Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Need some more convincing that bamboo is the tops? The super-grass can not only clothe, feed and shelter, but it can also save lives. In Vietnam, where major floods are common, H&P Architects have created affordable housing made from local bamboo that is constructed atop recycled oil drums, allowing the buildings to float. The thatched homes are attached to the ground with anchors, keeping them in place when the waters arrive. The frames, roofing, and walls are arranged between steel piles, securing the structure. The floor is elevated, keeping animals outside was well as allowing space for the drums. Triangular cuts open the up the dwelling, creating cross-breezes and taking advantage of natural light. Horizontal doors open to form patios and awnings, but can be shut once the storms sweep through, keeping the inhabitants safe. Suspended bamboo planters on the outside walls help grow vertical gardens that can be used for food, and rainwater collection systems that have the option of being inactivated during wet weather. Each home can be configured to accommodate families of six, or expanded for more people. Able to be assembled on site, each costs about $2,000.

In the event of an earthquake, like the one that struck Central China in May of 2008, the government found themselves in need of temporary shelters. Bamboo to the rescue! Featured in San Francisco’s Urban Re: Vision five years ago, Ming Tang designed the beautiful Folded Bamboo Houses in order to provide protection from the elements. Lightweight, strong, and readily available, the plant was the perfect material of choice for his origami-inspired buildings. Poles are connected together in rigid, geometric shapes, creating modular forms that can be easily shipped and assembled to where they are needed most. Once built, they are then covered by post-consumer recycled paper.

When both earthquakes and typhoons hit, bamboo has literally got you covered. A group of Indian architects made up of Komal Gupta, Vasanth Packirisamy, Vikas Sharma, Sakshi Kumar and Siripurapu Monish Kumar entered plans for the 2011 Design Against the Elements Competition that envisioned an eco-community that consisted of a cluster of housing units, community centers, a library, meditation spaces, and green areas. They also added locations for retail, rainwater collection, greywater systems, and plantations to make the project a vibrant mixed-use living neighborhood. The three-story houses were built on stilts with an element resistant core that holds water and power lines, bathrooms, kitchens, and staircases. Living pods rotate out from the core, made completely of bamboo.

Hot off the presses (for a hot topic here in Central California) are Bambu Batu’s “Fight the Power” t-shirts depicting our own Diablo Canyon Power Plant on organic bamboo/cotton.  These shirts are printed locally with non-toxic inks by concerned citizens who are uncomfortable with the proximity of large nuclear generators close to their communities.  Located in Avila Beach, the two Westinghouse 4-loop pressurized-water nuclear reactors are operated by Pacific Gas and Electric. Both units were brought online in the mid-eighties and licensed to run through the year 2025. Diablo supplies electricity to about 2.2 million consumers across the state.

There are many reasons to be a bit nervous about having a nuclear reactor in your backyard.  For starters, Diablo Canyon is built on top of a well-known fault line, and is vulnerable to seismic activity and tsunamis.  Ground acceleration, or tectonic shaking, could possibly cause submerged fuel rods to spill and ignite upon coming in contact with the air. The plant uses seawater to cool its rectors and has to constantly deal with maintaining its system free of kelp and marine animals.  In the past, massive jellyfish blooms and other irregular marine occurrences have gummed up the works of the reactors and have compromised the safety and efficiency of plant, even taking it offline for several days.

Blueprints for Diablo Canyon that were supposed to provide structural reinforcement in the event of earthquakes were found to have major errors.  In 1981, PG&E discovered that only one set of plans was used in the construction of both reactors, meaning that where workers were supposed to have switched the design off in the second reactor, they failed to do so.  This  resulted a “backwards” configuration, and needless reinforcement of certain areas where others were left unfortified.  Currently, PG&E has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Committee not to renew its license in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster until it can complete more seismic studies. This decision was partially due to repeated appeals from SLO Rep. Blakeslee asking that the renewal applications be withdrawn earlier this year.

While the probability of a catastrophe is difficult to determine, it only takes one perfect storm to cause long-term, terrible damage.  Anyone within a 10 mile radius of a meltdown would be subject to direct radiation exposure through airborne fallout, and those within a 50 mile radius would be at risk of contamination from ingesting radioactive food and water.  The half-life of isotopes affect the environment for generations afterward, leaving a legacy of pollution and risk of serious illness.  Community grassroots efforts, such as those undertaken by the Abalone Alliance, have for years been trying to halt the construction of new plants in the state as well as closing existing ones.  Those of us who wish to see a nuclear-free future for our society are supporting these endeavors by promoting cleaner forms of energy, writing our representatives, joining community forums, and wearing our hearts and thoughts on our sleeves.