19 September 2012 – According to Chuck Marohn, a US civil engineer and prolific writer on urban development, urban sprawl is one big Ponzi scheme, based on constant growth that is not affordable.

Marohn doesn’t use the words, environment, sustainable or climate change, in his arguments ­– just money and finance and budgets.

Writing in Atlantic Cities, Kaid Benfield pulled together the threads to what was going on in Marohn’s body of work, which he has long admired.

“As Thoughts on Building Strong Towns makes quite clear, Chuck believes that sprawl is a Ponzi scheme and we the taxpayers are the ones left holding the empty bags,” Benfield says.

“In fact, the lead chapters of the book are devoted to the Ponzi thesis, whereby municipalities chase outward growth to find new tax revenue that proves insufficient when the infrastructure needs repair; so they chase even more new growth to pay for the previous round, over and over, until the pattern chokes the economic life out of the place.”

The revenue collected “does not come near to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure. In America, we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liability for infrastructure maintenance . . .

“We’ve done this because, as with any Ponzi scheme, new growth provides the illusion of prosperity. In the near term, revenue grows, while the corresponding maintenance obligations – which are not counted on the public balance sheet — are a generation away,” Benfield says.

“The only way to avoid the consequences, Chuck believes, is to direct growth to places with already-existing infrastructure, and in efficient form.

“The book doesn’t get environmental – that’s not Chuck’s thing, professionally – and it doesn’t get political, either. But he can be unsparing in his lacerations of his colleagues in the engineering field.”

One chapter in his book is entitled, “The Infrastructure Cult,” Benfield notes.

Read the whole story

from The Fifth Estate http://www.thefifthestate.com.au



upLIFT is a proposal for single-occupancy housing in a city where space is at premium – allowing individuals to live in some of the cities most desirable neighborhoods for the cost of parking a car.

Shortlisted Competition Entry
in collaboration with Atr+d & Brian Schulman
on view at http://on.fb.me/MDiphu

‘HOME’ international open design competition,
by the Building Trust International


from Archinect http://archinect.com/


Pavement covers as much as 45 percent of urban areas—and asphalt makes a sizeable contribution to the urban heat-island effect. On a steamy summer day, the surface of a road may get as hot as 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). And it can stay miserably hot long after the sun sets, raising the temperature of whole neighborhoods built around this blacktop.

A lot of work has gone into figuring out how to combat this effect: planting more tree cover, painting black surfaces white, even constructing artificial glaciers. But what if, instead of fighting it, we used that heat?

Rajib Mallick, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and other researchers have been developing a system that would harness the heat contained in asphalt. In one of Mallick’s designs, asphalt would heat water coursing through a series of pipes embedded in the road. In large-scale experiments on pavement slabs embedded with copper pipes, the researchers found that they can cool pavement by as much as 10 degrees Celsius with this technique while extracting the equivalent amount of energy.

Putting miles of pipe underneath highways could be costly to construct and maintain. In order to capture the most energy, the pipes would have to be embedded as close to the asphalt surface as possible. So instead, Mallick has his sights set on buildings with vast parking lots—such as theaters, malls, or office complexes. All that hot water could do the laundry at a sizeable hotel.

In another configuration, a flexible, cloth-like material embedded in the road surface could conduct heat to pipes running down road medians. Alternatively, the heat could be converted into different forms of energy. Liquids other than water and which vaporize at temperatures as low as 30 degrees Celsius could be used to drive turbines generating electricity.

Mallick and his colleagues have begun testing their designs with support from both the state of Massachusetts and the National Science Foundation. ❧

—Emily Badger

An earlier version of this story appeared at theatlanticcities.com.

Image ©bluesky-world.com


from Conservation Magazine http://www.conservationmagazine.org


Wikipedia Gender

After he saw a New York Times article on the gender gap among Wikipedia contributors (The contributor base is only 13 percent women), Santiago Ortiz plotted articles by number of men versus number of women who edited. It’s interactive, so you can mouse over dots to see what article each represents, and you can zoom in for closer look in the bottom left.

At first glance, the difference doesn’t look that big, but notice the values of the axes. The axis for men on the horizontal is from 0 to 200, the axis for women is 0 to 20, and the equal ratio line is the purple one that’s nearly vertical. So the only article with more women contributors is on cloth menstrual pads.

See also: what the chart looks like with equally-spaced increments. The results are clear.


from FlowingData http://flowingdata.com


Canberra, Australia (UPI) Aug 28, 2012
ashton-colliery-coal-mine-australia-hunter-valley-afp-bg.jpg Australia’s carbon pricing scheme will link with the European Union’s emissions trading plan, a government official announced. The move, announced by Australian Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, comes less than two months after Australia’s carbon pricing scheme took effect. Under the plan businesses that emit 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent in other greenhouse

from Earth News, Earth Science, Energy Technology, Environment News http://www.terradaily.com/index.html


One of the longest bridges in northern China collapsed on Friday, just nine months after it opened, setting off a storm of criticism from Chinese Internet users and underscoring questions about the quality of construction in the country’s rapid expansion of its infrastructure.

