Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

May 24, 2018 by  
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Environmentalists celebrated a victory in New York state after an energy company tossed out a 5-year-old plan to install a facility that could have handled Canadian tar sands oil. The plan had clear environmental risks and posed a threat to area residents. After resistance from environmental groups and the public,  Global Companies  decided to abandon the plan. Erin Doran, senior attorney at Riverkeeper , an environmental organization devoted to protecting the Hudson River , said in a statement , “The proposal threatened the health of neighboring communities and would have placed the Hudson River at a greater risk for a disastrous oil spill .” Massachusetts-based Global Companies had requested boilers capable of handling heavy crude at the Port of Albany back in 2013 — Times Union pointed out the company did not indicate the facility would be used for tar sands oil, although it could have — and a legal battle ensued. Company spokesperson Liz Fuller told the Times Union, “We are withdrawing that request and plan to resubmit a renewal application with modifications later this year. The changes to the permit will include a reduction in the amount of crude oil handled through the terminal and will not include a system for the heating of crude oil.” Related: Extreme fossil fuel financing has surged to $115BN under Trump Doran said this is the second major victory in 2018 for Hudson River protection, “…coming after the defeat of industry’s request for new anchorage grounds to facilitate the transport of more crude oil.” She said since 2014, together with other partners, Riverkeeper had been battling the plan in court. She called on New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to approach Global Companies’ next submission “as a new application and to ensure that the operations at this facility finally undergo a comprehensive environmental review.” According to the Times Union, Global Companies sued that department back in 2015 for failing to issue a permit for the boilers, and DEC won an appeals court ruling earlier this year upholding its decision that the energy company’s permit application lacked sufficient information. This week, DEC said it was pleased that Global Companies withdrew its plan. Earthjustice lawyer Chris Amato described this development as “a huge victory for the families that live, work, and go to school in Albany’s South End…Global’s proposal would have spewed more toxic pollution into the air, endangering the health of South End residents, including hundreds of children who live and attend [Giffen Elementary] school in the shadow of the Global facility. This has been, and continues to be, a fight for environmental justice .” + Riverkeeper Via the Times Union Images via Bill Morrow and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

Media lab built from recycled shipping containers pops up in half a day

March 22, 2018 by  
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Four recycled shipping containers have found a new lease on life as Bard College’s new media lab in upstate New York. Quick, affordable, and modern, MB Architecture’s speedy lab solution for the Bard College Department of Experimental Humanities has the added benefit of a folding glass door that blurs the boundary between indoors and out. Prefabricated offsite, the Bard College Media Lab was installed in just half a day and fully operational within a few weeks. Located in the middle of campus near a Frank Gehry concert hall, the 960-square-foot media lab cost slightly over $200,000 for prefabrication , delivery, and installation. The four shipping containers were stacked into a single blocky monolith with the exterior painted matte black. While the corrugated sides were retained—perhaps as a reminder of the building’s industrial past—large glazed panels punctuate the building to bring in views of the outdoors and create the illusion of spaciousness inside. Related: The Coolest Bar in Texas is Built With Seven Stacked Shipping Containers Flexibility was built into the design of the lab, which will be shared by different college departments. The first floor comprises multiple entrances, a bathroom, and a double-height meeting room that opens up to the quad through a large pivoting garage door. By opening up the interior to the outdoors, the room can be used as a stage for performances, concerts, and theatrical events. An office is located on the second floor. + MB Architecture Via ArchDaily Images © Matthew Carbone

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Media lab built from recycled shipping containers pops up in half a day

DFA’s flood-proof towers could survive six feet of sea level rise in New York City

February 13, 2018 by  
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New York-based architecture firm DFA just unveiled plans for 19 cylindrical apartment towers that can survive six feet of sea level rise at Manhattan’s Pier 40. The towers are wrapped in lattice facades with lots of vegetation, and they’re designed to address the city’s lack of affordable housing and flood-resistant buildings . The towers would offer apartments as well as recreational and commercial spaces, and they’re designed for a site currently occupied by car parking facilities and a football field. The entire development is expected to function as a floating island in the event of flooding. The living units in the high-rises are set 60 inches above expected storm surge levels. An elevated path flows along the base of the clusters and connects a series of public pavilions . Related: Waterstudio’s Koen Olthuis on FLOAT! “Beyond 2050, as regular flooding begins to engulf the coastline as we know it, the landscape deck transforms into a floating island with new pathways built to connect the evolved wetland ecosystem to Manhattan,” said DFA. The architects designed the complex as a response to construction trends in New York. They describe it as a long-term solution that will “safeguard the city from rapid changes in the environment or protect future generations of people”. + DFA Via Dezeen

