Elevated bamboo housing protects an Indian community from floods

October 17, 2019 by  
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After the catastrophic 2017 Northeast India floods ravaged the state of Assam, the nonprofit SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) teamed up with local organization NEADS (North-East Affected Area Development Society) to create 80 core houses that are resistant to flooding. Designed and built in collaboration with the local community in Assam’s subdivision of Golaghat, the 80-unit development draws inspiration from the region’s vernacular of stilt houses built from bamboo. Concrete footings and rubberized coatings were introduced to strengthen the elevated, disaster-resilient homes. Located within India’s largest bamboo reserve, near the major Brahmaputra River, Golaghat lies in the valley of Assam and experiences a tropical monsoon and rainforest climate that brings heavy rainfall and flooding almost every year, problems that are compounded by the region’s high seismic activity. Related: Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides “Vulnerable to natural disasters, the self-reliant Assamese communities have developed indigenous construction and planning techniques over the centuries, creating a built-environment exclusive to the terrain,” SEEDS explained. “However, due to haphazard development in the region, the traditional knowledge systems are being ignored, leading to an unsafe environment, loss of lives and livelihoods. The intervention was formulated with a vision to build resilient communities through participatory design, illustrating a model of contemporary vernacular architecture.” With financial support from Indian conglomerate Godrej, the community-driven project saw the completion of 80 bamboo stilt houses, each 23 square meters in size and designed to meet Sphere Humanitarian Standards. The stilts that elevate the house are tall enough to create a spacious shaded area underneath that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as weaving, rearing livestock, storing boats or recreation. The building’s flexible joinery system also allows the homeowners to raise the floor even higher in case of overflooding. The construction is strengthened with deeper bamboo footings encased in concrete, rubberized bamboo columns for waterproofing and cross-bracing. + SEEDS Images via SEEDS

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Elevated bamboo housing protects an Indian community from floods

EEA reports poor air quality caused premature deaths of 400,000 Europeans in 2016

October 17, 2019 by  
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Coal-fired power plants, vehicle-clogged highways and fossil-fuel spewing factories have contributed to the growing European air pollution dilemma. Industries, households and vehicles all emit dangerous pollutants that are harmful to human health. Indeed, the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlighted the issue when reporting that over 400,000 Europeans met their untimely demise in 2016 due to poor air quality. Air pollution is detrimental to society, harms human health and ultimately increases health care costs. An air quality expert at the EEA and author of the study, Alberto Gonzales Ortiz, warned that air pollution is “currently the most important environmental risk to human health.” Related: Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , “Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concerns include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).” The presence of air pollutants produced by fuel combustion – whether from mobile sources like vehicles or from stationery sources such as power plants, biomass use, industry or households – above European skies means the continent is in serious need of more effective air quality plans. Current European Union (EU) legislation requires air quality evaluations to assess whether dangerous particulates have exceeded certain thresholds.  As early as 2017, the EU set limits on certain air pollutants to tackle the scourge that is prematurely claiming hundreds of thousands of European lives each year. In fact, this past July, the European Commission asked the EU’s Court of Justice to reprimand Spain and Portugal for their poor air quality practices. More recently, the British government proposed a new environment bill that legally targets the reduction of fine particulate pollution by requiring automakers to recall vehicles with sub-par emission standards. The WHO has repeatedly said that air pollution is to blame for high percentages of global mortality linked to lung cancer (29%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (43%), acute respiratory infection (17%), ischemic heart disease (25%), stroke (24%) and other cardiovascular ailments. Low-and middle-income countries are disproportionately more vulnerable to the particulate pollution burden, especially poor and marginalized populations. Interestingly, air pollution is also the main driver of climate change . Emissions have been among the largest contributors to global warming , accelerating glacial snow melt as well as causing extreme weather conditions that affect agriculture and food security. Ortiz added, “When we fight pollution, we also fight climate change as well as promote more healthy behavior. It’s a win-win.” Via Reuters Image via dan19878

