Wake up and smell the sun-powered coffee brewing in Dubai

January 6, 2022 by  
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International design and innovation office CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota Building Office just unveiled a new café at Expo Dubai 2020’s Italian Pavilion that makes coffee with solar power. Solar Moka is a giant coffee-making machine that is suspended from the ceiling surrounded by mirror arrays that track the sun. Solar rays directed toward the coffee pot heat water for the coffee. Solar Moka is part of an entire café designed for the expo that highlights the principles of a circular economy, transparent supply chain and sustainable design. Related: This futuristic design uses recycled bottles, coffee and oranges At the entrance to the café , a series of potted coffee plants are suspended 16 feet above the ground. The plants are grown on-site for the entire duration of the Expo. The cafe’s main counter is even made from coffee beans grown from these plants.  The coffee garden containing Solar Moka includes coffee plants to give customers a visual of where their coffee originates from. The circular shaped cafe was designed for Italian coffee manufacturing company Lavazza. The idea is to create a transparent supply chain contained within the cafe itself. “We tried to play with different dimensions of sustainability here,” said MIT Professor Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati. “All the waste from coffee production is reused in the design in various ways.” Solar Moka is a 8-foot-tall reproduction of one of the iconic Italian Carmencita Moka pot. The Moka pot was designed by Italian architect Marco Zanuso for Lavazza in 1979.  “This project combines the Italian traditions of coffee and design with the principles of the circular economy ,” said Italo Rota, founder of Italo Rota Building Office and co-designer on the project. “At the same time, it plays with the convergence between the natural and the artificial worlds, a topic that is central to the future of our work.” + Carlo Ratti Associati Photography by Michele Nastasi

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Wake up and smell the sun-powered coffee brewing in Dubai

Bank on green by investing in the environment

January 6, 2022 by  
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If you’re like most people, you haven’t given a moment’s thought to how banking affects climate change. But if you do pause, it makes sense that such a major institution could, and does, impact everything from forests to water . As a customer, your choices at the bank can mean the difference between burdening the planet and benefitting it.  At first glance, you may be thinking about environmental aspects like how much paper your bank uses. We all know financial institutions like their paper trail. Obviously, that’s an important consideration, and as banks move further into the digital realm, the paper consumption becomes a fraction of what it used to be.  Related: Major banks still back fossil fuel industry despite climate pledges Then there’s the energy consumption throughout the process of banking. Heating, cooling and lighting large banks, especially older or very large ones, is the opposite of energy-efficiency . As a central industry for the nation, banks carry a huge responsibility to invest in ways that reduce waste of things like paper and energy at every level of the organization.  Even with all that in mind, perhaps the best way a bank can change the course of its environmental impact is to control where its money is invested. While it’s great to consider your individual part in the larger scheme of things, the truth is that the gas you save making an e-deposit instead of driving to the bank for a deposit isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to the massive power a bank entity holds in driving the course of climate correction.  That’s because banks make money through investments. Where they invest that money — our money — controls who has funds to pursue its interests. For example, banks often invest in the fossil fuel industry. And why not? It’s been a money maker for generations. However, banks who invest in green energy and refuse to fund fossil fuel projects are leaders in environmental solutions.  Green bank means sustainable banking If you know where your bank invests, it gives you the power to make wise eco-friendly banking choices that support environmental goals. Ando is one example of sustainable banking with environmental protections at its core. According to the company, “Ando invests 100% of customer deposits in green initiatives exclusively, like renewable energy and regenerative farming, allowing users to have the single greatest individual impact on reducing carbon emissions and healing the planet.” While sustainable finance is a catchy headline phrase, the current actions are woefully insufficient. The percentage of banks heavily focused on investing in regenerative farming , carbon reduction and efficient waste systems is miniscule. As the zeitgeist continues to shift, however, your decision about what bank to support becomes even more crucial.  Avoid the biggest banks The most commonly-found banks in the country are nearly all associated with funding non-renewable resources . According to the Rainforest Action Network, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America, TD, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs are the seven most-popular banks. They also fund the most fossil fuels.  Look at sustainability statements from your bank You can start to get a feel for your bank’s sustainability focus by reviewing its sustainability statements. If the highlight reel involves paperless bank statements and energy-efficient lighting, it’s fair to say it is not proud of its investment profile when it comes to environmental protections.  B-Corporation Banks Just like other businesses who practice corporate responsibility around social and environmental actions, banks can also earn B-Corp status. Achieving this certification is a good indicator the bank is working with environmental goals in mind.  Fossil-fuel-free banks and credit unions Just like their big brothers, smaller community banks are not obligated to disclose where they invest their funds. However, many will proudly disclose if they refuse to invest in fossil fuels . Look for a public commitment against financing dirty energy. The list is growing every day. Credit unions  vs. banks Unlike banks, credit unions are developed for groups of people with common goals. Also unlike banks, credit unions are in business to meet the needs of their members, not a paid board of directors. Since credit unions exist to fund loans within their community, the focus isn’t on investing in the larger fossil-fuel industry . Holding your accounts at a credit union, therefore, means your money stays and supports locally.  Go digital, go green with your banks Several online-only banks have launched a banking platform specifically centered around sustainable banking and investments . Check out Aspiration, ATMOS and Ando to see if their service options work for you. Via Grist , Euro Money , Mighty Deposits and Small Footprint Family Lead image via Pexels

