September 21, 2009
May 29, 2009
General Motors started building the first pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicles today. The significant milestone marks the first time engineers are assembling a vehicle that looks like the car slated to start rolling off an assembly line next year.
These cars, known as integration vehicles, are key to the Volt’s development because they are used to refine things like driving dynamics. They also get shaken down and beaten up to ensure the range-extended EV is road-ready. So far all we’ve seen are prototypes and test mules based on the Malibu and Cruze like the one we drove last month. The cars GM started building today at its technical center outside Detroit are the real deal.
“The purpose for the integration vehicle builds is two-fold,” GM spokesman Rob Peterson told Wired.com. “First, they validate our production design, vehicle safety and performance capabilities. Just as important, the build activity provides valuable insight into the final vehicle assembly process to ensure a high-level of build quality and manufacturing efficiency when production begins in November 2010.”
Engineers will assemble the first of the integration vehicles by hand, a process that will take about two weeks. Production will ramp up to a rate of 10 a week by mid-July, and Peterson says GM plans to have 80 cars on the road by fall. Early next year, GM will begin building “several hundred” more pre-production vehicles at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant that will produce the Volt we’ll see in showrooms by the end of 2010.
Photo: General Motors
[Times Square Billboards. Creative Commons photo by Matt Mendoza]
With pedestrian traffic in Times Square up over 200% from 1980, the area was as riddled with people jams as it was with traffic jams. City officials think that re-routing auto traffic to Sixth and Seventh Avenues will open the area up, ease air pollution, and help businesses.
With General Motors shuttering umpteen dealerships and Chrysler shutting umpteen more, we’re about to see a lot of idle real estate out there. Parcels of land with big, expansive buildings and acres of asphalt will be up for grabs.
It raises an interesting question. Namely, what should we do with that land?
We’re talking about vast expanses of real estate. Check out the Google Map The New York Times put togetherand you’ll see what we mean. The folks over at Planetizen wondered what should be done with it all and came up with five ideas:
Those are all nifty ideas. But we know our fearless readers here at Autopia can do better. What would you do with that land? Build an indoor electric go-kart track? Set up an EV dealership to cash in on the coming craze? Establish re-education camps for sub-prime mortgage lenders? Or maybe you’d follow one of Planetizen’s ideas. Let us know.
Use the Reddit Widget below to let us know what to do with all this soon-to-be-vacant real estate and garage space.
Photo: Flickr / thomas.merton
For the first time, a study proved that using polycarbonate plastic increases your blood levels of bisphenol-A. And not just a little bit, either. After a week of using these materials for beverages, study participants had a 60 percent increase in the level of BPA in their blood.
Bisphenol-A has been linked to early onset of puberty, low sperm count and infertility, and its carcinogenic effects may include breast cancer. It has also been linked to heart disease and diabetes. You’ve heard all of this, I’m sure.
But how ’bout this? Bisphenol-A was first developed as a synthetic hormone. It’s an endocrine disruptor. It affects our children. It affects our adults. And the FDA still refuses to require removal from food contact materials?!
With 400 hp and a top speed of 171 mph, the electric race car concept pushes 1,475 lb-ft of torque up to 100 mph then drops it to 590 lb-ft for high-speed traction. All this and it’s powered by two 30kW lithium-ion batteries charged by flexcell photovoltaic solar panels.
Last week, at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in Seoul, Autodesk, Inc., a world leader in 2D and 3D design and engineering software, announced that it will collaborate with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) and the Microsoft Corporation, to provide visualization technology for Project Two Degrees. Project Two Degrees is an Internet-based application that provides cities with a set of tools to measure, compare, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at a local level.
Autodesk joins forces with the Clinton Foundation to build sustainable cities
Autodesk will provide the technology, initially based on Autodesk MapGuide Enterprise, that will act as the model-based visualization environment used to view, evaluate and compare the results of analysis and monitoring in the C40 city. Autodesk MapGuide Enterprise software is a powerful mapping solution for delivering information more quickly, easily, and cost-effectively via the web.
Green Building Elements had a chance to speak with Brett Smith of Autodesk and Olivia Ross of the Clinton Foundation. Here is what they had to say.
GBE: How does the software track emissions?
Brett Smith (Autodesk): The Project 2° Emissions Tracker is designed to measure as many municipal and corporate activities as possible. Users enter data on emission producing activities such as fuel and electricity consumption, vehicle traffic, waste production, industrial processes and air and sea vessel fuel use. The software then converts the data into greenhouse gases, including tons of CO2 equivalent, taking into consideration the source and type of activity.
As the Economist wages the largest debate about bio-fuels in memory, another market opportunity appears to be showing itself in the bio production space as well. Bio plastics have been sprouting up in various applications, but a recent study puts the total market of green packaging at $43.9Billion by 2013. The highest growth gains in this market will be in bio plastics for reasons of price stability and increased capacity the report said. Bio plastics will, it is reported, preform at an annual growth rate of thirteen percent. This spells big news for an industry which currently holds only about .1% percent market share.
Part of the reason for this growth will be due to policy changes which restrict the use of some of the most environmentally damaging materials, but the largest effect seems to be coming from packaging producers themselves. Corporate social responsibility leader Coca Cola has developed a new bottle which is composed of around thirty percent bio plastics with the intended goal of developing a one hundred percent renewable option in the future. Likewise, Wal-Mart has begun sourcing toys and children’s goods made from bio plastics.
