Boring Company confirms Elon Musk’s plan to use excavated dirt for low-cost housing

May 9, 2018 by  
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Will Elon Musk foray into affordable housing next? Earlier this week, he said on Twitter that The Boring Company would transform dirt from tunnel digging into bricks for low-cost housing . A spokesperson confirmed the plans to Bloomberg , and said, “there will be an insane amount of bricks.” The Boring Company will be using dirt from tunnel digging to create bricks for low cost housing — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 7, 2018 A Boring Company spokesperson told Bloomberg bricks would come from “excavated muck.” Musk has indicated in the past he could sell excavated materials; in March he tweeted about kits of life-size LEGO -like interlocking bricks to make structures inspired by ancient Egypt. And when asked if the bricks could be used for affordable housing around that time, he said yes, and that “two people could build the outer walls of a small house in a day or so.” Related: Elon Musk’s Boring Company to sell life-size ‘LEGO-like’ bricks dug from the earth It seems like he’s serious, but there are still plenty of questions around such an endeavor — such as how many housing units Musk could build with Boring Company bricks. Bloomberg spoke with University of California, Los Angeles lecturer Juan Matute who said Musk’s tweet “assumes that housing costs are driven by construction materials , and particularly, construction materials that can be replaced by bricks. That’s not the case.” Labor and land drive prices more, according to Bloomberg, at least in California where The Boring Company is currently tunneling. Another potential issue is that chemicals have contaminated land underneath Los Angeles. If contaminants are present in excavated dirt, it may be difficult for The Boring Company to transform that dirt into bricks. Matute told Bloomberg challenges might not prevent Musk from following through on the plan, saying, “That doesn’t mean The Boring Company can’t buy some land and build a few low-cost houses, with a partner like Habitat for Humanity. And say, ‘Look what we did.’” The Boring Company said future offices could be erected with their bricks, according to Bloomberg. The company’s Frequently Asked Questions page said they’re “investigating technologies that will recycle the earth into useful bricks to be used to build structures,” and that these bricks “can potentially be used as a portion of the tunnel lining itself.” + Elon Musk Twitter Via Bloomberg Image via Steve Jurvetson on Flickr

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Boring Company confirms Elon Musk’s plan to use excavated dirt for low-cost housing

Hawaii sets the most ambitious goal of any US state by vowing to be carbon neutral by 2045

May 9, 2018 by  
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The legislature of Hawaii has approved two bills that together put the state on the path to becoming carbon neutral by 2045 – the most ambitious climate change goal of any state in the United States. Bille bill 1986 establishes a carbon-offset program, while House bill 2182 convenes a task force to determine the best course of action to achieve carbon neutrality within the next three decades. “This is the biggest step forward on climate change any state has yet taken,” said Hawaii representative Chris Lee in a statement . As an island nation, Hawaii is taking such strong action to combat climate change in part because it is particularly vulnerable to its impacts. In passing the bills, legislators cited a study which estimated that Hawaii would endure $19 billion worth of damage on private property and significantly more on public infrastructure as a result of rising sea levels. In addition to its recently passed climate change legislation, Hawaii was the first state to formally adopt the goals established under the Paris climate agreement after President Trump withdrew the United States from it. Related: Helsinki unveils plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2035 Prior to the passage of these bills, Rhode Island was the American state with the most ambitious climate change goal, which pledged to achieve an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Hawaii now stands as one of the world’s most aggressive states in its fight against climate change, sharing the same carbon neutrality timeline as Sweden. For context, carbon neutrality is expected in Iceland by 2040, Norway by 2030, Costa Rica by 2021, and the Maldives by 2020. While these steps are important, they are not sufficient. More governments must make similarly aggressive pledges toward carbon neutrality if climate change is to be halted. Hawaii governor David Ige,  who has been supportive of sustainability initiatives in the past , is expected to sign the bills into law. Via Quartz Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Hawaii sets the most ambitious goal of any US state by vowing to be carbon neutral by 2045

10.3 million people are employed in the renewable energy industry

May 9, 2018 by  
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For the first time ever, the number of people employed in renewable energy has passed the 10 million mark, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In 2017, 10.3 million people were working in renewable energy, with 60 percent of the jobs in Asia. Of renewable energy jobs, solar power was the largest employer with nearly 3.4 million jobs. In 2017, the renewable energy industry created over 500,000 new jobs, according to IRENA, based in Abu Dhabi. That’s a 5.3 percent increase over 2016. The countries with the most jobs in renewable energy are the United States, China, India, Japan, Germany, and Brazil, and they account for over 70 percent of renewable energy industry jobs in the world. IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin said in the agency’s statement, “Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector.” Related: Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states The number of solar power jobs was up nearly nine percent over 2016 after what IRENA described as a record 94 gigawatts in installations last year. Around two-thirds, or around 2.2 million, of solar energy jobs are in China. Liquid biofuels is another big employer with 1.9 million jobs. Large hydropower is up there as well with 1.5 million jobs. Jobs in the wind industry decreased some at 1.15 million jobs globally. IRENA said while growing amounts of countries are enjoying clean power’s socioeconomic benefits, most manufacturing happens in relatively few countries. Amin said, “The data also underscores an increasingly regionalized picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social, and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident. Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonization of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28 million jobs in the sector by 2050.” + International Renewable Energy Agency Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 ) and the International Renewable Energy Agency

