Switzerland’s NeighborHub wins first place in the Solar Decathalon 2017

October 14, 2017 by  
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This past week, eleven teams of students designed, built and presented futuristic houses at the Solar Decathalon 2017 . The competition took place in Denver , and though the challenge was simple it was by no means easy: create a super-efficient sun-powered building that seamlessly integrates green building technologies into its design. The winners of the highly-anticipated event were just announced this morning – and Team Switzerland’s NeighborHub took first place! For the first time in history, the winners of the Solar Decathalon won prize money. First place received $300,000; second place won $225,000; third place took home $150,000; fourth place won $125,000 and fifth through eleventh places each received $100,000. 1st Place: NeighborHub by the Swiss Team First place in the Solar Decathalon 2017 was awarded to the Swiss Team ‘s NeighborHub. The NeighborHub isn’t a home at all – rather, it is a collaborative community space. The team designed the eco-friendly space to serve as an educational resource, specifically for suburban neighborhoods. At the NeighborHub, residents can learn about seven sustainable themes: renewable energy, water management, waste management, mobility, food, material choices, and biodiversity. 2nd Place: reACT by University of Maryland The University of Maryland’s reACT House (Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology) took second place. It’s a smart, sustainable home that can adapt to different needs and environments . Not only is the self-sufficient home beautiful, it produces clean energy, clean water, and nutrient-rich foods — all the while automatically adapting to homeowners’ habits. 3rd Place: RISE by University of California, Berkeley, and University of Denver Students from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Denver collaborated to develop RISE . The affordable and sustainable abode is designed for urban infill lots in Richmond CA, and it can be stacked and expanded like building blocks. The prefab solar is home is incredibly flexible, with a scalable size, customizable floor plans, and moveable walls. 4th Place: SILO by Missouri University of Science and Technology Finally, fourth place was awarded to the Missouri University of Science and Technology for their SILO House (Smart Innovative Living Oasis) . The light-filled home combines high-tech, energy-efficient technology with traditional farmhouse vernacular. Best of all, this futuristic house lets you control all systems remotely via a smartphone. Related: 11 Solar-powered homes that show the future of architecture Each team presented an incredible futuristic home that incorporates solar and energy-efficiency technologies. Congrats to all of this year’s teams, and we can’t wait for the return of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathalon in 2019. + Solar Decathalon 2017 + Solar Decathlon Coverage on Inhabitat Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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Switzerland’s NeighborHub wins first place in the Solar Decathalon 2017

Net-zero prefab home stacks together and expands like childrens blocks

October 10, 2017 by  
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Wish you could expand the size of your home without breaking the bank? A group of architecture students from the University of California, Berkeley and University of Denver created RISE, an affordable and sustainable housing solution that lets you do just that. Conceived for urban infill lots, the adaptable and scalable solar-powered home stacks together like children’s blocks and can expand up to three stories with up to five units of multifamily living. RISE—which stands for Residential, Inviting, Stackable, Efficient—was designed specifically for Richmond, California, a coastal city struggling with a shortage of affordable, sustainable housing. Flexibility is key to the RISE design, which boasts customizable floor plans with moveable walls and windows to meet the needs of diverse occupants. The moveable walls, installed on a track system, can roll to the sides to transform three-quarters of the interior into an open-plan area or can be used to delineate multiple rooms. Transforming furniture and modular cabinetry support this versatile floor plan. Modular, prefabricated construction makes the home scalable and stackable, and gives homeowners the ability to transform their home from a single-story family unit into a multigenerational dwelling. The house can be constructed efficiently without specialized labor. Sustainability is also an important factor to RISE, which is designed to achieve net-zero energy consumption and is powered by solar energy. Daylighting and access to natural ventilation is optimized throughout the home, while wool insulation helps lock in stable and comfortable indoor temperatures. A green wall of moss covers the north facade. RISE was completed as University of California, Berkeley and University of Denver’s entry to the Solar Decathlon 2017 competition, after which the home will be donated to the Denver Habitat for Humanity, which will install it on a permanent lot and sell it to a family in need. Related: Transformable solar building changes shape to teach people how to live sustainably “At $200,000, a single RISE unit is less expensive than 72% of homes in the city,” wrote the students . “Whereas this fact is significant, what really increases the affordability of RISE is that five units can fit onto a single lot that traditionally would host just one home. The RISE home’s stacked design and large open roof-deck spaces allows greater density and a lower price point per unit while preserving the open feel of a neighborhood home, which residents both need and desire to build community. Though designed specifically for Richmond, this approach would translate well to other urban centers that currently face a shortage of affordable housing.” + Solar Decathlon Images via Mike Chino

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Net-zero prefab home stacks together and expands like childrens blocks

Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert

April 14, 2017 by  
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A solar-powered device could make water worries a thing of the past. Nine scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology , and University of California, Berkeley designed a water harvester that can pull water from air even if humidity is just 20 percent. Chemist Omar Yaghi of UC Berkeley said, “We wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert , you could survive because of this device.” Yaghi invented compounds known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) 20 years ago, and now is using MOF crystals to harvest water even in dry places. In the water harvesting device, around two pounds of tiny MOF crystals are compressed between a solar absorber and condenser plate to collect around 0.7 gallons of water in 12 hours. Related: World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert That may not sound like all that much, but it’s plenty for a human trapped in the desert to survive. Yaghi said, “A person needs about a [330ml] can of water per day. That is something one could collect in less than an hour with this system.” Right now there’s no other way to harvest water in low humidity except to draw on extra energy , according to Yaghi. “Your electric dehumidifier at home ‘produces’ very expensive water,” he says. In contrast sunlight enables the new device to work. Rooftop tests at MIT have already demonstrated the device works in the real world. Even if you never find yourself stranded in the desert, you could benefit from such a water harvester. “One vision for the future is to have water off-grid , where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household,” said Yaghi. “To me, that will be made possible because of this experiment. I call it personalized water.” Science published the team’s research yesterday . Via the University of California, Berkeley and The Independent Images via MIT/laboratory of Evelyn Wang and MIT/Hyunho Kim

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Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert

Scientists say we have 10 years to save Earth

April 14, 2017 by  
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Time is running out to protect Earth from the disastrous effects of climate change . An international team of eight researchers said we have just 10 years to save the planet. But their news isn’t all bad: they’ve come up with a model for balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon sinks , like forests, to keep temperatures from passing the 1.5 degree Celsius mark widely considered safe for life as we know it. Scientists say if the world actually intends to stick to the Paris agreement , the next decade will be critical. They say there are two ways to reduce carbon emissions: by slashing the emissions we humans produce and by restoring carbon sinks, and it’s time to take action on both. They detailed their plan in a Nature Communications study, published online yesterday. Related: Scientists say Trump’s presidency could lead to a “game over” scenario for the planet World Bank consultant Brian Walsh, who led the study while doing research for the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said they scrutinized carbon emissions from fossil fuels , agriculture, food production, bioenergy, and land use. They also accounted for natural ecosystems taking in carbon emissions to determine where they originate and where they go. Here’s the recommendation: we must reduce fossil fuel use to the point where it’s under 25 percent of the global energy supply by 2100; it’s at 95 percent right now. And we need to reduce deforestation to attain a 42 percent decrease in emissions by 2100. Renewable energy is also part of the answer. The researchers considered four scenarios for energy development in the future. A high-renewable scenario would see wind, solar, and bioenergy use increase by five percent a year so emissions would peak by 2022. Even that pathway would lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase if we don’t also employ negative emissions technologies. IIASA Energy Program Director and co-author Keywan Riahi said, “Earlier work on mitigation strategies by IIASA has shown the importance of demand-side measures, including efficiency, conservation , and behavioral change. Success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius.” Via the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and EcoWatch Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Plants are keeping atmospheric carbon levels stable, but it won’t last forever

November 9, 2016 by  
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Everyone knows that trees and other plants consume carbon dioxide, producing a byproduct of pure oxygen that leaves the surrounding air cleaner than it was before. Although widespread deforestation has had a devastating impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, a new study offers a glimmer of hope where all once seemed lost. A new Berkeley Lab study shows that plants around the globe are keeping atmospheric carbon levels steady , despite the increase in emissions in recent decades. But we can’t expect plants to clean up all the carbon, and researchers warn that the impressive work plants are doing may not be sustainable. Measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere show the amounts are climbing year after year, due to all the human activities that continue to emit the damaging greenhouse gas. The amount of carbon in the air steadily increased throughout the later part of the 20th century, but the levels plateaued around 1.9 parts per million (per year) from 2002 to 2014. Trevor Keenan, a researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division , analyzed data from the Global Carbon Project and quickly realized that the numbers didn’t quite add up. He began looking for an explanation of the carbon offsetting: a mysterious carbon sink. Related: 7 indoor plants that purify the air around you naturally The world’s oceans absorb a great deal of carbon, but that didn’t account for enough carbon offset to explain the leveling out of atmospheric carbon. Keenan and his team instead looked to the land, where climate conditions change more drastically from one year to the next. The researchers used computer modeling of Earth’s carbon cycle, fueled by 30 years of satellite data, to identify the leafy saviors keeping the most devastating aspect of climate change at bay. Plants , Keenan found, are slowing the buildup of atmospheric carbon just by doing what plants do. However, the Earth’s plants can’t scrub all the carbon dioxide humans are emitting into the atmosphere, and Keenan’s research suggests that the plateau of carbon levels may not last much longer. “It’s quite likely this is a temporary pause in the growth rate of CO2,” Keenan told Gizmodo. “As warming kicks back in, we’ll see the growth rate go up again.” The study was recently published in the journal Nature. Via Gizmodo Images via Takayuki Miki/Flickr and Berkeley Lab

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Plants are keeping atmospheric carbon levels stable, but it won’t last forever

