Airborne Wind Power

Recently Google purchased Makani Power, a start-up that developes Airborne Wind Power turbines. Airborne Power could be an attractive and powerful alternative for wind turbines. Ever more the installation of wind turbines around cities causes discussions about their visual and environmental impact. The ‘kites’ of Makani might offer a solution. According to Makani its “Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) can create inexpensive energy, in more locations than traditional wind turbines, because it flies where the wind is stronger and more consistent.” “The Makani AWT:

  • Produces power at up to half the cost of traditional wind turbines
  • Accesses the stronger and more consistent winds at altitude
  • 90% less material than a conventional turbine, it is less expensive to build and install
  • Opens up large new areas of wind resource, including the vast resources offshore above deep water
  • Allows for deployment outside of visually or environmentally sensitive locations”

“A graphic illustrating turbine size from 1995-2015, which shows that although wind turbines have grown tremendously in rated output over the past decade, conventional turbine technology has a long way to go to reach the same resource as even first generation AWTs. (Source: Lance, Wiser, Hand. IEA Wind Task 26: The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy, NREL TP-6A20-53510, 2012; Makani estimates)”


Source and pictures: Makani Power

Living Environment Indicators

Client: Rotterdam Region, The Hague Region Year: 2010-2011, 2011-2012
Project: Development of living environment indicators with the Rosetta method in order to regionally gear housing projects to one another. For decades housing in the Netherlands has been driven by quantitative supply. Now that the market came to a standstill local and regional governments rethink their housing projects in terms of demand instead of supply and in terms of quality instead of quantity. This requires fundamental other instruments to compare housing projects to one another. SmartCityStudio developed the Rosetta index: A set of indicators and a vocabulary to benchmark quality in the living environment. Rosetta is being built up in collaboration which each of the municipalities of the region. With Rosetta the political discussion on reduction and differentiation of housing projects can be aligned along a shared vocabulary and overview of projects. The Rosetta legend became the basis for ‘de Grote Woontest’, a consumer research on housing demand that involved over 15.000 inhabitants in the region.

Dynamic Flood Control

As reported in the Economist this week, Ho Chi Minh City “must take drastic action to prevent flooding”. The low-lying city with over 8 million inhabitants could learn from the Dutch that developed Smart strategies to cope with peak levels in its rivers.
According to the Economist “yet nearly half of the city lies less than one metre above sea level…”and scientists say groundwater extraction in Ho Chi Minh City causes land subsidence may be having a huge unseen effect to the city of which nearly 70% is already vulnerable to extreme flooding.”…”Flood risks are rising in Ho Chi Minh City’s lower lying districts, in part because the property boom that accompanied Vietnam’s 2007 entry to the World Trade Organisation led many developers to build wherever they could” and because of “poor immigrants who build flimsy shacks in the city’s swampy outskirts”. Instead of only investing in a plan that comprises of over 170 km of dikes to protect urban areas Dutch strategies like the ‘Room for the River’ program might offer new useful insights in how to create flood-control solutions that are sustainable. The Dutch ‘Room for the River’ program is not fighting the water with investing in dikes that have to be heightened every decade. ‘Room for the River’ offers a dynamic systems that offers solutions for the increasing amounts of water in the Dutch rivers and the gradually subsiding land behind the dikes. The ‘Room for the River’ project literally creates more room for the river and with that guaranteeing the safety of over 4 million people living in risk areas along it. Work is carried out in more than 30 locations and interventions comprise of for example high water channels that branches of the river and offer separate routes for high water or temporary water storage areas.
Some of the interventions go hand in hand with the development of urban areas that take water management as a basis for urban planning. The ‘Room for the River’ program is more than progressive engineering. Above all it is a paradigm shift from a defensive ‘total control’ attitude towards a concept with a dynamic system that creates new spatial opportunities within the river landscape. The dynamics of the Dutch water system itself is accurately mapped by ‘Rijkswaterstaat’ the governmental department that is responsible for the design and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands.  Reliable water data is of great importance for controlling the flood barriers, sluices and pumping stations and the assessment of water quality. Therefore ‘Rijkswaterstaat’s measures include the daily tides, wave height and water quality. They also calculate water levels and wave forecasts. Something for Ho Chi Minh City to have a look at. To have total control with ‘hardware’ like dikes only will on the long term be very money-consuming. The dynamic ‘Room for the River’ project together with accurate data on water levels (the ‘software’) will set the example for future flood-control solutions across the globe. For a short introduction on the ‘Room for the River’ project have a look at the corporate video of Rijkswaterstaat. Picture: Ho Chi Minh City by Brian K. Smith. Sources: SmartCityStudio, Rijkswaterstaat, the Economist.

