Naturally-ventilated glass building looks like a shimmering urban mirage

August 31, 2017 by  
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This office building in Geneva features a complex glass facade that makes it look like a shimmering urban mirage. The new Headquarters of the Swiss Société Privée de Gérance (SPG), designed by Italian firm Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti , appears almost as an immaterial object that glimmers and vibrates in dialogue with the urban landscape around it. The building sits on Route de Chêne, at the gates of the historical center of Geneva. The existing building was converted and extended, starting with a naturally-ventilated glass façade that improves the acoustic and thermal insulation performance of the building. The glass facade also gives the project a dematerialized quality that constantly amplifies, reflects and refracts natural light. Related: South African office building was designed to keep its occupants healthy A triple layer of glass is covered with a ventilated chamber containing micro-perforated Venetian blinds to regulate the light. Brise-soleil screens made of screen-printed glass are anchored on the outside, giving the façade’s external surface a variable modular pattern in terms of both the panel dimensions and the design on their surface. The glass facade, lit by white LED lights at night, softens the perimeter of the building, creating a kind of “nebula” that pulsates and changes to adapt to its surroundings. + Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti Photos by Adrien Buchet

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Naturally-ventilated glass building looks like a shimmering urban mirage

Pros and Cons of All-in-One Waste Collection Programs

August 31, 2017 by  
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With more and more cities setting lofty recycling goals or striving for “zero-waste” status, one idea always seems to get passed around to hit the magic numbers: the mixed waste processing facility. This concept goes by several names,…

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Pros and Cons of All-in-One Waste Collection Programs

New electric smart fortwo is ready to revolutionize car-sharing

August 31, 2017 by  
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Smart is planning to transition its small lineup of tiny cars to fully electric powertrains – in the not-too-distant future. The company has unveiled a preview of what the future smart fortwo could look like and how it could forever change the world of car-sharing. At first glance, the smart vision EQ fortwo concept looks like a more modern take on the current fortwo, but there’s more than meets the eye here. The EQ fortwo concept is smart’s vision of a future in which autonomous cars can improve the car-sharing experience in urban cities. Currently the car2go car-sharing service uses the smart fortwo, with over 2.6 million users worldwide. The vision EQ fortwo concept would build on this, since users wouldn’t have to search for a car or find a place to park it after they reach their destination. Instead, users summon the vision EQ fortwo, just like when they would request an Uber or Lyft ride. The vision EQ fortwo then drives autonomously to the pick up point and once the user reaches the destination the concept moves on its own to pick up the next user. It never actually parks on the street, like car2go , which will help reduce the amount of needed parking spaces. Related: From now on all Smart cars in North America will be electric On the outside, the smart vision EQ fortwo concept’s exterior communicates with users and pedestrians through a Black Panel Grille and LED displays, which replace traditional headlights and taillights. If the car is unoccupied, information about local events, the weather, news or the time can be displayed. The smart’s Black Panel Grille indicates whether the car is occupied by one or by two passengers. The smart vision EQ fortwo concept is powered by a 30 kWh battery. When its battery is depleted, it can automatically drive to a charging point to recharge its battery pack . Smart will debut the vision EQ fortwo concept next month at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. + smart Images @smart

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New electric smart fortwo is ready to revolutionize car-sharing

Arctic warming likely turned Harvey into "an extreme killer storm"

