Stefano Boeri Architettis iridescent tower breaks ground in Tirana

September 18, 2018 by  
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Stefano Boeri Architetti , the Italian architecture firm behind the vertical forest towers , has unveiled designs for the Blloku Cube, a mixed-use high-rise marked by its distinctive energy-efficient cladding. Located in the heart of Albania’s capital of Tirana, the Blloku Cube is a multifunctional center instrumental in the Tirana 2030 master plan — also designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti — that aims to breathe new life into one of the most prestigious districts in the city. Construction on the Blloku Cube recently broke ground in July 2018. Covering a project area of approximately 12,000 square feet (1,117 square meters), the Blloku Cube is currently being constructed on the intersection between the streets of Pjeter Bogdani and Vaso Pasha. The eye-catching cuboid structure was designed to enhance the vibrant district, which was reborn from a former military zone with restricted access into a major city hub flush with shops, bars and restaurants. Blloku Cube will comprise office space stacked atop multiple levels of retail. A Roof Garden Restaurant will occupy the seventh floor. “The identity of the building is strongly characterized by a special cladding, a standout feature that makes it recognizable and unique in the city skyline and, at the same time, highly performing in terms of thermal efficiency, thanks to a ‘double skin’ technological system,” the firm said in a project statement. Energy-efficient glass curtain walls are considered the first “skin,” and the second “skin” consists of a shimmering “sophisticated technological shielding system” made up of anodized aluminum modules carefully angled to filter the sunlight and optimize natural light indoors. Related: The world’s first vertical forest for low-income housing is coming to the Netherlands Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Stefano Boeri Architetti project director, added, “This particular cladding solution, specifically designed for our first Albanian project, plays an essential role in defining the uniqueness of the building and contributes to underlining its importance as a new landmark of this urban district.” + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images by Stefano Boeri Architetti

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Stefano Boeri Architettis iridescent tower breaks ground in Tirana

Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world

September 18, 2018 by  
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At last, the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains have made their global debut in the northern countryside of Germany . As of Monday, two Coradia iLint locomotives have been transporting passengers back and forth to the towns of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude, just west of Hamburg. The efficient trains were produced by French transportation engineers at Alstom, the same manufacturers who amazed the world in the early 1980s with the world-record-setting bullet train. While the TGV captured many people’s attention as the fastest locomotive in production, its true feat was providing a solution to the 1973 oil crisis in France by featuring an electric — not gas — fueled transmission. Nearly four decades later, Alstom has come to the rescue again as European cities continue to struggle with pollution. Replacing diesel powered engines that are stagnating Germany’s fight for the green is the first push. Related: New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge inaugurated the pair of novel trains at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, where the trains will undergo routine hydrogen refueling. The company leader said, “The world’s first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production.” The bright blue Coradia iLint trains currently operate on a 62-mile (100-kilometer) course. However, in equal capacity to their gas-gulping counterparts, the hydrogen-powered vehicles can travel the span of 600 miles (1000 kilometers) on one tank of hydrogen. The trains rely on fuel cells that can produce electricity from a combined mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. The models are extremely efficient in the conversion — excess electricity can be siphoned into ion lithium batteries stored on board. The only byproducts emitted by this process are steam and water. Many German states have expressed interest in adopting the models to their own transportation lines. The company announced it will be delivering a set of 14 trains to the Lower Saxony region of the nation by 2021. While the zero-emission alternatives are attractive because of their quieter, eco-friendly nature and ability to run without electrified railways, they are not without a high initial price. Stefan Schrank, Alstom’s project manager, said, “Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run.” It’s a price many countries are willing to pay for cleaner air . France plans to rail its first hydrogen train by 2022, with the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Canada eager to follow suit. + Alstom Via The Guardian Image via René Frampe / Alstom

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Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world

