Rammed earth ties a contemporary home to the rocky New Zealand landscape

March 8, 2019 by  
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Emerging out of the landscape like a series of boulders, the Kanuka Valley House set into a lush valley in Wanaka, New Zealand mimics the large schist rocks that punctuate the pristine landscape. Wellington-based architectural practice WireDog Architecture designed the angular home for a winemaker and his family, who wanted the house to respect the beauty of the natural landscape. To that end, the architects not only modeled the building off of local rock formations, but also used a natural materials palette and rammed earth construction to visually tie the home to the land. Spanning an area of 3,390 square feet, the Kanuka Valley House consists of three northwest-facing volumes carefully positioned to maximize indoor-outdoor living . Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding pocket doors create a seamless flow between the indoors and out while framing stunning vistas of the Kanuka trees, Lake Wanaka and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The outdoors are also pulled in through the abundance of timber surfaces used indoors, from the reclaimed native rimu wood used for floors and ceilings to the cabinetry built of bamboo and OSB. The appliances and other materials, such as the steel counters, also follow the earthy and muted aesthetic. Related: Eco-friendly guesthouse in Brazil sports a green roof and rammed earth walls The beautiful rammed earth walls, which have been left exposed and unpainted, not only tie the building to the landscape, but also have the added benefit of thermal mass. During the daytime, heat is absorbed in the walls, which then slowly dissipate the stored warmth at night when temperatures are cooler. This advantage of energy-efficient construction is strengthened with the addition of  triple-glazed windows and deep roof overhangs that mitigate unwanted solar heat gain. The architects said, “The design engages passive house principles , with attention to insulation detailing, materials, ventilation and heating.” + WireDog Architecture Via Dwell Photography by Matthieu Salvaing via WireDog Architecture

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Rammed earth ties a contemporary home to the rocky New Zealand landscape

Jaden Smith launches Water Box to aid with the Flint water crisis

March 8, 2019 by  
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For the past three years, the First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church has been battling the Flint water crisis by handing out clean water to locals. Volunteers with the organization started giving out bottled water every day of the week, but as donations decreased, they now distribute water over the course of three days. To assist, rapper Jaden Smith has just donated a portable water filtration unit called the Water Box, which can supply upward of 10 gallons of filtered water every minute. During donation days, the church usually runs out of supplies within a few hours, leaving many residents without access to clean water . The situation is disheartening to the volunteers and residents alike, but all of that is about to change. Related: Clothing made from recycled water bottles highlights the ongoing crisis in Flint Smith’s family, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, own a company in Glens Falls, New York, called JUST Water , which use large filtration systems to produce bottled water. The Water Box is a smaller version of the filtration system used at the JUST Water plant. The system removes harmful contaminants such as lead, and it will allow residents to fill their own water receptacles throughout the week. Church officials have been testing the Water Box for several weeks and have sent samples to a nearby lab to ensure all harmful contaminants have been removed. The tests will continue to be administered as long as the Water Box is in use. Residents in Flint can also view the weekly results on the company’s website. So far, there is only one Water Box installed at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, although Smith’s mom, Jada, has already committed to purchasing another unit for the city. Flint’s water problems began back in 2014. Corrosion in the water lines caused lead to leach into the water supply, potentially harming thousands of residents. Although the Flint water crisis is still a major concern, state officials stopped issuing bottled water in 2018 because the lead levels were not above federally mandated limits. Via Huffington Post Images via JUST Water

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Jaden Smith launches Water Box to aid with the Flint water crisis