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EEA reports poor air quality caused premature deaths of 400,000 Europeans in 2016

Kids are hungry for books about eco-activists, in what publishers call ‘the Greta effect’

August 14, 2019 by  
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The soaring popularity of the feisty, outspoken environmental advocate – who is only 16 – has caused a rise in young people seeking stories about saving the planet. Publishers coin the new trend the “Greta Thunberg Effect” and are publishing children’s book about climate change in record time. Publishers have pumped out books across a range of topics related to the environment, from endangered species to climate change, and sales have doubled in the last year, according to Nielsen Book Research. Related: Greta Thunberg will sail across Atlantic to attend the UN climate summit “I absolutely would say there has been a Greta Thunberg effect. She has galvanized the appetite of young people for change, and that has galvanized our appetite, as publishers, for stories that empower our readers to make those changes,” said Rachel Kellehar, who heads nonfiction for Nosy Crow, a publishing company working on a collection of stories about environmental advocates and featuring Greta on the cover. Authors, too, are noticing the change in interest among young people, and seizing the opportunity to write stories that motivate and inspire them. “I want not only to educate but to inspire a new wave of eco-warriors. Kids are the future. Hopefully if they have been educated about environmental issues from a young age they will go on – and go further – than we are right now,” said author James Sellick, who wrote a story about orangutans and deforestation . Because of the popularity, and uncertainty around its longevity, publishers like Nosy Crow are turning topical children’s books around at fast speeds, such as with the new collection of short stories the company will publish that will be cranked out in four months— something unheard of for children’s genres. Part of the rush is also riding Greta’s wave of popularity to October, when she will find out if she wins the Novel Peace Prize. “Whether or not she wins the Nobel peace prize, October will be a key moment to reach out and say Greta’s doing this amazing thing, but also lots of other people you’ve never heard of all around the world are doing amazing things. From young girls in Indonesia who have got plastic bags banned, to an engineer in India who is creating artificial glaciers” said Kellehar. Via The Guardian Image via Flickr

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Kids are hungry for books about eco-activists, in what publishers call ‘the Greta effect’

A global guide to ‘restoration hotspots’ for tropical rainforests

August 2, 2019 by  
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The five countries with the largest potential are Brazil, Indonesia, India, Madagascar and Colombia.

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A global guide to ‘restoration hotspots’ for tropical rainforests

Studio Lotus designs an innovative and low-impact visitor center for Jodhpurs Mehrangarh Fort

July 4, 2019 by  
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Delhi-based multidisciplinary design practice Studio Lotus has won a competition to design the new visitor center and knowledge center for Jodpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, one of India’s largest forts that dates back to the 15th century. Now a major tourist destination and repository for cultural and historical artifacts, the Mehrangarh Fort has been undergoing adaptive reuse and redevelopment projects that include the recent design competition organized by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust. Studio Lotus’ winning proposal for “sensitive spatial interventions” was selected due to its use of a highly flexible construction methodology capable of handling high volumes of pedestrian traffic with minimal ecological impact. Selected from three finalists, Studio Lotus’ winning proposal was conceived as an “architectural system” rather than a set of buildings. The modular construction — made primarily from metal and stone to blend in with the environs — are scalable and can be easily inserted and adapted for a variety of areas within the Mehrangarh Fort. The construction system can be used to create a variety of structures, from raised pathways to buildings. “Studio Lotus’ proposal seeks to create new linkages in the fort precinct by means of sensitive spatial interventions that bolster the existing circulation scheme,” the architects explained in a project statement. “The towering edifice of Mehrangarh and its various outcroppings constitute a staggeringly intricate built character, as much a testament to the beauty of the built form as it is an embodiment of the region’s culture and heritage. It was pertinent that any additions or modifications to this dense fabric enmesh with the existing; the proposed intervention aims to do just that — through expressive and adaptable additions that make the most of modern construction technology, yet stand deferential to the historic site’s timeless magnificence.” Related: An ancient Jaipur palace property is transformed into a modern restaurant Located at the junction of the Jai Pol Plaza and a new parallel pathway along the main fort entrance, the new visitor center will mark an alternate entrance and be built from woven steel lattice-based modules fitted with stone ‘tukdi’ slabs. The Knowledge Center will be set on the northwestern ramparts overlooking the Chohelao Bagh and be made up of a series of interconnected decks descending from the Palace Plaza and arranged around a steep lightwell. The programming along the decks will progress from public to more private spaces and include exhibition galleries, seminar halls, community spaces and a space for scholar studies. + Studio Lotus Images via Studio Lotus

