This home floats in a self-sufficient Amsterdam neighborhood

March 1, 2021 by  
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In a city characterized by fast population growth, Amsterdam residents are beginning to entertain alternative living situations. Enter Schoonschip, a sustainable floating neighborhood located on the Johan van Hasselt Canal in a former industrial area. Local architecture firm i29 has created a striking floating home with a small footprint inside the community. The residence aligns with the ideals of the entire self-sufficient neighborhood, which is currently home to over 100 people. Schoonschip is designed to employ circular building practices while respecting the natural environment. At its heart, the neighborhood utilizes a shared smart grid (or “smart jetty”) that connects the energy, waste and water lines of each floating house. The neighborhood is energy self-sufficient and recovers nutrients from surrounding organic waste streams. Related: Waterstudio unveils the world’s first floating timber tower “The location has a strong industrial past but today it is one of the most rapid changing city parts of Amsterdam transforming into a more multi functional living area,” i29 said. “The new floating neighborhood is intended to be an urban ecosystem embedded within the fabric of the city: making full use of ambient energy and water for use and re-use, cycling nutrients and minimizing waste, plus creating space for natural biodiversity.” Residents take full advantage of the canal with designated water plots, allowing each home to have its own personal touch. With the freedom to choose their own architect and interior designers despite the uniformity of the urban plan, the owners of the i29 floating home had their visions brought to life with a unique design and aesthetic that also maximized the plot space. Water views are available directly from the basement, and a separate terrace sits just above water level. The exterior is clad in black-stained timber while the interior provides a sharp contrast with white walls, clean lines and accents of natural wood . Towering skylights give the home an exceptionally bright, airy feeling while also providing plenty of harbor views from multiple points. Mimicking the overall design aspect of the neighborhood, which connects each home via jetty, the i29 floating home connects each of its three levels through a central atrium. + i29 Via Dezeen Images via i29

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This home floats in a self-sufficient Amsterdam neighborhood

Subway commuters are exposed to dangerous amounts of air pollution

February 12, 2021 by  
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Millions of commuters who use underground subway systems in the U.S. are exposed to dangerous rates of air pollution , according to a recent study. The study, which sampled air quality in 71 underground stations across the U.S., has revealed air pollution during the morning and evening rush is nothing short of disastrous. The cities that are most affected include New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. The researchers focused on measuring the level of PM2.5 within these underground transit systems. The recommended safe level of PM2.5 in the air is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. In the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) system, the researchers recorded 251 micrograms per cubic meter. The Washington, D.C. system was another highly contaminated train service, recording 145 micrograms per cubic meter. Related: Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions The worst-case scenario was recorded at Christopher Street station in Manhattan. The station helps connect New York and New Jersey with its rapid trains. But, unfortunately, at a rate of 1,499 micrograms per cubic meter, the station’s pollution was found to be 77 times that of the air outside. According to Terry Gordon, professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, the amount of pollution in New York is the most alarming. “It was the worst pollution ever measured in a subway station, higher than some of the worst days in Beijing or Delhi,” Gordon said of Christopher Street station. “New Yorkers, in particular, should be concerned about the toxins they are inhaling.” The study’s researchers said that a person commuting daily on these systems is exposed to a higher risk of certain health conditions. They noted that a daily commuter at Christopher Street has a 10% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. After analyzing the collected samples, researchers realized that the particles contain iron and organic carbon . The carbon is mainly produced from the breakdown of fossil fuels and is linked to respiratory conditions when inhaled. “This is an important contribution, especially to our understanding of the disproportionate burden of air pollution faced by low-income communities and communities of color,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “As the scientific community works to better understand exposure and potential health effects of air pollution in the urban environment, I hope local decision makers use this valuable work to inform the best ways to address the known racial and socioeconomic inequities in air pollution exposure in U.S. cities.” Via The Guardian Image via Wes Hicks

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Subway commuters are exposed to dangerous amounts of air pollution

