BAS breaks ground on energy-efficient Discovery Building to study climate change in Antarctica

February 26, 2020 by  
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To establish Britain as a world leader in the fight against climate change, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has broken ground on the new Discovery Building at Rothera Research Station, its largest facility for ongoing climate-related research in Antarctica. Designed by Hugh Broughton Architects (HBA) as part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Partnership, the new operations building and ongoing modernization efforts will follow a bespoke BREEAM accreditation and assessment system to ensure that the upgraded facility meets the highest environmental standards. Located on a rocky promontory at the southern extremity of Adelaide Island, the Rothera Research Station has operated year-round since its opening in 1975 and serves as a major logistics center for all BAS operations on the continent. The new cutting-edge facility — named The Discovery Building to commemorate the discovery of Antarctica in 1820 by the British naval officer Edward Bransfield — will consolidate the existing facility by replacing a series of scattered buildings that are too outdated or costly to maintain. Spanning an area of 4,500 square meters, the two-story building will comprise preparation areas for field expeditions, a central store, medical facility, offices, recreational spaces, workshops and areas for plant. Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature To minimize environmental impact, The Discovery Building will feature an energy-efficient, aerodynamic design oriented into the prevailing wind. A snow and wind deflector — the largest of its kind in Antarctica — will channel air at higher speeds down the leeward face to minimize snow accumulation. The exterior composite insulated metal panels will be tinted a pale blue in reference to the Antarctic sky and to minimize impacts of degradation from high levels of UV. Triple glazing will let in natural light while ensuring an airtight envelope. Health and wellness for field staff is also considered in the design. Vibrant colors, transparent glazed screens between spaces and access to natural light will help mitigate the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the long, dark Antarctic winters. Open-plan workspaces and break-out areas will help foster collaboration. The Discovery Building is expected to finish construction in 2023. The project was designed with BAM Nuttall Ltd and its team, design consultants Sweco, Hugh Broughton Architects as well as with Ramboll acting as BAS’s Technical Advisers and with its team Norr and Turner & Townsend. + Hugh Broughton Architects Images via Hugh Broughton Architects

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BAS breaks ground on energy-efficient Discovery Building to study climate change in Antarctica

Research finds heart attacks and strokes surge on high pollution days in England

October 25, 2019 by  
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A new study published by King’s College London (KCL) reports that elevated levels of air pollution contribute to increased spikes in cardiac arrests, stroke admissions and asthma hospitalizations. The sobering news has been described as a health emergency, prompting calls for the British government to commit to more enforceable sustainability targets and improved air quality standards. The research team surveyed data across nine cities: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. London had the largest uptick of health incidents because it experienced more high pollution days. For the English capital city, an additional 124 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 231 stroke admissions and 193 asthma hospitalizations occurred on days registering higher pollution levels. The collated data clearly revealed a cause-and-effect correlation. Thus, increased air pollution from wind direction and wind strength conclusively affected people’s health in just a short period of time while similarly having implications on life expectancy. Related: For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said, “London’s lethal air is a public health crisis — it leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.” The research results were published ahead of the British National Clean Air Summit , which was hosted by UK100 , a British network of local government leaders. In response to the study findings, the British National Health Service (NHS) tweeted that almost a third of preventable deaths in England “are due to non-communicable diseases specifically attributed to air pollution .” Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS, further explained, “Since these avoidable deaths are happening now — not in 2025 or 2050 — together we need to act now. For the NHS, that is going to mean further comprehensive action building on the reduction of our carbon footprint of one-fifth in the past decade. So our NHS energy use, supply chain, building adaptations and our transport will all need to change substantially.” + King’s College London Via EcoWatch Image via Matt Buck

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Research finds heart attacks and strokes surge on high pollution days in England

Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021

October 25, 2019 by  
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Relentless Amazon deforestation and gross mishandling of the region by Brazilian authorities and agricultural advocates are pushing the world’s largest tropical rainforest closer to the brink of catastrophic ecological collapse. Even more alarming, once that tipping point is reached, there will be no way to reverse it. Estimates reveal that if mass environmental mismanagement persists, within two years’ time, the forest will collapse and will be unable to generate enough rain to sustain itself. The news was shared in a policy brief put forth by Monica de Bolle, a Peterson Institute for International Economics senior fellow in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the report only sparked controversy, with some climatologists and researchers arguing that the tipping point is still 15 to 25 years away. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis The Amazon is currently experiencing excessive deforestation, 75 percent of which is attributed to two ‘forest-risk commodities’: soybeans and beef — Brazil’s main exports. Widespread deforestation and land clearing diminish regional rainfall, exacerbating the risks of fire, drought and heat stress. These environmental stressors leave the trees and ecosystem vulnerable to parasites and pathogens, further predisposing the flora to far-reaching forest dry-up and ecological decline. Sadly, an unhealthy Amazon rainforest can no longer produce enough rain to sustain itself. The mortality of the rainforest’s trees would release billions of tons of carbon, intensifying greenhouse gas emissions and global warming . Dire consequences include biodiversity loss, rampant ecosystem failure and climate repercussions. Carlos Nobre, a leading climate scientist in Brazil, is one of de Bolle’s detractors. “The Amazon is already 17 percent deforested, so when you calculate at the current rate of deforestation, this 20 percent to 25 percent is reached in 15 to 20 years,” Nobre said. “I hope she is wrong. If she is right, it is the end of the world.” No matter whether the tipping point is reached by 2021 or later, what’s clear is that if things continue unabated in the Amazon, the once-treasured World Heritage site will collapse, and the entire world will suffer. Via The Guardian Image via NASA

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Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels in the UK

October 15, 2019 by  
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In a first for the United Kingdom, wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy sources have generated more electricity than their fossil fuel counterparts of coal and natural gas. This significant milestone confirms that since the Industrial Revolution began and the U.K.’s first power plant was established in 1882, zero-carbon energy has finally generated more clean terawatt hours. This is thanks to the decreasing cost of renewable energy, making alternative power sources a more feasible and desirable choice. Full decarbonization of the British electricity grid system now looks to be within reach. Related: Scientists find a way to produce renewable energy from snow For centuries, coal was king for the British energy industry. According to Carbon Brief , coal stoked British lighting from the 1810s, and it powered British railroads and ships from the 1840s and British centralized electricity generators from the 1880s. Then, a profound cultural shift began upon the enactment of the influential Clean Air Act of 1956 as a response to London’s Great Smog of 1952 . The Act steered both public and private sectors away from coal use. Even financial grants were issued to fund the transition to cleaner fuel sources. The ban to use coal for home heating and the restrictions against burning coal in urban areas notably contributed to a decline in British coal use. The 1980s saw the imminent dethroning of British coal, first with numerous pit closures occurring as a consequence of widespread strikes by miners. The closures heightened the importation of foreign coal, in turn producing supply uncertainty and geopolitical conflict. By the turn of the millennium, British environmentalists pushed for greener ambitions that swept out the U.K.’s reliance on coal. Now, only seven power plants powered by coal remain in the British isles. The last one is scheduled to close by 2025. As Carbon Brief reported, “In the third quarter of 2019, some 39 percent of U.K. electricity was from coal, oil and gas, including 38 percent from gas and less than 1 percent from coal and oil combined.” But just how much exactly comes from renewables ? Renewable energy now accounts for 40 percent: 20 percent wind power, 19 percent nuclear, 12 percent plant biomass, mainly from wood pellets, and 6 percent solar power. Wind power’s dominance among British renewable energy sources is by virtue of some newly constructed offshore windfarms. For instance, the world’s largest offshore windfarm, the Hornsea 1 , comprises wind turbines that dot more than 157 square miles of the North Sea. Secondly, the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm , Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm off the Wick coast in the North Sea, likewise opened in July. Renewable clean energy has a bright future in the U.K. The British continue to build a smart energy system that offers resilience, reliability and sustainability . Via The Guardian Image via Stephen Gidley

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Waitrose supermarket trials refillable, packaging-free products

June 7, 2019 by  
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New green innovations from leading British grocery store include dedicated refillable zone, borrow-a-box scheme and frozen pick and mix.

