Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

December 13, 2017 by  
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99 percent less water and 4,000 lettuce heads every 10 days: Los Angeles-based Local Roots achieves all that in their shipping container farms . And today they announced they’ve also reached cost parity with traditional farming . They plan to deploy over 100 farms in 2018. Inhabitat checked out their mobile TerraFarm in New York City and met with CEO Eric Ellestad and COO Matt Vail to hear more. We visited Local Roots’ TerraFarm in Manhattan a windy, chilly December day, but inside, green butterhead, red butterhead, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce was thriving. Vail and Ellestad started the company around four years ago on a mission to boost global health and seek sustainability in farming. A few statistics that fuel their mission? For one, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates agriculture is responsible for over 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions . And then, 52 percent of the food we do grow in America doesn’t even make it to the consumer, according to Ellestad. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water Their indoor farms address those issues. They can deploy TerraFarms right at or near distribution centers. They design, build, deploy, and efficiently operate the vertical farms , and sell the food – which they think is even better than organic produce. “In outdoor farming, whether it’s organic or traditional, there’s a lot of variability. Even across a field, there’s not going to be uniform nutrient application or soil quality. In our environment we’re able to consistently create growing conditions that optimize for flavor and nutrient density,” Ellestad told Inhabitat. “We can select varietals that are naturally more nutritious, even ones that don’t make sense to grow outdoors or are really susceptible to weather or have a short shelf life or break down in transit. We can bring those to market at scale with price parity and do that for some of the largest buyers.” They also see an accelerated growth rate in their TerraFarms. Ellestad said crops will grow two or three times as fast as they would in a field since they can create perfect growing conditions for a plant. They can reuse or recycle all of the water – their biggest use of water is actually for cleaning the farms. And since they can control the environment, they can grow local food year-round. “Instead of being constrained to a growing season, you’re growing fall, winter, summer, spring; in Saudi Arabia in the summer, in New York in December,” he told Inhabitat. “We’re over 600 times more productive per square foot compared with an outdoor farm. So suddenly you can bring commercial-scale food production into urban areas and start to bring them closer to the point of consumption.” Solar panels lined the roof of the mobile TerraFarm in Manhattan. They could generate three kilowatts, enough to operate the farm in sunny California, according to Vail. The indoor farms can go off-grid with solar or wind and batteries. Local Roots tends to evaluate the local grid before deploying a farm to see if it’s clean or if they might want to add a source of renewable energy . Now as they’ve cracked the code for cost parity with traditional farming, Local Roots will be expanding in a big way in 2018. They’ll deploy their first projects outside of the Los Angeles area, and plan to hire around 150 people. Ellestad said they’re also launching their retail brand in a new way. They hope to be on the East Coast by the end of 2018. But they’re already looking ahead to bringing nutrition to people around the world. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’re here with a mission to improve global health, so that means more than just LA and New York. It means developing countries around the world. It means the two billion people who today don’t have access to the micronutrients they need to be healthy.” Local Roots is working with the World Food Program (WFP) to deploy and field test a few TerraFarms in 2018 in a developing nation to be determined. These farms will be off-grid, likely equipped with solar power, so they will be self-sustaining; locals will just need to bring in water. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’ll educate and train the community to operate the farms, and they’ll then have ownership so they can feed their community perpetually in a really sustainable way with food that’s healthy, delicious, and local.” Find out more about Local Roots on their website . + Local Roots Images via Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat and courtesy of Local Roots

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Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

SunPower shingles solar cells to boost solar panel efficiency by 15%

December 13, 2017 by  
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SunPower has achieved a 15 percent efficiency increase in its panels in part by incorporating a novel design: shingling solar cells. For only $9 in additional costs from adding solar cells, the San Jose -based manufacturer’s P Series solar panels can be structured like shingles, maximizing direct sunlight exposure and raising efficiency. Many of the new designs incorporated into the P Series solar panel were created by Cogenra, a solar panel producer based in Fremont, California, which was acquired by SunPower in 2015. Because of this increase in efficiency through a relatively simple design tweak, SunPower’s stock jumped 12 percent as investors recognized the profit potential for these new panels. Although SunPower has had trouble achieving profitability in recent years, its new designs are promising. Unlike previous designs from the company, the P Series solar panels utilize cheaper, lower efficiency solar cells and make up for the efficiency loss through their shingling design. By shingling the solar cells, the space between cells is reduced, allowing more cells to be included on each panel. As a result, nearly 100 percent of the panel is covered with solar cells. Related: New rooftop solar hydropanels harvest drinking water and energy at the same time The P Series also incorporates a design that relocates ribbons and solder bands to the back of the panel, once again making room for additional solar cells facing the sun. This innovation and others have enabled the P Series to achieve a much more affordable production price. Investors had previously expressed concerns over the high capital investment required to build new SunPower factories and the high cost of its earlier model panels. To prepare for a broader stake in the market, SunPower, in collaboration with Dongfang Electric and silicon giant Zhonghuan Semiconductor, will build what is expected to be the largest solar manufacturing facility on the planet. This joint project has been dubbed DZS Solar. Via Electrek Images via SunPower (1)

