Designers selected for new Shenzhen Natural History Museum project

January 25, 2021 by  
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B+H Architects, 3XN Architects and Zhubo Design have been selected to design the new Shenzhen Natural History Museum. The team beat out over 70 proposals from around the world in an international competition. For the bidding state, 15 teams were selected, representing 18 different countries from throughout North America, Asia and Europe. China’s new Shenzhen Natural History Museum will be the first large-scale, comprehensive natural museum in Southern China and is set to become one of Shenzhen’s “Ten Cultural Facilities of the New Era” once complete. The site is located next to Yanzi Lake in Shenhen’s Pingshan District, a picturesque spot for a world-class natural science museum. The museum will be dedicated to advocating for science in the area, interpreting laws of natural evolution and showcasing the region’s geography and ecology in a global perspective. Related: Fram Museum extension is dedicated to environmental education B+H Architects, 3XN and Zhubo Design’s winning design scheme, called Delta, imagines a 42,000-square-meter facility that rises from the river delta with an accessible green rooftop and an adjoining public park. The park and green roof are meant to provide a welcoming invitation to both residents and visitors while highlighting the museum’s organic geometries. “This building captures the unique atmosphere of a riverfront site and finds the timeless property of water as a concept,” said Yvonne Farrell, Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate and contest judge. “The connection between function, site, concept, structure, material and space is very clear.” Each turn of the structure helps frame a distinct view over the park and nearby hills from viewing terraces along the roof, mimicking a river stream finding its shape in balance with the land. The museum will maximize access to the public park network and lush green areas, allowing residents and visitors to connect with nature and stay active through activities like early morning jogs and evening strolls. The pathways lead guests into a cave-like passageway that connects to the museum lobby, surrounded by multiple cafes and other public areas to centralize the building. + 3XN Architects + B+H Architects + Zhubo Design Images via 3XN Architects

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Scientists discover 503 new species in 2020

January 4, 2021 by  
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A total of 503 new species were discovered by scientists at London’s Natural History Museum in 2020. According to the scientists, the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the work of identifying new species at the museum. Although the museum remained closed to the public, scientists continued working behind closed doors, making findings and providing valuable information to the scientific community across the world. Tim Littlewood, an executive director of science at the museum , said that identifying new species can only be made possible by referencing already known species. The museum plays an important role in providing species references and continues to increase the number of known species annually by identifying new ones. Related: IUCN’s latest Red List update comes with good and bad news “Once again, an end of year tally of new species has revealed a remarkable diversity of life forms and minerals hitherto undescribed,” Littlewood said. “The Museum’s collection of specimens provide a resource within which to find new species as well as a reference set to recognize specimens and species as new.” In an article published by the Natural History Museum , Littlewood noted that a decline in biodiversity across the world calls for rapid action in identifying species. “In a year when the global mass of biodiversity is being outweighed by human-made mass it feels like a race to document what we are losing,” he said. As time passes, many species available in nature are driven to extinction before they are even discovered. According to a  United Nations Report , the native species of land-based habitats have decreased by at least 20% since 1900. The report also shows that about one-third of all marine mammal species are currently threatened. Among the 503 new species identified this year is the unique and critically endangered Popa langur monkey. “Monkeys are one of the most iconic groups of mammals, and these specimens have been in the collections for over a hundred years,” said Roberto Portela Miguez of the Natural History Museum. “But we didn’t have the tools or the expertise to do this work before.” For humanity to protect more species, it is important that we start by knowing which species exist. The work being done by the Natural History Museum lays the foundation for the protection of endangered species worldwide. + Natural History Museum Via EcoWatch Photography by Thaung Win via Natural History Museum

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ZHA unveils a low-carbon Shenzhen Science and Technology Museum

