Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

November 14, 2019 by  
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In hopes of reinventing its image, new life is breathing into Fukushima, the Japanese northeastern prefecture that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami and consequent nuclear power plant meltdown. Fukushima, which is Japan’s third largest prefecture, is revitalizing and transforming into a renewable energy hub. Eight years ago, in March 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, overwhelming the Fukushima reactors and causing the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Decontamination of Fukushima’s nuclear plant and surroundings are ongoing. Related: Global renewable energy is projected to rise by 50% in the next 5 years, IEA finds Since 2011, both the Japanese state and Fukushima local governments have ramped up the prefecture’s renewable energy production. To meet the entire region’s needs with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, endeavors are underway to cultivate and integrate clean energy sources like biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. There are already investor plans to construct 11 new solar farms and 10 wind power plants on under-utilized farmlands and hillsides tainted by radiation. Development of these new solar and wind power plants will take place in the next five years, with the first solar plant being a 20-megawatt (MW) installation planned for Minamisoma. Estimated costs for all the green energy construction runs upward of 300 billion Japanese yen, or $2.75 billion in U.S. dollars. Financiers and stakeholders supporting the renewable energy hub construction include the state-run Development Bank of Japan and the private lender Mizuho Bank. The Japanese are optimistic about the electrical power that will be generated, given the region’s current trajectory. Back in 2012, Fukushima only generated 400 MW of electricity, then increased to 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2016. By 2018, Fukushima region’s combined electrical power generation from renewables reached 1.5 GW. The 21 new plants under construction are expected to bring additional 600 MW to Fukushima’s energy output, the equivalent to powering 114,000 average American households. A new, 50-mile wide grid is similarly in the works. Via the power transmission network of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the grid will connect and feed power from Fukushima into metropolitan areas of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, about 155 miles south of the prefecture. Cost projections for the grid are 29 billion yen, or $267 million. This new clean energy action plan is aligned with the Fukushima prefecture’s goal of having renewables supply 40 percent of its electricity demand by 2020, two-thirds by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. The end goal for 2040 is that the entire Land of the Rising Sun will be completely powered through renewable energy. Via Yale360 , Japan Times and Nikkei Asian Review Image via Andreas

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Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

November 14, 2019 by  
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After five years in the making, BIG has completed The Heights, a new public school building in Arlington, Virginia that not only offers a unique and energy-efficient take on school architecture, but also helps maximize density and open space. Located along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, The Heights combines two existing secondary schools into a new 180,000-square-foot building that opens like a fan with a cascade of green-roofed terraces to provide an indoor-outdoor learning landscape. An emphasis on natural daylighting, green space, material reuse and energy efficiency has put the building on track to achieve LEED Gold certification . Completed on a $100 million budget, the dynamic new school building houses two programs: the H-B Woodlawn Program that offers visual and performing arts-focused curricula for grades 6 through 12, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program that serves students aged 11 to 22 with special needs. The school can accommodate an expected enrollment of up to 775 students. Related: Rammed earth Kopila Valley School is the “greenest school in Nepal” To make the most of a compact urban site bounded by roads on three sides, BIG organized the school as a stack of five rectangular floorplates rotated around a fixed pivot point to create a series of outdoor green-roofed terraces connected with a rotating central staircase. The spacious first terrace can be used for special events while the upper terraces are more suitable as classroom and study areas. The classroom “bars” have also informed the interior layout, which is anchored by a central vertical core containing the elevators, stairs and bathrooms as well as a triple-height lobby with stepped seating on the ground floor. For easy accessibility and to encourage public interaction throughout the school, the lobby is directly adjacent to many of the school’s common spaces, such as the 400-seat auditorium , main gymnasium, library, reception and cafeteria. Intuitive wayfinding is also extended to the classroom spaces in that each classroom “bar” is defined by its own color used to paint the walls and lockers. In contrast to its colorful interior, The Heights’ exterior is clad in white glazed brick to unify its fanned-out massing and to respect the surroundings, including the historic architecture of Old Town Alexandria. Select materials from the former Wilson School, which The Heights was built to replace, have been salvaged and reused in the new build. + BIG Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

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BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

