Nature's success (despite us) inspires green-building mimics

If you think plants and animals have a lot to teach us, consider their next field: real estate development.

A small but growing number of architects, building engineers and scientists who design building products are looking to animals and plants for inspiration to address the challenge of being kind to the Earth while retooling the manmade environment.

Wild creatures have been adapting to their natural worlds longer than us and may have answers to the riddle of building shelter while conserving resources. And avoiding pollution. And slowing down the burning of coal and oil for electricity and so many modern comforts.

An Oregon State University chemist studied mussels clinging to rocks at a Newport-area beach and found a naturally occurring chemical model for a new adhesive to replace the formaldehyde that commonly emits toxic fumes in kitchen cabinets.

Farther afield, in Zimbabwe, where searing summers boost sky-high air-conditioning costs, architects looked to termites. They found that the tall dirt termite mounds we see only on the Discovery channel may well be situated in 100-plus-degree environments but have interior tunnels, top to bottom, averaging 87 degrees Fahrenheit.

That would be called passive air conditioning, in which hot air is naturally expelled, trapping cool air within. Buildings can do that, the architects figured, so they designed and built a shopping mall/office center that cools itself, mimicking the mound. Read on


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Bringing Efficiency to the Infrastructure

IN the mid-1990s, the Internet took off because its technological time had come. Years of steady progress in developing more powerful and less expensive computers, Web software and faster communications links finally came together.

A similar pattern is emerging today, experts say, for what is being called smart infrastructure — more efficient and environmentally friendlier systems for managing, among other things, commuter traffic, food distribution, electric grids and waterways. This time, the crucial technological ingredients include low-cost sensors and clever software for analytics and visualization, as well as computing firepower.

Wireless sensors can now collect and transmit information from almost any object — for instance, roads, food crates, utility lines and water pipes. And the improved software helps interpret the huge flow of information, so raw data becomes useful knowledge to monitor and optimize transport and other complex systems. The efficiency payoff, experts say, should translate into big reductions in energy used, greenhouse gases emitted and natural resources consumed. Read on


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Perth first Australian city to get digital radio

PERTH's clear autumn morning was matched by clearer radio reception today as Perth became the first Australian city to tune into digital radio.

Nine Perth commercial radio stations - Mix 94.5, 92.9, Nova 93.7, 6PR, 96 fm, 6ix, Radar, Pink Radio and Novanation - today created radio history by broadcasting the first permanent DAB+ digital radio services in Australia.

More than 90 per cent of the Perth population is able to access the new free-to-air digital radio.

The move is seen as the biggest innovation in radio since the introduction of FM in the 1970s, says the chief executive officer of Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner.

"Digital radio is the radio you know and love plus new programming such as Austereo's Radar and Pink Radio and DMG's Novanation and Koffee,'' she says. Read on


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Traditional owners agree to Kimberley gas project

The way is being cleared for a giant gas project in the Kimberley.
In a billion-dollar deal, traditional owners have backed plans for a gas precinct in the region.
Woodside says it will push its partners to process gas in the Kimberleys from the Browse Basin fields.
The landmark deal could also entice the Japanese company Inpex back into Western Australia from Darwin.

Read on


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Solar System Investment Analysis Tool

 

This calculator determines if an investment in a solar energy system is financially viable.

The calculator compares the option of putting your money in the bank at a given interest rate or investing in a solar system.

Solar Power Investment calculator.xls (31.00 kb)


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Solar Panel Energy Calculation Information

Solar panels are classified according to their rated power output in Watts. This rating is the amount of power the solar panel would be expected to produce in 1 peak sun hour. Different geographical locations receive different quantities of average peak sun hours per day. In Australia, the figures range from as low as 3 in Tasmania to over 6 in areas of QLD, NT and WA.

As an example, in areas of the Hunter Valley in NSW, the yearly average is around 5.6. The monthly figures for this area range from below 4.0 in June to above 6.5 in December. This means that an 80W solar panel would produce around 320W per day in June and around 520W per day in December, but based on the average figure of 5.6, it would produce a yearly average of around 450W per day.

Solar panels can be wired in series or in parallel to increase voltage or current respectively. The rated terminal voltage of a solar panel is usually around 17.0 volts, but through the use of a regulator, this voltage is reduced to around 13 or 14 volts as required for battery charging.

Solar panel output is affected by the cell operating temperature. Panels are rated at a nominal temperature of 25 degrees Celcius. The output of a solar panel can be expected to vary by 2.5% for every 5 degrees variation in temperature. As the temperature increases, the output decreases. With this in mind, it is worth noting that, if the panels are very cool due to cloud cover, and the sun bursts through the cloud, it is possible to exceed the rated output of the panel. Keep this in mind when sizing your solar regulator.

 


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What's Your Solar Potential? - RoofRay

Calculate your solar potential, get solar panel installation quotes and hear from the community. This is a really neat functional mashup of googlemaps technology, and real-world use that has implications outside of just the solar industry. Pretty neat concept overall. Visit the site

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Western Australian Project to Break Land Speed Record

The Bullet Project aims to break the world land speed record by travelling in excess of 1000 mile per hour.

The Bullet Project

 


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Futuristic Skyline

Click here for more pics like this


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Coastal Map Project for Western Australia as Sea Levels Threaten

WA's coastal shoreline will be mapped in 3-D in order to ensure that future coastal developments are not put at risk by rising sea levels. The six month project will identify vulnerable areas and will cost 1.6 million dollars.

 


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