Friday, July 24, 2009

"Cash for Clunkers" Program...Will It Be Affective?

The official rules for the "Cash for Clunkers" government program were officially released today, and the rush is now on for clunker owners to scrap their gas-guzzling cars in exchange for $3,500 to $4,500 off the purchase of a new, more fuel efficient vehicle. This is exciting! I'm a little bit surprised that the government signed in something this.....expensive. But hey, it'll help the environment, it will help dealerships (even though I'm sure most people's new cars from this program will be foreign vehicles), and it'll boost the ego of many people who have never gotten into a brand new car before! Here's a few of the main qualifications:
  • Your clunker must be in "drivable" condition
  • Your clunker must have been insured and registered in the current owners name for a year
  • The clunker must have been manufactured before 1985 but not later than 2001
  • Have a COMBINED fuel economy value of 18 mpg or less.
You get a different credit amount depending on how much better the mileage on the new car you are buying gets. If your new car gets a combined fuel economy between 4-9 mpg better than your clunker car, you will get a $3500 tax credit. If the combined fuel economy gets 10 mpg better than your clunker, you will get a $4500 credit.

So I want to bring up an issue that seems very obvious to me. I'm wondering WHAT the point of this program help the environment, or to possibly help save American car companies. I could be wrong, but if you own a "clunker" you are either the person who holds onto a car until it drives itself into the ground, or you don't have the money to buy a brand new car. If you are driving your car into the ground and you have the money to purchase a new car, than this program is for you. If you have a "clunker" because you don't have the finances to buy a brand new car, I don't see this program helping you or the environment. Just for an example, we're going to use my boyfriend James. James has a 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis that gets a combined fuel economy of 18 mpg and he has owned his car for over a year, and the car still runs; James DEFINATELY qualifies for this program. SO, to get a $4500 credit, James has to find a car (that he can afford) that gets an average of 28 mpg.....this is going to be a task. We have the Toyota Yaris (31 mpg), Honda Fit (30 mpg), maybe a Ford Focus (28 mpg, but a little over budget) and....that'

OMG, as I'm writing this blog, a story is on the national news criticising the program. lol.

So like I was saying, James' options are VERY limited. He doesn't have the budget to buy a hybrid car, let alone a hybrid car from an American car company that STILL gets worse mpg than a foreign all-gasoline vehicle (example to the right: Chevy Tahoe Hybrid gets 21/22 mpg, and most other American Hybid SUV's aren't much different except for the $32,000 Ford Escape). He bought the clunker in the first place because it was only about $1000 and that's all he had to spend on a car, and I'm guessing he isn't the only person who has a clunker for this reason.

If people who own clunkers have a tight budget, they won't be buying cars from American car companies. They will be buying Honda's and Toyota's to get the $4500 instead of the $3500, giving money to foreign car companies, and not really helping our economy very much. I don't really even see this program helping the environment as it should. As I just saw on the news, America got the idea from Germany, but the rules for our program are WAY stricter. In Germany, if you traded in ANY car made before 1993, you got a $3,300 credit....that's it. The National News gave an example of a 1993 Mercury Grand Marqui (same car as James', just a few years newer) DIDN'T APPLY because it's average mpg is 19!!! Unless your car is really really REALLY killing the planet, the goverment isn't going to give you anything for your crap car.

This is just my insight into the program. No doubt it will still help very many people get themselves out of their gas-guzzling cars and into more fuel efficient cars (until the government runs out of money for the program). But still, $3500 off of a brand new car that gets, let's see 18+4=22, 22 mpg, 22 MILES PER GALLON! HOLD ON A SEC, HOLD THE PHONES! Is it just me, or does that still qualify as a CLUNKER of a vehicle. 22 mpg? Folks, to the left is a picture of what I drive, a 1994 Saturn SL2. I don't care what the EPA tells me the average mpg is on this car, but I will tell you I calculate 26-28 mpg on each tank (and I'm good at math so I know I'm right, lol). I paid $3500 for this car about 3 years ago. I love my car, and it loves me back. I don't have the money to buy a new car, even with $4500 off, but even with that incentive, I could buy a car the costs me MORE to put fuel in it's tank than my tiny old Saturn?!

