Solar Technology to Illuminate the World’s First Underground Park

Screenshot 2017-11-29 22.24.47Sustainability Problem: Urban Greening

While urban green space is important for people’s health and well-being, it is getting harder to come by with rising real estate prices and development.

Sustainability Technology: Solar Reflectors

Idled underground space can be transformed to public parks by creative solar technology. The Lowline in the Lower East Side of New York City will be the world’s first underground park with “remote skylight”.

  • The 60,000 square feet space will be illuminated by an innovative solar technology: above ground, parabolic collector are set up to reflect and gather sunlight at one focal point; the sunlight is then transmitted to a reflective surface on the distributor dish underground through an intricate system of mirrors and tubes.
  • The technology will transmit the necessary wavelengths of light to support photosynthesis, enabling plants and trees to grow. There are already 50 species of plants growing in the park.
  • The solar reflectors on the roof will track the sun all day and electricity is not needed when sunlight is available.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:

  • City Department of Design and Construction
  • Businesses and residents in the community
  • General public and community organizations

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:

  1. Procure underground sites with potentials and benefits of urban greening.
  2. Set up model lab as proof of concept of the technology to convince and educate stakeholders.
  3. Obtain supports from the city and local communities, both in terms of funding and permitting.


The Lowline

Inside the Lowline: The Technology Behind NYC’s First Underground Park


The TZOA air quality monitor

Urban (vertical) Farming

Sustainability Problem: 

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to swell to 9.6billion, with around 66% living in urban areas. This projection is leaving many cities wondering how they will feed all those people.

Solution: A Swedish food-tech company called Plantagon is proposing that cities consider building what it calls “plantscrapers” — office towers that contain giant indoor farms. Plantagon is constructing its first plantscraper in Linköping, Sweden.

  • Called The World Food Building, the tower will operate hydroponically, meaning vegetables (mostly greens) will grow without soil in a nutrient-rich, water-based solution.
  • This building will produce approximately 550 tons of vegetables annually — enough to feed around 5,500 people each year.
  • The front of the 16-story tower will include the farm, while the back will include the offices. About two-thirds of the building will be devoted to offices, while the other third will include a huge indoor farm.
  • The crops will grow using both natural sunlight and LEDs. The LEDs will be calibrated to specific light frequencies to maximize production.
  • Robots will perform many of the farm’s processes, keeping operational costs down.
  • Compared to an outdoor farm of the same size, the plantscraper will generate more food while using less land and water. The tower will save 1,100 tons of CO2 emissions and 13 million gallons of water annually.
  • This plantscraper will include a spiraled food production line, which automatically moves the plants from the bottom to the top and back again while they grow. The length of the cycle would depend on the crop, but would normally take 30 days
  • This project demonstrates how to feed cities of the future when they lack land, water, and other resources

Stakeholders: City municipality, builders and contractors, urban farming specialist, large multinational companies

Deployment: Construction of this $40 million building began in 2012, and it’s set to open by early 2020.

  • City administration and planners should visit Plantagon and meet its management to understand the technology, landscape, city issues and administrative challenges.
  • City should engage large multinational companies, including large food retail giants operating within the city, who may be willing to rent / invest space in such buildings
  • For engagement, best practice sharing and leading towards solutions – there will be need to conduct round-table discussions and conference between urban framing specialist, building contractors, developers, investors and city administrators
  • Since this is longterm solution and will need time to implement, learn from Plantagon’s experience once its operational in 2020.


Comment on other post:

An Innovative Step in Tackling NYC’s Homelessness

Sustainability Problem: Rise in Homelessness  

New York’s state constitution says that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions.”  And yet homelessness is a growing concern, increasing by 35% in the last 5 years.  A significant rise in rents (18%) and only a minimal increase in income (5%) have largely contributed to this growing concern.

The first step in eradicating homelessness is to provide people in this situation with proper housing.  Knowing that they have a roof over their heads can help these people focus their energy on the other much needed efforts to move out of homelessness.  In fact this is also the solution according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

Sustainability Technology: 3D printed modular units

Oslo and a NYC-based design firm Farmlab has proposed an innovative idea to tackle this problem.  They came up with Homed, which involves hexagonal-shaped, single-person units that came be attached onto empty walls on buildings – which the firm calls “vertical lots”.  This can be a reasonable solution to the overcrowded and transitional shelter problem that many homeless people face on a daily basis.

