What Will Happen As Our Skyscrapers Get Lighter And Taller


In the 1890’s Vladimir Shukhov came up with a genius way to make buildings using what he called a Diagrid design. To simplify it, a Diagrid is basically just a structure made up of lots of diamond shapes (or, diagonally intersecting beams for those who like a more technical definition).

There are three major advantages to using a Diagrid design.

First, the structure is so strong that it does not need supporting column’s inside the building. With no need for clumsy columns, you can essentially design whatever crazy open plan space you like inside. Second, the fact that you don’t need columns inside also means that you don’t need half as much steel or concrete to build it. That’s pretty great for the environment and your wallet. And third, the diamond like design lets you build all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes. Fancy building a giant Gerkin shaped building? How about a circle building? Or a planet shaped building? Its all possible with Diagrid design.

But before you get too excited, there is a catch to making tall buildings lighter. The wind makes them Sway.

Designers have come up with some pretty clever ways to reduce the sway of buildings.But if tall buildings are expected to cope with wind and earth quakes without falling over, they kind of have to sway a little. Think of it this way, if you try to bend a solid ruler it will only go so far before it snaps. But if you bend a ruler designed to a flexible, it simply bounces back.

With many cities running out of space, the number of skyscrapers and high-rises is only going to increase. For those unlucky enough to experience a storm or an earthquake in a skyscraper, it is a pretty terrifying thing. (Just take a look at this video to see for yourself > http://tinyurl.com/zekbyvk). But if we can’t get rid of sway all together, how exactly should we deal with it?

Well, in answer to this it seems there are three main things being done already.

First, psychologists and engineers are teaming up to design and test interiors that might trick our senses into thinking the sway isn’t as bad as it seems. This is probably the most ambitious solution. Second, designers are looking for a way to measure the effect of different levels of sway on our happiness and work performance. Its no good having a building that terrifies everyone and makes them too uncomfortable to work. We have to find the point were its just not worth making the building any lighter or taller. And finally, designers are looking for the most convincing way to tell us that the sway is safe and necessary to stop the whole thing collapsing on us. Would you worry about getting your watch wet if you weren’t 100% sure it was water proof? I think not.

As someone passionate about psychology, I am definitely convinced there are plenty of ways we can tweak our thoughts and perceptions to help us live with sway. The question is, is it cheaper to reduce sway, or to change our perception of it. diagrid_clements_page_1.jpg

Is There A Way To Get Local Towns To Ditch “Proper Houses” For The High-Rise Life

bosco-verticale-00 (1)

As the UK becomes more densely populated we will have to make a choice. Dig up more countryside to build houses, or build more high-rise apartments.

Though most city dwellers think high-rises are great, high-rises have generally gained a bad rep in towns. High-rises may have started out as a symbol of futuristic town living, but as a townie, I can tell you that they are seen as anything but now.

To make a sweeping statement, to a Brit, “a man’s home is his castle”. It is a private space that he can take full ownership of and put his own unique stamp on. If we look instead at the traditional high-rise, this couldn’t be more different. Sure you can decorate your inside space as uniquely as you want, but essentially, to everyone looking in your flat is always going to be an indistinguishable part of a bigger whole.

What I am trying to say is that the high-rise as we know it lacks many of the things that make a “proper house”. Sheds, wacky water features, giant palm trees in tiny gardens, fancy cars on the drive, gnomes, veg plots. These are the things that give a place character. These are the things that give us a sense of individuality and pride. A house isn’t just a place to sleep, it’s a blank canvas that lets us show people who we are. A house is identity.

So I think its time to say goodbye to traditional high-rise design. What we need now are homes in the sky. We don’t need one shape and size of flat within a high-rise, we need many. We don’t need fixed and formless exteriors, we need hanging gardens and veg plots 50 meters off the ground. We don’t just need cost effective and efficient places to sleep, we need buildings of character that allows us to visibly express who we are both inside and out.

But what else can we do to make the high-rise feel like a desirable and “proper home”? Well, if you troll through the work of environmental psychologists they will tell you that the two things that always seem to make us happy are plants and water. However we manage to do it, one thing is certain, if we are going to switch to living in the sky, we better find a way to bring our wacky water features and gardens with us.

