Adopt green building technology


Via Daily Nation : Adopt green building technology Mid this year, the United Nations released a disturbing report on the levels of Kenya’s pollution. Titled Actions on Air Quality, this report painted a gloomy picture. Over 14,300 Kenyans, it noted, die annually from health conditions that are directly attributed to air pollution. One of the biggest contributors to this is vehicles’ exhaust fumes. Most of the imported second-hand vehicles come with no catalytic converters and with Kenya’s average vehicle registration now standing at 14,005 annually, there are likely to be more and more dangerous emissions. This side of East Africa is growing rapidly, with natural vegetation quickly being replaced by brick, mortar, and glass as property development and infrastructural expansion continue. Huge tracts of land with foliage, especially around Kenya’s urban areas, have been disappearing at a startling rate, being hived off for construction of mega buildings. Sadly, only about 2 per cent of Kenya’s land remains forested. This is a case of “from green vegetation to a desert of real estate”. These environmental challenges call for Kenya to come up with a clear and specific strategy to stop it going the route of New Delhi or China. One way would be for the government to come up with attractive incentives to encourage the citizens to adopt environment-friendly actions. The government should also enact appropriate environmental laws and enforce them. Environmental consciousness is not a matter that should be left only to the government. The concept of public private partnerships has… Read more

Harnessing the Power of Architectural Design Principles


Via InfoQ : Harnessing the Power of Architectural Design Principles People often talk about a system’s “architectural design principles” (or just “architecture principles”). But without a clear definition of “principle”, it’s not always obvious what this means. By defining the role and benefits of architectural design principles, we can capitalize on a very useful technique. In this column, I define architectural design principles, explore what good principles look like, and describe when using principles in architectural practice might be valuable. Defining Principles I’m deliberately not making a hard distinction between design and architecture because I don’t think it adds anything useful in this context. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m talking about design principles that apply equally well at both more detailed and more abstract levels. The Oxford English Dictionary states that a principle is “a fundamental truth or proposition serving as the foundation for belief or action”, and that a design is a “plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made”. So, we can reasonably define a software design principle as a fundamental truth or proposition serving as the foundation for action with regard to deciding on a software system’s workings. The key point is that a principle is a clear statement of intent that guides our design work. Other definitions of design principles have been proposed. In the book Architecture Principles1, Danny Greefhorst and Erik Proper created probably the most comprehensive… Read more

6 technology trends that defined construction in 2016


Via Construction Dive : Technologies like 3-D printing and augmented and virtual reality typically capture attention for the future they promise — one in which buildings rise nearly at whim and visualization tools make seeing the result of design choices that much easier. Day to day, however, the application of these and other tools and systems is more nuanced. Rather than off-the-shelf solutions, innovation occurs primarily at the project level and addresses its unique needs. From new ways to track equipment use and worker productivity to the emerging modular construction category, we explore how those unique applications came together in some of 2016’s biggest industry tech topics. Construction companies level up on employee, equipment tracking Keeping an eye on equipment and employees on the job site is one thing, but collecting and monitoring that data consistently is another. And it’s the latter in which construction companies made major progress in 2016. From wearable devices that keep track of workers’ location and functions such as body temperature and heart rate to machine and equipment telematics designed to help manage use and upgrades, the technology brings promises of workflow efficiency, improved safety and cost savings. Job site security is another area in which digital methods are fast-replacing their analog forebears. Surveillance cameras, GPS tracking and controlled-access systems across Wi-Fi and mesh networks are standardizing and better-controlling job site and equipment access. Con-tech startup space flourishes With the growth of systems and apps that bring construction technology onto the job site has come a… Read more

In 2017, Watch Out For These 5 Nations Pushing To The Forefront In Renewable Energy