August 31, 2017 by  
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Melting Arctic ice and spiking temperatures don’t just affect the northernmost part of Earth. According to Cornell University professor Charles Greene, they can also impact storms , like Hurricane Harvey, that are thousands of miles away – prompting them to stall or meander. He said in a statement, “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Just like Superstorm Sandy , Arctic warming likely played an important role in making Hurricane Harvey such an extreme killer storm.” Greene said warming in the Arctic slows jet streams, or global air currents, impacting the nature of big storms like Harvey, which so far has poured around 24.5 trillion gallons of rain on Texas and Louisiana. Researchers can be reluctant to say exactly how climate change might have altered a certain storm, though many agree rising sea levels can cause higher surges, while higher temperatures in the air and sea surfaces will thrust more water into the atmosphere, which then falls as precipitation. Related: 7 ways you can help people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey Gizmodo spoke to several other scientists, and at least one, climate scientist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was unsure warming had a significant role in Harvey. Penn State University climate scientist Richard Alley told Gizmodo, “Mostly, this is weather – big, dangerous weather, but still weather. But, because of global warming the ocean is a little higher than it otherwise would be, and that made the storm surge higher.” Meanwhile Greene compared Harvey to Superstorm Sandy, which also lingered instead of swerving out to the ocean as he said 90 percent of most late-season hurricanes do. He said, “ Houston would have suffered much less damage if Category 4 Hurricane Harvey had just crashed through the city and petered out in West Texas. But instead, the storm system is stalled in place and just continues to dump record amounts of rainfall from the Gulf on the city.” Via Huffington Post South Africa and Gizmodo Images via NASA and Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West

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Arctic warming likely turned Harvey into "an extreme killer storm"

Midwest greenhouse heated with geothermal energy produces citrus year-round for $1 per day

August 31, 2017 by  
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Those who live in the Midwest United States understand how difficult it can be to eat local during winter. But for Russ Finch and his community, the task isn’t too difficult. A former mailman living in Nebraska , Finch designed a greenhouse that produces lemons, grapefruit-sized oranges, green figs, and grapes — all for just $1 a day. His magic trick? Geothermal heating. Finch calls his structure the Greenhouse in the Snow . The original, which he constructed more than 20 years ago, is connected to his home. Finch specifically grew citrus in the greenhouse to prove that it’s possible. “Any type of plant we saw, we would put it in and see what it could do. We didn’t baby anything,” said Finch. “We just put it in and if it died, it died. But most everything really grows well. We can grow practically any tropical plant.” NPR reports that the structure’s design is base don a walipini, or a pit greenhouse. The floor has been dug down 4 feet below the surface, and the roof has a slant toward the south to catch the sun’s rays. During the daytime, temperatures in the greenhouse can reach over 80 degrees F. At night, geothermal heat is relied on to combat the plummeting temperatures. Only warm air is used to heat the greenhouse — no propane or electric heaters. Warm air is obtained from perforated plastic tubing that is buried underground. The tubing runs out one end of the greenhouse and extends in a loop to the opposite side. It is circulated via a single fan. “All we try to do is keep it above 28 degrees in the winter,” said Finch. “We have no backup system for heat . The only heat source is the Earth’s heat, at 52 degrees at 8-foot deep.” Because the 1,200 square foot greenhouse is not dependent on fossil fuels , energy costs are down to just $1 a day. Particularly in midwestern states, low energy costs matter. “There have been hardly any successful 12-month greenhouses on the northern High Plains because of the weather,” said Finch. ”The cost of energy is too high for it. But by tapping into the Earth’s heat, we’ve been able to drastically reduce the cost.” Related: Russian ice skating rink doubles as a solar-powered outdoor cinema and geothermal spa Every year, the farmer grows a few hundred pounds of fruit which he sells at a local farmers market. His main business is selling the design for the Greenhouse in the Snow. A new version of his invention costs $22,000 to build. Finch says he has constructed 17 of them so far, throughout the United States and Canada. While Finch might not be able to supply a supermarket with the crops he grows, he can provide fresh produce to his local community. If more people in the rural midwest invested in greenhouses that rely on geothermal energy, carbon emissions from shipping fruit and vegetables all over the country would be reduced. This, in turn, would benefit the environment and people’s health as fresh, organically-grown food is more nutrient-dense and retains more flavor. + Greenhouse in the Snow Via NPR Images via Pixabay, YouTube

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Midwest greenhouse heated with geothermal energy produces citrus year-round for $1 per day

