LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

May 16, 2018 by  
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Firefighting is consistently ranked one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. — which is why the well-being of firefighters becomes all the more important in architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design of Seattle Fire Station 32. Located in the heart of the Alaska Junction neighborhood in West Seattle, the 18,000-square-foot fire station boasts a handsome and modern appearance that not only enhances firefighters’ wellness, but also welcomes the community. The fire station , completed last year, is crafted to be highly energy efficient, and it recently achieved LEED Platinum certification. Filled with natural light and optimized for scenic views, Seattle Fire Station 32 is set in the heart of the neighborhood at the threshold between single-family residential areas and a denser commercial zone. To mitigate the site’s small size, the architects built upward, resulting in a four-story building with a basement. The building engages the civic arena with public areas that are visible from the street, such as the beanery and station office. The entrance of the office is marked by a 25-foot-tall wall-mounted fire truck sculpture . A 59-foot-long ladder truck and the firefighters’ activities are also put on full display behind a glazed end wall along Alaska Street. Related: Seattle’s Firestation 30 is a Copper-Clad Green Community Beacon Private bunk rooms and individual offices are tucked along the quiet residential-facing side of the building. The operational and administrative areas are housed on the lower floors, while the firefighters’ living spaces are located on the third floor. This floor opens up to an outdoor terrace overlooking the green roof . “The hose drying tower acts as a visual marker for the station between the southern residential hillside and tall mixed-use buildings to the north,” the architects wrote. “With a subtle lantern effect at night, the tower acts as a beacon of safety for residents and visitors.” The project was awarded a 2018 Green GOOD DESIGN Award , and earned LEED Platinum certification this month. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Images by Nic Lehoux

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LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

Buckwheat pillows offer a good night’s sleep without hurting the environment

February 23, 2018 by  
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The benefits of switching from an off-gassing synthetic pillow to buckwheat are well-documented by now: The crunchy hulls of this pseudo-cereal are densely packed into a surprisingly heavy pillow that conforms to each new owner’s unique contours, providing the kind of sleep dreams are made of. Plus, the pillows last longer than their conventional cousins (with diligent care), and when the hulls do start to flatten out with time, it’s easy to replace them. But there’s more to buckwheat than comfort. Every part of this highly nutritional, fast-growing plant has something to offer, and it is typically cultivated without herbicides or pesticides , eliminating environmental harm. It’s no wonder buckwheat has such a long, illustrious history. According to the Whole Grains Council , “Buckwheat has been providing essential nutrients, vitamins, energy, and fiber to humanity for approximately 8,000 years. Its first starring role as a cultivated crop appears circa 4000 B.C. in the Balkan region of Europe, but its thought to have truly taken hold inland in Southeast Asia and from there spread to Central Asia, Tibet, the Middle East, and Europe.” They add that the Japanese emperor Gensho reportedly ordered the entire country to cultivate buckwheat in 722 to prepare for a protracted dry spell. Ideally suited to the kind of soil most plants would reject, this smother crop helps retain water in the soil, prevents erosion, and keeps weeds at bay, which in turn makes it less necessary to use pesticides. After the flowers yield buckwheat groats, the stalks can be transformed into straw for livestock, according to the Whole Grains Council , and the rest of the plant can be tilled for further water retention. Buckwheat also “likes” northern latitudes and high altitudes, hence its popularity in Russia, China and Kazakhstan. The hulls that go into pillows are simply the outer shell of the inner groat, which provides a slew of nutritional benefits for most people. Related: Why a buckwheat pillow makes a good pillow The gluten free groats provide a rich source of protein, although the Whole Grain Council warns that digestibility may be low for some people. For others, according to Purdue University , “USDA-ARS analyses indicate that the grain has an amino acid composition nutritionally superior to all cereals, including oats. Buckwheat protein is particularly rich (6%) in the limiting amino acid lysine.” It is also rich in iron, zinc and selenium, reports New World Encyclopedia , as well as antioxidants. Given its multiple benefits, of which the above are just a few examples, it’s not hard to get behind a buckwheat pillow. And it really will provide superior sleep. According to Hullo , because buckwheat doesn’t collapse or “bottom out” like down or memory foam, their pillow provides excellent support (no more stiff neck). Also, in addition to being malleable, the pillow stays cool throughout the night since it doesn’t retain body heat. Still, the soft rustling sound, the weight and texture do take some getting used to, which is why Hullo offers a 60-day money back guarantee for their durable, breathable pillows made with a 100 percent organic cotton twill case filled with carefully-sourced buckwheat hulls. And if the filling isn’t just right, you can pour out some of the hulls until it is thanks to an elegant, zipped design. Hullo comes in three sizes, ranging in price from $59 to $149. And if that sounds steep, all you have to do is check out the glowing reviews people have left on the company’s website. Customer JP wrote, “My body feels so much better. My head feels so much better. I sleep through the night and I have energy in the morning. In short: I love, love, love this pillow.” + Hullo Pillow Images via Wikipedia , Mariluna , K.G.Kirailla , Vegan Baking , Andrey Korzun , Hullo Pillow

