How strategic public-private partnerships are shaping up in cities

June 26, 2018 by  
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Examples from Charlotte, Kansas City, Salt Lake City and beyond.

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How strategic public-private partnerships are shaping up in cities

Why smart irrigation startups are bubbling up

March 22, 2018 by  
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Plus, what semiconductor legend T.J. Rodgers has in common with Kansas farmer Dwane Roth.

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Why smart irrigation startups are bubbling up

‘Great American Desert’ threatens to swallow eight US states as massive aquifer dries up

November 27, 2017 by  
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The Ogallala aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground bodies of water upon which many ecosystems and communities in the American West depend, is in rapid decline due to over-exploitation of its resources. According to the Denver Post , farmers in eight American states (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota) are putting a particular strain on the aquifer by overdrawing water from beneath the soil they cultivate in a $35 billion dollar per year industry. If allowed to continue, this could threaten both the livelihood of farmers and the ecosystems of the West, which could be replaced by a ‘Great American Desert.’ Because of the region’s intensive farming practices , agricultural wells are extracting water from the Ogallala aquifer significantly faster than it is being replenished. This trend appears to have accelerated in recent years. Federal data indicates that the aquifer contracted twice as fast in the past six years as it had in the previous sixty, with a significant impact on everyday water use in the West. “Now I never know, from one minute to the next, when I turn on a faucet or hydrant, whether there will be water or not,” said Lois Scott, who lives on a family farm in Cope, Colorado , in an interview with the Denver Post . “The aquifer is being depleted. This will truly become the Great American Desert.” Related: Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again As a result of the exploitation of the Ogallala, at least 358 miles of rivers and streams have dried up within a 200-square-mile area in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. If trends continued, an additional 177 miles of rivers and streams are expected to dry out by 2060. “We have almost completely changed the species of fish that can survive in those streams, compared with what was there historically,” said Keith Gido, author of a recent scientific report on the aquifer’s depletion, in an interview with the Denver Post . “We’re not living in as sustainable a fashion as we need to be. Much of the damage has been done.” The over-exploitation of the Ogallala aquifer and the plight of the American West is sadly not unique to the region. “It is happening all over the world in places such as Pakistan . It causes conflicts,” said Gido. “As human populations grow, the demand for water is going to be greater. Conflicts are going to increase—unless we become more efficient in using the water we have.” Via EcoWatch and the Denver Post Images via Depositphotos  and USGS/Flickr

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‘Great American Desert’ threatens to swallow eight US states as massive aquifer dries up

Students build a low-cost yet high-quality sustainable home from recycled materials

October 4, 2017 by  
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Affordable and sustainable housing is possible—and Studio 804’s many projects are proof. Working together with University of Kansas architecture students, Studio 804 produced their latest design/build project, called 1330 Brook Street, in a working-class neighborhood in the city of Lawrence. As with their previous projects, the energy-efficient home is designed with LEED standards in mind and makes use of passive solar strategies to save on energy. The three-bedroom, two-bath home is located on an undesirable urban infill site in the East Lawrence community. Although the 1,300-square-foot home is decidedly contemporary , the architects were careful to integrate the dwelling into the existing neighborhood fabric. The handsome yet understated home is clad in insulated metal panels salvaged from a scrapped tennis center project in town. The cedar boards used for the roof overhangs were reclaimed from railroad bridge trestles. “As we design toward LEED Platinum standards, we are integrating passive strategies for lighting and sun shading,” wrote Studio 804. “With an exterior screening system and concrete floor for thermal mass, the southwest glazing allows optimal temperatures year round. We are also selecting materials based on a desire for longevity and ease of maintenance, including the re-purposed metal panel cladding system and insulated glass units for the southwest glazing.” Related: Kansas University students build net-zero home with LEED Platinum and Passive House certification The ADA-compliant home features a flexible open-plan interior—save for the fixed kitchen—with plenty of built-in storage space to give the homeowner control over the use and layout of the space. The light-filled home also opens out to a small “outdoor room” on the south side, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living. A rooftop array of 16 solar panels provide up to 4.8 kilowatt-hours of power—expected to meet the home’s energy demands—while low-flow fixtures and LEDs help reduce energy needs as well. + Studio 804 Via Dezeen

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Students build a low-cost yet high-quality sustainable home from recycled materials

