Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 30, 2019

Especially in the realm of “problem solving” or “invention” or “towards a more perfect”, there is a distinction, a difference, between doing something less bad and doing something that is a good.

This can be a tricky thing to wrap our brains around.  Because certainly fixing something has to be good, right?

Well, yes/no.  It’s similar to the conversation around efficiency.  Often when we see something that produces something we want, yet has these drawbacks*, we fixate on those drawbacks and limit our plan of attack to reducing them.  It is evolutionary design and problem solving.  “If I can get it to emit 10% less toxics, then that’s better!”

So we work, and work some more, and boom, we’ve gotten something that produces 15% less badness.  Hooray!  We dance, and celebrate, and then miss the point that the thing/system/machine/process/etc is still producing plenty of badness.  Badness is still there.

We also often forget that nothing is inherent.  Just because something is a certain way, doesn’t mean it is meant to be that way.

Instead, we can return to the primordial.  Design from first principles.  Create with intention.  And invent something that delivers a good on all fronts.  Something that not only produces what we want but may even produce extra of the things we’d want.

This is how we get a house built in the harsh desert that don’t just use 10, 15, or even 30% less energy for air conditioning by making it more ‘efficient’, making it less bad.  From our glorious spirited wellspring, we craft and get a house that, through good design, uses 100% less energy for AC even in the hottest of days, while at the same time being a more gorgeous house to live in.

This is revolutionary or primordial design.  It is not less bad.  It is a good.

When we cut ourselves, we put on a bandage.  Emergency problem solving is going to be limited in that way.  And we should absolutely do it!  Bleeding is no good.  But if we cut ourselves continually in the same manner, getting or creating better bandages is not the best way forward.  The less bad way still ends up hurting.

Returning to the source to chart a new course lets us avoid the knife and create many a good thing along the way.

 

 

* Which in of itself can take work to become aware and present that there are drawbacks, and even then to get over resisting or downplaying or ignoring the drawbacks because we get caught up in a false dichotomy that says we have to abandon the thing** entirely to avoid the drawback.

** We can also get caught up in the notion that the thing is the best, or even only, way to deliver that result.  The only way to have fun.  The only way to generate income.  The best way to transport our bodies.  By coming again from the primordial, designing by intention, we often create something that is not only a good instead of less bad, but the end result/product is even better than it was before, a better we never knew or could imagine existed, and would never had seen had we stuck with the same old, just less bad.

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Architecture Monday

July 22, 2019

Oh yeah, I love it so much when something straightforward is elevated (somewhat literally, as you will see…) into a wonderful work of design while also improving what was already there.  In this case, it was an open-air stage in a local park that was enhanced by providing cover in the form of a public library to further provide for the community.

The simplicity is in the steel structure, rendered beautiful through excellent detailing and with a creative and cool twist:  the façade is made of used ice cream buckets.  Nestled in the steel structure to encircle the library, the buckets make for a playful exterior while creating a lovely glow free from glare on the inside.  The low  bookshelves lets the light fill the space as fully as possible, while at the back of the library a cushy mat floor lets you truly curl up with a book.

As a bonus, the buckets form a message coded in binary!  A double bonus is the now covered stage can serve additional functions such as for projecting movies and can even be curtained in for use during inclement weather.

A truly lovely project, demonstrating how even small moves can make a big difference, and that good design does not require a high budget.  All it takes is care, design, and some ice cream.

Bima Microlibrary by SHAU Bandung

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Alert is Alerting

July 16, 2019

It is warmer in Alert, Nunavut,

817km (508mi) from the North Pole,

Than it is in Victoria on Vancouver Island,

Some 3750km (2350mi) south of there.

This is not good folks.

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Architecture Monday

May 13, 2019

So this is nifty.  You’ve got these two former coal hopper warehouses that, while built by the same person, are not parallel (to better work with the incoming rail lines and turning radiuses).  They are big, made of brick, super solid, and full of arched loading bays that would be perfect to convert into stores.

Cool.  Now, you also want to include both indoor and outdoor event spaces and do something to unify the two buildings.  Hmm, what to do…  well, how about “pulling” the roof like taffy and have the buildings kiss?

Which turns out to be as equally impressive inside!

Lots of nice stuff here that builds upon all sorts of features that were already in place from the industrial days: the multiple ground planes, the train access bridges, the rugged and tactile brick, the Victorian ironworks.  All pulled together with additional bridges, lots of glass, and, of course, the twin ribbons hovering like magic over the new plaza.

Cool beans and a fabulous adaptive reuse project.  Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio

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Impressions of an Electric Car Driver (@ 1 yr)

April 21, 2019

The year sure has gone by quickly!  Yet here we are, one year of all-electric driving, both near and far.  Time to reflect anew!

The basics:

RWD long range version.  10,800 miles driven, with an average watt hours per mile of 210.  Maintenance has been zero except for a tire rotation.  Home base is in the SF Bay area.  Two long trips taken thus far (one to Reno, one to LA), with another upcoming.  And for reference sake, my previous car was a VW GTI VR6, which I liked a lot and drove for many years.

The super short answer:

I love it!

