New biofuel from wastewater slashes vehicle CO2 emissions by 80%

March 20, 2017 by  
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An innovative new project called LIFE+ Methamorphosis is pioneering a new sustainable biofuel for cars . Car company SEAT and water management company Aqualia have transformed wastewater into the alternative fuel . Powered with this biofuel produced during one year at a treatment plant in Spain, a vehicle could circumnavigate the globe 100 times. SEAT and Aqualia came up with a creative answer to the issues of pollution from traditional car fuels – which have led to traffic restrictions in cities like Madrid – and reusing water , a scarce resource. To make their biomethane , wastewater is separated from sludge in treatment plants, and then becomes gas after a fermentation treatment. Following a purification and enrichment process, the biogas can be utilized as fuel. Compared against petrol, production and consumption of the biofuel releases 80 percent less carbon dioxide, according to SEAT . The new biofuel works in compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled cars. Related: Africa’s newest sustainable biofuel grows on trees The project aims to show feasibility at industrial scales through two waste treatment systems. The UMBRELLA prototype will be set up in a municipal waste treatment plant serving Barcelona. The METHARGO prototype will create biomethane at a plant handling animal manure. The biogas made with the second prototype can be utilized directly in cars or could be added to the natural gas distribution network, according to the project’s website . A mid-sized treatment plant can handle around 353,000 cubic feet of wastewater every day, which could yield 35,000 cubic feet of biomethane, according to companies involved with the project. All that biomethane could power 150 vehicles driving around 62 miles a day. SEAT will supply vehicles to test the biofuel over around 74,500 miles. The European Commission is funding the project. Other companies participating include Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas , Gas Natural , the Catalan Institute for Energy , and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area . Via New Atlas Images via SEAT and LIFE+ Methamorphosis

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New biofuel from wastewater slashes vehicle CO2 emissions by 80%

Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower

March 20, 2017 by  
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The far reaches of northern Vietnam are beautiful but heartbreakingly poor. Children of the Hmong ethnic minority who live in the villages routinely suffer from lack of access to healthcare and education. Vietnamese architecture firm 1+1> 2 has provided a ray of hope for those in Lung Luong village in the remote Thai Nguyen Province with the construction of a beautiful new school made from local materials including rammed earth and bamboo. The school’s beautiful swooping and colorful form is an inspiration to the village and serves as a welcoming haven protected from the harsh elements. The Lung Luong elementary school is sited on a mountain peak and constructed to replace a poorly insulated structure that was piercingly cold in days of heavy rain and draught. Under the leadership of architect Hoang Thuc Hao, the villagers excavated part of the peak to create an even foundation. The excavated soil was recycled into rammed earth bricks used to build the school’s structure. The soil bricks’ thermal properties help maintain a temperate indoor climate year round. Locally sourced timber and bamboo were also used in construction and existing trees were protected during the building process. The elementary school is spread out across the mountaintop, covering an area of over 1,400 square meters. The orientation and placement of the buildings and the swooping colorful bamboo canopy above optimize natural lighting, ventilation, and sound insulation. The school comprises classrooms, playgrounds, gardens, multipurpose rooms, a medical room, library, kitchen, toilets, and dormitory. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier “The goal of this project is to create a school with conveniences striving against the harsh nature,” write the architects. “The classrooms are compatible with the mountain, spaces between them are slots which makes everything appears like an architectural picture pasted on the terrain. The corridor connects all functional areas. The foundation of the buildings respects the natural terrain which means that they wind up and down as the mountain path.” + 1+1> 2 Via ArchDaily Images © Son Vu

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Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower

Diapers, sanitary products could provide alternative fuel source

March 20, 2017 by  
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A waste-management company has developed a new, patented process that turns sanitary products, baby diapers, incontinence pads, and other so-called “absorbent hygiene products” into power. PHS Group , which serves 90,000 households, schools, offices, and retirement homes across the United Kingdom and Ireland, says that it handles about 45,000 tons of the stuff a year. A plant in the Midlands is currently converting 15 percent of that waste into compressed bales that can be burned to provide fuel for power stations. Refuse-derived fuel is neither an untested concept in Europe, where the practice is par for the course, nor in the U.K., where it’s gaining ground. But diapers, tampons, and their ilk have proved trickier because their dampness makes incineration most costly. But neither is dumping them in the landfill, where they’ll take decades to degrade, a sustainable solution. “Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue,” Justin Tydeman, CEO of the PHS Group, told Guardian . PHS Group’s system, which is being evaluated by the University of Birmingham for its effectiveness, not to mention its impact on the environment, sounds simple in principle. Related: How Sweden diverts 99 percent of its waste from the landfill The company begins by shredding and squeezing the material, then disposing of any waste liquid as sewage. The remaining dry material is packed into bales, ripe for tossing into the fire. “Whether or not it turns out to be a major source of energy in itself, the key thing is we find a good way to handle what is a complex and growing waste stream,” Tydeman said. “We don’t want this stuff just going into the ground.” An aging population makes PHS Group’s tack even more vital than ever, Tydeman added. “The great thing about life today is people are living longer, but what comes with that is often incontinence issues,” he said. We want this to be a growing issue, because we want people to live longer.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash , Pixabay

