Day Zero fast approaching for Cape Town South Africa.


Cape Town South Africa has reached its tipping point in regards to water scarcity. On July 9th, 2018 the city will reach “Day Zero” the day in which its current water system will run dry and sweeping restrictions on water usage will take effect. Some of these limitations include a daily limit of 50 liters or less per person whether at home, work, school or elsewhere. Well water use must be metered and all users are required to keep records and have these available for inspection. Agricultural users need to reduce usage by 60% compared with the corresponding period in 2015 (pre-drought) Commercial properties need to reduce usage by 45% compared with the corresponding period in 2015 (pre-drought). The regulations that Cape Town has imposed are unprecedented, so this begs the question. How did it get to this point?

Cape Town has had to deal with two of the worst droughts in its history back to back.The first being the severe drought of 2011 to 2012 and the second brought on by El Nino in 2014, which is regarded as the worst drought in 20 years. In addition to these droughts, Cape Town has traditionally been heavily reliant on surface water sources, which are no longer viable. These two things coupled have led to a massive water crisis the likes of which have never been seen.

Despite this unprecedented crisis, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Many people believe that this crisis will lead to newer innovations and by sheer necessity fully revolutionize the way Cape Town gets its water in the future.











3D Printing Solar Cells


As Solar technology continues to advance and become cheaper, other methods of production are in the works, one of these methods is 3D printing solar cell films. Through printing technologies and meticulous design of “the concentrator” scientists have successfully printed ultra-thin solar cell films. 3-D printed light traps of various design, square, hexagonal, and circular parabolic concentrators have been proven to be effective within the film (Elsevier, 8). Solar cell films are already produced, however, they are not manufactured at the scale of the 3D printer. In theory these films could be highly customizable and begin to wrap virtually any surface, the case to a cellphone, clothing, or a larger scale such as building facades. 3D printing and its highly customizable means of production would lead to innovation through its user base, with an idea that a device could possibly power itself and be self-sustaining with a solar cell skin. “…it takes the interference out of the hands of those who oppose solar development and distribution and puts it in the hands of those who want it” (Greener Ideal, 2). 3D printed solar cells would also allow for rural communities to thrive off renewable energy because these printers do not require “large quantities of silicon-based panels” (Simon, 1), essentially mini factories could be introduced to areas of the world. If introduced to a highly urban scale such as Chicago, the thousands of users that already have them could approach this new method. The fast, simple, and efficient means of 3D printed solar films, once adopted by the general public and small businesses, could lead to a very sustainable range of products and powered daily life.



Below are an array of shapes tested as 3D printed light concentrators by Dijk, Lourensvan and other scientists.


Dijk, Lourensvan, Figure 2, 3D-Printed Concentrator Arrays for External Light Trapping on Thin Film Solar Cells







“3D Printed Solar Panels: The Next Step in the Renewable Energy Revolution.” Greener Ideal, 4 Feb. 2018,


Dijk, Lourensvan, Elsevier B.V.. “3D-Printed Concentrator Arrays for External Light Trapping on Thin Film Solar Cells.” ScienceDirect, 4 Mar. 2015, www-sciencedirect-


Simon. “Paper-Thin 3D Printed Solar Cells to Provide Affordable Electricity for Unlit Rural Areas.” 3ders.Org, 2015,


Gaget, Lucie. “3D Printed Solar Panels: Meet the Revolution.” 3D Printing Blog: Tutorials, News, Trends and Resources | Sculpteo, 4 Jan. 2014,


“Printable Solar Cells for Lightweight Energy.” CSIRO, 9 July 2017,

Infrastructure for Autonomous and Electric Vehicles

Can you imagine buying a car to never drive it once? Soon many consumers will have the luxury of their vehicle navigating through traffic seamlessly without any effort or attention of the owner. The concept of autonomous driving may be hard to grasp for someone hearing it for the first time twenty years ago, but today, it is hard to deny that these self-driving cars will soon be as common as today’s Honda Civic.  Thanks to the innovation of artificial intelligence, and a lot of sensors, automakers are pushing the envelope for autonomous driving as a standard option for cars soon. Another trend that has been gaining traction in the automotive industry is the production of electric vehicles. Traditional combustion engines use a lot of fuel for not a lot of energy, referring to the vehicles thermal efficiency. Most cars average around 20 percent thermal efficiency. Electric vehicles are superior in the sense that the energy is used much more efficiently, as well as serving as physical product of renewable energy. As these cars become more popular, we will begin to see more charging stations and more tax incentives for electric vehicle owners.

