Grand Challenges for Engineering - May 22, 2013
What are the world's most urgent infrastructure needs? How do those differ from your own? What new approaches may be able to address them?
I find input provided by you very useful in my development work, Kindly suggest any possible bio low cost water, sanitation, swerage options also water harvesting alternative(for storage purposes in dry areas) guidelines if any to make it available to poorest of poor communities .what are the precaution one needs to take before starting such projects.
How to create a sustainable infrastructure mechanism for a community of say 100 families
My name is Darrlynn Franklin and I am a technical writer for MidAtlanitcBroadband a telecommunications company in Chantilly, VA. I would like the opportunity to read the infrastructure challenges communities in America are facing. I would also like to know your recommendations on how to fix the challenges these communities face.
The ideas and assertions made are appreciated. Just a quick read supports the sincerity and professionalism of the writers. However, we have learned that sincere, well-intentioned professionals can be dead-nuts wrong. It appears that most wish to repair or replace what exists with still more types of physical solutions. This suggests that perhaps we are not discerning the root cause of how we have planned, engineered, and constructed our physical world into its current state. "Its the system, not the people." --Deming. With no disrespect to anyone intended, I suggest that we need to seek help outside of the planners/engineers/constr uctors who have done such a remarkable job within the system. We need help from outside of the engineering/construction system to provide perspectives that remain in the shadows of our proud profession. Its less a matter of discovering new ideas than it is learning to see familiar circumstances with a new clarity. Of course, I may be wrong. Thanks for considering my thoughts.
Now is the time to provide incentives to employers to discount homes for workers near where they work. This will cut down on commute, traffic, pollution, accidents, travel time. Maximize workforce hours, family time. Do this now while economy is down and everyone has to move anyway. Less commuting may even mean families won't need a second or third car.
"Sustainable, smaller communities, built to allow walking to work, shopping and schools are needed. Link these smaller communities by rail, the most efficient form of transportation. "
We need to develop incentives to dismantle large cities. Sustainable, smaller communities, built to allow walking to work, shopping and schools are needed. Link these smaller communities by rail, the most efficient form of transportation. Dismantle suburbs, end long commutes and eliminate urban centers. Once we reduce cities to sustainable communities, we will need less hydrocarbon fuels, use fewer resources and have less adverse impacts on the earth.
"The infrastructure problem in the US is that public infrastructure providers do not recover costs, do not send the right price signals to end users and do not fund depreciation of fixed assets. "
This is not an engineering problem. This is an institutional problem. The infrastructure problem in the US is that public infrastructure providers do not recover costs, do not send the right price signals to end users and do not fund depreciation of fixed assets. We cannot engineer our way out of the problem until we fix the institutional problems that are the root cause.
Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) (tm) A patented technology where travel occurs without air friction or rolling resistance (like "Space Travel on Earth" (tm)); ETT can accomplish 50 times more transportation per kWh than electric cars or trains. ETT is silent, a fourth the cost of freeways, safe, faster than jets, and is electric. Air is permanently removed from 2 tubes along a travel route (two-way). Pressurized car sized passenger capsules travel in the tubes on frictionless maglev. Airlocks at stations allow transfer without admitting air. Linear electric motors accelerate the capsules, then they coast through the vacuum most of the trip using no power. Energy is recovered when they stop. Speed in initial ETT systems is 350 mph for in state trips, and will be developed to 4,000 mph for international travel that will take you from NYC to Beijing in 2 hours at a tenth the cost of airfare. ETT is networked as are freeways. ETT capsules (hauling up to 6 people or 3 pallets of cargo) are automatically routed non-stop between "off-line" stations that are disbursed according to demand, so ETT has potential to eventually serve homes. ETT capsules weigh only 400 lbs, yet like a SUV, haul 800lbs of people or cargo. A twentieth as much guideway material is required to support ETT capsules than to support locomotives. Material savings, and use of automated pipeline production, drops cost to less than a tenth the cost of High Speed Rail, or a fourth the cost of a freeway. With automated passive switching, a single 350mph ETT tube can exceed 16 lanes freeway capacity, further economizing. Collectively companies have invested billions developing ETT; (although most are not aware of it yet); for instance, many companies produce pipelines (tubes), vacuum pumps, and electronics to automate it all. Everything exists to start building ETT now. ETT is being implemented in Asia, but the program is small so it remains to be seen who will be first to market. The ETT Patent is assigned to et3.com Inc., an open consortium. An inclusive license agreement offers any entity incentives to participate in ETT implementation using their "off-the-shelf" assets (materials, parts, technologies, skills, labor, and capacities). When enough licensees who have key elements for ETT assemble in the growing et3 consortium, the risk-to-reward-ratio will improve enough to attract private capital. NOTE: ETT IS NOT A SCALED UP VERSION OF PNEUMATIC TUBE TRANSPORT (PTT) COMMON AT BANK DRIVE-UP TELLERS
