Floridians break world record for largest underwater cleanup

June 18, 2019 by  
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The coastal city of Deerfield, Florida made headlines this weekend for hosting the world’s largest underwater cleanup. This year, for the city’s 15th annual cleanup event, 633 divers gathered on the beach to scuba dive and collect more than 1,500 pounds of debris. By the number of divers participating, this cleanup is officially the largest in the world. Divers traveled internationally and from all over the country to participate in the event, and a Guinness Book of World Records officiant was on-site to confirm that the event indeed broke the previous record held by divers in the Red Sea. Led by an Egyptian diver, the Red Sea event in 2015 included 614 divers from around the world. Related: Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach cleanup in history The Florida cleanup event was hosted by Dixie Divers and the Deerfield Beach Women’s Club. According to one of the event planners, Tyler Bourgoine, “It was a great time … Everyone was working together and cleaning up one part of the reef or pier.” The group launched the event from a fishing pier on Deerfield Beach. Much of the debris collected was related to the fishing activities off the pier and in the area. Throughout the world, abandoned fishing gear remains an enormous percentage of marine litter. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — thought to be the largest collection of trash in all of the oceans at 79,000 metric tons — the majority of the debris is abandoned fishing gear. The cleanup is a small but important step to reducing over 8 million metric tons of trash that is estimated to enter the ocean every year and cause obscene damage to marine mammals, birds and other wildlife . Via EcoWatch Image via Shutterstock

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Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

June 13, 2019 by  
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In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources , eco tourism and reforestation. Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming , the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes. “The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.” The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?” Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy. + EETJ Images via EETJ

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Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

How Much Wind Energy Does Your City Need?

June 6, 2019 by  
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Geometric pine cabins house nature-minded workspaces in Vietnam

May 20, 2019 by  
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Nestled in a misty pine forest, the Ta Nung Homestay Executive Office offers employees an environmentally sensitive space to work along with breathtaking views of Vietnam’s Central Highland landscape. Ho Chi Minh City-based architectural firm MyAn Architects designed the workspace to look like a cluster of geometric cabins that have been elevated on stilts to reduce site impact and to preserve mature pine trees. Floor-to-ceiling windows sweep an abundance of natural light and views of the mountainous landscape indoors. Located in Ta Nung Valley about 11 miles from the city of ?à L?t, the Ta Nung Homestay Executive Office was designed to foster collaboration and an appreciation of the site’s natural beauty. The nearly 5,400-square-foot construction was built from locally sourced pine to tie the architecture to the landscape, while full-height windows create a constant connection with the outdoors. Oriented east to west, the building’s intimate workspaces and meeting areas, as well as two secondary bedrooms, are located on the east side. To the west is a spacious bedroom suite that is connected to the offices via an outdoor community terrace, which serves as the main entrance to the office and gathering space. “The views and abundant daylight are celebrated and democratized,” the architects explained. “Bottom-to-top large panels of glass are lined up and combined with such vernacular, rich, textured material like pine wood for the rhythmic-formed roof, diffuse strong southern and northern sunlight while maintaining views and creating indistinguishable boundaries between indoor and outdoor space .” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat The undulating roofline consists of two alternating gabled forms of different heights that give the project its sculptural appeal without detracting from the surroundings. Pine continues from the exterior to the interior, where it lines all the walls, ceilings and floors and is also used for furnishings. At night, string lights are used to illuminate the building to create an ethereal lantern-like glow in the darkness. + MyAn Architects Images via MyAn Architects

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AUDIs new electric car will have autonomous vehicle capability and a roof that holds real plants

