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Something Cool – Lifestraw

Without clean water, many people (especially the young) had suffered from diarrhoeal diseases (especially in developing countries); contributing to approximately 1.5 million deaths every year, or 4000-6000 deaths per day due to dehydration. In addition, the contaminated water resulted in health defects such as reduced personal productive time, nausea, stomach pains and more. To make it worse, many developing countries have little health care to aid these people. child-drinking-LifeStraw-with-metal-bowl

The Lifestraw is a straw that’s capable of filtering dirty water to be drank immediately through a straw. INGENIOUS! Put into numbers: The Lifestraw is capable of filtering a maximum of 1000 litres of water, whilst removing 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, viruses and other things harmful. Lifestraw Family (a similar product) can filter out 18000 litres of water. With the use of the Lifestraw, people around the world can have access to clean drinking water; therefore causing fewer sicknesses and diminishing the deaths associated with diarrhoeal diseases.

Although the target market of the Lifestraw was to be people in developing countries, the cost of manufacturing the Lifestraw is expensive (to buy it in Canada is about $5.50. I’m unsure of how much it takes to manufacture it though). The Lifestraw is a tube of about 10 inches made from a durable plastic with a string around it for people to wear. Within the life straw contains a mesh that would filter out larger impurities, and then a polyester filter to filter out bacteria. Afterwards, the water goes though iodine-coated resin beads which kill bacteria, parasites and viruses. A carbon filter removes any taste from the iodine and absorbs the impurities of the water to be drank (refer to http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/remediation/lifestraw.htm for more information on how it works).

In the end, I would say that the Lifestraw is possibly one of the greatest inventions ever made, as it helps people in need in developing countries while also temporarily helping in the issue of the Earth’s diminishing clean water supply. I only hope in the future that the Lifestraw can be manufactured more cheaply to be distributed all across countries with little amounts of clean water.

The Lifestraw website here: http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/buy-lifestraw/

What is Beauty?

This post is going to talk about aesthetics and its purposes in the world of design.

Aesthetics are defined as “The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty, as in the fine arts” (From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/aesthetics). Whether something is beautiful varies depending on the different perspectives of the viewers. In design, aesthetics play a great role, similar to the function of the structure and its mechanics. Analogy: When I buy running shoes, I look at the shoes not based on their function and ability to make me run faster, but based on their look and how “cool” they looked to me (well at least when I was young). It’s no different today: at first glance, people would usually have preferences on a design that looks beautiful compared to a dull looking design with similar functions and abilities. Fashion, houses, cell phones, toys, food and many more things are greatly affected by their aesthetic appeal over their functions, mechanics and other properties.

In design, aesthetics are based upon what everyone thinks looks nice; what the creator thinks that what everyone thinks looks nice, because our views of beauty are greatly affected by the media and its uniqueness; hence what is “beautiful” could also be “what is trending.” As a result, the designs of things are always altered to suit the ever-changing definitions of beauty, such as the designs of  “iPhones.” Although aesthetic appeal plays a great role in design (and in the market), I think that we, as consumers, should focus more on the functions, mechanics and other properties of structures as they would aid society more, and they would also influence more useful designs to be built to aid the people who need it the most.

Civil Engineer

Civil engineering is about the design, construction and maintenance of human-made structures and/or natural structures in the environment through the use of physics and mathematics. Actually, civil engineering includes many subcategories such as environmental engineering, geotechnical, structural, biomechanics, nanotechnology, transportation and many more.

The purpose of having civil engineers are to design the properties of the structures, such as its ability to support its own weight and the materials used for the manufacturing of it. For example, a water treatment plant can be made to aid in the purification of water to help people in developing countries obtain clean water; and civil engineering will aid in deciding the pressures, temperatures, material and other properties of the strucutre to ensure that it lasts long and strong. This is the differences between an architect and a civil engineer. The architect would play a greater part in designing how the building/structure would look and its purposes while the civil engineer would pay more attention to the background of how everything will work out.

Frank Lloyd Wright

During the time in our technological design class when everyone was still building cabins, my teacher spoke to us about a famous architect named Frank Lloyd Wright who made unique American architecture, and thought that we could be inspired by his work. It was until now that I decided to research about his works.

Frank Lloyd Wright was known for his prairie-styled buildings; buildings located close to grassland and/or in a natural environment. What made his buildings so famous was mostly because of their aesthetic appeal which was complemented by synchronizing the structures and materials of the building with the surrounding environment. In addition, Frank Lloyd Wright had designed many of his own furniture (which were built into the house), along with stained glass.

