OFS furniture is eco-driven from tree to delivery

September 17, 2021 by  
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Based out of Huntingburg, IN, with multiple showrooms around the country, furniture manufacturer OFS sets the bar high for sustainable production, protecting the environment and setting an example for other companies.  Not only has OFS earned WELL Platinum certification for its home office, but it takes its environmentally-conscious stance so seriously that it named its sustainability program. Called Common Grounds, in honor of the idea that finding common ground is the basis for meaningful change, the program focuses on greening every step of the business cycle. Related:  Heirloom Design provides furniture that may never see a landfill The process began in the 1950s with the foresight of OFS’ leaders at the time, Phyllis and Bob Menke. Upon noticing the effects of poor forest management in southern Indiana, they established the Indiana Nature Conservancy. This allowed them to acquire land damaged by over-foresting practices. Replanting and maintenance of the forest led to the current 7,100 acres held and monitored by OFS and the Menke family. The land is part of the American Tree Farm program and is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.  Jarod Brames, Director of Sustainability for OFS says, “By prioritizing sustainability initiatives, we’re investing in our future. Our company’s leadership has always taken responsibility for the planet, dating all the way back to our inception — well before many others started this focus. It’s something we continue to take very seriously.” OFS is also partnered with One Tree Planted, a nonprofit organization dedicated to global reforestation. Through this association, OFS plants 60,000 trees annually, enough to counterbalance the company’s annual emissions over the lifespan of the  trees . The trees are planted in areas that are actively managed, which helps ensure increased survival rates and lost-tree replacements in a responsible way. The company also places an earth-friendly focus on packaging, using biodegradable foam that keeps furniture safe during shipping, yet reduces to 5% of its size once the unpacking is complete. To keep factory  waste  low, all excess wood chips are saved and stored to use for heat during the winter months. To further control the sustainable aspects of production and delivery, the OFS trucking company called Styline Logistics delivers all OFS furniture products. The company reports, “It has been part of the EPA’s Smartway program for over 17 years and utilizes bio-diesel in its operations.”  While OFS puts a notable emphasis on green production, it also provides a healthy work environment for employees with a central cafe that serves healthy  food  and a gathering space to build relationships.  Building on the belief that green products are the best option for consumers and the planet, OFS continues to meet the increasingly higher expectations within the industry. They achieve this by producing furniture with low emissions and relying on certified  natural materials  such as wood with FSC CoC certification, and BIFMA-level certified products, which is an industry-standard.  “At OFS, we’ve accomplished a lot when it comes to sustainability, but we also realize there’s so much more to do. Climate change is presenting some urgent challenges, and the pandemic has reinforced the importance of human health and well-being, especially in the built environment. As we look to the future, we’re aligning our efforts with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, beginning with Human Health and Well-Being, Responsible Consumption and Production, and Life on Land. These are areas where we can use our experience and unique position as a family-owned company to make the largest impact for our customers, colleagues and communities,” Brames says. For transparency in regards to chemicals in its products, OFS provides Health Product Declarations for the top dozen products in its lineup. However, it admits they are early in the game and promises to continue on its quest to remove harmful chemicals as it becomes aware of them. In addition to chemical content, the team emphasizes long-lasting product design. It works towards ergonomic and durable furniture options that will be around for a long time.  Brames explains, “Our products are crafted to last. The quality materials we use allow our furniture to withstand years and years of use, while still looking and performing at its best. This keeps products out of landfills and reduces the amount of  wood  and other materials used.”  In addition to the WELL-certified buildings, multiple showrooms have earned LEED certification. An event center on-site, called Cool Springs, includes 600-acres dedicated to educating visitors about forest management, the importance of biodiversity and the lifecycle of OFS products, from forest to furniture.  “The act of planting a tree is powerful and symbolic. Trees grow slowly, so we like to think of it as a long-term investment in our future. We invite everyone who tours our Cool Springs retreat and hardwood forest to plant a tree and take part in helping our planet,” Brames finished. + OFS  Images via OFS

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OFS furniture is eco-driven from tree to delivery

