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:

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.

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.

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

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.

Solar Powered Biofuel Service Station

One of the awesome things about watching growth in sustainability, is seeing mainstream, traditional industries such as gas stations make inroads to sustainable outcomes.  In Australia BP recently incorporated solar panels to several of their stations in Sydney, with a graphic display of energy savings and even carbon offsets they were acheiving.  This story from Oregan takes the concept one step further and shows that big companies see value in investment in these technologies, whether from an attempt to improve public perception, or perhaps from a cost benefit, environmental analysis perspective.  Either way, this article over at treehugger outlines some of the "innovative", (I use that term loosely, as this really is inovative for a traditional industry!).

Treehugger: First Solar Powered Biofuel Station Opens

The biofuels are only part of the story behind this unique business, however. From first glance at the SeQuential retail site one can see that this is no ordinary pit stop.
The site considers the role of the automobile while integrating the belief that commerce and the natural environment can co-exist. Renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable design elements are themes throughout the site.

Subtropical Cities Conference 2006

One fo the unique things about Australia is it's diverse climate, and it's neat to see Brisbane hosting the Subtropical Cities Conference for this year  - H.T. to Brisburbology.

Centre for Subtropical Design - Conference

Subtropical Cities 2006 conference aims to raise the level of public debate about achieving ecologically sustainable urbanism in subtropical settlements through attention to climate responsive design.
Looks like some interesting speakers with experience in countries such as Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil, and of course Australia.  It would be nice to see some of the papers that would be presented at a conference like this that has a particularly sustainable flavour to it.

Freeways for Sydney?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran this story about the US transportation and planning expert Wendell Cox who is arguing for more freeways in Sydney to allow for greater home ownership.  (H.T. Planetizen).

Back to the 'burbs - the case for the car - National - smh.com.au

...if inadequate public transport is not the reason, why does Sydney have such transport problems? Cox says the city needs more freeways. Of 30 urban areas in the developed world with a population of more than 3 million, "Sydney ranks 29th for lane kilometres of freeway per square kilometre. Only London has fewer. Sydney is also relatively poorly served by arterial roads."
You can read my comments on this issue, as someone who occasionally has to navigate the back streets of Sydney to get anywhere, at Planetizen, check out the other comments about Cox's credibility too.