This 1970s Airstream is an off-grid oasis for a family of six

September 18, 2018 by  
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Moving from a spacious contemporary home into a tiny home would be daunting for anyone, but Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker made the huge life change for themselves and their four children. In just a few months, the ambitious couple renovated an old 1970s Airstream Sovereign into their dream off-grid home on wheels , or what they call their Tiny Shiny Home . The Longneckers long dreamed of traveling with their children, but it wasn’t until they were presented with an opportunity to renovate an old Airstream that they began to think seriously about living and working on the road. Once they bought the 1972 Airstream Sovereign, the couple took just six months to renovate the iconic body into a sustainable “adventure-mobile.” From the onset of the renovation process, Ashley and Jonathan knew that they had to make their new home as sustainable as possible. The roof is outfitted with solar panels , while the interior boasts a number of eco-friendly features, such as efficient appliances in the kitchen, a composting toilet and a 50-gallon fresh water tank that allows them to live completely off the grid. Related: Couple restores an old Airstream into a chic tiny home on wheels As for the interior, the 220-square foot trailer was designed to be ultra-functional thanks to custom-made flexible furnishings . The four kids have bunk beds that can be folded up to create two couches. The compact kitchen is fully equipped with all of the basics to prepare meals for a large family. The entire family of six fits comfortably in the dinette set, making it easy to enjoy meals together. The benches can be converted into a sleeping area. There is also a small office space for the family, so they can work from their tiny home. The design palette is modern and fresh with all-white walls that contrast nicely with the dark wood cabinets and flooring. An abundance of windows allow  natural light to brighten the interior of the Airstream, but the family often sits under the trailer’s exterior canopy to enjoy the beautiful sunsets and sunrises of wherever they might be. + Tiny Shiny Home Via Dwell Images via Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker

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France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation

September 17, 2018 by  
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France plans to launch a major endeavor to triple the amount of cyclists on its streets within the next seven years. The action will include building better bike lanes, providing financial incentives for commuters to switch to bicycle transportation and cracking down on bike theft. The plan was announced by the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at a speech in Nantes, where he revealed that cycling accounts for only 3 percent of transportation in the country. Despite hosting the acclaimed Tour de France competition, France has fallen far behind other EU nations in bicycle transportation. In the Netherlands, cycling accounts for almost a third of all transportation, backed by a strong cycling culture as well as organized routes and laws that make Dutch riders feel safe on the roads. “Fifty million euros per year will not turn France into the Netherlands, but it is a start,” said Olivier Schneider, head of the French Bike Users Federation (FUB). Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly France’s total fund for cycling infrastructure over the next seven years amounts to 350 million euros ($410 million). “We plan to triple the share of cycling to 9 percent by 2024, when we host the Olympics,” Philippe said. “The discontinuity on the bike lane maps creates insecurity and discourages people from cycling.” Currently, bike lanes in French cities only run short distances and are not safely connected to one another at major intersections or heavy traffic zones. In addition to addressing these incomplete routes, the government will restructure one-way streets to include two-way bike routes, saving commuters inconvenience and time. Converters to cycling will be rewarded yearly with 200 euro ($233) tax-free stipends from the French government, and many private companies are looking to double that amount, providing their own 400 ($467) euro tax-free rewards each year for commuters. Companies are also being mandated by the government to allocate proper bicycle parking facilities for their employees, a feature that train hubs around the country will also boast. To deter bike thieves from suspending the country’s progress, new bikes will be subject to a mandatory identification engraving system, which will make it easier for burglars to be apprehended and fined. The French government will also introduce cycling lessons in all secondary schools by 2022 to ensure that future generations embrace the cycling culture and respect for a clean environment. Via Reuters Image via Veroyama

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Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

August 24, 2018 by  
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A new study has revealed Chicago to be the greenest city to work in within the U.S for the second consecutive year. About 70 percent of the Windy City’s office spaces are certified for energy efficiency, up from 66 percent last year. Other top cities include San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Each year, the U.S. Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE Group) surveys buildings in the 30 largest U.S real estate market areas and evaluates the results in collaboration with  Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Results depend on the amount of square footage of LEED – or Energy Star-certified commercial buildings constructed within a city. This year’s records show an extraordinary total of 4,700 green buildings in these 30 areas. The total square footage now accounts for 41 percent of all office spaces. CBRE Senior Vice President David Pogue revealed that green certification has “become a proxy for good building management,” in recent years. “Particularly in the services sector, a lot of their energy use and environmental impact is in the buildings they occupy, so the tenant base is demanding this, and institutional financiers also believe a sustainable building is a better building,” he said. According to the EPA, commercial buildings account for approximately 19 percent of total energy use in the country. As such, they are often the largest contributors of carbon emissions within cities. To combat this, LEED certification was established by The Green Building Council, which recognizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through evaluation of aspects such as water systems and energy efficiency. Similarly, the EPA’s own Energy Star program focuses on strict performance standards in the energy category. “So many buildings have become dependent on this as a way of demonstrating quality to investors and corporate tenants,” Pogue added. “It’s going to cause every building to go back and reconsider what their energy use is — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Chicago is well on its way to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in city-run properties by 2025. Close competitors include San Francisco, with 64 percent of its office spaces certified as energy-efficient. Also notable is Los Angeles, which has the most Energy Star buildings, 716 in total, compared to Chicago’s 339. Via Bloomberg Images via Alan Stark and Michel Curi

