Category Archives: Technology

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters: An insanely sustainable LEED Platinum building

I found this documentary on one of the most sustainable office buildings I’ve ever seen and (of course) it’s in San Francisco: 535 Golden Gate.

It only makes sense that it houses the city’s water, sewer and power department, and has  a Living Machine bioremediation / on-site water reclamation system.

Here are some of its specs:

GREEN BUILDING FEATURES:

525 Golden Gate consumes 32% less energy than similarly-sized office buildings.

  • An integrated, hybrid solar array and wind turbine installation can generate up to 227,000 kWh/year or 7% of the building’s energy needs
  • A state-of-the-art raised flooring system incorporates the building’s data and ventilation infrastructure and reduces heating, cooling and ventilation energy costs by 51%
  • Maximizing daylight harvesting saves electricity and minimizes artificial lighting
  • Lighting and work station equipment shutoff automatically after-hours

525 Golden Gate consumes 60% less water than similarly sized buildings.

  • One of the first buildings in the nation with onsite treatment of gray and black water
  • An onsite “Living Machine” reclaims and treats all of the building’s wastewater to satisfy 100% of the water demand for the building’s low-flow toilets and urinals
  • The “Living Machine” system treats 5,000 gallons of wastewater per day and reduces per person water consumption from 12 gallons (normal office building) to 5 gallons
  • The building’s 25,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system provides water for irrigation uses around the building.

“How Buildings Learn” A documentary on the evolution of buildings

Right–well, you may have noticed as of late I’ve been on an architecture kick for my consumable media consumption activities. I stumbled upon this 1997 BBC series that tracks how certain buildings adapt to future uses, and how others totally fail at future flexibility–most often the victims of egocentric architects and rigid expectations of future behavior of their users.

Above is the first episode, “Flow” which gives an introduction to presenter Stewart Brand’s thesis, which is loosely that buildings need to learn and adapt. The rest in the series are embedded after the jump.

Stewart Brand is quite the character, as it turns out. From his official biography, we see he’s been part of things like the Whole Earth Catalog (one of the first hippie lifestyle companies), which aimed to be a content portal instead of a retailer (Directing potential consumers to stores, and not taking a cut for the service). He also hung out with Ken Kesey and publicly made known his admiration for experimentation with hallucinogens. Kind of neat that he settled upon architecture as a point of reference. He also snagged Brian Eno to provide the soundtrack. Pretty cool.

The series was based on my 1994 book, HOW BUILDINGS LEARN: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the 27 reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells me that architects are not as alert as computer people. But I knew that; that’s part of why I wrote the book.

Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.

Historic note: this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital— shot digital, edited digital. The project wound up with not enough money, so digital was the workaround. The camera was so small that we seldom had to ask permission to shoot; everybody thought we were tourists. No film or sound crew. Everything technical on site was done by editors, writers, directors. That’s why the sound is a little sketchy, but there’s also some direct perception in the filming that is unusual.

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Modcloth.com CCO’s lecture — from a personal style to a multimillion dollar online business

Doing it right.

Susan Gregg Koger turned her fascination with vintage clothing collecting (as in, buying gorgeous, unique pieces from thrift stores in Florida, even if the clothes didn’t fit her personally) into an business known for its “vintage-inspired” designs made accessible to the masses, through an initial survey that showed them it was a need. Along the way, they crafted their own “democratic” social shopping experience that allows the customer to have a voice in the decision of the buyer and what actually becomes a piece for sale. She does name drop Threadless as a business model, but they are more private label oriented, from what I gather. She’s not a natural in front of an audience, which is endearing in its awkwardness, which is a good thing because it shows how genuine her idea and company are.

She also snagged a spot in Forbes’ “30 Under 30.” Hot.

History of industrial design lectures by Matthew Bird at RISD

Here are some selected Industrial Design lectures by Matthew Bird from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor, which you can really see in “Bauhaus to Broadway” (below).

The first one, above, is “Josiah Wedgwood for Industrial Designers”:

Josiah Wedgwood was a tireless innovator who introduced and employed many important components of what designers still do. Or SHOULD do. This is an overview of Josiah Wedgwood’s work, with a focus on how it shows evidence of early Industrial Design thinking and process. And the first Chia Pet!

