Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

April 10, 2018 by  
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At first glance, it might seem like the standard bicycle doesn’t have much you could improve on. It gets you to your destination faster, provides a great workout, and doesn’t pollute the air. And, of course, once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. However, in sprawling modern day cities—Los Angeles, we’re looking at you—bikes are sometimes less than ideal as a form of transportation. Cyclists can certainly brave the crowded streets and longer commutes, but they’re far more likely to be exhausted, or at least uncomfortable, at the end of their ride. That’s where the electric bike comes in. Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have been around for a few years, but a recent increase in popularity has thrust them into the spotlight—and for good reason. As more and more people move to urban areas, we’ll have to find new ways of creating urban mobility if we want to stop problems of traffic congestion and air pollution from becoming worse. The electric bikes provides an excellent solution to this problem: by making commutes less intensive, it serves as a viable alternative to cars and lets riders enjoy their time outside and explore their city. Related: Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars Here at Inhabitat, we decided to test out an e-bike for ourselves to see just how different it was from a standard bicycle. On a typically sunny SoCal day, I headed down to Electric Bikes LA in El Segundo, a small suburb south of LAX, and picked up a Porteur Faraday bike . The bike itself was gorgeous, painted bright white and mint green, with sleek bamboo fenders above the wheels. The battery, which can last 25 miles when fully charged, was cleverly integrated into the frame of the bike. At the very least, I thought as I wheeled the bike out the shop’s front door, I would be riding in style, and nobody would know the bike was electric. I took the e-bike to a nearby park, then started out on a rutted dirt path. At first, I found I had to pedal a little harder than usual. Electric bikes weigh more than standard bikes, though, at 40 lbs, the Faraday models are much lighter than other brands. Once steady, I reached down with my thumb and switched the motor to full speed. And even though I had read about electric bikes and what they could do, I was not at all prepared for what happened next. Imagine flooring it in a car—the way the vehicle leaps forward, the landscape on either side turning to a blur. It was a little like that, except all I had to do was pedal, and instead of going from zero to sixty, I felt the bike comfortably pull me forward as I went from zero to twenty. Even so, I let out a whoop as I shot effortlessly through the park, then slowed down with ease and turned onto the street. Once I joined traffic, I dropped the motor speed down a notch, but that didn’t stop me from outpacing the cars beside me. I even spotted a few of the drivers giving me incredulous glances as I sped past. Granted, I was on residential streets, but I could understand—it’s not often that you see a cyclist pass a car without even breaking a sweat. As I navigated around El Segundo, I toggled between speeds, testing out various combinations. The motor essentially functions as a gear shift, allowing you to pair each setting with gears one through eight. The bike itself uses a Gates carbon drive belt that not only means less long-term maintenance, but also no greasy pant legs and a quieter ride. I found that the bike shifted seamlessly based on whatever speed I desired, which allowed me to pedal less while maintaining momentum. But I knew there needed to be one more test: the hill. El Segundo’s elevation changes aren’t exactly staggering, but still, I figured getting a 40-pound electric bike up a hill might take some effort. I tried it twice, only turning on the motor the second time. The first time, I have to admit that I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. The next time around, I flipped on the motor and went up two gears, and I ascended the hill in about half the time, pedaling with ease. Once I got back home, charging the bike was a simple process. The adapter is about the size of a typical laptop charger and plugs straight into the battery pack. From a completely empty battery to full charge took around two and a half hours. The verdict? Faraday’s electric bike handles and rides like a dream, and it’s easy to imagine using it to commute in L.A., or any city, really. In fact, Los Angeles is just one among many cities where it can be faster to ride a bike than drive . An electric bike isn’t exactly cheap—the average retail price in 2016 was $3,000, and Faraday’s two models go for $3,499 and $2,499—but, as an alternative to other forms of transportation, it makes sense. Faraday itself offers a 24-month financing plan that knocks the price down to $104 a month, which is about the same price as a bus or metro pass in most major cities, and far less expensive than paying for gas and insurance. Plus, you have the added benefit of appreciating and experiencing your city rather than seeing it through a car window. While the concept is still relatively new, I don’t doubt that electric bikes could be on the rise as a transportation alternative —one that’s greener, faster, and much, much more pleasant than sitting in traffic. + Faraday Bikes Photos by Angela Molina and Kimberly Keller Additional images via  Faraday Bikes

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Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

Major supermarket chain is the first in the UK to remove palm oil from all its food

