SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

April 17, 2019 by  
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Just a few months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) released designs for the first full-time human habitat on the lunar surface. Created in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the conceptual settlement — dubbed the “Moon Village” — outlines ways humans could live in an otherwise uninhabitable setting through self-sufficient means. Envisioned with a series of inflatable living modules, the Moon Village would not only harness resources for sustaining life and industrial activities, but would also be able to conduct research for sustaining life on terrestrial planets other than Earth. Because the Moon Village would harness sunlight for energy , the rim of Shackleton Crater near the South Pole has been selected as the project site, as it receives near continuous daylight throughout the lunar year. In situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments would generate food and other life-sustaining elements, such as breathable air, which would be created from water extracted from the crater’s water-ice deposits near the South Pole. “The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM design partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth , like radiation protection, pressure differentials and how to provide breathable air.” Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency The settlement would comprise clusters of inflatable pressurized modules that could easily expand to accommodate future growth and programmatic needs. Designed for self sufficiency, each three- to four-story modular unit would not only include living quarters and workspaces, but also environmental control and life support systems within a regolith-based protective shell resistant to extreme temperatures, projectiles, regolith dust and solar radiation. The settlement would allow mankind to conduct a more thorough exploration of the moon for research and development purposes and help pave the way to potential human settlements on Mars and beyond. + SOM Images via SOM

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Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab

April 11, 2019 by  
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Companies around the world have been working on alternatives to replace meat products, and a new cell-based meat promises to be a viable substitute for seafood. Following in the footsteps of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, Shiok Meats is looking to replace a host of seafood options with cleaner, more sustainable alternatives. The company’s founders, Ka Yi Ling and Sandhya Sriram, are using their background as stem cell scientists to create the next generation of clean meats . The co-founders are currently in the research phase of their project and hope to use cell-based meat to replicate shrimp, lobster and crab. Related: How meatless shrimp could solve seafood’s sustainability problem According to CleanTechnica , Shiok Meats is still a few years away from releasing a product, which it hopes will be available to a large market. Although the company is targeting seafood , its goal is not to replicate the look and feel of the meat. Instead, Ling and Sriram want to get the flavors right and hope to release something along the lines of a dumpling filling. “Definitely we can’t make seafood look like seafood that you catch from the ocean,” Sriram shared. “We can’t make the fish as a whole.” With its research well underway, Shiok Meats has secured funding from multiple sources. This includes firms like Boom Capital, AIIM Partners and Ryan Bethencourt. If the company is successful in producing cell-based seafood, Shiok Meats hopes to release its product around the world, starting in Asia. Shiok Meats is concentrating efforts on producing a shrimp alternative first, as this is more affordable and an easier meat to work with. If all goes well, then it will look into replicating other crustaceans. The company estimates that it can replace shrimp for around $5,000 per kilogram. Although this might seem like a hefty price, it is actually much more cost-effective than some of the beef alternatives currently on the market. For those interested in cell-based seafood, Shiok Meats plans to release its product in stores over the next three to five years, starting first in Singapore before expanding to other markets in Asia. + Shiok Meats Via CleanTechnica Images via Vedat Zorluer

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Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab