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The United Kingdom might soon create new national parks

May 29, 2018 by  
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In an op-ed for The Telegraph , United Kingdom Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a new review process which could result in creating new national parks in England. Nearly 70 years after the creation of the first British national parks , Gove wrote that “the time is right” to consider creating new protected areas in the United Kingdom. As the human population grows and natural habitats decline, he wrote that the British people should “look afresh at these landscapes” and determine how best to preserve them for future generations. Aware of concerns amidst an ongoing national policy of austerity , Gove emphasized that the review’s mission was not to cut the conservation of nature but to “strengthen it in the face of present-day challenges.” The first national parks in the U.K., the Peak District, Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor, were founded in 1951. England currently has 10 national parks while Wales and Scotland host three and two, respectively. “The creation of national parks almost 70 years ago changed the way we view our precious landscapes — helping us all access and enjoy our natural world,” Gove wrote. “We want to make sure they are not only conserved, but enhanced for the next generation.” Related: General Electric to debut world’s largest wind turbine in UK Gove has appointed former governor aide and journalist Julian Glover to lead the review process. “I want Julian explicitly to consider how we can extend and improve the protection we give to other precious landscapes,” Gove wrote. “Are we properly supporting all those who live in, work in, or want to visit these magnificent places? Should we indeed be extending our areas of designated land ?” Conservationists have praised Gove’s decision, though they say that more must be done. WWF campaigns director Tony Juniper told the BBC , “ Nature will continue to be at risk unless we have a plan for its recovery enshrined in law — through a new Environment Act that’s backed by a strong watchdog with real power to enforce.” + The Telegraph Via BBC Images via Paul Morris and Klim Levene

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RBS will cease financing new coal stations, Arctic oil, or oil sands projects

May 29, 2018 by  
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Several oil and gas projects will no longer receive financing from Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Reuters reported . The bank said it won’t offer project-specific finance for Arctic oil and oil sands projects, new coal -fired power stations, new thermal coal mines, or unsustainable peatland or vegetation clearance projects. RBS Director of Sustainable Banking Kirsty Britz said, “The RBS of 2018 is very different to the bank we were a few years ago. If we’re going to support our customers in the long run, then it means addressing the challenge of climate change and the risks and opportunities it presents.” The changes are part of RBS’s tighter restrictions on finance and general lending for what Reuters described as “high-carbon energy projects.” In addition to the projects listed above, RBS said it won’t provide finance for “ mining companies generating more than 40 percent of their revenues from thermal coal” and “ power companies generating more than 40 percent of their electricity from coal.” In the past, the threshold for both types of companies was 65 percent. Related: The World Bank will stop funding oil and gas projects after 2019 RBS quoted Sonia Hierzig of ShareAction , a responsible investment charity, as saying the energy financing policies “make RBS the bank with the strongest energy sector policies out of the top five UK banks…RBS would now rank 8th in our climate ranking of the 15 largest European banks, up from 11th previously.” The bank said they’ve funded “more British renewable energy projects than any other UK bank for the last six years running.” They also said they obtain 90 percent of electricity in the UK and Ireland via renewable energy and, since 2014, have seen a 39 percent drop in their carbon dioxide emissions . + Royal Bank of Scotland Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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100% electric passenger, vehicle and cargo ferry could help decarbonize sea travel

