Zaha Hadid Architects unveils designs for sculptural Maltese tower

August 13, 2018 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects is bringing its modern, sinuous designs to Malta, a nation renowned for its historic sites. Set to become the tallest building in the country, the Mercury Tower will soar to 31 stories and a height of 112 meters in Paceville on the main island’s northeastern coast. The mixed-use tower will twist to separate the programmatic functions and optimize views of the sea. Zaha Hadid Architects’ Mercury Tower will take over a 9,405-square-meter site that had sat unoccupied for more than 20 years. The site is also home to the old Mercury House that dates back to the early 20th century. In addition to designing the strikingly modern Mercury Tower, the architects have been working with Malta’s leading conservation architect to renovate the area’s heritage structures, including the old Mercury House facades, and reuse the existing historic interiors for gathering spaces and as an entrance for the new apartments and hotel. Related: Chris Briffa Architects’ Sustainable Hanging Home Features a Green Roof in Malta The Mercury Tower’s new public amenities — such as cafes, shops and a large piazza with interactive water features — will be set alongside the refurbished Mercury House. The tower comprises nine stories of apartments below and a 19-story hotel volume above. The residences will be aligned with the street while the larger volume stacked above is rotated to position hotel rooms toward the Mediterranean Sea for better views of the water. This rotation — located at the 10th, 11th and 12th floors — also helps reduce solar gain. The insulated facade and carefully positioned glazing also improve the building’s thermal performance and ensure comfort for residents, workers and guests. Zaha Hadid Architects concluded in a statement, “Marrying a variety of public, residential and commercial functions together with the creation of a vibrant new civic space, the redevelopment of Mercury House includes the renovation of derelict heritage structures and responds to the demands of the island’s future socio-economic development.” + Zaha Hadid Architects Images via Zaha Hadid Architects, by VA

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Zaha Hadid Architects unveils designs for sculptural Maltese tower

UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86%

August 2, 2018 by  
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Following a 5p charge per bag, the sale of plastic bags in the U.K. has fallen by 86 percent, according to reports from the “big seven” supermarkets in the country. Scientists at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) have also found that approximately 50 percent of plastic bag marine litter has been eliminated from the Earth’s waters since the tax was put into effect. Statistics on individual consumption show a decline from 140 bags per person to 19 as a result of the bag fees — a total elimination of 300 million bags. The 5p (roughly 0.07 USD) tariff introduced in 2015 seems to be working in the favor of marine ecosystems, which receive nearly all of the plastic waste after human handling. “Every plastic bag not purchased is one which will not end up in our sea, damaging habitats or harming marine life,” said Thomas Maes, a marine litter scientist who has been working on the 25-year study at CEFAS . Government scientist-contributed data has estimated that in the next 10 years, nearly one million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals  will die each year as a result of consuming or getting caught in plastic litter. Realted: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution “Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the U.K.’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the U.K. as compared to 2010,” Maes said. While the reduction in plastic bags found in the ocean was significant, the CEFAS study revealed that the dumping was only replaced by other plastic items and fishing debris, maintaining the amount of litter at an equilibrium, at least for now. Government projections report that levels in marine plastics will triple in the next 10 years, making efforts on every level that much more important. +CEFAS Via SkyNews ,  Sky Ocean Rescue  and  Mirpuri Foundation

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UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86%

Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets

July 26, 2018 by  
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Many theme-park visitors in the U.S. are familiar with using bottles or cans of soda they’ve purchased to score a discounted entry to their favorite attractions. Now, the U.K. is joining in with “reverse vending machines” to reward visitors instantly for recycling . Merlin , owner and operator of several U.K. resort theme parks, has teamed up with Coca-Cola to boost recycling and combat litter pollution in the U.K. As part of Coca-Cola’s rewards program, visitors may now deposit their finished 500 ml beverage containers into “reverse vending machines” and obtain 50 percent off vouchers in exchange for their environmental contribution. “We want to reward people for doing the right thing by recycling their bottles and hope to encourage some people who wouldn’t otherwise have done so,” Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola U.K. and Ireland,  told The Guardian . The machines are installed at four Merlin-operated attractions: Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and  LEGOLAND . But those who are rewarded with discounts can use their prizes at any of the 30 attractions operated by Merlin in the country. The promotion is planned to continue until mid-October, when most of the parks will shut down for the winter season. Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste Of the 13 billion plastic bottles sold yearly in the U.K., only 7.5 billion are recycled, according to a report by the Guardian . This initiative is hoping to shift these statistics more favorably while also eliminating the 700,000 bottles that are littered daily. “All of our bottles can be recycled, and we want to get as many of them back as possible, so they can be turned into new bottles and not end up as litter,” Woods said. According to research by Coca-Cola, 64 percent of people in the U.K. would be more inclined to recycle more if they were instantly compensated for their actions. The move to encourage recycling at theme-parks comes after Co-op , the first retailer in the U.K. to launch deposit return trials with the reverse vending machines, reported positive feedback from its partnership with popular summer music festivals. This recycling movement will help tackle the stresses government officials face in light of growing land and marine pollution. + Coca-Cola Via  The Guardian and  BusinessGreen Image via Shutterstock

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Sweden is on track to meet its 2030 renewable energy goals this year

July 9, 2018 by  
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Sweden’s ambitious goal to provide renewable and affordable energy by 2030 is expected to become reality a little ahead of schedule. The Swedish Wind Power Association (SWPA) says its members are on track to generate 18 terawatt-hours of electricity every year by the end of 2018, making it possible for the nation to reach its renewable energy goals 12 years early. In 2015, Sweden joined with 16 other world powers to develop the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . The plan focused around four parts: humanitarian development, environmental sustainability , long-term economic planning and advancing peace. With this framework, Sweden developed a 17-part plan to end poverty, provide clean water and sanitation and combat global climate change. Related: Nearly all new US energy capacity came from solar and wind in early 2018 While many of the plans are still in progress, at least one could be achieved in 2018. Representing Sweden’s wind energy industry, the SWPA projects the number of wind turbines alone could provide clean and affordable power to the nation as soon as December. The organization says 3,681 wind turbines will be operational across the country by the final days of the year. This would fulfill two goals of the Swedish energy plan : ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy service and substantially increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. If the energy industry hits the projections, the future is bright for the Nordic nation. The additional power boost comes as demand for energy access is set to spike. According to the International Energy Agency, electricity needs could jump by up to 37 percent worldwide over the next 22 years. To help developing nations answer their electricity needs, Sweden’s next major milestones are to double renewable energy efficiency rates, partner with other countries to improve renewable energy and supply energy to the world’s least developed nations and islands. Via Business Live and  Bloomberg Image via Timmy L.

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Sweden is on track to meet its 2030 renewable energy goals this year

DNC votes to ban fossil fuel company donations

June 14, 2018 by  
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The Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently adopted a ban on donations coming from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost reported . The executive committee voted unanimously on a resolution proposed by political strategist Christine Pelosi that doesn’t allow the organization to accept contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs) connected to the oil and gas industry . The text of the resolution says, “…fossil fuel corporations are drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money; they have deceived the public about the impacts of climate change , fought the growth of clean renewable energy , and corrupted our political system.” Oil and gas companies in 2016 spent $7.6 million on Democratic races, compared to $53.7 million in direct donations to Republicans . In 2018, Republicans have taken 89 percent of the oil and gas industry’s donations thus far. The DNC confirmed the recent vote to HuffPost but did not comment on the record. Related: Climate change video directed by James Cameron heats up the DNC The resolution’s text says “hundreds of individual Democratic political candidates for office across the country have pledged not to take money from the fossil fuel industry.” Former president Barack Obama prohibited contributions from corporate PACs after winning the Democratic party’s nomination, but former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted that ban before the 2016 election. HuffPost reported the DNC might consider a second resolution in August at a Chicago full board meeting to ban contributions greater than $200 from people working for the fossil fuel industry. Co-author of the recent resolution RL Miller told HuffPost, “So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he’s employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine. But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon’s middle management thinks you’re worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us.” + (((sfpelosi))) on Medium Via HuffPost Image via Depositphotos