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Studio Lotus designs an innovative and low-impact visitor center for Jodhpurs Mehrangarh Fort

Sustainable timber house in the UK is a modernist’s dream

July 4, 2019 by  
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When it came time for London-based architect Catja de Haas to build her own home outside of the city, her first objective was to design a sustainable retreat that, although modern in aesthetic and scale, would blend in seamlessly with nature. Designed in collaboration with Takero Shimazaki Architects , the resulting Burwood House was built to Passivhaus standards featuring sustainable CLT cladding, a green roof and several energy-reducing strategies. Located in southeast England, the Burwood home design consists of three block volumes topped with a green roof . The two principle forms are linked together by a third volume, which wraps around the side of the structure. Large roof overhangs create several shaded outdoor spaces, and help regulate solar gains in the summer time. Related: Circular garden walkway cuts straight through Japanese timber home Clad in a light-hued oak CLT panels , the home holds court in an idyllic setting, enveloped by a thick forest to the back and a rolling green countryside that expands to the seaside. As for the home’s building materials, the architect wanted to use this picturesque natural setting to create a home design that is harmonious with nature. “Burwood is a type of wood that grows in existing woods, becoming a new tree”, de Haas explains. “It is the name of the house, and we hope the house will itself slowly disappear in the green.” In addition to its timber cladding, the home uses floor-to-ceiling glass panels on the ground level to further blend the home into its setting. Surrounded by several sliding glass doors that provide optimal natural ventilation, the main living area is a light-filled oasis . The soft, neutral color palette found on the exterior continues throughout the home’s expansive interior. Built-in furniture, along with oak frame doors and concrete touches create an airy  minimalist atmosphere that is both modern and welcoming. + Catja de Haas Architects + Takero Shimazaki Architects Via Wallpaper Images via Catja de Hass Architects

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Sustainable timber house in the UK is a modernist’s dream

