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Pay your subscription or watch it burn.

The big question today in Tennessee is whether or not libertarian fire services should be an option. Last week firefighters watched a house burn because the owners had neglected to pay the 75$ annual subscription fee for fire protection. The optional aspect of fire coverage comes from the fact that the property that burnt down is not within the city limits where the citizens automatically pay for fire protection with their taxes, its a rural property outside the city that provides users outside South Fulton with the option to ‘opt in’ to rural fire service by paying a 75$ annual subscription. In this case the property owner hadn’t done so.  Thus leading to the scene wherein the firefighters were on site to protect the neighbours but did nothing to protect the owners.

What do you think? Should there a be a good Samaritan clause? Or is the fire department and town right to let the place burn? A debate has been rageing on the Internet about whether the city was right to let the house burn or not. What do you think?

Kevin Williamson writes at the National Review Online:

The situation is this: The city of South Fulton’s fire department, until a few years ago, would not respond to any fires outside of the city limits — which is to say, the city limited its jurisdiction to the city itself, and to city taxpayers. A reasonable position. Then, a few years ago, a fire broke out in a rural area that was not covered bythe city fire department, and the city authorities felt bad about not being able to do anything to help. So they began to offer an opt-in service, for the very reasonable price of $75 a year. Which is to say: They greatly expanded the range of services they offer. The rural homeowners were, collectively, better off, rather than worse off. Before the opt-in program, they had no access to afire department. Now they do.

And, for their trouble, the South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before. The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates — and the problems they create for themselves are their own. These free-riders have no more right to South Fulton’s firefighting services than people in Muleshoe, Texas, have to those of NYPD detectives.

The Mayor makes his case over at NWTN TODAY.

Vowell explained that the property owner was not a paying member of the rural fire subscription service offered to county residents by the City of South Fulton. He said as per city policy, established by city ordinance, the call was declined and the city’s fire department could not respond.
“I have no problem with the way any of my people handled the situation. They did what they were supposed to do,” he said. “It’s a regrettable situation any time something like this happens.”
He said the South Fulton Fire Department did respond to a request to protect the property of the adjacent property owner, who is a member of the rural fire subscription service.
Vowell said county residents do not have guaranteed fire service since there is no countywide fire department to cover rural areas, but many municipalities offer rural fire coverage to residents in specified coverage areas for a nominal annual fee. South Fulton’s fee is $75.
However, Vowell said residents in those rural areas cannot be forced to pay the fee and it’s their decision whether to accept the coverage.

Vowell said people always think they will never be in a situation where they will need rural fire protection, but he said City of South Fulton personnel actually go above and beyond in trying to offer the service. He said the city mails out notices to customers in the specified rural coverage area, with coverage running from July 1 of one year to July 1 the next year.
At the end of the enrollment month of July, the city goes a step further and makes phone calls to rural residents who have not responded to the mail-out.
“These folks were called and notified,” Vowell said. “I want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to get it and be aware it’s available. It’s been there for 20 years, but it’s very important to follow up.”
Mayor Crocker added, “It’s my understanding with talking with the firefighters that these folks had received their bill and they had also contacted them by phone.”

Montreal 2025

A copy of the Montreal 2025 part of the city of Montreal’s counter proposal to Transport Quebec’s $1.5-billion Turcot redevelopment project.
Présentation médias_2010-04-21

Panel Gallery

Neighbourhood News: Thursday June 18

A Royal Row

You may or may not be aware that recently the Prince of Whales sent a letter to the Qatari Royal Family requesting that they withdraw the plan they had previously selected for a site called the Chelsea Barracks  and take it to open consultation to come up with a plan that was in his opinion more suited to the character of the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Qataris then took the stunning step of not just revising the plan, but ditching the whole thing. Much to the delight of some… the prince and most of the surrounding residents… but to the absolute horror of others… architectural firm that lost the business, headed by Lord Rogers of Riverside (an unelected member of the British Government) and other modernists in love with the design. Now the screaming has begun, and the Prince is being charged with overstepping his authority by the deposed Lord Rogers.

