h a lc r ow z e i tge i s t m aga z i n e ISS U E S e v e n
the spirit of the time
Charlie Paton of Seawater Greenhouse claims water scarcity could be solved by turning seawater into fresh water using solar power farms.
Amory Lovins believes the world has been badly designed. He shares his vision for combatting climate change through integrated design.
Halcrow's development director Yaver Abidi says the debate over using the UK's Severn estuary for energy shows that we need to devise a national energy strategy.
Sweden has become a hotbed for internet innovation, and Spotify, an internet jukebox that allows people to listen to tracks free of charge, is the latest to show that there's no such thing as a new idea. It's about meeting a need at the right time.
Design suffers in a recession but history shows it can be a force for creative inspiration, argues Alice Rawsthorn in the New York Times.
A trend for using metal in architecture reflects the environmental benefits of the material as well as its aesthetics, writes Clare Dowdy.
The key to devising corporate strategy is to engage a company's entire staff emotionally not to dictate it from on high, says Management Today.
James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, says that carbon disclosure has yielded competitive advantages for companies ranging from Fox Home Entertainment to Wal-Mart. In any case, he argues, it should be made mandatory by 2010.
Innovation and imagination at work Zeitgeist is published by Halcrow, Vineyard House 44 Brook Green, London W6 7BY, United Kingdom tel: +44 (0) 207 602 7282 fax: +44 (0) 207 603 0095 email: firstname.lastname@example.org halcrow.com Cover photograph: Charles Paltiau, Reuters Photography: John Loomis, Tabanlioglu Charles Paltiau, Reuters Adam Mørk – 3XN Judy Hill Lovins Illustrations: Darren Hopes, Piotr Lezniak, Tracy Newman K4 Editorial and production: Editor: Dawn Hayes Graphics: Tracy Newman Design: Frank Sully & Partners Contributors: Clare Dowdy Financial Times New York Times Management Today ©2009 Halcrow Group Ltd. Copyright in the style, structure and content of the magazine belongs to Halcrow and/or its affiliated undertakings. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without permission of the publishers. The magazine is for general information purposes only and Halcrow gives no warranty or assurances about its contents and is not liable for any editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions. Halcrow disclaims any liability for loss arising from reliance on information herein. This magazine, its supply to you and the disclaimer stated above are governed by the laws of England and any dispute is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.
In our seventh edition of Zeitgeist we interview the man who is credited with putting sustainability on the map back in 1976. Amory Lovins sparked a storm of controversy over the responsibility governments and companies have for damage to the environment in an article he wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine. From Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, he argues that the world has been designed badly so that people with vested interests can make money. Design is a theme that runs through this edition of Zeitgeist. We look at the way advances in digital technology are revolutionising product design and manufacture in industries ranging from aerospace to dentistry and car-making. In some cases, this is reducing costs by as much as 80 per cent. It’s enough to have Henry Ford, whose Model-T car is credited with starting the revolution in mass production, turning in his grave with amazement. Design inevitably suffers during a recession. Yet there are also positives that come out of economically straitened times, argues Alice Rawsthorne, who writes a regular column for the New York Times. Many of the most exhilarating periods in design history, like the modern movement in the 1930s, have happened during economic downturns. We hope you enjoy the discussion in the pages of the magazine as much as we do at Halcrow.
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Dawn Hayes, editor
Meet Mr Sustainability
Amory Lovins, prophet of the efficiency revolution, says the innovation high ground is in integrated design for energy efficiency
John Loomis PhotogrAphy
Ifö toilet, which flushes with three litres It’s minus 30 degrees centigrade today of water instead of 20 litres. The large 2,200 metres up in the Rocky Mountains. greenhouse under a canted glass roof But far from stoking up the wood-burning serves as the building’s solar furnace. stoves, Amory Lovins is busy working These and a range of other energyon getting rid of them. Rocky Mountain saving devices mean that Lovins pays Institute (RMI) is already fossil fuel no electricity bill. In fact, he sells back free but eliminating the stoves would surplus solar power to the grid. make it combustion free. He calls RMI This is an admirable display of an entrepreneurial, non-profit-making, foresight in a recession, but that is not educational and research foundation. Lovins’s principal Located in Old motivation. His view Snowmass, Colorado, Lovins evangelises is that the economic it started in and still recession is a catalyst for occupies part of his the profit motive good in the revolution home and is now harder than your in efficiency that he powered entirely by says is necessary to renewable energy, average Republican halt climate change. mainly from passive “The drop in the solar heat. availability of credit and the price of oil “I’m retrofitting the building to is quite helpful – it wipes out most of the see how much carbon we can save by silly projects,” said Lovins. exporting solar electricity to the grid,” Rocky Mountain Institute is what he said Lovins cheerfully. describes as an independent ‘think-andWhen he and his first wife Hunter built do tank’, which does research and design it back in 1982 with 100 or so volunteers, in energy, security and economic renewal saving energy and money were at the and houses an unusually extensive and forefront of their minds. Hence the lowdiverse energy library. Its staff, which now flow shower heads, which use one and a totals 85, are funded by private-sector half gallons per minute, compared with consultancy and by charitable gifts. the usual four to seven, and a Swedish
Judy Hill Lovins
Lovins is the man who, at the tender age of 29, forced the American establishment to confront the looming energy problem that it and other governments had helped create in an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine. This sparked a political storm by reframing the global energy and climate crisis as it was seen then to something we now accept as reality. He added up the energy that is lost in converting primary fuel to electricity and the high costs and transmission losses incurred in getting the power from the plants to faraway consumers (3 per cent is lost in transmission and 4 per cent in distribution). Rather than asking where to get more energy – more of any kind, from any source, at
any price, for warm showers and cold beer, mobility and comfort, spinning shafts and baked bread, he asked how much energy, of what quality, at what scale and from what source, would do that task in the cheapest way. Energy demand per unit of GDP has, in fact, halved since 1975, mainly through smarter end-use technologies. Lovins’s vision was for a 50-year transition to an energy system that relies both on renewable resources, like solar power and wind, and using the energy available to us now more efficiently. Among those who joined the debate were politicians, company executives, university professors and a Nobel laureate. Back in 1975, Lovins’s views were dismissed as “myopic”, “reckless”, “irresponsible” and even “flaccid and
flatulent”. Fast forward integrated design 34 years and Lovins’s prognosis, which describes in 29 sectors the climate change crisis we now accept as reality, proved of industry and right within a few per cent. created savings But Lovins is no ivory tower theorist. “I do exceeding US$30bn solutions not problems,” tyres, road and displaced air), 95 per cent said Lovins. “I do transformation not what moves the vehicle, while only 5 per cent I call incrementalism.” He evangelises the moves the driver, in proportion to their profit motive harder than your average respective weights. Five per cent of 6 per Republican. His mission is to get business cent is 0.3 per cent – not a gratifying result leaders and politicians to understand from cars that annually burn their own that the world has been badly designed weight in petrol. and that this is the main reason why “Most politicians believe that the earth’s natural resources are being rectifying bad design is a cost issue,” said depleted more quickly than they can be Lovins. “It isn’t. Redesigning it will yield replaced. “We’ve applied integrated design large energy savings, but not cost money. in 29 sectors of industry, in more than US You can generally achieve expanding not $30bn worth of projects, and achieved diminishing returns on efficiency from radical energy savings generally at lower integrated design.” capital cost – and similarly in vehicles and Lovins invented the ‘hypercar’ in 1991, buildings,” he said. which saves as much as 80 per cent of the Take the world’s biggest business fuel. And in the fourth of RMI’s five for– car manufacturing. Lovins describes profit spinoffs, his team designed one in the inefficiencies of the car in Natural 2000 – which is 3.6-fold more efficient but Capitalism, which he co-authored with is a sporty and uncompromised midsize Paul Hawken and his first wife. Of the sports utility vehicle, 53 per cent lighter energy in the fuel it consumes, 87 per cent than the steel version but safer even in a is lost, mainly in the engine’s heat and collision, and yielding a one-year payback exhaust, and 12 per cent is used to turn through the savings. the wheels. Of the 6 per cent that The car’s propulsion system is hybridaccelerates the car (the rest heats the