Open Data

Smart Cities can’t do without Open Data. The Open Data movement is still young but promising. Since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009 the Open Government Initiative of the federal government opened up lots of data to the public for several reasons as clearly stated on the White House website: “In addition to catalyzing entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits, Open Data also helps ensure a transparent, accountable, and open government”. Cities as Chicago and New York City are best practices in how data could be made accessible for the public. Data like traffic counts, construction permits, public investment, licensing, schools, crime and more are downloadable in a variety of extensions. To catalyze the development of useful applications competitions like BIGAPPS NYC2013 challenges innovative entrepreneurs to add value to the data. BigApps is being organized by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the The NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT). BigApps NYC’s website about the challenge: “New York City believes that staying ahead of the innovation curve is essential to the City’s future, and that connecting with the software development community will foster new technology that improves the quality of life of New York’s residents and visitors.” Source: SmartCityStudio Picture: Chicago, 96th floor of the Hancock Center by Eric Ward

Clear Art Space

Tomorrow the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will reopen after it has been closed for over a decade. Already weeks before the official opening by the queen the museum has been praised for its exhibition concept and the architectural design by Cruz and Ortiz. The exhibition concept brings art and objects of a certain era together and provides a time travel through the history of the Netherlands. The exhibition spaces are airy and clearly set out. Curators of various collections had to limit their objects for display and no accompanying text next to the world famous paintings is over 60 words. But what is most revealing is the complete lack of digital information screens. After more than two decades of museum concepts with an overkill of information technology, touch screens and computers the Rijksmuseum does the opposite: No screens and limited information. Wim Pijbes the director of the ‘Rijks’ clearly foresaw that he could never compete with the ubiquitous smartphone and the endless resources of information visitors have access to. This might be an omen for public space design, traffic information design and urban interiors in the future. Less is more. Information is already in the palm of everyone’s hands. Resources: SmartCityStudio.com Picture: NRC / Olivier Middendorp.

Testing grounds

The city of Eindhoven introduces the concept of ‘testing grounds’ as a means to open the city to anyone who can add to the development of the city often recalled as ‘Brainport’. In a recent conversation the author of this BLOG had with the alderwoman, which resigned from office just days ago (troubled because of a financial debacle in the removal of a trailer park in the municipality), she explains how the reduction of public regulations is part of a larger concept in which the municipality reinvents spatial planning. The idea that not the municipality ‘makes’ the city, but its citizens, its entrepreneurs and its higher education requires an ‘open’ city that could facilitate initiatives and that leaves the leading role in the improvement of an area or neighbourhood to anyone who fits that role the best. The power of this radical, but also ‘fashionable’ concept lies in its uncompromising way that it now effects legal regulations and urban governance.
Eindhoven’s ‘Action Plan 2030 – New Space 2013 – Fundamental revision of local spatial guidelines Municipality Eindhoven’ concludes that too many local policies and guidelines on top of national and European legislation block initiatives from private parties, citizens and even of the municipality itself. This fundamental change in the municipality to facilitate rather than to control ‘blueprint planning’ has been advocated recently by more municipalities in the Netherlands, but Eindhoven realizes this change will not happen overnight. A change of culture requires a process of learning. Therefore the municipality defined ‘testing grounds’. In those testing grounds the municipality lets go some of its regulation and is able to learn from the effects. The testing grounds cover a range of urban areas in order to learn about the effects in different settings.