“The prince always goes round the back to wield his influence, using phone calls or, in the case of the Chelsea Barracks, a private letter. It is an abuse of power because he is not willing to debate. He has made his representations two and a half years late and anyone else would have been shown the door. We should examine some of the ethics of this situation. Someone who is unelected, will not debate but will use the power bestowed by his birthright must be questioned.”

The Super Creative Plan by Lord Rogers

The Super Creative Plan by Lord Rogers

Personally while I can understand the need to bitch by the looser in this case it should be noted that the first master plan by Lord Rogers wasn’t exactly a gem of public consultation, and didn’t have the support of the surrounding residents. Plus to some it extent what good is it to be a prince if you can not write a letter telling other Royal Families what you think about things? Then Lord Rogers goes on to insult the Qataris by suggesting that “the Qataris never sorted out the difference between royalty and government.” Suggesting that they somehow had no idea that Prince Charles isn’t actually in charge of anything, that the Prince tricked them into thinking that he had some sort of power. Right…. so Lord Rogers is suggesting that the Qataris have no idea how the legal system and system of governance works in England? Because they don’t have TVs and Access to the Internet? Because they don’t have their own giant legal team who knows this stuff? PLEASE!  Try to accept your loss like a real Lord, Mr Rogers. Have a little dignity, and try not to insult the intelligence of one of the largest development corporations in the world. Or its unlikely they will be knocking on your door for any new contracts any time soon, and as one of the articles puts it, “Rogers has been paid millions, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him.”

The Wall Street Journal

Prince Charles Tears Down Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood

charlesIn front of the Palace of Westminster, the so-called Mother of Parliaments that is the heart of the British democratic system, stands a well-tended bronze statue of broad-belted, big-booted Oliver Cromwell. He was the “Lord Protector” who ruled during the short-lived republic that followed the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I. Cromwell might be excused a wry smile right now because another royal Charles is, some say, challenging the dearly held British principle of a constitutional monarchy. And all because of a row over architecture. Prince Charles, a vehement antimodernist, is up to his old tricks again.

The row has now escalated, with an English Baron — Lord Rogers of Riverside, better known as the architect Richard Rogers — calling for an official tribunal to examine the role of Prince Charles in state affairs. Mr. Rogers is incandescent with rage, and no wonder. It has emerged that the prince personally wrote to the Qatari prime minister (himself of royal blood) to ensure that a £6 billion ($9.85 billion) Rogers-designed housing development in the upmarket London enclave of Chelsea was withdrawn by its developer.

That developer, Qatari Diar, happens to be a company owned by the Qatari royal family. Prince has therefore spoken unto prince, ignoring the usual planning-approval process, the British government — everybody. Charles’s letter — the substance of which has been leaked, though not the actual text — decried the Rogers design. The neoclassical style of another architect, Quinlan Terry, was much more preferable, Prince Charles said. Last week Qatari Diar duly dropped Mr. Rogers like a hot potato, just as the architect’s design for the former Chelsea Barracks site was being recommended for approval by both local planners and the various national architecture and conservation agencies. Read More


Only Charles has kept his dignity on Chelsea Barracks

The quiet dignity maintained by Lord Rogers for the past few months while all and sundry speculated about his doomed Chelsea Barracks scheme was comprehensively shattered this week, as you may have seen reported here and there.

In a hissy fit of architectural proportions, His Lordship took to the airwaves on Tuesday to accuse Prince Charles of “unconstitutional meddling”. Rogers added insult to injury in that day’s Guardian, muttering about “abuses of power” and calling for a public inquiry to examine the Prince’s role in constitutional society. Harsh words from the mild-mannered Rogers, but given the way in which he and his practice have been treated on this perhaps you can’t blame him for throwing his toys out of the pram in such a fashion.

The design team was, I am told, assured of its position on the scheme by Qatari Diar no fewer than ten days before they unceremoniously withdrew the proposals from planning. Rogers was informed of the withdrawal just a single hour before the rest of us were. Curiously though, the Evening Standard knew enough to predict such a thing would happen the evening before. This has been a story dictated by private briefings from all manner of interested parties. No wonder none of us had the faintest idea what was going on.

