Montreal unveils plans for award-winning Biodiversity Corridor

May 26, 2020 by  
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Following decades of car-oriented growth that replaced swaths of greenery with asphalt, the city of Montreal is attempting to bring nature back with the launch of its ambitious new Biodiversity Corridor project. A team of four firms — civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture and Biodiversité Conseil — designed the project, which was selected as the winning submission in a 2018 national landscape architecture competition. The greening initiative will be implemented in Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough over the next 20 years. According to the design team, approximately 70% of Saint-Laurent is now covered in asphalt as a result of the rapid industrialization of the city that started in the 1960s. Dismayed by the disappearance of tree cover and vegetation, local authorities in 2015 began conducting various studies — including detailed inventories of existing fauna and flora — for bringing nature back to the region. This ultimately led to the idea of the Biodiversity Corridor. Related: An old warehouse is rehabbed into chic apartments in Montreal The Biodiversity Corridor will be organized along a narrow strip of “wasteland” that runs underneath overhead power lines along three main boulevards. The space, currently occupied by nothing other than mowed lawns, will be transformed into flowering meadows to attract birds, pollinating insects and small animals. Earthworks will also be employed to create an undulating landscape for visual interest. New pedestrian trails, upgraded bicycle paths and a series of activity and rest areas will be added as well. “The corridor will enable the transition from a mostly asphalted, fragmented territory to a diversified urban landscape, connected to all living beings,” said Fannie Duguay-Lefebvre, a spokesperson for civiliti. The Biodiversity Corridor masterplan is also expected to serve as a model for sustainable landscape reclamation for all of Montreal as well as other cities and countries. The project received a Special Jury Award for the category “Sustainable Development” in the 2020 edition of the National Urban Design Awards.  + civiliti Images via civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture and Biodiversité Conseil

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Montreal unveils plans for award-winning Biodiversity Corridor

Designers propose sustainable housing in response to COVID-19 lifestyle changes

May 26, 2020 by  
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For those lucky enough to keep their jobs during the global pandemic, a large portion have been working from home — a privilege that could become a permanent way of life for many. In response to how COVID-19 continues to reshape our lives, Paris-based architecture firm Studio BELEM has proposed Aula Modula, a conceptual live/work urban housing scheme that emphasizes flexibility, community and sustainability. In addition to providing individual workspaces for work-from-home setups, Aula Modula would also offer plenty of green spaces as a means of bringing nature back to the city. Envisioned for a post- COVID-19 world, Aula Modula combines elements of high-density urban living with greater access to nature. According to Studio BELEM, the concept is an evolution of traditional western architectural and urban planning models that have been unchanged for years and fail to take into account diminishing greenery in cities, rising commute times and the conveniences afforded by the internet. Related: Architects design COVID-19 mobile testing labs for underserved communities “Aula Modula chooses to free itself from the standards and codes of traditional housing,” the architects explained in a project statement. “The Aula Modula brings back a natural environment to the city, promoting new commonly shared spaces and social interactions between its residents.” In addition to providing individual home offices to each apartment, the live/work complex includes communal access to a central courtyard and terraces to promote a sense of community — both social and professional — between residents and workers. The architects propose to construct the development primarily from timber to reduce the project’s carbon footprint. Aula Modula is also envisioned with green roofs irrigated with recycled and treated wastewater, a series of terraced vegetable gardens and a communal greenhouse warmed with recovered thermal energy from the building. The apartments would sit atop a mix of retail and recreational services, such as a grocery store, craft brewery and yoga studio. + Studio Belem Images by Studio Belem

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The best eco tourism spots in Montreal