"Engineering special networks which can be still operational after disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes should be given a global priority. "
The world's most urgent infrastructure need is a network of communication for aid, humanitarian, and rescue agencies. Soon after disasters strike, road and electronic communication channels break, making it very difficult for rescue agencies to help the victims. Engineering special networks which can be still operational after disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes should be given a global priority. As the world hurtles relentlessly towards climate change, natural calamities are likely to become more frequent and widespread. Depending on currrent format of infrastructural development will lead to high death tolls and economic losses in such a situation. Special communication networks will be able to avert these.
I think transportation infrastructure plays a key role in modern days. Whether it is the aircraft launch pad, railway track, ocean/river port, or road, the design upgrades are required. How important of these stuffs varies from place to place. The urgent need, in my opinion, is the upgrade of existing infrastructures and the design improvement of new structures. Current design concepts of those infrastructures are premitive. It is now the time of chage to improve the design concept as well as the materials used.
Water infrastructure is the most urgent need in terms of infrastructure on a global, regional & local level! Access to clean water as well as waste water treatment are essential and will continue to grow in importance not only in developing countries but also in the western hemisphere. Water efficiency is an integral part of the mentioned issues.
(1) We have to get off the fossil fuel habit for fixed facilities, and save the stuff for transportation and petrochemistry. It is way too valuable to just - Burn it. The good Lord already sequestered most of our carbon for us underground, and we are doing our very best to reverse that. There is no technical reason why every fixed building - residential and commercial - should not be all-electric, powered by a distributed network of smallish nuclear reactors of the size found in Naval vessels. Yes, the waste is toxic, but we know how to handle it and its volume is miniscule compared to the trillions of tons of fly ash, mining detritus, combustion gases, and oxygen loss that fossil power requires. Nuclear electric power is challenge #1.
(2) While global warming seems to be a reality, there is a lot of evidence that up to 80% of it is due to solar activity increases. If that proves to be true, then whatever we do with greenhouse gases won't have much effect. Therefore, we need to consider how we can move our coastal cities inland, or put dikes around them before the ocean rises too far. The Netherlands is a good place to study reclamation of land from the ocean, Manaus Brazil is a good place to study floating docks which rise and fall with the Amazon, and China is a good place to study the lessons-learned from moving whole cities out of the way of the Three Gorges Dam. Rising oceans are challenge #2. Other challenges we need to confront, IMHO, follow, but aren't strictly infrastructure items. So I will just state them: -- better medicine at a reasonable cost -- better and faster worldwide transportation -- space exploration and exploitation -- better education, particularly focusing on critical thinking -- removal of greed as a business motivator -- removal of greed as a political motivator -- conversion of all lawyers to artificial sunken reefs
May seem off-topic, but: If I were king, day one would be setting up the innovation infrastructure to get to the optimal solutions, then make the comparisons. Reading through these posts, I'm inspired, educated by them, but still innactive. 7 billion human brains and and internet. We should be building serious corroboration infrastructure right now. Any sign of it at our level? Blogs? No. More like: Filter nastiness into the bilge-page: check, but could be automated without too much AI and then self-moderated via personal filter. Turn redundant ideas into a vote. Votes on ideas are not just Yes, No, but rate intelligence, reliability of presented data, Agree/Disagree, etc. Turn good adeas into an illucidated modifiable presentation, all languages. Informal connection to actuators in government is automatic.. Right now that place is taken up by news media and polls? Yikes. Let's put or heads together. On the aforementioned population decrease idea: Reliability of info 99.9 Agree: 99.9
There were a lot of comment posted before me and I didn't have a chance to read all of them, but adding to Kevin McIntyre's great post, I think that we need to get back to small neighborhoods. Kevin mentioned communities with no roads inside and the robotic cars garaged off-site. Taking this further we should not only have housing communities, but incorporate services that people would need within walking distance. Have houses, a grocery store, a couple of restaurants, etc. so that people don't have to drive to get places. Then each community can be attached by roads when you want to visit someone in another community or move or just explore. I don't know much about how it is in other states, let alone countries, but in Arizona everything is so spread out. O course places of employment wouldn't have to be staffed by people in the area, but still just having essential services grouped together will reduce overall need for transportation.
