Experimental, net-positive energy development in India is a prototype for future sustainable housing

December 12, 2019 by  
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Communities around the globe are struggling to find feasible options for affordable and sustainable housing to meet the needs of growing urban populations. Now, one forward-thinking firm, Auroville Design Consultants , is leading the charge with Humanscapes, an 18,000-square-foot, net-positive energy, experimental housing complex located in Auroville, India. Designed to house up to 500 residents, the sustainable housing complex will be studied for years to come in order to create a future model of sustainable living. According to Suhasini Ayer, director of Auroville Design Consultants, Humanscapes is an experimental project designed to create affordable and sustainable housing for approximately 500 inhabitants. The ambitious project will be used as research into creating future developments that can withstand the impacts of climate change . Related: Green-roofed community center champions sustainable design in London The project was based on three main principles. The first was creating a  resilient structure that could meet India’s urban planning challenges. Secondly, the complex would be made available to house young adults, students and researchers in order to create an active and collaborative society, where the residents learn from each other. Finally, the habits of the community would be monitored for many years in order to create a field test prototype to help design future projects. The large development was built by local workers using locally sourced materials, such as clay. Additionally, the complex will be net-energy positive thanks to its off-grid systems that work on various renewable energy sources, including solar power. The project has several water collection and recycling systems. The landscaping around the apartments incorporates several drought-resistant native plants and trees. There is also ample space set aside for organic food production, which is a hallmark of the project. Future tenants will also be able to enjoy the spirit of community within the Humanscape design. Using the co-housing concept of living, the development was laid out in a way to foster interaction among neighbors.  This “functional fusing” of living, working and recreational environment creates an open learning campus that could offer a real-world prototype for future urban development in countries around the world. + Auroville Design Consultants Via ArchDaily Photography by Akshay Arora and John Mandeen via Auroville Design Consultants

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Experimental, net-positive energy development in India is a prototype for future sustainable housing

Kansas City approves free public transportation for all

December 12, 2019 by  
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Last week, the city council of Kansas City unanimously voted for free public transportation via the Zero Fare Transit proposal. The program will boost ridership of city transit systems, allaying concerns about equity and the challenges of global greenhouse gas emissions and the climate crisis . Kansas City’s streetcar service is already free, and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) likewise provides free services to veterans. But approval of the resolution is a historic move allowing for free bus and streetcar services to all. Related: When in Rome, recycle more to earn free metro and bus travel tickets “The City Council just took a monumental, unanimous step toward #ZeroFareTransit — setting Kansas City up to soon become the first major metropolitan city with free public bus service,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted. “This is going to improve the lives of so many and help fuel the local economy.” According to a 6-month study by the Citizens for Modern Transit group, which was commissioned by the Missouri Public Transit Association in partnership with AARP, Missouri’s public transportation sector in 2019 provides “an annual average of 60.1 million rides, which is equivalent to 9.8 rides per year, per Missouri resident.” That number is expected to rise with this new Zero Fare Transit program, especially in Kansas City. The rise in public transportation use can help confront the planet’s current environmental challenges. With less vehicles on the road, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced, thus improving air quality . With ride sharing through public transportation, there will be less need for many individual trips by private vehicles in dense urban areas. Plus, traffic congestion will be relieved, saving the fuel that might have been wasted in traffic gridlocks. As to concerns about the fuel use of public transportation, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the United States Department of Energy have both documented that modern buses use alternative fuels rather than diesel and gas, unlike a decade ago. Again, this emphasizes how Kansas City’s new legislation promises a smaller carbon footprint for the city. The new legislation has already garnered attention and praise outside of Missouri, with advocates in Nashville, Portland and Toronto seeking similar measures in their respective cities. Via ArchDaily Image via David Wilson

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Kansas City approves free public transportation for all

IUCN finds ocean oxygen levels dropping at record rates

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

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Building homes that fight against climate change