April 10, 2018 by  
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Over half of products in supermarkets contain palm oil , according to United Kingdom (UK) grocery store chain Iceland , and demand is contributing to deforestation . Iceland plans to do something about it by becoming the “first major UK supermarket” to eliminate palm oil from its own label products by the close of 2018. BREAKING NEWS: We're the UK's first supermarket to commit to removing #palmoil from our own label products by the end of this year! Watch here to find out why… #PalmOilAlarmCall pic.twitter.com/hfGvH2QRDW — Iceland Foods ?? (@IcelandFoods) April 10, 2018 Palm oil is one of the largest causes of deforestation in the world, according to Iceland , which specializes in frozen foods. So they plan to remove it from their own brand products. “By the end of 2018, Iceland will stop using palm oil as an ingredient in 100 percent of its own brand food production, reducing demand for palm oil by more than 500 tonnes per year,” head chef Neil Nugent said in Iceland’s video above. Iceland said Nugent is working to replace palm oil with fats and oils that aren’t destroying rainforests — The Guardian said this includes oils like vegetable or rapeseed oils. Related: UK researchers are developing an orangutan-safe alternative to palm oil Iceland quoted their managing director Richard Walker on their website as saying, “Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil.’ We don’t believe this is such a thing as sustainable palm oil available to retailers, so we are giving consumers a choice about what they buy.” Deforestation is threatening many species, including the critically endangered orangutan — their population “has more than halved in the last 15 years,” according to Iceland. The World Wildlife Fund describes the animals as gardeners of the forest, “playing a vital role in seed dispersal.” They’re vulnerable in part due to their low reproductive rate — since females only give birth to one infant around every three to five years, it can take a while for the species to recover from declines in population. + Iceland Foods on Twitter + Iceland Environment Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Major supermarket chain is the first in the UK to remove palm oil from all its food

Whimsical park built of recycled materials pops up in Shanghai

April 5, 2018 by  
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Shanghai’s hip Anfu Road recently found itself home to a whimsical urban intervention showing how one man’s trash could be turned into public space treasure. AIM Architecture and URBAN MATTERS designed the temporary urban park, called Urban Bloom, as an experimental exercise pairing reclaimed pallets with glowing tree-like sculptures. “Transformed into an ideal urban garden, and constructed entirely from artificial means, it is a project for a city that emphasizes people,” wrote the designers. Open to the public, Urban Bloom is nestled in a quiet courtyard with popular eateries and boutiques within striking distance. Recycled timber pallets are used as modular building blocks stacked to form seating and visual interest. The installation undulates on one side to resemble hilly topography. Related: Shanghai’s sponge districts fight flooding with green space Potted plants are placed around part of the park’s perimeter to create a garden aesthetic. Plastic spheres tied to poles are filled with foliage in a sculptural take on trees. Repurposed materials were predominately used as part of the designers’ desire to promote sustainable concepts. “At the same time, cities are huge producers of waste and trash,” wrote the designers. “We wanted this new space to be low-impact, and interact with natural elements in an artificial way – in short, proving it’s possible to make something new from nothing new at all.” + AIM Architecture + URBAN MATTERS Via ArchDaily Images © URBAN MATTERS by MINI, CreatAR Images

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Whimsical park built of recycled materials pops up in Shanghai

Sprawling nets suspended mid-air turn a forest into a climbing wonderland

March 30, 2018 by  
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You don’t need to know how to climb a tree to enjoy this marvelous climbing maze suspended in a Guangdong forest. When the school affiliated to the Luofu Mountain Chinese Classics Institute wanted to encourage children to pursue more physical activity, the school tapped Chinese design studio unarchitecte to design a place conducive to play in the forested valley. Taking inspiration from nature, the designers created the Climbing Park of Luofu Mountain, a system of white nets and climbing areas elevated into the air that promotes a closer connection with nature. Careful consideration was taken to protect existing healthy trees during the construction process, while precautions were also taken to avoid damaging tree growth. Metal posts were installed to provide extra support. Hundreds of white triangular nets were pieced together to form an undulating surface with dips and rises evoking the surrounding topography. Related: Green Treehouse Provides an Incredible Learning Playground Children can explore the Climbing Park from multiple entrances, while adults (who are also invited to play up above) can supervise down below. In addition to the nets surface, the designers also included other net structures like spiral tubes and hemispherical tents . “A forest can become a place for children to return to nature, to explore and to think, to sweat and to sit still alone. In the nature, they can forget themselves and can also search for their inner selves,” wrote the architects. “Building a climbing system, architects connect all the trees in the valley by hundreds of diverse white triangle nets to constitute a combination of various topological folding surfaces like a “white sea” for children to swim carefree.” + unarchitecte Via gooood Images by Zhang Hetian

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Sprawling nets suspended mid-air turn a forest into a climbing wonderland

