Obama shuts the door on Arctic and Atlantic drilling for next five years

November 30, 2016 by  
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As Trump’s incoming administration makes its complete disinterest in protecting the environment clearer each day, it seems President Obama is doing all he can to enshrine whatever green policies he can during his final days in office. The current administration recently  announced a ban on new oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans for the next five years — long enough to outlast Trump’s first (and hopefully last) presidential term. The Interior Department’s finalized oil and gas leasing plan for 2017-2022 was originally supposed to open up beaches from Virginia to North Carolina to new drilling, as well as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean. However, after massive opposition from conservationists and businesses in the affected areas, the administration has cancelled most of the proposed leases. Unfortunately, offshore drilling is still allowed to move forward in 10 lease areas in the Gulf of Mexico, but this decision is far better than what was initially proposed. Since last spring, environmental groups have been gathering signatures from everyday American opposed to offshore drilling, presenting more than 2 million signatures to the President. In addition, more than 1,100 businesses along the Atlantic Ocean joined together to voice their opposition, including hundreds in heavily Republican states. Related: Abandoned oil and gas wells are leaking methane across the USA “This move locks the Gulf into another five years of corporate giveaways – with decades more of climate pollution, offshore oil spills, devastation to fisheries, and health impacts to local communities. A true transition from fossil fuels doesn’t allow for energy sacrifice zones, especially when we know the climate can’t handle further fossil fuel development. Along with the Arctic and the Atlantic, we need permanent protection for all our coasts to have a fighting chance at stabilizing the climate,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network While this new decision obviously puts some roadblocks in Donald Trump’s plans to expand US oil and gas production, it’s important not to grow complacent. It would take some years to undo the protections Obama has just granted the Arctic and Atlantic, but it is possible. In fact, prominent Republican lawmakers , including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has been quick to condemn the decision, vowing to overturn it. This is a major victory for environmentalists, but in many ways, it’s only the beginning.   Via Environment New York Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Obama shuts the door on Arctic and Atlantic drilling for next five years

Apartments made out of re-used materials pop-up in protest of the housing crisis in Munich

November 30, 2016 by  
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These unique “Shabby Shabby Apartments” recently popped up in unexpected locations around Munich’s shopping district as a commentary on rising costs of living in the area. Envisioned by architecture collective Raumlabor and Munich Kammerspiele , they are made from repurposed objects like old clothes, scrap wood and even yellow-painted bathtubs. At only € 28 a night for two people, these temporary dwellings stand as a playful battle against the housing crisis in the city.

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Apartments made out of re-used materials pop-up in protest of the housing crisis in Munich

Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the "worst coral die-off" in recorded history

November 30, 2016 by  
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The health of the Great Barrier Reef is widely thought to be an indicator for the state of the Earth’s marine ecosystems, and the announcement made Tuesday that the reef is currently experiencing the worst coral die-off in recorded history doesn’t bode well for the rest of our waters. The depressing conclusion was reached after evaluating data collected during more than 900 dives along the 1,400-mile reef. When coral is exposed to too much warm water, it dies, thus transforming from a vibrant display of colorful creatures to a white or greyish skeleton. Its light color is known as “coral bleaching,” and researchers are recording ever larger spans of the reef where this phenomenon is taking place. On Tuesday, Prof. Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, said on Tuesday that around two-thirds of the shallow-water coral on the reef’s 430-mile northern stretch is now dead, but the survival rates in the middle and southern parts of the reef are much better. Related: No, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t dead – but it is damaged “The good news is that in the south, only about 1 percent of the reef’s coral has died, and the mortality rate in the middle is about 6 percent,” Hughes said. “But in the north, mortality rates are very high, and in some places where coral has survived but it has weakened, the per capita predation rate has gone through the roof.” Hughes noted that this is the third major bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef, and that while some sections of the reef are still thriving, their fate remains uncertain. Increasing warming trends in ocean water currents pose higher and higher future threat to the remaining living coral, not to mention the other creatures living in and around the reef. In response to the issue, the Australian government is putting about $33.6 million into efforts to protect the reef, by improving water quality and reducing sediment runoff. Australian leaders may petition the United Nations to declare the Great Barrier Reef an “in danger” site, a move the international coalition has stopped short of in recent years. Via NYT Images via ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the "worst coral die-off" in recorded history

Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

November 30, 2016 by  
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Designers at 3LHD transformed an abandoned campsite into a unique hillside aquarium in Karlovac, Croatia . Freshwater fish and plant life are featured at the aquarium to give the public a deeper understanding of the area’s ecosystems . The educational center and its nearby shops are located both alongside and underneath the natural hillside, covered in green grass as a sign of unity with the surrounding habitat. The Karlovac aquarium sits alongside the river Korana, where a diverse array of wildlife flourishes. 3LHD derived inspiration for the center’s design from the revered “Karlovac star”, upon which many buildings and city structures are based. Visitors can stroll through the open center of the attraction to reach the gift shop, reading room, and cafe bar, which is accessible by strategically placed, multidirectional walkways. Related: South America’s largest aquarium boasts a 650-foot underwater tunnel Once guests walk inside, they are greeted by a symbolic river exhibit that displays the full biodiversity of the area. Surface waters give way to deeper aquariums on the lower level, where species no longer flourishing in the area can be found. On the other side of the tunnel, marshlands are displayed with lilies and rushes, which eventually give way to a climactic collection of waterfalls. The entire center is an experience unlike any other aquarium – an educational story told from beginning to end. The Karlovac aquarium is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund . Scientific research facilities and fish acclimatization spaces can be found on site, proving the center’s dedication to preserving the natural state of the surrounding ecosystems. +3LHD Via World Architecture News Images via 3LHD

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Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars

November 30, 2016 by  
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It’s no surprise that cycling is popular in Denmark but a new study shows the number of bikes in Copenhagen is now officially higher than the number of cars . The capital city has been tracking bike numbers manually for decades, and now 20 electric sensors across the city help count the number of cycles wheeling around the streets. Over the last year, an additional 35,080 bikes have been tallied, resulting in a total bike count of 265,700. That surpasses the city’s 252,600 cars by a hefty margin. Copenhagen’s bicycle count is the product of 20 electric sensors installed at city hall and around the city, which automatically tally bikes as they travel through the metropolitan area. The first such sensor was installed in 2009, with others added in the intervening years. Tracking bicycle traffic is just one facet of the government’s aim to encourage more urban cycling, and it’s working. Two-wheeled traffic has increased 68 percent over the past 20 years. Related: Copenhagen is building the craziest bike lane… ever The Danish government has plunked down some $143 million since 2005 in order to support cycling in the city and encourage more commuters to choose two-wheeled transportation. Bike and pedestrian-only bridges are among the added infrastructure that reduce car-bike incidents and help keep cyclists away from toxic vehicle exhaust . While bike traffic continues to increase (with a 15 percent spike in just the last year), car traffic is slowly falling, down 1 percent from a year ago. Copenhagen leadership isn’t finished, either. Morten Kabell, the current mayor of technical and environmental affairs, told the Guardian the city aims for 50 percent of all commutes to be made on bikes by 2025. Given that 41 percent of trips are already taken on two wheels, getting to 50 percent is well within the realm of possibility. A new metro expansion planned to open in 2019 could slow the increase of bike traffic, but Kabell doesn’t mind, since the metro is also an emissions-free form of transportation . “The important thing for me is to have a green transport system,” he said. “As long as it’s fossil-free and alleviates congestion and air pollution, I’m cool with that.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikipedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars

