MVRDV designs a sustainable urban living room for Shenzhen

March 27, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has unveiled its competition-winning designs for the Shimao ShenKong International Centre, a new “three-dimensional urban living room” for the heart of Shenzhen’s Longgang district. Selected from nearly 30 competition entries, the winning proposal, also known as the Shenzhen Terraces, will introduce over 20 programs to a thriving university neighborhood. The project also focuses on sustainability and will integrate passive design principles, native landscaping, recycled materials and solar panels.  Named after its architecture of stacked plateaus, the Shenzhen Terraces project references forms of the nearby mountains while its predominately horizontal lines and curvaceous shapes provide a visual contrast with the vertical lines and hard edges of the surrounding high-rises. The terraced design also creates opportunities for large overhangs to mitigate solar gain as well as spacious terraces filled with plants and water basins for cooling microclimates . Bridge elements link various buildings to create a continuous elevated route.  Related: ZHA unveils LEED Gold-targeted OPPO headquarters in Shenzhen “ Shenzhen has developed so quickly since its origins in the 1970s,” said Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “In cities like this, it is essential to carefully consider how public spaces and natural landscape can be integrated into the densifying cityscape. The urban living room of the Shimao ShenKong International Centre will be a wonderful example of this, and could become a model for the creation of key public spaces in New Town developments throughout Shenzhen. It aims to make an area that you want be outside, hang out and meet, even when it is hot — a literally cool space for the university district, where all communication space can be outside. It will truly be a public building.” As a sustainable hub, the 101,300-square-meter Shenzhen Terraces will be home to a pedestrian-friendly landscape, a bus terminal and a mixture of functions — such as an art gallery, library, conference center and outdoor theater — conveniently placed near high-rise housing, commercial complexes and educational facilities. The landscaping, designed in collaboration with Openfabric, will mimic the curvaceous architecture and will feature native sub-tropical plants and recreation zones.  + MVRDV Images by Atchain via MVRDV

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MVRDV designs a sustainable urban living room for Shenzhen

Scientists get closer to artificial photosynthesis for renewable energy

March 26, 2020 by  
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Scientists at Berkeley Lab are getting close to a long-held goal of using artificial photosynthesis to generate renewable energy from the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. If produced in large enough quantities, the energy created from artificial photosynthesis could be a huge step to slowing climate change. Photosynthesis is the chemical reaction by which algae and green plants turn carbon dioxide into cellular fuel. Scientists at Berkeley have designed square solar fuel tiles containing billions of nanoscale tubes between two pieces of thin, flexible silicate. These squares will comprise the new artificial photosynthesis system. Related: New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel The Berkeley scientists recently published a paper in Advanced Functional Materials explaining how their design “allows for the rapid flow of protons from the interior space of the tube, where they are generated from splitting water molecules, to the outside, where they combine with CO2 and electrons to form the fuel.” So far, the scientists have managed to produce carbon monoxide as the fuel but are trying for methanol. “There are two challenges that have not yet been met,” said senior scientist Heinz Frei in a press release from Berkeley Lab . “One of them is scalability. If we want to keep fossil fuels in the ground, we need to be able to make energy in terawatts — an enormous amount of fuel. And, you need to make a liquid hydrocarbon fuel so that we can actually use it with the trillions of dollars’ worth of existing infrastructure and technology.” Once the scientists are satisfied with their model, they should be able to quickly build a solar fuel farm out of the tiles, which measure a few inches across. “We, as basic scientists, need to deliver a tile that works, with all questions about its performance settled,” Frei said. “And engineers in industry know how to connect these tiles. When we’ve figured out square inches, they’ll be able to make square miles.” + Berkeley Lab Images via Andreas Senftleben

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Scientists get closer to artificial photosynthesis for renewable energy

