Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound

May 12, 2017 by  
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Would you like to travel between New York City and London in just 3 hours and 15 minutes? In a few years, that could be possible. Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and startup Boom Technology have partnered to build a supersonic aircraft capable of zipping through the skies faster than the speed of sound. Live Science reports that the passenger aircraft would be capable of traveling through the skies faster than the Concorde jet or any other commercial aircraft today. The plane won’t be the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound, but it will be the first modern, supersonic passenger jet that travels at Mach 2.2. In case you’re wondering, that is twice the speed of sound, or 1,451 mph (2,335 km/h). The now-retired Concorde was capable of flying at speeds of about 1,350 mph (2,180 km/h). At Mach 2.2, passengers could travel between San Francisco and Tokyo in 5.5 hours, or between Los Angeles and Sydney in less than 6 hours and 45 minutes. In a blog post , CEO and founder of Boom Technology Blake Scholl said that one of the startup’s goals is to set a new speed record for civil aircraft. “Building a supersonic airplane is not easy — but it is important,” Scholl wrote. “While we love the hard engineering and technical challenges, what really drives us is the enormous human benefit of faster travel . Related: Sir Richard Branson urges prime minister David Cameron to back renewable energy Reportedly, Scholl is most excited about the positive implications supersonic commercial travel may bring, as it will make the farthest regions of the planet more accessible. “Imagine traveling across the Atlantic [Ocean], getting business done [in Europe] and being home to tuck your children into bed,” Scholl wrote, “or saving two whole days of a typical round-trip itinerary to Asia. … When time is no longer a limit, where will you vacation? Where will you do business?” Having raised $33 million in funding to develop the startup’s first supersonic passenger jet , the company will begin constructing the “Baby Boom” prototype. Then, a prototype of the eventual full-size Boom aircraft, which will carry 55 passengers in all-business-class configuration, will be built. Air Transport World (ATW) reports that the Baby Boom’s first test flight is scheduled for 2018, and the full-size Boom for 2020. Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to follow shortly afterward. Via Live Science Images via FighterSweep , Forbes

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Ford introduces the first-ever hybrid police car

April 28, 2017 by  
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When you think of police cars, visions of large, powerful and gas-hungry vehicles probably come to mind. Well, that vision of the “dirty” police car may change forever with Ford’s first-ever hybrid police car: meet the Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan. Ford currently more police vehicles in the United States than any other car-maker, with 63 percent market share. The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is expected help cities’ Police departments decrease emissions and save fuel. The hybrid sedan is rated at an EPA-estimated combined gas mileage of 38 mpg – more than twice that of today’s Police Interceptor. The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is powered by an Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. The hybrid is calibrated for law enforcement’s unique duty cycle and will run in battery-only mode up to 60 mph. Related: Beijing creates new environmental police force to crack down on smog Police vehicles spend lots of time idling, so the the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan’s lithium-ion battery helps power the high electrical loads of the police vehicle, reducing engine run time and saving an estimated 0.27 gallons of fuel per hour. Ford estimates that Police Responder Hybrid Sedan customers could see nearly $3,900 a year in potential fuel savings per vehicle relative to the Police Interceptor. The Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is making its debut in Los Angeles and New York, but Ford hopes to start delivering them nationwide by next summer. + Ford Images @Ford

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Denmark to end subsidies for renewables much sooner than anyone thought possible

April 28, 2017 by  
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The renewable energy industry is performing extremely well in Denmark . The country’s energy minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said it’s performing so well, they’ll be able to stop providing state support for clean energy providers in just a few years. Denmark’s renewable energy industry will be able to stand on its own, and Lilleholt said he could not have predicted this outcome even last year. Denmark’s renewable energy industry needed subsidies for over 40 years. But soon they’ll be able to survive without a boost from the government. According to Lilleholt, the country’s experience shows it’s no longer cheaper to produce coal than renewables. The milestone is even more crucial right as the direction of global energy policies is uncertain while United States President Donald Trump embarks on an ill-advised attempt to revive coal . According to Bloomberg, the president has “made clear he’s an enemy of wind power .” Related: Denmark just broke its own wind power record for the second year in a row Lilleholt said technology will help clean energy become even more efficient and said “already today, it’s impossible to build a new coal power plant without support.” A government-appointed panel gave him the findings on the energy future of Denmark, and said the country is set to meet power needs entirely with renewable energy by 2050. Half the country’s energy requirement could be supplied by renewables as soon as 2030. The panel thinks a large amount of new capacity will be constructed without subsidies. Industry members seem just as surprised as Lilleholt. Outgoing CEO of engineering firm Danfoss Niels B. Christiansen thinks the price of producing renewable energy could fall below market electricity prices between 2020 and 2030, saying, “A year ago, it was debatable whether renewable energy costs could drop so low. But everyone’s now thinking that it will probably happen sooner.” Denmark is home to both the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer and world’s largest offshore wind farm operator, Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Dong Energy A/S . Via Bloomberg Images via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S

