Rigidity in Institutions is harbinger of failure

My good friend James L. Salmon has a blog called Collaborative Construction I know some of you read, but for those of you who don't check out this link to his post entitled (SMART)X Public Policy? While the article James refers to is interesting and on point to the medical profession, it is also a shade of foreboding in the Built Environment as well. As more and more public policy is enacted in the areas of building performance, emissions from the built environment, water purity, water usage and the like, we continually restrict the creativity of human minds and calcify the momentum we need to maintain to make the huge changes needed to create environments which are both environmentally and economically sustainable.

While legislation to improve air quality has seen some success, there is also abuse on both sides and this results in further draconian reaction from regulators, legislators and litigators. Like Professor Mead, the author of the cited post, points out, we need to refocus our efforts on getting the bloat out of policy and legislation and focus on more responsive means. The AEC industry needs to take note, we are already heavily regulated in the areas of building design performance, labor, material safety and job safety. The business does not need to bear more regulation for the sake of trying to be more responsive to the needs of society.

As an industry, we need to be more productive, innovative and responsive and supportive business relationships with a goal in mind to shed our old thinking for new relationships and better performance negating the need for more legislation and administrative oversight. Responsible change is less expensive for everyone concerned.

This is s continuing series of ideas based on Connections and Links which form Strings of knowledge related to the Built Environment and the issues surrounding project delivery and regulatory compliance. 


Recycling Renewable Energy-Seems like a natural but is it?

I was kind of pulled out of my chair this morning when I was reviewing some news feeds and came across this article.

Richard Gross, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NY-Poly), is deeply troubled that clean energy technologies meant to help preserve the planet employ nonsustainable, petroleum-based materials.
"The blades on a wind turbine, for example, are massive and need to be replaced about every 25 years," Gross said. "They end up in landfills, like any other nonrecyclable garbage."
This a clip from "When Wind Turbine Blades and Solar Panels End Up in Landfills" published in Electric Light&Power. What seems quite improbable to me is the statement by Professor Gross that a lot of the equipment used for sustainable "green" power ends up in landfills! What's going on with this. So I started doing some research for other articles and sources to support the professor's claim. [see delicious and search for recycle wind turbines]

I also looked back at the source of the information. Professor Gross has his own axe to grind here since he is looking for practical application for his research in bimolecular engineering. I'd add to his cry for other building materials which often end up in the landfills. For example, how about porcelain fixtures that get thrown out. Can they be ground up and re-purposed again? How are we recapturing the heavy and toxic chemicals used in PV based panels. Are a lot of these ending up in landfills, or not. 


Are EV owners buying their 2nd car? Research in Japan says ???

If the market research recently released about buyers in Japan is any indication, then manufacturers need to take a harder look. The all electric cars are suffering most in surveys asking "Would you purchase another electric vehicle?" Over 30% are saying a resounding "No." That's interesting news. Where Japan has much more adjacent locations and denser overall population than the US or even Europe it could be telling as to why these technologies are having a harder time with larger market adoption.
A McKinsey report just released cited an overall loss in satisfaction with their earlier choice.
These buyers said they were “seduced” by low energy costs, attractive subsidies, and a good test drive. But they were less well informed about EVs than were environmentally conscious “green enthusiasts” (who love EV technology for its low energy costs and comfortable driving experience) and became less enthusiastic about their purchase when they faced issues such as higher electric bills and locating places to charge their cars. 
If the US automakers are going to convince us that EV's are a sound choice they are going to have to have more education, better charging infrastructure and more support for the US driving public while reducing the cost of vehicles at the same time. I think the jury is still out on this transport solution. Look at the overall carbon and energy differential to make and operate these vehicles when most of that energy is still coming from high emission coal-fired plants, their very high use of heavy metals and difficult to recycle and their initial glamour of cheap driving costs is greatly, if not entirely offset, depending on whose research you believe.

Read the entire article at McKinsey

This article is a continuing post in the series of Connections and Strings ties to sustainability, environment, and changes in urban life. The electric, EV of the future will have to address many issues with the public like charging locations, initial cost and total carbon contribution over the life-cycle of the vehicle if it is to be a successful response to the lowering of emissions. 


The Employee Tracking Tag and Construction Sites

Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a technology which has been around for a couple of years which tracks the location and tone of voice of the wearer and then correlates the locations w/ time to show the types of interactions between people. The premise of this technology is to discover social gathering and interaction modes of people in a specific space. (Read the article here on WSJ).

It got me to wondering if this kind of technology could have an impact on the efficiency on a construction or mining or oil production or any other construction related site. You see all the studies I've seen referenced for this kind of technology is in the office environment. The postulate would be if we haven't seen any real productivity in these types of environments over the past 40 years or so, then it might not be all technology and planning that is the problem, people and how they work together are likely part of the problem as well.

If you think you have a problem with this, you are probably aware all smartphones have GPS tracking features in them and anyone can track you if they know your number. Also there is an expending market to track vehicles, pets, mental and dementia patients, the criminal's ankle bracelet  and a host of other tracking methods being introduced which adds to the growing collection of Big Data which surrounds us every day.

I also include here the public sentiment on these devices being used from the WSJ poll as of this morning

Read the article and chime in with your thoughts and experiences.

A couple of links to the technology providers

This article is part of a continuing series of posts which look at emerging technologies, big data and efficiency in the work place. Specifically the Connections between unlikely events and technologies which create Strings of these Connections to reveal emerging patterns of our new economy.


4d Printing + BIM

Seems the folks at MIT are at it again. This time with Prof/ Skyler Tibbets working with mediums created on 3d printers, but which have the difference of being able to change their physical geometry when activated by an outside environmental change such as vibration, movement or presence of water for starters. It's been tagged as 4d printing. Seems the printing process is only the beginning of the process and depending on the engineering of the printed compound, change of state or organization is the intended outcome.

Some of these compounds change their shape from a simple linear form to more complex shapes. In some cases independent parts combine with others to form a new shape. All very intriguing. watch a couple of Vimeo vids [here].

Seems Prof Tibbets and Autodesk have an association to create authoring tools to help designers create these little gadgets. I find this interesting development, especially in the light of current professional conditions where designers have hard enough time designing railings and curtainwalls, now we are working on items they can design a dynamic changing artifact. Amazing, yet intriguing.

I hope some of you chime in with comments on where you think this will go.