Peek inside Booking.com’s envy-inducing new Seattle offices

November 30, 2016 by  
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Booking.com , the interwebs’ go-to site for finding travel deals, now has a spiffy new space of its own in Seattle. Designed by award-winning international design firm Ware Malcomb , the 9,750-square-foot office frames fun spaces (like a game room and well-stocked cafe) in reclaimed materials and design touches that pay homage to the city’s bustling urban energy. Located at 200 West Mercer Street, Booking.com ‘s new regional digs are sprinkled with local flavor and flair. Ware Malcomb used materials such as metal, concrete and reclaimed wood to evoke an industrial feel inspired by Seattle’s iconic Space Needle and EMP Museum. The meeting rooms also pay homage to the city, and center around oversized murals of photos taken by Booking.com employees. RELATED: HOW TO: Green Your Work Place “The team at Booking.com wanted that “wow” effect when you walked into their new offices,” said Alan Lambert, Regional Director of Ware Malcomb ’s Seattle office. ”This was accomplished by applying cutting edge design to create a unique environment inspired by local Seattle icons. Employees and visitors alike are treated to an immersive experience that truly captures the spirit of Seattle, from the vibrant downtown to the beauty of the surrounding landscape.” Undoubtedly one of the employees’ favorite spaces, the game room is the perfect place to blow off some steam with a game of foosball, shuffleboard or ping pong. Those hoping to grab a snack can head to the Pike Place Market-inspired breakroom, which is lined with reclaimed wood and features a custom-made neon sign inspired by the ones seen throughout the famed marketplace. + Ware Malcomb

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Peek inside Booking.com’s envy-inducing new Seattle offices

Americas largest modern timber building pieces together like LEGO

November 30, 2016 by  
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The nation’s largest timber building has officially opened its doors in Minneapolis. Designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture and Architect-of-Record DLR Group , the seven-story tower is the first modern wooden building of its kind to have been built in over 100 years. Created from prefabricated timber panels, the 224,000-square-foot building’s structural system was quickly pieced together like LEGO blocks on-site at a speed far exceeding conventional steel-framed and concrete buildings. Located in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, T3 mimics its historic warehouse neighbors with its blocky shape, but steers clear of the heavy bulk. The wooden building’s structural system—mostly cross-laminated timber and nail-laminated timber—weighs approximately one-fifth of similarly sized concrete buildings. 180,000 square feet of timber framing was installed in less than 10 weeks. The majority of the wood is beetle-kill pine sustainably harvested from the Pacific Northwest. The prefabricated timber panels were combined with a spruce glulam post-and-beam frame, all of which sits atop a concrete slab. Related: White Arkitekter wins bid to design Sweden’s tallest timber building The 224,000-square-foot mixed-use building houses office and retail space in a light-filled modern interior that celebrates the timber construction. “The entire timber structure of T3 was left exposed and illuminated with a percentage of the interior lighting directed up to the ceiling,” said Candice Nichol, MGA Associate and T3 Project Lead. At night, “the illuminated wood glows from the exterior similar to a lantern.” + Michael Green Architecture + DLR Group Images via Ema Peter

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Americas largest modern timber building pieces together like LEGO

BMW, Daimler, Ford, and VW are planning an electric vehicle superhighway in Europe

November 30, 2016 by  
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Four major automakers recently announced they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the highest-powered charging network in Europe. While electric cars like the new Chevy Bolt are curing some of the range anxiety issues that plagued earlier EVs, there’s still one other issue – charging times. Today it takes about 30 minutes to almost fully charge some electric cars, but BMW , Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen have announced a new partnership that will dramatically cut down that time. The goal for the charging network is to quickly build a sizable number of stations in order to enable long-range travel for electric vehicles, which will make them even more desirable. The idea of a charging network isn’t entirely new, since Tesla and Chargepoint have built similar networks in the U.S., but the big news is how much power these chargers will pack. Related: VW’s new electric car goes further and costs less than the Tesla 3 or Chevy Bolt Today’s DC Fast Chargers max out at 50 kW of power, which can charge an electric car’s battery up to 80 percent in as little as 20 minutes. The new chargers that will comprise this new partnership will pack up to seven times more power at 350 kW, which will significantly drop the amount of time it takes to recharge an electric car to around 10 minutes. The first chargers will arrive in 2017, with an initial target of about 400 charging sites in Europe. By 2020, the plan is to have thousands of high-powered charging points in operation. The announcement doesn’t include any networks outside Europe, like in the U.S., but this summer the White House announced that the Department of Energy is researching the feasibility of 350 kW fast chargers. + Daimler All images © Volkswagen and Daimler

