Net-zero Silicon Valley office prioritizes water conservation in drought-stricken California

December 2, 2016 by  
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A Silicon Valley office building that produces all the energy it needs on-site is a leading example of smarter, water-efficient architecture in drought-stricken California. The net-zero energy building, called Hanover Page Mill, was designed by Form4 Architecture to use significantly less water than comparable buildings thanks to low-flow fixtures, water-efficient irrigation systems, and native drought-tolerant plantings. Completed this year, the LEED Platinum-certified building was just awarded the LEAF Award in the Best Sustainable Development category. While the majority of corporate Silicon Valley office buildings are glass-clad behemoths, Hanover Page Mill bucks the trend with a more opaque facade that’s distinctly Californian with an earthy color palette. The building achieves net-zero energy on an annual basis with superior insulation, natural lighting, low-flow fixtures, and photovoltaic panels that provide all of the building’s electric energy use, including the energy used by the 15 on-site electric car chargers. The office uses 40% less water for toilet flushing when compared to similarly sized buildings, and 55% less potable water is needed for its drought-tolerant landscaping. Related: World’s largest green roof unveiled in the heart of Silicon Valley Hanover Page Mill is arranged around a C-shaped layout with two aboveground floors overtop an underground 118-space parking lot. A grand, south-facing square courtyard forms the focal point of the site’s central axis. “The project is the result of an exceptional design that blends form with function,” says Hanover Page Mill Associates’ James Gaither, Jr., a former ecologist for The Nature Conservancy . “We believe that designing toward sustainability and occupant health and comfort are the most valuable building attributes in today’s market, and will become essential in the future.” + Form4 Architecture Images by Craig Cozart Photography

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Net-zero Silicon Valley office prioritizes water conservation in drought-stricken California

9 of the most impressive Living Building Challenge certified projects

September 28, 2016 by  
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Image: Ethan Drinker Photography 1. Smith College Bechtel Environmental Classroom The Bechtel Environmental Classroom, designed by Coldham and Hartman Architects , is a former pastoral observatory transformed into a green learning space in Whatley, Massachusetts. The 2,500-square-foot, single-story building serves as a part of Smith College and sits on 223 acres of pasture and forest , overlooking an old stone dump site. One of the two enclosed areas provides space for biological and environmental science classes and the other, larger area gives plenty of room for humanities seminars and other classes, such as poetry and dance. A drilled well ensures a sustainable water supply and composting toilets give back to the Earth. LED lighting and two solar panels combined ensure a gentle footprint on this peaceful site. Image: Matthew Millman Photography 2. Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab If you are going to teach the next generation how to move forward with alternative energy, the facilities had better reflect the mission. That is just what the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab ensured with its completely sustainable, net-zero-energy design. Flansburgh Architects are behind the structure, which achieved

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9 of the most impressive Living Building Challenge certified projects

Beautiful Sea Song home in California is completely self-sustaining

August 30, 2016 by  
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The residence is located on a cantilevered podium in Big Sur on the coast of California. Flowing parallel to the existing topography, the pavilions are evocative of marine life, ranging from sea shells, crustaceans and Manta Rays. A full array of sustainable techniques was deployed in the design of the building which recently won first place at the International Design Awards. Related: Northern California Church Boasts One of the Largest Rainwater-Collection Systems in the U.S. Thanks to the presence of self-cleaning glass , rainwater retention cistern, and xeriscaping, the project ensures a sensible use of water. The xeriscaping reduces the need for supplemental water from irrigation and reinforces the idea that the project emerged from the site itself. The organization of the spaces creates spatial flow free of corridors, with the three structures scaled differently to accommodate different functions. The enclosed concrete slits house bathrooms, walk-in closets and laundry, leaving the rest of the space as column-free areas offering beautiful vistas. The public quarters occupy the bigger volume, while the master bedroom and a studio are located in the middle volume. + Form4 Architecture Via Archdaily

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Beautiful Sea Song home in California is completely self-sustaining

NASA says Earth is warming at a rate ‘unprecedented in 1,000 years’

