China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

May 26, 2017 by  
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Around one fifth of arable land in China is contaminated with levels of toxins greater than government standards, according to 2014 data. That’s around half the size of California, and it’s a growing problem for a country that faces such levels of pollution they had to import $31.2 billion of soybeans in 2015 – a 43 percent increase since 2008. Scientists and entrepreneurs are working to come up with answers to growing edible food in a polluted environment, and shipping container farms or vertical gardening could offer answers. The toxins in China’s environment have made their way into the country’s food supply. In 2013, the Guangdong province government said 44 percent of rice sampled in their region contained excessive cadmium. Around 14 percent of domestic grain contains heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, according to research from scientists in 2015. Related: Arctic town grows fresh produce in shipping container vertical garden Could shipping container farms offer a way around this contamination? Beijing startup Alesca Life Technologies is testing them out. They turn retrofitted shipping containers into gardens filled to the brim with arugula, peas, kale, and mustard greens, and monitor conditions remotely via an app. They’ve already been able to sell smaller portable versions of the gardens to a division of a group managing luxury hotels in Beijing and the Dubai royal family. Alesca Life co-founder Stuart Oda told Bloomberg, “ Agriculture has not really innovated materially in the past 10,000 years. The future of farming – to us – is urban .” And they’re not alone in their innovation. Scientist Yang Qichang of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is experimenting with a crop laboratory, testing which light from the visible light spectrum both helps plants flourish and uses little energy . His self-contained, vertical system already yields between 40 and 100 times more produce than an open field of similar size. He told Bloomberg, “Using vertical agriculture, we don’t need to use pesticides and we can use less chemical fertilizers – and produce safe food.” Via Bloomberg Images via Alesca Life Technologies

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China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

May 26, 2017 by  
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Smart adaptive reuse can do wonders with old, abandoned and disused buildings. Dutch firm Atelier Space breathed new life into this 1925 nursery in Leiden, the Netherlands by converting it into a beautiful, daylit residence with amenities, technology and polish worthy of a modern urban home. The architects preserved much of the original 1925 nursery, turned the former gym into an airy, open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area. They also divided a large classroom into three separate bedrooms. Related: Patalab Architects transform dank mechanics garage into light-filled London home The entire residence features 13-foot-high ceilings with restored skylights and windows that bring natural light into the interior. A guesthouse occupies the floor above the living room, and the toilet, technical area, and storage room are all placed on one side. The converted schoolhouse also includes sustainable design features such as rooftop solar panels , improved building insulation, and centrally controlled lighting, climate, shading and security systems that allow occupants to control every aspect the interior environment. To top it all off, a heat pump heats and cools the house. + Atelier Space Via Curbed Photos by Brigitte Kroone

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Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

Modpools turns shipping containers into amazing swimming pools

April 28, 2017 by  
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We’ve seen shipping containers transformed into homes , shops , and even urban farms – but Modpools gives these repurposed structures a whole new life as backyard swimming pools . Modpools are easy to install and transport, and they come with a series of cool features including heaters, jets, portholes, and LED mood lighting you can control with your smartphone. Modpools are available in 8′ x 20′ or 8′ x 40′ container sizes and they can be installed in no time. By adding a divider, users can even create a temporary or permanent hot tub section. These customizable all-in-one pool systems ship with ready-to-use, built-in pool equipment and a high-tech Ultraviolet system that keeps the water clean without the need for chemicals. Related: ScottWhitbyStudio transforms a shipping container into a pop-up cinema You can install Modpools above ground with raised decking, partially underground with retaining walls, or at ground level. This makes them versatile and easy to adapt to different topographies and backyard sizes. You can add a special touch to your prefab swimming pool by adding a window to the side of the shipping container. + Modpools Via Curbed

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Modpools turns shipping containers into amazing swimming pools

