Christophe Caranchini proposes resilient floating houses for Kiribati

October 5, 2020 by  
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The Republic of Kiribati, a small nation of islands and atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, is a tropical paradise that’s also believed to be at extreme risk of disappearing due to climate change. In response to a global design competition seeking climate-resilient solutions to housing for Kiribati citizens, French architect Christophe Caranchini has proposed prefabricated floating communities that promote off-grid, communal living. In addition to drawing energy from renewable sources, each modular unit would be optimized for energy efficiency and home gardening. Launched in October 2019, the Kiribati Floating Houses competition was hosted by the Young Architects Competition to generate ideas for a resilient Kiribati. Participants were challenged to create a new housing model that would not only adapt to rising ocean levels but would also honor the native culture and way of life.  Related: Guallart Architects unveil winning bid for a self-sufficient community in China Christophe Caranchini’s submission, titled Kiribati 2.0, proposes a series of floating, prefabricated homes that would be arranged in a circle to promote a sense of community and to weather the forces of tropical storms. Inspired by the typology of existing houses in Kiribati, the modular units would be prefabricated from wood in a workshop and then transported by boat to Kiribati. The units would come in a variety of types for flexibility, from floating bases that accommodate either a deck, agriculture or housing to units that allow for public docking (with or without a ladder), private gardens and terraces or private beach access with a terrace.  The floating homes would span two floors, with the first level dedicated to daytime living and workspaces and the upper level reserved for the bedrooms. The roof would be used as a productive space for growing vegetables and collecting renewable energy via wind turbines and solar panels. Rainwater would also be collected from the roof. A filtering garden would treat wastewater onsite before it’s discharged into the sea. The Kiribati Floating Houses competition ended in January 2020 with the first prize awarded to Polish architect Marcin Kitala’s submission. + Christophe Caranchini Images via Christophe Caranchini

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Christophe Caranchini proposes resilient floating houses for Kiribati

Horseshoe crab blood remains industry standard for big pharma

June 2, 2020 by  
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It’s a bad week for horseshoe crabs as their defenders have failed to convince big pharma that synthetic crab blood is a viable alternative for endotoxin testing in drugs. Maryland-based US Pharmacopeia (USP) has blocked this effort. Real horseshoe crabs’ copper-rich blue blood clots when it comes into contact with bacterial endotoxins — which, if present in products, can cause severe diarrhea and even toxic hemorrhagic shock. Since partially replacing rabbit tests in 1977, horseshoe crabs’ blood has been the industry standard. Animal rights groups and Switzerland-based Lonza have pushed for synthetic versions called recombinant Factor C (rFC). Related: Pacific Ocean’s elevated acidity is dissolving Dungeness crabs’ shells At first, experts thought USP, which produces influential drug industry publications, would add rFC to its chapter on international endotoxin testing standards. Instead, the organization decided to give rFC its own chapter. This means that even if a company wants to use rFC, it will still have to do additional testing with real horseshoe crab blood to validate results, which ultimately defeats the purpose. “Given the importance of endotoxin testing in protecting patients … the committee ultimately decided more real-world data [was needed],” USP said in a statement. USP said it supports shifting to rFC where possible, potentially including testing COVID-19 vaccines or medicines. Some drug companies are already using the synthetic tests to improve human health . Eli Lilly uses rFC for testing Emgality, a migraine treatment. Unlike most lab animals, the horseshoe crabs are captured, bled and released. John Dubczak, director of operations at Charles River Laboratories, told Scientific American that no more than 30% of a crab’s blood is removed and claimed a mortality rate of 4%. “One of my suppliers built a water slide to put the crabs back into the water,” Dubczak told Scientific American . “They love it!” Conservationists suspect the mortality rate is much higher for the industry as a whole. “There’s not very good science-based information on the mortality of the crabs,” Michael De Luca, senior associate director at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, said in the same article. “I’ve see figures range from 15% to 40% but nobody has a really good handle on that.” Via The Guardian , Scientific American and Horseshoe Crab Image via Chris Engel

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Gensler upcycles an old warehouse into creative offices in Austin