A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile

April 11, 2019 by  
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Remodeling an old bus into a new tiny home on wheels is never an easy feat, but most times, the results are breathtaking. Such is the case with Mande and Ben Tucker’s renovation of a 1992 school bus. Renamed Fern the Bus (in honor of the main character in Charlotte’s Web), the couple renovated the 24-foot-long  skoolie themselves, creating a customized, light-filled adventure-mobile. According to the couple, the 1992 International School Bus was in great condition when they purchased it, making the DIY renovation project in front of them just a little bit easier. Their first step was to strip the exterior of all of its original elements and repaint it in a fun sea foam green. Related:A couple converts an old prison bus into a criminally beautiful tiny home The bus is just 24 feet long and 7 feet wide, which meant the couple needed to custom design and build most of the furniture. After gutting the interior seats, rubber mat flooring and the bulky heating and AC units, they got to work crafting their future living space . Mande and Ben worked on the bus conversion for about a year. The result is a beautiful tiny home, well-lit with ample natural light. Throughout the living space, the couple used both natural cedar panels and white-painted pine on the walls, giving the interior a modern cabin feel. Acacia wood floors run the length of the home. The living room is marked by two large built-in sofas with cushions that Mande hand-sewed and stuffed with the foam from the old seats. At the end of the bus is the sleeping space, which fits a full XL mattress. In between the living room and the bedroom is a compact kitchen that houses all of the basics: an under-the-counter refrigerator, an oven with a stovetop and butcher block countertops with live-edge lumber accents. Plenty of shelving and storage keeps the interior spaces clutter-free. Next to the kitchen, a mirrored closet conceals a marine portable toilet. As for the family’s energy and water needs, a 25-gallon water tank of freshwater supplies water for the faucet and outdoor shower. The bus is also equipped with a 25-gallon gray water system . A propane tank provides heat for the oven and stove as well as the tankless water heater. Another great feature of Fern the Bus is her outdoor space. The couple outfitted her rooftop with a wonderful cedar deck, which is used for hauling sporting equipment, such as paddleboards. Additionally, the space is used as an open-air lounge, with enough space to have elevated picnics or do some stargazing. As an extra bonus, four posts are perfect to hang the couple’s hammocks, making it a prime spot for nap time. + Fern the Bus Via Dwell Photography by Mande Tucker

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A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile

Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

April 9, 2019 by  
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With clothing production leading the world as one of the highest-polluting industries, a new fiber contradicts the earth-damaging qualities of traditional materials. Ioncell technology , developed at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, uses a range of materials, including wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton to make fabric. This is good news for an environment scarred by cotton production and the development of synthetic fibers. The new and improved material can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle, significantly reducing clothing waste . In a country already acutely aware of sustainable practices in forest management, the trees sourced from Finland offer a much lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing. Ioncell materials also protect the water supply by using ionic liquid in place of harsh chemicals. Related: The convenience of “highway fitting” your clothes is hurting the planet While the designers focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, the clothing also avoids contributing to a massive post-consumer waste problem. That’s because the fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, the fibers do not contain any harmful microfibers now associated with massive ocean pollution and damage to sea life. Sourced from birch trees , the wood is responsibly harvested as part of a forest management program that grows more trees than they harvest. Once cut into smaller logs, the wood is sent through a machine that turns it into large chips. At this phase, the chips are sent to the cooker and then turned into sheets of pulp. The pulp is then mixed with the ionic liquid that results in a cellulose material. Fibers are then spun into yarn and turned into fabric. Designers and researchers involved in the project report that the resulting material is soft and drapes naturally, making it a good choice for formalwear, coats, scarves, gloves and other products. It also accepts dye well. The process for making Ioncell fibers is still in the research and development phase and they currently only produce it on a small scale, but they are hoping to unveil a preliminary product line as early as 2020. + Aalto University Via World Economic Forum Images via Aalto University

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Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

Modern farmhouse-inspired dwelling in Melbourne is largely self-sufficient

March 29, 2019 by  
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Desirous of a “low-tech, country life,” a couple reached out to Brunswick-based architectural firm MRTN Architects for the design of the Trentham Long House, a contemporary home inspired by the traditional farming structures that once inhabited the Australian countryside. Located north of Melbourne, the dwelling consists of an elongated structure topped with a gable roof. To meet the client’s brief for a largely self-sufficient home, the architects optimized the thermal performance of the build, taking advantage of passive solar principles and installing a high-efficiency fireplace for supplementary heating in winter. Built for a couple that often hosts their extended family, the single-story home spans an area of 2,787 square feet and is oriented east to west. The main living spaces are located on the west side and include four bedrooms evenly split on either side of the central open-plan living area with a dining space and kitchen. Full-height glazing with custom sliding screens open the living space to an outdoor terrace. “The building’s muted material palette subtly and effectively reflects the surrounding environment, echoing buildings of the past,” MRTN Architects explained. “The spotted gum exterior cladding is left to naturally patina , relying on its innate aptitude to develop character and camouflage over time. The owners are not extravagant or wasteful people, they live with a careful intent behind all they do and their family is very important to them. The house is largely self-sufficient, heating costs are low, cooling costs are non-existent and the extended family can be accommodated at all times.” Related: A tiny, rustic, off-grid cabin sits on vast 300 acres in Australia The client’s son, a builder, constructed the project with finishes and materials selected on the basis of their durability, thermal performance and cost-effectiveness. To ensure energy efficiency, the architects kept glazed openings along the south facade at a minimum while roof overhangs and custom sliding screens help protect against unwanted solar gain. Stone tile set on a concrete slab provides  thermal mass . Moreover, all rainwater runoff from the roof is captured and stored in large water tanks and reused for all the home’s water needs and for irrigation. + MRTN Architects Photography by Anthony Basheer via MRTN Architects

