Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice-Nine, Or How to Grow Concrete from Bacteria

In Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 satirical novel Cat's Cradle, the protagonist follows the trail of a brilliant researcher's children who hold with them ice-nine - a chemical invention small enough to be carried under the fingernail, but potent enough to freeze all water on earth solid. The element is described as a "seed" that alters the atomic composition of liquid:
"There are several ways", Dr. Breed said to me, "in which certain liquids can crystallize - can freeze - several ways in which their atoms can stack and lock in an orderly, rigid way." That old man with spotted hands invited me to think of several ways in which cannonballs might be stacked on a courthouse lawn, of the several ways in which oranges might be packed into a crate. "So it is with crystals, too; and two different crystals of the same substance can have quite different physical properties."
He goes on to describe the stacking process:
The theoretical villain, however, was what Dr. Breed called "a seed". He meant by that a tiny grain of the undesired crystal pattern. The seed, which had come from God-only-knows-where, taught the atoms the novel way in which to stack and lock, to crystallize, to freeze. "Now think about cannonballs on a courthouse lawn, or about oranges in a crate again", he suggested. And he helped me to see that the pattern of the bottom layer of cannonballs or of oranges determined how each subsequent layer would stack and lock. "The bottom layer is the seed of how every cannonball or every orange that comes after is going to behave, even to an infinite number of cannonballs or oranges."
And of course, the prolific advantages are described alongside the horrific consequences:
And that old man asked me to think of United States Marines in a Godforsaken swamp. "Their trucks and tanks are wallowing", he complained, "sinking in stinking miasma and ooze." He raised a finger and winked at me. "But suppose, young man, that one Marine had with him a tiny capsule containing a seed of ice-nine, a new way for the atoms of water to stack and lock, to freeze. If that Marine threw that seed into the nearest puddle...?" "The puddle would freeze?", I guessed. "And all the muck around the puddle?" "It would freeze?" "And all the puddles in the frozen muck?" "They would freeze?" "And the pools and the streams in the frozen muck?" 'They would freeze?"
In 1963, Vonnegut pondered both the possibilities and the dangers of such technology through dark humor, the absurd, and the profane in this story of invention and the human hands that guide it. In 2010, however, the potency of this allegory is all to familiar as science, theory, and invention is constantly redefining the ability of humans to solve problems.

For the annual iGem synthetic biology contest, a group of students at Newcastle University have engineered BacillaFilla - a type of bacteria that, once inserted into a concrete crack with the proper growing media, will germinate and produce a "mixture of calcium carbonate, levan glue and filamentous cells" that will densify and "activate concrete repair". Eerily, the scientific name for the compound is called Bacillus Subtillus 168. According to the team:

BacillaFilla repairs concrete by producing a mixture of calcium carbonate, levan glue and filamentous cells in the cracks. Once we have applied BacillaFilla spores onto the concrete surface, they will start germinating in the presence of media. Once the cells have germinated, they will start to swarm down the crack. At the bottom of the crack when they reach a high density, they will use subtilin quorum sensing to activate concrete repair. BacillaFilla repairs concrete by 3 different processes:

1. Some of the cells with produce calcium carbonate crystals,
2. Some of the cells will become filamentous thereby acting as reinforcing fibres in the crack and
3. All the cells will produce Levans glue which acts as a binding agent and at the same time it fills up the whole crack.
Interestingly, the bacteria only work through a swarming process whereby the bacteria propel themselves to reach the point of germination. Also, almost in a pre-meditated response to detractors and grey-goo fear-mongers, the team has implemented a genetic "kill-switch" to stop the spread of bacteria.
Of course, the ability to repair concrete from within is as exciting as the potential for a runaway concrete-producing super-bacteria is alarming. Material technologies such as this blur the lines between natural phenomena and synthetic architecture, border on Utopian ideals and science-fictional dystopias, and represent bold new ideas in research and development.

Images via TeamNewcastle and Newcastle University. Seen on i09.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A View of the Pakistan Floods

The Indus River Watershed on August 18th, 2010.

The Indus River Watershed on August 13th, 2001.