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Buckwheat pillows offer a good night’s sleep without hurting the environment

Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

December 1, 2017 by  
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If you thought Microsoft’s awesome treehouse offices were the ultimate step in the tech giant’s efforts to make its employees a top priority, think again. The tech giant just announced that it will be razing its 500-acre Redmond campus in order to construct a sustainable Microsoft mini city, complete with 18 new buildings, a two-acre open plaza , retail space, jogging and walking trails, two soccer fields, a cricket field, and its own light rail station. According to the company, the expansive campus, which will be divided into “team neighborhoods”, will be focused on providing a “more open and less formal” working environment. Inside, the spaces will be filled with social hubs and light-filled offices, but the new layout will be primarily focused on providing plenty of outdoor and recreational space for the employees. Once complete, the campus will have 18 new buildings, offering workspace for the 47,000 employees that currently work on site, as well as extra room for an additional 8,000 people. The Redmond campus is already a Zero Waste Certified campus, but will be renovated with increased waste-reduction initiatives . Related: Microsoft unveils amazing treehouse office where employees can brainstorm in fresh air As part of the green transportation focus, all of the cars will be parked in an underground parking lot, so that above ground, the employees can travel by foot, bike or, eventually, by a light rail system scheduled for completion in 2023. As part of the green transportation focus, a new foot and bike bridge will be built over the WA-520 in order to connect both sides of its campus. This will connect with a planned Redmond Technology Transit Station where the Link Light Rail is expected to arrive in 2023. Microsoft president Brad Smith said the project will run approximately $150m, and expects the rebuild to create 2,500 construction and development jobs.”We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact,” explained Smith in the announcement. + Microsoft blog Via ZD Net Images via Microsoft

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Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

This 20-cent, hand-powered centrifuge is set to revolutionize off-grid healthcare

September 7, 2017 by  
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Centrifuges separate blood components to make pathogens easier to detect – and they’re essential to diagnosing and treating diseases like Malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis . However centrifuges need electricity to work – therefore, in remote areas without electricity, a common centrifuge is worthless. Enter the Paperfuge – an ingenious human-powered centrifuge made from 20 cents of paper, twine and plastic. The low-cost device can separate plasma from a blood sample in 990 seconds without electricity – and it could save millions of lives around the world every year. Manu Prakash is an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford who specializes in low-cost diagnostic tools for underserved regions. He was inspired to create the Paperfuge after a trip to Uganda where he saw a very expensive centrifuge being used as a doorstop because there was no electricity to power it. The moment inspired Prakash to find a way to convert human energy into spinning force using the low-tech spinning toys of yesteryear such as yo-yos, tops, and whirligigs. Related: 5 brilliant designs that will change the world in 2017 “There are more than a billion people around the world who have no infrastructure, no roads, no electricity. I realized that if we wanted to solve a critical problem like malaria diagnosis, we needed to design a human-powered centrifuge that costs less than a cup of coffee,” said Prakash. Working with a team of Stanford bioengineers and undergraduate engineering students from MIT, Prakash created the Paperfuge out of 20 cents of paper, twine, and plastic. Don’t be fooled by its simple appearance: the human-powered centrifuge can spin at 125,000 rpm, exerting centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs, “To the best of my knowledge, it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power,” said Prakash. The device aids in rapid, precise diagnoses, which result in more effective treatments for people living in areas where infectious diseases are common. The Paperfuge was recently honored with the world’s biggest design prize – the 2017 INDEX: Award . + Paperfuge + INDEX: AWARD 2017