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DNC votes to ban fossil fuel company donations

Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

June 8, 2018 by  
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Like many countries around the world, Spain is struggling to address the problem of rural inhabitants abandoning villages to migrate to urban areas. However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Fraguas. Nearly 50 years after residents left the small area in northern Castilla-La Mancha, an eco-minded group of people decided to revitalize the village. Since 2013, the community has managed to breathe new life into Fraguas by rebuilding dilapidated homes, installing solar panels , planting vegetable gardens and restoring the area’s natural forest growth. By most accounts, it is a heart-warming story of the reformation of a once-beloved village — that is until the Spanish government decided to start legal proceedings to kick the new residents out of town. After decades of urban migration, the Iberia Peninsula is currently teeming with hundreds, if not thousands, of extinguished communities, many of them up for sale . While most of the villages were left abandoned, the previous residents of Fraguas were bought out by the government in the late 1960s to make way for a planned reforestation program . The village had only a handful of full-time inhabitants and became overgrown by nature’s creep. At one point, it was being used as a military training camp for Spanish soldiers, who took to blowing up the remaining buildings. Related: This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding When the group arrived at the derelict site, they were set on bringing the land back to life through sustainable principles . The members began by clearing out the mass plant growth that had taken over the buildings and streets. Then, they started to reforest the area in and around the village, clear out roads and walking paths and plant orchards and large crops of vegetables. To restore the many dilapidated buildings and homes, the group researched as much as they could about the village’s original layout. As they created their master plan, the team started to draw up plans for installing various green technologies such as  solar panels and a communal gray water system. When the group began to revitalize as an eco-village , they met with various former residents, most of whom gave the group their blessings. One such supporter, Rafael Heras, was born in the village 71 years ago, but left at 19 to work in Madrid. Heras helped the team by describing life in what he calls a simple and self-sufficient area. “There was no electricity and no proper road; we used to keep it clear so that cars could come through,” he said. “It wasn’t a prosperous place, but I had a happy childhood here and people got by quite well.” Another former resident, Isidro Moreno, was also instrumental in the village’s rebirth by providing maps, plans and photos of the area as it was when he was growing up. In his guidebook, he addressed a heartfelt letter to the group. “To the new residents of Fraguas,” it reads. “Let’s see if you can recover this village’s history once more … I want to remind you to treat these stones with the love and respect they deserve, even if today they’re dead and lost among brambles and weeds. In another time, they were alive and were part of the story of the people who struggled so hard to live and who went through so many calamities.” Despite the support of many, there are some powerful adversaries that want to put a stop to the group’s hard work. The regional government recently said that the new residents can no longer stay in the village. In fact, not only is the government trying to evict the collective, but it is going through legal channels to punish the members for their “invasion” of the area. Currently, six members face more than four years imprisonment each along with a fine of up to $30,000 that will be used to demolish and destroy all of the effort that the group put into rebuilding the village over the last five years. According to  The Guardian , the regional government’s representative in Guadalajara Alberto Rojo has suggested that the group would had been better off rebuilding a village on the brink of extinction. He explained that there are more than 200 villages in the same area that have fewer than 50 inhabitants and would love to welcome new neighbors. “Of course we agree that there needs to be re-population initiatives in the province – and let’s hope there will be many – but only in the right kind of places,” he said, adding that the area of Fraguas is part of the Sierra Norte natural park, which is protected by law. Rojo also claimed that the village is in a danger zone for forest fires. Jaime Merino, one of the new residents, dismissed Rojo’s argument about the potential fire danger, insisting that the group has significantly reduced the risk of fire by cleaning up the overrun vegetation, and they have even offered to dig firebreaks around the village. He explained that the government says one thing, but does another. “There’s a certain resistance to this kind of project in this country,” Merino said. “They always say they’re going to take steps to tackle depopulation and find ways to get people back into rural areas, but this is an example of that. That’s the paradox: it’s Guadalajara’s department of agriculture, the environment and rural development that wants to demolish the village.” At this time, the Fraguas collective is going on the offensive to protect the home that they have spent years rebuilding. A Change.org petition has already attracted more than 76,000 signatures, and the group has launched an appeal for contributions on their website to fund legal bills. The group regularly posts updates on their Facebook page as well. + Fraguas Revive Via The Guardian Images via Fraguas Revive

