Well, another week has flown by! The Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin today, and there’s been a lot of effort put into making this Olympics the ‘greenest’ one ever. There are, of course, two opposing views on their efforts. On one side, Daily Planet has created an extensive chronicle of the science and technology that has gone into the preparations for this event, and a part of their efforts include eight segments highlighting different ways in which this Olympics are ‘going for green‘. The official Vancouver Olympics website also has a section of their site devoted to explaining their sustainability efforts. Even the Olympic medals are made partially from metals recycled from electronic waste. On the other side of the table, a recent article by Dr. David Suzuki serves to highlight the (many?) ways in which the 2010 Olympics has fallen short, and the ways in which future games might be improved. As an example, one new structure at Whistler is a chalet designed to PassivHaus standards. A PassivHaus consumes 90% less energy than one built to standard building code. I think that’s wonderful, and ideas like this need to be incorporated into every new building. At the same time, the building was created in a factory in Austria and then shipped around the world to BC where it was erected, so that process itself may negate the environmental benefits of having such a tight structure. I can’t say for sure. Can we do more? Need we do more? For my part I say yes, certainly, on both counts. At the same time, I believe we advance ourselves further with compliments than criticisms, so I offer my congratulations to all involved with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for their efforts in sustainability, and I trust that future events will greatly exceed the efforts made here.
Now the Olympics is primarily about the body. Yes, there’s technology and development and mental acuity and more, but overall the Olympics is about physical excellence. There’s another ‘Olympics’ of sorts that’s also going on right now, a little farther south, in Long Beach, CA – the 2010 TED Conference. TED is an acronym for ‘Technology – Entertainment – Design’ and in some respects TED is a mental olympics. But while the Olympics proper is about competition, striving to be the best, TED is about cooperation, perhaps coopetiton. Some of the most important minds in the world gather every year at TED. There’s also ‘William’. He’s 11, and the youngest TED attendee to date. At TED you’ll find doctors, engineers, business leaders, and also people like William Kamkwamba. A native of Malawi, at 14 William had to leave school to support his family. He went to the closest library and found a book on wind energy, and using some wonderful adaptive engineering he built a wind generator for his parent’s home. Basically he built a wooden tower, formed blades out of melted PVC pipe, and connected these blades to the pedal arm of a bicycle. When the wind turned the propeller blades, the rotating crank would ‘pedal’ the bicycle, spinning the rear wheel and generating electricity using a small generator designed to operate a bicycle headlight. He generated enough power to provide for four lights in his parent’s home, and so he went beyond that, adding in a circuit breaker and four light switches.
To say a lot has been written about TED – some good, some less than flattering – would be a vast understatement. There’s such a broad scope of topics covered at the main conference every year, and increasingly in independent ‘TEDx’ conferences (300 so far), that any attempt to cover them all would fall short. But since these weekly posts are about green building and sustainability, I thought I’d highlight just a few to get you started. Hundreds more can be seen and/or downloaded from the TED website.
Rachel Armstrong presented an idea to use ‘protocells’ to create building structures that sequester CO2 from the atmosphere or from water, creating carbonate ‘reefs’ that build and repair themselves.
Juan Enriquez talked about the tremendous advances in agriculture caused by shifting our thinking from using ‘force’ to grow food to using biology, and how this concept is our way forward to a sustainable energy future.
Norman Foster discussed how architects can design buildings that are “green, beautiful and basically pollution-free.”
Willie Smits spoke about recreating a clear-cut tropical rainforest in Borneo, providing habitat for local orangutans and providing food, homes, and a sustainable wage for communities of local people.
The winner of the 2010 TED Prize, Jamie Oliver outlined a plan on how to make children (and their parents, and everyone) food aware. Malnutrition and obesity are linked if we’re eating foods that our bodies can’t effectively utilize. How does this relate to green building and/or sustainability? Americans invest $150 billion a year on healthcare issues related to preventable disease arising from obesity and food disorders. As things are, this will only increase. The production, transportation, marketing and distribution of ‘unhealthy food’ has costs that are staggering, and not just in an economic sense. I’ve mentioned this before, and while I can’t remember the name of the original author, the ‘triple bottom line’ for businesses today involve environmental sensitivity, corporate sustainability and profit. What the speaker said was to consider this as a three-legged stool. He went on to say that what’s important to remember is not that if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over. What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t matter which one of the legs you remove, the stool still falls over.
Okay, the links this week are:
- 2010 ED+C Excellence in Design Awards – application deadline is Monday, February 15, 2010
- Pilot Projects for the Sustainable Sites Initiative – application deadline is Thursday, February 18, 2010
- Webinar: Understanding Green Schools – Wed., March 17 at 2 p.m. EDT | 11 p.m. PDT
- Interactive Architecture
- spec near here: a tool for a simplified geographic search to assist in locating regional manufacturers of building materials (US & Canada)
- SSFC: The Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment (CAWT) (SSFC is my alma mater)
- San Francisco sets U.S. example by using property taxes to finance green upgrades
- Enviromnental Design + Construction News
- Sustainable Facility News
- Panel Suggests 100 Ways Buildings Can Be Greener
- Sustainability @ Boston University (BU)
- Cool Products from Greenbuild 2009 with Alex Wilson (video)
- BlueLinx: LEED Specific Products Database
- Revolving or Swinging Doors? The Best Exit Strategy (YouTube video)
- Green Building Advisor News
- Eco-Structure – January/ February 2010 digital magazine
- African Perspectives on Sustainability: Inspired by the United Nations naming the year 2008 as the International Year of the Planet, World Press Photo teamed up with Banco Espirito Santo d’Angola (BESA) for The Year of the Planet project, spanning from 2008-2010, which has resulted in a special photography exhibition and a multimedia presentation.
- Clean Power Canada: What You Should Know about Electrical Pollution
- Fixing the communications failure: People’s grasp of scientific debates can improve if communicators build on the fact that cultural values influence what and whom we believe
- Sustainability: Word of Many Meanings
- Toyota’s Mess & Sustainability: Realizing Sometimes There Is No Choice
- Green Business Networking – BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies)
- Groundbreaking 93-Page CSR Insight™ Report Just Published On Global Sustainability Regulation, Metrics, and Trends
- State of Green Business 2010
- NYC: Urban Green Led Task Force Report Released
- NYC: Switch to Green Power!
- Want to Go Green? Stop Paying Taxes, Buy a Rolex
- Eco-mmunity Greenzine
- inhabitat news
- GreenNexxus News
Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave us a comment to say hi!
Something a little different – a touch screen you don’t need to touch. Gesture Cube: No need to touch – just give it a wave!