Open-source CURA to turn shipping containers into emergency COVID-19 units

March 26, 2020 by  
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Hospitals overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic could find a much-needed capacity lifeline in retrofitted shipping containers. An international task force, comprised of designers, engineers, medical professionals and military experts, has unveiled designs to convert shipping containers into plug-in Intensive-Care Pods as part of an open-source design dubbed CURA (Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments). The first CURA biocontainment pod prototype is currently being built in Milan, Italy. Designed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) in collaboration with an interdisciplinary group of professionals, CURA was developed with an open-source, non-profit framework with the support of the World Economic Forum. For quick deployment, the plug-in units will be repurposed from 20-foot-long shipping containers that can be easily transported anywhere around the world using existing transportation infrastructure. According to the designers, CURA “could be as fast to mount as a hospital tent, but as safe as an isolation ward, thanks to biocontainment with negative pressure” created from an extractor that complies with the standards of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIRs).  Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous Cargotecture also offers the benefit of modularity . Individual pods work autonomously but can also be joined together with inflatable structures to create multiple configurations ranging from four beds to over 40 beds. The flexible design allows pods to be installed in close proximity to the hospitals in areas such as parking lots or as standalone, makeshift emergency hospitals in open fields and town squares. As a ready-to-use solution, each CURA pod is equipped with all the medical equipment needed for two COVID-19 intensive-care patients — including ventilators and intravenous fluid strands — before deployment. The first CURA prototype is currently being built for testing at a Milan hospital. The open-source project is sponsored by European Bank UniCredit and invites suggestions and improvements on CURApods.org . + Carlo Ratti Associati Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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Open-source CURA to turn shipping containers into emergency COVID-19 units

Green-roofed Honey Bee Research Centre targets LEED Gold

March 25, 2020 by  
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Toronto-based architecture firm Moriyama & Teshima Architects has unveiled renderings for the new Honey Bee Research Centre, a state-of-the-art research and education facility for promoting honeybee health and awareness that’s slated for completion next month. Developed for the University of Guelph, Ontario College of Architecture, the new center will not only host scholars and researchers, but also welcome visitors of all ages from around the world to its multifunctional Discovery and Learning Space. The project’s mass-timber architecture is reflective of its sustainable mission and will target LEED Gold certification. The Honey Bee Research Centre (HBRC) spans 19,200 square feet to include research and events programming both inside and out. The building will seamlessly blend into its natural landscape with an accessible green roof featuring a trail that leads to an Interpretative Tower, a public space that doubles as a solar chimney. Inside, the adaptable building will emphasize flexibility to adjust to the needs of the center for years to come.  Related: Urban Beehive Project creates a buzz around honeybee education “Designed to high energy performance and LEED Gold standards, the mass timber HBRC will be a demonstration of sustainability, reinforcing the importance of climate change and its relationship to the vital role of honey bee health and well-being,” the architects explained. “The facility will utilize passive design techniques and features such as natural ventilation, a high performance envelope and mechanical systems, and landscape features such as rain gardens and a green roof system.” As a research center and home for honeybees , HBRC will host working hives and agricultural plots. To further the notion of a “productive and social landscape,” both the rooftop and surrounding grounds will be planted with pollinator-friendly flora and edible gardens to sustain “Pollinator Pathways” for local species such as bees, butterflies, birds and more, while providing attractive gathering spaces for employees and visitors alike. + Moriyama & Teshima Architects Images via Moriyama & Teshima Architects

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Green-roofed Honey Bee Research Centre targets LEED Gold

New Santa Monica City Services Building will produce more energy than it uses

March 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The City of Santa Monica will soon welcome a new civic building that will not only bring the various municipal departments scattered throughout the city under one roof but will also fulfill the Living Building Challenge — making it the largest civic building of its kind to meet the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive green building standards. Designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners , the building will be a model for self-sufficiency and ecological resilience by producing more energy than it uses. Scheduled to open to the public in April 2020, the 50,200-square-foot Santa Monica Services Building was designed to surpass “even the highest LEED certification requirements,” according to its press release. To meet those ambitious standards, the civic building follows passive solar principles and is equipped with numerous energy-saving and -producing systems, such as a series of photovoltaic arrays throughout the structure that total nearly 15,000 square feet, composting facilities and a rainwater recycling system. The building is the first structure in California to be granted the rights to convert rain to potable water onsite. Related: The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the world’s greenest buildings The glass that surrounds the building aids in natural daylighting while also symbolizing its civic commitment toward government transparency. Its simple, rectilinear form also complements the original Art Deco design of the historic Santa Monica City Hall, which is connected to the new building via a courtyard. In addition to serving as a landmark structure for environmental sustainability, the Santa Monica City Services Building also champions financial sustainability. The building, which is planned to have a 100-year lifespan, is expected to cost less than the projected cost of the private commercial lease agreements that had previously housed the disjointed city agencies around Santa Monica within 30 years. The building was created in collaboration with BuroHappold Engineering and general contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company. + Frederick Fisher and Partners Photography by Takashige Ikawa, renderings by Frederick Fisher and Partners

