Engineering problems and solutions are complex.
Understanding the issues affecting any engineering problem requires a wealth of acquired knowledge on:
In many cases, engineering solutions need to be 'signed-off' by clients or members of the community with little to no engineering experience.
That means little to no understanding of the reasons why a particular engineering solution should or should not be adopted and the community impacts that they may pose.
This large knowledge gap makes communicating with this audience particularly difficult.
The typical engineering report - along with its convoluted drawing sets that many engineers struggle with at the best of times - is not well placed to communicate effectively with such an audience.
Furthermore, the need for reports to be wrapped up tight in legally-sound caveats throughout doesn't make them a pleasant read.
Even the best written and structured reports struggle to create a flowing narrative when they're punctuated by the necessities of documenting data sources and cushioning recommendations in cautionary language. All of which are important.
Figure 01: An example of how a simple animation can explain how a renewable pumped hydro storage system works more succinctly than reading a section in a report.
There's got to be a better way.
Schematic diagrams, infographics, animations and colourful illustrations are incredibly useful to clearly describe the problem; the options for solutions and the potential pros and cons of each options.
Such illustrations can sit outside of the key documents and act as a primer or introduction to the key takeaways of the problems and solutions.
Schematic illustrations are not constrained by the same needs for accuracy that burden drawing sets so more effort can be directed into clearly communicating a complex idea in a simple and approachable way.
Additionally, they look good - which can help 'sell-in' a project or solution - and they can be produced relatively inexpensively when compared with drafted drawings (to which these illustrations would only be an addition, not a replacement) and the hours of additional client communication and community consultation that would be required to explain an unclear approach.
The crux of it.
If you're having trouble communicating with clients or if you're looking to spruce up your bids, pitches, proposals, presentations or entire brand, drop us a line: email@example.com
Figure 04: The Hydrological Cycle
The Conversation is an online news source powered by academia. Every author on the site has strong academic credentials and they seek to take the politics out of the big discussions (on the environment, economics, urban policy etc.) that affect our lives.
All of their articles have been licensed under Creative Commons so that they may be shared across the web.
On a regular basis, we're going to post a few interesting reads that pique our interest here.
The first of these deals with the not-widely-enough-known superpowers possessed by low-THC hemp and how it can help us generate energy that has a less destructive impact on the environment.
Not only would industrial hemp allow us to create fuels that are more environmentally friendly, they'd also allow us to decentralise energy production across the globe and potentially lessen the decade long conflicts that result from a desire to control profitable and limited energy resources.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Bioenergy is currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Cultivating energy crops on arable land can decrease dependency on depleting fossil resources and it can mitigate climate change.
But some biofuel crops have bad environmental effects: they use too much water, displace people and create more emissions than they save. This has led to a demand for high-yielding energy crops with low environmental impact. Industrial hemp is said to be just that.
Enthusiasts have been promoting the use of industrial hemp for producing bioenergy for a long time now. With its potentially high biomass yield and its suitability to fit into existing crop rotations, hemp could not only complement but exceed other available energy crops.
Hemp, Cannabis sativa, originates from western Asia and India and from there spread around the globe. For centuries, fibres were used to make ropes, sails, cloth and paper, while the seeds were used for protein-rich food and feed. Interest in hemp declined when other fibres such as sisal and jute replaced hemp in the 19th century.
Abuse of hemp as a drug led to the prohibition of its cultivation by the United Nations in 1961. When prohibition was revoked in the 1990s in the European Union, Canada and later in Australia, industrially used hemp emerged again.
This time, the car industry’s interest in light, natural fibre promoted its use. For such industrial use, modern varieties with insignificant content of psychoactive compounds are grown. Nonetheless, industrial hemp cultivation is still prohibited in some industrialised countries like Norway and the USA.
Energy use of industrial hemp is today very limited. There are few countries in which hemp has been commercialised as an energy crop. Sweden is one, and has a small commercial production of hemp briquettes. Hemp briquettes are more expensive than wood-based briquettes, but sell reasonably well on regional markets.
Large-scale energy uses of hemp have also been suggested.
Biogas production from hemp could compete with production from maize, especially in cold climate regions such as Northern Europe and Canada. Ethanol production is possible from the whole hemp plant, and biodiesel can be produced from the oil pressed from hemp seeds. Biodiesel production from hemp seed oil has been shown to overall have a much lower environmental impact than fossil diesel.
Indeed, the environmental benefits of hemp have been praised highly, since hemp cultivation requires very limited amounts of pesticide. Few insect pests are known to exist in hemp crops and fungal diseases are rare.
Since hemp plants shade the ground quickly after sowing, they can outgrow weeds, a trait interesting especially for organic farmers. Still, a weed-free seedbed is required. And without nitrogen fertilisation hemp won´t grow as vigorously as is often suggested.
So, as with any other crop, it takes good agricultural practice to grow hemp right.
Being an annual crop, hemp functions very well in crop rotations. Here it may function as a break crop, reducing the occurance of pests, particularly in cereal production. Farmers interested in cultivating energy crops are often hesitant about tying fields into the production of perennial energy crops such as willow. Due to the high self-tolerance of hemp, cultivation over two to three years in the same field does not lead to significant biomass yield losses.
Small-scale production of hemp briquettes has also proven economically feasible. However, using whole-crop hemp (or any other crop) for energy production is not the overall solution.
Before producing energy from the residues it is certainly more environmentally friendly to use fibres, oils or other compounds of hemp. Even energy in the fibre products can be used when the products become waste.
Recycling plant nutrients to the field, such as in biogas residue, can contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions from crop production.
Sustainable bioenergy production is not easy, and a diversity of crops will be needed. Industrial hemp is not the ultimate energy crop. Still, if cultivated on good soil with decent fertilisation, hemp can certainly be an environmentally sound crop for bioenergy production and for other industrial uses as well.
Mat Faint Design Co. is a Sydney-based branding, design and illustration studio geared to helping small business and brands look their sharpest.