Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact

August 16, 2017 by  
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In another strike against coal, a federal judge just shut down plans for a large coal mine expansion in Montana, saying US officials had exaggerated the economic benefits of the mine while downplaying the impact it would have on the environment. Signal Peak Energy wanted to expand the Bull Mountain coal mine by 11 square miles and 176 million tons, claiming it would create jobs and generate tax revenue, all while not having any new impact on climate change . U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy blocked the proposal, ruling that approving such a request should take into consideration not just the environmental effects of the mine, but shipping the fuel to Asia and the carbon cost for climate chang e of burning that fuel. The ruling has its roots in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Sierra Club, Montana Elders for a Livable tomorrow and the Montana Environmental Information Center, in which the groups stated that the government has not considered the effects of mining once it leaves the mountain. Related: Global coal production falls 6.2% in the biggest decline in history Mine owners argued the expansion would add $24 million in tax revenue and that there would be no additional impact to the environment, since customers could simply go elsewhere for more coal anyway. “This conclusion is illogical, and places the (Interior Department’s) thumb on the scale by inflating the benefits of the action while minimizing its impacts,” wrote Judge Molloy. Similar rulings in Colorado and Montana have been made in the past, but in those cases, mines were eventually allowed to expand after further environmental review. Via the Associated Press Images via Signal Peak Energy and Deposit Photos

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Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact

Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

August 16, 2017 by  
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Dozens of nations signed an agreement nearly 30 years ago to stop the expansion of a massive hole in Earth’s ozone layer. Today, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the hole in the ozone layer has shrunk as countries reduced, then eliminated, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). A new study from  Geophysical Research Letters  now shows that the agreement not only achieved its stated aim, but has also been one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change in the United States. The recent study confirms what scientists and policymakers have been observing as the Montreal Protocol was enacted, though it focuses primarily on the United States. “This is something that’s been talked about for a while, this dual benefit of the Montreal Protocol limiting damage to the ozone layer, also curtailing climate change,” said Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager and lead economist with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s because all these ozone depleting substances are also very potent global warming gases.” The regulations enacted to fulfill the Montreal Protocol resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to approximately half of all other climate regulations between 2008 and 2014. Related: Antarctic ozone layer shows “first fingerprints of healing” The near-total removal of CFCs and steep decline in HCFCs in the United States was made possible by the Clean Air Act , a law that was used by the Obama Administration , as approved by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Though CFCs and HCFCs have been replaced by hydroflourocarabons (HFCs), which still contribute to climate change but do not burn a hole in the ozone layer, the signatories to the Montreal Protocol have amended the agreement to reduce HFCs as well in a move that was praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry as the “single most important step” in combating climate change. As the Trump Administration refuses to fulfill its duties under the Clean Air Act to protect public health, the success of the Montreal Protocol is a hopeful reminder of what can be done if dedicated parties work together and take action. Via Gizmodo Lead image via Depositphotos , others via  NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center   and  Rémi Vincent/Flickr

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Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers

August 16, 2017 by  
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Would you eat a burger made of mealworms? Coop , the second-largest supermarket chain in Switzerland , will start selling food made with insects . The country will be the first in Europe to allow sales of insect-based food for people, thanks to laws changed in May. Coop will sell insect burgers and balls from Switzerland-based startup Essento . Switzerland’s food safety laws allow sales of food made from mealworms, crickets , or grasshoppers. Coop will be selling Essento Insect Burgers and Essento Insect Balls, both made with mealworms. The burgers also contain rice, vegetables like leeks and celery, and spices like chili and oregano. The balls – which could be eaten inside pita bread, for example – are filled out with chickpeas, garlic, onions, parsley, and coriander. Related: BUG BUG cutlery set might just make you want to eat insects Coop Head of Category Management Silvio Baselgia said they’re Switzerland’s first retailer to sell Essento’s insect products, which the company has been developing for more than two years. Essento co-founder Christian Bärtsch said in a statement, “As food, insects are convincing in many respects: they have a high culinary potential, their production saves resources, and their nutritional profile is high quality. Thus insects are the perfect complement to a modern diet.” According to Essento’s website, mealworms don’t produce as many greenhouse gases as animal food sources like pigs or cows. 80 percent of insects are edible, as compared with 40 percent of cows, and raising insects requires less food and water. Insects are a good source of protein and also contain unsaturated fatty acids, the vitamins A, B, and B12, and minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium, and iron. Essento’s products will be on sale on August 21 in seven Coop stores to start, including branches in Zurich and Geneva. + Essento Via The Guardian and Coop Images via Essento Facebook and Coop

