Prefab apartment proposal wants to make city living more sustainable

July 6, 2020 by  
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Rotterdam-based architecture firm AEMSEN has recently unveiled BARBIZON, a design proposal for sustainable apartments built from prefabricated, cross-laminated timber modules. Created with the vision that cities need healthy buildings, BARBIZON’s timber construction would be integrated with shared green spaces to encourage neighborly relations and to offset the urban heat island effect. The concept was originally developed for Barbizonlaan in Capelle aan den IJssel; however, the flexible design could be applied in other parts of the world as well. Energy efficiency, reduced building waste and sequestered carbon are among the many advantages of prefabricated, cross-laminated timber construction. AEMSEN’s BARBIZON proposal would comprise stackable and interchangeable CLT modules that combine to create 112 gas-free and bio-based apartments. The design includes 16 different housing types that vary in size from 45 square meters to 120 square meters to accommodate a variety of residents. Related: Wedge-shaped Sideyard champions CLT construction “By modular design and building with prefabricated CLT modules, the balance between city and nature can be brought back,” Jasper Jägers of AEMSEN said in a press release, noting the fireproof and lightweight qualities of CLT. “Energy-neutral, modular and circular construction with wood really is the future. It is lighter than traditional construction, it has good insulating properties and it provides much less nitrogen emissions. It makes sustainability and circularity accessible to everyone.” To promote sustainable living practices, BARBIZON developments would be integrated with green roofs and urban farming initiatives along the roofs and terraces. The shared green spaces — known as a “green valley” — would be accessible to all residents to help build a sense of community while providing habitat for local flora and fauna to boost biodiversity, thus bringing back a “balance between city and nature.” Photovoltaic systems could also be installed on top of the building to generate renewable energy. + AEMSEN Images via AEMSEN

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Prefab apartment proposal wants to make city living more sustainable

Beavers could be contributing to warming in the Arctic

July 6, 2020 by  
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A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters suggests that beavers’ actions could be contributing to climate change. The study, which involved analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery, has shown that beavers are constructing dams and lakes in the Alaskan tundra. The actions of these beavers are transforming the Alaskan landscape in a way that is dangerous to the environment. When they form new bodies of water, they contribute to the thawing of frozen permafrost, which is a natural reservoir for methane and carbon dioxide. When lakes are formed, these greenhouse gases are likely to leak into the atmosphere. There has been a sharp increase in the number of beavers in the Alaskan tundra in the last two decades. According to the research, scientists have spotted increasing numbers of beavers over a very small area. These beavers carry dead trees and shrubs to create dams, resulting in new lakes that flood the permafrost soil and release methane. Related: Climate change could lead to dramatic decline in narwhals The sudden rise in the number of beavers in the Arctic region has lead to more of these dams. Ingmar Nitze, a researcher from the Alfred Wegener Institute and author of the study, said, “We’re seeing exponential growth there. The number of these structures doubles roughly every four years.” The study found that the number of dams in a 100-square-kilometer area around Kotzebue increased from two in 2002 to about 98 in 2019. This is a staggering 5000% increase in the number of dams. Nitze said that although the lakes can drain themselves and leave dry basins, the beavers are smart enough to block the outlets and refill the basins. CNN reported that the Arctic permafrost is melting at an alarming rate. These natural methane and carbon dioxide reservoirs are releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Several studies are now underway to determine the amount of carbon dioxide being released from such reservoirs. “There are a lot of people trying to quantify methane and CO2 emissions from lakes in the Arctic but not specifically yet from beaver lakes,” Nitze explained. The researchers now fear that similar beaver actions may be happening in other areas as well. Nitze warned that the same could be happening in the Canadian tundra and Siberia among other places in the world. + Environmental Research Letters Via CNN Image via Jan Erik Engan

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Top 5 sustainable products from IKEA to add to your home

