Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound

May 12, 2017 by  
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Would you like to travel between New York City and London in just 3 hours and 15 minutes? In a few years, that could be possible. Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and startup Boom Technology have partnered to build a supersonic aircraft capable of zipping through the skies faster than the speed of sound. Live Science reports that the passenger aircraft would be capable of traveling through the skies faster than the Concorde jet or any other commercial aircraft today. The plane won’t be the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound, but it will be the first modern, supersonic passenger jet that travels at Mach 2.2. In case you’re wondering, that is twice the speed of sound, or 1,451 mph (2,335 km/h). The now-retired Concorde was capable of flying at speeds of about 1,350 mph (2,180 km/h). At Mach 2.2, passengers could travel between San Francisco and Tokyo in 5.5 hours, or between Los Angeles and Sydney in less than 6 hours and 45 minutes. In a blog post , CEO and founder of Boom Technology Blake Scholl said that one of the startup’s goals is to set a new speed record for civil aircraft. “Building a supersonic airplane is not easy — but it is important,” Scholl wrote. “While we love the hard engineering and technical challenges, what really drives us is the enormous human benefit of faster travel . Related: Sir Richard Branson urges prime minister David Cameron to back renewable energy Reportedly, Scholl is most excited about the positive implications supersonic commercial travel may bring, as it will make the farthest regions of the planet more accessible. “Imagine traveling across the Atlantic [Ocean], getting business done [in Europe] and being home to tuck your children into bed,” Scholl wrote, “or saving two whole days of a typical round-trip itinerary to Asia. … When time is no longer a limit, where will you vacation? Where will you do business?” Having raised $33 million in funding to develop the startup’s first supersonic passenger jet , the company will begin constructing the “Baby Boom” prototype. Then, a prototype of the eventual full-size Boom aircraft, which will carry 55 passengers in all-business-class configuration, will be built. Air Transport World (ATW) reports that the Baby Boom’s first test flight is scheduled for 2018, and the full-size Boom for 2020. Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to follow shortly afterward. Via Live Science Images via FighterSweep , Forbes

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Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound

Milan’s striking wooden UniCredit building is powered by the sun

May 12, 2017 by  
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You wouldn’t expect it, but this radical solar-powered building in Milan is actually owned by a bank. aMDL Michele De Lucchi Studio designed the LEED-certified UniCredit building to house the bank’s general meetings, but also to enrich public life with multipurpose community spaces. Its open structure of curved laminated wood ribs gives it a sense of accessibility and protection. The pavilion has no foundations–it was constructed on a reinforced concrete podium above a parking facility. Inspired by the shape of a seed, the design of the building combines lamellar larch beams with glass. The open structure accentuates accessibility, strengthened by two large wings equipped with monitors for events open to the general public. Related: Floating timber pavilion transforms a Swiss lake into an exciting new public square A 700-seat, multipurpose auditorium situated on the ground floor adapts to different configurations and events, while the overhead walkways that runs along the outer edge of the building can function as a temporary exhibition space . The first floor houses a nursery for 50 toddlers, while the top level features a lounge used for corporate events. Thanks to its strong focus on environmental sustainability and environmental sustainability, the LEED Gold-certified project has won first prize at this year’s WT SmartCity Award competition. + aMDL Michele De Lucchi Studio Via WT SmartCity Award Photos by Tom Vack

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Beer made from recycled bread is coming to the U.S.

May 5, 2017 by  
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A brewery in London is taking a bite out of food waste . Launched last year, Toast makes its beers from surplus fresh bread, including the heel ends of loaves, that would otherwise feed the landfill. Toast combines the bread with malted barley, hops, yeast, and water to craft its lagers, which are sold to raise money for charity. A full 100 percent of its profits, in fact, goes to Feedback , a nonprofit working to end wasted food across the globe. It is the rare bakery that doesn’t have a ton of leftover bread at the end of the day—more, perhaps, than any food bank can distribute. In fact, as much as one-third of loaves likely head directly from the oven to the landfill. Related: Quebec food waste program to rescue 30.8 million pounds of food Although food waste is somewhat of a modern concern, brewing tipple from bread isn’t. Toast uses a recipe based on a formula that hails from 4,000 B.C., when people in Mesopotamia and Egypt made a “divine drink” from bread baked from emmer wheat. Now, Toast wants to take its show on the road, specifically to New York City, where it hopes to produce an American pale ale by the Fourth of July. Related: British supermarket chain launches trucks powered by food waste “NYC bakeries are already knocking down our door to bring surplus loaves directly from their ovens to the brewery?,” it wrote on its crowdfunding page. “This campaign will guarantee our ability to produce 100 [barrels] of beer in NYC—with that, we’ve got a social business on our hands!” Cheers to that! + Toast on Indiegogo + Toast Via Treehugger