Picture: Piet Hein Eek Laboratory and Workshop. In a former industrial complex in Eindhoven the designer Piet Hein Eek created a mix of workshop, showroom, shop and restaurant. This space of 10.000 m2 gives a powerful ‘boost’ to the regeneration of ‘Strijp R’ and is one of the many initiatives that is not initiated nor controlled by governmental policy but adds to the cities ambition to become a ‘Design Capital’ in the world. Eindhoven also houses the famous ‘Design Academy’. Sources: interview with ‘Mary Fiers’ former alderwoman of the city of Eindhoven, ‘Plan van Aanpak nieuwe ruimte 2013, gemeente Eindhoven’.

Favela Showcase

According to Rioonwatch: “Non-governmental organizations in Rio’s favelas that work with art, culture, sport and civic engagement provide structures that allow young people to escape a career of crime and, by actively showing that drugs, violence and crime are far from dominant elements in favela culture, challenge dominant stereotypes in mainstream society. These are some of the findings of Underground Sociabilities, an inter-institutional research project from the London School of Economics with AfroReggae and CUFA. Sociability refers to the “play-form of social life and the joy and imagination that accompany the experience of the social.”

“The study examines favela life and focuses on how bottom-up NGOs can “rewrite favela environments and establish lines of communication and exchange between marginalised communities and mainstream society.”
“Led by London School of Economics social and cultural psychology professor Sandra Jovchelovitch, the ethnographic and multi-method study based on extensive fieldwork in Cantagalo (South Zone), City of God(West Zone), Madureira and Vigário Geral (North Zone), was conducted between October 2009 and April 2010. The research identifies various facets of favela life: life stories marked by hardship, suffering and hard work; the centrality of the drug trade; the police as the only face of the state; family as central yet unstable; the importance of religion & faith and conviviality & enjoyment; and the necessary role played by organizations that provide support structures and protect against marginalisation.”
“Strong social cohesion in favelas and the paradox that although residents live in fear of the drug gangs and police, they feel safer in their own communities than in the city and are reluctant to cross favela/asphalt borders are striking findings that point to the stigma and discrimination faced by favela residents. According to Underground Sociabilities, NGOs provide models of resistance, providing the possibility for self-development and pushing positive favela representations into the mainstream.”
“Both AfroReggae and CUFA promote social inclusion through a variety of cultural and social activities. They were founded in the 1990s at the height of violence in Rio’s favelas and work to provide opportunities, transform social realities through culture, mediate conflicts and communicate to wider society. Members include hip hop artists (CUFA was founded by MV Bill) and former drug gang members who frequently speak of their experiences and the route to positive self-fulfillment offered by the organizations and their activities.” Sources: Rioonwatch.org, Video: London School of Economics, Picture: Favela Santa Marta by Rogier van den Berg

Intelligent Street Lighting

According to the University of Technology in Delft (TU Delft): “TU Delft is testing an intelligent street lighting system on its campus, which uses up to 80% less electricity than the current systems and is also cheaper to maintain. The system consists of street lights with LED lighting, motion sensors and wireless communication. This enables the installation to dim the lights when there are no cars, cyclists or pedestrians in the vicinity. Wireless communication between the street lights and a control room is also possible. The system was developed by alumnus Management of Technology Chintan Shah, who won a competition in 2010 with this concept for improving energy efficiency on the university campus.”

“Shah’s system consists of electronic gear that can be added to any – dimmable – street light. The system comprises street lights with LED lighting, motion sensors and wireless communication. At first glance, it looks a lot like a widely available type of garden light with a motion sensor, but there are significant differences. In Shah’s system, all surrounding street lights light up if anyone approaches. And the lights never go out completely; they are dimmed to approx. 20% of the standard power. Passers-by move in a safe circle of light as it were. An added bonus is the fact that the lights automatically communicate any failures to the control room. This makes maintenance cheaper and more efficient than it is now.” Source: TUDelft, Picture: Bristol Rising 

Community Mortgage



“In many poor and developing countries, land markets, prevailing policies, practices and institutions limit many of the working poor’s access to secure tenure and adequate land for housing. The Philippines is one such country, where patterns of urban growth and development make it difficult for the poor to remain in the cities where employment and other opportunities exist.”