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DFA’s flood-proof towers could survive six feet of sea level rise in New York City

Geothermal-powered forever home targets environmental and social sustainability

December 27, 2017 by  
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Japanese influence weaves throughout the stunning Pound Ridge Residence, a luxurious forever home in rural New York designed by Tsao & McKown Architects for an acclaimed international clothing designer and her husband. The strong architect-client relationship spanning the course of 20 years granted the architects design control not just over the architecture, but the landscape, interiors, and custom furnishings as well. Built to target environmental and social sustainability, the timber-framed house minimizes its energy and resource footprint and is designed for aging in place. Set on 30 acres of forested land, the 2,900-square-foot Pound Ridge Residence opens up to the outdoors through ample full-height glazing and covered walkways. “The structure is formed of exposed heavy timber construction , a rarity today, which, in addition to its natural beauty, has the added advantage of reducing the need for interior walls,” wrote the architects, adding that timber frame construction was built of local wood . “The load-bearing timber beams span the interiors and, with their darkened hues, recede from view as they frames the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the gardens and surrounding woods.” With design control over the architecture, interiors, furnishings, and landscaping, the architects achieved a customized and “holistically conceived environment” reflecting needs and preferences of the clients, whom they knew well. “With full awareness of how they live, work, and entertain, we conceived the furnishings simultaneously with the architecture,” said the architects. Related: Solar-powered forever home is a modern take on the rustic farmhouse The single-story home mainly features open-plan layouts that take advantage of natural ventilation and light through sliding glass doors, windows, and operable timber panels. Light is also let in through two large asymmetrically shaped skylights. Radiant geothermal heating and cooling regulate indoor temperatures and are complemented by two hearths with sculptural custom bronze chimneys. Low-energy materials were used in construction and all excavated stone was reused in the gardens and landscape. The exterior spaces and landscaping feature native species and minimize impermeable paving to capture runoff water. + Tsao & McKown Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Simon Upton

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Geothermal-powered forever home targets environmental and social sustainability

New York delivers huge blow to the fossil fuel industry

December 22, 2017 by  
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New York just sent a big message to the fossil fuel industry . The state is freezing all fossil fuel investments – and they are divesting almost $400 billion in pension funds from the industry, according to Grist . In a statement , Governor Andrew Cuomo said the New York Common Fund has nearly $1 billion invested just in ExxonMobil – but described such investments as increasingly risky “as both New York State and the world back away from the use of fossil fuel as a primary energy source.” Cuomo and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced the divestment decision in separate proposals this week. They could divest billions from fossil fuel companies with the aim of de-carbonizing pension funds. It’s a big move – New York’s Common Fund is the third biggest in America and manages retirement assets for over one million New Yorkers. Related: The World Bank will stop funding oil and gas projects after 2019 Cuomo said in the statement, “New York has made incredible strides in securing a clean energy future for this state with our nation-leading clean energy standard, offshore wind development, and aggressive investment in the clean tech economy, yet the Common Fund remains heavily invested in the energy economy of the past. Moving the Common Fund away from fossil fuel investments will protect the retirement savings of New Yorkers.” This year, the Common Fund had holdings in over 50 oil and gas companies that have been listed among the top 100 most carbon-intensive on Earth, according to Cuomo’s statement. Neither proposal has yet given an end date for 100 percent divestment. Stringer said his office would bring a proposal to New York City pension fund trustees in coming weeks. Cuomo said he’d partner with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to launch an advisory committee to design a de-carbonization road map. Via Grist , Governor Andrew Cuomo , and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Charred wood-clad Sleeve House is a home within a home

