Angular cedar-clad home in New Zealand is designed to go completely off-grid

October 17, 2017 by  
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New Zealand firm Herriot Melhuish Oneill has created a beautiful eco-friendly home deep in the rolling farmland just outside of Wellington. The Peka Peka House is comprised of three cedar boxes with glazed walls that provide views of the breathtaking landscape – and it’s set to be 100% off-grid. The home’s volume is comprised of three connected boxes. The living and dining area are located in the larger box and the bedrooms are in the second cube. These two structures are both clad in a beautiful black-stained cedar with large windows that connect the living spaces with the exterior environment. The third box, which houses the garage and workshop, was built out of profiled-polycarbonate, and “glows” from within at night. Related:See how the “Kiss-Kiss House” snaps in half like a branch to embrace the landscape The home’s orientation was strategic to benefit from the area’s harsh climate. Thanks to the home’s many openings, the interior is naturally ventilated by the afternoon sea breezes. Additionally, the interior courtyard faces north in order protect the space from any strong winds. The home is surrounded by a timber deck that connects the home to its natural surroundings and lets the homeowners enjoy the outdoors comfortably. The Peka Peka house was designed to eventually go 100% off grid . Installed with PV and solar hot water panels, the home produces a lot of its own energy. To conserve that energy, the insulation in the home is above-code insulation, and an exposed, insulated concrete slab under the home helps retain heat. LED lighting is also used throughout the space. + Herriot Melhuish Oneill Via Archdaily Photography by Jason Mann

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Angular cedar-clad home in New Zealand is designed to go completely off-grid

This startup is training crows to throw away cigarette butt litter

October 17, 2017 by  
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Did you know that cigarettes take twelve years to decompose on average? That’s a big problem, as they are the most littered item on Earth – every year, approximately 4.5 trillion cigarettes are discarded with little regard for the environment. The new startup Crowded Cities has a plan to rid streets of this type of pollution – and it involves training crows to exchange cigarette butts for food. It’s a well-established fact that crows are one of the smartest animals in the world. Not only are they skilled problem solvers, they can create and use tools . Dutch startup Crowded Cities is developing a device that trains crows to collect discarded cigarettes . In exchange, the crows receive peanuts. The CrowBar is based on a design created by an American inventor . The device has a large funnel where cigarette butts can be deposited, and a dispenser for releasing peanuts . The hope is that crows get busy cleaning up the streets in exchange for some easy food. The task isn’t impossible, considering Crowded Cities has a four-step plan to train the crows. Related: Meet Cig, the sea turtle made of over 1,000 cigarette butts strewn on a Florida beach First, the machine offers a piece of food next to a cigarette butt on a small platform. This trains the bird to expect food from the machine . Second, the machine begins dispensing food only after the crow arrives at the machine. This teaches the crow how to operate the CrowBar. Third, the machine presents only the cigarette butt with no food. Confused, the crow will begin pecking and looking around. When he/she inadvertently drops the butt into the dispenser, food will be released. The fourth step is to remove the cigarette butt entirely, leaving only a couple scattered on the crowd in the nearby area. The crow will begin collecting butts from the surrounding area, bringing them to the CrowBar, then dropping them into the dispenser for food . At this stage, the training is complete. The startup is in the process of building a prototype to test whether or not the design will work. Because cigarettes are filled with toxic chemicals, Crowded Cities will monitor the crows’ health and behavior. If the method proves successful and the birds aren’t adversely affected by the cigarette butts, you may see a CrowBar in your city in the near future. + Crowded Cities Via Popular Mechanics Images via Crowded Cities , Pixabay

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This startup is training crows to throw away cigarette butt litter