“The prairie has a beauty of its own and we should recognize and accentuate this natural beauty, its quiet level. Hence, gently sloping roofs, low proportions, quiet sky lines, suppressed heavy-set chimneys and sheltering overhangs, low terraces and out-reaching walls sequestering private gardens” – Frank Lloyd Wright

"Falling Water"

“Falling Water”

"Falling Water" Interior

“Falling Water” Interior

 

The Eiffel Tower

It was first built in 1889 for the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution; now it’s one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world.

The design of the tower was actually based from a competition. Many architects had designed proposals for what the building would look like, but in the end the Eiffel Tower design (which was made by Alexendre-Gustave Eiffel, who was a chemical engineer) was selected. After its construction, it was to be dismantled; however due to the many protests from the civilians and tourists, it was decided that the structure was to stay. Starting from the 1900’s, the tower was used as a transmission tower once radios and televisions were widespread. Also, it was used for several scientific experiments involving temperature, pressure and more.

During the construction of the tower, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world (986 feet at the time. The height was later increased to 1052 feet because of an addition of a television antenna), and was able to stand against wind pressure of 82 PSF (at the top). During this time, people had thought that the look of the structure was unappealing; “an eyesore”. Once the structure was made, it took up 328 feet of space for each side of its square base, and weighed approximately 7300 tons.towerplan

Paradigms: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Once upon a time, man created a box-shaped camera. 100 years later, cameras are STILL BOX SHAPED: We’re stuck in a paradigm.

What are paradigms? Paradigms are defined as “A worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject.” It’s like how people continue to construct things as how they used to be constructed; with little or no individuality at all. In order for humans to evolvngbbs4a1e55de53ce0e, we must break our current paradigm and invent something new, something super-cool that the world has never seen. I think this is the way of becoming successful in design.

Once a paradigm is broken, it is called a paradigm shift. Over time there have been many paradigm shifts which have greatly affected how we live today, such as the invention of the light bulb which have replaced candle, the invention of cars to provide another method of transportation or even sliced bread. In order to do a paradigm shift, one needs a lot of knowledge on the necessities and desires of humans and contain a vast imagination (to be very original). Others have tried isolating themselves from the technology and advancements we have today just so that they can think of something new; something different. Through continually shifting paradigms, humanity will be able to evolve significantly quicker and continually make up newer ways of living to increase survivability. 

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust

Green Walls

GreenWall_PatrickBlanccaixa-madridMy high school is planning on building a green wall, and my class is to design different proposals for the construction of it. In addition to the green wall, the school is going to install solar panels to generate electricity for the power grid.

A green wall is basically a wall of plants. The purpose of a green wall (environmentally) is to provide insulation for the inner walls of the school. In addition, growing more plants will increase the biodiversity (to increase the amount of bees, butterflies and more) and also rid of some carbon dioxide. Green walls can provide food for the Food and Nutrition courses in my school through growing eatable plants. The plants grown on the green wall can also absorb the rainwater to prevent the flooding of sewers. Green walls are also used to boost up aesthetic appeal.

Our job (as students) is to create a design brief for the wall, provide a bill of materials and their specifications, decide different locations for where to place the green wall, create a design to be used for the green wall (including water system, structure of wall and more), find stakeholders for the project, propose plants to be used for the wall and to provide a construction plan. My group used this neat video on YouTube to place the plants to the wall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtzqRv3WYXQ

As I was working on this assignment, I’ve learned about the challenges and stress it takes to build an actual structure that will be staying on the school. Unlike our other school projects; this project has a specific budget, a specific area/space that the green wall will be placed on, and other limitations. While planning designs for this assignment, I felt a little restrained to what we were capable of doing. Through this “Green Wall” assignment, I have experienced a little of what it is like to be an architect and to design real structures for buildings. I can’t say I like it very much.