electric, which means the wheels are turned largely by one or more electric motors. The electricity, rather than being stored in heavy batteries recharged by plugging into the utility grid when parked, is produced onboard from fuel as needed – either an electric generator driven by petrol or diesel or by a gas turbine. “The world is inefficient by design,” said Lovins, meaning that the work done by specialists is dis-integrated. “If we could fix that, we could achieve radical efficiencies. Climate change, nuclear proliferation, water scarcity and many other problems would go away entirely. “The Victorians in England got a lot of it right,” said Lovins. “They built buildings that were thermally passive, day-lit and naturally ventilated. Then, the architect/engineer for a building designed it in one go, getting many benefits from one expenditure. Now we have specialists, all of them rewarded for what they spend, not for what they save. Designers should be rewarded for the measured savings that
they create.” Lovins is currently searching for Victorian-like integrative engineers but he concedes there are not many of them. Still, the world has moved on and America has a new administration under president Barack Obama. Lovins works more with business leaders than politicians but he is happy about the changes introduced by Obama’s administration. It promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, “harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and factories”. Among the first appointments are Washington lawyer Todd Stern as special envoy for climate change, John Holdren as science advisor, and Carol Browner as climate tsar. Time will tell how much they achieve, but Lovins is optimistic. “We only need 3 per cent to 4 per cent lower energy intensity each year to stabilise the earth’s climate,” he said. Turning his home into a solar power plant and displacing coal use, is a small but significant contribution to Lovins’s extensive pioneering work.
River Severn power highlights need for a national energy strategy Yaver Abidi, Halcrowâ€™s development director explains why The challenges of climate change are breathing new life into plans for large-scale energy infrastructure. One such project, which has been on and off the table since the 1920s, is to generate electricity from the powerful tidal energy of the Severn estuary in the South West of the UK. But the way we are going about deciding whether and how to proceed reveals how unprepared we are to make the hard choices that the 21st century is already throwing at us. We are faced with profound issues: what should the role of government be in the power market, how should we balance intangible, global environmental benefits against visible local loss of resource and, perhaps most importantly, are we willing to pay more for the electricity that powers our homes and workplaces? Whatever the decision on the Severn, these three issues will re-emerge in many of the decisions we now need to make as a society. First a little about the Severn; this large estuary experiences the second-highest tidal range in the world, a rise and fall of 14m at its highest. It provides an important inter-tidal habitat for wading birds, provides a route for fish migration, creates a commercial seaway, and provides extensive
recreational resources along its coastline. Its tidal power offers a very significant power generation resource. Today, we are yet again re-examining this idea, which with almost tide-like regularity re-emerges every decade or so. But the circumstances of this discussion are quite different from any in the past. There is an urgency to get something done because many existing thermalpower-generation plants will come to the end of their life within a few years and national carbon reduction targets loom ahead of us. The Severn could potentially meet up to 15 per cent of our national energy needs from a clean, carbon-free generation source that, although cyclical, is reliable and predictable. But there are consequences too; some of the schemes proposed for the Severn lead to a loss of important intertidal habitat or interfere with shipping; others consume excessive resources or are too small to materially affect our national carbon emissions; some, although enthusiastically promoted, seem to defy the laws of physics and principles of engineering. It would be easy to conclude that we shouldnâ€™t develop in the Severn: building in an estuary throws up complex, messy and emotive issues.
By comparison, wind power is now acceptable to the public at large as ‘green’. By pushing it offshore we can overcome objections to wind farms. There is increasing acceptance of nuclear power too. Yet in accepting this, we are discounting future liabilities for nuclear waste that, to my knowledge, no one has yet consulted future generations on! Our unpreparedness to address the big issues we face arises from taking what I would term tactical rather than strategic perspectives. We look at alternative forms of power generation, and even individual power schemes, on a case-by-case basis rather than as part of an overall system. We evaluate environmental impacts on a local or regional level when we should be looking at global impacts too. We consider the cost of power supply now rather than addressing the impact of current consumption on the future. Changing to a strategic view has implications for government, for proponents and opponents of schemes and for the public. In its current feasibility study of tidal power options in the Severn, government hopes to first assess whether it should promote a power development in the Severn and then select a single preferred option based on cost-benefit analysis. Is this really what government should do and will this bring about the best decisions? Heretical though it may seem, I believe the government needs to study the implications of power from the Severn, and other projects, in a system-wide study. In the past this would have been called a national power master plan. This should consider the capacity, reliability and availability of all existing and potential sources of power generation. It should look at different demand scenarios and seek to define the roles of various actors to achieve certain environmental objectives and service standards at a system level. Taking such a view will help to answer some key questions: can wind alone meet our carbon targets or would some tidal help? What size of tidal scheme would best help address our carbon targets? What and how much should government do to enable the private sector to develop the right tidal project
in the right place to meet our national goals? The underlying implication of this approach is that we can no longer look to a liberalised wholesale power market, based on principles of economic efficiency, to solve fundamental problems that arise from concerns about sustainability and climate change. This would be a big change. It hints at nationalisation and big government; but as recent events in the financial markets have shown, leadership and thoughtful intervention by government is justifiable and necessary when a lightly regulated market doesn’t fulfil its purpose. The second big implication of a strategic view of the Severn is that we need to find ways to pragmatically balance genuine environmental concerns regarding habitat loss and interruptions to the movement of fish with not just local benefits, such as flood prevention and water quality improvements, but also national benefits, in the power system and global benefits in reducing carbon emissions. Today, opponents and proponents argue vehemently from a narrow local perspective. The final strategic issue that the Severn raises is that, no matter how you look at it, it signals that it’s time for us to pay more for a low-carbon future. Like many renewable schemes its economics depend on direct or implicit credits for lower carbon emissions. Also, like other renewables, it generates power intermittently and not always when we most need it, which creates a need for greater redundancy, standby capacity and storage in the system, all of which costs money. It will also lead to an expensive reshaping of the UK grid network while its cyclicality may also lead to a need for greater integration with the European grid. The resulting increases in electricity prices need to be understood and accepted by the public, who will need assurances that the increases are not only in our collective best interest but also efficient and equitable. Development of power from the Severn estuary is one of a handful of engineering undertakings that come along from time to time and fundamentally help to reshape industry as well as the political environment and everyday life for all of us. Regardless of whether we develop a tidal power project in the Severn, let’s seize the opportunity it offers us to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century by taking a strategic view of the issues.