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Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

Bolivia creates a nature reserve for world’s rarest macaw

August 22, 2018 by  
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The blue-throated macaw is one of the most critically endangered species on the planet – only about 300 remain in the wild. However, the birds are getting some much-needed good news. Bolivian conservation organization  Asociación Armonía has partnered with the American Bird Conservancy , the International Conservation Fund of Canada , IUCN Netherlands and the World Land Trust to create a protected nesting area for the imperiled macaw. Related: Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback This beautiful species of macaw has been declining in population for the past century – but thanks to a 1,680 acre (680-hectare) land purchase in Bolivia, which was made possible by the aforementioned organizations, the birds are making a slow recovery. “Increasing the Blue-throated Macaw population is more likely now that Armonía has secured this important site as a reserve,” said Rodrigo Soria, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía, of the land acquisition. Previously serving as a cattle ranch, the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve was named after the late founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Bird Endowment. The nature reserve will help further Asociación Armonía’s artificial nest box program, which was launched in 2005 as a way to increase the macaws’ population. “The acquisition means that we can continue the successful nest box program without worry of changing land ownership and management,” added Soria. The site is located in central Bolivia’s Beni savanna and, in combination with the existing Barba Azul Nature Reserve, provides 28,862 acres (11,680 hectares) of protected land for its blue-winged inhabitants. Related: Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet In memory of Rickman, the American Bird Conservancy and Asociación Armonía have pledged to match any contributions to the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Fund  by up to a total of $100,000 in 2018. The fund aims to provide vital support for reserve management and habitat conservation to ensure the continued success of the nest box program. + American Bird Conservancy + Asociación Armonía

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France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

August 14, 2018 by  
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Take that, plastic! France has announced that it plans to make bottles made with recycled plastic less expensive than those made from new plastic, part of a larger plan to intensify regulations on plastic use. Other aspects of the plan include increasing taxes on landfill and lowering the value-added tax on recycling activities. Related: Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets According to Junior Environment Minister Brune Poirson, the French government will introduce further specific measures to address the problem of plastic pollution . “We need to transform the French economy,” she said. “We are launching a movement that will be scrutinized and followed by our European partners.” Part of this movement is a plan to reduce the price of products packaged in recycled containers by up to 10 percent. The discount-premium system encourages its consumers to recycle by making sustainability the more affordable option. “Tomorrow, when there is a choice between two bottles, one made with recycled plastic, the other not, the first one will be cheaper,” Poiron stated. Related: Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution Currently, France has the second-worst recycling rate in Europe, with just 25.5 percent of its plastic packaging waste recycled. By comparison, Germany and the Netherlands recycle about 50 percent of their plastic waste. Nevertheless, the French government plans to change its plastic recycling rate to 100% by the year 2025, with the recent announcement marking the first steps toward this goal. Veolia and Suez, recycling powerhouses in the French market, have long been calling for the regulation changes, which would provide a boost for business. Retailers have also joined the cause; for example, French company E.Leclerc has pledged to eliminate the sale of throwaway plastics and replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives, such as bamboo , and is testing a loyalty point system for customers who deposit plastic and glass bottles in some store outlets. + Eurostat + Le Journal de Dimanche Via Reuters

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France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

