Illegal ivory trade continues to thrive in Europe

July 11, 2018 by  
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International rights group Avaaz says the illegal ivory trade is still alive and well in Europe after the group purchased 109 ivory products from 10 countries and found that many of these items were illegaly sourced from wildlife after 1989. The findings further support Avaaz’s mission in calling on Europe to completely end its ivory trade and protect elephants . During its four-month investigation, the non-profit was able to successfully purchase ivory items in 10 European nations, including Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The ivory products were then shipped to Oxford University , where researchers used carbon dating to determine their authenticity and age. According to Avaaz, approximately 20 percent of the discovered items were harvested in 1990 or later. Under international regulations, it is illegal to sell any ivory taken from animals after 1990, when sanctions on the organic material went into effect. Related: United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade The good news is that the majority of items found date back as far as 1947 and later, meaning no new animals were killed or threatened for ivory. While this is a major win for animal conservation , pre-1990 ivory trade is only allowed with official documentation — Avaaz was able to purchase the items illegally. “This proves beyond doubt that illegal ivory is being sold across Europe,” Bert Wander, campaign director for Avaaz, said in a media statement. “Every day the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever.” The undercover operation is part of a wider awareness campaign by Avaaz to stop all ivory trading across Europe. In a recent update , the activist organization accused the European Union of being open to future trading opportunities. Furthermore, Avaaz claims the EU does not support a proposed five-point plan to protect all elephants from poaching for their tusks. Avaaz is not the only group calling for the outright end of ivory sales. Tusk , a charity championed by Prince William , is demanding the U.K. end all ivory trading, claiming the nation is the third-largest supplier of illegal products to the U.S. + Avaaz Via The Guardian

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Illegal ivory trade continues to thrive in Europe

This vibrant, waterproof pavilion floats along the canal at the 2018 Bruges Triennial

July 11, 2018 by  
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A spectacular art and architecture festival is currently underway in Bruges, Belgium — and the attractions include a beautiful floating pavilion by Spanish architecture firm SelgasCano . Evocative of its vibrant and curvaceous work for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2015 , the SelgasCano pavilion in Bruges is likewise a colorful affair, made with pink-orange fluorescent vinyl that allows light and views to pass through. Commissioned by the city for the 2018 Bruges Triennial , the pavilion serves as a platform for bathing and swimming in the Coupure canal. The architects at SelgasCano created the floating pavilion using computer-modeling software, which determined the shapes and sizes of the arches that make up the long, sinuous frame. In contrast to the use of computer-aided design, the firm built the colorful canopy by hand. The materials were welded and pieced together on site to achieve the desired shape. The waterproof structure was installed atop a yellow wooden platform. “[The] pink-orange fluorescent vinyl [is a] material that has never been used before in a building,” said SelgasCano in a project statement. “Steel structure and plastic skin are just one thing, indissociable one from the other. Light passes through the skin creating a shambling atmosphere that changes the usual perception of the old city.” Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The architects also designed the pavilion with movable seating in mind, which could be placed in the covered part of the pavilion as well as on the terrace portion of the floating platform. A kidney-shaped cutout in the middle of the pavilion allows water into the heart of the space. The SelgasCano pavilion is one of more than a dozen site-specific installations created for the 2018 Bruges Triennial, which is free to the public and runs until September 16, 2018. + SelgasCano Images by Iwan Baan

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This vibrant, waterproof pavilion floats along the canal at the 2018 Bruges Triennial