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SunPower shingles solar cells to boost solar panel efficiency by 15%

Snhetta unveils striking new skyscraper for Manhattans Upper West Side

November 29, 2017 by  
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Snøhetta has unveiled a handsome skyscraper for Manhattan’s prestigious Upper West Side at 50 West 66th Street. Undeniably modern yet sensitive to its historic context, the striking mixed-use tower will soar to a height of 775 feet with 125 residential units. The chamfered form, cut into an angular shape, is “evocative of the chiseled stone of Manhattan’s geologic legacy,” say the architects. Snøhetta’s skyscraper comprises luxury residences stacked on top a mixed-use podium. The residential entrance will be located on 65th Street, while the entrance to a synagogue will be located on 66th. A large terrace is placed atop the podium on the 16th floor, where the building’s residential slab is set back from the multilevel outdoor plaza. The lushly planted terrace will offer views of the Hudson River, Central Park, and the city. Related: Times Square now has double the public space The architects carved away the skyscraper to create a dynamic form with a chiseled crown. Handset and textured limestone , bronze, and glass clad the building. Construction is slated to begin in Spring 2018. + Snøhetta Via ArchDaily Images by Snøhetta and Binyan Studios

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Whole Foods prices just dropped by as much as 43%

August 28, 2017 by  
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Until recently, few people could afford to shop at Whole Foods regularly. Now that Amazon has bought out the grocery chain for $13.7 billion , however, big changes are underway. On its first day, the internet giant slashed some of the store’s prices by up to 43 percent. The goal is to upend the way customers shop and ensure more people have access to affordable, healthy food. The first step to addressing the store’s reputation for being overpriced (which has led some to call it Whole Paycheck) was to mark down the prices of food. Bloomberg reports that at the Whole Foods store on East 57th Street in Manhattan , organic fuji apples were marked down to $1.99 a pound from $3.49. Similarly, organic rotisserie chicken fell to $9.99 from $13.99 and organic avocados changed from $2.79 each to $1.99. All of the marked-down items have orange signs reading, “Whole Foods + Amazon .” The sign also lists that there is “More to come.” “Price was the largest barrier to Whole Foods’ customers,” said Mark Baum, a senior vice president at the Food Marketing Institute. “Amazon has demonstrated that it is willing to invest to dominate the categories that it decides to compete in. Food retailers of all sizes need to look really hard at their pricing strategies, and maybe find some funding sources to build a war chest.” 60-year-old Simon Salamon couldn’t be more pleased by the marriage between Amazon and Whole Foods . He said, “It reminded me why I shop at Amazon. Ninety-nine percent of the time they have the best prices and their return policy is great. With the prices lower, I think we’re more likely to shop here every day.” While Walmart has invested billions into lowering prices all around, it’s Costco that might be Whole Foods’ biggest competitor. The chain has a slate of organic items that are priced about 30 percent cheaper than Whole Foods, according to Sanford Bernstein. Prices can remain low, as Costco charges membership fees and sells bulk-sized goods to customers. Related: Whole Foods reveals the bleak future of dessert without bees Now that the deal is done, only time will tell if the organic grocery chain will be successful at changing its reputation and, in the process, serving a wider clientele. Via Bloomberg Images via Whole Foods , Pixabay

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Whole Foods prices just dropped by as much as 43%

NYC mayor announces push to finish 32-mile Greenway linking entire Manhattan waterfront

April 27, 2017 by  
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking to finish the biggest gap in the 32-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. $100 million in the mayor’s executive budget will go towards completing the esplanade, allowing people to walk and bicycle on the edges of the city by the water. The new green space and promenade could be finished in around five years. The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway along the East River between East 61st to East 53rd Street could be developed with City capital money. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation , United States Coast Guard , and Army Corps of Engineers have already granted initial approval and designs for the esplanade will be sketched out this year. The city hopes construction, carried out by the New York City Economic Development Corporation , will begin in 2019 and end in 2022. Related: Former garment factory next to NYC’s High Line to be topped with new green spaces Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, “We’re jumpstarting the completion of a Greenway linking the entire Manhattan waterfront. The Hudson River Greenway has vastly improved quality of life on the West Side, and we want families in every corner in the borough to have that same access to bike, walk, and play along the water. This is the first of many big investments we’ll make as we bring the full Greenway to reality.” Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the longer Greenway would help meet the demand in cycling , which has spiked 80 percent during the last five years in New York City. DOT’s new bike lanes and a 1,100-mile bicycle network could also help more people get out of their cars and onto bikes. Mayor David Dinkins started the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway in 1993, and each administration since has added to it. The most recent major piece of the Greenway is a 10-block Riverwalk completing an 11-mile path between George Washington Bridge and the Battery. Over 7,000 cyclists ride on the path every day, making it the United States’ busiest bike path. + Office of the Mayor of New York City Images via the Office of the Mayor of New York City

