Is the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma using AI to create dystopian cities? | Alfie Bown

News that tech giant Ma is a member of Communist party of China should set alarm bells ringing – and not just in ChinaOn the outskirts of Hangzhou, eastern China, in Alibaba’s Cloud Town, a Silicon Valley-style working and leisure hub, cutting-edge res…

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Tall timber: the world’s tallest wooden office building to open in Brisbane

Cross-laminated timber towers are becoming more popular thanks to benefits for the environment and occupants – but are they safe and strong enough?

The famous Queenslander tradition of building houses upon wooden stilts is escalating to a whole other level on Thursday – or 10 levels, to be exact.

The sod-turning ceremony at 25 King Street in Brisbane will be a groundbreaking event in more than just in the literal sense. When complete in 2018, 45 metres of the 52-metre office tower will qualify as the world’s highest to be held aloft not by steel and concrete, but timber and glue.

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Sensors, plants and waste heat: Adelaide hospital’s bid to be most energy-efficient

When it finally opens in September, the complex will have the latest energy efficiency technology – but will it be worth the $2.3bn spent?

When it comes to the power consumption of hospitals, the diagnosis isn’t pretty: they rate as the second most energy-intensive of all commercial buildings, behind only food service providers.

As the places where our babies are delivered, our sick are treated and our dying nursed, energy efficiency understandably slips down the priority list behind ensuring hospitals are properly funded, staffed and offer the best standards of care possible.

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Newcastle: a ‘living lab’ to test driverless cars, parking sensors and lockout laws

Twenty years after BHP left town, one of the largest cities in New South Wales has reinvented itself as a smart city and a home for innovation

When the entrepreneur Dr Gunilla Burrowes reaches for a metaphor to describe Newcastle, she comes up with “the Goldilocks city”.

She means that like the middle bed in the fairytale, it is just the right size to be able to get things done. “That has really powerful implications for business,” she says.

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Hot apartments: ‘If we need air conditioning, we’ve designed it wrong’

Heatwaves could be deadly for many Australian apartment dwellers if the grid fails, so architects are coming up with ways to manage temperatures passively

It was one of the most extreme heatwaves in south-eastern Australian history. During late January and early February 2009, temperature records were toppled across Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Then, on 7 February, 24 of Victoria’s 35 long-term stations recorded record high temperatures: Melbourne reached 46.4C while Hopetoun broke a state record with 48.8C.

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Urban heat islands: cooling things down with trees, green roads and fewer cars

As city temperatures rise, with a negative impact on health, councils are coming up with some innovative solutions When it comes to coping with heatwaves, our own cities are conspiring against us. Road surfaces, pavements and buildings all contribute t…

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Will the internet of things sacrifice or save the environment?

Some devices will power themselves but the more complex will contribute to the world’s huge data storage energy bill

The internet of things (IoT) – that ever-expanding ecosystem of digital sensors, home appliances and wearable smart devices – attracts its fair share of attention. Speculation is rife on how the 23bn-odd (and counting) “things” will improve quality of life, streamline business operations and ultimately fuel economic benefits to the tune of up to $11tn per year by 2025.

Less often considered is the cost to the environment of such a vast network of devices. With the full extent of the IoT far from being realised, even experts are divided on whether it will spell doom or salvation for the environment.

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The Commons: could co-housing offer a different kind of great Australian dream?

The demand for attractive and affordable co-housing like Melbourne’s The Commons is high in Australia, but supply and access to land is a challenge

When Kate and Jason turned up to look around The Commons, they weren’t looking for a lifestyle change. They were just another hard-working couple wanting an apartment that was close to central Melbourne and wouldn’t cost the earth.

Only after they moved in did the upsides of the building’s co-housing ethos hit them. Built in the Brunswick neighbourhood by a consortium of local architects, the award-winning apartment block is designed with sociability hard-wired into it. About 15% of the property is devoted to communal facilities, including a shared roof garden and laundry room.

“I have lived in multi-residential buildings before and not known a soul … but here we have created genuine friendships,” says 33-year-old ballet dancer Kate. “The communal spaces encourage you to interact with your neighbours – we garden together, we make building improvements together, we go out together, we make dinner for one another.”

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