TAMassociati envisions a zero-emissions, future-proof urban development

December 3, 2020 by  
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Venice-based architecture firm TAMassociati has teamed up with sa_partners and Franco Giorgetta Landscape Architect to design Porta del Ticino — Urban Living Lab, a future-proof masterplan for a large post-industrial site in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona. Developed as part of an invited competition by the Canton, Municipality and SBB-Swiss Railways, the urban proposal reimagines the heart of the cantonal capital as a living organism that flexibly adapts to change over time with a systemic and non-linear approach. The large-scale masterplan also aims to achieve zero emissions with 100% renewable energy. The Porta del Ticino — Urban Living Lab outlines a plan to redevelop a 120,000-square-meter site currently dominated by the industrial complex of the Officine Bellinzona, the area’s most important heavy-industry company with over 130 years of history that will be relocated to a new site within a few years. To offset the future industrial development outside of the city, the design team has centered their proposed masterplan on a large public green lung — dubbed the Almenda — that will comprise 6.4 hectares of biotic area and 3.2 hectares of agricultural area to naturally regulate the city’s climate. Related: SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for China’s “most livable city” In addition to a spacious re-naturalized area, the development will also emphasize the site’s history with visual connections to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bellinzona Castle and the “Cathedral,” an industrial stone building iconic of the Officine Bellinzona factory. A mix of commercial, educational, administrative, residential and other development typologies will be integrated along a “green kilometer” that will link the river and mountains along a north-south route. The masterplan would be implemented in phases to allow for modular and flexible growth at variable speeds with reduced environmental impact. To ensure sustainable growth, the project follows an “eMergetic evaluation” concept that considers the entire building lifecycle to minimize the city’s carbon footprint . The proposal also includes planned energy policy objectives with zero-emission targets, renewable energy systems and environmental monitoring. + TAMassociati Images via TAMassociati

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TAMassociati envisions a zero-emissions, future-proof urban development

A geometric double roof promotes natural cooling at this Tropical Chalet

November 23, 2020 by  
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After three years of design and construction, Singapore-based firm G8A Architecture & Urban Planning has completed the Tropical Chalet, a naturally cooled home with a beautiful and functional “double roof facade.” Located in the Vietnamese coastal region of Danang, the four-bedroom family villa takes advantage of its lakeside location with a porous brick moucharabieh facade that brings in cooling cross breezes and also gives the beautiful home its distinctive appearance. The predominate use of rough brick — which covers the roof, walls and a portion of the open-air interior — is also a nod to Danang’s historic use of baked brickwork that dates back to the fourth century. Set on a roughly rectangular plot facing a lake, the Tropical Chalet lives up to its name with an indoor/outdoor design approach. A lush garden and spacious, landscaped backyard surrounds the L-shaped home, which opens up to the outdoors on all sides. Operable glazing, a porous brick facade and a recessed gallery help bring in natural light and ventilation while protecting against unwanted solar gain and mercurial coastal weather conditions. Related: Lush living plants engulf the green-roofed Pure Spa in Vietnam “Materials were were chosen not only for their sturdiness and climate resistance, particularly bricks with their high insulation qualities,” the architects explained. “But also, their minimal and natural aesthetic, once again blending with the surrounding landscape. A strong presence of wood, textured concrete and rough brick highlight the organic nature of the concept.” The building’s undulating roof is also engineered for natural cooling with a shape informed by site conditions; the geometry of the roof has led to a folded waxed concrete ceiling below that hides the structural framework of the terracotta-lined roof. The 400-square-meter Tropical Chalet rises to a height of two stories and includes a floor that’s partly buried underground and opens up to a sunken sculpture garden. + G8A Architecture & Urban Planning Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via G8A Architecture & Urban Planning

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A geometric double roof promotes natural cooling at this Tropical Chalet

Flea treatments are poisoning Englands rivers

November 19, 2020 by  
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Insecticides used to kill fleas are proving to be way too effective. The chemicals are poisoning English  rivers and killing bugs they were never meant to encounter, according to a new University of Sussex  study . The environmental damage extends to the birds and fish who depend on the poisoned bugs for food. “Fipronil is one of the most commonly used flea products and recent studies have shown it degrades to compounds that are more toxic to most  insects  than fipronil itself,” said Rosemary Perkins, who led the study. “Our results are extremely concerning.” Related: Ace Hardware boosts efforts to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides The researchers identified fipronil in 99% of the samples they took from 20 rivers. In addition, they found a nerve agent called imidacloprid, which was temporarily banned in the EU in 2013 and then permanently so in 2018. This toxic pesticide ingredient is commonly used in farming in many parts of the world as well as being used for flea treatments. Dave Goulson, one of the University of Sussex researchers, was shocked by the findings. “I couldn’t quite believe the  pesticides  were so prevalent. Our rivers are routinely and chronically contaminated with both of these chemicals.” He warned that using imidacloprid to treat one medium-sized dog for fleas contains enough pesticides to kill 60 million bees. How are these pesticides moving from Fido to the Thames? Researchers found the highest pesticide concentration just downstream from water treatment plants, indicating that the urban areas were the culprits, not the farmers. They believe that when people bathe their pets, it flushes pesticides into sewers and then rivers. Dogs that swim in rivers could also be responsible. If you’ve ever taken your pet to a veterinarian, it’s likely that the vet advised flea treatments. According to the  American Kennel Club , the dangers of fleas go beyond itchy skin, with the top three possible consequences being flea allergy dermatitis, anemia and tapeworms. About 80% of the U.K.’s 11 million cats and 10 million dogs receive treatment, whether or not they have fleas. Some environmentalists are saying that the environmental damage of insecticides should be prioritized over the blanket use of flea remedies. NRDC has some good recommendations for minimizing the environmental impact of flea treatment, including choosing oral treatments over flea collars, dosing for the correct weight of your pet, grooming your pets and cleaning your yard and  garden  in ways that will preempt pests to begin with. Read the organization’s full advice  here . Via  The Guardian and  Garden Organic Image via Joshua Choate

