Virtual reality helps scientists plot the ideal urban green space

April 16, 2018 by  
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Green spaces offer urban residents the chance to escape the concrete jungle and experience nature’s restorative benefits — if those spaces are well-designed. North Carolina State University researchers found vegetation density can impact a person’s feeling of safety, depending on where green space is located, and immersive virtual reality helped them test perceptions. Virtual reality doesn’t only offer an escape into fantastical images. NC State University researchers employed VR to explore different types of urban green spaces . Researchers captured 360-degree, high-resolution images of a city park and downtown plaza in Raleigh with a robot , and manipulated vegetation to create multiple environments. Related: How virtual reality can help paraplegic patients learn to walk again They discovered virtual visitors to the downtown plaza wanted vegetation to surround them. Doctoral student and landscape architect Payam Tabrizian said in the university’s statement , “In an urban setting, being enclosed by vegetation feels restorative. It can serve as a shield from the urban environment and create a kind of refuge where people can sit and relax for a while. People preferred urban environments that were very green and being enclosed in vegetation didn’t seem to bother them that much.” But the opposite was true in the park . Tabrizian said, “In the neighborhood park setting, people preferred the opposite in terms of vegetation density and arrangement. It seems that people have enough green surrounding them and want to know what’s happening around them. When you enclose them with vegetation, they don’t like it. They feel unsafe.” Immersive virtual reality could assist landscape designers in testing new designs or exploring how they might improve urban green spaces. “As landscape designers, the instinct is to want to make changes, but sometimes leaving things as they are may be the best,” Tabrizian said. “This technology allows us to design a true experiment in which we control the variables, without ever planting or moving a tree .” The Journal of Environmental Psychology published the research online earlier this year. + North Carolina State University + Journal of Environmental Psychology Images via North Carolina State University

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6 solar roads shaking up infrastructure around the world

April 16, 2018 by  
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Roads aren’t just for walking or driving anymore. Solar road or pathway projects around the world are showing that streets can both provide firm footing and generate clean energy . Inhabitat rounded up six projects in places as diverse as China and rural Georgia to highlight potentially game-changing technologies in the solar road sphere. Solar Roadways use modular solar panels covered in tempered glass Scott and Julie Brusaw launched Solar Roadways a few years back with the goal of transforming regular asphalt roads into energy -generating thruways. The Brusaws aimed to use  modular solar panels topped with tempered glass as replacement for standard pavement and, in 2016, celebrated the first public installation  of these panels in their hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho. While they’d also announced plans to bring their solar roads to a section of Route 66 in Missouri, it appears the project fell through. Late last year,  St. Louis Public Radio said the project wouldn’t be moving forward; according to Scott Brusaw, it “dissolved due to a variety of complex red tape factors.” But Solar Roadways is still at work to bring their product to roads and recently shared on Facebook  that they’ve met with interested connections from South Korea, Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Austria. Related: This bike lane in Korea is topped with 20 miles of solar panels France opens one-kilometer solar road with 2,880 solar panels In late 2016, France opened what was then the first solar road in the world: a one-kilometer stretch in Tourouvre-au-Perche, built with technology from Colas’ Wattway . The 2,880-panel road was said to generate enough energy to power street lights in the 3,400-person village. Rural Georgia gets a test stretch of Wattway’s solar roads Wattway’s solar roads hit the United States a few months after the road in France. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation installed 538 square feet of the solar road near the Alabama and Georgia border — the first Wattway pilot in America. The solar road was part of the foundation’s project The Ray , an 18-mile living laboratory testing renewable technologies that also includes  bioswales and a solar-powered electric car charging station . Solar panel expressway pops up in China Just a few months ago, a one-kilometer solar road, developed by Qilu Transportation Development Group , opened in Jinan, China . Three layers make up the road: insulation on the bottom, solar panels in the middle, and transparent concrete on top. The solar panels cover around 63,238 square feet in two lanes and one emergency lane, and can generate one million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy every year. In a strange twist , thieves actually took a small portion of the road days after it debuted; since the panels wouldn’t have been worth a lot of money, people speculated they might have wanted to learn the workings of the technology. The road was later repaired. Solar-powered bike path has generated more power than anticipated Solar panels aren’t just for highways. Bike lanes can make great use of them too, if one in Krommenie, Netherlands is any indication. After one year, the SolaRoad solar-paneled bike path  generated 70 kilowatt-hours per square meter, enough power for around three houses – and even more than the designers expected. Sten de Wit of TNO , the research organization behind SolaRoad, said most people don’t even notice the difference between the solar bike path and a regular one. Solar sidewalk helps charge electric cars Sidewalks can benefit from solar panels, too. Platio recently installed a 50-square foot solar sidewalk, created with recycled plastic , that pulls double duty: people can walk across it as it generates clean energy used to charge electric vehicles . Platio installed the 720-watt peak capacity system at a Prologis facility in Budapest — and the process only took one day. When the solar sidewalk isn’t busy charging EVs, energy it generates helps power a nearby office building. Images via Solar Roadways Facebook , Vianney Lecointre on Twitter , The Ray , Qilu Transportation Development Group , SolaRoad Netherlands, and courtesy of Platio