Worlds greenest terminal opens at Oslo airport

April 28, 2017 by  
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Nordic Office of Architecture recently completed the world’s greenest airport terminal with their new 115,000-square-meter extension that’s doubled the size of Oslo Airport. As the world’s first airport building to achieve the BREEAM Excellence sustainability rating, the renovated Oslo Airport boasts an array of energy-efficient strategies as well as on-site energy harvesting systems. The most notable energy-saving measure is the airport’s collection and storage of snow for reuse as coolant during the summer. The recent expansion is a continuation of Nordic’s work on the Oslo Airport, which the architecture firm designed in 1998. The Oslo-based design studio’s 300-meter-long extension preserves the building’s simple and iconic appearance while increasing airport capacity from 19 million to an anticipated future capacity of 30 million. New design elements also improve the passenger experience, such as the reduction of walking distances to a maximum of 450 meters, and the overhaul of the existing train station at the heart of the airport. Artificial lighting is minimized in favor of natural lighting to improve passenger comfort and reduce energy demands. Related: Zaha Hadid unveils plans for world’s largest airport terminal in Beijing In addition to the use of natural lighting and the reuse of snow as a summer coolant, the architects reduced the airport’s carbon footprint by 35 percent with the use of environmentally friendly and recycled materials . The new pier is entirely clad in timber sourced from Scandinavian forests, while additional natural materials, green walls, and water features, can be found throughout the interior. Recycled steel and concrete mixed with volcanic ash were also used. Improved insulation has helped the building achieve Passive House-level performance standards and, coupled with on-site energy harvesting, slashed energy consumption by over 50 percent as compared to the existing terminal. + Nordic Office of Architecture Images by Ivan Brodey

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Worlds greenest terminal opens at Oslo airport

Nature-inspired gallery celebrates Taiwans aboriginal cultures with cargotecture

March 31, 2017 by  
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A shimmering wave-like roof mirroring the Pacific Ocean tops this stunning new structure that celebrates Taiwan’s aboriginal cultures with eco-friendly construction. Bio-architecture Formosana recently completed the Taitung Aboriginal Gallery, a 1,921-square-meter exhibition center that draws inspiration from nature just as the architects of Austronesian culture did for centuries. With Taitung’s rich and varied landscapes as well as its seven different aboriginal tribes, the architects drew on a wealth of cultural and environmental resources for their design. The Taitung Aboriginal Gallery was created to celebrate the artistic and nature-inspired architectural elements of Austronesian culture. Thus, the architects created a large steel-framed roof with an undulating shape that mimics the topography and ocean, and is decorated with diamond shapes that symbolize the eyes of the ancestral spirits. The shape allows for access to natural light and ventilation throughout the building while providing much needed shade and cooling from the tropical sun. The sloped sides also facilitate collection of rainwater , which is stored in five small ponds in the plaza. Related: Mecanoo wins competition to design the Tainan Public Library with natural materials As an island with several major ports, Taiwan collects approximately 10,000 shipping containers from the ocean every year. The architects recycled a number of the containers into rooms within the Taitung Aboriginal Gallery. The repurposed and repainted shipping containers are individually air-conditioned and serve as aboriginal handicraft shops. “In Taitung’s tropical climate, individualized air conditioning reduces the refrigerating ton by 50%, and the electricity use by 60%,” write the architects. + Bio-architecture Formosana Via ArchDaily Images by Lucas K. Doolan

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Nature-inspired gallery celebrates Taiwans aboriginal cultures with cargotecture

Tiny power plant sucks CO2 from the air and turns it into fuel

November 11, 2016 by  
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Ineratec , an offshoot of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), has devised a creative solution to the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) soaking the atmosphere. The company developed a small power plant that sucks CO2 out of the air and turns it into fuel . Researchers aim to switch on a pilot plant, called the Soletair Project, at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland later this year. Ineratec’s mini power plant is so small it can fit inside a shipping container . KIT says there are three parts to the system: a microstructured reactor, a direct air capture unit created by VIT, and an electrolysis unit which runs on solar power created by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). The direct air capture unit extracts CO2 out of the air and then the reactor converts the CO2 and regenerative hydrogen via the electrolysis unit into fuel. The Ineratec founders say the system can produce gasoline, kerosene, or diesel. Related: Cutting-edge MIT research converts carbon emissions into usable liquid fuel Ineratec founder Tim Böltken told New Atlas, “We supply an entirely new, modular technology that is a real alternative to the costly large chemical facilities used for the conventional gas-to-liquid process.” Böltken said there are many other possible applications for the plant, including gathering fuel from sewage treatment facilities. He also suggested organic farmers might be able to use the system to generate energy. VTT Principal Scientist Pekka Simell said in a statement , “The project will produce expertise for enterprises in various fields, and it will result in a multidisciplinary industrial integration that no one company can achieve on its own.” VTT and LUT will build a demonstration plant set to being operating this year, and in 2017 LUT plans to continue testing. According to KIT, Ineratec is planning to commercialize the compact plant, which could hit the market in 2018. Via New Atlas Images via Ineratec and KIT

