China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

May 26, 2017 by  
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Around one fifth of arable land in China is contaminated with levels of toxins greater than government standards, according to 2014 data. That’s around half the size of California, and it’s a growing problem for a country that faces such levels of pollution they had to import $31.2 billion of soybeans in 2015 – a 43 percent increase since 2008. Scientists and entrepreneurs are working to come up with answers to growing edible food in a polluted environment, and shipping container farms or vertical gardening could offer answers. The toxins in China’s environment have made their way into the country’s food supply. In 2013, the Guangdong province government said 44 percent of rice sampled in their region contained excessive cadmium. Around 14 percent of domestic grain contains heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, according to research from scientists in 2015. Related: Arctic town grows fresh produce in shipping container vertical garden Could shipping container farms offer a way around this contamination? Beijing startup Alesca Life Technologies is testing them out. They turn retrofitted shipping containers into gardens filled to the brim with arugula, peas, kale, and mustard greens, and monitor conditions remotely via an app. They’ve already been able to sell smaller portable versions of the gardens to a division of a group managing luxury hotels in Beijing and the Dubai royal family. Alesca Life co-founder Stuart Oda told Bloomberg, “ Agriculture has not really innovated materially in the past 10,000 years. The future of farming – to us – is urban .” And they’re not alone in their innovation. Scientist Yang Qichang of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is experimenting with a crop laboratory, testing which light from the visible light spectrum both helps plants flourish and uses little energy . His self-contained, vertical system already yields between 40 and 100 times more produce than an open field of similar size. He told Bloomberg, “Using vertical agriculture, we don’t need to use pesticides and we can use less chemical fertilizers – and produce safe food.” Via Bloomberg Images via Alesca Life Technologies

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China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

May 26, 2017 by  
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Smart adaptive reuse can do wonders with old, abandoned and disused buildings. Dutch firm Atelier Space breathed new life into this 1925 nursery in Leiden, the Netherlands by converting it into a beautiful, daylit residence with amenities, technology and polish worthy of a modern urban home. The architects preserved much of the original 1925 nursery, turned the former gym into an airy, open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area. They also divided a large classroom into three separate bedrooms. Related: Patalab Architects transform dank mechanics garage into light-filled London home The entire residence features 13-foot-high ceilings with restored skylights and windows that bring natural light into the interior. A guesthouse occupies the floor above the living room, and the toilet, technical area, and storage room are all placed on one side. The converted schoolhouse also includes sustainable design features such as rooftop solar panels , improved building insulation, and centrally controlled lighting, climate, shading and security systems that allow occupants to control every aspect the interior environment. To top it all off, a heat pump heats and cools the house. + Atelier Space Via Curbed Photos by Brigitte Kroone

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Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

Student-designed car could cross almost the entire U.S. on one gallon of gas

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Engineering students at Quebec’s Université Laval just designed a gas-fueled car so efficient , you could travel further than the distance between Atlanta, Georgia and Seattle, Washington on a single gallon of gasoline . The students just won the Shell Eco-marathon Americas contest for internal combustion engine cars with their vehicle, the Alérion Supermileage car, which gets 2,713.1 miles per gallon of gasoline. Every year students battle it out in the Shell contest for fuel-efficient vehicles, and this isn’t the first time Université Laval students have snagged the prize. They’ve won seven of the competitions in 10 years. They beat out 30 vehicles designed by students. Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high There’s a lot about the winning car that’s secret; the team wants to keep a competitive edge in the contest. But we do know the car seats one person. A former winning entry from Université Laval incorporated a Briggs & Stratton single cylinder 3.5 horsepower engine, although the team reportedly made a lot of changes to the engine in their recent winning vehicle. Thin tires helped minimize surface area contact, and a carbon fiber body kept the car lightweight. HowStuffWorks explained supermileage vehicles can also obtain all their mileage through a car body stripped down to only the elements necessary for speed and safety, as well as aerodynamic design. The front area of the Alérion Supermileage is small to reduce wind resistance. More than 100 student teams participated in the competition, entering their designs under different categories. There are two vehicle classes: UrbanConcept cars are designed to provide an answer to real-life road needs, while Prototype cars are more futuristic and streamlined; you probably won’t see them on highways any time soon. The Université Laval winning car was classified as a Prototype car in the internal combustion category (other categories include battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell ). Via HowStuffWorks , Shell , and Université Laval Images via Shell

