NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

November 3, 2017 by  
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In its quest to sustainably serve the needs of urban farmers , NexLoop  found inspiration for its water management system in the natural world. Seeking to create a system that is self-sufficient and adaptable to local needs, the NexLoop team observed the ability of cribellate orb weaver spiders to craft webs that capture water from fog in the air. The team then incorporated this design into their system, called the AquaWeb, to passively capture water from the atmosphere. The biomimetically-designed AquaWeb incorporates ideas from fungi, bees, and plants to create a naturally-inspired solution to the complex human problem of growing food. For its work, NexLoop was awarded the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and the Biomimicry Institute. After determining how water capture would work, the team looked at drought-tolerant plants such as the crystalline ice plant to learn how it effectively stores water to survive in dry areas and applied these lessons to the AquaWeb’s storage system. As for distribution of this water, the team studied fungi , which are essential organisms in places like forests where mycorrhizal fungal networks transport water and nutrients to trees that need them. As for a solid structure, the team incorporated the hexagonal shape of honey bee nests. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The AquaWeb seeks to meet the needs of a global community that is increasingly urban . The global population is expected rise to at least 9 billion by 2050, 70 percent of which will live in cities. This historic shift towards urban living will require adoption of food systems that are locally based, resilient, and efficient in its use of resources. AquaWeb’s passive capture and storage of rainwater is a key feature for stability in a world increasingly plagued by extreme weather. As part of the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize, the NexLoop team received $100,000 to promote and refine its design. The second place prize was awarded to Team Windchill, which designed an electricity-free refrigerator based on animal temperature regulation, while the third place prize went to Team Evolution’s Solutions, which invented a food waste nutrient recycling and supply system aimed to help hydroponic farmers . + Biomimicry Institute Images via NexLoop and Depositphotos

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NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

November 3, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy could help islands in the Caribbean be more resilient in the face of future hurricanes – and billionaire Richard Branson wants to make that happen. He’s spearheading a plan for recovery centering on renewable energy. Replacing fossil fuel power grids with clean energy sources like solar and wind could also promote economic development. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Caribbean islands. Now, Branson aims to help them rebuild. He has spoken with lenders and foundations about a fund to pay for a Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan, a name that nods to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe following World War 2. His efforts, which focus on renewable energy, could also include debt relief negotiations in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) might be involved – Branson met with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and said she was willing to facilitate meetings between creditors and Caribbean nations. He also said in a blog post he met recently with over 50 representatives from Caribbean governments and utility companies. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier. The Caribbean heads of state agree with one voice that this is a good idea.” Branson rode out Hurricane Irma in a cellar on Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands. The island’s solar-powered microgrid weathered the storm well, he said, with the solar panels running again just 24 hours after the hurricane. In a blog post, Branson said people interested in helping could donate to the BVI Community Support Appeal , which aims “to raise money for the long term reconstruction” of the British Virgin Islands. Via the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Richard Branson Images via Caribbean Buzz Helicopters/Virgin and Ricardo Rossello on Twitter

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Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

November 3, 2017 by  
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All the materials needed to build this temporary pavilion in the Netherlands are borrowed. bureau SLA and Overtreders W built the People’s Pavilion – a centerpiece of the Dutch Design Week (DDW) taking place in Eindhoven – using materials from suppliers and Eindhoven residents which will be returned after the event closes. The only exception is the faceted upper façade, which is made of plastic household waste materials collected by Eindhoven residents. The People’s Pavilion will function as the main pavilion of the World Design Event in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which provides a platform for future makers from all over the world. It will also be used as a meeting place and hang-out for visitors and serves as a venue for music and theater. Related: Spectacular origami pavilion made of recycled plastic pops up in Columbus, Indiana The 269-square-foot (25-square-meter) building can accommodate 200 seated or 600 standing people. Its structure is based on 12 concrete foundation piles and 19 wooden frames, designed in collaboration with Arup. Steel straps hold together wooden beams , while concrete piles and frames are connected with 350 tensioning straps. The glass roof resembles those used in the greenhouse industry. Related: The Folkets House is an inclusive space where refugees can learn skills and find jobs Colorful plastic tiles cover the upper façade of the building and are made from recycled plastic household waste . Leftovers from a refurbishment of BOL.com’s headquarters were used for the glass portion of the façade on the ground floor and will be reused for a new office space after the Dutch Design Week concludes. All the materials, including concrete slabs used for the podium, lighting, heating and bar are borrowed. + bureau SLA + Overtreders W + Dutch Design Week 