December 21, 2020 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects has unveiled renders for the future Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum, an organically inspired, U-shaped museum that will not only raise Shenzhen’s reputation as a global leader in innovation and technology but also serve as a sustainable benchmark for civic architecture in the southern Chinese city. Located within Guangming Science City in northwestern Shenzhen, the new museum will be connected with universities, schools and innovation centers across China to become an important center for youth education. Currently under construction, the low-carbon and energy-efficient museum is expected to achieve the highest Three-Star rating of China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard.  Conceived as a “pearl” in the Guangzhou- Shenzhen Science Technology Innovation Corridor, the Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum will span an area of approximately 125,000 square meters. The museum will offer a series of interconnecting public spaces, galleries and educational facilities clustered around an atrium courtyard at the heart of the building. Related: Green-roofed theater in Shenzhen raises the bar for civic architecture “Incorporating maximum adaptability as a basic design principle, the geometries, proportions and spatial experience of each gallery will offer visitors a rich and varied experience each time they visit,” ZHA explained. “While some galleries can remain familiar and unchanged, others will change according to the type of exhibition showing at the time.” The museum’s fluid lines and curvaceous form is informed by its program and open circulation as well as its immediate surroundings. The western end, for instance, is designed to frame the adjacent Guangming Park. The architects have also crafted the building’s form and orientation in response to results from computer modeling and wind tunnel testing for optimal thermal performance, natural lighting, wind levels and air quality. The energy-efficient museum will be fortified with high-performance thermal insulation along with high-efficiency glazing, HVAC, lighting and smart building management systems. The Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum is slated for completion in late 2023. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images via Brick, Slashcube and ZHA

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Eco-friendly holiday gifts for babies and kids

December 4, 2020 by  
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The holiday season is just around the corner. Gift-giving adds to the joyous celebrations, and with children, the festivities truly feel magical. But finding just the right present can be challenging, especially when making the effort to avoid plastic, seek out natural materials and skip wasteful packaging. Here are some ideas that are sure to delight kids of all ages without negatively impacting the planet. Happy holidays! Alf-Phi ethical children’s clothing Born out of a love for children and the environment, Alf-Phi targets the wasteful textile industry with children’s clothing and accessories made from salvaged materials. While the goal is to minimize fabric waste headed to the landfill, the result is quality, heirloom, handmade items. You can even submit your own special piece, such as grandma’s shirt, to be converted into a gift for the next generation. Related: Eco-friendly subscription boxes to gift this holiday season Eco Girl yo-yo There are few toys more classic than the yo-yo, an irresistible challenge generation after generation. Give the gift of tradition and leisure activity in one with a yo-yo handmade in Vermont. The Eco Girl yo-yo is made from natural materials, including locally sourced, native hardwood from a sustainably managed forest. The yo-yo string is 100% cotton. Jenga Ocean Everybody loves a sweat-inducing match of Jenga, and there are myriad forms of the game, from wooden blocks to life-size backyard versions. The Jenga Ocean on Bureo brings the additional gift of supporting ocean cleanup efforts with every game piece made entirely of recovered and recycled fishing net material. In addition to presenting a competition, the game educates about the dangers of discarded fishing nets and ways every citizen can help with the problem. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans EarthHero green recycling truck toy The littlest tot on your list may not understand that this truck from EarthHero is made entirely from recycled milk jugs, keeping them out of the landfills and reducing the need for virgin plastics , but they will love the movable truck bed and back door that opens and closes. Plus, it starts the conversation about proper recycling practices at an early age to develop sustainable skills for the future. Blooming lollipops Sweet treats are a staple of the holiday season. These lollipops come with an added gift. Enjoy any of the eight all-natural botanical flavors, such as lavender and lemongrass, lemon and thyme or strawberry and basil. Once you or your recipient have finished your treat, plant the seed-filled stick and watch a plant grow ! It’s a fun and eco-friendly alternative to disposable lollipop sticks, plus the plants are edible. Beachwood kaleidoscope play camera Here’s another blast from the past that the next generation will admire all over again. This wooden camera lets kids use their imagination while mirroring the adults taking copious holiday pictures. The camera is available in two lens colors, each of which contains a kaleidoscope surprise when rotated. Sunwind solar car kit Understanding solar power , engineering and mechanics starts young with this SunnySide Up solar car kit . Youngsters can put together the solar panel, motor, motor mount, coroplast frame, motor pulley and driven pulley, elastic band drive-belt and wooden wheels in different ways, then race to the finish to see which design works best. Environmental books for kids Kids of all ages learn best when material is presented in an engaging way. Many books offer colorful and informative lessons on ways to protect our environment, conserve resources and make sustainable purchasing decisions. Here are a few options to consider adding to your little one’s bookshelves. Miranda Paul’s One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia explains the story of one woman’s dedication to turning waste into useful products. The Earth Book by Todd Parr offers useful insight for our youngest stewards of the planet. The Magic School Bus And The Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole presents climate change in the fun fashion for which The Magic School Bus is known. Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green by Eileen Spinelli is an educational book for school-aged children that packages environmental protection in a fun and engaging way. These are just a few examples of hundreds of similar books that inform without lecturing and make for great gifts. Green Sprouts Chime organic baby rattle Rattles engage and entertain babies. The soft organic cotton making up this rattle is Earth- and baby-friendly with no harmful chemicals or plastic. It’s easy to grasp, and the crocheted surface is perfect for teethers. Plus, the soothing rattle sound will spark curiosity; the effort to replicate this sound also facilitates motor development. PlanToys’ pretend play doctor’s kit Not only does it put the power of the doctor’s tools in your tot’s hands, but it does so without using up fossil fuels . Made from sustainably harvested rubberwood trees and surplus sawdust chips, the set is recommended for kids ages 3 and up. Each piece is finished using non-toxic glues and water-based dyes. Each purchase helps Plan Toys donate resources to a Children’s Museum in local Thailand, and a portion of the profits go toward reforesting nearby cities. The Ultimate Green Store Kid’s Big Bean Bag Chair When considering eco-friendly gifts, a bean bag chair likely doesn’t come to mind. But The Ultimate Green Store has redefined this classic furniture item using natural plant hemp cover. The filling is a signature blend of non-toxic beads and shredded natural latex foam dubbed EcoSuperfill. Images via Alf-Phi, Eco Girl, Bureo, EarthHero, Uncommon Goods, Kiko & GG, Sunwind Solar, Pixabay, The Ultimate Green Store and Thought Catalog

