16-year-old inspires U.S. city to pass law requiring solar panels on all new homes

July 20, 2017 by  
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More United States cities are taking strong measures to move the clean energy economy forward. This week, South Miami passed a law requiring new houses to be outfitted with solar panels . The law will even apply to some renovations. It’s the first of its kind in Florida , and passed four to one – and some of the inspiration for the law came from a high school student. High schooler Delaney Reynolds, who was 16 at the time, learned about San Francisco’s 2016 measure requiring solar panels on all new buildings of 10 stories or less. She thought cities in Florida could do the same. Reynolds, who started a nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project to tackle climate change in South Florida, wrote mayors of around half a dozen cities in her area, according to InsideClimate News, and South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard was the first to reply. He asked Reynolds to help write the ordinance. Related: San Francisco approves measure to require solar panels on new buildings Under the law, new homes will have to have 175 square feet of solar panels per 1,000 square feet of roof area in the sun, or 2.75 kilowatts per 1,000 square feet of living space – whichever one is less. If the house is constructed beneath trees already there it may be exempt. If more than 75 percent of an existing home is being replaced by renovations , or if a home is being extended by 75 percent, the new law will apply as well. On Tuesday, the law passed, with only commissioner Josh Liebman voting against it. Liebman said he’s not against solar power but is for freedom of choice. The law will go into effect in September. Only around 10 new homes are built in the area a year, so Stoddard acknowledges the measure won’t change the world. But he said officials in other areas like Orlando and St. Petersburg have indicated interest, so the idea could spread. Via InsideClimate News and Miami Herald Images via Wikimedia Commons and The Sink or Swim Project Facebook

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16-year-old inspires U.S. city to pass law requiring solar panels on all new homes

Monolithic stone building springs up at the base of a Norwegian waterfall

July 10, 2017 by  
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Bergen-based architects Fortunen AS worked with Østengen & Bergo to install a compact service building at the base of the beautiful Skjervet waterfall in Granvin, Norway, using locally-sourced materials. The nature of the project required a prudent building strategy , so the team designed the structure to blend into the natural landscape and appear as though it had been there for years. The terrain around the waterfall site is steep and quite difficult to maneuver. However, the rugged landscape and lush vegetation around the site were carefully protected during the entire construction phase. A single trail made of natural stone was chosen as the central nerve of the project, and became the inspiration for the building’s design. Related: Snøhetta unveils spectacular makeover for nation’s second-largest waterfall The compact structure, which consists of two restrooms and a small technical room, is clad in locally-sourced natural stone. The remaining building materials including rebar fencing and concrete benches were also chosen to blend into the environment. On the inside, panels of warm plywood cover the walls, with various narrow glazed cutouts that look out over the river, allowing for amazing views of the Storelvi River, forest, and mountains. The monolithic building’s steep slanted roof , along with the natural stone facade, creates a jagged silhouette that, although contemporary in style, strategically blends into the solid rock surroundings, creating a subtle addition to the area, rather than a distraction. This achieved the design team’s original intention, which was to create a series of “gentle interventions that look like they have always been in this terrain – despite their modern form. The combination of contemporary form, ancient craft and local materials create a timeless dimension to the project.” The Skjervet design earned the World Architecture News Small Spaces Award in 2016. + Fortunen AS + Østengen & Bergo

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Monolithic stone building springs up at the base of a Norwegian waterfall

A spiraling wood staircase sits at the heart of this wondrous Tbilisi library

July 10, 2017 by  
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Laboratory of Architecture #3 has just opened a stunning public library whose design was inspired by playground slides. Located in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Mediathek Library’s rectangular shape “floats” off the ground while a large open-air staircase winds around the building’s interior courtyard, giving children plenty of room to run, play and read away from the industrial areas in the neighborhood. The project’s aim was to give families a peaceful, but fun place to escape the housing blocks and industrial zones found in the area. Located in the middle of a local park, the building is a contrast of volumes and materials. The main shape of the 12,000 square-foot library is a cantilevered rectangular block clad in a semi-transparent fabric-coated steel, giving the space a light, airy aspect. Lifted 12 meters off the ground on steel stilts, the dynamic building appears to be floating off the ground. Related: Nomadic bookseller travels all over France with his tiny library on wheels On the interior, the architects used a typical playground slide as inspiration for the large spiraling staircase that swirls around the open-air courtyard, encouraging kids to run around and explore the building. Mediathek contains a multi-media library for children and adults with various reading spaces such as an open-air round courtyard on the upper floor, which is fenced in by a brilliant blue wall. There are also plenty of play areas, as well as spaces for art exhibitions, lectures, conferences, and concerts. + Laboratory of Architecture #3 Via Archdaily Photography © Nakanimamasakhlisi