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“Building the Victorian City: Splendour and Squalour,” a lecture by Professor Simon Thurley [56:09]

I like architecture and urban planning, so you can see why I am intrigued by this lecture delivered from Gresham College (who has been all about talks open to the public since 1597 [!]) by Proffesor Thurley. This is totally one of those things you can put on and then walk away from, since there are only a few slides, and mostly a bunch of talking.

It traces the history of worker housing in Victorian Britain that sprung from the industrial revolution, but you will notice there are quite a few U.S. parallels, especially their take on light wells in the slums–the deleterious absence of which (amongst a gigantic amount of other basic things) was so famously documented in New York City by Jacob Riis in How the Other Half Lives (free and clickable, btw, through the Bartelby Project).

Here’s a video slideshow of some of Riis’ photos from New York City tenements (yeah, could not quickly find an online gallery with clickable thumbnails for those of us from the ADD generation *shrug*).

But what’s interesting about Britain’s approach is that when their cities’ populations exploded, they went straight to low-rise duplexes with communal privies and bake houses, along with a shared interior courtyard. This echos the contemporary cohousing movement whose principles are sneaking their way into the minds of progressive city urbanites, through labor-sharing initiatives like TaskRabbit (where you can sell your skills by the hour, to bidders that need random things), and urban farmers’ markets.

The second half–the “Splendor” bit– is about how London’s Italianesque architecture is a visual callback to the Renaissance Medici family, who so famously were both merchants and art patrons and basically shaped the architecture of Italy in doing so. Interestingly, London’s first futures markets rallied in pubs, which were razed to make way for London’s monuments to capitalistic wealth games and its financial center-ness.

[Sa. May 4, 2013] Pumping Station One Hackerspace Birthday Party

PsOneTardisRoof

Chicago’s coolest hackerspace, Pumping Station:One is having a 4-year birthday party / open house thingie on Saturday.

In case you’re not familiar, hackerspaces are, well–pretty self explanatory. You sign up for a membership, like a gym, and then you get to play with all the neat toys–oscilloscopes, 3D printers, drill presses, sewing machines, and a scanning electron microscope (duh!). It’s $40-$70 per month for a membership, for all that access to awesome future-creation. Also, they really do have a Tardis on the roof, just like that photo up there shows–not shopped.

7PM – Demos and reception
10PM – Live music
@ Pumping Station: One, 3519 N. Elston, Chicago IL (near Addison and Kedzie)

They also have a THUNDER SLINKY (I don’t know what that is, but it sounds awesome):

  • Souped-up Power Wheels Racers
  • DIY Quadcopter
  • Check out our new scanning electron microscope
  • Brain-based Jacob’s Ladder
  • WindowFarm
  • THUNDER SLINKY!
  • Other cool things!

Also, interactivity is completely smiled upon and encouraged:

  • Make art with lasers!
  • Silkscreen your own art poster!
  • Learn to solder and walk away with your very own blinkie badge!
  • Print your first object using one of our 3D printers

Liquid and light snacks will be on hand, as will music and an  LED birthday cake.

There’s a $10 donation for non-members, which will go towards building a new kitchen.RSVP here.

Lovely video on the hackerspace concept:

ps1map

Zebra “Pencils”

I was going through pencil lead like mad from working on various sewing projects (I’ll share these soon, promz!) so I went to my IRL Staples for lead and found these guys instead. I find it positively hilarious, and I wonder why they haven’t thought of this before. I have been a long-time fan of Zebra mechanical pencils because 1) they are stainless steel and look pretty techno and 2) they last forever. So, while poking around to look at replacement lead I spotted these and thought I’d give them a shot. I love that they put the little aluminum eraser-binding bit in, but the parts that wear down are completely replaceable.

They’re much lighter than wood pencils, but the length is cool because they feel a bit “used,” as in, you’ve sharpened them enough and they’ve gotten shorter. I’m sure Zebra was just thinking of cost, but the attention to detail is a welcome surprise.

I couldn’t find them online, nor on the Zebra site, but they do have a cheezy childish version here.

RollingJubilee.org: Crowdsourced debt reduction for the 99% by the 99%

Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%. — ROLLINGJUBILEE.ORG

Once I read about rollingjubilee.org and realized how brilliant it was, I laughed alone in my office for like, two minutes straight. Then I went straight to PayPal and sent them funds courtesy of Fractalspin.

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