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Pedal pushers: Is Critical Mass bad for bikers?

A scene from the June 2007 Critical Mass bike ride in Vancouver.Photo: Tavis FordElly Blue is on a monthlong Dinner & Bikes tour around the western U.S., along with Portland bike filmmaker Joe Biel and traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg. This is one of her thrice-weekly dispatches from the road about bicycle culture and economy. Read them all here. Phoenix, Ariz.: I'm quizzing Nathan Leach, our host tonight on the Dinner & Bikes tour, about local bike culture. Leach is the main force behind the Rusty Spoke bicycle collective. He organizes the local version of Critical Mass, the monthly bike ride …

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Can bikes bring back the neighborhood bookstore?

Santa Monica's bike freeway was so packed last Fourth of July that the Coast Guard had to issue a travel advisory.Photo: Elly BlueElly Blue is on a monthlong Dinner & Bikes tour around the western U.S., along with Portland bike filmmaker Joe Biel and traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg. This is one of her thrice-weekly dispatches from the road about bicycle culture and economy. Read them all here. Santa Monica, Calif.: Spend 10 minutes with Gary Kavanagh -- a blogger, advocate, and ubiquitous presence in Santa Monica's bike scene -- and you're apt to get an earful about the new light …

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Tombstone, with sewage backups

Not that kind of ghost town.Photo: Pascal BovetThe story begins with a setting fit for the Wild West: Down a lonely road in dusty New Mexico lies a ghost town. But unlike in Western movies, this one won't be filled with brittle old saloons, horse corrals, and tumbleweeds. This will be a modern ghost town, complete with apartments and offices, houses and highways. Though it could house 35,000 people, its only visitors will be scientists and engineers working to coax our cities toward a smarter, greener future. The town has yet to be built, but when it's completed it will …

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Drool-worthy homes from this year's Solar Decathlon, part 1 [VIDEO]

For those of you who won't have the opportunity to see these homes in person on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 23-Oct. 2, we've decided to gather up all the video walk-throughs of this year's entries in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. All of these homes are extremely energy efficient and, of course, solar-powered. There are more than 20 entries in this year's solar decathlon, and we'll be bringing you walk-throughs of every entry. Massachusetts College of Art and Design plus University of Massachusetts Lowell's 4D home. Rutgers plus New Jersey Institute of Technology's ENJOY House …

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Las Vegas actually pretty good at conserving water

  The Las Vegas strip likes to pretend it’s flush in all manner of luxuries, including water -- even though Lake Mead, which provides the city with water, could disappear within the next decade. Running a giant fountain or indoor canal in the middle of the desert is the hydrological equivalent of flashing fat stacks of cash. But while casinos aren't exactly down with water conservation (that’s for poor people!), the Las Vegas government is. The city nixed grassy lawns, empowered water waste enforcers, and made water really, really expensive for anyone who uses more than they need for basic …

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Teenager builds tiny home to avoid mortgage trap

Sixteen-year-old Austin Hay of Santa Rosa, Calif., has been sleeping in a work-in-progress 130 square foot "tiny home" in his parents' backyard for months. The project came about because "like every teenager, I want to move out," says Hay. Hay learned basic construction skills in woodshop during his first two years of high school, and has applied those skills to roughing out a fully functional, self-contained home that sits atop a conventional trailer. He says it's "plenty of space" and hopes to live in the home after college. Showing an unusual level of awareness of the roots of America's current …

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How the smart grid of the future will prevent power outages for millions

Right now there are millions of people without power thanks to the wind and heavy rainfall that accompanied hurricane Irene, and I'm one of them. It sucks. Having to call the utility company just to let them know that they've failed me once again is a symptom of our antediluvian electricity distribution system.  Commonwealth Edison of Northern Illinois thinks so, too. Recently, they explained to the Daily Herald how a smart grid would have prevented outages for hundreds of thousands of their customers in the wake of recent July storms. If Smart Grid technology had been in place, here’s how …

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Trying to make China's planned cities livable

More livable? A vision for Chengdu Xiqi town center.Courtesy IMC OctaveFew countries are urbanizing as rapidly as China, and all that growth has placed tremendous strain on existing cities. There are 171 cities in China that currently have more than 1 million inhabitants, and that number is expected to rise to 219 by 2025. Such drastic growth requires building at a frenetic pace. The result, for the most part, has been block after block of apartment towers, most of which appear to lack any soul or connection with Chinese architectural heritage. Enter two brothers, Calvin and Frederick Tsao, architect and …

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Critical List: A second leak in Shell's North Sea rig spurting oil; Chinese protest chemical factory

A second leak at the Shell oil platform in the North Sea is proving harder to stop than the first. A Chinese protest against a chemical factory was one of the largest in three years -- at least 12,000 people -- and may herald a shift towards more public action in the country. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is exchanging ideas with leaders in Rio about greening their cities. How our tricksy brains are keeping us from drinking cleaned wastewater: "It is quite difficult to get the cognitive sewage out of the water, even after the real sewage is gone," says …

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How cities can get carbon down to zero

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green. Over 80 percent of Americans and over half of the world's population live in cities. By 2050, over 70 percent of the global population is expected to be urban. By then -- less than four decades away -- human civilization needs to be carbon neutral if we are to have any hope of averting catastrophic climate change. Figuring out how to eliminate greenhouse pollution from cities is a necessary component of that challenge. The city of Seattle, a global leader in the fight against climate change, commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute, Cascadia Consulting Group, and ICF …

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