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Tiny power plant sucks CO2 from the air and turns it into fuel

72-ton elevating house lifts 5 feet into the air to escape flooding

November 11, 2016 by  
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Larkfleet Group has created a revolutionary Elevating House that literally rises above flood waters. In case of a flood , the house can rise nearly five feet into the air in under five minutes – even though it weighs almost 72 tons. Larkfleet recently requested planning permission to build the house and begin testing. The house is elevated via eight mechanical jacks, according to Larkfleet Group, and instead of building on a traditional foundation, they’ll construct the house on a steel ring beam. The company says the house will have a ” modular steel-frame design ” and can even be “disassembled and re-erected on another site on conventional foundations as a family residence.” Related: Six Flood-Proof Buildings That Can Survive Rising Tides If they obtain planning permission, Larkfleet aims to erect a three bedroom experimental house in Lincolnshire in the UK, possibly in 2017. Should they succeed in building the house, the company will test how the jacking system works and is maintained over a period of around five years. Larkfleet says Elevating House would be raised based on warnings from the UK Environment Agency before a flood strikes, but notes the home could still be raised quickly if necessary. Their plan is to ensure residents raise their home and then evacuate, but the home could still receive power from a battery and rooftop solar panels if necessary. Flexible hoses would keep Elevating House connected to water and sewage. Such a design could allow homes to be built in locations currently undeveloped because of concerns over flooding . Larkfleet Group CEO Karl Hick said in a statement, “The elevating house effectively eliminates the risk of flood damage to homes so that more land across the country can be approved for future home building. This will help to tackle the ‘ housing crisis ‘ that is being caused by the demand for new housing far exceeding the supply.” + Larkfleet Group Images via Larkfleet Group

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72-ton elevating house lifts 5 feet into the air to escape flooding

The Keystone XL Pipeline could be resurrected under Trumps administration

November 11, 2016 by  
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We’ve already written about how Donald Trump’s incoming administration could spell disaster for the environment. But it could end up being worse than we thought. Just days after the election, TransCanada announced it would attempt to revive its controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which was shot down by President Obama a year ago. Under Obama’s administration, the company spent seven years pursuing a permit from the State Department to build a cross-country crude oil pipeline. Ultimately, the company was denied the permit due to the project’s expected impact on the environment – specifically, its contribution to climate change . The Council of Canadians estimates that running the pipeline could increase the planet’s greenhouse gas levels by a shocking 22 million tons a year. The pipeline would also be bad news for anyone living nearby – farmers and ranchers alike opposed the initial project out of fears that a leak could damage water supplies. This effort is only the latest in a long line of stunts by TransCanada. Earlier this year, they attempted to sue the US government for shooting down the pipeline. The company also made a grab for land using eminent domain in Nebraska, much to the horror of local landowners. Related: What Trump’s victory means for the environment (it’s not good) While Donald Trump hasn’t released a formal statement on the pipeline, it would be trivial for the energy company to approach him for approval – he’s already spoken of his desire to scrap federal environmental regulations. First on the list is the Clean Water Act, one of the key rules barring the Dakota Access Pipeline from moving forward without a fight. With a cabinet full of climate deniers , it’s unlikely the Obama administration’s concerns will be considered at all. If we want to prevent this pipeline from going through, environmentalists are going to need to unite and mobilize to stop it. Why not make a donation to your favorite green charity today to get started? Via The Washington Post Images via Shutterstock ( 1 , 2 )