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Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

September 4, 2017 by  
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This family in Australia completely shifted the way they source their food – with remarkable success. When wife Nici suffered an illness, the Coopers decided to start growing their own produce at home in Newcastle, and now their one-acre Limestone Permaculture Farm supplies dozens of families with fresh food . They also offer permaculture education and internships, sharing what they’ve learned with the greater community . The Coopers have been farming at Limestone Permaculture Farm for close to a decade. They grow organic produce , and raise sheep, goats, and chickens. They also keep bees and build with recycled materials , and The farm is powered by energy from wood, water, and the sun – pretty much every greenie’s dream come true. TreeHugger said co-owner Brett suggested they can feed 50 families from the one-acre farm . Related: Man leaves rat race to grow dream permaculture farm – and it’s flourishing after 3 years Swales, a chicken tractor, and self-seeding edible ground cover are among the permaculture techniques the Coopers employ at Limestone Permaculture Farm. Brett discovered permaculture over a decade ago. He told the Newcastle Herald , “I was a builder and had done architectural drafting. When I found permaculture, it was less about one form and more about following nature’s design . It blew my mind.” The Coopers offer farm tours, workshops, internships, and a permaculture design certificate at their New South Wales farm. They still have jobs and only work the farm part-time, but are hoping to transition to permaculture farming full-time. “We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands,” the Coopers say on their website. “With each passing day we are transitioning to a more wholesome life, creating a more fulfilling and positive future, not just for ourselves but also for our family, friends, and community.” + Limestone Permaculture Farm Via Happen Films and TreeHugger Images via Limestone Permaculture Farm Facebook

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Monumental inverted pyramid home in Spain will blow your mind

September 4, 2017 by  
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Just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to home architecture, along comes one of the most imaginative homes yet. This inverted pyramid cutting into a hill in rural Spain is a mind-bending villa that offers epic views of the surrounding forest and the swimming pool below, in a shape that you wouldn’t expect.  The residence was designed as a thought-provoking way to reinvent how homes interact with their environment. Tokyo-based Makoto Takei + Chie Nabeshima /TNA designed the home to contrast the landscape, and to surprise and delight. Part of the Solo Houses project, which included design proposals from twelve architects, the pyramid volume houses a variety of spaces defined by several mezzanines and platforms that provide visual connections throughout the interior. A stairway leads to an outdoor swimming pool that was conceived as a huge volume embedded into the terrain. Related: Juan Carlos Ramos Unveils Amazing Pyramid House Worthy of a Pharaoh Large windows draw natural light into the interior and provide views of the forest. Three bedrooms occupy the top floor. These private quarters are connected to the main living areas via a lounge. Different heights and sloping exterior walls make the space feel more spacious and airy. This layout also allows the light from the windows to reach the furthers corners of the interior. + Makoto Takei + Chie Nabeshima TNA Via Fubiz

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Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food

