A new study reveals that urban green spaces may be an antidote to depression

July 23, 2018 by  
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A recent study shows that symptoms of depression can be reduced for people who have access to green spaces. Researchers in Philadelphia transformed vacant lots in the city into green spaces and found that adults living near these newly planted areas reported decreased feelings of depression, with the biggest impact occurring in low-income neighborhoods. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine teamed up with members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to transform and observe 541 randomly selected vacant lots in Philadelphia. Eugenia South, assistant professor and co-author of the study , said Philadelphia’s littered lots were an ideal environment to set-up their groundwork. “There’s probably 40,000 of them in the city” she told NPR , “but they’re concentrated in certain sections of the city, and those areas tend to be in poorer neighborhoods.” According to the study, lower socioeconomic conditions have already been proven to distress mental health states. Related: Virtual reality helps scientists plot the ideal urban green space The researchers separated the lots into three groups: a control group of lots where nothing was altered, a set of lots that was cleaned up of litter, and a group of lots where everything, including existing vegetation, was removed and replanted with new trees and grass. “We found a significant reduction in the amount of people who were feeling depressed ” South said. Her team used a psychological distress scale to ask people how they felt, including senses of hopelessness, restlessness and worthlessness, as well as measuring heart rates, a leading indicator of stress, of residents walking past the lots. Low-income neighborhoods showed as high as a 27.5 percent reduction in depression rates. South said, “In the areas that had been greened, I found that people had reduced heart rates when they walked past those spaces.” While previous research has cross-studied the beneficial effects of green spaces on mental health, experts, such as Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch from the University of California, Berkeley, are regarding this experiment as “innovative.” Morello-Frosch said that previous studies were observational in nature and failed to provide concrete statistical results as this study has offered. Morello-Frosch, who was not involved with the analysis, said, “To my knowledge, this is the first intervention to test — like you would in a drug trial — by randomly alleviating a treatment to see what you see.” Parallel research has identified indicators of crime-reduction and increased community interaction, showing that green spaces are a low-cost answer to improving many facets of a community’s well-being, now including mental health. +  JAMA Network Open Via NPR Before and After images via Eugenia South and Bernadette Hohl/JAMA Network Open

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A new study reveals that urban green spaces may be an antidote to depression

An old bungalow is transformed into an award-winning home with a modern extension

July 18, 2018 by  
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Los Angeles-based Edward Ogosta Architecture has breathed new life into a 70-year-old bungalow by adding a modern extension fitted with massive windows. Named the Rear Window House, the Culver City home spans 1,450 square feet and was commissioned by clients who sought extra space for their growing family. The new addition respects the local architecture — predominately low-slung bungalows from the post-war era — and maintains the 3:12 roof slope shared by the existing house and surrounding residences. Wrapped in asphalt roofing shingles, the Rear Window House extension consists of a master suite along with a new laundry room, closet and library. The volume juts out toward the backyard and embraces the landscape with extruded aluminum window frames and a covered back porch with a concrete platform. The house’s axial path to the backyard was formed with the careful positioning of the addition, which was placed parallel to the existing garage. “Influenced by the California minimalism practiced by the Light and Space movement of the 1960s, Ogosta sought to create moments of clarity that conjure a serene, meditative experience,” said the firm in a project statement. “Through a careful sequencing of new spaces and strategically located apertures, Rear Window House opens itself up to become deeply integrated with the rear garden.” Related: Culver City Eco House fights back after being decimated by landslide The interiors of the existing home were updated to match that of the new addition. Inside, the architects added bleached oak floors and white walls to achieve a clean and minimalist aesthetic. The large windows pour an abundance of natural light inside; the most striking use of glazing can be seen in the master suite where a window wall offers the homeowners a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience. The Rear Window House, completed in 2016, received a 2018 AIA National Small Projects Award . + Edward Ogosta Architecture Via Dezeen Images via Steve King

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An old bungalow is transformed into an award-winning home with a modern extension

The Eye of the Storm dome home can withstand hurricanes and it’s officially on the market

July 18, 2018 by  
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Beachfront homes on Sullivan’s Island off Charleston, South Carolina are among the most magnificent dwellings in the country. With vistas that seem to extend beyond infinity and backyards bordering Charleston Harbor, these upscale houses offer the ideal trio of magnificent ocean views, peace and tranquility – except, that is, during hurricane season . After Hurricane Hugo demolished his parents’ prized home on the island in 1989, George Paul, a builder and designer of dome structures , rebuilt the home, called Eye of the Storm, in collaboration with architect X Dilling in 1991. Now the hurricane-defying 650-ton dome home is up for sale by Pareto Real Estate with a price tag of $4.9M. The unique house, located at 2851 Marshall Blvd on Sullivan’s Island, stands out in the crowd of conventionally constructed homes and is situated only 230 feet from the water. Built from concrete, steel, and glass, the home takes the shape of a striking white dome, and it sits on a nearly ½-acre land parcel. Related: Escape the everyday in this Geodesic Dome House in Palm Springs The 3,571-square-foot home has three bedrooms and four baths on the upper level. The main floor has an open, freeform living, dining, and kitchen space that provides unhindered views of the surrounding areas since support beams are not necessary in domed configurations. The showcase fireplace design reflects the lines of the dome’s exterior. Extravagant granite counters were added to the kitchen in a 2018 restoration. To accommodate beachcombing guests, an additional bathroom, two shower rooms and a storage room comprise the 526-square-foot ground floor. Curved concrete walls throughout the home create a flow akin to that of the steady, mesmerizing ocean currents . A secluded, 159-square-foot deck borders the master bedroom and an enormous 889 square feet of deck space embraces the back of the home. Oversized glass openings on decks and balconies provide views that vary from fantastic to fearful, depending on the weather. + Dwell Images via Michael D. Royal/Pareto Real Estate