Explosions rock Houston-area chemical plant following Hurricane Harvey flooding

August 31, 2017 by  
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Several explosions at a Houston-area chemical plant were reported on early Thursday morning, reportedly related to its loss of power. Black smoke billowed from the Arkema Inc. chemical plant in Crosby, Texas as blasts rocked the site, which remains submerged under six feet of floodwater. The Arkema plant is one of many in the region; this part of Texas is home to the one of the densest concentrations of pipelines, refineries and chemical plants in the country. The storm damage is certain to exacerbate the public health threat of Hurricane Harvey long after the rain has stopped. On Tuesday, prior to the explosions, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation zone for a 1.5 mile radius surrounding the plant. The Arkema plant was shut down before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the Houston-area, though 11 employees remained behind to service the facility. As the unprecedented floodwaters pushed in, the remaining team was evacuated as fumes began to pour out of the powerless plant. Several deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s office were hospitalized for inhaling toxic chemicals . Related: 7 ways you can help people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey Arkema produces organic peroxides, compounds with a wide variety of applications, from construction materials to pharmaceuticals. Usually the volatile chemicals are kept under control through cold storage. However, without power , there is no refrigeration. “As the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire,” Arkema spokesperson Janet Smith told press. Arkema was previously mandated by the EPA to produce a report outlining the potential risks of the plant and plans for worst-case scenarios, which, according to Arkema’s submitted report, could potentially impact 1.1 million residents over a distance of 23 miles. However, the company reports that it is incorporating “multiple layers of preventative and mitigation measures” to ensure that the worst does not come to pass. Via Time and Washington Post Images via Google Maps

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China is fighting desertification with a Great Green Wall of trees

August 31, 2017 by  
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In a major geoengineering effort to fight back against ever-encroaching desert, China is planting trees to create a “Great Green Wall” that may halt erosion, capture carbon, and provide economic benefits to the People’s Republic. By 2050, the nation of nearly 1.5 billion people aims to plant 88 million acres of woodland in an area that stretches 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide. If successful, China’s reforestation project could serve as a guide for the countries of the 250 million people worldwide threatened by desertification . The vast arid land of China, which includes the historic Gobi Desert, encompasses up to 27 percent of the country’s land, and that number is growing. By 2006, nearly 1,000 square miles, an increase of 400 square miles since the 1950s, of usable land was being consumed by the desert . Desertification in China causes dust and sandstorms that contribute to poor health outcomes, the crippling of transportation routes, and economic losses, which are estimated to be in the billions of dollars every year. Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty The results of the project, which began in 1978, have been mixed. On the one hand, the project has provided financial stability to many previously impoverished communities located in the prospective Great Green Wall region. Government investment in infrastructure surrounding the project has also aided regional development. The Chinese government claims that the project has already yielded a decrease in sandstorms, stabilized acres of desert, and even increased precipitation . Others are more skeptical. “When it’s profitable, people tell lies,” said Cao Shixiong, a professor at Minzu University of China.  “I thought it was a very good way to combat desertification,” said Cao. However, in light of some estimates that up to 86 percent of the trees planted as part of the project have died, Cao changed his mind. “I realized it’s because of policy. We were choosing the wrong place to plant trees.” Researchers are also concerned that importing ill-suited trees into the fragile ecosystem may yield disastrous consequences in the future. “For the past 1,000 years, only shrubs and grass have grown in those areas. Why would they think planting trees would be successful?” said Sun Qingwei, a former Chinese Academy of Sciences desert researcher who now works for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not sustainable. Investing money in trees that are not supposed to be there is kind of crazy.” Time will tell if the Great Green Wall is as enduring as its stone-and-brick namesake. Via Mother Jones Lead image via Deposit photos , others via People’s Daily Online , Vaiz Ha/Flickr , and Christopher Michel/Flickr

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China is fighting desertification with a Great Green Wall of trees

Funky Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire is the perfect place for stargazing

