What’s in store for the future of commuting?

January 12, 2021 by  
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What’s in store for the future of commuting? Marian Jones Tue, 01/12/2021 – 01:00 Despite being in a global pandemic, essential low-wage workers, healthcare providers, knowledge workers and many others have continued to work. However, since the start of lockdowns in March 2020, some 42 percent of the U.S. workforce has been from working home full-time . The continued progression of COVID-19 has required many businesses to postpone their back-to-the-office dates to protect their workers and assuage their health concerns. Of the 42 percent of the workforce able to work remotely, some 73 percent would prefer not to go back due to fears over the disease’s spread. From Twitter to Amazon, major urban businesses have rolled out a variety of different commuting policies as they contemplate going “back to the office.” Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Shopify have shifted to permanent work from home arrangements for some, and Google will be working remotely until at least summer 2021. Environmental researchers have warned that the unprecedented low-carbon levels due to stay-at-home orders could be followed by a surge in car usage as white-collar workers in densely populated urban areas attempt to evade public transportation. Climate scientists expect private vehicle usage to surpass pre-pandemic levels. In May 2020, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) issued an outright ban on public transportation , telling employees they had to take private cars to work. It was an appalling proposal, based on the false impression that public transit spreads coronavirus, and overturned just three weeks later. NYSE is still providing employees with reduced prices on parking , but the stock exchange hasn’t conducted any studies or investigations of what increased car usage might have on Lower Manhattan . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Elsewhere, Bloomberg Media offers large reimbursements for commuting into work — up to $75 per day, or up to $1,500 in a given month. It’s a perk likely meant to encourage the use of private cars. Policies that favor driving to work over mass transit show a disregard for congestion, air quality and cities’ overall livability. If every New Yorker consistently used private cars to commute to work, the city would be unlivable. An expanding number of businesses, seeing no harm to their profitability from remote work, have arranged to switch to permanent work from home. Lilac Nachum, a professor of international business at Baruch College, told me in an interview that it’s the knowledge and innovation-based industries that actually have the least to gain from working from home permanently. While many components of these jobs are the most straightforward to do online and could remain remote, a significant amount of creativity and innovation is lost without face-to-face interaction. As Nachum notes, “what we’ve seen is that the knowledge economy has given a huge boom to the growth of cities. This interaction of people creates the necessary conditions for innovation, exchange of ideas, and creativity. So for those kinds of industries, I think that it is extremely important to get back to work.” Considering that even the knowledge-based industries that on the face of it work remotely need to bring people together, few industries can do well working entirely remotely. “I think we’re left with a small number of jobs that can effectively be implemented remotely, which means companies basically have to prepare, should prepare for returning to the office. Fortunately, the vaccine is just around the corner,” Nachum said. Indeed, the knowledge industry has long been aware of the benefits of sustained in-person collaboration. Pre-pandemic, tech companies, including Google and Facebook, developed plans to create onsite housing at their campuses. Merging offices and housing has been hailed by some as the ultimate perk, a new type of “factory town,” and a green solution to urban transportation problems by alleviating the burden of commuting. However, these new company towns have led to new issues and exacerbated inequality. Under the current status quo, large tech companies have a habit of taking over their immediate areas by driving housing up, spurring gentrification, driving out long-time residents, and increasing homelessness rates. This was the case in Seattle when Amazon moved its headquarters to the city with many of their workers living in close proximity and local businesses reliant on their more affluent workers’ patronage. Regardless of whether or not such company towns benefit the environment by cutting back on commutes, although fraught with other political problems, the issue is relatively moot since creating a company town is not an option for the vast majority of firms. By fall, most workers could be returning to traditional offices . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards , employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. This year, public transit utilization in New York City has dipped as low as 80 percent . Many of us are less than enthusiastic about resuming our old commutes by bus and subway. Even though mass transit creates far fewer emissions per individual per kilometer than cars, people think subways and buses are major carriers for the disease even though there is no evidence to support this. Cars cause congestion, increase commute times for all and lead to urban sprawl. Companies concerned with climate change could increase the appeal of transportation alternatives by developing new initiatives to discourage private vehicle use. Under this scenario, our badly under-used public transit might begin to come back from our fiscal deficit. Public, mass forms of high-density transportation are the future our climate relies on. Now more than ever, we need free, comfortable, and easily accessible public transit to help us recover from both this health crisis and the climate crisis. Pull Quote Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Topics Transportation & Mobility Social Justice Employee Engagement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

