Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

May 23, 2017 by  
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Before heading to the beach, most people make sure to pack a bottle of sunscreen. After all, the ultraviolet rays can be seriously damaging and no one wants to get  skin cancer . But it turns out some ingredients in hundreds of common sunscreens don’t work as well as advertised, according to a new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Additionally, 73 percent of 880 sunscreens that were tested contain “worrisome” ingredients people may not want to slather on their skin. Authors of the report , which was released on Tuesday, examined the SPF protection, chemical ingredients and overall safety and effectiveness of numerous sunscreens , moisturizers, and lip balms. Then, they compiled a list of the best- and worst-rated products to help consumers make the best – and healthiest – choices when preparing to have fun in the sun. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental advocacy group and lead scientist of the 2017 Sunscreens Guide, said of the findings, “Sunscreens are really mismarketed, and as a result, people who depend on them think they are far more powerful than they really are.” According to dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis, who did not participate in the report and works at the Mayo Clinic, the SPF is a ratio of how long a person without sunscreen can be in the sun without becoming red. In his own words, “if you’re standing on the equator at high noon and it would usually take your skin one minute without sunscreen to become red and irritated, SPF 15 means you can stand in that same sun exposure for 15 minutes.” Related: Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens Most sunscreen brands offer products with high SPF, sometimes even over 100. Thought to be beneficial, they are actually misleading, says Lunder. “People who buy high-SPF products are more likely to get burned because they assume they’re getting better and longer-lasting protection,” she said. It is for this reason that she supports the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 (which would block 97% of UVB rays) and suggests one reapply it every few hours. SPF protection can also vary, depending on its age, how it has been stored and lab tests find that SPF levels can vary wildly. There is also something to be said about the questionable ingredients in certain sunscreens. While most chemicals in the product create a barrier to prevent damage from UV rays, other chemicals create damaging effects. Two ingredients, in particular, oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, consumers should avoid. According to Lunder, oxybenzone “is a hormone disruptor that mimics body hormones and affects reproductive tract and other hormones.” And Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, has been linked to the development of skin tumors under direct UV light. More research needs to be conducted on the latter, but authors of the report advise consumers to avoid sunscreens that contain both ingredients. All in all, the report recommends sunscreen products that are safe and offer adequate sun protection. The EWG says outdoor enthusiasts should look for three things: an SPF between 30 and 50 to protect from UVB rays, zinc oxide and titanium oxide to ward off UVA rays, and no oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. + Environmental Working Group Via CNN Images via  Bella Mecia , Pixabay

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Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

Incredible teepee-shaped ORKA house is made from 24 interlacing beams

May 23, 2017 by  
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This   teepee-shaped home is made from twenty four interlacing beams that shelter a large open-plan living space. Antony Gibbon Designs ‘ ORKA house explores different geometric shapes and unconventional forms for residential architecture. The three-story dwelling features a rooftop platform with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The house has twenty four wooden beams that coalesce, forming a pivoted illusion which transforms angles into a seemingly curved hyperboloid form. Using the frame as an aesthetic starting point, the architects interlaced the beams to naturally create diamond-shaped patterns. These patterns become part of the geometry and symmetry of the structure. Related: This charred wood cabin can be rearranged in an infinite number of ways The envelope wraps around an area 10 meters in diameter (33 feet), allowing for a large open-plan living space. A spiral staircase connects the ground floor to another three floors, with the top floor doubling as an outdoor viewing platform and balcony offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. + Antony Gibbon Designs

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Incredible teepee-shaped ORKA house is made from 24 interlacing beams

