Building the World

October 27, 2018
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Bridging the Future

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, China. Take a test drive. Image: wikimedia.

World’s longest span, China’s Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, stretches 34 miles  (55 km) across the Pearl River Delta. An artificial island supporting Zhuhai’s port joins the financial centers of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (Special Economic Zone), and manufacturing areas like Dongguan. The bridge cuts travel time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong, formerly taking 4 hours, to 40 minutes. One unique aspect revealing cultural history: traffic patterns change from left-lane driving (in once-British Hong Kong) to right-lane vehicular traffic (the rule of the road in China).

Brooklyn Bridge. Image: wikimedia commons.

Bridges have long encouraged economic activity. London Bridge was perhaps the first shopping mall: spaces along the span were leased to stores whose taxes paid for bridge maintenance. The Brooklyn Bridge cost $15 million to build. Tolls varied: it cost one penny to walk across but double that if you brought a horse or cow, and ten times more with a one-horse wagon. Fifteen years after the bridge joined Manhattan and Brooklyn, the latter’s population doubled and both economies grew rapidly.

China’s new bridge may promise economic development but also drew headlines for costs: $7 billion for the 14 mile main span; $13 billion for tunnels. The project used enough steel (400,000 tons) to build 60 Eiffel Towers. There were also costs in lives lost: 10 people perished during construction; another 500 were injured. There were costly delays (the project was two years late) and troubling scandals: 19 people were indicted on criminal charges for fake concrete. Another cost: the number of rare white dolphins (sometimes called China’s marine panda)  swimming in Hong Kong waters dropped by half, even though $68 million was devoted to their protection.

Rare white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) sometimes called China’s marine panda. Image: wikimedia commons.

How can the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge assure environmental stability? Will the University Alliance of the Silk Road and the Confucius Institute help to bring sustainable and inclusive values that are perhaps the most important bridges?

Confucius Institute. http://chinesecio.com

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Test Drive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9VOhEH4te0

Ramsey, Austin. “China opens giant bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland,” 23 October 2018, The New York Times.

University Alliance of the Silk Road. http://uasr.xjtu.edu.cn/About_UASR/UASR_Introduction.htm

Zhou, Christina, and Bang Xiao. “China’s massive sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai slashes rare white dolphin population.” 25 October 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-25/white-dolphin-numbers-drop-worlds-longest-sea-bridge-opens-china/10428038.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

 

October 20, 2018
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Building the Vegetable Kingdom

“Carrots of many colors” Image: USDA, Agricultural Research Service, IDK11611-1. Wikimedia commons.

Building a better world – with carrots. That crunchy veggie could be used to strengthen concrete, improving construction techniques, and the environment. Blending carrots into building products makes those materials as much as 80% stronger, according to Mohamed Saafi, Professor and Chair in Structural Integrity and Materials at Lancaster University. Not only stronger, carrot-fortified concrete also develops fewer cracks – the carrots seem to act like superglue – so less cement is required, resulting in a lower carbon output. Could it make a difference in our world? Yes. Cement is the source of 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Roman Bridge at Cangas. Image: wikimedia commons.

Ancient Rome built superior roads and bridges by using materials strengthened by a mix-in of volcanic ash. The Great Wall of China was initially built by compacting reeds and mud, a combination that proved stronger and easily scalable, since the materials were available onsite, important when building a 13,000 mile wall. Bridges on the Grand Canal are another example. Mix-ins have long strengthened building materials.

Meanwhile, the next time you munch on a carrot, consider what Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of CelluComp, explained: “Those fibers have strength characteristics in them. It’s the building blocks of the strength of a vegetable.” Because carrots contain so much water, only a very small amount of cellulose of a carrot will alter the property of cement, because water changes as cement hardens. Kemp-Griffin continued: “It’s not the physical fiber that’s causing the strength. It’s the way it holds water. There’s a chemical reaction happening between the fibers and the cement.”

“The Iconic Ohakune Carrot,” photographer: Jane Treadwell-Hoye, 2014. Ohakuna is New Zealand’s carrot capital. Image: wikimedia.