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Is high-yield vertical farming the future of agriculture?

December 4, 2020 by  
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When people think of agriculture, they often picture rows of crops on flat lands stretching out to the horizon. But according to agtech start up Plenty , we should be thinking vertical for best yield. Stranger still, Plenty’s agricultural vision is indoors and populated by robots . “The reality is, there are five places in the world where you can grow fresh fruits and vegetables really economically, and all of that land is used up at this point,” said Nate Storey, Plenty co-founder and chief science officer, as reported by Forbes . “Vertical farming exists because we want to grow the world’s capacity for fresh fruits and vegetables, and we know it’s necessary.” Related: Student designs inflatable bamboo greenhouses for sustainable farming Plenty is talking about an exponentially better yield — 400 times more per acre — while using 95% less water . The system is also capable of thriving as an indoor farm in just about any terrain. In a Plenty farm, plants will hang on racks vertically from ceilings. Instead of the sun shining down on the crops, full-spectrum and fully controllable LED lights will beam from all sides. Giant robots will grab the racks of plants and move them as needed. Artificial intelligence will make decisions about temperature, light and water, constantly improving machine learning to maximize yield. The water management is genius, too. “When you think about water, you know, 90% of the water in the field that you put down is just lost to transpiration, right?” Storey told Forbes. “Or evaporation, it’s just evaporating from the soil surface, or the plants are transpiring that water. So it’s lost. And in our farm, the plants still transpire, but we capture that water vapor.” Once the produce is ready to eat, it won’t have to be shipped a thousand miles. It can feed people in the neighborhood. Right now, that means San Franciscans, as that’s where the startup is based. The company is currently constructing a second farm in Compton, California . But the agtech startup may soon grow even faster, as investors like Jeff Bezos from Amazon and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt have just added $400 million in capital to Plenty’s budget. Via Forbes Photography by Spencer Lowell via Plenty

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An award-winning forest tops the worlds first publicly accessible art depot

