This solar-powered school produces enough surplus energy to power 50 homes

June 27, 2018 by  
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This timber elementary school and kindergarten in Switzerland boasts more than just good looks — the School in Port, designed by Zürich-based architecture firm Skop , also gives back to the community through excess energy production. Located in a residential neighborhood, the energy-plus building and communal power station draws from a rooftop array with more than 1,100 solar panels that completely covers the school’s energy needs and powers 50 additional households. Moreover, the school is visually tied to its neighbors with a contemporary zigzagging roof that references the pitched roofs of the local vernacular. Skop won an international competition in 2013 to design School in Port, which is largely informed by sustainable principles. The building was prefabricated using timber sourced from sustainably-managed forests. Wood, which was chosen for its ability to sequester carbon , was also used throughout the interior and in the furnishings. All other construction materials were chosen for their non-toxic, recyclable and low-impact properties. The school covers an area of more than 180,000 square feet to cater to 280 children from kindergarten to elementary school. The light-filled interior is organized around a “central circulation zone,” a zigzagging east-west spine and open learning space that branches off to staggered classrooms and other enclosed spaces to the north and south. Flexibility is a major theme of the interior design — in addition to the multifunctional circulation zone, adjacent classrooms and group working spaces can be connected through large doors — that encourages a variety of teaching and learning methodologies. Related: This minimalist prefab hotel offers stunning views of the Swiss Alps “Placed on a gentle slope, the building takes advantage of the topography and links various outdoor spaces according to the different access routes of the school children,” Skop explained. “On the main level, all rooms benefit from the spatial qualities of the folded roof. Each classroom appears to be an independent little house, creating a cozy and homelike atmosphere for the children.” The School in Port has achieved a MINERGIE-A rating and is also connected to the district heating. + Skop Images via © Simon von Gunten and © Julien Lanoo; illustration via © Skop

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This solar-powered school produces enough surplus energy to power 50 homes

Sea stars overcome melting disease through rapid evolution

June 27, 2018 by  
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Five years ago, millions of sea stars off the west coast of North America were killed by a mysterious virus that caused the animals to lose limbs and liquefy, with several species under serious threat of extinction. Following the peak of the epidemic, described as “one of the largest marine mass mortality events on record,” scientists noticed that young ochre stars, among the species most impacted by the virus, were surviving at much higher rates. Today, the starfish have seemed to miraculously recover, and researchers may have the explanation for their salvation. A new study suggests that the animals possibly developed a genetic resistance to the still-puzzling densovirus, a threat that had been lurking in the region for decades but could have been fully activated by climate change . About 80 percent of ochre sea stars died as a result of the mysterious virus , which was disturbing for its ecological consequences and the manner with which it killed. “The sick ones tend to just fall apart in front of your eyes,” biologist Jeff Marliave told KUOW in 2013 . “An arm will actually break off and crawl away.” Scientists now believe that the massive die-off accelerated the process of natural selection. “When you’ve removed a whole bunch of them, you’ve shifted the whole genetic diversity of that population,” researcher Chris Mah told the Guardian . “In other words, to put it in human terms, if you wiped out a huge chunk of the human species, you would change the genetic makeup of humans.” Related: Underwater robots seek and kill invasive starfish Those that survived the wasting syndrome had the resistant gene, which they then passed onto their offspring. While the sea stars may have avoided a terminal fate this time, such epidemics are expected to occur with greater frequency in the future. “The concern is that marine disease, extreme environmental events and the frequency of those are on the rise,” study lead author Lauren Schiebelhut told the Guardian . “If we have too many extreme events in a row, maybe that becomes more challenging for species to respond to.” Via The Guardian Images via Jerry Kirkhart , Oregon State University and David O.

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Sea stars overcome melting disease through rapid evolution

The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan

June 27, 2018 by  
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Once arid hillsides have now become wide swaths of lush green woodland in northwestern Pakistan , where hundreds of millions of trees from 42 different species have been planted as part of the provincial government’s “Billion Tree Tsunami” program. “Before, it was completely burnt land. Now, they have green gold in their hands,” forest manager Pervaiz Manan told AFP . The reforestation effort aims to control erosion, combat climate change , reduce flooding, increase the chances of precipitation and provide economic opportunities for locals. “Now our hills are useful, our fields became useful,” local driver Ajbir Shah said . “It is a huge benefit for us.” Much of the land being replanted was decimated between 2006 and 2009, when the Pakistani Taliban controlled much of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the project is now underway. In addition to the more than 300 million trees planted in the region under the provincial government, 150 million trees were given to private landowners to plant, while 730 million already-planted trees have been protected to allow for regrowth. The mind-blowing number of trees , over a billion, has been confirmed by independent observers. “We are 100 percent confident that the figure about the billion trees is correct,” World Wildlife Fund Pakistan manager Kamran Hussain said. “Everything is online. Everyone has access to this information.” Related: Pakistan just broke the world record for the hottest April day ever The Billion Tree Tsunami comes at a time when Pakistan’s forest stock has shrunk to a perilous low; only 5.2 percent of the country is covered in forests, well below the 12 percent recommended by the United Nations . Started in 2014, the Billion Tree Tsunami program still needs to implement some safeguard systems, such as fire protection, before its expected completion in 2020. In 2017, the federal government of Pakistan began its own project to plant 100 million trees by 2022. While some are skeptical of the project’s long-term success, with infrastructure historically taking precedent over environmental concerns, the Billion Tree Tsunami offers hope. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ruling party leader Imran Khan said, “Every child in Pakistan should be aware of the environmental issue which, until now, has been a non-issue.” Via Phys.org and AFP Image via Haroon (HBK)