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Scientists create super-strong bricks from mars-like soil

April 28, 2017 by  
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Future Mars dwellers may actually be able to use locally-sourced materials for their buildings. Four University of California, San Diego engineers were able to press Mars-like dirt into bricks in a study funded by NASA . No other materials were necessary to keep the blocks together. And the bricks were incredibly tough – even more than steel-reinforced concrete . A high-pressure hammer helped the engineers pack dirt – with the same chemical composition and grain size and shape as soil on Mars – into strong bricks. Since storage will be limited on any craft carrying astronauts to Mars, they may be able to devote room to other equipment if they know they can construct habitats with the red planet’s resources. Related: Scientists use Martian dust to 3D print tools On Earth we typically have to employ some type of adhesive to keep construction materials together. But simulated Mars dirt actually has a chemical ingredient that helps bind it. Structural engineer Yu Qiao told The Verge the chemical ingredient “gives the soil strength when it’s compacted.” It may be feasible for humans to hammer out bricks on the red planet as well. NASA life sciences expert Jon Rask, not part of the study, told The Verge, “It’s really easy to swing a hammer on Mars. You can imagine a Mars explorer swinging a hammer to make strong building blocks.” The team worked with lunar soil in the past, when NASA aimed to go back to the moon . Lunar dirt requires a binder, but since the binder would have to be shipped from Earth, the team worked with the lunar dirt until they were able to take the binder content below the 15 percent construction materials on Earth generally require to just three percent. When NASA shifted its focus to Mars, the team did too, and decided to test their lunar dirt findings on Mars dirt. They first tried packing the dirt into blocks with six percent binder, and when that worked well, they decided to test the Martian dirt further and discovered it necessitated no binder whatsoever. The journal Scientific Reports published the engineers’ findings online yesterday. Via The Verge Images via the University of California, San Diego

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6 impressive structures built around living trees

February 28, 2017 by  
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Treehouses hold a special magic. They hint at escape, and an opportunity to transcend the busyness of life; connect with nature. An example of man-made structures that harmonize with the environment , treehouses have inspired architects and designers around the world to build homes and offices that do the same. We’ve rounded up six examples of architecture influenced by treehouse design: four homes , one office, and one tearoom. All are designed around living trees , allowing inhabitants to breathe easy surrounded by greenery. Uncle’s House by 3 Atelier The living area of this light-filled home in Vietnam centers around a flourishing tree that is large enough for children to climb. The architects at 3 Atelier built this home for their uncle and his family, using materials reminiscent of the parents’ childhood homes. Not only does Uncle’s House inspire kids to engage with nature, they can even grow vegetables in the dirt around its base. Related: Snøhetta’s luxury cabin with Aurora Borealis views opens at Treehotel Inside Out House by Takeshi Hosaka One tree wouldn’t suffice for the Inside Out House by Takeshi Hosaka in Tokyo, Japan . From the outside, the cubic home is simple and modern. Inside, multiple trees and plants bring the outdoors inside. Sliding glass doors offer flexibility, and natural light permeates the home through skylights , creating a serene sanctuary in which humans and cats coexist. Symbiosis office by Cong Sinh Architects New developments are increasingly crowding out green spaces in the southern part of Hue, Vietnam. So Cong Sinh Architects designed Symbiosis, a peaceful office rooted in the environment in the midst of the bustling city . Expansive windows on both floors of the office overlook a green oasis full of vines and a tree. The shade from the greenery even helps regulate the office temperature. Tree House by A. Masow Design Studio A. Masow Design Studio unveiled astounding plans for the ultimate treehouse: an entire tree wrapped in a glass facade in Kazakhstan . A spiral staircase would allow the owner to move between four levels, circumnavigating the tree as they moved from floor to floor. The glass allows natural light to stream in and provides an unobstructed view of the surrounding woods. House in the Trees by Anonymous Architects This cantilevered Echo Park home takes the treehouse concept to new heights. House in the Trees by Anonymous Architects rests on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles , and was carefully constructed so as not to harm neighboring mature cypress trees, one of which extends through a bedroom in the home. Fire-treated Western red cedar siding, reclaimed chestnut floors, and walnut cabinetry add to the woodsy , natural feel of the cozy California dwelling. Bird’s Nest Atami by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP A 300-year-old camphor tree in Japan now includes a tiny teahouse nestled among its branches. Bird’s Nest Atami, designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP with the help of Takashi Kobayashi , is part of the country’s largest treehouse. Inspired by how crows utilize coat hangers in nests , Nakamura designed the freestanding teahouse to rest among the 22-meter-tall tree on light structural elements without harming the tree. The earthy interior also includes wood furnishings, inviting tea drinkers to relax in nature . Images via Quang Dam , © Koji Fujii by Nacasa & Partners Inc., Hiroyuki Oki , A. Masow Design Studio , Anonymous Architects , and Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP , by Koji Fujii/Nacasa and Partners Inc.