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Diapers, sanitary products could provide alternative fuel source

2017 Pritzker Prize goes to Catalan firm RCR Arquitectes

March 1, 2017 by  
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Architecture’s most distinguished award just went to a relatively unknown firm from Catalonia. The Pritzker Prize recipients Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta from RCR Arquitectes have completed few projects outside of northeast Spain , but their elegant work emphasizing the environment has gained global attention. The trio started their firm in Olot, Catalonia in 1988. They’ve designed projects as diverse as an athletics track to a kindergarten. Pritzker jury chair Glenn Murcutt, an Australian architect, said of RCR Arquitectes, “They’ve demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building. The collaboration of these three architects produces uncompromising architecture of a poetic level, representing timeless work that reflects great respect for the past, while projecting clarity that is of the present and future.” Related: 2016 Pritzker Prize awarded to Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena The firm emphasizes structures that will last. They eschew trends in favor of well-done construction. They’re known for taking care to fit structures in beautifully with surrounding nature. They sometimes will design custom furniture for the buildings, finding it hard to find other furniture that fits their vision. There are even rumors they ask clients to sign contracts saying they won’t change the buildings since they constructed so precisely. Many of RCR Arquitectes’ projects can be found in Catalonia, although they have also designed a museum and art center in France. Recycled steel or plastic are often among the building materials they utilize. Their Tossols-Basil Athletics Track in Girona, Spain winds through oak forest clearings, deftly avoiding trees, and is green to match the natural surroundings. A sloped pathway takes visitors down to their Bell-Lloc Winery, also in Girona, beneath a roof of recycled steel. The dark interior, broken up by light streaming through slots in the roof, provides visitors with a new perspective on winemaking. Their El Petit Comte Kindergarten lacks conventional walls; instead, colorful plastic tubes let light filter playfully through. Some are solid and others can be turned, allowing children to interact and play with the building itself. Even RCR Arquitectes’ office provides a glimpse into their unique design. They converted an old 20th century foundry, preserving older features of the building like crumbling walls while adding massive glass windows to flood the space with natural light. + RCR Arquitectes + Pritzker Prize Via Dezeen and The Guardian Images via Pritzker

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2017 Pritzker Prize goes to Catalan firm RCR Arquitectes

Architect turns old cement factory into incredible fairytale home – and the interior will blow you away

March 1, 2017 by  
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When Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill stumbled upon an abandoned cement factory in 1973, he saw opportunity in the ruins. Bofill bought the early twentieth-century compound and, together with local Catalan craftsmen, transformed the sprawling structure of silos and compounds into an incredible fairytale home that blends surrealism, brutalism, and modernism. Located in Catalonia, Spain, the renovation is remarkable – not only for its stunning appearance, but also for the architect’s ongoing ambition to make the concrete fortress into a surprisingly livable home and studio. A true labor of love, the Cement Factory home is over forty years in the making and is constantly evolving with no foreseeable end in sight. The basic overhaul , which included partial destruction with dynamite and jack hammers, took a little over a year to make the complex livable. To soften the harsh concrete facade, the grounds were generously replanted and climbing vines were introduced on the walls. The renovated complex is more than just Bofill’s dream home—it also contains a workspace for his architecture firm, a conference and exhibition room, a model workshop, gardens, and archive rooms. The existing structures largely influenced the design of the interior and the industrial feel was retained wherever possible. The rooms are flooded with natural light from the tall ceilings and large windows, while the silos serve as giant works of sculpture. “The factory is a magic place which strange atmosphere is difficult to be perceived by a profane eye. “I like the life to be perfectly programmed here, ritualised, in total contrast with my turbulent nomad life,” said Bofill. His firm says the project “will always remain an unfinished work.” Related: Abandoned Industrial Silo Becomes Beautiful Residences in Denmark While the raw concrete walls and slightly oxidized surfaces were preserved, the complex of silos and industrial structures have come a long way from its cement factory past. In addition to its unexpectedly lush exterior, the interior features surprising and skillful combinations of warm tones, textures, and contemporary elements against the industrial backdrop. Every room is treated like a work of art, with carefully selected furnishings that allude to the site’s history. “I have the impression of living in a precinct, in a closed universe which protects me from the outside and everyday life,” said Bofill. “The Cement Factory is a place of work par excellence. Life goes on here in a continuous sequence, with very little difference between work and leisure.” + Ricardo Bofill