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NYC mayor announces push to finish 32-mile Greenway linking entire Manhattan waterfront

Humans may have lived in America 115,000 years earlier than we thought

April 27, 2017 by  
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For years, scientists have believed that humanity was a relatively recent visitor to the North American continent, migrating from Siberia only 15,000 years ago. Now, more accurate dating of mastodon fossils from California shows that an early human ancestor likely existed on the continent 130,000 years ago , far further back than even the most extreme estimates made by previous researchers. The fossils consist of elephant-like teeth and bones, which were discovered in Southern California during the construction of an expressway in 1992. The fossils bear clear signs of deliberate breakage using stone hammers and other early human tools – but until recently, dating technology was not sophisticated enough to accurately pinpoint the era from which they originated. Related: Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification Using new methods to measure traces of natural uranium in the bones, researchers with the US Geological Survey and the Center for American Paleolithic Research found these bones were far older than the era when humans are generally accepted to have lived in America. While these people were clearly somehow related to modern-day humans, and were advanced enough to create and use stone tools, researchers say that they wouldn’t have been Homo sapiens as we know them. Our species didn’t leave Africa until 80,000 to 100,000 years ago. Instead, some likely candidates are Homo erectus, the Neanderthals, or perhaps a little-known hominid species called the Denisovans , whose DNA can still be found in Australian aboriginal populations today. It’s likely this ancient human population died out before Homo sapiens eventually crossed the Pacific. It’s believed they did not interbreed with modern humans and likely are not direct ancestors of any Native American groups. The new findings have been published in the journal Nature . Via Phys.org Images via San Diego Natural History Museum

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Humans may have lived in America 115,000 years earlier than we thought

Former garment factory next to NYC’s High Line to be topped with new green spaces

March 31, 2017 by  
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The Warehouse , a massive multi-unit complex a mere stone’s throw away from the High Line in New York City, is getting a facelift. A garment factory in a previous life, the 65,000-square-foot space at 520 West 20th Street currently houses a parking garage and art galleries. But Elijah Equities , the real-estate firm that is redeveloping the building, has grander plans. With the help of Morris Adjmi Architects , Elijah Equities is looking to transform the Warehouse into 100,000 square feet of office and retail space. The proposed increase in footprint will require the addition of three steel-framed, cantilevered stories to the existing four. More than 18,000 square feet of rooftop space will crown the new steel-and-glass extension, which will appear to float above the original unit on a pair of elevator and stairway cores. Related: New renderings of Studio Gang’s Solar Carve building reveal a faceted jewel that hugs the High Line The rear of the building will also be subject to readjustments. Planned upgrades include bigger windows, open floor plans, and plenty of outdoor space. “My intent was to capture the spirit of the original warehouse and develop a creative tension between the powerful brick-and-mortar base and the elegant new addition,” Morris Adjmi told Arch Daily . “I wanted to connect these two beautiful structures without simply fusing them together.” Related: Check out the vibrant outdoor art gallery coming to NYC’s High Line park The abundant greenery “draws parallels” from the High Line next door, Adjmi added. Construction is slated to begin this spring. The Warehouse is expected to receive tenants around the first quarter of 2019. + The Warehouse Via Arch Daily

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Zaha Hadid’s Kushner tower reimagined as the Eye of Sauron

March 30, 2017 by  
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When the family of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and China’s Anbang Insurance Group announced plans to redevelop a Zaha Hadid -designed skyscraper at Manhattan’s 666 Fifth Avenue, just about everyone, from lawmakers to government ethicists, balked. Although the deal would have helped transform the Kushners’ struggling office-and-retail property into a 1,400-foot mixed-use tower with retail space, high-end condominiums, and an 11-story hotel, negotiations eventually buckled under public pressure. Still, we’ll always have the renderings—and the Photoshopped artwork, one of which reimagines the monolith-like edifice as Barad-dûr . Designed by Hadid before her death last year, the $7.5 billion project, renamed 660 Fifth Avenue, would have involved gutting the 60-year-old building to its steel bones and adding 40 or more floors. Anbang’s withdrawal from negotiations has thrown the future of the property into question, although a spokesman says that the Kushner Companies is in active discussions with other investors to keep the project on life support. @PeterGrantwsj Here's the final concept. pic.twitter.com/AOIe9YHH7F — Grok (@Groked) March 21, 2017 Related: Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Infinitus Plaza focuses on environmental sustainability Meanwhile, the Twittersphere has been having a field day with a rendering of the proposed citadel, with one adroit user Photoshopping it into the Tower of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings . Whether this is in reference to the Mark of the Beast, the Kushners’ Trump-adjacency, or the fact that the building is a mite four blocks south of Trump Tower , is up for debate. The Kushners purchased 666 Fifth Avenue on Jared’s birthday in January 2007 for $1.8 billion. Although Jared, who is married to First Daughter Ivanka Trump, divested his stake in the building after taking a job in the White House, he sold it to his family, raising not just concerns about Anbang’s links to the Chinese government but also conflicts of interest. In fact, five Democratic members of Congress wrote to a White House lawyer last week about the would-be deal, which they called “unusually favorable for the Kushners.” Anbang would have invested $400 million in the project, as well as taken out a $4 billion construction loan for renovations, according to reports. Via Artnet

