Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

May 18, 2018 by  
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Year after year, cities expand and pristine natural habitats are turned into farms and pastures to support the world’s growing population . But despite our encroachment into the environment, we still struggle to feed everyone. Vertical farms could offer a solution by producing higher crop yields year-round in less space than conventional agriculture. What is vertical farming? With land for crops and pastures growing scarce — plus the threat of pesticides and herbicides taking a toll on our health and the environment — people are exploring new ways to grow food, such as urban agriculture. In general, this is the process of growing food within city limits – whether on rooftops, in backyards or on balconies. The goal is to provide families with fresh, healthy food that isn’t laced with chemicals — and when you grow your own crops, you can control these elements. Vertical farming is a type of urban agriculture – but vertical farms are often constructed indoors in extremely controlled environments. Crops are grown on shelves that extend upward instead of outward, and the environment is carefully monitored, so crops grow year-round. In addition to growing crops, some vertical farmers have developed ways to grow fish in a self-sustaining system. Water from the plants is recycled into fish tanks, and the waste from the fish becomes fertilizer for the plants. Then, both the plants and fish can be harvested for food. The benefits of vertical farming The benefits of vertical farming are numerous. Farmers can control the crops’ environment in vertical farms, so the plants aren’t subjected to nasty weather conditions or droughts . Humidity, nutrients and water are administered to growing plants to achieve optimum growing conditions. Because of the controlled environment, crops can be harvested more than once a year, resulting in higher yields than traditional farming. Related: The GCC’s first commercial vertical farm launches in Dubai Vertical farms are more sustainable than conventional farms because they use less water (which is often recycled through the system), they take up less space and they use less fossil fuels because they don’t rely on heavy machinery such as tractors and harvesters. Technology helps vertical farmers get the best output from the farm. Tailored lamps help plants get more light exposure, which encourages them to grow faster than crops that rely on the sun. Vertical farms also provide greater protection from insects, thus decreasing the need for harmful chemical products. Downsides to vertical farming While vertical farms can help with local hunger issues and sustainability, there are some barriers that may keep them from gaining worldwide traction. The cost of setting up a vertical farm can be prohibitive. Conservative estimates put the initial start-up cost at around $110,000 , but there are estimates upward of millions of dollars. Finding an abandoned warehouse or building in an urban setting for a reasonable price might be difficult. Since vertical farms rely on electricity for growing lamps and strict environmental controls, the location has to have reliable power — not just any old abandoned building will do. Vertical farms also depend heavily on technology, which can be costly. Keeping the lights on and the environmental controls running will impact energy use — and your budget. Related: The “most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm in the world” will grow 30X more produce Not every crop that is grown traditionally can be raised successfully in a vertical farm. Leafy greens and herbs do the best in an indoor environment, while staple crops like wheat and potatoes are difficult to grow indoors, as are some fruits and vegetables. The crops that can be harvested from a vertical garden are limited. Growing food to feed the hungry is a noble gesture, but it also has to be profitable, especially when the initial cost to set up a vertical farm is so high. If there isn’t a market in your area, it’s a waste of time to grow large amounts of food that you won’t be able to sell. The verdict Despite the downsides, the positives are plentiful. In addition to embracing sustainability and helping combat hunger , vertical farms can also encourage support for local economies. These farms can create jobs, turn a profit and provide a healthy source of food for locals. As technology continues to advance, new approaches will improve the efficiency and productivity of vertical farms. If nothing else, the idea sparks the conversation about changing the agricultural industry and gives us a place to start for finding better, more sustainable ways to grow food. Images via Depositphotos , Aqua Mechanical and Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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This groundbreaking new machine can recycle 220 pounds of diapers in a single hour