The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire

October 17, 2017 by  
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It would seem that dogs, in addition to being man’s, are also best friends with goats and deer. Odin, a loyal, headstrong Great Pyrenees who guards his owner’s goat herd, refused to leave their side even when fierce wildfires bore down around his home in Sonoma County, California . “Even under the best of circumstances it is nearly impossible to separate Odin from the goats after nightfall when he takes over the close watch from his sister Tessa,” wrote Roland Tembo Hendel, Odin’s owner. “I made a decision to leave him, and I doubt I could have made him come with us if I tried.” Thankfully, even though buildings around their location burned to the ground, Odin and his goats survived and were even joined by a few adopted baby deer. Around 10:30, Hendel began to smell smoke at his property. About a half hour later, Hendel and his family caught their first glimpse of flames coming into their valley. After Hendel and his family gathered their other dogs and cat into the vehicle, they had to depart without Odin, who refused to leave his goats . “Cars behind us on Mark West Springs Road were pouring flames out of the windows as they roared down the road,” said Hendel of the scene. “Later that morning when we had outrun the fires I cried, sure that I had sentenced Odie to death, along with our precious family of bottle-raised goats.” Related: Frida the rescue dog helps search for survivors after Mexico’s deadly earthquake Hendel and his family were thrilled to return and find their animal companions alive and well. Although every nearby structure had been destroyed, Odin kept his flock safe from harm. “Eight goats came running to see us and get cuddles and kisses. Dixon has a burn on his back the size of a nickel. Other than that they are perfectly fine,” said Hendel. Odin received minor injuries from the fire. The baby deer that joined the herd found both shelter and clean water with the help of their new canine papa. “Odin has lived up to his namesake,” wrote Hendel. “Pray for him and his charges. He is our inspiration. If he can be so fearless in this maelstrom, surely so can we.” Hendel and his family are raising funds, half of every dollar for a replacement trailer for Odin and his goats and half for the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Center . After the trailer has been paid for, all of the proceeds will go to SCWRC. Donations can be made here. Via Treehugger Images via  Roland Tembo Hendel/Facebook

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The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire

Edgy black slats conceal a surprisingly light-filled interior in this Brisbane home

October 16, 2017 by  
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Brisbane-based Bureau Proberts  designed a beautiful home whose wonderfully bright interior is completely concealed by its edgy black exterior. The Bardon House is clad in vertical black slats to provide the homeowners with the utmost privacy and shade from the harsh sun, but the interior is anything but dark. Illuminated by an abundance of natural light thanks to multiple windows and a large skylight in the roof, the interior is vibrant and airy. From the outside, the shape of three-story home mimics the surrounding landscape, gradually sloping to either side of the home. The resulting angular shape is continued throughout the interior where the large sloped ceilings create an open living space, which is flooded in natural light thanks to a large skylight installed at the apex of the ceiling. Most of the interior color scheme is neutral with natural white walls and grey tile flooring, but the windows and doors are framed in a beautiful dark-stained timber for contrast. Related: Elegant timber extension uses angular volumes to maximize natural light The main living area is located on the first floor while the bedrooms are located on the second level. From the living room, sliding glass doors open into beautiful open-air space courtyard filled with greenery . The architects describe the space as “a veranda-like thoroughfare, melding the courtyard with the landscape beyond.” The bottom level of the home has been designed as a social space, which leads out to the open-air terrace and pool area, further connecting the house to its natural surroundings. + Bureau Proberts Via Dwell Photography by Alicia Taylor

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Edgy black slats conceal a surprisingly light-filled interior in this Brisbane home

Scientists witnessed a neutron star mashup for the first time – and it transformed our understanding of the universe

