Micro Intervention: Shoe Recycling in Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of knowledge.allianz.com
 FACT: It takes approximately 5,000 pairs of sneakers to create an elementary school playground surface.
PROBLEM: The average lifespan for sneakers is 500 miles. For most people, that means replacing their sneakers every six months to a year, which results in somewhere between 300 and 600 million pairs of sneakers destined for the landfill annually. But don’t chuck your Chucks yet, because they can be recycled into playground surfaces, running tracks, basketball courts, carpet underlayment and, yes, even new sneakers.
  SOLUTION: Rittenhouse Sports (1717 Chestnut St., 215.569.9957) accepts used sneakers and shoes, and donates footwear in decent condition to homeless shelters. The remainder are recycled. Philadelphia Runner also accepts sneakers at their Center City location (1601 Sansom St., 215.972.8333). They only ask that you don’t tie the laces together when donating your worn-out kicks. The Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program is available at most Nike and Converse Factory Stores, including the ones at the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Pottstown, Pa.

Story courtesy of Samantha Wittchen, GRID 



Photo courtesy of http://www.algaecompetition.com/algae-awards/
In the late nineties Janine Benyus wrote a seminal eco-capitalist book called Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.  Adapted from a larger Deep Ecology philosophy, the basic precepts were to use Nature as a Mentor, Measure, and Model for how we design and inhabit the planet.  One particularly striking idea was the use of a biotic method for producing energy.  

Fast forward 13 or so years and the International Algae Competition challenged architects, engineers, scientists, algae enthusiasts and students from around the world to design visionary algae food and energy systems. This week, they have announced seven prize winners from the 40 finalists. (1)

A list of winners is below – click on the links to for visualizations from the individual prize winners and more detailed project descriptions. (1)


The Abundance Prize and Best Video

Green Loop: Marina City Global Algae Retrofitting, Chicago by Influx_Studio, Mario Caceres and Christian Canonico. (1)

Algae Landscape Design First Prize

Process Zero: Retrofit Resolution. GSA Federal Building, Los Angeles, CA, by Hok/Vanderweil, Sean Quinn. (1)
Urban Algae Culture in Gangxiacun, Shenzhen China, by Kady, Wong Hoi Kei & Kate, Lau Hoi Ying & Perry Li. (1)


The Algae Production Systems First Prize

Circular Tank Technology to reduce production costs, by Vincent Guigon, Antenna Technologies, Geneva.
Organic spirulina microfarm with biogas plant. Normandy, France, by Laurent Lecesve, Hybrid énergies & Eco-Systèmes. (1)


The Algae Food Development First Prize

Biosphere Instant Soup Concept by Lucie Bolzec, founder of Delis Design Studio, France.
Dances With Algae, by Lynn Cornish, Scott Hubley, Romelda Nickerson, Josie Todd, Canada. Marine Algae Foods and Recipes. (1)


The Appreciation Prize, voted by participants

Algae Powered Mushroom Farm in Congo, Africa, by 10 Design Group, Ted Givins. (1)

Also, check out the amazing winners here:


(1) http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2012/05/11/peeking-at-the-future-of-algae-international-algae-competition-announces-winners/


Hawk Cam!

Photo courtesy of sunnydixie.blogspot.com/
From the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia PA we have learned that two Red-tailed Hawks built a nest on a window ledge of their building along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The nest sits just outside a window where a camera has been positioned to create this video stream. The camera looks through the glass window pane which is 24 inches wide (~61 cm). No artificial lighting has been added, so the nest is only visible during daylight hours.(1)

Streaming live video by Ustream

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is the most common hawk in North America. It is a large bird with a broad, red tail. The female is usually larger than the male. Red-tailed Hawks are monogamous, meaning that a hawk will choose one mate and stay with that mate for life.(1)

Philadelphia provides a suitable year-round habitat for Red-tailed Hawks. They can be found in open areas with elevated perches where they sit and watch for their prey. They are meat-eaters and feed on small to medium-sized mammals and birds. In an urban area such as Philadelphia, that would certainly include rodents, although these particular hawks are most commonly observed to be feeding on pigeons.(1)