yes wait for a plague to kill enough people to make the 50's come back, no wait, everyone take a number and lets exterminat 9 out of ten, wait lets just let the richest 10 percent survive. Engineering new solutions is the only way to elevate the billions living in poverty while retaining the standard of living the first world has been acustomed to, maybe testing nuclear weapons in arizona is the answer as long as we don't allow the current residents to leave first. Essential the solution for the USA is to encourage people to live closer to work but that will entail some conter intuitive reasoning because like most humans our long term self interest remains tertiary to the immediate needs and wants.
Public transportation has it's own last mile problem. New Jersey once had a extensive rail network, but many of those old lines were pulled up and only footpaths remain. Rural New Jersey is heavily populated, and using public transportation in order to get to jobs in the denser parts of the state, closer to New York, still requires a car. why not, therefore, focus efforts on improving the car and the road infrastructure. create dedicated highway lanes with electrified rails. electric drive and hybrid cars could then pull power from the grid while commuting. a powered rail would also simplify car 'autopilots'. cars could then draft each other, reducing energy use. This would start us down the road toward completely robotic cars, like those demonstrated in the darpa grand challenge. Robotic cars would impact urban development most significantly. cars could be instructed to park automatically off-site, perhaps miles away. narrowing roads and opening up lots that would have once been filled by parking garages. housing communities could be built with no roads inside, only on the periphery. cars would again be garaged off-site, and called, when needed, to a pick up point. Highways could be narrowed with robotic, networked cars that sense disruptions and route around them, and behave more like a single mass, preventing traffic inducing behavior. four lanes could be reduced to two, making road maintenance cheaper while maximizing resources when dealing with inclement weather. less road surface would also significantly reduce water runoff, helping to replenish underground aquifers. robotic cars would also save lives. self-driving cars would eliminate accidents from inattentive or intoxicated drivers. these cars could potential be better drivers than humans ever will be. No future plan will succeed without building upon the road infrastructure. we mustn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. we should keep our roads, but change our cars. some say that people are too enamored with driving. but i convince them by telling them that in a self driving car, they could read the paper during their morning commute, or sleep, or would never have to work about how to get home when drunk. much research has been done that can be adapted to this goal, but much more needs to be done as well. standards need to be created in order to get varying parties to work together, while also leaving room for improvements from even better future technologies. Self driving cars will have a drastic impact on the future of America, Proper research and planning will help soften the blow.
"Eventually, we must spread beyond the Galaxy..."