The beautiful imagery of this satellite image belies the terrible ongoing event that is causing it. The flooding in northern Pakistan started in mid-July when monsoon rains exceeded expectations and overwhelmed an already overstressed watershed of the Indus River. Since then, the region's population of over 15 million have been terribly affected - millions homeless, over 1,500 people dead, and most with little or no access to proper shelter, sanitation, food, or health care.
Extent of flooding graphic via The NYT

The situation is expected to worsen, as more rains are expected in the coming weeks.

There are many ways to get involved. Donate time, money, or expertise to aid organizations or local communities. Spread the word about the event to friends and family. UNICEF has made clean drinking water and food to be priorities among aid divisions. Donate via UNICEF here.
The Red Cross lists shelter and medical aid as a major concern for immediate relief needs. Donate to the American Red Cross here. The Huffington Post has also assembled a more extensive list of ways to help here.

Images via NASA Earth Observatory.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - 2015 Goals

2015 Goals

In the final day of the conference, there were several things left to do. Previously, the group spent two days engaged in discussions and brainstorming sessions. By the third day, it was evident that everyone in the room had a lot of ideas about how to move forward. There were three overarching conference goals:
1. Make commitments, develop elements of a strategy, and create a road-map for achieving those goals.
2. Develop an outline for a continental network supporting the sustainable building industry and professionals, and for assistance in establishing green building councils.
3. Provide recommendations to UN-Habitat on how this can be achieved.
Each country represented at the conference was asked what their specific goals were for the year 2015. The following are individual country goals for 2015:

Written green building guidelines for different environmental regions in country.
Establish a GBC. Complete an example building (pilot project).
Tanzania: Integrate green building (re-integrate traditional sustainable building techniques) into codes. Pilot projects for schools, healthcare/clinics, and commnity centers for public awareness. Financial system in place w/industry support.
Malawi: Environmental curriculum in schools (all levels).
Gambia: Sustainable design guidelines.
Grass-roots awareness campaigns at the local level.
Implement a GBC and get government commited to green building.
South Africa:
Integrate social aspects into rating systems.
Involve government and private sector into GBC development.
Ethiopia: Worldwide sharing of knowledge and goals (networking).
Complete a pilot project in each sector.
Burkina Faso:
Promote traditional methods of green building and integrate into codes/regulations. Create GBC and green building guidelines.
Mandate zero-emission codes.
Chad: Develope institutional framework for GBC at a local level and connect to the Africa-wide and global GBC network.
Be self-sustainable in all aspects (energy, food, materials, etc.).
Tax-incentives for green buildings. Awareness campaigns.
Increase in demand for green building among developers and the public.

As these goals were discussed, several general themes emerged. There were four broad action-categories that each goal could be attributed to:
Policy Implementation: Codes/regulations. Political support.
Market Transformation:
Financial Incentives. Industry Buy-in.
Guideline Development:
GBC's. Rating Tools.
Awareness and Education:
Curriculum. Pilot Projects. Awareness Campaigns.

Monday, May 10, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - Policy and Finance

How Can National and Local Government Policies and International Programs Encourage and/or Finance the Construction of Green Buildings and Rating Systems?

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative is a program that studies and defines the global metrics of sustainable building policies. It is a policy-oriented program and does not deal directly with the technology involved in sustainable building practices. Rather, it explores the financial impact of green building and the industry reaction to the trends. These industry reactions are explored in terms of financial markets and government policy and input.

Niclas Svenningsen of UNEP states that in actual practice, the the long-term cost benefit of sustainable design is not a reality to the construction and development industry when compared to the high cost of initial investment. For it to become real, there need to be mechanisms in place to move the long-term savings of resource-efficient design to the front-end of the finance model. Enter the Stick, the Carrot, and the Tambourine. The stick that will get developers to implement sustainable design practices are policy measures such as the adoption of codes and regulations as well as penalties for under-performing buildings. The carrot, of course, is the opposite and offers tax incentives, and other rewards for well-performing buildings and development. The tambourine, though, is slightly more intangible, but perhaps less policy-oriented and therefore more relate-able to the public. The tambourine involves actions and initiatives that public promote sustainable building practices such as public relations, marketing efforts and awareness campaigns, and educational programs.

