Trump official delays protection of endangered species at oil lobbyist’s request

April 20, 2018 by  
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A top United States Department of the Interior official appears to have used his position to delay the protection of an endangered species at the request of the oil industry. As reported by the Guardian based on acquired documents, Interior official Vincent deVito acquiesced to a 2017 e-mail from the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) asking that the Texas hornshell mussel not be placed under protection for six months in the interest of continued, uninhibited oil industry activity. While the mussel was eventually placed on the endangered species list in 2018, former Interior officials and government watchdogs have expressed concerns over the ethics and legality of deVito’s actions. Of particular concern is the Trump Administration’s seeming disregard to science in favor of political decision making. “Listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act are meant to be entirely science-based decisions that result from – in some cases – years of review by experts in the field, not political appointees,” former Interior associate deputy secretary Elizabeth Klein told The Guardian . “A delay in and of itself might not be the end of the world – but then again it very well could be for an imperiled species.” In response to criticism, Interior press secretary Heather Swift said in a statement that deVito “maintains that he simply responded with an acknowledgment of receipt on the mussel email and maintains he had no role whatsoever in the listing.” Related: New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears There’s a portfolio of instances where DeVito used his official capacity in ways that would appear to be favorable to the fossil fuel industry. For example, DeVito described his close consultation of industry lobbyists before proposing a reduction of royalty rates on offshore oil and gas from 18.75% to 12.5% – a recommendation that was ultimately rejected by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. DeVito was also influential in approving a coal project near the habitat of the endangered Big Sandy crayfish in West Virginia . “It a scientific integrity violation for a political appointee to essentially leapfrog the Fish and Wildlife Service’s process when you have an Endangered Species Act listing involved,” former career Interior scientist Joel Clement told The Guardian . Via The Guardian Images via New Mexico State Land Office and YouTube

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Trump official delays protection of endangered species at oil lobbyist’s request

March for Science hits DC and over 200 other cities around the world tomorrow

April 13, 2018 by  
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Around 1.3 million people participated in March for Science rallies all over Earth last year, according to New Scientist . Concerned over the incoming United States administration’s climate change denial and anti-science overtures, marchers turned out in droves — and tomorrow many people will take to the streets again. Here’s what to expect, and how you can get involved. The 2018 March for Science takes place April 14 in Washington, D.C. , and in hundreds of other locations around the world. Their mission is “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good, and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.” Not just scientists marched last year — one quarter of attendees said their job wasn’t in a scientific field, according to New Scientist. They just cared about science. Related: The funniest signs we spotted at the March for Science Since the 2017 March for Science, New York City march co-organizer David Kanter told New Scientist more scientists than ever ran for political office. Activism made a difference in science funding, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists Center for Science and Democracy deputy director Michael Halpern. New Scientist said Congress’ 2018 spending bill included more funding for research. Organizers estimate this year’s march won’t be as large as last year’s. Fear over what Donald Trump’s administration might or might not do motivated many people to show up in 2017. March for Science interim director Caroline Weinberg told The Washington Post , “People are definitely still motivated, but it’s coming across differently. Their behavior has been adjusting. What we’ve seen is a huge uptick in people taking action in other ways — signing petitions , making calls, sending letters.” But there are still reasons to march. Kanter told New Scientist, “The reason we’re still marching is that the goal of the march — use of evidence in policy-making — still isn’t being fulfilled in our politics today.” Halpern agrees. He told New Scientist, “They’re marching because they see EPA administrator Scott Pruitt go against his scientific advisers and fail to ban chemicals shown to cause damage to children’s brains. They’re seeing people at the Department of the Interior kicked out of their jobs [working] on climate change.” Find out how to get involved on the March for Science website . + March for Science Via New Scientist and The Washington Post Images via March for Science

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March for Science hits DC and over 200 other cities around the world tomorrow