Ending animal exploitation in tourism with World Animal Protection

June 13, 2019 by  
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World Animal Protection works internationally to end the suffering of animals and urge all people to do more to protect our furred, feathered and scaly friends. World Animal Protection (formerly World Society for the Protection of Animals) works on many fronts— including wild animals, farmed animals and those suddenly displaced by disasters. Ontario-based campaign director Melissa Matlow talked to Inhabitat about World Animal Protection’s work to end the exploitation of animals in the name of tourism. Inhabitat: How and when did World Animal Protection first get involved with educating tour operators about animal attractions? Melissa Matlow: World Animal Protection has been campaigning to protect wild animals that are suffering for tourism for several years now. More than 20 years ago we started working with local partners to bring an end to bear dancing in Greece, Turkey and India, and bear baiting in Pakistan. We have been working to protect the welfare of elephants in Asia since 2005. In 2015, we launched the Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign globally and working to influence the tourism industry became one of the organization’s priority campaigns. We decided to shine a spotlight on the problem of elephant riding first because it is one of the cruelest activities and tourist demand is fueling the poaching of elephants from the wild. In 2017 we released our Taken for a Ride Report , which reviewed the welfare of nearly 3,000 elephants used for tourism in 220 tourist venues in six countries (Thailand, India, Nepal, Laos, Sri Lanka and Cambodia). We discovered that the majority of these elephants (77 percent) were living in grossly substandard conditions. Related: Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism Inhabitat: Can you tell me a little bit about the TripAdvisor campaign? Matlow: We showed TripAdvisor our research into the animal welfare and conservation impacts of Wildlife Tourism Attractions (WTA) and how wildlife lovers were unknowingly causing harm to animals by participating in these activities. Tourists were seeing and buying tickets to cruel attractions that offer elephant rides and tiger selfies on TripAdvisor and leaving positive reviews. After more than half a million people joined our campaign and signed our petition asking TripAdvisor to stop selling cruel attractions, they listened and announced in 2016 their commitment to stop selling some problematic attractions and set up an educational portal for people to learn more. Inhabitat:  What other tour operators and companies has World Animal Protection worked closely with?                    Matlow:  World Animal Protection has worked with the Travel Corporation, G Adventures, Intrepid, World Expeditions and many other tour operators to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. Together we formed the Coalition for Ethical Wildlife Tourism to shift tourist demand towards humane and sustainable alternatives. Inhabitat:  What have been some of your biggest wins? Matlow:  We are now working with some of the largest travel companies in the world to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. More than 200 tour operators have signed our pledge committing to never offer, sell or promote elephant rides and shows. After more than half a million people signed our petition and joined our movement, TripAdvisor committed to stop selling tickets to cruel attractions. Expedia soon followed suit and in 2017 we convinced Instagram to educate its users of the cruelty that happens behind the scenes for wildlife selfies. Inhabitat:  What are still the biggest challenges? Matlow: We need to reach the right people— wildlife lovers who are unknowingly causing harm by participating in wildlife entertainment activities and the travel companies who sell them tickets. One of our challenges is to debunk the many myths that these tourists and travel companies are commonly subjected to. Many tourist attractions dupe people into thinking they are protecting the animals and serving some kind of conservation and education benefit but nothing could be further from the truth. Tourists don’t realize that these attractions are commercially breeding and trading wild animals for the sole purpose of entertaining them. The demand is fueling the capture of wild animals from the wild. The animals suffer every day in small tanks and cages to entertain tourists and won’t ever be released into the wild. Tourists aren’t learning about how to keep the animals in the wild, where they belong. If anything, they are being desensitized to their suffering in captivity and learning that it is okay to get up close to them to feed them, pet them and take wildlife selfies. Inhabitat: What are the most important things for tourists to keep in mind when evaluating animal attractions? Matlow: Our simple rule of thumb is— if you can ride it, hug it or take a selfie with a wild animal, chances are it is cruel, so don’t do it. The best place to see wild animals is in the wild from a respectful distance. People can download our Animal-Friendly Travel Pocket Guide and visit our website to learn more about the work we do to encourage animal-friendly tourism and to protect the welfare of animals globally. +World Animal Protection Images via World Animal Protection

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Innovative window solar charger is designed for apartment dwellers

June 13, 2019 by  
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Just months ago, the innovative team at Grouphug revealed the adorable Solar Cat that made the world go “Aww.” Now, the New-York based tech company has just released a very practical Window Solar Charger designed to let apartment dwellers generate their own solar energy in order to power their devices. Recently launched on Kickstarter , the Window Solar Charger was conceived from the idea that everyone should be able to generate their own clean energy. While homeowners have much more control over their power sources, renters and people on the go often have very little options to live a truly sustainable lifestyle. Related: Meet Solar Cat, a cute and creative take on renewable energy After years of being frustrated with how hard it is to adapt solar energy in her own NYC apartment, Grouphug’s founder and lead product designer, Krystal Persaud, decided to invent a personal solar-powered charger geared toward those apartment dwellers who want to be more sustainable. Essentially, the charger is a 13-inch-by-10-inch bamboo frame with four thin solar panels. The charger can be hung in any window to soak up direct sunlight into the battery that is built into the frame. After approximately eight to 10 hours of sunlight, phones and other small devices can be plugged directly into the frame’s USB port. Devices can be charged day or night, and on average, a full battery can charge iPhones two times and Android phones one to one-and-a-half times. + Grouphug + Window Solar Charger Kickstarter Images via Grouphug