However, according to Svenningsen, the bottom line is that sustainable design cannot be promoted as a separate agenda. The concepts and benefits of green design need to be tied to other policy agendas. For example: Schools and offices with better indoor environments have statistically better performance records. Responsibly designed communities have a statistically lower rate of poverty and crime, and have a better public health record. If the benefits are explored and extolled in terms of larger issues, the ability to be implemented within the context of industry and government as a whole, from the top-down, becomes more likely.

In the opinion of the blogger, this is an issue that LEED in the United States has failed to address. Although there are some ties to government and industry, the system as a whole has positioned itself as an actual force within the market, rather than a network amongst it. This has commodified the green building field, and being a commodity, it inherently becomes an extra to the process of design and building. It is not promoted as a part of responsible design practices, rather, it is promoted as an additional service that can be included in a project if the client is able to fund the inclusion of the practices. Little effort is put into incorporating these practices into codes or regulations, and until it is done, "green buildings" will continue to be seen as a privilege instead of the norm.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - Alternatives to Nation-Specific Green Building Councils

UN-Habitat Human Settlements Advisor Robert Kehew.

Alternatives to Nation-Specific Green Building Councils

Although it is clear that the implementation of a Green Building Council is not a solution for instituting sustainable building practices in Sub-Saharan Africa, rather, it is a potential way to create a framework for developing the methods and metrics needed to advance the field of sustainability in Africa. However, a Green Building Council is a complex mechanism that relies on input and involvement from many different players within the building sector - architects, contractors, developers - as well as support from industry and government. So, while many countries in Africa lack formal economies advanced enough to support complex industry as well as battling political systems rife with corruption, the question arises, how small can a nation's building sector be and still support a full Green Building Council?

If there is a correlation between a nation's Gross Domestic Product and the size of a building sector, then the smallest existing GDP's with a full-service Green Building Council are New Zealand and South Africa. The United Nations estimates that the building sector accounts for 5-15% of a country's GDP. According to the World Bank, in 2009 South Africa is second in GDP among African nations behind Egypt, and almost twice that of the next two rankings (Nigeria and Algeria). After this, the number drops precipitously.

If a country cannot support a full-service Green Building Council, are there alternatives? According to Robert Kehew of UN-Habitat and Bruce Kerswill of the World GBC, there are.

Kehew lists Government-sponsored rating systems and Sub-Regional GBC's as options. Government rating systems are able to focus primarily on energy efficiency and can easily integrate simple rating metrics into existing regulations, however, many governments already deal with corruption and other issues that may minimize the importance of sustainable design within the larger political and social context. Sub-Regional GBC's are systems that may straddle several nations that share trading relationships, common codes and regulations, and/or cultural ties. This allows several countries to share cost, responsibility, and benefits. This model, however, also relies on the cooperation and power-sharing between potentially strained political systems and relationships.

Bruce Kerswill of the World GBC recommends a phased approach to growth where larger, more developed nations act as a hub for smaller nations and assist in the development of rating systems and networking. This model requires that the developing country may need to adapt or customize the existing rating tools to suit their individual country-specific needs. This works well where countries share geographic similarities or borders, but may require additional time and effort where similarities or geographic proximity do not exist.

Beyond this, are there more options? The immediate reaction from the writer of this blog is that GBC's may not be appropriate for countries at this stage of development. Where GBC's are systems that help to quantify, coordinate, and track the performance of green buildings (a very simplified definition), they are essentially bookkeeping measures. Where a nation lacks the infrastructure to support this system, it is possible that implementation of educational programs and community awareness campaigns about sustainable concepts and methods may be a better use of resources. Once these ideas and technologies are in place, and the advantages of sustainable design are understood and experienced, it would be a natural progression to then begin to quantify those results.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - What is Appropriate for Africa?

