July 8, 2015
July 8, 2015
Hemp — yes, hemp — turns out to be an attractive material for building homes, reports Matt A.V. Chaban in The New York Times (7/6/15). Builders actually have used hemp in construction “for millenniums” and it “has had a long history as a fiber used in ropes, sails and paper products — Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew it.” Even though hemp “contains no more than 0.3 percent of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana” (which contains 5-10%), it was outlawed in the US in the 1930s. While it is not illegal to use hemp in America, it is generally illegal to grow it.
The idea to use hemp in homes occurred to James Savage when mold consumed flooded homes following Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti that left “thousands dead, crushed by homes that should have been their sanctuaries.” James now has a hempcrete business, Green Built, which is developing “a panelized system” made of hempcrete, kind of like drywall. “Hempcrete is made using the woody, balsalike interior of the Cannabis sativa plant … combined with lime and water.” It “provides natural insulation that is airtight but breathable and flexible.”
Hempcrete is also “free from toxins, impervious to mold and pests, and virtually fireproof … And because the material is grown rather than mined, like traditional cement, or manufactured, like fiberglass, it gives new meaning to green building.” James “envisions a ‘hemp basket’ stretching across New York’s rugged farmlands, supplying locally sourced insulation throughout the Northeast.” He is currently using the material as insulation in his own home, “eliminating his need for air-conditioning.” The rooms smell good, too. Says James: “It has a freshness to it.”
June 16, 2015
A library made of twigs is a tourist attraction in a small village outside Beijing, reports Jane Perlez in The New York Times (7/7/15). “The spindly sticks are arranged in vertical rows, and their uneven shapes allow natural light to filter into the library’s reading room, while keeping the building cool in the summer and cozy in the winter.” The idea is that of architect Li Xiaodong, who “was captivated by the potential he saw in the village’s most abundant natural resource, the branches of thousands of trees, which the locals harvest for fire.”
The Liyuan library “is basically just one large, casual room” that ostensibly meets “the reading needs of the roughly 50 households” in Jiaojiehe. However, its true purpose is as “a magnet for day-trippers from Beijing, eager to escape the city’s perpetual smog and dirt for a bit of beauty and calm.” One visitor, Li Wenli, says the experience simply can’t be found in a big city like Beijing. “In the city, a library seems to be unnaturally quiet,” she says. “You think: ‘I need to stay quiet because everybody else is quiet.’ But here, the peace is natural.”
The library attracts some “200 visitors a day over the weekend,” says Wang Fuying, the librarian. “They come for fun, take a look, take some pictures and take a walk,” she says. The library’s twiggy design, which makes its “rectangular edges barely noticeable as visitors approach the village,” was “influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.” The idea is “that buildings should be integral parts of the landscape and not objects placed in it.” “We always think of architecture as one piece,” says Mr. Li. “We don’t see the human as detached from the environment.”
June 3, 2015
Whole Foods is expanding its definition of what ‘best’ means, reports Stephanie Strom in The New York Times (6/13/15). The grocer’s new program, Responsibly Grown, designates fruits and vegetables as ‘good,’ ‘better,’ and ‘best’ based not only on how the produce was produced, but also “things like establishing a garbage recycling program, relying more on alternative energy sources, eliminating some pesticides and setting aside a portion of fields as a conservation area.” The net effect is that some growers not certified as organic can earn a rating higher than those who do.
This naturally has some farmers upset, with some saying “the program is a subtle way of shifting the costs of a marketing program onto growers.” “The reports we’re getting from speaking to farmers around the country are that they are spending anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to comply with this program,” says Tom Willey, a farmer of organic produce. Others suggest that Responsibly Grown is part of a Whole Foods effort to compete on price against the likes of Walmart and Costco by blurring distinctions between conventional and organic goods.
