How Indian companies use carbon pricing as a planning tool

December 21, 2017 by  
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Last month, at the fourth annual Climate Business Forum, hosted in New Delhi by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, there was a buzz in the air about business opportunities in clean solutions, as Indian government ministers, leading companies and investors presented their plans to scale up solar, green buildings and distributed energy storage using disruptive business models and innovative financing.

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How Indian companies use carbon pricing as a planning tool

INTERVIEW: How one man is fighting to save the world’s last living root bridges

December 19, 2017 by  
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If you travel through the forests of Meghalaya, Northern India, you may come across something extraordinary: bridges made from the living branches and roots of rubber trees . These often century-old structures have been tended and shaped to create sturdy natural crossings over rivers and gorges. Patrick Rogers is passionate about this type of botanical architecture and has made it his mission to preserve and document the knowledge about how to construct them. Read on to find out more about Patrick and his noble endeavor. What piqued your interest in botanical architecture? As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a strong interest in historical architecture. I love old forts, palaces, and ruins. Then, after traveling to Northeast India to study abroad for University in 2009, I became fascinated with the tribal cultures of that region. The root bridges seemed like a sort of intersection of these two interests. But, frankly, before I visited the Khasi Hills, in the Indian state of Meghalaya, I had no idea that botanical architecture even existed. It really was something that I stumbled on to. The Khasi Hills are the sort of place where, each time you visit, the more you learn and the more interesting the place becomes. I ended up traveling again and again to Meghalaya, trekking from village to village in various remote corners of the state, at first more to find out about the culture than anything more specific. But each time I did so, I kept getting new, tantalizing little scraps of information about living root bridges. With each new bit of information, my interest in the subject grew. Slowly it became clear that, rather than there only being a few living root bridges, there were dozens, if not hundreds, and that these were part of a widespread, centuries-old, cultural practice. So, for me, botanical architecture was kind of like a story that just kept getting bigger and bigger. How did you feel the first time you saw a living root bridge? The first time I visited a living root bridge was in 2011 and it was under rather terrible circumstances. I was visiting the area with my brother, and we were staying in a hotel. The day before, one of the other guests at the hotel had gone to visit Nongriat (the village the root bridge is in), and had died in a flash flood – the region’s monsoon seasons are some of the most intense rain events in the world. When my brother and I went to Nongriat, the whole village was organized into search parties, combing a nearby river to try and find the woman’s body…it was a truly weird time to be in the village. Certainly, it underscored just how dangerous the area can be. Visiting Nongriat’s living root bridge, my brother and I were certainly impressed by its beauty, though what we had been told was that Meghalaya’s living architecture was confined only to this one area. That didn’t ring true at the time and it seemed to me that there had to be more, but it was a bad time to be in the village. It was, in part, wanting to visit under better circumstances that led me to return and travel in the area in much more depth later on. Related: One man’s race to save India’s last remaining living root bridges Why do you want to preserve these bridges, and pass on the knowledge of how to build them? What drives you to save this type of knowledge? What the bridges represent, at least to me, is something very special. They are both an incredible chapter in the history of the world’s built heritage – entirely worthy of preservation purely from a cultural conservation standpoint – and yet they are also something which I think can, down the line, inspire an entirely new and completely sustainable way of thinking about architecture. They are an ancient way of solving a very basic problem. They seem to have been around for hundreds of years, yet the principals used to create them could be applied to, and developed in, the modern world. In a time when so much cultural heritage is disappearing, and when sustainability is more important than ever, the fact that a tribal community in the remote hills of Northeast India has successfully grown and used dozens (if not hundreds… it’s hard to be sure!) of self-sustaining, living, botanical structures, just seems important to me. But, having spent many months in the jungles of the region, I’ve found that the bridges are under threat and that a large number have disappeared in only the past few years. This is a rather disappointing fact. I wish it weren’t the case, but the sad truth seems to be that the practice is well on its way out in many places. Yet, when I began this project, there was virtually no trace of information pertaining to the threats the root bridges faced. Simply pointing out that the bridges are under threat and publicly making some of that information available is a major goal of my project. Also, I think it’s worth saying that the bridges are just astoundingly beautiful. The world is a more interesting place with them in it. Is there much interest in these bridges from the public sphere? Or is there a struggle to ignite other people’s interest? I think when people view a picture of a living root bridge, just hear about them, or even travel to a place where root bridges can be easily seen, they find them interesting. Certainly, people rarely deny that they’re beautiful or unusual. It’s easy to take a lovely picture of one. But going into detail about the wider phenomenon – explaining about them in depth and mentioning the threats that they face – is rather difficult. I think this is mostly because the overwhelming majority of the bridges are incredibly obscure. It’s kind of hard to call for the conservation of a thing which almost nobody knows anything about. Right now, while there is a little bit of information about the bridges online. This is really quite inadequate. For example, just typing the term “Living Root Bridges” into Google, and you’ll find that 15 out