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Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles

January 17, 2017 by  
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Great architecture goes beyond building four walls—it’s about empowering individuals and building communities. That philosophy is embodied in the 2017 AIA award-winning project, Six Affordable Veteran Housing. Designed by Brooks + Scarpa , this beautiful LEED Platinum-certified project offers support services, rehab, and affordable housing to disabled veterans in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, an area with one of the highest population densities in the U.S. Unlike traditional shelter models, Six Affordable Veteran Housing was designed primarily around the concept of community by prioritizing large public areas over private spaces. The 42,500-square-foot complex is the first Skid Row Housing Trust project built outside of downtown Los Angeles and takes inspiration from the military term “I’ve got your six,” a phrase that refers to having someone’s back. “The organization of the space is intended to transform the way people live-away from a reclusive, isolating layout towards a community-oriented, interactive space,” say the architects. The SIX comprises 57 units of high-quality sustainable and affordable housing in a neighborhood that’s highly walkable, particularly to service-industry employers, but is typically out of the price range for disabled veterans. The units are stacked into four levels and each has balconies wrapped with a recycled wood screen overlooking the central courtyard. Every unit features ten-foot-high ceilings and large, strategically placed windows that let in ample natural light and cross ventilation. Related: Seattle teens build mobile tiny homes for local homeless community The project’s energy efficient design also sets the facility apart from most conventionally developed projects. The LEED Platinum -certified SIX was constructed using passive design strategies to optimize building performance, such as orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds and adding windows that maximize day lighting. Concrete floors and walls double as thermal heat sinks, while double-glazed low-E windows minimize heat loss and gain. A large green roof and edible garden top the building and can be seen from below. + Brooks + Scarpa Images by Tara Wujcik

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UK architect helps locals rebuild Nepal temple destroyed by earthquake

January 17, 2017 by  
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The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that battered Nepal in 2015 damaged 100 homes, killed three people, and devastated what many consider to be the country’s oldest Hindu temple in Changu Village alone. Slowly locals are rebuilding their beloved Changu Narayan temple with help from a British architect, who also helped restore Angkor Wat in Cambodia through the World Monuments Fund . Locals say the Hindu god Vishnu once appeared at Changu Narayan, the fifth century temple dedicated to the deity. Only priests ever entered the intricately carved wooden structure before the earthquake. When locals witnessed the devastation inflicted on the World Heritage Site by the natural disaster, they felt their lives had ended. But they didn’t give up hope, and began to rebuild. 61-year-old Gyan Bahadur Bhadal, who is one of a group of villagers maintaining the temple, told The Associated Press (AP), “I see now our world coming back alive.” Related: Shigeru Ban will reuse earthquake rubble to build Nepal relief shelters Architect John Sanday has loved Changu Narayan for decades, and told the AP he was very emotional visiting the site after the devastating earthquake, which damaged 600 historical monuments, palaces, and temples in Nepal. Out of those 600, Sanday decided he’d take on the temple as a project, and became a technical adviser for locals. He told the AP, “Sure, it’s peanuts, a little temple, so why is it so special? The detail. The grace. It’s one of the few World Heritage Sites that hasn’t been completely destroyed by development.” So far locals have painstakingly cleaned and made some repairs to the temple, but there’s still work to be done. The community needs to raise around $300,000 to complete the restoration initiative. Inspired by locals’ dedication, Sanday has already helped rebuild a guardhouse-sized shrine. Now he’s looking beyond the shrine to the temple, convinced the ancient building can be saved. Via The Associated Press Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Federal investigation find rampant sweatshop labor in L.A. factories

