New super concrete makes buildings strong enough to withstand magnitude 9 earthquakes

October 12, 2017 by  
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Recent natural disasters such as hurricanes in the Caribbean and earthquakes in Mexico have laid bare the need for more resilient buildings. Fortunately, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed a sprayable, eco-friendly concrete that makes the exterior of buildings as strong as steel and able to withstand unforeseen disasters . The material is called Eco-friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite, or EDCC – and it’s is predominantly comprised of an industrial by-product called fly ash. Said UBC Professor Nemy Banthia, “The cement industry produces close to seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By replacing nearly 70 percent of cement with fly ash, we can reduce the amount of cement used. This is quite an urgent requirement, as one tonne of cement production releases almost a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” The final product is very similar to steel. It is durable, malleable and much more ductile than ordinary concrete. To test the invention, researchers sprayed EDCC on concrete block walls about 10 mm (one-half inch) thick. They then simulated a magnitude 9 earthquake — the same strength of the earthquake that rocked Tohoku, Japan, in 2011. “The results of these tests have been amazing,” said UBC engineering Ph.D. candidate Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki. “We can shake the wall extensively without it failing.” The video above shows that the unreinforced wall collapsed at about 65 percent intensity. In contrast, the reinforced wall withstood full intensity shaking and flexing. “A 10 millimeter-thick layer of EDCC … is sufficient to reinforce most interior walls against seismic shocks ,” said Soleimani-Dashtaki. EDCC is already on the market – in British Columbia, Canada , the product has been designated as “an official retrofit option.” The product is growing in popularity, as it is more cost-effective than major structural renovations or the steel bracings often required for earthquake protection. Plans are already in motion to reinforce the walls of an elementary school in Vancouver, B.C., and to upgrade a school in the seismically active area of northern India . With this technology, the costs of retrofitting buildings is cut in half. Said Banthia, “This can be very easily scaled to other projects. It costs about half of what other retrofit strategies would cost.” Via Metro News Canada , Engadget Images via UBC Civil Engineering Department, Pixabay, YouTube

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New super concrete makes buildings strong enough to withstand magnitude 9 earthquakes

These Dutch designers are harvesting stardust from rooftops

October 10, 2017 by  
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Did you know that 37,000 to 78,000 tons of stardust falls on the earth’s surface every year? The dust is made up of micrometeorites that make it through the earth’s atmosphere – and now two Dutch designers are collecting this rare material from rooftops in the Netherlands. Kirstie van Noot and Xandra van der Eijk are exploring ways to utilize these mini meteorites as a precious resource that literally falls from the sky. Kirstie and Xandra believe that stardust could become a new resource for a world that is quickly using up its own natural resources: “As terrestrial resources are depleting and rare earth metals are arguably indispensable for our way of life and our survival as a species, we are in dire need of alternatives,” explains van Noot in her website. To salvage stardust, the pair first collects matter from the rain gutters and roofs of houses. They then incinerate the matter and use magnets to pull out particles for inspection. By studying the shape and composition of these particles, the pair is able to identify which ones came from outer space. The designers recently displayed their star dust exhibition, “As above, so below” at this year’s London Design Festival. The exhibition included the star dust itself as well as a solid cube made of meteoric material. + Dutch Invertuals Collected + Kirstie van Noot + Xandra van der Eijk + London Design Week Coverage Photography by Ronald Smits Photography

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These Dutch designers are harvesting stardust from rooftops

