Ocean cities add ‘blue’ to green engineering

March 1, 2019 by  
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As urban areas grow in population and footprint, many coastal cities are creating land where there once was ocean . This so-called “reclaiming” of land is not new — in fact, civilizations have been building land on top of bodies of water dating back to the Ancient Egyptians . However, urban planners and city dwellers are increasingly looking for ways to build more sustainably without damaging ecosystems and without increasing flood risk. A new trend, called blue-green infrastructure, marries ecosystem science and green engineering to develop city plans that maximize water and land ecosystems with the dual purpose of reducing disaster and creating more livable cities. What is blue-green infrastructure? Blue-green infrastructure is physical urban planning that prioritizes water management (blue) and natural spaces like parks (green) to reduce flooding, improve quality of life and adapt to climate change . Typically, architects, engineers and urban planners will utilize landscape, street and building designs to complement natural water cycles that are historically disrupted by concrete. Examples include strategic green roofs, rain gardens and parks that are designed to address and absorb water flow issues. Why do coastal cities need this? Blue-green infrastructure can have many benefits for all cities. By designing infrastructure to accommodate the natural flow of water (and additional water based on flood predictions), cities can reduce the costs of water damage, improve the aesthetics of their districts and create an environment that is more livable for both city dwellers and nature. For example, parks can increase the health and social connectivity of neighborhoods, but also reduce heat island effect and absorb rain water that would otherwise flood streets and sewers and run off into the ocean. While all cities are at risk of polluting their watersheds, coastal cities have the additional responsibility of protecting the ocean. Related: Reimagine a resilient future with this nature-based tool Blue-green ocean cities Coastal cities, and especially those built upon reclaimed land, damage nearshore areas with pollution and sediment that smother ecosystems and disrupt natural connectivity between habitats. This means not only disrupted movement for migratory species like birds and whales, but also disrupted interactions within life cycles. For example, along tropical coasts there is an intricate relationship between coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves. Fish that sustain the reefs and supply commercial fisheries often use the mangroves as a nursery to lay eggs. Young fish hatch in the mangroves and move out to sea grasses to mature before migrating to live in the reef. Creating land on top of these interconnected habitats can cut off this natural pattern and negatively impact species, ecosystems and fishing industries. According to The Independent , land reclamation in Singapore has damaged approximately 40 percent of all reef flats. Reclamation and urban planning done in Singapore without consideration for reefs since the 19th century has caused some species like the porites astreoides to die off completely and cause significant biodiversity loss to the reef overall. However, green engineering, with an understanding of and respect for these ecosystems, promises significant reduction in such detrimental impacts. Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a multi-year project is underway to restore this essential eco-connectivity by digging channels into the remains of a failed marina development project. This will improve the flow and quality of water and revitalize the reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves that had suffered significantly. Ecologists and green engineers: a partnership By understanding these important ecological linkages, engineers and architects can prioritize low impact development and build in ways that reduce impact or even improve conditions. Chinese urban planners, for example, have undertaken an initiative to retrofit 80 percent of all cities into “ sponge cities ,” which will absorb and reuse an ambitious 70 percent of all rain water . The coastal city of Lingang in Shanghai , for example, uses rooftop gardens, wetland parks and permeable pavements that slow down rain water and allow it to be absorbed into plants or evaporated into the atmosphere. This massive plan isn’t accessible for all cities though, and cost the struggling city of Lingang (rebranded as Nanhui New City) an investment of approximately $119 million (USD). The future is blue-green With ongoing debt and funding concerns, few cities can prioritize blue-green infrastructure, and investors are often more comfortable with what they know — highways, utilities, etc. Blue-green elements are typically considered extras, added to blueprints for visual appeal but the first to be slashed when budgets are cut. Successful examples of green infrastructure and sustainable urban planning will help build confidence internationally. Other challenges, certification mechanisms and knowledge sharing networks, such as 100 Resilient Cities , encourage and incentivize conversations not only between scientists and engineers but between municipalities and regions. These initiatives, if backed with funding, will continue to push coastal cities to design with nature, test their results and share models for a new blue-green future. Images via Shutterstock