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Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

June 6, 2018 by  
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Big news from India : the country aims to abolish single-use plastic in about four years. Prime minister Narendra Modi announced the goal on World Environment Day , and The Guardian said it’s the most ambitious commitment out of the actions to combat plastic pollution happening in 60 nations. The move could dramatically reduce the flow of plastic from 1.3 billion people. India is resisting plastic pollution with what United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim called a phenomenal commitment. The country’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan said single-use plastics will be banned in all of the country’s states by 2022. Solheim said the move would inspire the planet and “ignite real change.” Related: Kenya introduces world’s harshest law on plastic bags “It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that the quest for material prosperity does not compromise our environment ,” Modi said. “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.” UN Environment released  a report providing “the first comprehensive global assessment of government action against plastic pollution,” including case studies from over 60 countries. The report included a list of states and cities in India that have banned plastic bags or disposable plastic products, and the selected case study in the country highlighted beach cleanup efforts in Mumbai; Inhabitat covered the initiative started by local lawyer Afroz Shah earlier this year. Volunteers have cleaned up around 13,000 tons of trash, largely plastics , according to the case study, and this year people spotted Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings on the beach for the first time in more than 20 years. + United Nations Environment Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Juggadery/Flickr

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India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

Mars Australia to go to 100% renewable energy in just over one year

June 5, 2018 by  
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One of the largest manufacturers in Australia is going green. Food company Mars Australia recently announced it will match 100 percent of its  electricity use with clean power by 2020. The company’s goal is to completely eliminate greenhouse gases from its operations by 2040. Exciting news from down under – Mars Australia has entered the solar system! We’re proud to announce we’re now purchasing the equivalent of 100% of our electricity use from #renewable #solar energy! Learn more about our commitment to a #sustainable future: https://t.co/BZnJSuCLkb pic.twitter.com/vofAZea3ht — Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) May 31, 2018 Mars Australia signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with renewable energy company Total Eren. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the deal will support the Kiamal Solar Farm in northern Victoria, which Total Eren is developing, as well as a second clean power project in New South Wales. Mars Australia said it has contracted for power to match electricity needs of six factories and two sales offices in Australia. The company’s electricity use in the country is around 100 gigawatt-hours a year; general manager Barry O’Sullivan told The Sydney Morning Herald, “We’ve got a pretty big footprint on this planet. Our energy usage in total is equivalent to a small country’s.” Related: Australia’s solar energy capacity could almost double in one year Solar power from the Kiamal Solar Farm, which is slated for completion in the middle of 2019, won’t go directly to Mars Australia’s operations. Instead, it will go to the country’s national grid. Mars Australia will receive Renewable Energy Certifications from the Kiamal Solar Farm and will support Total Eren in expanding the farm to a planned 200-megawatt capacity. Mars Australia said the energy generated at the solar farm could power 185 million 180-gram (around 6-ounce) bags of peanut M&Ms, 2.5 billion packets of EXTRA gum, 1.4 billion bottles of MasterFoods tomato sauce or 29 million 3-kilogram (around 6-pound) bags of PEDIGREE dog food. We’re thrilled to announce that Mars Australia is adding new solar power to the national grid equivalent to 100% of our electricity use! But how much is that? Here’s a taste… pic.twitter.com/5HQurC9oUK — Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) May 31, 2018 O’Sullivan said in a Mars press release  that rising electricity prices played a role in the company’s decision to switch to renewable energy. The move joins Mars sites in the U.S., U.K. and about nine other countries. O’Sullivan said the “price volatility of energy in Australia made renewables the best option for our business.” Total Eren CEO David Corchia said, “Partnering with manufacturing thought leaders like Mars Australia is essential and sends a strong message to the rest of the market that now is the time to capitalize on the opportunities offered by renewable power purchase agreements and to drive positive changes in the environment .” + Mars Australia Via The Sydney Morning Herald Images via Depositphotos