August 30, 2016 by  
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New data has confirmed that the Earth has been experiencing the hottest temperatures on record . The latest findings from NASA’s top climate scientists now reveal the world is heating up at a rate that hasn’t occurred within the past 1,000 years. According to NASA , the planet will continue to warm “at least” 20 times faster than the historical average over the next 100 years. Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies , said that “in the last 30 years we’ve really moved into exceptional territory.” He added, “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).” July 2016 was the hottest month on record, and this year the average global temperature peaked at 1.38C above levels reported in the 19th century. That number is dangerously close to the 1.5C limit determined by the Paris Climate Agreement . Nasa warns that temperatures will only increase by leaps and bounds at the rate we are going. Related: New NASA data confirms July 2016 was the hottest month on record If we have even the slimmest of hopes to combat this unprecedented rate of global warming, Schmidt says, “maintaining temperatures below the 1.5C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or co-ordinated geo-engineering. That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2C.” “It’s the long-term trend we have to worry about though and there’s no evidence it’s going away and lots of reasons to think it’s here to stay,” Schmidt said. “There’s no pause or hiatus in temperature increase. People who think this is over are viewing the world through rose-tinted spectacles. This is a chronic problem for society for the next 100 years.” + NASA Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay , NASA , and NASA Earth Observatory

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Living Baubotanik tree tower rises in Germany

August 30, 2016 by  
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Baubotanik, or Living Plant Constructions, is the brainchild of architect Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig who found inspiration in the ancient art of tree shaping that’s spanned cultures worldwide, from medieval European topiary to Japanese bonsai . Baubotanik puts a modern spin on the natural process of grafting by adding metal scaffolding and other construction materials to transform the trees into a load-bearing structure. Over time, the exposed tree tissue grows around and bonds with the man-made materials. Related: India’s Amazing Tree Bridges Are Made of Living Roots and Vines! After years of research, Ludwig found that the most suitable tree species were those that are flexible and fast growing, such as sycamore/plane tree, poplar, birch, and hornbeam. While willow , a favorite material among tree sculptors like Patrick Dougherty , initially met Ludwig’s standards, he now avoids them citing problems with rot and durability. Ludwig and the Baubotanik Research Group have completed three seminal works over the last decade that test these botanically inspired building methods. In 2005, Ludwig collaborated with architect Oliver Storz and sculptor Cornelius Hackenbracht to grow and construct a footbridge made from willow trees and metal scaffolding. Stainless steel tubes were inserted between young willow saplings that eventually grew around the material until the tube was fully embedded. The tubes are used as handrails for the 2.5-meter-tall elevated walking surface made from steel grates that’s supported by the tree “columns.” Another early Baubotanik creation is the three-story-tall willow tower with a height of nearly nine meters and an eight-square-meter footprint. Unlike the footbridge, the tower design began with temporary steel tube scaffolding anchored into the ground. Containers of willow were inserted in the structure and watered constantly to encourage fast growth. The architects shaped the willow saplings into crisscrossing formations and drilled them in place with screws to preserve the contorted shapes. The metal scaffolding will be removed once the living structure is stable enough to support itself. The Plane-Tree-Cube Nagold is the biggest Baubotanik building to date and the first of its kind to be developed for an urban environment. Created for a 2012 regional horticultural show in Nagold, the award-winning building is constructed from live sycamore and a massive metal scaffolding structure that serves as a temporary base. The sycamore is shaped over time using pipes, regulators, sensors, and valves. The public was invited to enter the treehouse and climb its three levels. Like the tower, the Plane-Tree-Cube was developed so that the metal scaffolding can be removed once the shaped sycamores have achieved a stable state. Part sculpture and part architecture, these beautiful Baubotanik buildings are no replacement for conventional construction practices. Not only are they time and labor intensive, but they also demand ongoing maintenance as living, breathing structures. However, these thought provoking buildings aren’t for naught. They encourage us to embrace biodesign , harness nature’s existing benefits, and design with nature to create a more sustainable future. + Baubotanik Via ArchDaily Images via Baubotanik

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INTERVIEW: Queen of tiny living Felice Cohen on her new guidebook for small spaces

August 30, 2016 by  
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Our story on New Yorker Felice Cohen’s incredibly micro 90-square-foot apartment went viral when we first published it back in 2012, and now the author, organizer and speaker is sharing her tiny living experiences in a new book entitled 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or more) . Felice was kind enough to share some of her tiny living tips with us recently on our NYC site — click through to see what she has to say about making the most of a minuscule abode.