November 21, 2019 by  
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Even with concerted efforts to curb climate change, it’s clear we are already living through the effects of a warming world. As such, it’s time to get serious about where and how we build our homes to keep our families safe while also lessening our impact on the planet. From incorporating renewable energy and ethical labor practices to reducing waste and designing for resilience, B Corp-certified home builder Deltec Homes is exemplifying just how to design and build homes that keep your family and Mother Earth safe and secure for generations to come. Building for resilience With hurricanes intensifying around the world, resilient design is becoming more and more important as the climate crisis worsens. As such, it is important to design homes that can stand strong against these natural disasters. Deltec Homes keeps disaster-proofing at the forefront of its designs. For example, the company has homes that feature a unique, eye-catching panoramic layout. Deltec Homes has built structures that have withstood some of the most intense storms in recent years, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Michael and Dorian. The rounded design ensures that wind pressure doesn’t build up on a traditionally flat side of the home, which can collapse the walls. Instead, the pressure is dispersed around the structure. Additionally, Deltec Homes uses reinforced windows with impact glass to help keep the wind and water from breaking the windows and entering the building. The team also uses a special grade of lumber that is twice as strong as traditional lumber to boost resiliency. “We build what we believe to be the strongest wood homes on the planet, as evidenced by thousands of homes in the path of these major hurricanes that performed incredibly well,” said Steve Linton, president of Deltec Homes. Linton and the company are well aware that hurricanes are becoming more damaging, but Deltec Homes is continuously improving the strength of its homes. “We are seeing hurricanes hitting really high wind speeds. After Hurricane Dorian, we sat with our engineering team and said, ‘We know we can withstand 185 mph. What happens when these storms are 200 to 250 mph?’ We are continuing to innovate the system to stand up to the next generation of storms, whatever that turns out to be.” Following the Deltec Way for minimal impact Deltec Homes is the first prefabricated home builder to earn B Corp-certification , meaning it meets strict standards for ethics and sustainability. In an industry notorious for mass amounts of waste, the company is focused on lessening the impact that our homes tend to have on the planet. “Everything we build is with 100 percent renewable energy,” Linton said. “In 2007, we had, at the time, the largest solar array in North Carolina. We are proud to produce homes with low environmental footprints. Deltec is  not a company with a single-minded focus on profit; we want to solve social and environmental challenges. This is used as a way to gain clarity on our purpose, thinking of that purpose beyond financial. It’s a kind of concept that in order to be the best in the world, you also have to be the best for the world.” As such, renewable energy is important to the Deltec Way. Every prefabricated home is constructed through 100 percent renewable energy and is made almost entirely with local, U.S. building materials. The company also continuously works to reduce its own energy consumption while helping homeowners reduce theirs as well, with homes that exceed the energy code by at least 30 percent. Construction is a wasteful practice as we know, but it doesn’t have to be. Prefabrication is one of the top ways to reduce waste in homebuilding, not to mention it leads to faster building times — this way, your family can move into your dream home in no time. Deltec Homes’ prefabrication building techniques actually divert more than 80 percent of construction waste from our landfills, leaving the planet a cleaner place. Having proved that building for a better planet is possible, Deltec notes that its vision is to change the way the world builds. “We’ve been doing this for over 50 years. It’s hard for this industry to adapt to the changing world, but it’s crucial for future generations that we rise to the challenge of standing up to climate change,” Linton said. Reducing energy usage and choosing renewable energy sources One of the biggest impacts on the climate is energy usage. Relying on fossil fuels to power, heat and cool a home can quickly increase your family’s carbon footprint and drain the planet of its resources. Unfortunately, this means future generations will suffer the consequences. But if you are looking to build a sustainable home, Deltec Homes will work with you to design and build one that will last your family for years to come without sacrificing planetary health. Each Deltec home is, on average, 55 percent more energy efficient than traditional homes . This is in part to stringent airtightness, which prevents harsh winds (both hot and cold air, depending on the season) from entering the structure. Deltec Homes boasts structures that are three to five times more airtight than traditional new construction. Similarly, Deltec Homes emphasizes passive design, which means you won’t need to rely much on the furnace or the air conditioner. Instead, your home will naturally maintain a comfortable temperature year-round. If you want to further future-proof your home, you can also consult with Deltec Homes regarding renewable energy systems, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, LEED Certification and even the Zero Energy Ready Home program , which meets energy efficiency, water use reduction and indoor air quality goals. Deltec Homes works with each client personally to help them meet their sustainability goals and even encourage them to do more in giving back to the planet. “We have a dedicated sustainability manager who spends a large part of her time listening to customer goals and also offering suggestions on the latest tech to achieve those goals,” Linton explained. The team speaks with clients about how to “build a high-performance home and put renewable energy in today, or design to add [renewable energy] 5 years from now.” According to Linton, they use this consulting to get clients to think about the future and how to make their homes continue to fight against climate change. “What we try to do when working with a customer is to encourage them to think about their home in the future and for it to perform in a way that makes a difference, from reducing energy use and carbon to withstanding storms. We want to help people prioritize what they want to do in their home, so that together, we can change the way the world builds.” To learn more about Deltec Homes, you can schedule a call, attend an event or receive a free informational magazine here . + Deltec Homes Images via Deltec Homes