September 16, 2020 by  
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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes Myisha Majumder Wed, 09/16/2020 – 01:30 Skyven Technologies, founded in 2013, is a company with a unique proposition for companies in the industrial sector — a way to save money through decarbonizing. Skyven CEO Arun Gupta said the idea came when he applied the thinking behind his Ph.D. dissertation in microelectronics to an entirely different field: climate change. “I was able to figure out how to apply the technological concepts of the work that I was doing for Texas Instruments for a partial solution for climate change, and that inspired me to start working on is basically a technology that captures heat from the sun and uses that heat to reduce fuel consumption,” he said. The component of the industry sector emissions Skyven seeks to decarbonize is process heat — such as the creation of steam — which accounts for a large component of the emissions from the industry sector. In order to manufacture products, companies in the industry sector must burn fuel, typically natural gas, to create heat. Technologies such as geothermal, biomass and solar, which Skyven initially focused on, can provide an alternative to natural gas to generate heat for industrial processes. This is particularly relevant in the sectors Skyven works in: the food and beverage manufacturing industry; pulp and paper; chemicals; pharmaceutical manufacturing; textiles; and primary metals and lumbers. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs. In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the three largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions were transportation (28 percent), electricity (27 percent), and industry (22 percent). Even with decarbonizing the electric and transportation sector, to reach long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, the United States would need an 80 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide emissions by 2050. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found five core imperatives to reaching climate neutrality, including electrifying or switching to low-carbon fuels in the industry sector. While providing an alternative using solar technology was the original technological goal for Skyven, the company has evolved significantly, adapting to the individual needs of different companies in the industrial sector, Gupta said. Rather than focusing solely on deploying the company’s initial in-house solar technology, Skyven transformed quickly into a company offering a multipronged approach for decarbonizing the industrial sector. “The need for decarbonization in the industrial sector spans far beyond solar. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs,” Gupta said. “It makes a lot more sense to meet those unique needs with unique solutions.” Typically, in order to determine these needs and gauge applicable solutions, Skyven employs a four-step procedure: initial plant analysis; addressing and mitigating concerns about potential solutions; deployment and implementation of solution; and operations and maintenance (O&M). This highly customizable procedure allows Skyven to determine the best fit solution company-to-company, and within that company, plant-to-plant, rather than deploying a general technology. As part of this process, Skyven’s team completes a thorough initial analysis using its custom platform, asking the customer specific questions and collecting data about where in the plant thermal energy is consumed. From there, Skyven identifies where there are opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reduce fuel consumption and save money. Interacting with the customer is especially important for the manufacturing industry, where production is profit, Gupta said. Using that analysis, Skyven implements the technologies best suited for the plant, which can include Skyven’s solar technology, but does not always. Because of this, Skyven frequently partners with other startups and technology manufacturers. When the new system is in place, Skyven hires a third-party maintenance contractor with extensive experience with industrial hardware. Typically, Skyven pays for everything involved in the process — from initial analysis to equipment and to O&M, Gupta said. The only cost to the customer is a newly lowered fuel cost amount, he said. These payments cover more cost-efficient and sustainable thermal energy at a cost that is less than the customer otherwise would have paid for fossil fuel, according to the company. While Gupta did not communicate the names of Skyven’s current customers, citing sensitivity around publicly disclosing information about manufacturers, he discussed recent press coverage around the Copses Dairy Farms in New York state.