July 6, 2020 by  
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IKEA has become a household name because you can buy just about everything you need for your home there. Not only does this company make every piece of furniture you could want, IKEA actually makes many amazing sustainable products. IKEA’s commitment IKEA has taken big steps to encourage sustainability. There are many products available at IKEA that are made with renewable and/or recycled materials as part of IKEA’s commitment to creating a sustainable future. All IKEA products are designed to be repurposed, recycled, reused, repaired and resold in order to generate as little waste as possible. It also gives DIYers lots of opportunities to get creative. IKEA has been working toward completely phasing out all single-use plastic products and using 100% renewable energy for all IKEA operations and direct suppliers.  Popular sustainable products at IKEA IKEA is already using wood that comes from recycled sources and cotton that comes from more sustainable sources. Meanwhile, the use of natural fiber materials like cork and rattan has increased at IKEA. The company has also implemented the IWAY standard, which specifies requirements that suppliers must meet in order to maintain certain environmental and animal welfare conditions. IKEA has a huge catalog of sustainable items, but these are the top five that customers love. GUNRID air-purifying curtain Made with a mineral-based coating, this air purifying curtain actually improves the air quality of your home. When exposed to sunlight streaming through the windows, the curtain breaks down indoor air pollutants. The fabric itself is made from recycled PET bottles. Unlike so many other air purifiers, this one isn’t powered by electricity and doesn’t need you to turn it on. Any time the sun is shining on your curtains, they are working to make your home healthier. Related: IKEA’s new air-purifying curtain will decrease indoor pollutants SOARÉ placemat The vivid SOARÉ placemat is handwoven with water hyacinth. This plant grows in abundance along the Mekong River, where it must be regularly harvested in order to keep the waters passable. This placemat helps continue the tradition of hand-weaving that has existed in this region for decades and provides work for those who harvest, dry and weave the plant fibers together. Water hyacinth is extremely fast-growing and it is mainly harvested and woven by women, who earn a living by working with this plant. Often, several women gather together to weave the plants while they laugh and socialize. Each purchase of these handwoven mats supports economic opportunities for women. TÅNUM rug Made entirely out of leftover fabric, the TÅNUM rug is another handwoven offering from IKEA. It is made completely from fabric scraps and leftovers from IKEA’s bed linen productions. Weavers in organized weaving centers in Bangladesh create these beautiful rugs to grace the floors of homes around the world. This methodology helps reduce waste and gives you the chance to brag to all your friends that your rug is made completely from recycled materials. Each of these rugs is handcrafted using different fabric scraps. That means every TÅNUM rug you place in your home is completely unique. ISTAD resealable bag ISTAD resealable bags are made almost completely from plastic that comes from the sugar cane industry. This material is both renewable and recyclable . The bioplastic is expected to save around 75,000 barrels of oil every single year. That’s a big step toward reducing the damage that has been done to the planet. SOLVINDEN light The SOLVINDEN lantern is a bright, solar-powered LED light that does not require cords or plugs. It has its own solar panel that converts sunlight into electricity. Solar energy is completely clean and renewable. The lightweight, eye-catching light comes in multiple styles to fit every decor. Because it also catches the sun’s rays and converts them into energy, this is a highly popular sustainable product from IKEA. This lantern lasts 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs and consumes up to 85% less energy .  Living sustainably There are many small ways to do big things to help the environment. Purchasing sustainable items from companies that take strides to maintain environmentally friendly standards is a great way to do more to help the environment. Buying beautiful, sustainable products made by a company that takes its responsibility to the world seriously is a great way to put your money toward a brighter future. + IKEA Images via IKEA

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Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin

July 6, 2020 by  
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As the newest member of the Hello Wood cabin family, the Workstation Cabin offers the perfect tranquil retreat designed specifically to inspire creativity. Described as “the future of meeting rooms,” this unique workspace has a modern interior made of Scots pine wood and complemented by large windows. Prefabricated using state-of-the-art technology, this  modular  cabin was designed on the computer and built using a computer numerical control machine. With 15 sides, the structure looks different from every angle. Insulation  protects the compact structure’s occupants from harsh weather and helps the cabin adapt to the changing seasons. The home also features designated spaces for built-in air conditioning, electrical outlets and wifi capabilities. While the unique cabin primarily functions as an  office space , it can also transform into a meeting area, children’s playroom or even a guest room. Related: Hello Wood unveils a tiny cabin that sleeps up to 8 people While each  minimalist  cabin is delivered turn-key and includes a built-in workbench and electrical outlet, Hello Wood also offers several customizable add-ons and services. Usual features include heating and air conditioning, but customers can also choose to incorporate mood lighting, a sound system or television inside. Outside the cabin, customers can even add landscaping and a terrace. The gross floor area measures about 107 square feet with an interior area of about 86 square feet, and the total height, including legs, measures in at just under 12 feet.  Thanks to the modular  prefab  design, installation only takes a few days. Potential owners need only have about 14.2 x 11.1 x 11.8 feet of space. Even better, any module can be easily replaced if necessary, meaning if one portion gets damaged, repairs can take place without demolition work affecting the rest of the structure. The cabin achieves its low environmental footprint through its small size and low energy consumption, as well as its use of renewable materials. + Hello Wood Photography by Zsuzsa Darab

