Rare dolphin species spotted in the Adriatic Sea

August 26, 2020 by  
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The Delphinus delphis , an uncommon dolphin species, has been repeatedly spotted in the Adriatic Sea. According to recent research led by marine scientists at the University of St Andrews, the rare dolphin has been observed multiple times off the coasts of Italy and Slovenia. The research was done in collaboration with Morigenos Slovenian Marine Mammal Society with a goal to determine the occurrence of common dolphins in the Gulf of Trieste and the Northern Adriatic Sea. The findings of the study, published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems , came as a shock to many scientists, given that Delphinus delphis was considered regionally extinct in the Adriatic Sea. The decline in Delphinus delphis numbers in the Adriatic Sea can be traced back to misinformed policies put in place by Italy and former Yugoslavia in the mid-20th century. At the time, this species of dolphin was considered a pest to the fishing industry. The two countries encouraged people to kill these dolphins for monetary reward to reduce competition for fish. In the 1970s, the number of Delphinus delphis dropped significantly, leading to the species being listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Besides the direct killing of the species, increased fishing activities have also led to a reduction in the number of dolphins in the Adriatic Sea. Related: Lapsed fishing moratorium endangers Amazon river dolphins Over the past 30 years, Delphinus delphis have been very rare in this area, leading to speculations that they might be regionally extinct . However, the recent findings show that Delphinus delphis are showing up more regularly, with four animals spotted repeatedly over a 4-year span. The research, conducted through photo-identification, also shows that some of the dolphins spotted in the Adriatic Sea had traveled as far as 1,000 kilometers. “Unfortunately, the species continues to be rare in the region. It is difficult to say if the species is likely to make a comeback to the Adriatic Sea,” said Tilen Genov, leader of the research team and member of the Sea Mammal Research Unit for University of St Andrews. “The chances for that are likely slim, as there is currently no evidence of any increase in common dolphin abundance or sightings anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea. But hopefully, this contribution can serve as a baseline and encourage potential future cases to be reported, in order to provide further insights into the occurrence of common dolphins in the region.” + Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems Image via University of St Andrews

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Modern passive house is carbon-negative and energy-positive

August 26, 2020 by  
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Designed by McLean Quinlan Architects, the Devon Passivhaus combines contemporary architecture with a rustic outdoor setting. The modern passive house uses a minimalist-yet-elegant brick wall as its facade, with a discreet doorway carved into the front and a simple oriel glass window to peek inside at the stunning interiors. The brick design is modeled after an existing garden wall that connects the property, while the front door mimics the style of an old gate that would have accompanied such a wall in the past. The original garden and footprint inspired the design of the home, while the historic brick paths leading up to the property were restored as well. The house is certified Passive and includes eco-friendly features such as air source heating, MVHR, solar power , battery storage, super-insulation and triple-glazing in order to sustain over 100% of its required energy. Related: Local earth bricks form this inspiring co-working space in Ouagadougou Past the initial brick and into the interior of the home, a glass roofed courtyard with a winter garden is located in the center, helping to channel natural light to the inside. Natural and repurposed materials, including reclaimed terracotta, sawn oak wood and clay plaster, are found throughout the home in order to connect it with the outdoors. The clients are also avid art collectors, so the designers were sure to include spaces to display and curate their many pieces of pottery and paintings. The project leaders decided to aim toward passive capability after achieving planning under the open countryside house route. “We’d always aimed to make the house high performing, but having a benchmark to aim for and test against enabled the whole project team to get behind the ambition,” said Fiona McLean of McLean and Quinlan Architects. “The wall panels, 4Wall fromTribus, were an innovative product. A ‘hyperSIP’ panel constructed using steel framing and magnesium oxide boards sandwiching PIR insulation. Their benefits were excellent airtightness, waterproof, minimal thermal bridging, good core strength and low U-Values.” According to the clients, they’ve become carbon-negative and energy-positive by 40% thanks to the clever design. In the sunny summer months, the house generates 3,500kwh of electricity while only using 60kwh, with remaining power stored in the grid. + McLean and Quinlan Photography by Jim Stephenson via McLean and Quinlan

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Beachfront villa is split into two units for brothers to share