May 15, 2019 by  
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AUDI revealed the concept for a new electric car with autonomous driving capabilities at Auto Shanghai 2019, and this vehicle really pushes the limits when it comes to connecting technology with nature. Apart from the AI technology implemented to take most of the effort out of driving in general, the AI:ME autonomous vehicle is completely electric. On the interior of the car, a wooden pergola roof allows climbing plants to grow and thrive. According to the company, the AUDI AI systems are “capable of learning and thinking, while also being proactive and personal. Thanks to Audi AI, models bearing the four rings will be both intelligent and empathetic in the future. They will be able to continually interact with their surroundings and passengers, and thus adapt themselves in a better way than ever before to the requirements of those on board.” That’s some serious evolution. Related: AUDI unveils two new swanky self-driving concepts in Frankfurt The autonomous driving capabilities go up to level four on the AI:ME, meaning that though the system doesn’t require any assistance from the driver themselves, it is limited to certain regions, such as highways or specific areas in inner cities. The uncommonly raised headlights will be used to alert other drivers and pedestrians to the presence of the car, rather than as a tool to illuminate the road (unnecessary, as the occupants of the car won’t be driving). The interior has plenty of storage space — a must for autonomous cars, as the passengers will need ample room to do whatever they’re doing instead of driving. Rather than pedals, the AUDI AI:ME has comfortable footrests, and the seats prioritize comfort over function. A 3D monitor with VR goggles allows for everything from watching movies to interactive gaming while in the car , and the high-quality audio system combined with the noise-canceling interior makes outside traffic noise a thing of the past. As for the “green” roof , this is a first for the automobile industry. The designers used filigree wooden struts to construct a pergola above the interior roof surface, giving it the ability to hold living plants. AUDI not only wanted to create a connection between the driver and nature with this innovation but also to improve the air quality within the car (advanced air filters also remove outside odors from traffic and the city). The AI tech uses intelligent algorithms to monitor stress levels of the car’s occupants. This helps the car itself to actually get to know the driver, therefore improving their experience, whether it be preferred temperatures or seat adjustments. + Audi Images via Audi

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Bioclimatic home curves for optimal daylighting and views in Chile

April 29, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the intense Chilean heat without compromising views of Santiago, local architectural firm Biourban Arquitectos has designed a bioclimatic home in La Reina that combines passive solar principles with high energy performance materials. Dubbed the H.D. House, the site-specific dwelling features two floors — each built of different materials with contrasting textures and colors — that are optimized for thermal resistance. The H.D. House’s rectilinear lower floor is built with a structural shell of reinforced concrete , while the walls consist of aerated concrete blocks left exposed. In contrast, the upper level comprises a system of galvanized steel profiles clad in pine with an oak-colored varnish to improve the structure’s thermal resistance. The roof features a triple insulation system, and all windows include the use of thermo panels. “The house uses bioclimatic strategies for the different facades and orientations of the project,” the architects explained. “The main facade faces west toward the city and has a mobile facade with sunscreens that generate a ventilated double skin on the second floor. In addition, there is a double-height interior courtyard that enhances the Venturi effect and cross ventilation, producing air movements that improve the environmental quality of the house. These air flows can be easily controlled by opening or grouping the sunscreens.” Related: Low-budget, bioclimatic home boasts a minimal energy footprint in Costa Rica The best views of Santiago are enjoyed from the second floor, where the master suite and extra bedrooms are located, as is a long curved balcony that faces west. Installing mobile screens across the length of the curved facade proved to be one of the main challenges of the project, as they not only had to provide protection from the sun but also needed the ability to be grouped together in different configurations. The result is a bioclimatic home with an appearance that continually shifts depending on the outside conditions and the needs of the homeowner. + Biourban Arquitectos Via ArchDaily Photography by Aryeh Kornfeld via Biourban Arquitectos

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Australia to cull over two million feral cats by 2020

April 29, 2019 by  
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They may look adorable and fuzzy, but  feral cats  are now at war with  Australia . The country’s government intends to cull over two million untamed cats over the next year, cutting their numbers from upward of six million down to four million. As an invasive species, these cats are eliminating many species in Australia at an alarming rate through hunting. While killing such a large number of feral cats may seem excessively cruel, there are reasons why Australia is culling the population. These free-ranging cats were brought to the continent in the 1600s and now cover over 99 percent of the country. Unlike their domestic counterparts, feral cats survive by hunting in the wild. In fact, feral cats are extremely good at hunting small critters. According to CNN , experts estimate that feral cats have contributed to the wipe out of 20 different mammals over the past 300 years. Given that many of the country’s native species are not found anywhere else on the planet, this is a major problem. Related: Exotic pets most likely to be released in the wild and become invasive species What kind of animals are part of a feral cat’s diet? Conservationists estimate that, given their large population numbers, cats kill around 1.7 million reptiles every day in Australia. They also target birds, killing over a million on a typical day. Other animals hunted by feral cats include the brush-tailed rabbit-rat and the golden bandicoot, both of which are classified as vulnerable by the government. “We are not culling cats for the sake of it, we are not doing so because we hate cats,” Gregory Andrews, who works as the national commissioner of threatened species, explained. “We have got to make choices to save animals that we love, and who define us as a nation.” To prevent these species from going extinct, Australia has set aside five million dollars to pay groups that will help cull feral cat populations. The initiative, however, has faced a lot of criticism from activists and conservationists . Most critics of the plan conceded that feral cats are a problem but argue that large-scale culling is not the answer. Instead, groups are pushing for more accurate assessments on population numbers and want the government to focus on feral cats that live in areas with threatened animals. Via CNN Image via Daniel Ramirez

