BioBuild in China: Lessons Learned from PLEA 2018 and Shanghai

On the airplane now on my way from Hong Kong to Shanghai after an incredible experience at the Passive and Low Energy Architecture (PLEA) 2018 conference. Topics spanned from automated simulation validation with artificial neural networks to surveys on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) adoption in industry to new techniques to retrofit wooden windows in historic structures from the northern Italian Alps.

What lessons can Hurricane Harvey teach us?

Harvey was definitely not the first hurricane to cause devastation on American soil. Indeed, Harvey follows several such major storms that caused billions of dollars in damages including Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Ike (2008), Wilma (2005) and Andrew (1992). Hurricanes are certainly not a new phenomenon. In fact, Christopher Columbus encountered one in 1495 near Hispaniola (SunSentinel, 2017). We have had 522 years to prepare more effectively for huge storms and, yet, we are often not ready or, at least, not as prepared as we ought to be. The question is why that is so.

Inspiration from Dr. Brown's Presentation

Professor Brown's presentation two weeks ago is interesting. I like his research in community ecology in aquatic system. I was amazed to find out that even for a creature as small as a crayfish can have such a complex community around them. The interaction is multi-faceted and complicated and can range from a mutualistic cleaning symbiosis to a parasitism depending on a variety of factors. It is interesting both the host and the worm species can exert some control over the interaction, and the combined interactions between them creates a truly fascinating picture of community assembly.

Echolocation bats can evaluate statistical property of echoes from trees

Echolocation bats can perceive 3D structure of objects, but how about complex ones, like trees? Trees have thousands of reflective surfaces that result in a chaotic acoustic image. Scientists [1] demonstrated that bat Phyllostomus discolor can recognize basic features of a tree.

Ambient noise and bat echolocation

The ambient noise concerned a lot people about the adaptations of echolocating animals including bats and underwater mammals. How would they react to the noise? Does noise at all frequencies influence their echolocation performance during foraging and navigation? Scientists [1] recently did research on the relationship between ambient noise and the changes in both horseshoe bats' call frequencies and amplitude. They collected calls from horseshoe bats which are highly vocal and constantly adjust their pulses to optimize the performance of echolocation.

Bio-inspired forest nautilus

I wanted to build an outdoor living structure with natural lines, that would integrate well with the wooded surroundings and have minimal environmental impact.  After a number of design iterations, I settled on this seven-sided approach, inspired by the lines and geometry of a nautilus shell, which also has informed the golden ratio (1.6). Therefore, each side is progressively smaller than the last, by roughly a ratio of 1.6.  Similarly, the height differences between adjacent posts, while increasing, also are reduced roughly by a factor of 1.6.

Ant Mill

Ant colony is amazing. Each ant have very limited sensing. But they achieve fascinating feats like foraging and building nesting, by cooperationg with one other. They do this by following very simple rules.