Finally, it’s free, or almost free. CelluComp uses industrial leftovers: carrot peels from those machines that give you pre-cut carrots. Beets are next; there’s a lot of beet pulp after sugar production; 20% of the world’s sugar is made from beets. Brazil leads in sugar production (mainly cane sugar, the other 80%); but building markets may take note of Russia, France, USA, Germany, and Turkey, largest producers of sugar beets. Or, building big with carrots may happen in New Zealand, home to Ohakune, and the big carrot pictured above.

CelluComp. “We develop micro fibrillated cellulose based on waste streams of root vegetables.” https://www.cellucomp.com/

CommodityBasis. “Sugar Prices and Producers.” https://www.commoditybasis.com/sugar_prices.

Drury, Jim. “Carrots could be key to making greener buildings, say researchers.” 19 October 2018. Reuters. (Includes video.)https://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-concrete-carrot/carrots-could-be-key-to-making-greener-buildings-say-researchers-idUSKCN1MT1VA.

Economist. “Making buildings, cars, and planes from materials based on plant fibres.” 14 June 2018. https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/06/14/making-buildings-cars-and-planes-from-materials-based-on-plant-fibres/

Saadi, Mohamed. Research Portal. http://www.research.lancs.ac.uk/portal/en/people/mohamed-saafi(355a81a6-210e-4f37-a495-a387b16506c1.html.

Statista. “Leading sugar beet producers worldwide in 2016, based on production volume.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/264670/top-sugar-beet-producers-worldwide-by-volume/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

May 10, 2018
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Hail to the Ride

Didi’s app logo. Image: wikimedia.

Next time you hail a ride, consider this: China’s ride-hailing market is already greater than the entire world’s combined, at $30 billion. The United States ride-hailing market is $12 billion. A report by Bain & Company predicts China’s market will soon double. China’s equivalent of Uber and Lyft is Didi Chuxing. In fact, Didi bought out Uber’s China operations in 2016, giving the company instead a 18% stake in Didi. But only 40% of ride requests arrive via the Didi app; equally powerful are Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Allpay. Order movie tickets and dinner along with your ride? Do it in one click with Meituan Dianping, with 320 million users. Bain’s Raymond Tsang estimates China’s ride-hailing market will reach $72 billion by 2020. The advent of self-driving vehicles may be part of the strategy: Didi is an AI and autonomous conglomerate. When the United States Transcontinental Railroad was built, telegraph communications infrastructure was laid under the tracks. Will ride-hailing vehicle and communications infrastructure be planned as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, bringing the New Silk Road into the future?

Pham, Sherisse. “China’s $30 billion ride-hailing market could double by 2020.” 15 May 2018. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/15/technology/china-ride-hailing-market/index.html. Includes link to a video on Didi’s expansion into Brazil.

Alibaba Holding Group: stock symbol: BABA

Didi Chuxing: http://ww.didichuxing.com

Tencent: stock symbol: TCEHY

For telegraph infrastructure combined with transport building, see sections 18 and 19 of “An Act to aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line,” 1 July, 1862. Building the World, pages 237-238.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

July 21, 2017
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Forest Cities

We emerged from the forest; will forest cities return us to our natural state? Image: Shennongjia Forest, Hubei, China. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s plans for a “Forest City” may establish a vision for a better urban future. New cities have often marked turning points in history. In the year 145 (or A.D. 762), the new Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty decided to move the capital to create a fresh vision. Setting off on horseback, Al-Mansur saw an auspicious spot, leapt from his steed, drew his sword, and carved three concentric circles upon the land. The new city? The Caliph named it Medinat as-Salam, “City of Peace.” Today, it is called Baghdad.

Liuzhou Forest City will not only be attractively leafy, it will literally eat smog. Commissioned by Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning, Stefano Boeri Architetti designed the green vision:

Hosting 40,000 trees;

Growing 1 million plants of 100 species;

Absorbing 10,000 tons of CO2;

Eating 57 tons of fine dust and pollutants;

Producing 900 tons of fresh Oxygen.

Liuzhou, famous place on the Silk Road, builds upon the vision of Vertical Forests, as seen in Milan, Italy, or the Meir Lobaton & Kristjan Donaldson Torre Cuajimalpa in Mexico. Comparisons might also be made to Rhode Island’s tree-planting project designed by the School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation of Roger Williams University.

