Discover the powers of nature in Denmarks newly opened NATURKRAFT exploratorium

June 17, 2020 by  
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Last week, Denmark’s NATURKRAFT officially opened to offer the public a new space for experiencing the “physical and aesthetic powers of nature.” Designed by Thøgersen & Stouby and SLA , the new landmark at the western coastal town of Ringkøbing is a 50-acre exploratorium showcasing the importance of environmental stewardship. The project, which was funded by private equity and the Municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern, cost 300 million Danish kroner ($45,329,550) and is expected to attract 280,000 visitors annually. Naturkraft — Danish for “Nature Power” — consists of three connected zones that are separately guided by the themes of observation, participation and understanding. The first “observation” zone is marked by a 600-meter-long ring was that rises to a height of 12 meters and provides views of the Ringkøbing Fjord and the flat surrounding landscape. The second zone, which focuses on “participation,” comprises an inner nature and adventure park with playful installations and a 17-kilometer-long “cross section” of the local biotopes throughout the western Jutland of Denmark . Eight specially designed nature typologies are represented, from the sand dune and the heathland to the marsh and the carbon forest. Related: Climate-adaptive park in Copenhagen wins Arne of the Year Award The theme of “understanding” guided the creation of a 5,500-square-meter building for exhibitions. Located on the highest point of the ring wall, the building features a tent-like translucent facade constructed from lightweight ETFE to emphasize a constant connection to the outdoors. The inner nature arena also includes “dissemination installations” for furthering conversations on the importance of nature for humans. “Naturkraft is both about the visible nature powers that humans experience and use in nature, and about the deep-seated aesthetic sense of nature that nature phenomena awaken in us,” said Stig L. Andersson, design director and founding partner of SLA. “Nature is what allows us humans to live good and meaningful lives. For both survival and living. In Naturkraft we show how the use of natural processes can shape our future cities and communities. Not by hitherto destroying existing nature , but by learning from nature and living with and not against it.” + SLA Photography by Torben Petersen and Thøgersen&Stouby via SLA

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Discover the powers of nature in Denmarks newly opened NATURKRAFT exploratorium

How to have an eco-friendly picnic

June 17, 2020 by  
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Summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s picnic season. But a picnic with juice boxes and individually wrapped treats creates a lot of waste that only contributes to the growing plastic crisis. Have an eco-friendly picnic this summer instead and spend time enjoying and protecting the environment around you in real ways that you can be proud of. Eliminating waste Paper plates, paper napkins and plastic cutlery mean lots of waste for any picnic. Eliminate all of that by using cloth napkins and serving foods that don’t need extra plates. Items that can be eaten by hand don’t require forks and spoons. Sandwiches, vegetable slices, crackers, rolls, wraps — the list of great finger foods goes on and on. Related: How to replace single-use and plastic items in the kitchen Bring reusable cups and napkins on the picnic and take them with you when you leave. That means don’t bring any plastic straws or juice boxes, either.  Preparing the food Support the local community and small farmers by buying local when you’re shopping for ingredients. Go to a farmers market to get fresh, local ingredients. If possible, ride a bike over to the market and back so you aren’t adding any carbon emissions to the atmosphere when you do your shopping. Pack your food in silicone bags or glass containers instead of plastic containers to be even more green. Consider a meal that doesn’t include any beef. Environmentalists warn that beef production on a massive scale creates numerous risks to the planet, from the methane generated on cattle farms to the energy it takes to transport the beef. Opt for vegetarian and vegan options at the picnic to be as eco-friendly as possible. Related: Cool vegan recipes for a hot summer If you do end up with orange peels, wrappers and other waste at the end of the picnic, pick up all of these items instead of leaving them behind. Some food remains, like rinds and peels, can be added to the compost pile. Recycle or wash and reuse everything else that you possibly can. Grilling If you plan to grill for your picnic, plan ahead with the planet in mind. Grilling can release a lot of carbon emissions into the air; however, when done properly, grilling can be better for the environment than cooking in the kitchen. Solar cookers are a great option, but you’ll have to bring your cooker with you to the picnic and you need the weather to be in your favor for it to work. If you can’t use a solar cooker, you can use natural lump charcoal. Rather than lighter fluid, use a charcoal chimney. This is a green alternative to standard grilling. If you’re having a picnic in the park, there will be plenty of community grills available for use. Remember to take any aluminum foil and other waste with you when you leave the picnic area for proper disposal. Playing games It won’t do much good to prepare an eco-friendly meal and then play picnic games that create a lot of waste. A flying disc is a great option. Jump ropes can be folded and packed away easily, so this is another item to bring for some fun picnic activities. A simple rubber ball can be used to play kickball, dodge ball or any number of other sports. Keep eco-friendly games in mind when you’re thinking about picnic recreation. Choose activities that leave no waste behind and don’t alter the environment in any way. Keeping insects away Using bug sprays isn’t the best choice for an eco-friendly picnic. Stick to natural ways to keep bugs away, such as crushed lavender flowers or citronella to repel mosquitoes. Lavender oil is effective at keeping a number of insects away, including mosquitoes. You can also mix garlic and lemon to keep insects and even some animals away from your picnic area, although the smell that drives them away can be unpleasant for people, too. Related: 4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky bug bites Applying sunscreen Be sure to keep a reef-safe sunscreen on hand, and for added protection, pack a big straw hat. Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen, too, to prevent harmful sunburn. Traveling If possible, bike or walk to your picnic location to reduce emissions . If that’s not an option, carpool or ride public transit to the picnic spot to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. All those little changes really do add up to be a big help to the environment. Images via Kate Hliznitsova , Toa Heftiba , Yaroslav Verstiuk and Antonio Gabola

