Ramboll helps Lombok locals build earthquake-resistant bamboo housing

January 17, 2020 by  
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In 2018 when Lombok was struck by several earthquakes, some measuring up to magnitude 7, local communities around the seismic region were greatly affected. After the series of earthquakes settled, there were over 500 people dead, 445,000 people homeless and 129,000 homes damaged. Concerned that the quality of the area’s buildings was partially to blame, Els Houttave, founder of the Lombok-based charity Grenzeloos Milieu, knew that something had to be done to ensure this type of devastation never happened again. She teamed up with Ramboll bridge engineer Xavier Echegaray and structural engineer Marcin Dawydzik to find a solution that was both sustainable and resilient. When Dawydzik traveled to Lombok, he discovered the problem was in the building techniques and materials : “Villages were flattened with bricks and rubble scattered all around, in many cases the building foundations were all that remained. This was not an unusually powerful earthquake for the region, but lack of reinforcement in the buildings meant the damage, and consequential loss of life, was far greater than it should have been. What I found even more disturbing was that communities had already started rebuilding with the same absence of structural integrity that had existed in the destroyed buildings!”   As it turns out, the building solution was closer than expected. The partially-destroyed villages were surrounded by bamboo forests, a time-honored building material that is lightweight, strong, affordable, sustainable and reaches full maturity in about five years. Working hand-in-hand with the locals, Ramboll has now built three prototype earthquake-proof “template houses” made almost entirely out of locally-sourced bamboo. The homes are raised on cross-braced columns with a central staircase leading to the living area and space for two bedrooms. The walls are finished with bamboo woven sheets or canes and the roofing is made from recycled Tetra Pak carton packaging.  Going even further, the project headed by Grenzeloos Milieu and University College London will provide locals with a free blueprint on how to construct affordable earthquake-proof homes without complicated construction knowledge necessary. Additionally, Grenzeloos Milieu is growing more bamboo forests and teaching communities how to harvest the trees for food and construction. Ramboll volunteers on the ground in Lombok will teach the process hands-on while ensuring safety and efficiency . + Ramboll Via Dezeen Images via Ramboll

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Ramboll helps Lombok locals build earthquake-resistant bamboo housing

Passive solar community in Brazil combines social justice and sustainability

January 15, 2020 by  
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To empower a marginalized community in Brazil’s Maranhão state, São Paulo-based architecture firm  Estudio Flume  has completed Castanha de Caju, a new headquarters for a women’s agricultural cooperative that doubles as a welcoming community hub. Constructed on a limited budget and a tight timeline, the inspiring project included the refurbishment and extension of a small house as well as the inclusion of traditional construction techniques and materials to reduce costs. Low-cost passive thermal control strategies and considerable community input helped shape the project, which also includes permaculture principles, a biodigester, and rainwater harvesting. Located in Nova Vida, a small impoverished community in Bom Jesus das Selvas, the new agricultural co-op headquarters was primarily built to serve a group of women who make their living by collecting and processing a type of oil-rich Brazilian nut. As a result, the layout of the building was informed by the co-op’s workflows and includes nut cooking and breaking areas as well as an internal courtyard for drying foods. In light of the lack of  public spaces in the town, the architects also added facilities to the project, such as the sun-room and concrete bunch, to encourage community cohesion and knowledge sharing. In addition to  reusing  as much of the original building as possible, the new headquarters is constructed with perforated bricks and ‘brise-soleil’ pivot doors made with traditional techniques to allow for cross ventilation, natural light, and views. Since the area lacks a sewage system and a constant supply of potable water, the architects added a rainwater harvesting system and a septic tank biodigester for sewage treatment as well as a banana circle to filter gray water. The architects hope that through continued use and maintenance, the community will gradually begin to adapt these systems into other buildings in the town. Related: This beekeepers workshop uses sustainable design to minimize its footprint “This project is part of a wider plan for renovation works for small cooperatives and associations in the interior Maranhão and Pará states, in the north and northeast of Brazil ,” the architects said. “In a country with enormous continental diversity and cultural richness, it represents the opportunity to defend some sense of social justice, to ensure job security, comfort in the routine of a group of women. This was an opportunity to work with those who produce food on a small scale and with respect for the environment and, in the end, these products are eaten in the big cities.” + Estudio Flume Images via Estudio Flume

