Hydropower sparks debate as New York fights for clean energy

April 14, 2022 by  
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Renewable energy faces an uncertain future in New York. After the Indian Point nuclear plant shut down last year, the state returned to fossil fuels. Now, fossil fuels power about 90% of New York’s grid. As the state finds new energy sources to meet emission targets, divided opinions complicate the way forward. While some experts push for hydropower , others voice concerns.  Today, state regulators decide the fate of a proposal to run a transmission line down the Hudson River from hydropower dams in Québec . The Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) could cover half of the capacity lost when the nuclear plant was closed. CHPE would provide reliable, sufficient power compared to wind and solar. Related: Lake Powell hits historic low, endangering hydropower supply While considered a green energy source, hydropower faces criticism for ecosystem disruption. Indigenous groups have also opposed dam development. However, the CHPE proposal seems to have gained support despite this. With all permits and approval from the governor, construction could start in a few weeks. In the meantime, conservationists are speaking out against the project. John Lipscomb, vice president of conservation group Hudson Riverkeeper, says that the project is unethical and steals from First Nations tribes. “We talk in New York about how we want to support traditionally marginalized communities, but we find a way to overlook [that] so we can check a green box,” Lipscomb said. As the debate continues, the New York power grid keeps burning fossil fuels. The New York Communities for Change, a climate group that initially opposed the CHPE project, now urges other environmental groups to accept it. “While we respect opponents making good faith arguments against this project, we believe there is simply no time left to waste to bring renewable energy to New York City,” the group said in a statement. “No transmission project is perfect. All have real and painful downsides. Nonetheless, we have decided to support CHPE because it will rapidly reduce New York City’s massive climate impact.” Via HuffPost Lead image via Pexels

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CLT and local materials comprise new airport terminal

April 4, 2022 by  
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Québec’s Chibougamau-Chapais airport serves a large territory that includes the Chibougamau, Chapais and Oujé-Bougoumou communities. With growing passenger traffic, the airport hired EVOQ and ARTCAD to design a new sustainable terminal building featuring cross-laminated timber ( CLT ). Chibougamau-Chapais airport is used for air travel, freight, medical evacuations and even forest firefighting operations. Inside, the concourse serves as a hub for passengers and connects all terminal functions and services. Considering these functions, the new project needed to not only meet the latest renewable energy standards but also continue hosting services during construction. Related: The preservation and restoration of Quebec’s Grand Théâtre The new building consists of two low structures on either side of a glazed, single-pitch roof concourse. Its exterior façade features the airport’s name in Cree and French. Additionally, the façade features artwork by Emmanuelle Gendron integrated into the transparency of the timber curtain walls. These works pay homage to the Eeyou Istchee region. A committee that included representatives from the Chibougamau, Chapais, and Oujé-Bougoumou communities specifically selected Gendron’s work. The terminal highlights its proximity to the boreal forest by using locally produced wood and high-performance products such as glulam and CLT structural slabs. Timber curtain walls surround the waiting area on three sides. Meanwhile, a raised roof tops the space to create a south-facing clerestory. Engineered wood and steel components make up the roof structure. The mixed structural system allows for large interior spaces for public use. The system also allows for a reduced roof thickness to reduce material waste while shading the interior with generous overhangs. The curtain walls let in natural light and help with energy efficiency , while also contributing to structural bracing. The clerestory acts as a load-bearing axis, which removes the need for a structural beam. As the architects explained in a press release, “This minimalist , highly efficient approach underlines the project’s core design principles: transparency, lightness, comfort, and functionality.” + EVOQ Architecture + ARTCAD Photography by Maxime Brouillet

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Italian headquarters blends industrial with nature

