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August 22, 2012

Energy Innovation at the London Olympics

GE’s Cheif Marketing Officer Beth Comstock wrote a great article about energy innovation and the Olympics. For example, sponsor EDF Energy modeled smart monitoring of power usage during the Games, allowing anyone to track power usage at different venues, in real-time, on dashboards available online. Athletes were able to track and reduce their energy use.  By becoming more aware of our energy footprint, we tend to behave better (think about the roadway signs that show you your actual speed, don’t you usually slow down?).

Regarding lighting, the LED seemed everywhere. The Tower Bridge shown below debuted its energy efficient, 18,000 LED lighting system. It’s beautiful, innovative and practical.

Below are a few more cool items Beth uncovered:

EyeStop: the next generation of smart urban furniture. Combining sensors, interactive services and touchscreens, the bus stop of the future will give riders real time updates, community information and entertainment, while also allowing them to contribute updates and knowledge.

The Copenhagen Wheel: in addition to turning any bicycle into a hybrid e-bike powered by saved energy that is dissipated while cycling and braking, the Copenhagen Wheel also maps pollution levels and traffic conditions in real time and shares that info with other users.

Flyfire: the public art of the future will not be boring. Flyfire’s goal is to turn ordinary spaces into immersive and interactive display environments. In its first application, a large number of “self-organizing micro helicopters” containing LEDs acted as smart pixels, forming elastic display surfaces anywhere.


July 7, 2012

Colorful Kindergarten
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

This recently renovated four room Kindergarten building in Paris shows what architects can do with color and creativity.

The 1940’s era building didn’t need too much work, just lots of color to create these wonderful spaces for kids.

By keeping the design kid focused, the architects created a place that just makes you smile. I especially love the toilet rooms. The whale toilet partitions are wonderful.

Can you imagine five year old you sitting down to take a poop with your best buddy sitting across the room chatting? What a magical time.


June 21, 2012

A Swimming Pool to Die For
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

A friend just sent me the photo below from the 57th Floor of the Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore. Can you imagine anything like that being built in America? We have so many guardrail, fence and accessibility requirements that it just wouldn’t get done.

I’d like to go to Singapore just to swim in that pool. I think that’s called aqua-travel.

Here’s video that shows more details. Wonder why there are only men in the pool?



June 18, 2012

Light in Architecture
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

For our 33 wedding anniversary last Saturday night, TBW and I went to the Longwood Gardens architectural light installations. Beautiful and playful (just like TBW), the nine totally different light displayed amazed me. A couple of their photos from the Longwood Gardens website give you a sense.

If you live within a couple of hours of Philadelphia, you should make the effort to visit the light exhibit this Summer. You won’t ever see anything else like it. The Longwood Gardens have some of the best gardens and garden buildings in the world. Whether climbing around the tree houses like a kid or wandering through the vegetable gardens, I promise you’ll be inspired.

Several of the installations used hundreds of thousands of fiber optic cables and light changers that allowed the light colors to transform. TBW and I were walking on the Forest of Light path (about 1/4 mile through the woods). Most of the folks walked quietly or spoke in hushed, almost reverent tones.

The guy behind us, though, spoke in his normal voice to his girlfriend, telling her about some friend who needed to have lots of trees cut down. He explained that his friend hoped to break even on the deal, since some of the logs would be used for lumber. Then he went on to speculate about whether his friend was getting ripped off. He said, “I mean, these are big trees. Of course, most of them are ash. I mean, there isn’t much demand for ash trees, you know.”

At that point I piped in, “Well, I don’t know. Everybody likes a little piece of ash.” There was silence for a moment than he and his girlfriend and Debby and I just broke up laughing. We didn’t say another word after that. It’s rare in life that just the right phrase comes out at just the right moment.

Here’s a video I made of the lights changing by a lake, you can hear a bull frog croaking in the background.


I also show a photo of more of the lights. Seriously, you should schedule a visit to see this beauty. Life goes by fast. Schedule in as much beauty as you can.


May 4, 2012

How to Use an Extra Elevator Shaft
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

If you find yourself renovating a building with an extra elevator shaft, what are your options? Some quirky spiral stairs? Lots of floors with small rooms with off-set firemen’s poles? How about a toilet?

Found on Interior Design and Inspirational Homes, this toilet room located in an old elevator shaft would encourage bowel looseness. That is to say, a sit down would likely scare the crap right out of you.

Designed by Hernandez Silva Arquitectos and located in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, this penthouse on a 1970s 15 story building inspires.

The living room looks fantastic

and the balcony view works.

Oddly enough, we have some weirdly similar design challenges coming up in the next few months, so I’m motivated to see this design done so well. I love to see really good work.


April 30, 2012

Amazing Longhouse Volunteer Day
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

We hoped for 100 volunteers to strip the bark off saplings for the Eastern Woodlands Longhouse we’re building. We got over 250 folks that came and worked.

I worried that volunteers would get frustrated with getting the bark off the hickory trees, particularly the many shagbark hickories. We were told every bit of bark would need to be cut off with a drawknife. We found a stripping secret that allowed the workers to peel the bark off in large sections. In fact, some of the folks managed to peel an entire tree and deliver only big piece of bark. These folks (see the man below in a blue hat) got inducted into the “Strippers Hall of Fame”.

We had a great time. Native Americas walked the site with a smudge pot burning cedar and sage, cleansing our spirits and bringing us peace. Dereck Hench and the Bottomline Contracting crew did a great job showing the volunteers how to get started stripping the various species of trees. Their expertise kept the volunteers from getting frustrated. In fact, most of the volunteers seemed to love the feeling of successfully peeling the bark off a sapling and going for another.