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These are the best 9 tricks and gadgets to keep your spring garden in tip-top shape

April 29, 2019 by  
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Flowers are sprouting and the weather is heating up, it’s safe to say spring is in full effect (at least in some areas) and now is the perfect time to start planning how to revive your garden . From the best times of day to plant to all the latest garden gadgets on the market, here is a quick and easy guide to achieving the best springtime garden in no time. Spring Cleaning Once the weather starts warming up, you should clean up your garden in preparation for the growing season. This includes getting rid of dead leaves and other debris that has accumulated over the winter. You can put the organic materials in your compost pile for later use. If you notice any weeds, now is the time to get ahead of the game. Avoid putting them in the compost, however, as the seeds will cause you major headaches down the road. Plant In The Evening Some garden gurus argue that plants do better, in terms of growth rate and durability, when they are put in the ground after the sun goes down. At the very least, planting at night ensures that you get the most out of your initial watering as the sun is not baking most of it away. The only thing to consider is having plenty of lighting so that you do not get lost in the dark. Related: This Garden Planner makes urban gardening easy Coffee Ground Fertilizer Speaking of fertilizer, old coffee grounds are a great way to infuse more nutrients into the ground. You will, of course, will have needed to save up those grounds over the winter in order for this to work. If you did stock up, then you can use the coffee grounds as an excellent source of nitrogen, which can give your vegetables an extra boost. If you are just starting to save your coffee grounds, you can either add them to an existing compost pile or store them in a large container. Once you are ready to prep the soil, simply add the grounds to the soil after it has been tilled and rake them in. Garden Sensors Garden sensors are a great way to keep tabs on the condition of your soil. Many of these sensors, which are often accompanied by an app, will tell you the pH level of the soil, moisture content, nutrients and light intensity. Some sensors are also part of a larger database and can tell you when it is the best time to plant certain species. If you are not keen on using technology , there are sensors that have the same functionality without relying on a smartphone. Prep The Soil You should start preparing the ground for planting as quickly as possible. The best way to prep the soil is to till anywhere between 8 to 12 inches below the ground. As you till, remove large rocks you encounter as these can harm growth. Once the soil is tilled, you can add some fertilizer to the mix. If the ground is too wet when you till, let it dry out before proceeding. Too much moisture can also cause issues with growth. Plant Cam If you are into tracking the progress of your garden, then a plant cam is the perfect gadget for you. These cams use time-lapse photography to document plant growth throughout the season, making it an ideal fit for your high-tech spring garden. Garden cams come in several versions, but most use either photography or video to record plant growth. Collecting Water Collecting rainwater is a great way to better the environment and put some more cash in your wallet. According to Thompson Morgan , rainwater is also healthier for plants as it contains more nutrients than groundwater. Tap water can also contain too much alkaline, which is not good for growth. There are quite a few methods of collecting rainwater and each one will depend on your budget and how much time you want to invest in the project. One of the best ways to recycle water is to build a rain collection system that gathers water from the gutters on your home. The water is then stored in large containers for later use. Pest Blaster No matter how well you prepare your garden , it will all be ruined if pests enter the equation. Luckily, you can get rid of unwanted rats, foxes or cats using the latest technology in outdoor repellents. One good option is ultrasonic repellers, which are battery operated and emit frequencies outside of our hearing zone. Most of these repellers come affixed to a mounting stake, which makes them easy to install anywhere in your garden. They are also very affordable, so if you have a little wiggle room in your budget you can install several to keep the pests away. Copper Trick For smaller insects, like slugs and snails, adding some copper tape to planters can help keep these pests away from your precious veggies. When snails and slugs crawl across copper, their slime creates an electrical charge that naturally makes them go away. You can find copper tape at your local garden store. Via EcoWatch Images via Shutterstock