October 16, 2017 by  
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For the first time, scientists have detected gravitational waves stemming from the crash of two ultra-dense neutron stars – and the event has spawned a new era of astronomy known as “multi-messenger astronomy.” It is believed that cataclysmic events such as these generated at least half of the gold in the Universe. Though astronomers have witnessed ripples in the fabric of space in time before (created by objects moving in the Universe), this is the first time in history the event was detectable by regular light telescopes. As a result, researchers have gained new insight into massive cosmic collisions. A neutron star is the burnt-out core of a massive star that ran out of fuel , blew up and died. Typically 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter, a neutron star is radioactive and has a mass slightly more dense than the sun in our solar system. Reportedly, a handful of neutron star material weighs as much as Mount Everest ! When two neutron stars combine, they spiral around each other, growing closer and closer over time. The spinning intensifies until the two objects revolve around each other several times per second. Then, a forceful impact takes place and a gargantuan gravitational wave is emitted into the Universe at the speed of light. On August 18th, astronomers witnessed the remains of a neutron star mash-up, which traveled 130 million light years before it was seen by Earthly detectors. The phenomena resulted in dozens of scientific papers being published in top academic journals. As Phys.org reports, the observation also solved several physics riddles – including how much of the universe’s gold , platinum, mercury and other heavy elements were formed. Related: Einstein’s gravitational wave theory proven by the sound of two black holes colliding Said co-discoverer Benoit Mours of France’s CNRS research institute, “We witnessed history unfolding in front of our eyes: two neutron stars drawing closer, closer… turning faster and faster around each other, then colliding and scattering debris all over the place.” Days before the highly-anticipated event, three different gravitational wave observatories based around the world picked up gravitational waves. Astronomers worked together to locate the area where the merger occurred. After narrowing it down to a very small patch in the southern sky, the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) mobilized the rest of the astronomy community, reports The Verge. Within hours, thousands of astronomers searched the sky , eventually spotting the explosive leftovers of the neutron star mashup. Telescopes witnessed newly-forged material in the fallout. This confirmed that “maybe half, maybe more, of the heavy elements in the Universe are actually produced by this kind of collision,” said physicist Patrick Sutton, a member of LIGO. “This is a revolution in astronomy, of having thousands of astronomers focus on one source for weeks and having this collaboration unravel in seconds, in hours, then days, and weeks,” said Vicky Kalogera, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University and a LIGO collaborator. “For us, that’s the Holy Grail.” The development comes two years after the first gravitational wave was detected (also by LIGO). For the past century, astronomers have been trying to figure out how to detect the ripples, which were predicted by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity . Via Phys , The Verge Images via Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science , NSF LIGO Sonoma State University / A. Simonnet , Tony Piro, Carnegie Institution for Science

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Scientists witnessed a neutron star mashup for the first time – and it transformed our understanding of the universe

This ultra-sustainable home has moveable walls for endless reconfigurability

October 12, 2017 by  
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Students from Northwestern University have created a sophisticated, energy-efficient home that is strategically designed to address the many challenges that come with aging. The solar-powered Enable House was built with various responsive design features – such as movable interior walls that create adaptable spaces through the years. The home’s deck features a beautiful greenhouse-like structure that opens up to the outdoors with sliding walls. Students from the Northwestern team conducted extensive research within local Chicago communities before creating their responsive home design. In talking with various baby boomers, the team realized that although sustainability is certainly a priority when it comes to living space, people over the age of 55 are increasingly concerned with aging comfortably in their own home. Related:Light-filled Danish home with flexible interiors welcomes the forest indoors Inspired to meet the needs of the aging population, the team worked to create a structure that would be incredibly energy efficient, but also functional and adaptable, all in one beautiful package. Team chose to use renewable building materials such as wood and fiber cement cladding to create a sophisticated, but welcoming home. The glazed sections of the beautiful attached sunroom easily slide open and shut to control air circulation. As an added health benefit, the deck’s glazed walls are treated with a special coating that purifies the air. The Enable House takes advantage of various sustainable features such as rooftop solar panels and thick structural insulated panels (SIPs), which help insulate the home during Chicago’s frigid winter months. Energy-efficient appliances installed throughout the home help reduce energy use and cost. The design also incorporates air filtering technologies, a living wall, and an innovative system that monitors the home’s VOCs, CO2, dust, and humidity to provide an extremely healthy environment year-round. The home’s modular interior walls enable a huge variety of layouts, so the home can be reconfigured based on the occupants’ changing needs through the years. For accessibility, the home is equipped with various universal design aspects such as zero-step entrances, single-floor living, wide hallways and doorways, wheelchair-accessible switches, and lever-style door handles and faucets. + Enable House Northwestern + Solar Decathlon Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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This ultra-sustainable home has moveable walls for endless reconfigurability