Recessionary design 1
A boom time for creative energy Judging by design’s fate in past recessions, it will suffer in this one. Some designers’ clients will go out of business, others will cut costs and Research and development budgets will be slashed. jobs will be lost, and projects scrapped. But there may be positive consequences too. Design has always coped well with austerity, and is especially well-equipped to do so now.
1. Learning from histor y If you rewind through design history, many of the most exhilarating periods have been during economic downturns. Take the 1930s, when the modern movement flourished despite the depression. Or the late 1940s, when Italy emerged as one of the world’s most dynamic design centres during its post-war reconstruction. In North America, Richard Buckminster Fuller invented the geodesic dome to provide
emergency housing for demobilised troops and their families. Those domes have since provided shelter for hundreds of thousands of people, many in desperate circumstances. Designers responded to the last recession at the turn of the 1990s by working with cheap materials and objects that they found. Typical was the Chest of Drawers, the old wooden drawers bundled together by the Dutch designer Tejo Remy, to make a new piece. Similar themes are resurfacing in the survivalist design style of recycled materials and staccato shapes favoured by young designers like Nacho Carbonell of Spain and also Maarten Baas of the Netherlands.
Recession. Depression. Slump. Crash. Whatever it’s called, and however severe it turns out to be, the economic crisis is bound to affect design. The question is how, writes alice rawsthorn?
2. Responding to change The main reason why design could benefit from this recession is because it always thrives on change, and every area of our lives is currently in flux. The economic crisis will not only transform finance and business, but the way we think and behave. Then there’s the environmental crisis, and the realisation that most of the institutions and systems that regulated our lives in the 20th century need to be reconfigured for the 21st century. At the last World Economic Forum summit meeting in Dubai on the global agenda the dominant words were “change,” “reboot” and “transformative”. There was clear consensus on the need for fundamental change and for experimenting with new approaches to achieving it. I attended the summit meeting as a member of the forum’s Global Agenda Council on Design, and we all agreed that design had an important role to play. Designers are adept at analysing problems from fresh perspectives, and applying lateral thinking to develop ingenious solutions.
Designers are adept at analysing problems from fresh perspectives, and applying lateral thinking to develop ingenious solutions
They also excel at simplifying complex issues (and there are lots of those around right now], as well as collaborating with other disciplines. The recent changes within design itself make those skills even more useful. The 20th-century model of design was devoted to the creation of things – both objects and images – but designers are now also applying their expertise to systems as well.
3. Redesigning businesses This means that designers will be called upon to advise recession-struck companies on how to cut costs without impeding efficiency. They will also be asked to exploit the entrepreneurial opportunities offered by the recession by developing austerity-friendly products and services. An example is the Virtual Wallet online banking service developed for the young, techsavvy customers of the American bank PNC, by the IDEO design group. It enables account holders to manage their finances online more
efficiently, even on tiny cellphone screens. IDEO’s design also helps them to manage their cashflow by anticipating when money will be paid in and out of their accounts. Rather than showing rows of numbers, as conventional bank statements do, IDEO has deployed visualisation techniques to illustrate them graphically on screen. PNC’s research showed that, as the credit crunch deepened, people felt confused and even frightened at being bombarded by complex financial information from their banks. Designers will also help to develop recession-friendly business models, including rental systems, such as the bicycle services found in Paris, Montreal and other cities. These projects not only involve oldfashioned product design, but a systemic approach to planning how they’ll work. As the environmental crisis deepens, sophisticated new forms of renting – or rentalism as it’s called – may emerge as popular alternatives to owning things that we’ll only use for short periods of time.
one beneficiary is a former heroin addict and criminal who kicked his addiction thanks to the support of a rehabilitation charity 4. Redesigning social services A similar mix of systemic design thinking and traditional design techniques is enabling designers to address social problems, such as ageing, crime and unemployment. Some of these problems may worsen during recession. The British government has already commissioned the service design consultancy Live|Work to expand its Hot Products programme of designing ways to help teenagers prevent the theft of their cellphones and other portable devices. Equally relevant at a time when joblessness is rising is the Make it Work initiative, developed by Live|Work to help the long-term unemployed in the British city of Sunderland to find work. The project began two years ago when Live|Work analysed the support offered and what was needed. Many people were prevented from working by problems such as drug addiction or caring responsibilities. A common difficulty was the disconnect between the specialist agencies dealing with those issues and local employment services.
Live|Work designed an “activity coalition” whereby all of the relevant support services, including charities and local government, could pool information and work together to help individuals. For example, one beneficiary is a former heroin addict and career criminal who kicked his addiction thanks to the support of a rehabilitation charity, which then collaborated with fellow coalition members to help him train as a fork-lift truck driver and find a job.
5. Design Art R.I.P. Resilient though some areas of design will be, others have already been hit by the recession. One is design art. Half of the lots at Sotheby’s design auction in London were unsold, and dealers were nervous at the Design Miami fair earlier this year. But what is the most exciting role for design? Developing new business concepts and cracking social problems, or making expensive, uncomfortable furniture? © 2009 Alice Rawsthorn (Distributed by the New York Times syndicate).
Charles PLATIAU/R EUTER S
Feel the Strategy When it comes to delivering big corporate ideas, a dash of inspiration is worth more than a thousand impenetrable spreadsheets, says Stefan Stern The following scene took place in a crowded meeting room in London a few months ago. Around the room sat concerned, committed middle and senior managers. We were there to talk about the strategic challenges that each of us was facing back at base. One by one, people spoke up. ‘Well, of course we’re looking at all this at the moment as part of our strategic review…’ ‘We’re going away for two days next month to discuss this ahead of a major restructuring exercise…’ And so it continued. Here were some serious hard-working people acknowledging that they did not have all the answers, admitting that things had to change and looking forward to taking positive action. And yet, how glum everybody looked. How flat.