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A rooftop urban oasis springs to life in a polluted NYC neighborhood

August 24, 2017 by  
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Parks and public plazas are typically urban escapes you’d expect to find at street level, but when your neighborhood hosts a league of industrial warehouses, wastewater treatment plants, and sits along one of the most polluted estuaries in the country, it’s time to look up. While environmental groups toil to clean up the Newton Creek river, community leaders decided to create the Newton Creek Wildflower Roof as a luscious green space that helps support local wildlife and brings nature back to the area. Newtown Creek hardly flows, but rather rests between New York City’s boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens with a toxic combo of spilled oil, city sewage and other sludge. Thankfully, community groups are fighting to clean up the mess below and others are beautifying the spaces above. The seeds for the Newtown Creek Wildflower Roof were first planted in 2015 when Marni Majorelle and her landscape design company Alive Structures , the Newtown Creek Alliance , and the New York City Audubon applied for funding from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund. Their goal: to cultivate native flora that will support birds and insects in the neighborhood. “I have lived and worked in Greenpoint since 2002 and have been involved in local environmental issues while also running Alive Structures with my husband,” Majorelle said. “We had often imagined one day working on a landscaping project in Greenpoint that would help reduce the pollution in this industrial neighborhood, and create open green space for people and pollinators to use.” The group’s funding request was approved for a 22,000-square-foot green roof atop Broadway Stage’s building on 520 Kingsland Avenue along Newtown Creek and in 2016, the first 10,000 square feet of green roof were installed. Today, the wildflower roof is covered with Prairie Dropseed grass and over twenty different native flowers species, including Orange Butterfly Weed, Tall Tickseed, Purple Coneflower, and Bee Balm. Busy bees can be seen pollinating the garden, buzzing from one bloom to the next while the massive silver “digester eggs” of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant loom in the distance. A spherical water fountain sculpture, the Aqualens by British artist Allison Armour , was installed this spring and serves as the center piece for the wildflower roof. Related: The Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s new green roof lets kids explore the wilderness in the middle of the city “I saw her work in a British garden design magazine and thought it would be perfect on our roof,” Majorelle said. “One of the main environmental benefits of green roofs is reducing water pollution. So I thought that Ms. Armour’s piece was a simple but powerful statement, which would help visitors reflect on the importance of water and our local environment.” Alive Structures is also working with Broadway Stages to introduce green roofs on its other buildings and using its funding to host workshops, festivals and educational lectures that get community members involved in the neighborhood’s revitalization. The upcoming Kingsland Wildflowers Sensorium (August 19 1pm–7pm) will be a celebration of the Greenpoint community and expose residents to ecology preservation through sensory stimulation, crafts and more. The 2nd Annual Kingsland Wildflowers Festival (September 23 12pm–4pm) invites all to explore the green roof and hopefully spark environmental activism in North Brooklyn. The Newtown Creek Wildflower Roof is still a project in progress with another 10,000 square feet currently being installed, but what currently exists is already a mini neighborhood oasis in a neglected pocket of industrial sites and gritty corners. + Alive Structures All images by Dorkys Ramos for Inhabitat

