These residential vertical forests help clean the air | TG Daily

Posted February 17, 2013 – 05:00 by Randy Woods, EarthTechling

There are some fanciful architectural designs that look wonderful, almost dreamlike, in drawings, but you know will almost never get built in the real world.

One design from Italian architect Stefano Boeri, however, appears to be turning that notion on its head with his Bosco Verticale, or “Vertical Forest,” which is growing like a mighty oak in the smoggy city of Milan, Italy.

An article on the project in Jetson Green described Milan as one of the most polluted cities in Europe, with some of the worst air quality in the European Union. It’s only fitting, then, that Boeri’s design of two residential towers that will be plastered with oxygen-spewing trees and other plants was greenlighted a few years ago, if only to help clear the city’s air.

This structure of these 365-foot and 256-foot towers is nearly complete and should be ready to open later this year. The vertical forest aspect is beginning to take shape as crews are starting to hoist the first of the 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 smaller plants that will be planted in terraces that cover nearly every vertical façade of each tower.

The trees will take root in deep concrete planters that are situated in the nearly 97,000 square feet of terrace space around both towers. Irrigation will be partially provided by the collection and reuse of greywater on the site. Renewable energy also will be supplied through passive and photovoltaic solar methods.

Each resident of the towers will have a view of the city through the lush greenery, which will create its own microclimate that can add a number of benefits to daily life besides just aesthetic value. For instance, the plants will help mitigate smog by consuming CO2 and producing oxygen, while also providing new habitat for insects and birds. When the summer temperatures of Milan begin rising past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants will provide shade and help cool the apartments to reduce energy costs. During stormy days, the well-rooted trees will act as a windbreak and will also help muffle the sounds of the streets below.

According to Boeri’s site, the verticality of the project provides both housing and urban forest space in a very compact area. The amount of greenery on the two buildings, he said, will equal an area or more than 107,000 square feet of natural forest land and about 538,000 square feet of living space—all in the space of a city block.

The Bosco Verticale project is part of a larger rehabilitation plan for the historic district between Via De Island Castillia and Confalonieri. According to Jetson Green, Boeri’s design has inspired other vertical forest ideas, including a social housing tower in Spain, called the Torre Huerta, and a “Flower Tower” in Paris, featuring nearly 400 bamboo plants.

* Randy Woods, EarthTechling


DailyTech – Study Suggests Urban Waste Heat May Have Big Effect up to 1,000 Miles Away

Despite having little impact on global mean temperatures, waste heat may alter weather significantly

A diverse team of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography ; University of California, San Diego (UCSD); Florida State University (FSU); and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have teamed up to examine the long term effects of waste heat on local surroundings.

I. Waste Heat Shifts Temperature Balance

Urban heat originates from a variety of sources — buildings with central heating, power plants, cars, and more. Human machines dump waste heat into the environment on a large scale locally. But globally waste heat is only estimated to account for around 0.3 percent of the total heat transported across higher latitudes by atmospheric or oceanic circulation, bumping temperatures by a mere 0.01 degrees C (about 0.02 degrees F).

The “urban heat island” effect — local warming from waste heat — is well known . But the research team suspected that waste heat might have longer-range effects too, effects that might be masked by the global trend. They dug into the issue and developed models that suggest that waste may indeed have longer-range impact, in addition to the urban heat island effect.

The new, more detailed smaller-scale models show that waste heat from cities may heat up northern regions of North America and Asia by as much as 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter. The heating effects can be felt up to 1,000 miles away from their source, the simulations showed. At the same time, the North American/Asian heating is coupled with a 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) cooling effect in Europe, which is forcing cooler winters.

Waste heat is warming North America and Asia’s north, while cooling the European north.
[Image Source: Ecofriend]

NCAR researcher Aixie Hu comments, “The burning of fossil fuel not only emits greenhouse gases but also directly affects temperatures because of heat that escapes from sources like buildings and cars. Although much of this waste heat is concentrated in large cities, it can change atmospheric patterns in a way that raises or lowers temperatures across considerable distances.”

II. What Can be Done?

Humans by and large produce much less waste heat than nature (respiration itself, the process by which living organisms harvest energetic chemicals to drive the processes of life, puts off a fair deal of waste heat). But many human cities happen to be located directly under jet stream troughs, which causes the localized impact to be amplified.

Globally in 2006 energy consumption globally was estimated to have occurred at an average of 16 terawatts (TW). The 86 largest metropolitan areas in the Northern Hemisphere are estimated to have consumed 6.7 TW of that total.

U.S. urban centers often sit under jet stream troughs. [Image Source: Blue Moon/Panoramio]
The study is arguably less about prevention, and more about understanding and coping with mankind’s localized impact on weather/climate. After all, you can’t reasonably ask people to turn off the heat in the winter or stop driving (even EVs put off waste heat).

But perhaps future urban expansion can be guided by models that place new construction in areas that suck less of the waste heat into the jet stream or alternatively suck up more in regions that are currently being cooled.

Additionally materials may be able to recapture some waste heat , decreasing the global output, while at the same time lowering costs. (But such materials are still in their very nascent stages.)