July 16, 2020 by  
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The Jesolo Lido Beach Villa is a beachfront, dual-unit building that exudes luxury yet incorporates energy efficiency throughout. Located in the resort area of Jesolo Lido, Italy, the split villa is the passion project by two brothers seeking to provide a beachfront getaway for their young families. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-2-889×592.jpg" alt="long pool with cabanas on either side" class="wp-image-2275089" Like many other places, beachfront property isn’t easy to come by or to afford in this popular Italian area. So when the brothers found it, they jumped on the opportunity. But as it came time for construction, they had to get creative in order to share the limited, 11-meter buildable width of the property without sacrificing the personal space each family desired. To solve the problem, they sourced the expertise of the team at JM Architecture, a firm based out of Milan. Related: Beachfront hotel in Costa Rica pays tribute to the land and its inhabitants <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-3-889×592.jpg" alt="covered patio with gray furnishings" class="wp-image-2275088" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-4-889×592.jpg" alt="villa with glass walls and extended roof eaves" class="wp-image-2275087" The architects began by respecting the wishes of the family to keep both sides of the project equal in size and amenities, creating two separate buildings that share the same symmetrical, two-bedroom two-bathroom layout and are identically furnished. The units share a beachfront, 16-meter, zero-edge swimming pool , and they also feature identical covered, custom-designed aluminum cabanas for poolside lounging with protection from the sun. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-5-889×592.jpg" alt="small yard and long pool outside white and glass beach villa" class="wp-image-2275086" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-6-889×592.jpg" alt="white room with gray sofa and wood coffee table" class="wp-image-2275085" Integral to the overall design is the use of photovoltaic panels integrated into the roof of the cabanas, which grant power to all the electrical heating and cooling systems. Using solar energy enhances other already efficient building elements, such as natural shade provided by existing trees in the white rock entrance to the building. According to the architects, they also considered noise pollution and privacy. “A large portion of the building envelope is cladded with 5 mm full-height gres tiles on a ventilated facade, to provide the necessary privacy to bedrooms and bathrooms,” the firm explained. “The north facade is entirely opaque in order to provide an acoustic boundary from the entry courtyard and the street behind.” <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-7-889×592.jpg" alt="blue chairs on a covered patio" class="wp-image-2275084" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Jesolo-Lido-Beach-Villa-8-889×592.jpg" alt="two gray chairs in a cabana beside a pool" class="wp-image-2275083" With limited above-ground building space, the design took advantage of space underground with a basement level, where the families share a gym, sauna, hot tub, cold plunge pool, additional kitchen and laundry room. Large sunken patios clad with white glass mosaic tiles reflect light and offer natural cooling features in a space that is private to each unit. + JM Architecture Via ArchDaily Photography by Jacopo Mascheroni via JM Architecture

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Beachfront villa is split into two units for brothers to share

Mountain Refuge is a modular tiny home made from plywood

June 10, 2020 by  
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Inspired by the human need to connect with nature, history and origin, the Mountain Refuge in Milan, Italy is a dramatic tiny home made from customizable wood modules. At just 258 square feet of interior space, the prefab wooden structure allows for multiple construction possibilities with optional add-ons and different floor plans. This cozy dwelling, created by Gnocchi+Danesi Architects, is perfectly designed to reside near snow-capped mountains, or really in any location that would suit such a quiet, minimalist sanctuary. The design merges traditional and contemporary with a rustic wooden interior, natural log furniture and striking black pine tar-finished roof pitches. Each plywood module works as its own independent structure, giving owners the freedom to reconfigure or expand depending on their tastes and needs. Different interior layouts grant the creativity to personalize the space even more based on preference. Related: The FLEXSE tiny house module is built from 100% recyclable materials The cabin itself consists of two separate prefab modules made out of plywood for a total of just over 258 square feet. An additional 129-square-foot module can be added at the owner’s discretion to expand the interior to 387 square feet. A helicopter delivery system opens up multiple possibilities for remote locations that might not otherwise be accessible for a tiny home. The modules have no need for foundation work or poured concrete, although the designers may recommend a thin concrete slab depending on the location. All finishes are made with plywood , with the exterior coated in black pine tar for waterproofing and a classic aesthetic. The front glazing, recommended as a single glass panel, is large enough to bring in plenty of natural light and gorgeous views. Additional equipment such as heating, water and electricity can also be added. According to the architects, construction price for a furnished and mounted Mountain Refuge cabin will vary from $40,000 to $50,000, depending on the specific plan and the location. + Mountain Refuge Images via The Mountain Refuge

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Italy’s Relaunch Decree helps homeowners install solar photovoltaic systems for free