June 2, 2020 by  
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At the heart of East Austin, an old and uninviting warehouse has been transformed into a creative office building fittingly dubbed UPCycle after its site-sensitive design approach that includes the reuse of the entire building. Gensler led the renovation and updated the space with an additional 16,000 square feet of mezzanine area as well as energy-efficient improvements including new insulation and high-efficiency mechanical systems. The industrial character of the original building has been retained and celebrated as part of an overarching goal to preserve a piece of East Austin history.  Originally built in 1972, the 65,000-square-foot warehouse had originally been used as the former location of the Balcones Recycling Center. Drawing inspiration from the building history, the architects sought to reuse the entire building and integrate reclaimed materials in creative ways. All components found onsite — from the steel structure and metal panel skin to the existing railroad tracks and graffiti art from past exhibitions — were reclaimed or preserved and enhanced. Even the building skin was repurposed and turned inside out to reveal its natural finish. Related: Adobe’s renovated headquarters channels the design giant’s creative energy “By recycling and upcycling 95% of the existing building, approximately 1,830,000 kilograms of embodied carbon dioxide were saved, and the lid of the existing structure significantly lengthened,” Gensler said in a project statement. “This savings amounts to the equivalent of taking nearly 450 cars off the road.” Expanded to 81,711 square feet, UPCycle now serves as a multi-tenant creative office building. In addition to repurposed materials , the building has been updated with new elements, such as butterfly trusses covered in graffiti by local artists and a new roof with clerestory windows to bring more natural light indoors. To pay homage to the site’s direct access to the adjacent rail lines, Gensler created a new entry lounge from a converted boxcar placed on the building’s original railroad tracks and fitted it with seating, WiFi and music. + Gensler Photography by Dror Baldinger via Gensler

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Gensler upcycles an old warehouse into creative offices in Austin

Atmospheric carbon dioxide at highest level in 3 million years

February 27, 2020 by  
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Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now at the highest level they’ve been since the Pilocene Era, 3 million years ago, when giant camels roamed arid land above the Arctic Circle. According to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ) report, in 2018, the global average carbon dioxide amount reached a record high of 407.4 parts per million (ppm). NOAA points a finger directly at humans, noting that the atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased about 100 times faster annually over the past 60 years than from previous natural increases. “Carbon dioxide concentrations are rising mostly because of the fossil fuels that people are burning for energy,” the report said. “Fossil fuels like coal and oil contain carbon that plants pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis over the span of many millions of years; we are returning that carbon to the atmosphere in just a few hundred years.” Related: Pacific Ocean’s elevated acidity is dissolving Dungeness crabs’ shells Globally, atmospheric carbon dioxide increased about 0.6 ppm per year in the 1960s. In the last 10 years, this figure has been about 2.3 ppm per year, the study said. Carbon dioxide absorbs and radiates heat more than other major atmospheric components, such as oxygen or nitrogen. The NOAA report likens greenhouse gases to bricks in a fireplace that continue to release heat after the fire goes out. This warming effect is necessary to keep Earth’s temperature above freezing — up to a point. But once the level gets out of balance, these greenhouse gas “bricks” trap too much heat and make the Earth’s average temperature continue to rise. Carbon dioxide also dissolves into the oceans , where it reacts with water molecules to produce carbonic acid and lower pH levels. Since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century, the ocean’s pH has dropped significantly, interfering with marine animals’ ability to fortify their shells and skeletons by extracting calcium from the water. “For millions of years, we haven’t had an atmosphere with a chemical composition as it is right now,” Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, told NBC News . “We’ve done in a little more than 50 years what the Earth naturally took 10,000 years to do.” + NOAA Via EcoWatch and NBC News Image via Marcin Jozwiak

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Atmospheric carbon dioxide at highest level in 3 million years

‘The Blob’ returns: marine heatwave settles over Pacific

September 9, 2019 by  
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Rising ocean temperatures are rising in the northeast Pacific, similar to conditions presented in 2015. It is safe to say the marine heatwave known as the “Blob” has returned. This time the Blob’s 2019 return is the second largest to occur in the Pacific in at least 40 years. It encompasses 4 million square miles from Alaska to Canada and as far away as Hawaii, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA. “Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen.” Related: Deadly heatwaves may make parts of China uninhabitable by the end of the century The Blob got its ominous name from Washington state climatologist and University of Washington scientist Nick Bond when the 2015 heatwave happened. The more recent Blob popped up in an area of high pressure stationed over the region. Such an incident forces warm surface waters to swirl around allowing cool, wholesome water from below to rise and takeover. “We learned with ‘the Blob’ and similar events worldwide that what used to be unexpected is becoming more common,” said Cisco Werner, NOAA fisheries director of Scientific Programs and chief science advisor. Without this churning process, surface heat can build up and if there are no nutrients from the cooler water below, the heatwave agitates the food chain. Overall, this creates less food for marine life and compels animals to go beyond their immediate home in search of food or simply die off. Underwater creatures aren’t the only things to suffer as humans who bank on the ocean’s physical condition are also affected. For instance, commercial fishing businesses in some places have shut down like Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, which has limited fishing rights for First Nations. Scientists also report should the Blob stick around it could be a bigger threat than it was in 2015. “There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem ,” added Bond. “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.” Via Gizmodo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Image via NOAA

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‘The Blob’ returns: marine heatwave settles over Pacific

