May 6, 2008

Another project I was able to hear about dealt with the use of incorporating communication technologies into poorer countries to help them develop. They started by talking about Somalia and how only 10% of the population uses cell phones. If more of the population where able to utilize this technology they would be much more capable of competing with the rest of the world and on top of it are cheap and eco-friendly.

To get a basis of what to do and the effects it can have, the story Kenya has to tell is a good place to look. It has made great progress in communication technologies. The usage of mobile phones is growing faster in Africa than anywhere in the rest of the world. In 2003 Kenya had the fairest and best attended presidential election in history because of the use of the mobile phones. They are the example we must use.

Wireless internet and other information technologies have to major benefits. They are both easy to use and incorporate and do not cost a whole lot. Dr. Sugata Mitra is an advocate for integrating technology in schools. In different cases children to able to work together and teach themselves and multitude of things. Out now is the $100 laptop designed for kids. It makes the learning process fun for them with basic programs like internet explorer, basic computer tools, online chatting, and uses visual symbols so people in other countries can use them.

In order to use these technologies though, electricity is needed. Somalia is not connected to electricity. To solve this problem there is a program that teaches the kids how to make their own solar panels to obtain the energy they need. This helps to educate kids about being more sustainable in their daily lifestyles.

From this it is concluded that people are the fuel for change. Change won't just happen on its own, people need to be involved from all around the world and it is the job of the educated ones to teach the uneducated ones so we as humans have more power to make a greater change.

It is incredible what can happen when the world works together as a whole to help each other. This can be related to any level. An individual may be strong but two individuals together can make each other stronger. Three, even stronger yet and so on and so forth. Now imagine this on a worldwide scale and the potential we posses to make great accomplishments. The people of the world must utilize each other to make everyone stronger as a whole. One country may be strong on its own but when everyone works together all parties can grow much stronger than any individual country could ever do alone. People must realize we are all simply humans and nothing else and we need to work together as one to make the changes necessary in today's world.

Ensuring Environ. Sus.

One of the projects I was able to listen to addressed the Millennium Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability. The project started by telling of the slums in Sangali. The issue that was addressed was the misuse of toilet facilities. It was very surprising to find out what kind of an impact the misuse of a mere toilet facility could have such an impact on the community. People had to use it at night in fear of being harmed or harassed for going there. I was so surprised that a poor facility, a structure of stone and mortar, something that has only minor connections with the community could have an impact like this on the community. Finally residents began to complain about the problems it was creating and someone came forth to address the problem. After surveying and studying the land a proposal arose that involved the entire community in the new construction. I was even more shock at this since it was a bathroom that ended up bringing this community closer. A BATHROOM!!!! It really goes to show what kind of good can be done when people put their minds to it.

The Millennium Development Goals aim to address the needs of the world's poorest by 2050 and to address sustainability in their rebuilding process.

Pratima Joshi was and example of someone who tries to target needs such as the Sangali slums. She works on an organization addressing housing projects. She has mapped out slum areas to find where there was more need. Joshi is not alone though. James Garthe is and engineer at Penn St. and has worked to find a way to gather plastic and make it a fuel. He has found a way to compress plastic and replace coal with it. Dr. Jha of Sulabh has worked to find a way to reuse toilet water by exposing it to UV rays to kill some of the bacteria.

Researching my own project has taught me a lot but I have not been able to view it from another point of view. Getting to see this project as an audience member helped give me a new perspective on how to address environmental sustainability. It really isn't all about using solar panels and buying sustainable products (though these are good solutions). Helping people to live cleaner lives is another way to introduce the topic of sustainability around the world. It is the same idea with future generations, get them living cleanly right from the start so it is a part of their lives. Show them that it should be and is the way to live.