December 31, 2019 by  
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Montreal is a lively city where there’s always something going on. Perhaps you’ll arrive in the middle of an enormous Pride celebration, with pink balloon-festooned streets blocked off for a huge party. Or maybe you’ll play on 21 Balancoires, a set of musical swings — notes play as people swing — that appears downtown every springtime. Montreal has long been a major port city. It’s located at one end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which stretches from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of two million, Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city. It’s a bilingual city with a European feel. While more than half of Montreal’s residents are bilingual in French and English, quite a few only speak one language or the other, depending on their family’s native tongue and their education. Americans, especially those from the west coast, may love being in a place with Euro-style buildings dating back as far as the 1600s. It’s the mix of picturesque old and totally modern that makes Montreal so beautiful and fun. Outdoors Montreal For a more urban outdoors experience, check out one of Montreal’s many street fairs. May through June are the top months for closing off streets to traffic and turning them into party zones. Unless you’re extremely hardy, summer is the best time to partake in Montreal’s outdoors activities. Winter is long and cold here. You’ll need serious gear to have a good time outside. Mount Royal is a small mountain that overlooks the city and serves as a 692-acre city park that has it all. You can hike , rent a paddleboat, get your cardio workout by climbing the 550-step staircase on the south side, picnic or participate in a drum circle. During winter, people tube, toboggan, ski, snowshoe, or skate on a manmade lake. The Mount Royal Chalet rents winter equipment. Whatever you’re doing on Mount Royal, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city. The Montreal Botanical Garden is lovely in every season. Check out cultural gardens within the larger garden — Chinese, Japanese and First Nations are all represented here. In autumn you can stroll beneath golden leaves, and in winter you can cross country ski inside the garden . Don’t miss the Insectarium to get a close-up look at bug life. Did you know that 91% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec? If you visit Montreal between late February and late April, get out to the countryside to experience a sugar shack. Many offer games, tastings and maple-themed meals as part of the fun. At La Cabane À Tuque , maple producers harvest maple sap the old-fashioned way, with buckets. Visitors can join in. They run an eco operation with a hempcrete -insulated house, a wall made with recycled bottles, and they even serve vegan meals. Montreal wellness scene Montreal is a secular city, but you’ll quickly notice the gorgeous churches and French Catholic influence. Nuns opened and ran the first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, in 1645. For a historical look at the local wellness scene, at least from a European perspective, the Musee de Hospitallers chronicles Montreal’s early medical efforts. For one of the best modern spa experiences anywhere, pack your swimsuit and flip flops and head for Bota Bota , an old river ferry turned floating spa. It’s docked in the old port on Saint Lawrence River, where you can soak in a water circuit, fill your lungs with clouds of eucalyptus in the steam room, eat spa cuisine and relax in hanging chairs, all while gazing at river traffic. Bota Bota lets you choose between a quiet zone and a large area where you can visit with friends. Wanderlust Montreal , known for its Wanderlust Festival, is based in Montreal. Check out their website for current studio classes, concerts and yoga events. Eating out in Montreal When I asked local vegan activist Élise Desaulniers why Montreal has so many vegan restaurants, she said, “We hate debates in Canada . We like to find the middle ground. So, the conclusion is you should eat less meat. But being vegan 100% of the time is considered too extreme.” So that means Montreal’s omnivores support the vegan restaurants, making the city full of choices for veg visitors. Montreal has a vegan festival every fall, which Desaulniers co-founded. For some of the most interesting vegan sushi anywhere, Sushi Momo’s creations range from simple eggplant and avocado rolls to complicated concoctions full of exotic ingredients beyond my comprehension in French or English. I let the server choose for me. If you’re with a group, order the 2-foot-long wooden boat filled with assorted sushi. Lola Rosa draws people from all walks of life to its four locations for hemp burgers and international-inspired comfort food. Panthere Verte stays open late and is known for its falafel and organic vegan cocktails. Café Chat L’Heureux features a vegetarian menu of soups, sandwiches and salads, plus eight friendly kitty hosts. This is the place to get your feline fix when traveling through Montreal. Public transit Montreal’s subway system is relatively easy to figure out. Best of all, trains run every eight minutes on average, and every three minutes during rush hour. A robust bus system rounds out the public transportation network and will get you to all major landmarks. An express bus called the 747 Shuttle runs 24 hours a day between the airport and downtown, and only costs ten dollars. Ride-share services also operate in Montreal. The BIXI bike share system runs during fairer weather months, from April 15 through November 15. Since bike shares are aimed at shorter rides, consider renting a bike from Montreal on Wheels if you want one for a whole day or the duration of your stay. The bike rental shop also offers guided group bike tours. Eco-hotels For an upscale eco-hotel, stay at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth . Its impressively long list of sustainability initiatives includes employing three beekeepers , no using palm oil in its menus and turning old sheets and curtains into cleaning rags. On the more affordable, communal end of the spectrum, the Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal offers dorm or private rooms with shared bathrooms and an airy, plant-filled space with a full kitchen. The Hôtel de l’ITHQ , run by the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, is a clean, modern hotel run largely by tourism students. As a member of Canada’s Green Key eco-hotel program, it also follows many sustainability practices. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Bota Bota