April 4, 2022 by  
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The new Furla Headquarters in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Florence demonstrates industrial modern architecture can blend right into nature. The project explores one theme above others: integration of industrial architecture into the rustic Italian landscape in order to rethink the quality of a workspace.  “Architecture and nature are perfectly blended along all directions to create a unique element where the design and the Chianti landscape (defined by hills, heritage , and agricultural areas) communicate harmoniously,” the designers said. Related: Check out the first LEED Platinum V4 Building in Italy Moreover, the Furla factory covers 42,000 square meters of soil and 18,300 square meters of built space. It is comprised of three main spaces. One is used for offices and two for labs and logistics. These are designed to be harmoniously integrated into the surrounding landscape, without much contrast. Therefore, this is defined by the driveway, terraces and Piazza Furla as distinct areas around the buildings. Meanwhile, patios and green roofs look out from the buildings over a wooded area. This allows nature to “[cross] the boundaries between inside and outside,” designers explained. “The main entrance recalls the archetype of Tuscan villa access: a linear row of cypresses welcoming visitors and showing the way through,” they said. “This rhythm is replicated on the façade of the buildings with sunscreen filtering blades.” Furthermore, the interiors were designed for layout flexibility. Rows of offices are interspersed with green patios and meeting spaces to congregate. For this purpose, best practices were followed for energy use in the space as well. We love the stepped terraces of the green roof and the use of solar on the roof in spaces where it’s not walkable. This results in a usable and pleasant place to relax while also restoring a bit of habitat for biodiversity on site. We look forward to the greening of more company headquarters and industrial spaces like this one. We would expect nothing less from industrial and landscape design house GEZA Architettura. Their work values both sustainability, beauty and the human experience of the spaces we inhabit. GEZA also works with clients like Bosch and Faber Industries in the industrial space to rethink the future of the places where we work. + GEZA Architettura Photography by Fernando Guerra

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Sustainable design makes this forest home timeless

March 4, 2022 by  
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Atelier C by Nicholas Francoeur is an artists’ residence in Quebec that transcends common forms of green design. The house incorporates multiple sustainable design strategies and has even received LEED Platinum certification. The house is clad in charred cedar that complements the white aspen used for the soffits and ceilings. This dark, cedar exterior juxtaposes with the bright, airy interiors. A selection of tall, rectangular windows creates vertical framed views to the outside. This verticality and rhythm further emphasize immersion in the lush woods. Related: Off Grid House takes remote sustainability to new heights One of the clients’ main requests was to incorporate spaces for working on their creative pursuits. The couple practices writing, photography and music, thus requiring ample workspace. To meet this requirement, Atelier C boasts four studios. The two south-facing studios are dedicated to music and fabrication. The two that face the north are for photography and writing and are integrated into the floor plan as spaces that one circulates through instead of as two separate rooms. For Atelier C, Francoeur intended to shift from typical green architecture and infuse the project with beautiful, modern details that support sustainable design strategies. For him, the house’s functional components needed to be aesthetically pleasing, too. One such example is the mono-pitched roof and overhangs. Beyond their elegant appearance, they manage climatic conditions to enhance user comfort and project longevity. During the harsh winters, the roof slope and overhangs efficiently drain off the snow. In the warmer months, they limit direct sunlight in the summer afternoons, keeping the interiors naturally cool. To further support these thermal comfort strategies, the house uses double the insulation required by code, minimizing energy needed during colder months. Sustainable material choices were also an important consideration for the project. The clients opted to use natural materials wherever possible, including cellulose insulation and various types of timber . The designer also selected furnishings to limit Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions without sacrificing aesthetics. Another green design aspect Francoeur considered is longevity. This meant prioritizing well-crafted technical details and a timeless design. Creating spaces with the intent of aging well is crucial, as architectural details become elegant and follow universal design principles instead of seasonal trends. Furthermore, the meticulous design details mean the project won’t require frequent renovations , thus minimizing costs and environmental impact. Through his work on Atelier C, Francoeur has been able to prove that sustainable architecture need not be unattractive and purely functional. Instead, through well-crafted details, environmentally-friendly design can be timelessly beautiful. Project collaborators include general contractor Renovia Inc., structure by Maisons Éléments, kitchen work by À Hauteur d’Homme, and cabinetry by Xavier Hackenbeck. + Nicholas Francoeur Photographs by Raphaël Thibodeau and Ronny Theriault

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New winery in France is serving sustainable alcohol