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Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin

Real-life Lessons for Trucking’s Clean Future

June 1, 2020 by  
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Real-life Lessons for Trucking’s Clean Future Having flown under the radar for decades, the trucking industry more than proved its value during the COVID-19 crisis as hospital, grocery and e-commerce deliveries became critical. With more attention on the industry and its current practices, we want to focus on its future as well. Trucking is ready for a transition to electric vehicles, and that transition is primed to start in the urban and regional-haul segments that’s been so essential for us during the pandemic. This webcast will dive into trucking’s role in our supply chain, how it has evolved since March, and how the industry will evolve into its green future. Hear from industry leaders from Hirschbach, United Parcel Service, Shell and NACFE/RMI. Moderator : Katie Fehrenbacher, Senior Writer & Analyst, Transportation, GreenBiz Group Speakers :  Mike Roeth, Executive Director, NACFE; Truck Operations Leader, Rocky Mountain Institute John Vesey, Professional driver, Hirschbach saracefalu2 Mon, 06/01/2020 – 14:07 Katie Fehrenbacher Senior Writer & Analyst, Transportation GreenBiz @katiefehren Mike Roeth Executive Director Carbon War Room and North American Council for Freight Efficiency @mikeroeth John Vesey Professional driver Hirschbach gbz_webcast_date Thu, 07/02/2020 – 13:00 – Thu, 07/02/2020 – 14:00

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The decarbonization promise of indoor agriculture is still in the seed stage