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Award-winning sustainable retreat offers a stylish defense against fire

September 20, 2019 by  
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Australian architectural firm Steendijk’s Bellbird Retreat is proof that designing for fire safety doesn’t have to mean compromising aesthetics. Located in pristine bushland about two hours southwest from Brisbane, the award-winning weekend escape features a striking, weathered steel roof and stellar landscape views as well as a reduced environmental footprint thanks to a rainwater harvesting system and optimized passive design elements. Located on a 141-hectare bush site in Killarney, the Bellbird Retreat is in an area at high risk of fire. To protect the house from devastating bushfires, the architects installed thick brick walls and a fire-resistant roof that uses weathered steel pleats, rather than combustible timber rafters, for the structural support of a single-span structure with unsupported cantilevered eaves. Computer modeling informed the shape and size of the roof, which fans out across the house with deep overhangs to provide protection from solar heat gain. Related: A shipping container is recycled into a chic nature retreat in Brazil “On approach, Bellbird Retreat appears fortress-like with the pleated steel roof crowning three pivoting brick blades that tie the dwelling inextricably to the site while sheltering the building from wind, sun and fire,” the architects explained. “The building sits boldly, carved into the landscape. It is positioned to maximize the mountain saddle for recreational use, enticing the occupant through sliding corner doors that peel back.” Elevated on a cantilevered concrete floor slab, the north-facing Bellbird Retreat spans 721 square feet and includes two bedrooms on the west side with a shared bathroom in between and an open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen on the east end. Fronted with floor-to-ceiling glass, the light-filled interior is dressed in a minimalist palette of locally grown indigenous hoop pine used for the joinery, doors, walls and ceilings. More impressive is the endless views of the landscape that residents can enjoy from dawn until nightfall. + Steendijk Via ArchDaily Images via Steendijk

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Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

June 14, 2019 by  
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Innovative design start-up Six Miles Across London Limited (small.) has just unveiled an emergency shelter made almost entirely out of upcycled plastic bottles . The Recycled BottleHouse is a pyramid-shaped shelter that was constructed from a bamboo frame covered in discarded plastic bottles. Recently debuted at the Clerkenwell Design Week, the innovative shelter is an example of how a truly circular economy is feasible with just a little design know-how. Related: MIT students find a way to make stronger concrete with plastic bottles Designed to be used for emergencies in remote parts of the world, the Recycled BottleHouse shelter is made out of low-cost, lightweight and sustainably sourced materials and built to be thermally comfortable. The frame of the structure is made out of thin bamboo rods joined together in the form of a tipi. The frame is then entirely covered with discarded plastic bottles filled with hay to provide privacy to the interior. For extra stability, the shelter flooring is made out of bottles filled with sand that are burrowed into the landscape. Next, hollow bottles are placed around the main bamboo frame to create four walls with a front door that swings upward. Inside, the space provides protection from both solar radiation and precipitation. The interior also boasts a lantern made from plastic bottles powered by the shelter’s integrated PV panels . According to small. founder Ricky Sandhu, the emergency shelter was inspired by the need to find feasible and sustainable solutions to the world’s growing plastic problem. Sandhu said, “We believe ‘BottleHouse’ provides a new formula for the world’s growing problem of discarded plastic bottles by transforming them into rapidly deployable, protective and valuable shelters in areas of the world that need them the most and, at the same time, setting a new mission for the rest of the world to think about and contribute to — a new circular economy .” + Six Miles Across London Limited Images via Six Miles Across London Limited

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Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

June 13, 2019 by  
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In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources , eco tourism and reforestation. Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming , the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes. “The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.” The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?” Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy. + EETJ Images via EETJ

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Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