A circular home in Germany produces biogas for self-sufficiency

March 8, 2019 by  
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When a German pioneer in the field of biogas technology commissioned Korbach-based Christoph Hesse Architects , he had an unusual request: a round house . Drawn to the shape of a circular room, the client also found that a round form had the optimal proportions for supporting biogas production, which he would use to power his home. Dubbed Villa F, the project was envisioned as the “first link of a local heat grid” powered by biogas to encourage widespread adoption and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Located in the central highland town of Medebach, Germany, Villa F stands out from its gabled farmhouse neighbors with its cylindrical form. To knit the building’s appearance in to the landscape, the architects used locally sourced materials, such as stones from the nearby creek, for exterior cladding and based the sloped roofline off the surrounding mountainous terrain. Loggias and balconies also reinforce a connection with the outdoors. The home is split into two floors. The ground floor consists of an office with technical rooms used for biogas production. The loft-like upper level houses the living areas with a centrally located living space, dining area and kitchen as well as a bedroom, bathroom, sauna and outdoor loggia with a heated circular pool overlooking the landscape. A close connection with nature was stressed as a reflection of the client’s agricultural background and his environmental values. Related: Why our ancestors built round houses — and why it still makes sense to build round structures today “Energy efficiency and protection of the environment are the main elements of the design,” the architects added. “The supply and disposal of the building are due to the biogas system self-sufficiently — therefore ‘ off-the-grid .’ Biogas has gained enormous traction in recent years, as biomass from forestry, agriculture and waste is used in a bioenergy village to generate electricity and heat. At the global scale, its substantial energy content could reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.” As a model biogas-powered home, Villa F has inspired the other villagers to adopt the technology with the goal of creating a self-powered community. + Christoph Hesse Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Christoph Hesse Architects, Deimel + Wittmar

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A circular home in Germany produces biogas for self-sufficiency

New Zealand bans new offshore oil and gas exploration permits

April 12, 2018 by  
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New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, set a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050 — and she’s taking action now. This week, she said the country will no longer grant new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, Reuters reported . Ardern said in a live Facebook video , “The whole world is going in this direction. We all signed up to the Paris Agreement that said we were moving towards carbon neutrality and now we need to act on it.” Ardern surprised the oil and gas industry with her announcement, which won’t impact the 22 existing exploration permits, Reuters said. She said in the Facebook video in making this decision, she considered ensuring security of supply; job security, especially for places where jobs center around the fossil fuel industry; and meeting their obligations and ambitions around tackling climate change . (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.12’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); A few details on the big oil and gas announcement we made today A few details on the big oil and gas announcement we made today… Posted by Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 Related: New Zealand plans to power its grid with 100% renewable energy by 2035 Not everyone is happy about Ardern’s decision. Neil Holdom, mayor of New Plymouth in the Taranaki region, which Reuters said is energy -rich, described the move as “a kick in the guts.” Taranaki Daily News quoted Energy and Resources spokesperson for the opposition party Jonathan Young as saying, “What will replace gas as the demand for more electricity rose with electric vehicles and we don’t have enough renewables . It will be coal — good one government.” Ardern said permits can last for years, and “that’s why we have to make decisions with really long lead times about what we do in the future.” She said the country will “continue onshore block offers” for three years and then review again. Environmental organization praised the move. Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman told The Guardian , “Today’s announcement is significant internationally too. By ending new oil and gas exploration in our waters, the fourth-largest exclusive economic zone on the planet is out of bounds for new fossil fuel exploitation…Bold global leadership on the greatest challenge of our time has never been more urgent and Ardern has stepped up to that climate challenge.” + Jacinda Ardern on Facebook Via Reuters , Taranaki Daily News , and The Guardian Images via Thomas Hetzler on Unsplash and Depositphotos

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Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

March 13, 2018 by  
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Self- flying taxis could zip through the skies of New Zealand if Kitty Hawk has anything to do about it. Financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, the company has reached an agreement with the country to test the planes for an official certification process, according to The New York Times — and aim for a commercial network in three years. Kitty Hawk could beat Uber in building a network of electric self-flying taxis. They’ve found a collaborator in New Zealand; prime minister Jacinda Ardern told The New York Times, “We’ve got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050 …exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen.” Related: Google co-founder Larry Page secretly invested over $100M in two flying car startups Kitty Hawk’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, called Cora , will have a range of around 62 miles to start . 12 independent lift fans power the taxi so it can take off and land much like a helicopter , and doesn’t require a runway. With a 36-foot wingspan, the aircraft flies between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground at around 110 miles per hour. Two passengers can ride inside, and The New York Times said the company is developing an app enabling travelers to call a self-flying taxi. The publication said Kitty Hawk doesn’t intend to sell their VTOL planes, but rather operate the commercial network. Kitty Hawk is based in California, and a company called Zephyr Airworks is their operator in New Zealand. The project went by the code name Zee.Aero for a while, which Kitty Hawk said was the name of their Cora team during the development stage. The New York Times pointed out nearly every prediction about how fast air taxis would take to the skies has been wrong — it remains to be seen if Kitty Hawk will be able to deliver. + Kitty Hawk + Cora Via The New York Times Images via Kitty Hawk