August 14, 2017 by  
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A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but an amazing urban farm flourishes on Governors Island . An inspiring GrowNYC initiative is teaching inner city kids how to plant, water, harvest, and cook pesticide-free fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Located on Governors Island just a quick ferry ride from lower Manhattan, the Teaching Garden is a 21,000-square-foot urban farm that offers free educational field trips to NYC students—many of whom have never seen how food is grown. Now in its fourth season, the half-acre Governors Island Teaching Garden comprises raised planters, a fruit orchard, an outdoor kitchen with a large solar oven , high-tunnel greenhouse, and even an aquaponics system housed inside a converted shipping container . The Teaching Garden currently has 69 individual planting beds built from recycled plastic lumber with over 40 plant varieties during the summer season. Although the urban farm isn’t certified organic, all the fruits, herbs, and vegetables are grown with all-natural and pesticide-free practices. Earth Matter NY supplies the compost. “There are students here every day of the week so we want to encourage students to be able to eat straight from the plant so we don’t want to put anything harmful in the plants,” said GrowNYC to Inhabitat during a farm tour. “But we do have natural pest management such as introducing ladybugs to eat the unwanted insects.” Related: Project Farmhouse community space with wall of edible plants coming to Union Square The majority of students who visit are from immigrant families, such as the group of fourth graders from PS 503 present on the day we visited. The educational journey begins with an introduction about the fruits and vegetables the participants harvest as well as a lesson on their nutritional value. The group is then led to the different planting beds and orchard to pick ingredients, followed by a trip to the outdoor kitchen for a lesson on cooking what they harvested for a true farm-to-fork experience. The students also plant seeds for future harvests and learn about sustainable initiatives ranging from renewable energy to recycling and composting. “We feel that young people in the city don’t have the same opportunities to experience the natural world,” said GrowNYC. “So we want to provide that for them and hope that when they leave they feel a connection and feel more comfortable with eating healthy fruits and vegetables, or even in cooking. Almost all the food we grow here the students eat. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to bring more food onto the island so we made an expansion to grow more food to reach self-sufficiency . Now we only bring on olive oil and spices. Expansion also lets us to bring more students out here and slightly larger classes. It also shows students what a small scale farm would look like.” In addition to expansion, the Teaching Garden is in the process of building a solar-powered aquaponics system designed by Harbor School students and housed inside a shipping container. The nitrate-rich water taken from the tilapia holding tanks will be pumped up to the roof where it’ll be used to irrigate vegetables. Other sustainably minded projects are being built with the help of corporate volunteers. CSR programs help subsidize most of the costs of the Teaching Garden to keep the educational program free for students. In addition to school visits, the urban farm is open to the public on weekends during Governors Island’s open season that runs until mid-autumn. + Governors Island Teaching Garden Images © Lucy Wang

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New light-filled learning center celebrates the food history in one of Denmarks oldest towns

August 3, 2017 by  
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Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter just won a competition to design a new cultural center for one of the oldest settlements in Denmark . The winning proposal, called Kornets Hus (“Grain House”), will be an activity-based learning center in Hjørring focused on the importance of grain to Jutland—a region believed to have been populated 10,000 years ago. Kornets Hus will be of a minimalist and modern design built largely from brick and timber that takes inspiration from the region’s diverse landscapes, folk culture, and agricultural heritage. Commissioned by Realdania , the L-shaped 680-square-meter Kornets Hus is set on a site with an existing farm and bakery. The learning center will offer visitors as well as locals and employees engaging educational experiences about the region’s rich food and farming culture. In addition to educational and exhibition spaces, the building will also include a cafe, store, and offices. Related: Norwegian Mountaineering Centre mimics a dramatic snow-covered mountain The building features a simple and flexible plan to accommodate a wide variety of activities. Two brick-clad light wells , reminiscent of baker kilns, bookend the structure’s two ends. Skylights and large windows also help maximize access to natural light . Glazing on the west facade frame views of wheat fields and connect to an outdoor terrace. A large bread oven forms the heart of the public spaces. + Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter Images via Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

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New light-filled learning center celebrates the food history in one of Denmarks oldest towns

London scientists want to revive plants buried in ‘ghost ponds’