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The Keystone XL Pipeline could be resurrected under Trumps administration

California officially becomes the first state to ban plastic bags

November 11, 2016 by  
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California just made history by becoming the first state in the Union to officially ban plastic bags . The California Plastic Bag Veto Referendum (Proposition 67) was approved by voters on Nov. 8 by a narrow margin of 51.97% in favor to 48.03% opposed. The narrow win came despite a $6 million campaign waged by the out-of-state plastic bag industry. “California voters have taken a stand against a deceptive, multi-million dollar campaign by out-of-state plastic bag makers,” said Californians Against Waste (CAW) campaign co-chair, Mark Murray. “This is a significant environmental victory that will mean an immediate elimination of the 25 million plastic bags that are polluted in California every day, threatening wildlife.” Related: California Lawmakers Pass Nation’s First Statewide Plastic Bag Ban The writing was already on the wall for plastic bags in California, as San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007 – with nearly half the state following suit soon after. The California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 270 in 2014 , which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. But, according to the Sacramento Bee, the American Progressive Bag Alliance led a campaign to repeal the bill, claiming it would kill thousands of jobs in a state and cost residents hundreds of dollars each year in bag fees. Voters soundly defeated Proposition 65, a related measure that proposed an environmental fund created with the proceeds from a 10-cent fee on the sale of cloth and other alternative bags. Via Californians Against Waste and the Sacramento Bee Images via European Parliament and katerha , Flickr Creative Commons

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Urban Rigger: affordable floating dorms made from shipping containers in Copenhagen

September 22, 2016 by  
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Copenhagen icon and world-renowned architect Bjarke Ingels designed the Urban Rigger units, but the idea was the brainchild of Kim Loudrop, an entrepreneur who founded the Urban Rigger startup. Loudrop sought to create a “revolutionary and innovative floating dwelling system” that took advantage of unused prime real estate—the water. The urgent student housing shortage galvanized the entrepreneur, who also noticed that 80 percent of major universities in Europe were centrally located in cities, with many near bodies of water. The floating Urban Rigger dorms built on the water seemed like a natural solution. Copenhagen was used as the first testing ground—the city is one of the ten costliest cities in the world to live in—but the startup has hopes of expanding the patented concept worldwide. Flexible, floating, and undeniably cool, the mobile Urban Rigger units offer waterfront living at a fraction of the normal cost. BIG’s 680-square-meter modular design comprises nine stacked shipping container units organized in a circle to frame a centralized winter garden and common area. Each modular shipping container dorm houses 12 students, who have their own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, but also have access to a 160-square-meter common green courtyard, kayak landing, bathing platform, barbecue area, and 65-square-meter communal roof terrace. Related: 7,500 affordable floating homes could help fight London’s crippling housing crisis To meet carbon neutral status, the floating dorms are powered by solar energy and a hydro-based heat-exchange system that draws on seawater as a natural source of heat. NASA-developed aerogel is used to insulate the interiors, while Grundfos energy-saving pumps are installed for wastewater, heating, circulation, and drinking water. Urban Rigger says the shipping containers, made entirely of Corten Steel, are upcycled to save on materials, energy, and cost . According to Fast Company , each energy-efficient shipping container dormitory is manufactured at a Polish shipyard for $700 to $800 per square foot. Urban Rigger has already begun plans to build their next 24-unit project in Sweden and is fielding requests from North America. But the success of the startup will depend on the willingness of cities to open up their waterfront properties to the affordable floating dwellings. Fortunately, the company and Ingels are optimistic. “We might be in a situation where the goodwill of addressing an issue that is important to the government means that we’d get some access to the key waterfront sites under their control,” Ingels told Fast Company . The architect also sees potential in the experimental model for future applications in refugee housing and his firm even has plans of building Urban Rigger housing for their interns. + Urban Rigger Via Fast Company Images via Urban Rigger and BIG

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Urban Rigger: affordable floating dorms made from shipping containers in Copenhagen

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