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Passive solar community in Brazil combines social justice and sustainability

Wearable garden vest is nourished by wearer’s own urine

January 14, 2020 by  
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Are you looking to spruce up your wardrobe this spring? Well, we’ve got the season’s eco-fashion garment for you — a wearable garden vest that thrives on your urine. Created by designer Aroussiak Gabrielian , the lush “garden cloak” concept was inspired as a potential solution to crop scarcity around the globe. With the potential to grow up to 40 crops, the green vest is irrigated by urine filtered through reverse osmosis. According to Gabrielian, the living garments are supposed to reconnect the food producer and consumer in order to foster a more self-reliant and resilient food production system .”The habitats are essentially cloaks of plant life that are intended to provide sustenance to the wearer, as well as flourish as expanding ecosystems that attract and integrate other animal and insect life,” Gabrielian said. Related: New biofabricated clothing made from algae goes through photosynthesis just like plants Recently unveiled at the Rome Sustainable Food Project, each cloak is an individual microhabitat made up of several layers. The multi-layered system is made up of moisture-retention felt and a drip and capillary irrigation layer, followed by the sprouting plant system . The living ecosystem layer is made up of plants, including herbs, greens, fruits, vegetables, legumes and fungi, that require sun and water as inputs. Another layer is made up of pollinators , which are essential to creating a fully sustainable crop output. The garden vests are outfitted with an integral system that recycles human waste, primarily urine. Collected via a built-in catheter, urine is stored, filtered and used to irrigate the plants. An innovative osmosis system, originally developed by NASA, converts urine into water by draining it through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out salt and ammonia. Working with a team made up of microgreens researcher Grant Calderwood, fashion designer Irene Tortora, Chris Behr from the Rome Sustainable Food Project and collaborator Alison Hirsh, Gabrielian’s  innovative project was made possible thanks to funding from the American Academy in Rome. Additionally, the grow lights were donated by PHILIPS. + Aroussiak Gabrielian Images via Aroussiak Gabrielian

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Wearable garden vest is nourished by wearer’s own urine

This dynamic parking garage doubles as a public sculpture

January 13, 2020 by  
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In Denmark’s fourth-largest city of Aalborg, Copenhagen-based architecture firm Sangberg has designed a deceptively simple parking garage that offers much more than parking spaces. Dubbed the Parking House G2, the monolithic building features a dynamic and lightweight facade of extruded aluminum slats that “animates itself” in different ways depending on how and from where it’s viewed. The aluminum slats of the playful graphic facade were also engineered with reusability in mind and to encourage the growth of habitat for birds and insects.  Located in a part of Aalborg that’s currently being transformed from an industrial harbor to a new multi-use neighborhood, the Parking House G2 references the industrial heritage of its surroundings with its monolithic aluminum construction, while injecting new life with its sculptural appearance. “Whether you’re driving by in a car or you’re passing by as a pedestrian, your experience will differ as the facade animates itself in accordance to the speed travelled,” the architects said on the Sangberg blog . “The expression also changes whether it is viewed nearby or far away, from straight on or from the side – and with the light conditions and seasons.” The building’s facade gets its dynamic characteristics from the subtle variations in the profiles of the light gray aluminum slats that surround the concrete frame like a piece of cloth. In addition to creating a textural expression, the angled slats are spaced apart to let natural light and ventilation into the building. The facade also provides opportunities for greenery to take hold, a feature that was inspired by the master plan for the area that includes a green buffer zone along Nyhavnsgade, a major thoroughfare near the harbor. Related: Denmark’s first timber parking garage will be enveloped in greenery Completed over two years, the 15,200-square-meter building includes 590 parking spaces. The aluminum facade can be easily disassembled and recycled for use in other building projects. Its compact build, sustainable design, and its playful facade earned the project an Aalborg Municipality building award.  + Sangberg Images by Ramus Hjortshøj – COAST Studio

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This dynamic parking garage doubles as a public sculpture

