Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

March 1, 2019 by  
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A new study shows that close to 2,000 sites across the U.K. have poor air quality due to excess pollution. The cities most affected by high levels of toxic gas were in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, all of which were tested well beyond what is considered safe. One of the main culprits behind the alarming numbers is nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is considered one of the most harmful of urban pollutants. Kensington, Chelsea, Leeds and Doncaster all tested high in nitrogen dioxide in 2017. This gas irritates lungs and creates breathing issues. One of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide is vehicle emissions. Related: Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok Earlier this week, London’s mayor announced a pollution alert as residents in the country enjoyed a rare warm spell for February. The warning was the first of its kind since last summer and was precipitated by light winds and lack of storms, which usually help drive away harmful gases. While poor air quality is a major issue across the country, London is about to initiate a plan to help clean things up. The city is establishing an ultra-low emission area in central London that will vastly improve air quality. The initiative is expected to remove around 45 percent of emissions by this spring. The researches who conducted the study are part of a group called Friends of the Earth. Based on their findings, the group called for better emission standards throughout the country and are urging ministers to tighten up government control. “It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly 2,000 locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air,” one of the researchers, Simon Bowens, explained. Air pollution has been previously linked to major health problems in human populations, including heart disease, dementia and even miscarriages. Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, which can damage lungs and even impact intelligence levels. If London’s new program is successful, hopefully other cities will follow suit and start improving air quality before it becomes an even bigger problem. Via The Guardian Images via Foto-Rabe

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Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

Students taking Lyft and Uber to class are taking LA’s smog problem from bad to worse

February 7, 2019 by  
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Environmentalists are concerned by the number of students using transportation services like Lyft and Uber to get to classes. Students at UCLA specifically use these alternative means of transportation around 11,000 times per week, and that is troublesome for a city that is already dealing with significant smog issues. “The  pollutants  coming out of the tailpipe heavily contribute to Los Angeles’ smog problem,” Yifang Zhu, a professor at UCLA, explained. Transportation staff at the university said that the majority of these trips are short in duration. Students who oversleep are also more likely to use Lyft or Uber, because they need to get to class in a hurry without being tardy. School officials believe this increase in traffic plays a part in the growing smog problem in Los Angeles. Related: Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok Part of the issue with these services is that the vehicles are idling for a significant portion of time before picking up passengers. In fact, the idling can sometimes contribute more smog that actually driving to the destination, which is troublesome for a densely populated city like  Los Angeles . According to The Washington Post , younger generations are more apt to use services like Lyft or Uber , because they have an aversion to owning their own vehicles. These services can be more affordable than purchasing a car, especially on a student’s budget. While economics is clearly a factor to consider, previous research shows that millennials are the driving force behind these ride-hailing apps. For example, a 2016 study conducted by the Pew Research Center discovered that around 25 percent of young adults between 18 and 29 years old had used services like Lyft or Uber. Adults over the age of 65, meanwhile, barely register at only 4 percent. Although it may be more environmentally friendly to not own a car or truck, using alternative transportation services can be just as damaging. The transportation staff at UCLA gathered the information by combing through data from Uber and Lyft, two of the most widely used services on campus. Via The Washington Post Image via Josh Saldana

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Students taking Lyft and Uber to class are taking LA’s smog problem from bad to worse

Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

January 31, 2019 by  
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Officials in Bangkok have closed schools for the rest of the week amid growing concerns of toxic smog . The Ministry of Education in Thailand announced the closing of around 450 schools in Bangkok and the surrounding area this week as the government tries to deal with a massive pollution problem. The air quality in the city of Bangkok has dipped to unacceptable levels. The amount of dust particles — also referred to as PM2.5 — deemed dangerous to health has far exceeded acceptable standards. This fine particulate matter is hazardous to health , because it is tiny enough to enter the body and do considerable damage to organs. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition According to The Guardian , the massive amount of pollution is caused by poor construction standards, car exhaust, factory fumes and crop burning. The pollution is so large in scale that it is unable to escape the city, leaving people trapped in a toxic environment. To combat the situation, residents in Bangkok have been wearing respirator masks to avoid inhaling the fine particles. The government, which has been under considerable criticism for not actively fighting pollution , has attempted to make it rain in the city by seeding clouds. The rain helps fight pollution by trapping the toxic particles. Officials have also sprayed water in strategic locations to help decrease the amount of dangerous particles in the air . Residents have been avoiding burning incense, which is a popular activity over the Chinese New Year. Despite their efforts, authorities were forced to close down 437 schools in Bangkok. They also declared a “control area” around the city that is over 580 square miles in size. Officials hope that closing schools will help alleviate some of the traffic and reduce vehicle emissions. “The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, shared. School authorities plan to look at the situation next week to determine if the closing should be extended. The air quality index in Bangkok was measured at 171 this week, which is the highest it has been in more than a year. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

