Surround yourself with Californias wildlife and flora at Oakland Zoos eco-minded California Trail

July 17, 2019 by  
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If you’re looking for a unique, family-friendly activity in the Bay Area, look no further than the California Trail at the Oakland Zoo . Now celebrating its one-year anniversary, the eco-friendly exhibit offers gondola rides, an immersive experience in nature and up-close encounters with native California species. Designed by Berkeley-based architectural firm Noll & Tam Architects , the $72 million California Trail project is a triumph in environmental conservation, education and research. When the California Trail project was completed last July after 20-plus years in the making, the project doubled the size of the Oakland Zoo and added several new native California animal species including American buffalo, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, jaguars, California condors and gray wolves. The 56-acre exhibit includes 26 structures and was carefully designed and constructed for minimal site impact. To further reduce landscape impact, Noll & Tam Architects decided against developing roads and parking lots in favor of an aerial gondola that whisks visitors over the landscape to the start of the trail. “We worked closely with the zoo to minimize impact to the natural landscape, from the placement of the gondola that eliminates auto traffic to the careful siting of the boardwalk that preserves oak trees,” noted Janet Tam, principal in charge of the project. “The design intertwines animal habitats with human habitats; animals have their feeding grounds and night houses to retreat to, much like visitors enjoy the Landing Cafe for refreshment then stroll over to the Interpretive Center for quiet reflection.” Related: Newly opened Los Gatos Library by Noll & Tam Architects pursuing LEED Gold Visitors journey to different exhibitions via an 800-foot-long elevated boardwalk , which loops back around to the 20,150-square-foot Visitor and Interpretative complex that offers information about the history of the animals and the state of California. The California Trail also includes The Landing Cafe, an overnight campground and a playground designed to reflect the ecological zones of California. The buildings’ environmental impact is reduced even more with the use of solar power and rainwater harvesting. + Noll & Tam Architects Photography by Eric Dugan Photography via Noll & Tam Architects

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Surround yourself with Californias wildlife and flora at Oakland Zoos eco-minded California Trail

Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

July 5, 2019 by  
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The Independence Day festivities hosted by the White House yesterday cost the National Park Service an estimated $2.5 million dollars, money that is typically earmarked for park maintenance and rehabilitation. The rainy celebration, which included military jet fly overs, tank displays and the largest firework display in D.C. history, is the most expensive July 4th celebration any president has hosted. What Trump promoted via Twitter as the “show of a lifetime” was loosely inspired by his trip to France during Bastille Day. After the proposed budget for a similar celebration last year reached $92 million, Trump had to scale back his plan. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The president also made a speech yesterday, a first in 32 years. For the past three decades, presidents have elected to not speak at the Independence Day celebrations out of respect for unity and patriotism and an attempt to not politicize the holiday. “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said during his speech. Despite his message of unity, tickets for the highly anticipated events were given out as gifts to high-rolling donors to the Republican National Committee. “This is a breach of trust with the public,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parades.” The national parks are reportedly $12 billion dollars behind in their maintenance needs, and this event is another major setback. While the event cost the country’s parks $2.5 million, the Trump administration refused to reveal exactly how much the antics cost taxpayers in total. Before the celebration, Trump tweeted , “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.” Via EcoWatch Image via Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

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Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