As planners, we must think how this major shift in transportation affects our society and how we can accommodate this shift in the form of infrastructure. How does our society benefit from autonomous cars? How will traffic change now that cars are driving themselves? If there is an accident, who is responsible? Should there be a lane on the highway dedicated only for autonomous vehicles? This project will consider some of the possibilities of how we can approach this change in a way that benefits everyone. So, we will look for ways to compliment and welcome this change by implementing technology into infrastructure – not only for our convenience, by our safety as well.

The United States and the automobile industry have had a great relationship over the past century. With the combination of population growth and economic development over the last couple decades, transportation infrastructure has been a huge incentive for Americans to purchase a car that will make their commute that much simpler. As our urban areas became headquarters for economic affairs, our roads and highways have been extended and modified farther out into suburbs to promote driving. In the case of driving in the City of Chicago, you don’t need to drive far to find a segment of a street under construction, as keeping infrastructure safe and drivable is always a work in progress. As planners, we need to understand that as the automotive industry shifts to a more convenient and appealing product, it is up to us to respond in a responsible way through developing and implanting infrastructure that compliments these new cars, as well the general public.


Urban Permaculture

     Today’s agricultural methods have been proven to be destructive to the planet and therefore destructive to the human population. While modern day monoculture does put food on the shelves of the supermarkets of America, it promotes the destruction of the topsoil, intensive irrigation, and industrial farming. Scientists and environmentalists sought a way around this negative cycle that is modern monoculture as we know it by inventing solutions that would be beneficial not only in yield, but as well as for the wellbeing of the environment and the human population[1]. The solution was called permaculture, or permanent agriculture, which is a design based approach that tries to create resilient, sustainable, and self-reliant ecosystems and communities[2].


    While permaculture has been practiced in rural areas since its creation in the early 1970’s, there has been very little research or projects of permaculture in urban areas. One misconception about permaculture is that often brought to designers attention is the amount of space needed to create a sustainable ecosystem. Permaculture can be practiced on any scale, no matter how small or how large. As long as the system or design that has been created is making connections with human beings and the Earth, and creating harmony with all species involved, the scale does not matter[3].  Urban gardens are a great example of this, while small in scale they can be designed to be a self reliant ecosystem that provides the designer with an edible yield. Permaculture ties in many already widely known aspects of sustainability, such as low energy design architecture, a holistic approach to greenspace, and environmental education[4]. Communities are finally starting to accept the concept of permaculture and have adopted it for their own to make use of their small plots of land in low income neighborhoods. Permaculture is possible this way because creating a green space does not always involve a high amount of income to start and it does not force participants away from the current values of the neighborhood[5].        




The Search for Sustainable Farming

Climate change is evident all around us in the world, and the trees we mourn being cut down in the amazon are only part of the deforestation picture. America lost over a quarter million acres of the forests that covered half of the country, partially to help improve the climate, but also for use in agriculture. Humanity has cut down almost half of the trees on earth since the start of civilization for a multitude of reasons. [1] Agriculture uses just over 37% of the land on earth, with livestock taking up about double what crops use, I don’t think that correlation is anything but obvious. [2] Industrial agriculture uses a staggering percent of the earth’s land, but even more of its fresh water, 70 percent. To top off the unsustainable use of fresh water, U.S. agriculture is responsible for 75% of the issues with the quality of its fresh water supplies. [3] A common sight in the Midwest is equipment tilling farmland with huge dust clouds blowing across roads/fields. Those dust clouds are wind erosion at work, another negative factor of conventional farming. Wind erosion degrades soil quality and reduces the amount of topsoil on a farm, and certain types of tilling are especially damaging to the soil. [4] Another overly abundant reality of conventional farming is a lack of biodiversity. It is fundamental to sustainable agroecosystems as well as the surrounding ecosystem’s biodiversity. The impacts from reduced biodiversity range from the further degradation of natural resources to increased food insecurity. [5] Conventional farming is simply not sustainable. Finding a truly sustainable farming method seems pretty difficult with all these obstacles, let alone one that also supports biodiversity and natural resource preservation, but it is possible.