SunUp is a solar panel system perfect for hikers and adventurers

November 14, 2019 by  
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Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts can finally enjoy a solar panel that combines efficiency and durability with the added ability to fit snugly on top of a backpack. Rather than having to decide between a power source that is either efficient or durable, the SunUp is both, meaning it can power explorers through nearly any adventure. Invented by Bradley Brister in collaboration with The North Face, SunUp was designed as a final-year project for his Product Design Engineering bachelor’s course at Brunel University. The project was honored at the James Dyson Awards, where it was one of two runners up in the U.K. division of the contest. The awards recognize designs by current and recent engineering students from around the world. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials According to Brister, the main focus of the project was to prove a more efficient and sturdier alternative to flexible solar panels . In the past, hikers looking to go off the grid had to choose between efficiency or durability. Rigid solar panels made of monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicone are 21 percent more efficient yet easily breakable, while flexible panels made with amorphous silicone are stronger but with 7 percent average efficiency. The SunUp solution was to incorporate small, thin-film polycrystalline solar panels with an advanced hinge mechanism. The metal hinges have the system circuits built-in, so the conductive joints won’t strain or harden as the panels are used over time. The segmented panels are able to move more freely when impacted or dropped, lessening the chance of breakage while simultaneously boosting efficiency. According to Brister, each module is interlinked by a conductive hinge that doesn’t produce any mechanical deformation when in use, eliminating the typical issue of solar panels that bend only a few thousand times before eventually snapping. Theoretically, the design can be flexed and bent indefinitely or until the surfaces wear down. The panels easily fit on top of a backpack but could also be mounted onto a canoe or any number of surfaces. If one of the panels breaks, it can be replaced without replacing the entire system, adding to the product’s sustainability and longevity. The 15W panel uses a 4000 mAh battery that fully charges within 12 hours. + SunUp Via Dezeen Images via Bradley Brister

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Kengo Kuma weaves bamboo and carbon fiber into a nest-like structure at the V&A Museum

October 2, 2019 by  
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At the 2019 London Design Festival, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has crafted a new eye-catching outdoor installation in the John Madejski Garden at the V&A Museum — just one year after his completion of the V&A Dundee museum in Scotland. Dubbed Bamboo (?) Ring, or ‘Take-wa ??’, the temporary doughnut-shaped structure is woven from rings of bamboo and carbon fiber. The sculpture was developed in partnership with Chinese consumer electronics brand OPPO. Best known for his design of the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, architect Kengo Kuma has won international acclaim for his contemporary projects that draw inspiration from traditional Japanese design and emphasize natural materials . A recurring theme in his work is the expression of lightness and transparency, qualities that have also guided the design of the Bamboo (?) Ring.  Curated by Clare Farrow, the cocoon-like structure is based on a 2-meter diameter ring made from strips of the bamboo Phyllostachys edulis reinforced with carbon fiber used to laminate each ring. “For Kuma, working with Ejiri Structural Engineers and the Kengo Kuma Laboratory at The University of Tokyo, the installation is an exploration of pliancy, precision, lightness and strength: by pulling two ends, it naturally de-forms and half of the woven structure is lifted into the air,” reads the London Design Festival 2019 press release. “Bamboo (?) Ring, or ‘Take-wa ??’, is intended to be a catalyst for weaving people and place.” Related: Kengo Kuma unveils bold timber museum in Turkey that pays homage to the region’s Ottoman heritage Kuma’s installation was on display at 35 Baker Street for the duration of the London Design Festival , from September 14 to September 22, 2019. The project was developed in partnership with Chinese electronics brand OPPO, which recently built an OPPO design center in London during its new smartphone series launch. The experience center’s temporary installation, called “Essence of Discovery,” blended technology and art to introduce their smartphone products during the festival. + Kengo Kuma Images via Sassy Films

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Kengo Kuma weaves bamboo and carbon fiber into a nest-like structure at the V&A Museum

Toyota is testing a new Prius model that runs on solar power

July 26, 2019 by  
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Toyota has announced that the official testing of its solar-powered Prius will begin in late July 2019. Trials set to take place in the Tokyo area will test the cruising range and fuel efficiency of the car model, which has been equipped with high-efficiency solar panels . Teaming up with Toyota for the testing is the electronic products manufacturer Sharp Corporation and NEDO, a Japanese government agency focused on promoting the research of environmental and energy technology. The demo car produced for public road trials will include a solar battery panel created by Sharp and developed for a NEDO-led project. Thanks to the thin design of the efficient panels, Toyota was able to install them on the roof, hood and rear hatch door of the new model to enhance the efficiency. The new and improved utilization of these panels means that the car will be able to achieve a conversion efficiency of over 34 percent and capable of delivering an impressive 860 watts of power. Related: Toyota’s ultra-customizable, self-driving vehicle can transport people, goods or services Apart from the obvious environmental advantages of using solar power in cars , the supercharged Prius can also provide consumers with an improved range. According to a study conducted by Volvo, 65 percent of electric vehicle drivers experienced “range anxiety” after purchasing an EV , making it one of the leading reasons why potential electric vehicle buyers hesitate on buying one. The anxiety is understandable — what if you run out of power in the middle of nowhere with no charging station in sight? The application of solar-powered cars has the potential to lessen those worries, as this Toyota Prius demo model aims to charge both while parked and while being driven. Toyota will evaluate the test runs on the number of times the car needs charged and the reduction of carbon emissions and share results with NEDO and Sharp as the collaborative group continues to work toward improving the sustainability of transportation. + Toyota Via Popular Mechanics Images via Toyota

