Rejuvenative technologies are behaviours and technologies that support, borrow from, utilise, work alongside or benefit from the Earth’s natural productive capacity. They may include recognised sustainable stewardship and production techniques, nature mimicking design, sustainable and net positive biological production, or the as yet emerging “lifelike” natural manufacture.
Our economy, our engineering and our technology must become both explicitly and inherently rejuvenative, to make a manifest contribution to the abundance, vitality and productive capacity of natural capital upon which they rely. Such an approach has a number of obvious benefits: READ MORE>>
New Experientia videos, showing the Ecofamilies and Stories projects respectively, focus on monitoring domestic energy consumption in different areas of Europe.
The Ecofamilies video (in French with our English subtitles) is a feature on the project by France’s TV France3. For Ecofamilies,
Experientia partnered with the Centre Scientifique et Technique du
Bâtiment (CSTB) of Nice, France, and a series of other agencies, for a
French sustainability project, aimed at the development of a web
platform for a pilot house to monitor domestic energy consumption.
From March-June 2012, Experientia conducted participatory co-design
workshops with 30 volunteer families. The workshops aimed to discover
the real behaviours, attitudes and needs of families when it comes to
The project produced an innovative technological solution that allows
families to have a concrete understanding of their energy consumption,
and of the choices that are available to reduce it, with personalised
tips, and detailed, useful information on household energy use. READ MORE >>
Nathan Phillips steps out onto the roof of Boston's Prudential Tower and looks down at the city 50 stories below. Up here, the rush of the wind has replaced the cacophony of car horns, screeching brakes and conversations filling the streets. And the rarefied air carries none of the odours that wrinkle an urban nose. The roof is “essentially a different atmospheric environment from the rest of the city”, says Phillips, an ecologist at Boston University in Massachusetts.
That rarefied air is what brings Phillips to the top of the tower. He has set up four book-sized collectors, one at each corner of the roof, to capture air blowing across the city. Black tubing carries the air samples to a tank inside the building, where a computer analyses their levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and water vapour.
Like most cities, Boston brews up a blend of gases that covers the urban area like a dome. The top of the Prudential Tower is inside or outside this metropolitan atmosphere, depending on the weather. From his rooftop eyrie, Phillips looks towards three other sampling sites around the city and another some 70 miles west, in the green hills outside the pollution zone.
Phillips and his colleagues are using data from these sites to model how
carbon dioxide and other gases move through the city, and how the mix
differs from the air in rural areas. The work is part of an
interdisciplinary project to study Boston's 'metabolism' — how elements
are exchanged between natural and human systems. Phillips and his team
are now focusing on atmospheric carbon — particularly carbon dioxide and
methane. Next, they plan to look at carbon in the city's soils and
water, and to track the flow of water, nitrogen and pollutants. “The
goal is to understand the function of a major city,” Phillips says. READ MORE >>
Intriguing photo essay in the University of Washington's outstanding Conservation Magazine: how researchers' study of leaves leads to a better understanding of climate change and new developments in building skins and renewable energy.
"Nanoscale bumps on the surface of the lotus leaf cause water droplets to bead up, gather dirt, and easily roll off the leaf. This water-repelling, self-cleaning strategy has inspired efficient renewable energy technologies. For example, researchers have developed textured coatings—similar to those of the lotus leaf—that can be applied to solar panels to keep them cleaner and running more efficiently. In addition, researchers at General Electric are creating superhydrophobic coatings for wind turbines to prevent ice formation on the blades."
"Engineers at Royal Philips Electronics in the Netherlands have designed smart building skins that mimic leaf stomata. Much like the manner in which stomata breathe for a plant, these “skins” transport air, water, and light from outside a building—to be used efficiently inside. The “pores” of the building open and close in response to temperature, light, and other external conditions—supplying building inhabitants with filtered air and water as well as natural air conditioning." READ FULL ARTICLE >>
A report produced by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental benefit of building reuse. This groundbreaking study, The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, concludes that, when comparing buildings of equivalent size and function, building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction.
The report’s key findings offer policy-makers, building owners, developers, architects and engineers compelling evidence of the merits of reusing existing buildings as opposed to tearing them down and building new.
Those findings include:
Reuse Matters. Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction.
Scale Matters. Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts. Retrofitting, rather than demolishing and replacing, just 1% of the city of Portland’s office buildings and single family homes over the next ten years would help to meet 15% of their county’s total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade.
Design Matters. The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.