May 7, 2018 by  
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It takes hundreds of years for disposable diapers to decompose in landfills – but this new machine can turn 220 pounds of dirty diapers into clean, raw materials in a single hour. Sz-Chwun John Hwang and a team of researchers at Taiwan’s Chung Hua University built the machine as a pilot plant – and they’re planning to build a larger facility that can recycle 10 tons of used diapers in just one day. Disposable diapers are convenient but problematic Have you ever thought about the evolution of the diaper? You might be surprised to learn that the history of diapers goes back thousands of years, but disposable diapers have only been around since the 1960s. Diapers have evolved to be more effective and efficient. The disposable variety makes parents’ lives easier – they’re convenient, absorbent and gentle on babies’ skin. However, there is a huge downside to disposable diapers: the amount of waste generated from their use. In the U.S., it is estimated that 20 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills each year, and pathogens from solid waste contained in those diapers find their way into the environment. It can take hundreds of years for diapers to degrade in a landfill , and they release methane and other toxic gases into the air. If soiled diapers don’t end up in landfills, some companies choose to incinerate them, leading to an estimated 3428 kg of CO2 emissions per day, based on 10 tons of diapers per day. There is a need to reduce the amount of waste caused by disposable diapers, and companies and researchers are using technology to find innovative ways to recycle and reuse soiled diapers. Recycling disposable diapers Recycling diapers and other absorbent hygiene products might sound like a no-brainer, but the process has its complications — including cost-effectiveness and complex engineering. As technology advances, science can overcome these obstacles and make recycling disposable diapers a viable solution for reducing the amount of waste in landfills and harmful chemicals in the environment. Sz-Chwun John Hwang and his team have developed a diaper recycler that can make it easy for institutions — like long-term care facilities, day cares or hospitals — to give old diapers new life. The plan is simple: a specialized on-site washing machine sanitizes used diapers so they can be processed into reusable raw materials. The staff loads the machine with diapers and washes them with a disinfectant to destroy any pathogens. After the diapers are cleaned, the different materials (plastic, fluff fibers and absorbent material) are separated using stratification. This method uses less water than an average toilet, and the used water can be recycled on-site or easily disposed in the facilities’ existing drainage systems. The estimated carbon emission from this process is 35.1 kg of CO2 per day, based on 10 tons of diapers per day. After they are cleaned and separated on-location, the materials are taken to a central recycling center. The separated layers are transformed into new materials, which can be made into a range of products: plastic bags or trash cans from the plastic; new diapers, cardboard boxes or paper products from the fluff fill; and absorbent pet pads, desiccant or polyacrylate fiber from the absorbent material. In order for the product to be successful, the researchers had to make it user-friendly. If the process is too complicated or time-consuming, most people won’t bother with it. Hwang and his team designed the machines to make it easy for people to lift the diapers and load the machine. Diaper design must become more eco-friendly Hwang and his team are working with facilities to find new and inventive ways to recycle disposable diapers, and some other businesses are following suit. However, Hwang’s method stands out in that it focuses on making it easier for caretakers to collect the used diapers. Moving forward, diaper companies will need to partner with researchers to design the most effective and efficient diapers with a lower environmental impact. By finding innovative ways to reuse products and reducing the impact our waste has on the environment , we can help sustain our world for generations to come. + Chung Hua University Images via Chung Hua University , Hermes Rivera and Flickr

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5 major ways millennials are changing office culture and design