Unfortunately, the entire idea of urban civilization as we know it is a cancerous meme which must be destroyed before it destroys us. We already have too many humans and their associated food production systems. Our PRIME need is to establish a self-sustaining off-Earth presence in order to ensure species survival. At that point the resources of the Earth are dwarfed to insignificance by the resources of the Solar System. While the Earth is fragile and undergoes major disturbances on a regular basis, the Solar System is larger and undergoes similar disruptions on a much longer time scale. Eventually, we must spread beyond the Galaxy, as galaxies too undergo major truama. One of these scenarios is extremely likely within the next 100 years: 1) Climatary warming melts the ice caps, or worse, causes the ice to calve into the ocean in massive amounts, causing multiple global tsunami a hundred meters high. 2) The ice-free Arctic Ocean destabilizes the ocean currents and the climate, and brings on an ice age/accelerates global warming. 3) Global warming frees methane from the sea floor by the billions of tons and greatly increases the global temperature, while destroying a majority of humans and a large number of other species will go extinct. As far as our major needs, we screwed up on things and may not have recovery time anymore. Had we built soloar power satellites starting in the '70's when we knew it was feasible both economically and as engineering, we sould now be generating 120% of the US electrical power with only minor pollution and the waste heat that results from any energy conversion. We didn't. We've known that our profligate energy use was unsustainable for the past 70 years, and yet we continued. While fossil fuel reserves have been underestimated (as we have continually discovered new reserves,) they were always to valuable as raw materials to break them down for their energy content. It should be possible to refine (break down) our waste hydrocarbon plastics into small hydrocarbons used for feed stock to plastics and fuel production. But we have allowed even our existing refineries to fall into disrepair instead of developing this technology as a waste recycling system. The meme which promotes the stratification of society and encourages the hoarding of vital resources even at the expense of the lives of people who need them, is like a cancer on the earth. We have for centuries made major impacts upon our environment without giving any thought or energy to dealing with the negative results. This is the main reason we are in the mess we are in today. Our current population of humans is several times larger than the Earth can comfortably support while supporting the other species. Since the entire biosphere is a redundantly linked system with self-repairing capabilities, in the long run this doesn't mater to the biosphere. But it does not bode well for the future of humans as a species. As to local infrastructure, we plan poorly, many major decisions are made on the basis of lobbying by developers and contractors. Seldom are these decisions made with careful cost benefit analysis of their effects. The prime motivator is usually who will make money. This is because the political process, as applied to such issues doesn't place any emphasis upon long-term effects, but seldom looks beyond the next election. Decisions that are supposed to be made for the good of the people are made instead based upon the good of the lobbyists. The current US situation is an ideal example. Having blown all of the country's credit, indebted to the point that the idea of repaying it in less than a century is ludicrous, the politicians have, once again, borrowed money to 'give' to the population in order to hide the inevitable recession/depression for long enough for the politicians to be re-elected. By delaying the official start of the recession by 1 fiscal quarter, they have ensured that the country won't know that it is in a recession officially until January 2009. The people we elected to serve our interests have not served our interests as a first priority in a very long time, perhaps for ever. Most industries until recently, made the bulk of their profits by not paying for the environmental damages that they have caused. But environmental damage, while self-healing to an extent, is not robust or rapid healing enough to withstand the amount of damage which our species is capable of inflicting within a short enough time span to save us from the effects of the damage. What we have refused to pay for for centuries cannot be repaired with legal maneuvers--this bill MUST BE PAID! At least, if we expect to survive at all. At this point, baring a technological breakthrough, we could perhaps make a dent in fixing our damage, and we must do so, but a full solution will probably involve a massive die-back of the species to reduce the impact and free enough resources for the remainder to repair and build systems of memes to prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future. S.L. Goodsell (previous comment) has a reasonable short term solution by using the underground for our population, we can free up large areas of surface for cultivation of food and still have space to put aside for nature. Of course, mono culture of food is both inefficient and dangerous, so we should make changes in how we produce and distribute food too. It is not, however, a long-term solution, as it will not survive any of the projected major disasters that the planet faces. Hawking is almost correct. But Steven makes the wrong assumption that the species needs planetary bodies to live upon, which is not true. However, once we are living in space, we can easily process resources in the Solar System for use, including the immense amount of solar energy available within the Earth-Luna system. The circumlunar system intercepts solar energy within a circle 500,000 miles in diameter, the Earth intercepts solar light in a circle 8,000 miles in diameter, and then only after it is filtered through several miles of air, dust, and water vapor. Circumlunar space intercepts 1.966,187,500 square miles of solar energy. The Earth intercepts solar energy over 50,384,000. sq miles. Collecting in space makes the energy production facilities more difficult to destroy or capture, takes far less ground area than ground based solar, and can use either a heat engineer direct conversion to electricity. The electricity can be used to manufacture fuels, thus eliminating the need to harvest carbohydrates which could be used for food or fossil hydrocarbons which are wasted by burning and produce major pollution problems. Additionally, once we are established in space, hydrocarbons are not in short supply as there are many Earth masses of such material in the Solar System.