The Finished Cabin Model

I’ve finally finished my final cabin model! The cabin turned out better than I expected. Here’s a brief summary of how the construction went:

Since I used cardboard to make the walls of my cabin, I had some problems painting it with watercolours, as the paint wasn’t very visible (I could still see the Cheerios logo in the background from where I got the box from). As a result, I decided to cover the cardboard with white paper and then paint over it. This, however, caused to the paper to get really soggy and sometimes rip, so I had to tear off the white paper. Now that I think about it; this idea could have worked a lot better if I were to just use a thicker type of paper – one used especially for water colouring, or if I used a different kind of paint, like the paint used to paint walls. Instead, I thought of a much worse idea by covering the cardboard with drywall compound to help make the paint stick on it more easily (The actual use of drywall compound is to stick sheets of drywall together like a type of plaster or mud). In the end, the drywall compound caused the cardboard walls to curve slightly once it dried. Also, it caused some of the drywall to peel off and/or crack; thus revealing the cardboard within the cabin (in which I had to fix after); although this was probably due to my limited skills in using drywall compound, as the drywall compound appeared really bumpy in texture and had an uneven coating. When I glued every piece together, the four outer walls looked better than I expected (what I expected was having large ovular gaps between each corner in which the walls were glued together; however the walls stayed together appropriately due to the strength of the glue from the glue gun). All in all, I would advise planning your steps beforehand using project management to reduce the workload to yourself and to increase efficiency while working. Here’s a document I found on Google about the basis of Project Management: http://www.personal.psu.edu/mum28/blogs/Mairead/Project%20Management%20Steps.pdf

For the roof of the cabin, I also used cardboard. I cut out the pieces of the cardboard according to the measurements made on AutoCad, and then pieced them together. I then covered the roof with cut out strips of black Bristol board to make the shingles look more realistic. I then added shish-kabob skewers within the roof to act as roof trusses (I don’t have any pictures of that now, but I’ll include them in my next post).

As for what I learned about the process of model-building; I find it quite relaxing and fun to do. Looking at my final product, I feel as if though I’ve accomplished a great goal in my life. Modelling the building allowed me to gain a better  idea about what it was that I was trying to build. While constructing the cabin, I’ve discovered several problems about my design (such as having a roof that was too small to fit a rain barrel within it); hence through modelling I was able to improve my design aesthetically and structurally. In addition, I found it frustrating to work with such small pieces in the cabin; so I guess model-building also requires a lot of patience and diligence.

Here’s a picture of the cabin:

I'll be sure to take more pictures after. The angle on this one's not the best, and the flash makes it look not-as-good

I’ll be sure to take more pictures after. The angle on this one’s not the best, and the flash makes it look not-as-good

AutoCad and Cabin Designing

After sketching the drawings on paper, I had to show my ideas on AutoCad in order to get the proper measurements for my design. This is done so that the construction of the model will be more precise/easier to make. Of course, the measurements are to scale to show inches and feet- architectural measurements.

For the drawings on AutoCad, I need to show everything from a birds-eye view; showing the first and second floors of my cabin. Also, elevations are required to show the side/front of the cabin. In addition, I will include a site plan to show what’s happening around my cabin (to include a river, some rocks, my pico-hydro and wind turbine generators and more).

I didn’t include many hatches to the AutoCad drawing (in AutoCad, hatching is used to add a texture/design to a closed shape). This was so that I wouldn’t get confused/distracted by my design. This also makes my design look really simple; which is good in that it gives me a better understanding of what I’m building, but bad in that the AutoCad design itself looks unappealing.

AutoCad 2007

Rocket Stove to the Sky

Rocket Stoves (rocket mass heaters) are heaters; they heat the house. They’re “super efficient furnaces.”

FURNACES INFORMATION: The efficiency of furnaces is measured in AFUE, which is a number that shows the percentage in efficiency (A greater AFUE results in a greater efficiency). High efficiency furnaces range from 90 to 97%, while low efficiency furnaces range from 80Image% and less.

90-97% is already pretty efficient for a furnace, so how can rocket stoves beat that? I don’t even know. The efficiency of rocket stoves haven’t been professionally analyzed yet, so there’s not really a specific number that shows it; not in the AFUE (if someone can tell me otherwise, please do! I’ve been looking for an answer from many sites now, but I can’t seem to find a proper answer). Guaranteed however, rocket stoves are a very efficient way to heat up one’s house (efficient as in the amount of fuel – wood – put in will bring you a lot of heat, and for a long time too – which is up to 4 days).

In the picture on the right: Wood and oxygen go in on one side to be burned in the burn chamber and then transferred into the steel drum. The steel drum brings out some of the heat directly out into the house for immediate heating, while the rest of the heat is transferred through a long, airtight duct to keep the heat circulating around the house to have constant heating. The duct is usually covered with clay, mud, stone and many other materials and then covered with a ceramic spray to keep everything together. This clump of clay, mud and stone (and many more materials) that covers the duct can be used a furniture; a couch; a bed; a table; anything.

This is the only website I’ve seen so far that sells rocket mass heaters:

http://zaugstoves.com/Zaug_Stoves/Home.html

A rocket mass heater in real life