With The Future of Buildings, Transportation and Power, Roger Duncan and Michael E. Weber deliver an impressively comprehensive analysis of what is both possible and practical for future buildings, energy systems, and modes of transportation, with an eye toward sustainability and global warming.
Each topic is given historical context. For instance, “at the end of the 19th century,” they state in regard to transportation, “horse manure in cities had become a major health hazard and the smell had become overwhelming….Oil solved that problem.” Currently, “petroleum dominates our transportation system, and the solution to an earlier environmental problem is now the major contributor to the number one environmental crisis of our time: global warming.”
Regarding buildings, they cover both the shell and inner spaces, exploring everything from “radical insulation,” which is “fueled by breakthroughs in nanopore technology and aerogels;” to smart windows; to passive solar energy and “smaller-scale energy flows such as temperature differentials, noise, and vibrations that [can] be captured and redirected.” They don’t, by the way, think that “true net zero energy could be achieved for most commercial buildings.”
The authors’ transportation discussion includes cars, trains, trucks and airplanes and focuses on energy sources, as well as design materials and automation. One interesting recommendation is for a revival of clipper ships. “The most sustainable mode for international shipping is returning to the wind and ocean currents.”
Examining power, they weigh the merits of sources such as coal, electricity, atomic, solar and wind and discuss materials, storage and transmitting options, management, and global usage.
This is a well-conceived, well-realized book that carefully includes the ramifications and trade-offs of the many options presented (e.g., urban farms, which would idealistically reduce “the costs and pollution related to shipping foods,” “have difficulty competing with traditional vegetable farming because of electricity and labor costs”). Whatever futuristic vision the authors present, their approach is balanced and intelligent.
This book is sure to intrigue anyone concerned about sustainability and the future.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.