Plasma Rock is a new material made from 100% recycled landfill waste

September 25, 2017 by  
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Could our overflowing landfills be converted into gold mines? Designer Inge Sluijs has found an way to turn landfill waste into “Plasma Rock” – an innovative material that can be used to create eco-friendly consumer goods. The durable rock is the result of plasma gasification – a process that heats landfill materials at extremely high temperatures. Although plasma gasification technology is not necessarily new, Sluijs’ process of using Plasma Rock to create usable products is unique. The rock is quite durable and completely non-toxic – and Sluijs imagines that a worldwide circular economy could turn landfill junk into environmentally-friendly consumer goods. According to the designer, 20 kg of Plasma Rock can be created out of 100 kg of landfill waste. Related: Artist recycles leaf waste into biodegradable Beleaf chair Sluijs has focused her efforts on coastal landfill sites, starting at the East Tilbury landfill located in Essex, England. Scientists consider coastal landfills to be ticking time bombs, considering that the land is being quickly eroded by rising sea levels . Transforming waste into Plasma Rock would reduce landfill volume while diverting dangerous materials that would otherwise pollute the water. Plasma Rock starts as a powder, which can be formed and sculpted into different objects. Sluijs recently used the material to create Tilbury Tiles, which are distinctively decorated and marketed as souvenirs from the East Tilbury area. She has also developed glass vases decorated with specks of the rock. Through her designs, Luijs hopes to demonstrate not only the potential of Plasma Rock, but also the possibility of using landfill waste to the benefit of the environment. + Inge Suijs

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Plasma Rock is a new material made from 100% recycled landfill waste

Dutch students ‘grow’ a biodegradable car made of beet sugar and flax

August 8, 2017 by  
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Are biodegradable cars the next step in environmentally-friendly motoring? A team of students at the Eindhoven University of Technology just unveiled a biodegradable car made out of beet sugar and flax. Weighing just 684 pounds, the lightweight, eco-friendly vehicle can travel up to 50 miles per hour. According to Reuters , the only components not made of bio-based materials are the wheels and suspension system. The car is named Lina, and its lightweight frame has a similar strength-weight ratio to fiberglass. The beet sugar plastic is crafted into a honeycomb-shaped core and then placed between two flax composite sheets. Powered by lithium-ion batteries, Lina has a power output of 8kW using 2 DC-motors. While the biodegradable car is an applaudable invention, there are challenges with using materials intended to break down. Noud van de Gevel, the team’s leader, commented that the prototype has not yet passed crash tests as the material “will not bend like metal, but break.” Related: Biodegradable PawPods: a better way to bury your pet The TU/Ecomotive team intends to test drive the car once it receives the green light from the Netherlands Vehicle Authority. + TU/Ecomotive Via Reuters

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Dutch students ‘grow’ a biodegradable car made of beet sugar and flax

Energy-efficient Bluebonnet Studios offers sustainable housing to Austins most vulnerable citizens

July 14, 2017 by  
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The Bluebonnet Studios social housing development in Austin supports a healthy lifestyle through the design. The property, designed by Forge Craft Architecture + Design , provides housing for the homeless, low-income veterans and local musicians. It features forward-thinking sustainable elements such as recycled and locally-sourced materials, a well insulated envelope, optimal orientation, low-flow fixtures and occupancy sensors. The architects worked with a difficult site and a very tight budget, which required a close collaboration between the design, construction, and ownership teams, as well as help of sustainability experts like Pliny Fisk and Jason McLennan . An important aspect of the design was access to natural light , which the team provided by creating a light well that runs through the center of the building. This emphasis on daylight also allows for most of the building to be functional without artificial light in the event of a power outage – including all circulation. Heating and cooling are provided by centralized LG VRF units tied to individual apartment thermostats. Each thermostat is coupled to both window sensors and door-triggered occupancy sensors . All the interior finishes and products were regionally sourced, recycled and healthy. On top of the building, a green space allows for outdoor activities. Related: Top 6 Green Supportive and Low-Income Housing Projects Of the 107 single-occupancy units, 22 are reserved for the area’s homeless and low-income veterans, while five are dedicated to local musicians. Each resident received a small package of tools, including a recycling bin, recycling magnet, green cleaning recipes, and recommendations for conservative thermostat settings to help residents keep their homes green. Additionally, a green housekeeping program provides a dispensing station with Green Seal certified cleaning chemicals for maintenance staff and janitorial contractors. + Forge Craft Architecture + Design Photos by Paul Bardagjy