It was as if the phrase ‘strategic review’ was code for ‘12 hours of root canal work’. Everyone knew they had a lot of important thinking to do. Everyone was dreading it. For many managers developing strategy has become an arid, joyless affair, predictably grim and disappointing. This is not the way it is supposed to be. As Henry Mintzberg, an academic and management and business strategy author, said: ‘Strategy should not merely differentiate, it should also inspire.’ Yet research bears out the negative impressions. An article in the Harvard Business Review in September 2004, featuring data gathered by the Marakon consultancy, suggests that as many as 90 per cent of strategies fail to
deliver their intended results, and 70 per cent fail at execution, perhaps because as much as 95 per cent of the workforce say that they do not understand their company’s strategy. But now, a London-based, ‘marketing-led’ (its words) strategy consultancy called Cognosis, with years of experience in FMCG markets – in particular, the drinks industry, has carried out some research that shows it is not enough for a strategy to be rationally and logically ‘right’. Says Richard Brown, the firm’s managing partner: “The best strategies have ‘emotional edge’; they engage, excite and inspire the people who must deliver them. They achieve better results.” Over the past two years, the firm has conducted research among 1,600 top executives
and senior and middle managers from a wide range of UK organisations and found that emotion plays a vital role in strategy and strategy making. Most strategies fail to excite and inspire, and there is deep dissatisfaction with current strategy-making processes. Super-engagement with both strategy and the strategy-making process flows from collaboration and creativity and is fuelled by certain key practices, which move managers up a ‘ladder of belief’. This process establishes exceptionally high commitment to strategy and bridges the gap that currently exists between executives at the top of organisations and senior and middle managers. The research revealed four distinct strategy styles – rational, practical, collaborative and
creative – each with its own strengths and limitations. A combined, whole-minded approach
To convert your firm’s strategy into an actionable agenda for your unit, don’t just parrot the strategy to strategy and strategy making that incorporates all four styles is most effective in creating a superengaging strategy, the research shows. Fine, but what does this mean in practical terms? Strategy is going wrong for many reasons. First, because corporate leaders think strategy is their responsibility alone. The rest of the organisation doesn’t get involved until it’s too late.
Consider this ‘management tip of the day’ from the Harvard Business Review to its subscribers: ‘To convert your firm’s strategy into an actionable agenda for your unit, don’t just parrot the strategy. Translate it in a way that brings it to life and makes it real for them. For example, if the new strategy emphasises improving new products’ success rate, lay out how each and every person in your unit can best support that effort. And invite subordinates’ input; you’ll win their commitment to the strategy and to its execution.’ This all feels like a rather deadly way of bringing something to life. Telling ‘subordinates’ what to do is precisely the wrong way to go. Who is going to carry out this brilliant strategy? The staff. Does it matter, therefore, if they cannot
understand or believe in the strategy you present to them? Of course it does. And how do you win that understanding and belief? By involving them. This is how you can get staff to ascend that ladder of belief referred to earlier. Crucially, this is a hearts-and-minds process. In fact, as far as winning commitment is concerned, hearts seem to be rather more important than minds. “Belief catalyses action, driving performance and confidence,” the researchers found. “An ounce of belief is worth a tonne of understanding, and emphasising understanding without building belief can damage performance and confidence.” One convinced exponent of emotionally intelligent strategy is Stuart Fletcher, president of the international division of Diageo, the global drinks group. Expressing his personal view, not a corporate one, he says his approach to strategy development is “highly collaborative and peopleoriented, because it starts by considering our purpose…it’s not just rational and analytic like conventional planning approaches. “We have a huge engagement process, a combination of large set-piece meetings and smaller team meetings. We use these to bring the strategy to life for people throughout the business, to explore what the strategy means for each individual. We try to flush out all the questions and concerns, and deal with them authentically. It’s vital that people at the coalface understand and commit to the strategy.
This happens for us, because of the sorts of discussion our strategy process triggers.” Sounds great. But what has this approach delivered in practice? “There’s a very clear link between the quality of our strategy process and our delivery of results,” Fletcher says. “Our performance has been great recently and this all flows directly from the engaging strategy process that we have used. But our process is not just about emphasising financial goals.
“There’s a very clear link between the quality of our strategy process and our delivery of results” “The positive shifts in our customer relationships are a direct consequence of the new thinking that’s emerged from a more emotionally engaging strategy process.” His conclusions? “At a basic level, emotional engagement is about making a strategy personal,” he explains. “It’s about seeing the connections between what I do and delivering something larger and more meaningful, the overall result. If a strategy engages people emotionally, there’s an authentic commitment to making it happen.” This is an abridged version of an article written by Stefan Stern for Management Today in November 2008.
The return supersonic
of flight There was a time when hearing the supersonic boom of Concorde flying overhead was an event worth celebrating. Certainly, when the plane was decommissioned in 2003, it inspired headlines across the world. But if you thought supersonic travel ended with Concorde’s demise, think again. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has already tested a prototype known as “son of Concorde” and a number of other manufacturers are hard at work designing similar supersonic aircraft, which are due to go into commercial operation in the next decade or so. These new beasts of the airways promise to halve current flight times but with an economy of operation closer to that of a conventional longrange business jet. And, importantly, they will have dramatically reduced noise levels. Aircraft makers concur that the technology is available for sending airline passengers through the speed barrier more efficiently than Concorde was able to. Whether it makes economic sense or not is still open to question. One aircraft that is due to go into production by 2015 is the Aerion supersonic business jet (SBJ), which promises a range of between 4,000 and 4,500 nautical miles (supersonic and subsonic speeds, respectively). Its maximum speed of 1.6 Mach is close to Concorde’s top speed, and it can operate at a ‘boomless’ supersonic cruise of 1.15 Mach. That would cut the flight time between New York and Paris to just over four hours. In the US, where overland speeds are limited, coast-tocoast flights would be just under four hours.
The Aerion SBJ is designed to fly business travellers at twice the speed of today’s aircraft but at similar cost. Its cabin is 190cm high and its price is comparable to today’s largest business jets at around US$80 million. Another aircraft is being designed by Supersonic Aerospace International in Nevada, in the US, in conjunction with Skunk Works, Lockheed Martin’s aircraft development wing. Called Quiet Supersonic Transport, it is being designed to make a sonic boom less than a hundredth of the size of that of Concorde. Speculation continues over whether these technologies could be applied to commercial aircraft, primarily because the scale of a sonic boom increases with an aircraft’s weight and noise is a big issue. Supersonic engines also deteriorate much more quickly and their higher levels of fuel consumption make them less environmentally friendly. The Japanese, by contrast, are intent on carrying as many as 300 passengers on their son of Concorde at speeds of more than 2 Mach, or twice the speed of sound, and without the noise and pollution levels of Concorde. It will be able to fly 6,214 miles non-stop and the aim is to halve the flight time from Tokyo to New York to six and a half hours. A prototype was successfully tested in Australia to show the aerodynamic efficiency of the latest design. The new supersonic jets may or may not make it in commercial terms, but they have drawn considerable interest. The Aerion SBJ, for one, has an order backlog of more than US$4 billion.
y stackS the flight deck Air-traffic control system to replace radar can save fuel, boost safety and let planes change altitude more quickly. It also cuts greenhouse gas emissions, writes Scott McCartney A new air-traffic control system was deployed earlier this year that has the potential to save fuel, shave time off flights and enhance safety. The new system â€“ which will replace radar â€“ was launched in bits of Canada in January, affecting flights between the US and both Europe and Asia. The technology is slated to spread to US skies, but that will take more than a decade to come into force. Called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, the technology can even produce smoother flights because controllers will allow planes to change altitudes more freely. ADS-B takes highly accurate position reports broadcast automatically by planes and creates a radar-like display for air-traffic controllers. Because it is more accurate and faster than radar, it will ultimately allow planes to safely travel closer together. Instead of flying 130km behind one another without radar coverage, jets under ADS-B surveillance need to be only 8km apart under current standards.