August 31, 2017 by  
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The new Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire defies architectural tradition by rejecting the established dome form. Instead, this private astronomical observatory looks like it has been carved out of the rock on which it stands. Anmahian Winton Architects designed the building as a faceted volume that creates optimal conditions for sky observation. The building is located on a remote mountain summit in central New Hampshire. It sits on a granite outcropping, amidst a very “dark” landscape with minimal light pollution,  which would potentially obstruct views of the night sky. Related: X-Studio’s Lightweave Palm Observatory is Made Entirely From Palm Leaves Gemma’s faceted form reflects the surrounding terrain, while its zinc cladding makes it look like a single piece of stone. Its interior, on the other hand, provides warmth through the presence of fir plywood . It houses a research office, sleeping bunk, and warming room on the first floor, and an exterior observation deck accessible via a helical stair. One of the most important aspects of the design is the role its shape and cladding plays in facilitating its function. The outstanding heat transfer capability facilitates sky observation by minimizing temperature differential distortion. Furthermore, cuts in the zinc cladding create strategically placed openings oriented towards both geological and celestial landmarks. + Anmahian Winton Architects Via v2com

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Funky Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire is the perfect place for stargazing

Solar roof tiles help power this secondary school in rural Kenya

August 31, 2017 by  
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Schools in rural Kenya often suffer through frequent power outages, and energy from the national grid can be expensive. But solar roof tiles from Strauss Energy offer a cheaper, renewable alternative. At the 275-student Gaitheri Secondary School in Murang’a County, the reliable source of electricity has enhanced students’ performance since they can study at night, and allowed the school to give computer lessons. Strauss Energy works to place building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) on structures, such as the solar roof tiles at the Kenya school. The tiles are intended for rooftops in place of solar panels , and provide a clean source of energy . Battery storage at the school ensures it receives power even on cloudy days and at night. Thanks to the solar roof tiles, Gaitheri Secondary School only pays around 1,500 Kenyan shillings, or about $14.50, a month, which the Thomson Reuters Foundation notes is essentially a fixed charge for access to power from the grid. Related: Solar Sister Empowers Women to Bring Solar Energy to Rural Africa Teacher Jackson Kamau Kiragu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they can now offer computer lessons, saying, “We’ve got 18 computers, but power was a challenge before Strauss Energy came on board.” Organizations Christian Aid and the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance commissioned a survey earlier this year that found only around 57 percent of Kenyans are hooked up to the grid, so there’s potentially a large demand for off-grid power. Strauss Energy Chief Operations Officer Charity Wanjiku said they aim to develop BIPV technology to take advantage of Kenya’s sunshine, which isn’t fully exploited. She said while the technology may be expensive for homes – tiles cost between $20 and $250 each, based on their size – it’s optimal for schools, hospitals, or estate developers. Strauss Energy is researching ways to lower the cost of the solar tiles while boosting efficiency, and has plans to build a plant able to pump out 10,000 units every day. Via Thomson Reuters Foundation Images via Strauss Energy Facebook

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Solar roof tiles help power this secondary school in rural Kenya

Dilapidated WWI soldier barracks in Essex converted into stunning eco home

August 31, 2017 by  
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Instead of demolishing an old, dilapidated Nissen Hut that had sat on their farmland in Essex for nearly a century, one ambitious couple decided to convert it into a stunning eco property. The elongated iron structure – which was originally built as soldier barracks in WWI – has been reborn as the Zinc House, a contemporary, five-bedroom family home updated with a beautiful zinc roof and various sustainable features . Originally built as make shift soldier housing during WWI, Nissen huts were then used as bomb shelters during the Second World War. Most of the old structures, which are scattered across the UK countryside, have since fallen into disrepair. Related: True North Detroit is an affordable live-work community made from prefab Quonset huts However, instead of demolishing the rusty old building that had sat on their farm land for almost a century, Claire Benbrook and her late husband Richard decided to restore the old building. The home was gutted and clad with an attractive zinc roof and updated with large terraces on either side. The home, which is just under 4,000 square feet, was also installed with various sustainable features such as ultra-strong insulation and a ground source heat pump for added efficiency. The curved elongated structure has double-glazed bifold walls that run the entire length of the home. Glazed doors and large windows illuminate the interior with plenty of natural light and provide stunning views of the surroundings. The interior is a minimalist design , with white walls and an Italian glass staircase that holds court in the entranceway. The first floor houses an open-plan layout which includes the kitchen, dining area, and large living area. A massive 22-foot-long master bedroom is located on the second floor, with a large covered terrace that looks out over the expansive countryside. + Strutt & Parker Via Stuff Images via Strutt & Parker

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