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Surface tension

Australia [INDUSTRY]

Queensland MP Jo-Ann Miller recently sparked outrage by comparing Australia’s remote fly-in, fly-out (Fifo) mining industry communities to concentration camps. The comment was part of a larger critique on the mining industry driving up the cost of living in many rural towns and refusing to employ local workers. But it also tapped into broader questions about improving the design for miners’ accommodation.

“At the moment there’s not really any architecture involved at all,” says Scott Woodward, co-founder of Melbourne architecture practice WoodWoodWard. His company recently designed a new high-end take on workers’ quarters (known as dongas) that wouldn’t look out of place on a Californian beach front. The structure has four bedrooms and walls made mostly out of glass. “Any increase in amenities is going to have a positive impact on their frame of mind,” says Woodward.

According to a 2013 federal report into Fifo work, the answer to both easing mental strain among the workforce and improving the industry’s difficult relationship with rural Australia is encouraging more miners to live in the communities in which they work. It’s advice that multinational chemical giant Yara recently heeded. When it finishes its new ammonium-nitrate plant in the northwest mining hub of Karratha it will come complete with 60 permanent homes for its workers.

Three luxury Fifo villages

Howard Springs
About 3,500 workers benefit from a cinema, volleyball courts and swimming at Blaydin Point near Darwin.

Karntama
Christmas Creek iron-ore mine in Western Australia has driving ranges and Australian Rules football.

Spinifex
Yandi’s miners enjoy hiking tracks, tennis and en suite bathrooms.

On the mend

USA [MEDICINE]

Since the original Band-Aid was developed in the 1920s, about the most we’ve been able to hope for from a stick-on medical device is that it will cover a wound. But if Cambridge, Massachusetts electronics company mc10 is correct, we may be just a few years from a wearable patch that will be able to diagnose diseases and deliver treatments, too.

The company believes that rechargeable devices, presently called Biostamps, will eventually cost as little as a few hundred dollars. “We’d like it to be part of daily living,” says Roozbeh Ghaffari, mc10 co-founder.

“The diagnostic side is pretty close – we’re doing clinical studies now. The therapy side is a little more complex but ultimately we want it to be able to deploy drugs as nanoparticles through the skin.”

The potential for managing chronic illnesses, in particular, seems limitless. “An MS patient may slow down if their drugs aren’t working,” Ghaffari says. “The stamp would notice that with information stored in local memory on the patch and it could sync with your smartphone, so that doctors can reach it if necessary.”

Surf’s up

Portugal [LEISURE]

After years competing in international surfing competitions, Mica Lourenço decided to set up his own business, Micasurfboards, based in Ericeira near Lisbon. “My business is very intimate.

I measure the height, weight and size of the feet and bring all of that together with the type of waves being surfed,” says Lourenço. Lourenço takes approximately two weeks to shape each surfboard. “It’s very labour intensive,” he says. “A great part of the work is done by hand. Most surfers in Ericeira use my boards because I give them a special price. This is my push for their careers. As a surfer, I know how difficult it can be.”

Cleaning up

China [ENVIROMENT]

On a smoggy day China’s air quality is no laughing matter but earlier this year president Xi Jinping joked with officials from the rural Guizhou province that their air was so clean they could sell it in cans. Officials have taken him seriously and devised a plan to begin selling cans of “fresh air” to tourists.

Marketing ploys aside, clean air is becoming big business in China as entrepreneurs devise ever-inventive ways to provide big-city residents with relief from their smoggy skies. The Chinese air-purifier market alone is expected to grow by 34 per cent a year and surpass €10.6bn by 2016.

American Louie Cheng drew on his experience running a chemical-warfare defence unit in the US army to launch Shanghai-based company PureLiving, which tests air and water quality in homes and offices and then eliminates harmful particulates. Four years later, PureLiving has completed more than 2,000 consultancy projects and grown to 24 employees.

“I was here [in Shanghai] living it – every time I’d get together with friends we’d always talk about air quality,” he says. “I wanted a business that met a need.”

PureLiving’s clients were initially expatriate homeowners but now multinational companies make up a sizable portion. Some of the wealthier private schools, meanwhile, are turning to firms such as Broadwell Technology to build purified-air domes where students can play tennis and basketball on hazy days.

The synthetic fabric domes are held aloft by pressure created when fresh air is pumped in through air filters. It’s a unique design pioneered by the Shenzhen-based firm in partnership with Californian company, uvdi, which makes air-filtration systems for schools, hospitals and prisons in the US.

Broadwell president Xiao Long says the domes are becoming a major selling point in Beijing – the company has already built three of them at a cost of nearly €1m each and has contracts for four more. “Parents will soon ask the school, ‘Do you have an air dome? If you don’t have one, we’re not going to come’,” he says.

Three fresh-air providers

Philips
Foreign brands such as top-seller Philips control about 80 per cent of China’s air-purifier market.

Vogmask
The US company’s facemask sales grew in China by nearly 50 per cent each month in late 2013.

Smog insurers
China’s two largest insurers began selling smog policies in March but it was a short-lived solution. The firms were ordered to stop a week later by state regulators.

Top floors

South Korea [RETAIL]

In 1990, when Galleria opened its first department store in Seoul’s chic inner-city district of Apgujeong-dong, it was the first of its kind in Korea, pioneering the concept of a luxury multi-shop store in the city.

In March of this year, Galleria reopened four floors of its second major branch, the Luxury Hall West, after two months of renovation. Toronto-based design firm Burdifilek is behind the new look. One of the most original aspects of the redesign is the removal of divisions according to brand: the store has done away with convention and mixed different designers together to create a sharp edit of the season’s apparel and accessories. “The focus is placed on showcasing the collection of products [our staff] has selected,” says Jean Colin, merchandise director and senior vice-president of Galleria.

The redesign has seen a jump in sales for the newly renovated floors with an increase of 20 per cent year on year for the months of March to May. It is also a sign that the brand choices have been a hit with consumers – no mean feat, as almost 40 of the 140 labels are being presented in Korea for the first time.

Winning share

Vietnam [WORKSPACE]

Upon moving to Ho Chi Minh City from Dubai, Tuan Le and Laure Chevallier wanted to create a space where Vietnam’s talented community of designers and entrepreneurs could work independently but also get together to share ideas and collaborate. Their efforts came to fruition last December with Work, an all-in-one co-working space, creative school and café set in District 3 of the Vietnamese metropolis.

Housed in a two-storey colonial-era villa, Work offers office spaces for short-term rental as well as desks for customers in its café.

An array of classes taught by professionals ranging from advertisers to photographers is also on offer for those seeking to pick up a new skill. “A co-working space is a collection of expertise so we wanted to tap into that knowledge and share it by starting a school too,” says Le.

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