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Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

‘Food in the Nude’ project in New Zealand supermarket reduces plastic use

February 7, 2018 by  
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A New Zealand grocery store, New World Bishopdale , is attempting to slash their plastic use creatively with a new “Food in the Nude” project. And no, it’s not about people getting naked. It’s about serving produce without a pile of packaging. According to SUPERMARKETNEWS , New World Bishopdale has installed a refrigeration shelving system for displaying vegetables and fruit without plastic packaging . New World Bishopdale is having fun with cutting plastic. Owner Nigel Bond told SUPERMARKETNEWS in his 30 years in the grocery store industry, they’ve received the most positive customer feedback ever as a result of the store’s Food in the Nude program. It’s comprises a pretty simple change: display produce sans polluting plastic packaging. Related: 100% biodegradable, edible packaging is so much better than plastic “Customers hailing from the USA tell us that it reminds them of shopping in Whole Foods back home…The new system works by misting the produce with water to keep it fresh. Vegetables are up to 90 percent water and studies have shown that misted produce not only looks better and retains its color and texture, it also has a higher vitamin content,” Bond told SUPERMARKETNEWS. “We’ve also installed a reverse osmosis system that treats the water by removing 99 percent of all bacteria and chlorine, so we are confident that the water we’re misting with remains pure. The misting is electronically controlled and provides great in-store theater; children just love it.” He said because the system helps keep the fruit and vegetables fresh, less are wasted. Other New World stores could follow; New World Wigram has already made the switch. New World Bishopdale is also offering reusable string bags for weighing and carrying produce without plastic. New World hopes to get rid of all single-use plastic bags in their stores by the end of this year. In an October press release , they said they’re taking steps like giving away two million long-life reusable bags to customers, introducing a voluntary donation for plastic bags that will go towards environmental causes, and continuing a rebate for the use of reusable bags in North Island stores which they said “has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in plastic bag use.” Via SUPERMARKETNEWS and New World Images via Depositphotos and New World Bishopdale

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Manta5’s new electric water bike lets you cycle on rivers and lakes

December 19, 2017 by  
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Forget about biking on boring old roads. New Zealand -based company Manta5 has created a hydrofoil bike that allows cyclists to glide atop water. Equipped with a battery and a quiet 400-watt electric motor, the Hydrofoiler XE-1 is poised to make a splash in the cycling world. Guy Howard-Willis glimpsed New Zealand’s coastline and waterways while riding his bike, and he dreamed of cycling right on the water. He met cycling enthusiast and bike designer Roland Alonzo and they set to work developing a water bike for six years. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 allows adventurers to glide through the water on rivers, lakes, or even the ocean. Related: The Schiller X1 Lets You Bike Across the Waves The electric bike can be manually powered, or riders can get a boost from an electric motor. A single battery charge provides around an hour of pedal assistance. Manta5 says the battery and motor will last for a long time in both saltwater and freshwater due to cutting-edge waterproofing techniques. A carbon fiber-reinforced nylon propeller produces thrust at low speed and reduces drag at top speed, according to Manta5. The bike’s frame is comprised of an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy chosen for its low weight and high strength. It’s simple to assemble and transport the Hydrofoiler XE-1 thanks to its modular design. Manta5 is planning their pre-sale launch for February 2018; you can register here . They’ve priced the water bike at around $5,237. They plan to release a small number of limited edition models in New Zealand before going international, but those living outside the country can still register their interest. If you live in New Zealand, you can also enter the company’s competition to win the first Hydrofoiler XE-1 here . + Manta5 Images via Manta5

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Manta5’s new electric water bike lets you cycle on rivers and lakes