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New Santa Monica City Services Building will produce more energy than it uses

UN releases World Water Development Report 2020

March 23, 2020 by  
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Climate change further challenges the world’s overstretched water resources, ultimately threatening all aspects of human life, according to the latest UN World Water Development Report. Most human needs revolve around water, so energy production, industrial development, food security, human and animal health and housing are also vulnerable to climate change impacts. The report states that the reliability of available water will decrease as the climate becomes more variable, amplifying floods, droughts and other water-related problems. Places already stressed from insufficient water sources will suffer more, while places that have so far been unaffected will feel the pain, too. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Over the last century, global water use has increased by a factor of six. Between population increase, economic development and explosive human consumption, this growth continues at about 1% per year. Groundwater depletion doubled from 1960 to 2000. Some experts predict that 40% of the world will face a water deficit by 2030. “If we are serious about limiting global temperature increases to below 2°C and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must act immediately,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, chair of UN Water. “There are solutions for managing water and climate in a more coordinated manner and every sector of society has a role to play. We simply cannot afford to wait.” The UN report acknowledges that while most countries recognize water as a crucial issue, few have specific action plans about adapting policies to protect this resource. The report suggests that climate change funds be used more for adaptation and mitigation of water issues. Adaptation includes social and institutional measures, plus natural, technological and technical steps to lessen climate change-related damage. Mitigation refers to the actions humans must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wastewater treatment generates a high amount of emissions. Some countries — such as Peru, Mexico , Thailand and Jordan — have already harnessed the methane in untreated wastewater as biogas, which provides enough energy to run the treatment process. The UN report also mentions wetland protection, conservation agriculture techniques, reusing partially treated wastewater for industry and agriculture and fog capture as possible water management interventions. + UN World Water Development Report 2020 Image via Alex Hu

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UN releases World Water Development Report 2020

Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

March 18, 2020 by  
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According to the World Air Quality Index of 2019, the city of Bangkok suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution most of the year. In a bid to raise awareness about air quality and the urban heat island effect, Thai design collective Shma Company created Safezone Shelter, an ephemeral pavilion filled with air purifying plants and technology to create a welcoming gathering space for passersby. Shaped like a cloud, the sculptural intervention was briefly installed in front of the Grand Postal Building during Bangkok Design Week 2020.  In contrast to the brutalist architecture of the Grand Postal Building, the 150-square-meter Safezone Shelter features a futuristic, organic shape with a white nylon covering to evoke the appearance of a cloud. The white textile allows light to diffuse through while hiding the interior from outside views. Inside, the designers created an unexpected oasis filled with tropical plants, informational signage and seating, which also includes part of the postal building’s steps.  Related: Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhi’s air pollution To create a cooling microclimate, the designers engineered the pavilion to pull in hot, polluted air with fans and pass it through dense vegetation to capture dust particles. This “pre-filtered wind” is then passed through a dust filter plate and a cooling plate to purify the air . In addition to the cool air flow generated by fans, the trees, shrubs and ground cover help keep the pavilion’s interior temperatures to between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidifier maintains humidity levels of 50% to 70%. Recorded nature sounds, such as the sounds of water and birds, are also played inside the space. “All of these inventive methods could further be applied to solve air pollution in other kinds of design,” the designers explained. “Looking wider at an urban scale, bus stops, recreational space under expressways and skywalks also have a potential to be revitalized with such purification systems. At the end, even high-rise buildings might become old-fashioned when a better choice like an air purifier tower could be constructed.” Safezone Shelter was put on display from December 2019 to February 2020.  + Shma Company Images via Shma

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Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