NAV Canada, the privatised provider of air-traffic control service in Canada, installed five ADS-B ground station receivers around Hudson Bay, a vast, remote expanse of northern Canada that is busy with jet traffic but has no radar coverage. The system is in daily use after extensive testing and certification. Already, NAV Canada says 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the jets flying over Hudson Bay have the equipment onboard for ADS-B, and have been broadcasting position reports for some time. Airlines certified the equipment on each airplane. The system will be expanded in 2009 to provide coverage over much of the Atlantic Ocean with ground receivers installed on the east coast of Canada and in Greenland. As planes burn fuel, they get lighter and can fly higher where the air is thinner and jets are more efficient. Without any surveillance coverage, Canadian controllers rarely could find a hole for planes to climb through in the stream of planes spread 130km apart. Reducing the separation to
8km creates some room to climb. ADS-B over Hudson Bay will allow climbs to take place about ten minutes earlier, NAV Canada says, and once the Greenland installation is online, flights can climb 80 minutes earlier. In all, it estimates 28 million litres of jet fuel will be saved each year, which is worth as much as US$17 million at today’s prices. “We’ll be able to climb that 747 east of Greenland to an optimum altitude and clear him direct to Los Angeles and it’s phenomenal savings,” said John Crichton, chief executive of NAV Canada, which spent less than US$7 million on the Hudson Bay installation. With the benefits to airlines, “it’s not so much a technology issue as it is a business issue,” he said. Among airlines, aviation organisations and air-traffic control agencies, there is widespread agreement that ADS-B is the technology of the future. But there is no agreement on how quickly to start using it. While it saves money on the ground, costing only one tenth as much as radar, saves money, fuel and time, and reduces greenhouse-gas emissions in the air, ADS-B equipment is expensive to retrofit into airplanes. Newer planes come from factories fully equipped, but older airliners, like Boeing 767s, for example, likely will never be retrofitted, but still have lots of years of service remaining. And for private aircraft, the price tag of
some US$6,000 to US$8,000 per airplane may be prohibitive for many aircraft owners. The Federal Aviation Authoriy (FAA) expects to have all its ADS-B ground structure in place by 2015, and has mandated that planes in the US start using ADS-B in the year 2020. But the programme is still subject to change and delays. To work through concerns, the FAA formed a group of industry representatives called the Aviation Rule-making Committee, which submitted 36 recommendations to the FAA in September. The FAA has also been fielding comments from industry, pilots and others, and now expects to issue a final rule on its ADS-B plans in 2010. “We have to allow time for everyone to equip aircraft,” FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto says. “We’ve been moving as fast as we can.” To test the system, the FAA has already installed ADS-B receivers in Florida and on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, but controllers won’t yet be using them to separate aircraft. The FAA had a similar program in Alaska called Capstone that is being used by controllers, and the FAA says it has cut the fatal accident rate in general aviation by 47 per cent by providing better surveillance and better information for pilots in the cockpit. US airlines, through the Air Transport Association, have criticised the complexity and cost of FAA’s massive ADS-B push and
called for financial incentives for airlines to cope with the cost of retrofitting jets. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association supports ADS-B technology, but is also highly critical of implementation plans, arguing the equipment needs to be made affordable for private pilots and the system should be in use before private pilots are forced to retrofit airplanes. The FAA says it is working to address concerns with its final rule issued in 2010.
The FAA says that as airline passenger traffic moves from its current 769 million passengers a year to its projected one billion several years ahead, travel delays will worsen tremendously unless ADS-B is deployed. “Ground-based radar systems can’t handle that,” Takemoto said. This article was first published in the Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2008.
The invisible crisis
The global economic system is under threat as water supplies run dry
The legendary ‘Fountain Tree’ was sacred to the Bimbaches, the early inhabitants of El Hierro in the Canary Islands. When rolling fog hit the tree, the water dripping from its leaves was collected and channelled off to provide drinking water for the inhabitants. The effect is most pronounced in Tenerife, where the pine forests on Mount Teide contribute at least three times more water by fog capture than is currently provided by rainfall.
of rainfall. The problem has become so acute that water scarcity threatens to become a global crisis that threatens the global economy, according to the World
consumes roughly three quarters of the world ’ s fresh water supplies In many ways, nothing has changed. The world still depends on the same natural cycles for water in spite of advances in technology and transportation. The problem is that a combination of population growth, urbanisation, deforestation, climate change and mismanagement of water means human life has jeopardised this most basic requirement for life. When the land loses more water than it absorbs through rainfall, as is often the case, soil moisture decreases, the water table falls, plants wither and less evaporation takes place, which in turn reduces the likelihood
Economic Forum (WEF). “We are now on the verge of water bankruptcy in many places, with no way of paying the debt back. In fact, a number of regional water bubbles are now bursting in parts of China, the Middle East, the southwestern US and India; more will follow. The consequences for regional economic and political stability will be serious.” This is a description of the crisis the world faces having depleted its fresh water supplies, made at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland, early in 2009 in a discussion document. The problem is a house of cards
that threatens the world’s supply of food, energy and economic growth, said the WEF. Terms like “water footprint” and “virtual water” have crept into political parlance to describe the fact that water is used directly by people for drinking and washing, but also to manufacture clothes, food and other products that we buy. Agriculture consumes roughly 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water supplies and in Africa the proportion is closer to 90 per cent. Over-extraction of fresh water is also severely compromising the environment in many parts of the world. The fact that the most valuable export in East African countries like Kenya is flowers grown to decorate houses in the West is a stark example of water economics. The vegetables grown there, food we need, are worth less. “The export of watermelons from Jordan to Europe is an example where demand seems to be worth more than good water management,” said Tony Pryor, non-executive chairman of Halcrow, who is a member of the WEF’s engineering and construction governance group. “These problems will not solve themselves.”