Just one month ago: Beijing Infrastructure Not Fit for Torrential Rains

from Archinect http://archinect.com/


Photo: Daimler

You may talk to your car, and some in cases it may even talk back. And you’ve probably thrown a few choice words at other drivers in a impromptu bout of rage. But cars are silently communicating with each other and with transportation infrastructure in two field trials that kicked off this month near Frankfurt, Germany, and in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler is spearheading what it’s calling the “first ‘social network’ for automobiles.” But instead of sharing lolcat pics and mundane musings, the 120 vehicles in the project will be communicating with one another as well as with infrastructure to avoid accidents and traffic jams, along with a range of other applications. Daimler claims it’s the largest ever field trial of vehicle-to-X communication (V2X) – a combination of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication – to show how the technology can be used to decrease accidents and increase driving efficiency. But in sheer number of vehicles it pales in comparison to a similar V2V field trial that the National Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is conducting in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The European trial is part of the simTD (Safe Intelligent Mobility – test field Germany) research project spearheaded by Daimler Research and Advance Development and sponsored by the German government. Other participants include automakers Opel, Audi, BMW/Mini, Ford and Volkswagen, along with automotive suppliers Bosch and Continental, Deutsche Telekom and several research institutes. The trial consists of 120 vehicles that will be hitting the roads of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region until the end of the year. According to Car and Driver, the fleet includes specially equipped Audi A4s, BMW X1s, Ford S-Maxes, Mercedes-Benz C-Classes, Opel Insignias and Volkswagen Passats.

Vehicles will be connected to each other and to infrastructure via a form of Wi-Fi that has a range of just over 300 yards, according to Mike Shulman who is directing Ford’s participation in both trials and is the automaker’s technical leader of Active Safety Research and Innovation. The vehicles in the European trial will constantly keep each other posted on road hazards and traffic, much the same way an annoying acquaintance keeps you updated on his status by posting to Facebook every few seconds.

One beneficial scenario provided by Daimler: If there’s a traffic jam on the autobahn and it’s concealed behind the crest of a hill, vehicles barreling down the road at 100 mph-plus would be alerted to avoid rear-ending the last car. The company also points to possible environmental and convenience benefits of V2X systems, such as coordinating traffic lights according to traffic density to make driving more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly, and even being able to seek out and suggest routes to the nearest available parking spots.

By comparison, the NHTSA Ann Arbor trial will last an entire year and include 3,000 vehicles driven by ordinary people, but equipped with Wi-Fi communications and other technology such as radar and cameras. The reason the U.S. trial requires a lot more vehicles and a lot more time is to gauge how a large pool of vehicles interact with each other over a longer period to gather enough data to determine the effectiveness of V2V communication to reduce accidents, says Ford’s Shulman.

One group will drive the cars for the first six months and then a second group will drive the vehicles for the last six months of the trial. “They’ll drive them to work, go shopping and wherever they want to go,” Shulman told Wired. “The drivers were carefully selected so that they work in the same area, drop their kids off at school in the same area and have the same shift time. The idea is that, over this year-long period, we could see how well these cars really perform. Are they getting the timely warnings? Are they getting a lot of false warnings? What’s really happening that we haven’t seen on a track but under real-world conditions?”

In addition to the number of cars and duration, the big difference between the two trials is that the U.S. version is solely focused on reducing accidents. “NHTSA has done a study that says that more than 80 percent of the crashes could be impacted by V2V technology,” Shulman says. He adds that the federal agency is conducting the trial to determine whether V2V technology can be deployed to effectively prevent injuries and fatalities – and whether to mandate it on new cars. “They’re going to look at whether to apply this to new vehicles and other modes of transportation like trucks, buses and motorcycle, and even pedestrians and in aftermarket devices,” he adds.

“The Europeans are not looking at regulation; they’re looking at this as a voluntary deployment, at least for now,” Shulman says. “They’re looking at it more as a mobility application, using vehicles as a probe to show travel history and congestion over routes and determine the best routes to take based on real-time congestion. It can warn of traffic and construction up ahead, but it’s not for that last second before a crash. It’s more for information to the driver or information from the vehicle back to the traffic management center.”

Shulman says that the European trials should be thought of as, “not the first step, but a long-term step, and there’s other benefits that driver could enjoy as we get this technology deployed. We’re trying to learn from both and bringing harmonization where we can, and move toward the concept on the connected vehicle. How we’re approaching it is it will go on different paths to different places.”

wiredautopia?d=cGdyc7Q-1BI wiredautopia?i=S-B6Wi3EoOw:rSHm11-fR8I:V_sGLiPBpWU wiredautopia?i=S-B6Wi3EoOw:rSHm11-fR8I:gIN9vFwOqvQ wiredautopia?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

from Wired: Autopia http://www.wired.com/autopia