moon. Maybe even in a more permanent role.

This video released last week outlines many of the discoveries made since launch in 2009, highlighting a variety of ‘hole’ structures. A number of these have been found in the dark lunar maria, ‘seas’ of ancient volcanic activity. Ranging from 5-900m diameter, they widen underground and are though to be the collapsed ceiling of lava tubes. Other pits are formed from meteorite impacts.

The suggestion of the NASA video is that these areas will be suited to prolonged human settlements as they offer protection from radiation and further meteorite impacts. Living underground has the benefit of more stable temperatures as well, though we’ve made use of that since the birth of man right here on earth.

Interestingly, LROC, the camera system mounted on the LRO, indicated in 2012 that the moon may not be entirely tectonically inert either. So anyone setting up an underground home might need to tread carefully. Still, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru would be the first to say that living in a hole in the ground out in space has its own issues…


via Topless Robot [cc]


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INFOGRAPHIC: How it Works, the Solar Decathlon Microgrid

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The Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges 20 collegiate teams from around the world to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. 

The houses are built over a two year period on campuses across the world, and are then shipped to Irvine, California- the competition itself consists of 10 contests, one being on Energy Balance, measuring the net energy each house produces and consumes.

One of the most important aspect to this concept is the micro-grid solution — the connection between the houses and the local utility to provide excess solar energy to the grid.  Each team’s house is equipped with a bidirectional utility meter that enables power flow to and from the electrical utility and a net metering system to record energy consumption and PV energy production.

Here’s how it works…

David Parr‘s insight:

Always wondered how this competition was organised. Pretty cool way of trying to set a benchmark for designs.

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Ecobuild Day 3: Yoghurt and Crystal

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 Day 2: Changing work habits and new materials

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.

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Ecobuild Day 1: Good design and great people

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.

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