Nestl pays $200 per year to bottle water near Flint, Michigan – while residents go without

October 2, 2017 by  
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For three years, residents of Flint, Michigan, have had to rely on sub-par bottled water to meet their daily needs. Though the crisis attracted national attention and inspired cities elsewhere to check their own water supplies for lead, little has changed in Flint in terms of the poor water supply. Adding insult to injury, The Guardian reports that just two hours away, Nestlé pumps nearly 100,000 times what the average Michigan resident uses into bottles that are later sold for $1 each. And the cost? A measly $200 per year. In 2014, Flint switched water sources to save funds. While a new pipeline connecting Flint with Lake Huron was under construction, the city began to rely on the Flint River as a water source during the two-year transition. The issue was, the water in the Flint River is of poor quality. Because the state Department of Environmental Quality was not treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent — which violated federal law, the river was 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit, according to a study by Virginia Tech. The corrosiveness of the water resulted in lead leaching from service lines to homes. To this day, the crisis has yet to be resolved. And to make matters worse, Nestle now wants to pump more water from Michigan. The Guardian reports that in a recent permit application, Nestlé asked to pump 210 million gallons per year from Evart, the small town two hours away from Flint where residents don’t live in fear of their water supply. Within the next few months, the state will decide whether or not to grant Nestlé this permit. Understandably, residents in Flint are infuriated — and confused — by this recent development. Some are asking, “Why do we get undrinkable , unaffordable tap water, when the world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestlé , bottles the state’s most precious resource for next to nothing?” Chuck Wolverton, a resident of Flint, told The Guardian bottled water “is a necessity of life right now.” Every night, he drives 15 miles outside of town to his brother’s residence where he showers and washes clothes. “Don’t seem right, because they’re making profits off of it,” said Wolverton. He says of the Flint water he pays $180/month for, “I don’t even give it to my dogs.” As Gina Luster, a mom who lives in Flint with her family, told the paper, “With the money they make, they could come and fix Flint – and I mean the water plants and our pipes. Me and you wouldn’t even be having this conversation.” Related: Michigan health department head charged with involuntary manslaughter over Flint crisis Though bottled water is a detriment to the environment, it became the most highly-consumed beverage in North America this year, largely due to fears of lead-tainted water. Nestlé is but one corporation profiting from the lead-water crisis. In 2016, the company had $92bn  in sales in 2016 and $7.4bn from water alone. Yet, all it pays to harvest water in the town two hours away from Flint , Michigan, is $200 a year. It’s an unfair reality, one Flint residents and activists demand to see changed. “We’re not saying give everyone a new car, a new home. We’re just asking for our water treatment,” Luster said. “That’s a no-brainer.” Via The Guardian Images via  EcoWatch ,  The Overlook Journal ,  CNBC

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Nestl pays $200 per year to bottle water near Flint, Michigan – while residents go without

Stunning Lake Michigan home is built from dying ash reclaimed onsite

October 2, 2017 by  
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This stunning timber home by the lake sensitively embraces its Midwestern landscape with its design and use of local, reclaimed materials. Designed by Desai Chia Architects in collaboration with Environment Architects (AOR) , the Michigan Lake House boasts stunning lake views and a striking folded roof. The site-sensitive home features a native plant palette and stormwater management in addition to locally sourced and salvaged materials. Located on a woodland bluff, the 4,800-square-foot Michigan Lake House comprises three offset structures: one for the communal areas, including the living room, kitchen, and covered terrace; and the two others that separately house the master bedroom suite and three children’s bedrooms. A dining area breezeway connects the three structures. The undulating roof takes inspiration from the natural rolling terrain as well as the vernacular architecture of nearby fishing villages. The roof also cantilevers over the south end of the home to provide shade for the lakeside-viewing terrace. Related: Exquisite Shore House is a modernist triumph that embraces nature Shou Sugi Ban timber—charred to protect the wood from rot and pests—clads the exterior to blend the home into the landscape. The use of dark timber continues inside the home but is offset by light-colored ash, which was inhabitat.com/tag/reclaimed-materials reclaimed onsite and milled into custom furnishings, flooring, ceiling panels, and trim work. “The interiors of the house embody the indigenous landscape that once thrived with old growth ash,” wrote the architects. Locally sourced stone was used for the outdoor seating areas, pathways, and steps. + Desai Chia Architects + Environment Architects Images via Desai Chia Architects