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Rimbin concept offers a look into the future of infection-free playgrounds

June 1, 2020 by  
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Berlin-based inventors Martin Binder and Claudio Rimmele believe that parents shouldn’t have to make the choice whether or not to let their children enjoy a playground in a world changed by COVID-19. In the early days of the pandemic, Binder, a designer and artist, and Rimmele, a psychologist and publicist, noticed a shift in the playgrounds of their city. Where there were once lively, laughter-filled spots in the city were now forbidden and barren because of necessary precautions in the fight against the novel coronavirus. The two understood the importance of playgrounds for developing children’s social skills and improving mental health. Six weeks later, they found their solution in Rimbin, an infection-free playground concept inspired by nature and influenced by Berlin parents. Related: Solar-powered “bubble shield” focuses on physical distancing in public The concept calls for a separate play platform for each child and a playground path leading to each area with a separate entrance. The platforms are large enough for children or siblings of the same household to stay together, far enough from unfamiliar children to ensure social distancing, yet open enough for kids to communicate and play games from a safe distance. Features in between the platforms, such as speaking tubes, horizontal ladders and seesaws, offer interaction without the need for physical contact. Surface areas, handles and tubes would be made of metal materials that are easy to sterilize, and permanent disinfectant dispensers would be installed for parents if they’d like to clean as an additional safety precaution. Inspiration for the playground and platforms came from biology and nature, according to the designers. The play areas were created to imitate the leaves of the Amazon water lily, inspired by the 1849 project conducted by biologist Joseph Baxton where he placed his young daughter in the water lily leaves to demonstrate their strength and carrying power. Rimmele and Binder hope that the concept will allow the children of the future to continue to enjoy the social interactions, creativity and imagination that playgrounds helped encourage before the pandemic . + Martin Binder Images via Martin Binder

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Rimbin concept offers a look into the future of infection-free playgrounds

