Posts tagged with "Sustainability":

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Six finalists announced for this year's Fuller Challenge

The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) has unveiled six finalists for this year's Fuller Challenge. Whittled down from a semi-final list of 19, the winning team is in line for a $100,000 prize that would go toward the development and implementation of their scheme. First launched in 2007, the competition strives to pioneer holistic approaches that cover a wide breadth of problems within social, environmental, and design fields. A stringent selection process and rigorous entry criteria have led to the competition to be known as “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award.” Proposals were evaluated if they were “visionary, comprehensive, anticipatory, ecologically responsible, feasible, and verifiable.” This year was also the first year that the BFI accepted student proposals. Undergoing a separate review process, student winners will be subject to a different awarding process. “In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in student entries to the Challenge,” said Fuller Challenge Program Manager Megan Ahearn. “We’re now devoting time and resources to a separate review track for student entries, and we look forward to publicly recognizing work from university-level entrants.” "It is a significant achievement to be selected as a finalist," the institute says on its website. "Each of the projects highlighted below deserves recognition and support." On that note, here are the six finalists: The Urban Death Project "The Urban Death Project (UDP) has designed a scalable, regenerative death care model based on the natural process of decomposition. In the Recomposition centers that the UDP envisions, bodies and forest waste are composted and transformed into soil. These centers are hybrid public park, funeral home, and memorial space, with the potential to be situated in repurposed urban infrastructure. The Recomposition process eliminates the need for the millions of feet of hardwood, tons of concrete, gallons of toxic embalming fluids, and land required for traditional funerary practices (burial or cremation), while giving back to the earth with nutrient compost." Cooperación Comunitaria "Cooperación Comunitaria is implementing a comprehensive model to radically improve the living conditions of marginalized populations in Mexico by working with communities to rebuild their homes—combining sound geological and engineering risk analysis with local indigenous wisdom. The project leaders engage with local people in the placement, design, and building of affordable, seismically sound, eco-friendly, culturally appropriate dwellings using local materials. In addition to their efforts in the built environment, Cooperación Comunitaria works on education and training programs, sustainable economic development through agroforestry and agro-ecological projects, as well as the revival and revitalization of local indigenous culture, including its herbal and medical traditions." Waterbank Schools by PITCHAfrica PITCHAfrica has used community dynamics to address the need for water. Their design intervention is a "social, educational, medical, environmental, and economic intervention." "The model takes a common architectural form and adds a trimtab: water catchment and filtration systems that transform the use of the structure, makes certain behaviors obsolete, and directly addresses the lack of a critical resource. Embedded in this new model is the understanding that community values are a top priority, from who builds the actual structure to its use for numerous activities." CommuniTree by Taking Root "CommuniTree is a simple but practical, well-executed approach to tackling three interlinked problems: deforestation, climate change, and poverty. The project ingeniously connects the dots around CO2 reduction and the generation of sustainable, local economies through a multi-faceted reforestation program. The sale of carbon credits and sustainable wood products serve as financial mechanisms to support widespread reforestation by small, stakeholder farmers in areas vulnerable to the effects of climate change in Nicaragua." The Rainforest Solutions Project "The Tides Canada Initiatives’ Rainforest Solutions Project has designed a groundbreaking “Ecosystem-Based Management Model” that draws from cutting-edge environmental science, deep cultural respect for First Nations’ sovereignty, and political savvy. Previously the project team had paved the way for a historic 250-year agreement between all the stakeholders of British Columbia’s enormous coastal rainforests (26 “first nations,” lumber and mining corporations, leading environmental organizations, and the BC provincial and Canadian federal governments) to conserve and sustainably manage the 15-million acre Great Bear Rainforest." Una Hakika by the Sentinel Project "The Sentinel Project has developed Una Hakika: a hybrid of communications technology, social insight, and beneficial use of social media. The project leverages both online and offline “informational architecture” to de-escalate conflict in regions where misinformation can lead to violence or genocide. Interethnic and inter-communal violence is often dramatically exacerbated by inflammatory rumors. The Una Hakika pilot project quickly and effectively uses all available communication tools--including village councils, mobile phones, radio, print, and one-on-one conversation--to defuse conflict, with projects operating on the ground in both Kenya and Myanmar."
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Studio Gang proposes net-zero school with three-acre urban farm (complete with its own goat)

In the near future, students at the Academy for Global Citizenship will learn firsthand how a net-zero building works, as their campus will collect enough solar power to be completely off the grid. Chances are, though, the thing they will remember most distinctly about their unconventional school will be that it included a working farm, complete with a goat.

The Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) on the Southwest Side of Chicago is already unlike nearly any other K-8 school around. Once it moves out of its now-cramped makeshift space into a brand-new, Studio Gang–designed campus, it will be truly one of a kind.

The charter school, as the name would suggest, was conceived with a focus on global stewardship and was in dire need of a space that better reflected its pedagogy and ambitions. With this charge, Chicago- and New York–based Studio Gang set out to produce a campus that would be a productive space for students, faculty, and the surrounding community. Conceived as a series of flexible “neighborhoods” with indoor and outdoor learning environments, the project is designed without typical circulation space. Rather, students will walk through “Wonder Paths” that wind fluidly though indoors and outdoors. Along these paths students will encounter laboratories, presentation spaces, learning stations, and play areas. A central courtyard will connect all of these diverse programs.

The main structure’s design takes cues from industrial building typologies to maximize natural light and solar collection. A sawtooth roofline is set at the optimal angle for solar power, while allowing copious amounts of north light into the learning spaces. Yet the passive and active solar aspects of the project are only part of the school’s sustainability goals. Perhaps the most notable of the school’s amenities is a three-acre urban farm. Along with producing its own power, the school will also produce a portion of its own food. Students will help grow breakfast and lunch for their classmates. The school believes the understanding of agriculture is an important part both of being a global citizen and of creating one’s relationship to food. Anchoring the farm is a greenhouse-barn where classes and presentations can be held for students and the community. “The whole thing is really all about growing a power- and food-conscious community and designing a replicable system that can be used by other schools in the future,” firm founder Jeanne Gang said. Working with Studio Gang on the project are Chicago-based landscape architects site design group, ltd. and New York–based environmental consultants Atelier Ten. The school will be completely one of a kind when finished, but the design is specifically done in such a way that it can be repeated around the world. To do so, prefabricated systems and readily accessible materials are being specified. While Studio Gang is garnering international attention for soaring skyscrapers, it continues to work on smaller-scale projects for socially minded clients. The Academy for Global Citizenship adds to the firm’s list of educational and community projects that includes the award-winning Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, the SOS Children’s Villages Lavezzorio Community Center, and the Columbia College Chicago Media Production Center.
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UT Austin School of Architecture students install living wall on campus

Students at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSOA) have just finished the installation of a “living wall” as an experiment in green architecture on campus. The honeycomb-shaped structure spans 10 by 25 feet and wraps around the doorway of a building on the architecture schools’ northwest corner. This project was five years in the making and was realized through a partnership between UTSOA and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a public botanical garden that is now a part of The University of Texas at Austin. Each of the wall’s cells contains a different type of native plant, including red yucca, nolina, and Mexican feathergrass. In choosing plants for the wall, designers took care to select hardy, drought-resistant plants that could withstand the hot, dry weather of Texas Hill Country. The project required a custom structure that allows individual cells to hold more soil than would typically be used in a green wall; this provided a growing environment more suited to the region’s harsh climate. The wall will also provide an artificial habitat for native wildlife like anole lizards, birds, and butterflies. In addition to beautifying the building, the living wall provides environmental benefits to the campus. The structure provides noise buffering, storm water retention, building cooling, and air filtering to residents of the architecture school. Data collected as the plants continue to grow will give designers insight into whether further green design projects can be implemented elsewhere on campus. UT Austin Installs First Living Wall on Campus from University of Texas at Austin on Vimeo.
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Design a virtual ecological urban block with Block'hood