Brilliant home made out of cascading concrete planter boxes grows more than 40 types of edible plants

January 31, 2019 by  
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Built for a retired couple who loves to grow their own food, this home design by Kuala Lumpur-based firm FormZero is comprised of several concrete blocks planted with more than 40 types of edible plants on every floor. With various patio spaces that double as mini home gardens , the Planter Box House oscillates between garden, farm and living space. The home’s overall design was heavily influenced by Kuala Lumpur’s vernacular. Being that the area is a tropical region, the homes are often built with split bamboo, a practice that goes back to the area’s indigenous people. By using bamboo as form work for the concrete cladding, the architects not only paid homage to the local history and culture, but ensured a durable design that would last years. Using the two durable and low-maintenance materials added extra resilience to the design so that the three-story home could withstand heavy rain storms and local pollution. Related: Giant bamboo planters protect a Ho Chi Minh City home from the sun and rain In addition to the home’s resilient features, the architects worked closely with the homeowners to create a design that would enable the couple to grow their own food . Accordingly, the design is a 3,650 square feet building that spans over three stories, with every level outfitted with various concrete planters that provide ample space for growing a variety of plants. A custom-made irrigation system, a joint endeavor between the couple and the architects, enables the boxes to store and reuse rainwater. The cascading design was a strategic feature that helps each box enjoy optimal natural light , but also adds a system of natural air ventilation throughout the interior. On every floor of the home, large sliding glass doors that lead out to the balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows create a strong connection to the exterior. All-white walls and minimal furnishings, along with the abundance of greenery, will allow the homeowners to enjoy a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle as they age. + FormZero Via Archdaily Photography by Ameen Deen via FormZer

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Brilliant home made out of cascading concrete planter boxes grows more than 40 types of edible plants

Budweiser’s Super Bowl LIII commercial focuses on renewable energy

January 31, 2019 by  
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Millions of fans and spectators around the world are expected to watch Super Bowl LIII this Sunday, and with secured viewers accounted for, Budweiser has gone above and beyond to announce its commitment to renewable energy in the best way possible — a Super Bowl commercial. Last year, the popular beer company announced its commitment to using 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power to brew its beer. Sticking to its promises, the company decided to focus on that effort in this year’s commercial entitled “Wind Never Felt Better” and showcase its iconic Budweiser Clydesdale with wind turbines accompanied by Bob Dylan’s classic song “Blowin’ in the Wind” as the soundtrack. “Super Bowl is one of the most exciting times of the year for our team, and people all over the country,” said Ricardo Marques, VP of marketing core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch. “Those who wait for the best commercials all year expect Budweiser to show up big, and we felt there was no better way to show up this year than to talk about our commitment to Renewable Electricity.” Related: Anheuser-Busch orders 800 hydrogen-electric semi trucks from Tesla competitor Nikola Marques added that Budweiser is proud to be the first brand in the Anheuser-Busch family — as well as the first major beer brand in the world — to be brewed with 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power and hopes to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. In addition to the commercial, Budweiser is also emphasizing the importance of its commitment to renewables by donating clean electricity to the city of Atlanta for Super Bowl week. As the largest city in the south, Atlanta has been at the forefront of building a clean energy blueprint and Budweiser’s donations to the city align with the overall goal of reducing an environmental impact. By doing its part, Budweiser is hoping to inspire communities to adopt clean electricity . It is also teaming up with Drift, a leader in clean electricity, to offer a one-month free trial of a green plan as a thank you for signing up. + Anheuser-Busch Image via Shutterstock

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Budweiser’s Super Bowl LIII commercial focuses on renewable energy