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The Eye of the Storm dome home can withstand hurricanes and it’s officially on the market

Award-winning Palm Springs home embraces the California climate in sustainable style

July 11, 2018 by  
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Los Angeles-based architecture firm Poon Design Inc.  has crafted a luxury residence that eschews the mid-century modern style for a more minimalist and contemporary design fitted out with sustainable technologies. Dubbed ‘Museum Modern,’ the Linea Residence G serves as a production home that the architect and developer say can be completed for a “record low construction cost,” totaling one-fourth the cost per square foot of typical high-end residences in Southern California. The all-white house was recently recognized in the American Institute of Architects’ 2018 Best in Housing. Conceived as “a new standard for the speculative tract housing industry,” Residence G takes up nearly a quarter of the site measuring approximately 20,000 square feet. The house comprises three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, a three-car garage and a detached one-bedroom guest house. To embrace California’s climate and indoor-outdoor living, the architects installed 90 feet of continuous sliding low-e glass doors that measure 10.5 feet tall for floor-to-ceiling views of the surrounding desert mountains. “Our design opposes the predictable Taco-Bell-style or the cliché Mid-Century Modern tract homes prevalent in the area,” explains Poon Design Inc. “To the home buying audience, Residence G offers a production home that equals the presence of custom luxury estates. In the past few years, Residence G and parallel other sustainable home designs by this architect and developer have been built and sold, totaling over 200 completed homes in the Palm Springs area.” Related: Escape the everyday in this Geodesic Dome House in Palm Springs In addition to sleek, minimalist style, Residence G is also integrated with a wide array of energy-efficient features. The rooftop solar panels provide a base 6kW solar package that can be added onto if desired. Passive cooling is implemented with long roof overhangs and complemented by a reflective energy-efficient cool roof. The locally sourced material palette includes VOC-free finishes and adhesives and includes a number of recycled or rapidly renewable materials. + Poon Design Images by The Agency, Locke Pleninger and Mark Ballogg

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Award-winning Palm Springs home embraces the California climate in sustainable style

Just what the doctor ordered: Kaiser powers forward with renewable microgrids

July 5, 2018 by  
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The critical systems at its facility in Richmond, California, can operate for up to three hours when the broader grid goes down.

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Just what the doctor ordered: Kaiser powers forward with renewable microgrids

US Forest Service allows Nestl to continue taking water from California national forest

June 29, 2018 by  
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The U.S. Forest Service has offered Nestlé Waters North America a three-year permit on water rights in the San Bernardino National Forest , allowing the company to continue to take millions of gallons of water from the site. Under the proposed agreement, Nestlé would draw from the Strawberry Creek watershed “when there is water available consistent with the forest’s Land Management Plan” for its various bottled water brands, including Arrowhead. If California returns to severe drought conditions, the Forest Service could further limit natural resource access. The Forest Service says it will work with the Swiss company to study the watershed and determine future management plans. The watershed is currently rated as Class Three “Impaired Function,” the worst watershed functionality class. An “impaired” watershed exceeds “physical, hydrological or biological thresholds,” with major changes needed to restore the watershed to functioning status. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley “[The decision ensures] the water withdrawal and conveyance infrastructure is under a current permit,” U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Joe Rechsteiner explained to the Associated Press. “And it provides for protection of forest resources.” In 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, Calif. sued the Forest Service to block Nestlé from using the watershed, arguing the conglomerate was operating without a valid permit. A federal judge allowed continued water collection for bottling , while regulators considered a new permit. In its permit renewal application, the company cited 70 environmental studies to support its continued watershed usage. Arrowhead’s use of the Strawberry Creek watershed dates back to 1909, when the Arrowhead Springs Company was formed. Nestlé must accept the agreement within 60 days. In a statement to the AP, Nestlé noted they would “carefully review the specifics of the decision.” Via  Associated Press Images via John Heil (1, 2)

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US Forest Service allows Nestl to continue taking water from California national forest

Decarbonized, distributed and digital — building for a new energy future

June 27, 2018 by  
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The future of the grid is increasingly becoming decarbonized, distributed and digital. Utility and energy executives from California, Australia and Hawaii share what they are doing to meet their aggressive clean energy goals, lessons learned so far, and what’s ahead.