No, Block'hood isn't an edgy underground LEGO gang, it's actually a neighborhood-building simulator that encourages experimental cityscapes and sustainable and resourceful architecture. Developed and designed by Gentaro Makinoda and Jose Sanchez, players must prioritize their focus on the environment and their creation's impact. Creations must be able to work interdependently alongside surrounding neighborhoods, for if they fail, when a design begins to fall behind in resources available, environments, buildings, and the neighborhood become susceptible to decay and ultimately failure. Users have access to more than eighty building blocks which they can use to develop structures that harvest the sun and wind to create a sustainable environment. Once built, the buildings come to life and the architect's buildings are put to the test to see if they can withstand the pressures of what the simulator's engine throws at it. Players need to avoid the decay of their city block by making sure each unit doesn’t run out of “Resources." Each block therefore has "inputs" and "outputs" and these needn't be learned, as the user is hopefully already aware that a tree needs water to output oxygen and shops need customers to make money. From this a productive network can blossom provided users harness the environment, maximize outputs, generate resources, and avoid decay. A player's little city block quickly and rather peculiarly becomes something that one can easily become attached too. As life manifests within and users add and take away elements, the block and its habitat become synonymous. Together they must work as one, making clever use of resources in a bid to fight the decline which will plunge your creation that you probably (definitely) spent too much time on, into doom. The small victories, however, for when you do implement an innovative combo are highly rewarding: a user's planning intellect triumphs and one is lulled into dreams of doing a Le Corbusier and starting Paris all over again... Throughout the game, (or "simulation" as some  may prefer to call it) players future planners are asked to "envision their neighborhood," being reminded that "there are no boundaries of what you can create." Dreams of being a planner don't appear too far-fetched either, as Block'hood was featured in the 'My Urban Playground' documentary by Luckyday, showcasing how "Block'hood can be used to design the cities of tomorrow."     Block'hood is now available to download on STEAM.
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William McDonough's multi-use ICEhouse can be quickly assembled using local materials

Architect William McDonough's Innovation for the Circular Economy house (ICEhouse) was a gathering space during the 2016 World Economic Forum. The temporary meeting space was designed to exhibit the “positive design framework described in the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, and the reuse of resources implicit in the circular economy." ICEhouse experiments with McDonough's concept WonderFrame—a structural system designed for quick assembly, local materials, and a variety of uses. McDonough explained WonderFrame is “designed to help us find ways to utilize many kinds of affordable materials to create dignified buildings for people in a variety of situations. We are calling it ‘wonder’ because we want people to wonder what it’s made of, and ‘frame’ because it is meant to be whatever structure each community and culture may need, and constructed from whatever materials they have available in that place at that time.” ICEhouse is made up of aluminum and SABIC’s LEXAN. The walls and roof structure were assembled in only a few days, and Shaw Contract Group provided the flooring. To allow constant relocation, McDonough's building was designed to be disassembled and reassembled in a few days. After its week of use at the forum, ICEhouse will be deconstructed and transported to The Valley, Schiphol Trade Park, where it will be rebuilt on site.
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BNIM cancels ultra-green Kansas City headquarters project after tax incentive controversy

Less than a year after presenting a design proposal to renovate an empty warehouse into their new national headquarters in the Crossroads Art District of Kansas City, local firm BNIM has withdrawn its plans. After a losing battle over tax incentives, the firm and the building’s owner have stated that without the financial support of the city, the project is not economically viable. The proposal by BNIM, the 2011 AIA National Architecture Firm Award winners, was envisioned as a “living” building that would efficiently use water and produce as much energy as it used. As planned, the building would achieve a higher standard than LEED Platinum, something that BNIM has achieved one other time in a built project in New York State. To achieve this level of sustainability, the project was planned to utilize numerous novel technologies and techniques, including a greenhouse to help with water management and a solar array used for energy, passive water heating and cooling, and shade. Also serving as a space for professional and academic education the firm described the project as “a global laboratory for quality sustainable design.” The firm would have used the top two floors of the 43,000 square foot building while the bottom floor was slated for retail, commercial, and office space. With the support of the mayor and city council, the $13.2 million project was hoping to utilize $5.2 million from the cities Tax Incentive Finance Committee (TIF). A hotbed issue in many cities, social justice activists and concerned Kansas City School District parents opposed the incentives going to the project, stating that too much money would be diverted from public schools. Understanding the concerns of residents, BNIM and the city attempted to negotiate and reformulate the proposal and incentive package to accommodate the resistance. The decision to provide the TIF money was to be voted on as a ballot initiative. By gathering petition signatures, opponents were able to stop the measure from even being added to the ballot, effectively killing the possibility of the money being released. BNIM has stated that its is still committed to staying in Kansas City, and will now be looking for a new office space as current projects require growth in the coming year.
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Tonight! Join AN's Matt Shaw in exploring energy, politics, and architecture in New York