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Student-designed car could cross almost the entire U.S. on one gallon of gas

Tiny house startup Getaway to launch off-grid tiny homes in NYC this weekend

May 26, 2017 by  
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For New Yorkers who aren’t able to make it out of the hot city this summer, a few off-grid retreats will be popping up in NYC. Starting this Memorial Day, tiny home startup Getaway will launch three of their compact cabins on the shoreline of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Getaway at Gateway will provide lucky guests with all of the comforts of off-grid living – without even leaving the city! Getaway cabins are furnished tiny homes that are normally located in a remote wilderness setting about two hours away from either Boston or New York. Following the company’s ethic of “less is more,” they’re designed to be completely off-grid for those looking to get away from the chaos of their daily lives. Related: MUJI to sell eagerly awaited $27k minimalist tiny homes this fall Perfect for a romantic getaway, writer’s retreat , or just a complete do-nothing weekend, the cabins have all the basic necessities – a comfy queen bed, full kitchen, bathroom, and heating. Instead of receiving a Wi-Fi password upon check in, guests will find board games and books to pass the time. Each cabin also comes with a guide with helpful tips for off-grid living such as knot tying, stargazing, and fire building. The off-grid cabins , which typically run about 160 to 200 square feet, were designed by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The subsequent startup named Getaway received a whopping $15 million in funding earlier this year. This summer’s popup event will be a first for the company and will run from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Reservations can be made at Getaway at Gateway . + Getaway at Gateway Photography by Sarah Ruehlow, Ball and Albanese and Roderick Aichinger

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Tiny house startup Getaway to launch off-grid tiny homes in NYC this weekend

Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

May 26, 2017 by  
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A previously undetected layer of tectonic plates may offer answers to the mysterious Vityaz earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean . Researchers recently presented their preliminary findings on an additional layer of tectonic plates in Earth’s mantle at a joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the Japan Geoscience Union in Tokyo. These plates might have moved into the mantle millions of years ago. Scientists have known for over 50 years that continents slowly move around Earth, and the ocean floor rips apart as they do. Magma from the Earth’s mantle fills these gaps. But when tectonic plates converge, subduction, or the process of one plate edge moving down into the mantle, occurs. Scientist Johnny Wu of the University of Houston shared new evidence of a layer of tectonic plates that long ago subducted into the mantle. Related: Newly discovered link between two faults could lead to a much bigger San Francisco earthquake The recently discovered tectonic plates are in the mantle’s so-called transition zone, around 273 to 410 miles under the surface in the Tonga area. The plates move horizontally nearly as fast as plates do at the surface, and breaks and bends in these newly found plates can lead to earthquakes. Seismology advances helped make the find possible. Scientists are now able to make pictures of the interior of the planet utilizing vibrations from natural earthquakes. Wu put it this way: “Think of Hubble . We look out, and the further we look out the more things we discover, not just about the universe – we’re actually looking back in time. And this new seismology is like turning the Hubble to look into the Earth , because as we look deeper and get clearer images, we can see what the Earth might have looked like further and further back in time.” Another scientist from the University of Houston, one from the China Earthquake Administration , and a fourth from the University of Utah were also part of the research , which was presented at the meeting on Tuesday. The findings haven’t been peer reviewed yet, but could change the way scientists look at plate movement. Via The Guardian Images via YXO on Flickr and Nguyen Tan Tin on Flickr

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Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