“Through the Community Mortgage Program, the Government lends funds to informal settlers organized as a community association, making it possible for them to buy a piece of land that they can occupy permanently. The land can be on-site, presently occupied by the community, or an entirely new site to where the community intends to relocate. The CMP also offers loans for site improvement and house construction even if, in reality, the majority of CMP loans are issued for the acquisition of land. The CMP was designed to be a demand-driven approach; it is the community that needs assistance that decides to participate in the programme and initiates the process. In an on-site project, informal settlers can obtain ownership of the land they occupy by buying it through a community mortgage loan. One of the requirements is a subdivision plan, where the houses and plots are then re-aligned or re-blocked to conform to minimum subdivision standards. An off-site project, on the other hand, requires relocation to another area that the community chooses and purchases.”

“To be eligible for loans, informal settlers have to have a homeowners’ association (HOA) with at least nine households but no more than 200. After an association has complied with the minimum requirement and met certain criteria, the Social Housing Finance Corporation approves the mortgage and advances payment to the landowner. The group loan is payable monthly for up to 25 years at 6 per cent interest per annum. The land to be purchased serves as collateral for the loan. The HOA is considered to be the borrower.Throughout the process, it is responsible for preparing documentary requirements, negotiating with the landowner, collecting the monthly amortizations of itsmember-beneficiaries, and ensuring that their financial obligations to the lending institution are met. The HOA also enforces sanctions on community members, and oversees the re-blocking and enforcement of the subdivision plan.”

“The Philippines is the fourth most populous nation in East Asia. Growing at an average rate of 2 per cent annually, the population is currently 92 million, of which an estimated 63 per cent live in urban areas. Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region (NCR), is the largest urban centre in the Philippines. At present, its 16 cities and one urban municipality together had an estimated population of 12 million. If the current trend prevails, the Philippines is projected to be 70 per cent urban in less than a decade with an urban population of around 86 million. Unregulated urban growth and acute poverty have resulted in severe housing problems. Of the roughly 10 million Filipino families living in cities today, an estimated 3.1 million lack security of tenure with 2.7 informal settler households in Metro Manila alone according to data from the National Housing Authority in 2007.” Source: Innovative urban tenure in the Philippines, summary report, UN-Habitat / Global Land Tool Network. Picture: Christoph Mohr

Responsive Bike

The Copenhagen Wheel, developed by the SENSEable city LAB from MIT: “Smart, responsive and elegant, the Copenhagen Wheel is a new emblem 
for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also
function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture
 the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need
a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion,
and road conditions in real-time.

Sense and Sustainability: 
Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes
a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and
lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.
 As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and
information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide,
 NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data
through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes,
to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. 
You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously
if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of
 environmental information from which we can all benefit.”
Source: senseable.mit.edu/copenhagenwheel/
Photo above: by Max Tomasinelli www.maxtomasinelli.com
Picture below: screenshot SENSEable city.

 

Shared Space

Shared space creates safer and more attractive streets. The concept of shared space is based on the idea that less traffic design, like traffic lights, asphalt and curbstones, creates more cautious drivers. The concept of Shared space has been introduced by a Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. His Shared space concept has put the relation between traffic behavior and the design of public space on the cities’ agenda. Shared space concepts have been materialized successfully in many cities. The Guardian of last year reported on Exhibition Road in London: “The first thing to say about the remaking of Exhibition Road in London is how sane it largely is. Its concept is unimpeachable – to make a thoroughfare lined with famous museums and other institutions into a place more pleasant for the 11 million pedestrians who visit them each year. Its execution is well-judged, apart from the not-small detail that blind people find it alarming. Yet it has taken 18 years since something along these lines was first put forward, plus £29.2m, a court case and endless consultations, to get to this point. How difficult can it be to lay a pavement? Very, it would seem. The road was first developed following the Great Exhibition of 1851 and has the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College, the Royal Geographical Society and the Goethe Institute along its length, not to mention the Polish Hearth Club and a curious, spiritual-modernist-ish building that houses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many spaces made in the aftermath of expos and world fairs, it has always had an uncertain air: it is wide and straight, which gives it a sense of purpose, but the biggest museums present only their side entrances to it, while strips of what were originally private houses blur its identity. Is it a grand avenue of culture, a convenient side street or residential? If it is the first, it is too variegated; if the last, it is too broad”…….”Its big idea, which originated with Moylan, was to create a “shared space” whereby pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all occupy the same surface, without kerbs or barriers to separate them. It seems risky, but the theory is that if walkers and drivers can see that they are occupying the same space, they will behave more responsibly.”…..”The overall effect is of generosity and calm. Crowds can flow more happily over the paving and the route from South Kensington tube to the great museums, which was always a tricky one unless you took a long subway, is now a pleasure. The road is a place where you might want to be, rather than just a means of getting someone else. It is not fussy and prescriptive, as public space improvements often are.” Sources: The Guardian, Exhibition Road, Wikipedia. Picture: e-architect.co.uk