“The obstacles to funding water and sanitation are mainly political, not technical,” said Pryor. “It’s something that needs to be managed at global political level, not by local authorities and municipalities, which often have their own agendas. The real issue is how to manage the whole water cycle, from precipitation, through its various uses, to evaporation.” Pryor said water is neither priced nor managed correctly. It is often subsidised by governments; this, and the demands of wealthy stakeholders in developing countries, alters supply-demand ratios. The WEF has set an action plan in motion in 2009 to create a water initiated steering group, of which Pryor will be a member. It hopes to meet throughout the year and undertake two pilots in India and South Africa to find a way to implement new water projects in other parts of the globe. And it plans to publish a report by the end of 2009. In the meantime, ground water is being used faster than it is being replaced. The International Water Management Institute recently estimated that in India, for example, about 250 cubic kilometres of water are extracted for irrigation each year. That is at least 100 cubic kilometres
more than rain replaces. It feeds India but, as every year passes, the aquifers get emptier. And the problem is not confined to hot countries. A third of the planet will face water shortages by 2025 if trends in climate change, population growth, rural to urban migration and consumption continue, according to the United Nations.
is not priced or managed correctly “Under present conditions and considering the way water is being managed, we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel,” said chairman of the board of Nestlé Peter Brabeck Letmathe. Margaret Catley-Carlson, patron of the Global Water Partnership in Sweden and chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Water Security, puts it another way: “We have today the same basic amount of water as the Earth of the dinosaurs or Julius Caesar. But we have grown and grown from Caesar’s world population of about 400,000, to today’s of almost 6.5 billion people, heading for 8.5 billion. With increasing prosperity, people in many places use upwards of 2,500 litres of water a day. Do the math.” Water is cheap and seemingly in endless supply, so people and companies waste it. Each person needs about 20 litres of water each day for basic living. In the US, the average person uses 500 litres a day, and in western Europe the figure is around 140 litres. In much of Africa,
people get nothing like 20 litres a day. The problem is not limited to how water is priced and wasted. There is also the energy required to transport and deliver water from one region to another. Atlanta has its fresh water transported from Alabama and Florida, for example, and water we may buy in Europe can be bottled in places as far away as Fiji. Climate change is compounding the problem by making dry areas drier and wet areas wetter. Securing the world’s water supply requires more effective water management, including enhancing food security through more equitable allocation of water for agriculture and food production.
A typical meat-eater’s diet requires about 5,400 litres of water a day, twice that which a vegetarian requires for the same nutritional value. Global meat production is projected to more than double to 465 million tonnes in 2050 from 229 million tonnes in 1999-2001, notably across Asia. One kilogramme of cheese requires 10 litres of milk to produce. The volume of water needed to produce this amount of milk is 10,000 litres. Processing 10 litres of milk also produces 7.3 litres of whey, which generates more or less the same market value as the cheese. Rice harvested from the field has consumed 2,300 litres of water per kilogramme. One kilogramme of rice produces 0.67 kilogrammes of milled rice on average. In the shop we buy milled rice in the form of white rice or broken rice. In this form, rice requires 3,400 litres of water per kilogramme.
“It means ensuring the integrity of ecosystems, and it means promoting peaceful collaboration in the sharing of water resources, particularly in the case of boundary and trans-boundary water resources,” said Charlie Paton, head of Seawater Greenhouse, which has come up with a low-cost and sustainable way of producing fresh water and crops in hot, arid parts of the world by using heat from concentrated solar power to distil seawater and power evaporative cooling (See page opposite). Paton is not optimistic that the problem will be resolved anytime soon. “Things will have to go horribly wrong before anything will be done about this,” he said. Although the economic effects are profound, the political impacts of water scarcity are both gradual and local, so government desire to respond is weak and fragmented. There is no obvious crisis event for national government to react to. That’s why the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) describes water scarcity as an ‘invisible event’. Changes in culture and changes in the way water is managed are necessary to resolve the problem, said Andrew Liveris, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company. “Technology enables purification and distribution of water, but this alone – without a strategy that includes water management, infrastructure, investment, agricultural/ industrial/consumer use, and education – has limited power to address the crisis.
Charlie Paton, managing director of Seawater Greenhouse, says the world’s water scarcity problems could be solved by converting seawater into drinking water
Although two thirds of the planet is made up of water, it’s mostly sea water. Only 3 per cent of it is fresh drinking water and that small amount is under pressure for reasons outlined on pages 26 to 30. “Fortunately, the world is not short of water, it is just in the wrong place,” said Charlie Paton, managing director of Seawater Greenhouse, a three-man band in London, which has come up with a low-cost and sustainable way of converting sea water into fresh water to enable crops and trees to grow in some of the hottest and most arid places on earth. “Converting sea water to fresh water in the right quantities and in the right places offers the potential to solve all the problems we have with water scarcity,” said Paton, one of the lead architects behind the Eden Project in Cornwall, in the UK, and inventor of the seawater greenhouse. The company has set up demonstration plants in Tenerife, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, Paton said it is now in the process of negotiating a large-scale installation. The seawater greenhouse works by using solar farms to power seawater evaporators, which then pump the damp, cool air through the greenhouse. This reduces the temperature by about 15 degrees centigrade compared to that outside, enough to allow the plants to photosynthesise. Meanwhile, at the other end of the greenhouse from the evaporators the water vapour is condensed. Some of this fresh water is used to water the crops, while the rest can be used for the essential task of cleaning the solar mirrors and ensuring that the electricity-generating turbines function properly. The process effectively mimics the natural hydrological cycle where seawater, heated by the sun, evaporates, cools down to form clouds and returns to the earth as rain, fog or dew. The combination of the greenhouses and concentrated solar power means virtually any vegetables can be grown throughout the year in some of the hottest countries on earth. The cooler and more humid conditions enable crops to grow with very little water and, because the crops are not stressed by excessive transpiration, the yield and quality is higher. Demonstration plants already produce lettuces, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. In addition to cleaning the concentrated solar power mirrors, some of the water can be used to create a local microclimate just outside the greenhouses for hardier plants such as jatropha, an energy crop that can be turned into biofuel.