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Architect turns old cement factory into incredible fairytale home – and the interior will blow you away

Ship-like Hidden Pavilion uses the surrounding forest like a protective envelope

February 15, 2017 by  
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This ship-like pavilion in Spain reconciles the openness of glass architecture and the need for privacy. Penelas Architects designed the Hidden Pavilion as a quiet retreat that protects its occupants not through the use of curtains or blinds, but by treating the surrounding forest as a kind of natural envelope. The pavilion is nestled in a forest glade just northwest of Madrid, Spain . Its isolated location allowed the architects to completely open up the building toward the surroundings and draw maximum natural light into its interior. Designed to become one with nature, the building incorporates an existing 200-year-old oak tree, along with younger trees, to grow through gaps in its terraced areas. Related: Kengo Kuma unveils “blossoming” glass and timber villas for Bali With a floor space of 753 square feet spread over two floors, the pavilion includes a veranda and a rooftop terrace that overlook the surrounding forest. Natural materials , steel and glass are combined to create a kind of industrial appearance of an ocean liner that, instead of oceans, navigates the lush landscapes of central Spain. + Penelas Architects Via New Atlas Photos by Miguel de Guzmán + Rocio Romero

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Ship-like Hidden Pavilion uses the surrounding forest like a protective envelope

Futuristic, sustainable Urban Droneport could act as a hub for drone deliveries

December 5, 2016 by  
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Companies from Amazon to Facebook have bet on drones as the aerial vehicles of the future. But many locales lack the appropriate infrastructure to support the day-to-day management of hundreds of zooming devices. Enter architect Saúl Ajuria Fernández , who, as part of his master’s degree in architecture at Universidad de Alcalá , designed a solar-powered drone hub for Madrid called Urban Droneport. The futuristic dome-shaped Urban Droneport could allow companies to radically optimize package delivery. Spherical hangars allowing drones to take off with ease populate the outside of the droneport, while the interior would accommodate a logistics center and State Institute of Technology Development. Since the building would be close to three separate parks – Tierno Galván, Madrid Rio, and Lineal del Manzanares – the first floor of the Urban Droneport has been raised up so people could stroll around the base and connect to the different parks. Related: Avoid Obvious designs the first drone highway for a Utopian Chinese city Any futuristic design worth its salt incorporates sustainability , and Fernández’s design is no exception. In his description of the Urban Droneport he said prefabrication and modularity are two principles central to the design. “We opt for a metal structure with dry joints which allows both the assembly/disassembly and its expansion or modification. The building is modulated so that the details of its construction are solved with only one of its twelve slices,” Fernández said. Renewable energy would largely power the Urban Droneport; a system in the hangar doors could actually gather solar rays to provide almost as much energy as the building would need. A courtyard in the center of the Urban Droneport would facilitate natural lighting. While the Urban Droneport is designed for Madrid, Fernández said it could be easily adapted for other cities. He also said not only could the drone hub be used for package delivery, but also for drones ferrying medical supplies. + Saúl Ajuria Fernández Images courtesy of Saúl Ajuria Fernández

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Futuristic, sustainable Urban Droneport could act as a hub for drone deliveries

Rotating walls and transforming furniture make two rooms vanish in the "Little Big" MJE House

November 27, 2016 by  
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https://vimeo.com/139683816 The apartment, called MJE House, occupies a part of an existing house and boasts mobile partitions and furniture systems that changes the traditional concept of room. The space can easily be converted through simple gestures and transformed from a quiet loft into a party venue. Related: Nendo’s innovative carbon fiber Nest bookshelf shrinks and expands like an accordion The rotating furniture in the two bedrooms has three positions that can transform the space into a single bedroom or completely eliminate it by turning the space into an open-plan loft. The MJE House is one among several of the studio’s transformable designs , dubbed Little Big Houses. Through smart partitioning and furniture design, PKMN architectures creates spaces that are truly responsive and fun to inhabit. + PKMN architectures Photos by J avier de Paz García

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Rotating walls and transforming furniture make two rooms vanish in the "Little Big" MJE House

