Rain Barrel GRID

A smarter rain barrel

Guy Dixon

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, May. 27 2014, 3:43 PM EDT

In heavy rain, the plink-plonk of water dripping in a storm barrel by the side of the house is evocative, poetic. The splash of dirty flood water on a residential street isn’t.

Environmentalist Kevin Mercer and engineer Stephen Braun have started a company to make that rain barrel prevent roadway flooding. And in the process, by linking the operation of residential rain barrels, the company aims to change stormwater management systems for entire communities and cities.

Their Toronto-based RainGrid sells storm barrels which connect wirelessly to other barrels around a neighbourhood through a central computer server. Before rainfall, the residential barrels, with special valves, release their stores of water into the ground. Emptying the barrels allows them to be more effective during the next rain and prevents the sudden runoff of water and flash flooding that occurs during a storm.

It’s a simple idea, but the trick was to empty the barrels en masse.

“We’re taking a formerly passive, unmanageable system which is the residential rain barrel – which is sold as a consumer good – and converting it into a smart grid utility,” Mr. Mercer said. “We want that utility to serve as the first line of defence in stormwater.”

The barrels and control system would be owned by cities, in what Mr. Mercer and Mr. Braun see as a public-private partnership with RainGrid. Already they are the sole suppliers of this technology to Washington, D.C., providing 1,000 barrels a year.

Mr. Mercer’s background is in environmental advocacy, and he has been heavily involved in programs to stop runoff into urban rivers through the not-for-profit organization RiverSides. His business partner Mr. Braun comes from the world of water-systems engineering.

Stormwater damage is the largest source of insurance claims, the two explained, as they sat in their office in an old municipal waterworks repair shop hidden in Toronto’s trendy downtown westside. The devastating Alberta floods and the two once-in-a-hundred-year storms in Toronto last year were a wake-up call, Mr. Mercer said. The old solution for cities to build ever larger pipes and larger water infrastructure to divert stormwater isn’t working in an age of climate change.

Like rooftop solar panels and home recycling bins, the solution is to address the problem at the source, he said. “Right now we have an end-of-the-pipe ethos.”

RainGrid’s network of co-ordinated rain barrels at every house would, instead, “treat rain where it falls. We take it off roofs. We store it on the properties. We reduce the infrastructure cost to the city, the downstream damage and the pollution to the environment.”

Rather than an extra expense for taxpayers, Mr. Mercer and Mr. Braun said that a co-ordinated rain barrel system would cost significantly less than expanding water systems– this at a time when many municipalities are considering raising fees or taxes for stormwater management. Mr. Mercer and Mr. Braun see their technology helping to offset those costs.

The company has revenue of $250,000 annually. The partners expect this to increase to $5-million a year within three years, as they look to get another two or three major cities on board with the project. They foresee other companies will start adopting and offering this service to other cities, as the stormwater problems worsen in municipalities. There’s only so much one company can handle, and others will follow, Mr. Mercer indicated.

“We estimate that every city will have rain grids of some kind or another,” Mr. Mercer said. “We are building the system that will make cities stormwater-resilient.”

Follow Guy Dixon on Twitter: @Guy_Dixon

 

 

raingrid.com    under construction

Doors Recycled–Reused–Rescued

 

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downtoearthstyle.blogspot.com
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Door / window repurpose in the garden

Repurposed Doors In The Garden

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houzz.com

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justimagine-ddoc.com

Old Paned Window planters

Old Paned Window planters

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heatherbullard.typepad.com

old wrought iron garden gate

old wrought iron garden gate

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heatherbullard.typepad.com

realcutflowergarden.blogspot.com

decorated garden gate

decorated garden gate

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realcutflowergarden.blogspot.com
Old doors.

Old doors.

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images.search.yahoo.com

Image detail for -Primitive Country Decor Stands The Test Time Pictures

Image detail for -Primitive Country Decor Stands The Test Time Pictures

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cdn.indulgy.com

old window chair

old window chair

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bernideensteatimeblog.blogspot.com

weathered door

weathered door

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diekleineprinzessin.tumblr.com

use old doors to decorate!

use old doors to decorate!