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This 20-cent, hand-powered centrifuge is set to revolutionize off-grid healthcare

INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

May 22, 2017 by  
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We’ve built cities that do us harm, according to groundbreaking Netherlands designer Daan Roosegaarde . Along with his team at Studio Roosegaarde , he’s tackling the pollution we’ve generated in our metropolises, through the power of design . Roosegarde’s Smog Free Project is currently touring China—their most recent stop is Tianjin —and Inhabitat spoke with Roosegaarde about the project and how design can help us shape a cleaner, more beautiful urban future . Check out our interview after the break… INHABITAT: What inspired you to tackle the problem of city pollution with design? ROOSEGAARDE: I’ve been working on landscapes of the future in the last five years, making dance floors which produce electricity when you dance on them, or bicycle paths which are charged by the sun and glow at night. I love to make public spaces which trigger people in a poetical or pragmatic way. Three and a half years ago, I was being triggered by Asia and its curiosity towards the future. On Saturday, I could see the world around me in Beijing on my 32rd floor room, but on Wednesday and Thursday it was completely covered in smog . It was a wake-up moment. I knew it was bad but it’s something different when it’s visual. Governments all around the world are investing in clean technology , electric cars, or more bicycle sharing programs, but that takes quite a long time, like 10 to 15 years, to make an impact. I wanted to make something that has an impact now. Delhi is actually worse, in India. You’re sort of trapped in a bubble which is pushing on you, which is suppressing you. You feel nauseous at the end of the day. It’s weird that we created cities which do harm to us, which are almost like machines. And again it’s not just Beijing. Every big city has its problems with pollution. It’s a global issue. INHABITAT: When did you start to realize that design could offer an answer? ROOSEGAARDE: Two days later, I remembered when I was a boy, a long time ago, I always had to go to these boring children’s parties. I was playing with plastic balloons, and when you polish a plastic balloon with your hand, it becomes static: static electricity, and it attracts your hair. I can remember when I was like eight years old I was mesmerized by that. It’s like an invisible force. It is a gift from nature. So that memory pops up out of the blue, and then the idea came: what if we could use that kind of principle to build the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world, which sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases clean air . So at least we have local parks where people can experience clean air. We made a very, very simple animation the day after, and then we started to talk with the indoor air purifying experts who’ve been working on this for 20 or 30 years. We made a lot of prototypes and tests and a year and half after that moment we built the first one in Rotterdam . This project is self-commissioned. We spend our own time, money, and energy at the studio. No client is going to call me and ask, “Can you make a Smog Free Tower?” So that’s also part of innovation : you launch your own projects, and now people all around the world are coming and calling, they want to be part of it. We’ve proven that it works. It’s really important to keep investing in your own ideas. INHABITAT: As you’re traveling through China, what do you hope people take away from the tour of the Smog Free Project? First the local people, and then also the government officials that see the towers? ROOSEGAARDE: What we want to achieve is two things. One, it’s a local solution on a park level: to create these bubbles of clean air in the city. And that has been proven quite effective: 55 to 70 percent cleaner than the rest of the city. This week is very, very important for us because we’re launching independent scientific research done by the Eindhoven University of Technology with Professor Bert Blocken, a renowned expert in fine particles. They have done extended measurements and research, and this week we’re launching a report which proves the impact and effect of the tower on the local scale: it collects 70 percent PM 10 and 50 percent PM 2.5 on the park scale level. So that’s very positive. And that’s an independent study from a university, you can’t buy them. And it’s being validated now, being peer reviewed and will be published in the coming months. So the idea was to create local places where people can feel the difference, where they can smell the difference, and where they can experience the future. The second goal is to start a conversation. To say, “hey guys, students, makers, scientists, whomever, what do we need to do to make a whole city smog free?” So we did Smog Free Workshops and the response has been great. We had a girl who made fashion which changes in color when the smog level is too high. We had a Beijing designer who made a sort of wearable greenhouse, like a backpack, so you can breathe in clean air from the plants you’re carrying with you. This has been really great to activate the discussion. The final solution in that way is government with a focus on clean