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Worlds largest book store opens in Tehran, Iran

August 24, 2017 by  
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Book lovers, we’ve found your dream destination – the world’s largest bookstore just opened in Tehran, Iran . The Book Garden is a gigantic green-roofed building measuring 154,000 square feet that has 12 miles of shelves packed with millions of books . The project is part of a larger 700,000 square foot complex that features several movie theaters, science halls, classrooms, a prayer room and a restaurant. The Book Garden aims to encourage Iranian children to be “active and creative through modern methods and equipment,” said Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. “The opening of the Book Garden is a big cultural event in the country, so that our children can make better use of this cultural and academic opportunity,” added Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. Mehr News reports that the Book Garden was first pitched in 2004 to cater to fans of the city’s annual International Book Fair. After construction was completed last spring, organizers spent the past few months stocking the facility it with books. According to RealIran , there are more than 400,000 titles available for kids alone. One of the centers even has shorter shelves to ensure younger kids can reach the educational resources. Related: Chinese watermelon plant yields 131 fruit for Guinness World Record The Book Garden is now the biggest bookstore in the world, according to the Guinness World Records . Until now, Barnes & Noble along Fifth Avenue in New York City held the record. + Kayson Inc Via Mehr News , RealIran Photos via RealIran , Pixabay

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NASA unveils plan to make oxygen on Mars

August 24, 2017 by  
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Future Mars colonists are going to need oxygen , and NASA has a plan to make it. Their Mars 2020 Rover will be equipped with a Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment device, nicknamed MOXIE, which will attempt to make oxygen via electrolysis . The oxygen could be used not only for breathing, but also for rocket fuel. NASA Acting Chief Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Jr. told Futurism , “The next lander that is going to Mars, Mars 2020, has an experiment where we are going to try and actually generate oxygen out of the atmosphere on Mars, clearly that’s for human capability down the road.” Michael Hecht of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been the principal investigator for MOXIE. Oxygen is only present in trace amounts in the red planet’s atmosphere, but carbon dioxide (CO2) is pretty abundant; 95.32 percent of Mars’ atmosphere is comprised of CO2. A laser could ‘slice off’ the carbon atom in CO2 to leave O2 behind. But NASA’s going with another method: electrolysis, or using a fuel cell to split up the oxygen and carbon atoms. Related: NASA unveils inflatable greenhouse for sustainable farming on Mars It should take MOXIE around two hours to produce oxygen from carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere. It operates at a temperature of 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit, and its production rate is around 0.022 pounds an hour. The device is 9.4 by 9.4 by 12.2 inches big, and will hitch a ride to the fourth planet from the sun aboard the 2020 Rover. If the experiment is successful, NASA might one day send an instrument that is 100 times larger than MOXIE, so astronauts can breathe when they get to Mars. Via IFLScience and Futurism Images via NASA

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Audi’s new solar-roofed car expected by the end of 2017

August 24, 2017 by  
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The idea of a solar-powered car has been floating around for years, with many little-known companies promising to bring the concept to life. But now it may finally happen. Audi recently announced that it’s working on a solar-powered vehicle prototype that they expect to complete by the end of 2017. Audi has teamed up with Alta Devices, a division of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, to develop thin-film solar cells that can be integrated into a panoramic glass roof. The solar cells would then power the vehicle’s electrical systems, like the air-conditioning system or seat heaters, which would improve the range of an electric vehicle . The idea of solar-powered accessories isn’t entirely new: both Toyota and Nissan have also used the technology. Related: Sono Motors unveils the $18,000 SION solar-powered car The bigger news is that the two companies hope to improve the technology, so that the solar energy could directly charge an electric car’s battery. Audi hasn’t given a timetable for that capability, but the new solar cells have an efficiency of more than 25 percent. Audi also says the solar cells, which will be produced in California by Alta Devices , perform well in low light and high temperature conditions. “The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” stated Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement Dr. Bernd Martens. + Audi Images @Audi

