A light-filled home in India embraces indoor-outdoor living

April 30, 2020 by  
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A constant connection to nature pervades the Home by the Park, a newly completed single-family residence that faces a park in the South Indian city of Hubballi. Bangalore-based practice 4site architects designed the house to engage views of the adjacent park from multiple floors and vantage points, while bringing the lush greenery indoors with the creation of a rain courtyard and landscaped terraces. The abundant plantings not only give the house a sense of tranquility but also create a cooling microclimate to counteract the region’s tropical climate . Commissioned by a nature-loving family, the Home by the Park adheres to the teachings of Vastu Shastra, a traditional Indian system of architecture that champions the integration of architecture with nature and recommends spatial arrangements to improve the flow of positive energy. Located on a linear east-facing plot, the Vastu-compliant home spans 7,050 square feet across three floors, with the bottom-most floor partly buried into the earth because of the 3-foot change in elevation between the east and west sides. Related: Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India To visually connect the home to the adjacent park to the east, the architects inserted three gardens — the elevated front garden, the central rain courtyard and the rear private garden — so that all of the main rooms in the home enjoy access to nature. The centrally located rain courtyard is a double-height space open to the sky that serves as a light well and connects to the living areas on all floors. In addition to a variety of seasonal plants that provide year-round interest, the rain courtyard also features a sculptural fountain with a waterfall feature and has become haven for birds that nest in the trees and shrubs. The driveway, garage, storage room and home theater are located on the lowest floor. The next floor comprises the main living areas, including an expansive kitchen split into wet and dry sections; a guest en suite with a living room that connects to the rear garden; dining area; the master en suite bedroom; and the prayer room located opposite the rain courtyard. The top floor houses three additional bedrooms, a family living room, an outdoor terrace and a U-shaped walkway that provides views into the rain courtyard.  + 4site architects Photography by Petrichor Image Labs via 4site architects

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A light-filled home in India embraces indoor-outdoor living

Project Blu turns plastic bottles into sustainable pet products

March 31, 2020 by  
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Project Blu is a U.K.-based startup company that is creating sustainable pet products made from recycled materials such as plastic, textiles and leather. Each Project Blu product is made using anywhere between 1 and 300 plastic bottles, and each sale comes with a company pledge to clean yet another pound of plastic from oceans and coastlines through its partnership with the nonprofit Plastic Bank. “Our oceans bear the brunt of our plastics epidemic, with up to 12.7 million tons of plastic ending up in them every year,” said Geryn Evans, founder of Project Blu. “We are working to collect and manufacture high quality pet products from the mounting number of plastic bottles and discarded fishing nets already in our oceans, rather than make more.” Related: 7 ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly pet owner The plastic is broken down into flakes and melted into pellets before being converted into polyester yarn, while fibers are extracted from fabrics to be made into cotton yarn. The yarn combination is then used to fashion sturdy pet toys and beds. Leather is a bit trickier; pieces of discarded leather waste destined for landfill are broken down into leather fiber and made into a composite using a hydroentanglement process. This allows the leather scraps to be transformed into one single roll of material that is then handcrafted by Italian artisans into stylish leashes and collars. The process uses no harmful chemicals, less water than traditional pet product manufacturing and is carbon-neutral . Project Blu also works with a tree-planting organization in Africa to help counteract any carbon emissions from transportation. Most of the plastic used for Planet Blu’s products is collected in the Maharashtra state in India, one of the world’s countries that is most impacted by plastic pollution. Project Blu recently partnered with Mars Petcare, a globally-recognized pet health and nutrition manufacturer with a $200,000 investment to help jump-start the business. The startup has already delivered more than 80,000 products to international distributors and was voted “Best New Product” at the PATS exhibition, U.K.’s popular pet industry event. + Project Blu Images via Project Blu

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Project Blu turns plastic bottles into sustainable pet products

Meghan Markle narrates new Disney elephant documentary

March 27, 2020 by  
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Meghan Markle is returning to show biz to narrate a new Disney documentary about African elephants . This will be her first film since the former Suits star gave up her career to marry Prince Harry. The film Elephant will start streaming on April 3 on Disney+. Elephant focuses on Shani, an African elephant, and her son, Jomo, as they migrate across the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. Led by matriarch Gaia and accompanied by the rest of their herd, they face common problems of the modern elephant: predators, diminished resources and brutal heat. Related: Villagers in India knit sweaters to protect rescued elephants from the cold Disneynature and the Disney Conservation Fund will donate some of the film’s proceeds to Elephants Without Borders . This charitable organization focuses on elephant research, education and outreach and works with the government of Botswana and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife & National Parks to run an elephant orphanage . This latest documentary is one of a series of Disneynature films narrated by celebrities. Meryl Streep, Jane Goodall and Morgan Freeman have also done voiceovers on Disneynature productions. Natalie Portman narrated Dolphin Reef, which will also premiere on April 3. You can see a joint trailer for Elephants and Dolphin Reef here . Botswana featured prominently in the royal love story between Markle and Harry. Harry has long been active in conservation work in Africa, having visited since his teens. He became president of African Parks in late 2017 and is a patron Rhino Conservation Botswana. Soon after Markle met him in 2016, Harry invited her to camp in the Botswana wilderness . “She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic,” he said, according to People. “So then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to know each other.” The following year, they again visited Botswana, this time to aid Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders. + People Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Meghan Markle narrates new Disney elephant documentary

How 16 initiatives are changing urban agriculture through tech and innovation

January 2, 2020 by  
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From high-tech indoor farms in France and Singapore to mobile apps connecting urban growers and eaters in India and the United States, here are more than a dozen initiatives using tech, entrepreneurship, and social innovation to change urban agriculture.