MADs ethereal Yiwu Grand Theater will float on Zhejiang waters

July 5, 2019 by  
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Beijing-based architectural firm MAD Architects has won a competition for Zhejiang’s Yiwu Grand Theater with a proposal that’s stunning, sculptural and site-specific. Inspired by the Chinese junks that once sailed on the city’s Dongyang River, the Yiwu Grand Theater mimics the form of a glass-walled boat floating on the river while its subtle curves echo the Jiangnan-style eaves found in the region’s ancient vernacular architecture. Its facade of layered glass sails will be semitransparent to reduce overall energy consumption through passive solar means. As the world’s largest wholesale commodities market, Yiwu has built its reputation on commerce, not culture. In a bid to elevate its soft power, the city hosted an international competition to design the Yiwu Grand Theater, a hub of arts and culture to be located on the south bank of the Dongyang River. The building will include a 1,600-seat grand theater, a 1,200-seat medium theater and a 2,000-person-capacity international conference center. The project will also offer new and easily accessible public green space with an amphitheater and large open plaza that extends into the water on its southern edge. “The ‘Yiwu Grand Theater’ has been designed as a monument for the city that will serve to connect inhabitants to the waterfront from a new perspective,” the architects explained. “In its completion, it will stand as a world-class venue that will attract visitors from around the globe, putting Yiwu on the map as a cultural destination. The transparency and lightness of the glass express the texture of thin, silky fabric, creating a dynamic rhythm that makes them appear as if they are blowing in the wind. They act as a protective canopy around the building, resonating with the river, elegantly floating above the water’s surface, setting a romantic atmosphere.” Related: MAD Architects unveils an “organic” skyscraper piercing Manhattan’s skyline In addition to giving the Yiwu Grand Theater a sense of lightness in spite of its size, the semi-transparent glass curtain wall also helps to reduce heating and cooling costs while letting in ample amounts of natural light. In winter, the glass creates a solar greenhouse effect but can be opened up in summer to promote natural ventilation . The Yiwu Grand Theater is expected to begin construction in 2020. + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

April 19, 2019 by  
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Take advantage of the warmer weather by visiting any number of the hundreds of national parks across the country on April 20 for absolutely free. The National Parks Service is celebrating National Park Week by offering free entry into all of the 418 parks spread throughout the United States. If you have never been to a national park or if it has been a while since your last visit, you may be surprised to learn about all the fun and excitement that awaits you. Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular national parks in the country and how you can spend your time in the great outdoors. Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the most famous parks in the U.S. The park is known for its abundant wildlife , hot springs and exploding geysers. Given its enormous size, there are plenty of things to do at Yellowstone for children and adults alike. Related: An adventurer just journeyed into America’s largest national park — here’s what he found Located mostly in Wyoming, the park boasts 12 campgrounds with tent and RV access, plus 300 isolated campsites. There are nearly 1,000 miles of hiking trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. You can also bike at the park and enjoy some kayaking on one if its many lakes. If you plan on bringing your family along for the ride, the park offers specialized programs for children as well as horseback riding. Yosemite Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park  attracts many visitors for its beautiful waterfalls. But the 1,200-square-mile park also features vast meadows, large sequoias and a grand wilderness section. While sightseeing is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to keep your entire family busy. Common activities at California’s Yosemite National Park include biking, wildlife watching, camping , fishing, horseback riding and water activities. Before booking your trip to Yosemite, check with the park for any closures due to inclement weather. Glacier Point Road, for example, is often closed until May because of excess snowfall. Great Smoky Mountains The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the country. According to DK , the Smoky Mountains record more than double the number of tourists every year than any other location. While this is a popular destination, there are ways to avoid the large crowds. Skip out on the popular scenic highway and opt for one of the many side trails. The ancient mountain range features one of Earth’s most widespread deciduous forests and boasts a wide diversity of life. This includes a large selection of wildflowers and black bears . When it comes to activities, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing and scenic driving. Acadia If you are looking for a good coastal drive, then Acadia National Park is right up your alley. Acadia National Park is the only one of its kind in Maine and features some dramatic views of the Atlantic coastline. You can also hike some trails on Cadillac Mountain, kayak in the ocean or partake in some amazing whale watching from just outside of Bar Harbor. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials A good strategy to see most of Acadia is to navigate the Park Loop Road, either by bike or motor vehicle. The 27-mile road has an array of different viewing points. One of the more popular stops is Otter Cliff, which overlooks a 110-foot drop. The park, of course, also features plenty of other things to do, such as camping, climbing, geocaching, fishing , swimming and bird watching. Tips for visiting a national park Once you decide to visit a park , it is always a good idea to call or stop by the visitor center and check in. Park rangers are valuable sources of information and can tell you what type of activities are available during the time of your visit. They can also tell you if there are any construction projects going on or special events that might make navigating through the park difficult. Speaking of the visitor center, it contains everything you need to know about the park, including typical rates and interesting places to visit. You can also find guided tours, which are a great way to get introduced to the history of the park and learn why it is significant to the region. Free admittance on April 20 In honor of National Park Week, the National Parks Service is offering free admittance to all parks in the United States on April 20. That day coincides with National Junior Ranger Day, which is geared toward children, making the free offer perfect for families. According to Matador Network , there are other themes throughout the rest of week, including Military and Veterans Recognition Day,  Earth Day , Transportation Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Friendship Friday, Bark Ranger Day and Park Rx Day. You can learn more about National Park Week, plus find important information about a national park near you, by visiting Find Your Park and the  National Parks website . Images via Ian D. Keating , Mobilus in Mobili , Jeff Gunn , Thomas , Eric Vaughn , Badlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