Via Forbes : In 2017, Watch Out For These 5 Nations Pushing To The Forefront In Renewable Energy China recently emerged as the new global champion of solar energy. Earlier this month, its grand vision of a low-carbon future and colossal efforts to meet those targets made headlines the world over. Though it continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rapid clip, by 2020, Chinese government plans call for meeting 27% of the country’s total power output through renewable energy. By 2050, the economic giant wants to take that figure up to 80%. But China is not the only country marching toward a green future. In 2017 watch out for these five emerging economies quietly surging ahead of the pack towards clean energy. (I have omitted India from the list on purpose. Its progress merits a separate full-length post). Chile Latin America is leaping ahead into a renewables-led future, and Chile is currently the leader of this pack. El Romero, its solar-energy plant in the Atacama Desert, is the largest in South America, built with an investment injection of $343 million. Recently linked with the national grid El Romero still hasn’t reached its full capacity yet. But by April next year it’s expected to generate 196 megawatts of power, enough to light quarter of a million homes. Through the project Chile is looking to offset 474,000 metric tonnes of Co2 emissions spewed by its coal-powered plants. But overall El Romero will spur growth in solar projects all across Latin America.… Read more

Top 10 Predictions for Enterprise Robotics for 2017


Via Top Tech News : Top 10 Predictions for Enterprise Robotics for 2017 It’s hard to bet against the continued rise of automation, robots, and artificial intelligence (AI), all of which are already having major impacts on how we work, learn, shop, and play. But being able to predict that robotics and AI will change our lives is a lot easier than predicting how they will change our lives. In a recent forecast for 2017 and beyond, for instance, analyst firm IDC said we can expect to continue seeing robotic and AI technologies keep growing more affordable, more capable, and easier to use. The Obama White House said it expects the same, but also warns in a new report that “growth will not be costless” and could harm workers lacking the skills to compete in an AI-driven economy. How the incoming administration plans to address such issues is also uncertain. While President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promised to revive U.S. manufacturing and spend $1 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure, he has also tapped Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. chief Andrew Puzder — who supports the use of automation to save on employment costs — as secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Meanwhile, Dallas Mavericks owner and frequent Trump critic Mark Cuban this week penned an opinion piece urging the president-elect to invest $100 billion of his proposed infrastructure fund into U.S.-based robotics development. Smarter, Faster, More Networked Robots Whatever direction politics takes, robotics and AI technologies are quickly advancing to the point where they… Read more

The Architecture Of Radical Simplicity


Via Fast Co Design : A new monograph collects the brilliant, community-focused work of African architect Francis Kéré. In 2004, Berlin-based architect Francis Kéré built a school in his native Burkina Faso. He had learned that the school in his village was on the verge of collapsing, so he decided to raise the money and reverse-engineer the building techniques he’d been taught to create a structure that would withstand the African climate. It was his first project out of architecture school in Germany. “I was trained in carpentry for a country where there is no wood,” he told Fast Company’s Linda Tischler in 2011. “We’re in the Sahara. We have few trees.” The resulting building was made of a new kind of cement-fortified clay brick and had a soaring roof that was designed to naturally cool the interior. It won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture that year. For Kéré, it was the beginning of an illustrious career in socially aware, community-based design. He has been widely lauded for his dedication to local architecture through the use of native materials and labor, empowering the people who will benefit from his buildings rather than altruistic foreigners. His work has now been collected in a new volume called Radically Simple, published by Hatje Cantz, to go alongside an exhibition of Kéré’s work at the Architekturmuseum at the Technical University in Munich, Germany. The book’s photographs take you from his first school in Burkina Faso to more educational facilities in the country to Operndorf… Read more

Taking a leap in bioinspired robotics


Via MIT : Taking a leap in bioinspired robotics Mechanical engineer Sangbae Kim builds animal-like machines for use in disaster response. In the not so distant future, first responders to a disaster zone may include four-legged, dog-like robots that can bound through a fire or pick their way through a minefield, rising up on their hind legs to turn a hot door handle or punch through a wall. Such robo-rescuers may be ready to deploy in the next five to 10 years, says Sangbae Kim, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. He and his team in the Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory are working toward that goal, borrowing principles from biomechanics, human decision-making, and mechanical design to build a service robot that Kim says will eventually do “real, physical work,” such as opening doors, breaking through walls, or closing valves. “Say there are toxic gases leaking in a building, and you need to close a valve inside, but it’s dangerous to send people in,” Kim says. “Now, there is no single robot that can do this kind of job. I want to create a robotic first responder that can potentially do more than a human and help in our lives.” To do this, Kim, who was awarded tenure this year, is working to fuse the two main projects in his lab: the MIT Cheetah, a four-legged, 70-pound robot that runs and jumps over obstacles autonomously; and HERMES, a two-legged, tele-operated robot, whose movements and balance are controlled remotely by a human operator,… Read more