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interiorstyledesign.tumblr.com

LOVE this Garden Gate~

LOVE this Garden Gate~

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apartmenttherapy.com

reuse a panel door

reuse a panel door

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flickr.com

Great idea!         love!
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canadiangardening.com

good reuse of doors

good reuse of doors

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forums2.gardenweb.com

Screen door trellis

Screen door trellis

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inspirationoooooahhhhh.tumblr.com

Old door turned into clock

Old door turned into clock

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huckleberrylanefurniture.blogspot.com

backyard swing <3

backyard swing ♥

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houzz.com

Recycled garden backdrop    Cool garden installation made from recycled windows, a door frame and wrought iron.

Recycled garden backdrop Cool garden installation made from recycled windows, a door frame and wrought iron.

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Our summer yard art project.  Repurposed old door and window frame with a pallet path :)

Our summer yard art project. Repurposed old door and window frame with a pallet path 🙂

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woodlandslifestylesandhomes.com

A mirror, shutters and a gate painted black — gives the illusion of a door that leads to another side beyond the fence.

A mirror, shutters and a gate painted black — gives the illusion of a door that leads to another side beyond the fence.

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woodlandslifestylesandhomes.com
Potting bench with old sink and door ---> Love the shelves...but maybe a cupboard?

Potting bench with old sink and door —> Love the shelves…but maybe a cupboard?

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hometalk.com

Old doors are easily found on garbage day. This old door must have been from the 70's.  Perfectly shabby making it ideal for a garden (plant) bench

Old doors are easily found on garbage day. This old door must have been from the 70’s. Perfectly shabby making it ideal for a garden (plant) bench

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A screen door project my husband made for my mom :)  Nice garden addition!!!

A screen door project my husband made for my mom 🙂 Nice garden addition!!!

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yearroundveggiegardener.blogspot.com

Niki Jabbour - The Year Round Veggie Gardener: I'm back.. with wonderful winter garden photos to share!

Niki Jabbour – The Year Round Veggie Gardener: I’m back.. with wonderful winter garden photos to share!

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teencraftconnection.com

DIY Vertical Kitchen garden & seed starting trays. Single repuposed bi-fold shuttered closet door and dollar store container trays. Materials used and the how Mom did it on Teen Craft Connection's page.

DIY Vertical Kitchen garden & seed starting trays. Single repuposed bi-fold shuttered closet door and dollar store container trays. Materials used and the how Mom did it on Teen Craft Connection’s page.

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Gorgeous & Colorful shed made of ten recycled doors, discovered in yes, you guessed it: Door County, WI

Gorgeous & Colorful shed made of ten recycled doors, discovered in yes, you guessed it: Door County, WI

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indulgy.com

repurposing old doors and windows | greenhouse made from old windows, love the tin siding (old tin ceiling ...

repurposing old doors and windows | greenhouse made from old windows, love the tin siding (old tin ceiling …

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blog.bernideens.com

There's so many ways to use old doors in the garen. This one is very romantic looking.

There’s so many ways to use old doors in the garen. This one is very romantic looking.

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junkmarketstyle.com

Dressing up the Yard, My attempt at re-purposing an old bi-fold door

Dressing up the Yard, My attempt at re-purposing an old bi-fold door

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Often we have problem on what to do with our defective doors, they would take a lot of our storage space! But if you are a crafty person, then you can upcycle them for a different purpose!

Often we have problem on what to do with our defective doors, they would take a lot of our storage space! But if you are a crafty person, then you can upcycle them for a different purpose!

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flickr.com

That door should be saved and not left to     rot.

That door should be saved and not left to rot.

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garden bench made from repurposed door...

garden bench made from repurposed door…

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fairenotions.blogspot.com

Repurposed Door garden shed.  But of course!  Why didn't I think of this?  Okay girls... looks like GG is a hunting at her ReStore.