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Environmentalists question ‘worrisome’ NYC plan to pour chlorine in sewers

May 3, 2017 by  
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Every year around 20 billion gallons of untreated sewage streams into the waterways of New York City during overwhelming rainfalls. Attempting to stave off health risks, the city has a plan: pour chlorine into sewer pipes. But environmental advocates say the technique is shortsighted and worrisome. The city has attempted a few fixes to the issue, such as new retention tanks and greenery planted to reduce runoff. Now they want to disinfect wastewater inside pipes with chlorine; those pipes lead to three bodies of water in the Bronx and Queens . Riverkeeper staff lawyer Sean Dixon told The New York Times, “They’re using the most worrisome and unproven technique that we have in our toolbox. It’s like they’re grabbing the last straw and using the cheapest and least effective method.” Related: Danish city becomes world’s first to power water treatment plant with sewage Dixon said chlorine sometimes doesn’t even disinfect sewage completely, and doesn’t treat certain toxins. Further, residual chlorine can harm marine life . Chlorination is commonly utilized in wastewater treatment plans, not pipes that run into waterways. New York City Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Ted Timbers said chlorine is “the most widely used disinfectant for water and wastewater treatment in the U.S.” He said the plan had been talked about in meetings with the public, and that chlorination would occur from May to October. Queens College hydrologist Timothy Eaton said chlorine can be effective in controlled settings, but with unpredictable changes in sewage flow, residual chlorine could be left behind and the exact dosage would be tricky to get right. He told The New York Times, “It’s very difficult to predict the amount of water you’re going to get at any period of time. If you overdose it, you’re basically treating Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay like swimming pools .” Via The New York Times Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Tesla executives start mysterious new recycling company

May 3, 2017 by  
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You’d think with battery production commencing at the new Gigafactory and Tesla being the most valuable car company in America, the company’s executives would have their hands full. But it appears Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer Jeffrey Straubel and head of special products Andrew Stevenson have quietly filed documents for a new company aiming to “unlock the value of your materials.” CB Insights found a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing , with Straubel and Stevenson listed as executives on a new company called Redwood Materials . They already have a $2 million investment from an undisclosed investor. Their office is in Redwood City, California, fairly close to Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto. Related: Tesla just announced plans to build up to five Gigafactories Could Tesla be behind the company? According to its scant website, Redwood Materials offers “advanced technology and process development for materials recycling , remanufacturing, and reuse” – and that’s about all we know. A Tesla spokesperson didn’t answer The Verge’s request for clarification. But the publication said it’s quite possible Tesla isn’t involved with Redwood Materials at all. In the past Straubel has invested in companies that aren’t connected to Tesla, like a 2016 investment in energy storage company Axiom Energy. He’s also mentioned an interest in mineral recycling. Last year he said Tesla would recycle electric vehicle batteries and reuse those materials. In a recent March 2017 keynote address, Stevenson mentioned “re-thinking the materials supply chain ” as an area of innovation for the car company. Battery production requires materials like nickel, manganese, cobalt, graphite, copper, and lithium, and it makes sense Tesla would want to obtain reused materials for their batteries as much as possible as they ramp up production from 80,000 cars in 2016 to one million in 2020. The Redwood Materials website offers no other details, although you can enter an email address for updates. Via CB Insights , The Verge and Electrek Images via cchana on Flickr and Lwp Kommunikáció on Flickr

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Times Square now has double the public space