These solar-powered floating homes are built to withstand floods and hurricanes

April 1, 2019 by  
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As many coastal cities struggle to come up with resiliency plans in the face of rising sea levels, a Miami-based firm is creating sustainable, solar-powered floating residences that could offer the perfect solution. Already well-known for its high-end floating homes , Arkup is now teaming up with Artefacto , an environmentally friendly Brazilian furnishing brand, to create stylish floating houses that are not only resilient to storms and sea levels, but also represent the luxury style for which Miami is known. Arkup has long been recognized for creating sustainable and attractive floating homes that can provide discerning homeowners with what the Miami-based company refers to as “avant-garde life on water.” The residences are modern, cube-like structures that are completely self-sufficient, operating 100 percent off-grid thanks to solar power generation, eco-friendly waste management features, rainwater harvesting and water purification systems. Additionally, the homes are equipped with unique self-elevating systems that help the structures withstand high winds, floods and hurricanes. Related: These hurricane-proof floating homes are packed with green features In addition to the ultra sustainable and resilient features, the two-story floating homes boast interiors with a 775-square-foot living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining space, as well as an open-air rooftop lounge. Sliding glass doors, which almost make up the entirety of the front facade, lead out to a beautiful terrace. Although the company has been working on its floating homes for some time, it recently announced a new partnership with Artefacto, a Brazilian furnishing company with a strong commitment to sustainability  that is known for combining luxurious furniture made of raw materials with cutting-edge smart automation technologies. The Arkup residences will now be outfitted with eco-friendly furnishings, including high-end pieces made out of timber approved for use by the Brazilian Environment Department. + Arkup + Artefacto Images via Arkup

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Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says

April 1, 2019 by  
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Air pollution may have more long-term effects on teens than previously thought. A new study conducted in the U.K. found that adolescents who are exposed to pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, harmful particles and nitrogen dioxide , are more likely to experience psychotic episodes during their teen years. People living in densely populated, urban areas have increased risks of having clinical psychosis. This includes disorders like schizophrenia. Prior to the new study, researchers had yet to start any long-term projects that explore the relationship between air pollution and these mental disorders, despite pollution becoming a growing issue in urban locations. Related: Air pollution is killing Europeans at an alarming rate The new study, published in  Jama Psychiatry ,  looked at more than 2,200 children in the U.K. and examined the link between air pollution and mental health . The study was conducted over an 18 year period and included children from various socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic locations. In over 92 percent of the cases, the test subjects reported some kind of psychotic experience, such as having intense paranoia or hearing voices. “We found that adolescent psychotic experiences were more common in urban areas,” explained Joanne Newbury, one of the lead scientists on the study at King’s College London. Newbury added that they were unable to directly link the psychotic experiences of teens in the study with air pollution. Their findings, however, strongly suggest that these harmful chemicals are a contributing factor in the connection between urban populations and psychosis. It should be noted that the study took into account biological factors, and the scientists admitted that psychosocial mechanisms, such as stress, could also be at work. By 2050, experts estimate that over 70 percent of the world’s human population will be living in cities. With more and more people gravitating toward urban locations, it is vastly important that we discover why city dwellers are more susceptible to mental disorders. Although there are likely multiple connections to be made, the harmful gases and particles that commonly make up air quality should not be ignored. According to King’s College London , scientists hope to initiate more studies on the link between air pollution and psychosis, with long-term research being the key focal point. + Jama Psychiatry Via EcoWatch and  King’s College London Image via David Holt

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Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says

A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

March 28, 2019 by  
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In the aftermath of the Puebla earthquake that struck central Mexico in September 2017, Fundación PienZa Sostenible and Love Army México tapped Mexico City-based firm Francisco Pardo Arquitecto to design a home for a family who had lost their house in the disaster. Working in close collaboration with the Guzman family, the architects created a new and more earthquake-resistant dwelling that not only caters to the family’s needs but also offers improved living conditions. Named Casa Karina after the matriarch in the family of four, the home is built largely of compressed earth blocks , created in situ, along with pinewood used for the doors and windows. Located in the rural town of Ocuilan de Arteaga, the Guzmans’ 807-square-foot lot is located on family land split into five equal parts among the siblings. The Guzman’s original home was of poor construction: a single-story wood structure covered in metal sheets without insulation ; the floors were bare soil. In designing an improved home for the Guzmans, the architects decided to build a multi-story house with the communal areas and full bathroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the second floor and an open terrace on the third floor from where views of the town, the neighboring fields and the surrounding volcanoes can be seen. By building upward, the architects also allocated enough area on the grounds for a field for growing crops and space where the couple’s two daughters can play outdoors. The kitchen, located at the heart of the home, overlooks views of the field. Related: This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation The new construction is also far more robust than the previous house, with concrete foundations and polished cement floors. The compressed earth block walls are reinforced with concrete slabs. The architects said, “This is how we were able to entirely adapt the design to the needs and uses of the Guzman family and to build a new and more resistant home for them, providing better space conditions.” + Francisco Pardo Arquitecto Photography by Jaime Navarro, Pablo Astorga and Fernanda Olivares via Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

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A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

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