Urban Earth House exemplifies off-grid living in the city

December 16, 2019 by  
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When Craig Byatt Architecture was approached by eco-minded clients who wanted a home that was off-grid in an urban context and built with a combination of natural, reclaimed and locally sourced materials, the plans for the Urban Earth House were born. What’s more, because the clients’ children recently moved out, the resulting 70-square-meter structure in Melbourne, Australia was to become their “forever home.” The greatest challenge arose when the building site was examined. Privacy was an issue because access was constrained through a shared driveway. The site was also surrounded by neighbors, which worried the clients as they expressed eagerness for natural light. This, combined with a steep, small property block and a limited budget, led to a difficult time finding the right builder. After turning to four different building companies, all of which turned down the project, the clients decided to build the home themselves. Related: Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion The Urban Earth House has many green design features. Double-glazed windows, recycled glass bulk insulation batts in the roof and ceiling spaces, mud bricks and recycled concrete walls help the home maintain a comfortable temperature year-round. A north-facing glasshouse was built onsite to help utilize the sunlight for winter vegetables and seed propagation for the clients’ organic farm. The skeleton of the house was constructed with recycled and reclaimed hardwood from an old road bridge, and the project used local tradespeople and suppliers as often as possible. To make the Urban Earth House even more exceptional, the clients commissioned local artisans to add unique touches. The kitchen backsplash was designed by a local painter and printed onto glass. A local metal worker crafted the door handles using tools owned by the grandfather of one of the clients. According to the architect’s statement, “This project’s recipe called for experimentation and adventure.” By “working with the laws of nature” and using “what’s already there” as much as possible, they were able to create a unique, off-grid home that respected the building site and supported the clients’ sustainable ambitions. + Craig Byatt Architecture Photography by Meredith O’Shea via Clean Energy Nillumbik

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Urban Earth House exemplifies off-grid living in the city

IUCN finds ocean oxygen levels dropping at record rates

December 12, 2019 by  
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Marine life is in serious trouble if ocean oxygen levels continue to plummet. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that ocean oxygen levels have decreased by about 2 percent since the middle of the 20th century, and continued deoxygenation will put wildlife and human survival in danger. The report, which involved work from 67 scientists in 17 countries, was released Saturday at the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid. “Urgent global action to overcome and reverse the effects of ocean deoxygenation is needed,” said Minna Eps, director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program. “Decisions taken at the ongoing climate conference will determine whether our ocean continues to sustain a rich variety of life, or whether habitable, oxygen-rich marine areas are increasingly, progressively and irrevocably lost.” Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Both the climate crisis and nutrient pollution cause ocean deoxygenation. Nutrient pollution includes nitrogen from fossil fuels and run-off from agriculture and sewage. This depletes oxygen by encouraging too much algae growth. However, scientists have recently realized that rising ocean temperatures are also lowering ocean oxygen levels. Scientists say that these higher temperatures are probably responsible for about half of the oxygen loss in the ocean’s top 1,000 meters, which is the highest in biodiversity . While reversing nutrient pollution is relatively easy, reversing oxygen loss from climate change isn’t. “To curb ocean oxygen loss alongside the other disastrous impacts of climate change, world leaders must commit to immediate and substantial emission cuts,” Dr. Grethel Aguilar, acting director general of IUCN, said in a tweet. Larger fish that require more energy, such as tuna, sharks and marlins, are especially threatened by dropping ocean oxygen levels. Changing oxygen levels have already pushed them closer to the surface, where they face greater risk of overfishing . Recent massive fish die-offs may also be caused by oxygen loss. Scientists predict that lowered ocean oxygen may have far-reaching effects, such as changing the Earth’s phosphorus and nitrogen cycles on land. + IUCN Via EcoWatch Image via Jeremy Bishop

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The largest green wall in Europe will absorb 8 tons of air pollution per year