March 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

I’ve been vegetarian since childhood and have met people with many different takes on a healthy plant-based diet. The raw foodists I’ve encountered have blown me away with the innovation it takes to come up with a menu beyond salad while limiting cooking temperatures to no more than 118 degrees. The raw food philosophy is that heat breaks down food’s nutritional value, while low temperatures allow food to retain enzymes and vitamins, leading to the body’s ability to prevent and fight disease and generally thrive. So when Theresa Keane, co-owner of Pixie Retreat , invited me to tour her Portland, Oregon raw food kitchen, I was intrigued. Her team produces a full vegan, organic , gluten-free and mostly raw menu on a commercial scale. Not only do they supply Pixie Retreat’s three Portland retail locations, they’ve also started wholesaling to local stores. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at a commercial raw food kitchen. The early years Pixie Retreat was built on a dream and a lot of hard work, trial and error. Keane co-founded the business with Willow O’Brien in 2008. At the time, they wanted to make and sell healthful and delicious food , but were new to the dining business. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Keane said. “We never worked in kitchens, Willow and I. She didn’t even know how to make food. She made tea and stuff like that.” They started out sharing a commissary kitchen with other vegan businesses. That’s where they met Anna Clark, who later became their third business partner. Clark, a pastry chef, was the only one with formal culinary training. After 9 months in the commissary kitchen, they rented a house and ran Pixie Retreat out of it, working late into the night while filling wholesale orders. Keane described a time when an engineer acquaintance stopped by. Their setup left him shocked. “We had eight refrigerators, freezers, 20 dehydrators,” Keane said. “He said it’s amazing you don’t burn this house down. Every night, the power would trip off. We couldn’t even turn the heat on because it would trip the power.” A spotless, modern raw food kitchen They’ve come a long way. Now headquartered in Southeast Portland’s industrial district, the Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery is both a retail outlet and the site of their commercial kitchen. The small front part has a seating area and a case of premade wraps and goodies. “We’re grab-and-go style, because that’s how people are living,” Keane said. “We’re not a sit down-like service restaurant . We’re into flavor, satisfaction and integrity of our ingredients. Plating is not my forte.” Customers can also custom-order kale- or millet-based bowls and coconut cream puddings with toppings. The millet is one of several cooked ingredients available. A big white curtain hangs behind the counter, obscuring the kitchen. “That’s more for health department reasons,” Keane said, indicating the curtain. “And to protect the magic back there.” We step through the curtain and find three workers preparing food in an extremely well-organized kitchen. It’s Thursday, one of the big assembly days for delivering to the two other Pixie Retreat outlets. Tacked up on the door of the walk-in dehydrator are long to-do lists for each day of the week. Keane introduced me to her staff and to each machine, many of which were specially made or adapted to the needs of a mostly raw food kitchen. The walk-in dehydration room is the most exciting and unusual. Keane opened the door, releasing a smoky smell. Inside are trays and trays of eggplant bacon strips, which stay in there for 72 hours. Pixie Retreat bought the dehydrator from a former kale chip entrepreneur who devised tools to streamline raw food making. Keane estimated the walk-in dehydrator is 75% more efficient than the company’s former multiple-dehydrator setup. Pixie Retreat has a Robot Coupe Blixer, which is an industrial-strength food processor. “This tool is a game changer,” Keane said. “I mean, it’s expensive like a car, but it paid for itself in labor. I love this tool so much.” The company uses it to blend ingredients for pizza dough, macadamia nut cheese and raw onion bread. Pixie Retreat makes raw chocolate in its chocolate machine, melting it down at a temperature of 108. The chocolate winds up in treats like chocolate salted “karmals”, “almond butta cups” and dehydrated, oat-based chocolate chip cookies. Other interesting tools include an Italian fruit press repurposed for squeezing excess moisture out of sauerkraut and a specially made enormous cookie-cutter to cut onion bread into uniform squares while minimizing waste . Raw and vegan at home The Pixie Retreat kitchen is cool but daunting. What about the average person who wants to add more raw food into their diet without shelling out for a Blixer? “Make nut milk ,” Keane said. “That’s where I would start.” You’ll need a nut milk bag, available online or in some grocery stores’ produce departments. She recommended starting with hazelnuts or almonds. For flavor and sweetness, add sea salt, vanilla and a Medjool date. Put it all in your blender. “Kick it up on high. Blend it. Then you put it in the nut milk bag and you squeeze it out.” Dry out the pulp and use it as a nut flour for baked goods. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative After you master nut milk, try making nut cheese. Keane recommended blending buttery macadamia nuts with water, Italian seasoning, lemon juice and sea salt for a plant-based ricotta. Going national Pixie Retreat scaled back from wholesale for a while to focus on retail locations. But it has just relaunched, selling chocolate “karmal”, salted “karmal” and raspberry “l’il puddin” at New Seasons stores in Portland. Made with organic young coconut meat and Irish moss, these raw desserts are packed with nutrients . Soon, Pixie Retreat plans to introduce nationwide cold shipping of the “l’il puddin’”. Currently, customers across the U.S. can order sweet or savory Pixie snack boxes . But Pixie Retreat’s goals go far beyond Portland or even the U.S. When I asked Keane about the company vision, she immediately said, “Global. That’s the dream. We want to be the fast food of the future.” + Pixie Retreat Images via Josh Chang and Marielle Dezurick / Pixie Retreat and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