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OMAs MPavilion 2017 with a floating roof opens today in Melbourne

October 2, 2017 by  
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Melbourne is heating up for the summer with a new OMA-designed amphitheater. OMA founder Rem Koolhaas and colleague Daniel Gianotten just completed MPavilion 2017, a temporary pavilion that opened today in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens. Commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, MPavilion 2017 is the fourth annual architect-designed summer pavilion for the city and is OMA’s first Australian commission. The multifunctional amphitheater will host hundreds of free events throughout the four-month season. OMA designed MPavilion 2017 as a 19-by-19-meter aluminum-clad steel structure that transforms to accommodate a variety of unexpected programming. Surrounded by an artificial hill landscaped with native plants , the adaptable amphitheater comprises one fixed tiered grandstand and one moveable grandstand that rotates to open up to the park. The floating translucent roof is built with a two-meter-deep gridded, machine-like canopy with embedded advanced lighting technology. Related: Studio Mumbai unveils handmade pavilion crafted from seven kilometers of bamboo “Our design for MPavilion 2017 is intended to provoke all kinds of activities through its configurable nature and a materiality that relates to its direct surroundings,” said Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten of OMA. “We are happy that MPavilion can perform as a theater of debate around the city and its development, and contribute to the ongoing civic discourse of Melbourne.” MPavilion will be open everyday from 9AM to 4PM until February 4, 2018. At the end of the four-month season MPavilion will be moved to a permanent new home within Melbourne’s Central Business District. + OMA + MPavilion 2017 Images by Timothy Burgess and John Gollings

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OMAs MPavilion 2017 with a floating roof opens today in Melbourne

