September 23, 2020 at 1:59 pm

Tapping into the world’s endless supply of sewage, researchers from RMIT University, in Melbourne, have used biosolids and biogas

By Sandesh Ilhe

Tapping into the world’s endless supply of sewage, researchers from RMIT University, in Melbourne, have used biosolids and biogas—two byproducts from wastewater treatment—to create the namesake ingredient for hyrdrogen energy. In their paper “Production of hydrogen by catalytic methane decomposition using biochar and activated char produced from biosolids pyrolysis” published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, researchers describe how their new technology utilizes “low-cost biosolids’ biochar and activated char” for “methane cracking,” circumventing the need for expensive catalysts to produce “hydrogen, carbon nanospheres, and nanotubes.” The technology also sequesters carbon in biosolids and biogas, nudging the wastewater industry closer to the potential of a zero-emission future. “Our alternative technology offers a sustainable, cost-effective, renewable, and efficient approach to hydrogen production,” said lead researcher and associate professor Kalpit Shah in an RMIT press release. “By harnessing the power of biosolids to produce a fully clean fuel from biogas—while simultaneously preventing greenhouse gas emissions—we can deliver a true environmental and economic win.” [RMIT]

Sixty members of the AIA Large Firm Roundtable have signed a letter “requesting that digital content creators make a concerted effort to include more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in renderings of design work.” The signatories want renderings to depict the diverse communities that the firms serve in the hopes that “by having more BIPOC figures in the entourage, we can depict our projects in a fair and inclusive way.” [SmithGroup]

Aiming to help schools, child care centers, offices, and other indoor spaces reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from the Portland State University Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science and the University of Oregon College of Design Institute for Health in the Built Environment have launched an online room-risk estimator. Available to the public, the SafeAirSpace COVID19 Parametric Aerosol Transmission Risk Estimation Platform uses aerosol engineering equations to estimate the number viral particles that a hypothetical, infected individual might release in a given indoor space. The calculations consider floor area, ceiling height, and outdoor air supply. With this information, the platform calculates the theoretical “dose” of viral particles and corresponding infection risk for other individuals sharing the space. [SafeAirSpace]

Last week, The New York Times asked a fleet of architects and design practitioners to envision how we can best build and reinvent public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Times is asking students how they might reinvent their environments in this week’s “Lesson of the Day.” [NYT]

A team of researchers from Project Natick, Microsoft’s investigation into subsea data centers, have found that subsea data centers “are reliable, practical, and use energy sustainably,” according to a Microsoft press release. Two years after a sending large, sealed data center 117 feet down to the seafloor off Scotland’s Orkney Islands, the team successfully retrieved a barnacle-covered data center this summer. The team found that placing data centers in “a sealed container on the ocean floor could provide ways to improve the overall reliability of data centers” by protecting them from land-based risk factors such as “oxygen and humidity, temperature fluctuations, and bumps and jostles from people who replace broken components.” [Microsoft]

Oil and gas companies in the U.S. have long spun a narrative that the majority of consumer plastic can—and would be—recycled. A new investigation from NPR and PBS Frontline, however, has discovered that this was a multidecade lie: Leaders in the oil and gas industries have kept that secret—and much of our plastic—buried from the public view since the so-called recycling programs began across the country. [NPR]

The public restroom designed by Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA

Tokyo Toilet
The public restroom designed by Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA

Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA, has completed the latest public restroom in the Tokyo Toilet project, a program in which 16 leading designers have partnered to redesign 17 public restrooms in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood. In Jingu-Dori Park, Ando’s slate-colored restroom features a circular floorplan and a prominent roof overhang to create a “space that was comfortable and safe,” according to Ando’s description on the Tokyo Toilet website. Vertical louvers make up the walls and allow wind and daylight to filter into the space, creating a feeling of safety that “will be emphasized by the free and centripetal circulation which passes through to the other side.” [The Tokyo Toilet]

As wildfires rage across the West and hurricanes inundate the Gulf Coast, ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine have investigated how current and future climate emergencies will shape the nation’s population distribution and migration trends. The outlets have also analyzed data from the New York–based research provider Rhodium Group to generate an interactive map of how climate change will force many U.S. residents away from vulnerable coastal areas to the country’s Midwest and northern regions. [ProPublica]

Anticad's Köral acoustic system, designed by TakahashiLim A+D

Anticad’s Köral acoustic system, designed by TakahashiLim A+D

With many offices still shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, architects and designers have been brainstorming ways to reopen the spaces safely. In his latest column, ARCHITECT contributor Blaine Brownell, FAIA, explains why architects should focus on sound and acoustics while redesigning the workspace. Areas “will be transformed into hybrid modality platforms with face-to face and remote communication,” he predicts. [ARCHITECT]

Autodesk has announced the finalists for its annual AEC Excellence Awards. From a pool of 260 project submissions from 35 countries, this year’s 27 finalists were selected across three categories—Building Design, Construction, and Infrastructure—and by project size. Autodesk will announce the winners in October. [Autodesk]

In more awards news, software developer Bentley Systems has selected 57 finalists in its Year in Infrastructure 2020 Awards program, which attracted 400 nominations from more than 60 countries. The winners of the 2020 program will be announced live on Oct. 21 during Bentley Systems’ virtual YII 2020 Conference, which runs Oct. 20 to Oct. 21. [Bentley Systems]

One more award tidbit this week: ARCHITECT’s sister magazine Architectural Lighting has announced the winners of its 17th annual Architectural Lighting & Design Awards. Selected from a pool of 111 submissions, the 10 winners across four categories each demonstrated “thoughtfully conceived and well executed” uses of light. [AL]

Sandesh Ilhe

With an Engineers degree in Advanced Database Management and Information Security, Sandesh brings the deep understanding of the digital world to the table. His articles reflect the challenges and the complexities that come along with every disruption in the industry. He carries over six years of experience on working with websites and ensuring that the right article reaches the right reader.

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