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INTERVIEW: Queen of tiny living Felice Cohen on her new guidebook for small spaces

Pittsburghs net-zero Frick Environmental Center is designed to meet the worlds toughest green standards

August 3, 2016 by  
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Created as a joint venture between the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy , the FEC is a welcome facility, education center, and gateway to the 644-acre Frick Park. The center will serve as a “living laboratory” offering hands-on environmental education to a projected 20,000 K-12 students along with hundreds of thousands of expected visitors each year. Its fully equipped classrooms, galleries, offices, and public spaces will help carry out the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s award-winning programs that include the restoration of the park’s ecological and historical landscape. Related: Pittsburgh’s Net-Zero Energy Center for Sustainable Landscapes Blows Fracking Out of the Water The FEC boasts an impressive array of sustainable features and will achieve net zero energy and water thanks to efficient systems such as ground-source heat pumps, radiant floors, a photovoltaic array , and a reclaimed water system that will capture and filter stormwater for reuse in irrigation and other non-potable uses. All the building materials came from a 1,200-mile radius of the site to minimize the FEC’s carbon footprint. To support the local economy, subcontractors and tradespeople were hired in the Allegheny County-Western Pennsylvania region. The FEC will host their first public celebration on Saturday, September 10. The building will be free and open to the public during park hours. The Living Building Challenge certification is targeted for Spring 2018. + Frick Environmental Center + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

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Pittsburghs net-zero Frick Environmental Center is designed to meet the worlds toughest green standards

Coiling glass skywalk opened in China lets people walk on a sheer cliff face

August 3, 2016 by  
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A new glass skywalk has opened up in China ’s Hunan province that allows tourists to walk along a sheer cliff face, seemingly supported by nothing at all. The 100 meter (328 feet) long Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk wraps around the side of Tianmen Mountain , and is about 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) wide. The attraction opened Monday, and while some visitors clung tightly to the side of the mountain, others strolled right up to the railing, selfie sticks raised high, for a once-in-a-lifetime shot. From the walkway, sitting at 4,600 feet above sea level, visitors can see Tongtian Avenue below, a winding mountain road with exactly 99 turns that snaked up the side of the peak. The mountain is just one of several stunning natural features in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park . The attraction is the third of its kind in the Tianmen Mountain Scenic Area. The Coiling Dragon path was once completely built of wood, but was recently converted to a glass bottom for a more dramatic view. Related: World’s longest and highest glass bridge to open next spring in China This isn’t the first dramatic glass-bottomed attraction to be built in China recently. Elsewhere in the park, the world’s longest and highest glass bridge is currently wrapping up construction. The bridge will connect both sides of the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, allowing visitors to view the stunning natural landscape from 984 feet above the ground. Though the bridge was originally planned to open in May, it’s currently been delayed. Via CNN Photos via ImagineChina

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Coiling glass skywalk opened in China lets people walk on a sheer cliff face

Retrofitted net-zero home in Washington produces double the energy it needs

June 29, 2016 by  
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You don’t need to build a new house to “go green”. The Birchwood home by Sustainable Connections is the first home in Whatcom County, Washington to receive Net-Zero Energy certification , and it was a retrofit. Jeff and Annie Aslan optimized the energy performance of an existing home, installing sufficient solar power to produce twice as much energy as they use. Two years ago, the couple bought the house originally designed by Greg Robinson and built by Cascade Joinery for the Kulshan Community Land Trust. The existing property already came with energy-efficient construction and a solar system installed by Ecotech Solar. They wanted to reduce the energy usage of the property even more and switch to 100% solar power . Related: Heliotrope is the World’s First Energy Positive Solar Home Lacking sufficient surface area to install new solar panels on the roof, the owners took another path to achieving net-zero performance and altered their lifestyles. They started by changing all the lighting to LED and installing a heat pump, heat recovery ventilator , thermal blinds on the windows and adding attic insulation. + Sustainable Connections

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Retrofitted net-zero home in Washington produces double the energy it needs

