Design and Disaster

“The worst airport fire in German history occurred on April 11, 1996, when flames broke out in the busy Düsseldorf airport, quickly filling the terminal with acrid, toxic smoke. Travelers frantically looked for exit signs. In the ensuing chaos, 17 people died and 150 were injured. A spokesman for the Düsseldorf fire brigade, quoted in European news accounts, blamed the high number of casualties on passengers ‘ignoring’ emergency exit signs. For airport management, having the signage singled out as a contributor to the disaster underscored the importance of maintaining a clear communications system in a crowded, public space. Prior to the fire, signage at Düsseldorf had become a clutter of airline logos and retail and service ads, with directional signs lost in the cacophony.”

Traveler safety and ease of movement were key considerations, along with establishing a distinct identity for the airport. The design from MetaDesign pegged levels of the importance of information to the levels of color and contrast, designing for legibility during normal visbility as well as in a smokey environment. As for non-disaster usability? “Over the past year, the airport information counter reports a 50% drop in inquiries.” Sample pix: before and after. From @issue, volume 3, number 2.

>  26 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Brew Your Own Biodiesel

Tired of all that blood for oil? Roll up to your elected representative on your own home brewed biodiesel using any of these handy guides. (Diesel vehicle required.)

>  7 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Electric Police Cars

In February 2002, London’s Metropolitan Police initiated a three year test of two two-seater electric cars “to combat high traffic levels in cities and will be used for general purposes such as burglary reporting and house visits.” The cars are cheap to run and emissions free. Electric cars are exempt from the Mayor of London’s new congestion tax.

>  3 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Electric Car Burns Down House

“Veronica Webb’s eco-friendly electric car turned into a fire-spewing death machine the other night, burning down her Key West house and killing her beloved dog, Hercules.” Says Webb, “Electric cars and golf carts are always overloading their chargers and burning up, but no one knows about it.” From Page Six.

>  2 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Subways Powering Subways

The New York Times reports on an experiment using flywheels to convert and store the braking energy of subway trains approaching stations and release it back into the electrical system in a regulated way. The system could save up to 20 million tax payer dollars a year in electricity costs and would help relieve a lot of the heat subways generate. Between Bloomberg’s budget cuts and the sweltering stations in July, this is a beautiful thing.

Found via Slashdot.

>  30 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Do You Want Fries With That?

The Greasecar runs on on 100% used vegetable oil. “Where do you get your vegetable oil? We get our oil from local restaurants; we recommend that you establish a relationship with a restaurant in your area.” For $795 you can order a kit to convert your existing diesel car into a greasecar.

>  21 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

“Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources [like soybeans]. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with no major modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.” is the official Web site of the U.S. National Biodiesel Board. Lots of good info and resources in PDF format.

>  19 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Go Hemp Car, Go!

Hemp car is an alternative-fuel project car that utilizes hemp biodiesel for fuel. Industrial hemp would be an economical fuel if hemp were legal to cultivate in the United States. Industrial hemp has no psychoactive properties and is not a drug. Hemp Car demonstrates the concept of hemp fuels on a national level and promotes the reformation of current law.”

>  11 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

In and Out of Elevators in Japan

“Every morning in the apartment building where I live I take the elevator six floors down. One morning a woman appeared with her bicycle as I was waiting for the elevator. Though we live along the same corridor, I had scarcely seen her before, and we had never spoken. Japanese public behavior in residential space is customarily limited to either reserved nods of recognition or restrained ‘good mornings’ and ‘good afternoons.’ Everything changes at the elevator, as I was especially surprised to see this particular morning.

Suppressing my annoyance (a bicycle takes half the space in the small elevator), I gestured for the woman to enter when the elevator arrived and the door opened. She acknowledged my courtesy, and positioned herself inside. There was just room enough to accommodate me in front of her. As the elevator descended, suddenly I felt a hand touch my collar, and smooth it down over my tie! ‘Arigato gosaimas’ (thank you very much), I managed, when we reached the bottom floor and I could turn to face the woman. She smiled faintly and bowed in turn.

I was stunned for hours afterwards. Japanese never touch. It’s not even customary among themselves when they meet to shake hands. So how to explain why this woman would so casually reach over and adjust my collar? In public! And yet, not exactly. The space of an elevator is small enough, and, perhaps more important, brief and ephemeral enough, to admit a private character. Therefore, an individual can relax, and accord another a degree of warmth inadmissible once the elevator doors open once more. My moment of contact, I concluded, could have only happened in an elevator, and then perhaps only in Japan. Suddenly the mundane seemed luminous with an entirely different meaning to transit space.”

See “In and Out of Elevators in Japan” by Terry Caesar, published in the Journal of Mundane Behavior.

“Elevator space in Japan is considered both as an example of transit space generally and as an example of the practice of a particular national identity. The paper argues that there is an intimate relationship between the social script outside the elevator and variations possible on this script inside the elevator. In Japan, these variations serve to express the improvisational, private character of personal interaction possible inside elevators, over against the fixed, public character of behavior outside them.”

Found via

>  5 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Greener by Design

Edwin Datschefski specialises in the development and promotion of sustainable product design concept.” His site Greener by Design has a couple of interesting lists of environmentally friendly products. My favorite: the ice cream cone as an example of edible packaging.

>  17 June 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

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