Envirohaven’s super green geodesic homes can be built in just a few days

May 26, 2017 by  
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Geodesic homes are extremely energy efficient – and they’re a great option for those looking to reduce their footprint while living off the grid. Nevada-based company, Envirohaven , is offering beautiful, custom-made “eco havens” that can be constructed virtually anywhere in just a few days. At 1,600 square feet, the prefab structures are not exactly “ tiny homes “, but their decagon shape only measures 32 feet across. The design is ultra-efficient, affordable, and can be custom made to suit individual tastes. For easy assembly, the structures come with a set of site-specific engineered plans that are guaranteed to qualify for local building permits. Related: Zendome: Gorgeous Geodesic Domes Create Flexible Green Spaces The homes can be built using 30 percent less materials than conventional structures of similar stature. Each home ordered comes standard with sustainable green windows , siding sheeting, and a waterproof coating. They can be equipped with solar panels on the roof as well. Due to the nature of the decagon design, which places the core of the home in the center, energy consumption is minimal. Heating and cooling the home requires minimal energy thanks to the close proximity of the rooms. According to the Environhaven team, an entire house can be heated with a just a simple pellet stove – even in extreme cold climates. The many windows also help provide optimal air circulation during the warmer months while filling the home with a natural light . + Environhaven

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Envirohaven’s super green geodesic homes can be built in just a few days

This Texas supermarket is growing its own veggies in a shipping container farm

May 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Green

A Texas chain of supermarkets isn’t just in the business of selling vegetables; it’s growing them, too. Based in Dallas, the H-E-B -owned Central Market has joined forces with Controlled Environment Agriculture Advisors , a self-described “horticulture disrupting” firm, to raise some of its produce in a custom-built onsite shipping container—a first for an American food retailer. The 53-foot-long “Growtainer” features 480 square feet of climate-controlled and food-compliant vertical space designed to achieve a higher yield in a shorter time than conventional methods, according to GreenTech Agro, the system’s manufacturer. Related: Belgian supermarket unveils plan to sell food grown on their own rooftop garden “We spent over a year discussing [Central Market’s] concerns and objectives, and when I was sure we were all on the same page, we began the design and manufacturing process,” said Glenn Behrman, founder of GreenTech Agro and CEA Advisors, in a statement. The miniature farm comes with a modular, self-contained series of LED-lit aluminum “ GrowRacks ” that supports any number of cultivation levels. Related: Pop-up shipping container farm puts a full acre of lettuce in your backyard It also offers an intelligent water-monitoring system, as well a zoned irrigation system that meets the needs of different varieties of produce at different stages of growth. The Growtainer is part of Central Market’s efforts to “produce the freshest, unique, gourmet leafy greens and herbs for Central Market customers at the retail level,” the supermarket said. The hyper-local vegetables are marketed under the label “Store-Grown Produce.” Related: Freight Farms are super efficient hydroponic farms built inside shipping containers “CEA Advisors is proud to be working with the Produce Team at Central Market, all committed to innovation and focused on food safety, unique products, and the customer experience,” Behrman added. + Central Market + Growtainer Via AndNowUKnow

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This Texas supermarket is growing its own veggies in a shipping container farm

Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

May 16, 2017 by  
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If President Donald Trump is waging a war on local farmworkers in California , he’s winning. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened up the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos to agriculture in March, and then this month when at least 50 laborers were exposed to the pesticide Vulcan, of which chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient, some of them vomited or fainted; one person had to go to the hospital. Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned under Barack Obama’s administration. But at the end of March , EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition that called for the ban. Then in Bakersfield, California a Sun Pacific farm sprayed Vulcan on their mandarin trees, and it drifted over to Dan Andrews Farms where workers harvesting cabbage began to feel sick. Grist said Kern County officials have not yet determined if chlorpyrifos was indeed present in the Vulcan sprayed, but both Grist and Kern Golden Empire described chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in Vulcan. EPA documents from February 2017 also listed chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient in Vulcan. Related: Trump’s EPA chief lifts ban on pesticide that poisons children 12 workers reported symptoms of nausea or vomiting. One person fainted and another went to the hospital. Kern Golden Empire reported 12 other laborers didn’t show systems, but that over half the workers had left before medical aid could arrive. Officials described Vulcan as highly toxic, and the Kern County Fire Department and Kern Country Environmental Health and Hazmat came to do a mass contamination of the area. Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson called for anyone exposed to seek out medical attention right away. So why, exactly, was chlorpyrifos not banned? Touting a return to sound science, Pruitt apparently didn’t think there was enough evidence to ban the pesticide, even though, according to Grist, multiple studies link exposure to the harmful chemical with lowered IQ in kids and neurological defects. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy director Sheryl Kunickis welcomed Pruitt’s decision. She said it was good news for consumers, meaning they’d have access to fruits and vegetables. Guess she forgot to mention chlorpyrifos could also send people to the hospital. Via Grist and Kern Golden Empire Images via Wikimedia Commons and Austin Valley on Flickr