Not so, says Matt Rogers of Whole Foods. “Organic is an incredibly deep standard, and at Whole Foods we celebrate that in very consistent, long-term ways,” he says. “But the organic standard does not cover water, waste, energy, farmworker welfare, and all of these topics are really important, too.” The program arrives as Whole Foods loses its position as the top seller of organic foods to Costco, and announces a new chain of smaller-format stores designed to appeal to Millennials. The retailer has not yet said whether the new stores will carry organic produce.
April 28, 2015
Organic farming can be more profitable than the conventional kind, reports Chelsea Harvey in The Washington Post (6/2/15). This is because of “the premium farmers can charge for organic products,” according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The analysis, by David Crowder and John Reganold of Washington State University, is based on “44 studies on organic agriculture, which included 55 crops grown in 14 countries across five continents.” (abstract)
A key finding is “that when farmers did not charge a premium for organic food, it was significantly less profitable than conventional agriculture. But when they did charge a premium, organic agriculture was 22 to 35 percent more profitable.” To gain parity with “conventional profits, organic farmers would need to charge premiums of 5 to 7 percent,” but the study found “that organic farmers were charging much more, a 29 to 32 percent premium, boosting profitability.”
One downside is that organic crop yields are lower than conventional, so it “requires more land to produce the same amount of food.” Another is that “the transition from conventional to organic is a long and financially risky process.” Until they are certified as organic, farmers have to sell their crops as conventional, and can’t charge a premium. The study’s authors say “other sustainable forms of food production” should be also explored, such as integrated farming, conservation agriculture and mixed crop farming.
April 21, 2015
Japanese see homes as a consumer good that depreciates, like a car, reports Lucy Alexander in The Wall Street Journal (4/17/15). This is largely because they “prize new construction.” So, “they will pay a premium for land, but build their own home on it,” designed to last only as long as they need it — perhaps as little as 15 or 20 years. “Fundamentally, Japanese people do not like secondhand houses,” says Yuusuke Karasawa, an architect. The upside is freedom to indulge in whimsical designs.
“People have greater creative license to express their own test because they don’t need to consider resale value,” says Alastair Townsend of Bakoko, a Tokyo-based architectural firm. “There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.” Among Bakoko’s clients are Chiyomi Okamoto, and her husband, Joe Gayton, who is Australian. Their concept was an “Aussie beach shack” with some Japanese touches. They bought land for about $50,000 and spent $233,000 on the shack.
They actually hope to pass the shack down to their daughter, which is possible if they reseal the cladding every four years. For most others, disposable housing is the big idea, which has driven up land values. This creates its own self-fulfilling cycle, as “a higher land price means a smaller budget left over for the house, which can result in a poorer-quality building that deteriorates faster.” It has also spawned a boom market for architects in Japan, where there are “24 architects for every 10,000 people, compared with 3.4 in the US.”
April 17, 2015
For LVMH, luxury is all in the lighting, reports Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal (4/16/15). “Just as we feel about quality craftsmanship, innovation and creativity, the environment has become a driver of progress for LVMH and we see it as key to the growth of our brands,” says Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive. The importance of lighting is affirmed on the company’s website: “Optimal lighting is the powerful gleam that radiates the splendor and aesthetics of beautiful products.”
As it happens, more energy-efficient lighting — LEDs — does “a better job of highlighting products’ features and are more pleasing to shoppers than incandescents or fluorescents.” That’s according to Sylvie Benard, an agronomist who leads LVMH’s efforts to reduce its energy consumption, “as well as its sustainability and biodiversity efforts.” LVMH occupies “nearly 11 million square feet of retail space” worldwide, which claim “70% of its energy usage … not its factories, shipping or other activities.”
Sylvie’s other initiatives include pushing “for the selection of wood from sustainably managed forests for packaging and cabinetry in boutiques.” The company is also replacing “air freight with ocean shipping,” to reduce greenhouse gases. Among Sylvie’s “latest concerns is all the new screens in LVMH stores. After measuring energy used by escalators, air-conditioning, lighting and other uses, the company realized that computer and digital display screens were devouring almost as much as what the company was saving in LED light bulbs.”