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A spiraling wood staircase sits at the heart of this wondrous Tbilisi library

Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

July 3, 2017 by  
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Johannesburg , South Africa was built on mining . The gold mining industry began there in the late 1800s , and the city still feels the impact of acid mine drainage, which pollutes the local water supply and scars the environment . Architecture For a Change has a solution: a dam and water purification plant that could help heal the landscape – and in the future, it could even provide housing . Acid mine drainage can pollute drinking water and soil. Johannesburg – near where some of the world’s biggest gold reefs are located – is suffering from the issue. Architecture For a Change says chronic exposure to acid mine drainage can cause cancer, skin lesions, and cognitive impairment. But they’ve found a potential solution through design . Related: Modern recycled container house in South Africa operates 100% off grid They envision a network of purification stations to heal the landscape. A skyscraper would house laboratories and the purification plant, which could draw on Trailblazer KNEW Ion Exchange technology to treat contaminated water. The treatment process would not only yield clean water, but minerals and substances like dolomite, gypsum, and salt that could be used in fertilizers or building. Re-mining Johannesburg doesn’t just clean up water, but could be integrated into the city’s urban fabric. Architecture For a Change envisions three phases for the project. First, water will be pumped from a mining void and purified, creating a large body of water that could become a waterfront held in by a dam. Second, as the land recovers water levels will go down, and the walls of the dam can be turned into housing. In phase three, in the far future, when the landscape is restored, the empty dam will be turned into a park fertilized with the byproducts of the treatment process, and surrounded by housing in the dam walls. The purification plant could be turned into a solar power station to provide energy for the homes. The main building could also have room for a hotel, restaurants, offices, or retail spaces in the future. The skyscraper design is inspired by mining headgear to connect the new buildings to the city’s past. Re-Mining Johannesburg also incorporates sustainable design : the building’s geometry means there is no roof or southern facade, minimizing heat loss. Heat from the purification process could be reused to warm the building in the winter. + Architecture For a Change Images courtesy of Architecture For a Change

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Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

A goodbye from Inhabitat founder Jill Fehrenbacher

June 7, 2017 by  
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After 12 years as the Editor-in-chief of Inhabitat.com, I say goodbye today — as I step down from running Inhabitat in order to focus on my soon-to-be-expanding-family. This change is bittersweet for me, as Inhabitat has been one of the central focuses and passions in my life for more than a decade. I started Inhabitat.com back in 2005 as a way to explore the power of design to improve the world for the better – first quitting my digital marketing job and then dropping out of grad school to focus on all of my energy, money and attention on growing the website. For years I put all of my blood, sweat and tears into growing Inhabitat to be the premiere website for green design and innovation, and I believe that our website has really made an impact in shaping the global conversation around what design can and should be. I worked on Inhabitat through the births of my two children, and even launched a parenting website the day before my first son was born – merging my personal and professional lives in a way that might not have been entirely healthy! I roped my husband into penning columns for Inhabitat , my kids made videos and starred in sponsored promotions , and this endeavor has always been more like my third child rather than just a job for me for more than a decade. But now that I have a real third baby coming, I realize I needed to make more time for my growing family. Inhabitat’s wonderful Managing Editor Mike Chino , who I have had the pleasure of working with for almost 10 years, will be taking over the leadership of this website moving forward. I want to thank him, and all of the amazing and inspiring people I have worked with over the past 12 years, who helped to make this site what it is today. First, the current Inhabitat team of Mike Chino , Tafline Laylin , Kristine Lofgren and Lucy Wang – thank you guys so much for all of your hard work, creativity and amazing ideas that you bring to Inhabitat on a daily basis. I know the site will be in great hands with their talents and I can’t wait to see how it evolves. I also want to give shout outs to my early partners in the fledgling years; creative-powerhouses Sarah Rich and Emily Pilloton – you guys have both gone on to do so many incredible and inspiring things, but Inhabitat to this day is still shaped by your input from so many years ago. I have so much gratitude for the Inhabitots and Ecouterre Managing Editors Jasmin Malik Chua and Beth Shea , and the many awesome editors and project managers I had the good fortune to work with over the years. And thank you to our early investor Thomas Ermacora for supporting the website, business advisor Shayne McQuade , and the folks at out parent company Internet Brands for taking a chance on our boutique website back in 2011. Finally, thank you to all of the readers, without whom Inhabitat wouldn’t be possible. I have met so many amazing people, and had so many inspiring conversations through the course of this project, and Inhabitat owes a lot to all of you. I look forward to seeing how Inhabitat evolves in the coming years. If you want to reach me, you can find me on social media and at my personal email address JillFehrenbacher at gmail.com