 

City Deals

In the UK cities have gained more power and control over their own urban planning. This decentralization of power offers them the possibility to invest in infrastructure and regeneration projects. They can claim future tax receipts of their local businesses directly from the state if they come up with a plan.

At least two of six key principles of the City Deals put forward by Whitehall in London are Smart: Putting cities in the driving seat: cities, not Whitehall, are best placed to understand the economic opportunities and challenges they face. Many have already taken the initiative and begun to develop credible economic strategies, and these will be the starting point for our work with cities. Focusing on the wider metro area: Encouraging deals across the wider economic area has clear merits in terms of scale, geographical reach and economic governance. Deals will be negotiated with groups of authorities across a functional economic area.” The first wave of City Deals are being made with: Greater Birmingham, Bristol City Region, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester City, Newcastle City Region, Nottingham City Region, Sheffield City Region. The second wave will invite twenty other cities and their wider areas. Picture: Manchester Skyline by Andrew Brooks

 

Air Quality Information

According to Smartplanet: “For Parisians wondering if it’s a good day for a jog or a bike across the city, soon they’ll only need look up to learn how clean the air is. Baptized the Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali, a new, one-of-a-kind hot air balloon at the Parc André Citroën will take flight this spring thanks to a new partnership with the European insurance group Generali and the balloon’s designer Aerophile. The balloon will visibly inform about 400,000 Parisians daily about the air quality near traffic and away from roads. Moreover, the balloon will carry new instruments to study air samples above Paris. The balloon is part of Generali’s commitment to addressing preventable health costs related to poor air quality in France. A recent European study of nine French cities revealed that none respect the World Health Organization’s guidelines for appropriate amounts of ozone and fine particulate matter in the air. The study suggests that nearly 3,000 yearly deaths, 1,000 hospitalizations, and lowered life expectancy could all be avoided if France cleaned up the air. The Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali will play a role in monitoring such conditions in Paris. And the insurance moguls at Generali know who is paying for much of the nearly 5 billion euros that the study says could be saved if France cleaned up its act. In tandem with City Hall, the observatory will hold classes every morning for Parisian children, offering up to 30 people at time the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the capital while learning about air quality. The partnership between Generali, Aerophile, and the city will last five years starting this spring.” Picture: Aerophile

Clean Air Act

London had its Great Smog in 1952. Although being used to fog this one was more hazardous as ever causing death and illness in the City of London. Beijing has its Great Smog these days. Nothing to be proud of. Air pollution reaches up to 40 times the maximum as being set by the World Health Organization. Beijing sits in the middle of a coal-burning factories belt that expands ever more. The economic growth of China and the demand for electricity will not be the incentive for a cleaner Beijing. What should happen?Having a look at London in 1952 might help. The City of London introduced regulations followed by the Clean Air Act in 1956 only four years after the Great Smog. The Clean Air Act introduced a number of rules to reduce air pollution. For example by introducing ‘smoke control areas’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt. It regulated homes’ heat sources and it included measures to relocate power station away from cities and for the height of some chimneys to be increased. The Great Fog in London was that bad that even polluted air interrupted indoor events. It was simply not possible to see the projection in a cinema any longer. The Clean Air Act made the air in the City much better but it took a long run. In the 60-ies another Big Smog entered the city stage. It takes decades to clean up the air so Beijing better starts now. Another milestone since the Clean Air Act in London of 1956 was the introduction of Congestion Charges in the centre of the city in 2008. Congestion Charge charges high-polluting vehicles 25 pounds each time they pass through Central London’s Congestion Zone. Other vehicles are charged 8 pounds. Under the initiative, some low-emission vehicles can drive through the zone for free. In 2009, air pollution in the City of London was marked as moderate or high on only 12 days, less than a quarter of the 59 days recorded in 1993.

