Tuesday 24 February 2015

Foresight - data, cars, bicycles, truth and wealth creation

An interesting article by Ivan Hurst (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bim-young-grow-ivan-hurstand an analogy that could be applied to many disruptive innovations. As Ivan makes clear converging technical and mass market demand and application(s) will create demand for Digital Information Management, Exchange, and Collaboration (DIMEC) from entirely different perspectives. Many of these I would expect we cannot imagine yet, but will undoubtedly be a catalyst for transforming our use and relationship with data rich, spatial measurement that is correlated with anything over time. Your points are well made.

Were the real innovations that created mass adoption of cars marketing, moving assembly lines and cheap oil? 
To be slightly controversial and off the point of the article, were the real innovations driving the growth in car uptake the car itself (internal combustion engine et al) and its application (personal freedom, convenience, range and economy) or the moving assembly lines, marketing and availability of cheap oil that brought it to the masses and paid for further innovation and prioritisation. This may be relevant as history is littered with suboptimal uptake of technology (VHS vs beta and automobile vs bicycle).

The sub-optimal development of cars beyond rationale thinking will take a long time to undo; the current age where we have sacrificed our thoroughfares and health to excessive pollution and parked vehicles in the interest of personal freedom and mobility will not be fully understood by future society 
‘Cars are integral to modern life. They account for 70% of all journeys not made on foot. They are cheaper, safer and more comfortable than ever before’ (http://www.economist.com/node/21563280) and yet their use in many developed economies is at last falling particularly in the younger generations. By contrast, world annual bicycle production has been accelerating since 1970 – when it was equal to auto production at 21m units per year – it is now running at over 120m units per year. The bicycle is by far and away the most efficient form of transport for speeds up to at least 20km/h – (http://www.withouthotair.com/c20/page_128.shtml). It is only now that dense urban areas are recognising the folly of over enabling access to limited road space capacity to private cars without any restraints. We need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water and lose valuable knowledge as next generation DIMEC inevitably creates a pull towards solutions where the most wealth can be created.

Self evidently there are not more cars in the world than people!
A minor point - there are clearly not more cars in the world than people – although there are certain blogs expounding and repeating that myth. World annual car production (74% of all vehicle production) is currently at its highest level ever (circa 60m /year that is 50% higher than in 1999 – 40m /year). Even if you go back to 1886 and take 60m as the annual car production every year for the 129 years to 2015 that would only get us to 7.7 billion cars. There are 7.3bn people in the world today. The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers estimated that the 1 billion unit mark was reached in 2010 and 2.5 billion will not be reached until 2050 through growth led by China and India.

Rapid economic development and feelings of improved security and well-being are presumably still dependent on the consumption and production of vehicles
There was an interesting and telling article in the Huffington Post in 2011 (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/08/23/car-population_n_934291.html) when they reported that the world car population had topped 1 billion.  ‘China, along with the rapidly growing economies of India and Brazil, are leading the world in increased demand for cars. And these countries often express resentment when they perceive efforts to curb unsustainable growth as being unfriendly to their development. At this year's International Transport Forum, European speakers urged a renaissance in the use of bicycles as an alternative to cars. But representatives from China and India pointed out that their populations are currently in the process of shedding their bicycles in favour of more sophisticated transportation.  "The bike is better to get around in Beijing, but bicycle use is dropping fast due to poor air quality and the danger from car traffic," Tongji University professor Pan Haixiao said. Cycling is a miniscule thing," B.K. Chaturvedi of India's Planning Commission said. "That's not the future."

To answer your question - BIM will it grow? Yes but the next stages in its development will almost certainly be sub-optimal and it will take longer than 20 years to undo the downside of sub-optimal use.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Big Ride on 28 April 2012

Let's get serious about the low carbon economy. 58% of people in the Netherlands regularly ride bikes. In my view, the UK needs serious investment in wide ranging and integrated infrastructure to wean us off total addiction to private motor vehicles. Where by and large this is seen by the majority as a default entitlement regardless of the impact and real need.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Light - glow and glare

There are two kinds of light -- the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures. -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)

Thursday 5 January 2012

Classic investment sales approach required?

Future diverse, affordable and resilient energy provision
I'm all for weaning us off our total reliance on current forms of fuel/supply and in particular those used for much of our electricity generation and distribution. Furthermore, I believe it is critical for a resilient and stable future for generations that come after us.