Rare bag of moon dust to be auctioned for millions of dollars

May 23, 2017 by  
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Souvenirs from humankind’s missions to the Moon are extremely rare; NASA usually holds on to moon rocks or moon dust instead of allowing private owners to keep them. But they couldn’t hold on to one bag of moon dust. The artifact – supposedly collected by astronaut Neil Armstrong – is the property of a Chicago lawyer, and now she plans to auction it off. After Armstrong took that historic leap for mankind on the Apollo 11 mission, he did what many of us would do – grabbed a space souvenir in the form of a handful of moon rocks placed in a bag, which he put into a second bag. That second outer bag then embarked on a journey of its own. When the bag was accidentally put up for auction, lawyer Nancy Lee Carlson obtained the bag in February 2015 for $995 on a federal auction website. Related: ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust Carlson kept the bag for a while and then decided to send it to NASA to see if it was really authentic. NASA said the bag did indeed have traces of the moon’s dark gray powder. But then the agency tried to confiscate the bag as the property of the government . Carlson fought the move and this year in February a judge decided she’d acquired the bag legally and could keep it. NASA put out a statement after the ruling: “This artifact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public, which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred.” Before going up for auction the bag belonged to Max Ary of the Kansas Cosmosphere museum; he was convicted of stealing such interstellar objects and putting them up for sale, and when several of his possessions were seized by the government, the moon bag was among them but was mixed up with another bag lacking the treasured dust. Now Carlson plans to auction the bag off once again on July 20, send some money to charity , and set up a scholarship at her alma mater, Northern Michigan University. Auctioneers think the bag could be sold for between two to four million dollars. Sotheby’s auction house curators think the bag of moon dust could be the only privately held object of this nature on Earth. Via the Chicago Tribune Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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4 Tips for Planning a Toxin-Free Summer Barbecue

May 23, 2017 by  
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With Memorial Day Weekend approaching, grilling season is officially upon us. Distant splashes and adolescent laughter can be heard from nearby pools, while tantalizing aromas from firing grills fill the air. It’s that time of year to channel your…

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Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

May 22, 2017 by  
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Many people believe that playing music to plants makes them grow better , but scientists would say that’s absurd. New research from Australia might prove them wrong though. Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia, found that plants utilize the sounds of nature , from the buzzing of an insect to the sound of liquid rushing through a pipe, to find water and survive. In her recent study , Gagliano placed pea seedlings in a pot in the shape of an upside-down Y. Scientific American reports , “One arm of each pot was placed in either a tray of water or a coiled plastic tube through which water flowed; the other arm had only soil. The roots grew toward the arm of the pipe with the fluid, regardless of whether it was easily accessible or hidden inside the tubing.” According to Gagliano, the plants “just knew the water was there,” even though they could only detect the sound of the water flowing inside the pipe. When the seedlings were given a choice between the flowing tube and soil that was moistened, their roots chose the latter, however. The lead scientist says the plants use sound waves to detect water from far away, but follow moisture gradients to move in on their target when it is within reach. Related: Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air Gagliano’s discovery was published in the May 2017 issue of Oecologia, an international peer-reviewed journal. In the paper, titled “ Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water ,” she writes: Because water is essential to life, organisms have evolved a wide range of strategies to cope with water limitations, including actively searching for their preferred moisture levels to avoid dehydration . Plants use moisture gradients to direct their roots through the soil once a water source is detected, but how they first detect the source is unknown. We found that roots were able to locate a water source by sensing the vibrations generated by water moving inside pipes, even in the absence of substrate moisture. She added, “Our results also showed that the presence of noise affected the abilities of roots to perceive and respond correctly to the surrounding soundscape.” Considering the phenomena of “buzz pollination,” in which the sound of bees buzzing at a certain frequency stimulates the release of pollen in plants, has already been validated, it doesn’t seem too outlandish to propose that plants rely on sound vibrations to find water and thrive. Gagliano elaborates on her findings in the video below: Via Scientific American Images via Pixabay

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Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

5 Captivating Recycling Books for Kids 5 and Under

May 22, 2017 by  
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Note: This post contains affiliate links, which helps fund our Recycling Directory, the most comprehensive in North America. The idea of recycling or repurposing things comes naturally to young children, as most are very crafty and resourceful….

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‘Indestructible’ Arctic seed vault flooded after permafrost melts