July 24, 2017 by  
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Life will find a way, even if that way is winding and submerged under layers of organic matter and water . According to a recent study by a scientific team at University College London , uncovering hidden habitats buried under so-called “ghost ponds,” ponds that have been filled in with soil and vegetation but not fully drained, could prove decisive in restoring ecosystems and may even hold the key to reviving extinct plant species. “We have shown that ghost ponds can be resurrected, and remarkably wetland plants lost for centuries can be brought back to life from preserved seeds,” declared lead researcher Emily Alderton. To the untrained eye, a potential treasure trove of ecological richness that is a ghost pond may go unnoticed. They manifest as damp areas of land, on which plants have difficulty growing and the soil may appear discolored in contrast to the ground around it. Ghost ponds are usually created by farmers who apply plants and soil to small ponds as they seek to create more arable land. “Small ponds were not drained, but were filled in while they were still wet. We think this is likely to have contributed to the survival of the seeds buried within the historic pond sediments,” said Alderton. Related: Scientists Bring Extinct Mouth-Brooding Frog Back to Life After 30 Years Researchers at UCL analyzed survey maps and historical records in order to track down nondescript ghost ponds of interest. “We also suspected that ghost was the right word as it hints at some form of life still hanging on and this is exactly what we have,” said Carl Sayer, study co-author and director of the UCL Pond Restoration Research Group. “The species that lived in the past pond are still alive, dormant and waiting!” From three sites in the UK, the team has so far recovered and revived eight different plant species. Researchers are now urging conservation groups and policymakers to place greater emphasis on ghost ponds and their role in ecological restoration. “For plants to grow back after being buried for over 150 years is remarkable,” said Christopher Hassall of the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. “Ponds are often neglected compared to lakes and rivers because of their small size, but they punch above their weight in terms of the number of species that they contain.” Via ScienceAlert Images via University College London/Carl Sayer and Felix Neumann

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Incredible farming skyscraper could fight poverty and feed the world

April 11, 2017 by  
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This incredible skyscraper is more than just eye candy—its modular and farm-integrated design was created to fight world hunger and poverty. Designers Pawel Lipi?ski and Mateusz Frankowski proposed the Mashambas Skyscraper for rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa as a means to bring a “green revolution” to impoverished small farmers. The modular Mashambas is movable and functions as an educational center for growing crops, hosting markets, and training on agricultural techniques. Although absolute poverty around the world has fallen over 20 percent in the last thirty years, poverty levels in many African countries have stayed high and stagnant. Today, over 40 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lives in absolute poverty. Designers Pawel Lipi?ski and Mateusz Frankowski examined the obstacles holding the populace back, most of whom are subsistence farmers, and found that “poor infrastructure, limited markets, weak governments, and fratricidal civil wars” were among the biggest challenges. In hopes of bringing a “green revolution to the poorest people,” Lipi?ski and Frankowski designed the Mashambas Skyscraper, a modular and multipurpose building that just placed first in the renowned 2017 eVolo Skyscraper Competition . The Mashambas Skyscraper, which derives its name from the Swahili word for cultivated land, features a simple modular design that can be easily assembled, disassembled, and transported. The arched modules are stacked together to form a scalable high-rise and its flexible design allows for multiple uses including a ground floor marketplace, warehouses, drone services, classrooms, and farming areas on the upper levels. Drones would be employed to help bring supplies, whether for building construction or for agriculture , to the Mashambas Skyscraper and would also be used to deliver surplus food to the most needy and hard-to-reach areas. By concentrating a market at its base, the building will help facilitate growth and encourage farming plots to pop up around the site. The building can be enlarged as the participants increase and once the local community becomes self-sufficient , the building can be transported to other places. Related: This massive wind-powered skyscraper would cool the entire planet “Mashambas is a movable educational center, which emerges in the poorest areas of the continent,” write the designers. “It provides education, training on agricultural techniques, cheap fertilizers, and modern tools; it also creates a local trading area, which maximizes profits from harvest sales. Today hunger and poverty may be only African matter, but the world’s population will likely reach nine billion by 2050, scientists warn that this would result in global food shortage. Africa’s fertile farmland could not only feed its own growing population, it could also feed the whole world.” + Mashambas