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Flea treatments are poisoning Englands rivers

Modern, energy-efficient office harvests rainwater in Surat

November 13, 2020 by  
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New Delhi-based multidisciplinary firm Urbanscape Architects has recently completed the Sangini House, a mixed-use office space in the Gujarati city of Surat. Designed for flexibility, energy efficiency and user comfort, the eight-story office building breaks the urban mold with its rounded and partly perforated form, which is softened by lush plantings that drape over the balconies. The project also integrates high-performance energy, rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation systems as part of a goal to achieve the green ‘Platinum Rating’ from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). Commissioned by construction company the Sangini group, the Sagini House in Surat consists of two floors of commercial space and four floors of office space. A site-specific solar analysis informed the orientation and design of the building to maximize access to natural light while minimizing the effects of unwanted glare. As a result, the architects clad part of the building with a jali -inspired stone facade in Red Agra. The three-dimensional perforations let in light and provide shade, while giving the building an attractive, patterned look from afar. The front facade of the building projects outward with a series of sheltered and cantilevered outdoor balconies covered with greenery. Related: A modern home in India stays naturally cool without AC Inside, column-free office spaces make the most of the building’s access to natural light. Exposed concrete is used primarily for the walls and ceilings; however, reclaimed wood and other timbers are inserted to lend a sense of warmth. Other natural materials , such as stone and glass, are also deliberately left unpainted and exposed. “The architecture and design of Sangini House explores ways in which it can respond to the context and spirit of the heritage in which it stands,” the architects explained. “The office building for the Sangini group, a leading construction firm delivering technical excellence in building design, characterizes new strategies for a flexible, column-free office space that creates a new urban venture in the city’s dense business district.” + Urbanscape Architects Photography by Noughts and Crosses via Urbanscape Architects

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3D-printed modular oasis stays naturally cool in Abu Dhabi

November 12, 2020 by  
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Italian firm Barberio Colella Architetti and architect Angelo Figliola have unveiled a futuristic vision for an urban oasis in Abu Dhabi that combines cutting-edge technology with low-tech systems to stay naturally cool in extreme climates. The conceptual project — dubbed Urban Dunes — uses locally sourced sand as the main building material, which would be 3D printed in stereotomic blocks of sandstone. In addition to providing passive cooling, the oasis would also pay homage to the region’s culture with intricate and elegant spaces that mimic the traditional architecture of Abu Dhabi. Designed to span 1,000 square meters, the Urban Dunes project features the tagline “rethinking local sustainable models.” The proposal “started from the deep awareness of the climatic context of Abu Dhabi’s and the Emirates’ traditional architecture, such as elegant vaulted spaces, vernacular shading devices and cold-water basins,” the architects explained in a press statement. As a result, Urban Dunes’ sculptural, sand dune-like form is integrated with iconic elements such as mashrabiya , vaulted spaces, water basins, fountains and palms. Related: Mixed-use complex aims to minimize heat gain with greenery in Saudi Arabia For adaptability, the architects have proposed a modular design to fit a variety of spatial settings. The basic module, a square, can be extended to create everything from an L-shaped layout to a courtyard. Each module would be made from 3D-printed blocks that stack together to create a vault with a thickness of 55 centimeters that, together with the heat-reflective cool pigments mixed into the sand, help protect against solar heat gain. The vaulted spaces below are also optimized for natural cooling with elegant mashrabiya, a type of perforated window screen to enable natural ventilation . The incoming airflow is cooled by the water basins placed around the interior as well as the two waterfall fountains and palm trees in the center. Earth pipes are laid underground to feed water to the fountains and basins. + Barberio Colella Architetti Images via Barberio Colella Architetti