November 2, 2017 by  
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The traditional barn gets a brilliant reinterpretation in the modern charred wood-clad Sleeve House. Two elongated volumes – a smaller one sleeved into a larger – comprise this timber house located on an open rolling hillside in New York state. Architecture firm actual / office  used Shou Sugi Ban to give the home a sustainable, low-maintenance exterior that complements the surrounding landscape. The Sleeve House sits on a sloping terrain around two hours north of New York City in a rural area of the Hudson Valley. Its two volumes–one sleeved into the other– create three different types of spaces both on the inside and the outside of the house. The space between the inner and outdoor volumes accommodates common areas, including an entry gallery, a narrow vertical slot for the stairs, and a spacious living space with a sloping glass wall . Walking into the smaller volume from the main one creates an experience of entering a different universe. Related: This charred wood cabin can be rearranged in an infinite number of ways The smaller volume contains private areas and a study. These spaces feature warm, soft finishes which contrast the rough materials– exposed concrete and charred wood – that dominate the rest of the interior as well as the exterior. The house is clad in Shou Sugi Ban (charred wood) that makes the house stand out while complementing its surroundings and gives it depth, pattern and texture. Large glass surfaces offer expansive views of the landscape. + actual / office Via Contemporist Photos by Michael Moran , lead image via  Deborah DeGraffenreid

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Charred wood-clad Sleeve House is a home within a home

Staten Island neighborhood returning to nature for superstorm buffer zone

October 27, 2017 by  
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The Staten Island neighborhood of Oakwood Beach was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy five years ago. Since then, 80 percent of Oakwood Beach residents have sold their homes to the state of New York , which hopes to turn the area into a buffer zone to guard against future superstorms . Many homes have since been torn down, and the area is slowly returning to nature. Superstorms could hit the New York City region more frequently in the future. A recent Rutgers University study found storms flooding the city with at least 7.4-foot surges – an event which occurred every 500 years before 1800 – will hit once every five years by 2030, reports Reuters . Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery executive director Lisa Bova-Hiatt told Reuters the state pursued the home buyout program in large part because they expected more superstorms. She said, “To say that extreme weather is not our new normal would just be incredibly short-sighted.” Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm Many Oakwood Beach locals have taken the state up on their buyout program. The state has spent $255 million with money from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase 654 properties, and most of those are in Staten Island. There are 83 more properties in the pipeline, according to the Office of Storm Recovery. Bova-Hiatt said the program is voluntary but “it would be fantastic to have the entire area as a buffer zone.” The state has torn down townhouses and bungalows, and planted grass on the sites of former homes. Out of 402 homes in Oakwood Beach eligible for the program, the state was unable to acquire 88. Reuters spoke with Gregory and Olga Epshteyn, locals who decided not to take the state up on their offer. Gregory said the city still provides services like street lights and trash pickup, and that the neighborhood is the best place to live in Staten Island. Olga told Reuters, “We love it here, but we miss our neighbors.” Via Reuters Images via Sunghwan Yoon on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Staten Island neighborhood returning to nature for superstorm buffer zone

Staten Island neighborhood returning to nature for superstorm buffer zone

October 27, 2017 by  
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The Staten Island neighborhood of Oakwood Beach was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy five years ago. Since then, 80 percent of Oakwood Beach residents have sold their homes to the state of New York , which hopes to turn the area into a buffer zone to guard against future superstorms . Many homes have since been torn down, and the area is slowly returning to nature. Superstorms could hit the New York City region more frequently in the future. A recent Rutgers University study found storms flooding the city with at least 7.4-foot surges – an event which occurred every 500 years before 1800 – will hit once every five years by 2030, reports Reuters . Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery executive director Lisa Bova-Hiatt told Reuters the state pursued the home buyout program in large part because they expected more superstorms. She said, “To say that extreme weather is not our new normal would just be incredibly short-sighted.” Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm Many Oakwood Beach locals have taken the state up on their buyout program. The state has spent $255 million with money from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase 654 properties, and most of those are in Staten Island. There are 83 more properties in the pipeline, according to the Office of Storm Recovery. Bova-Hiatt said the program is voluntary but “it would be fantastic to have the entire area as a buffer zone.” The state has torn down townhouses and bungalows, and planted grass on the sites of former homes. Out of 402 homes in Oakwood Beach eligible for the program, the state was unable to acquire 88. Reuters spoke with Gregory and Olga Epshteyn, locals who decided not to take the state up on their offer. Gregory said the city still provides services like street lights and trash pickup, and that the neighborhood is the best place to live in Staten Island. Olga told Reuters, “We love it here, but we miss our neighbors.” Via Reuters Images via Sunghwan Yoon on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Denver might require green roofs on new large buildings