The Desertec vision is to be applauded and although ambitious it can revolutionise energy and politics in the region;  benefits from playing and winning at such a technology challenge go far beyond building and utilising industrial production and securing a more diverse and resilient energy base.
annotated DiiDesertEnergy - market development digram

Historical context
I realise that the diagram is simply indicative and not to scale. The fundamental flaws in high upfront investment for long-term private sector returns haven't changed from the time private companies created railways all over the UK in the 19th century - and then went bust later.

In the UK, there is a long list of these optimistically based projections to attract investment and achieve great results. The Channel Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in the past have on the whole been great for those involved in constructing and operating the facilities but not great for the people who were the ultimate providers of funds - certainly against the original business cases.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this schematic but the 'investment' case looks quite weak, even before it touches reality, unless you are a utility, technology or manufacturing company.  Based on the above schematic published by DiiDesertEnergy on 5 January 2012 

  • despite a circa 40% increase in the market price for electricity by 2050,  
  • ignoring the substantial displacement in cashflows that will crucify any estimates of Net Present Value
  • and making no particular statements on risks; for example on demand from cutting massive waste, introducing smart grids and off grid supplies. 

the long-term payoff for the 'mean' cost line for the range of technology specific renewables considered is a mix of

  • a 'self sustaining market' for the manufacturing and technology companies and other institutions who form Dii, Medgrid and other and who are presumably the main beneficiaries from the intellectual property derived from these proposed investments made over the next 15-20 years
  • (1) substantial loss on 'investment' in most cases or (2) massive taxpayer contribution (subsidy) towards any return for investors; if 2) occurs which is most likely what reward does the taxpayer receive and what real risk are the other 'investors' taking to achieve their return
Honesty in future returns
Do we really weigh up the pros and cons of this type of long-term investment with an honest appraisal of doing nothing? The opportunity lost from not investing in infrastructure rather than simply the opportunity lost in the use of capital against other uses of that capital. Surely, the functional and engineering success that is Sir Joseph Bazalgette's (and his teams) London sewer network legacy arises from a tremendous foresight, commitment and passion in knowing what great looks like rather than any prediction of the short-term return on investment. 

NB What I like most about the Dii diagram is its honesty - there will be certain technology specific renewables that will be real 'dogs' in terms of an investment proposition and unfortunately we will have no idea what they will be or why. But that is life..

A great case for investing in long-term sustainable and predictable energy from Tidal range (and stream) sources
Given the tidal power technology 

  • exists/works well, 
  • benefits arising fairly predictable and 
  • any environmental impact relatively benign and probably on balance positive to the overall ecology (unless undue weight is given to unscientific and emotionally based avian chirping from organisations that should frankly know better) 

we should have the bottle as a country to go for a Severn and Mersey tidal power (barrage) schemes as a minimum. 
Which leader will back that idea? It would certainly hot up the debate about what we need to do, and the choices that must be made, as a nation to really address the economic, social and behavioural challenges it will take to be a leading and affordable low carbon economy that's fit for a sustainable future.

Desertec stands for the overall vision of supplying a large part of the world with sustainable power, by tapping the energy potential of the desert. Dii (launched as "Desertec Industrial Initiative") is a private industry consortium working towards enabling this vision in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EUMENA)

Photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/diidesertenergy/ 
Dii market development graphic http://www.flickr.com/photos/diidesertenergy/6635132251/
Dii indicative map of sites http://flic.kr/p/9t1AiG 

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Selected innovators at 2011 Sustainability Live

Lontra Blade compressor () first uses: waste water aeration, oil free industrial air compressors and automotive superchargers.
PyroPure (), Ethos Energy () also Mitie has published paper on potential (); for hazardous waste pay back can be only c. 2-3 years.
Oxford Photovoltaic's solar cell technology uses cheap, abundant, non-toxic & non-corrosive materials screen printed on glass. ().
KiWiPower helps companies remove stress in National Grid by reducing electricity consumption when most polluting & expensive. National Grid pays for service as reduces peak demand ()

Oxford PV and Lontra certainly looked quite unique; the former still working to finalise details; improve efficiencies (today 5% but aiming for 20%), scale up and guarantee a 25 year life span or something equivalent to the glazing facade in which they will be placed etc. Very exciting though the range of applications and colours etc..


