Ocean cities add ‘blue’ to green engineering

March 1, 2019 by  
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As urban areas grow in population and footprint, many coastal cities are creating land where there once was ocean . This so-called “reclaiming” of land is not new — in fact, civilizations have been building land on top of bodies of water dating back to the Ancient Egyptians . However, urban planners and city dwellers are increasingly looking for ways to build more sustainably without damaging ecosystems and without increasing flood risk. A new trend, called blue-green infrastructure, marries ecosystem science and green engineering to develop city plans that maximize water and land ecosystems with the dual purpose of reducing disaster and creating more livable cities. What is blue-green infrastructure? Blue-green infrastructure is physical urban planning that prioritizes water management (blue) and natural spaces like parks (green) to reduce flooding, improve quality of life and adapt to climate change . Typically, architects, engineers and urban planners will utilize landscape, street and building designs to complement natural water cycles that are historically disrupted by concrete. Examples include strategic green roofs, rain gardens and parks that are designed to address and absorb water flow issues. Why do coastal cities need this? Blue-green infrastructure can have many benefits for all cities. By designing infrastructure to accommodate the natural flow of water (and additional water based on flood predictions), cities can reduce the costs of water damage, improve the aesthetics of their districts and create an environment that is more livable for both city dwellers and nature. For example, parks can increase the health and social connectivity of neighborhoods, but also reduce heat island effect and absorb rain water that would otherwise flood streets and sewers and run off into the ocean. While all cities are at risk of polluting their watersheds, coastal cities have the additional responsibility of protecting the ocean. Related: Reimagine a resilient future with this nature-based tool Blue-green ocean cities Coastal cities, and especially those built upon reclaimed land, damage nearshore areas with pollution and sediment that smother ecosystems and disrupt natural connectivity between habitats. This means not only disrupted movement for migratory species like birds and whales, but also disrupted interactions within life cycles. For example, along tropical coasts there is an intricate relationship between coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves. Fish that sustain the reefs and supply commercial fisheries often use the mangroves as a nursery to lay eggs. Young fish hatch in the mangroves and move out to sea grasses to mature before migrating to live in the reef. Creating land on top of these interconnected habitats can cut off this natural pattern and negatively impact species, ecosystems and fishing industries. According to The Independent , land reclamation in Singapore has damaged approximately 40 percent of all reef flats. Reclamation and urban planning done in Singapore without consideration for reefs since the 19th century has caused some species like the porites astreoides to die off completely and cause significant biodiversity loss to the reef overall. However, green engineering, with an understanding of and respect for these ecosystems, promises significant reduction in such detrimental impacts. Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a multi-year project is underway to restore this essential eco-connectivity by digging channels into the remains of a failed marina development project. This will improve the flow and quality of water and revitalize the reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves that had suffered significantly. Ecologists and green engineers: a partnership By understanding these important ecological linkages, engineers and architects can prioritize low impact development and build in ways that reduce impact or even improve conditions. Chinese urban planners, for example, have undertaken an initiative to retrofit 80 percent of all cities into “ sponge cities ,” which will absorb and reuse an ambitious 70 percent of all rain water . The coastal city of Lingang in Shanghai , for example, uses rooftop gardens, wetland parks and permeable pavements that slow down rain water and allow it to be absorbed into plants or evaporated into the atmosphere. This massive plan isn’t accessible for all cities though, and cost the struggling city of Lingang (rebranded as Nanhui New City) an investment of approximately $119 million (USD). The future is blue-green With ongoing debt and funding concerns, few cities can prioritize blue-green infrastructure, and investors are often more comfortable with what they know — highways, utilities, etc. Blue-green elements are typically considered extras, added to blueprints for visual appeal but the first to be slashed when budgets are cut. Successful examples of green infrastructure and sustainable urban planning will help build confidence internationally. Other challenges, certification mechanisms and knowledge sharing networks, such as 100 Resilient Cities , encourage and incentivize conversations not only between scientists and engineers but between municipalities and regions. These initiatives, if backed with funding, will continue to push coastal cities to design with nature, test their results and share models for a new blue-green future. Images via Shutterstock

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Ocean cities add ‘blue’ to green engineering

Atelier COLE completes eco-friendly bear sanctuary in Vietnam

March 1, 2019 by  
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Phnom Penh-based Atelier COLE recently completed an environmentally friendly bear sanctuary that not only promotes wildlife conservation but also champions affordable prefabricated design. Located in Cát Tiên National Park in the south of Vietnam , the inspiring project was in part influenced by the hard-to-reach location that made the delivery of supplies difficult and time-consuming. As a result, the architects turned to lightweight gabion wall construction that has the added benefit of reducing the Vietnam Bear Sanctuary’s environmental footprint. Created in collaboration with Cát Tiên National Park, Free the Bears and Building Trust International, the Vietnam Bear Sanctuary comprises a series of modular and easily replicable buildings that house bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade and bear bile industry. Drawing from experience working for wildlife organizations worldwide, Atelier COLE adeptly studied the site and oriented the buildings east to west to follow passive solar principles and minimize overheating. The gabion walls — assembled from steel mesh and locally sourced stones — were stacked one meter from the roof line to allow for cross ventilation, while roof cut outs let natural light into the bear dens. “We wanted to reduce the concrete usage, and we started developing wall ideas,” David Cole, director of Atelier COLE, explained. “We knew there were some parameters; it was necessary to keep the steel mesh and concrete finish inside the bear dens, as it was easy to clean down, preventing infection and contamination. We simply took the mesh material and used it to create gabion walls with high thermal mass. The inside could be rendered and the outside could be untreated to give a natural sandy color found around the site. The mesh sheet sizes which were available led to a modular design. This essentially led to the foundation of the building blocks for the whole project. We utilized a steel frame structure to support a green roof and built the bear houses with internal courtyards to give ample space for fruit trees, providing a food source for the bears.” Related: Atelier COLE’s Bamboo Trees combats illegal Moon Bear trade in Laos The Vietnam Bear Sanctuary consists of six bear houses with forest enclosures, an education center, a hospital, quarantine and administrative buildings. Over 40 sun bears and moon bears currently live on-site. As the green roof , which will grow down the roof fascia, and the courtyard plants become lusher, the sanctuary will blend into the forest. + Atelier COLE Images by Elettra Melani via Atelier COLE