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Toyota is testing a new Prius model that runs on solar power

Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones

July 26, 2019 by  
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Next Summer, the top athletes in the world will compete in the Tokyo Olympics and those who come out on top will receive the ancient game’s first 100 percent recycled medals. The gold, silver and bronze medals will all be made from metals recycled directly from old cell phones, computers and other electronic waste . The Olympic Committee selected Japanese artist Junichi Kawanishi’s design out of over 400 entries. They then spent the next two years collecting almost 79,000 tons of gadgets, including more than 6 million cellphones. Their “Everyone’s Medal” collection campaign gave ordinary people the opportunity to feel proud that their old phones would be reborn as Olympic medals. Related: Prada jumps into the sustainability realm with six Re-Nylon bags made from recycled plastic waste “I never dreamed that the design I submitted, only as a memorial to this lifetime event, would be actually selected,” said designer Kawanishi. “With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes’ efforts, reflecting their glory and symbolizing friendship.” Olympic medals have not been made of solid gold since the Stockholm games in 1912, but Olympic regulations do dictate the minimum quantity of each precious medal. The Tokyo medals will feature six grams of gold plating with a silver interior. The silver medal is indeed pure silver and the bronze is a blend of copper and zinc. Regulations also mandate standard design features: the Olympic rings, the Greek goddess Nike and Panatheniac stadium, and the official name of the games. Brazil led the way in 2016 with mercury-free gold medals, but Tokyo’s design is an unprecedented emblem of sustainability both around the world and within the Olympic games and village. Over 5,000 medals will be produced and used for both the Olympics and the Paraolympics. Via Tokyo 2020 Images via Tokyo 2020

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A solar-powered, concrete home in Brazil is a powerhouse of sustainability

July 26, 2019 by  
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São Paolo-based firm Steck Arquitetura has just unveiled the Julieta House, a concrete home that spans nearly 7,000 square feet. Located in the city of Piracicaba, the house is comprised of a concrete shell that provides a strong thermal envelope along with a bevy of sustainable features such as solar power to help the home reduce its energy needs to a bare minimum. Surrounded by a low-lying concrete wall, the three-story home is located on a sloped lot that creates extra space for its large volume. The partially-embedded ground floor houses the garage, storage space and maintenance equipment. Related: Solar-powered prefab home in Texas features a whimsical pop art water catchment system The main living area is located on the first floor, where high ceilings with sunken spaces add a sense of whimsy to the atmosphere. The main social areas, along with the private bedrooms, all boast a modern, minimalist design. Sparse furnishings bring out the warm palette of wood and concrete that is further enhanced by an abundance of natural light . At the heart of the home is the massive swimming pool . Thanks to a few savvy design techniques, the indoor area and outdoor area have a seamless connection. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide completely open to create one large, open-air living space, which includes easy access to the pool. Concrete features prominently throughout the design. From the exterior envelope to the concrete roofs that have several shade-providing overhangs, the raw concrete surfaces throughout the home create an interesting juxtaposition with the Mediterranean-style layout. In addition to the tight thermal envelope, the home also boasts a number of sustainable features. A green roof shares space with a solar array hooked up to meet the home’s energy needs, including the solar-powered water heater. Additionally, using the wet Brazilian climate to its advantage, the home was installed with a rainwater catchment system that is used to irrigate the gardens. + Steck Arquitetura Via ArchDaily Photography by Adriano Pacelli via Steck Arquitetura

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This minimalist prefab playhouse features locally sourced timber, recycled rubber flooring and all-natural finishes

July 8, 2019 by  
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While many children’s playhouses might be filled with overly complicated bells and whistles, sometimes the minimalist route is the best way to go when it comes to connecting young minds with nature. Already known for its exquisite minimalist prefab structures , Japanese firm Koto Design has unveiled the Ilo Playhouse, a tiny prefabricated cabin made out of sustainable materials. Inspired by the simplicity of Scandinavian log cabins, the Ilo Playhouse was designed to create a space where kids could be inspired by nature. The tiny cabin is an angular volume with a sloped roof, adding a geometric aesthetic to the interior and exterior. Three walls envelope the interior with the fourth wall left entirely open to create a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. Related: BIG and WeWork design a nature-inspired school for kids in NYC According to the architects, the openness of the design, enhanced by additional cutouts in the walls, was intentional so that the space could be open just enough to not feel isolated. It also makes the structure a fun place to play in inclement weather, providing shelter from light rain, for example. The minimalist layout on the interior allows for children to make the space their own, with furniture, toys, art and craft tables, or to simply take in the fresh air during a good old-fashioned game of tag. In addition to being a nature-inspired design, the cabin is also entirely constructed out of sustainable materials chosen for their durability. The playhouse is clad in an attractive, locally sourced larch wood, and the flooring is made out of recycled rubber . Additionally, all of the paints and finishes used in the cabin’s construction were all sourced from natural products. The structures are prefabricated in the U.K. and can be delivered to nearly any location. + Koto Design Photography by Tracey Hosey via Koto Design

