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Cable cars, algae bio-fuel cells, and urban agriculture are sandwiched into just a small slice of Arup's future skyscraper.

Rob Hunt/Arup

The urban buildings of the near-future will be tall, smart, adaptable, responsive, honest, modular, recyclable, clean, and deeply embedded into the systems of their host cities, if an imaginative vision from Arup's Foresight team is anything to judge by. In its evocatively titled It's Alive, Arup (the firm responsible for the structural design of the iconic Sydney Opera House) asks if we can imagine the urban building of the future while simultaneously presenting its take on the matter. The report contains plenty of ideas, albeit briefly stated, so I thought it would be fun to identify some of today's science and technology that has made it into Arup's skyscraper of tomorrow and discuss whether Arup's vision is more grounded in fact or fiction.

Arup's urban building of 2050 Rob Hunt/Arup

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Arup's future-scraper is the product of its time; a time 37 years from now that will suck and be awesome in approximately equal measures. Why suck? Because 37 years will see us through to the year 2050, and Arup shares (or perhaps borrows) the OECD's troubling forecast of a warming, overpopulated Earth hungry for, yet deficient in, essential resources. According to this narrative, there will be 9 billion people, with 6.3 billion living in towns and cities.

The good news is that we'll still have iPhones—or their future-proxies, at least. Arup describes the denizens of our future cities as "net-native adults" who have grown up with smart cities, smart clothes, and smart objects. The Internet of Things will be ubiquitous, Arup suggests; presumably to the point that it has been abbreviated simply to "things," the "Internet of" having been long since forgotten.

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For the last year or so, I've been getting these two page energy assessment reports in the mail from Pacific Gas & Electric, our California utility company, comparing our household's energy use to those of the houses around us.

Here's the relevant excerpts from the latest report; click through for a full-page view of each page.



These poor results are particularly galling because I go far out of my way to Energy Star all the things, I use LED light bulbs just about everywhere, we set our thermostat appropriately, and we're still getting crushed. I have no particular reason to care about this stupid energy assessment report showing our household using 33% more energy than similar homes in our neighborhood. And yet… I must win this contest. I can't let it go.

  • Installed a Nest 2.0 learning thermostat.
  • I made sure every last bulb in our house that gets any significant use is LED. Fortunately there are some pretty decent $16 LED bulbs on Amazon now offering serviceable 60 watt equivalents at 9 watt, without too many early adopter LED quirks (color, dimming, size, weight, etc).
  • I even put appliance LED bulbs in our refrigerator and freezer.
  • Switched to a low-flow shower head.
  • Upgraded to a high efficiency tankless water heater, the Noritz NCC1991-SV.
  • Nearly killed myself trying to source LED candelabra bulbs for the fixture in our dining room which has 18 of the damn things, and is used quite a bit now with the twins in the house. Turns out, 18 times any number … is still kind of a large number. In cash.

(Most of this has not helped much on the report. The jury is still out on the Nest thermostat and the candelabra LED bulbs, as I haven't had them long enough to judge. I'm gonna defeat this thing, man!)

I'm ashamed to admit that it's only recently I realized that this technique – showing a set of metrics alongside your peers – is exactly the same thing we built at Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange. Notice any resemblance on the user profile page here?


You've tricked me into becoming obsessed with understanding and reducing my household energy consumption. Something that not only benefits me, but also benefits the greater community and, more broadly, benefits the entire world. You've beaten me at my own game. Well played, Pacific Gas & Electric. Well played.


This peer motivation stuff, call it gamification if you must, really works. That's why we do it. But these systems are like firearms: so powerful they're kind of dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. If you don't think deeply about what you're incentivizing, why you're incentivizing it, and the full ramifications of all emergent behaviors in your system, you may end up with … something darker. A lot darker.

The key lesson for me is that our members became very thoroughly obsessed with those numbers. Even though points on Consumating were redeemable for absolutely nothing, not even a gold star, our members had an unquenchable desire for them. What we saw as our membership scrabbled over valueless points was that there didn't actually need to be any sort of material reward other than the points themselves. We didn't need to allow them to trade the points in for benefits, virtual or otherwise. It was enough of a reward for most people just to see their points wobble upwards. If only we had been able to channel that obsession towards something with actual value!

Since I left Stack Exchange, I've had a difficult time explaining what exactly it is I do, if anything, to people. I finally settled on this: what I do, what I'm best at, what I love to do more than anything else in the world, is design massively multiplayer games for people who like to type paragraphs to each other. I channel their obsessions – and mine – into something positive, something that they can learn from, something that creates wonderful reusable artifacts for the whole world. And that's what I still hope to do, because I have an endless well of obsession left.