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MVRDV transforms an abandoned highway into a "plant village" in the sky

May 23, 2017 by  
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Architectural superstars MVRDV have transformed an abandoned highway in Seoul into a 983-meter-long elevated Skygarden. The “plant village” is located high above traffic, and it welcomes visitors to stroll through 24,000 indigenous trees and shrubs. Dutch firm MVRDV  was tasked with turning a 1970s-era highway into a space that would not only add greenery to the city, but would make the area more pedestrian friendly. The design is called Seoullo 7017 is Korea, which means “Seoul Street,” combined with 1970 and 2017, the years the highway was built and the year it was renovated. The park contains more than just the garden walkway itself. Along the way are tea houses, shopes, galleries, a theater and restaurants. Former on and off-ramps were converted into stairs, elevators and ramps to get on and off the garden superhighway. Plants are organized on the Skygarden in different families. These families are grouped by the Korean alphabet. This naturally led to splitting the Skygarden into different groupings of fragrance and color, providing visitors with a different experience depending on the season and area of the garden . At night, the Skygarden is illuminated with blue light, which is healthier for the plants. Related: Philadelphia Unveils Their Own Elevated Rail Park for the Abandoned Reading Viaduct “Our design offers a living dictionary of plants which are part of the natural heritage of South Korea and now, existing in the city center,” said Winy Maas of MVRDV. “The idea here is to connect city dwellers with nature, while at the same time also offering the opportunity of experiencing these amazing views to the Historical Seoul Station and Namdaemun Gate.” + MVRDV via ArchDaily and Dezeen images via Ossip van Duivenbode

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MVRDV transforms an abandoned highway into a "plant village" in the sky

Tessellated Tree-Like Transportation Shelters Offer Unique Shade for Local College Students

February 25, 2014 by  
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When architects from Public: Architecture + Communication visited the University of British Columbia, they noticed a slight flaw in the campus’ urban design plan. Although the main university avenue was lined with beautiful trees, the bus stops were left as cold, barren concrete zones. They felt that these public spaces deserved to be equipped with functional nature-influenced transit shelters in order to give the campus a cohesively green urban aesthetic . Read the rest of Tessellated Tree-Like Transportation Shelters Offer Unique Shade for Local College Students Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bus shelter canopies , bus stop design , educational design , GLULAM Canopy , Public Architecture and Communication , transport design , Tree-Like Transit Shelters for UBC , University of British Columbia , Urban design , urban green space        

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NBBJ Unveils Striking Biosphere Greenhouses for Amazon’s Seattle HQ

May 22, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of NBBJ Unveils Striking Biosphere Greenhouses for Amazon’s Seattle HQ Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “sustainable architecture” , Amazon , amazon biospheres , amazon headquarters , biosphere , conservatory , eco design , eco office , green architecture , Green Building , green design , green office , greenhouse , Landscape Architecture , NBBJ , open space , park , plant-filled office , public open space , public park , Seattle , Sustainable Building , sustainable design , urban green space , urban park        

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MVRDV & Space Group Propose Plan for Green & Sustainable Growth in Norway

May 9, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of MVRDV & Space Group Propose Plan for Green & Sustainable Growth in Norway Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “sustainable architecture” , “sustainable development” , eco design , green architecture , Green Building , green design , green masterplan , madla-revheim masterplan , MVRDV , norway , parks , public park , Space Group , stavenger , Sustainable Building , sustainable design , sustainable growth , Urban design , urban green space , urban masterplan        

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