March 2, 2008

Late Prompt

This blog prompt is coming in a little late but better late than never. The blog I am writing on is the one asking what we would do if we were released of the constraints of the architecture school. I've sat on this question for a little while now and I'm still not quite sure on how to answer it. I have gone through a number of things that I might consider doing having been freed of any "constraints" but nothing has really sparked in my mind. Then it occurred to me that maybe this question isn't just a blog prompt for me but is really saying something about me. Maybe the fact that I cannot simply answer this question is an answer in its own. But the problem is what is my inability to answer this question actually saying about me?

Now I am by no means any good at interpreting deep questions and the like. Maybe it means I still have to find myself because I am not sure what I would truly want to do if I were free to express myself how I'd like but again, this deep thinking is not so much for me.

The next question seems to be where do I go from here? If I don't know what it is that I want then how do I find it. No, I do not need to go on some enlightening retreat that finds the inner me (yuck). It appears as of right now I should not have an answer but it should simply be food for thought. Maybe I should just keep that question of "what do I really want to do?" in the back of my mind just so as I'm aware of it. I guess the only real answer I can give to myself is that I just need to keep looking.

I wonder now about how this relates to me as an architecture student. Is this saying a lot or nothing at all? All of a sudden this blog prompt has turned into a barrage of questions of which I can answer none. Maybe, just maybe some little bird will fly by one of these days and tell me but until that happens I suppose my search continues.

February 24, 2008

Sustainability

Today, sustainability has come to the foreground of building construction, no longer being a side thought but what truly drives our actions in architecture. It isn’t just about saving animal habitats or trying to preserve natural spaces it has come to the point where we need to do this for ourselves, for our own survival. We have come to a point where we are putting a huge strain on this earth because of our consumption habits and it will not be able to continue this type of treatment which could potentially result in the destruction of mankind. It goes farther than making buildings that are more efficient but the entire process that goes into their creation from the building sites and materials and the technologies they use to maintaining the building to where the materials came from and how they got there. More and more details are being taken into consideration than ever before because this has turned into something concerning our survival as a whole.

This is why I really wanted to choose this topic. The other choices are very serious issues, yes, but to me building for sustainability is looking to help ourselves survive. The topic of AIDS and HIV are very serious issues that should be addressed but more and more people are beginning to realize we are very much quite possibly pushing our earth past its limits to which it can support us and something needs to be done. World hunger for example affects and enormous number of people but the topic I have chosen affects all humans.

http://www.nps.gov/dsc/dsgncnstr/gpsd/toc.html

This site advocates the importance of sustainable design for human survival. We need to bring people more in touch with the natural environment so we can all see first had why this is such an important issue. In one of the chapters on this site it talks about park services trying to think of ways to further incorporate people into the natural world which it protects. They want to use these parks as a teaching tool that people can walk away from with a new viewpoint on how we treat the environment and how we really should be. People will not change something they know nothing about.

Many people see and hear about not just buildings but products as well being produced in such a way as to reduce their environmental impact but those with no true knowledge as to why this is being done see that these designers are doing something nice for the environment which they know is good but really don’t understand the real reason for doing so. People need to be taught as to why exactly it is good past the obvious reasons such as clean air and water. Clean water means healthy organisms that live in the water which means all the different life forms in that habitat can survive and thrive which in turn means the entire system as a whole can thrive and continue to produce the goods we take from it. The mass depletion of even one species of marine organism can disrupt the entire system as a whole and potentially cause the depletion of multiple species. This chain reaction can easily come back to hurt us and this goes for any natural habitat anywhere in the world looking at both plants and animals and any resources we as humans utilize. Still even, it goes even farther than that. Global warming is causing glaciers and other ice formations to melt which it is predicted that in the future our sea levels will rise and begin to cover up a lot of land currently inhabited by humans.

The impact humans are having on this earth is tremendous and not in a positive way. We all need to change how we think but in order to do that we must learn about it. This is why I chose this topic, so I can learn about these things and be able to teach people around me about them too.

Yes it can be hard to keep a positive attitude when dealing with this issue. Looking at all the negative impacts humans are having on the earth and what that implies for our future can be very disheartening and cause for a great loss of hope but we mustn’t look at what will happen if we don’t change but what can happen if we do. We must look at how sustainable design will benefit us and use those as our goals for which to strive for. That is the reason for some of the songs I have chosen. It is only a small compilation of what describes me and my attitude toward my topic but they all look toward the brighter side of a dark situation.