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The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan

This edible, plastic-free packaging is grown from kombucha starter

June 26, 2018 by  
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Polish design student Roza Janusz has created Scoby, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging that is easily grown with the same methods used to make kombucha . Created from fermented bacteria and yeast, the organic membrane can be used to store a variety of lightweight foods like seeds, nuts, or even salads. The zero-waste food packaging is completely biodegradable and can also be eaten after use. Developed as part of her graduate project for industrial design at the School of Form in Poznan, Poland, Roza Janusz’s Scoby was created to help farmers grow their own zero-waste packaging. Using bacteria and yeast as a base for kombucha, Janusz then uses the liquid to grow the biodegradable membrane in a shallow container. After about two weeks of adding sugars and other agricultural waste to ferment the material, a membrane forms on the surface and can be harvested. “Scoby is grown by a future farmer not only for the production of packaging , but also because of the valuable by-product, which is, depending on the concentration, natural fertilizer or probiotic drink,” says Roza Janusz. “So maybe the packaging production will no longer litter the environment, and it will even enrich it.” Related: DIY: How to brew kombucha at home The lightweight and translucent material is easily malleable and can be shaped to fit a variety of foods to prevent spoilage. Thanks to the edible packaging’s low pH, Scoby has a long shelf life that can even be extended if it’s used to store acidic food products like nuts. The material can also absorb the flavors of the food it stores. Roza Janusz plans to explore Scoby’s commercial possibilities in the near future and recently submitted her design for the Golden Pin Concept Design Award 2018 . + Roza Janusz

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This edible, plastic-free packaging is grown from kombucha starter

Parsons School of Design unveils sustainable public seating in New York City

May 21, 2018 by  
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Leave it to the creative minds at the Parsons School of Design to renovate public seating for a more eco-friendly world. The school recently unveiled Street Seats, a sustainably-designed public seating area made from repurposed and biodegradable products for New Yorkers to find respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The public space, which the school unveiled this week, was inspired by the need to create more seating areas for people to relax and take a load off. In a place like New York City , public seating can be quite limited. Students from the school’s architecture, interior design, product design, and food studies departments envisioned and built Street Seats over two parking spaces on the corner of 13th street and 5th Avenue in Greenwich Village. The students crafted the space with a variety of reclaimed materials . They used rot-resistant western red cedar to build tables and stools, which were then covered in repurposed fishing nets . Related: DIY Softwalks Kits Let You Turn Ugly Scaffolding into Fun Pop-Up Parks! The lighting system in the installation is completely off-grid and operates on solar energy . After sunset, a daylight sensor activates LED lights to provide a well-lit atmosphere. The seating area is surrounded by planters to reduce traffic noise and create a pleasant environment. The planters are made with biodegradable coconut fibers and jet webbing  and house herbs and native plants. The Greenbelt Native Plant Center donated seeds for the project. + Parsons New School of Design Images by Rafael Flaksburg via Parsons New School of Design

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Zaha Hadid Architects designs robot-assisted vaulted classrooms for China