April 24, 2018 by  
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Millennials are changing office culture in visible ways — you can see it in the design sensibilities of modern workplaces and the thoughtfulness of office layouts. But they are also making figurative improvements which can be a little more difficult to see at first glance. Read on to learn how this younger generation stands to change the workplace, and even the economy, as we know it. 1. Flatter company hierarchy and open offices In both a literal and a figurative sense, millennials want to flatten the average company model. The quintessential office — cubicles at the bottom and high-powered offices at the top — presents physical and psychological barriers to workplace harmony and productivity. It doesn’t have to be that way. Millennials seem to understand this. Employees who had direct interaction with their managers within the last six months report being up to three times more engaged than workers who had no interaction with company leaders. This engagement gap is something millennial employees are trying to change for good. From open offices to more frequent opportunities for feedback and exchanging ideas, millennials crave flatness in company structure and communication channels. Open-door policies don’t mean anything, after all, if your CEO’s office is inaccessible. Millennials also prefer to work in an environment with great natural lighting — probably because this, too, contributes to a sense of openness and harmony. 2. The vanishing office The office is vanishing — not completely or overnight, but certainly with time. It’s all about allowing employees to do their work in familiar, comfortable or novel environments. You have probably heard of communal work spaces, which offer an interesting middle-ground between a home office and a company campus. Home offices are booming, too, thanks to millennials. In one survey, 85 percent of millennial respondents indicated they would prefer telecommuting from home or elsewhere 100 percent of the time, versus commuting to a central location. There are plenty of ways for employers to support this new way of working — even in the smaller details like outfitting home or satellite offices. Many companies provide their employees with allowances to buy furnishings, decorations or electronics for their spaces at work, and the same concept can apply for telecommuters. A stipend for remote workers can help them create a unique work environment at home, which contributes to their productivity and makes them feel more connected to the company’s home base. 3. The rise of the side-hustle Depending on whom you ask, this is either a gift of market-driven society or a symptom of it. Either way — and whether out of necessity or the sheer pleasure of developing new skills — millennials are encouraging a new aspect of the economy. The side-hustle isn’t the second job that parents and grandparents knew. It might not be incredibly lucrative, but the side-hustle does provide an opportunity to develop skills, pursue interests and gain a new stream of income in addition to a full time job. According to many economists, a side-hustle economy might soon become reality. 4. Building a brighter future with technology Many jobs that require repetitive motion or manual labor may soon be performed by machines. What comes after that? According to some experts, one solution includes taxes on the robots , which would fund a citizen stipend known as “ universal basic income .” Even now, polls are finding a majority of millennials to be in favor of UBI, since it could help many underemployed college graduates find some financial security as they monetize their skills. We’re getting ahead of the point, but the fact remains: millennials have been extremely quick to read the writing on the wall when it comes to technology and the future of the world economy. They’re envisioning a future where everyone is free to pursue talents and passions, while also learning to integrate these passions with our work responsibilities. 5. Companies that benefit the world Millennials want to spend their time working for organizations that contribute to the common good in some way. They see the challenges facing the world, and recognize the importance of the triple bottom line : social, environmental and financial sustainability. They’ve also given  more of their earnings to charity than their parents’ generation. It doesn’t stop there. When it comes to the physical environment of the workplace, green design is very much in demand. The younger generation wants to work in spaces with eco-friendly lighting, solar power and even down-to-earth structural designs using recycled materials. The point of all this is that young people seem to see a better way of doing things when it comes to working. Step one is to make work more comfortable and relevant for the people doing it. Step two is to make it relevant to the rest of the world. Via NBC News , OnRec , Flex Jobs , Market Watch , SF Gate , The Street and Generosity Images via Brooke Cagle , Marc Mueller , Bruce Mars , Johnson Wang , Scott Webb , RawPixel.com and Deposit Photos

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6 solar roads shaking up infrastructure around the world

April 16, 2018 by  
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Roads aren’t just for walking or driving anymore. Solar road or pathway projects around the world are showing that streets can both provide firm footing and generate clean energy . Inhabitat rounded up six projects in places as diverse as China and rural Georgia to highlight potentially game-changing technologies in the solar road sphere. Solar Roadways use modular solar panels covered in tempered glass Scott and Julie Brusaw launched Solar Roadways a few years back with the goal of transforming regular asphalt roads into energy -generating thruways. The Brusaws aimed to use  modular solar panels topped with tempered glass as replacement for standard pavement and, in 2016, celebrated the first public installation  of these panels in their hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho. While they’d also announced plans to bring their solar roads to a section of Route 66 in Missouri, it appears the project fell through. Late last year,  St. Louis Public Radio said the project wouldn’t be moving forward; according to Scott Brusaw, it “dissolved due to a variety of complex red tape factors.” But Solar Roadways is still at work to bring their product to roads and recently shared on Facebook  that they’ve met with interested connections from South Korea, Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Austria. Related: This bike lane in Korea is topped with 20 miles of solar panels France opens one-kilometer solar road with 2,880 solar panels In late 2016, France opened what was then the first solar road in the world: a one-kilometer stretch in Tourouvre-au-Perche, built with technology from Colas’ Wattway . The 2,880-panel road was said to generate enough energy to power street lights in the 3,400-person village. Rural Georgia gets a test stretch of Wattway’s solar roads Wattway’s solar roads hit the United States a few months after the road in France. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation installed 538 square feet of the solar road near the Alabama and Georgia border — the first Wattway pilot in America. The solar road was part of the foundation’s project The Ray , an 18-mile living laboratory testing renewable technologies that also includes  bioswales and a solar-powered electric car charging station . Solar panel expressway pops up in China Just a few months ago, a one-kilometer solar road, developed by Qilu Transportation Development Group , opened in Jinan, China . Three layers make up the road: insulation on the bottom, solar panels in the middle, and transparent concrete on top. The solar panels cover around 63,238 square feet in two lanes and one emergency lane, and can generate one million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy every year. In a strange twist , thieves actually took a small portion of the road days after it debuted; since the panels wouldn’t have been worth a lot of money, people speculated they might have wanted to learn the workings of the technology. The road was later repaired. Solar-powered bike path has generated more power than anticipated Solar panels aren’t just for highways. Bike lanes can make great use of them too, if one in Krommenie, Netherlands is any indication. After one year, the SolaRoad solar-paneled bike path  generated 70 kilowatt-hours per square meter, enough power for around three houses – and even more than the designers expected. Sten de Wit of TNO , the research organization behind SolaRoad, said most people don’t even notice the difference between the solar bike path and a regular one. Solar sidewalk helps charge electric cars Sidewalks can benefit from solar panels, too. Platio recently installed a 50-square foot solar sidewalk, created with recycled plastic , that pulls double duty: people can walk across it as it generates clean energy used to charge electric vehicles . Platio installed the 720-watt peak capacity system at a Prologis facility in Budapest — and the process only took one day. When the solar sidewalk isn’t busy charging EVs, energy it generates helps power a nearby office building. Images via Solar Roadways Facebook , Vianney Lecointre on Twitter , The Ray , Qilu Transportation Development Group , SolaRoad Netherlands, and courtesy of Platio