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Modern farmhouse-inspired dwelling in Melbourne is largely self-sufficient

This cabin offers outstanding views of Oaxaca from a massive, cantilevering terrace

March 26, 2019 by  
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Nature-based refuges come in many shapes and forms, but this gorgeous cabin in Oaxaca manages to capture the serenity of its location thanks to a massive, cantilevering terrace in addition to two spacious rooftop terraces. Designed by Mexican firm  LAMZ Arquitectura , the Teitipac Cabin features two interconnecting volumes that were made with reclaimed natural materials , including natural stone found on-site as well as reclaimed steel and wood. Located in the mountainous region of San Sebastián Teitipac in Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico, the beautiful cabin is actually made up of two separate volumes. This was a strategy employed by the architects to build the cabins into the smallest footprint possible without altering the existing natural terrain of oaks and copal trees. Related: Get away from it all in this off-grid concrete cabin just steps away from the Appalachian Trail Spanning a total of just under 2,000 feet, the cube-like volumes were set on a small hilltop to provide stunning views of the surrounding mountain range. According to the architects, the project design centered around providing an abundance of open-air spaces in order to take in these breathtaking views from anywhere on-site. In addition to providing a strong visual connection to the environment, the architects also wanted to create harmony between the man-made and the natural by using as many natural and reclaimed materials as possible. The cabins are tucked partially into the landscape, creating structures with various levels, including a basement embedded into the rocky landscape and two large rooftop terraces. The two structures are connected to a simple staircase that leads from one terrace to another. Several additional walkways wind around the cabin, leading past glass-panel enclosures and various entrances. Both of the volumes are clad in natural stone, which blends the structures into the rocky terrain. The cabin also features expansive glass panels that further drive the connection between the indoors and the outdoors. Additionally, throughout the interior living space, reclaimed wood was used in the flooring and ceilings. The two structures are divided according to their uses: one houses the communal living areas, while the other is home to the bedrooms. Clad in natural stone and wood, the interiors are warm and inviting. While outdoor space is abundant for both volumes, the master bedroom’s  cantilevering terrace is at the heart of the design. + LAMZ Arquitectura Via Archdaily Photography by Lorena Darquea via LAMZ Arquitectura

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This cabin offers outstanding views of Oaxaca from a massive, cantilevering terrace

A micro home with a green roof sits atop a granite wine cellar in rural Portugal

March 21, 2019 by  
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Porto-based firm  Diogo Aguiar Studio has breathed new life into a granite wine cellar by topping it with a minimalist holiday home complete with a natural green roof planted with native vegetation. Located in Guimarães, Portugal, the brilliant Pavilion House is a timber-clad micro home  with large windows that connects the residence with its bucolic surroundings. Working in collaboration with Andreia Garcia Architectural Affairs , the architects placed the unique micro home on an existing granite wine cellar that sits on a small hill. Although the minimal building size certainly restricted the floor plan, the elevated structure allowed the architects to maximize the home’s stunning views, which are comprised of expansive vineyards to the front and a dense forest backdrop. Related: A dilapidated garage transforms into an industrial-chic micro home The home is clad in thin timber panels to create a modern log cabin feel. The cube-like volume is punctuated by four large windows that look out onto the surrounding landscape. The house was also installed with a green roof planted with native vegetation to blend it into its natural setting. The architects outfitted the micro home with just the basics: a small living space, kitchenette and bath. Keeping true to its minimalist roots , the beautiful design features a living room that doubles as a sleeping area with a fold-out bed. Both the kitchen and small bathroom with a skylight can also be completely concealed behind bi-fold doors. Plenty of storage is also incorporated into the walls. According to the architects, the inspiration for the  design came from its idyllic setting . “Pavilion House is a guesthouse. The only true requirement was to emphasize the sense of recollection in the forest, a refuge from urbanity,” lead architect Diogo Aguiar told  Dezeen . “The idea of creating ??a log cabin was behind all the project decisions — it is a wooden minimal house in the mountain.” + Diogo Aguiar Studio + Andreia Garcia Architectural Affairs  Via Dezeen Images via Fernando Guerra