May 22, 2017 by  
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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is supposed to protect all of the world’s seeds, but climate change has other ideas. The vault was built inside the Arctic Circle to protect a diverse seed collection from natural disasters, war, and other calamities, but meltwater from thawing permafrost recently flooded the vault’s entrance tunnel. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault , tucked in a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, was thought to offer failsafe protection, according to The Crop Trust , the organization behind the facility. Nearly a million packets of seeds can be found within, ready to offer a measure of food security for the world. But record high temperatures melted permafrost around the seed vault, and water breached the vault’s entrance. Related: 50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault The seeds weren’t harmed, according to a statement on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault website, and the facility wasn’t damaged either. The water that did enter froze and has since been hacked out. But the seeds’ future safety is suddenly in question. Hege Njaa Aschim, Director of Communications at Norway’s construction and property agency, Statsbygg, told The Guardian, “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that [the vault] would experience extreme weather like that…It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day.” Vault managers have already taken steps to fortify the vault, such as digging trenches to channel water away and working to waterproof the tunnel that stretches into the mountain. They’ve installed pumps inside the seed vault to help get rid of water in case of flooding in the future. They also took out some electrical equipment that generated heat in the tunnel. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s statement on the incident said, “Globally, the Seed Vault is, and will continue to be, the safest backup of crop diversity .” Via The Guardian Images via Global Crop Diversity Trust on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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‘Indestructible’ Arctic seed vault flooded after permafrost melts

INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

May 22, 2017 by  
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We’ve built cities that do us harm, according to groundbreaking Netherlands designer Daan Roosegaarde . Along with his team at Studio Roosegaarde , he’s tackling the pollution we’ve generated in our metropolises, through the power of design . Roosegarde’s Smog Free Project is currently touring China—their most recent stop is Tianjin —and Inhabitat spoke with Roosegaarde about the project and how design can help us shape a cleaner, more beautiful urban future . Check out our interview after the break… INHABITAT: What inspired you to tackle the problem of city pollution with design? ROOSEGAARDE: I’ve been working on landscapes of the future in the last five years, making dance floors which produce electricity when you dance on them, or bicycle paths which are charged by the sun and glow at night. I love to make public spaces which trigger people in a poetical or pragmatic way. Three and a half years ago, I was being triggered by Asia and its curiosity towards the future. On Saturday, I could see the world around me in Beijing on my 32rd floor room, but on Wednesday and Thursday it was completely covered in smog . It was a wake-up moment. I knew it was bad but it’s something different when it’s visual. Governments all around the world are investing in clean technology , electric cars, or more bicycle sharing programs, but that takes quite a long time, like 10 to 15 years, to make an impact. I wanted to make something that has an impact now. Delhi is actually worse, in India. You’re sort of trapped in a bubble which is pushing on you, which is suppressing you. You feel nauseous at the end of the day. It’s weird that we created cities which do harm to us, which are almost like machines. And again it’s not just Beijing. Every big city has its problems with pollution. It’s a global issue. INHABITAT: When did you start to realize that design could offer an answer? ROOSEGAARDE: Two days later, I remembered when I was a boy, a long time ago, I always had to go to these boring children’s parties. I was playing with plastic balloons, and when you polish a plastic balloon with your hand, it becomes static: static electricity, and it attracts your hair. I can remember when I was like eight years old I was mesmerized by that. It’s like an invisible force. It is a gift from nature. So that memory pops up out of the blue, and then the idea came: what if we could use that kind of principle to build the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world, which sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases clean air . So at least we have local parks where people can experience clean air. We made a very, very simple animation the day after, and then we started to talk with the indoor air purifying experts who’ve been working on this for 20 or 30 years. We made a lot of prototypes and tests and a year and half after that moment we built the first one in Rotterdam . This project is self-commissioned. We spend our own time, money, and energy at the studio. No client is going to call me and ask, “Can you make a Smog Free Tower?” So that’s also part of innovation : you launch your own projects, and now people all around the world are coming and calling, they want to be part of it. We’ve proven that it works. It’s really important to keep investing in your own ideas. INHABITAT: As you’re traveling through China, what do you hope people take away from the tour of the Smog Free Project? First the local people, and then also the government officials that see the towers? ROOSEGAARDE: What we want to achieve is two things. One, it’s a local solution on a park level: to create these bubbles of clean air in the city. And that has been proven quite effective: 55 to 70 percent cleaner than the rest of the city. This week is very, very important for us because we’re launching independent scientific research done by the Eindhoven University of Technology with Professor Bert Blocken, a renowned expert in fine particles. They have done extended measurements and research, and this week we’re launching a report which proves the impact and effect of the tower on the local scale: it collects 70 percent PM 10 and 50 percent PM 2.5 on the park scale level. So that’s very positive. And that’s an independent study from a university, you can’t buy them. And it’s being validated now, being peer reviewed and will be published in the coming months. So the idea was to create local places where people can feel the difference, where they can smell the difference, and where they can experience the future. The second goal is to start a conversation. To say, “hey guys, students, makers, scientists, whomever, what do we need to do to make a whole city smog free?” So we did Smog Free Workshops and the response has been great. We had a girl who made fashion which changes in color when the smog level is too high. We had a Beijing designer who made a sort of wearable greenhouse, like a backpack, so you can breathe in clean air from the plants you’re carrying with you. This has been really great to activate the discussion. The final solution in that way is government with a focus on clean air, electrical cars, green technology, etc.; that’s top down, but we want to move bottom up and tackle all of that, and we meet in the middle and that creates impact, that creates change. From these sessions, from one at Tsinghua University in Beijing, new ideas popped up like the Smog Free Bicycle . The bicycle sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases it as clean air. The technology is similar to the Smog Free Tower. Beijing was a cycling city 10 or 12 years ago, and that completely disappeared because everybody wanted a car, and everybody now is in a traffic jam and it’s polluted. But the bicycle is a powerful cultural icon. So we want to bring back the bicycle and upgrade it in the celebration of the bicycle in the fight against car pollution. This is also part of the Smog Free Project; it’s the next big idea we’re spending time and energy on. It’s been intense, it’s a politically-centered topic, it’s something new, people have to get used to it. Everybody has opinions about it. Very few have proposals. But step by step we’re creating impact. INHABITAT: I heard about the Smog Free Bicycles and I wanted to ask about those: how the idea came about and the also a little bit more about how they work. ROOSEGAARDE: The idea of enhancing bicycles has been around for a while. For example, Matt Hope , a Beijing artist, worked on it years ago, and before that some other artists as well. So we did the workshop with him in Beijing, and with students from Tsinghua University. They have a lot of bicycle sharing programs like Mobike, and so that’s where we got the idea and thought what if we could take it and push it further. The bicycle releases clean air in area around the face. We don’t want to work with masks or anything; it should be a kind of plug-in to the existing bicycle. Why not, right? We came so far with making crazy ideas happen, this should be doable as well. What is fascinating with innovation, with new ideas, is that in the beginning, there are always some people—most of them are enthusiastic but there are always some people who say, “It’s not allowed,” or “You cannot do it.” But you know what happens now with the Smog Free Project, I have top officials from the government coming to me, and saying, “Oh that’s a good idea, why didn’t you do it before?” I’m saying this with a smile; it’s one of the things about innovation, and you have to go through it, but that’s good, that means you are changing something. You are changing a mentality. But you have to fight for it. INHABITAT: Last year the China Forum of Environmental Journalists suggested that the Smog Free Tower in Beijing wasn’t doing its job effectively. What do you think of their findings? ROOSEGAARDE: I read that. It’s quite difficult, because I’ve never met the people, and I’m curious what they based on findings on. I think it’s really good people are engaged with the project, and are thinking about it, and are discussing it: what should be, what shouldn’t it be; so I think that’s positive. We knew the tower worked, and we now have the scientific data to back us up. And yeah, let’s keep on pushing what is possible. But basically, the idea is very simple: build the largest vacuum cleaner in the world, so of course it works. I find it hard to grasp how it could not work. What I think is, everybody has opinions, but let’s work at proposals. INHABITAT: Based on discussions around the tower, do you think you’ll change the design of the tower at all or do you think it’s working well for the goal you have for it? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re not changing the design of the tower. Why would I? No, we’re going to keep it like this. The name and design are going to stay like this. I think maybe in the future, I’ll have some new ideas. We want to make it run on solar panels , that’s an important one. And we’re designing bigger versions for larger public spaces. There will be new versions, but this one that we have is perfectly fine. The design is based on Chinese pagodas, Chinese temples. So there’s also this history element in it, and the Chinese love it. When they visit here they lovingly call it the Clean Air Temple. But I think your question is valid. One tower will of course not the solve the whole problem of a city, that is very clear. I think the goal is to create these local clean air parks, and at the same time educate people, to say hey, what do we need to do to make the whole city smog free? There’s a lot of work to be done. We shouldn’t wait for government. We shouldn’t wait for anyone. INHABITAT: You’ve devoted a lot of creative energy to smog and pollution in the last few years. But recently you’ve turned your attention to space trash. Why do you think this is a serious issue, and how can design help solve the problem? ROOSEGAARDE: When you start something new, you always start as an amateur. You start to read, to learn, to talk with the experts. Now I can say I’m an expert in smog after three years, which is great, but it’s always nice to be an amateur again. So now I’m an amateur in space waste . There are millions of particles floating caused by satellites crashing. And it’s a big problem, because if particles like these hit an existing satellite, the satellite goes down, and no more Facebook, no more Inhabitat, no more mobile banking, and nobody really knows how to clean it. And it’s going to get worse. If we continue like this for the coming five to 10 years there will be so much pollution we won’t even be able to launch missiles anymore because they’ll be damaged by particles. Space is endless, and then we have planet Earth floating here, and somehow we were able to trap ourselves in a layer of space pollution. How are we going to explain that to our grandchildren? That’s insane. So what the Smog Free Ring is for Beijing, and what the Smog Free Tower is for China, can we apply that thinking to space waste? I don’t know how and what or when. I’ve had several sessions with space scientists. It is a problem, and somebody needs to fix it. And that’s been fascinating. So that’s the next adventure. For me, a project like this not just about technology or ideology. I’m a trained artist, so for me it’s about the notion of beauty, or of schoonheid. “Schoonheid” is a very typical Dutch word that has two meanings. One is like the beauty of a painting that you look at and then get inspired. But it also means cleanness, like clean energy, clean water, clean air. That element of schoonheid is what I’m striving for. When we design cities or a product or a car or a landscape, schoonheid should be part of the DNA, and we should really start making places which are good for people. This is the big idea we’re aiming for, and in a way all the projects we’ve been talking about are sort of prototypes or examples. INHABITAT: Your work often explores relationships between humans and technology, but you have also been critical of all the time we spend in front of screens. How would you describe a healthy relationship with technology? ROOSEGAARDE: I think it’s bizarre that we’re feeding into our emotions, our hopes, and dreams into these computer screens. We’re feeding this virtual cloud: Facebook, Twitter. And somehow our physical world is almost disconnected from creative or innovative thinking. Most of the physical places are suffering from pollution, floods, you name it. And that’s sort of weird. Our ideas, our money, our focus is online. I would love to connect these worlds again, the virtual and the analog and really say, “Hey, how can we use technology—and design, and creative thinking—to improve life and make places which are good for people again?” Is it George Orwell, are we reducing human activity, or is it Leonardo Da Vinci, where we enhance ourselves as human beings via technology? If you read like Bruce Sterling or Kevin Kelly, they have been talking about that for many years, which I really, really like. And I hope that the prototypes or projects I’ve made somehow contribute to that way of thinking, of enhancing yourself and exploring yourself. At the World Economic Forum, they had Top 10 Skills research about the future skills you and I need to become successful. Number three is creativity, number two critical thinking, and number one is complex problem solving. What I think will happen is that as we live in a hyper-technological world, our human skills: our desire for knowledge, our desire for beauty, our desire for empathy, and our desire for interaction, will become even more important because that is something robots and computers cannot copy or do for us. I believe we will have a renaissance of the arts and sciences . I hope again that the things I do contribute to that trajectory. INHABITAT What are three major things you’d change in today’s cities to make them more sustainable? ROOSEGAARDE: I think I mentioned it with schoonheid: clean energy , clean water, clean air. And maybe the notion of circular: food  should not be wasted but become food for the other. Most of all I hope it’s a city which triggers me, where I feel like a citizen and not just a taxpayer. I’ve been thinking of Marshall McLuhan in the past few weeks. In Vancouver, I gave a TED talk, and quoted McLuhan who said “On spacecraft Earth there are no passengers; we are all crew.” We’re makers; we’re not just consumers. And so how can we make landscapes which trigger that kind of mentality? That’s what wakes me up every day at 6:30. And again, my designs are in that way not just designs or art installations but really very concrete proposals of how I want the future to look like. It’s been great to work with designers, experts, and engineers to make it happen. I think that’s good to mention because sometimes the focus is a bit too much on me, but we have a great studio in Rotterdam where 16 people are working really, really hard every day, and without them I could never make it happen. INHABITAT: What’s next? Do you have any plans for future projects in the works? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re working on the redesign of Afsluitdijk Dike, it’s a famous 32-kilometer dam in the Netherlands that protects us from drowning and dying. What you should know is dikes in the Netherlands are as holy as cows are in India. Now after almost 80 years the dike is in need of renovation, and the minister of infrastructure , Melanie Schultz, commissioned my studio to enhance the iconic value of that dike. And that’s going to be great. We’re going to make kites in the air, which connected with a cable generate electricity. We’re working with light-emitting algae. We’re launching three more new projects in September, October, and November of this year. + Studio Roosegaarde Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