April 20, 2017 by  
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The most visited destination in the United States now has double the public space—an amazing feat unimaginable just ten years ago. When New York City temporarily closed part of Broadway Street at Times Square to traffic and created a pedestrian plaza in 2009, many dismissed the experiment as foolish. But the removal of cars in favor of public space proved an incredible success and with the pilot project turned permanent, Times Square was forever reinvented. Today, the city announced the official completion of their reconstruction project: a 2.5-acre permanent pedestrian-only public plaza on Broadway designed by architecture firm Snøhetta. With an average of 45 million visitors each year—many of who look up at the billboards instead of the path in front—Times Square is notorious for its pedestrian traffic. Before the addition of pedestrian plazas, the exposure to vehicular traffic, slow-moving pedestrians , and small sidewalks made visiting Times Square an unpleasant, polluted, and sometimes unsafe experience. However, with the re-direction of vehicular traffic and the return of public space to pedestrians, Times Square dramatically transformed into a welcoming civic space. Pedestrian injuries decreased by 40 percent and crime in the overall area decreased by 20 percent. Air pollution has even fallen by as much as 60 percent. This week marks the official opening of the completed Times Square reconstruction project, designed by Snøhetta and completed in 2016. Together with the NYC Department of Transportation , Department of Design and Construction, and the Times Square Alliance, the architecture firm carved 2.5 acres of pedestrian space out of a project site known as the “Bowtie” in the heart of the Times Square Theater District, bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets. The first phase of the pedestrian street opened to the public in spring 2014. An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers and visitors agreed that the plaza has enhanced Times Square and made it a more pleasant place. Related: Snøhetta Selected to Design A New Car-Free Times Square “Conceived as a project whose success would be measured not only by its new aesthetic but also the long-term physical, psychological and economic benefits on its community, the reinvention of Times Square stands as a model for how the design of our urban landscapes can improve health and well-being of its users while providing an important stage for public gathering,” said Craig Dykers, Architect and Founding Partner of Snøhetta. The Bowtie is designed to accommodate multiple speeds of pedestrian circulation—330,000 people move through Times Square on average every day—using subtle design cues. Street furniture and other design elements also create a welcoming space to linger. Conceived as “an outdoor room right in the heart of Manhattan,” the plaza includes ten fifty-foot-long granite benches plugged into the city’s power grid and connected to 400-amp, 200-amp, and 20-amp power sources. The reconstruction project also allowed for major overhaul of outdated infrastructure, including the sewer lines below. + Snøhetta Images © Michael Grimm

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Times Square now has double the public space

NYC community gardens may wither under Trump’s proposed budget cuts

April 3, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts could mean the kiss of death for New York City’s community gardens . More than 500 of the communal spaces across all five boroughs depend on a program called GreenThumb , which is administered by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation . Initiated in the wake of the 1970s fiscal crisis, which resulted in the widespread abandonment of both private and public land, GreenThumb has turned hundreds of derelict lots into tillage. Most of its funding comes from federal Community Development Block Grants—the same ones the budget blueprint seeks to eliminate. Should the budget pass, GreenThumb risks losing $1 million a year out of a $2.4 million budget, according to WNYC . Related: Detroit nonprofit seeks crowdfunding for new East Side community garden “It would be devastating to GreenThumb, it would mean laying off a dozen workers or more, and it would be less money for supplies, for bulbs, for tools,” said New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Levine, WNYC adds, is working on securing more money for community gardens, as well as the restoration of jobs for 150 Parks department gardeners and maintenance workers. Via WNYC Photos by Unsplash

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Zaha Hadid’s Kushner tower reimagined as the Eye of Sauron

March 30, 2017 by  
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When the family of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and China’s Anbang Insurance Group announced plans to redevelop a Zaha Hadid -designed skyscraper at Manhattan’s 666 Fifth Avenue, just about everyone, from lawmakers to government ethicists, balked. Although the deal would have helped transform the Kushners’ struggling office-and-retail property into a 1,400-foot mixed-use tower with retail space, high-end condominiums, and an 11-story hotel, negotiations eventually buckled under public pressure. Still, we’ll always have the renderings—and the Photoshopped artwork, one of which reimagines the monolith-like edifice as Barad-dûr . Designed by Hadid before her death last year, the $7.5 billion project, renamed 660 Fifth Avenue, would have involved gutting the 60-year-old building to its steel bones and adding 40 or more floors. Anbang’s withdrawal from negotiations has thrown the future of the property into question, although a spokesman says that the Kushner Companies is in active discussions with other investors to keep the project on life support. @PeterGrantwsj Here's the final concept. pic.twitter.com/AOIe9YHH7F — Grok (@Groked) March 21, 2017 Related: Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Infinitus Plaza focuses on environmental sustainability Meanwhile, the Twittersphere has been having a field day with a rendering of the proposed citadel, with one adroit user Photoshopping it into the Tower of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings . Whether this is in reference to the Mark of the Beast, the Kushners’ Trump-adjacency, or the fact that the building is a mite four blocks south of Trump Tower , is up for debate. The Kushners purchased 666 Fifth Avenue on Jared’s birthday in January 2007 for $1.8 billion. Although Jared, who is married to First Daughter Ivanka Trump, divested his stake in the building after taking a job in the White House, he sold it to his family, raising not just concerns about Anbang’s links to the Chinese government but also conflicts of interest. In fact, five Democratic members of Congress wrote to a White House lawyer last week about the would-be deal, which they called “unusually favorable for the Kushners.” Anbang would have invested $400 million in the project, as well as taken out a $4 billion construction loan for renovations, according to reports. Via Artnet