Making customisation affordable darren hopes
Digital technology is transforming our lives, including the way the products we buy are made A revolution is taking place in the way that products are designed and manufactured in industries ranging from aerospace to dentistry and car making, turning the accepted wisdom on mass production on its head. Advances in technology are transforming our ability to digitise physical
objects to the point where the cost of making products has fallen by as much as 80 per cent in some cases. The cost of inspecting them can also drop sharply. That means it is now possible to make one-of-a-kind products with the same efficiency and cost effectiveness as mass
producing one-size-fits-all goods. Itâ€™s enough to have Henry Ford, whose Model-T car is credited with kick-starting the revolution in mass production, turning in his grave with amazement. Digital technology has transformed our lives in all sorts of ways â€“ the way we process information, consume music and communicate with people, for example. Digital shape sampling and processing (DSSP) is an extension of that into the world of product manufacturing. Just as word processors, databases and electronic spreadsheets have changed the way we use two-dimensional data, so DSSP is changing the way we collect three-dimensional (3D) data and use it in design. DSSP describes how scanning hardware and processing software can be used to digitally capture physical objects and create accurate 3D models with associated structural properties for design, inspection and custom manufacturing. Itâ€™s the result of advances in a range of technologies, including 3D scanning, reverse engineering, computer-aided inspection and geometry processing. The convergence of these technologies,
combined with ever-increasing levels of computer processing power on our desktops, means that the entire surface geometry of a physical object can now be captured digitally, including product features, colours and even textures. A decade ago, engineers were limited to capturing data from scanners manually, one point at a time. DSSP technology now enables them to collect millions of points in the time it used to take to record only a few. 3D-digitised data that defines a part or object, which would have choked a highend computer system five years ago, is now easily managed by modern computers. Today, almost everything is designed, made and documented using computers and computer models. Drawing boards and erasers have been replaced by the mouse and keyboard; manual lathes and mills have been replaced by computer-driven machine tools; and 3D printers can print parts using powdered or liquid plastic. Capturing data and converting it into a computer model is only the first step. The model can then be used to design mating parts, new and improved parts, fixtures, etc. And the model can be converted for use in
films and video games or to create formal documentation for identification, reproduction and regulatory compliance. Take an ordinary everyday object like a plastic milk container. This may look like a basic container, but it is typically complex to replicate using a computer aided design (CAD) programme. This may seem like an unimportant example, but for companies who sell a product like milk or engine oil, the container is an integral part of what defines their brand. Laser scanners capture the geometry of the plastic containers and this data can then be processed by software into accurate surface models for CAD and machining. This can drastically cut the time it takes to develop a new mould and product, to market. DSSP starts with a physical object like a prototype, then high-speed scanners capture its shape and the result is fed into automated software. This extracts geometry and topology from measurement data and creates digital models that can be used by design, manufacturing and engineering systems for analysis, simulation and machining. Uniloy Milacron, a US provider of blow-moulding systems, has halved the time it takes to capture existing containers in digital format and create a new CAD model, which means it can put more projects through production. Similarly, US footwear and clothes manufacturer Timberland is using DSSP technology to dramatically improve its business model by cutting the time it takes to put new designs on the market. Since ancient times, shoes have been designed and made using moulds known as lasts, which approximate the form of the human foot. Traditionally, lasts were made of wood, but now they are usually made from blocks of plastic milled by computer numerated control (CNC) machines. Timberland produces up to 120 lasts each year across its product brands. Until 2005, they were created and modified by hand, then shipped to manufacturing facilities in the Dominican Republic or to partners in Asia. Incorrect and outdated lasts were thrown away, unless they were newer ones made with polypropylene, which can be recycled. Now only 10 per cent of Timberlandâ€™s lasts are handmade. Reworks of the lasts, which are a frequent occurrence in handmade models, have been reduced by as much as 75 per cent. The companyâ€™s engineers can now visualise a last before it is used to make a shoe and, within three to four hours, they can make a rapid physical prototype. Material waste has been drastically reduced and the company has eliminated the chemical fillers it used for sculpting new shapes. For Timberland and a range of companies in multiple sectors, DSSP is arguably creating as much of a revolution in transforming costs and competitiveness as mass production did in Henry Fordâ€™s day.
Tr acy Ne wman
Sweden punches above its weight when it comes to internet innovation. Among the services it has spawned are Skype, the cheap international phone service, the first advertising-driven free phone service, and Bredbandsbolaget, Europe’s first national ten megabits-per-second broadband network. At the same time as Sweden was wiring up for fast broadband, its government was driving a tax-free desktop computer into every household. As a result, Sweden’s population of 9 million soon became the most connected community in the world. Internet innovation inevitably brings with it the tendency to sail close to the legal limits as well. Europe’s fourth biggest country hosted the highest-profile legal case in the field recently against The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest file-sharing site. And there are many similar cases that preceded it. One company has managed to jump into the fray at just the right time and with just the right ingredients. Spotify has created a free-of-charge internet jukebox that includes a huge catalogue of tracks – and has avoided most charges of copyright theft to date. The company, which counts one of the founders of Skype among its founders, has produced a piece of software that looks a bit like Apple’s iTunes. The only cost is a mandatory minute of advertising that users must listen to each hour. For £10 per month, you can skip the adverts and get exclusive content. The idea taps into a trend for people to exchange material online. Listeners can exchange their favourite playlists, which sounds dangerously like Napster, the pioneering peer-to-peer file-sharing service, that had the music industry in a legal lather at the turn of the century. Although Napster was eventually closed down, it and similar services forced music labels to face the digital future and, a decade later, music labels more or less accept Spotify as a valuable marketing tool. So much so that the online jukebox was able to pull off letting listeners hear U2’s recently released album a week early. Still, Spotify was forced to remove a sizable portion of tracks after it emerged they had been delivered by mistake after the artists in question had elected not to include their music in a streaming service. Clearly Spotify is intent on staying within the law. Like most innovation, Spotify is not a new idea. What’s new is that it has managed to jump on a trend at the right time – and legally. The number of people using the internet jukebox is growing by some 20,000 a day and now tops over a million.
Spotify has created a free-of-charge internet jukebox THAT INCLUDE A HUGE CATALOGUE OF TRACKS
Metallic architecture CAN bring environmental as well as aesthetic benefits When you think of leaning buildings, the Tower of Pisa is the one that normally springs to mind. But a new one being erected in Abu Dhabi, called Capital Gate, will completely outdo the Italian tower’s 4-degree incline with an 18-degree westward leaning. Meanwhile, in a deprived suburb of Sydney, local architect Enter Architecture has designed a new style of low-income housing. These two schemes are poles apart but they do have one thing in common: they both show ingenious use of metal in architecture. Metals have been part of construction for centuries – think of all those copper-roofed churches across Europe. And of course the Eiffel Tower was the first steel high-rise. But like everything, it seems, technological advances mean they can be used in evermore daring and unlikely ways that marry aesthetic and environmental considerations. Many metals have good recycling credentials and are also low maintenance.
Capital Gate’s steel and glass façade is held up using so-called diagrid technology, which is formed by creating triangular structures with diagonal support beams. This system has graced only a handful of landmark buildings, like New York City’s Hearst Tower, the Swiss Re building in London – both courtesy of Foster and Partners – and OMA’s China Central Television headquarters in Beijing, so it’s still something to get excited about. Gordon Affleck, design principal in the Middle East for RMJM, the designer of Capital Gate, said, “globally, diagrid structures have been emerging as a new design trend for tall buildings, with their powerful structural rationale and aesthetic potential.” Likewise, Enter’s creation for Redfern, Sydney, marries practical issues with aesthetics – although, some would argue, perhaps with a more worthwhile outcome. Enter architect Patrick Keene, who describes the suburb as home to “a mix
of indigenous people and several poorer communities, which have been laid destitute. In fact, an area named The Block is Sydney’s largest inner city aboriginal community – a rough place.” His concern was to make sure that Redfern’s traditional 19th-century workers’ cottage
steel cladding system. The 0.127mm-thick steel has been passed through a studio-built ‘crinkling machine’ and backed with a nonchlorofluorocarbon insulating foam to give structural rigidity to the steel as well as providing insulation for the buildings.
