Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

April 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

At first glance, it might seem like the standard bicycle doesn’t have much you could improve on. It gets you to your destination faster, provides a great workout, and doesn’t pollute the air. And, of course, once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. However, in sprawling modern day cities—Los Angeles, we’re looking at you—bikes are sometimes less than ideal as a form of transportation. Cyclists can certainly brave the crowded streets and longer commutes, but they’re far more likely to be exhausted, or at least uncomfortable, at the end of their ride. That’s where the electric bike comes in. Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have been around for a few years, but a recent increase in popularity has thrust them into the spotlight—and for good reason. As more and more people move to urban areas, we’ll have to find new ways of creating urban mobility if we want to stop problems of traffic congestion and air pollution from becoming worse. The electric bikes provides an excellent solution to this problem: by making commutes less intensive, it serves as a viable alternative to cars and lets riders enjoy their time outside and explore their city. Related: Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars Here at Inhabitat, we decided to test out an e-bike for ourselves to see just how different it was from a standard bicycle. On a typically sunny SoCal day, I headed down to Electric Bikes LA in El Segundo, a small suburb south of LAX, and picked up a Porteur Faraday bike . The bike itself was gorgeous, painted bright white and mint green, with sleek bamboo fenders above the wheels. The battery, which can last 25 miles when fully charged, was cleverly integrated into the frame of the bike. At the very least, I thought as I wheeled the bike out the shop’s front door, I would be riding in style, and nobody would know the bike was electric. I took the e-bike to a nearby park, then started out on a rutted dirt path. At first, I found I had to pedal a little harder than usual. Electric bikes weigh more than standard bikes, though, at 40 lbs, the Faraday models are much lighter than other brands. Once steady, I reached down with my thumb and switched the motor to full speed. And even though I had read about electric bikes and what they could do, I was not at all prepared for what happened next. Imagine flooring it in a car—the way the vehicle leaps forward, the landscape on either side turning to a blur. It was a little like that, except all I had to do was pedal, and instead of going from zero to sixty, I felt the bike comfortably pull me forward as I went from zero to twenty. Even so, I let out a whoop as I shot effortlessly through the park, then slowed down with ease and turned onto the street. Once I joined traffic, I dropped the motor speed down a notch, but that didn’t stop me from outpacing the cars beside me. I even spotted a few of the drivers giving me incredulous glances as I sped past. Granted, I was on residential streets, but I could understand—it’s not often that you see a cyclist pass a car without even breaking a sweat. As I navigated around El Segundo, I toggled between speeds, testing out various combinations. The motor essentially functions as a gear shift, allowing you to pair each setting with gears one through eight. The bike itself uses a Gates carbon drive belt that not only means less long-term maintenance, but also no greasy pant legs and a quieter ride. I found that the bike shifted seamlessly based on whatever speed I desired, which allowed me to pedal less while maintaining momentum. But I knew there needed to be one more test: the hill. El Segundo’s elevation changes aren’t exactly staggering, but still, I figured getting a 40-pound electric bike up a hill might take some effort. I tried it twice, only turning on the motor the second time. The first time, I have to admit that I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. The next time around, I flipped on the motor and went up two gears, and I ascended the hill in about half the time, pedaling with ease. Once I got back home, charging the bike was a simple process. The adapter is about the size of a typical laptop charger and plugs straight into the battery pack. From a completely empty battery to full charge took around two and a half hours. The verdict? Faraday’s electric bike handles and rides like a dream, and it’s easy to imagine using it to commute in L.A., or any city, really. In fact, Los Angeles is just one among many cities where it can be faster to ride a bike than drive . An electric bike isn’t exactly cheap—the average retail price in 2016 was $3,000, and Faraday’s two models go for $3,499 and $2,499—but, as an alternative to other forms of transportation, it makes sense. Faraday itself offers a 24-month financing plan that knocks the price down to $104 a month, which is about the same price as a bus or metro pass in most major cities, and far less expensive than paying for gas and insurance. Plus, you have the added benefit of appreciating and experiencing your city rather than seeing it through a car window. While the concept is still relatively new, I don’t doubt that electric bikes could be on the rise as a transportation alternative —one that’s greener, faster, and much, much more pleasant than sitting in traffic. + Faraday Bikes Photos by Angela Molina and Kimberly Keller Additional images via  Faraday Bikes