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

June 12, 2018 by  
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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has won an international competition for the design of global chemical company Solvay’s new sustainable headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Created in collaboration with local firm Modulo Architects and VK Engineers, the winning proposal beat out designs from top firms including the likes of OMA, Valode & Pistre and Henning Larsen. The green campus is expected to be certified BREEAM Excellent and will be powered with a mix of renewable energy resources, including geothermal energy and solar energy, to reach carbon-neutral status. The new headquarters represents a shift for Solvay as it transitions towards a more open and sustainable business culture. Placed in a single compact structure, the zero-carbon and near zero-energy building will prioritize collaborative spaces and the outdoors. The new campus is located on a 22-hectare site, which has housed many of Solvay’s facilities since 1953. The property will be transformed to include a new dedicated forest, a reintroduced 18th-century stream connected to the Senne, and an open-air amphitheater. Rainwater across the campus will be harvested and reused wherever possible. “In the earliest stages, it became clear that one compact building with one common entrance into a sweeping atrium would allow everyone who passes through the headquarters to share the same unique experience of the building, and create a strong sense of belonging,” said Tiago Pereira, Partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen. “We translated Solvay’s desire for a welcoming, innovative, sustainable headquarters into an architecturally bold statement that reflects its core values and creates a new identity.” Related: Henning Larsen to revitalize Brussels region with rooftop farming and co-housing The light-filled building will be wrapped in glazing and punctuated with a large atrium with a social staircase that visually connects the various floors and departments. The two lower levels will consist of laboratories and workshops, while the upper floors house offices. In between those floors will be the Meeting Center, which includes relaxing gathering spaces and terraces with panoramic views of the campus green. Geothermal and solar energy will power the Solvay headquarters. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Images via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

April 27, 2018 by  
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Recent research suggests that some of the Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 could carry more water than our own planet. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool red dwarf discovered in 1999, and its planets were first documented within the past few years. Scientists have measured the density of TRAPPIST-1’s planets and concluded that the mass of some of these planets may be composed of five percent water – roughly 250 times the amount of water found in our planet’s oceans. Stars such as TRAPPIST-1 are of particular interest to astronomers because their size and faintness allows for more in-depth study of orbiting planets. Through the European Union-funded SPECULOOS project, scientists have been able to focus on these planets as they search for life beyond Earth . Researchers have also observed differences based on the planets’ distance from their sun. For example, planets closest to TRAPPIST-1 may contain thick, steamy atmospheres while outer planets may be covered in ice. Perhaps most importantly, astronomers have concluded that the lack of a hydrogen -rich atmosphere on three planets indicates that they are not gaseous and therefore much more likely candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life. Related: Two Trappist-1 planets are highly likely to be habitable The intensive study of the TRAPPIST-1 system is only in its early stages. In 2020, NASA and the European Space Agency will launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be capable of detecting possible molecules of biological origin. “In the temperate – and potentially habitable – Earth-size regime, SPECULOOS’s detection potential should be significantly better,” Dr. Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège, Belgium told Science Magazine . “The next years are going to be very exciting!” Gillon plans on expanding the observation of Earth-like planets by searching through 1,000 stars similar to TRAPPIST-1. Via Phys.org Images via NASA (1)

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The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

Henning Larsen to revitalize Brussels region with rooftop farming and co-housing

April 6, 2018 by  
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A post-industrial region in Brussels will find a new lease on life thanks to the vision of Henning Larsen Architects . The Dutch architecture firm, in collaboration with Architects A2RC , recently won a design competition to redevelop Brussels’ Key West development with a strong focus on livability. The masterplan will introduce new housing, community facilities, and stronger ties to the waterfront and urban farming. As part of a plan to redevelop its old industrial areas, the Government of Brussels launched the Canal Plan, the biggest urban development project in the Brussels region. The Key West development, headed by Henning Larsen Architects and Architects A2RC, aims to bring greater socio-economic cohesion to a challenged region, particularly Anderlecht, a municipality with a rough reputation. The masterplan will inject new life along the canal and add 46,000 square meters of housing in addition to 17,000 square meters of community spaces including public spaces, sports facilities, and urban farming initiatives. “We were inspired by the Government of Brussels’ ambitions to tap into the spirit of the old industrial area by introducing ‘second generation industries’ ? local production facilities such as e.g. microbreweries, a cookie factory, coffee roasting facilities. As architects involved in urban planning one of our most distinguished tasks is to create the physical framework for an area like Key West to regain economic growth and community cohesion,” says Partner at Henning Larsen, Jacob Kurek. Related: Natural light floods this solar-powered business school in Frankfurt In addition to an inviting mixed-use streetscape, Key West will enjoy a stronger relationship to the canals through new waterfront infrastructure that will use biotopes to improve water quality and rainwater collection to handle impervious runoff. Residences will be stacked atop first-floor retail and restaurants and will include co-housing options that offer large 8 to 9 bedroom apartments for shared living. Rooftop urban farms will be made visible from the street and the locally grown produce is tied into a scheme for a farmers market to be located in the south-facing town square. The Key West development is slated for completion by 2022. + Henning Larsen Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Henning Larsen Architects

