Environmental mapping

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Along, I suspect, with some of you, I failed to get into Ecologic studio’s blog (story below) but I did find this intriguing project for them by Slider Studio to “automate the process of mapping data from an environmental analysis software package to a three-dimensional grid.” This is part of a larger ambition to “insert environmental analysis seamlessly into the design process….to find a balance between a building’s environmental performance and appearance”. I wish them every success in this worthwhile if ambitious project, and would only comment that if they use as much Flash in their software for buildings as EcoLogic do in their website, the biosphere will burn while we wait for the solution to load….

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Water garden

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This was the most interesting exhibit for me at the Milan Furniture Fair. Hidden away in a small courtyard, “Aqva Garden” functions as a distributed rain collector and water storage system. Unlike conventional recycling systems, which tend to be hidden away in clunky boxes, Aqva Garden’s unique branching system, which exploits the ways that water evaporates, is visibly present. And that – I cannot lie – is pretty much all I know about it; (the website is a Flash nightmare). But don’t you agree it looks amazing? The project is by ecoLogicStudio whose principals, Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, work in Milan and London. They collaborated for this project with Francesco Brenta and Laura Micalizzi. They also have a blog, Tropical London.

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How to live well – but lighter

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For three years now Doors has been involved in a Europe-wide project called EMUDE (it stands for “Emerging User Demands for Sustainable Solutions”. That’s European research for you!). A network of design schools, acting as ‘antennas’, has collected examples of social innovation in a wide variety of contexts. Many of these seem to be more resource-efficient than conventional ways of organising daily life. The photograph above, for example, is community-supported agriculture in practice. Town dwellers don’t just buy direct from local producers; they also help with the planting and harvesting.
Yes, such examples are on the edge of the known world for many urbanites. Our propositon is that these fringe examples may be the harbinger of wider scale social transformation to come. You may judge for yourself how representative these signs are in Creative Communities, the book of Emude, that has just been published. Edited by Anna Meroni and a team at Milan Polytechnic, Creative Communities is available to download. (It’s a heavy file, but worth the wait).
Most of the people and institutions involved in EMUDE are also connected informally to an ongoing project called Sustainable Everyday. François Jégou was the co-producer with Ezio Manzini of an exhibition by the same name that has featured twice at Doors events in India.
The picture that emerges is of a ‘multi-local city…a city in the shape of a network of places endowed with totally new characteristics” – in particular, a tendency towards new models of sustainable urban living: “solidarity purchase groups”, “community based agriculture”, “urban vegetable gardens” and so on.

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Delhi street kitchens face closure amid hygiene drive

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The Guardian reports on the threat to Delhi’s 300,000 street food vendors in the name of “hygiene” and “modernisation” ahead of the 2010 Commonweath Games. If you have any contacts in the Indian judiciary, please ask them to read about the food system experts who went to India to learn how to bring this tradition back to their supposedely modernised cities.

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Hunter gatherer designers and cellular churches

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Our friends at WorldChanging are running a series of think-pieces to celebrate Earth Day. My piece is about designers as hunter gatherers, and what we can learn from the explosive growth of cellular churches as we seek ways to expand the footprint of sustainable design.
An intriguing piece in the same series by Bill McDonough argues that “to move from improvement to revolutionary transformation, we need 5% of the human population committed to cradle to cradle flows”.
A curious contrast emerges here. As a lad, I was a paid-up Trotskyist vanguardist. Whenever the membershp of our party exceeded 100 people it would split, with great acrimony. These days, I advocate working with apolitical NGOs, corporations, and churches in order to achieve mass participaton in the transition to sustainability.
Bill, on the other hand, seems to be moving in the opposite direction. He quotes Mikhail Gorbachev – I think, approvingly – on the notion that “significant change can come from the actions of a few”. Shock horror: could there actually be political disagreement in the green design ranks?

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How the rich get … greener

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I was looking for some data about the environmental impact of aviation and came across some good news! A website for us super-rich green folk called Helium lists luxury travel and real estate companies that promote eco-friendly travel. “You can spend over a $1,000 per night and sleep comfortably in the knowledge that you’re not trashing the environment” says Helium. The picture, for example, shows the ultra-luxury fly-fishing destination Papoose Creek where they “plant ten new trees for every guest that visits”. We can fly there in the G4 (common people would call it a Gulfstream 400 ) with an easy conscience, too. With the help of TerraPass, Helium calculated the cost to offset carbon dioxide emissions when flying in a private jet. “We were surprised to find it costs less than 1% of the flying cost per hour to fly carbon neutral. We reviewed ten popular jets in four categories and found the cost to fly carbon neutral ranges from $7 to $60 an hour — a minuscule amount when flying private costs $2,000 to $13,000 an hour. For less than $10,000, you can offset 200 hours in a Falcon 2000, a 10-seat jet that costs more than $25 million”.

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Weighty words about losing weight

“We have to remember that industrial design equals mass production, and that every move, every decision, every curve we specify is multiplied—sometimes by the thousands and often by the millions. And that every one of those everys has a price. We think that we’re in the artifact business, but we’re not; we’re in the consequence business.” So begins Allan Chochinov excellent new “Manifesto for Sustainability in Design.” Allan has managed to condense his clarion call into 1,000 words – but considering that Core 77 probably has more readers than any industrial design channel, on or offline, those 1,000 words will carry a lot of weight. Or, hopefully, even better, reduce it.

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River-powered Christmas

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It’s Easter, and news is slow, so let’s talk about Christmas. “We all love the look of our town in the festive season – but 100,000 watts of lights in the town isn’t doing the environment any favours. For 2007 we will be hosting zero-carbon town illuminations, using a specially commissioned light installation for the town powered by turbines in the river”. A fab idea from Fold Gallery.

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Digital dinner at Belsay

So you think you know what an English country house feels like? Well think again. Judith King for English Heritage and Dott 07 (with Juha Huuskonen) have invited experimental film directors, artists and designers to transform Belsay Hall in Northumberland with a series of cutting edge art and new media installations.The specially commissioned exhibition will feature fashion, sculpture, music, design, poetry and video filling Belsay’s vast empty rooms, spare castle and Grade 1 listed gardens. On Thursday 03 May Dott’s Explorers Club is organising a visit and dinner at the site for a maximum of 50 people. You need to book (and pay 16 euros) by Friday 20 April. It’s first-come first served at this one-off event. contact: beckie.darlington@dott07.com

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