May 22, 2020 by  
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The decarbonization promise of indoor agriculture is still in the seed stage Jim Giles Fri, 05/22/2020 – 01:18 Here’s a tale of two chefs. Both are based in the Midwest and both are preparing a Caesar salad. One uses lettuce shipped from where much of our lettuce is grown: The fields around Monterey, California. The other sources her greens from a nearby indoor farm. Out in Monterey, the farmer used diesel-powered machinery, pumped water, fertilizer and pesticides. At the indoor farm, precision systems provided the lettuce with exactly the amount of water and nutrients the crop requires — and no more. The pickers in California discarded lettuces that didn’t look perfect. That wasn’t an issue indoors: Conditions are so well controlled that almost all the crop met consumers’ exacting standards. Finally, when the crop was packed and ready, the indoor farmer drove 20 miles or so to drop the lettuce at our chef’s restaurant. The Monterey produce had to travel 2,000 miles. Which chef is preparing the more environmentally friendly salad? Let’s start with the bad news. The story above about indoor farming, a tale about a technology can produce dramatic environmental gains — it doesn’t hold true. The Monterey lettuce is currently the better bet, according to a new analysis from the WWF . For places that are food-insecure, this could be a real game-changer. The problem with indoor farming, also known as controlled environment agriculture, is the electric grid. Indoor farms use LEDs to light crops. In St. Louis, Missouri, the focus of the WWF study, two-thirds of electricity comes from fossil fuel plants that pump out health-damaging particulates and planet-warming carbon dioxide. The WWF team combined these and other impacts into a single score that captures total environmental harm. Lettuce grown in St. Louis greenhouses, which supplement LEDs with natural light, scored twice as high as the conventional crop. In a vertical farm lit entirely by LEDs, the difference was threefold. Now to the good news: Our chef who sources from a nearby indoor farm may not be making the best environmental choice today, but she likely will be soon. That’s partly because if we look beyond energy use, indoor ag delivers clear benefits. Indoor systems require little or even no pesticides and generate 80 percent less waste. They use less space, which can free up land for biodiversity. The WWF study found that precision indoor water systems use 1 liter of water to produce a kilogram of lettuce; for field-grown lettuce, the figure is 150 liters. Another reason is that indoor ag’s energy problem is likely to become less serious. Market forces are already adding renewables to the U.S. electricity mix and pushing out coal. Technology improvements in the pipeline also will cut energy use in indoor farms. PlantLab , a Netherlands-based startup, has developed an LED that’s more efficient in indoor ag settings because it emits light at the exact wavelengths used for photosynthesis. New crop varieties from Precision Indoor Plants , a public-private partnership that is developing seeds specifically for indoor use, may require less light to grow. This tech is at an early stage, which makes it tough to quantify future impact. But the data we do have shows that a combination of efficiency improvements and grid decarbonization can make indoor farms a much better environmental choice for some crops. Cutting energy use also will lower costs, making indoor farms competitive on price. It’s fascinating to speculate about what would happen if both these trends came to fruition. Indoor farms likely would diversify, for starters. At present, indoor farms in urban areas profitably can grow leafy greens but little else. If energy costs come down, cucumbers, berries and tomatoes also might make financial sense, suggests Julia Kurnik , director of innovation startups for WWF. When this project ends, key players will already be invested and ready to move ahead with building a pilot system that can be replicated worldwide … With more diverse output, the farms could become local hubs that would strengthen the food system’s resilience to extreme weather events and other shocks. “For places that are food-insecure, this could be a real game-changer,” Kurnik added. Venture capitalists already have seen this future; hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to indoor farming companies in recent years. That’s essential if this industry is to grow, but it’s also great to see an organization such as the WWF in the mix. After studying the potential, the WWF has convened a diverse group of stakeholders to map out the expansion of indoor ag in St. Louis. In addition to business execs and investors, the group includes civic and community leaders. “By working as a group to make those decisions,” explains the report, “when this project ends, key players will already be invested and ready to move ahead with building a pilot system that can be replicated worldwide, making food production more environmentally sustainable.” I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on progress in St. Louis, and with indoor ag more generally. If you know of a particular project or related technology that deserves a mention, drop me an email at jg@greenbiz.com . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter.  Sign up here  to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote For places that are food-insecure, this could be a real game-changer. When this project ends, key players will already be invested and ready to move ahead with building a pilot system that can be replicated worldwide … Topics Food & Agriculture Urban Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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This green wall uses upcycled clay tiles for natural cooling

May 15, 2020 by  
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In its latest project to creatively repurpose clay roof tiles, Indian architecture firm Manoj Patel Design Studio has upcycled locally produced tiles into a green wall with natural cooling benefits. Dubbed the Ridge Clay Roof Tile Plantation, the project was created to promote the use of locally produced clay products. It also serves as a reaction against the proliferation of plastic and metal planters that have increasingly replaced clay pots. The Ridge Clay Roof Tile Plantation was installed on the shaded outdoor terrace of a residence in Vadodara, a Gujarati city with an extremely hot climate and temperatures that regularly near or exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Manoj Patel Design Studio created the green wall with repurposed kiln-fired clay roof tiles to help promote natural cooling, stimulate the local economy and to bring a touch of nature to the urban apartment. Artificial turf has also been laid on the terrace. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay “Such creative clay roof tile plantations are best suited to hot climatic considerations as clay surface absorbs water from the plants and when air comes in contact with the surface, it releases cool air into the space which also provides close to nature experience to the viewers,” the architects explained. “The use of clay tiles serves the purpose of plantation with environment sensitive transformation providing expression of everlasting beauty in less space.” Produced by local craftsmen, the V-shaped clay tiles are slightly modified with the addition of little grooves to help the tiles bond together. Attached to the wall with cement, the textural wall is assembled by hand and comprises tiles arranged in a zigzag pattern. The “pockets” created by two V-shaped tiles placed opposite one another are used to hold plants and lights or can be sealed off to create a small surface for placing objects. + Manoj Patel Design Studio Images via Manoj Patel Design Studio

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Now is a great time to optimize energy in buildings. You’d think.