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A micro home with a green roof sits atop a granite wine cellar in rural Portugal

Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach clean up in history

March 19, 2019 by  
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Olive Ridley baby turtles have officially returned to the beaches of Mumbai, and it is all because one of the world’s largest beach clean-up efforts. Last summer, conservationists watched as over 80 baby turtles made their way across Mumbai’s Versova Beach, which was previously home to a massive garbage heap. “I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean ,” Afroz Shah, an activist in Mumbai, shared. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife It has been a few decades since the baby turtles have had access to the beach, which is an important part of their migratory journey to the Arabian Sea. Watching the turtles waddle towards the sea was confirmation that the clean-up efforts were well worth it and inspired volunteers to keep up the good work. It took a little over two years for volunteers to clean up the beach and remove the massive piles of trash . The mounds of plastic and other human waste was over five feet high, making it impossible for the baby turtles to make their journey to the sea. Following the clean-up effort, you can now play in the sand just like any beach in the world. The pristine condition of the beach is all thanks to the efforts of  hundreds volunteers who gathered over 11 million pounds of garbage over the course of two years. The volunteers, whom Shah helped organize, also cleaned up nearby river systems and initiated programs to prevent local residents from using the beach as a landfill . Shah also cleaned up over 52 public restrooms in the area and installed 50 coconut trees alongside the beach. Shah and his team plan to plant a grove of mangrove trees in the future, which he hopes will help with flooding and increase the quality of the water. Between the beach clean-up and the baby turtles returning to Mumbai , the United Nations gave Shah their Champion of the Earth Award and named the project the “world’s largest beach clean-up effort.” Via Global Citizen Image via skeeze

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Drones: the future of ocean conservation