According to Farmlab, The prefabricated units would be attached to and be accessible via a scaffolding that would rise up alongside windowless, empty building walls, and could be easily disassembled, if needed. The units would come with an outer aluminium shell, and interior walls 3D printed from recycled polycarbonate. Smart-glass (electrochromic glass) windows would help to shade or light the unit’s interior as needed, while providing a view for inhabitants, in addition to providing advertising opportunities for sponsors.  Inhabitants can also design their spaces according to their preference and their furnishings can also be 3D printed using bioplastics.  Additional, bathing and communal units can also be added as needed.

Also considering that these are individual units, more people will be comfortable taking advantage of this type of housing opportunity, unlike in shelters where safety, security, and stealing are major concerns.  These units can also be assembled, expanded, and disassembled fairly quickly.  The utilization of scaffolding as super structure for the system is the crux of the solution, as it allows the city to use land that would be too difficult and expensive to develop. Homed puts these individuals on the right path to overcome their hardship and does so by providing them with a supportive and improved life.

Low income housing is needed, but lack of land and increased land costs are major hurdles to overcome for the city.  Currently NYC’s Dept. of Homeless Service has an operating budget of $955.3M, clearly showing the depth of the city’s financial burden in regards to homelessness.  Throwing more money at the problem is not the answer, but innovative solutions in addition to helpful/alternative policies can do much to help the homeless more effectively and efficiently.

“New York has record numbers of homeless people” The Economist, 3/23/2017,
“3D printed modular units for the homeless would use under-utilized vertical walls” TreeHugger, Kimberly Mok, 11/22//17,
“State of Homelessness 2017 Rejecting Low Expectations: Housing is the Answer”, Colalition for the Homeless, March 2017,


  • Homeless people
  • NGOs dedicated to helping the homeless
  • City officials looking to reduce homelessness
  • NYC residents

Technology Implementation & Distribution:

Build out these 3D pods and test their safety and quality before any use.

Then engage city officials by showcasing the benefits of such a housing project.  Ask them to provide a test area to assemble these units.

Encourage discussions with the Dept. of Homeless Service to have a group of people test out this new housing development and ask them to provide feedback.

Upon proven success, seek support to implement this on a larger scale.  Continue the monitoring and feedback mechanism to ensure that all needs and concerns are met.

By: Bhoomi Shah UNI: brs2147


Comment on “Floating Cities” by VishantKothari

The idea is to build these communities in safe/sheltered waters and provide aquaculture farms, healthcare, medical research facilities, and sustainable energy powerhouses.  The first city would be built on a network of 11 rectangular and five-sided platforms so the city could be rearranged according to its inhabitants’ needs like a floating jigsaw.  A feasibility report by Dutch engineering firm Deltasync says the square and pentagon platforms would measure 164ft (50metres) in length and they would have 164 ft-tall (50 metre) sides to protect buildings and residents.

I think this is a great solution to the planet’s climate change problem.  Water is going to be a major concern for many at risk areas (i.e. the Polynesian islands) when it comes to housing and if we can work with this element rather than fight it, survival is more likely.

Smart Package Locker System

Sustainability Issues

As e-commerce becomes interestingly popular among the younger population, receiving packages in an easier and safer way also becomes a concern. The traditional delivery method of leaving packages on doorsteps for single-family homes or handing them to the doorman at apartment buildings are not only vulnerable to theft but also time-consuming to process – an unreliable delivery method during predominate e-commerce era when a household receives multiple packages a day. A smart package locker system that could be configured to adapt the setting of residential/ commercial areas is expected to significantly improve package- receiving experiences. This technology has been implemented by Amazon in some neighborhoods and areas (Amazon Locker) but could be expanded to more residential/ commercial buildings potentially.