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The best eco tourism spots in Montreal

Lemay injects new life into Montreals Expo 67 site

November 7, 2019 by  
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Canadian multidisciplinary design firm Lemay recently revitalized a core area on the site of Expo 67, the 1967 International and Universal Exposition that was held in Montreal and is considered the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. The $60 million project, which concluded earlier this summer, was carried out as part of the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017. Spanning an area of approximately 35 acres, the redevelopment project known as the new Espace 67 enhances the visitor experience with the addition of new wayfinding elements, a multipurpose amphitheater, an Event Village, a Natural Agora and a variety of service pavilions. Held for six months in Montreal in 1967, the Expo 67 hosted a record-breaking number of World’s Fair visitors and attracted 62 nation participants. After its end, the site preserved a collection of international pavilions known as “Man and His World” located on two islands: Saint Helen’s Island and the human-made Notre Dame Island on the St. Lawrence River. Using an integrated design approach, Lemay has enhanced the pedestrian experience that begins from the metro with new service pavilions and leads to the site that connects the islands’ north and south shores. Related: An old warehouse is rehabbed into chic apartments in Montreal “Lemay’s concept blends the enchanting natural setting and rich historic past of this exceptional site, to offer a truly versatile space,” said Andrew King, partner and design principal at Lemay. “It has been reborn as a destination unto itself, now able to fully accommodate a wide range of major events.” The architectural geometry of Expo 67 is repeated in the new design. For example, the geometric patterns found in Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, also known as the Biosphere, have been reproduced in the pavilion roofs, wall perforations and outdoor paving. Materials, lighting and massing were specially selected to help guide visitors through the site and are optimized for crowd management. + Lemay Photography by Marc Cramer via Lemay

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Lemay injects new life into Montreals Expo 67 site

This spa in a Canadian nature reserve is committed to bettering its surroundings

May 8, 2019 by  
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Montreal-based firm Blouin Tardif Architecture has just completed work on a serene spa addition for BALNEA Spa and Thermal Reserve . Located in an idyllic forest in the Bromont-sur-le-lac region just outside of Montreal, the spa was originally designed by a local father and daughter team to offer guests a fully immersive experience surrounded by breathtaking nature. The new addition, comprised of a sleek wooden pavilion and infinity pool, was created in line with the spa’s strong commitment to sustainability . The BALNEA Spa and Thermal Reserve is surrounded by an expansive natural reserve made up of majestic maple trees. Tucked back into the forestscape, the spa has a dock that leads out over a picturesque lake and offers guests endless activities such as kayaking, hiking and yoga. Since its inception, the spa has maintained a strong relationship with its surroundings, ensuring that the business does everything it can to protect and conserve its pristine natural setting . Related: A lakeside sauna boasts mystical views and a gleaming facade When it came time to expand with a new pavilion and infinity pool, the spa owners, Stéphanie and Denis Laframboise, tasked local firm Blouin Tardif Architecture with the job. Knowing that the architects shared a similar commitment to sustainability, the project was focused on minimizing the pavilion’s environmental footprint . Accordingly, the new structures were built off-site and assembled on-site by a local team. The new Pavillon Ouest spa is comprised of a cube-like sauna  clad in warm wood with dark glazed panels that offer stunning views from the interior. Meanwhile, on the exterior, a 30-foot swimming pool that fits up to 25 bathers at a time is a central component of the spa experience. Denis explained that the infinity pool was chosen to offer guests the option of completely immersing themselves into the breathtaking nature reserve. “We chose an infinity pool so that the surface of the water blends into the lake in the background and the mountains beyond, but also to hide activities going on elsewhere,” Denis said. “Bathers are sheltered from the rest of the site and embraced by the warm water, giving them a sense of total privacy.” + Blouin Tardif Architecture + BALNEA spa Photography by Mathieu Lachapelle via v2com