High PFAS levels associated with breastfeeding issues

September 17, 2021 by  
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A study of 1,286 pregnant women found that those with high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ( PFAS ) in their bodies are 20% more likely to stop breastfeeding early. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, research also found that PFAS affect pregnancy outcomes, growth and development into puberty and other aspects of reproductive health. PFAS are synthetic chemicals commonly used in oil- and water-resistant materials. Common products that may contain PFAS include carpets, textiles and cookware. While common in the manufacturing field, PFAS are dangerous to the human body. These chemicals do not easily break down and thus accumulated over time. Related: Indoor air contains concerning levels of forever chemicals Dr. Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, a co-author of the study and professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, Denmark, says that the findings must be taken seriously Almost everyone is exposed to PFAS and the risks associated with the chemical. “Our findings are important because almost every human on the planet is exposed to PFAS. These man-made chemicals accumulate in our bodies and have detrimental effects on reproductive health ,” said Timmermann. In the past, lack of breast milk in the early stages of breastfeeding was associated with stress. The study authors now say that, while mental and emotional health is important, other factors must be considered. “Early unwanted weaning has been traditionally attributed to psychological factors, which are without a doubt important, but hopefully our research will help shift the focus and highlight that not all mothers can breastfeed despite good intentions and support from family and healthcare professionals,” said Timmermann Researchers analyzed blood samples and collected information about each participant’s breastfeeding habits through mobile phone questionnaires. The researchers found that those with high levels of PFAS in their system were more likely to stop breastfeeding early. “Because breastfeeding is crucial to promote both child and maternal health, adverse PFAS effects on the ability to breastfeed may have long-term health consequences,” Timmermann said. Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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WOHA’s final design for Singapore Pavilion nears completion

September 10, 2021 by  
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The net-zero energy Singapore Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai advocates green architecture and showcases the possibilities of integrating nature within urban environments. Displaying lush greenery, digital solutions and art, the Pavilion exemplifies Singapore’s vision of sustainable development to become a “City in Nature.” The Pavilion features extensive, multi-layered greenery, achieved by the careful planting of more than 170 plant varieties and large mature trees. Constructed by  WOHA , the building is titled “Nature. Nurture. Future.” It’s set to debut on October 1. Related: WOHA to transform polluted swamp into green university WOHA has designed a striking pavilion with hanging gardens . The building is orientated around three central cones on three levels. At the top is a solar canopy. Vertical walls of plants envelop visitors in an inviting three-dimensional green space that provides a cool respite from the buzz and excitement of the Expo grounds. Landscape design and digital and art elements are helmed by Singapore landscape architecture firm  Salad Dressing , in close partnership with WOHA. The planting strategy for the Pavilion includes plants from diverse, unique habitats from the natural heritage of Singapore, including varieties found in the tropical rainforest , freshwater forest streams and mangrove habitats.  Dubai’s desert environment poses a significant challenge to installing such a biodiverse human-designed habitat. The Pavilion’s perimeter is protected by trees and palms that thrive well in the Dubai climate, mimicking natural forest layers to shade and shield the interior. Sun-loving plants such as Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, frame the Pavilion’s entrance, where they receive the most direct sunlight. As part of water conservation efforts, potable water produced through the on-site solar desalination process is deployed through drip irrigation to minimize water wastage. Leaf litter is also used to replace water-consuming ground cover and retain water in the soil . Together with misting, the greenery helps to increase humidity and thermal comfort within the Pavilion.  Measuring about 70 centimeters in diameter, three climbing robots weighing 40 kilograms each will be deployed to traverse the vertical green walls of the Pavilion’s thematic cones. These prototypes from  Oceania Robotics  work in service of plant health. In addition to inspecting the health of the plants, they will also capture data for the calibration of irrigation and grow-light settings to help the plants thrive. The robots can recognize plants in poor health that need to be replaced. The customized planting palette and innovative technological applications used in water and energy management are design strategies that enable the Singapore Pavilion to achieve its net-zero energy target. Visitors are invited to participate in a generative artwork at the Galleria that allows them to visualize the performance of the Pavilion’s integrated ecosystem and how it impacts the environment. This generative artwork is a result of interactive mobile gameplay using the Pavilion’s data collected through the climbing robots and sensors. Players “collect sunlight” using solar panels to power the desalination process that will produce potable water for the virtual saplings, which then grow into trees to remove pollutants in the air. The gameboard is unique for each player and determined by real-time data from the Pavilion. Through this game, visitors can learn more about the Pavilion’s sustainable strategies. This playful interaction is also a reminder for visitors of how their actions impact collective environmental outcomes.  + Singapore 2020 Expo Images © Singapore Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai and Arthur Ng/National Parks Board