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How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being

April 4, 2018 by  
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Dive into the practice of forest bathing. Doing so does not clean your body, per se, but rather refreshes the spirit and benefits your mood and health. Even scientific studies back forest bathing. So what are you waiting for? Discover the new trend that can make you feel more connected to the world. What is forest bathing? Since 1982, forest bathing — called shinrin-yoku — has been practiced in Japan as a means of reconnecting with nature. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries created forest bathing as a way to promote national health and being outdoors. While this is not an ancient practice, many see it as a cure for modern ailments. Thanks to the internet, forest bathing has dramatically increased in popularity all over the globe. For the full experience, participants walk with trained guides–experts who help people see nature in a new light. Forest bathing has many similarities to meditation — it quiets the mind and spirit, and it aims to use the five senses to experience nature as never before. The activity unfolds at a much slower pace than hiking, and the destination itself is less important than the journey. What are the benefits forest bathing? As the popularity of forest bathing increases, science has begun to provide evidence for the practice’s benefits. In a 2011 study, scientists found that people walking in nature had lower blood pressure than those in the city. Another study in Japan showed that inhaling the aroma from cedar trees boosts stress-fighting compounds in the body. Most of all, forest bathing benefits your mood. Participants have seen improvement in both focus and attention, and researchers have even linked this practice to better focus in those with ADHD . Mental conditions such as depression, stress, anxiety and anger all show improvements in people who forest bathe. Related: Tiny meditation shelters are the perfect place for hikers to connect with the forest Forest bathing also has physical benefits — during the activity, measurable differences in several bodily processes occur. The immune system increases production of white blood cells that kill disease, and blood pressure and surgical recovery time decrease as well. If these weren’t reasons enough to try forest bathing, you may be surprised by how accessible the practice is. How to forest bathe While you may forest bathe on your own, it’s better to have a certified guide take you through the process. Like therapists who take their clients through guided meditation, these professionals are trained to help people put their minds in the moment. By 2019, the world will have 450 certified forest bathing guides across 23 countries around the world, so finding one will be easier than ever. If you don’t have a forest guide near you, you can still experience forest bathing on your own. The secret is integrating all your senses. Look, listen, feel, taste and smell your surroundings as though experiencing them for the first time. Don’t carefully focus on everything. Instead, examine your surroundings and look at things that capture your attention . A soft gaze relaxes you more than the constant, close focus of modern life. Take a deep breath through your nose and notice the peculiar scent of the forest. Plants have different scents, which act as natural aromatherapy. Don’t forget the soil. Microbes in it produce a smell that may act as an antidepressant . Feel tree bark and leaves. Run dirt between your fingers. If you feel adventurous, embrace a tree trunk. The variety of textures will give your sense of touch a treat. Close your eyes, stop walking, quiet your mind and just listen. The longer you open your ears to the sounds of the forest, the more you’ll hear, boosting your experience. Sounds include more than just the chirping of birds. Listen for the wind in the trees, the scuttling of insects in the soil and the noise of larger animals deep in the woods. Though you don’t want to taste anything in a forest without a guide, you can bring natural foods and drinks with you, such as tea or fresh fruits. This will be especially effective if the fruits are native to your area. Bringing your own food allows you to taste the forest without putting yourself at risk of ingesting a toxic substance. Where to forest bathe Forest bathing locations in Japan must meet rigorous standards set by the practice’s founding organization, but elsewhere in the world, forest bathing typically can be done anywhere. Several American resorts offer forest bathing , including The Lodge at Woodloch, Blackberry Farm and Big Cedar Lodge. While many people opt for their nearest natural space, those stuck indoors can still benefit from connecting with nature. Forest bathing guides take groups outside, but for those without access to the outdoors, just connecting with nature in any way seems beneficial. A study from Texas A&M University researcher Robert Ulrich showed lowered pain, anxiety and blood pressure in those who looked at photos or paintings of nature. Though still a new practice, forest bathing has already shown great promise in treating real conditions without the side effects of medication. Next time you go outside, why not find your nearest nature trail and begin your own forest bathing experience?