air, electrical cars, green technology, etc.; that’s top down, but we want to move bottom up and tackle all of that, and we meet in the middle and that creates impact, that creates change. From these sessions, from one at Tsinghua University in Beijing, new ideas popped up like the Smog Free Bicycle . The bicycle sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases it as clean air. The technology is similar to the Smog Free Tower. Beijing was a cycling city 10 or 12 years ago, and that completely disappeared because everybody wanted a car, and everybody now is in a traffic jam and it’s polluted. But the bicycle is a powerful cultural icon. So we want to bring back the bicycle and upgrade it in the celebration of the bicycle in the fight against car pollution. This is also part of the Smog Free Project; it’s the next big idea we’re spending time and energy on. It’s been intense, it’s a politically-centered topic, it’s something new, people have to get used to it. Everybody has opinions about it. Very few have proposals. But step by step we’re creating impact. INHABITAT: I heard about the Smog Free Bicycles and I wanted to ask about those: how the idea came about and the also a little bit more about how they work. ROOSEGAARDE: The idea of enhancing bicycles has been around for a while. For example, Matt Hope , a Beijing artist, worked on it years ago, and before that some other artists as well. So we did the workshop with him in Beijing, and with students from Tsinghua University. They have a lot of bicycle sharing programs like Mobike, and so that’s where we got the idea and thought what if we could take it and push it further. The bicycle releases clean air in area around the face. We don’t want to work with masks or anything; it should be a kind of plug-in to the existing bicycle. Why not, right? We came so far with making crazy ideas happen, this should be doable as well. What is fascinating with innovation, with new ideas, is that in the beginning, there are always some people—most of them are enthusiastic but there are always some people who say, “It’s not allowed,” or “You cannot do it.” But you know what happens now with the Smog Free Project, I have top officials from the government coming to me, and saying, “Oh that’s a good idea, why didn’t you do it before?” I’m saying this with a smile; it’s one of the things about innovation, and you have to go through it, but that’s good, that means you are changing something. You are changing a mentality. But you have to fight for it. INHABITAT: Last year the China Forum of Environmental Journalists suggested that the Smog Free Tower in Beijing wasn’t doing its job effectively. What do you think of their findings? ROOSEGAARDE: I read that. It’s quite difficult, because I’ve never met the people, and I’m curious what they based on findings on. I think it’s really good people are engaged with the project, and are thinking about it, and are discussing it: what should be, what shouldn’t it be; so I think that’s positive. We knew the tower worked, and we now have the scientific data to back us up. And yeah, let’s keep on pushing what is possible. But basically, the idea is very simple: build the largest vacuum cleaner in the world, so of course it works. I find it hard to grasp how it could not work. What I think is, everybody has opinions, but let’s work at proposals. INHABITAT: Based on discussions around the tower, do you think you’ll change the design of the tower at all or do you think it’s working well for the goal you have for it? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re not changing the design of the tower. Why would I? No, we’re going to keep it like this. The name and design are going to stay like this. I think maybe in the future, I’ll have some new ideas. We want to make it run on solar panels , that’s an important one. And we’re designing bigger versions for larger public spaces. There will be new versions, but this one that we have is perfectly fine. The design is based on Chinese pagodas, Chinese temples. So there’s also this history element in it, and the Chinese love it. When they visit here they lovingly call it the Clean Air Temple. But I think your question is valid. One tower will of course not the solve the whole problem of a city, that is very clear. I think the goal is to create these local clean air parks, and at the same time educate people, to say hey, what do we need to do to make the whole city smog free? There’s a lot of work to be done. We shouldn’t wait for government. We shouldn’t wait for anyone. INHABITAT: You’ve devoted a lot of creative energy to smog and pollution in the last few years. But recently you’ve turned your attention to space trash. Why do you think this is a serious issue, and how can design help solve the problem? ROOSEGAARDE: When you start something new, you always start as an amateur. You start to read, to learn, to talk with the experts. Now I can say I’m an expert in smog after three years, which is great, but it’s always nice to be an amateur again. So now I’m an amateur in space waste . There are millions of particles floating caused by satellites crashing. And it’s a big problem, because if particles like these hit an existing satellite, the satellite goes down, and no more Facebook, no more Inhabitat, no more mobile banking, and nobody really knows how to clean it. And it’s going