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Atelier COLE completes eco-friendly bear sanctuary in Vietnam

Rundown 30-year-old RV is reborn as a light-filled ‘bungalow on wheels’

March 1, 2019 by  
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A lot of couples dream of owning their own home, but others dream of traveling the world — then there are those who find a way to do both. When Elyse and Amanda decided it was time to make an investment in their future, they looked to something that would give them the flexibility to live on the road. When the ambitious couple found an old 1986 Fleetwood Avion on Craigslist, they went to work creating their DIY dream home on wheels . The 40-square-foot, 34-foot-long Avion camper was in terrible shape when Elyse and Amanda began to craft the vision for their new home. Renaming the silver trailer “Geraldine” after an Avett Brothers song, the couple found the original interior was dark and dingy. However, not everything was as it seemed. Amanda explained to Apartment Therapy that although its appearance was a bit daunting, the overall structure was actually in surprisingly good shape. Amanda said, “It was all of ’86 when we got it, but it was well-made.” Related: A rare ‘Bambi’ Airstream trailer becomes a stunning mobile office To start with a blank canvas for their DIY restoration, they gutted almost all of the interior furnishings in order to create what they call their “bungalow on wheels.” Doing almost all of the work themselves, except for the plumbing, they replaced the carpet and linoleum with beautiful vinyl wood flooring and applied peel-and-stick reclaimed wood panels to the walls. To make the most out of the compact space, they built most of their new home’s furniture, including a custom wood dinette table, which doubles as storage space. Having past experience in woodworking, Amanda even converted an old farm table into a fold-out desk. Other furnishings were given a strategic makeover to fit into the renovated RV’s new interior design , such as the pull-out sofa and its cushions, which were all reupholstered. The kitchen was also given a face lift thanks to a new coat of paint for the walls and the kitchen cabinets. A new tile blacksplash, butcher block countertops and a large stainless steel sink gave the compact galley kitchen a fresh, modern aesthetic. + Gerry on the Road Via Apartment Therapy Images via Gerry on the Road

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Rundown 30-year-old RV is reborn as a light-filled ‘bungalow on wheels’

Scott Breor, director at the Department of Homeland Security, on infrastructural resilience

November 6, 2018 by  
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Scott Breor, director at the Department of Homeland Security, on infrastructural resilience

Scott Breor, deputy director at the Department of Homeland Security, on infrastructural resilience

November 6, 2018 by  
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Scott Breor works at the Department of Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security. He works with officers from every state and territoy to make sure that both cyber and physical assets are resilient.What does resilient mean? To Breor, “on the security side, we look at it as three variables: one, is the facility prepared? … the second variable, is can the facility adapt and withstand whatever that event is? … the third variable is recovery.”

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Scott Breor, deputy director at the Department of Homeland Security, on infrastructural resilience

Paul Stith, director of strategy and innovation at Black & Veatch, on the changing electrification ecosystem

November 6, 2018 by  
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Black & Veatch is a 104-year-old-company working on transportation, power, water and more “behind the scenes.” The long-time sustainability stalwart has focused on accelerating the low-carbon, high-power revolution, partnering with big names such as Tesla and Electrify America to maximize impact. 

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Paul Stith, director of strategy and innovation at Black & Veatch, on the changing electrification ecosystem

Stephanie Greene, director of clean transportation at PG&E, on the company’s role in EV engagement

November 6, 2018 by  
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As they say: with great power comes great responsibility.The investor-owned utility PG&E provides energy for one in 20 Americans — and they know about both. With that scale and scope, as well as determination to cut costs for customers by providing cheaper, cleaner energy, PG&E has created national programs to support customers in adopting these vehicles.

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Stephanie Greene, director of clean transportation at PG&E, on the company’s role in EV engagement

What is climate-ready infrastructure? Some cities are starting to adapt

October 31, 2018 by  
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We can’t just focus on stopping climate change — we also have to fund and prepare for its impacts.

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What is climate-ready infrastructure? Some cities are starting to adapt

How stakeholders are building brilliant, resilient Hawaii infrastructure

July 30, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Hawaiian infrastructure stakeholders discuss the challenges in resilience for Hawaii.

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How stakeholders are building brilliant, resilient Hawaii infrastructure

These entrepreneurs are democratizing data to predict flood risks

January 8, 2018 by  
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The co-founder of Cloud to Street discusses the catalyst for her venture and why she organized her venture as a business, not a nonprofit.

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These entrepreneurs are democratizing data to predict flood risks

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