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Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

April 9, 2018 by  
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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has announced that Flint water is once again safe to drink, and the state will soon cease the free bottled water service it has provided to Flint residents in the wake of the city’s drinking water crisis. “The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” the office of the Republican governor said in a statement. “Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.” Residents and local representatives are reportedly hesitant to trust assurances from the same administration that was responsible for the water crisis in the first place. Even though officials declared Flint water  safe based on scientific assessments, the multi-faceted damage caused by the water crisis will be hard to repair. “Governor Snyder has failed to address the psychological trauma that his administration put the people of Flint through,” said Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, who represents much of the majority-black city of 100,000. “The fact is, the people of Flint don’t trust the Snyder administration or the science they pay for — science that previously allowed our city to be poisoned.” Related: 11-year old inventor becomes “America’s Top Young Scientist” for creating lead-detecting sensor Although the city switched from Flint River water to Lake Huron water — the original source of clean water for the city — in 2015, the community remains wary. “I don’t trust the water. Period,” Flint resident Debra Coleman told WJRT local news . “It could be five years from now and I’ll still never drink this water.” While trust remains an issue, some of those responsible for the crisis are now being held accountable. In 2017, six current and former state and local officials were charged for actions that contributed to the crisis. Via Ecowatch and Reuters Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

This passively cooled house in Australia features a green roof, recycled brick, and ocean views

March 22, 2018 by  
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The residents of Greenacres,  Austin Maynard Architects ‘ first completed project in New South Wales, originally asked for a light-filled home and a room with a view. The architects decided to take it a step further, building a house that not only affords ocean views from almost every interior space, but also incorporates the existing landscape and uses sustainable design to maximize energy efficiency. Perched on a steep block in Newcastle, the house utilizes the existing topography to create different spaces across three levels and provide expansive views of its surroundings. The garage lies hidden at the base of the property, with the entry path and garden weaving along the structure and through the green roof . A landscaped driveway reduces the visual impact of the hard surfaces in front of the house. Propped on three steel “legs” above this section, the building’s main level houses the kitchen, living and dining areas. And finally, two bedrooms and a bathroom are tucked in beneath this rectangular space. Related: Eco-Friendly Tinbeerwah House Rises on Steel Stilts in the Australian Bush Austin Maynard Architects also made sure Greenacres didn’t get in the way of its own view. Whether in the living space, the rear of the building, or any space in between, you have a clear view of the ocean, the Merewether Ocean Baths, and the city.   Related: Australia’s first carbon-positive prefab house produces more energy than it consumes In addition to these main design considerations, the architects included sustainable features to help save energy. They used locally sourced recycled brick throughout the house. The orientation, window shading, attention to cross ventilation, and central fish pond aid passive cooling and reduce reliance on mechanical ventilation. All windows are double glazed and protected from the northern and western sun. Water tanks, buried in the garden, provide ample water for the gardens and the toilets. The result is the best of both worlds: a house with stunning ocean views that also manages to be energy-efficient. + Austin Maynard Architects Via World Architecture News Photos by Tess Kelly  

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This passively cooled house in Australia features a green roof, recycled brick, and ocean views