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Philip Johnson’s secret brick and glass home in Manhattan, NYC

March 24, 2017 by  
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You’d never guess a Modernist paradise lies behind the unassuming brick and glass facade of Philip Johnson’s sole private residence in Manhattan . The Rockefeller Guest House sits snugly between two rather typical apartment buildings, but inside is a secret glass house that was the architect’s only New York City residential commission – built near the beginning of Johnson’s career between 1949 and 1950. Johnson is renowned for marvels from his Connecticut Glass House to NYC skyscrapers. But hidden in Manhattan is a work often overlooked: a guest house built for Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller III, to show off her modern art collection and host gatherings. The house that sits on a 25 by 100 foot plot is a designated historical landmark today, but often goes unnoticed. Related: Prefab Glass House lets you bring home the spirit of Philip Johnson’s masterpiece Behind the brick and glass facade is a modernist haven. Separate structures are bridged by a courtyard and pond accessible by a series of large stones. Little has been altered in this home, from the ground floor’s white vinyl tiles to the framing. The long eastern wall is unbroken. The space feels clean and open. The small home was designed to display art, but as New York Times writer Sadie Stein said, it is itself a work of art. Rockefeller donated the house to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1958, which used it as an event space for a time before reselling it. Johnson and his partner David Whitney actually lived in the house for eight years starting in 1971; they leased it from Mrs. Lee Sherrod. In 2000, an undisclosed buyer purchased the home for a staggering $11.16 million – the highest price per square foot in New York history. The New York Times Style Magazine features more photographs and a video you can view here . Via The New York Times and Curbed Images via screenshot and Christian Newton on Flickr

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NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral goes green with new geothermal plant

March 17, 2017 by  
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When St. Patrick’s Day revelers parade past St. Patrick’s Cathedral on NYC’s 5th Avenue today, they will be celebrating not just the patron saint of Ireland, but also a renewable energy future for the famous landmark. Last month, the Archdiocese of New York announced that the historic Saint Patrick’s cathedral activated a new geothermal heating and cooling system that will reduce the building’s energy consumption by more than 30 percent and reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 94,000 kilograms – an impressive feat for the largest Catholic Gothic cathedral in the United States. St. Patrick’s geothermal plant is part of the final phase of a four-year, $177 million renovation that has been overseen by the cathedral’s architectural design team of Murphy, Burnham, & Buttrick working in partnership with Landmark Facilities Group and PW Grosser. It is the institution’s first restoration in more than 70 years (it was dedicated in 1879). Related: Futuristic power plant complex generates clean power through wind, solar and geothermal energy The geothermal heating and cooling system consists of 10 wells in terraces flanking the north and south sides of the cathedral drilled through dense Manhattan schist (a coarse-grained metamorphic rock) to a depth of up to 2,250 feet. When fully activated, the plant will be able to generate 2.9 million BTUs per hour of air conditioning and 3.2 million BTUs per hour of heating through 76,000 square feet of space. While wind and solar grab a bigger share of the renewables market and garner more media attention, the potential for both geothermal electricity and heating is huge. The global geothermal power market is projected to more than double operating capacity to 32 gigawatts by the early 2030s, according to the US and Global Geothermal Power Production Report from the US Geothermal Energy Association. Currently only 6 to 7 percent of the world’s estimated geothermal potential is being harnessed. Related: Pope’s official encyclical: “a bold cultural revolution” can halt climate change The Archdiocese of New York and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are not as interested in tapping the geothermal market as they are in heeding the call of Pope Francis to protect the planet and conserve God’s creation as written in his 2015 encyclical on the environment , Laudato Si. “A consistent ethic of life does not compartmentalize these issues. It prioritizes life and the preservation of life at every level,” said Cathedral Rector Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie. “One of the most basic ways in which we are called to do so is through responsible stewardship of our natural resources.” Images via St. Patrick’s Cathedral , MBB and Local 3 IBEW

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