The Tube is Heating up While London is Trying to Stay Cool

London’s tube system is literally heating up the city – and that’s a problem. A hundred years ago their subway stations were places to cool down during hot summer days and people had to wear sweaters while commuting. Today, this is no longer the case. The trains are heating the earth which in turn makes the entire tube too hot.

Cooling the tube is now a pressing issue and nifty ideas are being tried. New systems being tested tend to be green and benefit other parts of the city. Basically they are trying to transfer the heat to places that want it to save costs.

An experiment in Islington is trying that very thing using heat from the tube tunnels to warm up a municipal heating service provided to a housing estate. The advantage of this scheme is that it can remove heat in winter when it’s needed above ground. It may seem mildly annoying that surface users don’t want heat in summer when you’d think the tunnels are at their most oppressive, but in fact removing heat in winter helps during the summer.

If the clay surrounding the tunnel can be cooled in winter, it has more capacity to absorb heat in the summer.

As it happens, at this particular trial, the fans can also be reversed so that during the summer months, they can suck cool night time air down into the tunnels as well.

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Algae Used for Carbon Capture at Cement Plant

industry

Every year cement production contributes about 5% of the global emissions generated by humans. Any improvement around cement production will have a good impact on lowering carbon entering our atmosphere. In Sweden there’s one company using algae to lower its emissions. The country has carbon emission rates that are likely increasing in the next few years, which has inspired the cement company to figure out how to avoid paying more for producing the same amount of cement. Their solution: pumping the carbon output from their cement factory onto algae which then inhales all that delicious carbon, once the algae dies it becomes food.

It’s elegant: Take water from the Baltic Sea’s Kalmar Strait next to the plant, pump it about 100 meters (330 feet, about the length of a soccer field) into bags that can hold about 3,000 liters (800 gallons) of liquid. Add key nutrients to multiply the naturally occurring algae, and then let them soak in the gases piped to it from the cement plant (what would otherwise be the factory’s waste product) while the sun shines.

What’s more is the algae are rich in proteins and fats. After drying, they can be used as an additive for chicken- and fish-food. Heidelberg is in talks to sell the algae additives to major agricultural companies like Cargill. At its current size, the Algoland system in Degerhamn can only produce about a few kilograms of algae a day. But the plant has all it needs to scale up to make many metric tons of algae daily—light, water, fresh algae, and lots of space—and thus capture many metric tons of carbon dioxide in the process.

The science underlying Algoland is not novel, but what is new is how well it integrates the many parts entailed into an economically feasible carbon-capture plant. The used-up limestone quarry can provide the space; a greenhouse built on it ensures the right temperature and light is available even when the sun’s not shining; and the Baltic Sea is a source for both water and fresh algae.

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Yoga Might be Better Than Medication for Back Pain

happiness

Yoga can be an effective treatment for back pain according to new research. Before you sign up to any random yoga class for your back be sure to check what poses are actually good for you. The research team involved yoga instructors who specifically identified yoga poses and routines that are gentle on the back but also good for reliving back pain. Yoga isn’t just for staying fit, it’s also good for alleviating pain.

When the study began, about 70 percent of the patients were taking some form of pain medication. At the end of three months, when the yoga classes were wrapping up, the percentage of yoga and PT participants still taking pain medication had dropped to about 50 percent. By comparison, the use of pain medication did not decline among participants in the education group.

“It’s a significant reduction,” says study author Rob Saper, director of integrative medicine at Boston Medical Center.

“I’m not recommending that people just go to any yoga class,” Saper told us. He pointed out that their research has helped nail down poses and relaxation techniques that are helpful and safe.

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Oslo Improves its City Centre by Banning Car Parking


The Norwegian capital of Oslo dealt with an interesting proposition of banning all cars in the city centre by compromising. At first business and some residents (only 30% of urban dwellers own cars in Norway) didn’t like the proposal at all claiming it would ruin neighbourhoods and business. To address their concerns the city rolled out a ban on parking within the city centre, the freed space would be used to productive use as public space and bike lanes. The ultimate result is that the business are doing better than before and the city is a better place to live.

The council’s clever solution? Rather than banning cars, it would ban parking – all 650 on-street parking spots. In their place, “we’ll put up installations and create public spaces,” says Berg, referring to six pilot areas. “Some will be playgrounds or cultural events, or [contain] benches or bike parking – or other things you can fill the space with when you don’t have 1,200 kilograms of glass and steel.”

Oslo’s transformation will be rolled out in three phases. In stage one, all on-street parking within Ring 1 will be removed, as well as some parking in surrounding areas deemed to be “in conflict with bike development”. Car parks in and around the central zone will stay, but many other on-street parking spaces will be freed up for alternative uses.

Stage two, in 2018, will see the pedestrian network extended, and close several streets to private traffic; shared space will be introduced, and 40 miles of bike lanes built.

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Thanks to Kathryn and Janet!

Forget NIMBYs, it’s All About YIMBYs

housing

Anybody engaged with civic action knows the prevalence of NIMBYism, those people who say ‘Not in my Backyard’ and try to stop any progress good or bad. This attitude of blocking anything has led to some cities being left behind while other cities leap ahead. Recently Toronto has seen a rise of people who chant the opposite of No. The ‘Yes in my Backyard’ movemnet is rising and YIMBYism is taking off!

YIMBYs as a whole recognize a simple truth: If we want more people to have housing, we need to build more housing. To that end, they campaign for the reduction or removal of various supply constraints—namely, those land use rules that enshrine the sanctity of the single-family, detached home at the cost of what’s recently been dubbed the “missing middle.”

They want to see more housing built. They want to see market prices fall. They want Toronto to be more Tokyo than Manhattan, more Houston than San Francisco.

Ultimately, they want young people to be able to participate in homeownership and to preserve Toronto as a city for all—not merely as a playground for the rich. And they’re gaining steam.

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