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3D-printed modular oasis stays naturally cool in Abu Dhabi

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

October 28, 2020 by  
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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 – 01:30 It may be a little early to start writing about trends for 2021, but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s on my mind? Carbontech, a category of climate tech I’d love to see break through next year. It’s the exciting idea that we can take something that could be considered waste, draw it out of the atmosphere and turn it into a source of revenue or economic growth. There are signs that give me optimism. This morning, digital payments company Stripe announced a plan to let its merchant customers divert a portion of their revenue to carbon removal projects. The move follows Stripe’s own pledge to put $1 million into four “high potential” projects earlier this year, and the two initiatives are related. The specific technologies that Stripe is funding are carbon-sequestering cement (CarbonCure), geologic storage (Charm Industrial), direct air capture (Climeworks) and ocean mineralization (Project Vesta). “Stripe’s climate initiative is a gift because it removes all barriers to positive action,” wrote Substack CEO Chris Best, a beta tester, in a statement. “This program makes it easy, and valuable, to do the right thing. We’re proud to be part of it.” All of the popular newsletter platform’s writers have the opportunity to participate. Makes me want to host my own personal blog there. Lest I forget, another well-known commerce player, Shopify, last month picked carbon removal and carbontech as a focus for its Sustainability Fund, which commits $5 million annually to climate-tech solutions. Some companies it is supporting are the same as Stripe (CarbonCure, Charm Industrial and Climeworks). It is also including ocean sequestration in the mix through its support of Planetary Hydrogen. And it is also letting merchants add options for offsetting that buyers can select during transactions.  Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Rising corporate support of carbontech and carbon removal technologies writ large is one of the biggest reasons driving my optimism that the market is about to take a turn.  Last week, for example, Microsoft announced one of its most unusual investments yet, as it seeks to deliver on its pledge to become a “carbon negative” company. It plans to supply Alaska Airlines with sustainable aviation fuel for the three most popular routes flown by its employees between Seattle and Silicon Valley, via a partnership with SkyNRG, which produces it from waste oil and agricultural residue. That’s right: Microsoft is buying jet fuel.  MInd you, those jets will still need to use regular fuel in combo with the sustainable stuff, but the strategy will help Microsoft reduce emissions from those flights (it’s also working on an accounting standard for helping do this), and we all know the aviation sector will be really tough to decarbonize. This is a much needed commercial boost, optically speaking. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft also joined the Northern Lights project in Norway, which is seeking to standardize methods for capturing carbon emissions at industrial facilities in Europe, turning them into a liquid and transporting it to a place where it’s pumped and stored under the ocean floor. The initiative — a collaboration of Norway’s government along with oil giants Equinor, Shell and Total — is moving into a commercial phase. The nature of Microsoft’s involvement isn’t entirely clear, but one thing being explored is how the software company’s analytics technology can help create blueprints for the techniques being used to capture CO2 (so they can be replicated elsewhere) and for creating new value chains for transporting and managing it.  Corporate interest is on the rise Carbontech is very much in the spotlight at this week’s VERGE 20 virtual event, in sessions dedicated to moonshots and emerging technologies. According to a comprehensive market report published this week by the Circular Carbon Network (CCN) and discussed during the conference, the pace of activity picked up dramatically in the past decade — of the roughly 330 innovators working on carbon removal or turning carbon into value, more than 65 percent of them were started after 2010. About 50 percent of the 107 companies that CCN tracks closely are already generating revenue. I’ll bet that’s more than you thought.  The investment dynamics are intriguing: CCN’s research uncovered 135 companies in this space that have raised $2.2 billion; its own Deal Hub tracker recovered deals worth $714 million in the past year, a significant pick up of activity, according to the organization’s report.  “What you are seeing is an accelerating pace of interest and activity,” said Nicholas Eisenberger, managing director at Pure Energy partners and co-founder of CCN, who spoke about this topic during a carbontech market update at VERGE 20. “This market is going to either be very large or ginormous.”  Here’s another big takeaway from my conversation last week with Eisenberger and his colleague Marcius Extavour, executive director of the NRG Cosia Carbon XPrize, one of the managing organizations for the CCN: Deals with corporate investors are increasingly attractive to carbontech entrepreneurs. And vice versa. CCN is tracking 61 multinational companies (as of this writing) involved in everything from research and development (the most common intersection) to buying and selling CO2 derivatives (buying it for food and beverages or selling carbon credits). Aside from Microsoft and the to-be-expected oil companies, others on the list include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, Interface, Lafarge, Nike and Starbucks. “This space is about climate, it’s also about a climate solution. It’s also an example of a climate solution that can support economic growth,” Extavour noted, pointing to the carbontech evolution. Hence, the corporate interest. The extent to which COVID-19 infrastructure investments and economic recovery plans are linked with climate action is also likely to increase corporate involvement, especially outside the U.S., where some investments already have been linked to these metrics, such as the bailout of Air France, Extavour added. How ginormous could the carbontech market get? According to nonprofit Carbon180, the total addressable market for products that could be affected is $6 trillion — with the biggest opportunities for using “waste CO2” found in transportation fuels and building materials. Captured carbon also could be a resource for food, fertilizers, polymers and chemicals. (Before you ask, very few innovators that CCN is tracking are focused on enhanced oil recovery applications.) Helping entrepreneurs commercialize carbontech more quickly is the mission of the new three-year Carbon to Value Initiative created this summer by the Urban Future Lab at New York University-Tandon, Greentown Labs and the Fraunhofer USA Technbridge (with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Consulate General of Canada in New York). Whew.  Lo and behold, C2V last week added the first corporate members to its leadership council with representatives from Johnson Matthey, W.L. Gore and Associates, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, NRG and Suez. (Extavour and Eisenberger are also on the council, as is Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon180.)  Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at NYU Tandon, said carbontech entrepreneurs haven’t benefited broadly from attention by the investment or mentorship communities that have shown up to support other climate-tech sectors such as energy or transportation. “Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way,” she said. “They’ve been very well supported recently, by some really excellent NGOs, but we bring commercial chops to the table.” C2V is accepting applications for its first startup cohort (supported from May to November 2021) through Jan. 27. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said there are four sorts of solutions types C2V hopes to catalyze: capture mechanisms; transformative process innovations; utilization methods that use CO2 as a feedstock fuels, building materials and so forth, and storage approaches (including those focused on important natural solutions such as sequestration). By mentoring carbontech entrepreneurs, C2V hopes to send a “market signal” for broader commercial and government support, Reichert said. “This is such a multidimensional problem that we need to tackle it from a multi-industry and multidisciplinary approach,” she said. By the way, there are still three days left of VERGE 20, with plenty of sessions about carbon solutions, including one of the most popular approaches — tree planting, conservation and cultivation initiatives. If you’re missing out, register here . Pull Quote Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Topics Innovation Carbon Removal Carbon Capture Carbontech VERGE 20 Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Climeworks plant in Hinwil, Switzerland.