Technology: Smart Locker System 

  • Install smart locker system in apartment/commercial buildings, residential areas based on estimated service population size and grant delivery carriers (UPS, USPS, FedEx, HDL) access to the locker.
  • Instead of going door-by-door to leave packages on the doorsteps or handing them to the doorman, delivery staff place packages inside the smart locker and input the recipient’s information in the locker by scanning the shipping label.
  • Once a package has been placed in a locker, an automated text message will be sent by the locker system to the package’s intended recipient with a barcode or PIN number.
  • To retrieve the package, the recipient simply scan the barcode he or she received earlier or input the PIN number at the smart locker
  • The smart locker system could also be utilized to drop-off out-going packages.


  • Postal carriers (UPS, USPS, FedEx, HDL, etc.)
  • Property owners of residential/commercial buildings
  • Residents
  • Smart locker system provider


  • Property owners/managers conduct a survey of building users and residents to estimate to estimate size of locker needed
  • Contact locker provider to configure and install smart locker system in the building
  • Grant delivery carriers access to the smart locker and provide them with proper training


UNI: MH3730

Floating Cities

Sustainability Problem: Expanding population and global warming could lead to innovative living areas, one of which is the idea of floating cities. The main idea was fist explored scientifically by Quirk in his book – Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore the Environment, Enrich the Poor, Cure the Sick, and Liberate Humanity From Politicians.

Solution: It is estimated that by 2050, we will need floating cities as a means to sustain life on earth. Its a radicle idea that explores how such a move can “refresh our perspective on civilization” and help us “wipe the slate clean”. It includes:

  • A new architectural design, not only to create buildings and space that can withstand hurricanes; but also to explore the human aspect of interacting with different environments. Think ‘seascrapers’
  • New models of governance will emerge
  • The opportunity for technology innovation to enable data driven environmentally sustainable floating cities is enormous

The non profit Seasteading Institute has recently signed an agreement with the French Polynesia to create a floating city prototype off its shoreline. If all goes according to plan, the first aquatic assemblage of homes, hotels, offices, and restaurants will arrive in 2020.

DeltaSync, the Dutch sustainable engineering firm that will be designing the pilot city, will build on top of floating concrete platforms that can be rearranged as needed.


  • National governments
  • Land developers
  • Engineering designing teams
  • Funding partners
  • Potential residents

Next Steps:

  • Currently there is a village in Canada which is entirely sustainable, and floats on a lake. Its a microcosm of what could be needed to replicate its success.
  • Important to replicate the idea however valuable to use technologies that can assist in achieving the mission
  • Begin first phase of city design




Comments on another post:

Plastic Roads

Sustainability Problem: 

Roads laid with asphalt are unsustainable, brittle and they contribute over 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide around the world each year.

Solution: Roads made from recycled plastic are stronger, greener and maintenance-free

  • It takes less time to lay than asphalt
  • Durability is likely to be three times higher
  • Plastic is compressed into prefabricated sheets, which are easy to transport and install on site
  • Each sheet is recyclable and replaceable – making it very easy to maintain roads
  • These sheets are light weight and hallow, can suck in water to avoid flooding and allow plumbing and cable installations underneath

Stakeholders: City municipality, road contractors, manufacturers of prefabricated plastic sheets, academia and scientific researchers involved in further evolving this technology

Deployment: This technology is tried and tested in couple of cities mainly in Netherlands, UK and the US

  • Draw experience from the cities where this technology is already adopted
  • City municipality to engage with manufactures of prefabricated sheets and road contractors to understand the feasibility and scale of deployment
  • Start with changing asphalt roads with this technology in parks, local communities before moving to main city roads or highways. This will help in testing the durability, traffic load and also creating awareness


Comment on other post:

Offshore Wind Power

Sustainability Issues

The demand for global energy is projected to keep increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 21% per year until 2021. In this worldwide quest for more renewable energy, offshore wind power stands as the future of the sector by producing 40% higher output than its onshore counterpart due to the abundance of space and greater, consistent wind resources. As the pioneer in offshore wind power, the EU has experienced huge offshore wind power expansion in recent years. 3,230 turbines are now installed and grid-connected in 11 countries, for a cumulative total of 11,027 MW. Currently, the US came onboard with its first offshore wind farm off Rhode Island in 2016.