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WOHA’s final design for Singapore Pavilion nears completion

Explore this award-winning design for a self-sustaining town

September 9, 2021 by  
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Located in Norway , Powered by Ulsteinvik by Kaleidoscope Nordic looks like it could be a science fiction movie set. But this is no story. This is what the future of design may look like. Over a hundred nominations worldwide were submitted, but this design is the winner of the 2021 Architizer A+Awards. It’s creative, modern and self-sufficient. This project is a strategy for a small Norwegian town. The idea is to work with and harness the natural cycles and energy flow of the area, while still providing a pretty place to live, work and spend time. Related: Akersbakken Bicycle Hotel design blends into the landscape The design will create meeting spaces, open up connections to the water and increase accessibility for pedestrians . The design includes a town center with a multi-purpose square, a cultural heritage building and gathering space for all to use. Autonomous electric buses will keep everyone connected. A smart-grid with plug-in modules will power the town with renewable energy. The grid is fed with the “SmartPergola” system, in which city roofs, businesses and meeting places have photovoltaic modules to help power the energy grid. Everything is interconnected. This power system is why the project is known as Powered by Ulsteinvik.If you follow the complex’s blue path, you’ll make your way to a seafront promenade. The inner part of this marina area will become an activity center with autonomous boats and automated fishing rods for digital learning. Three main concepts will combine to create this amazing space: the central SMARTHUB, the Generation Gardens in Ulshaugen and the Circular Neighborhoods in Holsekerdalen. SMARTHUB includes a town hall, business center, cafe and innovation lab for public use. The exterior is built with photovoltaic panels that provide electricity to feed the grid. The Generation Gardens have several facilities, including a kindergarten, a young club and health services offices. There are sheltered courtyards here where children can play. The Circular Neighborhoods in Holsekerdalen are a new housing concept. These buildings harvest rainwater, which is transferred to the balcony plant beds. This allows residents to grow their own food . There’s also a growhouse, a common greenhouse with a kitchen. Here, everyone can cook and eat together after harvesting ingredients for the meal. + Kaleidoscope Nordic Images via Kvant-1

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Siemens Gamesa makes "world’s first" recyclable wind turbine

September 8, 2021 by  
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Siemens Gamesa claims to have created the world’s first recyclable wind turbine blades. The RecyclableBlade turbine blades are ready to be used offshore. The new blade design allows the parts and materials to disintegrate at the end of their lifespan. The turbine blades use several materials combined and cast together with resin. Gregorio Acero, Head of Quality Management & Health, Safety and Environment at Siemens Gamesa, says the company plans for the turbines to “generate renewable electricity for 20-30 years.” Related: Wind-powered lamp post helps reduce light pollution Thanks to the chemical structure of the new resin material used, it is possible to separate the resin from other components when the turbine reaches the end of its lifespan. While the tower and nacelle components of wind turbines have established recycling protocols, Siemens Gamesa’s invention improves the recyclability of the composite materials in turbine blades. Previously, the difficulty of separating these materials led to many turbines going to the landfill once no longer usable. Siemens Gamesa CEO Andreas Nauen says that thinking about recycling and reusing products is a must if the world wants to successfully address the climate crisis . “The time to tackle climate emergency is now, and we need to do it in a holistic way,” said Nauen. “In pioneering wind circularity – where elements contribute to a circular economy of the wind industry – we have reached a major milestone in a society that puts care for the environment at its heart.” Siemens Gamesa has partnered with RWE to install the turbines with recyclable blades in a first-of-its-kind project. The turbines will be installed at the Kaskasi offshore wind power plant in Germany . Siemens Gamesa will be monitor and maintain them starting in 2022. “The RecyclableBlade is another tangible example of how Siemens Gamesa is leading technological development in the wind industry,” said Nauen. + Siemens Gamesa Via CNBC and Renewable Energy Magazine

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Siemens Gamesa makes "world’s first" recyclable wind turbine