January 4, 2022 by  
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Château Angélus recently acquired a new winery in Libourne, France , designed by Architect Eric Castagnotto from Architecte DPLG. The cellar is used for making Château Angélus’ second wine Carillon d’Angélus and a new wine Tempo d’Angélus introduced in Quebec in November 2021. Their goal is to create not only sustainable wine , but an eco-friendly winery rich in technological innovation, sustainable building and growing techniques. Carillon d’Angélus Cellar was already a winery but had become too small to accommodate new efficient equipment. The winery is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site , limiting development possibilities and architecture for the new owners. Therefore, the owners decided to start from scratch with a new winery design in the nearby community of Saint-Magne-de-Castillon. Related: A French wine cellar’s updated facade doubles as housing for local bats The new  Carillon d’Angélus Cellar is 4,400 square-meter facility on 3.30 hectares. It is semi-submerged underground with a green roof . The wine-making cellar is gravity-fed. The design is inspired by wine-making cellar Fleur de Boüard in Lalande, which has 18 inverted truncated cone-shaped vats, hoist system and vat lift. Additionally, solar panels help with some of the power required for the operations. Furthermore, Carillon d’Angélus, and the full Chateau Angelus estate, is HVE3 certified. That means it is the highest level of High Environmental Value Certification honoring best practices regarding biodiversity , phytosanitary strategy and fertilization. The building is also Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certified, which is the British equivalent of France’s Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE). The new winery is planning plenty of experimentation with numerous prototypes for electronic mustimeters and grape washers. Carillon d’Angelus aims to be a center not only of eco-friendly wine production but of technological innovation for the industry. + GALLEON Fine Wines Images via GALLEON Fine Wines

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7 countries vow to end new oil and gas exploration

November 12, 2021 by  
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Yesterday at  COP26 , seven countries and one Canadian province joined forces as the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. BOGA members committed to stop exploring for and producing  oil  and gas. Since none of the seven is a major oil or gas producer, the pledge seems more symbolic than practical for solving the climate crisis. But  Costa Rica , Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, Sweden, Wales and Quebec are bravely taking the lead as BOGA’s core members. Portugal, New Zealand and California were dubbed associate members for their “significant, concrete steps” in reducing oil and gas production. Related: Will promises from world leaders at COP26 actually happen? “If we want to address the climate crisis, we need a managed but decisive phase-out of oil and gas production,” said Andrea Meza, the minister of environment and energy of Costa Rica, in a statement. Costa Rica — which doesn’t produce oil or gas — and Denmark founded and are co-chairing the new alliance.  Denmark  is the European Union’s biggest oil producer, but that’s not saying much, as they produce less than 1% of the United States’ 2019 oil output. In addition to ending exploration and oil drilling, BOGA members have promised to decrease all fossil fuel production in line with the  Paris Agreement  timeline. Lars Koch of ActionAid Denmark said BOGA presented a test for oil-producing countries. “If they don’t become members of this alliance, what they are actually saying is, ‘We don’t mean what we say about 1.5,’” he said, as reported by Grist. “It is just pure, deep greenwashing.”  Despite a lot of nice words in Glasgow, most of the world’s major economies are still on track to produce way more oil, coal and gas than the Paris Agreement  global warming  target can bear: about 110% of that target, according to a report the United Nations released last month. In the U.S., the Biden administration plans to open 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to drilling next week and to lease huge tracts of public lands for new gas and oil development early next year. So, uh, how are we cutting  emissions  in half by 2030? Via Grist Lead image via Pixabay

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Rocks discovered in Canada hold the oldest evidence of life

September 29, 2017 by  
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3.95 billion-year-old rocks could offer the oldest evidence we’ve found for life on Earth . A team led by the University of Tokyo found graphite in Labrador, Canada that they think is biogenic, or produced by living organisms. They contend this is the oldest evidence of life, as opposed to microfossils found earlier in Quebec , saying the dating process used in the latter was highly controversial. In March, the journal Nature published the findings of an international team of researchers who’d found fossils in Quebec that they said could be between 3.77 and 4.28 billion years old. Now, nine scientists at institutions in Japan say they’ve actually found the oldest evidence of life on this planet, and it’s in 3.95 billion-year-old rocks. Related: World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion years old These researchers found graphite in sedimentary rocks. Tsuyoshi Komiya of the University of Tokyo said, “Our samples are also the oldest supracrustal rocks preserved on Earth.” Phys.org pointed out the Quebec fossils were found in a similar formation. The Japan team measured the isotope composition of the graphite to find it was biogenic, although the identity of the organisms that produced the graphite or their appearance are mysteries. Komiya said the team could work to identify the organisms by scrutinizing “other isotopes such as nitrogen, sulphur, and iron of the organic matter and accompanied materials.” They can also analyze the rock’s chemical composition to try and figure out the organisms’ environment . Other researchers, like geochemist Daniele Pinti of the University of Quebec at Montreal, seem impressed by the new team’s findings and process. He told CBC News, “For the moment, it looks very convincing.” Phys.org said that should the discovery be accurate, it would mean life sprung up on Earth a geological second after the planet formed around 4.5 billion years ago. Nature published the new study this week. Via Phys.org and CBC News Images via Wikimedia Commons and Tashiro, Takayuki, et al.