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Henning Larsen breaks ground on BEAM Platinum-targeted Shaw Auditorium in Hong Kong

April 23, 2019 by  
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Shortly after completing the “greenest school” in Hong Kong , Copenhagen-based Henning Larsen has broken ground on yet another sustainability-minded project— the Shaw Auditorium for The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Designed with modular seating, the multipurpose auditorium will be a flexible space that can accommodate a wide range of cultural events from concerts and musicals to conventions and exhibitions. The elliptical building will also feature climate-optimized design for reduced energy consumption and is expected to become the first of its kind in Hong Kong to achieve the city’s BEAM (Building Environmental Assessment Method) Platinum sustainability rating. Located on a hilltop overlooking Sai Kung Bay, the Shaw Auditorium will serve as a gateway to the university campus and a hub where academic and student life intersects. The building consists of three concentric rings stacked together to optimize panoramic views of the landscape through walls of glass that illuminate the interior with natural lighting. The facade will be painted white to reflect sunlight; the stacked rings are slightly offset to create balconies that double as sunshades . “Our design aims to become an example of a sustainable subtropical architecture, hopefully influencing the construction industry in this region to design with more consideration to our climate,” Partner and Design Principal at Henning Larsen, Claude Bøjer Godefroy explains. “We also aimed to create the most transformative and innovative auditorium in this region to match the reputation of the University, and to make sure the venue will be lively at all times.” Related: Hong Kong’s “greenest school” champions environmental stewardship Shaw Auditorium’s modular seating can be adapted to fit a variety of programs and is able to seat 850 to up to 1,300 visitors, while the hall can also be turned into a large flat floor area. As a result, the auditorium can take on different “modes” and morph from its default “Learning Commons” setup to accommodate concerts, conferences, theater productions, banquet halls, exhibitions and congregations. The curved auditorium walls can even be used as a 360-degree projection screen for an immersive audio-visual experience. The building also includes auxiliary classroom spaces, public furniture and an integrated cafe. The project is slated for completion in 2021. + Henning Larsen Images via Henning Larsen

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Black charred-timber home embraces forest views in Zrich

April 2, 2019 by  
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In the midst of a centuries-old forest sits the Two Family House, an aptly named project that houses a pair of maisonette apartments for two families at the edge of Zürich, Switzerland. Local architecture firm Hajnoczky.Zanchetta Architekten collaborated with architect Angela Waibel on the design, which takes advantage of its wooded location with full-height windows that capture views of the changing landscape. Due to regulations that enforce minimal disturbance to the landscape, the building’s unusual triangular shape is dictated by the forest, which diagonally divided the parcel. To fit two homes onto the constrained space without compromising space and comfort, the architects used the slope of property to vertically separate the two apartments. Each of the four levels has a slightly different floor plan and size; the upper floors, for instance, have cantilevered elements, such as projecting windows, that increase floor space. The larger of the two maisonette apartments occupies the ground floor, which comprises the bedrooms, and the first floor, where the communal spaces are located. Since the building is set into the existing slope, both the ground floor and first floor have direct access to the gardens. The second apartment occupies the uppermost two floors. To make up for the smaller footprint, the upper apartment has access to three rooftop terraces. The building is primarily a timber-clad concrete structure, aside for the topmost level, which is built of timber construction. Related: Massive tree-like sculpture takes over Switzerland’s largest train station “To enhance the distinctiveness of the building, we have chosen a black timber facade to elegantly contrast with the surrounding nature,” the architects explain in a statement. “The tree grove is part of a forest arm that permeates through the city. From dense foliage in summer, the location metamorphoses in winter into a snowy scenery with a beautiful creek that flows to the lake of Zürich .” + Hajnoczky.Zanchetta Architekten Images © Lucas Peters

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