April 2, 2015
Katrina Spade thinks “bodies should be composted, not buried,” reports Catrin Einhorn in The New York Times (4/14/15). “Composting makes people think of banana peels and coffee grounds,” she says. But she thinks it would be really cool if people could “grow new life” after they’ve died. So, Katrina, an architect, “has designed a building for human composting that aims to marry the efficiency of this biological process with the ritual and symbolism that mourners crave.” She has also formed a non-profit, The Urban Death Project.
The “facility would be centered around a three-story vault … Loved ones would carry their deceased, wrapped in a shroud, up a circular ramp to the top.” The body would be placed “in the core, which could hold perhaps 30 corpses at a time. Over the next several weeks, each body would move down the core until the first stage of composting was complete. In a second stage, material would be screened, along with any remaining bones, and the compost would be cured.” Each body would produce about three cubic feet of compost.
Loved ones “could collect some of compost to use as they saw fit, perhaps in their garden or to plant a tree.” The cost would be “about $2,500 … Beyond the environmental benefits,” Katrina “believes there is a spiritual one: connecting death to the cycle of nature will help people face their own mortality and bring comfort to the bereaved.” Katrina is still perfecting the methodology (the pile has to reach 140 degrees to work) but hopes to build her first facility in Seattle, and develop a template for “locally designed facilities.” “Like libraries,” she says.
March 10, 2015
A pop-up restaurant serves up scraps with surprising success, reports Pete Wells in The New York Times (4/1/15). Dan Barber of the Blue Hill restaurant came up with idea of making a meal of what otherwise would end up in the garbage. For two weeks, operating as wastED, “he and his cooks sold fish bones, bruised and misshapen vegetables, stale bread and other items not commonly known as food for $15 a plate.” This wasn’t maybe the newest idea, given that “French country cooking as a long tradition of turning scraps into treats.”
At wastED, the treats included “Dumpster dive vegetable salad,” featuring “bruised outer leaves from heads of bok choy and peelings from fennel, kohlrabi and apples … most of the persuasion was done by a buttery vinaigrette of ground pistachios, a swipe of tarragon sauce and a heap of white froth made by draining the liquid from cans of chickpeas and whisking it.” Many of the ingredients were harvested in a “crosstown refuse hunt,” such as “smashed pulp” from juice presses, which was dyed with beet juice and “shaped into burgers.”
In terms of ambiance, the walls “were covered by a white fabric draped over crop rows to keep out frost and aphids,” and backlit. This created what Pete thought recalled a wedding tent, but Blue Hill’s David Barber said most guests said “it looks like a meth lab.” In any case, the big idea was to change perceptions of wasted food. As Pete notes: “Sliced white bread was a prestigious item in 1960. Many find it worthless today.” Perhaps “bruised vegetables” could become prized “because they had been transformed by a chef’s skill and ingenuity.”
December 9, 2014
One of baseball’s top prospects lives in a van behind dumpsters at a Walmart, reports Eli Saslow in ESPN Magazine (3/5/15). No matter that Daniel Norris has banked a $2 million signing bonus with the Toronto Blue Jays and has “a deal with Nike.” He lives “in the back of a 1978 Westfalia camper he purchased for $10,000” and does “pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts.” His van, which he nicknamed Shaggy, is “his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every move will be measured.”
Daniel’s individuality might seem at odds with baseball, where teamwork “and the identity of the team” are paramount. However, Daniel says being alone is good training. “I love having teammates behind me, but I’m not going to rely on them,” he says. “It can get quiet and lonely out there when you’re pitching, which drives some people crazy. But that’s my favorite part.” As long as he keeps hurling 96-mph fastballs, that’s fine with the Blue Jays. Of course, at some point he will shave his beard, move in with teammates and begin to conform.