Solar-powered home takes advantage of cooling ocean breezes in Los Angeles

March 19, 2019 by  
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Crafted to embrace spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the Ziering Residence is defined by its dramatically curved architecture and walls of glass. Local practice SPF: architects designed the contemporary house that’s perched high in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles and engineered to take advantage of passive systems, including cooling ocean breezes and the thermal mass of concrete floors. The home also reduces its energy footprint with rooftop solar panels and solar hot water heaters. With Pacific Ocean views on one side and the backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains on the other, the solar powered  Ziering Residence was designed to embrace panoramic views on both sides while maintaining a deliberately low-slung profile so as not to obstruct views for neighboring residences. For privacy, the street-facing facade of the dwelling is clad in an ipe wood rainscreen. In contrast, the courtyard side is wrapped in sliding floor-to-ceiling glazing that seamlessly connects the interiors to the outdoors. The spacious 9,000-square-foot home is marked by an open-floor plan. The main living areas are housed in the curved section of the building, along with a guest suite, and overlook views of the ocean as well as the outdoor pool, courtyard  and long wood deck. A large kitchen and parlor connects the curved wing with the bedroom wing that juts out towards the ocean and contains the master bedroom. The lower level, which is partly submerged underground, contains an office, two additional bedrooms, a study, technical rooms, a sauna and a gym. Related: Wave-inspired Rainbow Bridge in Long Beach is covered in mini gardens and twinkling LED lights In addition to rooftop solar panels and passive solar principles , the Ziering Residence reduces its energy footprint by limiting the mechanical AC to only the kitchen, master suite and study. “A patented ‘Climate Right System’ designed and fabricated by the project engineer coordinates and controls all the systems, and a heat recovery ventilation program provides for the continuous cycling of fresh outside air,” the architects add. “Resulting utility costs are kept to a minimum, and like the rest of the home’s design and intent energy use is dictated, maintained, and heavily influenced by the natural climate.” + SPF: architects Images by Bruce Damonte

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Starbucks unveils store built from 29 recycled shipping containers in Taiwan

October 8, 2018 by  
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Starbucks Taiwan will debut its first Asia Pacific store that is built from recycled shipping containers in the Hualien Bay Mall. The mall has yet to be opened to the public, but it is situated in a touristic area of the city that is well known for its cuisine and features breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and neighboring mountains. The store spans two stories totaling 320 square meters (approximately 3,445 square feet) and features comfortable seating areas where guests are invited to congregate over a cup of Starbucks’ finest. Starbucks is the first retailer to claim space in the newly built mall. It does so using 29 shipping containers that have been refashioned by famous Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, who has his name signed to two Starbucks store designs already: the Fukuoka branch in Japan and the upcoming Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Inspired by a combination of Chinese architecture and nature, the Taiwan edition receives patrons under traditional bucket arches connoting the overhanging foliage of coffee trees . Inside, the store features warm decor and a comfortable seating area spanning two stories that Kuma decided to stack, creating a much taller space that allows for natural sunlight to enter through skylights installed throughout. These skylights illuminate a brightly illustrated mural at one end of the store, designed as a tribute to the vibrant Hualien culture. The wall mural tames the geometric roughness of the cargo containers, creating a sociable space alongside aboriginal Amis figures whose heritage run deep within the city’s culture. At the other end of the store, visitors are invited to enjoy the beautiful mountain landscape that forms a picturesque backdrop to the port city. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan The project is part of Starbucks’ recently announced “Starbucks Greener Stores.” The initiative is aimed at building sustainable stores, which will be designed and operated using reclaimed materials . The Taiwan store joins a suite of locations also built from shipping containers, 45 of which can be found in the U.S. already. The Seattle coffee-chain prefabricates the models offsite before delivery, allowing the company to occupy spaces not necessarily designed for traditional stores. By avoiding the damaging environmental effects generally output on building sites, Starbucks is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint. + Starbucks Images via Starbucks

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Starbucks unveils store built from 29 recycled shipping containers in Taiwan