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Ocean cities add ‘blue’ to green engineering

Atelier COLE completes eco-friendly bear sanctuary in Vietnam

March 1, 2019 by  
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Phnom Penh-based Atelier COLE recently completed an environmentally friendly bear sanctuary that not only promotes wildlife conservation but also champions affordable prefabricated design. Located in Cát Tiên National Park in the south of Vietnam , the inspiring project was in part influenced by the hard-to-reach location that made the delivery of supplies difficult and time-consuming. As a result, the architects turned to lightweight gabion wall construction that has the added benefit of reducing the Vietnam Bear Sanctuary’s environmental footprint. Created in collaboration with Cát Tiên National Park, Free the Bears and Building Trust International, the Vietnam Bear Sanctuary comprises a series of modular and easily replicable buildings that house bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade and bear bile industry. Drawing from experience working for wildlife organizations worldwide, Atelier COLE adeptly studied the site and oriented the buildings east to west to follow passive solar principles and minimize overheating. The gabion walls — assembled from steel mesh and locally sourced stones — were stacked one meter from the roof line to allow for cross ventilation, while roof cut outs let natural light into the bear dens. “We wanted to reduce the concrete usage, and we started developing wall ideas,” David Cole, director of Atelier COLE, explained. “We knew there were some parameters; it was necessary to keep the steel mesh and concrete finish inside the bear dens, as it was easy to clean down, preventing infection and contamination. We simply took the mesh material and used it to create gabion walls with high thermal mass. The inside could be rendered and the outside could be untreated to give a natural sandy color found around the site. The mesh sheet sizes which were available led to a modular design. This essentially led to the foundation of the building blocks for the whole project. We utilized a steel frame structure to support a green roof and built the bear houses with internal courtyards to give ample space for fruit trees, providing a food source for the bears.” Related: Atelier COLE’s Bamboo Trees combats illegal Moon Bear trade in Laos The Vietnam Bear Sanctuary consists of six bear houses with forest enclosures, an education center, a hospital, quarantine and administrative buildings. Over 40 sun bears and moon bears currently live on-site. As the green roof , which will grow down the roof fascia, and the courtyard plants become lusher, the sanctuary will blend into the forest. + Atelier COLE Images by Elettra Melani via Atelier COLE

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These are the world’s top vegan cities

January 22, 2019 by  
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If traveling is a top priority for you in 2019 and you follow a vegan diet , there are some cities that are more vegan-friendly than others. Vegan website Happy Cow has compiled a list of the 10 most vegan-friendly cities in the world based on the number of fully-vegan restaurants, the number of vegan-option restaurants and their impression of overall vegan-friendliness. London At the top of the list is London, because the number of vegan restaurants in the city has exploded over the past year. It was the first city on the list to hit 100 completely vegan restaurants. A recent survey showed that more than a half million people are following the vegan diet in Great Britain. Related: Veganism on the rise, record number of sign-ups for Veganuary Berlin Because its vegan scene continues to grow, Berlin comes in at No. 2. There are now 65 vegan restaurants in the German city and 320 additional vegan options at restaurants within a 5-mile radius. New York City Many people consider the Big Apple to be the international food capital of the world, and its vegan scene is flourishing. There are now 64 vegan restaurants in NYC that range from fast food to upscale dining. Portland Veganism is a way of life in Portland , and that means the city has a wide variety of plant-based food options. You can easily find a vegan burger and a variety of vegan artisanal cheeses. There are also a number of vegan food carts and even a vegan bed and breakfast. Tel Aviv With an estimated 5 to 8 percent of the Israeli population being vegan, the country has the highest percentage of vegans in the world. The 31 vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv serve a variety of cuisines from Israel, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Some also have a Western influence. Rounding out the top 10 are Los Angeles, Warsaw, Toronto, Prague and Paris . + Happy Cow Image via 12019

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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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Electric vehicle networks need to be open, smart, clean and equitable

June 19, 2018 by  
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A new collaborative EV charging agreement was unveiled in Portland this week.