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6 cool cave homes that stay comfortable in summer and warm in winter

March 15, 2018 by  
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Cave homes have come a long way since prehistoric times. Far from primitive, many modern cave dwellings are surprisingly luxurious, comfortable, and beautiful places to call home. In addition to their head-turning location, cave homes tend to be naturally energy efficient thanks to their insulating earth walls that keep the inside air at comfortable temperatures year-round without heating or cooling. We’ve rounded up six such abodes that could make you want a cave home of your own. Rockhouse Retreat The Rockhouse Retreat is the luxury dream home located in a 700-year-old cave. Hand-carved from 250-million-year-old Triassic sandstone, this cave dwelling was fully restored and renovated by Worcestershire native Angelo Mastropietro who has transformed the space into “Britain’s first luxury cave house” with all the creature comforts of home—it even has WiFi—and made the home available for rent on AirBnB . Cuevas del Pino UMMO Estudio carefully slotted the modern Cuevas del Pino homes into calcarenite stone caves near Córdoba, Spain. The layout of the home was created in harmony with the existing rock wall formations. Natural materials like stone and timber complement the cave surroundings. Yaodong Renovation The Loess Plateau in China is home to many cave dwellers who live in very primitive conditions. Architect Shi Yang of hyperSity Architects renovated one of the caves into an extraordinary dream home that’s modern, aesthetically-pleasing, and full of natural light and ventilation. New Mexico Sandstone Homes Part art and part abode, artist Ra Paulette’s hand-carved sandstone homes are truly sculptural masterpieces. The inspiring artist meticulously turns sandstone into intricately detailed cave homes in New Mexico . He has since completed at least 12 caves over 12 years that include full power, wood flooring, and running water. Chez Hélène-Amboise Troglodyte A young French man named Alexis Lamoureux transformed a run-down cave home he purchased for just one euro into a gorgeous new abode with beautiful detailing. The original shelter lacked plumbing, sewage pipes, and electricity, so Lamoureux invested 35,000 euros and a lot of elbow grease to realize his chic new home. Luque Earth Homes BAUEN Architects tucked two homes into a sloped site in Luque, Paraguay. The green-roofed homes blend into the rolling hills and feature double-height windows that let plenty of light into the partially underground homes.

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Daan Roosegaarde reveals vision for air-purifying Smog Free Drones