Mirrored art complex in Bangkok seamlessly co-exists with the surrounding trees

June 21, 2018 by  
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A reflective facade and calculated layout blends Bangkok’s new Naiipa Art Complex into the environment. Designed by Bangkok-based Stu/D/O Architects , the mixed-use building carefully wraps around the existing trees on the property while using its mirrored cladding to camouflage the structure into the lush green backdrop. The Naiipa complex (which means “deep in the forest”) is a 25,000-square-foot building that includes an art gallery, music studio, dance studio and office space, along with restaurants and coffee shops. According to the architects, the plan was to provide a community-focused center that wouldn’t disturb the existing greenery . Stu/D/O said, “The project is named after the concept of concealing the architecture in the forest as the vision of greenery is expanded by using reflective glass all around.” Related: Gorgeous mirrored facade extension allows brick Belgian notary to blend into the landscape To create a subtle volume for the large building and its multiple uses, the design was divided into two main sections separated by a tree-filled courtyard. Building A is an elongated structure that was carefully built around an existing pink trumpet tree to protect its growth. The second building is a cube-like four-story structure. A winding multilevel walkway that connects the two buildings intertwines around the existing trees , giving visitors a chance to truly connect with nature. To disguise the complex within its surroundings, the architects used three different types of glazing to create a mirrored effect : reflective, translucent and transparent. According to the firm, the multiple glazed walls, along with the “rhythmic folding pattern” of the facade, helped accomplish the goal. The east side of the building uses a translucent double facade that helps filter direct sunlight and reduce heat on the interior. As visitors follow this facade to the entrance, the building begins to “fold,” creating a narrow entrance reminiscent of a vibrant forest. Inside, the sun’s rays are reflected off the exterior facade , creating displays of shadow and light throughout the day, again imitating a forest canopy. The structure welcomes visitors with a floating “Bird Nest” gallery that is clad in reflective glass and appears to be surrounded by trees, creating a true feeling of ‘Naiipa.’ + Stu/D/O Architects Via Archdaily Images via Stu/D/O Architects

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Mirrored art complex in Bangkok seamlessly co-exists with the surrounding trees

A striking concrete home in Ontario targets minimal environment impact

June 21, 2018 by  
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Toronto-based Teeple Architects has paired a beautiful but unusual site in Ontario with the sculptural Port Hope House, an award-winning residence that boasts a wide array of sustainable features. Located east of Toronto , the single-family rural home takes inspiration from the client’s 75-acre property that consists of a woodlot, a fallow field, an abandoned Grand Trunk railway cut and a steep cliff that falls into Lake Ontario. Built with long concrete walls, the Port Hope House appears like a rock outcropping lifting upwards. Teeple Architects carefully sited the Port Hope House to reap the advantages of the property’s four distinctive site conditions — the quiet and dark woods to the north, the open fallow field, the rail cut that hints at man’s intervention and the dramatic lake embankment to the south. The project was rendered as a “tectonic expression” that rises from the earth as a single, curving volume and then splits into two framed volumes so natural light can penetrate deep inside the home. “As an architectural composition, the project offers a unique interpretation of the domestic space — a fundamental object of architectural inquiry — based on the particular experiences and opportunities of a site,” Teeple Architects explained. “Expressed as a small handful of sculptural but restrained moves, the project breaks the mold of contemporary home design in imagining the house as a natural form, an organic but certainly not pre-ordained result of creative exchange between architect, client and environment.” Related: Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is sustainably built from CNC-milled beetle-kill timber To minimize its environmental footprint, the light-filled house features a high-performance envelope with heat-mirror film glazing and follows passive solar principles. The long concrete walls offer high thermal mass and are clad with charcoal zinc siding. Water and sewage are treated on site to reduce reliance on the grid. Rainwater is harvested for irrigation, and geothermal energy has been tapped for heating. + Teeple Architects Images by Scott Norsworthy

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This whimsical retail store with a mesh wall is home to designer bags in Thailand