Tonight, Monday, November 9, at New York's AIANY/Center for Architecture, AN Senior Editor Matt Shaw will be moderating a book talk between Janette Kim and Erik Carver, the authors of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, a new book released by Princeton Architectural Press. Stop by at 6:00p.m. tonight for light refreshments and beautiful drawings alongside a discussion about the future of ecologically minded architecture and urbanism. The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform is equal parts architect's handbook and toolbox for effecting environmental change with the built environment. The book maps different approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for collective life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures. Check it out on our events page here.
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KieranTimberlake demonstrates best practices for a prototypical new commercial building

The facility will serve students, building operators, building energy auditors, and will be used to support the development of new business ventures in energy efficiency.

The Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI)—formerly the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub—at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, is a research initiative funded by the Department of Energy and led by Penn State University that seeks to reduce the energy usage of commercial buildings to 50% by 2020. KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based firm located three miles from Navy Yard, was selected by Penn State to renovate a 1940’s Georgian-style brick building to be a living laboratory for advanced energy retrofit technology. Included in the brief was an addition to the building, which evolved into a new stand-alone building across the street on Lot 7R, which aptly became the name of the building. The new 7R building, literally tied to the ground with groundwater-sourced heat pumps, is also formally and tectonically organized around passive solar strategies. A number of daylighting studies drove a re-shape of the building. An initial four-story cube was introduced in Robert A.M. Stern and Associates’ masterplan for the site, but became a long linear east-west oriented low-lying building. This configuration maximizes daylighting while minimizing over-shadowing on the site, establishing a framework for campus growth. 7R is loaded with environmental features including a green roof, a gray water reuse system, integrated daylighting strategies, and geothermal wells. These environmental priorities influenced an approach to building envelope design that balances performance with overriding aesthetics and compositional goals. David Riz, a partner at KieranTimberlake, says the composition of the facade is integral to the siting of the building: “In a large number of our projects, we accentuate the orientation of our buildings with facade treatments.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Kawneer (aluminum), Solera (translucent glazing),JE Berkowitz (clear glazing),
  • Architects KieranTimberlake
  • Facade Installer Malvern Glass (translucent rainscreen), Torrado Construction (brick)
  • Facade Consultants Balfour Beatty (CM)
  • Location Philadelphia, PA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System brick, clear & translucent glazing on steel frame
  • Products Metro Ironspot brick (by Yankee Hill Brick and Tile), VM Zinc (by Dri-Design), Kawneer Encore Storefront / Kawneer 451 UT Storefront / Kawneer 1600 Curtainwall, Solera, R-9 Panel with aerogel, Acrylite, 16mm High-Impact Multi-skinned Acrylic Panel
Brick, chosen for its relationship to a historic Navy Yard context, is utilized as a ‘solar shade,’ opening and closing along the south facade to manage direct heat gain, while eliminating the need for mechanized shades. ‘Rips’ in the brick fabric reveal a transparent glazing system adorned with horizontal sun shade louvers. To the north, the building visually connects to adjacent League Island Park by maximizing glazing along an elevated second floor ‘tree-top’ interior walkway. Arguably the most significant feature of the building envelope is a twin-wall assembly of insulated translucent panels, seen prominently along the length of the north facade, allowing the architects to maximize the level of daylight. David Riz says the panels are notably used both performatively and compositionally, spanning 19’ tall from the plenum to the roof coping: “We wanted to create syncopation in the patterning. We were trying to get a dual read on a long linear building introducing key moments as your eye moves along the building.” The panels are incorporated into the west facade as a primary material to help manage a harsh late-afternoon sun in the large auditorium’s break out space. Riz celebrates the success of the facade in managing a difficult western orientation through diffusing harsh sunlight into a soft glow: “When you’re in the break out space, you simultaneously sense the daylight from the west, a view to the north park, and also a view through the flying brick screen to the south. That’s where it all comes together.” Riz considers the quality of daylight filtering through the building envelope to be one of the project’s greatest strengths: “There are very nice moments as you walk through the building because its so narrow where you experience a simultaneity of the south facade and the north facade: a hint of the brick screen through the classrooms, and bays of transparent panels to the other direction.” KieranTimberlake, who recently received an award for Innovative Research at ACADIA 2015, continues to monitor for thermal performance and storm water analysis. In this regard, the 7R building is a blend between high tech data monitoring, paired with low-tech passive strategies and off-the-shelf products. The project, completed within the last year, will be utilized by Penn State for various research programs.
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Diamond Schmitt Architects Cleanse Building with Vertical Living Wall

At six stories high, this is the tallest living Biofilter wall in North America.