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This spa in a Canadian nature reserve is committed to bettering its surroundings

Rwanda hopes to increase energy efficiency with new cooling initiative

February 14, 2019 by  
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Rwanda has big plans for a more sustainable future and is launching a new cooling initiative that will increase energy efficiency within the country’s booming electricity sector. As part of the new plan, Rwanda hopes to provide a cooling solution for food storage and indoor spaces without adding to the world’s greenhouse gas problems. The new initiative, called Rwanda’s National Cooling Strategy, assessed the current need for cooling products as well as the future market. Although countries traditionally meet cooling needs with the use of modern refrigeration, Rwanda is looking towards more sustainable methods that do not use as much electricity . “Through the Rwanda Cooling Initiative, we have conducted a cooling market assessment, developed a national cooling strategy and minimum energy efficiency standards, and created financial tools to support businesses investing in clean cooling,” Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Dr. Vincent Biruta, explained. Rwanda is currently witnessing some of the fastest growth in the electricity sector in all of Africa. With 12 million people to serve, the East African Country is already looking for energy efficient options to meets those needs. Related: Top 10 states for LEED green buildings in 2018  Fortunately, Rwanda has been a leader in adopting sustainable practices. In fact, the country was one of the first to ban the use of plastic bags. A few years ago, Rwanda hosted a global treaty that agreed to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The initiative decreased the use of certain chemicals that are popularly used in air conditioners and refrigerators. But combating the use of harmful chemicals is only half the battle. As part of the National Cooling Strategy, Rwanda hopes to boost energy efficiency by regulating how much electricity can be used by modern air conditioners and refrigerators. The country also plans to raise awareness about other cooling techniques, including natural ventilation and shading. The new plan is the first phase of Rwanda’s larger cooling initiative. If other countries follow Rwanda’s lead, a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions could be cut over the next decade. Some experts predict that we can curb global warming by as much as 0.4C if countries increase their energy efficiency. Via United Nations Environment Image via Tumisu

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Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

October 25, 2018 by  
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Located mere steps away from idyllic white sand beaches on one side and a coconut grove on the other, this beach house designed by Studio Saxe is giving us major home envy. Situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, the spacious 3,250-square-foot Villa Akoya’s beautiful aesthetic hides several passive strategies designed to reduce the home’s energy use and impact on the environment. The breathtaking location serves as the principal inspiration for the design. Built using traditional cinder block construction, the one-story home was was raised off the ground to create a continuous sight line with the ocean views. This feature also helped reduce the footprint on the landscape . Related: Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth The beach house’s dimensions are divided into four separate horizontal roof planes that slant slightly upward, covering each of the three bedrooms plus the main living area. This strategy creates distinct volumes within the structure. Additionally, the flat wooden roofs extend out over the exterior walls to create large overhang extensions that shade the interior while creating several indoor-outdoor living spaces around the exterior. The interior layout includes several spaces that are open to the exterior, creating a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. All of the bedrooms have their own outdoor spaces, and an all-glass wall in the living room slides completely open, leading to a wooden deck and a swimming pool . Concealed within the design are several passive features to create an energy-efficient beach house. The “elevated” roof lines create a natural system of air ventilation, cooling the home in the hot summer months. The abundance of windows and glass doors brighten the interior during the day, further reducing the need for electricity. The home also operates on solar-generated hot water and has a gray water system. + Studio Saxe Via Archdaily Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