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Energy-efficient Bluebonnet Studios offers sustainable housing to Austins most vulnerable citizens

Australia’s largest commercial timber building rises in Sydney

July 12, 2017 by  
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Timber constructions are rapidly carving their rightful place in urban environments all over the world, and now, beautiful Sydney is home to the Australia’s largest commercial all-timber building. The International House by Tzannes Architects is a beautiful seven-story building constructed entirely with engineered or cross laminated timber . Located between the Barangaroo South area and the historic heart of the city, the International House is a beautiful all-wood design. With the exception of the single ground retail level, which is made out of conventional concrete, the striking building was constructed with engineered or cross laminated timber , including the floors, columns, walls, roof, elevator shafts, etc. The building is the first timber commercial building of its size in Australia. Related: Nation’s largest cross-laminated timber academic building is an icon of sustainability The architects chose to go with timber for its many sustainable features , but were also determined to create a design whose all-wood aesthetic would serve as an iconic landmark for the city. According to the architects, “We have turned the structural limitations imposed by the use of timber to advantage and celebrated them, forming a unique colonnade form evocative of a forest of trees which gives the building its distinctive character.” The project used a massive 3,500 cubic meters of sustainably grown and recycled timber . Using timber instead of concrete resulted in saving thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the environment. + Tzannes Architects Via Archdaily Photography by The Guthrie Project

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Australia’s largest commercial timber building rises in Sydney

The minimalist Yoshino Cedar House was built entirely out of locally-sourced timber

June 15, 2017 by  
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The beautiful Yoshino Cedar House , located near Osaka, was built by local carpenters and craftsmen with sustainable cedar harvested from the nearby mountains. The community-run retreat was created through a collaboration between Airbnb designers, Samara and architects Go Hasegawa . The team sought to foster the local community while providing a much-needed source of income for the town. The cedar retreat’s design was part of the 2016 event, Kenya Hara’s House Vision , an exhibition that showcases community-led housing projects that aim to help small towns boost their economies. Like a lot of rural areas in Japan, the small town of Yoshino has an aging population that is dwindling by the day. For years, the town’s principal industry was sustainable forestry , but without young workers working to enter the workforce, the town’s only economic boost these days is its annual cherry blossom festival. Related: Circular garden walkway cuts straight through Japanese timber home From the start of the Cedar House project, the architects and designers worked with locals every step of the way. Local foresters, woodcutters and carpenters collaborated on the process, from harvesting and cutting the timber to its construction. According to the architects, the design of the Yoshino Cedar House, which is technically owned and operated by the community, was meant to pay homage to the area’s local traditions as well as foster new relationships between residents, “Every detail of the structure inspires connection to the people of Yoshino and their underlying traditions.” Located on the bank of the Yoshino River, the structure is clad on the interior and exterior in warm-hued cedar planks whose intricate patterns create a calming, peaceful environment. The bottom floor, with a single table built into the floor, houses the living and dining space. An open staircase leads to two separate bedrooms on the second floor. The simple, uncluttered rooms have one mattress and a small table and are beautifully illuminated by natural light coming through the structure’s A-frame window. Since its inauguration, local townspeople take care of the Airbnb retreat ‘s rental operation and all proceeds are used to support the community. + Go Hasegawa + Samara Via Dwell Photography via Airbnb

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The minimalist Yoshino Cedar House was built entirely out of locally-sourced timber

