Archive for September, 2008

Take out your health potential!

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Firms are now offering new services:

Expose what’s happening inside your body:  establish a set of diagnostics for your personal hormonal, metabolic and physical baseline. Then your personal team—physician, nutritionist and exercise physiologist— will create an individualized synergistic program and follow you through.
 As an example: Cenegenics.

The knowledge for such services are there and becoming deeper fast – let us do it!

Urban laboratories (Danish discussion)

Monday, September 29th, 2008

The city of the future: thinking about the urban condition and exploring creative collaborations which can change cities and open up for new urban formats and experiences and challenge our perception of the city.

The city must live: there must be things going on, wall-to-wall planning makes a dead city, people must be present

Masterplan – counterplan

Reserve places for the future city

Postindustrial zones

Urban experiences

The hybrid city

Sustainable urban spaces with room for change

There must be hidden places to find

Atmosphere – the urban interface is the place where stuff is  happening

The interface of the city and artistic creativity. – the city as stage and the stage as city

 Urban beach and huge open hall

 The city as a place of sensorial experience, memory, dreams and desire as well as a look into the city as a place where cultural regeneration, cultural profiling and city marketing are topical issues.

 Creative urban processes, temporary spaces, mobile places and structures, new media and new technology.


Changing the earth by large-scale engineering

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

We need to make the earth less prone to global warming if we want to stay here!

Large-scale changes are considered, for the time being as ideas, but later possibly in more practical terms.

There are two main themes: take away excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce the sunlight reaching the ground.

This can be done in several ways.

Increasing the photosynthetic processes so that more plants are created and less rotting is taking place is one. We can sprinkle the seas with iron or fertilizer to grow more plankton and algae. Some scientists want to do experiments to measure what happens.

Plant genetically modified trees that grow faster.

React carbon dioxide with hydrogen to make fuel.

Eject carbon dioxide from the Earth´s poles using the earth´s magnetic field.

Reflect  sunlight back into space by adding sulphate particles a.o. to the atmosphere, tinker with cloud cover.

A large number of possible ways of changing the earth has been suggested, but there are a number of uncertainties associated with all. Careful small-scale regulated experiments could move us forward?



Soft path energy change: be more efficient!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

More energy efficiency is needed – it is a fast resource! “Elegant frugality is better than wearing a hair shirt” (Amory Lovins)

We can work towards energy efficiency in many areas: fuel economy in transport, better roads (straigther, fewer jams), “green” houses, efficient use of water for farming, reduced meat production, fly less and have video meetings, build more efficient machinery like turbines,  etc.

Hydropower generation is under debate in Norway. The Government wants to increase hydropower production through newbuildings and efficiency measures in existing plants.  Environmentalists are protesting against damage to nature. The total potential is being estimated now. An increase in production of about 70% has been mentioned!

In Berlin and London electric cars are used in larger numbers than before. Charging facilities are being built and new technology is developing. In Norway a project is under way: “Infrastructure for plug-in cars”. 100 stations are in place, another 300 planned.



The surgeon inside you

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

The dream of slipping or propelling small devices – nanobots –  into the body to deliver drugs in precise ways, repair ailments such as cancer or mutations in your DNA is on its way to reality. Small medical robots coming in through the gastro tract (you can swallow it) and microrobots entering the bloodstream are coming into use. 

Prototypes with legs that can move them around has been made, perhaps performing biopsies. Vibrating devices are being tested. Combining several of these devices can reduce the need for medication and anaestethics, as well as opening up for entirely new methods. What about hitching a ride with a bacterium or riding in a chemotaxi?

The devices can be powered via magnetic fields, locating it via the MRI machinery.

We are entering a new phase!

Unequal wellness

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Life expectancy is to a large extent dependent upon the sum of the conditions in the society you live: some conditions make your life much shorter. You may live to be near a 100, or you may not pass 50!

WHO has looked into the matter and published a report: Social Determinants of Health. A firm conclusion can not be drawn, as many factors contribute:

Capacity and quality of health systems, income of individuals and nations, child care, education, transparency, job insecurity, universal access of vaccines for children, education of girls, information about nutrition, running water for sanitation, personal choices in food/drink/tobacco.

This is far too complex to fix in a jiff: let the improvement work start!


The loo: Water and fertilizer

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

If you live in a developing country you use 10 liters of water a day. A European uses 200 liters and an Ameican 400 liters. A third of this is drained into the toilet! A family of five uses 1 m3 per day. A typical European toilet uses 4—12 liters pr. push, American 20 liters.

The water closet accounts for 20-40 % of water use and is an anachronism. It would probably not have been allowed if introduced today.

Figures from Water Supply and  & Sanitation Collaborative Council, UN, Stocholm Environment Institute.

1.3 billion people experience lack of clean water, and 2.4 billion people will be lacking sanitary facilities by 2015. (The International Decade for Action, Water for life 2005-2015, UN)

 We will hav a shortage of water  for 30 % of  the world population in  50 countries by 2025.

Toilet drain also carries away nutritients like phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen that are used for food production. Phosphorus is not sustainable and could be hard to find in 100 years time, instead ending up at the bottom of the sea where it is difficult to reclaim.

Urine is very rich in phosphorus, is sterile and well suited for food production. 15-20% of the fertilizer we use now can be replaced by runoff water containing urine.

