Collected Trends & Strategies from DesignIntelligence, Vol. 8, No. 8.

Cost Overruns Standard for Public Works Projects

A 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association finds public projects (from 1910 to 1998) were plagued by cost overruns; the biggest errors were in rail projects, which ran, on average, 45 percent over estimated costs. Bridges and tunnels were 34 percent over; and roads, 20 percent. Nine out of 10 estimates are low, the study said. Cited in the study are New York’s Holland Tunnel, completed in 1927 at a cost of $48 million, although initial estimates were 52 percent lower; the Channel Tunnel between England and France, which was 80 percent over budget, and Boston’s Big Dig, which began 15 years ago with a projected cost of $4.5 billion and now has a price of $14.6 billion.

BuildingGreen Guide on CD

BuildingGreen, Inc., which publishes Environmental Building News, has updated its EBN Archives CD-Rom. The new edition includes more than 1,350 pages of back issues. It includes photos and graphics from the first issue in 1992 through 2001. See: http://www.buildinggreen.com/ecommerce/

Cement Needs a Tech Upgrade

John Harrison, a technologist in Tasmania, says ditching the current technology of Portland cement (invented nearly two centuries ago) could half the carbon dioxide emissions created during the process. Harrison’s solution is to switch magnesium carbonate for the calcium carbonate currently used in the mix. He calls his invention “eco-cement” and says “it could be cheaper to manufacture … more durable, and soaks up CO2, as well.”

USGBC Starts New Awards Program

The U.S. Green Building Council will begin an annual awards program, with the first winners to be announced at the Nov. 14 First Annual International Green Building Conference and Exposition in Austin, Texas. There are three major categories: The Green Business Award, The Green Public Service Award and the # The USGBC Leadership Award.

“We want to honor some of the people leading this remarkable market transformation,” said USGBC President & CEO, Christine Ervin. “We wanted to recognize the human side of the green building formula — whether it be champions on the drawing board, the construction site, the government program office, the manufacturing plant or executive suite. It just wouldn’t happen without these leaders.”

New York offers Green Tax Credit

New York has become the first state to approve a statewide tax credit program to encourage green building design and construction. “We’re seeing that we can make buildings 35 percent more efficient than our energy code requires for less than 1 percent in construction cost,” A New York official said.
The first replacement building at the World Trade Center site in New York is expected to feature the latest in green design.

A study last year by Portland State University estimated that Oregon and Washington state alone could save $100 million a year by retrofitting older buildings and incorporating “green” designs into new construction. A modest retrofit for buildings managed by the state Administrative Services Department recently saved $1.6 million in less than eight months,

U.S. Barns inspire “Shells of Steel”

During a 1999 visit to the United States, while driving across the Colorado countryside, Jim Archer of Planning Systems Services in Nairobi noticed huge agricultural barns built using thick steel. This gave him an idea that thinner steel, constructed in a structurally sound way, could be used to design cheap, quality and environmentally friendly houses. In Kenya, the Shell of Steel is built using thin steel designed in a portal frame, a structurally sound and fiscally economical shape. The frame is laid on a pre-cast concrete foundation. To insulate the structure against extreme temperature fluctuations, pulmisc, a naturally occurring substance is used to plaster the steel. In place of timber, shredded and compressed tetra packs are used. They are non-combustible, impermeable, and termites don’t like them. “Essentially, 90 per cent of the material used to construct the house can be recycled,” Archer said. The house takes two weeks to build, and all construction materials are available locally. The design was nominated for a World Architecture award.

Rising Consumerism in India, China Strains Natural Resources

According to this month’s The Futurist, economic growth in China and India could soon match Western levels of consumption—and we’ll need two more planets’ worth of resources and another atmosphere to absorb the waste, said sustainability-design consultant Jacquelyn Ottman.

Watch for Negative Population Growth: 51 Countries Will Have Drop in Life Expectancy

Life expectancies in 51 countries are expected to drop due to the AIDS epidemic, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2010, 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa will see life expectancies fall to near 30 years, levels not seen since the end of the 19th century. This trend is also seen in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. In Haiti, life expectancy is down eight years to 51. Thailand, Cambodia and Burma have lost between two and five years of life expectancy. In a region that would have estimated life expectancies to reach 70 years of age by 2010, Botswana’s life expectancy will be 27 years, Swaziland, 33 years and Namibia and Zambia, 34 years.

“The AIDS pandemic is dramatically changing the demographic makeup of African countries,” said Karen Stanecki of the Bureau, and author of The AIDS Pandemic in the 21st Century. Other findings: Five countries will experience negative population growth by 2010. More infants will die from AIDS in four countries (Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia)in 2010 than all other causes. See: www.usaid.gov.

California School First to Use Geoexchange HVAC System

Blue Oak School in Napa, Calif., will be the first to use a geoexchange HVAC system; the $400,000 installation cost is expected to be recouped thorough energy savings in less than five years.

The system works by attaching geothermal heat pumps to the ground through a series of buried plastic pipes drilled 350 feet underground, which circulate water in a closed loop arrangement.The architect, Ratcliff of Emeryville, and mechanical engineer, McCracken & Woodman, Inc. of Oakland, advocated and designed the system.

Tough Client? It Could Be Worse

After a long day at the Bada Bing Club, Tony Soprano expects a refuge of quiet and beauty at home. Those who admire the Mob family head’s mansion and grounds can now build their own. Although only exterior shots are used on the HBO series, plans and interior designs are available for sale, on-line. To view the estate, order (and see cast photos) see: www.sopranohomedesign.com