March 6, 2019 by  
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Unmanned systems such as drones, are increasingly used in a variety of fields — from border patrol, to cinematography to just plain showing off your cool new toy with neighbors. Thanks to rapidly improving technology , durability and artificial intelligence, these unmanned systems also show significant promise in the field of ocean conservation. Scientists can save significant time and resources by collecting data, mapping species and monitoring huge areas of ocean impossible to reach by boat. “Drones are fundamentally changing the way we monitor and manage our environment ,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute Captain, Brian Taggart, told  DroneLife . Taggart explained that unmanned systems can help scientists track the abundance and distribution of endangered species, patrol for illegal fishing and monitor areas that might be hard for boats to reach — such as shallow reefs. Related: Oceans are dubbed the ‘ultimate sink’ for plastic waste WasteShark: the trash-eating ocean drone RanMarine, a Dutch technology firm, has launched a floating drone called “WasteShark” in several countries. This remote-controlled  or autonomously running drone collects floating trash at a rate of 130 pounds per trip, equaling 15 tons of waste every year. Think of it as a large, high-tech, trash -eating Roomba vacuum for the ocean’s surface. In addition to alleviating litter, the robot can also test water quality and remove oils, chemicals and harmful algae — all without threatening wildlife. Video: See how WasteShark works “WasteShark is cheaper, greener, more effective and less disruptive than other methods of dealing with marine litter,” Chief Commercial Officer of RanMarine, Oliver Cunningham, told the Daily Mail . Aerial mapping and measuring Drones are also used to collect data everywhere from the Caribbean to Antarctica. Conservation website Monga Bay reported that scientists in Antarctica are using drone imagery to measure and monitor leopard seal populations. This technology saves the researchers huge amounts of time, money and resources when compared to business as usual; physically capturing, sedating and then releasing each seal they measure. Weighing an average of 800 pounds each, this is a huge and costly endeavor that also disrupts the seal population. The researchers conducted a study to compare the results of drone-measured seals versus those that they hand measure and found the results only varied by two to four percent. “Because we took the time to develop this technique and verify that it’s doing what we think it’s doing, we can feel confident about gathering monitoring information in the future that will both help us understand ecosystem function and also give us better data to support conservation efforts,” lead scientist Douglas J. Krause told Monga Bay . Drones give students a new perspective   Drones can also be used for educational purposes by giving scientists, researchers, students and the general public a gorgeous, birds-eye view of marine ecosystems and restoration projects that they otherwise could never see up-close. The Nature Conservancy used drones to teach students in Grenada about a coral reef restoration project and used the awe-inspiring robot technology to hover over the project infrastructure and convince the students of how cool ocean conservation can be . Cracking down on drones in parks With advancing technology and decreasing prices, it seems like everyone has a drone now, and many local and state governments are cracking down on their use in parks. All drones have been recently prohibited in California’s San Luis Obispo Coastal Park with authorities arguing that the unmanned systems disturb both wildlife and the public’s recreational experiences. For example, unskilled drone users have been cited for accidentally landing drones on rock islands inhabited by sunbathing seals. Others have scared birds from their nests, while others lose their drones and trample through fragile ecosystems to retrieve them. Drone use for scientific research is still allowed with a permit and trained pilot. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife Are drones taking jobs? There are many examples of how drone technology improves ocean conservation , but how does this artificial technology impact local fishers, park rangers and other ocean-based livelihoods? The National Geographic Society recently awarded Moroccan company ATLAN a World Oceans Day Prize for their drone that can identify, recognize and alert authorities of illegal fishing activities across 435 miles — far more than rangers on a motor boat could ever accomplish. This seems like a great achievement for protecting fish populations, especially when over 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are severely over fished. However, many marine protected areas — where fishing is prohibited — were established without consultation with subsistence and small-scale fishers. Despite their benefits to ecosystems, marine protected areas can often cause the displacement and criminalization of cultures and traditional ways of life without providing realistic alternatives. “The idea that conservation requires emptying the land of its customary inhabitants fails to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the most effective and efficient guardians,” Rights and Resources’s Lindsay Brigda wrote in their publication, Cornered by Protected Areas . Many environmental organizations are now making a determined effort to consult with local communities and develop jobs in areas such as eco-tourism and conservation. With their extensive knowledge of navigated waters, fishers are often given jobs as park rangers– an opportunity to earn a living protecting the species they used to exploit. Video: See how a fisher woman in Jamaica become a fisheries warden Drones, like most artificial intelligence , are still years away from completely replacing the need for humans, but a concerted effort to protect already limited conservation jobs and budget for displaced people is paramount. Images via Shutterstock

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China hopes to bring solar power to space

March 6, 2019 by  
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China is looking to be the first country in the world to install a solar power outlet in space . Scientists at the China Academy of Space Technology are working on new technology to make solar power in space a reality, and they hope to have something in place by the year 2050. The story of China’s ambitious solar power initiative was first published by a newspaper ran by the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The scientists working on the project believe that installing solar power in space will provide them with “inexhaustible clean energy,” though details of the plan are still being ironed out. Related: China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’ The scientists, led by Pang Zhihao, are targeting space as a potential landing spot for solar power, because the equipment will not be exposed to overcast skies or night conditions. According to Dezeen , Zhihao is optimistic that the solar power will provide as much as six times the energy of solar farms based within the Earth’s atmosphere. Zhihao and his team are currently building prototypes in Chongqing and plan to continue testing different models over the next decade. Once they work out all of the details, they plan to start construction of the solar power space station as early as 2030. Governments around the globe are looking into ways to use clean energy on a larger scale. Businesses are also researching ways to lessen their carbon footprint, and solar power could be a means to that end. For example, Apple recently promised to use 100 percent clean energy in all of its stores and facilities. The company is installing solar panels on rooftops to help reach its renewable energy goals.  NASA has also looked into installing solar power in space over the past 20 years. Japan is looking to put a solar power farm in orbit and has developed technology for it. One of the main issues with solar power in space is getting the energy back to Earth, something China hopes to accomplish via lasers or microwaves. Via Dezeen Image via NASA / GSFC / SDO

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