Dubai has officially started testing flying taxis

September 26, 2017 by  
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Dubai is now one step closer to launching the world’s first flying taxi service. On Monday, Volocopter successfully tested its two-seater Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT), which hovered for about five minutes approximately 200 meters off the ground. The vehicle resembles a small helicopter topped with 18 propellers, and it’s powered entirely by electricity. Volocopter ‘s AAT prototype is remarkably quiet, and it has a cruise speed of 50 km/h and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h. In total, the drone taxi measures two meters in height and it has a diameter (including propellers) of just over seven meters. When it’s officially launched, the AAT will be able to fly without remote control guidance and take trips up to 30 minutes at a time. In case of trouble, there are a number of fail-safes – including backup batteries, rotors, and even built-in parachutes. “Implementation would see you using your smartphone , having an app, and ordering a Volocopter to the next voloport near you. The volocopter would come and autonomously pick you up and take you to your destination,” said CEO of Volocopter, Florian Reuter. “It already is capable of flying based on GPS tracks today, and we will implement full sense capability, also dealing with unknown obstacles on the way.” Related: Lilium’s all-electric flying taxi could travel from Manhattan to JFK in 5 minutes Venture Beat reports that the test flight occurred during a ceremony arranged for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. “Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contributes not only to the country‘s development but also builds bridges into the future,” said Sheikh Hamdan said in a statement. “This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society.” Volocopter plans to launch a flying taxi service in Dubai within five years. Time is ticking, as more than a dozen, well-funded firms in the U.S. and Europe are developing their own high-tech flying vehicles. + Volocopter Via Venture Beat, The National Images via Dubai Media Office

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Dubai has officially started testing flying taxis

These African farmers carved an important message to the world – into the soil

July 20, 2017 by  
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Most people in Western countries reflect on Africa as a continent in which poverty is rife and economic opportunities are lacking. While this may be true in some cases, it’s a fixable problem. This is the message a group of farmers and villagers in Zambia seeks to share with the world – in the most unusual way. They spent 5 days last December carving data into a field to demonstrate that African farmers can enjoy independence too. The series of graphs in the soil, called the Field Report, outlined key data revealing why investment in agriculture is essential. At present, an increasing amount of young people are moving away from rural communities to urban locations in the prospect of a job. This is a problem, as Africa presently has a quarter of the world’s arable land yet only produces 10 percent of the world’s food. If action is not taken, a food shortage beyond what we’ve already witnessed is imminent. The farmers drew attention to this fact with a giant “11”, pointing out that agriculture is 11 times more effective at reducing extreme poverty than other sectors. Gilbert Houngbo, president of IFAD, which has support from the UN, said: “The Field Report makes the case for investment in agricultural development in the very land that needs it the most. We were inspired by the sheer power and potential land holds to reduce poverty and hunger, contribute to vibrant, self-sustaining communities and dramatically increase agricultural outputs capable of feeding a growing population.” As FastCompany reports, four-fifths of the world’s poorest people live in rural locations and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. If the initiative is taken to improve production and access to markets, families can increase their incomes while at the same time offering more food to society. Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty Africa spends $35 billion importing food rather than growing all its population needs; with the right tools, its economy could be transformed. “Rising prices and demand hold tremendous promise for the people who work the world’s 500 million small farms to grow and sell more food, lifting themselves out of poverty and food insecurity ,” said Houngbo. “When connected to markets, smallholder farmers can generate an income and create a multiplier effect–sending their children to school and stimulating the economy in order to help lift their community out of poverty for the long term.” IFAD’s main argument is that investment is needed to improve productivity in rural locations and to connect young farmers with technologies that can “connect them with experts and the information needed to best grow food.” Reportedly, what young African need most is access to finance . Once this is accomplished, a new generation of “agripreneurs” can be fostered. Later this week, the Field Report will be presented at a sustainable development forum in New York City. + IFAD Via FastCompany Images via IFAD

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These African farmers carved an important message to the world – into the soil

Tiny Wirmboden chapel in Austria is made of stone sourced on-site

July 6, 2017 by  
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Nestled in an alpine valley in Western Austria, this tiny chapel is a serene haven for local farmers. After an avalanche destroyed the town’s original chapel, including several other huts in 2012, the community decided to rebuild, so they commissioned Innauer-Matt Architects to design a space for gatherings and celebrations using locally-sourced materials.   The Wirmboden chapel is located in at the foot of the steep north face of the valley’s Kanisfluh mountain in Austria . Local farmers organized the initiative to rebuild the original structure, destroyed by an avalanche in 2012. Built over the course of three years, the chapel complements the surrounding alpine architecture and offers a space where people can gather, celebrate and pray. Related: Modern chapel makes a powerful but minimalist statement in the Austrian countryside Locally sourced stone make up the walls of the building, with rough split shingles covering the steep truss. A roof opening brings natural light into the interior. Memorial photo cards were placed in the space between rafters to commemorate loved ones. The entrance, truss and bell space were made from German spruce conventionally used for making violins and guitars. + Innauer-Matt Architects Via Archdaily Photos by Adolf Bereuter