His hope is that he will win a spot in the Blue Jays’ starting lineup, and Daniel is already thinking about what that would mean. “I’ll become even more of an ambassador for the things I really care about,” he says. “I’ll make sure Shaggy’s still running. I’ll pioneer change in how sports thinks about the environment.” His lifestyle inspiration is his father, “who used the family bike shop not just for business but as a way to spread a message: Play outdoors. Love the earth. Live simply. Use only what you need.”
December 5, 2014
Bartow J. Elmore, author of Citizen Coke, puts an environmental slant on the legend of Coca-Cola, reports Marc Levinson in a Wall Street Journal review (11/22/14). "What he finds is that Coca-Cola’s long-run success owes much to governments that — sometimes with great cajoling — granted privileged access to natural resources." An early example concerns the most basic commodity — water. Coke’s franchising model offloaded its main ingredient to franchised bottlers, who "lobbied for the creation of municipal water systems," and access to clean water, for free.
Coke’s model generally "maintains its margins by purchasing ingredients, not making them." It avoided investing in kola-nut plantations and instead backed Monsanto, "which spent a fortune to extract ‘natural’ caffeine from cocoa waste and ‘synthetic’ caffeine from coal-derived urea. But when the decaffeinated boom of the 1950s provided ample supplies of cheap caffeine, the Coca-Cola Company simply walked away from its relationship with Monsanto." Coke also broke up the Cuban sugar trust by "parceling out business to smaller competitors."
The switch to non-returnable containers meanwhile cut the fuel costs associated with reclaiming containers by more than half. It also "effectively shifted the cost of dealing with empty containers" by supporting "Keep America Beautiful, which promoted the idea that individuals … were responsible for cleaning up the cans and bottles that littered the landscape." Bottle and can deposits, and taxpayer-funded recycling programs, further shifted "responsibility for the collection and recycling of corporate waste onto the public sector."
November 4, 2014
A group of designers is applying its skills to solve "social, economic and environmental problems," reports Alice Rawsthorn in The New York Times (12/4/14). Known as the Fixperts, the group is part of an "international network of contemporary designers and makers" committed to the Japanese concept of "Tsukuroi, or the art of repair." They are pursuing their goals "by exchanging ideas on knowledge-sharing platforms, financing projects through crowdsourcing campaigns … and raising awareness via social media."
Some of their work is currently on exhibit called The Fab Mind, at a Tokyo gallery. (‘Fab’ is a play on both ‘fabulous’ and ‘fabrication.’) "Many of the exhibits embrace two important strands of design activism: conserving resources and helping those in need." For example, Alvaro Catalan de Ocon of Spain "developed a series of lamps with colorful shades woven by artisans in Colombia and Chile from shredded plastic bottles and other waste materials." (link) Perhaps the most dramatic design solution addresses "unexploded land mines."
Massoud Hassani, formerly of Afghanistan and now living in the Netherlands, "designed an inexpensive metal and bamboo device, the Mine Kafon, which is blown across the ground by the wind, like a tumbleweed, to set off mines." The Fixperts’ work meanwhile is symbolized by "an exquisite 17th-century Japanese bowl … not because of the finesse with which it was originally made but the skill with which it was repaired." The repaired bowl arguably is more beautiful than it was before it was broken.
October 28, 2014
Kirk Lance is building his Mexican restaurants out of shipping containers, reports Elizabeth Garone in The Wall Street Journal (11/3/14). Kirk "was frustrated that he couldn’t recover the tens of thousands of dollars he had sunk into outfitting" a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant, only to have his improvements revert back to his landlord when his lease ended. So he "bought a shipping container for $2,500, retrofitted it and turned it into a new Mexican eatery called Aprisa in Portland, Ore."
"I can pick up the entire building and leave with it if it doesn’t work out," says Kirk, who says he also likes that he is recycling a container that otherwise might have been junked. He sees other environmental benefits, as well: "We are able to operate much more efficiently than traditional restaurants because we require much less energy to heat and cool," he says. So far, his plan has "worked so well that he opened another container restaurant in the city and began franchising restaurants in shipping containers."