May 8, 2020 by  
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Now is a great time to optimize energy in buildings. You’d think. Sarah Golden Fri, 05/08/2020 – 00:43 Despite being mostly empty, commercial real estate energy bills are mostly unchanged.  Commercial buildings in the United Kingdom have reduced energy consumption only by 16 percent on average during the pandemic, according to analysis from Carbon Intelligence . The worst-performing buildings are only achieving a 3 percent reduction, according to the analysis. Anecdotal evidence suggests similar numbers in the United States.  What a waste of time and money.  With occupancy so low and energy bills so high, there may never have been a more persuasive argument — or a better opportunity — to optimize buildings. You’d think.  The (missed) opportunity for capital upgrades  With buildings empty, service providers hungry for work and capital cheap, it seems a great time to bring buildings into the 21st century.  But as we’re still grasping the extent of the economic fallout, commercial real estate owners are cautious. “The financial smoke will have to clear before many people will put project capital at risk there,” explained Steve Gossett Jr., operating partner at Generate Capital, via email. “Most landlords are likely to husband cash rather than invest in their assets right now because they aren’t sure how functional the capital markets will be for real estate in the near future or how stable their tenants are.” In the short term, landlords are worried struggling companies will renegotiate leases or shift to a work-from-home model, requiring less office space writ large. The result: Commercial office spaces could become stranded assets, subject to write-downs and operating losses.  Being able to have this time to find these deeper problems and being able to address them will have long-term savings, even when the building becomes occupied again.   “In the past, before COVID, we’d say, ‘Oh, if you do these improvements you can increase your rental rates and you can have higher-quality tenants,’” said Marta Schantz, senior vice president of the Urban Land Institute’s Greenprint, an alliance of real estate owners and investors. “But now that case sounds tone-deaf to the market. If folks are worried about people even being able to pay their rent, they’re less focused on increasing rental rates and more on just getting rent.” To say the least, this is a missed opportunity. About half of all buildings were built before 1980 , and many are old, dumb and wasteful. The U.S. building stock accounts for about 40 percent of the emissions. And the technology exists to change that; buildings could be optimized and transformed to be a resource for the electric grid. Buildings could be cheaper to run, provide healthier spaces and become more resilient. What building owners can do now: tighten operations  As occupancy drops close to zero, some building operators have been surprised at how little change there has been in their energy consumption.  “In general, some clients probably have been surprised to find that parasitic loads were higher than expected,” said Kyle Goehring, executive vice president of clean energy solutions at JLL, in an email.  Simply reviewing systems and buildings presets can save energy and money, according to Schantz.  For example, facility managers could reduce the run time of HVAC systems (responsible for about 40 percent of energy consumption), turn off lights in unoccupied spaces (lighting is responsible for 20 percent of energy use) or unplug appliances that aren’t needed (which account for about 33 percent of buildings’ energy use). For more specific ideas, check out Schantz’s blog or GreenBiz’s coverage . Investment in critical infrastructure focused on digitization and efficiency will be absolutely key for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building resilience for the future. These ideas, which are of course important, sound like no-brainers. As the world is turned upside down, I’m craving a cataclysmic change, not energy efficiency 101.  But according to Schantz, the basics are revolutionary when facility managers never had time to examine operations in the before-time.  “I very much hope that as folks go through their buildings they will also find some red flags that they didn’t know existed,” she said. “Being able to have this time to find these deeper problems and being able to address them will have long-term savings, even when the building becomes occupied again.” The COVID-19 conundrum and financial solutions As people make sense of these crazy times, I often hear big ideas about how we could transform the future. As we emerge from this crisis, what type of world do we want to create? Simultaneously, it seems we’re also paralyzed by constantly constricting opportunities. The vanishing jobs, capital and resources are shifting mindsets to survival, not reinvention.  The good news is that the same financial mechanisms that allow building owners to upgrade without upfront costs are the same measures that would support broader economic development. This is especially true if the private sector partners with federal dollars to stretch capital further.  “Investment in critical infrastructure focused on digitization and efficiency will be absolutely key for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building resilience for the future,” wrote Kevin Self, senior vice president of strategy, business development and government relations at Schneider Electric, in an email.  Schneider Electric is one service organization providing financing structures to move along projects without upfront capital. These include energy-as-a-service and energy savings performance contracting.  “Not only does digitization support resilience and sustainability, it saves on cost,” wrote Self.  Schneider Electric is not the only organization offering financial solutions for energy upgrades. Service providers and startups have emerged in this space over the last 10 years, vying for companies’ potential energy savings. Other X-as-a-service organizations include Carbon Lighthouse , Sparkfund , Redaptive , Parity , Measurabl and Metrus .  While many of these service providers are likely working hard to navigate these turbulent months, the role they play will be more important than ever as we rebuild our future. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe  here . Pull Quote Being able to have this time to find these deeper problems and being able to address them will have long-term savings, even when the building becomes occupied again. Investment in critical infrastructure focused on digitization and efficiency will be absolutely key for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building resilience for the future. Topics Energy & Climate Buildings COVID-19 Energy Efficiency COVID-19 Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

