Oxford, UK to create first zero-emissions zone in the world

October 12, 2017 by  
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Oxford , England, with its history of learning dating back to the 11th century, is now shifting into the future with an electric-vehicle only zone in the city center. In banning all internal combustion engine vehicles, the city is establishing what it says is the first zero-emissions zone in the world. Starting in 2020, six streets in Oxford’s city center will be free of smaller gas-guzzling vehicles, including buses and taxis. By 2035, the ban will have expanded to all fossil-fuel powered vehicles and will encompass the entire city center. While such a dramatic change in the city center’s urban design may encourage less driving, thus less greenhouse gas emissions, the zone was inspired by a need to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide, most of which comes from car exhaust, by three-fourths. Chronic exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation. Data from the World Health Organization also indicates that Oxford is one of eleven British cities to exceed the safe limits of toxic particles known as PM10s and PM2.5s. A “step change” is urgently needed to prevent air pollution from “damaging the health” of Oxford residents, said city councilor John Tanner. Related: GM’s plans for “all-electric-future” spell doom for fossil fuel industry The switch-over plan is expected to cost Oxford city government, bus companies, and local businesses approximately £7 million to replace the fossil-fuel consuming vehicles, including all municipal vehicles, with electric vehicles. An additional £7 million will be spent to build compliance infrastructure , such as CCTV cameras with plate number recognition technology. Those who still choose to bring their old fashioned vehicles into the city center after the ban will face a significant fine. To sustain such a project, Oxford would require sustained commitment from local, regional, and perhaps federal government. Via The Guardian Images via  Martijn van Sabben ,  Giuseppe Milo

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Oxford, UK to create first zero-emissions zone in the world

LEED-seeking brick building in Montreal hides funky geode-like courtyard

October 6, 2017 by  
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Montreal’s ADHOC Architectes  created a beautiful residential building whose ubiquitous brick facade hides a crystalline-filled courtyard—inspired by the geode. Located in the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, La Géode’s many sustainable features are expected to earn the project Canada’s first LEED v4 certification for a multi-unit building. At first glance, the building looks like any other in the area. However, the brick facade – much like a geode – hides a crystalline treasure on the interior. The unique design of the five-unit residential building began with optimizing the footprint to create a layout that would be conducive to a quality living environment, based on maximum efficiency. By blending the street entry and alley space, the architects created a central entryway that leads into the inner courtyard. Related: Beekeeper built dream hexagonal house without ‘hateful’ right angles A small walkway covered in grey and white panels leads into the open-air courtyard , covered in the same facade. The space was strategically designed to create a sense of privacy for the residents as well as a pleasant outdoor space for socializing. In addition to creating a healthy communal space, the courtyard helps provide natural light and cross ventilation of the units, all of which come with private loggias that open up to the exterior. The walls were also built to have high acoustic performance, blocking out a lot of street noise, again enhancing residents’ quality of life. A large part of the design was focused on providing sufficient greenery for the tenants. Various shrub, climbing species and trees were planted to grow freely on the floor and the walls of the inner courtyard, adding to its healthy-living atmosphere. This greenery, along with the building’s high energy performance and various green features, are expected to earn the building a LEED v4 certification , a first for this kind of structure in Canada. + ADHOC Architectes Photography by Adrien Williams

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LEED-seeking brick building in Montreal hides funky geode-like courtyard

World’s first solar-powered, indoor vertical farm sprouts in Philadelphia

October 5, 2017 by  
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Future-farming experts Metropolis Farms have opened the world’s first solar powered, indoor vertical farm in the heart of Philadelphia . Although the City of Brotherly Love currently hosts only about eight acres of urban farming due to lack of traditional agricultural land, Metropolis Farms seeks to take advantage of the urban jungle to provide a new model for local agriculture in the city. Rather than receiving sunlight from the open air, the crops will receive concentrated full-spectrum light in a controlled indoor environment. In its latest undertaking, Metropolis Farms has installed a 500 kilowatt solar array composed of over 2,000 solar panels, which will be used to power the indoor vertical operation. The company plans to produce the equivalent of 660 acres of traditional farmland on less than 100,000 square feet. While it may not always be sunny in Philadelphia, the solar panels atop Metropolis Farms are an innovative way to capture energy and redirect it towards an efficient, controlled environment for growing vegetables. “By bringing the growing process indoors, in line with our mission of social responsibility, we are revitalizing abandoned spaces and are using them for local food production,” said Metropolis Farms in a statement. Their technological design is applicable for urban environments regardless of climate , making local, fresh, sustainable food accessible for the billions of people that live in cities across the globe. Related: This brilliant floating farm actually heals the world’s oceans The primary challenge to an efficient indoor growing operation is the high cost of electricity to power the lighting and pumps necessary to keep the plants healthy. Through its use of on-site solar power and further innovations, Metropolis Farms seeks to eventually achieve a zero-carbon farming operation. The company hopes to reveal its latest innovative practices and technology at the 2017 Indoor Ag-Con, which will be hosted by Philadelphia for the first time. Via Clean Technica Images via Metropolis Farms  and Jonas Ingold/Flickr

