September heat waves are causing early dismissals in schools

September 7, 2018 by  
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Snow days are one of the best perks of winter for students, but now, schools are closing for another variation of inclement weather. School districts around the country are releasing students because of excessive heat, an increasing trend in the face of climate change . Will these so-called “heat days” become the new norm? Schools in the eastern U.S. have been giving out more heat days than ever as record temperatures continue to hit New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and even parts of the Midwest. The cancellations are occurring more frequently in places that do not have adequate air conditioning, especially in relation to after-school programs. This past week, for example, schools on the East Coast shut down as temperatures climbed higher than 90 degrees. A few districts in New York also cancelled sporting activities. Related: One in 11 US public schools are plagued by toxic air Meanwhile, schools in New York City have remained open following a city investment in new air conditioning systems worth nearly $30 million to ensure schools were adequately cooled. The city plans on having every classroom air conditioned over the next four years, meaning no heat days for students and a costly impact on the environment. But for schools that don’t have a budget for air conditioning, heat days might become more frequent. In fact, union organizations in New York are advocating for laws that would require districts to close schools if the temperature is hotter than 88 degrees. In a few schools across the East Coast, teachers have reported temperature readings above 100 degrees in their classrooms, which clearly is not a safe environment for anyone. As global warming continues to affect the climate, record high temperatures could become common in months that normally are not associated with such temperatures. There’s no telling how many schools will adopt heat days as policy, but it is possible that these school dismissals become just as common as traditional snow days. Via New York Times Image via Nicola Tolin

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September heat waves are causing early dismissals in schools

19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030

August 27, 2018 by  
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A coalition formed by 19 mayors of major U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. has proposed a plan to ensure that all new buildings be net-zero by 2030. The mayors are part of a group of cities, known as  the C40 , dedicated to climate action. The cities’ initiative is part of a larger plan to make both old and new buildings net-zero by 2050. Related: This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding Net-zero buildings are extremely efficient and powered exclusively by renewable energy sources, often found on-site. Making new buildings net-zero would therefore have a massive impact on cities’ greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings account for over half of greenhouse gas emissions within large cities; for some older cities, such as London and Paris, buildings can account for almost 70 percent. The C40 mayors are committed to lowering these figures. “Ensuring Portland’s old and new buildings achieve net zero carbon use is an essential challenge I am ready to take on,” announced Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon, one of the cities that signed the pledge. “Portland has been a longtime global leader in environmental initiatives and I look forward to continuing to advocate and fight for ambitious environmental strategies.” Related: SOM’s net-zero Paris skyscraper will be one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe The cities will join forces with the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the organization that set the 2030 benchmark, to achieve their emissions goals. The mayors will meet again as part of the Global Climate Action Summit  in San Francisco. California has taken a strong stand for climate action, with the goal of making all new buildings net-zero by 2020, a decade earlier than the date in the C40 pledge. Many of the cities in the C40 group have pledged to create fossil-fuel-free streets and use zero-emission buses. This latest pledge to make new buildings net-zero is yet another step in the right direction. + WorldGBC Via Curbed

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19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030

Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

August 25, 2018 by  
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The Kroger supermarket conglomerate announced on Thursday that it is planning a phase-out of plastic bags at all store locations as part of its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment . The company owns more than 2,700 stores throughout 35 states, including popular chains such as Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer and Ralphs. Related: UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86% Kroger is making a “bold move that will better protect our planet,” according to CEO Rodney McMullen. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” added Executive Vice President and COO Mike Donnelly in a press release. Seattle’s QFC grocery stores will be the first of Kroger’s chains to fully eliminate plastic bags, achieving the goal as early as next year. “Starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact,” announced Donnelly. Between the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste and the Restock Kroger commitments, the company hopes to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020 and provide food to families and individuals in need. Last year alone, the conglomerate sent more than 91 million pounds of safe, nutritious food to local food banks and homes, providing over 325 million meals in total. In 2017, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled. Kroger, however, wants to achieve more. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Estimates suggest that less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America and nearly 100 billion are thrown away each year. Single-use plastic bags are the fifth most common plastic pollutant, harming waterways and marine ecosystems. Harmful microplastics result from the breakdown process and have made their way into soils, waters, air, and nearly everything we ingest. That’s why Kroger, rather than merely lessening the number of plastic bags, plans to eliminate them completely by providing reusable, recyclable multi-use bags. Kroger joins companies such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and the Marriot International Group in a stand to eliminate single-use plastics, which follows legislation banning them in states such as Hawaii and California. + CNN + Kroger + NPR Image via Pixabay

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LEED Gold hub for artists and activists takes over an abandoned NYC firehouse