Speaker Akin Akindoyeni

What is Appropriate for Africa? Country-Specific Challenges Facing the Green Building Industry in Africa.
During this session four panelists - each representing a different country in Africa - were posed a set of questions and asked to answer in terms of their own country-specific experience and ideas. Discussion was then opened to audience members after panelist response. This was easily the most interesting session of the day, as it highlighted many commonalities between the different countries and participants, but also raised many cultural issues that were unique among them. This was a long session, so highlights in note form below.

Akin Akindoyeni, Chairman - Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, Nigeria
Dr. Kamugisha Byabato, Engineer and Lecturer - Tanzania Energy Research Institute, Tanzania

Tony Lee Luen Len, Mauritius GBC, Mauritius

Elijah Agevi, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya


Need to educate the general population on the consequences forseable in the future if the current building trends are maintained. Genral population does not understand that current actions will have negative consequences.

Priorities. 70% of Africa is poor, and most need access to other basic life-needs (shelter, job, education, access to water, food, and proper sanitation) before sustainable building technologies and strategies can be considered.

Out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Fear of unknown (lack of understanding of green concepts and the desire not to build out of comfort zone). General population has little participation in development and the decision-making process.

The concept of green design is not unknown to Africans. Traditional building techniques are inherently sustainable (solar shading, building orientation, water collection). Africans have a desire to be modern, but in the international sense - not in through a contemporary African perspective. The move to modern has pushed away the traditional techniques in lieu of the international style which is not appropriate in Africa (environmentally, culturally, or politically). These new post-colonial technologies systems, and governments are not reconciled with the traditional.


Representative from Cameroon: Too much concern for profit in the short-term.
Representative from Sudan:
(Comments specific to post-conflict nations). Lack of infrastructure and facilities. Post-conflict nations just want to re-build. Desire for most immediate solution. Cheap. Fast. Familiar. Many post-conflict countries are funded by outside sources, so they may be subject to the agendas of the funding organizations/countries.

Representative from Ghana:
No advocacy from the intellectual class. Politicians and government are the elite that push development. Action needed at the local level. No action from the top-down.


Akindoyeni: Change needs to happen at the elite level. If a country has a building code, it needs to be updated AND enforced. Education needs to occur at all levels. Change needs to be forced (later redacted during discussion to use the word enforced). People who do not understand, will not change.
Change the mind and way of thought about sustainability (cost vs. net benefit) at all levels. Aggressive awareness campaign aimed at all stakeholders. Tax incentives. Mainstream standards and codes need to be adopted and enforced. Solutions must be sensible and cost-sensitive.

Len: Update building codes as per region. No more one-size-fits-all set of regulations.
Look to traditions. "Slums were not created by God. At independence, only the leaders changed - the rules did not. Africa is still playing by rules created for them, not by them." Use public buildings as public examples. All new buildings should be built by these [updated] standards. No exceptions.


Representative from Egypt: Do not force the poor. They are the ones who need access to sustainable design the most, but forcing them will not work. Lead by example.
Agevi Response: The biggest issue with codes and regulations is enforcement.
(Response to earlier comment by Sudan - no infrastructure, etc.) "The advantage of underdevelopment". If there is no inherent infrastructure or institutions then there are no physical barriers to new development strategies - only mental and cultural.

Mainstream awareness. Audits on existing buildings and industry stakeholders. Change in language (i.e. sustainable as part of normal design, not an extra). Regional thinking. Need champions.

GBC set up fully in Mauritius. Pilot projects.

Building profession to cooperate in sustainable design practices. Use rating systems as a campaign tool. Example buildings and best-practice examples.

Engage and involve financial institutions in building practices. Make financial institutions into stake holders.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LIVE BLOG - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa - Introductory Session

The conference assembly hall with attending members.