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Tiny Wirmboden chapel in Austria is made of stone sourced on-site

Principles of emergent leadership for the green building community

June 24, 2017 by  
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The following is an edited excerpt from “Emerge: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community” by Kathleen O’Brien (New Hope Press, 2016).An introduction from the author:

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Principles of emergent leadership for the green building community

Principles of emergent leadership for the green building community

June 24, 2017 by  
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The following is an edited excerpt from “Emerge: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community” by Kathleen O’Brien (New Hope Press, 2016).An introduction from the author:

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Principles of emergent leadership for the green building community

These tiny houses help minimum wage workers become homeowners in Detroit

June 7, 2017 by  
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Detroit, Michigan, may have one of the highest rates of poverty in all metro cities in the U.S., but a new initiative launched by local non-profit Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) aims to make it easier for low-income individuals to escape lower class living. The organization is constructing 25 tiny homes which will house tenants who don’t have the funds to rent their own living quarters or purchase a home. Homeless people, students, and low-income seniors will be given priority. A fundraiser was kicked off last week when CCSS invited the public to tour six completed tiny homes . Located in the two vacant blocks between the Lodge and Woodrow Wilson Street, each home will have a unique exterior, and will range in size from 250 to 400 square feet. The development will also be in walking distance to popular social, education, recreational and health services at Cass’ main campus. Said Cass’ executive director, Reverend Faith Fowler, “The structures are being built with the permission of the city, and with the help of professional tradespeople and volunteers . The project is using a rent-to-own model, with rental prices set at $1 per square foot, meaning that a 300-square-foot house would cost $300 in rent per month. Each will have its own basic furnishings and appliances, but no bedroom — so they are not meant for families.” Potential tenants need to meet low-income eligibility requirements and go through an interview and selection process. Rent is capped at no more than one-third of their monthly wages and after a maximum period of seven years, they will officially own the house . The cost of utilities is expected to run around $35 per month. The initiative is applaudable, but there is a catch: tenants are required to attend financial coaching and home maintenance classes once a month. Related: Tiny house startup Getaway to launch off-grid tiny homes in NYC this weekend “It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the environment , as tiny homes have a small carbon footprint. It’s good for the renter to become homeowners because [they will someday have] an asset. It’s good for the neighborhood because 25 more lots will be filled with people and repopulated. It’s good for the city because they’ll become taxpayers. It’s good for the larger community, especially the homeless community, to see that somebody who used to be homeless now is a stakeholder in our neighborhood. So it’s really good on so many levels, and we’re excited about it,” said Fowler. As TreeHugger reports , the tiny house project is primarily funded by private donations and foundations, including the Ford Motor Fund, the RNR Foundation, and the McGregor Fund. Cass’ ultimate goal is to help revitalize the surrounding area. Because there are over 300 vacant properties within a one-mile radius, the non-profit envisions rehabilitating unoccupied buildings for low-income residents and operating on the same rent-to-own basis. Via TreeHugger Images via CassCommunity WordPress , Cass Community Facebook

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These tiny houses help minimum wage workers become homeowners in Detroit

This village in Arizona has a simple solution to light pollution

April 28, 2017 by  
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Residents of Arizona Sky Village abide by one simple rule: “Turn off your goddammed lights .” The 21-household community near Portal, Arizona is comprised of stargazers and astronomers, and almost every home has its own domed observatory. But some people also wonder if the small community could hold the secrets of fighting light pollution in America. In Arizona Sky Village, clear night skies are a major priority. There are no outdoor lights allowed, and every single window in every home must have blackout curtains. Nighttime driving isn’t forbidden, but it’s discouraged, and most residents are too busy gazing at the stars to drive anyway. Co-founder Jack Newton condensed it all into that one colorful rule: turn off those lights! Related: What City Skies Would Look Like Without Light Pollution Newton, who is nearly 75, said he spends “90 percent of my time up in my dome.” He’s made three supernova discoveries in 2017 alone, and the International Astronomical Union christened an asteroid 30840 Jackalice after him and his wife Alice. He doesn’t even own the largest telescope in the community; that honor goes to neighbor Rick Beno , who has a 24-inch telescope. Many residents once had scientific careers and now spend their retirement in Arizona Sky Village – like retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak – but Newton managed department stores during his career. Few Americans benefit from the starry skies of Arizona Sky Village. The American Astronomical Society says people have a universal right to starlight; but around 99 percent of Americans actually live with a constant sky glow, according to The Guardian. Light pollution isn’t just bad for stargazing; it could have an impact on health as well. Blue lights streaming from cellphones and laptops have led to insomnia in some users and evidence isn’t conclusive yet but some studies suggest changing the light and dark rhythms in our bodies could increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and cancer. International Dark Sky Association astronomer John Barentine said in Arizona Sky Village, “the people are already practicing what we recommend.” Kitt Peak National Observatory director Lori Allen told The Guardian to help keep skies dark, “There are three simple things people can do. Shield their lights, dim their lights, and use the right color bulbs.” Via The Guardian Images via John Fowler on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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This village in Arizona has a simple solution to light pollution