February 28, 2018 by  
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Studio Roosegaarde ‘s Smog Free Project continues to create bubbles of clean air throughout the world – the team recently opened a Smog Free Tower in Park Jordana in Kraków, Poland . But Daan Roosegaarde isn’t through innovating new ideas to clean our skies. In an exclusive interview with Inhabitat, Roosegaarde shared the first art impressions for Smog Free Drones, which could create personal pockets of fresh air. Imagine a small gizmo gliding above your head, scrubbing the air as it goes. That’s essentially the Smog Free Drone, or Smog Free Floatable. This new artistic vision from Studio Roosegaarde is still very much in the early stages, but Roosegaarde says they do think it is possible. He tells Inhabitat, “The Smog Free Project is a movement: we’ve done the Smog Free Tower, Smog Ring , Smog Free Bicycle, but at the same time we also wanted to make it personal, make it portable. That’s why we came up with the notion of the floatable; that it would be like a buddy floating above your head, giving you clean air as you walk through the polluted city.” Related: INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next The Smog Free Drone could function as an alternative to a stiff face mask; Roosegaarde described it as “sort of like a Pac-Man moving through the city and keeping you safe.” There are technical challenges to the project: battery life, safety, and sound are a few. But these could be tackled, Roosegaarde thinks, and with enough time and energy, the Smog Free Drones could become reality. “The artist impression we made is also an open call to the community,” he says. “This is our idea, we think it’s possible, we don’t know. If someone wants to make it or knows how to make it, call us or do it yourself, I don’t really care as long as it’s realized. Why not?” The design of drones themselves could assist the idea’s realization. Roosegaarde says, “Drones already have a sort of air flow, because they need to stay up in the air. You might be able to make use of that to design the thermodynamics underneath, or above your head.” So far the Smog Free Tower has been a success in Kraków , which Roosegaarde described as one of Europe’s most polluted cities — worse than Beijing on some days. And while Studio Roosegaarde is continually taking measurements to test the tower’s performance, in Poland there was another surprise indicator of clean air around the tower: little dogs . “Apparently, of the animals they’re having the most trouble with the smog because their noses and lungs are small. They were somehow attracted by the tower, so there were a lot of these really small dogs hanging around, like they were having a secret meeting, and enjoying the clean air,” said Roosegaarde. “Maybe that’s the quality of a good design: that it always triggers something beyond the control of the designer, and you just have to surrender to that.” Overall, the tower’s design is the same as the ones in China and the Netherlands, but Studio Roosegaarde made a few minor alterations in terms of production, and can also monitor the tower online. It’s in a public park , so anyone can freely access the clean air. “We’ve calculated that we can make the park between 20 and 70 percent more clean than the rest of the city in terms of clean air,” Roosegaarde said, adding that the Smog Free Tower in Kraków might become a permanent urban fixture. Studio Roosegaarde held a symposium at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków (MOCAK) with local creatives and activists to discuss creating change around air quality . Roosegaarde said, “It is as much unique technological innovation as social and political innovation. I think the summary of all these dialogues is that we live in an economical system which is all about money and time. And we all want a new economical system which is about clean air, clean water , and clean energy . But how do we get there? What’s the price of clean air? Who is going to decide that? It was incredibly fascinating for me to learn from that, and I hope we have way more conversations.” Stay tuned for more smog vacuum cleaners popping up around the planet — Roosegaarde said they will be launching the Smog Free Project in Mexico, Colombia, and India in upcoming months. And will it be an Inhabitat reader who helps bring the vision for Smog Free Drones to life? We’ll be excited to find out! + Studio Roosegaarde + Smog Free Project Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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Solar and wind energy could meet 80% of US electricity demand

February 28, 2018 by  
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Fourth-fifths of the United States’ electricity demand could be met with wind and solar power , according to four researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science , University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the California Institute of Technology . UCI associate professor Steven Davis said in a statement , “The fact that we could get 80 percent of our power from wind and solar alone is really encouraging. Five years ago, many people doubted that these resources could account for more than 20 or 30 percent.” The scientists scrutinized global hourly weather data between 1980 and 2015 data to grasp the geophysical barriers to utilizing solely those renewable sources, and think if the United States were to draw only on solar and wind, they’d need to store several weeks’ worth of power to make up for those times when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. According to Davis, the US could reliably obtain around 80 percent of electricity from wind and solar power “by building either a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours’ worth of the nation’s electricity demand.” Related: Abundant solar threatens fossil fuel companies in Texas to the tune of $1.4 billion It wouldn’t be cheap to invest in expanding transmission or storage capabilities, but the researchers said it’s not inconceivable. They estimate new transmission lines required could cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while storing that amount of electricity with the cheapest batteries today could cost over one trillion dollars, but prices are dropping. Carnegie Institution for Science’s Ken Caldeira said, “Our work indicates that low-carbon-emission power sources will be needed to complement what we can harvest from the wind and sun until storage and transmission capabilities are up to the job. Options could include nuclear and hydroelectric power generation, as well as managing demand.” The journal Energy & Environmental Science published the research this week. + University of California, Irvine + Energy & Environmental Science Lead image via DepositPhotos ; others via Steve Zylius/UCI and Drew Hays on Unsplash