August 2, 2018 by  
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An abandoned firehouse has been reborn as the newly certified LEED Gold home for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in Harlem. Developed by CSA Group NY Architects & Engineers in conjunction with real estate agency Denham Wolf , the cultural center celebrates New York City’s Afro-Caribbean and African-American populations with exhibition and performance spaces, meeting and community rooms, a media center, classrooms and offices. The adaptive reuse project respects the architectural integrity of the historic building and features a variety of sustainable elements, including a green roof and 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified timbers. Located in the heart of East Harlem’s cultural district at 120 East 125th Street, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute serves as a neighborhood anchor and catalyst for cultural and economic development. The CCCADI took over the former municipal firehouse , Engine Company Number 36, as part of the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Department of Housing Preservation’s initiative to turn decommissioned firehouses into cultural institutions. All parts of the 8,400-square-foot landmark building were preserved wherever possible, save for adjustments needed to meet the city’s current building codes, such as the addition of egress stairs. “Originally built to serve the local community , before being abandoned and becoming a symbol of blight, the firehouse has fittingly been restored for a public purpose,” said Ronzard Innocent, Director of Project Management at Denham Wolf. “As a connector to arts, culture and social justice, CCCADI brings the story of this building full circle.” Related: East Harlem celebrates opening of vibrant LEED Gold-seeking Center for Living and Learning To reach LEED Gold status, CCCADI focuses on saving energy and water while minimizing waste. Thanks to highly efficient bathroom fixtures, the project saves an estimated 37.2 percent in water use compared to standard baselines. The building also boasts an estimated 36.1 percent  energy savings from high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. Approximately 92 percent of the project’s construction waste was recycled . The team installed a high-albedo membrane on the roof along with a green roof. Low-emitting paints, coatings, flooring and agrifiber products were used throughout, and more than 20 percent of the materials used were sourced regionally. + CSA Group NY Architects & Engineers + Denham Wolf Images by Sakeenah Saleem

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LEED Gold hub for artists and activists takes over an abandoned NYC firehouse

An 1820s Catskills manor gets a marvelous modern makeover

June 26, 2018 by  
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Just two hours outside New York City sits a stunning vacation rental that blends old-world charm with contemporary design. Completed by architectural designer Tom Givone , the property was dramatically reworked over the course of four years from a decaying manor into the Floating Farmhouse , a beautiful home that combines historic and modern elements. Crafted to embrace the outdoors, the light-filled home features a veranda that appears to hover over the edge of a pristine Catskills creek as well as a fully glazed gable end wall. Originally built in the 1920s, the Floating Farmhouse had fallen into a severe state of disrepair when Givone came across it in 2007. After a painstaking demolition process that involved careful preservation of original features like the cedar roof shakes, he began rebuilding the structure — 11 pine trees felled on the property were used for the hand-hewn ceiling planks and wainscoting — and inserting a mix of modern and vintage furnishings throughout. “The hope at the outset was to combine archaic and modern elements throughout the home in a way that enhances the innate beauty of each by virtue of its contrast with the other, and create tension between polished and raw, primitive and industrial, sophisticated and simple,” Givone explained. “The Floating Farmhouse is an experiment in how these opposites attract.” Related: Disconnect in these A-frame tiny cabins in the Catskills The grandeur of the spacious interior is emphasized through ample glazing that fills the home with natural light and offers serene views. The most dramatic of the rooms is undoubtedly the “cathedral-like” kitchen with polished concrete floors, a wood-fired pizza oven and a double-story fully glazed wall that frames views of the brook, gazebo, apple orchard and barn. French doors to the side of the living area open up to a shaded veranda that hovers over the creek, where a waterfall cascades over an ancient stone dam. Givone has made his spectacular retreat available for rent . + Floating Farmhouse Images via Tom Givone

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An 1820s Catskills manor gets a marvelous modern makeover

Iceberg-inspired cultural center celebrates Inuit traditions

June 26, 2018 by  
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When Montreal-based Blouin Orzes architectes was tapped to design a new Inuit cultural center for the arctic region of Nunavik, they knew that the project would be no easy task. Nunavik, which occupies the northern third of the province of Quebec, not only has a harsh climate, but also faces incredibly high construction costs due to its remote location and lack of materials, which can only be shipped during the brief summer season. Despite these challenges, Blouin Orzes architectes has the advantage of experience—the firm has worked in Nunavik since 2000 and tapped into its intimate understanding of the culture and people to design a Cultural Center that celebrates Inuit traditions in a striking, iceberg-inspired building. Located in the Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik near the mouth of the Great Whale River, the new 680-square-meter Cultural Center was created in close collaboration with the community. Drawing inspiration from the shape of icebergs , the architects designed the building—which spans 1 1/2 stories—with a strong geometric shape. The facility is sheathed in steel panels and yellow-painted timber planks that reference the sand dune on which the village sits. “Despite living in extremely remote communities, Nunavik’s Inuit do not hesitate travelling long distances by plane to visit each other or to attend an important cultural event,” wrote Blouin Orzes architectes in a statement. “Since the fall of 2017, the 10,000 people living in one of Nunavik’s 14 communities can now gather in a new Cultural Centre located in the Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik, north of the 55th parallel. Originally planned as a showcase for the highly popular Inuit Games, the facility lends itself to all sorts of events, from storytelling, singing and dancing to concerts, films, banquets and other types of gatherings.” Related: Tiny Alaskan village votes to abandon 400-year-old ancestral home because of climate change The facility is accessed via a concrete ramp that extends to form an outdoor gathering space. A deep south-facing overhang that echoes the portico of the nearby church, the oldest structure in the village, protects the entrance. Beyond the lobby is the main hall, which accommodates up to 300 people and is equipped with state-of-the art AV equipment. + Blouin Orzes architectes Aerial image by Heiko Wittenborn, all others by Blouin Orzes architectes

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Iceberg-inspired cultural center celebrates Inuit traditions

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

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