The draw is that decomposition coupled with less petroleum based material seems to be better environmentally, but some counter this analysis. According to the Guardian Newspaper, foods producers in the UK such as Innocent Drinks have chosen to stop using bio plastics due to lack of recycling options for the products at present. Likewise there have been claims that bio plastics can be environmentally damaging on par with their petroleum based counterparts. Recent innovations have made it so less energy is needed to create bio plastics and thus it seems the growth of the sector makes environmental sense. Followers of Bill McDonough’s cradle to cradle concept often tout the re-usability and closed-loop life cycle of these products, while others derided their historically slow decomposition rates. Some applications in the burgeoning bio plastics space are:
Think of Ansel Adams and his influence on early 20th Century government leaders in the United States; he helped demonstrate the value of nature and the need for national parks.
Now, think of DOUBLEXPOSURE, and the work of two photographers who are pairing work that “brings the viewer into panoramas of glaciers once grand but now receding. The compelling comparisons put into stark view the fact of melting glaciers.”
I’m sure that many of you saw this earlier this month – but the “Euro Condom”, designed by Ingo Maurer, was just brought to my attention this morning and I HAD to pot it on AMNP. Long story short: new European guidelines have banned frosted incandescent bulbs, because the frosted bulbs give off less light [which is absurd]. In response, designer Ingo Maurer has developed the “Euro Condom”, an opaque silicon “condom” that you stretch over a clear incandescent bulb to give it the frosted effect.
The Euro Condom consists of a thin, heat-resistant silicone cover that turns a clear bulb into a frosted one. Frosted bulbs will be banned by the new EU guideline on light sources beginning September 2009, because they are said give off less light than clear bulbs.
But according to the specifications of various manufacturers the difference, measured in lumens, is negligible or not existing. – Protect yourself from stupid rules, use the Euro Condom!
My ninjas, PLEASE! This is definitely a story that should make you smile – and brighten up your day if you’re here in the rainy North-East. I mean – there’s even an illustrated step-by-step condom-like set of instructions….brilliant.
Now that Oprah has turned her spotlight on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that great mass of garbage floating in the ocean has finally caught the public eye. An upcoming ocean garbage expedition to the patch, dubbed Project Kaisei, should draw even more attention when it launches this summer. Project Kaisei’s aim is to explore the feasibility of collecting and recycling the garbage patch, which mainly consists of plastics, into diesel fuel. How feasible is it? A modest derelict fishing net recycling program in Hawaii provides some tantalizing clues.
One of the many benefits of being in London this week is that I get to stop by the Building Centre, one of my favorite urban galleries and architectural exhibition spaces, to check out their new show London Yields: Urban Agriculture.
While imagining what it might be like to eat extremely local food, grown right there in your city – a line of 96th Street Honey, for instance, or, in light of Times Square’s recent (but unfortunately temporary) pedestrianization, perhaps a Times Square Tomato (why not agriculturalize parts of Times Square?) – we also need to ask how we might make such a vision come true.
How can a city like London be at least partially turned over to food production – so that London Fields might produce southeast England’s newest yields of meat, fruit, and vegetables?
I have to admit that urban agri-utopianism is easily one of the most seductive visions of the 21st century city that I’ve yet seen – from farming new medicinal plants on the rooftops of schools to hybridizing sci-fi flowers on vast and heavily perfumed highway-farms stretching across one borough to another – and it’s hard not to get excited when thinking about such things.
|May 25, Dubai
The cranes atop the Burj Dubai will be dismantled by August 2009, according to a senior Emaar executive.”The project is expected to open by the end of the year,” said Greg Sang, Project Director at Emaar Properties. “But we are still looking at all of the programming elements. After lowering all the cranes in August, we still have to finish all the fitouts, As of now, the basic core and shell is all finished in Burj Dubai. But every floor is at a different stage of being completed.”…more
|May 25, South Africa
Zonk’izizwe (meaning ‘all nations’) Town Center transforms one of the last remaining vacant sites in its location, into a one-of-a-kind mixed-use destination. Situated midway between Johannesburg (the economic hub of Africa) and Pretoria (the capital of South Africa), it will be developed as a new town centre, connecting these two populous and fast- growing cities…more
March 30, 2009
This is the first article in a series looking at the effect of built environment on air quality and vice versa. Air quality has always been an issue. Effects have generally been localised to a discrete area for example cooking smoke, bushfires and volcanic ash. These emissions while causing atmospheric pollution were small enough to be absorbed by plants and algae or broken down to inert substances.
Since the industrial revolution we have exceed the capacity of these natural processes to limit the build up of pollution. This has not generally been seen as an issue given the homogenous distribution of the pollution globally has reduced its’ visible and short term environmental impact.
Since the acknowledgement that CFC’s were causing significant environmental damage and the successful global response to mitigate their usage we have turned to the substantially more complicated issue of greenhouse gas emissions and their potential to render the planet uninhabitable by humans.
With regard to the built environment a similar scenario has been at play but has received much less attention. In particularly the build up of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) emitted by practically all processed building materials.
According to the American EPA VOC’s have been shown to cause health problem including conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.
The increased concentration of VOC’s has not necessarily been caused by the increased usage of emitting material. The move from naturally ventilated buildings to air conditioning and the improved weather sealing of buildings have both reduced the air change rate within buildings and consequently the indoor air quality.
These internal and external air quality issues will be investigated in subsequent articles to see how they affect current and future building design.
Pic flikr user Vancityallie