NYC community gardens may wither under Trump’s proposed budget cuts

April 3, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts could mean the kiss of death for New York City’s community gardens . More than 500 of the communal spaces across all five boroughs depend on a program called GreenThumb , which is administered by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation . Initiated in the wake of the 1970s fiscal crisis, which resulted in the widespread abandonment of both private and public land, GreenThumb has turned hundreds of derelict lots into tillage. Most of its funding comes from federal Community Development Block Grants—the same ones the budget blueprint seeks to eliminate. Should the budget pass, GreenThumb risks losing $1 million a year out of a $2.4 million budget, according to WNYC . Related: Detroit nonprofit seeks crowdfunding for new East Side community garden “It would be devastating to GreenThumb, it would mean laying off a dozen workers or more, and it would be less money for supplies, for bulbs, for tools,” said New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Levine, WNYC adds, is working on securing more money for community gardens, as well as the restoration of jobs for 150 Parks department gardeners and maintenance workers. Via WNYC Photos by Unsplash

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NYC community gardens may wither under Trump’s proposed budget cuts

New Dutch bicycle bridge doubles as a green roof for a school

April 3, 2017 by  
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Who said bridges can’t be fun? A new bridge in the Dutch city of Utrecht is not only pulling double duty as a pedestrian and bike path, but it also forms a roof garden over a local school that’s surrounded by a green public park. Designed by NEXT Architects , the unique Dafne Schippers Bridge – which will officially open on April 3rd – covers the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal in Utrecht and provides the community with plenty of space to run, bike and play. Working under commission for the city, NEXT Architects collaborated with Rudy Uytenhaak Architectenbureau , Arup and Bureau B+B landscape architects , to create a unique design that focused on the needs of the community. Although typical bridges tend to be solitary, functional structures, the ambitious layout of Dafne Schippers Bridge makes it an integral part of the area’s urban design , complete with smooth cycling and walking lanes, all surrounded by expansive greenery. Related: Lush Green Lilypad Bridge Spins Open to Accomodate Boat Traffic The bridge itself is approximately 360 feet and connects the old part of Utrecht with the new district Leidsche Rijn. From the Utrecht district of Oog in Al, cyclists and pedestrians follow a long bend upwards through Victor Hugo Park. The path leads through the green roof of a local Montessori school. Marijn Schenk, from NEXT architects explains that this cohesive design is meant to create a seamless connection for the community, “In one fluid movement, the cycle route, park, and school are brought together to form a cohesive whole of infrastructure, architecture, and landscape,” + Next Architects

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Historic Missouri church rises from the ashes with an eco-friendly twist

April 3, 2017 by  
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When the 2011 catastrophic fire ravaged the historic Westport Presbyterian Church in Kansas City , much of the church’s structure and finishes were completely destroyed. Fortunately, however, the original limestone facade survived in good condition. Rather than knock down the building and start anew, Kansas City-based design firm BNIM reconstructed the iconic church, from the painstaking restoration of sacred components to the creation of a new addition that features modern and eco-friendly elements. Built in 1905, the 27,000-square-foot multi-story Westport Presbyterian Church is one of the most iconic buildings in Kansas City’s historic Westport community. BNIM and the community came together to rebuild the church and tackle the challenges of preserving original elements while crafting a space that was also dynamic and progressive. Parts of the church considered not sacred were deconstructed and large amounts of salvaged material —from the reclamation of 40,000 feet of pinewood framing material to the reuse of original limestone—were used in reconstruction. The restored and renovated church features a new addition with a 150-seat sanctuary, 40-seat chapel , gathering space, fellowship room, 3,000-square-foot multipurpose room, a 1,000-square-foot street-facing “community room”, administrative offices and office space that will be leased to a Westport area nonprofit. The renovation includes energy saving elements such as LEDs and contemporary stormwater management practices. All stained glass was restored and reinstalled in contemporary mounting. The project won an AIA Kansas Merit Award and an AIA Kansas City Citation Award. Related: Stunning see-through church is made from stacked weathered steel “This is one that put a smile on all our faces,” said an AIA Kansas City jury member. “There was a fire, and it destroyed just about everything on this church except for the stone walls. For the community to come together and rebuild this, and do it in such a thoughtful, elegant, and modern way, was something the jury really applauded.” Another jury member added: “It wasn’t just a restoration, it was a repositioning of the whole church itself. It made for a better building, and we think more connected to the community.” + BNIM Images via BNIM

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