March 18, 2020 by  
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According to the World Air Quality Index of 2019, the city of Bangkok suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution most of the year. In a bid to raise awareness about air quality and the urban heat island effect, Thai design collective Shma Company created Safezone Shelter, an ephemeral pavilion filled with air purifying plants and technology to create a welcoming gathering space for passersby. Shaped like a cloud, the sculptural intervention was briefly installed in front of the Grand Postal Building during Bangkok Design Week 2020.  In contrast to the brutalist architecture of the Grand Postal Building, the 150-square-meter Safezone Shelter features a futuristic, organic shape with a white nylon covering to evoke the appearance of a cloud. The white textile allows light to diffuse through while hiding the interior from outside views. Inside, the designers created an unexpected oasis filled with tropical plants, informational signage and seating, which also includes part of the postal building’s steps.  Related: Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhi’s air pollution To create a cooling microclimate, the designers engineered the pavilion to pull in hot, polluted air with fans and pass it through dense vegetation to capture dust particles. This “pre-filtered wind” is then passed through a dust filter plate and a cooling plate to purify the air . In addition to the cool air flow generated by fans, the trees, shrubs and ground cover help keep the pavilion’s interior temperatures to between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidifier maintains humidity levels of 50% to 70%. Recorded nature sounds, such as the sounds of water and birds, are also played inside the space. “All of these inventive methods could further be applied to solve air pollution in other kinds of design,” the designers explained. “Looking wider at an urban scale, bus stops, recreational space under expressways and skywalks also have a potential to be revitalized with such purification systems. At the end, even high-rise buildings might become old-fashioned when a better choice like an air purifier tower could be constructed.” Safezone Shelter was put on display from December 2019 to February 2020.  + Shma Company Images via Shma

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Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

