Architects use earthen berms to tuck a central reservoir inside tiered office space

February 20, 2017 by  
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Mumbai-based Sanjay Puri Architects have designed an office space concept with a beautiful reservoir as the heart of the design. Inspired by the traditional stepped wells that provide water for India’s severely parched communities, the design incorporates a natural recess found in the landscape to optimize the Reservoir’s natural water collection  abilities. As part of a 95-acre planned community development, the Reservoir is designed to connect a residential and commercial area in India’s arid Rajasthan state. Like most of India, water is a precious resource, and more so in this region where temperatures reach an excess of 100 ° F for eight months of the year. Related: Ghostly ruins of a 400-year-old church rise from the waters of a Mexican reservoir Using the natural topography of the landscape, the architects planned the design around an existing cavity in the ground. This was strategic to let the reservoir naturally fill with water almost year round, eliminating the need for additional water source. Any runoff  water is collected and supports the water supply for the entire complex. The structure itself is supported into green-covered earthen berms, which create the perimeter of the design. Solar panels are installed on these berms, which have cutouts that lead to underground parking. Six floors of office space follow the site’s natural rising topography surrounding the pool, creating a natural open-air terrace for each office. The recessed water design actively lowers the temperature of the immediate microclimate, creating a pleasant work environment while minimalizing energy use. On the interior, large floor-to-ceiling windows allow for optimal natural light, which also reduces the need for artificial lighting. + Sanjay Puri Architects Via Architect Magazine Images via Sanjay Puri Architects

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Architects use earthen berms to tuck a central reservoir inside tiered office space

High school students are building tiny homes to give to flood survivors

February 20, 2017 by  
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In West Virginia, students that would normally be constructing birdhouses or bookshelves are instead contributing their labor and newly acquired skills to help give those who lost everything a new start. Last year, historic floods devastated the state, destroying over 5000 homes and killing over 20 people. So students from across the state have gathered together to build compact, energy efficient tiny homes for victims of the flooding. West Virginia has struggled to provide adequate housing for those thousands made homeless by the storm. So high school students attending 12 vocational schools throughout the state are demonstrating that they may have a promising solution. The participating vocational schools, such as Carver Career and Technical Education Center in Charleston, traditionally teach practices such as carpentry and plumbing.  A new, first of-its-kind partnership between the West Virginia Department of Education and the Greater Recovery and Community Empowerment initiative enables students to access hands-on learning to design and build homes for local flood survivors from concept to completion. Each unique  tiny house i s just 500 square feet. Related: Studio H launches Kickstarter Campaign to Build a Shipping Container Classroom at Berkeley’s REALM Charter school 15 homes have been built so far, thanks to funding from the state’s Board of Education and regional community supporters. All of the homes are unique and some are designed to be portable.  Unlike trailers that are supplied by FEMA in post-disaster zones , each of the tiny homes will have individual design accents. Each home includes a bathroom, kitchen, living room and laundry room.  The ground-breaking program has potential to be scaled to serve communities in other post-disaster zones. + WV Public Broadcasting Via NPR Photos Courtesy of West Virginia Department of Education  

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High school students are building tiny homes to give to flood survivors

One in 11 US public schools are plagued by toxic air

February 20, 2017 by  
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When parents send their kids off to school, they might worry their child forgot their homework or won’t eat enough lunch. Air quality isn’t usually among their worries. But a joint investigation from The Center for Public Integrity and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting shows almost 8,000 public schools in the United States are located within 500 feet of highways or roads – that’s one in 11 schools. As vehicles travel those roads, they spew pollutants that may seriously impact children’s health . Around 4.4 million students across all 50 states attend the nearly 8,000 public schools threatened with toxic air – and that’s not even counting private schools and Head Start centers. Many parents and teachers aren’t even aware of the issue, according to the joint investigation, since air pollution isn’t always visible. Related: WHO finds 92% of the world’s population exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution But health issues stemming from air pollution could harm children for a lifetime. According to the joint investigation, pollution near highways can lead to stunted lung growth and asthma attacks . It can increase the risk of cancer or play a role in heart disease. Pollution coming from tailpipes could hinder a child’s ability to learn and even contribute to brain maladies typically found in the elderly. New York University School of Medicine professor George Thurston said, “The expectation of every parent is that they’re sending their child to a safe environment. And with this kind of pollution, they’re not.” As part of the article on the investigation, The Center for Public Integrity included a tool so you can see if your child’s school is close to a road on which 30,000 vehicles or 10,000 vehicles and 500 trucks pass on an average day. What can you do if your child’s school is near such a highway? Parents at El Marino Language School located near Interstate 405 in a Los Angeles suburb pushed for high-grade air filters and pollution-trapping plants . A test run of the filters found they snagged over 90 percent of the unhealthy particles inside. Via The Center for Public Integrity Images via screenshot and Matthias Ripp on Flickr

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One in 11 US public schools are plagued by toxic air

Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

February 20, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found strange, ancient microbes in Mexico’s Naica crystal caves that could be around 50,000 years old. Although the caves are so hot they’ve been described as hell – while also being so magical they’ve been described as Fairyland – the microbes have survived for thousands of years trapped in crystals . A biologist who studied the microbes referred to them as super life. Scientists discovered 40 different microbe strains and some viruses in the caves. The microbes are so bizarre that even their closest relatives are genetically 10 percent different, which is about as far away as mushrooms and humans, according to NASA Astrobiology Institute director Penelope Boston, who recently presented the research. The dormant microbes survived on minerals like manganese and iron. Related: Researchers discover that architecture has an impact on which microbes thrive around you The Naica caves are a great example of an extreme environment. Found by miners only around 100 years ago, the caves were isolated from the rest of the world for centuries until a mining company commenced drilling. According to Phys.org, some of the caves are as colossal as cathedrals , and are covered in crystals. But the magnificent caves are so sweltering the researchers could work for just about 20 minutes before retreating to a cool room around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They wore inexpensive space suits and kept ice packs on their bodies. The find doesn’t claim the prize for oldest extreme life – years ago scientists wrote about living microbes trapped in salt and ice that may be around half a million years old. But Boston told the BBC the microbes her team found are extraordinary because “they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases” and scientists can add the recently found microbes “to this atlas of possibilities that we can apply to different planetary settings.” The findings draw on nine years of research, but have not yet been published in a journal. Boston aims to run more genetic tests on the microbes, but did present the find at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston, Massachusetts late last week. Via the BBC and Phys.org Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

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