More detailed answer, starting with… Driving experience:

It’s great.  All I wrote about in my previous post still applies, the car is an absolute joy to drive and I still get noticeably jubilant while driving.  The sweet, smooth, powerful, and deliciously controllable electric drivetrain coupled with the car’s low centre of gravity make for a wonderful and potentially spirited driving experience.  And the precision, especially at slow speeds, makes both gnarly traffic and parking lot parkour a breeze.

I also very much enjoy the car’s quietness, gliding along residential roads or in lots without a constant wheeze in the background.  And while it was odd at first, I’ve come to appreciate the silence at stoplights.

Comfort wise, the car is a win as well.  At the end of both long trips I’ve felt much less stiff than I’m used to, a bonus due (I’m guessing) to the lack of constant engine vibration.  All around the car just feels good.

Range experience:

There is a shift in thinking that’s needed regarding electric cars.  I’ve had more than a few conversations with people that veered off into interesting directions until the new paradigm of “fueling” was understood:  the traditional notion of “fueling up” is only applicable, or a concern, on very long trips.  On a daily level, there is no such thing as “stopping for fuel.”  When I go to work, I plug in.  When I get home, I can plug in.  When I go to a store, often I can plug in.  What this means is that, without taking any more time out of my day or requiring that I drive to a specific location, my car is always at the ready.  At the daily recommended charge level for battery longevity I have around 270 miles of charge at my disposal.  I can, essentially, start each day “fully fueled”, and 270 miles can get me me pretty far out and back for a day trip.

So when it comes to the idea of “Range Anxiety”, I have none.  And this is with almost exclusively charging only while at work, sharing the charge port with two others.  I’ve only charged at home about 4 times (and even then using slow 120v charging).  The only time I even need to give serious thought to range is on those very long trips, and for that the onboard navigation/planner makes it simple.  Type in a destination, and it will tell me when, where, and for how long to stop at a supercharger.  Charging does take more time than gassing up at a traditional fuel station, but if you’re stopping for food anyway the time delta is not all that big.  And with the new superchargers set to roll out with double the charging speed that delta will decrease even further.

Ownership experience:

One of the nifty and still weird/need to get used to things about the car is the over the air updates.  Get in the car, get a notification, start the update, and ta-dah!  My car just got better.  In many ways, too:  added features (Free integrated dashcam!  Sentry mode!  Dog mode!  Atari games!), general UI improvements (I admit, I was weirdly overjoyed when I could set things to Celsius and 24h time), and, most crazily, in performance.  Extra power, extra regenerative braking, traffic awareness, and blind spot detection are all things I’ve gotten after an update.  An extra little dollop of range is even promised in an upcoming update.  That’s really cool!

Service appointments are practically zero, as there’s no maintenance on the car (the manual literally has only three service items on the schedule, which besides tire rotation is on a 2 year and 4 year timeframe) and when you do need one there is an easy online scheduling system.  Depending on the nature of the service Tesla will try to bring a mobile truck out to you.  This all adds up to super amounts of convenience, with less times I need to go out of my way to do a thing (gas, maintenance, etc) to keep the car running.  Overall the car is just cleaner and easier to own and operate.  And less expensive as well.  With the maintenance almost non-existent and the energy costs per mile lower, the car needs very little ongoing investment.

Right now the few times I’ve done home charging I’ve been on 120v power, but I’m getting a 240v outlet installed in the coming weeks.  That’ll be nice for two reasons, firstly for the quicker charging (24 miles every hour vs the 4 on 120v), and two, due to the higher voltage it’s more efficient, using less watt hours of energy per mile gained.

One niggle I do hope gets fixed in an update sometime is playback from a USB stick.  Right now it’s pretty hit or miss (without any pattern I’ve discerned) whether playback will resume upon re-entering the car.  Which is a bummer enough for music albums but would be really a pain for audiobooks or the like.  Fingers crossed.

Conclusion:

One year in, I’m still very much loving this car, and can’t see myself ever going back to owning an ICE unless the situation truly dictates it.  I’m sure I’ll still need to drive an ICE from time to time, either because I’ve rented a truck for hauling or a car for some super-long-fast or special kind of trip.  But I’ll probably be pining for mine the whole time.

Great car, and looking forward to many, many, many years of joyous driving with it.

Any questions or wonderings?  Feel free to ask away below.

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Architecture Monday

April 8, 2019

Looking nothing less than like a very big bug (with a canted chimney as antennae!), this is an intriguing house for several reasons.  For one, well, it’s a bug!  For two, the amazing shingle work on all those sinuous surfaces is a work of art.  For three, the house is an accordion.

Built as an extension to an existing cabin, the new addition contracts in the winter for heat conservation, while in summer it stretches its head, increasing the interior space, revealing many windows, and, just as amazingly, to cantilever and suspend itself (and those windows) over the adjacent stream.  Whether extended or retracted, the bulbous wood shape lets it blend in with the surrounding forest, embracing its site through details such as the sod roof at the entry.

The inside is as equally unique as the shingled exterior, lined with furs for that perfect “yep, now I’m in the belly of the bug” feel.  Also cozy, surrounded by fuzziness and warmed by the fire, a nice winter hideaway.  The existing cabin becomes the bedroom, with its own unique cave-like feel through the black fabric walls.

Very cool.  Creative and very much of its geographic place.

Dragspelhuset by 24H Architecture.

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PSA

April 5, 2019

I regret that this must be done, but here we are.

“Wind turbines do NOT cause cancer.”

That is all.  Thank you.