One thing is clear, though. Throughout it all, Prince Charles has remained tight-lipped as to the nature of his “intervention”, as that is what we are calling it. An intervention is something that an alcoholic’s family and friends carry out to stop them from abusing their health. Perhaps the Prince sees himself as the kindly, benevolent figure preventing Chelsea from taking to the intoxicating liquer of modernism. We don’t know. Clarence House has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny any involvement by the Prince on Chelsea Barracks. As far as I am aware, the Prince has not mentioned either Lord Rogers or the development by name at any point in this whole furore. Read More


Richard Rogers Gets Fired

Architect Richard Rogers is in a steaming bate. He’s really very cross. There he stands, on the cusp of 76, a long and windy career in modernism behind him.

He has been feted by breathless peers and is quite the most modish and prosperous of intellectual Center Lefties in Western Europe. And yet he has just had his year ruined by two royal families.

Stamp, stamp, stamp go two little booties. Curses hurtle through the air. Kyboshed by hereditary princes! Lord Rogers of Riverside, an unelected member of the British Parliament, cries that it is an undemocratic outrage.

Having worked for months on a 3-billion-pound building proposal in central London’s former Chelsea Barracks, Rogers learned last week that the developers have pulled out of the glass-and-steel scheme at the 11th hour.

Why? Because Britain’s Prince Charles did not like the look of the thing.

The prince, whose traditionalist views are well known, wrote to one of the development’s leading financiers. We do not know the exact wording because the letter was private. It is understood, however, to have expressed horror at the aesthetic damage the shiny, angular Rogers design would have done to one of London’s more architecturally conservative quarters.

The recipient of the letter, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, is not only prime minister and foreign affairs minister of the Arab emirate of Qatar but also a member of that prosperous territory’s royal family. We can only imagine what happened. A flunky, bowing low, intones: “A hand-written letter for you, O Sheikh, written on the notepaper of Clarence House, London residence of the Prince of Wales.” The Sheikh strokes his luxuriant moustachings, plops another date into his mouth and licks his sticky fingertips before breaking the seal on the English Basildon Bond envelope. Read More


Chelsea Barracks Developer Draws up New Shortlist

Chelsea_Barracks_site_D3ADAChelsea Barracks developer Qatari Diar is preparing to invite a dozen practices including SOM, Allies & Morrison, Edaw and Demetri Porphyrios to pitch for its revised masterplan.

Firms will shortly be asked by the Middle Eastern developer if they are interested in coming up with alternatives to the abandoned Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners design with a view to selecting a shortlist of no more than six practices and choosing a winner by the end of the year, BD understands.

But the architects will be under pressure to refuse to take part after Labour MP Ken Purchase tabled an early day motion on Tuesday calling for a boycott.

Qatari Diar has approached consultants including Cabe and the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment for unpaid advice. And a source close to the developer said it was keen to “crack on” with a new scheme.

“It is on the cusp of approaching firms to form a long list of possible bidders,” the source said. “Some will say no from the off but others will have a look.”

Despite its ejection from the project, Rogers Stirk Harbour is believed to have been paid between £10 million and £20 million for its work on the scheme, originally for developer Christian Candy’s CPC Group.

“Rogers has been paid millions, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him,” the source added. Read More.

The Mobile Phone Pandemic

Phone-VirusesCity’s exist because of people, lots and lots of people. Otherwise lets face it it would just be a town. When you have lots and lots of people heathcare and sickness are a concern. Concern over infection control and pandemics has been on our minds lately, but how do you simulate a pandemic?  Clinical trials are not exactly an option.

Well leave it to a nation where mobile phones are more common then watches to figure out another way to use them. In a few months a very contagious disease will start to spread through an elementary school in Japan. An unwitting child will act as patient zero and the infection will spread as the students attend class and walk through the halls.

In just a matter of time the sickness will spread through the student body and beyond, parents, officials, bus drivers, the shop keeper on the corner. Officials will try to stop the epidemic and save the school, but it all comes down to their mobile phone.