Herzog & de Meuron designs a Horizontal Skyscraper for Moscow

March 22, 2018 by  
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Building on an urban waterfront often means compromised views for existing structures, but that’s not the case for the “Horizontal Skyscraper” in Moscow . As part of an urban revitalization plan for an abandoned historic brewery, Herzog & de Meuron unveiled designs for two new residential blocks that will be elevated 115 feet into the air and supported by slender white stilts. By raising the contemporary additions, the Swiss architects guarantee coveted panoramic views for residents and a preserved visual connection between the historic buildings and the Moscow River. Founded in 1875, the brick-clad Badaevskiy Brewery buildings that fell in disrepair after in the 2000s will be restored and renovated for new retail and community ventures such as a food market, clothing shops, a co-working space, gym, and childcare facilities. Herzog & de Meuron will lead the six-hectare heritage building restoration effort in addition to the new “Horizontal Skyscraper” envisioned as “a piece of city lifted up in the air.” Related: Herzog & de Meuron are upcycling a historic gasometer into a stunning residential tower The glazed and raised residences will comprise approximately 1.1 million square feet of apartments with glazed facades and private balconies. Eight “sky villas” on the upper level will also have private roof access. The architects have also planned for a new pedestrian-only public park that sits beneath the apartments and around the supporting stilts that the designers likened to “trunks of trees.” + Herzog & de Meuron Via ArchDaily Images via Herzog & de Meuron

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Herzog & de Meuron designs a Horizontal Skyscraper for Moscow

China is creating a giant panda park three times the size of Yellowstone

March 8, 2018 by  
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China just announced that it has secured over $1.6 billion in funding for a massive panda reserve that will help the animals recover their numbers in the wild. The Giant Panda National Park will cover 10,000 square miles – twice as big as Yosemite Park and three times as big as Yellowstone – of mountainous wilderness where pandas can breed and live without human encroachment. The park will be constructed in the Sichuan , Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. All of the 2,000 wild pandas in the world live in these three provinces, with 80% in Sichuan. Pandas in the different provinces are currently isolated, but creating a park will allow them to join together and, hopefully, reproduce. Related: Giant pandas removed from the endangered species list in huge conservation win China announced plans for the park last year, but the project didn’t have the funding to make it a reality. The Bank of China and the Sichuan Department of Forestry joined together to make the park happen over the next five years. Via Phys.org Images via Flickr and Deposit Photos

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China is creating a giant panda park three times the size of Yellowstone

C.F. Mllers Storkeengen tackles climate challenges in a Danish town

January 5, 2018 by  
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The modern age’s best landscape architecture projects aren’t one-trick ponies. C.F. Møller Landscape takes this to heart in their recent design for Storkeengen (Stork Meadow), a multipurpose nature park that offers recreation, beauty, and strengthened protection against storm floods. Located in the Danish town of Randers, Storkeengen aims to “resolve the city’s current and future climate chal-lenges” and bring the townspeople closer to nature and to Denmark’s longest river, the Gudenå River. Created in collaboration with Randers Vandmiljø, Randers Municipality, and Orbi-con, Storkeengen is envisioned as a pioneering project combining water purification , recreation, and climate adjustment. According to C.F. Møller, the riverside town of Randers is threatened by the effects of climate change due to its low-lying position next to the Gudenå River. Thus, the city has developed a vision to protect the town called ‘The City to the Water,’ with the implementation of Stor-keengen as the first step. The 83-hectare Storkeengen is designed to function like a wetland meadow. C.F. Møller designed “cloudburst routes” that direct stormwater runoff into the park, where it’s then naturally filtered in wetland meadow areas before being dis-charged in the river. A dyke will also be installed between the park and the river to protect the nearby residences from flooding and provide new connectivity be-tween Randers and the park. Related: Denmark just opened the “world’s most humane” maximum security prison “Storkeengen is a climate adaption project on Nature’s own terms – also when it comes to the project’s technical wastewater solutions, which are designed to strengthen the nature qualities of the wet meadows,” wrote C.F. Møller. “To in-crease accessibility and enhance the nature experi-ence, new pathways and ac-tivity plateaux are created, so that Storkeengen’s unique flora and fauna, and the wet meadows’ changing habitat, can be experienced at close hand. The plateaux also make it possible to get up close to the area’s grazing cattle, enjoy the sun-set, or navigate the Gudenå stream by canoe.” The project will break ground this fall and is slated for completion in 2021. + C.F. Møller Images via C.F. Møller

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C.F. Mllers Storkeengen tackles climate challenges in a Danish town