November 27, 2016 by  
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If you’ve been buying US-made clothes in order to avoid funding sweatshop labor, we have bad news for you. The Department of Labor announced earlier in November that a massive investigation of 77 Southern California garment contractors found widespread minimum wage and overtime violations, affecting major retailers like Forever 21, T.J. Maxx, Ross, Macy’s, and Nordstrom. In some cases, workers were being paid as little as $4 per hour.

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LA architecture students design innovative houses for the homeless

November 4, 2016 by  
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Like many major cities, Los Angeles is currently in the middle of a housing crisis. Homeless populations are exploding, with encampments appearing on sidewalks, in parks, near overpasses, and along bridges through the city. While city officials are working on a ballot initiative to build 8,000 to 10,000 units to bring the homeless in off the streets, it could take years for those units to become available even if the measure passes. In response to the situation, students from University of Southern California’s School of Architecture have stepped up to create innovative new structures to shelter the homeless. The project is called the Homeless Studio , and it’s made up of 11 fourth year architecture students. Their solutions run the gamut from temporary shelters to expandable modular buildings. When the structures are complete, the students will deliver them to homeless people around the city, and an agency that supports the homeless in the San Fernando Valley will use their final project as a prototype shelter. Related: Brilliant sleeping bag transforms into a tent to provide shelter for homeless Rather than simply attending lectures by experts, the students have also done some intense on the ground research by meeting and talking to homeless people throughout the city. Organizations like Midnight Mission and Skid Row Housing Trust helped connect the students to real people, so they could better understand the day-to-day challenges their shelters would have to overcome. Some of the students used solutions they saw in practice on the streets – using reclaimed materials to create temporary shelters. Students Alexxa Soloman, Maria Ceja, and Belinda Park used scavenged shipping palettes, Ikea shelves, and pieces of plywood in their construction. Their classmates Jeremy Carman and Jayson Champlain took a different approach, creating a blue, rectangular box coated in fiberglass that expands outward to create sleeping and storage space. The designs are more than just a way for their occupants to stay warm and dry: they’re also a way to restore dignity to a population that too often has gone without it. Related: Homeless folks help feed their entire shelter with this flourishing rooftop garden For their final, the students are collaborating on the design for a temporary housing development for Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission . The agency plans to take the class’s plans, renderings, and full-scale prototype to help fundraise the final project. While a site hasn’t yet been selected, the plan complies with requirements for any commercial or industrial zoning. + The Homeless Studio Via Wired  

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Single cypress tree grows through a Los Angeles hillside home

October 31, 2016 by  
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Elevated off the ground and into foliage like a treehouse, The House in the Trees is cantilevered over a steep hillside and overlooks views of the valley. The 2,400-square-foot single-story building is wrapped in fire-treated Western red cedar siding and topped with an angled steel roof. The use of timber on the facade—and in the interior in the form of walnut cabinetry and reclaimed chestnut floors—helps the building blend into its wooded environment. Related: Contemporary ski chalet boasts gorgeous panoramic views and a low-energy footprint Large windows pour natural light into the interior, which is split into two portions: a two-bedroom main unit and a secondary unit with a kitchen, living room, office, extra bedroom, and bathroom. A wooden deck wraps around the living area to extend the building footprint to the outdoors. The mature cypress tree that grows through the home is exposed in the bedroom. “Waterproofing a tree in this situation proved to be very challenging but the system works to keep water out of the house,” write the architects. + Anonymous Architects Via Dezeen Images via Anonymous Architects

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