A sculptural office crowns the solar-powered Stellar building in India

March 17, 2020 by  
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Following four years of design and construction, Mumbai-based design studio Sanjay Puri Architects recently completed Stellar, a solar-powered commercial building in Ahmedabad, India. The building features a striking sculptural office on its northwest side. Constructed with rust-red colored aluminum sheets, the angular office is a focal point for not only the 110-meter-long building but also for the bustling intersection where the building is located. To mitigate the city’s temperatures, which rise to an excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit for eight months of the year, Stellar features a series of terraces that deflect solar gain. Spanning an area of 18,580 square meters, the multistory building houses retail on its lower three levels and office spaces on the upper four levels. About one-third of the offices open onto landscaped terraces and are set back from the building perimeter to take advantage of solar shading. The terraces are connected to a rainwater harvesting tank that stores runoff for reuse. Solar panels have also been installed on the terraces to harness renewable energy . Related: Sculptural, energy-saving office boasts the “smartest building advances in Germany” The crowning distinction of Stellar is the 500-square-meter office on the building’s northwest side. Surrounded by a spacious, north-facing outdoor terrace, the eye-catching office is wrapped in angular aluminum sheets strategically placed to protect the windows from the sun. Small triangular perforations along the sides of select panels also allow natural light to pass through into the office during the day and are backlit at night to give the office a beautiful, glowing effect. “This office space is deliberately designed to contrast with the rest of the building, creating an interesting juxtaposition of color, volume and geometry in addition to creating an individual identity based upon the brief,” the architects explained. “The simple rectilinear geometry with muted color tones and the complex angular geometry awash with color contrast to create a unique composition.” + Sanjay Puri Architects Photography by Abhishek Shah via Sanjay Puri Architects

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A sculptural office crowns the solar-powered Stellar building in India

Researchers convert durian and jackfruit biowaste into ultracapacitors

March 10, 2020 by  
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Durian fruit is notable for its funky stench, making it a rather malodorous waste when it is discarded. But a new study from Australia’s University of Sydney, published in the Journal of Energy Storage , focused on recycling durian waste into an affordable, sustainable source of energy storage to counteract global warming. How? The researchers have discovered a way to create ultracapacitors from durian and its related jackfruit cousin. Who knew that putrid-smelling biowaste could pack an electrical punch? “Super-capacitors are like energy reservoirs that dole out energy smoothly. They can quickly store large amounts of energy within a small battery-sized device and then supply energy to charge electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, within a few seconds,” explained associate professor Vincent Gomes. “Using durian and jackfruit purchased from a market, we converted the fruits’ waste portions (biomass) into super-capacitors that can be used to store electricity efficiently.” Related: New technological process transforms everyday trash into graphene As TreeHugger reported, the waste biomass of durian and jackfruit are “converted into a carbon aerogel using non-toxic methods.” These aerogels are then leveraged and converted into electrodes, “which are tested for their energy storage properties.” Interestingly, these durian- and jackfruit-derived electrodes “demonstrate outstanding performance, making them a green, low-cost energy solution for charging phones, laptops and tablets.” When compared to what’s currently on the market, the electrodes developed from durian and jackfruit have proven to be a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional ultracapacitors derived from activated carbon. “The durian and jackfruit super-capacitors perform much better than the materials currently in use and are comparable, if not better, than the expensive and exotic graphene -based materials,” Gomes said. “We have reached a point where we must urgently discover and produce ways to create and store energy using sustainably sourced materials that do not contribute to global warming.” + Journal of Energy Storage Via TreeHugger Image via Jonny Clow

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Researchers convert durian and jackfruit biowaste into ultracapacitors

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