Thursday 21 April 2011

China's 12th Five Year Plan: A Preliminary Look

Jonathon Porritt (forum for the future and Guardian) gave an excellent lecture and kick to do more, entitled City, Nations and Global Capital: Turning Sustainability into Reality, at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) on 4 April. 
Among other issues he did point out that this plan was worth reading and that it had a great deal of the right direction and leadership in it and as a better example of what needs to be planned and done than democratic countries are currently managing to show. So I thought I would read into it a little..
China's 12th Five Year Plan: A Preliminary Look
From article in Opinion Maker Feb 25, 2001. http://goo.gl/HVKuj

Friday 1 April 2011

Experience and tools for setting up new UK private company

Well I can say it has been fun and there is so much help out there is appears to be quite straightforward (so far). 
The Business Link support webpages have been and continue to be really helpful; so far I've used the governmental portal link, the comprehensive schedule of applicable regulations based on questions about business and created a timescales for VAT and company reporting etc.
Pipeline Deals - work status end March 2011

Pipeline Deals - work status mid-April 2011
Still looking for the more effective way doing accounts/invoice in the cloud without paying for large sums of money. I think it'll be excel spreadsheet for the time being - perhaps an accountant if I get any work!! 
Also need to do a little work on the stationary and branding but it is early days yet.

Friday 21 January 2011

I've discovered the YouTube leanback function - Sweet!

The system is great for reviewing YouTube subscriptions quickly - to be honest I couldn't be bothered with looking through the subscriptions at all before (a bit like Twitter in fact). I've used the free Android YouTube Remote app - which is very intuitive to use. 
Screen capture of leanback host machine controlled by phone - Panther's Dash - the go! Team

The German subscription channel Deutsche Welle is particularly good and there is always something well produced and interesting (http://www.youtube.com/user/deutschewelleenglish).
The main Deutsche Welle website is also great and has free online language courses. I suppose the British Council does something similar but somehow it didn't seem as industrious as D-W!? The British Council's presence on YouTube seems to have more of a country focus for example http://www.youtube.com/user/britishcouncilhk and http://www.youtube.com/user/BritishCouncilUK

...I'd almost forgotten that feeling/sound - icradio // Android radio streaming

I also discovered that the Android TuneIn Radio app from RadioTime is excellent not only for streaming this radio but also various BBC live radio stations that my otherwise brilliant Dolphin Android browser won't let me listen to.  

Saturday 11 December 2010

The ICE toolkit for a developing world is online now and available for all to see

What exactly is the toolkit?
The toolkit is an open-source set of materials and ideas to help engineers plan and deliver infrastructure for international development, poverty alleviation and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It's a first in the civil engineering field and the work of ICE Past President Paul Jowitt and his Apprentices.

How can you access it?The full toolkit is now freely available to all engineers worldwide. For more information on the toolkit, please email apprentices@ice.org.uk

"Engineering is at the heart of most human endeavour, and to integrate it in this way to specifically address the problems of the developing world is admirable and to be encouraged. I salute this brilliant and original idea." 

Bill Nighy
, Actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador

The cards on sustainable infrastructure are particularly clear about the challenge we need to help address to ensure access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
Source: Morella, Foster and Banerjee 2008

Monday 6 December 2010

Desertec Foundation going for fast global implementation of concept: clean power from deserts for climate protection and global energy security.

"Within 6 hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year" Dr Gerhard Knies.
The DESERTEC Foundation was established on 20 January 2009 as a non-profit foundation with the aim of promoting the implementation of the global DESERTEC Concept "Clean Power from Deserts" all over the world. 
Sketch of possible infrastructure for a sustainable supply of power to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA) (Euro-Supergrid with a EU-MENA-Connection proposed by TREC). For illustration: the red squares indicate the space needed for solar collectors to produce the present power for the world (18.000 TWh/y, 300x300 km2), for Europe (EU 3.200 TWh/y, 125x125 km2) and for Germany or MENA (Middle East and North Africa, about 600 TWh/y, 55x55 km2).
The square labelled "TRANS-CSP Mix EUMENA 2050" indicates the space needed for solar collectors to supply the needs for seawater desalination and about two-thirds of the electricity consumption in MENA in the year 2050 and about one-fifth of the European electricity consumption by Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Plants (2,940 TWh/y in total).  5 March 2009. Source: http://www.desertec.org/downloads/DESERTEC-Map_large.jpg . Author: TREC.  This file is licensed  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Genericlicense.

Monday 22 November 2010

Arup Bridge Stories Exhibition: Portrait of Bridge Designer (Angus Low)

'Portrait of a Bridge Designer' by Piers Dennis. A short profile of Arup's Angus Low and his long and varied career designing bridges around the world.

Saturday 23 October 2010

More about Visualising Bike Sharing from Oliver O'Brien

Paul Morrell, Government Chief Construction Advisor - Major Strategic Priorities and Opportunities for Construction

Buildoffsite Stakeholder event (29 September 2010).