Climate change is the biggest public health issue

September 7, 2021 by  
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More than 220 of the world’s top  public health  and medical journals have published a  joint plea  for the global population to reduce carbon emissions immediately. Humanity already faces irreversible public health threats, the editors wrote. We can’t wait for the pandemic to end before we face the task of reducing emissions. “Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades,” said the call for action, which was published in multiple health journals worldwide, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet and the British Medical Journal. “The science is unequivocal: a global increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of  biodiversity  risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.” Related: Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs The full name of the call for action, published September 5, is “Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health.” It lists some of the health problems that higher temperatures exacerbate, such as renal function loss, pregnancy complications, tropical infections and dermatological malignancies. In the last two decades, deaths related to  heat  have increased by more than 50% in people over 65 years old. Global warming  is also threatening crop production, leading to food insecurity. Like many effects of climate change, undernutrition disproportionately affects poorer countries and poorer regions and neighborhoods within more developed countries. Children, seniors, ethnic minorities and those with preexisting health problems are especially at risk. The call to action points out that those who suffer most are often those who contributed to climate change the least. The  medical  journal editors asked for fairness, saying that the richer countries most responsible for our current crisis should do more to support lower-income countries. They suggest that funding be equally split between mitigating damage already done and adapting to avoid more. Instead of loans, the call says richer countries need to give grants to poorer countries and erase large past debts. After all, we’re in this together, and “we are globally as strong as our weakest member,” says the call to action. “The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5° C and to restore  nature .” Via HuffPost Images via Pixabay

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New Office of Climate Change and Health Equity announced

August 31, 2021 by  
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The U.S. Office of Climate Change and Health Equity will be charged with protecting vulnerable communities from climate-driven disasters. Responding to President Joe  Biden’s  executive order on climate change, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the new office Monday. “History will judge us for the actions we take today to protect our world and our health from  climate change ,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement released Monday. “The consequences for our inaction are real and worsening. We’ve always known that health is at the center of climate change, and now we’re going to double-down on a necessity: fighting climate change in order to help protect public health in our communities.” Related: Evacuations ordered as Caldor Fire moves toward Lake Tahoe OCCHE plans to play a pivotal role in protecting  health  both in the U.S. and abroad. Its mandate includes identifying communities that face disproportionate exposure to climate hazards and addressing their health disparities. The office will promote research on the public health benefits of climate actions and translate that research for the public. OCCHE will also lend its expertise to the White House and federal agencies working on climate change and health equity. With the Caldor Fire still raging in the west and Hurricane Ida’s trail of ruin in the east, help for those with few resources cannot come soon enough. “Climate change is turbo-charging the horrific  wildfires , extreme heat, and devastating floods that are killing people and making millions more sick from exposure to unhealthy smoke, mold and debilitating heat,” said National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy in a statement. “The new HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is fulfilling President Biden’s vision to bring America’s world-class medical community into the fight against climate change—a fight for our health that ensures no community is left behind.” Via Department of Health and Human Services Lead image via Gage Skidmore

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New Office of Climate Change and Health Equity announced

The Cup Hero separates coffee pods for recycling and composting

August 31, 2021 by  
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We’ve written about the  problems with single-use coffee pods  before — a majority of these little capsules end up in landfills and contribute to the world’s growing plastic pollution issues. There are plenty of alternatives, from  biodegradable  and compostable pods to refillable pods, but for coffee lovers reluctant to switch to sustainable alternatives, there’s the Cup Hero. Inventor Connor Feeney got the idea while watching his family make their morning cups of coffee using popular disposable coffee pods, and upon taking one apart discovered that the components were all either recyclable or compostable. At the same time, the process of separating the plastic , foil, and organic materials by hand was too difficult and messy to do on a regular basis. Armed with a masters degree in engineering from Northwestern University, Feeney designed the Cup Hero himself, later performing the marketing, intellectual property, distribution, and finance, as well.  Related: Xoma Superfoods delivers coffee options in single-serve, plant-based pods The Cup Hero uses one simple tool to separate the plastic cup, aluminum foil lid, paper filter, coffee grounds, and internal plastic ring in under 10 seconds. Simply insert the tool to the top of the pod, twist, and detach the different parts. That way, every component of the single-use pod can be sorted, processed and recycled (the plastic and aluminum going into the recycle, and the coffee ground and paper filter into the compost). According to the company, its primary objectives are “to reduce the amount of single-use, disposable plastic that enters our landfills, empower individuals to adopt sustainable practices, and spotlight a significant environmental issue that millions of people contribute to each day – often without realizing the larger impact.” The Cup Hero will be available through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in the fall. + The Cup Hero Images courtesy of Connor Feeney