to get worse. If we continue like this for the coming five to 10 years there will be so much pollution we won’t even be able to launch missiles anymore because they’ll be damaged by particles. Space is endless, and then we have planet Earth floating here, and somehow we were able to trap ourselves in a layer of space pollution. How are we going to explain that to our grandchildren? That’s insane. So what the Smog Free Ring is for Beijing, and what the Smog Free Tower is for China, can we apply that thinking to space waste? I don’t know how and what or when. I’ve had several sessions with space scientists. It is a problem, and somebody needs to fix it. And that’s been fascinating. So that’s the next adventure. For me, a project like this not just about technology or ideology. I’m a trained artist, so for me it’s about the notion of beauty, or of schoonheid. “Schoonheid” is a very typical Dutch word that has two meanings. One is like the beauty of a painting that you look at and then get inspired. But it also means cleanness, like clean energy, clean water, clean air. That element of schoonheid is what I’m striving for. When we design cities or a product or a car or a landscape, schoonheid should be part of the DNA, and we should really start making places which are good for people. This is the big idea we’re aiming for, and in a way all the projects we’ve been talking about are sort of prototypes or examples. INHABITAT: Your work often explores relationships between humans and technology, but you have also been critical of all the time we spend in front of screens. How would you describe a healthy relationship with technology? ROOSEGAARDE: I think it’s bizarre that we’re feeding into our emotions, our hopes, and dreams into these computer screens. We’re feeding this virtual cloud: Facebook, Twitter. And somehow our physical world is almost disconnected from creative or innovative thinking. Most of the physical places are suffering from pollution, floods, you name it. And that’s sort of weird. Our ideas, our money, our focus is online. I would love to connect these worlds again, the virtual and the analog and really say, “Hey, how can we use technology—and design, and creative thinking—to improve life and make places which are good for people again?” Is it George Orwell, are we reducing human activity, or is it Leonardo Da Vinci, where we enhance ourselves as human beings via technology? If you read like Bruce Sterling or Kevin Kelly, they have been talking about that for many years, which I really, really like. And I hope that the prototypes or projects I’ve made somehow contribute to that way of thinking, of enhancing yourself and exploring yourself. At the World Economic Forum, they had Top 10 Skills research about the future skills you and I need to become successful. Number three is creativity, number two critical thinking, and number one is complex problem solving. What I think will happen is that as we live in a hyper-technological world, our human skills: our desire for knowledge, our desire for beauty, our desire for empathy, and our desire for interaction, will become even more important because that is something robots and computers cannot copy or do for us. I believe we will have a renaissance of the arts and sciences . I hope again that the things I do contribute to that trajectory. INHABITAT What are three major things you’d change in today’s cities to make them more sustainable? ROOSEGAARDE: I think I mentioned it with schoonheid: clean energy , clean water, clean air. And maybe the notion of circular: food  should not be wasted but become food for the other. Most of all I hope it’s a city which triggers me, where I feel like a citizen and not just a taxpayer. I’ve been thinking of Marshall McLuhan in the past few weeks. In Vancouver, I gave a TED talk, and quoted McLuhan who said “On spacecraft Earth there are no passengers; we are all crew.” We’re makers; we’re not just consumers. And so how can we make landscapes which trigger that kind of mentality? That’s what wakes me up every day at 6:30. And again, my designs are in that way not just designs or art installations but really very concrete proposals of how I want the future to look like. It’s been great to work with designers, experts, and engineers to make it happen. I think that’s good to mention because sometimes the focus is a bit too much on me, but we have a great studio in Rotterdam where 16 people are working really, really hard every day, and without them I could never make it happen. INHABITAT: What’s next? Do you have any plans for future projects in the works? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re working on the redesign of Afsluitdijk Dike, it’s a famous 32-kilometer dam in the Netherlands that protects us from drowning and dying. What you should know is dikes in the Netherlands are as holy as cows are in India. Now after almost 80 years the dike is in need of renovation, and the minister of infrastructure , Melanie Schultz, commissioned my studio to enhance the iconic value of that dike. And that’s going to be great. We’re going to make kites in the air, which connected with a cable generate electricity. We’re working with light-emitting algae. We’re launching three more new projects in September, October, and November of this year. + Studio Roosegaarde Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