of the 20 top image results are of the same two bridges (the Nongriat Double Decker and a root bridge in the village of Riwai). I would venture that roughly the same ratio continues when it comes to the overall body of information easily available about the bridges. That means that while there are a great many living bridges, and a great many of them are threatened, there’s virtually no easily accessible information about them. This makes trying to explain in depth about the phenomenon difficult. Still, interest in the bridges is growing, if slowly. I think it just needs to become common knowledge that there is much more to the story of botanical architecture than the few living bridges that have already become famous. Related: One man’s race to save India’s last remaining living root bridges You mentioned that many of these bridges have been torn down in favor of modern, metal bridges, even though the latter are of poorer quality and stability than their botanical predecessors. Do people there actually prefer the metal bridges? Or would they like to see more root architecture? As weird as it sounds, many of the villagers in the areas where root bridges were once grown simply didn’t know what they had was anything unusual. One question that I am often asked when trekking in the hills is: “Don’t you have living root bridges in your country?” While this attitude seems to be slowly changing, the fact is that many root bridges were torn down because nobody realized that they were something special. I think the locals mostly viewed the bridges as just pieces of infrastructure. They thought they were useful, but not especially interesting. Kind of like how someone from North America would regard a well-paved highway. One of the main reasons root bridges have been replaced is because when one is damaged or fails due to environmental factors it’s simply quicker to replace it with a steel bridge. This takes weeks or days, rather than the years it takes to develop a living root bridge. Whereas living root bridges get stronger over time – and cost literally nothing – conventional bridges grow weaker over time, are expensive, and often require outside investment. So, as far as I can tell (and it’s hard not to generalize here), the locals mostly view the bridges from a practical perspective. Frequently, environmental changes in the areas where root bridges are found – such as de-forestation, road building, landslides, etc. – have destroyed the bridges, and the locals have simply had no choice about what to do. If they want to keep working in their fields, they have to replace them with steel bridges. It is possible to make practical arguments for preserving botanical architecture and creating new examples. For instance, they can attract tourists and become a source of revenue. While tourism has its good points and its bad points, at present, this is what drives the conservation of the bridges in the few pockets where they are being actively preserved. Also, the fact that living bridges are much cheaper in the long-term is something the villagers take into account. I think that in most areas where living root bridges are found the locals would want to maintain them, and to create new ones, though they need a practical incentive to do so. You mentioned that these bridges are grown from Ficus elastica trees: do you know whether there are any other species that can be used in a similar fashion? While I think it’s certainly true that the Ficus elastica plant is uniquely suited to forming botanical architecture, I don’t see any reason why living structures couldn’t be made from other plants. The F icus elastica is only one of several kinds of Strangler Fig. Ficus benghalensis trees exist in tropical regions all over the world (even in Florida), and have similar properties. There seem to be several places in the world where the idea of growing living root bridges have (in all likelihood) developed in isolation, namely in the Indian state of Nagaland, and in two places in Indonesia. I think that probably means that if you have a tree with lots of relatively quickly growing aerial roots, you could probably use it for living architecture. I think it’s important to point out that the basic principles used by the Khasis to make root bridges are really very simple and straightforward: You take young, pliable, aerial roots, pull them across a gap, and then wind them together until they’ve grown enough that you can stand on them. It would not be difficult to get similar results with other kinds of plants. Do you have any long-term goals with regard to botanical architecture? For instance, are you hoping to rekindle the practice throughout Northeast India? Or put the techniques you’ve learned into practice elsewhere in the world? My personal long-term goal is simply to collect and make publicly accessible as much information as I can on the subject. In the end, other people have to come along, use the information, and expand upon it. The gathering and presenting the information is only a first step. It’s hard to say if rekindling the practice is possible, given that conditions in Northeast India have changed drastically in the last few generations. They were made in a world that is very different from the one of today. Still, the locals are not averse to creating hybrid structures that use both steel-wire and ficus elastica roots. It may be possible to develop methods of generating root bridges employing structures that are immediately useable as scaffolds. In this way it would be possible to bypass the problem of how long it takes for a root bridge to become functional. From a pure cultural conservation standpoint, one thing that I do hope is that certain examples will be set aside for long-term protection. The idea of a UNESCO designated Living Root Bridge heritage site seems like a very good idea to me. I would recommend the area around the town of Pynursla, including the villages of Rangthylliang and Mawkyrnot, for a start. But, in the long term, I think that the bridges can serve as a source of inspiration for other sustainable design endeavors the world over – though the exact form that inspiration will take is hard to predict. The basic idea of the bridges could be replicated in all sorts of contexts, from low-cost rural infrastructure development in South America to indoor art installations in Sweden. If you are interested in learning more about root bridges, Patrick has a book out with Westland India publishers called The Green Unknown , which is about the process of tracking down the living root bridges and traveling in the Khasi Hills. For those of you who share Patrick’s love of these bridges, the book is available on Amazon . + Living Root Bridges Photos by Patrick Rogers

