Airbnb’s swanky new San Francisco office has a sky boat, a castle and 16 international "neighborhoods"

November 3, 2017 by  
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Airbnb may offer thousands of luxury lodgings around the world, but employees won’t want to leave the rental sharing company’s swanky new San Francisco headquarters. Located at 999 Brannan Street,  Airbnb’s own Environments Team and WRNS Studio  designed 150,000 square feet of healthy, light-filled working space with plenty of whimsical flare like a sky boat, a castle and themed floors that represent the company’s international presence. The design of 999 Brannan – just mere steps from its existing San Fran headquarters – began by removing every non-structural element in the corner lot building, essentially creating a massive blank canvas. By scrapping the interior walls and hallways, the focus was put on flooding the interior space with as much natural light as possible. The huge atrium is a light-filled space with a curvaceous stairwell that winds up through the levels. A long mezzanine leads to the various offices as well as think spaces and conference rooms. Related: Airbnb’s brand new Paris office is a loft-like space that feels like home For design guidance, the teams concentrated on the company ethos of “Belong Anywhere” as well as the company’s new feature, Airbnb Trips, which offers users custom travel experiences designed and led by locals around the world. To highlight the new service and the company’s world-wide presence, international design elements were used on every floor. For example, each cafe has been styled according to a different city, such as Buenos Aires, Kyoto, Jaipur, and Amsterdam. The building’s work spaces are divided into 16 “neighborhoods” that house up to 50 employees who spend their days working at the sitting or standing desks , brainstorming at the communal tables, or enjoying down time in one of the many cozy lounges. Aaron Taylor Harvey, Airbnb Environments Executive Creative Director, explains that the design was based on providing employees with a comfortable working environment , “we wanted to bring the same bespoke nuance to this very large space that we brought to the first small office we designed in Portland. We want it to feel like a custom home to every inhabitant.” + WRNS Studio + Airbnb

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Airbnb’s swanky new San Francisco office has a sky boat, a castle and 16 international "neighborhoods"

You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

November 3, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela , track cheetahs on foot , or stroll with elephants — and other exotic creatures — in South Africa ? Well, here’s your chance. Thanks to the efforts of over 200 volunteers, now you can use Google Maps to explore 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves, and many other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in South Africa. More than 200 nature-loving South Africans volunteered to map out parts of the country they call home. Many of the helpers were rangers and guides with SANParks , CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife . Others were just good Samaritans, tech enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to make a difference. Over the span of twelve months, the volunteers trekked over 50,000km to establish 232 points of interest. Said Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan program.” The Google Street View Camera Loan program encourages anyone to borrow the 360-degree camera technology to help the planet . Reportedly, this is the first time Google has partnered with a third-party for the program. Drive South Africa played a big role in coordinating the volunteers . Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast and the founder of the Cape Town -based company, explained the technology: “The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.” Kets added that he saw “potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe” when he applied. Related: Thousands of plastic bottles transformed into an inspiring tower of hope in South Africa In addition to mapping over two hundred points of interest, volunteers mapped eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can also see Mapungubwe Hill , which is home to an ancient African civilization, the Richtersveld that is known for its incredible moonscapes, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park , South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site which serves as a critical habitat for many species . The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dennis Wood of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said, “As the proud conservation authority for KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are excited to be partnered with Google’ new initiative in exposing our trails on this global platform that we believe will engage our prospective guests to “Take time to Discover” our province’s rich natural beauty and conservation wildlife heritage.” + Google Street View Loan Program Images via Google Maps

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You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