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7 international permaculture retreats for relaxing and learning

November 10, 2016 by  
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The Yoga Forest, Guatemala Perhaps a tropical breeze through a morning yoga session is more your speed. Located in the western highlands of Guatemala , the Yoga Forest in San Marcos la Laguna boasts beautiful views of Lake Atitlán and three surrounding volcanoes. Vegetarian meals sourced from the site’s food forest are served to guests who participate in yoga, permaculture courses, hiking and relaxing by day and rest in a loft, cabin or tent by night. Paititi Institute, Peru The Paititi Institute  in Peru  best serves those who are seeking high altitudes and would like to practice their Spanish. In the Mapacho Valley, near the Manu National Reserve in the Andes, the Paititi Institute maintains a 4,000 acre sanctuary which harnesses the landscape’s varied elevation to grow a diversity of crops. Tropical foods such as mangos, plaintains and yuca are grown at the base of the mountains, while temperate crops such as greens, apples, and pears thrive at higher elevation. At the peaks are potatoes and quinoa, ancient crops of the Andes. Guests assist with the maintenance of the farm, which offers a course on shamanic permaculture. Jiwa Damai, Bali In the tropical rainforest of Bali , adventurous soul seekers may find peace and enlightenment at Jiwa Damai , hands-on, socially responsible organic garden and retreat center. Guests are invited to enjoy a spacious lounge and dining space, a permaculture garden, fresh water ponds and pools as they explore the tranquil grounds. Jiwa Damai offers permaculture courses, meditation sessions, and various seminars and workshops on self development. All income from Jiwa Damai is distributed to the community through programs and projects from the Lagu Dumai Foundation. Honaunau Farm, Hawaii On the Big Island in the 50th State , Honanuanu Farm aspires to demonstrate a regenerative living model through its practices as a wellness retreat. Below Mauna Loa Volcano with breathtaking views of Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau Place of Refuge, Honoanuanu offers courses in permaculture design, animal husbandry, fruit tree care, yoga and Qigong, and medicinal plants. Students stay in tents on site, though there are more luxurious lodging options. Honoanuanu also offers therapeutic massage and wellness services. La Loma Viva, Spain In the village of Gualchos, Spain, near Granada and the Mediterranean coast, La Loma Viva offers permaculture education and peaceful exploration at its retreat center, where most guests are lodged. Meals, bedding and hot showers are provided, as well as organic soaps. Vegetarian meals, prepared as a community and sourced from the permaculture garden, are served in the communal dining area. On the patio and throughout the landscape, guests can revel in the gorgeous Mediterranean scenery of the coastline and local mountain ranges. Earthships, New Mexico If you are simply looking to relax in an environmentally sound, serene home, look no further than the Earthships  of New Mexico . Built to last with recycled materials and permaculture-like systems designed for maximum self sufficiency, Earthships are fully furnished homes with modern amenities located in the desert landscape of Taos, New Mexico. Nightly rentals of Earthships was named one of Lonely Planet’s top ten eco-stays in 2014  and offers relaxation in the ultimate green getaway for two or a group of friends. Center of Unity Schweibenalp, Switzerland If you crave crisp mountain air, the Center of Unity Schweibenalp may satisfy. The Center features a 20 hectare farm, the largest alpine permaculture projects in Switzerland . Permaculture students may take courses on site, where perennial plants are grown in a nursery for later transplanting outdoors, where edible plants cover the landscape. Most of the mushrooms, fruit, and vegetables gathered from the farm is used by the community and seminar house kitchen, available to guests at Center of Unity. Images via  Flickr   (2) , Scott Hudson ,  Nicolás Boullosa , Kai Lehmann , La Loma Viva , the Yoga Forest

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