New coating for more safe and economical nuclear reactors


Via European Coatings : New coating for more safe and economical nuclear reactors An international team of researchers has created a nanoceramic coating that not only can withstand the harsh effects of radiation, but also becomes tougher under radiation. Next-generation nuclear systems will operate at higher temperatures and radiation fields than ever before, producing energy more efficiently and economically. Water as primary coolant in reactors Traditionally, water has been used as the primary coolant in reactors, absorbing the heat released from fission reactions. Though water poses fewer risks of corrosion damage to materials, there are also limits to the temperatures up to which water-cooled reactors can operate – and in advanced reactors, increasing their temperature is the best way to increase energy production. More effective, but also more corrosive New coolants, such as liquid metals like sodium and lead, are effective at much higher temperatures, but also are much more corrosive to the materials from which a nuclear reactor is made. “There is a preferred use of metallic materials for structural components, but many of these materials cannot withstand high-temperature corrosion in advanced reactors,” says Kumar Sridharan, a distinguished research professor in engineering physics and materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Corrosion is a surface phenomenon, so if you put coating on the surface, you need that coating to withstand high radiation doses without becoming embrittled.” New material can withstand harmful effects Sridharan and collaborators at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Milan, Italy, characterised an aluminium… Read more

Scientists have developed a material that generates electricity simply by touching it


Via Science Alert : Scientists have developed a material that generates electricity simply by touching it Welcome to the future of touchscreens. Scientists have developed a flexible, film-like material that generates electrical energy when touched, meaning devices like smartphones and tablets could one day be powered simply by people using them. And beyond just touchscreen gadgets, the researchers say the thin, flexible device could also be used in our clothing or shoes, helping us harvest energy from our body movements potentially all day long. “We’re on the path toward wearable devices powered by human motion,” says electrical engineer Nelson Sepulveda from Michigan State University. “What I foresee, relatively soon, is the capability of not having to charge your cell phone for an entire week, for example, because that energy will be produced by your movement.” The film the researchers have created is what’s known as a nanogenerator, in which energy is produced by a small-scale physical change, such as the tap or swipe of a finger. In this case, the device works on the principle of piezoelectricity, where an electric charge accumulates in response to applied mechanical stress. What makes this possible is the interaction between the substances that make up the film. The core structure is a silicon wafer, which is then layered with thin sheets of other materials, including silver, polyimide, and polypropylene ferroelectret, which serves as the active material in the device. “We’re on the path toward wearable devices powered by human motion,” says electrical engineer Nelson Sepulveda… Read more

How WeWork Capitalizes On Aging Architecture


Via Fast Co Design : How WeWork Capitalizes On Aging Architecture The coworking company is remaking historic and aging buildings across America. “They don’t build ’em like they used to.” It’s an oft-repeated phrase by those who wax nostalgic. But in the case of the Corbin Building—an office building architect Francis H. Kimball designed in 1888—the saying holds true. The distinguished Renaissance-Revival structure is covered in terra-cotta tile embellished with floral patterns. Inside, its monumental staircase with marble steps and an ornate bronze banister ushers visitors up its nine stories. Original wainscoting and cast-iron fireplaces are found throughout the space. It’s architectural details like these that convinced WeWork to open a location in the 128-year-old space, which welcomed its first members last week. “We like buildings with character,” says Dave Fano, a trained architect who is now WeWork’s chief product officer. “And we like to bring life to older buildings.” The Corbin Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated New York City Landmark. It’s also one of the 14 landmark locations WeWork occupies across New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, Boston, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. Five are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, eight are located in historic districts, and one is registered with a state historic preservation office. Over the years, WeWork has quietly evolved into a champion of adaptive reuse and historic preservation through its work with so-called “Class B” buildings—a designation for commercial buildings that are typically older and… Read more