New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

November 8, 2017 by  
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New Zealand’s new prime minister has ambitious goals to seriously slash carbon emissions . Jacinda Ardern, who became prime minister in late October, wants to transition the grid to 100 percent renewables in less than 20 years. Her ultimate goal for New Zealand is zero carbon emissions by 2050. New Zealand’s 4.7 million people already obtain over 80 percent of electricity via sustainable sources, according to Bloomberg . But Ardern – now the world’s youngest female leader – seems to think they can do even better. She wants the country to move over to obtaining electricity completely from renewable energy by 2035. Related: New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal status as a person The move won’t be without its challenges. New Zealand generates around 60 percent of their power from hydropower , according to 2016 figures. But when dry conditions cause lake levels to drop, gas and coal have helped out. Without those fossil fuels , electricity consumers could experience price hikes. But the country still has made a lot of progress towards the ambitious goal; in the winter of 2016, renewable energy generation actually peaked at 93 percent, according to Bloomberg. Ardern hasn’t put out full details of her plan to get New Zealand to a carbon-free status. She has suggested an independent commission to help meet the 2050 goal. New Zealand’s independent advisory body Productivity Commission has an inquiry into transitioning to a low carbon economy. Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson told Bloomberg Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar .” Contact Energy chief executive officer Dennis Barnes also pointed to solar – and batteries and electric vehicles – as technology that could help New Zealand move towards a greener future. Via Bloomberg and Futurism Images via Depositphotos and Good Free Photos

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New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

New Zealand considering special visas for climate refugees

October 31, 2017 by  
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Impacts of climate change , like rising sea levels , will likely soon force people to abandon their land . Now the new government of New Zealand is considering action. They’re thinking about creating an experimental visa category for people prompted to leave their homes because of climate change. People living on some Pacific islands could be displaced because of sea level rise, and New Zealand might help out. Climate change minister James Shaw recently told Radio New Zealand there could be an “experimental humanitarian visa category” for people from the Pacific, saying, “It is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific islands.” Related: Five Pacific Ocean islands have already disappeared because of climate change Some people have already applied to be refugees in New Zealand because of climate change – and have been turned away. Radio New Zealand reported , just days before Shaw’s announcement, the cases of two families from the island nation of Tuvalu who had applied to be New Zealand’s first climate refugees , only to be rejected. The tribunal said they didn’t risk persecution due to race, nationality, religion, or membership in a religious or political group under the 1951 refugee convention, according to The Guardian . Alberto Costi, international environmental law expert at Victoria University of Wellington , told The Guardian, “The conditions are pretty strict and really apply to persecution. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries.” And the Tuvalu families aren’t the only people who have been turned away. Ioane Teitiota of Kiribati applied to be the world’s first climate change refugee in 2014. New Zealand’s supreme court dismissed Teitiota’s case, and he was deported. Costi expressed interest in Shaw’s idea but told The Guardian there would need to be clear guidelines – one issue would be how to legally determine whether or not a climate change refugee was able to still reside in their home country. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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New Zealand considering special visas for climate refugees

The free grocery store fighting food waste and hunger

September 13, 2017 by  
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The Free Store, a non-profit organization and grocery store based in Wellington, New Zealand, is serving food for free and aiding in the fight against food waste . Originally started as a two-week-long art project by artist Kim Paton in 2010, the store has now grown into a more permanent institution, stocking its shelves with surplus food from bakeries and supermarkets. In redistributing free food that would otherwise have gone to waste, the Free Store has proven to be a valuable community space. “There are no conditions on who can come to The Free Store,” said co-founder and director Benjamin Johnson. “There are no criteria. Anybody can come for whatever reason and take whatever they want.” Food waste is a major social problem in New Zealand , as it is in much of the industrialized world. Kiwis, or residents of New Zealand, dispose of approximately $625 million worth of food (120,000 tons) each year. Globally, it is estimated that total food waste weighs up to 1.3 billion tons. Meanwhile, people still go hungry. “We saw the potential in an untapped food supply. You had food that was perfectly good to eat, and then you had people that were hungry . We could facilitate a connection between the two,” said Johnson. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The Free Store is made possible through support from volunteers , donors, and around 65 suppliers, located around Wellington city center eager to put their surplus food to good use. According to Johnson, the Free Store distributes between 800 to 1,500 food items each weeknight between 6 PM and 7 PM, averaging about 250,000 food items; that amounts to $1 million worth of food saved per year. Since its establishment, the Free Store has spread to four locations throughout New Zealand, adapting their model and funding structure to fit each area. “All you need is a space to operate from, surplus food, people who need the food and will come and take it, volunteers, and a committed group of people who can actually do it,” said Johnson. “There has to be local ownership. In every area where there’s a Free Store, there needs to be a deeply rooted community of people.” + The Free Store Via EcoWatch Images via The Free Store

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