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BMW, Daimler, Ford, and VW are planning an electric vehicle superhighway in Europe

Scientists figured out how to make water freeze at boiling temperatures

November 30, 2016 by  
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When water, in its liquid form, is confined within carbon nanotubes, it takes on some amazing new properties. Researchers at MIT have discovered that water trapped inside carbon nanotubes can actually freeze at the high temperatures that would normally bring it to a rolling boil . Previous research has long shown that the boiling and freezing points of water change when it is confined to small spaces, but those temperature variations usually hover around 10C. The introduction of carbon nanotubes has changed the game significantly. Carbon nanotubes are tube-like structures with a diameter measured in nanometers, which are equal to one-billionth of a meter or about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. The carbon nanotubes used during the MIT experiments were just slightly larger in diameter than the width of a few water molecules. Because water confined within the carbon nanotubes can take on a solid frozen state at a much higher temperature than in other vessels, the discovery could lead to inventions such as ice-filled wires, which could exist at room temperature. Related: MIT uses carbon nanotubes to boost lithium battery power 10x In order to better understand how water molecules behave when trapped in such small spaces, the research team used carbon nanotubes of different diameters, noting that even a tiny fraction of difference in size translated into different phase change temperature points. Nanotubes ranging from 1.05 nanometers to 1.06 nanometers resulted in a difference of tens of degrees around the apparent freezing point, something that surprised the research team. Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT, is one of five contributing authors on the research . “If you confine a fluid to a nanocavity, you can actually distort its phase behavior,” he said. “The effect is much greater than anyone had anticipated.” The research was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Via New Atlas Images via Cloudzilla/Flickr and MIT

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Scientists figured out how to make water freeze at boiling temperatures

How shared space makes four micro apartments in Japan seem much larger

November 30, 2016 by  
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Sometimes, size really doesn’t matter. Designed by Osamu Nishida and Erika Nakagawa from ON Design & Partners , the Yokohama Apartment complex features four micro residential units measuring around 215 square feet each. Despite such reduced dimensions, clever design ensures the small spaces feel expansive and livable. Magic especially resides in a shared open-air courtyard conceived as a living-room and a kitchen that doubles as an art gallery for the four artists living upstairs. With 1636 square feet of total floor area, the Yokohama Apartment building is subdivided into two levels. The common space on the ground level is canopied by the private residential floor, which is cut into four parts, and each unit has its own access coming up from the ground floor. Twisted stairs provide access without compromising tenants’ privacy. The ground floor is a covered open air piazza that provides common and private storage rooms, a micro kitchen unit and a dining room. This area is used for exhibitions, workshops, presentations, debates and other art activities. Related: Slice of the City home in Japan uses bold angles to solve tricky space restrictions Yokohama Apartment comprises brilliant Japanese design that maximizes every single inch. Unfortunately, this great invention mirrors a turning point in Japanese society, whereby poverty and unemployment, particularly among young people, forces innovation. Sharing space offers a bright alternative to the small and introverted dwellings common in Japan today. This societal concern was raised by Yoshiyuki Yamana, the curator of the Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture earlier this year ; he chose the Yokohama Apartment project as an example of how to successfully adapt to the country’s new social condition . + ON Design & Partners + Venice Biennale Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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How shared space makes four micro apartments in Japan seem much larger

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