Education That May Not Set You free, But Just Might Keep You Free

An education can really set you free. Well that’s the line anyway. But read on and you’ll see an interesting, uplifting and a wise application of that adage. Because in this case, while an education may not set you free it most definitely can help keep you free.

What I’m referring to is education for prisoners and in this particular case a degree from Bard College. Max Kenner was a student at Bard College when he came up with the idea of bringing education to prisoners. Not knowing anyone incarcerated but possessing the desire to provide education to those behind bars, Kenner conceived of the Bard Prison Initiative.

The BPI is a program that enables men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. Admission into the Bard program is competitive and rigorous, but the competition overlooks things like an applicant’s criminal record or his or her release date and focuses instead on providing education for those who have a thirst for it. The program offers over 60 courses per semester that span from literature and art to math and science. (more…)

A Building Where Life Exists Inside and Out

You may never have heard of the international design and engineering firm called Arup, but I bet there are very few who can’t recall examples of their stunning work. The iconic Sydney Opera House is one of their many remarkable projects, along with Beijing’s Bird’s Nest and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

New on their impressive resume is a building in Hamburg, Germany that is the first-ever algae-powered and self-sustaining building in the world. Arup led the design for what’s called the BIQ, or the Bio Intelligent Quotient building, which literally has a façade made up of living, breathing, moving algae.

The building looks, as Mark Hay of GOOD notes, like “a bubbling green lava lamp stretched over an entire building. But those moving bubbles serve a function: they help to feed and order the living algae.” The algae both insulate and shade the building, keeping costs and energy consumption down for the 15 apartments within it. The building utilizes pressurized air to pump the algae with carbon dioxide, which keeps the algae moving and prevents them from settling on the glass of the building. The sun-exposed algae also soak up the rays to create biomass – a great, renewable energy source.  (more…)

Kids These Days: Biking Their Way to Better Brains

You’ve heard it once and you’ll hear it a hundred times more: Sitting is the new smoking. The typical adult spends approximately eight hours per day sitting at work, retreats home to sit down for dinner, then on to sitting on the coach to watch TV, or sitting on the side of their kids’ beds while reading them bedtime stories. This sedentary lifestyle has become known as the new killer. Yep, you’d be better off moving all day long while puffing through a pack of cigarettes.

The body was created to move and increasing amounts of research are revealing just how terrible it is to remain stagnant throughout the day. And there is a growing body of evidence that shows that if you aren’t moving your body your brain won’t move either; cognitive performance shrinks just like your waist will expand. Thus the rise of the standing desk and the bike pedals you can put underneath your desk to keep your lower extremities active. (more…)

Closing the Gap Between You, Your Neighbors and Good Food

Back in June I blogged about the super convenient urban farm located on the rooftops of train stations throughout Tokyo – a most convenient place to pick up your produce while you’re on the go. I might have found something that equals both the nutrition and convenience brought to you by the fine folks at Farmigo (think Farm + Amigo).

Farmigo is a startup that provides farm-to-neighborhood access to fresh food. Currently located in New York and northern California, Farmigo’s goal is to connect people to their food and their farmers. They came up with a design in which neighbors order their food individually online but communities pick it up together at community centers, workplaces or even at the local school.  (more…)

An Electric Idea that Goes beyond a Simple Charge

Great design benefits from constraints. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the truth is that it’s frighteningly easy to kill off a good idea by throwing too many resources at it. Indeed, some of the most powerful ideas are generated in places where there just isn’t that much to work with. This is the case with a fascinating effort up and running in Tanzania.

Like most everywhere, a majority of Tanzanians use mobile phones. But unlike most of that cell phone marketplace, only 12 percent of the population has access to the electricity needed to charge them.  The electric grid infrastructure that so many of us take for granted just isn’t part of their landscape.  (more…)

Hospitals Rooms that Heal Beyond Being Merely a Place to Deliver Medicine

When the University Medical center of Princeton outgrew its facilities, management decided to test out some new designs for their patient rooms. If the new designs were deemed successful by staff and patients, they’d go ahead and build the new facilities based on that learning. And boy oh boy did they learn some things.

After having been moved to the “test” room, patients reported better care from the staff, better food, and asked for far less pain medication. How much less? The patients in these new rooms asked for a whopping 30 percent less pain medication than they did in the old design. And as for the improved food and care? Nothing was actually changed other than the room that those services were carried out in. Yes, you read that right: same services + better designed environment = far better outcomes. (more…)

Energy You Didn’t Even Know You Had in You

What if all that energy you expended when you worked out could turn you into an energy generator as well? Seems pretty farfetched.

But along comes a biobattery tattoo. Yep, a temporary tattoo that harvests your sweat, or more specifically the lactate in your sweat that is produced when you exercise. While there’s not much of a charge that we can currently tap into, it’s there and these types of tattoos could eventually be used to power electronic devices like heart monitors, digital watches and even smartphones, according to this BBC piece.

This technology actually came about by accident, as Dr. Wenzhao Jia from the University of California in San Diego was initially trying to develop something to help elite athletes monitor their lactate. So she came up with a little sensor that makes it easy for athletes to check their levels. Eventually, Dr. Jia discovered a bigger possibility and an innovative technology further evolved into the energy-generating temporary tattoo that you see in the picture below. (more…)

A Hotel that Gives You A Reason to Sleep Soundly

For those of you who like to camp out in beauty but “camping” means staying at a super cool hotel, I suggest you start contacting your travel agents now, as there’s a place you’ll want to shack up in come 2016. The Krystall hotel is scheduled to open up that year off the cost of Tromso, Norway, and it is going to be epic. Shaped like a snowflake, the Krystall hotel is an 86-room structure with gorgeous design to be found everywhere. But that’s not what makes it noteworthy. This palace floats on the water.

Architecture firm Dutch Docklands is designing it, and they’ve come up with the snowflake idea because they want the hotel to resemble an ice crystal or an iceberg floating among the fjords. Beyond its beauty, the Krystall is purpose-built to have a very low impact on the planet. Architect Koen Olthuis says that because the hotel is floating on water it doesn’t have any impact on that location. “That’s the only way to bring a hotel to such a precious and beautiful marine environment,” this article quotes him saying. According to this note on Dutch Docklands’ website, the Krystall will be completely self-supporting, self-sustainable, and jam-packed with the latest in green technology.

The ice-cold design of the Krystall hotel exudes a wintry atmosphere, perfect for the coast of chilly Norway. And because of its stellar location the hotel is privy to incredible views of the northern lights. Olthius designed glass roofs so hotel guests can stargaze from the comfort of their cozy hotel rooms. (more…)

A Grocery Store that Delivers More by Offering Less

Are you one of those who are drawn to the bulk aisle of the grocery store, where there are bins upon bins of great stuff and you can take just as much as you need and not a nibble more? If so, you’re going to really dig this new food shopping experience I ran into.  And beyond that, you very well may be impressed by how much waste – more than just unused food — is removed from your overall experience.

Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski have taken a big step in distilling the grocery shopping experience to its barest essence. These two bright women are opening a grocery store called Original and Unpackaged that is, believe it or not, a grocery store without any packaging. Nope, not a smidgen. (more…)