May 29, 2018 by  
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Many ferries are powered by polluting diesel, but the European Union-funded E-ferry could offer a cleaner alternative: a medium-sized ferry able to transport trucks, cars, passengers and cargo with zero greenhouse gas emissions. While this isn’t the first zero-emission ferry, the team behind the project says the new ferry will be able to cover longer distances — traveling 22 nautical miles between charges. E-ferry’s goal is to “apply an extremely energy efficient design concept and demonstrate a 100 percent electric , emission-free, medium-sized ferry” able to travel without polluting, according to the project website. The European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) announced the project will be soon set sail and operate in the Baltic Sea to connect the island of Ærø to the Denmark mainland. The ferry, dubbed Ellen, will travel the Søby-Fynshav and Søby-Faaborg routes, which are 10.7 and 9.6 nautical miles, respectively. Related: 173 countries agree to slash shipping industry emissions in historic deal Ellen could be equipped with “the largest battery pack ever installed in a vessel,” according to the project website, and boasts a battery capacity of 4.3 megawatt-hours. The website says , “The peak charging power of the E-ferry battery pack and its shore charging connection will be up to four megawatts.” The vessel will have two 750 kilowatt (kW) propulsion motors and two 250 kW thruster motors. It can carry 31 cars or five trucks, and 147 passengers in the winter and 198 in the summer. It will weigh around 650 tons. The E-ferry will be built with what the team described as new lightweight materials: “different kinds of carbon composites” as well as more traditional aluminum materials. The team aims for 10 or more E-ferries operating by 2020, and 100 or more by 2030 to save 10,000 to 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year by 2020 and 100,000 to 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly by 2030. E-ferry is supported by the Horizon 2020 initiative. + E-ferry + CORDIS Image via Depositphotos

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100% electric passenger, vehicle and cargo ferry could help decarbonize sea travel

General Electric to debut world’s largest wind turbine in UK

April 24, 2018 by  
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General Electric just announced that it will begin testing the world’s largest wind turbine – the Haliade-X – at its facilities in Blyth, England. General Electric’s renewable energy department signed a five-year contract with the British government-funded Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) to begin trials of the 12-megawatt turbine. “This is an important agreement because it will enable us to prove Haliade-X in a faster way by putting it under controlled and extreme conditions,” GE Offshore Wind president and CEO John Lavelle said in a statement . The United Kingdom plans to rapidly develop its offshore wind capacity, with an estimated growth to 30 gigawatts by 2030 – five times greater than its current capacity. Speaking to Reuters , British energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry cited the contract between GE and OREC as a shining example of the country’s advanced research and testing facilities. The largest currently operational wind turbine is also in the United Kingdom ; MHI Vestas’ 9 MW turbines generate power in the Vattenfall wind farm off the shore of Aberdeen, Scotland . Related: GE develops hybrid jet engine and battery to supplement California renewables In addition to the formal approval of testing, the agreement includes funding from Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund to create the world’s most powerful grid emulation system at OREC’s Blyth headquarters. General Electric ‘s move to develop the largest turbine follows a general trend in the industry, in which producers are aiming to create the biggest turbines to reduce the cost of energy produced and to increase the amount of energy generated at each turbine. With money to be made, the future of wind energy looks to be bigger than ever. Via Reuters Images via GE and Depositphotos

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General Electric to debut world’s largest wind turbine in UK

Pop-up Befriending Kitchen unites refugees and asylum seekers in London

March 8, 2018 by  
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Merrett Houmøller Architects designed a pop-up kitchen that not only addresses social change, but is also a clever take on modular architecture with wheels. Created for RIBA’s Beyond Borders design competition, Befriending Kitchen was created to bring young asylum seekers and refugees together with weekly meals. Compact enough for mobile travel, the pop-up unit contains kitchen facilities as well as storage for folding tables and benches. Merrett Houmøller Architects’ Befriending Kitchen was born from the Refugees and Befriending Project, run by British Red Cross volunteers and staff. The new pop-up dining facility brings a colorful refresh to the project (previously run out of an office) and is decorated with bright graphics inspired by nautical signal flags. Related: IKEA’s SPACE10 lab is bringing a pop-up vertical farm to London Befriending Kitchen unpacks into two separate units that bookend a dining area made up of folding benches and tables seating up to 30 people. The kitchen facilities include a gas hob, sink, counter space, and trash disposal . The project is currently located in the courtyard of the British Red Cross’ Hackney destitution center in east London . + Merrett Houmøller Architects Via Dezeen Images © Francis Ware 2017

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Pop-up Befriending Kitchen unites refugees and asylum seekers in London

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