This custom-built tiny house is big on interior design

April 9, 2018 by  
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Washington-based company Handcrafted Movement is making quite the name for itself with custom-made tiny homes. The company’s latest micro dwelling — called the Coastal Craftsman — is so gorgeously designed that you’ll forget it’s only a mere 238-square-foot space. The energy-efficient tiny home has a stunning interior design that is not only open and airy; it is also handcrafted with various reclaimed materials. The home, which is built onto a transportable trailer , is clad in a cream-colored board and batten siding with Pacific Cedar accents, complimented with a dark metal rooftop. A lovely glass-panel door leads into the living space, which has distressed oak flooring that contrasts nicely with the white walls. Throughout the home, the interior design gives off a relaxed beach vibe, enhanced with an abundance of natural light. Related: These solar-powered tiny homes are designed just for millennials The furnishings were all strategically custom-built  to provide personal touches to the home without adding clutter. A chaise lounge-style sofa bed is at the heart of the living area, providing a comfy place to read or watch television. There’s an electric fireplace to keep warm in the winter months, and a vintage desk and chair sit in a small nook under a window. The tiny kitchen has plenty of shelving and cupboards. The space is compact, but efficient and includes a dining table made out of Oregon-sourced, salvaged walnut wood . In the corner of the kitchen, stairs lead up to the sleeping loft, which has enough space for a king-size bed. Matt Impola, the founder of Handcrafted Movement, framed the walls himself and even inserted custom-made roof trusses to add dimension to the tiny home design . The craftsmanship of the project is incredibly impressive. “I built much of the tiny home components—the exterior shutters, kitchen cabinets, bathroom doors, stairs, electric fireplace, television cabinet, coffee counter, dining table, etc. — from scratch, and had two production assistants help me assemble and finish all them,” Impola said. “I’ve seen too many tiny homes with minuscule couches that will not realistically be comfortable for very long, so it’s important for me to be able to fit full-size furniture in every tiny home I build.” In addition to its amazing design, the home was also built with various energy-efficient features such as rock-based Roxul insulation, 10 large energy-star windows, LED lighting, an instant water heater, and a propane oven and cooker. Thanks to these features, the home’s monthly energy costs are incredibly low — an estimated $12 to $25 per month. + Handcrafted Movement Via Dwell Photos via Handcrafted Movement

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This custom-built tiny house is big on interior design

Extraordinary Sci-Fi-esque spherical arena unveiled for London

April 5, 2018 by  
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Architecture firm Populous has unveiled their extraordinary designs for MSG Sphere London, a massive spherical arena set to rise on a five-acre site near Olympic Park . Envisioned as a glowing orb wrapped in digital screens, the 18,000-seat arena would host music and esport events for the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG). The MSG Sphere London appears visually identical to the renderings of the MSG arena for Las Vegas, also designed by Populous. Perhaps best known for their design of London’s Olympic Stadium , Populous has made its name in stadium designs worldwide. In the two MSG Sphere schemes, the architects push the envelope in eye-catching stadium design and technology. Digital screens wrap around the exterior while the interior will boast the “largest and highest resolution media display on Earth,” says MSG. Related: London’s 2012 Olympic Park Opens to the Public this Week After Years of Preparation The arena will be equipped with state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment as well as a “custom spherical camera system.” “MSG Sphere London is a natural fit for events such as esports, where audiences will be able to participate in the competition and interact with each other,” reads a statement from MSG . “It represents an important milestone in the company’s vision to redefine live entertainment through iconic venues that will feature game-changing technologies and pioneer the next generation of transformative, immersive experiences.” + Populous Via Dezeen Images via Populous

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Extraordinary Sci-Fi-esque spherical arena unveiled for London

Japanese home features a bookshelf wall designed to withstand earthquakes

April 4, 2018 by  
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In earthquake-prone Japan , a wall full of books might seem like a disaster waiting to happen. Rather than capitulate to Mother Nature however, the owners of this Yokohama home found a way to safely put their massive library of books on full display without fear of collapse. Shinsuke Fujii Architects designed the Bookshelf House that features angled earthquake-resistant bookshelves easily accessible by children and the elderly without a ladder. Slotted in a dense Yokohama neighborhood, the roughly 930-square-foot Bookshelf House stands out from its neighbors with its black oblique walls clad in standing seam metal and set atop a concrete base. The slanted wall also helps shield the recessed entrance from rain. For privacy, windows are minimized, particularly on the lower levels. In contrast to its dark exterior, the interior is lined in light-colored timber. The front of the home is filled with natural light and features a sunken dining area next to the bookshelf wall, the kitchen, and pantry. The master bedroom and bathroom are placed at the rear of the home. Stairs lead up to a living room and small office space as well as a secondary bedroom and small glass-walled terrace . Related: House in Byoubuguara Uses Curved Floors to Maximize a Small Footprint in Japan “The horizontal shelf functions to prevent buckling of 4 m long pillars,” wrote the architects. “From the viewpoint of a safe bookshelf, a new relationship of housing – structure – bookshelf has been created.” + Shinsuke Fujii Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Tsukui Teruaki