Ocean plastic waste has been a problem since the 1950s, reveals 60-year plankton study

April 19, 2019 by  
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A 60-year study on plankton has revealed the dark truth about the history of ocean plastic waste . The study shows how plastics have been polluting our oceans since at least the 1950s and how the problem has steadily gotten worse in the six decades since. The first documented case of ocean plastic waste was fishing twine discovered in the 1950s. The next mention is a carrier bag in 1965. From there, the data shows that plastic waste significantly increased between 1970 and the early 2000s, with fishing lines being the main source of recovered waste. Related: Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air The study, which spanned 60 years, was published in an edition of Nature Communications . Researchers used a device to gather pelagic plankton in the ocean and covered an area over 6.5m nautical miles in the process. The plankton are an important source of information on water quality and serve as a primary food source for whales. As they towed the device across the ocean, the scientists recorded whenever their equipment encountered ocean waste . The depth at which they towed the device was around 7 meters, which is where many marine organisms reside. A good portion of the plastic waste was uncovered in the North Sea, though the researchers say the problem is widespread. “The message is that marine plastic has increased significantly and we are seeing it all over the world, even in places where you would not want to, like the Northwest Passage and other parts of the Arctic,” marine biologist Clare Ostle shared. While the numbers are alarming, there are some positive trends in the data. Ostle noted that the frequency of plastic waste has leveled off in recent years. This is likely due to an increased awareness on behalf of the public. It should be noted, however, that the numbers do not represent how much plastic is in the ocean at a given time and simply give us an insight into broader trends. While the numbers are down, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done if we want to make a lasting impact on ocean plastic waste . Via The Guardian Image via Flockine

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Google’s latest innovation: direct global clean energy procurement

January 30, 2019 by  
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It’s a first in the history of the tech giant’s 30-plus power projects.

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An air conditioner powered by outer space and help from the sun

January 30, 2019 by  
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Stanford researchers are testing a way to cool buildings without fossil fuels, while generating electricity at the same time.

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Ryuji Kajino converts an 80-year-old barn into a gorgeous atelier

June 12, 2018 by  
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Architect Ryuji Kajino from Malubishi Architects has just unveiled the Tiny Atelier — a one-room work studio crafted with the remnants of an 80-year-old timber barn that previously stood on the same site. The minimalist work space, which was created for a designer who makes accessories from dried flowers, was built with timber, old beams and roof tiles repurposed from the existing barn. Located in Kurashiki, Japan, the work space was built for a designer who lives on a hilltop lot that overlooks the Seto Inland Sea in the distance. A covered porch leads from her home to the new studio, which is surrounded by greenery. In fact, the artist grows the flowers for her accessories in the onsite garden. Related: The Cornelia tiny house is a peaceful writer’s studio built with reclaimed wood The architect wanted to retain as many of the materials from the old barn as possible. The structure includes a new pitched roof topped with tiles from the existing barn. Inside, exposed log beams on the timber-lined ceiling pay homage to the former building. Vertical wooden boards  clad the petite studio, except for the front door, which has a diagonal pattern and custom-made chestnut handle. Large windows provide an abundance of natural light as well as beautiful views of the valley below. The room’s biggest window sits in a timber frame constructed with both old and new wooden pillars, again marking the transition from past to present. The office design embraces minimalism with sparse furniture and a wraparound white shelf built high up on the wall to provide space for drying flowers. According to the architect, re-using the barn’s old materials enabled him to create the atelier space as a nod to the local history. “Utilizing the materials that can be used by existing barns, we inherited the history that this site had been walking on,” explained Kajino, “but also aimed at a new architecture mixed old and new materials as a future architectural building.” + Ryuji Kajino Via Dezeen Images via Ryuji Kajino

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Ryuji Kajino converts an 80-year-old barn into a gorgeous atelier

