Improving on Existing Technologies

I moved in with my fiancé, Bart, six weeks ago. I now live in a very rural part of Iowa, meaning I must drive 25 miles to a movie theater, fast-food restaurant or chain grocery store. Moving from Chicago to such a remote location has been an adjustment.

For example, my cell phone, which has worked literally all over the world without trouble, does not take or receive calls in the lake town in which we live. That’s a problem, considering my cell phone is my business line! Because I have no idea whether a tower for my provider is coming and I don’t want to switch providers, Bart and I opted to install a landline to which I could forward my cell-phone calls. It’s been years since either of us had a real telephone and we were baffled by how expensive it is and how few services come with a landline. My first bill was about half the cost of Bart’s and my combined cell-phone bill. I had only made three calls on the landline! The cell phone has been a huge improvement upon the telephone, which arguably is one of the greatest inventions of all time.

As Contributing Editor Robert Nieminen points out, many manufacturers also are realizing there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to building materials. Instead, the products the construction industry has relied on for centuries are being improved upon. Take, for example, cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is manufactured by gluing together massive panels up to a 1/2-foot thick. Nieminen states CLT is increasingly being used to build multi-story towers because of its strength, low cost, renewability and carbon-sequestration properties. “We’re not talking about the stuff your great-great-grandfather’s log cabin was made of, however,” he says. Learn about the public and private sector organizations researching and testing these improved materials so they can soon be part of your buildings in “Trend Alert”.

Although there are drawbacks to living in such a remote area, I’ve also found many benefits. The friendships Bart has established now are mine, too, and I love being part of a real community in which people care for and share with each other. Just this week alone, three locals reminded me how lucky I am. First, a friend picked me up and took me to her storage unit where she gave me a medium-sized tote full of decorative items she never used for her daughter’s wedding. Then, a young farmer stopped by the house with his pickup bed full of sweet corn and told me to take as much as I’d like. Lastly, Bart’s colleague’s wife gave him cabbage, cucumbers, green peppers, green beans and tomatoes from her garden because she knows I love veggies—and there’s nothing quite like fresh vegetables!

Fortunately, urban farming is a growing trend so those of us in rural areas aren’t the only ones who can enjoy eating food grown close to home. In fact, in “Transformation”, Contributor Allen Barry shares how buildings, such as former prisons, schools, meatpacking plants and more, now are ideal locations for cultivating food. As Breeze Glazer, sustainable design leader for the New York office of Perkins+Will, states in the article, buying from local food sources is a great way to support the local economy. I love that! I may not be able to shop at my favorite boutiques very easily anymore but I am more than happy to support my new community in any way I can.

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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