6 important steps we need to take to slow down climate change

June 28, 2016 by  
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While there is a scientific consensus that global warming is real and that it is caused by human activity, whether or not climate change can be slowed down or even reversed is hotly (no pun intended) debated in the scientific community. Some climate experts such as Guy McPherson say that near-term human extinction is inevitable while other climate scientists like Michael Mann believe that it isn’t too late to save human civilization from climate catastrophe. So what actions would we need to take in order to restore a safe and stable climate? We need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible. But that won’t be enough to reverse global warming. We must also draw down excess atmospheric CO2 by increasing natural carbon sinks. Here are six important steps we need to take to slow down climate change. Image via Wikimedia 1. RESTORE ECOSYSTEMS According to Biodiversity for a Livable Climate , “a focus on fossil fuel emissions reduction as the primary solution to reversing climate change is misguided and futile.” The organization argues that atmospheric CO2 concentrations that have exceeded 400 parts per million in Antarctica for the first time in four million years “will not decline without a significant rise in the carbon sequestration mechanisms of the biosphere.” Restoring soils, grasslands, wetlands, forests, coastal and ocean ecosystems can sequester gigatons of atmospheric carbon and cool the biosphere. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio Pledges $7 Million Towards Ocean Conservation Projects Image via Wikipedia 2. PROMOTE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE According to Dr. Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at Ohio State University, a two percent increase in carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. Industrial agriculture , or factory farming, is a major contributor to global warming, emitting six billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, or about 13 percent of total global emissions, according to the World Resources Institute. Transitioning from factory farming to carbon farming could play an important role in reversing global warming. Organically managed soils can remove carbon from the atmosphere and safely store the carbon in soil organic matter. Related: Soil Erosion Could Cause Food Crisis, Expert Warns Image via Wikimedia 3. ACHIEVE NET ZERO GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS Many countries, cities, companies and organizations around the world are committing to carbon neutrality in the coming decades. Vatican City has already achieved net zero greenhouse gas emissions by installing solar panels and Bhutan impressively has gone beyond carbon neutral to become carbon negative . Countries pledging carbon neutrality include Costa Rica, Iceland, Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Tuvalu, Sweden and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Our transportation sector is moving toward zero emissions technology. The era of affordable electric vehicles is about to begin with the introduction of the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. And air travel could eventually become emissions-free with the Solar Impulse 2’s around-the-world flight powered entirely by solar energy demonstrating that a zero emissions future in aviation is possible. Related: Norway moves up zero emissions target to 2030 Image via Wikipedia 4. MAKE THE SWITCH TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES In addition to pledging to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, places around the world are working on scaling up renewable energy sources such as solar energy, wind power, geothermal, hydropower, wave power, tidal power, biofuels and biomass to replace polluting fossil fuels from the production of oil, coal and gas. The Solutions Project , started by Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University, demonstrates how all 50 states can transition to 100 percent renewables by 2030 through a combination of wind, water and solar. Jacobson is currently mapping out a 139-country plan to power the world with clean, renewable energy. Places that have already achieved 100 percent renewable energy include the U.S. cities of Aspen and Burlington, the countries of Iceland and Norway and the Canadian province of Quebec. Cities pledging to shift to 100 percent renewable energy include San Diego, San Francisco, Vancouver, Copenhagen, Munich and Sydney. Related: San Diego to become largest U.S. city to run on 100% renewable energy Image via Wikimedia 5. IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY Energy efficiency investments have enormous potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency’s  Energy Efficiency Market Report 2015 , energy efficiency improvements since 1990 prevented more than 870 million tons of carbon emissions in 2014 and 10 billion tons over the last 25 years. The International Energy Agency says that energy efficiency is “the most effective tool to reduce energy sector carbon emissions, accounting for more than 40 percent of the required reductions to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade.” Examples of energy efficiency include LED lighting, natural lighting, ENERGY STAR-certified appliances, passive solar heating and turbochargers in cars and airplanes. Image via Pexels 6. SWITCH TO A PLANT-BASED DIET A new study  by Oxford University researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that transitioning to vegetarian diets could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions 63 percent by 2050 and that switching to vegan diets could reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent. Currently, the food system is responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions and a recent report from think tank Chatham House found that eating less meat and adopting a plant-based diet is crucial to meeting the climate targets set forth in the Paris agreement and avoiding dangerous global warming. Lead image via Wikimedia

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