Renovated Beijing factory gets new life with an elegantly-integrated Zen garden

March 27, 2017 by  
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After several renovations since the original construction of this Beijing factory, an extensive overhaul has breathed new life into the building – literally.  He Wei Studio / 3andwich Design renovated the building with a beautiful Zen garden gracefully integrated into the structure in order to convey the essence of the traditional Chinese private garden. Modern office workers can immerse themselves in a calming, natural environment, no matter how stressful the day gets. The original factory, built in 1970, went through several renovations before He Wei undertook the challenge of turning it into a modern office space that keeps the spirit of ancient building practices. The team restructured the circulation and created longer routes to allow people to calm down when entering the main space. Related: Former Panasonic factory building in China converted into a modern events space A zigzagging path leads visitors from the entrance on the west side through a long, narrow semi-outdoor corridor. This way people have to walk through the entire garden, called Zen Chamber. A folded stair, located between the long ramp and paralleled stairs, offer views of the inner courtyard and big tearoom through grating racks. The second floor, which serves as the main public space, is narrow and long and houses a music room, small tearooms, meditation room and a large tearoom. + He Wei Studio / 3andwich Design Via Sunshine PR Photos by Zou Bin

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Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution

March 23, 2017 by  
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Beijing’s pollution problem is no secret – earlier this year the city even created an environmental police squad in a bid to stop smog . Now, the nearby province of Hebei  – which contributes to Beijing’s smog with it’s heavy industry economy – is taking some creative new steps to combat the dangerous health risk that kills millions of people each year. The government is turning to nature to create a “green necklace” of trees and green belts as a natural way to fight pollution. People have recently pointed fingers at Hebei’s heavy industry as a source for some of Beijing’s hazardous pollution . The city has suffered from numerous smog outbreaks, often during the winter, according to Reuters. So the Hebei government announced this week both they and Beijing will plant trees and use wetlands and rivers to create a green necklace to protect the major global city. In a website notice, the government said it will increase forest coverage and set up green belts with the help of river systems, farms, mountains, and wetlands near Beijing. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working Transportation rules for Beijing and border areas are also part of the plan, which according to Reuters is part of a government effort to integrate the city, Hebei, and Tianjin, a major port city just southeast of Beijing. What have been described as fortress economies in the area could have prompted a race to the bottom in environmental law enforcement, according to Reuters. The cross-regional plan could also help address overpopulation – around 22 million people currently live in Beijing – by trying to limit urban development on the city’s borders. Beijing also plans to move some industries and “non-capital functions” out to Hebei, hoping such moves will also help cut pollution and congestion. Limited coal consumption is another piece of the strategy to clear the skies over Beijing, and the city just decommissioned the last coal-fired power plant earlier in March. Via Reuters Images via Bert Oostdijk on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution

World’s biggest river island could be India’s first carbon-neutral sector

March 23, 2017 by  
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Pollution has plagued India recently; a 2017 report showed people are more likely to die from air pollution not in China, as might be your first guess, but in India. But one area of the country could receive a breath of fresh air. Majuli, which is the largest river island in the world, could become the country’s first carbon-neutral district. Majuli, which is found in India’s Assam state, is home to plentiful biodiversity and the neo-Vaishnavite culture, which according to The Guardian is a monotheistic branch of Hinduism. But the river island is in trouble: monsoons and the river absorb homes as land is disappearing rapidly. In the middle of the 19th century, the river island was around 463 square miles, but in 2015 it was just around 154 square miles, and some research says Majuli could be gone in two decades. Related: New Delhi has the worst air pollution of any city on earth “Majuli is facing an existential crisis and therefore initiatives like designating [it] a carbon neutral district and biodiversity heritage site are [the] needs of the hour to preserve its rich heritage and legacy,” said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The government aims to make the river island the country’s first carbon-neutral sector by 2020 . Sonowal aims to raise awareness among locals as the area works to become free of pollution. He suggested parents could give a sapling to their children for their birthdays, and plant trees around their homes. He also started an electronic registry to scrutinize the climate impact of any projects proposed for Majuli. A project called the Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development, started late last year, will ensure the river island’s infrastructure is low carbon . According to Sonowal’s office as quoted by The Times of India, “Further declaration of Majuli as a Biodiversity Heritage Site, the first in the state, enforces the rich biological biodiversity in the wild, cultivated areas of the island and cultural heritage of Majuli.” Via India Times , The Times of India , and The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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China to replace Beijing’s 67,000 gas-powered taxis with electric cars