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Bank on green by investing in the environment

Smart flower LOTUS moves in response to light

November 19, 2021 by  
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The recipe for this art display includes a dash of intrigue, a measure of intelligence and a full serving of “WOW” factor. LOTUS is a nature-inspired smart material that mirrors how flowers act when greeted by the sun .  The story of LOTUS begins in 2010 with curiosity and a deep dive into smart materials . The design team at Studio Roosegaarde was looking for a material that not only looked like something that came from nature, but actually responds to stimuli in real time.  Related: Los Angeles art show features historic Barnsdall olive wood With that, the LOTUS family of smart flowers was born. In the past decade, the assorted art installations have changed in scope and shape, yet all are LOTUS flowers that open in response to light. LOTUS OCULUS is the most recent release. “LOTUS OCULUS pays homage to the grandeur of the Pantheon and continues this legacy by creating an organic architecture of movement and shadows,” the artists comment. “This dynamic dialogue is what Daan Roosegaarde calls ‘Techno-Poetry.’” It’s easy to see why. When you view the art in motion, it seems to breathe in the atmosphere around it. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious the larger form is actually composed of many smaller panels of the material, each of which curls into a flower shape when stimulated.   Taking a step back, the entire exhibit comes to life as the parts fold and unfold in response to the changing environment . The result is an interplay of light and movement throughout the space. LOTUS OCULUS was commissioned by Bulgari and was placed in the Modern Art Gallery in Milan. The unique and interactive design was awarded the A’Design Gold Award and Media Architecture Award Denmark. The material takes a different shape as LOTUS Maffei, which is part of the permanent art collection of Palazzo Maffei Museum in Verona, Italy . That’s no small cast credit in the company of notable works by Lucio Fontana, Pablo Picasso and Gerrit Rietveld.  In a focal point for the 17th-century Sainte Marie Madeleine Church in Lille, France, the material was shaped for what is known as the LOTUS DOME . ?This striking exhibition draws the visitor in, enticing them to move around the dome, bringing the LOTUS petals to life in the process.  Roosegaarde describes this tangible connection between light and material as “a metamorphosis of nature and technology . In search of a new harmony between people and the environment, LOTUS is a work of art and a pilot for a more organic architecture.” + Studio Roosegaarde Images via Daan Roosegaarde

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Smart flower LOTUS moves in response to light