Solar-powered skin could help prosthetics imbue sense of touch

March 23, 2017 by  
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Engineers from the University of Glasgow have developed a synthetic skin that could help amputees regain their sense of touch. Clad in graphene, a form of graphite just one atom thick yet tougher than steel, the “electronic skin” even uses photovoltaic cells to harvest power from the sun. “This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb,” said Ravinder Dahiya , head of the School of Engineering’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group and the author of a paper on the subject in the current issue of Advanced Functional Materials . Graphene and solar cells are ideal bedfellows because of the former’s unique physical properties, Dahiya said. The material’s optical transparency, for instance, allows 98 percent of the light that hits its surface to pass through. Graphene is also electrically conductive, which means it can channel power to sensors that measure attributes like temperature, pressure, and texture. “Those measurements mean the prosthetic hand is capable of performing challenging tasks like properly gripping soft materials, which other prosthetics can struggle with,” Dahiya said. Related: Thought-controlled robotic arm returns the sense of touch to amputees Because the new skin requires only 20 nanowatts of power per square centimeter, even the lowest-rated photovoltaic cell on the market will suffice. The energy generated by the skin’s cells cannot be stored at present, but the researchers are exploring ways of diverting any unused energy into batteries that can be drawn from at a later time. Beyond prosthetics, the breakthrough could fuel further advances in robotics—a boon for an increasingly automated world. “Skin capable of touch sensitivity also opens the possibility of creating robots capable of making better decisions about human safety,” Dahiya said. “A robot working on a construction line, for example, is much less likely to accidentally injure a human if it can feel that a person has unexpectedly entered their area of movement and stop before an injury can occur.” + University of Glasgow

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WOHA’s deep-green Enabling Village is a beacon of universal design