Its a virtual sickness funded by the Japanese government using mobile phone technology and implemented by a subsidiary of Softbank Corp. The company will pick an elementary school with about 1,000 students and everyone will be provided with a cellphone equipted with a GPS tracker so that thier movements, and the spread of the disease can be recorded and tracked.

The system will provide a simulation on how an infection spreads and the governement also hopes to test using the GPS data to backtrack on the spread of the disease and send people text messages warning them to go and see a doctor as they might have been infected. A system that it hopes could be used in the future in the event of actual epidemic.


Andres Duany's Editorial Brawls and Agricultural New Urbanism


New Urbanism’s Andrés Duany is no stranger to editorial brawling, back in December I followed a progression of stories sparked by a his unveiling of a 64-point litany of mistakes that have been made by British architects and planners over the last 50 years. He charged architects with being infantile and too focused on ego and prestige, that they were “heedless of technical and social dysfunction and widespread lack of popularity” of their modernist designs. Well architects are a pretty sensitive bunch, and the flood gates opened; modernists struck back with an equally harsh criticism of Duany’s new urbanism. In the opening line of an article titled Thou shalt not follow Duany’s architectural gospel he is called the ‘Billy Graham of American architecture.”  The modernists claim that Duany with his strict guidelines for design and faux traditional styling lead to settlements more tailored to ‘wannabe Stepford Wives’ then real people. Next came an article by Stephen Bayle, and the gloves really came off when Bayle wrote  a scathing review of Poundbury, Duany’s British version of Seaside.

“To visit Poundbury is to be delivered to the furniture floor of a provincial department store in 1954, translated into architecture. It is fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute.”  Then there were some salvo’s back by David Brussat who stated that “Prince Charles and Andrés Duany are making it harder for the modernists to whistle past the graveyard.”

Then today I came across another article in ARCADE where the magazine was good enough to reprint an exchange between Trevor Boddy and Andrés Duany from the editorial section of the Globe and Mail.  Duany has been selected to lead a design team that is heading up a plan by the Century Group for the Southlands project in the Vancouver suburb  of South Delta. Mr Boddy is most definitely not impressed with Duany’s plan and starts off an exchange between the two of them.


The 56th Street Interface A lake fronting on 56th Street will form the foreground of a pleasing vista over the open farmland. The lake will function as a reservoir for natural drainage and irrigation water. image courtesy of the southlands project — www.southlandsintransition.ca

I have to admit that while I generally agree with the principles of New Urbanism in terms of compact walkable communities after reading this exchange I don’t really understand how Duany’s position and plan for this town is in fact urban.

“Southlands, which is designed specifically to embody food self-sufficiency, devotes 42% of the land to agriculture and keeps 26% open for other purposes. That kind of diversity — and not a crude single standard — is what authentic urbanism calls for.”

42% of the land for agriculture? This sounds more like a farming town then an urban environment. He then goes on to specify that residences will have a significant amount of this space FOR agriculture. Of course specifying that the open space in your back yard is for urban agriculture does not by any way shape or means guarantee that it will actually be USED for agriculture. Sure food self sufficiency is an important direction for cities in the future but to assume that everyone is actually going to plant and tend a full garden in these yards is just a little naive. As a general rule people are just way too lazy for that, what happens when homeowners don’t decide to make use of these agricultural spaces? My guess is that it looks a lot like a lawn. Furthermore what is stopping existing suburban municipalities from claiming that they meet these qualifications for new urbanism, just convert those vanity lawns into gardens and you’ll be well on your way to new urbanism.

I know  I am over simplifying things  but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark . Take a look at the linked articles, decide for yourself, and please comment  if you have a different opinion. I would love to hear other perspectives on how you think we should build our cities. I think I should mention , I don’t think that the Southlands project is bad, it looks like a pretty nice place to live, I just dispute the statement that it is urban. It looks a lot like my grandmother’s town.

