Winning design in NYC micro apartment competition

We blogged about this competition when it was initiated. Interesting to see the results, winner, etc..


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The apartment of New York City’s future, as the city imagines it, has all the amenities of modern life: wheelchair-accessible bathroom, a full kitchen, space for entertaining and access to a gym, communal lounge, front and back porches and a rooftop garden — all in 250 to 370 square feet.

The city on Tuesday unveiled the winner of a competition to design and build an apartment tower on city-owned land composed entirely of micro-units, 55 homes the size of hotel rooms that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hopes will be the first in a wave of tiny apartments aimed at addressing the city’s shortage of studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Small as it might be, the winning design was chosen for the way that it maximized light, airiness and storage space through the use of 9-foot-high ceilings, large windows, lofts and Juliet balconies.

“We have a shortfall now of 800,000, and it’s only going to get worse,” Mr. Bloomberg said during the news conference announcing the winning team, a partnership between Monadnock Development, Brooklyn-based nARCHITECTS and a nonprofit that serves creative arts professionals, the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation. “This is going to be a big problem for cities with young people.”

In another futuristic twist, the 10-story tower at 335 East 27th Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood will rise thanks to modular construction, becoming Manhattan’s first apartment building to do so: units will be prefabricated, then stacked on top of one another like Legos.

Forty percent of the units will be affordable, restricted to tenants earning no more than $77,190 a year, with the rest at market rate. Rents start at $914 a month for those earning up to $38,344 a year, well below Manhattan’s average studio rent of $2,000, and go up to $1,873 for those making $77,190 or less.

Eric Bunge was quick to caution that the micro-units could be for anyone, from retirees to the nurses at nearby Bellevue Hospital Center. Apart from the kitchen and bathroom, the space is designed to be flexible, he said: “It’s all about appropriating your space, really.”

Of course, “affordable” by NYC standards is a misnomer in most of the rest of the civilized urban world.

7 stories to read this weekend – from Om Malik


This is how cold Om felt in Munich

The D2C generation, student debt, Mike Matheny’s tragic story, the problem with social news and the amazingly talented Dualtone records are some of the stories on the menu this week.

After spending a week in bone-numbingly cold Germany, I have come back to work and here are some of the stories I found that are worth your time. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

The trouble with social news: Aldo Cortesi shares his growing discontent with the social news ecosystem and in it, he nails some of the anxiety I have felt about the internet’s new news ecosystem…

Click the link to make your choices.

Tagging criminals by shooting them with a DNA gun

Imagine that you’re a police officer in the midst of a riot. While you may be able to apprehend the offenders closest to you, you can see plenty of other looters and vandals who you’re just not able to get to at the moment. Well, that’s where SelectaDNA’s High Velocity DNA Tagging System would come into the picture. At the heart of the system is a gun that shoots non-lethal pellets, which contain uniquely-coded synthetic DNA.

The idea is that when things have calmed down a bit, the police can set about rounding up the wrong-doers who they couldn’t nab when the riot was in full swing. In order to do so, they’d use one of SelectaDNA’s portable microscopes/readers to check suspects for the telltale DNA.

Each case of non-toxic pellets has a DNA code that’s specific to that batch, although all 14 pellets within the case share that same code – this means that the code could be used to tie a suspect to a certain event, but it couldn’t be used to single that one person out from all the other DNA-tagged suspects…

The gun itself is available in pistol or rifle form, both of which are powered by CO2 cartridges. The pistol can squeeze off 20 shots per 12-gram cartridge, while the rifle’s capacity is higher. Both guns allow users to hit targets from a range of 30 to 40 meters (98 to 131 feet).

The company also makes a grease, gel and spray containing the synthetic DNA, for marking belongings against theft or for tagging attackers.

On one hand, this surely is a beneficial use of science – aiding coppers to pinpoint evildoers, especially those in gang scrums.

On the other hand, I can’t help but think of making life easier for those government ideologues who’d like this system as second choice to the lack of RFID tags implanted at birth. 🙂

Major crop gene breakthrough can increase photosynthesis

With projections of 9.5 billion people by 2050, humankind faces the challenge of feeding modern diets to additional mouths while using the same amounts of water, fertilizer and arable land as today. Cornell researchers have taken a leap toward meeting those needs by discovering a gene that could lead to new varieties of staple crops with 50 percent higher yields.

The gene, called Scarecrow, is the first discovered to control a special leaf structure, known as Kranz anatomy, which leads to more efficient photosynthesis. Plants photosynthesize using one of two methods: C3, a less efficient, ancient method found in most plants, including wheat and rice; and C4, a more efficient adaptation employed by grasses, maize, sorghum and sugarcane that is better suited to drought, intense sunlight, heat and low nitrogen…

The finding “provides a clue as to how this whole anatomical key is regulated,” said Robert Turgeon. “There’s still a lot to be learned, but now the barn door is open and you are going to see people working on this Scarecrow pathway.” The promise of transferring C4 mechanisms into C3 plants has been fervently pursued and funded on a global scale for decades, he added.

If C4 photosynthesis is successfully transferred to C3 plants through genetic engineering, farmers could grow wheat and rice in hotter, dryer environments with less fertilizer, while possibly increasing yields by half, the researchers said.

By looking closely at plant evolution and anatomy, Thomas Slewinski recognized that the bundle sheath cells in leaves of C4 plants were similar to endodermal cells that surrounded vascular tissue in roots and stems.

Slewinski suspected that if C4 leaves shared endodermal genes with roots and stems, the genetics that controlled those cell types may also be shared. Slewinski looked for experimental maize lines with mutant Scarecrow genes, which he knew governed endodermal cells in roots. When the researchers grew those plants, they first identified problems in the roots, then checked for abnormalities in the bundle sheath. They found that the leaves of Scarecrow mutants had abnormal and proliferated bundle sheath cells and irregular veins.

In all plants, an enzyme called RuBisCo facilitates a reaction that captures carbon dioxide from the air, the first step in producing sucrose, the energy-rich product of photosynthesis that powers the plant. But in C3 plants RuBisCo also facilitates a competing reaction with oxygen, creating a byproduct that has to be degraded, at a cost of about 30-40 percent overall efficiency. In C4 plants, carbon dioxide fixation takes place in two stages. The first step occurs in the mesophyll, and the product of this reaction is shuttled to the bundle sheath for the RuBisCo step. The RuBisCo step is very efficient because in the bundle sheath cells, the oxygen concentration is low and the carbon dioxide concentration is high. This eliminates the problem of the competing oxygen reaction, making the plant far more efficient.

Bravo. Increasing ease of food production in more difficult climates is always an achievement.