I have a gut feeling that there is more to this program than meets the eye, and the government STILL doesn't have it right. 22 mpg isn't going to help the environment AT ALL, and financially supporting foreign car companies isn't going to help our economy at all. I don't see this program working out very well or helping anything in anyway, except for a few people who can afford a $30,000 Hybrid or people who don't care about the supposed point of the program (to help the environment) and trade their clunker in for yet another one. Sorry America, I don't think you got it right this time either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This week in school #2

Once again, not in school because it's summer, so we're going to recap about....
Phi (also known as the Golden Ratio)

Anyone in any field that involves people looking at your work (art, architecture, design, advertising, plastic surgery...almost anything I can possibly think of) should learn about phi. If you are in these fields already and have never heard of the Golden didn't learn enough in college, sorry. Phi, or the Golden Ratio, is the mathematical reasoning behind why we find certain things aesthetically pleasing and other things not so much.

Phi is basically this:
(a+b)/a = a/b =phi OR 1+2=3....3+2=5....5+3=8....8+5=13, etc then divided by the previously found number: (3/2)(5/3)(8/5)(13/8)etc....

The exact number of Phi is approximately 1.618

So, how does this all translate visually?

We'll start off with Architecture. Studies of the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, have concluded that many of the proportions of the site approximate Phi, or the Golden Ratio. A more recent architect, Le Corbusier, strongly emphasized Phi not only his structures, but also studied the Golden Ratio in relationship to the human body, emphasizing what Leanardo da Vinci did not. For example: To the left is a picture of the Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier. (I Googled this online and could not find any picture that anyone has ever marked up with the Golden Ratio before, this is my original "Phi Finding.") Not only was the building's width created by the turning radius of Le Corbusier's car, the width of the driveway is phi to the height of the 1st level, and is also phi to the length of the entire 2nd level. The 1st level facade opening is phi to concrete below it. The 2nd level window are phi to the concrete above it. The list goes on and on. Le Corbusier's work was extremely emphasized by the Golden Ratio, that you can almost find it anywhere in his structures.

Now onto something that many of you have probablly seen before; the Golden Ratio of a face. The Golden Ratio strongly effects who we find attractive and who we find ugly. If you Google image search "Golden Ratio face" you will see picture of famous Hollywood start whose face fits perfectly into the "Golden Ratio mask." No matter what culture or color a face is, if it fits the golden ratio, we will find it attractive. I wouldn't be surprised if modeling agents carried around a transparent golden ratio mask so they could figure out instantly if you even have the chance of becoming a model. Not only can the Golden Ratio be found on our faces. Nearly our entire body is composed of a golden ratio! The length of our legs compared to our arms, the length of our body compared to our legs, the legnth of our hand compared to our arm, the list goes on and on and on!

More examples of Phi can be found in nature as well. To the left is an example of the "Fibonacci sequence" spiral. The Fibonacci sequence is merely the name of the sequence of numbers that I stated above (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,etc). This sequence can be found in such simple things as shells, flower, and hurricanes! It can also be found in the growth of a plant. Each number to the left represents the number of stems created in the average plant's growth. Interesting huh?

So if you aren't yet using Phi or the Golden Ratio to subconsciously influence the way people view your work, you should seriously research the complexities of this valuable tool that is found in nature. For some reason, we find Phi attractive and aesthetically pleasing to us, no matter what form it is found in, so you might as well use that to your advantage!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Competition of the Week #1

The Miami Beach Hotel Student Design Competitions hosted by the American Institute of Architecture Students and the Modular building institute:
Deadline for Registration: November 20, 2009
Deadline for Submission: January 15, 2010

taken from
"The objectives of this competition are:
  • To research, respond to and highlight the unique aspects of designing a modern hotel that serves the selected site and community of Miami Beach, FL
  • To learn about and utilize the modular building process to develop a mutli-story design that meets both the program requirements and promotes advancements for future modular buildings
  • To design a facility that utilizes sustainable features in the areas of thermal comfort, indoor air quality, day lighting, acoustics, energy efficiency, resource strategy, aesthetics, and economic practicality (ability to attain LEED certification is preferred but not required)*
  • To develop a design that compliments the existing buildings and natural surroundings of the community both now and into the future
  • To develop a design that reflects the unique culture, history and climate of Miami Beach site

The site selected for the new hotel is located at 6551 Colins Avenue in North Miami Beach, FL. Once the site of the Monte Carlo Hotel (built in 1948), the building was demolished in 2004 after standing vacant since the early 1990's. Plans for a new 20 story building were approved in 2005 but construction has yet to begin. With nearly 200 feet of beach front property, the site is a perfect location of a mordern luxury hotel."

"Sponsored by the Modular Building Institute and administered by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), the program challenges students to learn about modular building techniques and systems in the design of a modern and sustainable Miami Beach hotel. The competition is designed for North American design students of all ages. Total prize money is $7,225, including $2,500 for the first place winning design."