Neatly contained behind a glass and steel structure is Diamond Schmitt Architects and Nedlaw Living Walls’ latest creation: a 1,370 s.f. vertical living wall assembly, located within a prominent skylit atrium in Vanier Hall, a Social Sciences building on the University of Ottawa’s campus. What appears as a vertical leafy green decorative wall is actually a sophisticated system fully integrated into the building’s air handling system. Contaminated indoor air is drawn through the filtration mechanism—made of plant and root media—where microorganisms consume airborne pollutants as food, breaking them down into water and carbon dioxide. The biofilter effectively cleanses over 13,800 CFM of air. Birgit Siber, Principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects, has incorporated over a dozen large living wall installations in her projects: “One of the things I find so elegant about the initiative of using plants on a large scale within buildings is that it contributes to the indoor environment on so many fronts.” Not only does the wall cleanse dust and odor from the indoor air, but in the atrium, the living wall frames the school’s collaborative social space and functions as an acoustical attenuation device. The living wall can be seen prominently from the exterior, contributing to the school’s identity. The cost of the assembly was determined to be “cost neutral” by the University’s administration, which is seeking a LEED Gold Certification for the building. Biofiltration is a product of research developed at the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment System Research Facility (1.5 hours west of Toronto), and resulted from an investigation done for the International Space Agency to purify air at a proposed lunar base. Siber teamed with researcher Dr. Alan Darlington, founder of Nedlaw Living Walls, to develop an installation to showcase his research 12 years ago.
  • Facade Manufacturer Nedlaw Living Walls
  • Architects Diamond Schmitt Architects, KWC Architects
  • Facade Installer Nedlaw Living Walls
  • Facade Consultants Nedlaw Living Walls
  • Location Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Date of Completion September 2012
  • System synthetic growth media fed by remote hydroponic system connected to return air system of HVAC
  • Products custom components
From this early collaboration between Siber and Darlington, a “no waste” spirit has driven the development of the system, which continues to evolve through seven built versions.  Darlington attributes these developments to an underlying desire to improve building performance, “We’ve done a lot of work to streamline and make this as efficient as possible without losing the aesthetics of this system.” The wall at Vanier Hall is loaded with creative features to close the energy “loop holes” found in traditional building systems. Storm water runoff and HVAC condensation are captured and reused for watering the hydroponic plants, while a sophisticated daylight-integral lighting system limits electricity usage used for plant growth to adjust lighting conditions on the plants. The biofiltration living wall system is scalable, having been deployed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Nedlaw Living Walls in city halls, offices, and universities. It has been developed in coordination with both new construction and renovation projects. Darlington notes that under ideal conditions, roughly 10 square feet of biofilters can generate enough “virtual” outside air for 5-10 people. Diamond Schmitt Architects currently have two US projects under construction – a mixed use tower in Buffalo, and a stacked sequence of four two-story living walls in an academic building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Architect Birgit Siber of Diamond Schmitt Architects will be speaking at the upcoming Cities Alive conference in New York City on October 6th on a panel discussion from 10:30am-noon entitled, "Living Walls Biofilters: Design, Operating Costs and Return on Investment."
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Aspen, Colorado swaps coal for wind to become 3rd city to run solely on renewable energy