No room to plant trees? Answer: CityTree, a green “wall” of plants with as much air-purifying power as 275 trees. Co-founder Zhengliang Wu of Green City Solutions recommends moss cultures because of their larger leaf surface areas.

Green Wall at Caixa Forum, Paseo del Prado, Madrid. Photographer: Mike Dixon. Image: wikimedia.

Cities around the world are seeking resilient responses to climate change. Energy, water, and transport systems are among the areas experiencing innovation. Sea level rise threatens many coastal cities including San Francisco and Silicon Valley, studied by system dynamics experts Christiansen and Libby. And it is not a moment too soon: by 2050, 75% of all the people in the world will live in cities. Will Liuzhou Forest City mark a point in history turning toward sustainability?

For Liuzhou Forest City video: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-40502622/welcome-to-liuzhou-forest-city

“Changing Cities in a Changing Climate,” Alexander F. Christiansen and Bradd Libby, DNV GL Group Technology and Research, Climate Action Programme. https://www.dnvgl.com/technology-innovation/city-resilience/index.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

June 23, 2017
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Shining a New Light

“Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China.” William Havell, 1817. Image: wikimedia commons.

Infrastructure has been termed the foundation of civilization. Rome built roads, and water systems; the aqueducts made possible the expansion of the city and the empire. China built the Grand Canal, stimulating commerce, culture, and communication: the written language was first standardized because of the Canal. Throughout history, infrastructure has spurred civilization. The world currently spends $2.5 trillion on water, energy, transport, and telecommunications – each year. But, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, $3.3 trillion is needed just to keep up. What’s more worrying? Emerging and developing areas will require more of everything: electricity, roads, rail, airports, shipping ports.  Aggregate investment from now until 2030 will be significant: 49 trillion. Initiatives like China’s New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) may globalize infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable and beneficial. Bringing new infrastructure to areas in need is a chance, perhaps unprecedented in history, to rebuild the world.

“Bridging global infrastructure gaps.” Jonathan Woetzel, Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke, Martin Hjerpe, Robert Palter. McKinsey Global Institute, June 2016. http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/bridging-global-infrastructure-gaps

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

May 26, 2017
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Golden Opportunity? Coal to Wind

“Green River of Wyoming.” Artist, Thomas Moran, 1878. Image: wikimedia commons

A golden opportunity may be dawning, not only for energy but for employment, from coal to wind. There’s precedent: many workers on the Transcontinental Railroad were “navvies” – a term coined to describe those who built navigable waterways including the Erie Canal. Skills in technologies, combined with the ability to work in remote locations: these are the same valuable traits that may now transform the coal industry. Carbon County, Wyoming, is launching a job training program for coal miners to become wind farm technicians. Wyoming produces more coal than any other American state; but geography makes it ideal for wind, with 850 turbines planned, perhaps leading to a change in tax policy.  Job training is free, offered by Goldwind, a leading wind turbine manufacturer in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China, famous hub of the Silk Road. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal: will the celebration include the training and development of workers who changed the American economy? Might the future feature transformation from coal to wind, as skilled workers take on new industries to rebuild energy and environment?

Baeumier, Axel, Ede Ijjasa-Vasque, Shomik Mehndirrata, eds. Sustainable Low-Carbon City Development in China. The World Bank, 2012. ISBN: 9780821389881 (ebook).

Cardwell, Diane. “Wind Project in Wyoming Envisions Coal Miners as Trainees.” 21 May 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/21/business/energy-environment/wind-turbine-job-training-wyoming.html?_r=0

Goldwind. In Chinese: http://goldwind.cn; in English: http://www.goldwindglobal.com/web/index.do

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

May 17, 2017
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Silk Road 2.0

Yo-yo Ma, founder of Silkroad, playing the cello at the World Economic Forum, 2008. Photographer: Andy Mettler. Image: wikimedia commons.