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Estrade Residence adapts to rocky hillside with locally-harvested materials

January 30, 2017 by  
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The gorgeous Estrade Residence adapts to the rocky, steep topography of a lake shore in Quebec , and offers breathtaking views of the surroundings. Canadian design studio MU Architecture design the house using natural and locally sourced materials and created a multitude of spaces and terraces that embrace the site. The main idea was to highlight the peculiarities of the site and integrate nature into the design of the house. This resulted in a staggered structure that includes several terraces that establish a strong dialogue with the surrounding landscape. Thick walls made from rocks extracted during excavation create a spine of the project that extends outwards, protect the apartments on the ground floor, and help establish a direct connection between the interior and exterior spaces. Related: Modern meets rustic in the Hemmingford House built from natural materials The different volumes are gradually revealed as visitors climb an aerial and magisterial staircase which connects all levels of the house. Open spaces dominate the ground floor bathed in natural light, with a double-sided fireplace located in the center of the common room adding warmth to the place. This area extends the kitchen to the outside via a veranda which stretches perpendicularly to the natural ridge. Natural cedar cladding of the upper volumes complements the stone walls and gives the residence both a rustic and modern feel. + MU Architecture Via v2com Photos by Ulysse Lemerise Bouchard (YUL Photo)

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Artist "attacks" buildings with clutter to remind us of how much stuff we own

August 9, 2016 by  
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Torres has been working and living in Quebec for over a decade, where much of his artwork has been publicly displayed. “Tipping Point” was brought to Ottawa after the artist was invited by Canadian Heritage and EXMURO arts publics for an early July installation. Kayaks, construction cones, children’s toys, and patio chairs in bright, alarming colors seem to explode out of the side of the wall as observers pass by the piece. Related: Artist Veronika Richterová turns plastic bottles into beautiful plant and animal sculptures The piece is much like earlier works at a Quebec City event, named “Overflows” and “Stock in Transit”. The former portrays an explosion of multicolored plastic equipment bursting out of a tipped storage container, a metaphor for our disturbing reliance on accumulating as many things as we can buy. Each piece is meant to feel imposing and overwhelming, just like the western world’s love affair with “disposable” plastic objects. Most recently Torres’ “Canopy” piece was featured in Edmonton’s The Works Art & Design Festival . Visitors walked underneath and amongst exposed and covered passageways. The experience is meant to represent nomadism, a key theme in the artist’s life and creative work. +José Luis Torres Images via José Luis Torres

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Norway considers ban of gas-fueled vehicles by 2025

June 6, 2016 by  
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As the electric vehicle market picks up speed, some countries around the world have considered banning the sale of gas-burning vehicles. According to Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, the country’s politicians could be close to a ban on sales of gas-fueled vehicles. If approved, the move would go into effect by 2025 . Dagens Næringsliv reported that four major political parties in Norway have agreed on such a proposal. While the proposal isn’t law yet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted a picture of the newspaper headline and described Norway as an ” amazingly awesome country .” According to Electrek, the parties include those on the ” right and the left .” Norwegian citizens have already taken their own steps toward a future with cleaner transportation : about 20 percent of vehicles on the road are electric. Related: Dutch politicians want to ban all polluting cars by 2025 It could be a promising step for Norway, but there’s a caveat. While the country supplies 90 percent of local energy via hydropower , Norway is still Europe’s largest producer of petroleum . 45 percent of the country’s exports are comprised of fossil fuels, which results in 20 percent of Norway’s GDP. If the proposed ban was turned into law, Fortune said it would be the “geopolitical equivalent of a drug dealer that refuses to touch their own product.” Will the proposal become law? That’s a tricky question, as some of the conservative parties are already saying they have not yet agreed. It may take more time – several other countries and some U.S. states have considered similar proposals but have allowed far more generous timelines. By 2050 , states such as California, New York, and Oregon aim to ban new sales. The Netherlands, India, Germany, the UK, and Quebec are also considering a ban on future sales. Via Fortune Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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