In San Francisco, Smitten Ice Cream "took a rusted-out, 40-foot shipping container, cut it in half and turned it into a highly energy efficient ice-cream shop," says founder Robyn Sue Fisher. However, Robyn says the approach can be more expensive than brick-and-mortar, given "all the regulations and the complex, multi-stage approval process" associated with converting shipping containers into retail. Because of this, her three other stores are "brick-and-mortar shops with container-like corrugated walls."
October 15, 2014
The Patagonia brand experience emanates from those who experience it, says Joy Howard in a Hub Magazine interview (Nov/Dec 2014). If you haven’t watched Worn Wear, then Google it. You’ll meet Christo Grayling, an Australian surfer who replaced the backside of his ‘boardies’ with a scrap of beach umbrella. Kristin Gates, who has hiked about 10,000 miles, much of it in a particular wool cap. Steve Sprinkel, a farmer in love with what he does and the used, yard-sale jacket in which he does it. Each character seems a little crazier than the next, and at the heart of their endearing insanity is an intense, emotional connection to a brand. Patagonia. Joy Howard isn’t in the video, but she would fit right in. In 1992 — more than 20 years before she would join Patagonia as its head of marketing — she got rid of her car and rode a bicycle instead.
This wasn’t easy, especially after she had kids. When it rained, well, she just put on her Patagonia raincoat." It was a constant companion for me wherever I went," says Joy. "I had it in my bag and it definitely got me through many a rainy day-care dash." That degree of intensity likely only affects a small percentage of those who buy into the Patagonia brand and its marketing, which Joy suggests is more like anti-marketing. Where most brands use marketing to convert prospects into customers, Patagonia wants to turn customers into activists.
That’s why it famously runs ads urging people to avoid buying things, and produced a documentary film, DamNation, advocating the removal of dams that disrupt salmon populations. The purpose of this ‘marketing’ is less about making us buy and more about making us think. Yes, this does tend to have the reverse effect: Patagonia sells quite well. The difference is, its marketing is not an overlay wrapped around a soft, green promise. It’s not perfect, but it is true to the spirit of the days when founder Yvon Chouinard sold rock-climbing gear out of his car (perfection would have required a bicycle). "It’s not a brand experience that comes out of endless meetings debating what the brand experience should be," says Joy. "It’s just a reflection of our values and the way we work." Read The Hub Interview with Joy Howard of Patagonia.
October 13, 2014
The future of urbanism may include buildings the size of cities, reports Julie V. Iovine in The Wall Street Journal (10/14/14). At least that’s the view of a group of architects — Geoffrey Thun, Kathy Velikov and Colin Ripley of RVTR — who see the world "as composed of networks and systems … rather than being studded with something so limited and finite as individual buildings." They see "vast megalopolises blooming across the landscape," in some cases stretching across multiple cities, states, and even countries.
For example, the Great Lakes Megaregion would encompass "two countries, eight states, two provinces, 12 major metropolitan areas and the five watersheds of the Great Lakes," involving the cities of Detroit, Chicago and Toronto. Infra Eco Logi Urbanism, as this concept is known, considers this region in terms of "natural resources, overlapping transportation and distribution systems, shifting employment demands and environmental threats, among other issues." The goal is "to uncover design possibilities within the system."
"Orphaned parcels" in and around highway interchanges would "be used for the footings of supersize buildings straddling the highway." Toronto would become a "modern acropolis," with "a great arrivals hall surrounded by Olympic-size sporting venues as well as megachurches and research facilities." Chicago would repurpose "underused parking garages, air rights and barren lots" to weave together new transportation systems, and Toronto would be home to assembly halls, where megaregion citizens could discuss their shared concerns.