Yo-yo Ma, cellist and founder of Silkroad, might write new music for what is being referred to as the “new silk road.” The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation 2017 concluded this week in Beijing, with 1,000 international government representatives; 68 countries signed on to jointly develop infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road. It’s a big route, linking China, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Historians might add North America: the Canadian Pacific Railway customized railcars to transport silk worm cocoons from Vancouver’s docks to the mills of New Jersey and New York. The so-called “Silk Trains” carried armed guards, so valuable was the cargo. One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a land and maritime vision including Railway to London, Railway to Iran, Gwadar Port, Asian Gas Pipeline, and Khorgos Gateway for the biggest dry port in the world. Asian Development Bank estimates the need for $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure to respond to growth and climate change. Macro by any definition, the New Silk Road (One Belt One Road or perhaps to be called BRI) may open an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the world for inclusion and environment, a topic worthy of the future 2019 Summit. The Grand Canal of China may be an inspiration. Will the Confucius Institute lead the way?

Confucius Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston: https://www.umb.edu/confucius and https://m.facebook.com/The-Confucius-Institute-at-UMass-Boston-187408381366993/

National Development and Reform Commission. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. 2015/03/28. People’s Republic of China. en.ndrc.gov.cn/news/release/201503/t20150330_669367.html.

Liu Qin. “China needs to pave ‘One Belt One Road’ with green finance, say experts.” 07.01.2016, chinadialogue.net. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/8532-China-needs-to-pave-One-Belt-One-Road-with-green-finance-say-experts-

Quinn, Zoë G. “Silk” 17 July 2012. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2012/07/17/silk/

Tweed, David. “China’s Silk Road.” 15 May 2017. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/china-s-silk-road/

For a map: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21701505-chinas-foreign-policy-could-reshape-good-part-world-economy-our-bulldozers-our-rules

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

March 6, 2017
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March!

St. Petersburg: price of admission to the new city was one large stone, by order of the tsar. Image: wikimedia commons.

March! It’s a month that begins with a command. In fact, some opine that the fourth day may be pronounced as an imperative. Many great achievements thus began: Cyrene was discovered and built in response to a command of the Oracle at Delphi; the Grand Canal was dug by orders of successive emperors. St. Petersburg was built in stone, by directive of Tsar Peter who set, as price of admission to the new city, one large stone. What commands your attention, and action, to march forth?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

January 27, 2017
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Wake Up Call

Year of the Rooster. Image: Jianzhi, wikimedia commons.

Enter the Rooster, herald of the wake up call. Each Spring Festival opens a new year, inspired by the characteristics of a new animal. The tradition of the new year, spiraled in 60-year cycles, began in 2637 bce. Emperor Huangdi’s minister Ta Nao is said to have suggested the Chia-Tzu or Kan-chih cyclical system. China added the Gregorian calendar in 1912, generally used from 1949. China understands long time frame. The Great Wall was built over the course of dynasties. The Grand Canal, longest continuous building project in history, broke ground in 600 bce; latest phase of improvement, to be completed in 2050, will feature design projects by students. Each new year is an invitation to a new generation to rebuild the world in an improved version; this Spring Festival, it’s the Rooster’s turn,a wake up call. Make it your ringtone.

For More: “Rooster Crowing Compilation” by YANG Edwin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwnzDT56VAU/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

January 6, 2017
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Grid-Iron

China built the equivalent of 10,000 football fields in solar panels in 2015, a rate of one gridiron per hour. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s produced solar panels equal 10,000 football fields, the average of one football field per hour, every day of 2015. Builders of the Grand Canal, and the Great Wall, may soon set another record. Pledging $360 billion to building of renewable energy systems, China set course for leadership in the field by 2020. The announcement comes at a time Beijing woke up repeatedly to smog. Several of China’s large cities are coastal, vulnerable to sea rise. Environmental woes might be addressed by the strategic focus. Progress is swift; China installs one wind turbine every hour. Half of all wind power and one-third of all solar panels globally built in 2015: China. It’s good economics: the number of new jobs created by funding innovation in renewable clean energy? 13 million. The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will expand through commitments of the Paris Agreement. Gridiron may soon take on a new meaning.

Video: “China Investing Billions in Renewable Energy” by Neeti Upadhye, The New York Times, 5 January 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004855712/china-investing-billions-in-renewable-energy.html

Myllyvirta, Lauri. “China: Six little known facts about the country’s solar and wind boom.” 8 September 2016. Greenpeace, Energy Desk. http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/09/08/china-six-little-known-facts-countrys-solar-wind-boom/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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