Sources: www.nytimes.com “Beijing Takes Steps to Fight Pollution as Problem Worsens” January 30, 2013, NRC Handelsblad 04 februari 2013, “Lessen van 100 jaar Smog”, www.wikipedia.com, “Clean Air Act 1956”, Smithsonian.com “Before and After, Cleaning up our Cities.” Picture above, London 1952, Piccadilly Circus. Picture Below, Beijing 2013.

 

Smart car parking

At the 19th Intelligent Transportation Systems Congress in Vienna in October last year Smart Car Parking has been presented as a way to lessen traffic congestion in the city.

According to itsworldcongress.com: “Siemens and Streetline, Inc. have launched the first of its kind smart parking project in the city of Braunschweig, Germany to provide parking relief to residents and local businesses.  The project is locally-led by BELLIS, a public-private partnership from Siemens AG and the Braunschweiger Versorgungs AG & Co. KG (BS | ENERGY). The advanced parking technology monitors parking space availability, distributes real time parking information to Streetline’s free “Parker” smartphone app, and tracks parking patterns and habits to help City officials better manage parking throughout the City. This is the first advanced parking project implemented jointly by Siemens and Streetline in Europe. The announcement was made from the Intelligent Transportation World Congress being held this week in Vienna, Austria.”

“The City of Braunschweig has approved installation of parking sensors and networking equipment to monitor real time data in designated parking locations throughout Kurst-Schumacher-Str, Nimes-Str and Tauben-Str. “Parker” by Streetline provides drivers with the location and general availability of parking spaces, shows the amount of parking time remaining, and allows users to pay for parking via their mobile phone where available. The advanced parking project will also provide a platform for DLR (German Aerospace Center) to do ongoing research on parking infrastructure and services, as part of their Transportation and Mobility portfolio.”
“One major factor contributing to city traffic congestion is motorists searching for parking,” said Hauke Juergensen, CEO Intelligent Traffic Systems, Siemens. “This modern technology from Streetline provides motorists an easier, more efficient way to find an available parking spot and provides the City of Braunschweig a cost-effective way to improve quality of life in their town in a time when city budgets have never been tighter.”

Clean fuel strategy

According to a European press release at the 24th of January: “The European Commission announced an ambitious package of measures to ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use. Policy initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been un-co-ordinated and insufficient.

Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations. It is a vicious circle. Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.

EC Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said. “Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our overdependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century. Between them, China and the US plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market.”

The clean fuel strategy is committed to various clean fuels ranging from electricity to hydrogen. This post focuses only on the ambition for electric vehicles.

……”Electricity: the situation for electric charging points varies greatly across the EU. The leading countries are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Under this proposal a minimum number of recharging points, using a common plug will be required for each Member State (see table attached). The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices. A common EU wide plug is an essential element for the roll out of this fuel. To end uncertainty in the market, today the Commission has announced the use of the “Type 2” plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.

Smart bike parking

Last week Prorail, in charge of Dutch rail, presented a revolutionary system that should put an end to the chaos around train stations caused by bicycles. Previous trials in Utrecht, Groningen and Zutphen show that the system creates thirty percent more space.

The bicycle parking system works by using switches built into the bike racks. When a bicycle in a rack is inserted it is determined by a computer. On large screens is shown how many places are still available. The administrator of the bicycle parking can also see how long a bike has been parked. If it is longer than the allowed period, he has the right to remove the bike. This smart parking should put an end to the estimated 60,000 so-called abandoned bicycles that nationwide are parked around stations. These are bikes that will never be retrieved, but they claim 15 percent of the storage spaces available. Previous experiments in Utrecht, Groningen, Zutphen show that the system delivers 30 percent more space. Not only due to the removal of all abandoned bicycles. The available space is also effectively used. Travelers have an overview of the amount of places still available. Now, though only 90 percent occupied, travelers think the parking is full. With the introduction of the new system it is easier to utilize the parking for the full 100%.