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Henning Larsen to revitalize Brussels region with rooftop farming and co-housing

Glowing glass lantern turns this energy-efficient office into a beacon

March 13, 2018 by  
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Abscis Architecten completed Notary Office, a new office building that exudes simplicity and tranquility with a environmentally conscious footprint. Located along Ghent’s Kortrijksesteenweg in Sint-Denijs-Westrem, the well-insulated brick building harnesses renewable energy and makes careful use of resources, including rainwater that’s partly absorbed by green roofs and partly recovered for toilets and irrigation. While these sustainable features are modestly tucked away from view, there is one feature that catches the eye: a large glazed wall at the top of the building that glows like a glass “lantern” and beacon at night. Minimalism, transparency, and a minimal environmental impact were key drivers in the design of Notary Office. In contrast to the dark facade, the interiors are dominated by white and awash in natural light that streams in through full-height glazing. The ground floor is centered on a glass-enclosed atrium that’s exposed to the outdoors and landscaped with ground cover and stepping-stones. The connection to the outdoors is further emphasized in the rear of the building where sliding glass doors open up to a landscaped garden with old trees that were carefully preserved during the construction process. Related: Green-roofed office is the first large-scale CLT structure in southeast Europe Natural light is also let in at the top of the stairs through a large glass window dubbed the glass “lantern” that the architects say “forms a minimalist light beacon along the busy road.” To mitigate unwanted solar gain, the architects installed electronically controlled aluminum solar shades . An air-water heat pump heats and cools the building. Warm LEDs and sustainable insulation is used throughout the office. + Abscis Architecten Via ArchDaily Images © Jeroen Verrecht

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Glowing glass lantern turns this energy-efficient office into a beacon

Google will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2018

October 13, 2017 by  
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After 10 years as a carbon-neutral company, Google has announced that all of its data centers and offices will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy , mostly from solar and wind sources. The corporate giant made quick progress towards meeting their goal, which was set in 2016 and will be fulfilled by 2018. In its 2017 Environmental Report, Google, self-described as the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, declared that in making its big shift to clean energy, it had pioneered “new energy purchasing models that others can follow” and “helped drive wide-scale global adoption of clean energy.” “We believe Google can build tools to improve people’s lives while reducing our dependence on natural resources and fossil fuels,” said Google executive Urs Hölzle. Google’s rapid shift to clean energy is welcome not only for the influence it may have on other companies but also for its impact on Google’s energy consumption, which was estimated in 2015 to be as large as the city of San Francisco . In line with its sustainability focus, Google has also launched an initiative to add air quality sensors to Google Street View vehicles and plans to change its waste disposal systems to ensure that the company adds nothing to landfills. Half of Google’s 14 data centers have already reached that particular milestone. Related: Alphabet X to beam wireless service to Puerto Rico with a fleet of balloons Most of Google’s renewable energy is purchased from an outside provider. However, they are making important moves to provide some of their own in-house energy, including the company’s recent acquisition of the Tellenes wind farm in Norway. The 12-year deal to provide 100 percent of the energy produced will power Google’s data centers in Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland . Google expects to purchase power as soon as it is available, which is expected in fall 2017. Via Inverse Images via Wikimedia Commons   (1)  and Robbie Shade/Flickr

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Google will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2018

Germany expects to add 900 MW of new offshore wind capacity in 2017

July 24, 2017 by  
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Germany’s offshore wind boom is accelerating. The Federal Republic has already brought online a total of 626 megawatts (MW) of new offshore wind capacity in the first six months of 2017 and industry groups said in a recent joint statement that they expect to see total installations of 900 MW by the end of the year. If Germany hits the 900 MW mark in 2017, it would exceed the 818 MW added in 2016. At the current rate of expansion, Germany could be on track to blow past government targets of 6,500 MW for 2020, the industry groups said. The country’s installed offshore wind total is already at 4,729 MW from 1,055 turbines. Related: Germany, Denmark, and Belgium to boost offshore wind 5-fold within the next decade The industry groups said that the offshore wind industry is moving away from the era of costly subsidies to becoming more commercially viable and bringing costs down for consumers. “This paradigm shift offers the next government chances to lift expansion targets to at least 20 gigawatts (20,000 MW) up to 2030 and at least 30 GW to 2035, utilizing the economic and industrial political potential of offshore wind,” the industry groups said. Germany’s offshore wind farms delivered 8.48 terrawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity to the grid in the first six month of 2016 — producing more electricity than was generated in all of 2015 (8.29TWh). Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia 1 , 2 , 3