Offsite Production overview - Buildoffsite (industry wide campaign organisation prompting greater uptake of offsite technique in UK construction)

Richard Ogden, Buildoffsite Chairman and 'the man who built a McDonald's in two days', gave a seminar on 'how the construction industry can capitalise on offsite efficiencies' (October 19 BEST Residential Hub, NEC Birmingham).

Key question he suggested we ask : Why make a project out of a product?
Examples of some of the many advantages of offsite construction are:
  • risk reduction; fewer people on site (manufacturing has significantly fewer accidents), controlled environment (quality control, wind and weather protection)
  • lower costs in some areas; prelims, car parking
  • speed of construction; GSK has reduced construction time for some mobile/temporary manufacturing units from 36 months to 3 months
  • areas of buildings with complex services (e.g. science labs and washrooms in schools) have greatest advantages 
He noted that there were three main types of offsite construction
  • 2-D; panels
  • 3-D; corridor modules for BAA reducing requirement to work airside
  • Hybrid; houses
Other points picked up

  • Retrofit in domestic housing  is more difficult but there are opportunities that ought to be explored but require a change in perception; e.g. replace complete roofs built offsite
  • Japan is world leader in offsite manufacturing - people aspire to live in highly engineered offsite manufactured housing units
  • In the UK Laing O'Rourke (LOR) has invested heavily in their Design for Manufacture and Assembly' (DfMA) apporach and their Explore Industrial Park in Steetley. LOR claim this to be 'the most advanced facility of its type in Europe'. Others in the UK such as Carillion have said that the amount they do offsite is increasing every year.
  • Offsite Powerpoint on Teachnet


Offsite Production in the UK – prepared by HSE - June 2009

A Brief Overview
Report Prepared by Stephen Taylor: Construction Engineering Specialist Team: HSE
This paper discusses the historical and current application of modern methods of construction using off-site production techniques. The paper gives an overview of the various types of off-site construction; specific case studies illustrating current practice; and, the primary benefits to health and safety on construction sites through its implementation.

Keeping abreast of the winds of change | New Civil Engineer | DECC UK Electricity Generation Costs update (June 2010)

An interesting viewpoint from EC Harris published on 14 November, Keeping abreast of the winds of change | Features | New Civil Engineer, which provide an overview of how life cycle costs can be minimised whilst maintaining and sustaining assets' integrity.
EC Harris has also published an expert article entitled 'An Holistic view of value drivers will improve the return on investment for offshore wind farms'.
'The cost of delivering offshore wind projects is rapidly reaching £3.8 million per megawatt; at a time when investors are looking for costs of £2 million per megawatt to allow a viable return on investment. It will be a huge task to reduce costs by almost 50% when there is significant cost pressure due to market immaturity and supply chain inefficiencies.'
In this article they note, from their cross sector experience, that reducing costs is not the only way to improve the return on investment although it is still a very important one.
'The three main levers that can be pulled are the optimisation of generation, the impact of the prevailing tariff system and timely and efficient connection. All of these factors need to be addressed if the industry is to be successful in providing a viable return on investment.'
DECC UK Electricity Generation Costs update 
On Tuesday this week I attending a seminar by Dr Guy Doyle (Chief Economist, Energy and Carbon at Mott McDonald) who was presenting the findings contained within the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)'s June 2010 update on the UK's Electricity Generation Costs. This was an interesting presentation on levelised costs, the lifetime discounted cost of an asset expressed in cost per unit energy produced, for a range of main technologies. This report is one that has been regularly updated and records and forecasts the levelised costs for projects started in 2009, 2013, 2017, 2023. 
The forecasts take into consideration a range of factors such as a DECC view of the accelerating higher forward costs of carbon (central projection assumed to rise to £200/tonne in 2050 vs £30/tonne by others - today it is circa £12/tonne) and a Mott McDonald view on the technology progress and First of a Kind (FOAK) premiums. 
'For most mature technologies the main drivers of costs are market conditions and commodity prices, with some discounting for installations with multiple units.  For these technologies, the main scope for technical progress is in the application of best practice construction management.  Even though the UK has yet to build an advanced supercritical coal plant, there is likely to be comparatively little difference (less than 10%) between the first of a kind (FOAK) and the nth of a kind (NOAK) plant.  CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) technology is already at the NOAK level, as is onshore wind.  Offshore wind still has some significant learning, especially in the area on cost effective foundations/anchoring and in reducing maintenance and servicing costs.  Moving to deeper water and further offshore means wind faces a moving target as this tends to require new untried technical solutions. 
Third generation nuclear plants and especially CCS are at an earlier stage, although for the former there are probably easier wins to be had in terms of improved project management than in technology changes.'  
The resultant projections are interesting when taken in the context of the two EC Harris articles,  the anticipated investment in Crown Estate and Scottish wind programmes and the Energy Technology Institute's 2010 Marine Energy Technology Road MapI have included 2009, 2013 and 2023 start dates in order to note the trends the report identifies. 
DECC report: Levelised costs of main technologies for projects started in 2009 - mix of FOAK and NOAK (£/MWh)
Round 3 Wind FOAK (c. £180/MWh) is not only over twice cost of Gas CCGT (c. £80/MWh) started in 2009 but is also significantly higher than the average cost of energy in generation today at £45/MWh! Even with 2 no ROC (Renewable Obligation Certificates) it must struggle to be viable as FOAK technology and will need a real focus on cost reduction, optimisation of generation, the impact of the prevailing tariff system and timely and efficient connection (see EC Harris notes above).