March 2, 2017 by  
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Beijing ‘s air pollution was so bad last December that hundreds of flights were canceled at the city’s international airport due to poor visibility. In an effort to clean up the capital’s notorious smog, China just announced a plan to replace the city’s 67,000 gas-powered taxis with electric cars – and it will require all new taxis to be electric. The gas-to-electric cab conversion project is expected to cost taxi operators $1.3 billion (9 billion yuan). Electric vehicles in China currently cost around $20,000, which is twice as much as conventional cars. Besides the high price tag for EVs, another challenge for taxi companies looking to electrify their fleets is the lack of charging stations in Beijing. When the city added 200 electric taxis to its fleet in 2014, drivers reportedly were waiting in lines of up to six hours at charging stations. Related: China plans its first “Forest City” to fight air pollution While China made improvements to air quality in 2014 with its “war on pollution,” smog is on the rise again because of increased industrial production in China’s steelmaking heartland south of Beijing, according to Greenpeace. Shifting wind patterns have blown air pollution north, with heavy smog settling into the Jingjinji national capital region (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei). China also recently announced that its domestic railway will expand by nearly 19,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) before 2020, with one-third of the increased mileage to be high-speed rail. According to China’s Economic Daily newspaper, “by 2020, China will have built a comprehensive modern transportation system that is safe, convenient, efficient and green.” Via CleanTechnica Images via Flickr and Wikimedia

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Dazzling art-filled passageway immerses visitors in everything that makes Amsterdam special

March 2, 2017 by  
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The city of Amsterdam just added another attraction to its long list of must-sees. Artists Arno Coenen, Iris Roskam and Hans van Bentem converted an arched passageway into Amsterdam Oersoep, an immersive art project decorated with seemingly innumerable references to the city of Amsterdam, its history, and its future. Glass mosaic, traditional Italian terrazzo, gilded mirrors, and recycled bicycle chandeliers are just a few of the beautiful elements that make up the intricate and enchanting artwork. Commissioned by Bouwinvest , Amsterdam Oersoep was created as part of a redevelopment project called Nowadays that encompasses the passageway and the buildings attached to it on Nieuwendijk and Damrak. Amsterdam Oersoepâ??Oersoep is Dutch for â??primordial soupâ??â??was created in Beurspassage , a passageway between Damrak avenue and the street of Nieuwendijk popularly used among Amsterdam residents and tourists. The renewed Beurspassage was created as a major tourist attraction, beautification project, and to include the worldâ??s longest coffee bar in the world: Liquid Mokum. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf89uLLvO5A Related: Nature-filled office takes over a former factory building in Amsterdam-Noord The Amsterdam Oersoep pays homage to the cityâ??s canals with its color scheme and wavy images that give the effect of walking through an underwater tunnel. The ceiling is covered in 450 square meters of glass mosaic embedded with iconic symbols of Amsterdam, from fish and air bubbles that allude to the canals to bicycle gears and a floating Vincent van Gogh ear. The sides of the passageway are lined with bluish-green tiles as well as large gilded and engraved Art Deco-styled mirrors. Handmade stained glass lamps, crafted in thirteen different shapes, hang from the sides. The traditional Italian terrazzo flooring is decorated with icons symbolic of the cityâ??s rich heritage of art and trade. Seven golden chandeliers hung from above are made from recycled bicycle parts like gears, headlamps, and handlebars. Every detail in the Amsterdam Oersoep hints to the stories of Amsterdam, creating a richly layered and beautiful artwork that fully immerses whomever walks through the passage. + Beurspassage Images by Kees Hummel

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Chinas rival to AirBnB opens new Beijing office with cutting-edge interior design