Jaguar gives "the most beautiful car ever made" an electric upgrade

September 11, 2017 by  
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In 1961, the Jaguar E-type was labeled as one of the best looking cars of all time. Even Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made.” Now Jaguar has turned the retro E-type into an electric car , which the automaker calls the E-type Zero. To create the E-type Zero, Jaguar started with a 1968 Series 1.5 Jaguar E-type Roadster. Its six-cylinder combustion engine was then swapped out for an electric powertrain with 295 horsepower. Its lithium-ion battery pack has the same dimensions and weight as the original engine and it’s even placed in the exact same location as the former transmission. Even with the new electric powertrain and its components, Jaguar managed to cut 100 pounds from the original car’s weight. This means that it drives and handles just like the original E-type, while emitting zero emissions. Thanks to its electric powertrain, the E-type Zero is actually faster than the original E-type with a 0-62 mph time of 5.5 seconds, about one second quicker than the original. The electric powertrain uses some of the same parts as the upcoming I-Pace electric car and has a driving range up to 170 miles. “We have integrated the new electric powertrain into the existing E-type structure, which means a conventional engine could be reinstalled at any point,” said Tim Hannig, Director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic. “We think this is essential as it ensures a period Jaguar remains authentic to its DNA”. + Jaguar Images @Jaguar

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Jaguar gives "the most beautiful car ever made" an electric upgrade

UK government to install solar on 800,000 low-income houses

September 6, 2017 by  
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Investing in solar doesn’t just benefit the environment, it can also add some cushion to your wallet through energy savings. For this reason, the UK government has teamed up with renewable energy provider Solarplicity to install solar panels on 800,000 low-income households over the next five years. The panels will be free to the tenants and will lower their energy bills by hundreds of pounds, according to the BBC. Roughly 1,000 jobs will also be created in the process, the majority of which will be given to military veterans . Thanks to a £160 million investment by the Dutch firm Maas Capital, some of the poorest households in the UK will benefit from the scheme. International Trade Minister Greg Hands said, “As well as creating 1,000 jobs and delivering cheaper energy bills for up to 800,000 homes, it shows yet another vote of confidence in the UK as a place to invest and do business.” Solarplicity has already begun working with more than 40 landlords, including local authorities across Wales and England . The company will profit from the payments received under the feed-in tariff scheme, as well as from payments for energy and from social housing customers. Reportedly, the feed-in tariff scheme will ensure cash payments to households that produce their own electricity using clean energy technologies, such as solar. Related: UK solar smashes record, supplying 25% of electricity demand Hands also said military veterans will be targeted during the recruitment process. “Armed forces veterans are very good at doing this, actually,” he said. “They understand how to put the panels on efficiently and well.” Hopefully some of the 7,000 homeless veterans in the UK will be considered for employment. According to David Elbourne, the chief executive of Solarplicity, the price of solar panels has dropped so fast in the past couple of years, government subsidies are no longer essential. “In the past, the feed-in tariff meant that people who could afford to have solar, benefitted from solar. But now people who can’t afford to have solar [can]- we’ll put it on the roof for free – and they will get a reduced energy bill,” he said. While the overall response to the scheme has been positive, some remain skeptical. David Hunter, the director of market studies at energy management firm Schneider Electric, is cautious about the initiative. “Obviously any kind of investment in the transition to low carbon energy supply can be a positive thing and with any of these developments it’s always best to consider whether it’s best value for money,” he said. “But certainly the idea of upgrading our social housing stock to make it more energy efficient and lower carbon is a worthwhile aim.” + Solarplicity Via BBC Images via  Pixabay,   Simple Wikipedia

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UK government to install solar on 800,000 low-income houses

Clever GrowMore planter expands along with your garden

September 6, 2017 by  
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GrowMore is a clever planter that expands as your garden grows. Designed by Danish architects Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum of Husum Lindholm Architects , the modular gardening system can be bolted together in a variety of configurations to host everything from mini pocket gardens to large food-producing crops. The GrowMore modular system is comprised of just six main elements including planting boxes, shelves, and connectors. The plywood shelves and boxes can be arranged to create large circular pavilions and funky free-standing planters. The structures can also create small “urban nests” that enable people to reconnect with nature. Related: Prefabricated garden retreat snaps together in less than a week Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum wanted to create a system that would make it easy for anyone to build their own three-dimensional garden – and they plan to make GrowMore an open-source system so that anyone with a CNC machine can cut their own plywood components to arrange as they see fit. “As architects, we have to address new technologies,” said Lindholm. “We have to think about how can we build and produce designs that people can grasp, and that they can build themselves.” Lindholm and Husum recently showcased the system at the Seoul Architecture Biennale , an exhibition of designs created for the cities of the future. + Husum Lindholm Architects  