A massive pollution-fighting green wall engulfs this Dutch city hall

May 1, 2018 by  
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When the Dutch city of Venlo decided to become the world’s first region to fully adopt Cradle to Cradle (C2C) principles, it seemed only fitting that their city hall be a beacon for sustainability. Designed by Kraaijvanger Architects , Venlo’s City Hall features a striking transparent facade engulfed by a massive green wall. Made with more than 100 different plants, the 21,500-square-foot living wall is among the largest in the world and it absorbs 30 percent of airborne sulfur and nitrogen oxides — roughly equivalent to the particulate matter created by 32,300 square feet of motorway. Located on the east bank of the river Meuse, Venlo City Hall comprises offices, a plaza, a public hall, exhibition space, meeting rooms and a garage that includes bicycle parking. The new building, completed in 2016, consolidates services that had been previously spread out across the city. Access to natural light, greenery and a variety of adaptable work spaces aids in creating a healthy working environment. A central light-filled core floods the interior with daylight and allows for natural airflow, replacing the need for mechanical ventilation. Heat trapped by the greenhouse located on the top floor is recycled to provide heating for the building. Water use is minimized, and a wetland roof purifies gray water and rainwater for reuse in irrigating the green wall and flushing toilets. Related: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Green Architect & Cradle to Cradle Founder William McDonough “The construction is future-proof; the interior is built independently of the supporting structure and thus leaves a possible change of function a future option,” the architects wrote. “On a smaller scale, there is room for unforeseen developments in the field of sustainability; all building-related systems can be replaced without major interventions.” + Kraaijvanger Architects Images via C2C Center

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A massive pollution-fighting green wall engulfs this Dutch city hall

Your shampoo and deodorant cause a daily pollution ‘rush hour’

May 1, 2018 by  
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You may not realize it, but your shampoo, deodorant, or lotion could be contributing nearly as much urban air pollution  as your daily commute. A new study discovered emissions from siloxane, a common ingredient in those personal care products , are similar to those from vehicles in rush-hour traffic. Are you leaving air pollution-contributing chemicals in your wake? Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) led a study published online this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that revealed people’s personal care items could be polluting the air. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Demystifying “Natural” and “Organic” Labels on Personal Care Products The scientists were measuring VOCs from a mobile laboratory and the Earth System Research Laboratory roof, tracking concentrations of traffic-related compounds like benzene at rush hour. They saw a peak in the data and one scientist suggested siloxane. He was right. Siloxane emissions correlated with benzene emissions, so the team guessed siloxane might be found in vehicle exhaust. But tailpipe emission testing and roadside measurements revealed that wasn’t the case. Siloxane, a volatile organic compound (VOC), is added to lotions or shampoos to impart a silky feel. The VOC evaporates rapidly after being applied, and according to CIRES , “In the air, sunlight can trigger those VOCs to react with nitrogen oxides and other compounds to form ozone and particulate matter.” The scientists figured out both chemicals could be connected to commuting . In the morning, after people had applied personal care products and headed outside, siloxane emissions peaked, as did benzene emissions as people traveled in cars or buses. The emissions of both chemicals decreased in the day and then peaked once again at the evening commute, although the evening peak was lower for siloxane emissions as many personal care products had evaporated to a great extent. “We estimate for the city of Boulder, it’s about 3 to 5 kilograms per day of siloxane (D5), and benzene (from motor vehicles), we estimate is about 15 kilograms,” CIRES scientist and lead author Matthew Coggon said . “So it’s about three to five times lower (than vehicles) in terms of total mass. But the emissions that you see in the morning…they’re fairly close, which is the stunning piece. You driving your car, you’re emitting as much siloxane as your vehicle is emitting benzene. That’s the general gist.” “We all have a personal plume, from our cars and our personal care products,” Coggon added. “In this changing landscape, emissions from personal care products are becoming important.” + CIRES + Environmental Science and Technology Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 ) and Kathy Bogan/CIRES

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World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland

April 10, 2018 by  
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The world’s most powerful wind turbine was just installed off the coast of Scotland. Developer Vattenfall announced this week it completed the installation of 11 turbines in Aberdeen Bay – two of which were upgraded with a record-setting capacity of 8.8 MW. In total, the installation generates 93.2 MW of energy – enough to power 70-percent of Aberdeen’s domestic needs. Vattenfall said that nine 8.4 MW turbines were installed off the coast, and two other turbines with an enhanced capacity of 8.8 MW were also put in place. These turbines are the most powerful in the world – and a major milestone for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC). The company also announced that a few weeks ago it installed the industry’s first suction bucket jacket foundations, which will help make off-shore wind power installations more affordable. ? Related: The world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farm is being built in the Netherlands All told, 134,128 tons of coal will be displaced by the installation. “The turbines for the EOWDC, Scotland’s largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility, help secure Vattenfall’s vision to be fossil fuel free within one generation,” said Gunnar Groebler, Vattenfall’s Head of Business Area Wind. + Vattenfall Via Business Green Images via Vattenfall

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