Fossil fuel dependency is now a thing of the past for this municipality on Colorado's Western Slope. Aspen has just announced that it's only the third city to kick the habit and is fully reliant on renewable energy sources. Earlier this month, the Aspen Times reported that the city had reached the landmark after it signed a contract with electrical energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. As part of this process Aspen swapped coal for wind power to make up for the non-renewable energy deficit with its energy also coming from hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal. Prior to this, Aspen had been running on an estimated 75 to 80 percent renewables. The feat was also able to be realized due to the recent drop in solar energy prices. In fact, the cost of solar energy is predicted to fall further still, dropping below $0.50 per watt in the next few years. Solar energy is not alone in this trend. In what's a good economic indicator of renewable energy's growing popularity, wind power is also much cheaper than it was just a decade ago. This trend toward renewables was likely aided by Obama's carbon regulations which made renewable energy alternatives increasingly competitive against fossil fuel sources such as coal. According to ThinkProgress, "already, more than one-third of American coal plants have been shuttered in the past six years, and the new carbon rules make it quite possible that no new coal plants will ever be built in the United States." “It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement,” Aspen's Utilities & Environmental Initiatives Director David Hornbacher said. “This means we are powered by the forces of nature, predominately water and wind with a touch of solar and landfill gas. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible. Realistically, we hope we can inspire others to achieve these higher goals” Renewable energy has long since been on Aspen's agenda going back to the 1980s with the Reudi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric projects. Highlighting the accomplishment, former Project Coordinator Will Dolan said Aspen only began working toward its goal of 100 percent renewable energy about a decade ago. Beating Aspen to the 100 percent renewable landmark were Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
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This dying mall in Silicon Valley will be reborn with a 30-acre blanket of green roofs including a vineyard, orchard, and walking trails

Green roofs these days are the new blacktops. And just when you thought they couldn't get any bigger, there are now plans to build a 30-acre park blanketing a mixed-use, $3 billion development in Cupertino, California. Right now, the site is the dying Vallco Shopping Mall. Developers Sand Hill Property bought the mall last year and hired Rafael Viñoly and Olin Landscape Architects to redevelop the 50 acre site. "[Sand Hill] didn’t quite know what they would get when Viñoly traveled to their offices in Menlo Park last April for a first-round presentation," wrote the Silicon Valley Business Journal. "While other architects came armed with reams of site plans and renderings, Viñoly had a suitcase. In it was a model of his concept, which he assembled piece by piece, topping it off with the roof park." Renderings show a rolling lush carpet of green capping a 15-block grid of buildings below. But that green is not just a lawn. The rooftop park will feature quite an unusual mix of amenities: a vineyard, close to four miles of trails, an orchard, a playground, as well as lots of oak trees. Plans also include 800 apartments and over 250,000 square feet of retail. There are multiple plazas, a market hall, 2 million square feet of offices, and parking mostly below ground. The highest point in the development would top out at seven stories. "To secure the community buy-in, the developer is going all-out, promising to contribute more than $40 million to build a new K-5 elementary school, replace portable classrooms and provide an “innovation center” to the Fremont Union High School District, among other goodies," reported the SVBJ.
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Rotterdam considers piloting environmentally-friendly roads made from recycled plastic bottles

Always an early adopter of innovative sustainability methods, the city of Rotterdam is considering piloting roads fabricated from recycled plastic. The creators of PlasticRoad wooed the city council with their proposal of an all-plastic road that is quicker to lay and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Construction firm VolkerWessels also claims that the material can withstand greater temperature extremes—from -40 to 176 fahrenheit—can be laid in weeks rather than months, and lasts three times as long. The Netherlands-headquartered conglomerate points out that asphalt generates 3.2 billion pounds of carbon emissions globally on an annual basis, accounting for two percent of all road transportation emissions. Lighter roads that exert less pressure on the ground are a godsend for the low-lying Netherlands, one eighth of which is already submerged below sea level. The hollow design of PlasticRoads makes it easy to install cables and utility pipelines and even channel rainwater. Sections of road can be prefabricated in a factory, reducing on-site construction and ensuing congestion caused by roadworks. “As far as I know we’re the first in the world [to try this],” Rolf Mars, director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, told The Guardian. “It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry. We’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions.” Although still at the conception stage, VolkerWessels hopes to lay the first fully recycled thoroughfare within the next three years, and the city of Rotterdam is raring to host the pilot test. “We’re very positive towards developments around PlasticRoad,” said Jaap Peters from the city council engineering bureau. “Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.” The initiative should perhaps be most lauded for its potentially massive-scale, industrial use of waste materials. And while plastic bottles are already widely recycled and repurposed into garden furniture, compost bins, and more plastic bottles, the questions becomes: can used up PlasticRoads be recycled?