This house made of drought-felled wood is a water-saving wonder

October 5, 2017 by  
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California’s extreme droughts are so dire that students at UC Davis have designed an impressive solar-powered home built out of drought-felled timber and installed with various state-of-the-art water conservation features geared towards California residents. The design of the team’s Our H2Ouse (pronounced “our house”) not only implements various grey water systems to use 50% less potable water than a typical residence, but smart technology with real-time LED displays enables homeowners to monitor and control water flow at every single water line. According to the students from UC Davis, who are currently exhibiting their solar home in this year’s Solar Decathlon event in Denver, they based the design on three main pillars: drought resilience, education, and inclusiveness. Using California-specific strategies in the prototype, the resulting Our H2Ouse is a highly-efficient, net-zero-energy design that is equipped to drastically reduce potable water use. Related: 8 amazing homes that are 100% powered by the sun Geared for the state’s inevitable future droughts, the home was installed with various greywater systems , including a cutting-edge sanitization technology developed at the university. All of the home’s water faucets are equipped with light-up feedback displays to help occupants monitor and control water flow rates at every step. For example, the shower has LED lights that change from blue to red, depending on water use. At the front of the house is a wooden water tank with a gauge that rises and falls to display the daily water usage of the home. According to the team, this smart monitoring system was geared towards overcoming the most unpredictable factor in energy and water conservation : human behavior. By installing smart technologies with real-time displays, the team hopes to bridge the gap between potential and realized water and energy savings. Interestingly, a unique feature of the home’s digitized system allows for sharing usage numbers within a network of users, meaning that eco-minded homeowners can actively participate in not only their own water conservation efforts, but that of the surrounding community. While the heart of the home may be geared to address the state’s water issues, the aesthetic is also a nod to California style. The simple, modern-rustic design reflects the two side of Cali life, urban and rural. To efficiently and sufficiently insulate the home, the team chose to use a 12” thick, bamboo-based , panelized exterior wall system and structural insulated panels (SIPs). This system reduces the home’s carbon footprint to a fraction of a standard residence. All of the wood used in the home was sourced from salvaged California trees  that died due to the state’s severe drought. Because this felled wood is dry and prone to burning, using it in the home design actively helps prevent forest fires. On the interior, the home is well-lit with natural light thanks to large glass doors that lead to the open-air deck. As for the interior furnishings, there are plenty of multi-functional items that were handcrafted by the students themselves, including hollow stools that can be used for storage, and that can be combined to be used as beds or tables. Motion-triggered recessed circadian LED lighting was installed into the flooring to create a modern, but efficient ambience throughout the home. + UC Davis Solar Decathlon Photography by Mike Chino

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This house made of drought-felled wood is a water-saving wonder

Off-grid camping just got so much better with these solar-powered teardrop trailers

October 5, 2017 by  
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Explorers could venture way off the grid thanks to a new collaboration between teardrop trailer maker Vistabule and solar power company Sunflare . Sunflare makes bendy solar panels a few micrometers thick that can be taped to any surface – so they’re the perfect solution to adorn the top of the Vistable camper , conforming to its unique shape. The lightweight solar panels add virtually no weight to the trailer. Vistabule trailers, manufactured by Minnesota Teardrop Trailers, can now be lined with flexible solar panels on their rooftops. Solar energy allows users to turn on lights, charge phones, and cook in the trailer’s full kitchen off-grid . Sunflare CEO Philip Gao said the solar panels can be installed on a new trailer or retrofitted to ones people already own. Related: Sunflare’s new ultra-thin solar “wallpaper” can stick to any surface The trailers feature 1950’s-inspired design, with plenty of space inside for adventurers to store gear, cook dinner, or snuggle up. There’s a full-size sofa bed, collapsible coffee table, and drop-down nightstands inside. A two-burner stovetop and sink with running water allows users to prepare food. Several large windows offer grand views inside the trailer that can be towed by just about any car. With Sunflare solar panels atop the Vistabule trailer can fully charge two smartphones, charge a laptop up to 30 percent, allow campers to switch on the lights and a fan, enable the refrigerator to keep running all day for two and a half days, and run the heater for three hours per day. Sunflare says after that users will probably need to recharge the battery . Minnesota Teardrop Trailers CEO Bert Taylor said in a statement, “When we first started our business, we wanted to make a camping trailer that was beautiful, energy efficient, and would easily blend technology with human comfort. Adding Sunflare solar collection panels to our Vistabule trailers substantially lengthens the time campers can be off the grid, and greatly enhances the entire camping experience.” + Sunflare + Vistabule Images courtesy of Sunflare and Vistabule Facebook