Urine has been used as fertilizer in many countries already. Theoretically all food for the world could be grown by using runoff water from toilets. Recirculation of toilet water is possible by toilets that separate urine and excrements. This can be done by vacuum toilets using 0,5-1 liter.

In Mongolia (Dongsheng), Norway (Oslo)  and the Norwegian Environmental University installations are in place.

Green homes: Energy passive buildings using the Kyoto pyramid

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

We aim to to reduce the energy requirements of buildings by passive measures.

The standard (p.t. German Passivhaus standard) depends on local climate for such houses and require an energy use of 25 % of ordinary houses., with max. energy requirement for heating being 15 KWh pr. sq.m. per year, installed effect max. 10 w/sq.m, total energy requirement max. 120 kW/sq.m./year.

The primary measure is to reduce heat losses by using extra isolating materials, reduction of air flows and heat transfers from the building as well as a high degree of heat reclamation.

Energy efficient appliances and lighting are required. The rest of the energy must be produced locally by sustainable energy such as suncells, biofuel, windmills.

Norwegian authorities are considering making mandatory the standard for all new buildings by 2020.

The  first passivehouse block of flats is ready in Bergen, Norway. Financing is subsidised.  A Norwegian standard is being developed. The first passive house was built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1991.

Considerations: use no fossil fuel, few toxic materials, natural ventilation, reduce use of water, no carbon monoxide production, vacuum toilets, low flow taps, blocking air flows, low emissive windows, reduce heat conduction, thermal breaks, tight seals, electrochromic glass, vacuum-insulated windows, heat recovery ventilator with filter, LEDs, web-based dashboards, have a small-scale garden,

The Kyoto pyramid principles: Reduce heat losses, reduce energy usage, utilize sun energy, show and regulate the energy use, choose local energy source

The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, LEED green building standard (USA)

A Norwegian standard NS3700 is being developed – it is “softer” than the German standard.

ECO-City developments in Scandinavia and Spain (EU)
The aim of the “ECO-City project” is to demonstrate innovative integrated energy concepts in the supply and demand side in Helsingør and Helsingborg, Tudela and Trondheim.
Activities are demonstration of ECO-buildings and rational use of energy, renewable energy technologies. Projects are defined in a “Whole Community Approach” so that project initiatives are integrated components with the aim of optimal interaction and balancing of the demand and supply at all times.
Zilina, Slovak Rep. is an associated community.

Progress is being made (2010): New sustainable buildings have surplus energy at times – this heat must be transferred somewhere. Increasing weight is placed on energy control systems to control ventilation, heat pumps, lights, CO2 levels. Energy use of 65 Kwh/m2 is achieved.

Energy certificate required for all buildings sold on the market in Norway

1.1.2010 all buildings, flats – new and old over 50m2 – being offered for sale have to carry an energy certificate. The builders and the authorities are fighting about rules and procedure. A web list will be made of all buildings with certificates. The system is in beta now, and will be ready by year-end. It is expected that a good energy classification will increase the value of your property?

Poisonous substances in the environment

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Poisonous substances are flowing through the air and oceans to end up in animals in the Arctic. They are stored in in the fat of small sea-animals, are broken down very slowly and accumulate upwards in the chain of nutrition.

Best known substances are DDT, PCB, fluorides, heavy metal compounds based on mercury etc.

A new  substance – Siloksan –  is being found is used in cosmetics, cleaning fluids, skin preparations.

Siloksan can cause brain damage, cancer, reduce reproduction, immunesystem damage.

Disturbingly high values are found in large polar animals at the top of the nutrinional ladder.

12000 persons in Northern Norway will be mapped for these substances.

City parks

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Parks and playgrounds are an important feature of cities. They are the gardens of the urban community, and will bring nature into the city and be the green lungs of urbanity. Playgrounds and schoolyards are increasingly treated as part of the park system. 

Parks should include a circuit to allow a nice walk, run, bicycle tour, ride etc. Quiet areas should be found, and the design should be very carefully developed for activities so as not to annoy the people coming to have a quiet time. Parks can include dams for rowing, swimming pools etc.

Commercial activity should be allowed very sparingly.

Parks are artificially constructed, and are normally not a copy of nature, but often made to create a romantic landscape. Some times nature takes over, attracting birds and animals, and plant growth that is not controlled.

Parks are democratic cityspace – we do not pay to enter – citizens go there to experience nature, most often by walking.

Fundraising and lobbying for parks are often necessary to finance new green areas and maintaining the old ones. Politics are always involved, and in many countries there is public and private cooperation on parks. Many people contribute money, often small amounts, and labour as volunteers in parks, as a rule their own park.

Groups of volunteers are often very active. Partnerships can be found for parks, providing workshops, training, small amounts to local projects. Local involvement is necessary to ensure good parks. Local activists are sometimes engaged in fundraising for special projects.

It is a good idea to establish standards with requirements for the parks in a city. This has also to do with environmental justice  - equal rights – the citizens are the owners of the parks – not the bureaucrats or the politicians.

The neighbours of the parks can contribute: companies, institutions – in order to  develop a nice area to be in. This can force out inhabitants due to price increases?

This is  sometimes linked to principles of habitation: Most employees of the municipalities are supposed to live in the city.

Run down parks are a pain! Order must be kept, tags must be removed, and guards must have certain presence.

The bicycle road system of a city are sometimes integrated into the park system.