Greenary is a lush, biophilic house built around a tree

November 5, 2021 by  
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Once a traditional Italian farmhouse and granary, what’s now known as Greenary is a home that has undergone a transformation that blurs the line between the natural world and the residential one, literally building around an existing tree. Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA), in collaboration with Italo Rota, redesigned the space with a  ficus tree  at the heart of it. It’s one of many projects developed in alignment with CRA’s mission to include natural elements into architecture under the theme of biophilia. It’s a philosophy introduced by Harvard professor E.O. Wilson, which suggests people intrinsically want to live close to nature.  Related: A green remodel gave this 1950s home major treehouse vibes That’s easy to do with a 60-year-old tree at ground level inside the home. She makes such a statement, she even has a name, Alma, and as a representative from the ficus australis species, she’s equipped to handle life indoors. However, designers relied on  passive design  and advanced technological solutions to ensure her comfort. The primary adaptation was to fill the space with copious  natural light . Massive windows on the south side contribute to this goal while other systems monitor the temperature and humidity for the comfort of the tree and the residents. The roof and the windows open and close automatically to provide the ideal amount of sunlight and fresh air into the space.   “In a flat landscape in which there are no mountains, hills, or lakes, but only plains, nature expresses itself through a beautiful light that changes throughout the day. It adds a charming, almost film-like quality to the atmosphere,” said Italo Rota, director of Italo Rota Building Office. “The  environmental  conditions around the Greenary inspired our design, and this represents one of the different expressions we use to illustrate the harmony between natural and artificial elements.” The Greenary embraces an architectural concept developed in the 1900s by architect Adolf Loos, called the Raumplan, which essentially means to have nature at the core. Although Alma is difficult to ignore, there are more subtle  natural materials  woven into the design, such as soil and orange peels incorporated into the flooring.   “The 20th-century Italian architect Carlo Scarpa once said, ‘Between a tree and a house, choose the tree .’ While I resonate with his sentiment, I think we can go a step further and put the two together,” said Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Much of CRA’s work focuses on the intersection between the natural and artificial worlds. With the Greenary, we are trying to imagine a new domestic landscape built around nature and its rhythm.” + CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati Images via Delfino Sisto Legnani and Alessandro Saletta

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This futuristic design uses recycled bottles, coffee and oranges

October 20, 2021 by  
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Dubai Expo’s Italian Pavilion is a futuristic, sustainable creation. The 38,000-square-feet (3,500-square-meter) masterpiece opened on Oct. 1 at Dubai Expo 2020. Designed by Carlo Ratti Associati ( CRA ) and Italo Rota Building Office, the Italian Pavilion stands out for its creativity in utilizing sustainable materials. Thanks to its innovative design and materials, the building has already won Best Entrepreneurial Project of the Year at the Construction Innovation Awards. Related: WOHA’s final design for Singapore Pavilion nears completion These innovative materials include 2 million recycled plastic bottles that form a multimedia facade. The designers also used recycled algae, coffee grounds and orange peels as building materials. Recycling, reusing and renewing are at the core of the design. The roof is probably the most outstanding part of the entire design. It uses three boat hulls that could set sail immediately after Dubai Expo. According to Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, the Pavilion addresses issues that architectural designs have failed to address for many years. “Our design for the Italian Pavilion deals with what I believe is architecture’s most important challenge today: advancing the double convergence between the natural and the artificial. It anticipates issues and suggests strategies that will be increasingly crucial for the future of our cities as we address the consequences of the current climate crisis ,” Ratti said. The facade is fitted with LEDs that can be lit to transform the entire building into a multimedia surface. According to the designers, the bottles that make up the surface can be used again after the expo ends. But what about the coffee grounds and orange peels used in the design? The coffee and orange peels were left to dry and turned into powder used to coat suspended pathways. The setting of the Italian Pavilion on a five-meter-high dune made out of locally sourced sand also speaks to the design’s sustainable focus. + CRA Images © Michele Nastasi

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This futuristic design uses recycled bottles, coffee and oranges