For more information on this competition, you can visit

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Building of the Week #1

Since I posted about Norwegian architect Todd Saunders yesterday, I thought I would create a posting about one of his buildings today. I suppose you wouldn't really call it a "building" but it's still a fascinating piece of architecture: The Aurland Lookout in Norway.
The lookout is intended to create the experience of leaving the mountainside and coming out into the air to experience the surroundings. All of the large pine trees on the site were left undisturbed, giving even more of 360 degree experience.

Another piece of this structure includes the public restroom site....
This structure has a more rugged and heavier feel than the lookout. Large windows open you up the experience even while you are on the john! The structure is placed slightly over the edge of the cliff, making "peeping" in the large windows inaccessible to the public.

I think I'm going to learn the Swedish/Norwegian language. These countries look so beautiful, I might start my practice over there after college.

Pictures from:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Architect of The Week #1

Todd Saunders of Saunders Architecture

My friend Landee has been in Norway for the last 2 weeks and has been sending me pictures of how beautiful the country is. Not only is the country beautiful, so is some of the architecture. Norway is such a beautiful place!!! So this week I thought I would talk about a Norweigan architect..Todd Saunders.

From Saunders Architecture website:
"Saunders Architecture is a firm owned by Canadian Todd Saunders who has lived and worked in Norway since 1997. Saunders has worked in countries such Austria, Germany, Russia, and Latvia. Currently, the office is working mostly in Norway, and has projects in England, Denmark, Sweden, and Canada. The office consists of four architects from Canada, Germany and USA.

The work combines a Nordic design sensibility with environmental concerns. Each project is unique and inventive. Every project has a new process. This strategy derives from an ability to be inventive and to constantly question the purpose of our buildings. Depending upon the setting and the program, each building suggest a critique of urban planning, provides solutions to contemporary housing solutions, or creates sympathetic yet robust new forms for residential housing that are additions to the dramatic landscape in which they sit.

Todd Saunders received a Bachelor of Environmental Planning & Design from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada. While doing his bachelors, Saunders spent a semester as an exchange student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Department of Architecture. He subsequently received a Masters of Architecture from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Saunders has been a part-time teacher at the Bergen Architecture School, since 2001. He has lectured at various architecture and design schools in Scandinavia, Canada, and England. In 2005 Saunders taught a one-week design/build course in the International Architecture Program in Oulu, Finland. In the spring of 2006, Saunders was a visiting professor at The University of QuƩbec in Montreal, Canada.

In the fall of 2005 Saunders was a part of an exhibition entitled 20 under 40: Young Norwegian Architecture hosted by the Norwegian Architecture Association beginning in the fall of 2004. Previous awards include a 3-year artist scholarship from the Norwegian Association of Artist, a business scholarship from the National Business and Development Apartment, and an environmental prize for a schoolyard designed and built together with parents and students.

In October 2006, the Norwegian Association of Architects has nominated the lookout for the Mies van der Rohe Prize. The prize is granted every two years by the European Union and the FundaciĆ³ Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona, to acknowledge and reward quality architectural production in Europe.

While studying architecture, Saunders received an American Institute of Architects Research and Special Studies Scholarship and a Canadian-Scandinavian Travel Scholarship. Saunders traveled for 9 months from Paris to China doing research on Ecological Housing. While on this trip he decided that Bergen, Norway could be a great place to live and work."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Response Article #1-Spending less time and money in traffic?

Original article/blog: Traffic Congestion Dipping as Economy Falters

I haven't fully thought this through, but I might have some ideas on how to help several of these issues:

First of all...cost. Apparently, each of us spends an average of $750 a year sitting in traffic, burning fuel that isn't getting us anywhere, and wasting our valuable time, when we could be at work making money so we could pay off our gas bill from this morning. I have an idea, let's make and buy cars that don't cost us $750 a year to sit in traffic! I would LOVE to see the average cost to sit in traffic from someone who owns, I don't know...a Hummer, and then compare it to someone who owns, let's say....a Prius. If every car operated like a Prius, the average cost of traffic-sitting per year would, I bet, go under $75. As long as that Prius is just sitting there, it's running off of battery power. I'm guessing that this study takes into account lost time at work, and that's where some of the traffic-sitting tab comes from, so Prius owners are probablly still in the hole, but a much shallower hole than the Hummer drivers.

Second of all...time. Even if all of us did drive Hummers, we wouldn't be spending nearly as much money per year sitting in traffic if there was less traffic in the first place. I say we build bridges, and plenty of them! Bridges takes away the need for a stoplight, meaning people don't have to stop, and then use more fuel to accelerate again. If we could also coordinate our traffic lights more efficiently, I'm sure that would help as well. Uncensored lights frustrate me!