Student invents computer program to help Bedouin villages build better homes

April 11, 2017 by  
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Architecture student Nof Nathansohn is on a mission to provide decent living solutions for the marginalized Bedouin communities scattered throughout Israel’s Negev desert region. For her thesis project, Nathansohn created a computer program called Home Made that lets communities design affordable, environmentally-friendly housing without the need for an architect. The Bedouin villages are unrecognized by the Israeli government, so the shanty-like structures are under constant threat of demolition. Nathansohn’s Home Made software would allow the communities to build homes that are not only affordable and green , but easily assembled and disassembled. Related: Smart architecture app lets you turn almost anything into a digital stencil A major feature of the home-design application is that it is extremely user friendly. The software is designed to guide the user at every stage of the design process, from the initial design to the final construction. Users can choose from four different designs platforms with a variety of layouts. Each platform is designed according to different parameters such as sun direction, size and height, available materials, local topography, cost, etc. Although created for the Bedouin communities, the program enables the design and construction of low cost, green energy temporary housing easy for any location, under almost any circumstance. The flexibility offered by the application not only lets families construct a personalized living space, but can be used to create thriving villages as well. In fact, Nathansohn tested the application on the unrecognized village of Al-Sara, near the town Arad. She designed multiple structures for the village based on their current size as well as growth expectancy. She even designed a community center for the local children. + Nof Nathansohn

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Student invents computer program to help Bedouin villages build better homes

Glowing cardboard pavilion pops up in a Gothic courtyard in Valencia

April 11, 2017 by  
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Spanish art collective Pink Intruder just installed a glowing cardboard building called Renaixement inside a beautiful Gothic cloister in Valencia. The golden cube features a mosaic facade made out of an intricate cardboard latticework , and it’s illuminated from within by lighting studio RADIANTE. The ornate structure made its debut at the 2016 Burning Man , but it was such a hit that the artists decided to bring it back home and rebuild it in the Gothic cloister of Valencia’s Centre del Carmen Museum. The location is fitting since the pavilion design was inspired by the creative geometric and sculptural techniques used in the city’s famed Fallas festival . Related: Pink Intruder Unveils Gorgeous Pixelated Cardboard Pavilion in Valencia, Spain The structure’s medieval-style facade is made out of cardboard pieces and molds used by a traditional Fallas guild. The structure was built over a wooden mosaic floor made up of more than 25,000 pieces assembled by social collectives, making the artwork a communal effort. The glowing tubes integrated into the cardboard frame give the ornate cube an intimate and spiritual atmosphere at night. + Pink Intruder Photography by Noel Arraiz

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Glowing cardboard pavilion pops up in a Gothic courtyard in Valencia

Hawaii issues alert for brain-invading parasite transmitted by snails

April 11, 2017 by  
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The Hawaiian island of Maui is experiencing an uptick in infections stemming from a parasitic roundworm that invades the human brain. Or, in less scientific parlance, brain slugs . In the past three months alone, health officials have confirmed six cases of the picturesquely named rat lungworm disease, with three additional cases still pending investigation. The trend is worrisome beyond the obvious: Maui has encountered only two cases of the disease over the past decade. Of the 10 or so cases that are reported each year in Hawaii, nearly all are restricted to the Big Island . The grownup version of the Angiostrongylus cantonensis , the offending nematode, is carried by rats, which drop a load of the larvae in their poop. The junior versions can thereafter hitch a ride on other hosts, including snails, slugs, freshwater shrimp, crabs, and frogs. People can get infected by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs that have been infected by the parasite, or by handling contaminated fruits and vegetables. The infection can trigger a rare form of meningitis characterized by severe headaches, stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin, a low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Hawaii’s Department of Health Disease Investigation Branch cautions that temporary paralysis of the face and light sensitivity may also occur. Related: Rare brain-eating amoeba found in Louisiana tap water “If you could imagine, it’s like having a slow-moving bullet go through your brain and there’s no rhyme or reason why it’s going to hang out in this part of the brain or that part of the brain,”Sarah Park, a state epidemiologist, told the Associated Press . Although there is no treatment for rat lungworm disease, residents can reduce the risk of contracting it by scrupulously washing their produce before consumption, officials say. Tricia Mynar, a Maui woman who said she contracted the parasite on the Big Island, has one piece of advice . “Take your time and wash your veggies,” she said. Via ScienceAlert Photos by Unsplash

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Hawaii issues alert for brain-invading parasite transmitted by snails

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