Street plinth strategy


Friday January 11th the book ‘City at eye level, lessons for street plinths’ has been launched in Rotterdam. According to the website www.thecityateyelevel.com:

“The plinths of the city are the ground floors that negotiate between the inside and the outside, between the public and the private: this is the city at eye level. Plinths are extremely important for the urban experience, which in turn is an important driver for the urban economy. The plinths might cover only 10% of the building, but determine 90% of the experience. While walking, you consciously and subconsciously examine the immediate eye-level surroundings and absorb any details.

Our book shows you how a good plinth “works” for a better street at eye level. It contains concrete and inspiring examples of strategies for design, land use/programme, the relation to the street, passenger flows and the collaboration of partners. The book is a collection of stories from over 25 experts all over the world: a collective product with lessons from planners, owners, managers and designers. In addition to many international examples and case studies, the book contains several interviews and research articles. It concludes with practical lessons for the reader to put into practice in their own cities.”

The city at eye level promotes a plinth strategy for the city in order to give an impulse to the urban experience and the urban economy.

Pavement lighting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Organic Green Roots: ‘photoluminescent Core Glow pebbles provide an interesting, almost ethereal feature to outdoor design. When the eco-friendly pebbles are exposed to light sources, (solar or otherwise) the special light capturing pigment within them becomes chemically excited and will ‘glow’ once that light source is removed. The luminescent material is a multi-activated, highly efficient powder cultivated from the earth, that enables light-storing with a long afterglow.

When added to a concrete driveway and exposed to the sun, the pebbles will store enough energy to illuminate a dark pathway all night long, initially very radiant, then slowly dissipating as dawn arrives. With only 10-20 minutes of exposure to daylight or lamplight, the pebbles can maintain their afterglow for about 10-12 hours.

The CORE Glow pebbles are non-radioactive, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. They can be implemented in a variety of  landscaping,  custom concrete or masonry needs. The material is a inert long lasting recyclable plastic but are also available in a recycled glass.  Both last an average of 20 years.

So what makes them glow? A chemical element called Strontium aluminate; and an activator, Europium is added – this causes a chemical reaction, creating the glow. The material is biologically and chemically inert, so completely safe for home use.

These pebbles are primarily an esthetic element that can add a new layer to hardscape designs but certain applications will help to greatly reduce pathway lighting costs. Since the CORE Glow products require no electricity, no power supply and no batteries they saves natural resources and offer an alternative to traditional pathway lighting.’

Disaster control

Hurricane Sandy has made it ever more clear: disaster control or emergency managment should be a priority in urban development and urban managment. People keep moving to urban areas, which become vulnerable when it comes down to natural disasters. Not in the least because they are often situated along coastlines and in delta’s. Here the impact of heavy weather and flooding this could cause is a primary concern. Disaster control or emergency managment requires some basic but elaborative concepts which are described by the ‘Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHS)‘ of the U.S.A. These include among others: Emergency Sheltering Provision, Dam Safety Preparedness and a Hazard Analysis Program. Emergency Sheltering requirements foresee in the provision of safe havens for large populations. These shelters require good accessibility and large scale sanitary infrastructure for example. Dam Safety Preparedness regulates the condition of the Dams in New York State. According to the DHS ‘There are approximately 400 high-hazard (Class C) and nearly 800 moderate-hazard (Class B) dams that pose a threat to jurisdictions in the event of a dam failure. Approximately 70 of the high-hazard dams produce hydroelectric power’..The Hazard Analysis Program ‘Hazny’, ‘is an automated hazard analysis program. HAZNY asks questions concerning hazards that you face and, based upon your responses, rates and ranks each hazard. It includes guidance on organizing a team approach in conducting the hazard analysis’. Planning and controlling cities in order to secure safety is a Smart approach but not new at all. The lay-out of many historic towns worldwide has been based on the concept of security, though disaster control in those days was primarely related to military defense. Safety and emergency managment has been on top of the urban agenda sinds 9/11, Hurricane Sandy is stressing again the necessity for a Smart infrastructure to cope with natural disasters. That might prevent New York against flooding and another blackout.

Picture above: ADA Security Checklist for emergency Shelters. On top: New York Magazine cover, photograph by Iwan Baan.