20% of US population produces 46% of food-based emissions

March 22, 2018 by  
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A monumental new study demonstrates that one-fifth of the American population is responsible for nearly half of all food-based emissions. Popsci reports that people who eat a lot of animal protein, especially beef, account for a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions — although, author Sara Chodosh also illustrates the extreme complexity behind the study’s potentially groundbreaking conclusions. Read on for a closer look. Published in Environmental Research Letters specifically sought to understand how diet and associated emissions varies among the American population. Martin Heller, an engineer at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and study contributor, told Popsci it was surprising to realize just how varied they are. “I don’t think any of us really had a strong sense of how distributed the greenhouse gas emissions would be,” he says. “That was perhaps the most striking result.” Getting to the meat of the matter (sorry, I couldn’t resist) involved consulting several different databases and picking apart the life-cycle analysis of every morsel. Chodosh writes : “The NHANES survey results can tell you what a broad spectrum of American plates look like on any given day, but tells you nothing about the environmental impact of those foods. To do that, you have to go to the Food Commodities Intake Database, run by the EPA, and figure out how much meat might be in that meat lasagna, or how many tomatoes are in a generic salad. From there, you have to link the quantities of each type of food to the emissions associated with producing it.” Related: Garlic may be the key to slashing methane emissions from cows When evaluating the emissions of a single tomato, it was necessary to know how much fertilizer was used in its production, and then how much fuel was used to transport that tomato. With poultry, the researchers had to also consider feed production, and when analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with eating beef, they had to calculate the amount of methane released by cow burps. I urge you to head over to Popsci to read the full details , because this short synthesis doesn’t do their reporting justice, but here’s the bottom line that we found so interesting: What next? Now that we know one-fifth of the American population is producing nearly half of food-based emissions — which in their turn are helping to melt glaciers and unleash devastating wildfires, not to mention the numerous adverse health hazards attributed to climate change — what do we do with that information? Heller tells Popsci, “Clearly we’ve not been very good at encouraging people to shift their diets for their own health. Relative to what our recommended healthy diet is, Americans do pretty poorly,” he says, “But I’ve started to try to think about it as the secondhand smoke of diet choice.” Fascinating. If you understood that your dietary choices directly hurt your neighbor, would you make a switch? + Environmental Research Letters Via Popsci Images via DepositPhotos 1 , 2

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20% of US population produces 46% of food-based emissions

‘World’s smallest computer’ could be manufactured for under 10 cents

March 22, 2018 by  
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Need a computer that’s smaller than a single grain of salt ? IBM has got you covered. Mashable reported the company unveiled what they’re calling the world’s smallest computer, that, according to IBM , “packs several hundred thousand transistors into a footprint barely visible to the human eye.” The world’s smallest computer is one-by-one millimeter in size, according to The Verge . IBM says it can have as many as one million transistors and will cost under 10 cents to create. Features include an LED communications unit and photo-detector, static random-access memory (SRAM), and an integrated photovoltaic cell. The photo above is actually a set of 64 motherboards, according to The Verge, each of which contain two of the world’s smallest computers. Below is a solo computer on salt to give you an idea of its small size: Related: IBM creates first-ever artificial neurons that behave like the real thing The miniscule computer is among the IBM Research team’s 5 in 5 technology predictions, which they “believe will fundamentally reshape business and society in the next five years,” according to a blog post from IBM Research head Arvind Krishna. Krishna called the computer a cryptographic anchor, or crypto-anchor — defined in an IBM video as “tamper-proof digital-fingerprints” to be embedded into products to ensure authenticity and detect counterfeit items. The company is showing off their 5 in 5 at the IBM Think 2018 conference. Mashable said testing of the first prototype is still underway, so there’s no word yet on when exactly the world’s smallest computer will be available, although Krishna said cryptographic anchors “will be embedded in everyday objects and devices” in around five years. + Changing the Way the World Works: IBM Research’s “5 in 5” + IBM 5 in 5: Crypto-anchors and blockchain Via Mashable and The Verge Images via IBM and IBM

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‘World’s smallest computer’ could be manufactured for under 10 cents

