Compact OffGridBox provides clean drinking water and power where it’s needed most

August 18, 2017 by  
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An Italian company has developed a compact solution for communities that lack access to clean drinking water and electricity – the OffGridBox . Measuring 6x6x6 feet, the container cube features everything necessary to generate, convert and store solar energy , as well as collect, treat and distribute clean drinking water . But the system does have drawbacks – including a $15,000 price point that’s hard to justify in certain corners of the world. Read on to learn how the founders are trying to scale their innovative solution for maximum impact. According to Fast Company, “Founder and CEO Emiliano Cecchini has sold a few of the units, but he worries he’s not yet found the formula to take his invention to scale.” “We’re looking for the next system to scale,” Cecchini told FastCo. “The idea came three years ago and, yeah, we’re kind of struggling to make it bigger. Back in Italy, it’s not easy to find the right financing strategy, mentors, and accelerator programs.” Related: Desert Twins produce drinking water in the driest place on Earth It’s a pity, because OffGridBox has the capability to serve up to 1,500 people per unit, the company says, and that’s without any upgrades. The basic model comes equipped with 12 solar modules, an inverter and battery storage. This system provides enough power to charge 300 battery packs that can each charge three LED lights for four hours and two cell phones, according to FastCo. OffGridBox also has a built-in water filtration system that produces food-quality drinking water, and a built-in storage tank that holds up to 396 gallons. That’s potentially life-changing for communities that lack good infrastructure. The company is persevering with a new model that will charge end users a nominal fee to use the station. “The new model is pay-as-you-go micro-payments, local contractors, and local empowerment,” Cecchini told FastCo. A family of four will pay 12 US cents per day for water, and the battery packs are subsidized by the company. They’re testing this new tactic in Rwanda , where the company plans to install units in 18 villages. Eventually they hope to equip the boxes with Wi-Fi. Head over to FastCo for the full story . + OffGridBox

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Compact OffGridBox provides clean drinking water and power where it’s needed most

Stefano Boeri unveils Amatrice Food Village in town devastated by earthquake

August 2, 2017 by  
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Tourists used to flock in droves to the historic town of Amatrice for its famous pasta and scenery—until a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy in August 2016 and reduced it to rubble. One year later, the town finally has reason to rejoice. Stefano Boeri Architects recently completed the Amatrice Food Village, a new facility built entirely of innovative and low-cost timber construction, which marks a post-earthquake turning point as a new tourist attraction and job generator. Built in collaboration with Corriere della Sera and TgLa7, the Amatrice Food Village was completed with pro-earthquake victim funds through the “Un aiuto subito Terremoto Centro Italia 6.0” initiative. Architect Stefano Boeri designed the new Food Village as an innovative 100 percent timber project that was built in record time to help Amatrice bounce back from the earthquake as soon as possible. The Food Village is part of the “Amate Amatrice” project and was presented alongside the “AMA AMATRICE Rose Garden” that symbolizes the rebuilding process. The Amatrice Food Village is a major turning point in the reconstruction process and gives all restaurateurs the opportunity to return to their restaurants for the first time since the earthquake. The facility comprises one coffee bar and seven restaurants outfitted with large windows that overlook the Monti della Laga mountain range. The Food Village will draw tourists from around the world and give jobs to dozens of Amatrice families. Related: Why Italy’s devastating earthquakes could pile up in a ‘domino effect’ “For me, this is a very touching moment,” said Boeri. “I’m happy that the new area has been delivered after so much effort and a never-ending winter that seemed to want to block us in every way! With the struggles of everyone, we were successful in our undertaking and today everything will begin to work again. Amatrice will finally be able to go back to offering its citizens and visitors the area’s food and wine excellences. It is a small though big sign of revival in a place profoundly wounded in its soul and body, a place that all Italians hold dear to their hearts.” The Amatrice Food Village was officially inaugurated on Saturday, July 29, 2017. + Stefano Boeri Architects Images via Stefano Boeri Architects, pre-earthquake photo via Wikimedia

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Stefano Boeri unveils Amatrice Food Village in town devastated by earthquake

