Green Roofs and Walls

Here are some recent developments in the “green roof” industry. Out of all the solutions presented for environmental improvements in the urban area, I think green roofs are one of the best from a technical results perspective, right through to how they look. The first development here is actually a green wall rather than a roof, you can read the press release here, it has all the technical and company details.

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Also recently in the news is the Toyota green roof product, even the Discovery Channel had a feature on it…

Summer may be coming to an end, but there may still be time for home renovations – starting with a little bit of grass on your roof
Researchers from Toyota Roof Garden in Japan are now taking orders for grass tiles, called the TM9 turf mats, to help reduce urban heat island effects and cool down metropolitan areas.

Has Toyota realised that people want to buy from a company that supports environmental objectives, or do they realise that the age of the petrol driven car is coming to an end? Either way, the diversification is a good thing.


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First Flush Devices for Industrial Sites

ffwd_diagram_1.JPGIn the world of roof-water collection, first flush devices are about as technical as it gets from a collection cleaning or filtration perspective. Roofs are a good source of relatively clean, free water, generally suitable for outdoor use or for indoor use such as toilet flushing. However as with any surface, roofs and gutters accumulate debris ranging from leaves and dust through to bird droppings. Storing these contaminants within a rainwater tank can produce nasty odours and may require extensive cleaning of the tank after a period of time.

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Meet Mike, the Semi-Nomadic Engineer

I love working remotely, whether for work, blogging or preparing a talk, nothing beats sitting at a coffee shop sipping a freshly made coffee. With wireless technology I can do pretty much everything I would in the office or at home while I’m out and about. I can make or receive calls on my mobile or on Skype, I can check my emails, I can design subdivisions in 12D, I can project manage jobs, review drawings, prepare presentations and talks and manage the workflow of my team.

Engineering wirelessly cafe computer design laptop manageGenerally I find that my clarity of thought is improved in a neutral space such as a coffee shop, away from the office where everyone else’s work is competing for your attention. Being at my desk forces me to deal with (or at least acknowledge), other peoples issues as they bring them to me, whether urgent or not. This breaks concentration and workflow significantly, I’ve turned off all incoming mail notifications on my office computer for that very reason, if it were time critical they would have called me.

Some would say that a coffee shop is no better, there are noises, staff and people talking, and you can’t just get up and leave your stuff to go to the toilet or for a walk. But consistently, I’ve noticed increased productivity on certain tasks outside of the office.

I’m not alone in this, there are a growing army of Bedouin workers, freed from the need for a cubical space to call their own. In fact I recently stumbled across a great new blog aimed at helping people make this transition or improve their experience, through products, techniques and tips….

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eco friendly miniHome

We’re all about sustainable here at Urban Workbench, and weekends are for links and side projects. The thought of living in a trailer while building a new home sends shivers up my spine, until I came across this Canadian constructed miniHome linked at the Inhabitat Blog.

Inhabitat Blog Archive PREFAB FRIDAY: Sustain miniHOME:

DAWN.jpgEven when the miniHome was only 1-day old out of the factory, it didn’t have any of the noxious off-gassing and poor indoor air quality that plagues most vehicles, trailers, houses and manufactured products. That’s because we set out a very exclusive set of criteria for our manufacturer, which demanded:

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Global Warming Podcast

For a great podcast mp3 on global warming from a scientific perspective (rather than an environmental scaremongers!), Australian author, Dr Barry Pittock of the CSIRO spoke on the ABC this morning. A transcript is available to read as well.

Seventy to eighty percent reductions of present greenhouse gas emissions are needed by 2100 to avoid potentially disastrous climate change. Moreover, if the poorer countries, which are not responsible for most emissions to date, are to be allowed to develop, the richer nations will need to shoulder more of the burden in the near future.

This requires a major technological revolution to move society from a carbon-intensive, fossil fuel based technology to a low carbon technology. This is a huge challenge, but one that can be met by setting suitable targets and incentives, combined with foresight, innovation and entrepreneurship. The cost of renewable energy has been falling fast over the last few decades and is increasingly competitive with fossil fuel energy, especially when the cost of pollution is taken into account.

This is the way of the future. Those individuals, companies and countries that seize the challenge and turn it into an opportunity will be in on the ground floor. Those who do not will lose out in the long run. The choice is ours.

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Brisbane Blows Out Budget For Raintanks

I often wonder when councils are going to get it, we need more water, and we want to have some control over the sourcing of it.

Gardeners rush for rebate | The Courier-Mail:

THE Brisbane City Council water rebate budget is set to blow out by $10 million as residents rush to install rainwater tanks. The surge in tank sales is being blamed on tough level 3 water restrictions banning residents from using hoses to water gardens.

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Cul-de-Sacs and Turning Heads

Some people love them, others hate them. Personally, I think they are useful to maximise the lot yield of terrain dependant sites, but when used to attempt to create private roads and spaces with no regard to the form of the land, Cul-de-Sacs become pretty tiring. (If you can’t access the NY Times article, there’s a pdf of it here.

Why Some Towns Place Roadblocks on Cul-de-Sacs – New York Times:

Highly popular after World War II, the cul-de-sac is essentially a dead-end residential street, often but not always ending with a large circular patch of pavement allowing vehicles to turn around. The form was initially embraced as something that promoted security, neighbourliness and efficient transportation…

Homeowners found that the cul-de-sac limited traffic, creating a sense of privacy, while encouraging ties among neighbours, who could hardly avoid one another. Developers liked the cul-de-sac because it made it possible to build on land unsuited to a grid street pattern and because home buyers were willing to pay a premium to live on one…

…while people within a cul-de-sac may know one another well, they are less likely to know people who live on other streets. “What was lost is a sense of community,” [Michael Lykoudis, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame] said.

What I dislike more than Cul-de-Sacs are

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Water – The New Pedestrian Control Device

29-08-06_0749.jpgNewcastle City Council has been busy fixing some of the inner city intersection, to improve pedestrian safety, and in one case to realign a blocked stormwater pipe. The images below are from one of the intersections, you can see the new kerb blister to shelter pedestrians contemplating the crossing, the new stormwater pits, and most obviously, the large puddle on the corner. Check out these three photos taken on my way to work.

It’s a fair embarrassment when the city council, responsible for approving engineering development’s drainage designs, is permitted to leave a design like this in use. I will admit that the options are few, but it is not impossible to fix.

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