Joy to the World- Three Dog Night
Spirit in the Sky- Norman Greenbaum
Listen to the Music- The Doobie Brothers
Centerfold- J Geils Band
That song from the mupets “Mahna Mahna?

February 13, 2008

Affordable Housing

One problem that cities all across the country today face is the problem of affordable housing. Everywhere across the country individuals and families are unable to find homes they can afford which becomes a big problem in their lives for more than just the obvious reasons. Finding a job can become a very difficult task and if it is a family not having a home is unhealthy for the kids to grow up with. According to fhfund.org there are some 300,000 homes that are struggling to pay their housing costs here in Minneapolis. It also states that over 9,000 people in Minneapolis are homeless including over 2,000 children. It is obvious that this is a real and serious issue we face here in the Twin Cities.

Building new homes and saying they will be available to people with low incomes isn't quite as easy as it sounds. There are some factors that come into play including building costs and even finding land to build on. I am by far no expert in home construction but to me it seems that the construction costs can potentially be greatly reduced. With all of the waste that the world produces today there must be materials from all of that which can be reused. Plastic, for example, will many times be placed in landfills only to sit and not even decompose. There must be some way that all of the plastic can be reused in some way in the construction of a new home. If people could find what good materials are being thrown away and instead used them in constructing new homes costs would undoubtedly drop.

Another factor is finding places to build new homes. One solution I've thought of is for cities to look at the usage of all their land and see what plots are no longer in use. Many times there will be old buildings that were once in service but have long since been abandoned and sit there falling apart. Why not take this land back and use it for building some affordable housing? The materials could be reused from the old building or better yet if the building is still in good condition why not just remodel it and save the money on all the construction fees that would otherwise make the home not so affordable. You would be recycling the land and the materials that are already at the site also reducing transportation costs.


Below I have found some organizations who are involved in affordable housing.

http://www.fhfund.org

http://www.tchabitat.org/

http://www.affordablehousinginstitute.org/

http://www.nahn.com/


Fun thing for the week

http://www.funnyjunk.com/movies/1154/Hip+Hop+Parrot/

February 8, 2008

So, this is my very first blog and I don't know how people do all that fancy stuff with their profiles with the pictures and backgrounds and all that fancy schmancy junk...but I want it. Maybe Andy Goldsworthy could give me some creative design ideas for my blog. I could try emailing him but he is out all by himself so often I'm not sure he'd ever be around to check his email. Besides, I think he is kinda strange. I mean, he goes off into the woods by himself and makes these artworks, most of which are soon after destroyed by nature. Don't get me wrong, the art is pretty cool but he gives off this strange I'm a loner and my mind is off in never-never land were I can be with fairies and boys in tights who fly around fighting pirates vibe. Some may define this as "creep". Like I said though, his art is cool and I'm sure he is a nice guy and all but I think the guy is a bit weird.

Moving along to the blog theme of flow and transformation in the city, Andy would not do so well if he tried to bring his work into the city. He spends most of his time by himself in the woods or on a beach so then for him to be surrounded by hundreds of people with trees in sidewalk planters and quite a large collection of noises I think his head might possibly explode. But for the people who do their artwork in cities, some of it is really quite awsome. Here are some examples.

http://www.rense.com/general67/street.htm

http://www.streetsy.com/

http://www.xmarkjenkinsx.com/outside.html

http://www.ekosystem.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4689

Sometimes even something that seems so wrong live vandalism can bring a bit of humor to life in the city.

http://franksemails.com/pics/worlds-best-graffiti/

I have decided to end my blogs with something that will hopefully make people smile. Here is my first one.


So remember when Ozayr showed us those funny answers on our first quiz? Check these ones out.

http://www.jimmyr.com/blog/Funny_Student_Exam_Answers_91_2007.php