I like a few of the comments already made. Vehicles that fly instead of using roads would be nice but not always practical. We can help to balance things by using another idea mentioned of going underground with what we have. If we balance between all three it would be more fitting for us all because none of us are the same and prefere to do things in our own unique ways. I could see less surface roads as a result. I liked the idea of using glass (tempered) to help transfer light (possibly Sun) through out the house. I think this could be used as a heat source if the glass was to be shaped more like a cone as it comes into the house and then control how much light you get from the outside end. There are still roads in exsistance from The Roman empire and we have to repave our roads every other year. How brilliant are we then? Roads should be gray to reduce heat. This would also reduce the wide tempature range the asphalt goes through in the winter from freezing at night and warming in the day. This causing more maintenence. Although snow and ice would stay on longer. Vehicles should also be an excersice machine, like pedaling a generator to assist in energy production on the way as you go. I think having multiple trash companies in a city compeating for the same business is a poor use of resources. I get probly five different companies coming into our neighborhood picking up trash. What a waste of energy and time, creating more pollution and wearing on the infrastructure. There are many good ideas already in use around the world. I've heard of garbage dumps recycling almost everything. How come we cannot multiply these things world wide? I've heard of a nuclear power plant that they removed the fuel rods without the thing going criticle. The waste/pollution from nuclear plants is still far less than coal.
A shortage of water in South Australia will affect our way of life and with out a solution no future development can continue. We need to look at channeling water that flows into the sea from the Kimberly Mountain range, in the Northern Territory, down south. This would not be as difficult as it sounds as there are many natural waterways that are dry except in the wet, that could be used. With a lake or dam above Lake Eyre, so it won't flow into it and become salt. The infrastructure of pipe lines is in place from there down. But the water will need to be pumped south instead of north like it is now. Maybe this sounds like a hare-brained scheme but what is the alternative? Margaret
I think Matt's idea of moving back to public transit is a terrible one. People don't like to ride the bus for good reasons. 1) It's simply too slow. Spending 4 hours a day commuting is simply not a good use of our valuable time (when the same trip only takes 20 minutes by car each way). 2) The other people on the bus! If it wasn't bad enough that most other bus riders are meth-heads and crack addicts, you're very likely to be assaulted or robbed. Of course, there's no such thing as law enforcement on public transit, so you can forget about police protection. Bicycling would be nice, but it's also impossible as an alternative for most people. 1) The weather in most parts of the country make it impossible; it's either too hot (causing heatstroke) or too cold (causing frostbite and hypothermia). These aren't exaggerations; in someplace like Minneapolis, where the temperature gets down to -20 in the winter or more, being outside any serious length of time is dangerous to your survival. North America isn't like some other places where people can safely be outside for most of the year. 2) Bikes have to share roads with cars and monster SUVs and trucks, which is basically like suicide with the way people drive. Of course, if we didn't have private cars, this wouldn't be a problem, but it's impossible to phase out cars instantly, or to build all-new bike lanes instantly, so there's no point in trying. We can dream up all the utopian cities we want, but people in those cities will still be competing with people in other utopian cities in other countries, which will lead to wars, and countless millions dead. I think we might as well just have some more huge wars, or wait for a plague to kill off most humans, because there's no engineering solution that's going to solve our problems.
A shift towards more accessible and more efficient (and just more) public transportation would benefit the country and indirectly the rest of the world significantly. Not only would there be a noteworthy reduction in the amount of energy used (and not to mention CO2 produced) to move people from place to place, but the way we occupy our space would change as well. That is, urban sprawl would decline as people gradually moved to places in close proximity to public transport. This would benefit not only by sparing the land that would otherwise be gobbled up by cities expanding outward, building more homes which are only accessible by car but would also benefit the places people live in, as we shift where we live back to the quintessential neighborhood where people actually walk on the sidewalks. The convenience of the car, although attractive, has hurt our environment, our health and our day-to-day lives as social beings. Reverting back to public transportation, as Americans did before the economic boom of the last fifty years, is a more responsible and sustainable and - despite the convenience and allure of cars - pleasant way to live. Engineers and decision makers should act upon this.