One of Africa’s biggest cities could run out of water by September

July 25, 2017 by  
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Kenya’s capital city, Nairboi , is dangerously low on water . The city, home to around 3.4 million people, has been rationing water since January 1, but it may not be enough. 60 percent of residents already don’t have reliable water – and the city could run dry by September. Nairobi’s water issues stem back in part to two low rainy seasons. The October to December 2016 rains amounted to only 10.5 inches of water, compared with the 27.5 inches or so expected. The March to May 2017 rains were late, arriving at last in May, but only poured down around 17.3 inches when around 39 inches were expected. Related: 70% of Bolivian residents lack sufficient water amid worst drought in 25 years “Nairobi used to be a swamp but is no longer behaving like one. Our underground rivers have dried up,” engineer Lucy Njambi Macharia of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company said. The city’s water company now distributes just around 105,668,821 gallons of water a day – when the city needs around 92,460,218 gallons more than that. Experts aren’t without ideas on how to solve the problem. Rainwater harvesting on buildings, “deliberate efforts to cause groundwater recharge,” and pumping treated wastewater back into the ground are among potential solutions. But experts say the most crucial solution is to care for the land. Soil and water conservation from farmers are pieces of the puzzle – and the city could provide incentives so farmers work against erosion . There are already organizations tackling the dilemma. Nairobi Water Fund’s water fund manager Fred Kihara told The Guardian, “Working with 15,000 farmers, we’ve increased water to Nairobi by 27,000 cubic meters a day. Most is terracing, sediment trapping, 200,000 trees a season. The deal is you can keep the soil on your land with this good quality Napier grass that we supply you.” Deputy director general of the World Agroforestry Center Ravi Prabhu seems hopeful. He told The Guardian, “There is growing political will, and investments have started to flow. What is required is social capital from watershed to water user, and this situation could be turned around.” Meanwhile, the Vatican today shut down 100 historic water foundations in solidarity with Rome, according to The Guardian , which also faces crippling water shortages. Rationing in Italy’s capital has left many residents without water for up to eight hours a day. It’s a growing trend that affects all of us – we must be proactive. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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One of Africa’s biggest cities could run out of water by September

LeapHome unveils sustainable, super-efficient Frame prefab

June 12, 2017 by  
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LEAPfactory , the Italy -based company known for building gorgeous prefabricated structures in extreme locations , just unveiled their very first LeapHome . Frame is a two-story, 1,400 square foot house built with minimal impact on the environment . The home’s design is super energy efficient , so it can easily go off-grid . LEAPfactory was inspired by the idea of living in harmony with nature to create Frame. The home can be customized and configured according to a buyer’s desires and budget, and includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study area, a kitchen, dining area, an outdoor terrace, and a double height living room. Forest Stewardship Council certified wood , metal sheet cladding, and finishes made with ecological materials comprise the home that includes prefabricated components. Related: LEAPfactory unveils prefab snowboard school at the foot of Mont Blanc The outdoor shell of the home was designed with energy efficiency in mind, so the home doesn’t consume as much power as others do. Solar energy powers the home, which heats water with a solar thermal system. LED lighting and radiant technology electric systems recycle heat in Frame. According to the company’s website , “The structure is designed to maximize air circulation and distribute heat and humidity.” LEAPfactory says the home could potentially be set up in off-grid configurations – sewage can be independently managed thanks to a biological liquid waste treatment system and other sanitation systems. Panoramic openings in the home also serve to connect an inhabitant with nature. Large sliding glass doors, a bay window , a skylight, and a vertical ribbon window can all be part of the design . LEAPfactory co-founders Stefano Testa and Luca Gentilcore said in a statement, “Living immersed in nature represents one of the most important choices to embrace a new style of life. We like to think that we can combine the comforts of a modern home with the profound freedom and the pioneering spirit of a life in perfect harmony with the environment that surrounds us.” LEAPfactory’s process allows them to go from a design to a fully furnished and functioning house “within weeks” according to their website . + LEAPfactory + LeapHome Images courtesy of LEAPfactory

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LeapHome unveils sustainable, super-efficient Frame prefab

Study reveals where climate change is most likely to induce food violence

June 12, 2017 by  
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Much has been written about the affect rising temperatures will have on climate and sea levels, but global warming is expected to dish up a host of other catastrophes as well. According to a new study published in the Journal of Peace Research , the first ever to take into account climate change-induced weather patterns on violence and the strength of governments around the world, certain locations will be more susceptible to food violence than others. Take a closer look after the jump. The study was conducted by Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University, and former doctoral students Benjamin Jones of the University of Mississippi and Eleonora Mattiacci of Amherst University. Together, they concluded that extreme weather, such as droughts and floods, could hurt agricultural production, which will likely lead to violence in affected regions or elsewhere by those who are desperate for food. “We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world,” Braumoeller said. The researchers used data recorded about the effects of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa between the years 1991 to 2011. Measurements for food shocks and the vulnerability of countries were also taken into account. For food shocks related to climate change , the team analyzed rainfall, temperature and the international prices of food — including sudden spikes in prices. To determine which countries are most vulnerable, the researchers analyzed the country’s dependence on agricultural production, its imports, its wealth, and the strength of its political institutions. Related: Solar-Powered Floating Greenhouse is an Off-Grid Solution to Food Scarcity In the report, Braumoeller explained that the countries that imported food would be most affected by climate shocks as prices increase — even if they weren’t experiencing “significant weather impacts themselves.” “We found that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture ,” said Braumoeller. “Less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.” This data is important because it provides insight as to how more developed countries, such as the United States , can respond to these challenges. It is “crucial” to break the links between food insecurity and violence, said Braumoeller, and countries can help accomplish this in a number of ways. A short-term solution is to provide food aid to offset shortages, whereas long-term efforts include strengthening government institutions and helping them invest in “green growth” policies aimed at improving the economy. Braumoeller said, ”Development aid is important now and it is likely to be even more important in the future as we look for ways to increase climate resilience.” + Journal of Peace Research Via Phys Images via Pixabay