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World’s first solar-powered, indoor vertical farm sprouts in Philadelphia

New 35-acre public park brings ‘wild urbanism’ to Moscow

October 5, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for urban wilderness, it might be time to visit Moscow. Diller Scofidio + Renfro won a competition in 2013 to design Moscow’s first new public park in 50 years . Now, the New York architecture firm has just opened Zaryadye Park, a markedly wild, pathless green space that includes various augmented microclimates to mimic various parts of Russia, including steppes, forests, wetlands, and even tundra. Located in a former commercial part of Moscow just next to Red Square, the creation of the 35-acre park is part of a major push by the city to improve and increase local green space. Commissioned by Moscow Chief Architect, Sergey Kuznetsov, the innovative park design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro includes a number of unique features that stand out from traditional Russian parks. Related: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Elizabeth Diller is working on an opera for the High Line In contrast to the city’s highly landscaped and symmetrical parks, Zaryadye’s design embraces a notable wild side that avoids the typical designated zones found in most parks. Free from paved walking trails, the entire surface of the new park is open green space , with grey paving stones that surround the perimeter. According to the architects, the “wild” green space was a strategic design meant to encourage complete freedom of movement – offering an “unscripted park experience” for visitors. “It is a park for Russia made from Russia…it samples the natures of Russia and merges them with the city, to become a design that could only happen here. It embodies a wild urbanism, a place where architecture and landscape are one,” explains architect, Charles Renfro. The interior is planted with native flora, which is used to create a replica of the country’s four major microclimates : steppes, forests, wetlands, and tundra. Using temperature control systems as well as daylight simulation and wind elimination, the augmented climates allow locals to use the park all year long. Open hills in wintertime become fun sledding hills and five pavilions allow for shaded shelter among the green space. There are also two amphitheaters and a philharmonic concert hall. + Diller Scofidio + Renfro Via Archdaily Images via Philippe Ruault and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

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Solar Vertical City is a self-contained, green-infused tower planted into the ocean floor

October 4, 2017 by  
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Resigned to the fact that rising sea levels are inevitable at this point, architects are starting to create feasible, water-based living solutions. Italian architect Luca Curci has just unveiled a design that envisions a soaring zero-energy tower infused with greenery on each level that will be planted into the sea floor, resulting in what could be the future of self-contained architecture. Curci’s proposed Vertical City tower would consists of 10 overlapping modular layers, reaching a height of 2,460 feet with 180 floors. The facade would be clad with a membrane of photovoltaic glass, which would generate sufficient energy for the entire building and then some. Related: This futuristic vertical factory feeds off a city’s waste to produce energy The tower would have 190,000 square feet of floor surface that would be used for residences, offices, services, retail space, and various facilities. The tower design would be focused on providing a healthy, vibrant environment that connects the residents and workers with nature. For example, the tower would have ample air circulation and natural light on each level thanks to numerous perforated slots throughout the tower’s exterior. Additionally, the design calls for over 66,000 feet of outdoor green space spread throughout the building, including a public open-air garden plaza on the rooftop. The massive tower’s base would be planted firmly into the sea floor. The submerged floors would house the parking and technical areas, as well as various amenities such as spas, mediation centers, a workout center, etc. A handful of luxury hotels rooms would also be completely submerged underwater, offering a unique experience as well as amazing views of marine life. Access to the Vertical City would be possible by water, land or air. The circular base would have external and internal docks as well as multiple naval entries for large and small boats. The tower would be connected to the mainland via a semi-submerged bridge for pedestrians, cars, and an electric-based public transportation system . For air arrivals, the building will be topped with a heliport. + Luca Curci Images via Luca Curci Architects

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Soaring timber tower could clean up contaminated water in NYC’s Central Park