Vertima’s environmental consulting helps businesses go green

October 20, 2021 by  
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Businesses worldwide have begun looking for ways to increase the sustainable components of their companies while decreasing the environmental impact of inefficient buildings,  waste  and pollution. One Canadian company has stepped in to act as a consultant for businesses looking to make those kinds of changes, and it’s called Vertima.  Started in 2008 by Josée Lupien and Jean DesRosiers, Vertima is a group of environmental strategies professionals that have the answers companies are looking for regarding everything from building materials to air quality inside the office. Related: Google’s first retail location earns LEED Platinum certification The team at Vertima offers expert advice in its collaborations with real estate developers, manufacturers and training organizations. One of its top goals is to support businesses as they seek to achieve LEED ® certification. Vertima also guides businesses toward carbon-neutral practices and helps them become more eco-responsible. The company has analyzed and validated over 1,000 products with environmental properties and features and has completed more than 91 sustainable building certification projects, including LEED, WELL and Green Globes. The team has developed over 250 collaborative workshops on integrated design processes (ICP) and trained over 950 professionals in the construction industry. To entice businesses to invest time in listening and learning through the training programs, Quebec’s Commission des partenaires du marché du travail has recognized the program in a way that gives training credits to employees who participate. Vertima training is also approved by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) for those maintaining their LEED® specialized professional designation. According to the Vertima website, “We offer high-quality professional consulting services to meet the needs of our clients and create economic,  environmental  and social value through each mandate.”  Most recently, Vertima completed the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management for the Place Ville Marie (PVM) business campus. Ivanhoé Cambridge, the client on the project, is the first company in Canada to obtain the certification. It’s a standard that highlights PVM’s commitment to the highest standards for cleaning and sanitization, emergency preparedness, health service resources and air and water quality management to respond to the pandemic and meet the future needs of PVM’s occupants. In another recent project, the team offered guidance for the environmental requirements and performance during construction of the new Maison Radio-Canada, owned by Broccolini, and similarly for the Ericsson corporate campus, a LEED® gold-level project of MONTONI. “We want to make a difference by facilitating the implementation of environmental strategies within companies,” said Lupien, LEED Fellow, WELL AP, President of Vertima. “Through our team of passionate and highly skilled professionals, we create economic value for any company that wants to update its certifications or environmental practices.” + Vertima Images via Vertima and Pixabay

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Vertima’s environmental consulting helps businesses go green

Italian thermal spa celebrates 101st anniversary with a sustainable renovation

July 23, 2021 by  
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First completed in 1919, Terme di Saturnia is a world-renowned resort and spa in Italy that is steeped in history. Now, the property has completed a sustainable renovation thanks to London-based studio THDP (The Hickson Design Partnership Ltd). The new design concept celebrates the natural conditions of the original thermal spring with preserved wooden furnishings, décor crafted by local artisans and green spaces. “The initial briefing strived to achieve a visible and perceived renewal, while retaining the original internal architectural structure and maintaining the high-quality furnishings as part of the former design project by the architect Lorenzo Bellini,” said Manuela Mannino of THDP. “We have employed terms such as reflection, corrosion, erosion, layering, ripples to convey the visual and emotional language of interior design .” The designers selected a color palette that matched the resort’s natural surroundings, including blue tones to mimic the property’s thermal waterfalls. Related: 1850s barn in Italy becomes a modern, sustainable family home For the reception area, they collaborated with local artisans , from the Ragnini workshops in Pitigliano, who crafted oxidized tables and bronzed handles. To maintain a dedication to the property’s historic ties, a number of the existing wooden furnishings were restored and preserved in private rooms and common spaces as well. The designers utilized high-quality Tuscan crafts, such as ND Dolfi vases and tiles, to decorate the bronze metal dividers created by workshop Officine Ragnini di Pitigliano; the craft workshop has been in the same family for seven generations. There is a green “living wall” incorporated into the interior décor to indicate the dining area as well as a central patio surrounding an internal garden and olive tree. The entrance is fixed with suspended lanterns and large light installations to replicate the feeling of water. Several finished metal plates designed with different oxidation effects help reflect the balance between the waterfalls and earth. All 124 guestrooms have also undergone a renovation with a focus on guest comfort.  + THDP Photography by Giorgio Baroni via THDP

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California couple charged for starting wildfire during gender reveal

July 23, 2021 by  
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Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez, a Southern California couple responsible for starting a forest fire last year, have recently been charged with involuntary manslaughter. The couple started the fire after a gender reveal went wrong, sparking a fire that killed a firefighter. The couple now faces both felony and misdemeanor charges. According to an announcement made by San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, the couple pleaded not guilty to charges involving the El Dorado Fire. The El Dorado Fire started on September 5 last year when the couple and their children and friends ignited a “ smoke -generating pyrotechnic device” to reveal the gender of their new baby. The party, held at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, turned tragic when the device ignited nearby grass. Although the party tried to put out the fire using water, they could not handle the quickly spreading flames. Related: Oregon’s Bootleg Fire is creating its own weather When firefighters were called to help, the fire had already spread and was difficult to contain. Charles Morton, a 39-year-old leader of the elite Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad, ended up losing his life in the fire. Morton had worked as a firefighter for more than 18 years. The fire also injured 13 other people and led to the destruction of vast tracks of forest land, claiming about 36 square miles in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Hundreds of families were evacuated from the region, and about five homes and 15 other buildings were destroyed. The state of California experienced thousands of fires last year, with El Dorado being just one of the many. Approximately 4% of the state was affected by wildfires fueled by dry conditions and strong winds. Nearly 10,500 buildings were destroyed across the state, with about 33 people losing their lives to wildfires. Via Huffpost Lead image via Pexels