Energy-conscious library that doubles as a living room breaks ground in Shanghai

October 4, 2017 by  
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Shanghai is adding yet another futuristic building to its modern skyline. The Chinese megacity just broke ground on the Shanghai East Library, a new public library that will serve 4 million visitors a year and be much more than a repository for millions of books. Designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects , the massive 115,000-square-meter library will be a state-of-the-art, energy-conscious facility that feels like a shared “living room” with diverse programming. In 2016, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects won an international competition to design the Shanghai East Library, and recently released new renderings to commemorate last week’s groundbreaking. The library will be located in Pudong next to Century Park, the city’s largest park, and will be surrounded by landscaped courtyards and gardens. The library comprises a monolithic trapezoidal volume that appears to float above the tree canopy as well as two lower pavilions that house a 1,000-seat performance venue, exhibition and events space, and a dedicated children’s library. “The Shanghai Library client had a vision for the library – the future of the library should be a space for inspiration, learning, exchange and creation. Throughout the design process we have followed the same goals and beliefs in what we felt the library should be, that we wanted to create a building that focused on people and create spaces that are interconnected and inclusive. The aim is to create a building that feels like a second home for the citizens of Shanghai,” said Chris Hardie, Partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen. “Creating a building of this size is an enormous challenge. The complexity of program spaces required in a new modern library such as this goes far beyond being simply a container for physical books. As we always believe a new modern library should be, we envisage this will become a ‘living room’ for Shanghai’s citizens bringing them new learning and cultural experiences binding them closer to their own city and the world.” Related: Schmidt Hammer Lassen breaks ground on LEED Gold-seeking incubator in Shanghai The library is continuously clad in clear, insulated, and fritted glass organized in horizontal bands of varying transparency to evoke the image of striated rock. These alternating bands of transparent, semi-transparent, and insulated glass let in natural light while controlling solar gain. A grand central atrium forms the heart of the library and is flanked by three staggered reading rooms that open the building up to outdoor views. The modern library will offer both paper and digital reading and, as expected of Shanghai, will be highly integrated with technology. The building will serve as a resource center, knowledge exchange center, technology experience center, think tank, and international communication platform. The library is expected to open to the public by the end of 2020. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Images via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Energy-conscious library that doubles as a living room breaks ground in Shanghai

Rare bag of moon dust to be auctioned for millions of dollars

May 23, 2017 by  
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Souvenirs from humankind’s missions to the Moon are extremely rare; NASA usually holds on to moon rocks or moon dust instead of allowing private owners to keep them. But they couldn’t hold on to one bag of moon dust. The artifact – supposedly collected by astronaut Neil Armstrong – is the property of a Chicago lawyer, and now she plans to auction it off. After Armstrong took that historic leap for mankind on the Apollo 11 mission, he did what many of us would do – grabbed a space souvenir in the form of a handful of moon rocks placed in a bag, which he put into a second bag. That second outer bag then embarked on a journey of its own. When the bag was accidentally put up for auction, lawyer Nancy Lee Carlson obtained the bag in February 2015 for $995 on a federal auction website. Related: ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust Carlson kept the bag for a while and then decided to send it to NASA to see if it was really authentic. NASA said the bag did indeed have traces of the moon’s dark gray powder. But then the agency tried to confiscate the bag as the property of the government . Carlson fought the move and this year in February a judge decided she’d acquired the bag legally and could keep it. NASA put out a statement after the ruling: “This artifact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public, which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred.” Before going up for auction the bag belonged to Max Ary of the Kansas Cosmosphere museum; he was convicted of stealing such interstellar objects and putting them up for sale, and when several of his possessions were seized by the government, the moon bag was among them but was mixed up with another bag lacking the treasured dust. Now Carlson plans to auction the bag off once again on July 20, send some money to charity , and set up a scholarship at her alma mater, Northern Michigan University. Auctioneers think the bag could be sold for between two to four million dollars. Sotheby’s auction house curators think the bag of moon dust could be the only privately held object of this nature on Earth. Via the Chicago Tribune Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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Giant sinkhole opens up in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort

May 23, 2017 by  
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One of President Donald Trump’s claims on the campaign trail was that he’d “drain the swamp” if elected. Whether he kept that promise is up for debate; sure, he selected business tycoons like Rex Tillerson to fill top government positions but also chose people like the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao. But now the swamp may be encroaching on another part of America: Mar-a-Lago , Trump’s Florida golf club, where a sinkhole just opened up. Obviously, the Internet didn’t pass up on the opportunity to dish out puns. Yesterday the town of Palm Beach, Florida – where Mar-a-Lago is located – posted a traffic alert about the sinkhole on their website. “A four feet by four feet sinkhole has formed on Southern Boulevard directly in front of Mar-a-Lago,” the notice reads. “It appears to be in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach utilities distribution crews have secured the area and will most likely need to do some exploratory excavation today. One lane is closed but the road remains open. Please pay attention to signs.” Related: Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers Naturally this was just too easy for Twitter . Some saw the sinkhole as a sign from God – whether Republicans would listen was another matter. Sinkhole opens next to Mar-a-Lago in obvious sign from increasingly irritated God https://t.co/IBicOjX698 pic.twitter.com/IhlzTpTU8K — Jezebel (@Jezebel) May 22, 2017 "Give us a sign, God."[sinkhole appears in front of Mar-A-Lago]"Hm, can't be sure that's anything." https://t.co/oTrfQkYBxR — Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) May 22, 2017 Some people wondered if the sinkhole had anything to do with the illuminated orb Trump was pictured touching in Saudi Arabia. Actions have consequences, people. pic.twitter.com/r0LOrGBldy — Slade Sohmer (@Slade) May 22, 2017 The #sinkhole at Mar-a-Lago is absolutely NOT an ancient evil escaping its glided cage after being released by The Orb. No siree. — Rogue Illuminati (@RogueIlluminati) May 23, 2017 Others thought perhaps the sinkhole had been mistakenly termed… My working theory: It’s a hellmouth, not a sinkhole. — Jeff LaMarche (@jeff_lamarche) May 22, 2017 Sean Spicer wants to make it very clear there is NOT a sinkhole in front of Mar-A-Lago… It is a Florida Swamp Center. — Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 22, 2017 Some Twitter users actually began to cheer for the sinkhole. rare heroic sinkhole ? https://t.co/i2i1I287vv — AS ? (@Alschapel) May 22, 2017 @townpalmbeach @Fahrenthold Has anyone ever rooted for a sinkhole before? — chuckyou2 (@chuckyoutwo) May 22, 2017 And as the metaphors left everyone’s heads spinning about the mysterious origins of the clearly supernatural sinkhole, former The Onion writer Dennis DiClaudio stepped in to make one thing clear: Hate to be pedantic, but the Mar-a-lago sinkhole isn't *technically* a metaphor, because metaphors aren't *that* obvious. — Dennis DiClaudio (@dennisdiclaudio) May 22, 2017 After Palm Beach has dealt with the sinkhole, we think Washington, D.C. could use a little “exploratory excavation” as well. Via The Washington Post Images via screenshot and screenshot

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Giant sinkhole opens up in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort

Historic Missouri church rises from the ashes with an eco-friendly twist

April 3, 2017 by  
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When the 2011 catastrophic fire ravaged the historic Westport Presbyterian Church in Kansas City , much of the church’s structure and finishes were completely destroyed. Fortunately, however, the original limestone facade survived in good condition. Rather than knock down the building and start anew, Kansas City-based design firm BNIM reconstructed the iconic church, from the painstaking restoration of sacred components to the creation of a new addition that features modern and eco-friendly elements. Built in 1905, the 27,000-square-foot multi-story Westport Presbyterian Church is one of the most iconic buildings in Kansas City’s historic Westport community. BNIM and the community came together to rebuild the church and tackle the challenges of preserving original elements while crafting a space that was also dynamic and progressive. Parts of the church considered not sacred were deconstructed and large amounts of salvaged material —from the reclamation of 40,000 feet of pinewood framing material to the reuse of original limestone—were used in reconstruction. The restored and renovated church features a new addition with a 150-seat sanctuary, 40-seat chapel , gathering space, fellowship room, 3,000-square-foot multipurpose room, a 1,000-square-foot street-facing “community room”, administrative offices and office space that will be leased to a Westport area nonprofit. The renovation includes energy saving elements such as LEDs and contemporary stormwater management practices. All stained glass was restored and reinstalled in contemporary mounting. The project won an AIA Kansas Merit Award and an AIA Kansas City Citation Award. Related: Stunning see-through church is made from stacked weathered steel “This is one that put a smile on all our faces,” said an AIA Kansas City jury member. “There was a fire, and it destroyed just about everything on this church except for the stone walls. For the community to come together and rebuild this, and do it in such a thoughtful, elegant, and modern way, was something the jury really applauded.” Another jury member added: “It wasn’t just a restoration, it was a repositioning of the whole church itself. It made for a better building, and we think more connected to the community.” + BNIM Images via BNIM

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Google starts giving free internet access to Fiber cities’ public housing residents

February 12, 2016 by  
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Google has started rolling out its plan to provide free internet access to its Google Fiber cities, beginning with the program’s original market in Kansas City. Residents in all 100 homes of the West Bluff property can sign up for free internet access up to 1,000 mbps, a service that is still very much a luxury in lower income locations. The best part is that the company is only just getting started. Read the rest of Google starts giving free internet access to Fiber cities’ public housing residents

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Beautiful green-roofed trail center in Sweden mimics a fallen pinecone

February 12, 2016 by  
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