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Study reveals where climate change is most likely to induce food violence

Zaha Hadid Architects completes first phase of Italys solar-powered high-speed rail hub

June 9, 2017 by  
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Italy is moving full steam ahead on the expansion of high-speed rail. The country recently celebrated inauguration for the first phase of the Napoli Afragola station, a solar-powered high-speed rail hub and major gateway to the south of Italy. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the eye-catching station, which doubles as a pedestrian bridge, and integrated energy-efficient systems such as solar panels and ground source heating and cooling. Located 12 kilometers north of Naples , the Napoli Afragola station will serve four high-speed intercity lines, three inter-regional lines, and a local commuter line. Once complete, the station will connect the 15 million residents of the surrounding southern communities with the national rail network to the north and Europe beyond. An estimated 32,700 passengers are expected to use the station daily once all lines are operational. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the Napoli Afragola station to double as a public bridge connecting communities on either side of the railway. “The design enlarges the public walkway over the eight railway tracks to such a degree that this walkway becomes the station’s main passenger concourse – a bridge housing all the services and facilities for departing, arriving and connecting passengers, with direct access to all platforms below,” write the architects. The elevated station also offers much-needed new public space for the area in addition to shops and other amenities. Related: Wind power now runs all electric passenger trains in the Netherlands Designed as “an extrusion of a trapezoid along a 450-meter curved path,” the sculptural station is constructed with a reinforced concrete base with 200 differently shaped steel ribs clad in Corian and a glazed roof. Natural light pours into the station through the glazed roof to minimize demands on artificial lighting. Integrated solar panels on the roof, natural ventilation, and ground source cooling and heating systems also reduce energy consumption. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images by Jacopo Spilimbergo

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Zaha Hadid Architects completes first phase of Italys solar-powered high-speed rail hub

G7 leaders openly say climate change consensus does not include US

May 29, 2017 by  
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The rest of the world is beginning to count the United States out of the climate change battle, if a recent statement after the 2017 Group of Seven (G7) summit is any indication. The G7 leaders met late last week in Taormina, Italy, and naturally climate change was on the agenda. But in a rather blunt statement, they said America “is not in a position to join the consensus” on the Paris Agreement and one of the biggest challenges humanity faces today. Leaders from the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Japan, and the European Union met at the G7 summit to discuss what they described as their citizens’ greatest concerns, which ranged from trade to the global economy to gender equality to climate change. The statement released after the summit declared the leaders committed to strengthening energy security and harnessing economic opportunities stemming from clean energy . The leaders also reaffirmed their dedication to the Paris Agreement – that is, all did but President Donald Trump . Related: China, Canada, EU join forces on climate action – without Trump The statement reads, “The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics. Understanding this process, the Heads of State and of Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.” There were mixed feelings over the results of the G7 summit. Trump called it an “tremendously productive meeting.” Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said they were satisfied after the meeting but was open about disagreements with the United States: “We do not disguise this division. It emerged very clearly in our conversations.” Recently elected President of France Emmanuel Macron seemed optimistic, saying he was certain Trump would support the agreement after conversations at the summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t seem as hopeful. She told reporters, “The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying. There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.” Via Reuters Images via G7 Italy 2017 on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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G7 leaders openly say climate change consensus does not include US

Stunning wooden Oberholz Mountain Hut branches out of the mountainside like a fallen tree