The UN-Habitat Conference on Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa opened this morning at the UN Compound in Grigiri, Kenya. Representatives from twenty African nations, seven countries from Europe, Asia, and North America, and delegates from the United Nations were in attendance as Inga Bjork-Klevby, Deputy Executive General of UN-Habitat welcomed the assembly and introduced the goals of conference:
"In the United States, the building industry is responsible for approximately 40% of the green-house gas emissions for the country. At present, there are no figures for African cities. How do you measure the effectiveness of green building strategies where little or no record is kept? The purpose of this conference is for participants to understand the available options in terms of sustainability so they can make informed decisions. It is not the responsibility of the people, but of you, the building industry - architects, engineers, builders, developers, and legislators - to generate and organize ideas to meet the challenges of the future of urbanization."
Tirop Kosgey, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Housing in Kenya echoed the sentiments of Bjork-Klevby:
"We need to harness the full potential of technology to address the effects of climate change and to build sustainably, to build smart infrastructure, and create robust building codes. We need to move beyond advocacy, and put into place, legal and legislative standards."
The opening remarks by both Bjork-Kevby and Kosgey were clear: accountability would be placed squarely on the shoulders of the building industry, and the only way to truly promote sustainable design in Africa is through collaboration, education, and the incorporation and enforcement of legislative guidelines.

The United Nations Building in Grigiri, Kenya.

Monday, May 3, 2010

LIVE BLOG FROM NAIROBI - Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa

Architecture for Guerillas will be blogging live from Nairobi, Kenya on the UN-Habitat Conference on Promoting Green Building Rating Systems in Africa. The objective of this conference is to familiarize industry professionals in Africa with an experience-based perspective on sustainable buildings, best practice examples of green buildings and technology, and the implementation of rating systems to objectively measure and track sustainable building technology and trends. The conference also seeks to introduce and encourage a global network of professionals dedicated to developing these tools.

Stay tuned for updates and commentary.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Archigram Archival Project Now Online

Don't wait. Just click here to see it.

In a surreal world not so far away, Warren Chalk, Peter Cooke, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, Michael Webb and countless collaborators formed the group
Archigram. Part architectural visionaries, part cultural commentators, and part machine, the group would go on to create a technicolor utopia of projects that walked off of the page and presaged the future collision of architecture, technology, and the society of tomorrow. In an exhaustive effort of archiving, research, and archi-sleuthing, the architectural research group EXP at the University of Westminster have published the Archigram Archival Project - an online repository of over 200 examples of the groups work. The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Foundation. If anyone has searched for the work of Archigram in the past, many will understand the pain and frustration at the dearth of available information on the Archigram projects, but this website opens a new door into the archi-mechanical techno-utopias of a truly unique architectural movement.

Seen first on BLDG BLOG.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to Make Light Transmitting Concrete

Instructables - a member populated web archive of do-it-yourself tutorials - has a step-by-step guide on how to make light transmitting concrete using several simple materials. By setting fiber optic wires into a clay mold and pouring concrete around the assembly, the result is a solid disc (or other clever shape!) with the ability to transmit light through it's mass. The effect is quite beautiful. The traditional weight of the concrete is never lost and still remains inherent in the object, and yet a light, ethereal quality is achieved. Perhaps the area under bridge overpasses might never be dark and inhospitable again. Rather, the bridge would glow and shimmer with the movement of the cars against the sunlight beyond.

Seen on Instructables by member Nepheron and on Gizmodo.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Harvesting Water from the Sky

In many places around the world, getting fresh water is not as simple as turning on the faucet. In fact, in rural areas around the world, limited access to fresh water supplies force inhabitants to walk miles to fetch water. This hike not only entails long walks and the carrying of heavy water-laden receptacles, but in many rural developing countries, the groundwater may also be contaminated or in short supply. However, in areas where fog or low-lying cloud cover is frequent enough, there is a low-tech solution that could provide clean drinking water to communities. A recent installation in Venda, South Africa - part of the fog harvesting research project by The University of South Africa, has proven the technology successful by supplying approximately 300 litres of water per day on average to the community of Tshanowa. The system is relatively simple. According to Professor Jana Oliver of UNISA School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences:
"Each collection system consists of three six-meter-high (twenty feet) wooden poles, mounted nine meters (thirty feet) apart. Steel cables stretch horizontally between the poles and anchor the structure. A double layer of 30 percent shade cloth is then draped over the cables and fixed to the poles on each side. This forms a fog collection screen of about 70 square meters (750 square feet), with a gutter attached to its lower end. The technology behind fog collection is extremely simple, during foggy conditions, the tiny fog particles are blown against the screen and deposited on it. As the drops become larger, they trickle downwards and drop into the gutter. From there, the water is channeled through a filter to a pipe that leads to a water collection tank."
Due to the simplicity of construction and also the technology behind the concept, this seems to be a solution that would work very well in areas with little access to suitable or existing infrastructure.
A similar project by Imke Hoehler called Dropnet also uses the same technology as the UNISA but has redesigned the system to be smaller and more portable. Whereas the UNISA project is a built-in-place installation, the Dropnet can function as a re-deployable system.