May 27, 2020 by  
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Italy has been hit hard by COVID-19 and is attempting to jump-start its economy through the Relaunch Decree, a revitalization package of 55 billion euros ($60 billion) that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his cabinet passed earlier this month. The stimulus includes tax breaks for clean energy projects and renovations; Italian homeowners are offered free rooftop installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through the Relaunch Decree. To help Italy recover from the coronavirus-induced recession, incentives — like tax credits for homeowners pivoting toward energy efficient home improvement projects — are offered. According to Ernst & Young’s Global Tax News , “Individuals can offset 110% of qualified building renovation and energy efficiency costs incurred between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2021 against their tax liabilities in five equal installments (up to certain thresholds).” Related: First home solar pavement installed on a driveway PV Magazine explained that the bonus is “for building-renovation projects from 65% to 110% and a jump in support for PV installations and storage systems associated with such renovation projects, from 50% of costs to 110%.” Any solar photovoltaic installations for the next year-and-a-half will be subsidized. Only a few weeks ago, Green Tech Media warned that Italy’s subsidy-free solar sector had stalled due to the pandemic, placing many projects on hold. While the solar industry is no stranger to vicissitude cycles, the pandemic added unexpected variables. “For the sector, the Relaunch Decree is certainly a great opportunity for the spread of photovoltaics on the roofs of Italian homes,” said Paolo Rocco Viscontini, president of PV association Italia Solare. Italy’s investment incentives for solar should come as no surprise, since Statista describes Italy as “the leading country worldwide for electricity consumption covered by solar PV.” Since the early 2000s, Italy has been a strong proponent of solar installations. In 2017, it unveiled its National Energy Strategy — a 10-year plan to decarbonize, expand renewable energy and promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. As of early 2020, Italy is second only to Germany in the photovoltaic sector, with solar power as the country’s preferred renewable energy source. In 2019, Italy had a 69% increase in solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2018. That growth was deemed “the most substantial recorded in Italy” by PV Europe with a grand total of 56,590 new solar power system installations in 2019, of which 50,653 were residential. While COVID-19 dampened photovoltaic growth for Italy’s first quarter of 2020, many nonetheless hope that the Relaunch Decree’s incentives can support a swift restart of the solar PV sector. Tom Heggarty, principal solar analyst for global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said , “Solar [projects are] pretty quick to develop and construct. So once we start to see restrictions lifted, the industry should, theoretically, be in a good place to bounce back quite quickly.” Via EY Global Tax News , PV Magazine , Green Tech Media , Statista and PV Europe Image via Giorgio Trovato

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Green-roofed villa blends into a Costa Rican jungle landscape

May 27, 2020 by  
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Hidden in the lush mountains of Costa Rica is Atelier Villa, a green-roofed residence that Czech architecture firm Formafatal created as part of the boutique retreat Art Villas Resort. Designed to blend in with the surroundings, the minimalist home was built primarily of natural materials. It also features weathered aluminum wall panels that open up to provide a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience. The Atelier Villa is one of four structures in the Art Villas Resort located on a 2-hectare hill above Playa Hermosa. Masterplanned by Formafatal, the resort comprises the Art Villa, a concrete structure designed by Refuel; the Coco Villa, a set of five egg-shaped houses designed by Archwerk studio; the Wing, a tropical multifunctional pavilion ; and the private Atelier Villa. The property can host small-group retreats of up to 24 people and is open for rent via Airbnb. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica Elevated off of the ground, the Atelier Villa appears to float above the landscape and uses its raised position to take in views of the distant ocean and green hills. “The first and foremost priority is not only the idea of ‘erasing boundaries between interior and exterior’ but also highlighting constructional simplicity and pure lines (pura vida >> pura arquitectura),” the architects explained of the minimalist, steel-framed design. Formafatal wrapped the boxy, 26-meter-long home in operable, perforated aluminum panels, which don’t heat up in the sun and are rust-resistant, as well as Shou Sugi Ban -treated timber. A minimalist design approach was also applied to the interior, which is largely open-plan to provide uninterrupted sight lines of the outdoors throughout the home. Natural materials were used for the interior surfaces as well as the furnishings, which, aside from the lounge and dining chairs, were custom-made for the villa. Many of the furnishings were made with help from local craftsmen. + Formafatal Photography by BoysPlayNice via Formafatal

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Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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Resurrected greenhouse to honor father of modern genetics