  1. How much of the earth’s land is farmable? Sciencing Web site. Accessed Feb 9, 2018.


  1. Buck S. The first american settlers cut down millions of trees to deliberately engineer climate change. Timeline Web site. Updated 2017. Accessed Feb 6, 2018


  1. The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag. Panna Web site. Accessed Feb 5, 2018


  1. Government of Alberta, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. An introduction to wind erosion control.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex3524. Accessed Feb 9, 2018.


  1. Thrupp LA. Linking agricultural biodiversity and food security: The valuable role of agrobiodiversity for sustainable agriculture. International affairs. 2000;76(2):265.

Issues with Urban Waste, Solutions with Diversion Methods (12)

One of the benefits of living in an urban environment is convenience; the density of cities allows for a greater abundance of activities and goods, all of which are accessible in a space that’s much smaller than in a rural area or even in the suburbs. However, the abundance of goods in a fast-paced capitalistic society, like Chicago, comes with an issue that’s often thrown by the wayside – waste. In 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that in the year 2012, the United States produced 250.9 tons of waste.

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Source: US EPA



Even on a smaller scale, the amount of waste generated is still staggering. A publication from the University of Illinois entitled  Waste and Recycling i

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n Illinois – Illinois Communities 

Cope with Waste in Different Ways” looks at issues with waste diversion, waste management, and waste generation. Authors Don Fullerton and Sarah Miller reported that Cook County residents generated an average of 8.325 pounds of waste per day for a total individual waste of over three tons. While that amount of waste generation on a large scale can seem alarming, one must consider options for getting rid of this waste.


Waste Diversion can be defined as “the combined efforts of waste prevention, reuse, and recycling practices” (CalRecycle). By diverting waste away from landfills, urban sustainability can become a model for environmental sustainability. Urban areas should focus on diverting waste away from landfills because of the sheer amounts of people and waste that exist in urban areas. The environmental hazards and social injustices created by landfills and the waste that fill them are numerous, from the leaching of toxins into groundwater to minority communities becoming home to dangerous industries (Christopher Billas).Options such as composting, recycling, adaptive reuse, and simply purchasing less wasteful products, are options for furthering urban sustainability. For example, many people eat food that comes in plastic containers. One might not give a second thought to throwing the entire container, food included, in a trashcan that is destined for a landfill. However, there are options that don’t rely on one system. The food that is being discarded is compostable, the plastic may be recyclable, and the stickers used to label the product may only be suitable for a landfill.


Billas, Christopher. “ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM AND HAZARDOUS FACILITY SITING DECISIONS: NOBLE CAUSE OR POLITICAL TOOL?” Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice. Last modified April 1, 1998.

Don Fullerton, and Sarah Miller. “Waste and Recycling in Illinois.” Institute of Government & Public Affairs. Last modified 2010.

“Glossary of Waste Prevention Terms.” CalRecycle Home Page. Last modified March 30, 2017.

“Municipal Solid Waste | Wastes | US EPA.” EPA Archives | US EPA. Last modified March 29, 2016.

US EPA. “MSW Fact Sheet 2012.” EPA Archives | US EPA. Last modified February 2014.


A New World: Sustainable Architecture [28]

With all the technology we’ve created why are we using the same architectural tools as if we were in the 1970s. The environmental protection agency has released information stating that this medieval building technique accounts for 38% of our carbon admissions. How do we live in a world where we can travel to space, but cant properly construct to preserve?

Researchers have provided examples of how to reduce these emissions by way of the concept of sustainable architecture. This entails minimizing the number of resources consumed in the building’s construction, use and operation, as well as reducing the harm done to the environment through the emission, pollution and waste of its components. Due to first world privilege we have the access to create a vanguard structures in unconventional yet renewable ways; for example, using shipping containers for structural outlining and repurposing existing buildings.


130 shipping container



Climate change

Our economy has increased a lot and at the same time everything became efficient, but the process of getting up to this point has affected the natural resources and climate negatively. These days one of the biggest problems in America is to plan cities in order to keep up with climate change. As recent disasters have proven, big scale cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Huston are left defenseless against large disasters caused by the climate change.

         Climate change is one of the disasters that humans in this world are experiencing because of the global warming. It caused many kinds of disaster such as, flood, drought, increasing the sea level, and increasing the average temperature. Historically, state of California had experienced several serious droughts during after beginning of 1900s. There were not only reasons that humans made the drought, but also nature made reasons for the drought. “California’s climate is highly variable both spatially (from temperate rainforest conditions on the North Coast to the extreme aridity of Death Valley) and temporally. Records for maximum annual precipitation range from more than 90 inches on the North Coast to a little over 2 inches in Death Valley. Droughts and floods can occur in close proximity” (CDWR, 2016).    

