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The “Passive House” Of Traffic Management

The “Passive House” of Traffic Management

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 299).

We live in a world of contradictions and misdirection.

I will scream if I hear another virtue signaler telling me about a new green building certification or lecturing on carbon foot prints as they get into their V6 engine car and drive to their 3000 sq.ft. airconditioned McMansion as they use their smart phone made from rare earth elements and assembled by child labour.

Lets talk about real sustainability, it requires us all to use less and the built environment to be simplified. However, there is an economic dichotomy. Our economy and its related jobs, relies on a business model of forever growth i.e. more of everything. Sustainability requires using less to reduce carbon foot prints which leads to reduced aggregate demand, unemployment and politicians losing their jobs.

Given this dichotomy, evolution rather than revolution has to be the way forwards to keep a lid on social order. This requires leadership, good governance and less virtue signaling. What to do? Lets look at one aspect of traffic management as an example of a high performance, low carbon, low complexity, passive solution.

Roundabouts or turning circles for you North Americans, are 100% non sexy and fail as virtue signals, but are in my opinion, a great example of simplicity and sustainability. How so?

A roundabout is:

  • Low capital cost.
  • Resilient i.e. it is passive and never breaks down.
  • A self regulating control mechanism i.e. it provides traffic calming and optimized regulation without a controls algorithm or electro mechanical systems.
  • Zero power consumption, low/no technology, low/no maintenance i.e. low cost to run.
  • Safe and efficient i.e. they reduce crashes and move traffic faster.

Traffic lights at cross roads i.e. the norm in North America, are:

  • Complex.
  • Expensive.
  • Require power 24/7.
  • Require expertise and scheduled maintenance.
  • Unreliable, they can breakdown and cause accidents.

A roundabout is the “Passive House” of traffic management. I am not suggesting all traffic light systems need to go but IMHO, at least 50% could or going forwards, roundabouts could be the first choice solution. The compound savings at scale to the environment over 25 years would be massive. This is just one possible low complexity, passive solution within the built environment.

So why aren’t there more low complexity, passive solutions being implemented? There are several reasons IMHO:

  • The loss in construction, engineering, manufacturing and maintenance jobs would be politically unacceptable.
  • Society values complexity over simplicity.
  • Culture tends to skew against change.
  • Doing what we have always done is comfortable.
  • Turns out, we all really do like, flying on airplanes, driving big engine cars, air-conditioned McMansions and buying gadgets.

Really, it is simple:

  • If you want to lose weight, eat less and workout more.
  • If you want high performance buildings, design and build better buildings.
  • If really you want to effect climate change and reduce environmental degradation, use less, also known as a “low carbon lifestyle”.

Every journey starts with a single step. What step are you willing to take?

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer



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