February 6, 2017 by  
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Nestled among Italy’s Dolomites mountains  rests a stunning new mountain hut designed by Peter Pichler Architecture and architect Pavol Mikolajcak . The Oberholz Mountain Hut , which is located near the Obereggen Ski Resort , takes cues from the landscape, fitting into the surrounding natural beauty like a fallen tree. One glance at these photographs will leave you yearning to jump on a plane to Italy to explore the gorgeous wooden restaurant . The cantilevered building sprawls out from the mountain, providing visitors with breathtaking views. Three wings span out from one structure like three tree branches, “creating a symbiosis with the landscape,” in the words of Peter Pichler Architecture . The sloping roofs offer a nod to local hut design. Related: Peter Pichler’s Mirror Houses reflect the amazing beauty of the Dolomites Meanwhile the interior, featuring a picturesque restaurant, is sleek and modern. Each wing ends in a massive glass facade facing peaks to the southwest. Branching roofs along with the interior design express “a new and contemporary interpretation of the classic mountain hut.” The Oberholz Mountain Hut is situated right next to a cable station so visitors can hit the ski slopes and then return to the hut for a meal in the intimate dining space or a drink in the cozy bar near the entrance. The stunning interior is matched by a spacious outdoor terrace filled with more tables for dining and relaxing. The hut is entirely constructed with wood , according to Peter Pichler Architecture. Spruce comprises the structural elements and much of the interior, gray larch adorns the facade, and the furniture inside is made of oak. The firm describes the hut as “a homogeneous sculpture with local materials.” Peter Pichler and Pavol Mikolajcak designed the Oberholz Mountain Hut after winning a 2015 competition. The restaurant is now open to visitors. + Peter Pichler Architecture + Pavol Mikolajcak + Oberholz Images courtesy of Peter Pichler Architecture

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Stunning wooden Oberholz Mountain Hut branches out of the mountainside like a fallen tree

Nutella ingredient could cause cancer, says EFSA

January 12, 2017 by  
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Everyone’s favorite breakfast spread is under fire again . The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said last year that palm oil , the ingredient that gives Nutella its smooth texture, could come with a cancer risk. Now Italian company Ferrero , makers of Nutella, are fighting back, even as other big-name companies like Barilla say they’ve ceased using palm oil. EFSA said in May 2016 that palm oil, when refined at temperatures higher than 200 degrees Celsius, produces more of a contaminant called glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE) than other vegetable oils. They said there is sufficient evidence glycidol – what they describe as GE’s parent compound – is carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. Related: Our love of Nutella is wrecking the Earth Ferrero has a high stake in convincing the public of palm oil’s safety; Nutella brings in about one fifth of their sales, according to Reuters. Palm oil is also cheaper than other oils, costing about $800 per ton compared with $845 for sunflower oil or $920 for rapeseed oil. As Ferrero goes through around 185,000 metric tons of palm oil every year, Reuters calculated they would spend an extra $8 to $22 million yearly if they switched to another oil. Ferrero would not give Reuters a comment on those statistics. The company launched a TV commercial that’s played in Italy for the last three months, featuring Ferrero purchasing manager Vincenzo Tapella, who told Reuters, “Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward.” Some politicians have criticized the ad, saying it misleads consumers on environmental and health risks. Ferrero argues they process palm oil at temperatures just under 200 degrees Celsius to lower GE levels to the point where scientific instruments can barely trace the contaminant. They also claim to purchase palm oil approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil . The palm oil industry has been criticized for contributing to deforestation and destroying the habitats of endangered animals like orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Is it time to give it up? Via Reuters Images via Brian Cantoni on Flickr and Janine on Flickr

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Nutella ingredient could cause cancer, says EFSA

Three-mile-high futuristic skyscraper has a smog-eating, self-cleaning coating

January 12, 2017 by  
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What will the world look like in 2062? Manufacturing company Arconic gives us a preview with their latest campaign called ” The Jetsons “. The firm’s engineers teamed up with futurists to update the world of the Jetsons with new design marvels like flying cars and three-mile-high skyscrapers covered in a smog-eating, self-cleaning coating. The thing is, a lot of the technologies showcased in their campaign are already available. Flying cars inspired by nature, 3D-printed aerodynamic airplanes, and solar-powered rovers are among the technologies dreamed up for The Jetsons campaign. But The Jetsons doesn’t only draw on the stuff of imagination; some of the materials utilized are on the market today, such as EcoClean , a coating released in 2011. When water vapor and light mix with the chemicals in EcoClean, free radicals form. The free radicals suck up and break down pollutants so they can be washed off the building “with just the slightest bit of moisture,” like dew or light rain, according to EcoClean . Related: Cambridge researchers are growing bone for greener buildings Sherri McCleary, a chief materials scientist at Arconic, told Business Insider, “The functional coating provides aesthetics, it provides maintenance benefits, and it also provides a benefit to the surrounding environment by reducing the content of pollutants around it.” The company claims 10,000 square feet coated with EcoClean “has the approximate air cleansing power of 80 trees .” Another futuristic technology that will probably hit markets well before 2062 is Bloomframe , invented by Hofman Dujardin and developed by Arconic company Kawneer . Bloomframe is a motorized window that can transform into a balcony in 55 seconds. An Arconic company spokesperson told Business Insider the technology will be available in the “near future.” 3D printing could allow Arconic to bring futuristic technologies to market today; McCleary said the technology could enable buildings that wouldn’t otherwise be feasible to endure unique climates and high winds, and offer architects more options. You can check out the rest of Arconic’s vision for 2062 here . + Arconic Via Business Insider Images via Arconic Facebook

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