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Metal-clad Treehouse for "no-commute lifestyles" mimics Portlands forests

February 15, 2018 by  
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With projects like LEVER Architecture’s recently completed Treehouse, it’s little wonder Portland, Ore. scores high marks for livability and sustainability. Located on the Marquam Hill campus of the Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU), Treehouse caters to those interested in a “live/work/no-commute lifestyle”. Designed for mixed use , the seven-story houses 69 apartment units as well as retail on the ground floor. Taking cues from the forest, Treehouse is wrapped in a textured metal skin that mimics the color and form of tree trunks. The facade’s consistent texture and pattern give the building a dynamic depth and appearance that changes throughout the day. “The design bridges the urban and topographical qualities of the campus by placing the building as an “in the round” object in the forest,” wrote the architects. “Instead of cutting into the hill, the building form is carved to follow the landscape. A continuous carved building skin is achieved by eliminating the expression of floor levels by incorporating all expansion joints into the custom window surrounds.” Related: Nation’s tallest timber building to rise in Portland The apartment units are clustered around a compact central core housing the stairs and elevator. Glazing can be found on all sides of the irregular octagonal building and maximize daylight into the studio and one-bedroom units. A rain garden landscape and deck on the lower level handles all stormwater runoff. + LEVER Architecture Via ArchDaily Images via LEVER Architecture

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Staggered volumes help make Portland’s Slate building an energy-efficient marvel

August 15, 2017 by  
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Portland, Oregon’s new mixed-use development , known as Slate, consists of a shifting stack of volumes that reflect the vibrancy and complexity of the neighborhood. The development, designed by Works Progress Architecture for co-developers Urban Development Partners and Beam Development , earned  LEED Gold certification as an energy-efficient complex that takes the curtain-wall system to the next level. The 10-story development has six floors of apartment units, up to four floors of co-working office spaces and around 7,800 square feet of retail space at street level. Its modular, rectangular shapes have a sculptural quality on the east and west elevations, while a flat, clean look dominates the north and south side of the building. Related: Oregon’s Largest Education Building Achieves LEED Platinum Certification The architects worked closely with the glazing contractor to create a unitized curtain-wall system. Dallas Glass installed Wausau Window and Wall Systems, which can be put in place in a fraction of the time needed to install field-glazed systems. Related: Cherokee Mixed-Use Lofts is a LEED Platinum Award Winning Design The facade was thermally improved to respond to the challenges of Portland ‘s climate. This thermal barrier is combined with solar-control, low-e, insulating glass to achieve a high performance for solar heat gain control, condensation resistance and high visible light transmittance. The system also facilitates optimal natural ventilation in order to reduce the reliance of HVAC systems. + Works Progress Architecture Photos by Joshua Jay Elliott , courtesy of Works Progress Architecture

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Staggered volumes help make Portland’s Slate building an energy-efficient marvel