January 3, 2017 by  
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WOHA ‘s latest project in Singapore proves that universal design can be incredibly sexy. The team just revamped a defunct 1970’s building into Enabling Village , a verdant multi-use community center in Redhill. Designed to be both sustainable and accessible, the renovation serves as a beacon of inclusion for locals. WOHA chose to reuse the former school compound’s original structure and basic layout, but updated it with a number of accessibility features. Visitors with disabilities will find various elevators, low-gradient ramps, tactile floor indicators, as well as hearing loops and braille signs located throughout the building. Related: WOHA’s solar-powered SkyVille in Singapore boasts a deep-green public skypark The center includes six main spaces that are named for their uses: “Nest”, “Playground”, “Village Green”, “Hive”, “Hub” and “Academy.” All of the spaces feature bright wall murals specific to their use, and all are seamlessly connected for easy access. The timber-clad Nest greets pedestrians as they enter the center, and garden walkways lead out to the rest of the buildings. In addition to making the structure all-inclusive, WOHA used a number of upcycled materials throughout the building. Pre-cast concrete pipes were installed as sitting and reading nooks, old sea containers were used as bridges, and recycled oil drums have been repurposed as large planters. The architects have become known for their love of greenery , and it shows in the Enabling Village’s serene landscaping and water gardens, which were planted with a variety of native species. To bring visitors closer to nature, there are plenty of peaceful walkways, verandas and cabanas that look out over the adjacent pond. Thanks to its impressive array of all-inclusive features, the Enabling Village was awarded the Platinum BCA Universal Design Mark Award in May, 2016. + WOHA + Enabling Village Via Archdaily Photography by Patrick Bingham-Hall and Edward Hendricks

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WOHA’s deep-green Enabling Village is a beacon of universal design

New SafariSeat wheelchairs made from bicycle parts help East Africans roam rough terrain

October 20, 2016 by  
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One in 200 people in East Africa need wheelchairs , but don’t yet have them. SafariSeat has developed an all-terrain, open source wheelchair that could allow those people to live their lives with more independence. Currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter , SafariSeat hopes to use money collected to build more wheelchairs and create a manual with the open source designs. SafariSeat wheelchairs are inexpensive and can be made with bicycle parts. They’re designed to be built and repaired in developing countries . A mechanism that imitates car suspension keeps all four wheels on the ground so users can navigate difficult terrain easily. The wheelchair is designed to minimize pressure sores, and rolls via pump levers that a rider can use. Related: Google.org awards $20 million to groups developing tech for people with disabilities Designer Janna Deeble was raised in Kenya , and met a Samburu man named Letu as a child. Polio left Letu disabled and dependent on other people. But the difficulty of Letu’s condition really hit home when Deeble himself was wheelchair-bound after an accident in design school. Deeble went back to Kenya to create SafariSeat, working with a team and with local workshops. The SafariSeat wheelchair has granted Letu independence, and now he’s able to teach his son the Samburu way of life. Deeble and his team want to create a pictograph manual that a person can use no matter what language they speak. Their goal is for local workshops to build the wheelchairs, creating jobs and allowing locals to repair the wheelchairs. They note on their Kickstarter page that while wheelchair donations can help people for a time, when the chairs break there’s often no way to repair them. SafariSeats are designed to be made with locally accessible parts and repaired in basic workshops. SafariSeat is the first project of social enterprise Uji, and they are crowdfunding on Kickstarter so more people can access the innovative wheelchair. With just under a month to go, they’ve raised over $24,000. Their goal is $36,889. You can back the campaign here . + SafariSeat + SafariSeat Kickstarter Campaign Images courtesy of SafariSeat

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New SafariSeat wheelchairs made from bicycle parts help East Africans roam rough terrain