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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

Luca Curci Architects proposes a self-sustainable Vertical City of the future

December 5, 2019 by  
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Italian architecture firm Luca Curci Architects has unveiled the Vertical City, a futuristic proposal for urban development comprising a series of modular, zero-energy skyscrapers anchored into the ocean floor. Envisioned as a completely self-sufficient settlement, the utopian city promises “healthier lifestyles” for the vertical city-building’s residents. The thought experiment was recently presented for the first time at the Knowledge Summit 2019 in Dubai last month. The Vertical City proposal comprises a super-tall, mixed-use residential building at its core surrounded by and connected to three civic-oriented towers and three crescent-shaped leisure buildings. All buildings would be built using modular, prefabricated elements that can be repeated horizontally as well as vertically. The Vertical City can also be expanded in parts and would be anchored into the sea bed close to the mainland. Related: WOHA unveils a lush, net-zero Singapore Pavilion for the 2020 World Expo The cylindrical buildings in the development are clad in photovoltaic glazing and punctuated with hexagonal openings that promote circulation of light and air. The central, 750-meter-tall residential tower would consist of 10 modular layers — each layer consists of 18 floors and includes a mix of homes, offices, stores and other facilities — to host a total of 25,000 people. The building would also offer more than 200,000 square meters of green space, which includes the public garden at the top of the building. “We will build a new way of living,” Luca Curci said in a press statement. “More sustainable . With more interconnected communities programs. Deleting suburbs. Reducing poverty.” In addition to the 25,000 people housed within the central residential tower, the Vertical City would service over 100,000 people who would travel to the city for work, school and medical care in the three adjacent towers that house offices, government departments, healthcare facilities and educational institutions. The three crescent-shaped buildings, called the Moons, offer lifestyle amenities such as hotels, wellness and spa centers, sport centers and shopping malls. + Luca Curci Architects Images via Luca Curci Architects

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Luca Curci Architects proposes a self-sustainable Vertical City of the future

Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change

August 22, 2019 by  
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Can climate change influence a spider’s aggressive behavior? According to a recent study, yes! A team of researchers from Canada and the U.S., who were led by Alexander Little at the University of California, Santa Barbara, concluded that colonies of communal spiders ( Anelosimus studiosus ), who typically reside over rivers or streams, can be impacted by climate change and hurricanes in what they call a “cyclone-induced disturbance.” Related: The ‘tipping point’ has arrived as temperatures rise in 70 US counties The research group conducted its study in North America’s Atlantic coast and observed 211 spider sites before and after a hurricane struck. This was accomplished by traveling to the areas at various times, before and after a hurricane, and measuring the spiders aggression to web vibration caused with an electric toothbrush and piece of paper. Little and his colleagues study is “a remarkable example that addresses this knowledge gap; by studying the impacts of tropical cyclones with spatiotemporal replications and control sites, they show that selectivity for more aggressive colonies of Anelosimus studiosus  is a robust evolutionary response to cyclone-induced disturbance,” wrote Eric Ameca, a researcher at Beijing Normal University, in a Nature commentary . While aggression ranges in communal spiders, the group’s overall observations revealed that after a hurricane, the more aggressive colonies produced extra egg sacs and had more babies survive. Researchers also believe that spiders might become more aggressive due to less food availability after a cyclone or if a storm killed a mother spider. If so, it  forced the babies to survive on their own. In addition to this study, others have surmised that some weather patterns can be attached to animal behavior, however, those have centered on observations solely after an extreme weather event. Ameca said this study showed the importance into how some species like the Anelosimus studiosus can conform and survive in extreme weather. Via Gizmodo Image via Flickr

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This Eco Villa in Utrecht produces all of its own energy through solar power