December 10, 2019 by  
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Located in London, U.K., the Citicape House by Sheppard Robson will feature a 40,000-square-foot green wall , the largest in Europe, that sets the standard for urban green development in the city. Not only is Citicape House designed to become a five-star hotel, but its living wall will also absorb a projected 8 tons of air pollution annually. The hotel, projected to be finished in 2024, will house 382 rooms, 40,000 square feet of workspace, a sky bar, meeting and event spaces, a spa and a restaurant on the ground floor. On the 11th floor, a public green space will be available as well, with an unobstructed rooftop view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. From there, the green wall, consisting of 400,000 plants, will wrap around the exterior of the building and contain designated spaces for threatened species of plants to grow undisturbed. Related: Retrofitted “green” living lamp posts in London reclaim water and run on solar power In addition to the 8 tons of air pollution that will be captured by the Citicape House each year, the building is also projected to produce 6 tons of oxygen and lower the surrounding temperature by between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the wall will trap about 500 kilograms of hazardous airborne particulate matter each year. Apart from the obvious air quality advantages, the building will take measures to function sustainably with features like air-source heat pumps and rainwater collection systems to provide irrigation to the living wall. This project sets an example for the Urban Greening Policy developed by the New London Plan, aimed toward encouraging businesses to prioritize urban greening with a mandated “Urban Greening Factor” (UGF). The Citicape House will exceed the required UGF by more than 45 times. With the massive, striking green wall located within London’s bustling Culture Mile, it is sure to inspire those who see it while addressing environmental issues and positively affecting the region. + Sheppard Robson Via Dezeen Images via Sheppard Robson

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The largest green wall in Europe will absorb 8 tons of air pollution per year

Low-impact Thai home uses modular design to harmonize with nature

December 10, 2019 by  
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Thai architectural firm TA-CHA Design has recently completed the Binary Wood House, a second home for a Bangkokian family of five that emphasizes environmentally friendly design. Located on a hill in Pak Chong in northeastern Thailand, the home was carefully sited to preserve existing Siamese Rosewood trees and is elevated to reduce site impact. To create a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience, the architects employed a modular design, designating each 3.4-meter module as either a “0 (unoccupied/open space)” or a “1 (occupied/close space)” in a binary system that also gave rise to the project’s name.  Spread out across 600 square meters, the Binary Wood House was initially meant to serve as an Airbnb or private resort but later morphed into a second home for the clients with room for their soon-to-retire parents. To lessen site impact, the architects opted to design the home with a metal structure clad in wood paneling instead of concrete. Approximately 80 percent of the wood used in construction was reclaimed . Local craftsmen were hired for the woodworking, which takes inspiration from the region’s traditional “Korat” houses. Related: Reclaimed materials star in this surf villa with ocean views in Bali “Throughout the entire design project of the house, there has been one and only core value on which the owner and the designers agree — to always hold the predecessors in high regard,” the architects said. “In other words, the house exists to respect those who came before, whether they be neighbors, local people, local animals and local trees.” In addition to elevating the home off the ground, the property reduces its environmental footprint by relying on natural cooling instead of air conditioning. Surrounded by covered terraces, the indoor-outdoor living areas feature operable shutters that let in cooling winds, while the preserved trees help mitigate unwanted solar gain. A reflecting pond was also added to increase moisture in the house. + TA-CHA Studio Photography by Beersingnoi via TA-CHA Studio

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Low-impact Thai home uses modular design to harmonize with nature

Study reveals "ugly sweaters" add to the plastic pollution problem

December 10, 2019 by  
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Many Americans attend ugly Christmas sweater parties. But in Britain, there’s even an annual Christmas Jumper [another term for “sweater”] Day that fuels the trade in hideous holiday garb. Now, research by the environmental charity Hubbub blames ugly sweaters as yet another contributor to the plastic pollution crisis. The study found that one in three adults under 35 buys a new holiday sweater every year, but two in five of these sweaters are worn only once over the holiday season. Three-quarters of the sweaters Hubbub tested revealed at least some plastic in the material, with 44 percent being entirely made of acrylic, a plastic fiber. A study by Plymouth University concluded that acrylic releases nearly 730,000 microfibers per wash, which is five times more than poly-cotton blends. Related: 17 easy ways to upcycle worn out sweaters “We don’t want to stop people dressing up and having a great time at Christmas, but there are so many ways to do this without buying new,” Sarah Divall, the project coordinator at Hubbub, told The Guardian. “ Fast fashion is a major threat to the natural world, and Christmas jumpers are problematic as so many contain plastic. We’d urge people to swap, buy secondhand or rewear, and remember a jumper is for life, not just for Christmas.” Hubbub estimates that retailers will sell 12 million new holiday sweaters this year, even though 65 million Christmas jumpers are already stowed in U.K. wardrobes. Why not swap with family, friends, housemates or workmates? Host a craft night with friends to refurbish an old sweater using pompoms, sequins, strings of lights or bits recycled from other clothes to create your own look. Christmas Jumper Day is not only a tradition that many Brits enjoy; it’s also a fundraiser for Save the Children, which fights child poverty and hunger. Luckily, participants can still donate to the cause and also upcycle an old sweater rather than buying a new one to fight plastic pollution. + Hubbub Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Study reveals "ugly sweaters" add to the plastic pollution problem

Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

December 3, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem, with piles of debris along coastlines, on roadsides, in landfills and floating in waterways. Environmentally conscious companies are looking for ways to clean up the mess while simultaneously seeking out methods to recycle plastic waste into other products. One Dutch company, The Recycled Island Foundation (RIF), is tackling both problems with one solution — Litter Traps. According to the RIF website, the motivation for the project came from the knowledge that our waterways are part of global ecosystem, where everybody benefits or pays the consequences of waste management . “Plastic pollutes our seas and oceans and has a direct and deadly effect on marine life,” the foundation said. “Thousands of birds, seals, turtles, whales and other marine animals are killed every year after ingesting plastic or getting strangled in it. With the plastics breaking down into smaller particles, it also enters the human food chain.” Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste Knowing that the majority of ocean pollution comes from rivers that lead out to sea, RIF decided to stop plastic waste before it could travel that far. The foundation’s Litter Traps are aptly named. Sourced from recycled plastic themselves, the traps filter water, collect plastic and stop that plastic from traveling downstream. The collected plastic is then made into durable floating parks, seating elements, building materials and even more Litter Traps. The passive design of the Litter Trap allows it to float in the river, harbor or port, catching plastic once it floats inside the trap. The system does not rely on any energy source. Once full, the trap is emptied, and the usable plastic is sorted. The plastic then heads into manufacturing, where it is turned into a variety of products. This circular system allows the company to collect materials, clean up the rivers and make products without waste and at a minimal cost. The RIF has been busy collecting plastic from local waterways for some time. More than one year ago, it opened a prototype in Rotterdam, the Netherlands called the Recycled Park. This floating park is made entirely from recycled plastic gathered from the nearby Meuse River. You can read more about that project here . The initial park prototype is an example of how recycled plastic can be used to replicate the marine ecosystem, complete with live plants above and below the park that animals such as snails, flatworms, larva, beetles and fish call home. What began as a local movement has gone international. New Litter Traps are being manufactured to tackle river waste around the world. Belgium and Indonesia were the first countries to adopt the RIF approach, and the organization is now preparing similar projects in Vietnam, France, the Philippines, Brazil and more. As an example of how the mechanism performs, a single Litter Trap located in Belgium is emptied twice a week, and the average amount of waste collected is 1.5 cubic meters per month. The goal is to continue to expand the use of Litter Traps to divert plastic from the oceans on a large scale. The future of the Litter Trap is bright, with plans to make portable Litter Traps and Litter Traps that can collect and hold larger quantities of plastic before needing emptied. Now partnering with international companies, RIF hopes to create products that are in high demand in the areas where the plastic is collected. RIF is working with innovators to turn the plastic into a durable and easy-to-assemble housing material. It is also looking into large-scale, 3D-printing options using the marine plastic. For example, the company offers custom couches made entirely from salvaged marine plastic that is 3D-printed into shape. RIF feels knowledge is power in the campaign for plastic reduction, so it has implemented an educational program that includes ways to reduce plastic consumption, information about proper recycling techniques and an opportunity to participate in clean-up efforts. It hopes to continue to inspire action and raise awareness about the problem by visiting schools and organizing community events. When it comes to environmental efforts , the more hands involved in projects, the better. RIF has partnered with dozens of agencies with similar goals, creating a village of like-minded companies hoping to lead the way toward better plastic management and the creation of durable, reusable products. + The Recycled Island Foundation Images via The Recycled Island Foundation

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