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A goodbye from Inhabitat founder Jill Fehrenbacher

The world’s most compact electric bike folds to fit into your backpack

May 25, 2017 by  
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Forget traditional bikes or skateboards – the future of green transportation is the Smacircle S1 , an incredibly compact and lightweight electric bike that can be folded up and carried in your backpack. Introduced to the world via an IndieGoGo campaign , the invention has surpassed its startup goal by 281% – and it’s not difficult to comprehend why. The carbon fiber S1 eBike can be folded in five simple steps and can travel up to 12.4 mph. Additionally, though it only weighs 15.4 lbs, the eBike can hold 220 lbs. According to the founders of the Smacircle S1, the road-legal ergonomic design folds to 19-inches and, with a 240W motor, can propel commuters in quick fashion without the need to pedal. On a single charge, the eBike can deliver a distance of 12 miles. After being plugged into any domestic power socket for 2.5 hours, it is ready to go again. The invention is road-legal and provides both front and side lights to make it highly visible to vehicles, pedestrians and other cyclists on the road. Electric brakes allow the bike to quickly stop to prevent accidents. The S1 automatically syncs to your smartphone when you approach, and an app unlocks the eBike. This feature prevents the invention from being stolen, as the accelerator deactivates until the original owner unlocks the S1. Other features of the app include the ability to adjust the lights’ intensity, track routes traveled and monitor speed and battery life. Once they’re rolling, commuters can attach their phones to the handlebars to keep the device fully charged, thanks to a built-in USB charger. Related: Make Your Own Electric Bicycle With the Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide The initial crowdfunding goal was set at $30,000 – but the project surpassed its goal by 281% in just five days. According to the founders, the next crowdfunding campaign will attempt to reach $300,000 to “put the next generation eBike into mass production.” The starting price for an S1 eBike is $1,499. + Smacircle S1 Images via Smacircle S1 IndieGoGo campaign

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The world’s most compact electric bike folds to fit into your backpack

Worlds largest floating solar farm is now generating energy in China

May 25, 2017 by  
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A 40-megawatt solar farm in the South Anhui province of China is finally online and generating renewable energy . Larger than floating farms in Australia and India, the mass of solar panels is the largest in the world can produce enough clean energy to power homes in the area. Though the city of Huainan is known for its coal-rich land, the Chinese government decided to invest in a floating solar farm because the rainy weather has resulted in flooding. In certain areas, water is four to ten meters deep. The cooler air at the surface helps to minimize the risk of the solar panels overheating. As a result, a decrease in performance is prevented. As Daily Commercial News  reports , the panels are linked up to a central inverter and combiner box. Both are supplied by Sungrow and are customized to work with floating power plants. This ensures they are resistant to high levels of humidity and spray from the water. Related: How a small tribe in Nevada shut down coal and built a solar farm A spokesperson for the government said, “The plant in Huainan not only makes full use of this area, reducing the demand for land, but also improves generation due to the cooling effects of the surface.” China may be one of the most polluted countries on the planet, but the government is investing in green energy initiatives to offset that reputation. Now that Huainan is home to the world’s largest floating solar farm , it is likely to become a leader in renewable energy production. + Sungrow Via  Daily Commercial News Images via Sungrow , Pixabay

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Worlds largest floating solar farm is now generating energy in China