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.

Sources: UCAR [press release] , Nature Climate Change [abstract]

Japan Wants To Sell Energy-Efficient ''Smart'' Cities To The World: Ceatec 2010


CHIBA, Japan — There were gadgets and robots galore at Japan”s premier electronics show this week. But one of the biggest attractions wasn”t anything you could touch – an energy efficient city of the future.

For the first time, the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, better known as Ceatec, devoted one area of the show floor to selling a vision of urban life in 2020 and beyond.

The Japanese version of the so-called “smart city” exists in a post-fossil fuel world. Alternative sources like the sun, wind and nuclear power are harnessed in mass quantities. That power is then distributed to buildings, homes and electric cars connected to each other through “smart grids,” which monitor usage throughout the network to maximize efficiency.

The goal is to drastically cut carbon emissions, which many scientists believe cause global warming – ideally to zero. The bigger dream is for the smart city to become Japan”s next big export, fueling new growth and ambition at a time when the country finds itself in an economic rut and eclipsed by China as the world”s second-biggest economy behind the U.S.

The city of Yokohama, just southwest of Tokyo, is the site of a social and infrastructure experiment to create a smart city for the rest of the world to emulate. Launched this year, the “Yokohama Smart City Project” is a five-year pilot program with a consortium of seven Japanese companies – Nissan Motor Co., Panasonic Corp., Toshiba Corp., Tokyo Electric Power Co., Tokyo Gas Co., Accenture”s Japan unit and Meidensha Corp.

“We want to build a social model to take overseas,” said Masato Nobutoki, the executive director of Yokohama”s Climate Change Policy Headquarters, during a keynote event at Ceatec this week. “Yokohama is a place where foreign cultures entered Japan 150 years ago and then spread to the rest of the country.”

Now, he said, it”s where the best of Japan is converging, preparing for launch to the wider world.

Japan certainly isn”t the only country working on smart grids.

Australia has committed $100 million and is developing its first commercial-scale smart grid in Newcastle, a city a New South Wales state. South Korea is embarking on a $200 billion smart grid project on Jeju Island as part of efforts to cut national energy consumption by 3 percent by the year 2030. China is expected to invest a world leading $7.3 billion toward smart grids and related technologies in 2010, ahead of Washington”s $7.1 billion in Department of Energy grants, according to market research firm Zpryme.

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Zpryme estimates that the global smart grid market will be worth $171.4 billion in four years, up sharply from $69.3 billion in 2009.

On Tuesday, Toyota Motor Corp. separately announced the launch of its own home smart grid system in Japan to coincide with its plug-in hybrid cars going on sale in early 2012.

Called the Toyota Smart Center, it calculates the most efficient way of using energy, eliminating waste by shutting off gadgets when they aren”t being used and maximizing the recharging benefits of hybrids, which recharge as they run. Utilities can also be used when rates are cheapest such as overnight to heat stored water.

With competition heating up and so much business at stake, Japan is hoping to aggressively court customers overseas, especially in emerging economies, with not only its vision but also its long-standing reputation for reliability and quality.

If it”s all a little hard to imagine, Nissan was offering a peek into the future at Ceatec. The centerpiece of the automaker”s pavilion was a 3-D theater with a 275-inch screen giving viewers a virtual reality drive through a “near future” Yokohama. The virtual city tour will be replicated for leaders from around Asia when they gather in Yokohama next month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.

“We need to turn talk into reality,” said Minoru Shinohara, senior vice president for technology development at Nissan, which will begin selling its Leaf electric car in December.

“If all we do is talk, I have a great fear that we will be surpassed,” said Shinohara.

New reverse-osmosis membrane to improve desalination

The new reverse osmosis membrane will help desalination plants avoid costly clogging and membrane damage (Image: Tom.Arthur via Flickr)

By Darren Quick

A growing number of countries are turning to desalination plants to bolster dwindling water supplies. Most of the new facilities make use of reverse osmosis technology, but unfortunately these systems are susceptible to clogging and membrane damage, which places higher energy demands on the pumping system and necessitates costly cleanup and membrane replacement. Now researchers have unveiled a new class of reverse-osmosis membrane that resists the clogging that typically occurs when seawater, brackish water and waste-water are purified.

Reverse Osmosis

In reverse osmosis desalination plants high pressure is used to force polluted water through the pores of a membrane. While water molecules pass through the pores, mineral salt ions, bacteria and other impurities cannot. However, over time these particles build up on the membrane’s surface, leading to clogging and membrane damage, which places higher energy demands on the pumping system and necessitates costly cleanup and membrane replacement.

The new membrane developed by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has a novel surface topography and chemistry that allow it to avoid such drawbacks. The highly permeable, surface-structured membrane can easily be incorporated into today’s commercial production system, the researchers say, and could help to significantly reduce desalination operating costs.

Synthesized through a three-step process the researchers created a polymer “brush layer” on a polyamide surface. The polymer chains of the tethered brush layer are in constant motion with water flow adding to the brush layer’s movement, making it extremely difficult for bacteria and other colloidal matter to anchor to the surface of the membrane.