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

February 22, 2018 by  
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Clean water . Affordable housing. Renewable energy . These are just a few of the pressing needs that can be met by design . All around the world, people have come up with innovative solutions to life’s problems using affordable, readily available materials and technologies. Read on for a look at seven simple designs that meet these challenges and more. Recycled laptop batteries power houses You might think the Tesla Powerwall has home renewable energy storage under control, but a few creative people have decided to do it themselves, drawing on recycled laptop batteries to make their own home storage devices that cost less than the Tesla option – solving an issue and reducing waste at the same time. They’ve shared their designs online so others can also benefit. Related: 6 urban farms feeding the world Plastic bottle air conditioner uses no electricity Climate control is an issue people worldwide face, but those living in rural areas don’t always have access to the air conditioners we may have. In Bangladesh, inventor Ashis Paul repurposed plastic soda bottles to design the Eco Cooler : a cooling system that requires no power. His company has already installed them in around 25,000 homes. 3D printing homes out of clay and mud Humans will probably always need affordable, sustainable housing . The World’s Advanced Saving Project is working to meet these needs with their BigDelta, a massive printer that 3D prints houses for almost zero cost out of mud and clay. The organization draws inspiration from the mud dauber wasp, which builds its homes from mud. Ceramic Cool Brick cools homes with simply water 3D printing innovators Emerging Objects created a home-cooling solution called the Cool Brick. The ceramic device only needs water to cool down a house in a dry, hot climate – and works based on evaporative cooling systems utilized all the way back around 2,500 BC. Ceramic filters help bring clean water to Cambodia When you can switch on a tap and water gushes out, it’s easy to take clean water for granted. But people around the world lack access to clean drinking water , and UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program teamed up to bring it to people in Cambodia . Their ceramic water filters , manufactured and distributed by Cambodians, resulted in a 50 percent fall in diarrheal illness after they were implemented. The ceramic water purifiers cost around $7.50 to $9.50 per system, according to a report from both organizations , and replacement filters cost around $2.50 to $4. Zero-energy air conditioner made of terracotta tubes Evaporative cooling was also put to work in India in an artistic, energy efficient cooling solution designed by Ant Studio for a DEKI Electronics factory. Conical terracotta tubes comprise the installation , and when water is run over them – once or twice a day – evaporation helps lower the temperature. DIY solar generator for the people of Puerto Rico Remember those creatives who design their own Powerwall-like devices? Business owner Jehu Garcia is one, and he also put his technological know-how to work to try and combat Puerto Rico’s electricity crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria . He posted a YouTube video detailing his design for a solar generator costing around $550, including the cost of a solar panel and light bulbs. He teamed up with a contact in Puerto Rico, asking people to build the generators and send them or parts. Images via Pixnio , Jehu Garcia , Grey Bangladesh , World’s Advanced Saving Project , Emerging Objects , UNICEF and Water and Sanitation Program , Ant Studio , and Jehu Garcia on Instagram

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant to supply 30% of Addis Ababa’s household electricity needs

February 22, 2018 by  
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Ethiopia ‘s capital Addis Ababa has had one landfill for around 50 years: the Koshe dump site. Serving over three million people, it’s about as large as 36 football pitches, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). A waste-to-energy plant, a first for Africa , could transform the site, burning around 1,400 tons of trash every day. Waste incineration is a popular energy source in Europe; there are 126 plants in France, 121 in Germany, and 40 in Italy, according to UNEP. But no plants have been constructed in Africa — until now. The Reppie Waste-to-Energy Project is designed to supply Ethiopia’s capital with around 30 percent of household power needs. To meet European standards, UNEP said Reppie “adopts modern back-end flue gas treatment technology to drastically reduce the release of heavy metals and dioxins produced from the burning .” Related: Dubai announces plans for world’s biggest waste-to-energy facility A BBC video posted this month said the waste-to-energy plant will generate three million bricks from waste ash, and 30 million liters of water will be recovered from the garbage. They said the plant will avert the release of 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide . Hundreds of jobs will also be generated, including for people who depended on scavenging at the dump. For cities lacking a large amount of land, UNEP described waste-to-energy incineration as a quadruple win: “it saves precious space, generates electricity, prevents the release of toxic chemicals into groundwater , and reduces the release of methane — a potent greenhouse gas generated in landfills — into the atmosphere.” The government of Ethiopia partnered with renewable energy and waste management company Cambridge Industries , state-owned engineering company China National Electric Engineering , and Danish engineering firm Ramboll to build the plant. UNEP said last November it was set to start operating in January, though it appears they’re not all the way there yet; that said, the BBC video reported the plant is connected to the national power grid . + Reppie Waste-to-Energy Project + United Nations Environment Program Via the BBC Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant to supply 30% of Addis Ababa’s household electricity needs

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