September 22, 2017 by  
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New York-based DFA Studio has unveiled plans for a soaring wooden tower in Central Park that could actually purify the heavily contaminated Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The proposed tower measures 712 feet tall with a 112-foot-tall spire – and if it comes to fruition, it will be the world’s tallest timber tower. The tower’s helix structure is wrapped with a lattice of curved timber beams . The building would be anchored securely to a pre-cast concrete base with tensile steel cables. A transparent material covers the tower’s exterior, providing 360-degree views as visitors climb up to the top. Related: LAVA breaks ground on sustainable energy tower in Heidelberg The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir currently contains an estimated one billion gallons of stagnant, contaminated water . The tower’s filtration system could potentially convert the body of water into a clean pond. “Aside from supplying water to the pool and Harlem Meer, the Reservoir sits stagnant and fenced off due to its current state as a health threat to millions of New Yorkers, tourists and animals,” said DFA studio founder Laith Sayigh. “DFA envisions a temporary landmark that is remarkably of its time to creatively transform the reservoir into one of New York’s boldest urban amenities.” The tower’s integrated filtration system (as well as the elevators) would be powered by a wind turbine installed at the top of the tower. Sayigh believes that the NYC project would serve as an example for urban design around the world, “The Central Park Tower has the potential to be a model project for other cities aiming to fix existing infrastructure, build tall to capture views and elevate the urban public realm.” + DFA Via Dezeen

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Nouvelle AOM wins competition to give Paris’ Tour Montparnasse a massive green makeover

September 22, 2017 by  
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Nouvelle AOM has just been chosen to transform Paris’ historic Tour Montparnasse into beacon of sustainability for the City of Light. The winning design envisions a contemporary green makeover for the 40-year-old skyscraper – including a new transparent shell cladding and forests in the sky that will improve air quality in and around the tower. The 689-foot Tour Montparnasse was completed in 1973, and it was France’s tallest skyscraper until 2011. There is a lot of history (and controversy) behind the tower, so its redesign had to pay respect to its revered past while re-establish its position as a modern landmark in the city. Related: Holland’s first Vertical Forest to rise with 10,000 air-purifying plant s “This was a huge challenge, as the Tower isn’t like any other,” the jury explained. “Nouvelle AOM’s project perfectly captures the spirit of the 21st century, giving the Tower a multifaceted identity revolving around attractive, innovative new uses. The Tower will breathe new life into the Montparnasse neighbourhood.” The winning design, which beat out submissions from OMA, MAD and Studio Gang, was a collaboration between three Paris-based firms: Franklin Azzi Architecture , Chartier Dalix Architectes and Hardel et le Behan Architectes . The old opaque cladding will be replaced by a transparent facade that will “glow” at night. Multiple floors throughout the tower – including the large conservatory rooftop – will be planted with lush vegetated forests and hanging gardens that will improve air quality both within and outside the skyscraper. The architects explain that the design concept was inspired by the need to create a contemporary skyscraper that will become a beacon of the city’s commitment to sustainability . “When we took up the challenge of this exciting competition, our focus was on revealing the beauty of the Tour Montparnasse from the inside out. We achieved this by incorporating radically new uses and crafting a complete sustainable ‘green’ makeover of the facade. The aim is to make the Tower an icon of the 21st century energy revolution,” explains Nouvelle AOM. Construction on the €300 million project is expected to begin in 2019 and it’s slated for completion in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. + Nouvelle AOM Via Archdaily Images via Nouvelle AOM

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Nouvelle AOM wins competition to give Paris’ Tour Montparnasse a massive green makeover

The cost of solar power has dropped over 25% in one year

September 22, 2017 by  
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The clean energy revolution continues and solar is leading the charge. In a recently published report, the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories documented that the cost of utility-scale solar, generated from large plants rather than residential rooftops, has decreased by 30 percent within the past year. This happy news aligns with another recent announcement by the SunShot Initiative , a parallel effort within the US Department of Energy , which declared that their cost targets set for solar energy had been met years before their 2020 deadline. All of this serves as a reminder that, despite the politics of the moment, solar energy continues to rapidly become more cost effective and accessible, paving the way for a cleaner energy future. Although China has frequently been cited by the US President as a dangerous competitor, the solar renaissance in the United States has been made possible because of the pioneering work in solar energy being done in the People’s Republic. More solar modules are being produced in China than there is demand, which has enabled US importers to purchase this technology at low prices. As a result, the average price per watt is now only $1.03 for fixed-tilt systems and $1.11 for those that move to track the sun’s movement. Related: Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power While rooftop and residential solar system may represent the most visible manifestation of solar’s growth and reach, it is utility-scale solar systems, which feed into the grid , which have the most potential to change the game. Taking note of the ever-decreasing price of solar and demand from consumers for cleaner forms of energy, utility companies have invested funds to increase the share of solar in their portfolio. For example, Duke Energy Florida recently announced plans to spend $6 billion on solar infrastructure, scrapping its previous plans to invest in nuclear power . If trends continue, it is estimated that 139 countries , including the United States and China, could switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, with solar contributing the lion’s share. Via Futurism Images via Michael Mees and Kate Ausburn