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Decarbonized, distributed and digital — building for a new energy future

Animals are becoming nocturnal to avoid humans

June 15, 2018 by  
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Researchers have learned that dozens of species of animals have reacted to increased contact with human beings by shifting their internal clocks to become more nocturnal. “It suggests that animals might be playing it safe around people,” study leader Kaitlyn Gaynor told Phys.org . “We may think that we leave no trace when we’re just hiking in the woods , but our mere presence can have lasting consequences.” In a new study published in the journal Science , Gaynor and her team analyzed data from 76 previous studies on 62 different animal species spread out over six continents and concluded that even relatively low-impact activities can affect animal behavior. Animals featured in this study, many of whom were mammals, include coyotes in California, wild boars in Poland, lions in Tanzania, tigers in Nepal, and otters in Brazil . To determine the effect of human behavior on sleeping patterns, researchers determined how long animals were active at night when affected by different kinds of human activities, such as hunting, hiking , and farming. The team concluded that human presence correlated with a 20 percent increase on average of nocturnal activity among the animals studied. Related: Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing “bat-friendly” streetlights This research is among the first to explore and quantify how human behavior impacts animal activity and sleep patterns on a broad scale.  “No one else has compiled all this information and analyzed it in such a … robust way,” researcher Ana Benitez Lopez, who reviewed the study, told Phys.org. The study is a reminder that simply being in a wild space can fundamentally change it. “It’s a little bit scary,” ecologist Marlee Tucker, who did not participate in the study, told Phys.org. “Even if people think that we’re not deliberately trying to impact animals, we probably are without knowing it.” While some animals will struggle with adapting to night life, the shift may also provide benefits to animals who hope to share space with humans without ever dealing with them. Armed with new knowledge, I will nonetheless continue to hike and camp , because it helps me sleep. Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos

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Animals are becoming nocturnal to avoid humans

California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate

May 23, 2018 by  
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In a monumental trial, DeWayne Johnson will soon become the first person to face Monsanto in court for an alleged cover-up of the cancer-causing dangers of its herbicide products. Johnson, a father of three and resident of California , has cancer, which he believes was caused by his exposure to Monsanto-produced chemicals in his work as a groundskeeper. Though Monsanto has denied it, studies have demonstrated a link between glyphosate , the active ingredient in Monsanto herbicides, and cancer. Last week, presiding Judge Curtis Karnow issued a ruling that allowed for the consideration of evidence with regards to whether Monsanto knew about the dangers of its products and systematically concealed it, as well as the specifics of Johnson’s case. Johnson’s lawsuit, which will be filed on June 18th in San Francisco county superior court, is part of a larger legal fight against Monsanto. Approximately 4,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Monsanto alleging that the failure to disclose the dangers of its chemicals has led to  cancer . The soon-to-be-filed lawsuit says that Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies,” while engaging in a “prolonged campaign of misinformation,” which caused harm to the public. “We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science,” Michael Miller, Johnson’s lawyer,  told the Guardian . “Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public.” Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer Monsanto claims there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. “Glyphosate-based herbicides are supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental effects databases ever compiled for a pesticide product,” Monsanto said in a statement . “Comprehensive toxicological and environmental fate studies conducted over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated the strong safety profile of this widely used herbicide.” Monsanto will soon have to defend this position in court, not only in California, but also in St. Louis, Missouri , where Monsanto was founded. Via The Guardian Images via Chafer Machinery , Avaaz and Mike Mozart

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Escape the everyday in this Geodesic Dome House in Palm Springs

May 19, 2018 by  
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Inspired by 20th-century architect R. Buckminster Fuller , architect Pavlina Williams transformed a decrepit dome house in Palm Springs into a dreamy retreat that channels bohemian and mid-century modern vibes. Now available as a vacation rental on Boutique Homes , the Geodesic Dome House offers stunning desert views on a private five-acre lot. Keep reading for a peek inside. Pavlina  and her husband Carter worked on their passion project on weekends and completed the renovation in a year. The key to the redesign was opening up the interior to natural light; Pavlina ordered custom windows from Home Depot to create a band of glazing for panoramic views . For a more modern appearance, Pavlina and Carter ripped up the existing flooring to expose the structural slab, which they then polished. Related: Couple spent seven years handcrafting their dream geodesic home In contrast to its bohemian exterior, the interior is bright and airy with a mid-century modern aesthetic in homage to the movement’s impact on Palm Springs . When asked by Boutique Homes about her favorite part of the home, Pavlina replied, “The location and the views. It’s five acres — and you hardly see the neighbors. You’re in the middle of nowhere. I mean that in a good way. You have the windmills all around you, so it feels like this is the end of the road, like you are here on your own. I love the desert, I love the mountains. In my mind, it’s really all about what’s around it.” The three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home accommodates up to six guests with rates starting at $245 a night . + Geodesic Dome House Images via Boutique Homes

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