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Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers

Spectacular ‘Dome of Visions’ greenhouse pushes the envelope for wood construction

August 16, 2017 by  
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Finnish company Metsä Wood is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to building with wood. Their latest greenhouse dome is the largest to date – and it showcases the company’s innovative use of laminated veneer lumber as a sustainable alternative to commonly used building materials. The structure, named Dome of Visions, was designed by Atelier Kristoffer Tejlgaard  as a way to explore green building. The Dome of Visions 3.0 is the third project in a series of experiments that explore the idea of creating sustainable spaces within dome-shaped structures. It has a new system of curved wooden beams , composed of 21 mm strips of Kerto LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber). This made it possible to minimize the amount of steel while achieving both a sleek and elegant grid construction. Related: Architect designs life-sized replica of Empire State Building made of wood Using curved wooden beams, the brackets for the dome’s supports were cut as stars in a five-millimeter steel plate. The custom-made Kerto beams made it possible to avoid the use of complicated and costly welded brackets used in previous versions. Related: Mobile Greenhouse Studio Boasts a Facade of CNC-Cut “Fish Scales” in Copenhagen “Wood as a building material has obvious advantages giving sustainability for the building industry. In principle, wood is a material that comes from a solar-powered factory,” said Kristoffer Tejlgaard, referring to the ability of trees to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as carbon in their trunks, solely by means of solar energy . + Atelier Kristoffer Tejlgaard + Metsä Wood

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Spectacular ‘Dome of Visions’ greenhouse pushes the envelope for wood construction

Handsome timber chalet shows off the beauty of modern minimalism

June 12, 2017 by  
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The charms of simplicity are celebrated in this beautiful timber chalet tucked in the Alps of eastern France. Designed by French architecture firm Studio Razavi , the recently completed Mountain House carefully sidesteps cookie-cutter design with its modern interpretation of the traditional alpine chalet. Located in the French village of Manigod in a popular ski destination, the Mountain House was subject to strict building codes that the architects say allowed for “very little freedom of architectural expression.” Local guidelines dictated numerous design aspects, including building height and width ratio, roof slope, building material , and even window sizes, in order to preserve the region’s traditional vernacular. The architects skillfully overcame these obstacles by studying the historical buildings and then producing a code compliant design that put a contemporary twist on the local architectural culture. The 200-square-meter Mountain House features the traditional three-story chalet layout with a pitched roof. Unlike its neighbors, however, the new holiday home sits on a lower level made of concrete rather than stone and doesn’t include the ornamental elements that adorn many of the homes in the valley. Related: Mind-bending mountain chalet looks as if it could tip over at any moment The Mountain Home only includes the essential features, making for a simple and utilitarian, yet beautiful design. Pine clads the first and second floor and untreated timber planks line the interior. A few painted surfaces and textures, such as the artificial stone tiles in the bathroom and dark carpet flooring, break up the largely timber palette. Large windows flood the home with natural light while several overhangs protect against harsh sun. + Studio Razavi Via Dezeen Images © Olivier Martin Gambier

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Snhetta’s Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion was Inspired by the Robust Landscape