Just ask PG&E.

[advertisement] What's your next career move? Stack Overflow Careers has the best job listings from great companies, whether you're looking for opportunities at a startup or Fortune 500. You can search our job listings or create a profile and let employers find you.

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

A historic 1880′s warehouse in Melbourne, Australia has been converted into a stunning luxury home with high ceilings, exposed red bricks walls and dramatic archways. The addition of new wood floors, white drywall and a modern kitchen make the space livable without overpowering it.

The renovated apartment is located in ‘Leicester House’, a five-story Neo-Gothic building in downtown Melbourne with deep cornices and detailed Florentine arches on the exterior. Most of the spaces within it are still in use as offices.

While many aficionados of warehouse conversions would likely prefer to see less carpeting and more modern furnishings, the space itself exudes all the historic charm that you could wish for in a building of this age, particularly in the ceiling and the brick walls.

Rustic, recycled, modern and minimalist – apartment remodels come in all varieties, whether they’re redesigned from an out-of-date state or completely converted from something else. Check out 9 more amazing apartment designs and cool condo plans, and 11 lofty additions to urban rooftops.

Want More? Click for Great Related Content on WebUrbanist:" title="9 Amazing Apartment Designs & Cool Condo Plans">" rel="nofollow" title="9 Amazing Apartment Designs & Cool Condo Plans" style="color:gray">9 Amazing Apartment Designs & Cool Condo Plans

Color, pattern, unexpected materials and careful editing of rustic historic architectural details make these apartment and condo remodels one-of-a-kind.
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Know of other recycled design or amazing architecture projects? Be sure to list them in the comments below!
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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

This is a conceptual project with a breathtaking scope: to create a perimeter of citadels surrounding Japan, protecting the island nation above, on and below the ground.

Like turrets of an impossibly large fortress, the idea (perhaps unintentionally) borrows from a neighboring nation (the Great Wall of China) the notion that one can create a barrier spanning an entire empire. Were this constructed, this project by Victor Kopeikin and Pavlo Zabotin could certainly contest other Wonders of the World.

The idea is part of a larger reorganizational notion tackling all levels of infrastructure:  “Economic Zone: (a city in a modern context), infrastructure and government buildings will be left untouched - Residential functions will be taken outside the cities - Economic (“agrarian”) zone will be located between the two previous zones (orchards, gardens, greenhouses).” But it is also born out of a more immediate and pragmatic response to the recent tsunami that devastated the country: “[The] skyscrapers themselves are connected by a system of breakwaters and drainage channels, able to withstand waves up to 50 meters that prevent the destructive waves to reach the shoreline.”

Finally, they are also intended to be self-sufficient, using “the energy of the tides in the design of such facilities. The system of underwater routers situated along the perimeter of the building in-between breakwater corridors, where because of an artificially flow increases the velocity of the water masses. The building also has an autonomous supply of drinking water (boreholes) and the system of the ground floors with live fish tanks and warehouses storing food for the inhabitants of a skyscraper (a system of bunkers).”

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5 Urban Design Proposals for 3D City Farms: Sustainable, Ecological and Agricultural Skyscrapers

Here are five of these remarkable architectural designs for sustainable (and stylish) urban farm towers that may revolutionize agriculture as we know it.
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Another Wave in the Wall: Vertical Lake Building Facade

This upcoming public art installation at the Brisbane Airport will put the soothing power of flowing water on display for harried travelers and drivers.
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Manhattan of the Desert: The Oldest Surviving Skyscrapers in the World

Surprisingly, neither is the art of constructing tall buildings, as evidenced by the city of Shibam.
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Intelligent particles, the size of dust grains, are programmed to fill nonexistent shapes (the mathematical problem of geometry packing). The "know" their relative position inside the imaginary form (i.e. distance from hull or center) and take on a color relative to it.

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Zothecula writes with an excerpt from an article in Gizmag: "The FRAC Centre in Orléans, France will for the first time host an exhibition to be built entirely by flying robots. Titled 'Flight Assembled Architecture,' the six meter-high tower will be made up of 1,500 prefabricated polystyrene foam modules. The installation involves a fleet of quadrocopters that are programmed to interact, lift, transport and assemble the final tower, all the time receiving commands wirelessly from a local control room."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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