March 18, 2020 by  
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I’ve been vegetarian since childhood and have met people with many different takes on a healthy plant-based diet. The raw foodists I’ve encountered have blown me away with the innovation it takes to come up with a menu beyond salad while limiting cooking temperatures to no more than 118 degrees. The raw food philosophy is that heat breaks down food’s nutritional value, while low temperatures allow food to retain enzymes and vitamins, leading to the body’s ability to prevent and fight disease and generally thrive. So when Theresa Keane, co-owner of Pixie Retreat , invited me to tour her Portland, Oregon raw food kitchen, I was intrigued. Her team produces a full vegan, organic , gluten-free and mostly raw menu on a commercial scale. Not only do they supply Pixie Retreat’s three Portland retail locations, they’ve also started wholesaling to local stores. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at a commercial raw food kitchen. The early years Pixie Retreat was built on a dream and a lot of hard work, trial and error. Keane co-founded the business with Willow O’Brien in 2008. At the time, they wanted to make and sell healthful and delicious food , but were new to the dining business. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Keane said. “We never worked in kitchens, Willow and I. She didn’t even know how to make food. She made tea and stuff like that.” They started out sharing a commissary kitchen with other vegan businesses. That’s where they met Anna Clark, who later became their third business partner. Clark, a pastry chef, was the only one with formal culinary training. After 9 months in the commissary kitchen, they rented a house and ran Pixie Retreat out of it, working late into the night while filling wholesale orders. Keane described a time when an engineer acquaintance stopped by. Their setup left him shocked. “We had eight refrigerators, freezers, 20 dehydrators,” Keane said. “He said it’s amazing you don’t burn this house down. Every night, the power would trip off. We couldn’t even turn the heat on because it would trip the power.” A spotless, modern raw food kitchen They’ve come a long way. Now headquartered in Southeast Portland’s industrial district, the Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery is both a retail outlet and the site of their commercial kitchen. The small front part has a seating area and a case of premade wraps and goodies. “We’re grab-and-go style, because that’s how people are living,” Keane said. “We’re not a sit down-like service restaurant . We’re into flavor, satisfaction and integrity of our ingredients. Plating is not my forte.” Customers can also custom-order kale- or millet-based bowls and coconut cream puddings with toppings. The millet is one of several cooked ingredients available. A big white curtain hangs behind the counter, obscuring the kitchen. “That’s more for health department reasons,” Keane said, indicating the curtain. “And to protect the magic back there.” We step through the curtain and find three workers preparing food in an extremely well-organized kitchen. It’s Thursday, one of the big assembly days for delivering to the two other Pixie Retreat outlets. Tacked up on the door of the walk-in dehydrator are long to-do lists for each day of the week. Keane introduced me to her staff and to each machine, many of which were specially made or adapted to the needs of a mostly raw food kitchen. The walk-in dehydration room is the most exciting and unusual. Keane opened the door, releasing a smoky smell. Inside are trays and trays of eggplant bacon strips, which stay in there for 72 hours. Pixie Retreat bought the dehydrator from a former kale chip entrepreneur who devised tools to streamline raw food making. Keane estimated the walk-in dehydrator is 75% more efficient than the company’s former multiple-dehydrator setup. Pixie Retreat has a Robot Coupe Blixer, which is an industrial-strength food processor. “This tool is a game changer,” Keane said. “I mean, it’s expensive like a car, but it paid for itself in labor. I love this tool so much.” The company uses it to blend ingredients for pizza dough, macadamia nut cheese and raw onion bread. Pixie Retreat makes raw chocolate in its chocolate machine, melting it down at a temperature of 108. The chocolate winds up in treats like chocolate salted “karmals”, “almond butta cups” and dehydrated, oat-based chocolate chip cookies. Other interesting tools include an Italian fruit press repurposed for squeezing excess moisture out of sauerkraut and a specially made enormous cookie-cutter to cut onion bread into uniform squares while minimizing waste . Raw and vegan at home The Pixie Retreat kitchen is cool but daunting. What about the average person who wants to add more raw food into their diet without shelling out for a Blixer? “Make nut milk ,” Keane said. “That’s where I would start.” You’ll need a nut milk bag, available online or in some grocery stores’ produce departments. She recommended starting with hazelnuts or almonds. For flavor and sweetness, add sea salt, vanilla and a Medjool date. Put it all in your blender. “Kick it up on high. Blend it. Then you put it in the nut milk bag and you squeeze it out.” Dry out the pulp and use it as a nut flour for baked goods. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative After you master nut milk, try making nut cheese. Keane recommended blending buttery macadamia nuts with water, Italian seasoning, lemon juice and sea salt for a plant-based ricotta. Going national Pixie Retreat scaled back from wholesale for a while to focus on retail locations. But it has just relaunched, selling chocolate “karmal”, salted “karmal” and raspberry “l’il puddin” at New Seasons stores in Portland. Made with organic young coconut meat and Irish moss, these raw desserts are packed with nutrients . Soon, Pixie Retreat plans to introduce nationwide cold shipping of the “l’il puddin’”. Currently, customers across the U.S. can order sweet or savory Pixie snack boxes . But Pixie Retreat’s goals go far beyond Portland or even the U.S. When I asked Keane about the company vision, she immediately said, “Global. That’s the dream. We want to be the fast food of the future.” + Pixie Retreat Images via Josh Chang and Marielle Dezurick / Pixie Retreat and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

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