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Clever GrowMore planter expands along with your garden

Scientists find a massive black hole swirling in the Milky Way

September 6, 2017 by  
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Scientists from Keio University in Japan have unveiled the best evidence we have for an intermediate-mass black hole – and it’s right in our Milky Way . Intermediate-mass black holes have eluded astronomers , who have found hints of both star-sized black holes and supermassive black holes . But the discovery of the mid-sized black hole could help scientists understand why supermassive black holes grow so immense. The formation of supermassive black holes has been a mystery for astronomers, but this new study might provide an explanation for how they form. The researchers from Japan said in their research that mid-sized black holes could merge to form supermassive black holes, but there’s been little evidence for the existence of intermediate-mass black holes – until now. Related: Supermassive black holes offer hint at structure of the universe Last year, a team led by Tomoharu Oka of Keio University reported a strange cloud of molecular gas, dubbed CO-0.40-0.22, in our Milky Way. A team also led by Oka then scrutinized the cloud with instruments such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and found a dense clump of gas near the cloud’s center, and a nearby radio wave source, CO-0.40-0.22*, that has similarities to the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*. According to Oka, the similarity “supports the notion that CO-0.40-0.22* is an intermediate-mass black hole.” Scientists have expressed excitement about the discovery; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology astronomer Kevin Schawinski told Science Magazine, “It’s a very careful paper and they have gorgeous data. It’s the most promising evidence so far.” If CO-0.40-0.22* is verified as a black hole, its presence could offer support to the idea our galaxy has gotten bigger by cannibalizing smaller neighboring galaxies. The Japanese scientists think CO-0.40-0.22* could be a former dwarf galaxy core that could have been absorbed into the Milky Way, and could one day be subsumed by Sagittarius A*. The journal Nature Astronomy published the study online this week. Via Keio University , Science Magazine , and ScienceAlert Images via Keio University and NASA/JPL-Caltech

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India cancels plans for coal power stations as solar prices hit record low

May 26, 2017 by  
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India has canceled plans to construct nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations in the country as prices for solar electricity “free fall” to levels once considered impossible, The Independent reports. Experts expect a profound shift in global energy markets as the cost of solar has dropped by 25 percent in some regions. Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies at the IEEFA, explains that 13.7GW of coal power projects have been canceled just this month. He added that the dip in solar prices is so low, it will never be repeated. A few factors have contributed to the decline in solar prices. Reportedly, the price of photovoltaic panels — which account for a major percentage of solar power plant’s costs — have dropped by a staggering 30 percent in the past year. This has helped lower prices. Additionally, the Narendra Modi government is working hard to “assure private renewables developers by backing a payment security mechanism,” according to Scroll . For instance, the Solar Energy Corporation of India , the country’s largest solar power purchases, was included in an agreement last year between the Central government, the Reserve Bank of India and the state government. This safeguards it against payment defaults — which is important, as power distribution compares are reportedly notorious for delayed payment to renewable energy producers. Overaggressive bidding is also resulting in a decline in prices, according to The Independent. An auction for a 500-megawatt solar facility, for example, resulted in a tariff of just 2.44 rupees compared to a wholesale price charged by a major coal power utility of 3.2 rupees. That’s a 31 percent difference. Related: Chile’s solar price hits record global low – at half the price of coal “For the first time solar is cheaper than coal in India and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets is profound,” said Buckley. “Measures taken by the Indian Government to improve energy efficiency coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets and the plummeting cost of solar has had an impact on existing as well as proposed coal -fired power plants, rendering an increasing number as financially unviable.” What India is witnessing, says the analyst, is a further indication of the “rise of stranded assets across the Indian power generation sector.” He added, “The caliber of the global financial institutions who are bidding into India’s solar power infrastructure tenders is a strong endorsement of India’s leadership in this energy transformation and will have significant ripple effects into other transforming markets, as is already seen in the UAE, South Africa, Australia, Chile, and Mexico.” In 2017, India’s solar-generation capacity is expected to reach 8.8 gigawatts – a 76 percent increase from 2016. According to renewable energy consultancy Bridge To India, that will make the country the third-largest solar market in the world. Via The Independent Images via Pixabay