May 29, 2018 by  
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Bangkok-based firm  ASWA Architects  created a stunning retail studio for a popular bag brand in Thailand. TA.THA.TA bags are known for being functional and whimsical — a reputation that inspired the architects to create a similar feel for the new store. The front glass facade is covered with a white metal mesh shade system that, along with the extra-tall pitched roof, gives the structure a modern and ethereal atmosphere. The structure stands on a very narrow lot in the center of Bangkok, and the size of the lot forced the architects to utilize vertical space as much as possible. The site’s existing large tree helps provide shade . Inside, the studio is approximately 1,300 square feet and spans three floors. A welcoming retail store is located on the first floor. The second floor houses the design and assembly studio, while guests and employees can enjoy a third-floor lounge space with a mezzanine level. Related: Apple’s new Regent Street store is filled with daylight and living trees The brand’s identity greatly influenced the architectural concept and is noticeable throughout the space. Variations of metal mesh are in many areas, but a bespoke shade system marks the design. Made from white mesh, the screen acts as a double facade for the building’s all-glass front wall. This unique feature allows plenty of natural light to stream into the interior while also providing shade during the searing summer months. The interior design is functional and uncluttered, again a nod to the company’s brand. To add a touch of wellness, the architects added  greenery on every level. Bright drop lamps add extra lighting, and TA-THA-TA designed much of the furniture to leave a final mark of its identity on the structure. + ASWA Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Phuttipan Aswakool  

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This whimsical retail store with a mesh wall is home to designer bags in Thailand

Why thousands of snakes are invading Bangkok homes

December 5, 2017 by  
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A plunger won’t help you here—unless you have one hell of a swing. As the Times reports, Bangkok officials received 31,801 calls this year alone from frightened residents seeking help in removing snakes from their homes. The jump in calls is said to be in part due to an extra wet rainy season, but at the heart of the issue is something greater: urban sprawl . Indeed, as the city’s population has grown along the Chao Phraya River Delta, snakes have been forced from their natural habitats into the cozy, dry quarters of humans. Worst still, some (including the eight-foot-long variety)  are using the toilet as their primary point of ingress. Bangkok hosts more than 8.2 million inhabitants. The city is also built on more than 600 square miles of delta. The presence of snakes has always been significant, but as humans claim more land for new development, the snakes have no other choice than to try to take some of it back. In fact, most of the 31,801 calls have come from areas with new construction. “When people build houses in their habitat, of course they will seek a dry spot in people’s houses because they can’t go anywhere else,” Prayul Krongyos, the city’s fire department’s deputy director told the Times. Related: This modular orphanage in Thailand was built using local and recycled materials Indeed, calls have jumped from 29,919 in 2016, and 10,492 in 2012. The paper also points out that these figures don’t even include the brave residents who battle snakes on their own, which they says is likely in the thousands. “There’s no way we could survive if there were more fires than snakes,” said Krongyos. That day, his department fielded 173 calls about snakes and just five for fires. As for what happens to the snakes once caught, the punishment is far more humane than one might venture. Snakes captured by firefighters are brought to a wildlife center and later released in the wild. Other individuals have created snake-saving initiatives, including Nonn Panitvong, a leading expert in biodiversity. He set up “Snake at Home,” a message group that seeks to prevent snakes from being killed when discovered. Snake at Home allows those who find a snake in their home to snap a photo and send it to one of the group’s volunteers who can tell them if the snake they’ve found is venomous. The group has more than 29,000 followers. As the Times shares, “Thailand has more than 200 snake species , including about three dozen that are venomous. But most do not pose a threat to people…The reality, though, is that humans cause snakes much more harm than the other way around.” Snakes also keep rat and other vermin populations in check in the bustling city, and many folks consider crossing paths with one a sign of good luck. Via NYT Images via Pixbay and Wiki Commons

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This Mexico City home is built around a gorgeous vertical garden

November 28, 2017 by  
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The verdant Villa Jardín in Mexico City uses vegetation to unify its indoor and outdoor spaces. Architecture firm ASP Arquitectura Sergio Portillo introduced terraces, pergolas and an entire room packed with greenery to this apartment occupying the lower level of a residential building in Mexico City. The result is an exotic home that draws nature inside. The naturally ventilated apartment features a series of outdoor spaces that interact with the indoors through semi-private areas. Two terraces joined by a pergola occupy the northeast side, which features a lush vertical garden made of wooden boxes reclaimed from the shoring system used during the construction process. Related: Apostrophy’s gorgeous Bangkok townhouse boasts a 25-foot vertical garden The second terrace sits on a lower overhang and offers a direct connection to level below. A more private garden located in the southwest part of the home. This green space connects to the bedrooms, TV room and kitchen, and ultimately leads to the Garden Box – a modular space designed for contemplation. + ASP Arquitectura Sergio Portillo Via v2com Photos by Rafael Gamo

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This Mexico City home is built around a gorgeous vertical garden

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