The level of curving and bending now possible with steel is enough to make an architect’s eyes water vernacular wasn’t overrun by a new aesthetic. Hence his pitched-roof concept, which aims to capture the spirit of the neighbourhood. “We intend to keep the materials earthy and a bit gritty, like self-ageing tin roofs, and wood and stone, with a few contemporary glass touches,” he explains. And because the roofs and walls are continuous, with the roof folding into the wall, the larger surface mass means rainwater collection is more efficient. “There is a serious water shortage problem here, so that provides a huge benefit,” he adds. Meanwhile, in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth, Thomas Heatherwick’s new work units for creative enterprises comprise a specially designed stainless
The level of curving and bending now possible with steel is enough to make an architect’s eyes water. These new properties of metal will also be on show in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan in central Asia. By the end of 2009, Astana will be graced with a new elliptical stadium, where all manner of entertainment from circuses to football matches, will take place under its sliding roof of coated steel. Kazakhs are no strangers to harsh weather conditions. Along with ferocious winds, the temperature range can spread from as low as minus 40 degrees centigrade in winter to plus 40 degrees centigrade in summer. Steel, unlike most other materials, will stand up to all this.
“You could do the stadium with concrete, but steel is thinner and more elegant,” says Murat Tabanlioglu of Istanbul architects Tabanlioglu. In Kokata, India, Piercy Conner also had to take into account the local climate. The practice’s Symhomes MK1 is an apartment block where each unit’s terrace is protected from the sun and torrential rains by perforated steel panels. Even in milder European climes, cunning façades have their uses. Denmark’s 3XN is behind internet bank Saxobank’s new headquarters in Copenhagen. The façade comprises alternate geometric shapes of glass and white aluminium. 3XN principal Kim Herforth Nielsen explains that, “while the north, darker side, is more glass, the south, sunny side has more aluminium”. And it’s not just steel that is proving popular. In fact, if one thinks of metal usage in terms of fashion, it seems that non-ferrous metals like aluminium, brass, zinc, tin and,
particularly, copper are also enjoying a resurgence. There’s a trend for ageing gracefully, which Keane’s Sydney housing nods to. Some architects are being seduced by patination – the way some of these metals change colour over their lifetime. Copper isn’t copper-coloured forever – particularly these days, with all the new variants available - and architects are getting better and better at making the most of its many hues. “It responds to the weather and its orientation,” says Gordon Talbot of Ian Ritchie Architects in London, who clad a Glaswegian housing association building in it. “So wet and windy weather gives it a very rich green colour.” But it’s not just the non-ferrous brigade’s colouring that is inspiring architects. These metals also tend to be malleable, lightweight and easy to maintain, and can claim some environmental friendliness as well. For instance, copper’s maintenance credentials are exemplary. “It doesn’t rust, and needs no maintenance,” explains Sandy Harrison, chairman of the UK committee of the European Copper in Architecture Campaign (ECAC). Zinc shares many of these qualities and has been particularly popular over the years in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Meanwhile, in the US,
zinc is a source for innovation. Hence New York architects Peter L Gluck & Partners’ Zinc House in Aspen, Colorado, a light and bright, open-plan rectangle on two storeys. Zinc now comes in five pre-weathered colours, and its composition has improved. These days, it’s mixed with titanium rather than tin, which is lightweight and long-lasting.
zinc is known for using the lowest amount of energy for extraction and manufacturing of any metal used in building, with low greenhouse emissions As for its eco-credentials, zinc is known for using the lowest amount of energy for extraction and manufacturing of any metal used in building, with low greenhouse emissions to boot. However, these non-ferrous metals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and there’s something of a tussle going on between the traditionalists and the futurists. Some younger architects are showing more of an interest in active materials – meaning new high-tech composites. Here we have material science competing with older materials because often, now, it helps if surfaces do something rather than just look pretty, be that gathering energy or self-cleaning. Keane, however, seems happy to exist in both worlds. Alongside his tin dwellings, he is now involved in designing a house in Sydney made out of carbon fibre, of all things.
Pushing the envelope
Carbon disclosure should be mandatory by 2010 By James Murdoch
Information is power. Recently I met members of Britain’s Olympic cycling team and was struck by the way they had used data to analyse and improve their performance. This team, a source of pride for the nation, focuses relentlessly on the pursuit of measurable, second-by-second improvements – the difference between winning and losing. Information has turned them into winners. We have also seen in science that the very act of collaborating, of publishing research, has led to advances that could never have been planned. Human beings are endlessly inventive. Right now, there is nowhere innovation is more needed than in our fight to end the catastrophic
consequences of man-made climate change. At Imperial College in London, at the Centre for Climate Change Research, biologists, physicists, meteorologists and anthropologists are working together, not only to get a better understanding of the problem, but also to develop solutions such as photovoltaic technology, made out of synthetic polymers, which will soon enable us to recover the sun’s energy from every surface – including windows. Some companies are breaking the mould by collaborating with rivals, or sectors that are new to them: for example, IT businesses working with car companies to devise a low-carbon automotive industry. Disclosure can spur innovation. The Carbon
Disclosure Project (CDP) collates data about the greenhouse gas emissions of many of the world’s largest companies. Now in its sixth year, it has published emissions data for 1,550 groups, representing US$57,000 billion (€45,200 billion or £38,700 billion) of investor assets under management and accounting for a quarter of the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Much of that data had never been collected before. At a time when some companies emit more greenhouse gases than entire nations, we need transparency about emissions. Shareholders need disclosure to understand risk. Employees deserve it. Partners will expect it. Ultimately it is in the interests of all companies to know their carbon footprints and to be open about how they manage them. This is a vital step towards reducing risk and aspiring to more than mere sustainability. Results can be surprising. Wal-Mart, after joining the CDP, found that the refrigerants it used in its grocery stores made up a larger percentage of its footprint than its truck fleet. It is working on a solution. My colleagues at Fox Home Entertainment measured the climate impact of a DVD’s manufacture and distribution, which led to almost 20,000 tonnes of carbon reduction. The CDP has shown that internationally consistent disclosure not only helps to pinpoint risk but also to generate opportunities. Should not all listed companies, not just big ones, do it? At this time of economic crisis, the world is looking for leadership and the UK has the chance to lead on the climate issue by streamlining carbon disclosure and making it a listing requirement for companies. The government has said that, by 6 April 2012, the secretary of state
for energy and climate change will either mandate reporting by companies of their greenhouse gas emissions or explain to parliament why not. But is this enough? Saying we can tackle climate change without public company disclosure is akin to thinking obesity can be solved if people do not weigh themselves. Increasing the regulation of emissions, through mechanisms such as the carbon reduction commitment, may force business into disclosing and trading emissions, but it will not integrate carbon risk on to the business bottom line. We need an internationally consistent framework tied to listing requirements to achieve this, as advocated by the Aldersgate Group, a coalition of companies and environmental groups. The UK government is afraid this will be a burden, but many of the best companies already do it. They are finding cost savings and opportunities. As we move to a cap and trade scheme, we need to be prepared for the new lower-carbon economy that can emerge from the global financial crisis. To make significant reductions in greenhouse gases it is essential to engage the private sector as soon as possible, to drive the world towards that new economy. The government should go further in the vital area of company emissions measurement and reporting. The Climate Change Act came into force in the UK at the end of 2008 and gives us an opportunity to commit to make reporting of carbon emissions mandatory by 2010 at the very latest. There is no time to lose. The writer is chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia and the article was first published in the Financial Times
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