April 19, 2018 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects unveiled designs for Lushan Primary School that blends forward-thinking construction techniques with deference to ancient Chinese culture. Located in the remote and beautiful countryside 160 kilometers northwest of Jiangxi’s capital Nanchang, Lushan Primary School will serve 12 local villages and offer a curriculum that focuses on the creative arts and STEM subjects. To reduce construction time and demands, the campus buildings will be housed in a series of modular vaulted spaces built with local in-situ concrete techniques and formwork prepared by an industrial robot on site. Created for children aged 3 to 12 years, the Lushan Primary School is expected to accommodate approximately 120 students within 9 classrooms. In addition to teaching spaces, the campus will also include a dormitory and utility buildings, all of which will be housed within a series of barrel and parabolic vaults optimized for landscape views and natural light. The cantilevered roofs help mitigate the solar gain of Jiangxi’s sub-tropical climate and provide a covered space for outdoor teaching. A long central courtyard between the classrooms serves as the school’s main circulation space and play area. “The barrel and parabolic vaults act as the school’s primary structure and enclosure, with each vault performing as an individual structural element,” wrote the architects. “To minimise construction time and also reduce the number of separate building elements required to be transported to the school’s remote location, ZHA proposes to combine the local skills of in-situ concrete construction with new advancements in hot-wire cut foam formwork that can be prepared on site by an industrial robot to create the barrel and parabolic shaped moulds. The modularity of the vaults enables moulds to be used multiple times, further accelerating the construction process and reducing costs.” Related: New images capture Zaha Hadid’s luxury High Line condos in NYC In a nod to the region’s long history with high-quality ceramics dating back to the Ming Dynasty, the vaulted buildings will feature a ceramic external finish laid in a dark gradient of tones that contrasts with the whitewashed interiors. The school is situated on a peninsula and will be elevated five meters above the 50-year flood level. A natural water catchment area surrounds the school for protection and also offers space for outdoor teaching spaces and sports facilities. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images by Zaha Hadid Architects and VA

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Help Kids Celebrate Earth Day: Organize a School Event

April 11, 2018 by  
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Do you want to share your love of nature with … The post Help Kids Celebrate Earth Day: Organize a School Event appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Perkins+Will designs LEED Gold-seeking academic building for York University

March 21, 2018 by  
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Perkins+Will has won a design competition for the Toronto’s York University School of Continuing Studies, an eye-catching building that will target impressive eco-credentials. The design, which beat out a shortlist of seven proposals, is expected to meet a minimum certification of LEED Gold with potential for net-zero energy and net-zero carbon. The $50.5 million School of Continuing Studies will break ground in 2019 on York University’s Keele campus. Proposed for a corner lot near the new York University TTC subway station, the 9,000-square-meter School of Continuing Studies will include 39 classrooms, student lounges, workspaces , and staff rooms. The dramatic building twists into a sharply angled geometric form informed by the campus public realm, existing circulation patterns, and solar studies. Solar panels integrated into the prismatic facade are placed for optimized solar orientation. Related: Perkins + Will’s KTTC building blends beauty and sustainability in Ontario “The design balances the needs of the school itself, the larger campus , and the planet, setting a new standard for sustainability, design excellence, and student experience on Canadian campuses,” wrote Perkins+Will. Abundant natural lighting, glazing, and an emphasis on transparency throughout the building will help encourage students to interact. The building envelope is expected to meet Passive House standards with the goal of reducing embodied carbon and improving occupant health. + Perkins+Will Images via Perkins+Will

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Perkins+Will designs LEED Gold-seeking academic building for York University

Take a Bite Out of Waste in Your School Cafeteria

March 16, 2018 by  
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Every school cafeteria across the country is unique: different kitchens, … The post Take a Bite Out of Waste in Your School Cafeteria appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Nature-based preschool trend flourishes across the United States

February 14, 2018 by  
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Over 250 nature -based preschools have popped up across the United States, according to a recent survey cited by Public Radio International (PRI) – and that’s two-thirds more than in 2017. The schools , which offer lots of outdoor play , have been trendy in Europe for a long time, but the idea is picking up speed across the Atlantic. Advocate Richard Louv told PRI, “There is a new body of evidence out there that really shows a connection, at least, between spending more time in nature and being healthier, happier, and maybe even smarter.” Nature-based preschools give kids the chance to spend a large portion of their day outside. PRI said studies show children who learn outside experience better academic results, like higher standardized test scores. Living on Earth (PRI’s environmental news publication) visited Chesterbrook School of Natural Learning in New Hampshire to get a view of a nature-based preschool up close. Eight acres of fields and forest comprise Chesterbrook School, which has around 36 students in three classes. The kids get to spend time in nature every day, whether it’s snowing, raining, or sunny. There is an indoor classroom for some activities like letter flash cards, but many group times and play times are spent outside. Related: 9 forest kindergartens around the world where the sky’s the limit in teachings among the trees Louv says it’s important to build that connection between children and nature while they’re young. He’s concerned climate change and its impacts will prompt children to see nature as threatening. He told PRI, “It’s very hard to protect something if you don’t learn to love it. It’s impossible to learn to love it if you’ve never experienced it.” If a nature-based preschool isn’t an option for your family, Louv said there’s still plenty parents can do to help foster a child’s love of the outdoors, like reading books outside or going for a belly hike , moving around in the grass to get up close with all that lives there. Via Public Radio International and Living on Earth Images via Seattle Parks on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Nature-based preschool trend flourishes across the United States

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