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Icelands geothermal Blue Lagoon is getting an amazing new hotel this year

March 30, 2017 by  
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Travelers have been drawn to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon for decades, eager to take a dip in the steamy, mineral-rich water nestled in the heart of a lava field. Hundreds of thousands of visitors make the journey every year to experience the magical, intensely blue pools for themselves. Now, the spa is making plans to expand into a full-fledged resort with the 62-room Moss Hotel, a new Moss Restaurant, and a new spa called Lava Cove. The man-made lagoon is filled with the waste seawater released from a nearby geothermal power station. While the water is perfectly safe for visitors to take a dip in, the high mineral content makes it unsuitable for recycling and it must be filtered through the porous rock of the lava field before it can be returned to the landscape. The lagoon gets its trademark milky blue shade from the silica, sulfur, and other minerals infused in the water, which is said to aid relaxation and heal skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Related: Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is an Incredible Hot Spring Spouting from the Runoff of a Geothermal Power Plant The new hotel will offer visitors stunning views with floor-to-ceiling windows and terraces leading directly to the geothermal waters. For a broader view, guests can visit the hotel’s balconies to see the stunning scenery of the lava field. The goal of the new resort is to make its connection to nature as seamless as possible. The subterranean Lava Cove spa takes advantage of the natural landscape, offering visitors the chance to explore lava corridors, waterfalls, and other geological features while they rest and relax. The new Moss Restaurant will serve up fresh, local, seasonal ingredients inspired by Icelandic cuisine, along with stunning views of the resort. The new resort is currently under construction and set to open in Autumn of 2017. + Blue Lagoon Hotel Via CNN

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Icelands geothermal Blue Lagoon is getting an amazing new hotel this year

Former concrete factory begins anew as an alternative high school with no curriculum

March 30, 2017 by  
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A former concrete factory west of Copenhagen has taken its first steps towards transformation into an experimental Danish folk high school. Designed by MVRDV and Cobe , the Roskilde Festival Folk High School that’s broken ground will include a 3,000-square-meter learning center for art, music, leadership, and activism, as well as 2,600 square meters of student housing. The former industrial appearance of the factory will be largely preserved wherever possible. Inspired by the ideals of the Roskilde festival and by Danish author and teacher N.F.S.Grundtvig’s beliefs on education, the Roskilde Festival Folk High School will differ in many ways from the typical high school and will be the first newly-established folk high school of its kind in Denmark in 45 years. The alternative school has neither curriculum nor exams, and both students and teachers will live on campus during the school year. Education will usually be focused on creative and humanistic topics, as well as on common life at school. Designed to accommodate around 150 students, the Roskilde Festival Folk High School will be organized into three main learning zones: the Mind, which caters to writing, debate, and leadership training; the Body, for dance and music education; and the Hand, with facilities and classrooms for the visual arts, architecture, and design. These zones will be housed within boxes inserted into the renovated factory. One of the boxes will include a 150-person auditorium. Students will be encouraged to decorate the industrial interiors with their art. Related: MVRDV and COBE to Transform Danish Concrete Factory Into Rock and Roll Museum The folk high school is part of the 11,000-square-meter ROCKmagneten masterplan that will transform the on-site cement factories into a district for “rock music, creativity and youth culture.” The Roskilde Festival Folk High School is slated for completion in fall 2018. + MVRDV + COBE Images via MVRDV

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