May 13, 2017 by  
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Norway is perhaps best known for its coastal fjords , but the northern landscape has much to offer in its interior as well. Architecture firm Snøhetta took the opportunity to design a robust but low-impact building for visitors to immerse themselves in the Dovre Mountain plateau, home to musk oxen, arctic foxes and reindeer herds which roam amid a rich variety of plants and killer views. The pavilion is elemental in its use of a steel skin, glass walls and an extraordinary wood core which reads almost like a topographical map. The pavilion was commissioned by the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Foundation to allow visitors to behold the range of the reindeer. Snøhetta’s design for the center may have taken a cue from the Norwegian National Tourist Routes Project, which placed a series of Architectural refuges throughout the country. The pavilion is designed to withstand the harsh elements with a steel encasing protecting its wooden core. A bank of windows overlooks the Snøhetta Mountain from Tverrfjellet, a plateau at the elevation of 1,200 meters. The mythical landscape is reflected in part by a tremendous wooden wall inserted into the core of the pavilion. The robust organic quality of the wall was achieved by cutting large wooden beams on a CNC machine. The 25 cm square beams were then stacked and secured with wooden pegs to create the undulating effect. The wall looks as though it is deeply weathered, eroded by eons of wind and water. A bump out provides seating next to a suspended indoor fireplace, and the exterior has a similar seating arrangement. + Snøhetta Architects Via e-architect Photographs via  Snøhetta  and Klaas Van Ommeren

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Old mountain retreat renovated into sublime off-grid refuge

April 28, 2017 by  
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The challenges of renovating older buildings are already numerous, but when working deep in 8,100-foot-high mountainous topography and extreme climate conditions, it can be downright perilous. Meeting the challenge head-on, architecture firms Arteks Arquitectura and Ginjaume Arquitectura i Paissatge partnered up to convert a 1930s mountain retreat in the Andorran Pyrenees into the modern, off-grid Illa Mountain Hut that can generate up to four days of self-sufficient energy . Working within the confines of such harsh conditions, reforming the mountain refuge proved to be an uphill battle at every turn. The first hurdle was working under the restrictions imposed by the area’s protected UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status. Additionally, the extreme weather conditions meant that the project team could only access the site – the 4th highest shelter in the Pyrenees – during the summer months. Related: Modern lodge in the Rocky Mountains produces as much energy as it consumes Although the conditions were not optimal for building, it did have its advantages. Working around so many environmental barriers enabled the building team to use the restrictions to their advantage by using eco-friendly materials that were purpose-built for the project. Due to the harsh conditions and topography, for example, the architectural team chose to use light and prefabricated materials that could be flown in by helicopter. With most of the elements prefabricated in workshops and assembled on site, the building now weighs about a third of a similarly-sized conventional building and the execution time of the project was cut down to a surprising six months. Using the existing building as a structural base helped the team to further minimize the cost of the project as well as reduce the waste associated with the project. The wooden frame was reinforced with an extended gabled roof which helps discharge large snow loads during winter. This feature was also strategic to optimize solar energy gain . Thanks to a large array of photovoltaic panels installed on the roof, the refuge can generate up to four days of energy self sufficiency , making the project 100% off-grid. In addition to its solar power, the structure uses an independent water treatment system equipped with coconut filters . Additionally, an efficient ventilation system and ultra-thick insulation keeps the interior spaces warm and cozy, free from the extreme exterior cold. + Arteks Arquitectura + Ginjaume Arquitectura i Paissatge Photography via Pol Viladoms

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This village in Arizona has a simple solution to light pollution