February 15, 2017 by  
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Airbnb’s biggest rival in China, Xiaozhu , just opened their latest office in Beijing, a diverse and flexible work environment that bears similarities to an Ikea showroom. The office space, called Sliced House, is the work of People’s Architecture Office (PAO) and People’s Industrial Design Office (PIDO), and is largely inspired by the diversity of the home-sharing startup’s online listings. The office’s collection of domestic spaces creates a casual and playful setting that fosters spontaneous interactions. PAO credits Xiaozhu’s need for a flexible work environment to the startup’s rapid growth—the five-year-old startup is valued at over $300 million and could possibly be bought out by AirBnB in the near future. The office is mostly open plan but also includes private meeting rooms, a conference room, and lounge. Most of the workspaces can be rearranged into different configurations, from the jigsaw-like worktables that can break away into individual desks to the conference room that uses room dividers to transform one long conference table to three smaller tables in separate rooms. The fixed meeting rooms are built to look like cozy living rooms and kitchens. Related: Airbnb launches nature-filled Tokyo office that feels like a beautiful cozy home “Sliced House is conceived as a house that has been divided and its parts dispersed throughout an otherwise banal office interior,” write the architects. “Shared interior finishes between split spaces make apparent that adjacent portions refer to a single room. These sliced samples of domesticity include kitchen, living room, and bedroom and double as ad hoc meeting areas. Such spaces reflect Xiaozhu’s rental offerings, providing users with a wide spectrum of settings to choose from.” PIDO custom built the transforming furniture , which include workspaces and a mobile trishaw-like meeting area made from converted tricycles . This wheeled workspaces were inspired by Xiaozhu’s Tricycle House listing and the tricycle’s long history in China. + People’s Architecture Office Via ArchDaily

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Beijing creates new environmental police force to crack down on smog

January 11, 2017 by  
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Notoriously smoggy Beijing has created a new police force specifically to crack down on air pollution. The environmental police squad is one of several new plans announced by Beijing’s acting major, Cai Qi to deal with the city’s massive pollution problem . Other measures on Cai’s list include: cutting coal use by 30 percent in 2017, shutting down 500 polluting factories, upgrading 2,500 facilities, phasing out 300,000 older vehicles and getting cleaner gas and diesel to stations as soon as Feb. 15. “Though we have made some progresses, air pollution in winter is still very serious,” Cai told media on Saturday. “That’s why the government must strengthen environmental protection and step up supervision and accountability in 2017. “Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning, dust from roads – these acts of non-compliance with regulations are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement.” While air pollution is a constant problem in China , it tends to get worse in the winter and often goes beyond WHO safety guidelines. It is so bad it causes school and business closures, flight cancellations, and driving bans. Just one day before making the announcement, the government announced city schools and kindergartens would be equipped with air purifiers. Related: Pollution in China prompts Beijing exodus Strict anti-pollution laws that came into effect in 2014 have taken somewhat of a bite out of the problem, but according to the Christian Science Monitor , an economic slowdown in 2016 dampened the enthusiasm a bit – as the Chinese government supported polluting industries to help drive economic growth. Via Christian Science Monitor Images via Yinan Chen and McKay Savage , Wikimedia Commons

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Spectacular new shipping container museum nestles near China’s Great Wall

December 30, 2016 by  
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Nestled near China’s famous Great Wall rests a new cultural museum made with shipping containers . The Zhao Hua Xi Shi Living Museum designed by IAPA Design Consultants offers an opportunity to learn while appreciating glorious scenery. Locally sourced and recycled materials add to the peaceful museum’s sustainability. IAPA worked with The Mother Earth Happiness Group to design the Zhao Hua Xi Shi Living Museum in Beijing, China. The design statement said the architects emphasized art culture and environmental protection in their vision for the sleek center that includes offices and exhibit areas wrapped in patios, courtyards, and gardens. Trees and hills of the encircling Great Wall historic site root the museum in nature . Related: Rammed earth Palenque Cultural Tambillo is designed to celebrate Afro-ecuadorean arts Modular containers provide the museum’s main buildings, and recycled timber decking adds a natural touch. Details like woven reeds sourced locally for the outdoor corridor ceilings add to the museum’s beauty. Stone, steel, and hemp are among the other building materials utilized. Varying building heights allow the complex to blend in without blocking too much of the landscape; the design statement says courtyard house style inspired the architects. The Zhao Hua Xi Shi Living Museum is a place to relax; visitors can soak in the scenery via a roof garden, viewing platform, viewing tower, or from the bridges connecting the shipping container buildings. They can wander about the museum, dine in a restaurant, or seek refreshment in a teahouse. According to the design statement, “Zhao Hua Xi Shi Living Museum is a representation of the continuity of traditional cultural heritage.” IAPA’s goal as stated on their website is to use “modern design techniques to interpret traditional oriental philosophy.” It appears they accomplished that goal elegantly in the Zhao Hua Xi Shi Living Museum. + IAPA Design Consultants Via ArchDaily Images via ZENG Zhe/ArchDaily