As Seattle has come into the public eye and become a destination for tourists, business,families and technology our traffic has increased exponentially. Even with some of the newest systems in the country we are decades behind with no real hope of catching up. What astounds me is that we are one of the hearts of technology, with one of the highest techy, techno populations in the country. Why hasn't Seattle put their experience to work. Employers need to embrace working from home and communal neighborhood office buildings. Companies need to perfect the video conference call, eliminating tens of thousands of now needless flights per year. This same technology can be employed to share public school teachers, spreading the knowledge while reducing costs and travel. Our Alaskan Way viaduct was severely damaged in an earthquake, but the arguments between potential 'New' waterfront condo owners and 'New' waterfront business owners has kept us driving on a dangerous roadway for years now. Sadly, the way things have gone, I expect that whatever we end up with, it will have a corporate name such as "Starbucks Passover" and to finish me off I bet there will be a toll.
Professor Hawking is correct, for the human race to survive we need more then one world. Since this will take time we need to build down not up. Don't build skyscrapers, dig, dig, dig, build down. The energy savings from a stable climate will be huge. Use geothermal for power and if we can build underground interstate transit tubes then we have protection from the elements. The only things that lived after the dinosaurs for the most part lived in the oceans or underground. We need to use the planet surface for agriculture and recreation. Only the bare minimum of required industry on the surface. Bet the enviromental crowd would like that. Hey, while we are underground think of all the minerals we can mine.
I was reading a post about how London is empty after business hours - what a waste of expensive infrastructure. I also think that buildings should have connecting skybridges between them. This would relieve the chokepoint caused by forcing all occupants to descend to street level to get to another location. A benefit of joining the rooftops of the city would be creating an interlinking park and agriculture zone in the heart of cities to reduce transport of food.
Too many cars are on the road. This causes so much pollution and noise, not to mention dangerous conditions for bicycles and pedestrians. Stores build parking in front of the store making it dangerous for pedestrians to get to them. There is not enough public transportation and they don't run often enough to get people to leave their cars home. We could also use bike lanes so people can exercise and get to places.
I think we need a more distributed, organic method that integrates public policy makers, citizens and the organizations that co-exist in a given area. Rather than pushing the burden to over burdened government, we need bring together stakeholders in a way that may drive this to a very very local level - not just streets, but community association, even individuals. Yes, there are grand needs for large improvement, but even those can be more effectively handled in an organic way by seeking emergent planning and construction methods. Think about putting a city's infrastructure into a computer, modeling the current needs and then projecting, using scenario planning, along multiple different futures, and then have the system evolve, using genetic algorithms or some other process, a plausible plan within the constraints. In this way, science can help depoliticize the planning process and providing transparency into how various constraints: natural, technological and political, were handled in the various models. The system could even look at financial capabilities and search for funding models from available sources, and while also suggesting a timeline. This does beg the issues of many science fiction stories in which a computer plans the future and people simply accept its dominion over them. I am suggesting here, that software is capable of being an effective tool in negotiating human issues often fraught by imperfect information. Not only does the software provide emergent views of the future, but it can provide the forum for negotiation and cooperation -- perhaps brokering an auction among interested parties for paying for various portions of a project -- those who choose to live on an island end up disproportionately paying for a bridge, but may have little to do with a rural road hundreds of miles from them. The model can also look at things like wealth distribution and wear, so that perhaps the rural road, given less traffic, doesn't get addressed as often unless there is a natural disaster. If all the power lies with the political infrastructure, they physical infrastructure will always suffer. We need to find ways to bring rational alternatives to the table that go well beyond competitive bidding by several interested contractors who are never as apolitical as they may seem. And then of course, we will need to write the software to look for bias in software models, which isn't on the list of big challenges, but may be one of the next ones.