New Source solar panels pull clean drinking water from the air

October 20, 2016 by  
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A new kind of solar panel is being tested in water scarce regions of Ecuador, Jordan, and Mexico where the device, called Source, pulls moisture from the atmosphere to provide clean drinking water. Developed by the Arizona-based startup Zero Mass Water , the setup uses solar energy to produce potable water for a family of four or an entire hospital, depending on how many panels are in use. Last year, the company raised $7 million to back a series of pilot programs to prove how simple and cost-effective access to clean water can be. Founder and CEO Cody Friesen is also an associate professor at Arizona State University’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. Zero Mass Water is the second startup to stem from Friesen’s work at ASU, and it promises a reliable source of affordable drinking water without the need for additional infrastructure. Because the devices can be used alone or in groups, the solar-powered system can scale up or down to meet the water needs of as many or as few people as desired. Related: Wind-powered Water Seer pulls up to 11 gallons of clean drinking water from thin air A single solar panel can produce enough clean water for a family of four, and it’s easy to use because the water flows from a faucet on the back side of the solar panel setup. Source works by passively absorbing moisture from the air using a special humectant material. The solar panel converts solar energy to electricity, which is used to power the process that drives the water back out of the collection material. The water is then evaporated to remove pollutants, leaving behind clean, safe drinking water. Around the world, there are many places primed for this type of sustainable, standalone passive water source. ZMW plans to use Source to provide fresh water to Syrian refugees in Jordan and to Jordanian families, affecting 100,000 households by the end of 2017, with funding from the Clinton Foundation , Duke Energy International, and other investors. Although the pilot programs to date have been conducted in developing countries and areas where water supplies have been contaminated or disrupted by violent conflicts, Friesen sees no reason that residents of the United States couldn’t put Source to work for them as well, and effectively skirt problems with municipal lead contamination and the other threats that increasingly limit access to clean drinking water across the country. Via FastCo Images via Zero Mass Water , Duke Energy , and Arizona State University

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New Source solar panels pull clean drinking water from the air

Yves Bhar launches world’s first smart crib to help parents get more sleep

October 18, 2016 by  
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Karp is a respected pediatrician and the author of the Happiest Baby, which aims to help parents tackle the most basic of infant care—sleep—in a gentle way. He also developed “The 5 S’s,” a five-step technique for soothing and comforting fussy babies in order to help them sleep. In partnering with Béhar and MIT engineers, Karp translates his advice into the language of technology, in the form of a crib that promises to run interference for tired parents of newborns. Related: Shape-shifting “apartment in a box” by MIT and Yves Béhar hits stores next year The SNOO crib is the result of nearly five years of research, development, and design work, all focused on addressing one of the top complaints of new parents : lack of sleep. Karp recognized that sleep deprivation can trigger marital problems, postpartum depression, and even child abuse, so he theorized that developing a high-tech response to the common issue could improve the lives of babies and parents at the same time. The SNOO crib sports a new drive train specifically designed for this product, which creates a rocking motion that can endure millions of cycles, which is substantially more than the typical infant rocker swing. The crib’s movements are designed to help train a baby ’s circadian rhythms earlier, which leads to better sleep for both baby and parents in the long run. In conjunction with its gentle movements, the SNOO crib also plays a variety of white noise specific to the amount of the infant’s crying: a low-pitched white noise helps a tired baby fall asleep, while a higher pitched white noise may calm a fussy infant. The SNOO also helps promote safe sleep with a special sleep sack (included), which allows the infant to be swaddled (which helps most babies feel secure, similar to their time in the womb), and is then clipped to attachment points in the crib to prevent the infant from rolling while sleeping. A shielded WiFi connection lets parents control the crib’s movement and sound from afar (or just across the room), although no interaction is necessary for the smart crib to do its thing. “When the baby fusses, [SNOO] responds in seconds with increasing motion and sound – just like parents do – to find the right level of sensation for calming that baby, at that time,” said Béhar. “SNOO is often able to calm even the worst crying jags and help babies fall asleep. “ There are some high-tech infant rockers on the market that already possess some of the features that SNOO boasts—namely the 4moms remote-controlled rocker with numerous settings and options. However, no existing product is designed to sense and respond to an infant’s movement and sounds the way SNOO does. Those skeptical of robots taking over for parents need not worry, as the SNOO crib does not promise that babies will magically sleep through the night or cease to need their human parents in very real ways. What it does, however, is provide a little extra encouragement for babies during restless times, and potentially help parents catch just a tiny bit more shut-eye. Because the SNOO crib’s responses are subtle, it’s easy to imagine that—over time—the crib might even help little ones learn to fall back to sleep on their own, without any assistance. The SNOO crib sells for $1,150 and is available online at Happiest Baby for shipping to US addresses. + Happiest Baby + Fuseproject Images via Happiest Baby

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Yves Bhar launches world’s first smart crib to help parents get more sleep

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