April 28, 2017 by  
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Residents of Arizona Sky Village abide by one simple rule: “Turn off your goddammed lights .” The 21-household community near Portal, Arizona is comprised of stargazers and astronomers, and almost every home has its own domed observatory. But some people also wonder if the small community could hold the secrets of fighting light pollution in America. In Arizona Sky Village, clear night skies are a major priority. There are no outdoor lights allowed, and every single window in every home must have blackout curtains. Nighttime driving isn’t forbidden, but it’s discouraged, and most residents are too busy gazing at the stars to drive anyway. Co-founder Jack Newton condensed it all into that one colorful rule: turn off those lights! Related: What City Skies Would Look Like Without Light Pollution Newton, who is nearly 75, said he spends “90 percent of my time up in my dome.” He’s made three supernova discoveries in 2017 alone, and the International Astronomical Union christened an asteroid 30840 Jackalice after him and his wife Alice. He doesn’t even own the largest telescope in the community; that honor goes to neighbor Rick Beno , who has a 24-inch telescope. Many residents once had scientific careers and now spend their retirement in Arizona Sky Village – like retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak – but Newton managed department stores during his career. Few Americans benefit from the starry skies of Arizona Sky Village. The American Astronomical Society says people have a universal right to starlight; but around 99 percent of Americans actually live with a constant sky glow, according to The Guardian. Light pollution isn’t just bad for stargazing; it could have an impact on health as well. Blue lights streaming from cellphones and laptops have led to insomnia in some users and evidence isn’t conclusive yet but some studies suggest changing the light and dark rhythms in our bodies could increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and cancer. International Dark Sky Association astronomer John Barentine said in Arizona Sky Village, “the people are already practicing what we recommend.” Kitt Peak National Observatory director Lori Allen told The Guardian to help keep skies dark, “There are three simple things people can do. Shield their lights, dim their lights, and use the right color bulbs.” Via The Guardian Images via John Fowler on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Modpools turns shipping containers into amazing swimming pools

April 28, 2017 by  
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We’ve seen shipping containers transformed into homes , shops , and even urban farms – but Modpools gives these repurposed structures a whole new life as backyard swimming pools . Modpools are easy to install and transport, and they come with a series of cool features including heaters, jets, portholes, and LED mood lighting you can control with your smartphone. Modpools are available in 8′ x 20′ or 8′ x 40′ container sizes and they can be installed in no time. By adding a divider, users can even create a temporary or permanent hot tub section. These customizable all-in-one pool systems ship with ready-to-use, built-in pool equipment and a high-tech Ultraviolet system that keeps the water clean without the need for chemicals. Related: ScottWhitbyStudio transforms a shipping container into a pop-up cinema You can install Modpools above ground with raised decking, partially underground with retaining walls, or at ground level. This makes them versatile and easy to adapt to different topographies and backyard sizes. You can add a special touch to your prefab swimming pool by adding a window to the side of the shipping container. + Modpools Via Curbed

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Worlds greenest terminal opens at Oslo airport

April 28, 2017 by  
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Nordic Office of Architecture recently completed the world’s greenest airport terminal with their new 115,000-square-meter extension that’s doubled the size of Oslo Airport. As the world’s first airport building to achieve the BREEAM Excellence sustainability rating, the renovated Oslo Airport boasts an array of energy-efficient strategies as well as on-site energy harvesting systems. The most notable energy-saving measure is the airport’s collection and storage of snow for reuse as coolant during the summer. The recent expansion is a continuation of Nordic’s work on the Oslo Airport, which the architecture firm designed in 1998. The Oslo-based design studio’s 300-meter-long extension preserves the building’s simple and iconic appearance while increasing airport capacity from 19 million to an anticipated future capacity of 30 million. New design elements also improve the passenger experience, such as the reduction of walking distances to a maximum of 450 meters, and the overhaul of the existing train station at the heart of the airport. Artificial lighting is minimized in favor of natural lighting to improve passenger comfort and reduce energy demands. Related: Zaha Hadid unveils plans for world’s largest airport terminal in Beijing In addition to the use of natural lighting and the reuse of snow as a summer coolant, the architects reduced the airport’s carbon footprint by 35 percent with the use of environmentally friendly and recycled materials . The new pier is entirely clad in timber sourced from Scandinavian forests, while additional natural materials, green walls, and water features, can be found throughout the interior. Recycled steel and concrete mixed with volcanic ash were also used. Improved insulation has helped the building achieve Passive House-level performance standards and, coupled with on-site energy harvesting, slashed energy consumption by over 50 percent as compared to the existing terminal. + Nordic Office of Architecture Images by Ivan Brodey

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