Future Ecology Designed

Sustainable design theory manifested in products, infrastructure, and graphic representation. A utopian glimpse of a future New Zealand where environmental considerations are of tantamount importance, and society is designed to accommodate the native ecosystem.

Solar/PV Hybrids in Microcredit Scemes.

I believe that a micro-grid network of small generators might have an excellent application within schemes such as this UNICEF one:

'Microcredit is the extension of small loans to groups of poor people, especially women, for the purpose of investing in self-employment programmes . It is a way of improving the earning capacity and therefore the standard of living of the poor. Nevertheless, a poor woman who generates income through microcredit but who does not have adequate access to health care for herself and her family, who lacks essential information about health and nutrition and who is unable to send her children to school is still living in poverty.

There is a greater reduction in poverty when microcredit programmes are combined with increased access to basic social services than when the programmes focus on credit alone.

When microcredit is linked with access to basic social services and key social development messages, the health and nutrition of borrowers' children -- particularly girls -- improves; school enrolment increases; safe water and sanitation use broadens. This combined approach, therefore, is an important strategy for achieving the year 2000 goals for children. Microcredit also empowers women, by enabling them to make economic decisions and become the source of increased household income. Experience shows that with the empowerment of women come significant improvements in children's survival rates, health, nutrition and development.'

The Grameen Bank operates a system similar to this in Bangladesh. Dr. Muhammed Yunus, founder of the micro-credit movement, won the 2006 Nobel peace prize as a result. His bank provides loans at an average of US$200 to people living in poverty, who don't qualify for bank loans. No collateral or credit history is required, instead an honour system comprises the standard to which individuals are held. There is a 99% repayment rate.

Approximately 94% of the bank is owned by its 6.6 million borrowers, six percent by the government of Bangladesh.

I always wanted to market the Turbine/PV hybrid as a piece of sculpture. Of course, some basic engineering principals must be adhered to first and foremost, but the profit-margin might be greatly increased simply through paying more attention to aesthetics than previously. This might classify as needless ornamentation, but in a world of ostentatious 'green' gestures would perhaps prove popular.

This (hopefully) higher profit margin would then be used to subsidise construction of turbines, which would be sold (or hopefully subsidised even further through grants) to situations like the above, at a reduced cost. If ornamentation could be further removed to allow a reduction in manufacture costs then this would be a factor. It is also worth remembering that the western world would consume so many more small turbines per capita, simply through relatively wasteful energy use. Every turbine sent to developing villages would go a lot further.

The UNICEF website above presents the wonderful example of a scheme in Andhra Pradesh:

In two districts of Andhra Pradesh, thousands of women come togeth er in small groups. They each save 1 rupee a day (currently $1 = 35.5 Indian rupees), pool their savings and rotate the sum among them selves for production and day-to-day needs and as a source of capital for micro-enterprises. The Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) scheme, supported by the Government and UNICEF, then extends further credit to the women once they have demonstrated their ability to form groups and save. Women are proud to display their passbooks and speak of their experiences.

In one village in Nellore District, for example, women have acquired land titles in their names and taken Rs180,000 as loans towards construction of their houses. They have said that they will not tolerate wife-beating and have forced their husbands to stop drinking alcohol. The longest-standing group in the village has rotated the revolving fund 25 times and also has a savings deposit of Rs30,000 in the bank. In another village, a group has saved Rs800,000. In total, the women of the district have mobilized savings of Rs60 million.

The women have used the revolving funds for productive activities, emergency consumption, health needs, marriages and children's education. The Total Literacy Campaign launched in the district in 1991 has brought education and information, with the savings groups becoming important centres for disseminating information on health, education, water and sanitation. There are visible changes in the health and nutrition of women and their children.

Thanks to Dina Mehta for her blog entry.

Suuuu perrrr buuuuuusssss !!

An interesting electric bus concept, developed by Delft University of Technology. Only 1.7m high, so passengers cannot stand up internally, but wind resistance is much reduced- it can attain 250 km/h. I imagine something this sleek may attract people currently uninterested in buses, but if special roads are required to reach the top speed, how much more efficient is it than a high-speed train?

It comes down to the idea that you can travel at high speed on special lanes, and then use conventional roads to traverse stops at your city of destination, thus reducing modal changes. The direct comparison would be high speed rail, changing to conventional buses- although of course building the rail lines is far lower impact, and if you change modes, it immediately frees up the high speed transport to operate in its element. I'm not convinced this engorged-looking bus is the answer to a genuine question.

Melbourne 2020 – Single Track Tram System

The use of single-rail, gyroscope-stabilised vehicles, combined with stations between the lines, rather than outside the lines, addresses the narrow confines of many roads and the resultant traffic delays and associated air pollution arising from the present two-rail system.
Benjamin Last and Jess Cameron-Wootten
Monash University

> Link

Metropolis Energy Competition

I have been meening to get post this a while back, so without further delay & before I loose it completly...

This is a very appropriate competition currently run by the metropolis magazine. I belive we should seriously consider entering here. It does requiring a rather comprehensive submission with detailed proposal including a business plan.

"The 2007 Next Generation® prize will finance the development of a bright idea that focuses on ENERGY, its uses, reduction, consumption, efficiencies, and alternatives. Intended to support designers whose entries reflect considerations of sustainability, distribution and manufacturing systems, economy, current technologies and materials, function, and provocative form and can speak to any one of the 6 sub-disciplines supported by the magazine"

I think this might be an interesting process to go through. Maybe we could look at putting together a submission around your
micro solar/wind hybrid unit with an extension look at how this is integrated and interfaced with the home/user. This would give us a nice deadline to work towards aswell :-)

Link to website with details

Let me know what you think.

'Everything we have been taught in contemporary times is that monocultures are necessary, to increase both production and growth. But this kind of thinking is really one-dimensional. It negates our true human and ecological state, which is diversity. And we destroy this at our peril'

Vandana Shiva

Dissertation Topic

I've been writing a research proposal detailing what I have planned for next year. Reviewing existing literature has really helped to provide a more realistic notion of what is possible with communal generation. The next stage is defining research goals and methods more concisely.

It looks like the bulk of my design work will surround the generator itself, most likely a micro solar/wind hybrid unit. However, I will also deal with the metering and wider system- with a view to working the whole arrangement into the Newer Zealand idea. In a really simple way, the generators are treated as revenue providing investments, the profits received then being used to pay off conventional power bills- the two processes effectively isolated. This means the turbines can be placed on off-site, optimal locations. It really becomes interesting when one imagines the repurcussions within an avant-garde urban dweller context, or metering which takes into account how much electricity (and profit) the investment is supplying, vs. how much electricity is being bought from the grid....

The University submission will be fairly technical, whilst the application within Newer Zealand will allow for a more conceptual interpretation. Leave a comment if you would like a copy of the research proposal sent to you.