Technology: Offshore Wind Turbine

  • Offshore wind speeds tend to be faster than on land. Small increases in wind speed yield large increases in energy production: a turbine in a 15-mph wind can generate twice as much energy as a turbine in a 12-mph wind. Faster wind speeds offshore mean much more energy can be generated.
  • Many coastal areas have very high energy needs. 53% of the United States’ population lives in coastal areas, with concentrations in major coastal cities. Building offshore wind farms in these areas can help to meet those energy needs from nearby sources.
  • Offshore wind farms have significantly smaller negative impact on aesthetics of the landscape compared to wind farms on land because most offshore wind farms are not visible from shore.
  • However, offshore wind farm remains very expensive to construct, maintain, and deliver energy back onshore


  • Department of Energy
  • Regional Utility Companies
  • Local Government
  • Legislation


  • Conduct a comprehensive study of offshore wind energy, select offshore locations with greatest wind potential and lowest environmental impact possible
  • Review existing regulation with regard to offshore project
  • Planning and Design
  • Form public-private-partnership between utility company and the local government


UNI: MH3730

The Most Efficient Transportation System in the World: Seoul


  • Rapid population increase in Seoul, South Korea, as a result of post-war migration and an economic boom in the 1950’s.
  • There are 50 times more cars on Seoul’s roads now than in the 1970’s.

Solution: Smart Transportation Management

  • In 2004, the city began to overhaul it’s public transportation and road system through the use of data collection and consequently, through monitoring public transport and traffic in real-time.
  • The Seoul Traffic Vision 2030 was presented in 2013, including public transport, roads, side-walks, city railway systems as a systemic recommendation for improvement.

“By 2030, the city of Seoul will have evolved into a city with a highly convenient transport system, where people will not need to rely on their cars.”  – Seoul Traffic Vision 2030

  • Smart ticket systems and cameras monitor subway congestions, road-based sensors monitor traffic flows, and an in-built GPS system monitors taxi movement in the city, which feed into a central system used to post updates on digital roadside billboards and traffic reporting platforms, such as online.
  • Through this, buses, cars and trains can be maneuvered in the most efficient way.
  • The city has also focussed on pedestrianization, getting more people out of cars and onto walkways. An example of this is the Seoullo 7017 walkway, which makes use of an abandoned highway overpass as a new pedestrian route.

Article: How Seoul is using technology to avoid “traffic hell” 

Seoul Traffic Vision 2030: Website


Seoullo 7017


  • All commuters
  • Municipal government
  • City planners
  • Business owners (large employers of the commuter base population)

Steps to Implementation: 

  1. Sensor installation
  2. Overall system analyses (data collection)
  3. System re-design
  4. Infrastructure improvements
  5. Further sensor installation in new systems
  6. Training of transport officials
  7. Public awareness of alternative routes and optimal travel methods, and availability of platforms to independently track these
  8. Adoption of system commuter recommendations
  9. Measurement and monitoring
  10. Additional installations as technology improves

Comment on Plastic Bottle Concrete: 

Another article on this topic (Link) says that the plastic needs to be irradiated with gamma rays in oder to change the crystalline structure (ie. more cross linkages in the lattice lead to stronger concrete when mixed with plastic). It would be interesting to analyze how much this irradiation process would cost on an industrial scale when incorporated into cement production.



How to monitor water smartly

1: Area of sustainability category: water infrastructure

Maintaining balanced water levels is critical to avoid flooding in residential areas and conserve enough water for the dry season. And the technician has to drive back and forth between 11 lakes and make sure the levels don’t get too high.”

2: “Florida city employs Sensus tech for remote water monitoring

  • Enables proactive and preventative maintenance
  • Enables quick resolution of equipment failures
  • Decreases the need to deploy field crews
  • No additional power line infrastructure is necessary

3: Implementation

  • Identify sites for installation
  • Develop contracts with building owners
  • Install sensors
  • On-site Testing and Implementation

4: Stakeholder

  • Municipal
  • Technicians
  • City residents


Comment on “Plastic Bottle Concrete

Manufacturing concrete generates 4.5 percent of the world’s human-induced carbon emissions. So far, substituting 1.5 percent of concrete with irradiated plastic has been proved to improve the mixture’s strength significantly. It means 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions is deducted. If this technology is implemented on a global scale, the impact could be significant.