The Bottom Line: Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock. READ MORE >>
Elizabeth Demaray, an associate professor of fine arts, is cultivating lichen on the sides of New York City skyscrapers to counteract the lack of native vegetation found in the city. Her "Lichen for Skyscrapers Project" was featured as part of New York's Art in Odd Places Festival from Oct. 1-10 and is currently on view as a site-specific installation on 14th Street between Union Square Park and the Hudson River.
"Metropolitan centers figure into local temperatures in an interesting way," Demaray says. "They are sometimes referred to as 'urban heat islands' because they create heat and they trap heat. A large part of this process is due to the materials that we build with and the actual architecture of the buildings that we create."
Demaray says one of the ways to reduce heat in these cities is to cultivate lichen, which forms a protective barrier, insulating its supporting building from harmful elements. It can lower cumulative temperatures by absorbing sunlight and reflecting heat due to its light color palate while making oxygen and creating green space on the sides of buildings. READ MORE >>
On a June day in Manhattan with temperatures heading into the 90s, a straphanger named Mike is taking his customary subway ride to work. People are grumbling about the heat, but hey, it's summer, it's supposed to be hot, and besides, "Whaddya gonna do?" New Yorkers have their opinions: mention the heat index, or the greenhouse effect, or global warming, and you'll likely get an earful. But Mike is a little different. From his vantage point in what's been called the second-toughest job in America, he really knows about those issues, and he knows there are things that can be done about them.
For not only is he the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg (HBS MBA '66) is also the chairman of the C40, a group of fellow mayors from the world's 40 largest cities who have banded together to fight climate change. Bloomberg has recently returned from a C40 meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, only to hear the International Energy Agency's chief economist announce that 2010 saw the largest annual rise in carbon emissions in history. So just how hot is it? Climate change, Bloomberg says, is "the greatest challenge that humanity has ever created for itself."
One useful way to think about cities is to divide them into three fluid (and sometime overlapping) categories: global hubs of wealth and talent (e.g., New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong); megacities and population magnets (e.g., São Paulo, Lagos, Mumbai, Jakarta); and "up-and-comers," cities of 150,000 to 10 million people, aspiring to international stature (e.g., Cape Town, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur). Much of the world's population growth in the coming decades will be in this last group.
Amid the challenges of protecting the environment and halting its decline in urban areas and elsewhere, there is a consensus that sustainability will drive business during the coming years and that the transition to a low-carbon economy will bring significant investment opportunities. Cities, the C40 says, offer three principal areas for such investment activity: increasing infrastructure energy efficiency, namely in buildings, lighting, and transportation systems; using resources more effectively, for example, through advanced waste management; and producing clean energy at the district level as well as sourcing clean energy from large-scale suppliers. For cities and businesses, millions of dollars saved is equal to millions of dollars earned, and that can readily be achieved through greater efficiencies. While clean tech and green tech—glamorous alternative energy sources and state-of-the-art systems, machinery, and products—often come to mind, the most dramatic inroads may be made in much more prosaic ways, especially in the urban setting. READ MORE >>
Building engineers are like doctors who treat structures instead of humans: they monitor a buildings' vital functions, diagnose problems, and figure out how to remedy them. They’re responsible for heating, cooling, electricity, and water systems, and everything else most people take for granted in their daily lives. In the past decade or so, buildings have been wired to report their symptoms to engineers, but they don’t always share the most relevant information about what’s ailing them.
In an energy efficiency pilot program, Microsoft set out to change that. The company concluded that streamlining communication between its buildings and engineers, it could significantly reduce energy use. In a report [PDF] co-authored with Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the management company Accenture, found that Microsoft can save as much as $1 million in a year and pay back its investment within 18 months. Similar programs have found that, on average, companies can cut energy use by 10 percent and in some cases by as much as a third.
The findings are significant because they signal that investing in physical retrofits of its buildings isn't necessary for major energy savings. For the experiment, Microsoft installed software that collected data on its buildings’ vital signs and told building engineers about the most pressing problems. The software helps engineers prioritize before they have to wade through gigabytes of complaint report forms, and identifies problems that engineers might have missed. READ MORE >>
Architects love saying their buildings have brains. Now, apparently, they’ve got brawn, too. The latest intelligent-building tech from New York architects Decker Yeadon is a mighty, muscle-y structural facade that fights solar heat-gain by flexing its guns.
The Homeostatic Facade System consists of a mess of silvery squiggles – which, to continue the body metaphor here, look a lot like a small intestine – that open and close in response to the sun's rays, effectively regulating temperature throughout a building's interior. The key is something called (steel yourself for the scientific gobbledygook!) a dielectric elastomer actuator that takes energy from the sun, then turns it into an electric charge. The charge then deforms the squiggles, expanding them when it's sunny and contracting them when it's dark. READ MORE >>