Not everyone agrees with me though; to read the perspective of people who love Southlands new  urbanist project go here: http://www.southlandsintransition.ca/

Advertising in the public realm

“Advertising physically separates us from the lived experience of the urban fabric, however ugly or beautiful.” Joseph Rykwert

An article in The Architects Journal about billbords gave me an opportunity to think about the issue once again, not that going to a fairly liberal university hasn’t given me plenty of opportunity to hear the discourse on advertising but i appreciated the articles perspective with reguard to public space and the built environment. Read the Article.


The use of advertisements in the public realm has long been considered a bit of a thorny issue. Most populists or anti capitalists feel that advertising has crept too far into the public realm, buses, on top of buildings, bars, bathrooms, and even on top of the gas pump. What happens then when a public structure turns what was supposed to be a façade for public art into a giant billboard? Such is the case with the British Film Institute (BFI), in London. The BFI owns the IMAX building at the base of the bridge, when the building was originally built it was designed as a glass shell over an inner wall that contained the IMAX equipment. The architect Bryan Avery envisioned the outer shell as a place that would be treated by an artist to give passing motorists and pedestrians a taste of public art. Until 2006 things went as envisioned until one day the BFI, citing financial needs decided to sell the space for advertising and what was once a giant piece of public art, became a giant piece of public advertising.

The financial needs argument is a hard one to fight, however an interesting footnote to this is that “being a grant-aid body, it will only receive a fraction of any large advertising revenue.” My question is where is the rest of the money going, and god forbid that they are offering the space at a cut rate. While I personally don’t feel that public buildings should be able to turn their facades into ad space. Rogaine ads on the side of city hall? I do think that if they are forced to resort to that they should get full market value for the space. Of course in my ideal world London and a number of other cities would follow São Paulo, Brazil it instituted the ‘Cidade Limpa’ (‘City Clean’) campaign, which banned all advertising in the public realm. It has turned out to be a bit of a boon for the city coffers since the city has collected about $8 million US from advertisers who decided to take their time pulling down their billboards.

The removal of a lot of these billboards has had a mixed effect on the cityscape, a number of historic gems have been uncovered but a number of shantytown sweatshops have been exposed as well. While the advertisers may not be too happy popular opinion appears to support the initiative with 70% in favor of the policy. Of course a policy like this implemented in other cities then begs the question of what happens to place that are famous mostly because of advertising, Times Square in New York City and the Ginza district in Tokyo come to mind. Perhaps cities could create marketing preserves where certain areas are left open to billboards, a way to look back on the proliferation that was once allowed, lest we forget.


Salve for the Urban Brain, rethinking how to integrate nature into urban life


NHPR \’The Aching Brains of Urban Dwellers\’

The City is a loud and stimulating place, the cars, sirens, smells, neon and the ambient noise of being surrounded by thousands of people at any given time. In this episode of ‘Word of Mouth’ on New Hampshire Public Radio Jonah Lehrer the author of ‘Proust Was a Neuroscientist’ discusses how the urban landscape affects our brains.

The show also has input from Andrew Blum an editor for Wired and Metropolis magazines and discusses how landscape architecture is shifting from creating green refuges to actually learning how to integrate nature into Urban life.

The Demotorisation of Japan


Lately we have been hearing a lot about how important it is for our cities and for the planet that a lot of us get out of our cars and start using public and active transportation. The urban form will be improved, quality of life will get better and so on.

Today I was involved in a discussion about how at the turn of the century mobility was largely restricted by physical transportation and that the shape of cities responded to those networks based on what was available. Walking, horses, wagons, these all kept the spheres of the average citizen’s life relatively compact, and contained.  As technology increased tramways, street cars and urban railways extended these spheres, with each technological innovation mobility increases with the automobile and private vehicle ownership  bringing us to the form we have now. However an interesting aspect that I hadn’t considered before was that things like telephones, fax machines, the Internet, and e-mail are all related to personal mobility and inter-connectivity, which to some extent is the whole point, technology allows us to ‘meet’ with someone  across great distances by  removing the need for us to use transportation to be there to relay our messages ourselves.