This caf in Vietnam is a modern-day Hanging Gardens of Babylon

March 22, 2018 by  
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This glass and steel building in Vietnam –a present for the owner’s wife- is filled with beautiful hanging plants that bring life into the interior. Architecture studio Le House designed An’garden Café as a mix of industrial design inspired by Vietnam’s traditional coffee shops and a dream-like interior landscape. With its verdant interior, the building reminds of Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Providing a serene environment amidst the noisy streets of Ha Noi, the project is an exclusive space that brings visitors enjoyment from both coffee fragrance and picturesque surroundings. Related: Beijing cafe shaped like a greenhouse is filled with air-purifying plants The glass-and-steel structure, along with simple cement walls, are placed in an almost decorative and seemingly random way. Plants were introduced to soften the rough industrial look of the place and harmonize the indoor environment. An’garden Café has two floors with a mezzanine suitable for those who want to focus on their work. A wooden-framed curtain on the ceiling partly blocks natural light , with the top floor receiving the most sunlight during the day. A small pond with aquatic plants is placed right under the staircase, on the ground floor. + Le House Via Archdaily Photos by Hyroyuki Oki

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This caf in Vietnam is a modern-day Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Herzog & de Meuron designs a Horizontal Skyscraper for Moscow

March 22, 2018 by  
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Building on an urban waterfront often means compromised views for existing structures, but that’s not the case for the “Horizontal Skyscraper” in Moscow . As part of an urban revitalization plan for an abandoned historic brewery, Herzog & de Meuron unveiled designs for two new residential blocks that will be elevated 115 feet into the air and supported by slender white stilts. By raising the contemporary additions, the Swiss architects guarantee coveted panoramic views for residents and a preserved visual connection between the historic buildings and the Moscow River. Founded in 1875, the brick-clad Badaevskiy Brewery buildings that fell in disrepair after in the 2000s will be restored and renovated for new retail and community ventures such as a food market, clothing shops, a co-working space, gym, and childcare facilities. Herzog & de Meuron will lead the six-hectare heritage building restoration effort in addition to the new “Horizontal Skyscraper” envisioned as “a piece of city lifted up in the air.” Related: Herzog & de Meuron are upcycling a historic gasometer into a stunning residential tower The glazed and raised residences will comprise approximately 1.1 million square feet of apartments with glazed facades and private balconies. Eight “sky villas” on the upper level will also have private roof access. The architects have also planned for a new pedestrian-only public park that sits beneath the apartments and around the supporting stilts that the designers likened to “trunks of trees.” + Herzog & de Meuron Via ArchDaily Images via Herzog & de Meuron

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Herzog & de Meuron designs a Horizontal Skyscraper for Moscow

Helsinki unveils plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2035

March 21, 2018 by  
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Finland’s capital city has unveiled a new plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2035, accelerating the goal by 15 years. The plan, called Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035 , outlines 143 specific actions that will result in reduced energy consumption and a greater share of renewable energy sources . In a press release, city officials said, “Helsinki’s definition of carbon neutrality is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated within the city borders by 80% and to offset the rest.” The Nordic city currently has a population of 640,000, according to the press release. Although they expect that to grow to 780,000, officials are convinced they can reach their carbon neutral target by taking specific actions to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable uptake, capture and reuse waste energy and improve public transportation . Most of Helsinki’s current greenhouse gas emissions stem from heating. The action plan, co-written with input from various civic organizations, stakeholders and researchers, proposes to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by one-fifth by upgrading infrastructure, enforcing stricter standards, and incorporating both heat recovery and geothermal heating technology . Solar power, despite the city’s northern latitude (slightly further north than Russia’s St Petersburg), is expected to produce sufficient power to cover one-sixth of the city’s overall electricity consumption. Related: Detox your troubles away in this new public sauna built with natural materials By introducing more sustainable transportation, including electric vehicles, the city could cut related greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 69 percent — according to the plan. Esa Nikunen, Director General of Helsinki Environment Services says, “Helsinki can achieve its goal in transportation, which is much stricter than the national goal, owing to the increasing density in our urban structure . Helsinki has excellent opportunities to promote public transportation, walking, and cycling”. Although these long-term goals will take time to implement, the city has already cut their CO2 emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, or by 1,000 kilotons per year (kt/a). By 2035, their target is to generate only 700 kt/a, which they will offset. With such progressive, proactive plans in place, it is perhaps little wonder that Finland was recently rated the happiest country on Earth . + Helsinki’s Climate Action Images via DepositPhotos Helsinki 1 , Helsinki 2