October 27, 2017 by  
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In November, voters in Denver, Colorado will go to the polls to approve or disapprove a new ballot initiative that would require most new buildings of at least 25,000 square feet and some older buildings to include a green roof . The roofs would have to be covered with trees, vegetables or other plants that add aesthetic value and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Although the idea of green roofs is broadly popular, the mandate to require them is somewhat controversial. Nonetheless, supporters are optimistic that voters will ultimately approve the bold and beautiful policy to add even more green to the Mile High City. Denver’s proposed green roof mandate takes cues from Toronto , which implemented the policy seven years ago, becoming the first city in North America to require green roofs. Although San Francisco recently adopted a mandate for green roofs on new buildings, Denver would be the first to transform rooftops on existing buildings through the mandate. Supporters see real environmental and economic benefits from such a broad adoption of green roofs. A new study from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and the Green Infrastructure Foundation estimated that the adopted initiative would create 57.5 million square feet of green roofs by 2033 and generate $1.85 billion in energy cost savings and other benefits over the next 40 years. “We have all these flat roofs with all this space, and we’re not doing anything with them,” said Brandon Rietheimer, the initiative’s campaign manager, according to the Denver Post . “Why aren’t we putting solar or green vegetation up there? … We hear all the time that Denver is an environmentally friendly city, yet we rank 11th for air quality and third for heat islands.” Related: Denver food desert raises $50K for first community-owned grocery store Although the idea may be appealing, it still faces a mountain of opposition before it becomes law. “I think it would be great if we all had green roofs,” said Denver City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman. “They’re so lovely. But the mandate is what worries me. … If you have so much support for it, then why wouldn’t the market just take care of it?” Even Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has come out against the measure, stating that it was “not the right approach” for the city. Despite heavy opposition, the initiative may prove endearing to the Denver electorate, particularly in an off-year election . Political analyst Eric Sondermann said, “I think the risk to the opposition is that it’s under the radar and it just looks good, looks cutting-edge, feels good and that no one digs into it”. Via The Denver Post Images via Denver Green Roof Initiative

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Denver might require green roofs on new large buildings

New York City is now offering free lunch at all public schools

September 8, 2017 by  
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Good riddance “lunch shaming” — the practice of holding children accountable for school lunch bills. Starting this school year in New York City, all 1.1 million students who attend public schools will receive their lunches for free. The move has been long sought after by food policy advocates, as 75 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunches. Now an additional 200,000 kids will benefit, saving their families approximately $300 per year. According to city officials, the program will not cost the city additional money since New York state changed how it tracks families that are eligible for benefits and matched them with schools their children attend. The city was then able to identify more students whose families receive those benefits. It made officials realize the whole city qualifies for a federal program that dishes out free lunches at schools. According to Carmen Fariña, the school’s chancellor, “This is about equity. All communities matter.” Fariña is one of many who thinks the practice of lunch shaming needs to stop. When a student’s account is in overdraft, oftentimes their food is thrown away in front of them and they are given a simple sandwich on white bread as a replacement. The practice is so embarrassing, many kids choose to go hungry rather than subject themselves to the humiliation. Related: 8 Organic School Lunches That Can Be Prepared The Night Before New York isn’t the first city to offer free lunch to all students. Other major cities that do the same include Boston , Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas. However, New York has far more children to feed than any of those cities, which is why this initiative is particularly applaudable. While breakfasts were already free to students at the city’s public schools, this latest development will ensure all students receive most of their daily recommended food intake. This is vital, considering 13 million children in the United States live in food insecure households. Via New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons , Pixnio

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