The Red-tailed Hawk builds its nest in a tall tree or other elevated perch. The nest is a circular assembly of sticks and twigs, lined with softer pieces. It appears that The Franklin Institute's hawks have used newspaper scraps and feathers to soften their nest. Tree bark and leaves are also known to be used in nesting.(1)

Red-tailed Hawks will lay a clutch of two to four eggs in March or April, depending on climate. (A clutch is the collection of eggs, kind of like a "litter" in other species.) For Philadelphia's latitude, the eggs are likely to be laid in mid-March.(1)

The female lays the eggs one at a time, approximately every other day. The number of eggs is related to the availability of food in the area, as a well-fed female is likely to lay more eggs.(1)

 Oh, and for the drama, oh the drama, check out this blog:


 (1) All text courtesy of http://www.fi.edu/hawks/


National Olmsted Scholar Named

Jack Ohly on Right.  Photo from MySpace.
 Jack Ohly, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, was selected as the 2012 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $25,000 award. Jack will receive a Master of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning degree in May and plans to use the award to build on his previous work in agroforestry and community development in Northeastern Brazil to develop a set of regionally appropriate models for more ecologically and culturally vibrant public space.

Ben worked with Jack during his internship at OLIN last year and was impressed with not only his work ethic but his clever wit and daring singing style.  Emily and Ben attended a show at the Trocadero where his band West Philadelphia Orchestra opened for Man Man.  They were instant fans.

Jack is also a new daddy of son his son Ben.  Of all of Jack's accomplishments, Ben (the older unrelated version) is most impressed with Jack's fantastic taste in names.


OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi Win Sylvan Theater

Image courtesy of OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi
Congrats to all of the winners for the National Mall Competition, but we at (a)biotic have a vested interest in the OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi winning entry for Sylvan Theater. Ben worked with the team many, many long hours and is proud of the result.  The team competed for two of the three sites, Sylvan Theater and Constitution Garden A special tip of the hat to Mr. Peter Walker who Ben had said from the beginning was the "West Coast Sleeper" and the man to beat for Constitution Garden.  We would also like to acknowledge Andropogon's beautiful entry and insightful response for Constitution Garden.  It is our understanding that if the jury has anything to say about it, the pond will be renovated per their recommendation.

Image courtesy of OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi

Image courtesy of OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi
Image courtesy of OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi
Image courtesy of OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi
Image courtesy of OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi

It is truly stunning the amount of design effort that went into the schemes by all the teams for all the sites.  Stay tuned for some additional insight on the roll of competitions and the design profession...for now...WoooHooo!

Check it out on OLIN's blog:  CLICK ME


Cornell Structural Soil

Photo Courtesy of Vimeo and Cornell Horticulture
 Below is a video, produced by Cornell University, where one Platanus × acerifolia (London plane tree) was excavated and transplanted from a parking lot.  One tree sample size, with no control group, and no evidence that the independent and dependent variables have been isolated does not a scientific evaluation make, and it is a self evaluation, but it's an interesting video none-the-less.  It also doesn't explain why the roots were broken rather than pruned with a sterilized instrument...maybe someone with more nursery experience can let us know!


MIT: "Free" Education For All

Image Courtesy of www.biotricks.net
So we were really excited when we read about MIT's Open CourseWare (OCW), a web-based publication of an array of MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world (as long as you have an internet connection) and is a permanent MIT activity.  You can find more of the particulars here:

We have been weeding around a couple of fields of interest, namely Anthropology, Linguistics and Philosphy, Architecture, and Urban Planning.  It is truthfully fairly sparse and you have to did through a lot to find any useful content.  Reading a professor's notes on a class are only as good as the particular's professor's need for elaborate notes.  Those who need only a sparse reminder of what to talk about only provide a sparse inkling of what they talked about during that lecture.

As with any academic pursuit, this site in itself is not, and cannot be the sole source for material.  It is innately flawed and innately brilliant at the same time.  Having said that, OCW along with TEDTalks, and YouTube's EDU provide a well rounded, so called, "Free" university education.

Check it out, and GET TO CLASS!