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Helsinki unveils plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2035

Gleaming copper-colored steel wraps a solar-powered Dutch sports campus

March 21, 2018 by  
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You don’t need to be a sports fanatic to be taken with Sportcampus Zuiderpark —a €50 million sports park designed to promote a healthier society in The Hague, Netherlands. Completed by British design studio Faulkner Browns Architects , the green-roofed recreational facility draws the eye with its copper-hued steel ribbon that changes color throughout the day and its sensitive approach to human scale. Completed June 2017, the 33,000-square-meter Sportcampus Zuiderpark comprises a gymnastics hall, beach sports hall, spectator area, a multipurpose sports hall , as well as a variety of sports science and education spaces. “With Sportcampus Zuiderpark we have an iconic building in the city. Our green lung, the Zuiderpark, has a new heart,” said The Hague Councillor Rabin Baldewsingh. In deference to its historic surroundings, the sports complex takes on an ovoid shape that the architects say “creates the perception that the building’s edges are retreating into the distance, minimising its visual scale.” The largest interior spaces were placed in the rear of the building so that the building height at the front could be reduced to provide a more comfortable human scale. Related: Breathtaking bamboo building withstands earthquakes and boasts a zero-carbon footprint Textured precast concrete panels make up the plinth on the ground level, while wraparound glazing on the upper level is partly shielded by a striking metallic ribbon. Near the entrance, the swooping roof opens up to frame a small courtyard. Three-quarters of the roof is covered in heat-regulating sedum , solar panels , and solar water heaters. Geothermal energy is used in the heating and cooling system. + Faulkner Browns Architects Via Dezeen Images via Faulkner Browns Architects

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Gleaming copper-colored steel wraps a solar-powered Dutch sports campus

BIG unveils designs for bow tie-shaped National Theater of Albania

March 15, 2018 by  
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Albania’s capital of Tirana is undergoing exciting changes—including a new National Theater of Albania designed by Bjarke Ingels Group . The proposed bow tie-shaped theater is an extension of the government’s ongoing efforts for turning the city into a greener, more pedestrian-friendly place to live, work, and travel. Designed to replace the existing theater, the 9,300-square-meter contemporary complex will be located in downtown Tirana and host local and touring theater companies within a 3-in-1 cultural venue. Located on Tirana’s cultural axis in a mostly pedestrian area, the new National Theater of Albania is envisioned by Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj as the “crown-jewel” in the capital’s urban revitalization plans that include the addition of 2 million trees, increased pedestrian-friendly areas, and more playgrounds . “The “bow tie” will tie together artists, dreamers, talents and the aspirations of a city going on fifth gear yearning for constant change and place-making,” said the Mayor. The theater’s bow tie shape is informed by the program organization, which sandwiches the main auditorium in the middle between the south-facing front-of-house activities, like the foyer and restaurant, and the back-of-house activities in the north. By compressing and lifting the building’s middle, the architects create opportunities for passersby to enjoy glimpses of the theater at all hours. In addition to an upgraded theater space, the new cultural center will include three new indoor performance spaces, a rooftop theater with amphitheater-style seating, and a covered public space in the building arch. Related: Mosque for All: BIG Wins Competition To Design Inside-Out Albanian Cultural Center “Our design for the new National Theatre of Albania will continue the city’s efforts for making Tirana’s public spaces more inviting and its public institutions more transparent,” said Bjarke Ingels. “The theater is conceived as two buildings connected by the main auditorium: one for the audience and one for the performers. Underneath, the theatre arches up from the ground creating an entrance canopy for the audience as well as for the performers, while opening a gateway to the new urban arcade beyond. Above, the roof mirrors the archway, forming an open-air amphitheater with a backdrop to the city’s skyline.“ + Bjarke Ingels Group Images via Bjarke Ingels Group

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BIG unveils designs for bow tie-shaped National Theater of Albania

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