Architects cracked this concrete building to fill its interior with daylight

May 17, 2017 by  
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Usually, architects avoid creating a building full of cracks. But the beautiful concrete facade of this mixed-use building in Aarhus, Denmark was built with intentional imperfections. Copenhagen-based architecture studio Sleth designed the building with a facade of cracked concrete that provides a glimpse of the illuminated interior and references the industrial history of the city’s Sonnesgade district. The Sonnesgade building, realized by the architects as a design-build project, revitalizes an existing industrial construction and consists of three stacked layers of long office floors. It was designed to reflect its surroundings and the transformation of the old freight terminal area into a lively cultural district. It facilitates interaction between the floors, with open-plan areas and flexible office spaces . Related: Berlin’s Tchoban Foundation Museum shelters architectural history within an energy-saving, hand-drawn concrete facade Storage and parking areas are tucked away underneath the landscaping. A sloped asphalt terrain surrounding the building forms outdoor areas for terraces, bikes and gardens, which grounds the project in the existing urban context. Thanks to its role in the rejuvenation of the area and the building’s expressive design, the project was nominated for the Architecture Award Mies Van der Rohe 2017. + Sleth architects Via Fubiz Photos by Rasmus Hjortshøj / C O A S T

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Architects cracked this concrete building to fill its interior with daylight

Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes

May 15, 2017 by  
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Daan Roosegaarde has been touring China with his Smog Free Project , showcasing the Smog Free Tower and encouraging people to find innovative solutions to address air pollution . He’s not out of ideas yet though; he’ll add to his tour with new smog-sucking bicycles . These bikes could work much like his Smog Free Tower does, absorbing dirty air , cleaning it, and pouring it back out as fresh air. Biking in a city polluted by smog isn’t healthy, so people are less inclined to ditch their cars and opt for a bicycle. Roosegaarde envisions an answer to that problem in a bike that can inhale dirty air, clean it, and pump it out around a cyclist. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working In a statement, Roosegaarde said, “ Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. We want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities.” The studio says the concept aligns with growing interest in bike sharing programs in China – like Mobike , which has over a million shareable bicycles in the Beijing area. There’s still a long way to go to slash pollution and traffic in the country’s capital, but the smog-sucking bicycle could offer a creative approach to the problem. The Smog Free Bicycle found its beginnings in a Studio Roosegaarde-hosted workshop at contemporary art museum M Woods in Beijing, featuring Professor Yang of Tsinghua University and artist Matt Hope, who worked on an idea for an air-filtering bike around four years ago . According to Studio Roosegaarde, the new smog-sucking bicycle is “currently in the first stage and is intended to become a medium for smog free cities, generating clean air by pedaling, and creating impact on the larger urban scale.” + Studio Roosegaarde Images via Studio Roosegaarde and Wikimedia Commons

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Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes

Snhetta’s Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion was Inspired by the Robust Landscape

May 13, 2017 by  
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Norway is perhaps best known for its coastal fjords , but the northern landscape has much to offer in its interior as well. Architecture firm Snøhetta took the opportunity to design a robust but low-impact building for visitors to immerse themselves in the Dovre Mountain plateau, home to musk oxen, arctic foxes and reindeer herds which roam amid a rich variety of plants and killer views. The pavilion is elemental in its use of a steel skin, glass walls and an extraordinary wood core which reads almost like a topographical map. The pavilion was commissioned by the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Foundation to allow visitors to behold the range of the reindeer. Snøhetta’s design for the center may have taken a cue from the Norwegian National Tourist Routes Project, which placed a series of Architectural refuges throughout the country. The pavilion is designed to withstand the harsh elements with a steel encasing protecting its wooden core. A bank of windows overlooks the Snøhetta Mountain from Tverrfjellet, a plateau at the elevation of 1,200 meters. The mythical landscape is reflected in part by a tremendous wooden wall inserted into the core of the pavilion. The robust organic quality of the wall was achieved by cutting large wooden beams on a CNC machine. The 25 cm square beams were then stacked and secured with wooden pegs to create the undulating effect. The wall looks as though it is deeply weathered, eroded by eons of wind and water. A bump out provides seating next to a suspended indoor fireplace, and the exterior has a similar seating arrangement. + Snøhetta Architects Via e-architect Photographs via  Snøhetta  and Klaas Van Ommeren

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Snhetta’s Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion was Inspired by the Robust Landscape

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