To end on a positive note, of all the high-rise designs I have seen, the Bosco Verticale high-rise in Milan standouts out to me as the best illustration of what I have been talking about. With different shaped apartments and planted forest gardens towering up all sides, it is as beautiful as it is full of identity. With a generation of young people like me desperate to avoid the rent trap, there is a prime market for high-rise investors in towns. So, to all investors reading this I say one thing, stop building flats and start building homes in the sky. 

Why Is The UK So Slow To Adopt Sustainable Habits?

Recycle, get energy efficient light bulbs, turn unused electricals off at the switch, drive less, switch to a more energy efficient boiler, get cavity inhalation, have double glazing installed, invest in solar panels. We all know how to live and buy sustainably, so why do so few of us do it?

To give you the simple answer, psychologists think that there are two main reasons for this.

1st, sustainable behaviour just isn’t common enough to be seen as normal in the UK. Its the kind of thing other types of people do. And 2nd, energy use is pretty much invisible, sure it becomes visible on our gas bill, but we only see that 4 times a year. We can’t be expected to change our behaviour effectively when we don’t have feedback on it.

Thinking about solutions to this problem, I feel the ENLITEN project deserves a special mention here. Unlike traditional projects, ENLITEN brought together engineers and psychologists to create an app for phones and Ipads that gives you clear and easy to understand feedback about your energy use. What makes the project even cleverer, by also letting you compare your energy saving to your neighbours, the ENLITEN project has basically found a way to reinforce the idea that it is not just you being green. 

http://tinyurl.com/zbysfxa or http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/enliten/

So lets look to the future with optimism. With a little reshaping of our environment we might just start changing the way we use our energy for good.

Juan Enriquez: The power of reprogramming DNA

From regrowing lost limbs, to bringing back extinct species, to programming bacteria to produce fuel; Juan Enriquez highlights the importance of mapping DNA and how it is helping to build a strange but better future.

Body Language 101. Seeing Past The Words.

“Head up, chin up, chest out” When people can see we feel low they often say phrases like this to us to make us feel better. Although their advice is often ignored, if practised,it can be an almost instant short cut to feeling better.

Although this sounds like a bold claim to make, body language experts across the world agree that behaviours that appear to defy gravity e.g. holding your head high or walking on your toes rather than the balls of your feet, are generally signs of a more positive and confident mental state.

Combining this with evidence from brain imaging studies, it seems that our actions can affect our thoughts just as much as our thoughts can affect our actions. To put it simply, practising gravity defying behaviours when we feel down in the dumps might be the best way to cheer us up.

Although we can consciously choose to use gravity defying behaviours as a way to manage negative emotions and make us feel confident, natural gravity defying behaviours happen without us thinking.

Controlled by a part of our brain with a fancy name that we will just call the “emotion centre”, these behaviours generally reflect a persons true thoughts and feelings. So the next time you find yourself wondering what your partner, friend or family member is thinking, keep an eye out for gravity defying behaviours, a lack of them may be a subtle clue that all is not as well as words would have us think.

Top Gravity Defying Behaviours Include:

1 Genuine Smile

2 Thumbs up

3 Toes/foot pointed up

4 Standing tall and straight

5 Head held high, hands in the air like you just won a 100 meter sprint

6 Dancing

“Fronting” (Body Language 101)

A technical term, “fronting” is simply when a person turns their whole body towards you. Although you wouldn’t think it, you can learn a great deal about how a person feels about you by the degree to which they face you.

One of many unconscious behaviours we perform, body language experts across the world agree that fronting is controlled by a primitive part of our brain called the limbic system. As fronting someone exposes vital organs such as the heart and lungs, fronting inherently puts you at risk should the person you are facing wish to attack. Although such violence is rare in modern society, real or imagined, our limbic system is designed to protect us from all threats. As a result, our limbic system simply won’t allow us to perform fronting behaviour in the presence of people we dislike or distrust. Given this, although often overlooked, fronting is a clear indication that a person is comfortable with, trusts you and likes you (potentially even romantically).

So, the next time you notice someone stood at an angel whilst talking to you, think to yourself, is this person stood at an angle because they are simply in a rush? Or is there a deeper reason, perhaps one of distrust or dislike that you can rectify.