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INTERVIEW: How one man is fighting to save the world’s last living root bridges

All of Toyota’s cars will be either hybrid or fully electric by 2025

December 19, 2017 by  
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Toyota has concentrated mainly on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hybrid cars over electric ones. But the company made a big announcement in Tokyo this week: every Toyota and Lexus model will be available as fully electric or with an electric option in just around eight years. They’re shooting for sales of over 5.5 million electrified vehicles by around 2030. At a Tokyo press briefing, the company announced its plans for popularizing electric cars between 2020 and 2030. The company said in their press release they aim to accelerate development and launch of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, battery electric, and fuel cell electric cars. This goal includes offering a hybrid or completely electric option for every single Toyota and Lexus model by around 2025. Related: Toyota and Mazda establish a new company for electric cars They’re aiming for sales of over one million zero-emissions vehicles (what they described as battery electric or fuel cell electric vehicles) by around 2030. Toyota plans to offer over 10 battery electric models worldwide in the early 2020s, launching in China before possibly entering markets in the United States, Japan, India, and the United Kingdom. They plan to continue growing their hybrid electric line-up due to the development of the hybrid system found in their current generation Prius . The company said they’ve been working on solid-state batteries , with the goal to commercialize their technology in the early 2020’s. They’ll also begin a feasibility study with Panasonic on a prismatic battery business. And Toyota will also work towards more EV infrastructure. In their statement, the company said, “This includes the creation of a system to help streamline battery reuse and recycling, as well as support of the promotion of plug-in vehicle charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations through active cooperation and collaboration with government authorities and partner companies.” Via Toyota and TechCrunch Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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India plans to build the worlds largest solar-wind power plant

December 18, 2017 by  
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When it comes to  clean energy , few nations stand out like India . The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has announced plans to build the world’s largest solar-wind hybrid project in the district of Anantapur in the state of Andhra Pradesh. According to Cleantechnica , the plant will have a capacity of 160 megawatts—120 megawatts coming from solar and the other 40 megawatts via wind. And, in line with a pledge to end investment in fossil fuels , the World Bank is putting up $155 million for the project. The massive solar-wind complex will cover roughly 1,000 acres of land and include a battery storage system that will allow it to function around the clock irrespective of wind and weather conditions. Anantapur has struggled with grid failure and power fluctuations in the past and the hope is that the new system will offer a steady, reliable flow of power to residents through energy storage. Related:  India added more rooftop solar in 2017 than the past 4 years combined If all goes as anticipated, the pilot project will be scaled to serve other areas of Andhra Pradesh experiencing grid failures. And while this is not the first time this sort of technology has been proposed, it is the biggest solar-wind hybrid project on the books. The World Bank will work with the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), the renewable energy agency of Andhra Pradesh, NREDCAP, and Andhra Pradesh Transco, to bring it to fruition. The Andhra Pradesh government is shooting for 10 GW of solar and 8 GW of wind by 2022. Hybrid-wind and solar plants are expected to account for 3GW of the total. Via Cleantechnica Images via Pixabay

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India added more rooftop solar in 2017 than the past 4 years combined