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Mars Australia to go to 100% renewable energy in just over one year

Trump orders Perry to take steps to curb coal plant shutdowns

June 4, 2018 by  
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It seems President Donald Trump doesn’t want to let coal die. Bloomberg reported he ordered Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take steps to stem closures of nuclear and coal power plants. An emailed statement from White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders read, “Impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix and impacting the resilience of our power grid .” Coal and nuclear plants are losing money as cheaper renewable energies and natural gas gain steam. Trump’s administration alleges that declines in nuclear and coal power jeopardize America’s security. According to the White House statement, the president told Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations.” The Department of Energy’s strategy, as detailed in a memo Bloomberg obtained , could be to draw on power given by federal laws to create a “strategic electric generation reserve” and compel grid operators to purchase power from plants that are at risk. The National Security Council was to meet last week to talk over the idea. Related: Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal One purpose of this draft plan, Bloomberg reported, is to buy time for a two-year study probing vulnerabilities in the country’s energy delivery system. Administration officials have already used up a year of this time. Following an Energy Department grid reliability study, Perry suggested a rule that would have compensated nuclear and coal plants — and federal regulators killed the proposal. Major grid operator PJM Interconnection said in a statement its grid “is more reliable than ever” and “there is no such need for any such drastic action.” The company said it has analyzed planned deactivations of nuclear stations and found no immediate threat to reliability. PJM said, “Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers.” Electric Power Supply Association president John Shelk said, “National security is being invoked by people who once favored markets. Everybody loses in a fuels war.” Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Gorgeous barn is built of reclaimed, century-old oaks from the site itself

June 4, 2018 by  
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In 2017, Dutch design firm HilberinkBosch Architects found out that seven of their century-old oak trees were in ailing health and would need to be cut down. Instead of sending the oaks to the paper mill, the architects decided to try their hand at building a timber barn using traditional construction techniques. The result—called the Sixteen-Oak Barn—was a stunning success that combines modern and rustic features with large panels of glazing and untreated timbers. The idea for a barn came from the local building vernacular in the Dutch region of Meierij van ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which features gabled farmhouses traditionally built from locally available materials . In a design the architects describe as “haphazard aesthetics,” the Sixteen-Oak Barn was constructed of the locally felled, century-old oak trees in addition to a couple of oaks sourced from the nearby Wamberg estate. The barn comprises a carport, storage room, and a workshop / meeting room for office use. There is also an addition loft space located above the storage room. A mobile sawmill brought on-site was used to cut the core sections of the felled oak tree trunks into structural timber for the frames, roof, and siding. The transverse-frame barn involves tie rod trusses and roof rafters to hold up an asymmetrical shingled roof clad in cleaved soft sapwood. Stanchions with bark serve as solar fins to shield the glazed facade from unwanted solar heat gain. Board-formed concrete complements the timber palette indoors. Leftover timber was chopped and stored as firewood in the barn’s recessed north facade. Related: Traditional barn raising techniques bring a modern cost-effective farm to life “The barn’s aesthetics have been strongly influenced by coincidence,” wrote the architects. “It lends this contemporary building a vital expression that merges old and new in a wonderful and extraordinary way. Untreated timber, concrete and glass have been intermingled in various ways. The irregular dimensions of the wood used to build the formwork resulted in far from perfect concrete surfaces.” + HilberinkBosch architects Images by René de Wit

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