By the end of the day, we got all the main saplings stripped. We didn’t expect to get half of them done.

Tomorrow we start putting the steel pipes in the ground, concreted to prevent uplift and stoned to aid in drainage. It’s such a fun project.


April 23, 2012

God Displays His Sense of Humor
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

Last week I posted about the Eastern Woodlands Longhouse that we are designing and building. We’re working for the 1719 Hans Herr House and having a great time trying to figure out the construction details. I wrote about how busy I am and how this project didn’t come at an opportune time, but sometimes we just need to say yes to the fun things in life. So we’re building a longhouse.

My next post chastised a project owner for his arrogance. I hate arrogance. We all win when we struggle to control our arrogance and highlight our honor and humility. In this, I suppose, God saw an opportunity too good to pass  up.

A reporter called me the next day and wrote an article for their Newsmaker in the Spotlight series. Titled Builder recreates a bit of Native American past, I got a sick feeling when I read the article Saturday morning. I sounded completely arrogant, like I worked out the entire design, just getting a bit of help here and there from others. The quote below illustrates:

Not only did Pelger have to design the plans largely on his own, he had to figure out how to keep the structure historically and culturally accurate while assuring it stands up to years of visitors and whatever Mother Nature dishes out.

Aren’t I wonderful? The truth is that most of the longhouse details were worked out by the Committee before I was even involved. They spent years learning things. I’m just figuring out some construction details and how to get it built with my team and volunteers.

I obsessed about the arrogance depicted in the article on Saturday, when speaking with a good friend I work with. He listened to my whining, then said, “If that’s all I had to worry about, I’d move on.” As I thought of his wife fighting cancer, I had to agree.

Still, though, that was a good one, God. I owe you.


April 18, 2012

Strippers Wanted: The Joy of Longhouse Construction
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

I spent yesterday with two construction supervisors walking a 35 acre forest tract searching for saplings. Not just any saplings, but ones that fit the species, width, length and look to build a 62′ long by 20′ wide by 20′ high Eastern Woodlands Longhouse. We painted the saplings one of three colors, so we could sort them for the strippers. Bark strippers, that is. The invitation below explains our volunteer bark stripping day.

I wanted to entitle the promo piece, “Strippers Wanted”, but the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical Society (for whom we’re working) kiboshed that idea.

I’ve spent months working on the plans and have thoroughly enjoyed learning and thinking in new ways. You may look at the Longhouse plans link if you like. When I complete the plans, I will post them online for others to quickly learn what I slowly learned.

Here’s a photo that shows a similar longhouse in operation.

I sometimes wonder why I take on projects like this, particularly when I’m so busy with other work that I can barely see straight. When I ponder, though, I always conclude that life goes by quickly. I want to do things that I love, even when not convenient or easy…perhaps especially when not convenient or easy. I want to look back on each year and laugh about why I made some of those nutty and fun decisions.

If you’re in the Central PA area, please consider stopping by to help with our bark stripping day. We’ll have fun and make your hands sore. What more could you want?


April 4, 2012

Does Gov Brown Really Make $10B per Hour?
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

If you’ve been following the California high speed rail saga, the proposed project from San Francisco to Los Angeles recently received a revised estimate of $98B US. In 2008 CA voters approved a $9B bond thinking the project cost was $43B.

As I’ve railed about before in these posts, our industry does such a dismal job of projecting costs. Yet what really struck me about this recent ENR article was Gov. Jerry Brown’s involvement. Apparently he told reporters that he spent “several hours” this week on the project and cut the cost from $98B to $68B.

So I figured a $30B project savings accomplished in 3 hours of work yields $10B per hour rate. Now that’s one politician who is not overpaid.

Apparently much of the savings came from not doing high speed rail in the major cities, but just upgrading the existing systems…a mere $1.5B. Which, by the way, is 1,500 packets of one million dollars each.

I know I’m a cheap Dutchman, but how can these numbers possibly make sense? Gravey (my oh-so-smart traffic engineer buddy who works at Bay Area Rapid Transit BART) are you out there? Can you shed any light? Because I’m just not feeling the love on this one.


March 21, 2012

Great Green Design: With a Touch of Grey and Brown
Filed under: Cool Projects,HVAC — Tags: — nedpelger

Green (or sustainable) design too often comes from checklists instead of logic. Some of the Green design makes no economic sense and little technical sense, raising costs and offering scant benefits. I hate that kind of “Bragging Rights” Green design.

So when I encounter some great Green design, I like to make the contrast. Google has a 990,000 sf data center near Atlanta, GA that needs a huge amount of cooling. Rather than relying on all chillers (with their high electrical energy use), Google went with more evaporative cooling (think cooling towers). While this design saves substantial electricity, the water use is huge.


Rather than continuing to use millions of gallons of potable water, Google partnered with the nearby wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The outflow from the treatment plant (which was treated, but you wouldn’t really want to drink a glass) now goes to a Google treatment plant that further sterilizes, filters and chlorinates. The non-potable water then flows into the evaporative cooling system and most turns into mist, carrying huge amounts of heat off into the atmosphere at a low cost. The bit of excess water that does now go into the Chattahoochee River has been cleaned to a level much higher than regulatory standards.

To summarize, electricity gets saved, potable water use goes way down and the non-potable water that enters the river is substantially cleaner. Now that’s great sustainable design. The fact that 30% of the WWTP outflow goes into the Google Data Center cooling water system shows the scale of the operation.

Watch at least a short bit of this video, just to see what a Google mechanical room looks like. All those painted pipes make me happy.

Hat tip to Kneal for shooting me this news. I can always count on you for the straight poop on grey water and brown technology. I suppose having kids in diapers makes you an expert.

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