“If you’ve ever snorkeled, you’ll know that sea kelp move back and forth with the current or water flow,” said Yoram Cohen, UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “So imagine that you have this varied structure with continuous movement. Protein or bacteria need to be able to anchor to multiple spots on the membrane to attach themselves to the surface — a task which is extremely difficult to attain due to the constant motion of the brush layer. The polymer chains protect and screen the membrane surface underneath.”

Another factor in preventing adhesion is the surface charge of the membrane. Cohen’s team is able to choose the chemistry of the brush layer to impart the desired surface charge, enabling the membrane to repel molecules of an opposite charge.

Next Step

The team’s next step is to expand the membrane synthesis into a much larger, continuous process and to optimize the new membrane’s performance for different water sources. “We want to be able to narrow down and create a membrane selection system for different water sources that have different fouling tendencies,” said Nancy H. Lin, a UCLA Engineering senior researcher. “With such knowledge, one can optimize the membrane surface properties with different polymer brush layers to delay or prevent the onset of membrane fouling and scaling.

“The cost of desalination will therefore decrease when we reduce the cost of chemicals [used for membrane cleaning], as well as process operation [for membrane replacement]. Desalination can become more economical and used as a viable alternate water resource.”

The UCLA team is currently carrying out specific studies to test the performance of the new membrane’s fouling properties under field conditions.

A paper detailing the new membrane, “Polymer surface nano-structuring of reverse osmosis membranes for fouling resistance and improved flux performance,” appears in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Community Transit offers private commuting in public transport

By Naresh Chauhan

Inspired by both the structure and function of plant cells, designer Dave Owsen has popped up a public transport system that offers diverse options depending on the needs of people and businesses usage. Entitled the “Community Transit,” the new system will replace the bus systems with a more efficient and private “Cells,” which other than improving the current transport system will provide incentives for small business shipping and service industry distribution. Accommodating a couple with two small children, the cell offer more privacy and utilize a face-to-face configuration. A touch-screen interface built into the stationary wall surface lets the user select or direct route navigation with minimum fuss, while the cargo cells create incentive for small businesses peer-to-peer shipping that stimulates local business cooperation.

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TED Talk: How Food Shaped Our Cities, And How City Planning Can Reshape Our Food

london-city-overheadTED:  Ideas work spreading

Image via TED

In this fascinating TED talk, Carolyn Steel shows us how our food supplies shaped cities. From ancient times when certain markets were located based on how easy it was to get food to those areas to how cities expanded with the advent of trains, Steel shows us how our urban planning revolves really around how we eat. But more importantly, how we eat could be made more healthy and sustainable by a revisioning of cityscapes. Check out her talk after the jump, and see what an ideal city might look like if we were to adopt more sustainable eating practices.

Cities need to be revamped for sustainable, independent food supplies, for decreased our reliance on fossil-fueled transportation and increased walk- and bike-friendliness, and for energy efficiency. It’s not a matter of creating new eco-cities – it’s a matter of improving the urban areas we already have to make them healthy places to live.

More on Urban Eating
What’s the Footprint of Your Food?
Carrot City: Urban Agriculture Exhibition in Toronto
Urban Agriculture Grows in the City

(Video Link) –

Sprawl! Is Earth Becoming a Planet of SuperCities?

6a00d8341bf7f753ef011570575b9a970c-800wiImagine a planet dominated by cities like Mega-City One, a megalopolis of over 400 million people across the east coast of the United States, featured in the Judge Dredd comic or “San Angeles,”  formed from the joining of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and the surrounding metropolitan regions following a massive earthquake featured in the 1993 movie “Demolition Man.”

Don’t hold your breath: the 21st century will soon have 19 cities with populations of 20 million or more.


The history of the human species is a history of migration. In 1000 A.D. Cordova, Spain was the largest city. By 1500, Bejing began its rise to power, and 300 years later it was the first city to be over a million people. By 1900 London emerged the world’s supercity with over 6 million people. In 1950 New York was proclaimed the first “megacity” with a population of over 10 million people in the greater metropolitan area.

How is increasing mass urbanization affecting the quality of life? 1.4 million people are moving into cities each week. How will this vast migration change the way we live and die; how we treat the elderly, the poor, the way work, trade, learn, the way we eat, consume, recycle, power, engineer, innovate?

“While some say the world is flat, supercities are rising – vast, intensely urban hubs will radically redefine the world’s future macroeconomic and cultural landscape. Most of the world’s population right now lives and works in cities. Many more will. It’s critical to gain a truer understanding of what’s happening: the rise of supercities is the defining megatrend of the 21st century,” says futurist Richard Saul Wurman, founder of the TED Conference and 19 20 -devoted to the effect of mass urbanization on the planet.

In 1800 only 3% of the world’s population lived in cities; 47% by the end of the twentieth century. In 1950, there were 83 cities with populations exceeding one million; by 2007, this had risen to 468 urban areas of more than one million.

If the current trend continues, the world’s urban population will double every 38 years. The UN forecasts that today’s urban population of 3.2 billion will rise to nearly 5 billion by 2030, when three out of five people will live in cities. By 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50% right now.