7 of the best places to view autumn foliage around the world

August 28, 2017 by  
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It may not feel like it, sweaty and sticky as you may be, but if you are a resident of the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is right around the corner. As fun as it has been to soak up the summer sun, the crisp air, slower pace, and dazzling foliage of autumn sounds like heaven right about now. For those who wish to take advantage of the imminent seasonal beauty, we’ve compiled a list of locations across the Northern Hemisphere that will be bursting with autumnal splendor in the weeks to come. 1. Montreal, QC -> Burlington, VT I’m cheating a bit with this first one, but with less than two-hours in a car separating these two fine cities, it is highly recommended that appreciators of autumn pair both lovely spots. Montreal and Burlington are among the earliest major cities in Eastern North America to reach peak foliage, starting in mid-September and continuing into October. While in Montreal, visitors should hike or bike to the top of Mount Royal, or visit the elevated St. Joseph’s Oratory, for a view of the gorgeous patchwork of color along the St. Lawrence River. Autumn is short but sweet in the city, so enjoy the magic while it lasts. Related: Tiny Fern Forest Treehouse Provides a Cozy Vacation Hideaway in the Woods of Vermont While in Burlington , be sure to bike along the Island Line Rail Trail, from which you can catch breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, framed by Lake Champlain. Of particular interest is the causeway section, which connects Colchester and South Hero, where visitors can journey out into the lake itself, thanks to a narrow land bridge. 2. Fujigoko Region, Japan Due to its island location and varied elevation, Japan boasts an impressive diversity of climate zones, from subtropical to cold temperate continental. The fall foliage of Fujigoko, also known as the Fuji Five Lakes Region, benefits from its northern location and higher elevation. Underneath the towering Mount Fuji, the five lakes located in an arc to the north of Fuji provide an excellent contrast to the vivid fall foliage. After the sun has set and the cool air becomes cold, visitors should warm up with a bowl of Fujigoko’s famous udon noodles. 3. Prague, Czech Republic Prague seems to be at the top of many people’s list of favorite European locations, and for good reason. The gorgeous architecture, befitting a city founded in the 6th century, is well complemented by the seasonal changes of autumn. As the leaves change color and the sun retreats, Prague shines. The cool air complements the warm, hearty traditional Czech cuisine, which may be enjoyed on a heated patio if the weather cooperates. For breathtaking views of the foliage, take a trip to the top of Petrin Hill or walk through Kampa Island. Related: Imposing Communist-Era Television Tower Transformed Into a Unique Hotel in Prague 4. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/ Tennessee Although New England receives the lion’s share of praise as the American autumn experience, one would be unwise to ignore the majesty of fall in the South. Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited in the United States, offers unparalleled views of a diverse, rich ecosystem that sheds its leaves in waves, from the top of the Appalachian balds down to the foothills. Related: Jimmy Carter built a new solar plant on his old peanut farm Beyond the park, there are endless spots to explore in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia . For those based in or traveling from Atlanta, Tallulah Gorge State Park is only a short drive for breathtaking views that may include whitewater rapids, depending on the weekend. 5. Huangshan, China Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountains, is a beautiful mountain range known for its hot springs, sunsets, unique jagged peaks, and top-down views of clouds. Understandably, it is a popular destination all year round, but it truly peaks in the autumn. Maple trees turn vivid red, various deciduous trees become golden, and the Huangshan pine trees provide an evergreen hue. Add in Huangshan’s unparalleled sunrises and your portrait of fall excellence is complete. 6. Highlands, Scotland Though the Scottish Highlands may be known for their plentiful pine trees, the golden aura of deciduous trees play well against this more traditional backdrop. Peak foliage in the Highlands tends to begin in late September and continue into October. Paired with Scotland’s numerous and famous lochs and the rolling mountains, the Scottish autumn is a must-see. After a hike through Cairngorms National Park, relax with a dram and seasonal produce, including wild game, fresh fruit, and oysters. 7. Michigan If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look no further than Michigan. Whether your fall travels takes you to Michigan’s breathtaking, extensive shoreline bounded by four of the Great Lakes or further inland in the Wolverine State, you are guaranteed to be dazzled by Michigan’s natural beauty. In autumn, all things apple are there in Michigan for your enjoyment; after all, the state produces over 900 million pounds of apples each year. If you seek true wilderness, check out Keweenaw National Historical Park for bold fall foliage, historic towns, and shoreline views. Lead image via Pixabay , others via Depositphotos 1 2 3 , Rob Taylor/Flickr , Justin Henry/Flickr , sunnywinds/Flickr , Andreas Manessinger/Flickr, Xiaojia He/Flickr , daveynin/Flickr , yue/Flickr , Robert Brown/Flickr , and Rachel Kramer/Flickr

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This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled

August 28, 2017 by  
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Power-producing materials are the stuff of wearable inventors’ dreams. And scientists just created a yarn that generates electricity with a simple tug. The yarn, comprised of carbon nanotubes and submerged in an electrolyte gel, isn’t ideal for sweaters – but can harvest power from a wearer’s breathing. And there’s another surprising application: it could collect energy from ocean waves . An international team of 29 researchers devised the the yarn material, known as twistron harvesters, “by tying a carbon nanotube string into a tangled weave of carbon and submerging it into an electrolyte gel,” according to Science Magazine. When covered in gel and tugged, the yarn can illuminate a light-emitting diode with a small current. The yarn’s peak power generation – when strands are hooked together – is 250 watts per kilogram, and Ars Technica pointed out a professional cyclist’s peak exertions are only around 10 percent of that figure. Related: New type of fabric harvests energy from the sun and movement The researchers tested the yarn by sewing it in to a shirt, and saw it generated a tiny amount of electricity as the wearer breathed in and out. The researchers also connected the yarn to an artificial muscle – a polymer that contracts when warmed, according to Ars Technica – and were able to convert fluctuations in temperature into energy . A still more unexpected way the yarn could be used is in wave power . The material operates when it’s placed in saltwater similar to the ocean, and the motion of the waves moves the yarn, allowing it to generate power. Ars Technica notes the device does need a platinum electrode as seawater can be corrosive. The proof of concept yarn strands aren’t yet powerful enough to brighten a home, but the scientists say their technology is scalable. The journal Science published the research in late August. Scientists from institutions in South Korea, the United States, and China contributed to the study. Via Science Magazine and Ars Technica Images via The University of Texas at Dallas and screenshot