MADs mountain-like towers reach completion and LEED Gold in Beijing

December 5, 2017 by  
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Many of Asia’s high-rises may seem indistinguishable from those in the West, but MAD Architects’ recently completed Chaoyang Park Plaza puts a unique Chinese spin on skyscraper design. Located in Beijing’s central business district, the mixed-use development takes inspiration from the ‘shan shui’ style of traditional Chinese landscape painting that emphasizes balance and flowing lines. The mountain-like buildings, lush vegetation, and water features evoke an oasis of nature in a dense concrete jungle. The 220,000-square-meter Chaoyang Park Plaza comprises 10 buildings that eschew modern boxy forms for the curved forms commonly found in shan shui paintings. “It is an extension of the park into the city, naturalizing the CBD’s strong artificial skyline, borrowing scenery from a distant landscape ? a classical approach to Chinese garden architecture, where nature and architecture blend into one another,” wrote MAD architects. Ma Yansong, the founder of MAD architects, elaborates: “In modern cities, architecture as an artificial creation is seen more as a symbol of capital, power or technological development; while nature exists independently. It is different from traditional Eastern cities where architecture and nature are designed as a whole, creating an atmosphere that serves to fulfill one’s spiritual pursuits. We want to blur the boundary between nature and the artificial, and make it so that both are designed with the other in mind.” The pedestrian experience shares similarities with walking through a river valley with meandering pathways, flowing water features, traditional Eastern landscape elements like bamboos and pines, and organic boulder-like shapes. Offices will be housed in the two largest buildings that look like a pair of asymmetric mountains, as well as one of the lower-lying buildings on the south side of the site. Shorter buildings shaped like round river stones contain commercial space, while two Armani towers on the southwest side contain residences. Related: MAD Architects Break Ground on Mountainous Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing The project earned LEED Gold certification for its use of vertical fins on the exterior that have the double benefit of mitigating solar gain and emphasizing the smoothness and verticality of the towers. To combat Beijing’s sweltering summers, the architects installed a pool outside to serve as an air-cooling system and designed the building systems to draw in fresh air. + MAD Architects Images © Hufton+Crow

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MADs mountain-like towers reach completion and LEED Gold in Beijing

MVRDV wins bid for green-roofed Zhangjiang Future Park in Shanghai

October 18, 2017 by  
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MVRDV just unveiled competition-winning designs for Zhangjiang Future Park, a 100,000-square-meter park and cultural center—the latest in a rapidly growing list of large-scale developments in Shanghai . Designed for the city’s Pudong district, the Future Park expands on the existing Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, a bustling business and industrial district for national and international companies established in 1992. The Future Park will serve the over 100,000 workers that live in the area and add 10,000 square meters of public plazas, a 56,000-square-meter public park, and green-roofed community buildings. Located on an island, the Zhangjiang Future Park will serve as an easily accessible community-gathering place. The urban complex comprises four major buildings at its heart: a library , an art center, a performance center, and a sports center. All the buildings will be topped with accessible green roofs connected by pedestrian bridges. The sloped building volumes are varied in height and blend into the landscaped environment. Related: Drone video reveals progress on Heatherwick’s “tree-covered mountain” in Shanghai “We wanted to respect the natural green landscape for Zhangjiang Future Park and drew from its island location separated by two rivers”, says Nathalie de Vries, co-founder of MVRDV. “The entire complex will provide high quality public space with public and cultural facilities, making it a place for relaxation and excitement for the people who work and live here.” The project is set for completion in early 2019. Via MVRDV

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MVRDV wins bid for green-roofed Zhangjiang Future Park in Shanghai

Starburst shipping container home to rise in the California desert

September 27, 2017 by  
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Don’t rub your eyes—this incredible shipping container home is not a mirage. London-based designer James Whitaker is bringing his crystalline cargotecture vision to life with the Joshua Tree Residence in a rocky California desert. Arranged in a spectacular starburst fashion, the sculptural house will be powered by solar energy and optimized for protection against the desert’s harsh elements. If the Joshua Tree Residence looks familiar, you may be remembering James Whitaker’s previous unrealized work, Hechingen Studio , proposed as an office in Germany. Whitaker earned the opportunity to bring his crystalline cargotecture vision to reality when the client, a film producer who lives in Los Angeles, saw a rendering of Hechingen Studio on a trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The client, who owns a 90-acre property near the park, commissioned Whitaker to design a similar structure as a holiday dwelling for him and his wife. “With a background in nurturing creative projects to fruition, [the client] is, in many ways, the dream client!” said Whitaker, according to Dezeen. Related: James Whitaker designs funky light-filled office space out of shipping containers The Joshua Tree Residence may look eccentric, but its sculptural appearance isn’t out of place for the California desert , where L.A. wealthy often commission unusual-looking homes. The 2,153-square-foot cargotecture home will be elevated on concrete columns over a sloped site and surrounded by a rocky landscape with loose boulders. The home’s shipping container elements will be painted bright white and extended in all directions. ”Each container is orientated to maximise views across the landscape, or to use the topography to provide privacy, depending on their individual use,” added Whitaker. The modern and minimalist interior will features angular, white-painted surfaces with simple plywood furnishings and bright red Misfits seating by Ron Arad . + James Whitaker Via Dezeen Images via James Whitaker

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Starburst shipping container home to rise in the California desert

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