December 8, 2017 by  
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India’s rooftop solar sector has been exploding. In 2017, the country added 715 megawatts (MW) in roof installations – more than MW added in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 put together, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). And the cost of electricity from rooftop solar power has been cut in half in the past five years. Rooftop solar is the quickest-growing sub-sector of renewable energy in India, according to BNEF. Rooftop PV installations totaled 32, 78, 165, and 227 MW in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively – and then this year saw installations of 715 MW. Rooftop solar has “clocked a four-year compound annual growth rate of 117 percent,” according to BNEF. Related: Solar prices in India dip below coal Low solar panel prices and increased competition has allowed Indian rooftop system installations to be less expensive than the global average by around 39 to 50 percent, according to Quartz India . And in all major states in the country, rooftop solar energy is cheaper than industrial and commercial power. Government policies and incentives have also spurred the growth, CARE Ratings analyst Gautam Bafna told Quartz India. Individual projects have also escalated in size, from an average of 250 kilowatts (kW) in 2015 to 855 kW in 2018. BNEF said, “We estimate India will reach 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop PV capacity by FY2022 – seven times its current total.” That’s still short of the government’s goal of 40 gigawatts by 2022. There’s still a ways to go. India’s power distribution companies are hesitant to promote rooftop solar, according to Quartz India, because they are concerned about finances. A KPMG partner with infrastructure and government services, Anish De told Quartz India, “During the day, there’ll be sudden spikes of generation; in the evenings, there’ll be a reverse flow. So till [power] storage comes in a much larger way, utilities might find it difficult to manage this.” And over half the rooftop solar market is concentrated in only six of India’s 29 states. Via Quartz India and Bloomberg New Energy Finance Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Smog-fighting helicopters in Delhi grounded – due to smog

November 14, 2017 by  
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Delhi has been battling choking smog , prompting doctors to declare a public health emergency . The government came up with a plan: use helicopters to combat the air pollution . But there’s a problem: the helicopters can’t fly because the smog is so bad. Delhi’s government had asked state-owned company Pawan Hans to come up with a plan to deploy helicopters to drizzle water across the beleaguered city, with the hope it would help settle the smog. But Pawan Hans told city officials this week the choppers couldn’t fly in the haze. Chairman and managing director BP Sharma told The Indian Express , “Right now, with the prevailing smog, it is not possible for the helicopters to carry out operations.” Related: Delhi residents struggle to breathe as doctors declare air pollution health emergency There’s another roadblock that stands in the way: almost half of Delhi, according to an official, is part of a no-fly zone. This includes the city’s southern quarters where the prime minister, presidency, and parliament are based – and according to The Guardian , the no-fly zone is strictly policed. A Delhi government spokesperson told The Indian Express, “There are a few issues and these will be worked out while creating the [standard operating procedure]. All stakeholders are being consulted.” Experts had questioned the plan – one called it “nothing more than a load of hot air,” according to India Today . Mukesh Khare, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi professor who’s spent years working on urban air pollution, said the solution was impractical and would waste water and money, telling India Today the plan hadn’t been used anywhere in the world to take down air pollution, and that the water would dry rapidly, sending officials back to square one in a few hours. 52 percent of the particulate matter in Delhi’s air comes from dust kicked up by tens of thousands of cars , according to a 2015 study cited by The Guardian. Other factors like uncovered soil and sand from construction sites, crop burning, and slow winds have also played a role in the pollution. Via The Guardian , The Indian Express , and India Today Images via Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier on Flickr and Shalabh Gupta on Facebook

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LGs new smartphone repels mosquitos using sound waves

October 30, 2017 by  
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Forget bug spray — LG recently unveiled a new smartphone that repels mosquitos using sound waves. The India-exclusive K7i smartphone is a fairly ordinary phone with a 5-inch HD display, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. Except its unique Mosquito Away feature sets it apart from other devices. By using ultrasonic sound wave technology, pesky mosquitos are supposedly driven away from the vicinity of the phone. The Mosquito Away feature was previously installed in the company’s air conditioners, washing machines, and TVs. According to LG , the ultrasonic waves are “absolutely safe” for humans. Additionally, the technology is silent, odorless and also user-friendly. It is presently selling for 7,990 rupees in India — or $121. Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether or not the technology actually works. The  BBC , for instance, says the tech is a myth. And according to Bart Knols, an entomologist who chairs the advisory board of the Dutch Malaria Foundation, there is “no scientific evidence whatsoever” that mosquitos can be driven away using ultrasonic sound technology. Related: Flesh-eating bacteria might be spread by mosquitoes in Australia If the Mosquito Away feature does work, the technology could have grand implications. Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria. In 2015,  212 million malaria cases were reported , which resulted in 429,000 deaths. Through prevention and control measures, there has been a 29 percent reduction in malaria mortality globally since 2010. However, the parasite which is spread by mosquitos still puts populations at risk, particularly in third-world nations. Via Phone Radar , The Verge Images via LG , Pixabay , YouTube

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LGs new smartphone repels mosquitos using sound waves