It adds an extra dimension the article posted in thestar.com about how for the first time in decades, car ownership is in decline in Japan.  It’s not just that cars are expensive, the economy is in recession, and all the other reasons that spring to mind in current climate, it’s also because of a shift in the way that Japanese young  people think about cars.

To get around the city, Yutaka Makino hops on his skateboard or rides commuter trains. Does he dream of the day when he has his own car? Not a chance.

Like many Japanese of his generation, the 28-year-old musician and part-time maintenance worker says owning a car is more trouble than it’s worth, especially in a congested city where monthly parking runs as much as 30,000 yen, or US$330, and gas costs $3.50 a gallon – or 92 cents US a litre.S


It’s basically a bicycle activist’s dream come true, Japanese young people have stopped seeing cars as a status symbol and view them as just another tool.  The youth are shifting more towards cell phones and personal computers that allow the electronic mobility without the hassles of trying to navigate in a country where the roads are very congested, but the trains are efficient and frequent. The younger generation has seen through the sports car idealizing culture of the older generation.

“Young people’s interest is shifting from cars to communication tools like personal computers, mobile phones and services,” said Yoichiro Ichimaru, who oversees domestic sales at Toyota. “The changes in individuals’ values on cars came cumulatively over time,” said Nissan chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga. “The change in young people’s attitude toward cars didn’t happen overnight. So we have to keep convincing them cars are great.”

The phenomenon is interesting because of needing shape of things to come, while Japan is much better equipped with public transportation it’s an example of how it’s not quite so inconceivable for people to get out of their cars can make use of other forms of transportation, be they public or electronic.

However the article also illustrates another interesting aspect that is often ignored when we discuss transportation, but is an important reality of de-motorization. The manufacturing industry makes up a fifth of the Japanese economy, and the automobile industry is no small part of that.  A slowdown in manufacturing sector we have some very significant effects, very few of which are positive, on the Japanese economy.  If our recent economic troubles here in North America have shown us anything it’s that the automobile industry also makes up a significant portion of our economy too, and reductions in the automobile manufacturing sector have serious implications for the North American economy.  The challenge for countries in dealing with de-motorization, a trend that is both a little inevitable and a lot desirable, is how to replace the economic capacity of the automobile industry with another economic engine. It is important to get everyone out of their cars, but it would be nice if we could avoid ruining the economy while we do it.

Click Here to read The Star article.

Demographic Shifts

The Wall Street Journal reports on shifting demographics;

“Immigrants and minorities have moved away from cities in growing numbers since 2000, spreading the national trend toward diversity.

New data to be released Tuesday by the Census Bureau show immigrants and minorities are moving to smaller areas. While both groups are still a large share of the population in urban areas, a growing number have followed jobs to smaller communities.

The data focus on communities with as few as 20,000 people. The population figures are estimates for the years between 2005 and 2007. The change reflects growing diversity nationwide. The share of white population is declining in about half of U.S. counties, the result of immigration — primarily Hispanic — as well as generally higher birth rates among minorities.”S

The interesting thing about this article is what it says about the future, one of my favorite book series is Dune. The reason being that the whole epic story spans thousands of years, and you  get to see how societies shift over time. This shift in demographics bodes well.

NVS: Ensuring the Future of Food

A Japanese video that takes on the issue of the global food supply and a vision of what Japan needs to do to insure the safety of its own food supply.

A Transport Development Analysis of the Toronto Transit Commission

The Toronto Transit Commission currently operates the largest public transit system in Canada.  For the time being it is the most comprehensive rapid transit system in the country. The Toronto system saw the majority of its growth in the late seventies through the early nineties(Transit Toronto 2008). The Subway is run by the Toronto Transit Commission and is one of Canada’s oldest rapid transit systems. The first train left the platform in 1954 when the Young Line opened along a former streetcar route that ran south down Younge Street from Eglinton Avenue to Front Street before making a turn into a station that was then called Bay Street but later renamed Union due to its proximity to the city’s main railway terminus Union Station. (more…)

Floating nuclear power plants: Power where you need it, When you need it

Concept Drawing of the Academician Lomonosov

Concept Drawing of the Academician Lomonosov

There is an article over in engineering news online about new russian technology which could help South Africa meet its medium-term energy needs.