Passive solar home built of recycled natural materials "floats in the Australian bush

May 22, 2017 by  
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At first glance, the delightfully sinuous roof that tops the Lauriston house makes the building look more like sculpture than a home in the Australian bush. But a closer look reveals that the building truly is a welcoming retreat meticulously detailed with the luxurious comforts of home and more. Designed by Seeley Architects , the Lauriston house is a beautiful dwelling that embraces the outdoors as well as passive solar principles for an environmentally friendly footprint. Designed for a client who sought intimacy with the outdoors, the 380-square-meter Lauriston house’s rectangular volume is predominately covered in floor-to-ceiling glazing to overlook the landscape of olive groves and gum trees. To protect the glass home from the elements, the architects carefully sited the building and topped it with an undulating roof that protects against rain and sun. The roof’s wavy shape also references the hilly landscape near Kyneton, Victoria. “The geometrically aligned rows of olive trees set against a voluptuous landscape evoke a quiet, unspoken tension,” wrote the architects, referencing the contrast between the indigenous flora and the structured olive groves. “The house mimics this tension with the relationship of a meticulously detailed and structured frame against a seemingly effortless floating, sinuous roof.” The building’s glazed form is given a heightened sense of lightness with its bold cantilever . Related: Solar-powered Bush House exemplifies chic eco-friendly living in the Australian outback Local natural materials and textures give the home a sense of warmth, from the Messmate timber lining to the colonial-inspired French pattern bluestone. The interior is organized around a centrally located alfresco entrance that separates the private areas on the east end from the public spaces to the west. The open-plan living and dining area opens up to the cantilevered deck with stunning landscape views of hills, dams, and olive groves. The home’s integration of passive solar principles and rainwater capture systems ensures a lower energy footprint. + Seeley Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Peter Hyatt

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Passive solar home built of recycled natural materials "floats in the Australian bush

Solar prices in India dip below coal

May 19, 2017 by  
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Solar power is soaring in India as prices plummet. A recent auction for 500 megawatts (MW) of capacity at Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan saw a record-low tariff of 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – that’s around four cents in dollars. Solar tariffs have fallen by more than 25 percent in the past three months. But this isn’t all good news; some experts worry that as tariffs get so low, many solar projects in India could become unviable. The Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy announced the incredibly low tariff in a May 12 press release , describing the moment as history in the making. The figure beats out coal prices: India’s biggest power company NTPC sells electricity from coal-fired plants at 3.20 rupees per kWh. The country is set to become the world’s third biggest solar market this year as capacity hits 8.8 gigawatts, which is a 76 percent increase over the year before. Consulting firm Ernst & Young said the country has the second best market on Earth for renewable energy investments. Related: India doubles down on solar power with huge park capacity increase But Quartz India said they aren’t all celebrating in the solar sector. The industry is seeing cutthroat competition; around 33 groups participated in an April auction for 750 MW of capacity at Bhadla. Such reverse auction processes – where sellers try to underbid each other for the work – lowers tariffs more. One problem with super low tariffs is at a certain point developers won’t make a profit. Quartz India spoke with Reliance Securities senior analyst Rupesh Sankhe who said if a developer hopes for a return on investment of 14 percent, solar tariffs should be between 4.5 and five rupees per kWh. He told Quartz India if the tariff dips below three rupees per kWh, “the return will be zero. No matter what they do, they won’t make profits.” Some companies may not be taking into account risks like grid curtailment, or times when power-generating units aren’t allowed to send electricity to the grid. And as more renewable energy goes on grid, in line with India’s goals, some companies may not end up making the money they expected. Via Quartz India Images via Wikimedia Commons and Ajay Tallam on Flickr

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