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India cancels plans for coal power stations as solar prices hit record low

How Citigroup has gamified employee engagement

January 30, 2017 by  
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“Sustainability has been so focused on impacts to the environment… and lost in the conversation are the people in the building — the occupants,” said Steve Avadek, Director of Sustainability for Citi Realty Services.Avadek sat down with GreenBiz at VERGE 16 to talk about Citigroup’s ambitious green building record and its employee engagement initiatives.

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Zaha Hadid Architects to build worlds greenest football stadium

November 11, 2016 by  
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As the centerpiece of the pastoral Eco Park , the Forest Green stadium will serve more than just a recreational purpose. The stadium will be built almost entirely of wood for a very low carbon footprint —ZHA says it will have the lowest embodied carbon of any stadium in the world—and pave the way for eco-friendly development in the 100-acre sports and green technology business park. The structure will also accommodate occupational uses outside of football to enable the town to use the stadium year-round. Related: Architects want to transform this football stadium into a giant wave pool “Forest Green Rovers’ new stadium and Eco Park aims to be carbon neutral or carbon negative, including measures such as the provision of on-site renewable energy generation,” said Jim Heverin, Director at ZHA. “The buildings on the site, and their embodied energy, play a substantial role in achieving this ambitious target and demonstrate sustainable architecture can be dynamic and beautiful.” All the timber will be sustainably sourced , from the roof cantilevers and louvered cladding to the seating terraces to the floor slab. A transparent membrane will cover the stadium’s roof to shade the players and spectators, and offer an opportunity for turf growth. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images via Zaha Hadid Architects

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Zaha Hadid Architects to build worlds greenest football stadium

Nissan may soon offer a new subcompact electric car

October 21, 2016 by  
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Nissan ‘s electric car, the Leaf, has been around since the auto-manufacturer launched their 2011 model in December 2010. While there have been hints of a second generation Leaf , comments by Nissan Europe’s Electric Vehicle Director suggest the company may be working on a subcompact electric car instead. Electric Vehicle Director Gareth Dunsmore told Auto Express, “We’ve investing $5.4 billion in electric cars such as the Leaf, so we need to ensure we’re satisfying as many types of customer as possible. In Europe , that could mean looking towards B-segment hatches and SUVs or crossovers.” Thanks to an alliance with French automobile manufacturer Renault , the company has sold over 350,000 fully electric vehicles to date, including 200,000 Leafs. Renault’s ZOE, the best-selling B-segment electric car in Europe, is a five-door hatchback, and Auto Express said a Nissan subcompact electric car may be the ZOE’s “sister car” and even draw on its battery technology and platform. A Nissan subcompact car could be manufactured at the same facility as the ZOE in France, which would enable the facility to produce nearer to capacity. Related: GM’s European Brand Opel Will Be Next Automaker To Release a Subcompact EV However, a subcompact electric car might not be sold in the large American market – at least not initially. Green Car Reports said the market might respond better to an electric crossover. Dunsmore said, “The first people who bought EVs were the proud early adopters. The second people were the fleets. And the third people were families, who wanted affordability and practicality. The Leaf is well placed to deliver to those customers, and will continue to do so. If we look towards crossovers or the B-segment for the next car, those could make perfect sense.” Nissan Corporate Vice President Roel de Vries seemed to back up Dunsmore’s statement when he said, “…we are looking at where we can add more electric cars. The next step would be in another volume sector, which probably isn’t sports cars.” Via Green Car Reports and Auto Express Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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