Lecomte reaches mile 1,000 in his swim across the Pacific Ocean

October 3, 2018 by  
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Ben Lecomte, the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean back in 1998, is now attempting to be the first swimmer to traverse the Pacific Ocean . The record-setter is taking on the challenge not only for himself, but also to raise awareness about ocean pollution, health and conservation. Lecomte has now passed the 1,000 nautical mile marker from his starting point in the port city of Yokohama, Japan. “My eyes are not too much on the milestones,” Lecomte said of his headline distance. “But it’s important to have milestones to celebrate any progress.” The swimmer is nearly a fifth of the way through his 5,500-mile expedition. Related: Man plans to swim the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution Despite six years of preparation, Lecomte and his crew aboard the research vessel dubbed ‘Seeker’ have had to overcome many obstacles since leaving Yokohama in June. The team has been forced back to port by typhoons , suffered sea sickness aboard the 65-foot (20-meter) sailboat and rerouted several times to avoid cargo ships. Aside from this, Lecomte attempts to swim an average of 30 miles a day, aided by North Pacific currents and a protein-based diet of approximately 8,000 calories. Throughout the roughly eight hours it takes him to swim this distance, he is also collecting ocean debris and plastic that his expedition team geotags for research. “Every single day we collect trash,” Lecomte said. “I’m truly shocked by the amount of plastic I find on my way every single day.” The team has collected more than 1,300 pieces of floating trash along its journey, scooping up to four samples each minute with a specially designed net. Related: Mountain Heroes cyclist aims for world record to fight climate change Even among the heart-rending stages of Lecomte’s journey, there have still been touching moments. “I am very surprised by the amount of amazing encounters I made in the middle of nowhere — birds, jellyfish, swordfishes, turtles , dolphins, whales and even a shark who followed me for two days,” he said. “As I swim everyday, I see this wild and beautiful environment being affected by the virus of plastic. Every stroke is dedicated to inspire people and find ways to rethink their plastic consumption on land.” Viewers can tune-in to top science publisher Seeker.com and its social channels to watch daily videos and live moments from the expedition, with weekly updates also airing on Discovery. Follow Ben’s journey at Seeker.com/TheSwim . Via Seeker Images via Seeker

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LEGO reintroduces Vestas wind turbine set, now made with plant-based plastic

October 3, 2018 by  
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LEGO Group has just released a  LEGO Creator Expert set from the ‘vault’ that focuses on sustainable energy. The company announced its Vestas Wind Turbine creation at New York Climate Week in hopes of encouraging creativity while spreading the word about renewable and sustainable energy sources. The revamped wind turbine set will be the first LEGO set featuring the new plant-based plastic LEGOs, Plants from Plants. LEGO collaborated with Vestas, a leader in sustainable energy, to make the new and improved wind turbine set. Not only does the kit represent renewable energy, but some of the included plant elements are made from a plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane. This is the first time LEGO has issued a set including pieces from its Plants from Plants initiative, and customers will be able to purchase the wind turbine this coming Black Friday (November 23). Related: LEGO is rolling out its first plant-based plastic pieces The Vestas Wind Turbine set is comprised of 826 pieces and stands 3 feet tall. The wind turbine overlooks a wooded area complete with spruce trees — made in part from sugarcane — as well as a cottage with a working porch light. The set will be available for $200. The toy company plans on using only sustainable materials in core products and product packaging by 2030. In addition to this commitment, LEGO has also pledged to become eco-friendly in the production of its plastic bricks. To that end, LEGO incorporates wind power in the production process and generates as much power from sustainable sources as it does from traditional ones. “We strive to make a positive impact on the environment and are committed to climate action and to use sustainable materials in products and packaging,” said Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at LEGO. “This wind turbine celebrates our first steps in bringing these ambitions to life, and we hope it will inspire builders to learn about renewable energy.” + LEGO Images via LEGO

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LEGO reintroduces Vestas wind turbine set, now made with plant-based plastic

State of emergency in effect as Hurricane Lane barrels toward Hawaiian coastline

August 23, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Lane is swiftly moving along its course toward Hawaii, where a hurricane warning is in effect for Maui and the Big Island. A hurricane watch has also been issued for Kauai and Oahu. According to the National Weather Service , the storm has now been downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make contact with the state later today. Related: After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over The NWS reported that “the center of Lane will track dangerously close to the Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday.” In addition, the organization noted that, “regardless of the exact track of the storm center, life-threatening impacts are likely over some areas as this strong hurricane makes its closest approach.” Despite the storm’s demotion from a Category 5 to a Category 4, many locals are comparing Hurricane Lane to the devastating Hurricane Iniki, which hit Hawaii in 1992. Governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation on Tuesday in case Hawaii needs relief for “disaster damages, losses and suffering.” In a news release from the Governor’s office , Ige said, “Hurricane Lane is not a well-behaved hurricane. I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with this storm. I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact.” Related: The Eye of the Storm dome home can withstand hurricanes — and it’s officially on the market Residents have already “rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies,” according to an Associated Press report. With maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and rainfall accumulations of between 10-15 inches, the storm is expected to cause flash-flooding and landslides in Hawaii. In addition, the NWS has reported the possibility of “large and potentially damaging surf.” As the hurricane continues to approach the Hawaiian coastline, many residents are hoping Lane will show a little more mercy than 1992’s Iniki, which killed six people and caused $1.8 billion worth of damage. Numerous government buildings have closed as the state’s residents prepare for the storm. Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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