August 5, 2014
Fuel-economy rules are breathing new fire into American muscle cars, reports Dan Neil in The Wall Street Journal (10/11/14). One might think that "tighter-emission standards" would "mean the end of muscle cars, or at least affordable ones. But, pleasant surprise, cars have actually gotten stronger, quicker, faster. Overall, performance is cheaper, more efficient and reliable than ever." The key is "forced induction … through spooling, high-velocity turbines" and "the effect is like turning a leaf blower on a bonfire."
The surprise is most evident "in the Ford Mustang, with its 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine … a turbocharged 4 cylinder." The idea of "a four-banger in a muscle car" might sound preposterous, although Ford had produced many 4-cylinder Mustangs in the past. The difference is that the EcoBoost offers "310 hp and 320 pound-feet of torque." It may be "less than half the size of a V8 like the Boss 351, but it is exactly as quick … within the same 0-60 mph and quarter-mile times," while "delivering roughly three times the fuel economy."
The EcoBoost also "weighs 181 pounds less than the V8 GT, and most of that weight loss is in the front of the car, improving the weight distribution and handling." As a modern car, it offers better "steering, breaking and chassis control." The only real issue is that the engine "doesn’t sound quite as satisfying," having sacrificed "the percussive cadence of a free-breathing V8 at idle … the wondrous, primal sound." But 50 years later, the Mustang still delivers "an affordable, sporty compact with great style and good mileage."
July 31, 2014
Patagonia’s "unusual commitment to sustainability" sometimes comes "at the expense of its bottom line," reports Diane Cardwell in The New York Times (7/31/14). "Business that puts profit above people and the environment is not going to be a healthy and sustainable way for us to live and for the planet to survive," says Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. Rose adds that company founder Yvon Chouinard has "said that every time he made a decision that was right for the environment, it made the company money, though sometimes not for a while."
One of Patagonia’s newest products, a wetsuit that "is made not from conventional petroleum-based neoprene but from a natural rubber derived from a desert shrub," is a case in point. "Instead of holding the manufacturer of the rubber, Yulex, to a yearslong exclusive contract, Patagonia is encouraging its competitors to use the product, hoping to see its use grow and drive down the price." This is in the tradition of Patagonia’s introduction of "organically grown cotton products in the 1990s," which lost both customers and money.
However, the suit, "priced at $529 – $549 … will earn the company money and bolster its green credentials, an important part of how it tried to appeal to customers." Mitch Taylor, a surfer, is sold: "I was really stoked on it," he said. Another surfer, Walter Valesky, was less enthusiastic, noting that he could get a good used surfboard for that money. Yvon’s son, Fletcher Chouinard, remains optimistic: "People are starting to put their money where their mouth is, but it’s slow," he says.
June 23, 2014
Brooks Sports turned its new corporate headquarters into a statement about its company culture, reports Sarah Max in The New York Times (7/30/14). Brooks makes "the top-selling brand" of running shoes "in independent running stores," and its new quarters are "across the street from the Burke-Gilman Trail, a 27-mile thoroughfare for runners and cyclists" north of downtown Seattle, Washington. "The opportunity to be right here, so close to our customers, is amazing," says Brooks chief executive Jim Weber.
Brooks built its new 120,000 square-foot corporate flagship from scratch, and is "on track to receive LEED Platinum status, the US Green Building Council’s highest designation for environmental features." In addition, its "parking garage has a dedicated bike lane and dozens of secure bike spots. First-floor showers make human-powered commutes more feasible, though showers time out after five minutes … Dashboards throughout the building will broadcast real-time statistics on energy consumption."
The new offices also "will include the opening of the brand’s first retail location, which occupies a prominent spot on the building’s first floor. The 4,600 square-foot concept store is geared more toward connecting runners — via events, lectures and clinics — than selling merchandise." Jim Weber says the daily interaction with customers will be valuable. "We’re going to learn a lot," he says. Meanwhile, sculptures outside the store will cast from "1,500 medals" donated by runners from around the world.