Repurposed Door garden shed. But of course! Why didn’t I think of this? Okay girls… looks like GG is a hunting at her ReStore.

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flickr.com

reusing glass doors from a for funky decor in garden - maybe one day when we have a bigger place

reusing glass doors from a for funky decor in garden – maybe one day when we have a bigger place

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repinly.at-my-style.com

garden decor: Re-purposed old French doors used for pseudo-wall/screen in the patio setting...love!  Idea to note: would start trailing vines to drape over

garden decor: Re-purposed old French doors used for pseudo-wall/screen in the patio setting…love! Idea to note: would start trailing vines to drape over

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myrepurposedlife.net

Door turned into a shelf; could easily be made into bench with storage underneath.  Picture the window panes with b/w photos in each.  Sweet!

Door turned into a shelf; could easily be made into bench with storage underneath. Picture the window panes with b/w photos in each. Sweet!

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hometalk.com

Garden Salvage  I took an old door and coated the glass with mirror paint, then I mounted it on my fence. I added some porch poles and bunk bed slats as a frame around the door; decorating it with paint and flower pot finials. I added a decorative piece of steel as a topper and put some stepping stones in front of it. This is my

Garden Salvage I took an old door and coated the glass with mirror paint, then I mounted it on my fence. I added some porch poles and bunk bed slats as a frame around the door; decorating it with paint and flower pot finials. I added a decorative piece of steel as a topper and put some stepping stones in front of it. This is my “secret” door to nowhere.

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landliebe-cottage-garden.blogspot.com.au

Re-purposed shutters as a garden screen. This is a great idea.  We used our front door's -  Old wrought iron doors for the back yard.....the ivy has started climbing.

Re-purposed shutters as a garden screen. This is a great idea. We used our front door’s – Old wrought iron doors for the back yard…..the ivy has started climbing.

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dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com

New Takes On Old Doors: Salvaged Doors Repurposed potting bench for gardeners DIY. I had one of these from the red barn in Modesto. had to sell it when we moved. I guess I will make my next one.

New Takes On Old Doors: Salvaged Doors Repurposed potting bench for gardeners DIY. I had one of these from the red barn in Modesto. had to sell it when we moved. I guess I will make my next one.

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No instructions, but it looks pretty self-explanatory.

No instructions, but it looks pretty self-explanatory.

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Red, antique door used as a garden gate.  What a great idea!  garden ideas.  vintage doors.  repurposed doors.  gardening.  garden gate.

Red, antique door used as a garden gate. What a great idea! garden ideas. vintage doors. repurposed doors. gardening. garden gate.

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Raffaello D’Andrea. Quadcoptors.

Flying robots learn mind-boggling tricks

Professor Raffaello D'Andrea has devoted his academic life to building better, more intelligent machines. He spent ten years at Cornell University before joining the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) in 2007. He was instrumental in the setting up of the university's Flying Machine Arena -- a testbed for autonomous vehicles which are capable of learning incredible tricks.

Professor Raffaello D’Andrea has devoted his academic life to building better, more intelligent machines. He spent ten years at Cornell University before joining the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) in 2007. He was instrumental in the setting up of the university’s Flying Machine Arena — a testbed for autonomous vehicles which are capable of learning incredible tricks.  VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75VtzpYxaN4#t=19

D'Andrea and his team have taught quadrocopters to work together to catch balls and balance and throw poles to one another.

D’Andrea and his team have taught quadrocopters to work together to catch balls and balance and throw poles to one another.

D'Andrea advises a small group of grad students at ETH Zurich. Together they are creating ever more complex tasks for their fleet of quadrocopters. Here the group can be seen onstage during a presentation at a <a href='http://zurichminds.com/' target='_blank'>Zurich Minds</a> event last year.

D’Andrea advises a small group of grad students at ETH Zurich. Together they are creating ever more complex tasks for their fleet of quadrocopters. Here the group can be seen onstage during a presentation at a Zurich Minds event last year.