Orcas threatened by highly contagious respiratory virus, CeMV

June 1, 2020 by  
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Marine mammal conservationists warn of a contagious respiratory pathogen, cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV), that could potentially harm already  endangered  orca populations. Like the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that is causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, CeMV similarly has high transmission and mortality rates. With orcas being highly social animals, an outbreak could threaten entire pod populations, in turn drastically affecting the ecosystem, since  orcas  are apex predators. According to  National Geographic , more than a million cetaceans ( whales , dolphins and porpoises) are eliminated each year through “bycatch [species caught unintentionally by fishermen], intentional killing, ship strikes, seismic surveys done for oil exploration, and naval sonar.” Oil spills are another risk, as are municipal and industrial waste polluting their marine environment. Chemicals accumulating in marine food chains are thereby ingested, leading to high toxicity levels that suppress cetacean immune systems. Related:  Federal agencies propose designated marine habitat to help protect Pacific humpback whales Worryingly,  Emerging Microbes & Infections  journal affirms CeMV as the pathogen posing the greatest risk of triggering widespread disease in cetacean populations worldwide. What’s worse, CeMV is highly contagious, capable of spreading between cetacean populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Cases of CeMV first appeared in cetaceans during the 1980s. So far,  Science Direct  acknowledges at least six distinct strains of CeMV — porpoise morbillivirus (PMV),  dolphin  morbillivirus (DMV), pilot whale morbillivirus (PWMV) and beaked whale morbillivirus (BWMV).  Interestingly,  Viruses  journal states that CeMV is part of a virus family — the morbilliviruses — which includes the measles virus in humans and primates, the rinderpest virus in cattle, the peste des petits ruminants virus in goats and sheep, the canine distemper virus in dogs and the phocine distemper virus in seals and walruses.  Meanwhile,  NOAA Fisheries  estimates that of 50,000 orcas worldwide, about 2,500 reside “in the eastern North Pacific Ocean…[with] Southern Residents in the eastern North Pacific… listed as endangered in 2005.” This pocket of orcas has garnered media attention for their dwindling numbers as their primary food source, chinook salmon, is depleted. Human-induced noise also interferes with echolocation, threatening the orcas’ normal behavior. Additionally, lingering polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), despite being banned for decades, persist in the  oceans , contaminating the food chain. As  The Guardian  revealed, “PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system.” Immuno-compromised orcas are left susceptible to pathogens like CeMV. Researchers ran simulations to see what would happen should the highly infectious CeMV enter a pod population. Models indicated 90% of the population would succumb. Biologist Michael Weiss of San Juan Island’s Center for Whale Research explained in a  Biological Conservation  journal study, “The social structure of this population offers only limited protection from disease outbreaks.” While immunization against measles in humans and canine distemper in pets has been successful, vaccines against CeMV for whales might not be deployed practically — unlike the morbillivirus vaccine program under development for endangered seals. A more viable solution may be to enhance the  conservation  of chinook salmon to minimize the chances of orca hunger and boost their immune systems. + KUOW and NPR Images via Pixabay

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Living Building Challenge-targeted Watershed improves Seattles water quality

June 1, 2020 by  
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Seattle-based design firm Weber Thompson has completed construction on Watershed, a mixed-use development that aggressively reduces its energy and water usage compared to conventional construction of the same size. Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, the inspiring project is one of a few pioneering buildings pursuing the city’s Living Building Pilot Program. The project will also be targeting the Materials, Place and Beauty petals toward Petal Certification from the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. Set at the intersection of Troll Avenue and 34th Street, the seven-story Watershed building comprises approximately 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail as well as 67,000 square feet of office space above. In addition to offering mixed-use appeal, the building also takes on an educational role. It includes informative signage in the landscape to help the public learn about the importance of clean water in the region as well as a digital dashboard in the lobby that displays real-time building performance data. To achieve the standards of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program, Watershed is required to reduce energy use by 25% and water use by 75% compared to a baseline building. Related: The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the world’s greenest buildings Most impressively, Watershed features a comprehensive stormwater management plan that aims to capture and treat millions of gallons of runoff a year. Its cantilevered roof is engineered to capture 200,000 gallons of water a year that is used for on-site toilet flushing and irrigation. Stepped bio-retention planters also help retain and treat an additional 400,000 gallons of polluted stormwater runoff from the adjacent street and the Aurora Bridge annually prior to discharge in Lake Union. The building will eventually clean nearly 2 million gallons of toxic runoff from the Aurora Avenue Bridge annually as part of its three-phase Green Stormwater Infrastructure project. “Like every project we design, we’ve approached Watershed as an opportunity to create a building that positively impacts the broader community,” said Kristen Scott, architect and senior principal at Weber Thompson. “Watershed allows us to take what we’ve learned from some of our most ambitious sustainability projects to date and dig deeper to find new ways to showcase practical, achievable deep green design. Our goal is to inspire, through design, a stronger connection to place, community, and the environment around us.” The sustainable building also uses locally sourced materials, salvaged materials and state-of-the-art building energy controls and systems.  + Weber Thompson Images via Weber Thompson

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Babylon Bridge features hanging gardens over the Seine