Apple invests millions in a carbon-free aluminum smelting method

May 11, 2018 by  
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For over 130 years, aluminum , a material in many Apple products, has been produced in the same dirty, greenhouse gas -releasing way. That could all change soon: Apple is partnering with aluminum company Alcoa Corporation and metal company Rio Tinto to commercialize technology that, according to Apple , “eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process.” Fast Company reported the tech giant is investing $10.1 million in research and development. Rio Tinto and Alcoa are coming together to form Elysis, a joint venture company, with the goal of packaging the technology for sale in 2024. Not only is Apple betting big on the venture, the governments of Quebec and Canada are investing around $47 million. Elysis will be based in Montreal and will employ 100 people to work towards commercialization of what Alcoa called the world’s first zero-carbon aluminum smelting technology. Apple said they’d be offering technical support. Related: Apple’s new recycling robot can disassemble 200 iPhones in a single hour Alcoa said in Canada, “the technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, if fully implemented at existing aluminum smelters in the country. That represents an amount roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road.” Apple chose eight materials to zero in on to seek cleaner production methods, and aluminum is one of those. The company said back in 2015, three of their engineers started a search for an improved method of mass-producing aluminum, and they found it at Alcoa. The company’s founder, Charles Hall, pioneered the old method in 1886, but it uses a carbon material that smolders throughout the process, so greenhouse gases are released. But then Alcoa developed a new process that utilizes an advanced conductive material rather than carbon. The smelting process releases oxygen , not carbon dioxide. Rio Tinto brings smelting technology development experience to the joint venture, which will work towards larger scale production. Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey said in the company’s statement, “This discovery has been long sought in the aluminum industry, and this announcement is the culmination of the work from many dedicated Alcoa employees. Today, our history of innovation continues as we take aluminum’s sustainable advantage to a new level with the potential to improve the carbon footprint of a range of products from cars to consumer electronics.” + Apple + Alcoa Via Fast Company Images via Apple

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Apple invests millions in a carbon-free aluminum smelting method

Architects propose a giant circular park in the sky for Asti, Italy

May 11, 2018 by  
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This giant green-roofed ring designed for Asti, Italy pairs a car park with a beautiful public space. The project, designed by architects Angelo Salamone and Ilaria Filippi of AS-DOES , is an example of how green infrastructure can create a functional and attractive community space. AS-DOES presented this car park as a proposal for a competition organized by Asti Servizi Pubblici S.p.A. The contest called for solutions to tackle the redevelopment of Piazza Campo del Palio in Asti. Every project needed to address how to revitalize the area and make it safer and more functional for citizens. Related: Striking new footbridge rehabilitates formerly derelict area of French city The multi-story elliptical car park functions as a covered overpass with a large green roof. The project provides vast open spaces , areas for parking and space for commercial and cultural activities. The designers incorporated green space to make the location more appealing and to provide a place for recreation. The green roof gives visitors incredible city views, too. The roof is an ideal location for friends to gather and play ball or skate. The ground floor of the car park has a central square that can be used for a variety of purposes, including as a venue for performances, local events or markets. + AS-DOES

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Architects propose a giant circular park in the sky for Asti, Italy

New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel

May 4, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Michigan and McGill University in Montreal have created a device that uses sunlight to efficiently split fresh or salt water into hydrogen that may be used in fuel cells. The new machine, which mimics the process of photosynthesis , is capable of producing hydrogen fuel at twice the efficiency of previous technologies. Producing only water as an emission, hydrogen is the cleanest burning fuel. However, its production has historically not been environmentally friendly or energy efficient. This new device may change all that, paving the way to a cleaner energy future. “If we can directly store solar energy as a chemical fuel, like what nature does with photosynthesis, we could solve a fundamental challenge of renewable energy,” said lead researcher Zetian Mi . Unlike solar panels, which can only store energy if they are attached to a battery, the artificial photosynthesis device uses splits water to store solar energy as hydrogen fuel. Despite this fundamental difference from solar panels , the device is made from the same materials, such as silicon and gallium nitride, which is also found in LEDs. Related: Scientists create world’s first solar fuel reactor that works at night Small towers of gallium nitride generate an electric field to turn photons into free charges, which divide water into its two component elements, oxygen and hydrogen. In contrast with previous solar splitters, which had only reached 1 percent efficiency, Mi’s team managed to achieve a 3 percent solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. “Although the 3 percent efficiency might seem low, when put in the context of the 40 years of research on this process, it’s actually a big breakthrough,” Mi said. “Natural photosynthesis, depending how you calculate it, has an efficiency of about 0.6 percent.” The device, further developed, may even be able to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, potentially alleviating the impact of climate change . Via Futurity Images via Faqrul A. Chowdhury/McGill University

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New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel

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