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This vineyard suite is tucked into a Tuscan UNESCO world heritage site

July 21, 2021 by  
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Recently unveiled in the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco in Val d’Orcia,  Italy , part of a UNESCO world heritage site, the first unit of a luxury vineyard suite project was recently unveiled to the public. Known as Casa Ojalá, the guest suite has a few whimsical features like retractable beds, hidden furnishings, a merry-go-round terrace, roof portholes and a series of pulleys, gears and ropes. With over $1 billion worth of development expected by 2025, the hotel will embrace the surrounding nature and ensure eco-friendly,  sustainable architecture  in its design. Some of the environmentally-focused features include sustainable wood selection, fabrics made from  recycled plastic  and the inclusion of handmade Italian ceramic pieces created by local artisans. Related: Latvian wellness resort honors traditional spa rituals The resort will also include a bio  garden  with over 180 plant species inside, and the entire property will be plastic-free. Future plans include using photovoltaic panels, a rainwater recovery system and a black water depuration advanced biological plant. “We are proud to launch, starting in Italy in synergy with Castiglion del Bosco, to offer its guests of exception an absolutely unique chance of enjoying and discovering the wonders of the resort,” said Italian architect Beatrice Bonzanigo, President of Casa Ojalá. “I consider the Luxury of the Casa that I invented, a form of happiness for the guests of the best Hotels around the world. A sort of revival of handcraft as the root of evolution. Beyond the automatism of travel and living of our times, based on virtuality and hyper technology.” Once completed, the resort will offer 42 suites, 11 villas, two restaurants, a spa and a cooking school. At 5,000 acres in total, the estate will also encompass the historic Brunello di Montalcino  organic  winery and a private member’s golf club. + Casa Ojalá Images courtesy of Casa Ojalá

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This vineyard suite is tucked into a Tuscan UNESCO world heritage site

Minka Solar Pods provide versatile off-grid work or chat hubs

July 21, 2021 by  
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The worlds of business and leisure are changing at an exponential rate, and keeping up with the times means making space for slowing down. London-based design studio Duffy London understands the need for comfortable and functional gathering spots with off-grid functionality as an alternative to the local coffee shop or boardroom for small get-togethers. Building on the prior success of its indoor Japanese-inspired Minka Pods and Retro Pods, the company has released the outdoor-only Minka Solar Pods, which are designed to break up open spaces with cozy seating for up to four people. Related: KOGAA upcycles construction waste into a plant-filled coffee hub The finished look is modern and sleek, and it can function as a work hub, complete with four USB ports and acoustic panels that stifle distracting noises nearby. Minka Solar is 100% powered by the premium photovoltaic panels and lithium-ion battery integrated into the design, so it can be placed anywhere from the center of a city boardwalk to an off-the-beaten-path location. The main construction material is high-grade walnut and oak wood veneers derived from sustainably sourced forests under the supervision of the Forest Stewardship Council . The stations also include powder-coated mild steel for a durable finish. Even though they are open on the sides to allow for free-flowing air and to maintain a connection with the surrounding environment, Minka Solar Pods are weather-resistant to offer protection on rainy days. “We wanted to design a piece of communal furniture that can meet the needs of the modern working and municipal environment,” explained Chris Duffy, founder and director of Duffy London. “Indoor or outdoor, our Minka PODs serve as highly adaptable, non-defined spaces, that act like mini-hives for human interactions.” The standard Minka Solar Pod comes in several different color and finish options, each changing the final look with a range from neutral grays to striking black and gold. Each pod is custom-made when ordered, and every component is handmade by local artisans and in-house craftspeople. Duffy London asks customers to allow 12 weeks for delivery. + Duffy London Images via Duffy London

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