         Ground water can contribute to surface water, so it can provide drinking water for large portion of people, supplies businesses and industries (USGS, 2017). Seasonal precipitation is the main element to increase the ground water level. But, based on the last paragraph because of the climate change, the groundwater level is keeping decreasing. Residents in California are keep using same amount of water, but because of the climate change groundwater cannot supply the water enough to the residents as past (USGS, 2017). When the temperate rose because of the climate change, snow packs were melted easily and fast. In California snowpack provides about one third of total water supply (Nesbit, 2015). In last three years, the level of the snowpack has been decreased because of reduced snowfall and warm temperatures. Warmer conditions resulted mountain snow to melt faster, snow turns into rain, and soils dry faster.

We are without a doubt in a time in which climate change cannot be disregarded. When we plan our cities we must always take the effects of global warming and climate change seriously. We have seen in recent events how the intensity of Hurricanes has increased and our cities are not prepared. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has taken action by building a water surge barrier. It is designed to block off the wall of water coming into the city from tropical storms. In addition to these barriers New Orleans has also started investing in green infrastructure. Jeff Herbert, the chief resilience officer in New Orleans says  “So investment in green infrastructure — water gardens, large scale parks and open spaces that can retain water and become sponges for water — that’s the direction we’re going in in New Orleans because the hard infrastructure is just not gonna do it to meet the demands that we’re gonna have over the next 50 years.” (Bender, 2010) This is very important because when we plan we have to think long term. Models and research produced by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory (GFDL), there is not going to necessarily going to be more hurricanes but stronger Hurricanes.


Government of California. California Department of Water Resources. Drought Background. California: State of California, 2017. Web. 04 Dec 2017 URL:

Nesbit, Jeff. “Climate Change Caused California Drought.” U.S. News, 14 Apr. 2015,

Government of California. U.S. Department of the interior, U.S. Geological Survey. California Drought. California: USGS, 2017. 05 Dec 2017. URL:


Bender , M. A. (2010, January 22). Modeled Impact of Anthropogenic Warming on the Frequency of Intense Atlantic Hurricanes. Retrieved February 11, 2018, from


How 3 U.S. Cities Are Adapting To Climate Change. (2016, September 21). Retrieved February 11, 2018, from

Blanket The Homeless (40)

Picture1.pngFor many cities, solving homelessness is an ongoing challenge. From the growing population of homelessness to caring for the ones that are already out there, taking care of the growing issues surrounding homelessness is something that has a huge impact on our lives in an urban setting. According to a recent report, over half a million people were living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing during a one-night national survey last January. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, 358,422 were individuals, and a quarter of the entire group were children. Also, Fifty percent of the homeless population is over the age of 50. These individuals often face additional health and safety risks associated with age. They are more prone to injuries from falls, and may suffer from cognitive impairment, vision or hearing loss, major depression, and chronic conditions like diabetes and arthritis. [1] If we aren’t able to take care of this amount of people just in the United States, then it will negatively affect our future here in an urban society and reflect badly on the state of the people in charge of the districts well-being. A large issue with being homeless is often you are stuck in the situation that you have found yourself in. 83,170 individuals, or 15% of the homeless population, are considered “chronically homeless.” Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual who has a disability and has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or an individual who has a disability and has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years (must be a cumulative of 12 months). Families with at least one adult member who meets that description are also considered chronically homeless. As the National Alliance to End Homelessness explains, “While people experiencing chronic homelessness make up a small number of the overall homeless population, they are among the most vulnerable. They tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders; conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury, or trauma.”



The two very preventable conditions that are listed are physical illness and injury. As a homeless person, you have to spend a large portion on your day outside and on the streets. This increase the risk of bacteria growth, injury, and being in danger from the environment. Often times in place such as New York or Chicago, homeless people are left on the streets to just make do on their own in very harsh winters. Thousands of the homeless spend frigid nights out in the world without proper garments to keep them or their family warm enough.



If the City of Chicago deploys a program for a large emergency blanket type design with flannel on one side and the emergency material on the other, it would make a cheap and efficient design that could be used to take care of a large problem that homeless people have in this area. Many pass away from improper insulation.

-Nabeel Mirza WORDPRESSID: nmirza7uic