Wind belts and eco-cities

I'm going to the monthly Deeper Green meeting (a committee of the USGBC MA Chapter), and one of the traditional things we do is to share news about things we've learned recently regarding sustainability, usually in terms of "cutting edge" technology. Which I have mixed feelings about.

On the one hand, I love a good widget; I love sharing nifty ideas and new technologies. And I think that we need new technologies to deal with climate change.

On the other hand, I do not think widgets alone will save us, and I think that as designers, it is short-sighted to focus only on the latest cool technology that can be slapped on a facade to make a building "green." We need to think about the bigger issues, the whole system, beyond the project itself. Fortunately, the annual symposium that the group organizes does a much better job at looking at bigger picture issues, and reaches a larger audience. (And I also look for ideas to share with the group that aren't exactly "cutting edge.")

Also, I am dreadfully behind the times. My contribution for tonight is the windbelt, a device that generates electricity when wind causes a taut membrane to vibrate, which vibrations make magnets move between coils of metal, which creates electricity. Very, very neat, fairly low-tech idea. Which was first news back in 2007.

I first found out about it reading this recent article on Urban Omnibus, which covers several really really neat ways to retrofit existing buildings to take advantage of solar and wind energy, add vegetation for cooling, and add water on rooftops for insulation and/or cooling.

More on the story behind the invention of the wind belt; the inventor, Shawn Frayne, was inspired by the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Here is the official company website, which, sadly, is impossible to read unless you have Flash installed AND have the ability to read Flash content. Which I do. But I would much rather use a website that works like a real website.

I think for my non-technologically focused contribution, I will bring this article from Treehugger, a brief summary of some of the issues surrounding "eco-cities" (and also other types of master planned places). The chief concerns are: are they scalable, and do they integrate into their context, or remain insular pockets within the greater urban fabric?

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