October 13, 2020 by  
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The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, the first publicly accessible art depot in the world, has just completed construction in Rotterdam’s Museumpark. Designed by MVRDV , the bowl-shaped building draws the eye with its 6,609 square meters of exterior glass subdivided into 1,664 mirrored panels that reflect the surroundings and help blend the 15,000-square-meter building into the leafy park. In addition to an expansive art collection that will be made accessible to the public, the art depot features an award-winning rooftop forest at a height of 35 meters along with a rooftop restaurant that provides inspiring views of Rotterdam. Completed in preparation for the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s big move, the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen was built to house the artworks not on rotation at the museum and to put those stored pieces on display to the public. A complete collection of 151,000 objects will be made accessible and, by next year, the entire collection of Boijmans Van Beuningen will be made visible to the public in the same space for the first time since 1935. Related: MVRDV’s mirrored “salad bowl” art depot gets green light in Rotterdam As an art depot, the artworks will not be exhibited according to movement or era but rather by their climatic requirements so as to best preserve the artifacts. Each storage space is climate-controlled and organized into five different climate zones and organized by material type including metal, plastic, organic/inorganic and photography. In addition to its reflective facade, the art depot makes a strong visual statement indoors with its light-filled atrium crisscrossed with stairs and a suspended glass display case showcasing exhibitions of works selected by museum curators. The atrium branches out to exhibition rooms and curators’ studios that offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the museum maintains and cares for its art collection. Art is displayed throughout the building, from the ground floor lobby to the rooftop restaurant, which is surrounded by 75 birch trees. The art depot will open its doors to the public in autumn 2021. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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Explore eerie wonders at the Museum of Underwater Art

June 16, 2020 by  
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Four years after its initial conception, Australia’s  Museum of Underwater Art  has finally opened to the public, becoming the first-ever underwater art museum in the Southern Hemisphere. Located off the coast of Townsville North Queensland in the central part of the Great Barrier Reef , the unique museum aims to strengthen the region’s position as a leader in reef conservation, restoration and education. World-famous underwater sculptor and environmentalist Jason deCaires Taylor conceptualized the first two installations — the Ocean Siren and Coral Greenhouse. As the inaugural sculpture of the Museum of Underwater Art, the Ocean Siren was conceived as an above-water beacon for raising awareness about  ocean conservation . The inspiration for the statue, as reported by CNBC, is 12-year-old Takoda Johnson, a “member of the local Wulgurukaba people, one of two traditional owners of the local land.” The sculpture reacts to live water temperature data from the Davies Reef weather station on the Great Barrier Reef by changing color depending on temperature variations.  Underwater and approximately 80 kilometers from shore, the John Brewer Reef “Coral Greenhouse” welcomes divers to the heart of the Greater Barrier Reef Marine Park with messages of reef conservation and restoration. The installation is the largest MOUA exhibit, weighing over 58 tons and filled with and surrounded by 20 “reef guardian” sculptures. All construction is made from stainless steel and pH-neutral materials to encourage  coral  growth. Related: This stunning underwater art museum is now open in the Maldives “MOUA offers a contemporary platform to share the stories of the reef, and the culture of its  First Nations  people, as well as spark a meaningful conversation and solution to reef conservation,” reads an MOUA press release emphasizing the museum’s many educational opportunities. The Ocean Siren and the Coral Greenhouse were completed as part of MOUA’s first phase; future installations include Palm Island and Magnetic Island. MOUA is estimated to generate over $42.1 million in annual economic output and create 182 jobs through the local tourism and conservation sectors. + Museum of Underwater Art Images via Jason deCaires Taylor

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Research facility minimizes its carbon footprint to attract international talent

June 16, 2020 by  
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Spain’s coastal city of Badalona has recently welcomed the Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image, a new research facility designed to meet high standards of energy efficiency and sustainability. Pilar Calderon and Marc Folch of Barcelona-based architecture firm Calderon-Folch Studio teamed up with Pol Sarsanedas and landscape designer Lluís Corbella to create a site-specific building that would offer the highest levels of comfort as a means to attract and retain both local and international talent. Embedded into the landscape, the compact facility was constructed with a prefabricated wooden framework and clad in larch to blend in with the nearby forest. Because the Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image is located on sloped terrain, the architects placed the portion of the building containing the research floors partly underground to take advantage of thermal mass for stable climatic conditions year-round. Building into the landscape has also allowed the architects to create two access levels: one used as a general entrance for the administrative area, and the other for logistic purposes for the scientific-technical area. The separation of areas by levels optimizes building operations and adheres to the strict requirements of biological containment. Related: Green-roofed Honey Bee Research Centre targets LEED Gold “The new Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image holds a research center of the first order,” the designers explained in a project statement. “A research facility based on ethical research criteria, technical and functional complexity, and comfort features that have been resolved in an efficient and sustainable way that strongly considers its relationship with the environment.” Natural materials, large glazed openings and naturalized exterior spaces visually tie the research facility to the environment. Eco-friendly considerations were also taken with the use of a modular , lightweight wooden framework with loose-fill cellulose and structural insulated panels that minimize material waste. Moreover, the building follows passive solar principles. The research facility is equipped with high-performance energy and air-flow recycling technologies as well as a 250-square-meter rainwater collection tank for sanitary and irrigation purposes. + Calderon-Folch Studio Photography by José Hevia via Calderon-Folch Studio