June 22, 2014
Harley-Davidson figures the only way for customers to appreciate electric motorcycles is to let them ride one, reports Dexter Ford in The New York Times (6/22/14). “It’s ultimately a challenge about whether riding an electric motorcycle can be an emotional experience or only a rational one,” says Harley CMO Mark-Hans Richer. “To be a true Harley, it has to have character … It has to be cool. It has to make you feel something important about yourself.”
To that end, the electric motor is a “machined-aluminum cylinder” and the “gears it uses to send power to a single-speed transmission are intentionally designed to make a distinctive sound. The final drive to the wheel is by a belt, typical of gasoline Harley.” “It sounds like a turbine when you are on the bike,” says Mark-Hans. “And from the side, as it goes past, it sounds like a jet.” The bike, called Live Wire, is still in prototype, but Harley’s plan is to let potential customers experience it via a coast-to-coast traveling roadshow.
Dubbed Project LiveWire Experience, the event will stop “at dealerships and other locations,” from New York to Chicago and then … along Route 66 to Santa Monica, California. About 30 prototype bikes will be available to licensed motorcyclists to try, and then convey “their impressions all over the Internet.” “We didn’t want this sitting on a turntable somewhere, with an attractive model standing around handing out brochures,” Mark-Hans says. The tour started on June 24.
April 22, 2014
Tony Horwitz’s story is "a cautionary farce about the new media … we’re so often told is the bright shining future." His tale, as he describes it in The New York Times (6/19/14), began when "a new online publication called The Global Mail" offered him a $15,000 advance and a $5,000 travel budget to write a digital tome about the Keystone XL pipeline. Seeing it as "the sort of long investigative journey" he used to write "before budgets and print space shrank," he jumped at the opportunity.
The Global Mail was "lavishly funded by a philanthropic entrepreneur in Australia" and the book, called Boom, was to be co-published by Byliner, "a classy digital outfit." Byliner projected selling "up to 75,000 copies" of the book, with "a lofty cut of the profits" shared with Tony. As fate would have it, the book was set for release just as the State Department issued "a much anticipated report on Keystone XL … right on top of the news." Then, unfortunately, the backer had a "financial setback" and "pulled the plug" on the book.
Byliner and Tony managed to agree on a scaled-back contract that didn’t include much in the way of marketing support. The good news is, Tony self-promoted Boom into Amazon’s top 25 — a "best seller"; the bad news is that this meant he had only sold "somewhere between 700 and 800 copies." It was all downhill from there, with Byliner itself going out of business and Boom disappearing, for a time, from Amazon. Tony says his next book will be in "hard copy, between covers," that he "can put on a shelf and look at forever, even if it doesn’t sell."
A new school in New York will be the first to "be billed as ‘net zero,’" reports J. Alex Tarquinio in The Wall Street Journal (4/16/14). PS 62, scheduled to open in the fall of 2015, will house some "444 pre-K through fifth-grade pupils" and "produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year, and possibly even be able to sell energy back to the grid." Net-zero buildings of any kind "are extremely rare," particularly "in the relatively harsh climate of New York" and its relatively shady urban environs.
Sunshine should be in ample supply for PS 62, however, as it will sit "on a 3.5-acre lot" on Staten Island. "The first sight parents will see when they drop off their children at the new school … will be an array of solar panels covering an area approaching the size of a football field." In addition, "a small wind turbine will serve as a demonstration project" and "children can do their bit by using energy-generating exercise equipment." The design also makes use of plenty of interior windows and skylights to invite natural light.
Each classroom will also have "flat-screen monitors displaying current energy usage … intended to create a friendly competition among the students about which classes are saving more energy. Math and science teachers will be encouraged to work this data into their instruction." Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, PS 62 will measure 68,000 square feet and cost $70 million to build. It’s hoped the school will be a "laboratory for ideas for future construction" of city schools.