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Off-grid camping just got so much better with these solar-powered teardrop trailers

World’s first solar-powered, indoor vertical farm sprouts in Philadelphia

October 5, 2017 by  
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Future-farming experts Metropolis Farms have opened the world’s first solar powered, indoor vertical farm in the heart of Philadelphia . Although the City of Brotherly Love currently hosts only about eight acres of urban farming due to lack of traditional agricultural land, Metropolis Farms seeks to take advantage of the urban jungle to provide a new model for local agriculture in the city. Rather than receiving sunlight from the open air, the crops will receive concentrated full-spectrum light in a controlled indoor environment. In its latest undertaking, Metropolis Farms has installed a 500 kilowatt solar array composed of over 2,000 solar panels, which will be used to power the indoor vertical operation. The company plans to produce the equivalent of 660 acres of traditional farmland on less than 100,000 square feet. While it may not always be sunny in Philadelphia, the solar panels atop Metropolis Farms are an innovative way to capture energy and redirect it towards an efficient, controlled environment for growing vegetables. “By bringing the growing process indoors, in line with our mission of social responsibility, we are revitalizing abandoned spaces and are using them for local food production,” said Metropolis Farms in a statement. Their technological design is applicable for urban environments regardless of climate , making local, fresh, sustainable food accessible for the billions of people that live in cities across the globe. Related: This brilliant floating farm actually heals the world’s oceans The primary challenge to an efficient indoor growing operation is the high cost of electricity to power the lighting and pumps necessary to keep the plants healthy. Through its use of on-site solar power and further innovations, Metropolis Farms seeks to eventually achieve a zero-carbon farming operation. The company hopes to reveal its latest innovative practices and technology at the 2017 Indoor Ag-Con, which will be hosted by Philadelphia for the first time. Via Clean Technica Images via Metropolis Farms  and Jonas Ingold/Flickr

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World’s first solar-powered, indoor vertical farm sprouts in Philadelphia

Nissan’s new EV ecosystem could give free power to EV owners

October 5, 2017 by  
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The future looks bright for electric vehicle (EV) owners. Nissan recently unveiled plans for the four pillars of their EV ecosystem, including a commitment to expand what they called the biggest fast charger network in Europe by 20 percent. They also aim to offer free power for EV owners who have a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system, which feeds power from a car’s battery pack to the grid or a home. Nissan sketched plans for the future recently at the Nissan Futures 3.0 event in Norway. They showed off the new Nissan Leaf , which they said can travel 378 kilometers, or around 235 miles, on one charge. They also announced a longer-range all-electric e-NV200 van, which has a 280-kilometer, or 174-mile, range. Related: People in Denmark are earning up to $1,530 just by parking their EVs The second pillar of their plan is their commitment to infrastructure . During the upcoming 18 months, they plan to increase the number of fast chargers in Europe from 4,600 to 5,600. Their third pillar is new home and business chargers; their double-speed seven kilowatt (kW) home charger can recharge a vehicle in five and a half hours. Meanwhile, their 22 kW charger, targeted at businesses, can charge an EV in two hours. They also showcased the xStorage , their home energy storage system. And they have a scheme to get owners free power. xStorage is bidirectional, which means with it EV owners can send power to the grid from a car battery pack. They have been testing the free energy idea in Denmark. Nissan explained in a press release, “Using Nissan bidirectional charging, customers can draw energy from the grid to power their car or van and then ‘sell’ back to the grid for others to use. This means, once a nominal charge has been paid by the business for the installation of a V2G charger there are no fuel or energy costs – just free power for your EV.” They announced a United Kingdom collaboration with OVO allowing owners to buy xStorage at a discounted price, enabling them to charge an EV or start selling power to the grid. Nissan said these owners could make around £350, or around $461, a year. They hope to explore the idea of free power for EV owners in other regions of Europe. Via Nissan and Electrek Images via Nissan

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