Category Archives: Local

Miscellanea: more favourites

Public transport – why you should opt for rail over bus by Prof Peter Newman

Is New York the greenest city? A review of ‘Green Metropolis’

Interesting articles on aspects of urbanism: Creative Communities

Socially concious design – a website that exploresd the question: can design change the world?

New York City Street Design Manual.

Pioneering urban regeneration in Johannesburg driven by the arts.

A revealing article with a snippet on where the priorities of some ‘star’ architects really lie.

Restoring the industrial landscape by William McDonough: regenerating a Ford factory.

A great house featured on Grand Designs.

A field guide to green roofs.

The website of the ‘Rational House’ concept.

Zulu cuisine.

South African rainwater harvesting and heat pump systems.

The consulting practice of Alan Baxter, recent recipient of a CBE.






Miscellanea: clearing the favourites backlog

These articles and links caught my attention over the last while and have collected in my favourites folder. Time to deal with the link delivery backlog:

International development

A missionary-activist (aka ‘Tarzan agitator’) helping protect Amazonian tribes from oil and mining companies – from The Guardian.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation vs ‘Extreme humanitarianism’

Is aid doing Haiti more harm than good?

Gardian article: before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do.

Western vs Chinese aid: Which is better? – from Moneyweb

Good interactive graphic of the Corruption Index 2010

Losing our history:

Article chronicling the destruction of some of South Africa’s irreplaceable industrial heritage, through indifference and neglect.

A view on whether Christchurch’s iconic bell tower should be restored after the earthquake –  by Simon Jenkins

Detroit in Ruins – photographs by Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre (also see this article: Detroit: the Ultimate Food Desert)

However see this grittily uplifting superbowl ad: Imported from Detroit

New thinking and projects in sustainability and design:

A treatment plant that converts sewerage to clean water, biogas energy and compost – by Amaresco in the US. (Expect to see more like this as cities realise that there needs to be a closed loop of resource use if we are ever going to be come sustainable)

Beyond food miles – from the Oil Drum.

Interview with John Egan on the importance of design

Article from Fast Company on roll-out of electric car charging stations

Also from Fast Company: The rise of the Aerotropolis

Civil and infrastructure engineering:

‘Civilised streets’ – A report from CABE (which has subsequently been shut down by the UK govt in a misguided attempt to save money)

Fantastic website on mini-roundabouts by someone who really understands his craft.

CSIR guide to Potholes

A guided tour of London’s sewer system

A Guide to South African Passes and Poorts. (More comprehensive than the Getaway book thats currently on sale)


An article in the Financial Mail that shares my scepticism on High Speed rail in South Africa. (Lets rather spend the money on urban rail)

Interview with Charles Taylor of Ballito

Nomkhubulwane – an Andries Botha elephant

The above two are from Comment from the Couch, a blog dedicated to hot-dipped galvanising.

Dennis Guichard – architectural and engineering photographer


Two articles you get when you google ‘design efficiency’: here and here. I always though the process of design could be efficient to varying degrees, hence the name of this blog, but I never considered actually trying to measure it, as they have done.

An incredibly smart guy who solved a Cypher Security Challenge. (He won a season ticket to Bletchley Park for his efforts…)

An ode to butter and butter making

Link collection: South African initiatives and innovations

Here are some links to articles I have come across recently – all interesting developments from around South Africa:

Two articles on the ‘teabag’ water purifier developed at Stellenbosch University, from iAfrica and Good Magazine

An article that gets it right about where our priorities should be in light of the World Cup (and potential Olympics I would add)

Very interesting sustainable rural community development: Verkykerskop

An article in the M&G documenting how renewable energy is starting to scale up in South Africa. (This was before the Upington – De Aar Solar Park was announced)

Local artists in Durban augmenting the urban environment a la Banksy…

Durban’s Early Morning Market: what would Yunus do?

It looks like the demolition of 20090420_WarwickJunction_EditedDurban’s historic Early Morning Market, home to thousands of informal traders, is inevitable. The city powers have bulldozed this through, ignoring the environmental specialists; heritage specialists; development specialists; academics and not least the traders themeselves. This is to make way for a new shopping mall with all the economic blandness that it entails, converting the thousands of micro entrepreneurs into at best a few hundered wage earners, with all profits going into ‘Big Retail’.

I find it sad as this place pulsates with energy and while it is indeed chaotic and lawless, it has incredible potential to emerge (with good planning and management) as a cenre for micro-business and local trade, whilst retaining the heritage and unique atmosphere of the space.

What is ironic (and which makes it sadder still) is that none other than Muhammad Yunus is currently in the country, sharing in the successes of investing in the poor with his microfinancing methods of Grameen Bank.

I suggested to an activist organisation opposing this development that they should make contact with him and get him to opine on the issue. I have no doubt on which side he would come down on.

What would Yunus do?

Here is an interview by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, where he is due to speak.

Tony Lankester asks: where is South Africa’s Muhammad Yunus?

The text of a petition to the city council is pasted below:

Continue reading

Remember when it rained

I am about 2 years late but this is an awesome song from SA’s dj sbu… sort of off topic, but I am enjoying it…

Another significant moment for sustainability in South Africa: the launch of ‘Greenstar’

If you have been involved in sustainable design you will probably familiar with green building rating systems such as LEED in the United States and BREEAM in the UK. Building on these and especially the Australian system, South Africa is about to launch its own rating system, the Greenstar, as developed by the Green Building Council of South Africa. I expect there to be a surpisingly large demand for this tool.

Engineering News has a fairly comprehensive article on this here.

Water efficiency and development in Durban

Tongaat Hulett has an article on their aspirations for water efficiency on their website. It is encouraging to see something so foward-looking and yet pragmatic.

My question is: will it actually be implemented or will pressures do deliver profitable developments with minimal fuss win the day?