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The Cup Hero separates coffee pods for recycling and composting

Cottage Rock tiny home nurtures healthy living and nature

August 27, 2021 by  
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The project began with a client brief by rock-climber enthusiasts who wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life in favor of a simple, off-grid  tiny home  where they could focus on the health of themselves and their ailing son. With this goal in mind, the clients brought in architect Nadine Engelbrecht to overcome the obvious site challenges and deliver their new home, called Cottage Rock.  Located in Pretoria’s Tierpoort in South Africa , the building lot had little to offer as far as accessibility. The only way to access the site was on foot, and even that required dedication. The site was wedged between usable farmlands and had no agricultural value. So the first several months involved excavating a rustic road into the building site, which put limitations on the supplies and how they were delivered. Related: Viewfinder House combines great views with energy efficiency A press release from the architect said, “Due to the steep and winding road only 3m3 concrete trucks and maximum 8m long trucks could be used to supply materials. Building materials had to be planned accordingly and a 15m length steel H-column had to be cut into three lengths and reassembled.” On the build site, emphasis was placed on preserving and reusing the copious amounts of large sandstone boulders throughout the property. Designers incorporated them throughout the landscaping and into the exterior of the house to use as a climbing wall. For  minimal site impact , the footprint of the house was limited to 86 square meters, yet the home remains cozy with two loft bedrooms and an open living space below.  A tight budget and desire to respect the natural surrounding environment guided the decision to use reclaimed steel windows, raw concrete for floors and walls, and stone . The team also incorporated raw bricks and cement-washed walls. With a primary goal to eliminate chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, all materials were used in unprocessed forms.  Catering to the client’s wish for a home that opened up to the outdoors, Cottage Rock employs retractable doors on both sides of the house to invite  natural light  and ventilation and erase the lines between indoors and outdoors.  Cottage Rock is also completely off-grid. A  rainwater collection  system funnels water into a storage tank beneath the patio. Passive design elements provide natural temperature control and meet the client’s request for extremely low operating costs for the future of the home.  + Nadine Engelbrecht Architecture  Via ArchDaily   Images via Marsel Roothman  

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Cottage Rock tiny home nurtures healthy living and nature

Ken Soble Tower sets an example for high-rise sustainability

August 25, 2021 by  
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Vacant and in disrepair, the Ken Soble Tower in the city of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada was a candidate for a sale or demolition. But, ERA Architects, known for retrofit architectural designs and integration of low-carbon systems, redesigned the building instead. Now the 18-story apartment building is the largest EnerPHit Passive House building in North America. Throughout the transition, ERA focused on creating a healthy living environment for the senior residents who want to age in place while simultaneously ensuring the health of the planet. Related: Traumhaus Funari transforms an old military site into affordable housing The 1967 building wore a white brick exterior, a look the ERA team kept in place by cladding with new stucco panels. Top to bottom, the building received a high-performance envelope. Triple-glazed windows allow in  natural light  and ventilation. Ultra-efficient interior and exterior insulation helps contribute to the overall airtight design. By also replacing the HVAC system, the building achieved a remarkable 94% reduction in carbon emissions and an 89% reduction in thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI).  The inside of each apartment received an update with a new kitchen, bathroom, flooring and lighting, with attention to  energy efficiency  along the way.  Graeme Stewart, Principal, ERA Architects says, “Ken Soble Tower is a true beacon on an international stage, showcasing how low carbon and low energy retrofits are not only sustainable, but also realize the best outcomes for residents’ health, safety and comfort within their homes.” While the Ken Soble Tower isn’t the first project of its type, the result stands as an example for many similar buildings. Inasmuch, it will be the basis for a two-year study to measure the effectiveness of the building, residents and surrounding environment, in regards to health, safety, economy and more. The results will be available as a teaching tool to offer real-world lessons in retrofit design. “Many aging, postwar apartment towers provide critical affordable housing for millions of Canadians, but increasingly face complex challenges that require repair. Our hope is that the Ken Soble Tower marks the beginning of a wave of deep retrofits across the country. As we look towards a post-pandemic recovery amid a climate -challenged world, there’s an urgency to apply this type of holistic thinking on a broader scale,” Stewart continued. + ERA Architects Images via Codrin Talaba and Doublespace Photography

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