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Innovative window solar charger is designed for apartment dwellers

India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

May 20, 2019 by  
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The Indian government has embarked on many large scale renewable energy projects that are predicted to enable the world’s second most populous country to surpass its commitment to cut carbon emissions. According to a recently released report from Moody’s, 45 percent of all energy produced in India will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022. This is impressive, considering India only committed to 40 percent non-fossil fuel sources under the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Although coal remains the largest energy source, the aggressive additions of renewable sources will decrease coal’s overall contribution. Moody’s report, “Power Asia – Climate goals, declining costs of renewables signal decreasing reliance on coal power,” focuses on the role of investors in the energy industry as well as predictions for investments. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 “There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India’s interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables,” Sameer Kwatra, from the Natural Resources Defense Council,  said . The Indian government has invested in large scale wind, power and solar projects, including tripling its solar power capacity in three years. Much of the increase in renewable energy has been due to decreased prices in renewable technology and interest from private investors. If battery production and storage capacity also increase, the report expects that renewable energy sector growth could spike. Similarly, banks and private investors are under increased pressure to withdraw investments in fossil fuel companies and pipeline projects. Despite the fact that investments in renewable energy have been higher than fossil fuel investments for three years in a row, the coal industry is still growing steadily alongside the renewable industry, with Indian populations using more electricity annually. India’s success is a considerable achievement for the entire world. After the U.S. and China, India is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases . Via CleanTechnica Image via DoshiJi

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

Breezy home in Mexico uses strategic cross ventilation and natural light to reduce its energy use

May 20, 2019 by  
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RDLP Arquitectos have unveiled Casa Puebla, a beautiful family home that incorporates traditional Mexican design with modern passive features . The stunning project features a contemporary shell over two rectangular volumes clad in raw concrete, paying homage to the tilework found in traditional Mexican constructions. The design features several passive design elements, including cross ventilation, natural light and sun shades, all of which reduce the home’s energy needs. According to the architects, one of the principle inspirations behind Casa Puebla’s beautiful,  nature-inspired design was the Popocatépetl volcano, one of the most beloved natural icons in central Mexico. Using the fiery landmark as a pillar of the design, architects then blended a series of natural elements with an avant-garde aesthetic. Related: The Nogal House saves energy with smart site-specific design The structure was built with two interconnecting rectangular volumes that form an L-shape. To add a bit of “visual contradiction,” the heavier concrete block was set on top of the lower glass-enclosed block. This unusual feature was instrumental in creating a double-height formation that ensures continual vertical ventilation throughout the interior. In addition, the design was strategic in creating multiple outdoor nooks that are shaded by the roof of the upper level. These outdoor areas, used for reading, entertaining and dining, forge a strong connection between the interior and the outdoors. As an implicit tribute to the local vernacular, the home was built with locally sourced, natural materials, primarily concrete and wood. The exposed concrete cladding , which provides a strong thermal envelope, pays homage to the use of tiles in traditional Mexican architecture. Vertical wooden shutters provide shade from the harsh summer sun while diffusing natural light throughout the interior. The use of concrete continues inside, where board-formed concrete makes up the walls and the pillars that frame the floor-to-ceiling glass panels . On the ground floor, an open floor plan houses the kitchen, dining and living rooms, and sliding glass doors lead to the exterior spaces. Contemporary furniture and elements run throughout the home, including a “floating” staircase that leads to the upper level. + RDLP Arquitectos Via Archdaily Images via RDLP Arquitectos

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Breezy home in Mexico uses strategic cross ventilation and natural light to reduce its energy use

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