At the Flying Machine Arena, two quadrocopters prepare to perform ...

At the Flying Machine Arena, two quadrocopters prepare to perform …

 ... balancing and tossing a pole between them without dropping it.

… balancing and tossing a pole between them without dropping it.

This feat was engineered by ETH Zurich grad student Dario Brescianini. <a href='http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pp89tTDxXuI' target='_blank'>Watch this</a> amazing video of the trick.

This feat was engineered by ETH Zurich grad student Dario Brescianini. Watch this amazing video of the trick.

Quadrocopters are popular now because of the shrinking size and cost of technology, says D'Andrea.

Quadrocopters are popular now because of the shrinking size and cost of technology, says D’Andrea.

Quadrocopters learn how to perform tasks using algorithms created by ETH Zurich. Here, three machines can been seen working together to cradle a ball in a net ...

Quadrocopters learn how to perform tasks using algorithms created by ETH Zurich. Here, three machines can been seen working together to cradle a ball in a net …

... before throwing the ball up in the air and them maneuvering to catch it as it drops back down. Watch video h<a href='http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hyGJBV1xnJI' target='_blank'>ere </a>

… before throwing the ball up in the air and them maneuvering to catch it as it drops back down. Watch video here

ETH Zurich have also put the quadrocopters to work building a six-meter model tower made by stacking blocks one on top of another.

ETH Zurich have also put the quadrocopters to work building a six-meter model tower made by stacking blocks one on top of another.

D'Andrea worked with Gramazio & Kohler architects on the project which was exhibited at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France.

D’Andrea worked with Gramazio & Kohler architects on the project which was exhibited at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France.

D'Andrea's academic adventures in robotics have borne fruit in the business world. He co-founded Kiva Systems -- a company which specializes in automated robotic systems for warehouses -- in 2003. The company was sold to Amazon for $775 million in 2012.

D’Andrea’s academic adventures in robotics have borne fruit in the business world. He co-founded Kiva Systems — a company which specializes in automated robotic systems for warehouses — in 2003. The company was sold to Amazon for $775 million in 2012.

The idea for Kiva Systems stemmed from D'Andrea's work at Cornell University's robot soccer team.

The idea for Kiva Systems stemmed from D’Andrea’s work at Cornell University’s robot soccer team.

D'Andrea was system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team which won the RoboCup (an international robotics competition) four times.

D’Andrea was system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team which won the RoboCup (an international robotics competition) four times.

The bold new world of flying robots
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(CNN) — Professor Raffaello D’Andrea isn’t short of admirers for his autonomous flying robots and the amazing tricks they perform.

Every week, he receives a flood of e-mails from excited people telling him how to use them, he says.

“Folks have contacted me about using them to deliver burritos and pizzas, paint walls, do search and rescue, monitor the environment, flying cameras for movies … It’s just endless,” D’Andrea says.

“I’m not going to pass judgment on whether they are good or bad … my role is to show people what is possible.”

It appears those possibilities are growing by the day at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) where D’Andrea leads a team of researchers at the Flying Machine Arena (FMA).

Set up by D’Andrea five years ago, the arena offers a “sandbox environment” for testing a fleet of progressively acrobatic quadrocopters.

In the beginning, these four-rotor machines learned to flip through 360-degrees, “dance” to music and even play the piano. Today, increasingly complex flight maneuvers are being attempted as quadrocopters work together to build a six-meter tall model tower and juggle balls and poles. It is an extraordinary and slightly befuddling sight to behold.

Read: Billion dollar mission to reach the Earth’s mantle

Quadrocopters are controlled by varying the relative speed of each rotor blades, or pairs of rotor blades to generate thrust and control pitch, roll and yaw. They’ve been around for a long time, says D’Andrea, but what’s making them so popular now as a creative tool is the shrinking size and cost of technology.

“In order to fly these things you need gyros. Only recently have they become small, accurate, and cheap enough to put on these vehicles,” he explains.