Vancouver on track to kill wasteful single-use packaging

June 29, 2017 by  
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Vancouver , Canada wants to become a zero-waste city – no easy feat for an area with over 600,000 people. But as part of its Greenest City Action Plan , the city is exploring options to limit single-use packaging, like all those coffee cups, plastic bags and foam take-out containers littering our landfills . This summer they’re launching a pilot program to allow restaurants to fill take-out orders in reusable containers brought by patrons. Vancouver is teaming up with Vancouver Coastal Health to allow retailers and restaurants to fill orders in customer-brought containers. They pointed to container share programs in San Francisco, New York City, and Portland as examples of alternatives to the single-use waste issue in the past. Vancouver Coastal Health will work to ensure food safety and health for the program. Related: Insidious single-use coffee pods banned in German city Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement, “Vancouver is on track to be the greenest city in the world by 2020, and taking these next steps to reduce coffee cups, Styrofoam , and plastic bags from our landfills will take our environmental leadership to the next level.” He called for city residents to weigh in on reducing single-use packaging waste. If you live in Vancouver, you can find out about zero waste events or sound off on your ideas here . Even though Vancouver is taking large strides towards becoming a zero waste city, they’ve got a long way to go. According to city officials, 2.6 million coffee cups are tossed into the garbage every single week there, while around two million plastic bags end up in the trash. They also frequently find foam in Vancouver shoreline cleanup projects. But the effort to prioritize a zero waste future is a positive step, as the city encourages its citizens to shift their thinking on waste . Via the City of Vancouver ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Wikimedia Commons and Takahiro Sakamoto on Unsplash

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Elon Musk-inspired Hyperloop Hotel could be the future of travel

June 22, 2017 by  
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Imagine zipping between cities in mere minutes—all from the comfort of your hotel suite. That’s the futuristic vision of the $130 million Hyperloop Hotel, a proposal built upon Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One high-speed train system currently in development. Designed by University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate architecture student Brandan Siebrecht, the Hyperloop Hotel envisions seamless transport between 13 cities with a proposed flat fee of $1,200. The visionary Hyperloop Hotel won the student section of this year’s Radical Innovation Award , an annual competition for futuristic hotel designs. Siebrecht’s winning design uses reclaimed shipping containers as mobile, customizable hotel rooms that zip between cities at near-supersonic speeds through tubes and dock at designated hotels. Guests could travel across the U.S. without leaving the comfort of their pods and handle the entire process, from reservation to travel arrangements, with their smartphone. Siebrecht created the design for America’s 13 largest cities including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, Sante Fe, Austin, Chicago, Nashville, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston. He drew inspiration from Musk’s Hyperloop test track, the DevLoop, located just outside Las Vegas. If successful, the high-speed train could zip travelers from Philadelphia to New York in 10 minutes. Related: Elon Musk reveals boring tunnels are for the Hyperloop Guests can customize the layout of the repurposed modular shipping container hotel rooms. Each hotel room includes areas for sleeping, bathing, living, and flex. Siebrecht estimates that the construction cost of each docking hotel between $8 and $10 million, and believes construction of his hotel concept feasible within the next five to 10 years. + Radical Innovation Award Via Business Insider

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SCAD students save a piece of American history with vintage train car restoration

June 22, 2017 by  
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The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)’s award-winning tradition of historic preservation hit another home run for Preservation Month. SCAD students salvaged a piece of American history that would have otherwise disappeared when they restored of a rare 1911 wooden passenger train car. The students turned the railroad preservation project into an educational opportunity and intentionally left parts of the train car in its found state to teach visitors about the preservation process. Owned by the nonprofit Coastal Heritage Society , the decrepit rare train car was originally brought to the Georgia State Railroad Museum from the city of Augusta. As part of a spring student project, three graduate and eight undergraduate SCAD students carefully restored the 1911 train car to complement the SCAD Museum of Art, an adaptive reuse project that turned an 1853 antebellum railroad depot into a modern museum. The train car is currently displayed alongside the museum. Related: SCAD Students Transform an Atlanta Parking Garage into Ecologically Responsible Micro-Housing Community “SCAD knows well the stories of Georgia’s railways—our award-winning SCAD Museum of Art rises proudly from the ruins of the nation’s oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot,” said SCAD President and Founder, Paula Wallace. “Now, the nation’s premier preservation design program helps narrate another tale for the appreciation of railfans for generations to come.” Students’ preservation work included replacing the train car’s exterior wood siding, refinishing woodwork, and stripping the original mahogany panels of layers of paint and shellac. + Savannah College of Art and Design Images by Dylan Wilson

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