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Japanese home features a bookshelf wall designed to withstand earthquakes

This beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center has nine movable sections that let in natural light

March 28, 2018 by  
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Dutch firm 70F architecture has designed a beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center in the Netherlands that “breathes” thanks to nine movable sections that open up the facade in the morning and close it at night. The Hof van Duivenvoorde Center welcomes visitors to the Duivenvoorde Castle and Estate, offering a light-filled restaurant and information center with an innovative, changeable window system engineered by the architects themselves. The Duivenvoorde Foundation requested a simple building that would blend into the surroundings – the castle grounds have an expansive lawn and plenty of green areas – as well as provide a comfortable place where visitors  can relax.  Keeping the natural landscape in mind, the architects created an understated building with an elongated form and vertical slats that evoke a typical, rustic  barn design. The movable panels signal that the building is open for visitors during park hours, but at closing time, they lower back down and the center virtually disappears into the surrounding environment. Related: Visitor center disguised as a hill to welcome visitors to Denmark’s historic Kalø Castle Ruins The movable panels cover glass windows and slide upwards with the help of an innovative engineering system created by Bas ten Brinke, founder of 70F architecture. Once the panels have lifted,  natural light floods the center’s interior, which, at 6 by 30 meters, is relatively small. The large windows both enhance this space and provide a natural ventilation system throughout. The  visitor center houses a restaurant and museum shop, as well as space for the volunteers who give guided tours of the estate. The architects decided to forgo any type of separation between the different areas in order to give the interior an open, airy feel. Out back, a large garden wall provides shade during the warm summer months. And, finally, an open-air patio provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and enjoy the surrounding nature. + 70F architecture Via World Architecture News Images by Luuk Kramer  

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This beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center has nine movable sections that let in natural light

Antony Gibbon’s Flux House appears to float on the water’s surface

March 19, 2018 by  
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Architect Antony Gibbon  has unveiled yet another incredible structure – this one designed for a future world where homes float on water . The circular Flux House features two rings of thin timber panels , equally spaced around the frame in order to illuminate the interior with a soft diffusion of natural light. Four walkways provide access to the home, which has a large swimming pool at its center. The main house is designed to sit upon a large body of water, creating the effect of being surrounded by a modern-day moat. The timber slats in the facade not only let in natural light, but allow for light to reflect off the water and into the structure. Related: Antony Gibbon’s Lucent House is a serene minimalist retreat made of glass and stone The interior maintains the home’s  circular shape , with the living and dining areas on one side and the bedrooms on the other. The swimming pool, accessible from any room, serves as the focal point of the building. The Flux House design is conceptual at the moment, but, like most of Antony Gibbon’s designs , it could very well be used as a private home or off-grid resort. + Antony Gibbon Images via Antony Gibbons

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Antony Gibbon’s Flux House appears to float on the water’s surface

Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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OFIS Architects tackles the ultimate indoor-outdoor living experience with Glass Pavilion, a retreat with full-height glass structural walls that provides total comfort even in extreme desert conditions. Initiated by Guardian Glass , this thermally efficient prototype home will operate off-grid and offer lucky guests stunning and uninterrupted views of Spain’s Gorafe desert. Completed this year, the compact 215-square-foot Glass Pavilion is part of OFIS Architects’ ongoing collaboration with AKT II structural engineers , where the firms test the structural possibilities of glass and timber in extreme climates. “This project is a response to the local, desert climate conditions,” wrote OFIS Architects of Glass Pavilion. “Instead of focusing only in ‘a glass as a window element’ the concept explored its advanced potentials, e.g. transparent but shading element, a thin but thermally efficient envelope that is also the sole structural support.” Related: Exceptional prefab alpine shelter overlooks mind-boggling mountain views Triple-glazed walls create a thermally efficient envelope, while near-invisible coatings, operable shades, and roof overhangs protect the interior from solar gain . The Y-shaped interior is evenly split between a living area with a kitchenette, a bedroom with storage, and the bathroom. All three rooms open out to a wraparound terrace deck. “The Glass Pavilion will be the setting of a 1-week retreat for a single person or a couple,” added the architects. “The guests will be selected from different tourist sharing platforms.” + OFIS Architects Images @ Jose Navarrete