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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

Design experiment examines safety of food grown in urban vertical gardens

October 23, 2020 by  
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Interior architecture firm Annvil has brought together a team of urban planners, designers, environmentalists and natural scientists to study the interaction between the urban environment and horticulture. The project, called G(U)ARDEN, is a vertical garden experience set in Latvia aimed at exploring the safety of growing food in urban gardens. Urban agriculture has already been proven to reduce air pollution, collect and use runoff, increase productivity of space and aid in urban cooling, but it is still lacking in substantial scientific research in the safety of these plants being used for food. The G(U)ARDEN project will measure the biochemical composition of vegetables and fruits grown in urban environments, especially in places with intense traffic and air pollution.  Related: Snøhetta to revitalize Midtown Manhattan with vibrant garden The primary urban vertical garden of this project is located in Riga, Latvia and is made up of local plants from the city’s horticulture centers and nurseries. Researchers chose to use endemic plants to inspire residents to grow and conserve locally as well as to encourage sustainable and effective urban environmental development discussions. “Today we live in a digital world where everything is instantaneous. In answer to that, we want to stimulate people’s interest in real life — interest in the physical world and in being close to nature,” said Anna Butele, author of project G(U)ARDEN and the founder of Annvil. “We can do that by creating even more green environments in the city — meeting places that bring together different groups of society. This way we can also bring attention to neglected environments in the city.” The pilot program has started with the team studying the garden’s vegetable and fruit harvest in a scientific laboratory. Crops are measured for the presence of heavy metals, while the air and water is measured for microbiological composition to help identify all possible risk factors associated with the impact of the urban environment on edible plants . The data obtained from the experiment will aid in continued projects to help create a series of urban gardens in Latvia’s largest cities next year. + Annvil Photography by Ingus Baj?rs via Annvil

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Design experiment examines safety of food grown in urban vertical gardens

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