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Designers envision innovative affordable housing for Sydney

May 7, 2018 by  
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The Sydney Affordable Housing Challenge , organized by Bee Breeders , calls for ideas that try to solve the affordable housing shortage in Sydney. The competition attracted worldwide talent as designers attempted to create innovative solutions. Many of the successful entries offered more than just housing — they designed spaces that would build communities. Bridging Affordable Housing, the winning entry, intersperses  green-roof prefab housing units throughout the city. The project involves “a simple module : a structural bridge pier with decking that contains prefabricated housing units topped by a green roof.” Instead of stacking the units, the team designed the houses above the city’s streets like bridges. The second prize winner is “Newborn in the Crevice”, which combines housing units with public spaces in a structural grid. The simple vertical arrangement makes the design adaptable to population needs and economic conditions. Related: Tiny new flat-packed off-grid homes offer affordable housing breakthrough The third place project, TOD and Waterfront Housing, envisions “stacked prefabricated units floating within the bays of  Sydney .” It creates  waterfront  housing and commercial spaces and introduces a rail system to reduce dependence on cars. Finally, The BB Green Award winner was project Water Smart Home Sydney, which aims to sustainably harness energy from several sources, through both passive and active systems. The project authors said they hope their design helps to “…contribute ideas that could bring desirable living within reach of the majority of the population and lift the burden of housing affordability for young people and low-income families.” + Sydney Affordable Housing Challenge Via Archdaily

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Tiny homes made of concrete pipes could be the next big thing in micro housing

January 10, 2018 by  
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The micro-housing trend has really taken off over the last decade, and a new age of tiny urban homes is now upon us. Created by James Law Cybertecture , the Opod Tube House is made from a repurposed concrete pipe and designed as an affordable home for young people who struggle with housing costs in the world’s major cities. Unveiled recently in Hong Kong, the tiny tube houses are created out of repurposed concrete water pipes that measure a little over eight feet in diameter. The tubes are designed to accommodate one or two people and come with approximately 1000 square feet of living space. The interiors are equipped with the standard amenities, including a living room with a bench that converts into a bed, a mini-fridge, a bathroom, a shower and plenty of storage space for clothes and personal items. Related: Totally Tubular TubeHotel In Mexico Offers Up Accommodations In Recycled Concrete Pipes According to the architect behind the design, James Law, the inspiration behind the tiny tube homes is practical, both for young people looking for homes as well as city governments trying to provide affordable options. Although the structures are far from being lightweight at 22 tons apiece, they require little in terms of installation and can be easily secured to one another, which reduces installation costs. The tubes are easily stacked and can be installed in any small unused spaces commonly found in cities. The architect envisions entire tube communities installed in alleyways, under bridges, etc. Law explained in an interview with Curbed , that the concept is feasible for any urban environment , “Sometimes there’s some land left over between buildings which are rather narrow so it’s not easy to build a new building. We could put some OPods in there and utilize that land.” + Opod Tube Housing + James Law Cybertecture Via Apartment Therapy Images via Opod Tube Housing Facebook

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San Jose city council approves tiny home village for homeless

December 13, 2017 by  
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San Jose has been struggling with homelessness , and think they have an answer: tiny homes . The City Council recently voted nine to two approving a pilot program to construct a 40-unit tiny house village . Architecture firm Gensler unveiled two design concepts created pro-bono for the city earlier this month, with houses designed to be both aesthetically attractive and efficient. San Jose’s city council just approved a year-long tiny home village program. Elected officials must now determine three potential sites for the pilot. The idea was suggested around a year ago, and would offer 80- to 140-square foot shelters in what are called Bridge Housing Communities. San Jose seems to view the housing as an interim solution, referring to the shelters as emergency sleeping cabins . Around 25 people could dwell in each community, and The Mercury News said the city aims to have a village in each of the 10 city council districts. Related: Dutch studio unveils colorful solar-powered village for area homeless Gensler offered two designs, one called Folding Home and the other Better Together. A small bed, locking door, and windows could be features of the tiny homes. The city also said each site could have community bathrooms and showers, a cooking facility, common areas, and case management onsite to help residents. Some elected leaders have criticized the city’s plan for its cost: $73,125 per tiny house for 40 units. Some people have suggested sanctioned encampments as an alternative, but others argued against legal tent cities in Silicon Valley. Nonprofit Destination: Home executive director Jennifer Loving told The Mercury News, “Sleeping in a tent outside is not the best we can do. We have to start somewhere and a home, even temporary, is better than a tent on the ground.” + Gensler Via The Mercury News ( 1 , 2 ) and the City of San Jose ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Gensler/City of San Jose

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San Jose city council approves tiny home village for homeless

Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

December 13, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found the first solid evidence that prehistoric ticks consumed dinosaur blood. The discovery of a 99-million year old piece of amber in Myanmar offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Cretaceous animals, large and small. Trapped within the fossilized sap, the tick is seen grasping onto a feather presumed to be from a feathered dinosaur. Though Mezozoic-era blood-sucking insects encased in amber have become part of the public’s imagination thanks to the  Jurassic Park films, the fossil record previously lacked clear evidence that dinosaur blood was on the menu. “Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife,” study lead researcher Enrique Peñalver told EurekaAlert , “but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking.” Although the tick in life did indeed drink dinosaur blood, it is not possible to extract DNA from an amber-enclosed insect, a la Jurassic Park , because of the short life of complex DNA molecules. Nonetheless, the fossil adds considerably to our understanding of ecology in the age of the dinosaurs. “The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight,” said Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, researcher at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. Related: Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil “So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on,” continued Pérez-de la Fuente, “the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird , as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.” In addition to the dino-centric discovery, researchers also identified a new species of tick, dubbed Deinocroton draculi or “Dracula’s terrible tick,”encased in a separate piece of amber. Via ScienceAlert Images via University of Oxford

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Scotland’s latest wind farm will help fund 500 new affordable homes

April 20, 2017 by  
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Scotland’s Berwickshire Housing Association wants to capture the wind to boost their mission. By launching a new wind farm in the Scottish Borders, and selling the power to the National Grid, the charitable organization hopes to generate enough revenue to build 500 affordable homes over the next 25 years. Dubbed Fishermen Three, the 7.5-megawatt project at Hoprigshiels in Cockburnspath is a joint effort between BHA and the equally philanthropic Community Energy Scotland . The latter’s share of the revenue will enable it to help communities across Scotland leverage their own renewable energy initiatives. “The idea for the wind farm came when BHA realized that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline,” Helen Forsyth, chief executive of BHA, said in a statement. “The wind farm will provide BHA with a reliable, predictable, low-maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.” Related: 6 reasons the clean energy revolution doesn’t need Trump’s blessing Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of CES, said that the United Kingdom’s energy system is shifting, but with changes come fresh opportunities. “We want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new low-carbon energy developments,” he added. Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, agrees that renewables are the way of the future. He said, “Locally owned renewables in areas such as the Borders have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change at a local level.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash

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Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

April 20, 2017 by  
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For decades, scientists have known that summertime brings liquid meltwater to Antarctica’s ice sheets. But until now, they’ve had no idea just how extensive the continent’s network of rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls really is. A new analysis by scientists at  Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that warmer months cause far more extensive melting than previously thought. That could be a problem as global temperatures continue to rise. Surface water can damage the ice shelves , weakening them and causing them to collapse into the ocean. Some of the channels identified in this survey allow meltwater to run harmlessly off into the sea, but in other areas, standing water can be a huge problem. In 2002, more than 2,000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained through the ice into the ocean below, causing the entire area to rapidly disintegrate. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc The presence of water on the frozen continent does not yet appear to be the cause of widespread problems—but there’s also the possibility that warmer temperatures are causing sub-surface ice melt. Unfortunately, that phenomenon has been researched in far less detail, so it’s unclear exactly what effect it will have on the ice and rising sea levels in the future. Via Phys.org Images via NASA and Wikimedia Commons

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ExxonMobil wants a sanctions waiver for Russian oil project

April 20, 2017 by  
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The United States imposed sanctions on Russia back in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea. But it appears oil giant ExxonMobil would like an exception for their own profit. They’re seeking a sanctions waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department to pursue drilling in the Black Sea with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft . It seems U.S. sanctions are just too inconvenient for ExxonMobil . Apparently they sent in their waiver application when Barack Obama was president, and did not drop it once Donald Trump entered office. The application didn’t come up during Senate hearings for former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson before he was confirmed as Secretary of State. Tillerson and other ExxonMobil officials then said they hadn’t lobbied against the sanctions on Russia. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation Tillerson and the officials said ExxonMobil did receive a waiver to finish drilling an exploration well in Arctic waters near Russia. ExxonMobil officials also said they’d exhorted members of the Obama administration to align U.S. sanctions with European sanctions which allowed some flexibility for European companies to continue working on Russian projects. The Wall Street Journal first reported on ExxonMobil’s sanctions waiver request yesterday, and The New York Times confirmed the story with an oil industry official. An ExxonMobil spokesperson refused to comment to The New York Times on the waiver application. The application will go before the Trump administration at a tenuous time, as an inquiry into Russia’s potential influence on the American presidential election continues. At a 2014 Exxon annual meeting, Tillerson as CEO said, “We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively, and that’s a very hard thing to do.” But as Secretary of State he has not suggested sanctions be lifted. Rosneft and Exxon made a deal back in 2011 to invest $3.2 billion to explore the Black Sea and the Arctic Ocean, with the pledge to share in the findings if oil were discovered. Obama’s U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said on Twitter , “If the Trump administration approves this waiver, then all that tough talk last week about Russia was just that – talk.” Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and President of Russia

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