May 26, 2020 by  
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Paris-based design studio Rescubika has unveiled a fantastical proposal for the Babylon Bridge, a pedestrian-only bridge over the river Seine. Inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the proposed bridge would be covered with greenery on multiple levels, from trees that line the length of the bridge to the hanging planters that surround a central waterfall feature. The new public park would also be connected to the riverbanks, which could be turned into urban agriculture plots for local use. The Babylon Bridge proposal spans the Seine to connect the Esplanade Pierre Vidal-Naquet on the left bank with the 14-hectare Parc de Bercy on the right. Rescubika designed the proposal in response to the revitalization of Avenue de France — most notably with the ongoing development of architect Jean Nouvel’s Tour Duo project — and its desire to provide urban beautification that can be seen by a greater number of residents and visitors. Related: Curvaceous bicycle bridge brings new life to Copenhagen’s harbor “This project aims to study the possibility of a strong city entrance in the form of a hanging landscape,” the firm explained. “The Babylon Bridge is a positive vision of the city of tomorrow, less chaotic and annihilating than that of yesterday. The bridge is an urban tool allowing the passage of flows over areas that are impossible to cross, here we also want to allow the user to stroll and relax. It is a participative and positive architecture.” As an antidote to city living, the Babylon Bridge will shield visitors from urban noise and pollution with its hanging gardens and the noise buffer created by the central waterfall. A large, landscaped canopy would stretch over the bridge to provide shade and support for thousands of hanging potted plants. Seating areas would be integrated along the path to encourage visitors to take their lunch out on the bridge, which would be accessible from street level and the riverbanks below. + Rescubika Images via Rescubika

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Pittsburghs MuseumLab for children achieves LEED Gold

May 14, 2020 by  
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MuseumLab, one of Pittsburgh’s most creative and innovative youth learning spaces, has earned LEED Gold a year after the project was completed in the recently renovated 1890 Carnegie Library, which is located in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Santa Monica-based Koning Eizenberg Architecture led the design of the energy-efficient adaptive reuse project that now serves as a beacon for sustainability, historic preservation and community investment. Part interactive museum and part learning lab, the MuseumLab was developed by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which received LEED Silver in 2006, to offer a variety of innovative activities for kids aged 10 and above for experimenting with art and technology. The new space hosts three labs: the Studio Lab for art; the Make Lab that comprises woodworking and metalworking equipment as well as CNC routers and laser cutters; and the Tech Lab that teaches children coding, augmented reality and video game design. The MuseumLab also has program and rental spaces, commissioned artworks, unique camps, workshops and after-school activities. Related: The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the world’s greenest buildings In renovating the 130-year-old Carnegie Library, the architects sought to preserve and expose as much of the original 1890 archways, columns and mosaic floors as possible while bolstering the building’s energy efficiency. As a result, deteriorated plaster was sensitively rehabilitated with thermal plaster patching rather than demolished altogether. Windows were reinstated to bring greater amounts of natural light to the interiors to highlight the many historic details and new contemporary art brought into the space. “The work of innovative building projects like MuseumLab is a fundamental driving force in transforming the way our buildings are built, designed and operated,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of U.S. Green Building Council. “Buildings that achieve LEED certification are lowering carbon emissions , reducing operating costs and conserving resources while prioritizing sustainable practices and human health. Because of MuseumLab, we are increasing the number of green buildings and getting closer to USGBC’s goal to outpace conventional buildings, while being environmentally and socially responsible and improving quality of life for generations to come.” + Koning Eizenberg Architecture Photography by Erik Staudenmaier via Koning Eizenberg Architecture

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Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

May 7, 2020 by  
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As part of Barcelona’s efforts to reclaim its car-congested streets for pedestrians, the city has tapped architects to create “superblocks” — groups of streets transformed into car-free public plazas. One such project was completed in 2019 by Leku Studio in the trendy neighborhood of Sant Antoni. Redesigned with attractive way-finding elements and street furniture, the Superblock of Sant Antoni is the second of six superblocks completed to date. The Superblocks Program was conceived as a way to curb air pollution while addressing a lack of green and social spaces in the city. Each superblock comprises nine city blocks and is closed off to thru-traffic, with parking tucked underground. New street furniture, colorful graphics and removable planters are added to encourage walking, cycling and social gathering. Related: How Barcelona “superblocks” return city streets to the people “Where previously there was an urban highway, now there is a healthy street full of life and green, where there was a traffic intersection now there is a livable plaza ,” explained the architects, who implemented the first phase of the Superblock of Sant Antoni in 2018. “Car noise has been replaced by children playing, cheerful conversations between neighbors or elderly people chess games. The transformation continues together with this flexible landscape capable of integrating new changes derived from urban testing and social innovation.” Reversibility was a guiding principle behind the design of the Superblock of Sant Antoni. As a result, the architects created an “adaptive urban furniture toolkit” so that the street furniture and planters — built with eco-friendly materials — could be combined in a variety of ways. The graphic tiles and signage also provide a reference for the arrangement of the new urban elements. The City of Barcelona plans to create 503 superblocks that will eventually connect to one another to create a series of “green corridors” that total 400 acres of new green space by 2030. + Leku Studio Photography by DEL RIO BANI via Leku Studio