UNISA project seen on NatGeo News Watch and The University of South Africa.
Dropnet project found on Designboom.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fab Fi, Or How to Make the Internet From Junk

Dubbed Fab-Fi by it's creators at the MIT Media Lab, this rusty contraption is actually a handmade reflector for a wireless internet network in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. While traveling in the region, members of the Bits and Atoms Lab showed locals how to build the reflectors from scraps of metal, wires, and tin cans. Since then, members of the community have built enough reflectors and, in conjunction with wireless routers, have boosted the range of internet connection to many locals who would have no access otherwise with 25 simultaneous live nodes in Jalalabd.
When compared to a similar World Bank funded initiative to install internet infrastructure in the region - which took 7 years and millions of dollars worth of investment to achieve similar results - the idea that teaching concepts is sometimes the best solution. Imported infrastructure is often expensive and highly sophisticated, whereas a piece of technology developed from a concept that uses local materials and methods can evolve into an extremely potent solution. By using
materials that already exist at hand, the users are most likely tapping into a material stream that is both local and readily available. As these materials are probably common to their makers, their use and manipulation is that much more of a familiar process. Furthermore, the possession of imported infrastructure is often kept to the supplying entity. With locally created technology, the process can become part of a user-generated economy - something that will do more good for a distressed region than any type of imported technology.

Seen on Gizmodo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Landscape Condenser

As a proposal for a multi-use building in Yecla, Murcia - a region in Spain known for it's production of grain, wine, oil, and fruit - Andres Jaque Arquitectos has designed a building with distinct sections of green roof, each suited for a different crop. In addition to being an extension of the surrounding landscape, the sectionalized roof-crops offer a precursor to the future of vegetative buildings. Considering that different components of buildings - roof, wall, floor - have specifically constructed variations in size, shape, and orientation, it is easy to associate their form with that of the naturally occurring landscape of a given environment. Where certain species of flora require flat, shallow troughs of land to grow, a flat roof may be suitable. However, if certain species are able to adapt to a steep incline, walls or a pitched roof may be accommodating. The natural variations in building form could also be used to limit or maximize exposure to the elements. Plants that need large quantities of sunlight to grow can be placed with a southernly exposure, whereas more sensitive crops could be shielded from too much light by a carefully placed pitched roof. The topography of a landscape has as much to do with species growth as that of the climate. As designers begin to reproduce and incorporate elements of nature into the built environment, careful consideration of all aspects of locale should be considered.

Seen on DesignBoom. Landscape Condenser images via Andres Jaques Arquitectos. Machu Picchu image via Colorado University

Friday, February 5, 2010

Morphing Furniture Celebrates All

Noiz Architecture, Design & Planning created this custom furniture installation within a cultural salon for Taiwan Land Corporation. The laser-cut plywood panels morph from one iconic chair or table profile to another, blending the likes of Garret Rietveld's Zig-Zag Chair and Eero Saarinen's Tulip Chair into single fluid extrusions.

Seen on Designboom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Inflatable Hospital in Haiti

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has set up a 'mobile field hospital' made up of a collection of nine inflatable structures. This 'plug-and-play' encampment is located on a soccer field just outside of Port-Au-Prince and will provide space for 100 beds, a surgery unit, an intensive care unit, and relies on a power and sanitation system that operates independently from the local infrastructure. The kits are designed to be as self-sufficient as possible. In an interview with Boing Boing, Laurent Didieu of MSF describes the set-up and theory behind the installation:
9 tents, 100 beds, including hospitalization and ICU and recovery beds. A triage and emergency tent, and two operations theatres. The idea is that within the tent we have a complete kit we can deploy including energy supply, water supply, all the sanitation, and all medical equipment inside the tent. In Haiti, everything needed to run a hospital including beds and biomedical equipment is included.