You may or may not be aware that Eskom, South Africa’s state owned power utility is operating near i’ts maximum. The utility’s reserve generating margins are pretty much at zero and this is unlikely to change in the next five years until new base load power stations start coming online from about 2013 and onwards. South Africa is already feeling the effects of the lack of capacity and is afflicted by rolling black-outs. The official term for them is “load-shedding,” anyone who has lived in an area beset by rolling black outs is aware of what a disruption they can be both to life and too the local economy.

The country is in a bind in that there is no way for it to see any additional capacity to the system before 2012. That date isn’t even the new baseline plants but the potential start up date for a number of short term co-generation projects, these plants are joint ventures between Eskom and the private sector to build small gas-fuelled power stations to help cover peak periods.

However Russia is currently building the worlds first FNPP or Floating Nuclear Power Plant. The main devision of Russia’s State Nuclear Shipbuilding Centre, Sevmash began construction in 2006 and will see the first boat completed in 2010. It is possible that South Africa might be able to convince Sevmash to lease them an FNPP. Though currently the first is earmarked to stay at Sevmash and power the companies facilities, along with ‘the local social infrastructure,’ oh and it also will generate heat to be used in the community and desalinate water. The company has a second boat in the works but it is also earmarked for use in the East Siberian Sea. However the Russia government has made suggestions that it would be willing to lease one of them to South Africa for a couple of years.


The idea of a number of these floating nuke stations being used to provide power in areas that need it is an intriguing one. The possibilities for their use in area’s that have maxed out their capacity or after a natural disaster gives flexibility to the worlds power grid that has until this point never existed.

Of course the idea of a floating nuke station is likely an environmentalists nightmare, not to mention the potential security concerns that come with having a nuclear plant that isn’t sitting on solid ground and therefore could be approached from underneath. The KLT-40S is however reported to be a well-proven design and is already employed in a number of nuclear icebreakers. The gross power production of a KLT-40S is 35 MWe. To give you a comparison the Western GeoPower Unit at The Geysers Geothermal Field in California will be 35 MWe. Each FNPP with be comprised of two KLT-40S nuclear reactors built on top of a 20,000 ton non-self propelled barge with a length of 140m and a beam of 30m. It should be noted that when the FNPPs are towed the reactors will be off line and emptied of nuclear fuel. I mean you would have to be a true idiot to risk getting a working nuclear power plant caught in a storm at sea.

Whether or not you agree with it the FNPP is coming. The Russian News and Information Agency, Novositi, reports that Russia considers the FNPP to be a ‘Vital element’ in the national energy programme.


Big Brother Environmentalism


Are you living up to your environmental potential? Residents in a number of British eco towns could see government monitoring to make sure that they are keeping their carbon footprint to the right size. One of the most interesting things about this push is that it isn’t coming from the British Government directly, I suppose it would be a bit of a political hot potato. The  Bioregional firm, which initiated the low energy BedZed housing estate in south London is asking the government to ensure that the carbon footprint of residents in the proposed  eco towns (ten of which are in the works) are no larger then allowed under the principals of “one planet” living.

Some of the ways that it wants residents monitored are tracking of the number of trips residents take by car, Thermographic cameras to check which homes are losing too much heat, and measurement of the types of waste produced, and how much they produce by both residences and businesses.

“If eco towns are to have a fundamental purpose, it must be to show us how we can all achieve one-planet living,” said Richard Simmons, chief executive of Cabe. “Eco towns should show us, in a real and measured way, what our sustainable future will look like.”

Some critics of the towns themselves are against the regulations saying that the government has no business taking this sort of a heavy handed oversight on residents. Suggesting that the eco towns will be giant ‘gulags.’

Of course a simple way to avoid the monitoring would be to not buy a home in an eco town, but it does beg the question of just how much of an active role should the government take in enforcing the low carbon footprint ideal behind these plans?