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Germany expects to add 900 MW of new offshore wind capacity in 2017

C&A debuts world’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold T-shirts

May 12, 2017 by  
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A chain of clothing stories in Belgium has launched the world’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold T-shirts . Available in two styles for women in up to 17 different colors, C&A’s tees mark the company’s first foray into apparel for the so-called “circular economy,” where products are designed to be reused or recycled rather than thrown away. The shirts, which comprise 100 percent organic cotton , represent what C&A calls a “positive ecological and social level never before seen for a fashion garment.” California’s Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute , which manages the certification mark, defines C2C Certified products as items that have been optimized for human and environmental health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, carbon management, water stewardship, and social justice. Ratings are based on four levels: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Related: First Cradle to Cradle Platinum certified product is reclaimed Bark House shingle C&A worked with McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry , the recently formed Fashion for Good initiative, and two India-based factories to develop the tees based on Cradle to Cradle Certified criteria. Both Cotton Blossom and Pratibha Syntex, C&A said, needed minimal improvement in those areas. “In nature, the ‘waste’ of one system becomes food for another,” Jay Bolus, president of certification services at MBDC, said in a statement. “The two new T-shirts illustrate the possibility by which we can transform what is currently a take-make-waste industry to one that is regenerative and closed loop to progress us toward a positive future. We worked closely with Cotton Blossom and Pratibha Syntex and throughout their supply chains to ensure the resulting apparel is not only attractive, accessible and affordable—but also a positive design.” C&A’s shirts, which will appear in stores in June, use only materials that have been deemed safe for cycling as biological nutrients, making them safe enough to compost at home at the end of their lives. Two additional styles, one for women and another for men, will debut in Brazil and Mexico in September. Related: Freitag announces that their 100% compostable denim is about to hit shelves “We are very proud to introduce our first Gold level Cradle to Cradle Certified T-shirts,” said You Nguyen, director of brands, womenswear collections, at C&A. “Taking inspiration from nature, these shirts were designed with their next life in mind. This means they can be reused recycled—or you can literally throw your shirts onto the compost pile.” Nguyen added, “We believe in fashion with a positive impact and are excited to provide our customers with stylish products and render sustainable fashion available at great value.” + C&A

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C&A debuts world’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold T-shirts

‘Artificial blowhole’ harvests power from ocean waves

May 12, 2017 by  
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Wave energy comes in many forms: at Inhabitat we’ve written about buoys , floating sea walls , and floating platforms . But Australia -based Wave Swell Energy (WSE) takes a novel approach to harvesting power from ocean waves using what CEO Tom Denniss calls an artificial blowhole. WSE’s artificial blowhole is a concrete column resting in the sea; waves rushing in and out of a central chamber cause air to have a positive or negative pressure. The pressure changes allow the air to pass by a turbine , generating clean power . All the moving parts are above the water line for ease of maintenance. Related: The UK’s first wave energy plant will produce enough energy for 6,000 homes The company says they’ve based their technology on the idea of an oscillating water column. But the difference between their technology and that of other organizations is their turbine is only hit by air flowing from one direction. This means the turbine design is simpler, more reliable, and more durable. The design also yields a higher energy conversion efficiency, according to the company. Their blowhole can produce up to one megawatt (MW) of power; as wave conditions and weather change, the average output is around 470 kilowatts. Its capacity factor – or ratio of average to peak power – is around 47 percent, much greater than the 30 percent achieved by other wave power systems. That means WSE could offer their electricity for around seven cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is roughly competitive with coal. The WSE technology has the added side benefit of producing desalinated water . By the middle of 2018, they plan to test their technology near King Island, a land mass home to under 2,000 people between Australia and Tasmania. Denniss also has his sights set on Hawaii. The company aims to scale up rapidly – within the next five years they hope to deploy systems able to produce 100 MW or greater. They also think they can lower the price in the future to four cents per kWh. + Wave Swell Energy Via New Atlas Images via screenshot and Wave Swell Energy

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‘Artificial blowhole’ harvests power from ocean waves

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