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The cost of solar power has dropped over 25% in one year

Ericsson’s new mixed-reality platform envisions urban design in "real life"

September 21, 2017 by  
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Ericsson has created a new mixed-reality platform that allows users to envision urban design projects in “real life”. Teaming up with UN-Habitat, Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and WITS University as part of a community project called Building the Public City Through Public Space , the Swedish telecommunications company recently tested their prototype in Braamfontein, South Africa during the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival . Albeit still very much in its early development phase, the technology gave the community a sense of what their own Minecraft public space design proposal would look like if it were actually built. Marcus Nyberg, a senior researcher with Ericsson’s Strategic Design unit, says they developed the mixed-reality platform as part of a larger initiative to engage partners outside of Ericsson in participatory planning, sustainable urbanism and future technology. JDA and WITS university chose a public space in need of improvement at the intersection of Stiemens and Bertha Street and invited passersby (and students) to use Minecraft to design a safe, welcoming space that caters to their specific needs. This is part of UN-Habitat’s broader Block by Block initiative that uses this relatively simple design program to engage underserved communities in their own urban planning. Related: Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa Klaas Tswai, an urban design postgraduate student from WITS, coalesced the results of various proposals into one feasible, cohesive design that Ericsson then plugged into their new platform that uses “special smartphones enabled with sensors and 3D-sensing technology,” writes Joakim Formo . He continues, “For the technically inclined, the devices we used for this test were Tango-enabled smartphones/phablets that has parts of the on-board SLAM functionality disabled, instead using our own pre-loaded 3D mesh based on a Lidar-scanned point cloud which we used for occlusion-masking, ray-tracing shadows etc.” In addition to seating areas and other details, the community envisioned building a bridge over a busy street. Once the design was plugged into Ericsson’s new platform, participating community members could walk around with the smartphone and see what that bridge would look like as though it were right there in front of them. Their reactions exceeded Nyberg’s expectations. He said they did not expect people to be “so amazed” by the results. Albeit still quite elementary (I personally felt like I was walking around in Legoland), the prototypical technology clearly has immense potential. Imagine: instead of spending a pile of money and resources to design buildings or benches or whatever it is – and then finding it’s not really suitable for that particular space – this mixed-reality platform would give users an opportunity to test drive it for a while. Not only that, but getting the community involved gives them a greater sense of ownership and belonging. + Ericsson + UN-Habitat + Building the Public City Through Public Space Images via Joakim Formo, Ericsson

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Ericsson’s new mixed-reality platform envisions urban design in "real life"

UNStudio completes sustainable all-in-one urban hub in Hangzhou

September 20, 2017 by  
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UNStudio has completed a stunning new LEED Gold -certified project in China that we hope will be a model for mixed-use development for years to come. Described by the Dutch studio as “a sustainable urban hub for living, working, and leisure,” the enormous complex in Hangzhou is the latest Raffles City to be erected in China. Located in the city’s new central business district in Qianjiang New Town, this nearly 400,000-square-meter development is made iconic with its pair of 250-meter-tall interconnected towers—the largest single building completed by UNStudio. UNStudio designed Raffles City Hangzhou using its ongoing research into Superliving, a set of strategies to create sustainable, healthy cities with streamlined services and amenities to provide a higher quality of life. “Raffles City Hangzhou will be a point of confluence, a hub for business conduct and a new destination for visitors and residents alike; an ‘all-in-one’ destination for working, living and leisure in a highly sustainable environment,” said Ben van Berkel , the founder and principal architect at UNStudio. Located near and oriented for views of Hangzhou’s Qiantang River, the towers derive inspiration from the waterway with its organic form. A shimmering scale-like skin of aluminum tiles clad the building and are paired with an outer layer of rotated, vertical solar shading fins . Curvilinear shapes and undulating lines are echoed in the light-filled interior as well as the landscaped plaza and podium that connect the pair of sleek, sinuous towers. Related: UNStudio and Heerim unveil lush, garden-filled development for Seoul Conceived as a “lively vertical neighborhood and transit hub,” the sixty-story high-rises comprise residential units, Grade A offices, the Conrad hotel, and a rooftop helipad. The 116,000-square-meter six-story podium includes retail, restaurants, leisure facilities, parking, and access to the metro. “The building is designed with a carefully considered mix of programmes – like those found in a good city – that bring together a wide range of users,” wrote the firm. “Besides working and living at Raffles City, people can stay at the hotel, or pick up groceries, enjoy a meal, do exercise, watch a movie or even get married there, all in one interconnected environment.” + UNStudio Images © Hufton + Crow

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