Supersonic car reaches 210mph in 8 seconds

October 30, 2017 by  
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The Bloodhound supersonic car wowed an audience of around 3,500 people at its first public run at England’s Cornwall Airport Newquay recently. In just eight seconds in its successful test, the car hit 210 miles per hour (mph) from a standing start. The team’s ultimate goal is to reach 1,000 mph and shatter the World Land Speed Record . The Bloodhound SSC created by The Bloodhound Project completed two runs on the airport runway, with an acceleration of 1.5G. The public test took place 20 years after driver Andy Green set the World Land Speed Record that still holds today of 763.035 mph. Green said of the successful public run, “The car is already working faster and better than we expected. I cannot wait to go faster!” He also said this is the longest time they’ve run the vehicle at around 21.5 minutes. Related: A 3D Printed Part Will be at the front of Bloodhound’s 1000 MPH Supersonic Car A Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine powered the Bloodhound SSC for the test, producing the combined output of 360 family cars, according to The Bloodhound Project. Runway wheels from an English Electric Lightning fighter helped the car travel rapidly down the runway. Why build a supersonic car? According to The Bloodhound Project’s website , their primary goal is “to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.” They offer education programs, including free online resources, school visits, activities at their Technical Center, and national rocket car championships. They’ve already motivated at least one student; Rolls-Royce engineer Jess Herbert said in the statement on the public test, “I was inspired to take up a career in engineering by the Bloodhound Project after the team visited my school and I then took up an apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce. I was lucky enough to have been at the unveiling of Bloodhound back in 2015…Being a Bloodhound Ambassador has given me the chance to share the story with the engineers of tomorrow and I hope that seeing the car in action will really help to bring the whole thing to life for them too.” + The Bloodhound Project Via The Bloodhound Project Images via Stefan Marjoram/The Bloodhound Project

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New fractal concentrated solar power receivers absorb sunlight more efficiently

October 27, 2017 by  
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Concentrated solar power facilities are often large, sprawling across desert landscapes or the futuristic California of Blade Runner 2049. But smaller plants could offer a clean energy option for villages – if researchers could boost receiver efficiency. Sandia National Laboratories engineers have come closer to that goal with a fractal -like design for receivers that are as much as 20 percent better at absorbing light than today’s technology. India may want to develop concentrated solar power plants that are one megawatt or smaller to power villages, according to Sandia engineer Cliff Ho. Better receivers could make that goal more of a possibility. Sandia engineers tested out their new receivers for small- or medium-scale use at the National Solar Thermal Testing Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which they say is the only test facility of its kind in America. Related: Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power Traditional receivers typically have “a flat panel of tubes or tubes arranged in a cylinder,” according to Sandia. They can absorb 80 to 90 percent of light directed towards them, but improving receiver efficiency could lower costs. Ho said in a statement, “When light is reflected off a flat surface, it’s gone. On a flat receiver design, five percent or more of the concentrated sunlight reflects away. So we configured the panels of tubes in a radial or louvered pattern that traps the light at different scales. We wanted the light to reflect, and then reflect again toward the interior of the receiver and get absorbed, sort of like the walls of a sound-proof room.” The engineers 3D-printed the receivers with a high-temperature nickel alloy, Iconel 718. They could test several fractal designs in an economical manner this way – Ho said it would have been difficult to create the complex geometries with casting, welding, or extrusion. Sandia will take their work and apply it to the Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States (SERIIUS) project, a five-year effort from the governments of both countries on cost-effective solar power technology. Via Sandia National Laboratories Images via Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories and Depositphotos

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New fractal concentrated solar power receivers absorb sunlight more efficiently

Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact

October 27, 2017 by  
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When Milan-based Small Architecture Workshop was asked to design a tiny sauna for a bed and breakfast in Åmot, Sweden, they wanted to do so with minimal environmental impact. The result of their efforts is this dreamy floating sauna on a lake wrapped in blackened timber to blend in with its forested surroundings. The architects built the compact structure in the span of two weeks as the first in a series of new amenities for the nearby bed and breakfast set in the middle of the forest. Located a three-hour drive from Stockholm , the bed and breakfast and accompanying sauna are an idyllic nature retreat for city dwellers. To minimize site impact , Small Architecture Workshop built the sauna on an existing wooden pier that they fixed up, thus avoiding digging and damaging the shoreline. The traditional Japanese technique of Yakisugi—more popularly known as Shou Sugi Ban—was applied to the sauna’s exterior cladding to make the timber resistant to weather, rot, and bugs. Related: Gigantic golden egg sauna warms up residents of Sweden’s northernmost town In contrast to the dark facade, the sauna is lined with light-colored alder wood. Visitors access the sauna through a covered space that serves as a dressing room and firewood storage room. Full-height glazing fronts the sauna, which can comfortably accommodate eight, to frame unobstructed views of the lake. + Small Architecture Workshop Via Dezeen Images via Small Architecture Workshop

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