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This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled

A lacy skin fills this Kenyan apartment building with sunlight and fresh air

August 28, 2017 by  
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This modern apartment building in Mombasa, Kenya is wrapped with a lacy structural skin that allows natural light to filter inside. Urko Sánchez Architects wrapped the building in two layers: the first acts as a barrier against excessive heat and sunlight. The second layer, comprised of handcrafted wood-lattice shutters , further manages light and provides privacy. The building occupies a narrow, sloping lot located on the waterfront of Tudor Creek, Mombasa. This privileged location offers stunning breathtaking panoramic views on the creek. In order to ensure optimal privacy, the architects designed a two-layer shell that provides natural ventilation and prevents heat gain . The facade is inspired by traditional Swahili design and redirects the tendency of local people to put bars on their windows. Related: Lace-like screen inspired by Portuguese tiles cover the rear facade of the charming Restelo House in Lisbon Vegetation is integrated in the patios and on the terraces , offering freshness and greenery. The patios allow natural ventilation via permeable wood lattices facing the water. They are accessible via lateral stairs that descend towards the creek, passing by an integrated gym at the bottom, and arriving to an infinity pool. Related: Ofis’ Colorful Lace Apartment Complex is Wrapped in a Sun-Shading Facade “The skin was rendered entirely structural thanks to the engineering team,” said the architects. “A novelty to Kenya, such structural skin was possible thanks to local and international engineers working hand by hand, and to the steel workers on-site who managed, by dedication and care, flawless bar bending work without access to any technology,” they added. + Urko Sánchez Architects Via World Architecture News Photos by Javier Callejas

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A lacy skin fills this Kenyan apartment building with sunlight and fresh air

Chicago drinking fountains have been running non-stop for months, and the reason why is infuriating

July 31, 2017 by  
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For the past few months, drinking fountains in Chicago have been running non-stop because the water pipes there contains “dangerously high” lead levels. Ingesting excess levels of lead   (and just to be clear, health officials say no amount of lead exposure is safe ) can cause symptoms such as constipation, vomiting, developmental disabilities, hyperactivity, irritability, insomnia and memory loss. So to address the issue, the city has simply disabled the “push” buttons to let the fountains flow freely, reducing the hazardous levels of lead that actually make it into the water. In April of 2016, WBEZ began investigating the suspicious act of allowing the faucets to flow freely. This week, investigative journalists finally received answers. Reportedly, 450 Chicago park fountains contain “dangerously high” lead levels — with some spouting water with levels 80 times higher than the EPA limit. As a result of the action taken, 450 fountains met EPA standards. However, 107 were still contaminated with lead , which is why officials plan to keep them flowing until mid-fall. An additional 100 or so will be running round-the-clock for “spring flushing” to clear the pipes after winter. While a temporary solution has been found, one cannot ignore the environmental travesty which is occurring by allowing hundreds of faucets to flow freely for not just days, but months on end. For every spigot that is left on, nearly 600 gallons of drinking water are wasted each day. It’s exactly because of this expense that Chicago spent hundreds of thousands of dollars installing on-and-off buttons on the fountains in 2003. Unfortunately, city officials did not plan for lead contamination . Related: Abandoned fountain transformed into a pop-up urban spa in Mexico For now, district officials say they will continue testing and monitoring mountains throughout the summer with rapid detection tests. Fountains that are found to contain high levels of lead will have their samples followed up with additional lab analyses. All in all, plan on packing some purified, spring water if you intend on visiting a Chicago park in the near future. Via WBEZ Images via Pixabay and Deposit Photos

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Chicago drinking fountains have been running non-stop for months, and the reason why is infuriating

Is U.S. car ownership on the decline?