What do you think?

via Eco town dwellers may be monitored for green habits | Environment | The Guardian

Video Tour of the BedZed Development


We received a comment from Tom Chance of Bioregional who had some great things to say about the monitoring. Since he is speaking directly from the company we are going to include them up here with the post.

“It’s worth noting that the reporting in The Guardian was a bit mischeivous. We haven’t been calling for monitoring of individuals as a means of enforcing particular lifestyles. Rather, our report (if you read it) lays out a number of ways in which eco-towns developers should monitor the success of their plans so that we can better learn from then. Any monitoring would have to be completely voluntary.

We have taken this approach at BedZED, where 75% of residents voluntarily had their meter readings recorded, waste weighed and answered questionnaires. All the results are anonymised, and used to help us learn how to better design sustainable communities.

The alternative – not monitoring at all – would be a complete nonsense, it would mean we’d have no evidence to improve the way we design communities!”

Mayne warns Dubai set for ‘ecological disaster’ – Building Design

Oh my it looks like I am breaking my Dubai rule yet again, of course once again I am doing it to be a negative Nancy. Maybe we should just call this the Dubai Reality Check week! Over at Building Design there is an article on Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne, who announced in his address to the World Architecture Congress’s Cityscape Dubai conference that Dubai is building itself up for an ‘ecological disaster’ if it continues on the path it is currently taking.

The architect stated that the dominance of the private sector in the gulf state has led to a serious lack of overall planning and that this combined with the sheer speed of development will lead to a major crisis in the future.

Its true really, do we have any idea what kind of traffic patterns we are going to see from the residents of a building like the Burg Dubai? While the building has a number of built in amenities it isn’t likely that they are all going to just stay inside. Since most of the city is being built all at once, just what is it going to look like at the ground and on the human level once its done.

Mayne goes on to say;

“There is no connected tissue,” he said. “It might work today, but the prognosis is not good for the future.

“It’s not going to work on many levels, from social to infrastructure and ecological. It’s going to be a disaster in ecological terms.

“The political class is no longer in charge of cities… which means there is no planning. Los Angeles is a prototype for that. The private sector rules. It takes hours to get downtown in LA as there is no public transport.”s

Of course this is true and not true. The political class owns the private sector here. Nakheel properties, is owned by the Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. So one could argue that the political class still exerts a pretty hefty hand in affairs. The article is worth checking out.


Mayne warns Dubai set for ‘ecological disaster’ – Building Design

The Manpower Behind the Monuments

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

It takes an army to build a monument, many of the worlds greatest were envisioned by kings and the fabulously rich, but the actual construction is often done by the poor, the disenfranchised, and in some cases ‘the owned,’ just ask the ancient Egyptians. Unions and fair pay tend to make glorious monuments overpriced.

One of the things that I have been in some way trying to do is avoid posting too much about Dubai. For the most part its a topic that I feel is blogged to death and at Urban Neighbourhood we are trying as best as we can in this electronic world of bits and bites to come up with at least semi original content. We have broken this avoidance in the past with mentions in the Heliotropic Houses article and the Lilypad Article.

Today we are going to break the ‘rule’ again, but not to fawn over yet another mega mall or the worlds next tallest building, today we bring you an article from The Guardian about the people who actually build all these monuments. The thousands of migrant labourers. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad brings us an article about his journey into Mousafah, a labour camp that these workers temporarily call home, they certainly will not be welcome to stay when they are done. To tell a story about what it is like to be the hands that build the towers and islands that are making Dubai so famous.

“Once they arrive in the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers are treated little better than cattle, with no access to health care and many other basic rights. The company that sponsors them holds on to their passports – and often a month or two of their wages to make sure that they keep working. And for this some will earn just 400 dirhams (£62) a month.

A group of construction engineers told me, with no apparent shame, that if a worker becomes too ill to work he will be sent home after a few days. “They are the cheapest commodity here. Steel, concrete, everything is up, but workers are the same.”

The article is worth the read it makes the amazing speed at which Dubai is being constructed a little more understandable and a little less fantastic.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad visits the impoverished camps for the men building the skyscrapers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi | World news | The Guardian