Thursday 21 October 2010

TfL - Interchange Best Practice Guidelines

A seminar at The Infrastructure Show, NEC 19 October 2010, considered how value for money can be achieved in interchange upgrades over the long term. John McNulty - Head of Interchange, also described methods in use in London by Transport for London (TfL) to ensure costs are kept low where possible, knowledge shared and the whole range of options considered to maximise the opportunity to ensure public transport, walking and cycling are as attractive as they can be.
Best Practice guidelines have been published and updated as knowledge and case studies have been recorded. These are based around four design themes Efficiency, Usability, Understanding and Quality.
Interchanges have been defined and graded into a number of types from strategic, inter-regional to local. TfL have classified a total 645 material interchanges, where people can change between one mode of transport to another. The Legible London totem signs are an example of the effort to made to provide simple information to people in a consistent way; at the same time it provides a great opportunity to 'de-cluster' streets of vast numbers of signage etc. and integrate relevant information in one place.
This itself is not a simple job as there are many views that could have been considered; this article in the Londonist attests.
The use of a common relevant transport model across all the different stakeholders, for recent major and complex interchanges such as King's Cross/St Pancras, have provided an invaluable tool to ensure demand and design requirements are fully understood, considered and implemented.
It would be useful to see some simple key metrics for the potential capacity (local and regional), intended design/ functionality, and actual use of the interchanges in each category types. This would enable people to see the tangible benefits of better and optimal interchange design, the value of investing in the detail of the scheme for long-term gains in performance and behavioural change.

Example of two pages within the TfL Quick Reference Guide

Friday 15 October 2010

TfL Cycle Hire Scheme (Boris Bikes) and Other Scheme Visualisations - Oliver G O'Brien

Suprageography http://oliverobrien.co.uk/
Weather at UCL http://www.casa.ucl.ac.uk/weather/
London Profiler (on Google Map interface) http://www.londonprofiler.org/
Oliver O'Brien is a research associate with CASA (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis),  University College London.
1-19 Torrington Place - London - WC1E 7HB.

Monday 11 October 2010

Think, Play, Do Group Limited - Case Study..

'In a world where disruptive technologies and new business models can change the entire game and new competitors emerge from across the globe, the challenge facing organisations is to intensify their capacity for innovation... and capture the rewards rather than cede them to competition. The Think, Play, Do Group was set up in 2005 to provide commercial access to expertise of the Innovation Studies Centres at Imperial College London and the University of Queensland, Brisbane.'
Video - Professor David Gann, Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group Imperial College Business School, on the Laing O'Rourke Case Study

Monday 13 September 2010

Low Carbon UK : Go for engineering challenge

Fundraiser: Hugh PorterMy page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HughPorter

Hi, thanks for visiting my page - I have created a blog at http://cycle.woodrush.com.
My plan is to cycle from Orkney to Kent raising money for two charities
  • The Outward Bound Trust which is dedicated to unlocking potential in young disadvantaged people and
  • Help for Heroes - this is about me doing my little bit to show support for these extraordinarily brave and mainly young people.
I intend to look at selected engineering feats (mainly civil engineering) along the route and consider the implications of the big changes I (and perhaps we all) need to make to move to a low carbon economy. I will take David JC MacKay's book Sustainable Energy - without the hot air with me as a reference guide.
My guide
Through Virgin Money Giving, you can sponsor me and donations will be quickly processed and passed to charities. Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation and will claim gift aid on a charity's behalf where the donor is eligible for this. I really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donations.