February 17, 2017 by  
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Peak oil might be less of a problem now that America has reached peak car. According to research by Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation , both the ownership of light-duty vehicles such as cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks, plus the corresponding distance driven, began to wane in 2006. The reasons aren’t clear. “Friends and foes of car-centric planning have been fervently debating whether the post-2006 driving decline was a recession-driven trough or a reflection of the fact that younger Americans, with their Uber -hailing aversion to car ownership, were truly driving the automobile age to an early grave,” wrote Andrew Small in Citylab , a blog from the Atlantic , on Tuesday. There are hints —but just barely—of a rebound. Vehicle-ownership rates per person and per household rose by 1.4 percent from 2012 to 2015. Similarly, the distance driven per person and per household increased by 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2015. Related: Limits to growth prediction of imminent societal collapse As Smalls points out, all eyes are now on President Donald Trump. “The new administration’s pledge to roll back environmental and safety regulations might conceivably (eventually) make new car ownership cheaper and lure some Millennials back behind the wheel. (Especially if federal support for mass transit drops off the face of the earth.),” Smalls said. “On the other hand, the president’s proposed 20 percent tax on goods from Mexico would do the opposite.” TL;DR: We’re going to have to wait a few years to see how things shake out. Photo by Benjamin Child Via Citylab

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Is U.S. car ownership on the decline?

1,700 Flint residents sue the EPA over tainted water

February 1, 2017 by  
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More than 1,700 residents of Flint, Michigan are seeking class action status for a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming it mismanaged the water crisis in the city. The suit was filed in a U.S. District court in Michigan on Monday, and alleges that the agency failed to warn them of the dangers of the tainted water , and did nothing to pressure state or local authorities to address the issue. The plaintiffs are seeking a collective $722 million in damages. According to Reuters , part of the 30-page lawsuit reads, “This case involves a major failure on all levels of government to protect the health and safety of the public. Local, state and federal agencies and employees, working individually and at times in concert with each other, mismanaged this environmental catastrophe.” The EPA had not yet issued a comment on the court action at the time of publication. The water crisis resulted in thousands of children being exposed to water laced with lead , which is known to stunt cognitive development and cause a number of chronic health issues. Researchers believe there is no safe lower limit for lead exposure. Related: EPA regional head steps down after agency rules response to Flint water crisis “inadequate” While the city has switched back to a safe water source as of October 2015, it’s been a struggle for residents to access clean water in the meantime. The previous water system caused irreparable damage to the city’s pipes, and replacing them has been a very slow and expensive process. Though filters are available for residential taps, many are still limiting themselves to bottled water out of fear that contamination may still seep through. Via Reuters Images via Steve Johnson and Wikipedia

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Michigan just made it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags

January 2, 2017 by  
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Michigan just passed a new law that prohibits local governments from banning, regulating, or taxing the use of plastic bags and other containers. That’s right: it’s a statewide ban on banning plastic bags . The law was likely aimed at shutting down a local ordinance in Ann Arbor’s Washtenaw County, which would have instituted a 10 cent fee on grocery store bags. Plastic bag bans, of course, are intended to help keep pollution out of the environment. The flimsy plastic bags used in many grocery stores are not biodegradable and tend to find their way into waterways and the ocean, where they break down into smaller pieces that poison fish, seabirds, and marine animals. Even worse, they can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment – or even longer in a landfill . Related: Morocco just officially banned plastic bags Given the environmental impact, what possible reason could Michigan have for shutting down plastic bag bans within the state? In a word: money. Businesses complain that bans or taxes on bags are simply too high a burden for their everyday operations. Michigan isn’t the only state to have taken this approach, either: Idaho, Arizona, and Missouri have all enacted similar laws in recent years. Hopefully, as plastic bag bans become more common, it will become clear that industry claims about the cost and complexity of implementing the bans simply aren’t true. So far in the US, plastic bags have already been banned throughout California and in cities including Portland, Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. If these major cities and the country’s largest state can adapt to paper and reusable bags, surely Michigan could do so as well. Via The Washington Post Images via Randy Wick and Eric

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Michigan just made it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags

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