August 22, 2019 by  
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Dutch architectural practice Studio Public has carved out a slice of eco-friendly bliss in Houten, a nearly car-free suburb in Utrecht. Dubbed the Eco Villa, the 2,000-square-foot modern home slots in perfectly with its green and environmentally minded surroundings with an emphasis on natural materials, sustainability and the use of renewable energy . Powered by solar, the abode produces all of its own energy and is even complemented by a naturally filtered pool for chlorine-free swimming. Built with an L shape to frame the outdoor garden and natural pool with a wooden walkway, Eco Villa features two bedrooms and an open-plan living area, dining room and kitchen. A slim “technical zone” divides the master suite from the living areas. The exterior is clad in a combination of Corten steel panels, plaster and wood screens and is punctuated with floor-to-ceiling, triple-pane glass to bring the outdoors in. The operable walls of glass and strategically placed skylights fill the home with natural light.  Related: Energy-neutral luxury houseboat floats in Haarlem waters As with the exterior, the interior features a natural materials palette and a minimalist design. Timber is the predominate material that ties the various spaces together, from the cabinetry in the bathrooms to the flooring in the living spaces. Clean lines, simple forms and select pops of color — like the blue tile wall divider in the bathroom — make the home look contemporary and cozy without visual clutter. In addition to solar panels, the Eco Villa is equipped with a heat pump. The use of renewable energy combined with highly efficient insulation and an emphasis on natural daylighting has made the home capable of generating all of its own energy — sometimes with power left over to send back to the grid. + Studio Public Via Design Milk Photography by Marsel Loermans via Studio Public

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Vertical forest buildings designed by Stefano Boeri set to center new Cairo Administrative district

August 22, 2019 by  
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In a world of high population growth, it’s increasingly difficult to find adequate housing as green space is diminishing throughout most urban areas. But when Cairo began developing a new administrative capital area, architects and designers jumped into the planning with vertical forest block buildings. Italian architect Stefano Boeri collaborated with Egyptian designer Shimaa Shalash as a local partner, as well as landscape agronomist Laura Gatti to create three, seven-story buildings including a hotel and two apartment blocks. Set in the desert about 30 miles outside Cairo, the buildings will be unique with the incorporation of garden terraces throughout. The design creates the appearance of a living building, with plants cascading down all sides. Related: Egypt’s new Science City International – an oasis of knowledge in the desert Each building will measure 30 meters both in height and width for eye-catching square features in the center of town.  Beyond the shape, the trio of buildings will host an estimated 350 trees and more than 14,000 shrubs and perennials belonging to 100 different species. This remarkable goal represents one third of the total number of living plants in the whole Greater Cairo area. The total green area will cover 3600 sq.m, matching the building footprint. Types of plants will vary to offer visual appeal as the seasons change. As with all trees and plants, the air should be cleaner around the vertical forest with the studio estimating an absorption of 7 tons of carbon dioxide and release of 8 tons of oxygen each year. Not to mention, the buildings will provide their own energy and the greenery will add insulating features. Egyption property developer MISR Italia Properties is building the project, with the vertical concept forest being the first that Boeri has brought to Africa. Previously, he designed building forests in Albania, the Netherlands and even conceptual models for Mars. Architect Stefano Boeri and partner and project director of the office, architect Francesca Cesa Bianchi presented the project and the vision of a ‘ Greener Cairo ‘ at il Cairo last July and construction is set to begin 2020 with finishing touches scheduled for 2022. According to Stefano Boeri and Francesca Cesa Bianchi: “Cairo can become the first Northern-African metropolis to face the big challenge of climate change and of the ecological reconversion”. + STEFANO BOERI ARCHITETTI Images via STEFANO BOERI ARCHITETTI

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Vertical forest buildings designed by Stefano Boeri set to center new Cairo Administrative district

Earth911 Quiz #68: Know Your Diet’s Water Footprint

August 8, 2019 by  
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In this Earth911 quiz, check your knowledge of the water … The post Earth911 Quiz #68: Know Your Diet’s Water Footprint appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #25: Recycling Changes Build Momentum

August 23, 2018 by  
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This week’s quiz challenges your knowledge of recent recycling changes … The post Earth911 Quiz #25: Recycling Changes Build Momentum appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #25: Recycling Changes Build Momentum

Earth911 Quiz #19: Check Your Sustainability News Knowledge

July 12, 2018 by  
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By transitioning to sustainable production and circular economics, we can … The post Earth911 Quiz #19: Check Your Sustainability News Knowledge appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #18: Test Your Recycled World Knowledge

July 5, 2018 by  
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This week, the Earth911 quiz tests your knowledge of the … The post Earth911 Quiz #18: Test Your Recycled World Knowledge appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #18: Test Your Recycled World Knowledge

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