7 international permaculture retreats for relaxing and learning

November 10, 2016 by  
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The Yoga Forest, Guatemala Perhaps a tropical breeze through a morning yoga session is more your speed. Located in the western highlands of Guatemala , the Yoga Forest in San Marcos la Laguna boasts beautiful views of Lake Atitlán and three surrounding volcanoes. Vegetarian meals sourced from the site’s food forest are served to guests who participate in yoga, permaculture courses, hiking and relaxing by day and rest in a loft, cabin or tent by night. Paititi Institute, Peru The Paititi Institute  in Peru  best serves those who are seeking high altitudes and would like to practice their Spanish. In the Mapacho Valley, near the Manu National Reserve in the Andes, the Paititi Institute maintains a 4,000 acre sanctuary which harnesses the landscape’s varied elevation to grow a diversity of crops. Tropical foods such as mangos, plaintains and yuca are grown at the base of the mountains, while temperate crops such as greens, apples, and pears thrive at higher elevation. At the peaks are potatoes and quinoa, ancient crops of the Andes. Guests assist with the maintenance of the farm, which offers a course on shamanic permaculture. Jiwa Damai, Bali In the tropical rainforest of Bali , adventurous soul seekers may find peace and enlightenment at Jiwa Damai , hands-on, socially responsible organic garden and retreat center. Guests are invited to enjoy a spacious lounge and dining space, a permaculture garden, fresh water ponds and pools as they explore the tranquil grounds. Jiwa Damai offers permaculture courses, meditation sessions, and various seminars and workshops on self development. All income from Jiwa Damai is distributed to the community through programs and projects from the Lagu Dumai Foundation. Honaunau Farm, Hawaii On the Big Island in the 50th State , Honanuanu Farm aspires to demonstrate a regenerative living model through its practices as a wellness retreat. Below Mauna Loa Volcano with breathtaking views of Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau Place of Refuge, Honoanuanu offers courses in permaculture design, animal husbandry, fruit tree care, yoga and Qigong, and medicinal plants. Students stay in tents on site, though there are more luxurious lodging options. Honoanuanu also offers therapeutic massage and wellness services. La Loma Viva, Spain In the village of Gualchos, Spain, near Granada and the Mediterranean coast, La Loma Viva offers permaculture education and peaceful exploration at its retreat center, where most guests are lodged. Meals, bedding and hot showers are provided, as well as organic soaps. Vegetarian meals, prepared as a community and sourced from the permaculture garden, are served in the communal dining area. On the patio and throughout the landscape, guests can revel in the gorgeous Mediterranean scenery of the coastline and local mountain ranges. Earthships, New Mexico If you are simply looking to relax in an environmentally sound, serene home, look no further than the Earthships  of New Mexico . Built to last with recycled materials and permaculture-like systems designed for maximum self sufficiency, Earthships are fully furnished homes with modern amenities located in the desert landscape of Taos, New Mexico. Nightly rentals of Earthships was named one of Lonely Planet’s top ten eco-stays in 2014  and offers relaxation in the ultimate green getaway for two or a group of friends. Center of Unity Schweibenalp, Switzerland If you crave crisp mountain air, the Center of Unity Schweibenalp may satisfy. The Center features a 20 hectare farm, the largest alpine permaculture projects in Switzerland . Permaculture students may take courses on site, where perennial plants are grown in a nursery for later transplanting outdoors, where edible plants cover the landscape. Most of the mushrooms, fruit, and vegetables gathered from the farm is used by the community and seminar house kitchen, available to guests at Center of Unity. Images via  Flickr   (2) , Scott Hudson ,  Nicolás Boullosa , Kai Lehmann , La Loma Viva , the Yoga Forest

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7 international permaculture retreats for relaxing and learning

This information hub transforms into 278 wooden benches once it is no longer needed

October 4, 2016 by  
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Zuloark’s website explains the firm is “a collective of architects, designers, builders and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, design, pedagogies, research and development.” The team created the temporary installation for the annual event in San Sebastian, but its designers say it is more than just an information pavilion. After being disassembled, the pavilion’s building materials will be transformed into 278 “bowtie” benches to be installed throughout the city. Related: This amazing living sculpture is covered in over 3,000 plants In order to become the designer of the event’s Information Pavilion, Zuloark won a competition aimed at architects under age 40. “We’ve designed the future urban furniture for San Sebastian in the form of the European Capital of Culture pavilion of the present,” said designers at Zuloark in a statement. The pavilion’s name—“Yesterday you said tomorrow”—is a quote from actor Shia Labeouf’s insane motivational speech “Just Do It,” filmed in front of a green screen last year. There’s no evidence to suggest that the name was purposely taken from the bizarre video but Zuloark’s proposal for the pavilion was issued just a few short months after the video went viral. Even if it’s just a coincidence, the parallel is amusing enough to be noteworthy. + Zuloark Images via Zuloark

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This information hub transforms into 278 wooden benches once it is no longer needed

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