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This minimalist prefab playhouse features locally sourced timber, recycled rubber flooring and all-natural finishes

Solar-powered prefab cabins keep naturally cool in Portugal

June 11, 2019 by  
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When a client approached Lisbon-based architectural practice Studio 3A for a small residential project in the seaside village of Comporta, the architects knew that a major challenge would be keeping the house naturally cool during the oppressively hot summers. In keeping with their commitment to sustainable architecture, the architects used passive solar strategies and efficient insulation to mitigate solar heat gain. The firm also teamed up with design studio Mima Housing to prefabricate the buildings, named Cabanas in Comporta, which were topped with solar panels and sheathed in charred timber for a durable and maintenance-free finish. The architecture of Cabanas in Comporta follows a modular design of three types: the “intimate module” that houses the bedroom and bathroom; the “social module” for the living spaces with room for an outdoor pool; and the “service module” that also serves as storage for items such as the client’s car collection. Together with Mima Housing, Studio 3A prefabricated the modular buildings with oriented strand board sandwich panels and wooden joints. The facades are clad in timber charred black using the Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban. Related: The elegant MIMA Light prefab home ‘floats’ on thin air “As local connoisseurs, we based our construction method on the traditional fishermen huts/cabanas as an inspiration for our project,” explain the architects. These huts have been built in this area for years and are very functional and quick to build which were another important point of our brief. With this construction type we had a couple of challenges to face which was the hot-summer Mediterranean climate and the mosquitos which are well known to bug you in the area. We implemented various sustainable strategies to reduce the heat sensation such as the calculated overhangs in front of the main windows, low emissivity window panes and a tensioned solar shading system in between the cabana modules.” Heat gain is further controlled with a double blind system installed in both the interior and exterior. The external blind also zips down to protect the home from mosquito invasions. Strategic placement of the buildings optimizes solar orientation and access to cooling breezes. Dark cement flooring is used to take advantage of thermal mass, while photovoltaic panels and heat pumps help heat the buildings in winter. + Studio 3A Images by Nelson Garrido

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Beautiful solar-powered minimalist cabins are clad in locally sourced charred timber

June 5, 2019 by  
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Bordeaux-based firm  A6A has unveiled beautiful minimalist cabins designed to be almost completely self-sufficient thanks to solar power and a micro wastewater treatment system. Additionally, the 236-square-foot H-Eva Cabins are prefabricated offsite to reduce construction and impact on the environment. Lightweight, but sturdy, the tiny cabins are clad in locally sourced timber that has been charred through the ancient Japanese technique Shou Sugi Ban. The minimalist cabin design comes in three sizes and can be customized to connect multiple to make a larger structure. All of the cabins are prefabricated in a workshop to reduce the structures’ impact on their intended landscape. Once built, they are delivered to the destination on a flatbed truck and easily installed with a crane. The structures are placed lightly on the land so that they can be disassembled quickly, leaving little-to-no footprint behind. Related: These low-energy prefab cabins are inspired by the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’ In addition to their eco-friendly assembly process, the cabins are designed to go off the grid. A rooftop solar array generates energy to power the cabin’s minimal electricity needs. Heat is provided by a wood-burning stove, and natural light is more than enough to illuminate the interior during the daytime. In addition to the low-flow faucets in the shower and kitchen, the bathrooms are also installed with dry toilets to conserve water. To further add to its sustainability, the cabins have integrated micro wastewater treatment systems. The exterior is clad in locally sourced Douglas fir that has been charred through the ancient Japanese technique  Shou Sugi Ban , which adds resilience to the cabin. The deep black color also helps camouflage the design into nearly any backdrop, letting the residents truly immerse themselves in their surroundings. The rectangular volumes are punctuated by several slender windows and large sliding glass doors. The interior living spaces are clad in natural plywood. The central living rooms are complete with a family-style table that can easily be moved outdoors on the wooden deck, creating the perfect spot for taking in the incredible views while dining. A small kitchenette, although compact, comes with all of the basics. The sleeping space is comprised of two large bunk beds integrated into the walls. + A6A Via Archdaily Photography by Agnès Clotis via A6A

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Beautiful solar-powered minimalist cabins are clad in locally sourced charred timber

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