April 10, 2020 by  
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International architecture and urban design practice  CHYBIK + KRISTOF has unveiled designs for an energy-efficient greenhouse to commemorate Gregor Mendel, a scientist and Augustinian friar regarded as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Set on the foundations of the 19th-century Brno greenhouse where Mendel conducted his pioneering experiments, the new greenhouse will pay homage to the original architecture and Mendel’s teachings. The greenhouse is slated for completion in 2022 to commemorate Mendel’s birth 200 years ago.  Born in 1822, Gregor Mendel spent eight seasons, from 1856 to 1863, cultivating and breeding pea plants in a 19th-century greenhouse that had been built in the St. Thomas Augustinian Abbey’s gardens to cement the monastery as a leading center for scientific research. In 1870, however, a storm destroyed the building, leaving only its foundations intact today. The experiments that Mendel had conducted within the greenhouse are now widely recognized as the foundation of modern genetics .  CHYBIK + KRISTOF’s resurrection of the historic greenhouse begins with the preservation of the foundations that will be integrated into the new structure and left visible. The foundations will inform the orientation and shape of the greenhouse, which will be reminiscent of the original building. “While the trapezoidal volume is identical to the original edifice, the reimagined supporting steel structure seeks inspiration from Mendel’s three laws of inheritance – and the drawings of his resulting heredity system,” explained the architects. “Likewise, the pitched roof, consisting of a vast outer glass surface, reflects his law of segregation and the distribution of inherited traits, and is complemented by a set of modular shades.” Related: Kuehn Malvezzi tops a brick office building in Germany with an energy-efficient greenhouse In addition to celebrating Mendel’s work, the revived structure will primarily be used as a flexible events space that can adapt to a variety of functions, from conferences and lectures to temporary exhibitions. The flexible design will also be entirely exposed to the outdoors. For energy efficiency, the architects have integrated a concealed system of underground heat pumps  into the greenhouse, as well as adjustable shades and embedded blinds to facilitate natural cooling and ventilation.  + CHYBIK + KRISTOF Images by monolot and CHYBIK + KRISTOF

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Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous

March 17, 2020 by  
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Some climate experts are hypothesizing that living in areas with high air pollution could make cases of COVID-19 worse. Smoking tobacco products could also worsen the effects of the virus. “Given what we know now, it is very likely that people who are exposed to more air pollution and who are smoking tobacco products are going to fare worse if infected with COVID than those who are breathing cleaner air , and who don’t smoke,” Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Washington Post. Because no large-scale studies have been done to connect air pollution with the virus, Bernstein’s view is still a hypothesis. Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions Some of the world’s more polluted regions have seen the most coronavirus fatalities, such as densely populated urban areas of Iran and China. The air quality is so bad that people living in Tehran or in the Hebei province of China may routinely inhale an equivalent amount of air pollution as someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. Northern Italy is one of Europe’s most polluted areas. South Korean cities have high air pollution levels and a high rate of tobacco use. During the severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] epidemic in 2003, researchers noticed a correlation between low air quality and regions with more fatalities. However, they didn’t conclude air pollution was necessarily the cause. Other factors, including socioeconomic status, may also have played a role in the disease’s patterns. There may also be a correlation between smoking and the deadliness of COVID-19. Researchers found worse outcomes for smokers who suffered from Middle East respiratory syndrome, both in the Middle East and in South Korea. Pneumonia , to which smokers are often susceptible, is sometimes part of severe coronavirus cases. Via U.S. News & World Report and The Hill Image via Edmond Yu

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Powerbarn is a bioenergy plant offering power to 84,000 families

March 3, 2020 by  
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In the rural commune of Russi in northeast Italy, Italian architecture firm Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti has converted an industrial zone once used for sugar production into the new grounds for the Powerbarn, a bioenergy production plant with a sculptural appearance. Inspired by eco-friendly principles, the architects crafted a masterplan that integrated the architecture into the farming landscape and restored and re-naturalized approximately 280,000 square meters — including three wetlands — for the benefit of the local ecosystem and community. Surrounded by human-made dunes to soften its appearance, the Powerbarn uses biomass, biogas and solar systems to generate an output of approximately 222 GWh a year — enough to satisfy the energy needs of 84,000 families. Once the site for the Eridania sugar factory, the former industrial property has long felt at odds with its agricultural surroundings. That’s why Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti paid special attention to the edges of the property, which the team has redefined with human-made dunes — rather than an industrial fence — constructed only from earth used from the construction site excavation. The vegetated dunes help soften the Powerbarn’s size; the main building that comprises the furnace and smoke line measures about 100 meters in length and over 30 meters in height. Related: Ski atop the world’s cleanest waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen “Our intention was to create something similar to a natural bastion, almost a dune, along the edge of the area now converted into the pole for energy production — hence an element closely linked to the ecological functions of an environment,” Giovanni Vaccarini explained. “Not a barrier, but a functional element that would express our design intentions: to create a permeable, accessible and living element.” Inspired by the “razzle dazzle” camouflage technique, Vaccarini clad the Powerbarn in large triangular panels of timber and steel that also evoke the art of weaving and nomadic architecture. The masterplan also includes a building for offices, an electric substation and an area for wastewater collection. In addition to solar, the Powerbarn is fueled with wood chips and organic materials sourced within a 70-kilometer radius of the site along with livestock sewage that’s fed into the biogas plant. + Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti Photography by Massimo Crivellari via Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti

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Powerbarn is a bioenergy plant offering power to 84,000 families

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