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Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

Giant wooden pavilion in Taiwan is a birdhouse for humans

April 17, 2020 by  
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Designed by the creative minds behind Taipei-based Phoebe Says Wow Architects , the Boolean Birdhouse is a massive pavilion built in the middle of a national park in Taiwan. Set up for an annual flower show, the wooden building features five individual pitched roofs that jut up into the sky to create a welcoming place for birds to perch, while humans can also find a bit of respite inside the birdhouse. Located in Taiwan’s Yangmingshan National Park, the wooden building gives visitors to an annual flower show a place to rest while enjoying the incredible views. In particular, the region is known for its feathered wildlife, which inspired the architects to create a pavilion that was geared toward giving native birds a place to perch while giving visitors a chance to be close to nature. Related: Dramatically twisted timber weaves together in the Steampunk pavilion Spanning almost 900 square feet, the building includes five separate volumes with soaring pitched roofs. Clad in cypress shingles, the natural timber exterior and bark finishes are reminiscent of small, ubiquitous birdhouses found in backyards around the world. In fact, there are several bird-sized openings found throughout the exterior facade to let birds come in and out with ease. Although the structure is “for the birds ,” it’s also designed to be a resting place for human visitors of the flower show. Guests who enter the wooden pavilion through one of the dual entrances will find a dark interior filled with oddly-shaped spaces. The interior features a public area for exhibitions, but there are also several private corner nooks and curved crannies where people can take a moment to meditate or just take a quiet break. + Phoebe Says Wow Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Hey!Cheese, OS Studio and Shihhwa Hung via Phoebe Says Wow Architects

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Giant wooden pavilion in Taiwan is a birdhouse for humans

Archivist releases shirts made from recycled hotel sheets

April 17, 2020 by  
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Sometimes, being disruptive is fashionable. As for Archivist, a sustainable clothing company, its business plan counts on being disruptive in the name of fashion and corporate responsibility. With this mission, Archivist has found a unique yet luxurious inspiration for a new line of tailored shirts — hotel sheets. The story begins with a query on what happens to hotel sheets once they are discarded. The answer inspired a campaign to turn used bedding into sustainable fashion. As such, Archivist is the brainchild of partners Eugenie Haitsma and Johannes Offerhaus, Dutch designers who reached out to European hotels and quickly received 200 kilos of fine Egyptian cotton sheets. Although they were worn enough to be pulled from the hotels, these high-quality sheets still has plenty of performance life left. Archivist moved quickly to disrupt the flow of hotel sheets to landfills, instead creating a men’s leisure shirt and a women’s work shirt, two initial releases in what the company hopes to be a growing line of sustainable clothing options. Related: This biodegradable T-shirt is made from trees and algae The duo is busy reaching out to additional luxury hotels across Europe in a plan that helps them source materials while also extending an eco-friendly way for the hotels to get rid of old sheets. Transport distances are short because the hotels, located across Europe, send linens directly to a workshop near Bucharest. There, a family-run atelier thoroughly washes, cuts and manufactures the material into shirts. While there may be minor defects in the fabric, the team aims to minimize cut-off waste. Equally important, the shirt designs are timeless, offering a long lifespan instead of the disposable nature of trendy items. The men’s leisure shirt, made from 100% upcycled hotel linens, is offered in three sizes, which the company describes as flowy and oversized. The women’s work shirt is also created from sheets, but the design incorporates a subtle stripe woven into the fabric for a classic look that can be paired with a suit, slacks or jeans. It is also available in three sizes. Both shirts ship free within the EU and are priced at 150 euros (about $164). If you happen to get a shirt with a defect, Archivist will happily send you free patches. + Archivist Photography by Arturo Bamboo via Archivist

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