The tiny motors driving each rotor are also extremely powerful and cheap now, he says, as are the batteries.

Last month, ETH Zurich released video footage of their latest stunt showing a quadrocopter balancing a pole before tossing it to another quadrocopter which successfully catches and controls the pole.

“We tried various catching maneuvers,” said grad student Dario Brescianini, who D’Andrea and a colleague supervised during the research, “but none of them worked until we introduced a learning algorithm, which adapts parameters of the catching trajectory to eliminate systematic errors.”

It took Brescianini around three months to perfect the move, D’Andrea says, but the infrastructure behind the FMA has taken much longer to build up.

Draped in protective netting and crash mats, the FMA looks like a rather down-at-heal gymnasium on first inspection, but a closer look reveals a high-tech suite of equipment which is crucial to understanding how the ETH’s quadrocopters fly.

Atop the 10-meter cubed space sits a motion capture system (made up of eight cameras) which locate objects in the FMA at rates of more than 200 frames per second.

The data from this indoor GPS system is sent to computers where custom-built software sends commands to the quadrocopters via wifi.

Read: Scientists build human brain inside a supercomputer

“Aerodynamics is a very complex phenomena to model properly. If we can create machines that learn and adapt what they are doing in aerobatics it pushes use towards more intelligent systems. It’s a great research challenge,” D’Andrea says.

Within five years he expects to see a proliferation of flying machines being used in a variety of settings.

There are already companies exploring flying vehicles for inspection and for humanitarian purposes. In the case of the latter, he points to the efforts of Californian-based start-up Matternet.

Founded by Andreas Raptopoulos, the company have ambitious plans to build a network of autonomous vehicles delivering food and aid to inaccessible areas in developing countries.

In between in his other projects at ETH Zurich, which include developing balancing cubes and actuated wingsuits, D’Andrea is also looking for ways to commercialize the university’s innovations. He’s currently in the process of starting a company which aims to maximize the potential of their quadrocopters in the arts and entertainment industry.

If his previous forays into the business world are anything to go by then expect it to be wildly successful.

In 2003, D’Andrea co-founded Kiva Systems, applying the knowledge learnt creating a team of soccer-playing robots at Cornell University.

Read: Search for alien life on Earth

The company, which provides automated robot systems for warehouses, was sold to Amazon for $775 million in 2012.

“When we were doing RoboCup (an international robotics competition) it did not enter my mind that the learnings I would take from my students I had trained could be used to build a company like Kiva Systems,” he says.

“Basically, my mode of operation is really to focus on creating things that have never been done before and push the boundaries of what autonomous systems can do. In the process, do great research and educate people on how to really make things work and the applications will come.”

There seems no limit to what autonomous flying robots might be capable of in the future and their unstoppable rise is increasingly causing concern, particularly their use in espionage and warfare. Suppressing the technology is not an option though, D’Andrea argues.

“I’m a firm believer that if the military use this technology then it’s just a short step away from everyone using it,” he says.

“We don’t want the technology to be misused. The starting point is that our governments don’t misuse the technology. As a society, we should question how much of a role, if any, these robots have in warfare.”

Efforts to outlaw weapon-carrying drones have been gathering speed and support in recent months. NGO Human Rights Watch published a report (Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots) in November 2012 urging governments to pre-emptively ban autonomous weapons. Another campaign, “Stop the Killer Robots,” is being mobilized by the NGO International Committee for Robot Arms Control and is due to launch in April.

Far away from the social and political debates about the misuse of drones, D’Andrea is just keen to promote his teaching philosophy and how students should approach learning.

“I think there needs to be more room for unconstrained creation. We need to provide ways for folks, especially at university, to push the boundaries of what technology can do without being concerned about the immediate commercial application,” he says.

“We should be more concerned about fulfilling our dreams as children. What was it we wanted to do as children? We wanted to fly like birds. Well, why aren’t we doing that?”

 

VIDEO  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75VtzpYxaN4#t=19