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How 16 initiatives are changing urban agriculture through tech and innovation

How 16 initiatives are changing urban agriculture through tech and innovation

January 2, 2020 by  
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From high-tech indoor farms in France and Singapore to mobile apps connecting urban growers and eaters in India and the United States, here are more than a dozen initiatives using tech, entrepreneurship, and social innovation to change urban agriculture.

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How 16 initiatives are changing urban agriculture through tech and innovation

Families in China create an eco-community of timber, A-frame cabins

December 6, 2019 by  
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Spanning more than 20 acres in China’s Mogan River Valley, Wiki Tribe Park consists of multiple A-frame cabins made out of cross-laminated timber. The impressive project was conceived by local architecture firm Wiki World  that wanted to create a collaborative eco-community tucked into an idyllic, natural landscape. The Wiki Tribe Park complex was planned and designed by architects, but the project was organized in a way that would let entire families take part in the construction process. Using a modular system enabled not only the adults to take part in building the cabins, but it even allowed young children to learn the basics of green building. Related: Eco-sensitive community in northern India harvests rainwater The cabins’ walls were cut through a high-precision, prefabricated construction method, which enabled a faster building process. In fact, the A-frame cabins were finished in just about one month, especially thanks to the families that were involved in the construction. Elevated off of the ground to protect the landscape, the timber cabins are covered in a waterproof , reflective material in order to better blend the structures into the landscape. This coating also keeps the cabins resilient to the climate. From the interior, the families can take in the beautiful views through the large window located on each side of every cabin. Built in collaboration with UN-habitat, World Children Campaign and 7 Billion Urbanists, the Wiki Tribe Park project was conceived by Wiki World with the aim of creating a collaborative eco-community . By allowing the residents to participate in the construction process, not only do they feel a strong bond with their own cabins but with the natural world as well. Plus, the children who were involved were able to learn more about sustainable building practices for the future. + Wiki World + Advanced Architecture Lab (AAL) Via ArchDaily Images via Wiki World

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Families in China create an eco-community of timber, A-frame cabins

Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhis air pollution

November 26, 2019 by  
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According to WHO, air quality in India’s capital of Delhi is among the worst in the world and is the fifth leading cause of death in India. In a bid to fight this silent killer, Indian practice Studio Symbiosis Architects has taken on a pro-bono project to design A?ra, a proposal for a system of air purifiers to clean the city air for the benefit of all residents in Delhi. Developed using the principles of aerodynamics, the A?ra air purifiers rely on a curved shape and air pressure differentials to intake polluted air and produce cool, clean air. Delhi has made headlines year after year for the thick, suffocating smog that has blanketed the city and neighboring areas. With the levels of PM 2.5 spiking to dangerous highs, Studio Symbiosis Architects sought a solution that could be enjoyed by all and not just those able to afford home air purifiers. Related: Pollution Pods let visitors taste pollution from around the world At the heart of the architects’ proposal is A?ra, a series of giant, air purifying towers topped with green planters with drip irrigation. Each tower would have two main chambers: one to increase the relative velocity of the air and the other for purifying the polluted air before blowing it out at high speeds and at lower temperatures to create a pressure difference that then pushes warm, polluted air back toward the tower. The architects estimate that an 18-meter-tall A?ra tower could clean 32 million cubic meters of air every day and have the capacity to clean 1.3 million cubic meters of air per hour. The A?ra towers represent only the first part of the architects’ proposal. The architects’ implementation plan would begin with installing a ring of 60-meter-tall A?ra towers around the city border to stop the flow of external pollution. Smaller, 18-meter-tall A?ra towers with a range of 1 square kilometer would then be installed in select “hot spots” along a grid to ensure clean air within the city. The air purification system would be supplemented with “A?ra velocity” gadgets that can be attached to the tops of cars as well as a network of “A?ra Falcon” drones that would move around the city and monitor air pollution levels. The systems collectively would be called the “A?ra Hive.” + Studio Symbiosis Architects Images via Studio Symbiosis Architects

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Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhis air pollution

Students propose a biomimetic solution to reduce post-harvest food waste in Nigeria

November 26, 2019 by  
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As one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producers of tomatoes, Nigeria grows up to 1.5 million tons of the fruit annually, yet nearly half of that harvest fails to make it to the market. In a bid to provide a solution to post-harvest food waste, a team of Pratt Institute students designed a storage facility for tomato farmers in Nigeria that takes inspiration from the respiratory system of a cricket and the ribs of a cactus. The proposal — titled Tomato’s Home — was recently named a finalist in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge and has advanced to the Biomimicry Launchpad, an accelerator program that helps early-stage entrepreneurs bring nature-inspired solutions to market. Unlike consumer-driven food waste that plagues the developed world, much of the food waste in developing countries such as Nigeria occurs during the post-processing stage. The students’ proposal focuses on the small farms around Kano in northern Nigeria, where the majority of the country’s tomatoes are grown. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimcry The students’ solution begins with a storage basket made from natural materials. Inspired by the way peas are protected and arranged in their shell, the students suggest weaving together loofa — the dried, fibrous part of the luffa fruit naturalized in the area — into a basket base for storing the individual tomatoes and to prevent bruising. The soft bed of loofa would be protected and given structure by a layer of woven teak on the outside. To store the tomato baskets, the students have also proposed a modular building constructed from natural materials, including clay bricks and thatch. Designed with an emphasis on natural ventilation and insulation, the buildings take direct inspiration from elements in nature, such as stack flow ventilation that the students say mimic the respiratory system of crickets. Light colors on the facade help reflect heat much like the white shells of certain desert snails, while the thatched roof — inspired by the thatched nests of grass-cutting ants — provide insulating benefits without compromising ventilation. + Pratt Institute Images via Pratt Institute

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Students propose a biomimetic solution to reduce post-harvest food waste in Nigeria

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

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