China’s smog kills 4,000 people every day

August 17, 2015 by  
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We all know that pollution in China is bad, but we didn’t know it was this bad. A new study has found air pollution is killing about 4,000 people per day in China. Using newly available data, physicists at Berkeley Earth , a non-profit climate research organization, calculated that about 17 percent of all deaths in China are from heart and lung disease and other problems caused by the incredibly polluted air. Pollution is not just limited to major cities, either. The study found 38 percent of Chinese people live with daily pollution that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates “unhealthy”. The study found China’s deadly air kills more than 1.4 million people per year; in the U.S., worst-case estimates show that about 200,000 people are killed by air pollution per year. The team also found 99.9 percent of the eastern half of China breathes a higher concentration of small particulate matter than people in the city of Madera, California, where the highest annual average small particulate haze in the U.S. is found. In other words, almost everyone in China is breathing more damaging air than the worst air in the U.S. Related: London air pollution responsible for 9,500 deaths each year The Berkley team analyzed data from a four-month period from April 5, 2014 to August 5, 2014 to create computer model calculations that estimate heart, lung and stroke deaths from different types of pollutants. Electric power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles, biomass burning, and fossil fuels used for heating are all on the list of contributing factors to China’s air pollution. The tiny particulates that escape from these sources can enter the lungs and bloodstream and cause a range of problems, from asthma to heart disease. Via Phys.org Lead image via  Erik Charlton , factory image via  Leo Fung , Shanghai image via  Peter Dowley

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China’s smog kills 4,000 people every day

How one app fed almost 600,000 homeless people

June 30, 2015 by  
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Click here to view the embedded video. A simple lunch with a homeless vet forever changed the life of Komal Ahmad, who was then a student at University of California, Berkeley and is now a CEO. Ahmad was walking near campus a few years ago when a homeless man asked her for money. She bought him lunch instead. The meeting left a deep impact, so she soon devised, along with classmate Chloe Tsang, a way to get campus food waste onto the plates of local people who were going hungry . Her initiative sparked food waste “forwarding” programs on other campuses and inspired an app that has fed almost 600,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area alone. Read the rest of How one app fed almost 600,000 homeless people Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Chloe Tsang , donation app , feeding america , feeding forward , feeding forward app , food waste , food waste donation , Komal Ahmad , uc berkeley , wasted food

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How one app fed almost 600,000 homeless people

Sea Creatures and Dinosaurs Inspire a Virtually Indestructible Home in Berkeley, California

June 17, 2013 by  
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People who live in Berkeley, California are certainly used to seeing some strange things on the streets of their city. But those who live in the neighborhood near 2747 Matthews Street may point out a structure that’s a little odd to even the most weathered of residents. Nicknamed “The Fish House” by locals, the Tsui House built by architect Eugene Tsui is touted by its creator as the one of the world’s safest dwellings . The design is based upon a small and segmented water creature known as a tardigrade , and also features a few architectural elements inspired by dinosaur physiology. Read the rest of Sea Creatures and Dinosaurs Inspire a Virtually Indestructible Home in Berkeley, California Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: berkeley , biomimicry , California , cholla cactus , dimetrodon , Disaster-proof design , Eugene Tsui , Rastra block , stegosaurus , stryofoam , tardigrade , the fish house , tsui house , water bear        

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Sea Creatures and Dinosaurs Inspire a Virtually Indestructible Home in Berkeley, California

VelociRoACH: A Tiny, Super-Fast Robot Cockroach Made from Cardboard That Can Save Lives

January 10, 2013 by  
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It may not be able to survive a nuclear blast, but this tiny VelociRoACH robot is pretty darn impressive. Although it’s just 4-inches long, the VelociRoACH can run so fast that it covers 27 times its own body length in just one second – that’s about a 10-minute mile – making it the fastest robot in the world for its size. The cardboard robot is the brainchild of Duncan Haldane and his colleagues at UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab , who strive to mimic animal features such as movement and sensing in order to improve robotic capabilities. Read the rest of VelociRoACH: A Tiny, Super-Fast Robot Cockroach Made from Cardboard That Can Save Lives Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: biomimetic robots , cockroach robot , Duncan Haldane , search and rescue robots , Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology , UC Berkeley Biomimetic Millisystems Lab , VelociRoACH

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VelociRoACH: A Tiny, Super-Fast Robot Cockroach Made from Cardboard That Can Save Lives

Miller Hull’s Green-Roofed Global Learning and the Arts Building at Cascadia Community College Receives LEED Platinum

January 10, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of Miller Hull’s Green-Roofed Global Learning and the Arts Building at Cascadia Community College Receives LEED Platinum Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Cascadia Community College , Global Learning and the Arts Building , green roof , LEED platinum , Miller Hull , photovoltaic solar array , reclaimed rainwater , usgbc

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Miller Hull’s Green-Roofed Global Learning and the Arts Building at Cascadia Community College Receives LEED Platinum

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