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Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

Norwegian billionaire funds world’s largest yacht to scoop up plastic

May 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke has profited from offshore drilling . But now the businessman, who started as a fisherman, wants to give back with a colossal yacht for marine research . The vessel will be able to scoop up around five tons of plastic every day, and then melt it down – all in yet another private effort to help clean up the ocean . Røkke, who’s worth around $2.6 billion , owns almost 67 percent of shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate Aker ASA . But now he’s contracted a 595-foot Research Expedition Vessel (REV) to be built by VARD and designed by superyacht designer Espen Oeino . Scientists and marine researchers will be invited aboard to study and innovate around issues like climate change , overfishing, plastic pollution, and extraction, according to owner Rosellinis Four-10 , a subsidiary of the Røkke family company TRG. Related: The Ocean Cleanup raises $21.7 million to begin ridding the Pacific Ocean of plastic Rosellinis Four-10 will collaborate with none other than World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Norway , who will manage the ship. Aboard, scientists will have access to laboratory space, sea and air drones, an auditorium, two helipads, and an autonomous underwater vehicle. 60 scientists and 40 crew could travel aboard the immense ship. According to Yacht Harbour, the REV will be largest yacht in the world – it will narrowly beat out the 592-foot Azzam yacht rumored to be owned by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family. You may be wondering about the carbon footprint of such a massive ship. According to VARD , environmental performance was important in the vessel’s design. The REV will be equipped with an “energy recovery rudder system, medium speed engines, a direct drive diesel-electric propulsion system with battery package, and an exhaust cleaning system.” An energy management system will also help the crew lessen the REV’s carbon footprint. Røkke told Oslo’s Aftenposen publication, “I want to give back to society the bulk of what I’ve earned. This ship is a part of it…sea covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface and much is not researched.” He’s given WWF Norway total independence over the REV’s mission. WWF Norway Secretary General Nina Jensen told Aftenposten they may disagree over oil, and the organization is willing to challenge Røkke when they disagree, “but in this project we will meet to collectively make a big difference in the environmental struggle.” The REV should be ready to go around 2020. + Rosellinis Four-10 Via Time Money and Yacht Harbour Images via VARD

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Norwegian billionaire funds world’s largest yacht to scoop up plastic

HWKN unveils plans for a green-roofed business district in Munich

May 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Green

New York-based architecture firm Hollwich Kushner just released images of Die Macherei– their first European project– a mixed-use business district based in Munich, Germany. HWKN collaborated with German firms msm meyer schmitz-morkramer and OSA Ochs Schmidhuber Architekten to design the new financial hub that will bring together offices, retail and hospitality spaces. Art-Invest Real Estate and Accumulata Immobilien developed the new business district , which will total 64,000 square meters (15 acres) of rental space. Out of the six new buildings, HWKN designed the hotel and two adjacent office buildings located on the eastern quarter of the site. The hotel will feature an elevated bar with a series of outdoor terraces that offer views of the surrounding mountains. The office building will accommodate a two-story gym, while the third building will guide pedestrians toward the public plaza which will function as the heart of the development. Related: HWKN converts a paint factory into Upenn’s new state-of-the-art innovation hub “Designed not just as a series of buildings but as an exploration of the spaces between the buildings, Die Macherei is an innovative design for a new way of working and interacting, integrating social activity and behaviors to promote a sense of community,” said Matthias Hollwich. + Hollwich Kushner

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