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Petroleum giant abandons tar sands in favor of wind power

December 29, 2016 by  
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In a startling move, Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company Statoil recently pulled all its investments out of the Alberta tar sands after winning a contract to develop an offshore wind farm in U.S. waters. CleanTechnica reports the company began selling off its tar sands assets almost within hours of learning earlier this month it had won the right to build a wind farm off the coast of New York State. According to CleanTechnica, the opportunity to develop the wind facility and provide power so close to New York City made the clean energy project a high-visibility, and thus high-status venture for Statoil. Winning the project was not easy, as the bid process was “intense,” but Statoil’s triumph means they’re part of a new coordinated program to develop a series of wind farms off the Atlantic coast. The project is just one of 11 offshore areas leased for development by the Department of the Interior, through its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management . Related: The world’s largest floating wind farm will be operational next year CleanTechnica notes that much of the 3000 miles of ocean along America’s Eastern Seaboard is perfect for renewable energy development for several reasons. The relatively shallow waters of the Continental Shelf make building easier, while the proximity to major population centers all along the way make accessing markets a breeze. Add to that the fact that hot southern states are in dire need of affordable energy to power air conditioners, and you’ve got a recipe for strong demand for power. While they might have taken a step in the right direction by dropping dirty tar sands oil, Statoil’s hands are still far from clean. It recently invested in oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and has some questionable shale gas assets in the U.S. – including some in the Bakken play, the planned origin for the now-stalled Dakota Access Pipeline . Via Clean Technica Images via Parrot of Doom and Barrow Offshore Wind Turbines , Wikimedia Commons

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Panasonic investing $256M in Tesla’s Buffalo solar manufacturing plant

December 29, 2016 by  
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Following Tesla ’s recent acquisition of SolarCity, the California-based company just scored another big win. Panasonic will invest more than $256 million in Tesla’s New York solar cell factory. The Japan-based electronics company is already partnering with Tesla to build electric car batteries at its Nevada Gigafactory, and this investment, announced December 27, positions Panasonic more firmly in the automotive industry than ever before, marking the fulfillment of the company’s’s gradual shift away from consumer electronics. Tesla’s production facility in Buffalo is expected to be up and running within just a few months. According to Tuesday’s announcement, production of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules will begin in the summer of 2017. By 2019, the two companies expect to be churning out the equivalent of one gigawatt of solar power modules each year. Related: Tesla taps Panasonic to build solar panels for their Powerwall and Powerpack systems The news of Panasonic ’s hefty investment in the Buffalo manufacturing plant is the first development since Tesla first named the electronics company as its partner in mid-October, which was contingent on the completion of Tesla’s merger with SolarCity . While that initial announcement came with very few details (in part because the merger wouldn’t be finalized for another month), this update illustrates the enormous scope of Panasonic’s commitment to the solar power market. The PV modules Panasonic produces at Tesla’s facility will be used primarily in the Powerwall and Powerpack systems, Tesla’s off-grid power solutions. While Tesla’s “solar roof” is still on deck, there is no word on when production on that line might begin. SolarCity previously promised the creation of over 1,400 jobs at the Buffalo facility and Tesla’s announcement Tuesday reaffirms that commitment and elaborates that the figure includes more than 500 manufacturing jobs—an important footnote for a city that once relied heavily on blue collar industries like steel and automotive manufacturing. Via Reuters Images via SolarCity and Panasonic

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