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Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

March 2, 2018 by  
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Despite lip-service to the contrary, new evidence reveals that oil and mining played a central role in the decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has repeatedly stated that mineral extraction was not a factor in drawing up the new boundaries for the monuments, but documents obtained by the New York Times show that this is untrue, and that Zinke – along with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch – encouraged removing protections from areas known to have oil, coal or uranium deposits. Documents show that in March 2017, Hatch asked the Interior Department to look at the boundaries of Bears Ears in order to “resolve all known mineral conflicts.” In May, Bureau of Land Management officials asked for information on a uranium mill within the monument. The resulting map, which was drawn to exclude protected areas that were thought to contain minerals, is almost exactly the same as the map Trump unveiled as he cut the size of Bears Ears. Documents also show that Zinke’s staff used coal deposit estimates when determining which parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante should be excluded from protection. “The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States,” a Spring 2017 Interior Department memo said. Staff members were asked to research “annual production of coal, oil, gas and renewables (if any) on site; amount of energy transmission infrastructure on site (if any).” Minerals weren’t the only determination used in changing the boundaries. Cattle grazing and timber were also factored in. When Trump reduced the national monuments, the Bureau of Land Management started to ramp up for a practice known as “chaining” in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Chaining involves putting a large chain between two bulldozers, which then move through forests to destroy native vegetation and open the land for cattle – a devastating practice that decimates the local environment. Related: President Trump shrinks Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments by 2 million acres Zinke claimed in December that he had recommended reducing the size of Utah’s protected areas because he wanted to take “an approach in which we listen to the voices of the people, not Washington, D.C., special interests,” citing the fact that Utah government leaders were opposed to the designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. While about half of Utahns want Bears Ears reduced , a vast majority oppose the break-up of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Local Utah leaders have sought to reduce the monuments since they were established in order to generate money by leasing the land – but even they were surprised by the size of the ultimate reduction. “Obviously they were looking at facts other than the ones we had raised, we assume,” said John Andrews, associate director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Despite Zinke’s language, it was clear early on that mining and oil extraction were the real focus for reducing the national monuments. In December it was revealed that large Uranium firms were lobbying for access to the areas . At the time, Zinke denied that energy extraction was a factor in the decision-making process. “This is not about energy. There is no oil and gas assets. There is no mine within the Bears Ears…” he said. Via The New York Times Images via Patrick Hendry and the BLM

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New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

Local residents help build pre-fab bamboo social center that can be constructed in a week

January 24, 2018 by  
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Mexican studio  Comunal Taller de Arquitectura is proving yet again that bamboo is a miracle material when it comes to creating affordable housing options. Working with local residents, the studio has built a social housing structure in a small town outside of Puebla. Using a prefabricated bamboo frame, the architects worked side-by-side with the locals so that the residents would learn how to replicate its design – which can be built in just seven days – on their own. The architects have made a name for themselves thanks to their commitment to working with locals on self-build structures using local bamboo and other locally-sourced materials . In this project, however, the architects were forced to import bamboo from the United States due to government restrictions. Once the imported bamboo was available, the team, along with the local residents, used it to make a modular and prefabricated frame. Related: INTERVIEW: Bamboo builder, and Ibuku founder Elora Hardy on creating incredible buildings with bamboo Once the frame was in place, the skeleton of the prefab bamboo structure was constructed in less than a week. The second step consisted of building out the 60-square meter residence using local wood and stone. The various bamboo panels used throughout for the window shutters and the doors were coated with a local tissue known as ixtile for extra protection against the elements. Walls of red brick lattices provide natural air ventilation throughout the home and are helpful in rerouting any kitchen smoke to the exterior. On the interior, exposed bamboo trusses and beams form a slanted roof, which is topped with a thin metal sheet. The roof overhangs around the structure to provide shade for the wrap-around covered porch area. A grey paving makes up the flooring of the porches and continues throughout the interior. According to the architects, the rural housing design was approved for federal subsidies, meaning that the affordable and sustainable prototype could be easily replicated in other areas using local materials and methods . + Comunal Taller de Arquitectura Via Dezeen Images via Comunal Taller de Arquitectura

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Local residents help build pre-fab bamboo social center that can be constructed in a week

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