We want to be as autonomous as possible with regard to energy. In this case we have one 30 KV generator and one 60 KV generator. Plus an electrical board, and equipment to ensure electrical safety. And then you have all the electrical wire you need to set up lights inside the ward, and set up plugs for the medical equipment.

MSF designs and operates the units themselves and over the past decade, they have modified the design through field experience. All units use standard MSF components and technology and are designed to be employed in most any environment or situation. Since 2005 they have been used in such diverse locations as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and now Haiti. Pioneered by experimental designers like Ant Farm in the 1970's, the mobile field hospital by MSF proves how dynamic inflatable structures can be in response to time-critical building and infrastructure mobilization.

Seen on Boing Boing. Photos by Benoit Finck via Boing Boing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Robots and Monsters to Aid Haiti

Shadebot by Joe Alterio of Robots and Monsters.
Robots and Monsters is a self-proclaimed Charitable Menagerie. The group is a collection of artists who trade original works of art for donations to causes worldwide. After the recent earthquake in Haiti, Robots and Monsters teamed up with Doctors Without Borders to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti. By donating to the organization, the donor will receive an original drawing or painting of a monster or robot - sometimes both - from an artist, and the majority of funds donated will be transferred to Doctors Without Borders. According to the Monsters and Robots website: is an effort started by Joe Alterio to trade original, commissioned art for donations to a good cause. This is the way we work: you donate a set amount for an original Robot or Monster, as defined by three words or phrases you provide. Then, one of our amazing artists interprets those three words or phrases any way they see fit, in the form of a robot or monster. A few weeks later, you get your amazing original art in the mail, and a large percentage of your donation goes to a great cause. Everybody wins.
Since it's inception in 2006, Robots and Monsters has raised over $20,000 for such causes as, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Visit Monsters and Robots to help aid victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Earthquake in Haiti

Image by Logan Abassi.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Port Au Prince on January 12th is estimated to leave tens of thousands dead and a fragile city destroyed. Prior to the earthquake, the bustling capital city of Haiti already had chronic infrastructure problems like so many other impoverished nations, but in the wake of this disaster, it is clear just how important robust and well planned modes of infrastructure, means of transportation, access to resources, and physical and digital connections are. Aid workers are working on all fronts to establish not only short and long term medical support, but to provide adequate shelter, food and water, and other basic necessities to the entire population of the city and it's surroundings.

There are many agencies and organizations that are doing their part to help. Text the word 'Haiti' to 90999 and $10 will be donated to The American Red Cross (via The NYT and mGive). U.S. News and World Report has
10 Ways You Can Donate to Haitian Earthquake Victims or research locally for many other options.

See a US state-by-state map of mobile donations via text here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Hidden World of Augmented Reality, Building Facades, and the New Digital Landscape

Tokyo's N Building, a collaboration between Quosmo and Terada Design Architects, has a facade that is imprinted with two-dimensional QR code that can be read by certain mobile phones. When a user focuses their phone (or other enabled device) at the building facade, digital information is virtually layered over a real-time image of the scene. Tweets from within the building (geotagged by GPS location) are visible as if the Tweeter's window just opened. Information and advertising from the retail shops in the building appears and users can browse merchandise, see shop hours, and even download special coupons.
Thinking about cities full of buildings with this technology is the equivalent of putting on a pair of 3D glasses and instantly being transported into the world of Blade Runner (without that constant nagging feeling that Deckard is actually a replicant). Suddenly, the city becomes a landscape layered with not just bricks and mortar, but with ideas, information, and virtual connections. The vast surface area of buildings form a new three-dimensional network liberated from the static desktop. Massive real-time games take place through the city, following signs invisible to the naked eye. Be the first to reach the blinking building - win a prize!

N Building from Alexander Reeder on Vimeo.

Seen on Designboom and Gizmodo.