There are things that we know that we can control and others that we know are up to God or the imagination. Power is a major problem. Nuclear energy is unspeakable because it is a danger to our environment and life. Solar and wind energy IS the ONLY long term future for this electric/patrolium world. The waters will dry up and hydroelectric production (by 2017 there is a 50 percent chance due to drought conditions that hydro-electricity will dry up in the southwest and by 2021, 22 million people will be without water) will fail but the 2 things that are constant are the wind and the sun. Even if we convert this energy driven environment in time to save our world, there is still a major danger from solar flares. beware of the mind of Lucifer, Steve..... The world produces enough to supply double the people of the world to live in comfortable sustainable means, but it is the wealthy and the greedy and the powerful that always tend to wish to see destruction upon it at the cost of the less fortunate. There is no survival of the fittest for it is a lie.
the problem in the G7 countries is not money rather policy. Very many billions of $s are spent on the vehicles that use roadways by the owners, many more $s than required due to the poor management of the current system. If this was a closed system, like a manufacturing plant, we would optimize the investment to insure all aspects were the most effective with results that will free resources for,say,health .With govts. controlling the system they react to crisis ,increaseing costs to provide the system 3 to 5 fold, resulting in great waste. On potable water we spend Billions on bottled water of perhaps at times questionable quality then lament no resources for public water at 1/ 1000,s the cost.
glass can replace wood, glass can replace copper wire, glass can be used a light from one light sorce central to the house and transmitted thur glass to all parts of the house.....this will also cut down one energy used, which will make solor power or any other non high voltage power supply much more efficent.
waste.......we use so much material that can not be reused, i think the most important issue of all is to make it economily sound to recycle, if you can find a way to make a profit with it, i also think glass is an unrealized building resorce, it doesnt deteriorate of bend with time. and it is 100% recycleable, and at 2 foot thick i think it is fairly sturdy.....and at the same time you can bring business to places like afganastan, where there really is no way to stablize the region without giving them an economic base.......lots of sand in the desert.
Just a random rant: Independance is still the answer. An independant human dwelling, detaching dependance from the economic system but not the social order will provide optimal returns. A dwelling, this time not so much to protect the human from the elements but also to protect the elements from humanity. I envision a huge underground flywheel as simple low-tech storeage and then any small amount of collected energy becomes respectible. Also a dish which could be fabricated via spinning up resin to harden could be low-tech but powerful. Para-nuclear reactor if you like. :) Focal point reaches a thousand+ degrees Secondary could be advanced enough to beam sunlit, mega-channels, digital communications over huge distances. If refined, could act as LMT for publicly owned VLA of sorts. Sort of the HAM radio of collective astronomy. Garden under this dish doesnt care that sunlight is indirect, but light could be conditioned and irrigated to grow anything. (as a Chinese engineer proved that simply elliminating UV via optical fiber can stimulate growth dramatically) All of this puts grass-roots man in control of his own destiny, reduces environmental-damage via lifestyle, and acts as the antidote to most conflicting interests of large scale and worldwide orders. Here's the REALLY flakey bit: Mankind, living in this kind of near-closed biosphere, independance, promotes the advancement of long-term space-flight.
All the problems facing the world could be solved by a two thirds reduction in the population and keeping further population grouth in check. Engineer a way to achieve those two simple objectives and you will not have to fight the natural order of the universe . I.E less pepole = less consumption = more food, space, more water less possability of passing illness and defect along to others = less people with greater quality of life for everyone
Power grids We should try to get rid of the power grid. It's expensive and fragile to attacks. I believe that (in the coming century) every house should generate its own energy with the help of solar or wind energy.
Transportation The problems: The cost to build, upkeep and lighten roads, tunnels and bridges is enormous (The USA needs 1.6 trillion dollars in 5 years just to bring its infrastructure back in shape, according to the "ASCE's report card for America's infrastructure"). The roads in urban areas are congested. The solution: Aim for the skies. Develop a safe, cheap, autonomous, environmentally friendly, airborne vehicle which doesn't need a runway. Advantages: There is so much space, it will almost be impossible to have congested "roads" in the air. You can travel a lot faster than in a car if the autonomous vehicles can contact each other. Since it will fly on a computer it will be very unlikely that they crash (no human errors) and you don't have to be afraid of pedestrians crossing the street. Sit back and relax while you are flown to your destination. No roads to build or maintain, just a couple of landing platforms near possible destinations. There will be no roads to light, so we will save energy and have less light pollution. How to work towards the solution: Put a lot more money into research of "vertical takeoff and landing" vehicles. Put a lot more money into research of autonomous vehicles. Put a lot more money into research of electric vehicles (so no ethanol or hydrogen; ethanol still produces CO2 and needs vast areas of land to meet our needs, hydrogen needs energy to be produced so you lose a lot of energy during its production).