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Research facility minimizes its carbon footprint to attract international talent

These modular plywood sanctuaries are completely customizable

June 16, 2020 by  
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As more and more people around the world adjust to remote employment and socially distanced hobbies, Equals Architecture is offering a way to add sustainability to a customizable personal space suitable for work or play. Enter the Equals Sanctuary, a modular, prefabricated space that customers can tailor to their exact work or life requirements. Multifunctional and installed onsite, each Equals Sanctuary is made-to-order. The design calls for multiple core elements called “loops,” each fabricated using five sheets of plywood via a machine that leaves only about 2% waste. The loops can then be fitted into eight different options. To add another element of customization, the sanctuaries can be left without insulation, or insulation can be added between the plywood ribs using sustainable materials such as expanded cork, hemp batts or recycled denim. The exterior finishes are made of rubber, reused waterproof canvas and corrugated steel. Customers can choose between a number of face options as well, depending on the use, site and function. Window options range from standard size to full-height. Related: Prefab eco-pods offer luxury lodging in any environment No matter the type of layout, Equals Architecture will only use FSC-certified, sustainable and recycled materials . Necessary structural plates and ground anchors are used in place of invasive concrete foundations whenever possible. According to the architects, the main goal is to make each structure entirely reconstructable to maintain longevity. Each sanctuary will be easy to move, adapt and reconfigure throughout its lifespan. Equals Sanctuaries can be viewed, customized and purchased on the architects’ website in the form of flat-pack DIY kits delivered straight to the chosen site. If customers don’t want to build it themselves, they can opt for an onsite team to build it for them. There are four presets to start with — Vitae, Officium, Studio and Tabernam — each designed to appeal to a distinct target audience. + Equals Architecture Images via Equals Architecture

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These modular plywood sanctuaries are completely customizable

Architecture students design award-winning Passive House in South Dakota

May 18, 2020 by  
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In Brookings, South Dakota, a group of South Dakota State University architecture students designed and completed the Passive House 01, a home certified under the high-performance Passive House (PHIUS) standard. Funded by a housing grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the student-designed project was led by architects Robert Arlt and Charles MacBride to serve as a “case study house for the 21st century.” The architects said that the Passivhaus residence is not only 90% more efficient than a similar house built to code but is also the first house in the region to sell energy back to the grid.  Located on a long-vacant infill site, Passive House 01 is within walking distance to both the South Dakota State University campus and Main Street. The airtight home’s gabled form and front porch reference the vernacular, while its clean lines and hidden gutters give the home a contemporary appeal. The 2,000-square-foot residence comprises three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms as well as a detached garage located behind an exterior courtyard. Related: Imperial War Museum’s Passivhaus-targeted archive breaks world records for airtightness In contrast to the dark, fiber-cement lap siding exterior, the bright interior is dressed in white walls and light-colored timber. The double-height living and dining area in the heart of the home gives the interior an open and airy feel. This openness is emphasized by the open-riser stair, which the architects and students designed and constructed from custom cross-laminated timber and solid glulam with a locally harvested basswood slat railing. To meet net-zero energy targets, the team installed a 3.6 kWh solar system atop the garage. The home is oriented for passive solar — shading is provided along the south side — and quadruple-paned insulating glazing has been used throughout. Energy-efficient fixtures and appliances also help minimize energy use, which, in addition to air quality, is monitored through an online platform in real time. The project won an AIA South Dakota Honor design award in 2019. + South Dakota State University Photography by Peter Vondeline and Robert Arlt via South Dakota State University

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