Infrastructure

Green Home

Survey: The American dream home is energy-efficient

It’s not news that utilities can be budget-killers, and apparently people are getting wise to the fact that energy-efficiency means lower utility bills. A recent Yahoo survey found that energy efficiency is the one feature everyone can agree on when they imagine their “dream home” — ahead of water views, a custom build and all the other things Americans usually aspire to.

Biking

Swedish cities could connect via bike superhighway

In Sweden, city planners and the country’s traffic authority are looking into building a four-lane bike superhighway between the university town of Lund and Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest cities and one of its most diverse. Cities like London have invested in protected lanes that they call “bike superhighways,” but this one would be one of the first to connect two cites (you know, like an actual highway). The designs for the trail have it following the path of railway tracks, protected from wind by fences and hedgerows.

‘Passive House’ documentary is the last word on zero-energy buildings

Passive Houses are homes so well insulated that they require no heating at all, even in winter. They're super popular in Europe, because it’s a magical land where everything is made out of chocolate and any sexual encounter that ends in fewer than three orgasms is immediately reported to the happiness police. Journalist Charlie Hoxie realized that most people in America have never heard of the Passive House (or Passivhaus in the original, economical German) building movement, so he embarked on a documentary to spread the word. What follows are a series of excerpts from that film.

A traffic light that knows the difference between bikes and cars

No matter how strong a cyclist's legs are, a bike cannot go as fast as a car. Duh, right? But traffic lights are not as smart as humans, and they do not instinctively understand that. So they’re programmed to assume leg-powered vehicles can make it safely through lights in the time allotted to things with engines. Luckily, some human was smart enough to invent the Intersector --  a traffic light that respects the difference between bikes and cars.

Cities

C1ty By NuMb3r5: A formula for growing better cities

Theoretical physicist Geoffrey West says he's found the secret to bringing cities back from the brink. It's all in the numbers, he says. But numbers also may be our downfall.

Photographer turns unrelenting boringness of suburbia into art

Jason Griffiths is an assistant professor of design at Arizona State, and apparently living in the middle of all that desert sprawl got to him after a while. In the early aughts he jumped into a car, drove all over the country, and made a discovery so banal it’s practically a tautology: Suburbia is the same everywhere.

In Madrid, a highway becomes a park

Smart cities all around the world are getting rid of highways, and in Madrid, not only has the city built a tunnel to drive a urban-fabric-ripping highway underground, it has turned the reclaimed land into a park. In the New York Times, critic Michael Kimmelman tours the park and reports that, while "still a work in progress," it's connecting neighborhoods once cut off from each other. The idea to bury the highway came before the move to transform the land into a park, but the redesign is also part of a build-out of public transit that connects the outer boroughs …

Living

Will nature always be the last book on the shelf?

Photo: Martin DeutschCross-posted from Cool Green Science. Driving with my kids the other day, I saw a sign announcing: “Borders Books Going Out of Business: 90% Off!” We headed in with great enthusiasm, thoughts of nearly free books dancing in our heads. The place was swarming with bargain hunters. The remaining inventory had been moved to the front; the rest of the cavernous box store was gloomily empty behind movable partitions. Though there were still thousands of books, I quickly realized the store had been picked clean, like a carcass where all the soft parts were long gone and just …

Infographic: World’s tallest buildings OF THE FUTURE

(click to embiggen) Buildings are getting to be so tall that the Council on Tall Buildings came up with a new name for their most extreme versions: Megatall. This is density taken to an extreme that may not be all that helpful. For one thing, people, goods, and water have to be moved all the way to the top of these things, and that requires a lot of energy. In addition, above a certain height, structural elements take up more and more of a building's interior space, reports Sun Joo Kim at SmartPlanet. Here's the full list of the world's …

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