Croatia Pavilions Cloud Pergola is one of the worlds largest 3D-printed structures

June 12, 2018 by  
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Architect Bruno Juri?i?  has unveiled one of the world’s largest and most complex 3D-printed structures at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale . Dubbed the Cloud Pergola / The Architecture of Hospitality, this massive, site-specific structure for the Croatian Pavilion features 300 kilograms of 3D-printed biodegradable plastic. The immersive cloud-like installation invites visitors to reflect on the topics of hospitality, climate change and sociability. The Cloud Pergola is a contemporary take on the classic Mediterranean pergola structure, a space where “the private and public merge.” Curated and authored by Bruno Juri?i? in collaboration with Arup , Ai-Build and Alisa Andrašek, the innovative pavilion’s main focus is the ‘Cloud Drawing,’ a 3D-printed structure built of voxels arranged in a fluid-like mass using over 100,000 extruded elements. A “multi-agent algorithm” that was built with data on cloud formation and site-specific environmental data was used to inform the design’s lattice-like form and arrangement. The Cloud Pergola is complemented with artwork that helps create an immersive experience. Vlatka Horvat’s wall-based work ‘To Still the Eye’ explores the “notion of horizon as a physical manifestation of distance and as a metaphor for the future, wanting to address this sense of possibility,” while artist Maja Kuzmanovi?’s ‘Ephemeral Garden’ is an audio installation. “I wanted the pavilion to push the boundaries of the aesthetics, spatial and tectonic consequences of emerging paradigms of augmented intelligence at the cross-over between architecture, art, and engineering by presenting a full-scale pergola structure made using 3D robotic fabrication and automated design protocols,” said Bruno Juri?i? in a statement. “The Cloud Pergola was envisioned as a paradigm for what architecture should stand for in the 21st century.” Related: Vatican City’s first-ever pavilion debuts at the Venice Architecture Biennale Arup and the 3D manufacturing team of Ai-Build also developed a simple assembly sequence for the Cloud Pergola, which will be put on tour after the end of the Venice Biennale. The Croatian Pavilion will be exhibited for the entire duration of the Architectural Biennale, until November 25, 2018. + Croatian Pavilion Images by Jan Stojkovic

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Croatia Pavilions Cloud Pergola is one of the worlds largest 3D-printed structures

Apple invests millions in a carbon-free aluminum smelting method

May 11, 2018 by  
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For over 130 years, aluminum , a material in many Apple products, has been produced in the same dirty, greenhouse gas -releasing way. That could all change soon: Apple is partnering with aluminum company Alcoa Corporation and metal company Rio Tinto to commercialize technology that, according to Apple , “eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process.” Fast Company reported the tech giant is investing $10.1 million in research and development. Rio Tinto and Alcoa are coming together to form Elysis, a joint venture company, with the goal of packaging the technology for sale in 2024. Not only is Apple betting big on the venture, the governments of Quebec and Canada are investing around $47 million. Elysis will be based in Montreal and will employ 100 people to work towards commercialization of what Alcoa called the world’s first zero-carbon aluminum smelting technology. Apple said they’d be offering technical support. Related: Apple’s new recycling robot can disassemble 200 iPhones in a single hour Alcoa said in Canada, “the technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, if fully implemented at existing aluminum smelters in the country. That represents an amount roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road.” Apple chose eight materials to zero in on to seek cleaner production methods, and aluminum is one of those. The company said back in 2015, three of their engineers started a search for an improved method of mass-producing aluminum, and they found it at Alcoa. The company’s founder, Charles Hall, pioneered the old method in 1886, but it uses a carbon material that smolders throughout the process, so greenhouse gases are released. But then Alcoa developed a new process that utilizes an advanced conductive material rather than carbon. The smelting process releases oxygen , not carbon dioxide. Rio Tinto brings smelting technology development experience to the joint venture, which will work towards larger scale production. Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey said in the company’s statement, “This discovery has been long sought in the aluminum industry, and this announcement is the culmination of the work from many dedicated Alcoa employees. Today, our history of innovation continues as we take aluminum’s sustainable advantage to a new level with the potential to improve the carbon footprint of a range of products from cars to consumer electronics.” + Apple + Alcoa Via Fast Company Images via Apple

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