Tiny Home for Cold Climates

As more and more people decide to downsize to a tiny home, it has become imperative that these homes be made as cold-proof as possible. The Quebec, Canada-based firm Minimaliste recently completed this luxury tiny home for a client, which is exactly that. Apart from being very well-insulated, it also features many other comforts usually reserved for larger houses.

The so-called Sakura home measures 380 sq ft (35 sq m) and was built on a gooseneck trailer. it features a living area, which can easily be converted into a dining room. This is done with the help of modular sofa pieces that can be moved around, and a coffee table that is designed to open up into a 22 by 60 inch (56 by 152 cm) dining table, which can seat up to four people. The home also features a large bedroom and a bathroom big enough for a tub.

The kitchen runs along two facing walls, and is equipped with a fridge and stove. The bedroom is in a loft, which is accessible via a storage staircase. There is additional storage under the bed, and there is a lot of headroom in this area. There is also a second loft which can be used as a sort of reading nook and provides access to the cedar roof deck, through a skylight.

The home is also equipped with a number of sustainable features such as a composting toilet, hydronic radiant heating in the floors, a Lunos air exchanger with a heat recovery system, and a three-level water filtration system. Water passing through this filter goes through a pressure regulator, a big sediments filter, a fine sediments filter, and lastly through a water sanitizer, so pretty much any kind of water can be filtered using it.

The Sakura is a luxury home with many add-ons, so the price tag reflects that, since it cost a whopping $102,000.

A house digitally fabricated from the ground up

A team of professionals at ETH Zurich have started work on a house which will be digitally fabricated at nearly all stages of the construction process. The so-called DFAB House is being crafted at the NEST building near Zurich in Switzerland. Designing and constructing it will be a team effort between architects, robotics specialists, materials scientists, structural engineers and sustainability experts, as well as local contractor Erne AG Holzbau. One of the main aims of constructing this house is putting sustainable technologies developed in labs to real-life use to test them.

When completed, DFAB House will measure 2153 sq ft (200 sq m). The ground floor walls are being built by a 6.6 ft (2 m) tall robot with a toolhead that is used to bend and weld 0.24 inch (6 mm) steel rebar to construct the mesh wall framework. This is then filled with a specially formulated concrete which hardens so that it does not leak through the gaps. This process will result in a curved wall, while the robot used to build it is autonomous and moves around on caterpillar tracks. The ceilings of the house will be constructed using a 3D sand printer.

The so-called Smart Dynamic Casting method will be used for the ground floor façade. This is a new slipform construction method which allows for complex structural elements to be built without needing concrete molds. A team of robots will be used to construct the building’s upper floors, using prefab timber elements.

Apart from providing apartments and work spaces for guest researchers and NEST partners, the house will also be fitted with a range of smart home and IoT technologies, including innovative systems that communicate with and learn from each other, as well as other energy control systems. The DFAB House is expected to be finished by the summer of 2018.

Water Filtration Using Wood Fibers

 

One of the key components of living off-the-grid is an effective method of water filtration, and a team of researchers at the Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology has uncovered a simple and affordable way of doing that. They have developed a technique to filter water using wood fibers.

The main aim of this project is to provide clean water in refugee camps, though the method could easily be used in any setting where a green and off-grid water filtration is needed.

The team created a new material out of wood fibers and a positively-charged polymer, which binds bacteria to its surface. In this way, the bacteria in the water are removed and the water is purified. Another use for this new material is also prevention of infection, since it can be used in bandages and plasters.

However, the main aim of this project is providing an affordable and easy to use filter for a portable water purification system, which isn’t reliant on electricity. All that’s needed for it to do its job is gravity, which forces the water through it. The bacteria is removed from the water by the material, while the filter itself doesn’t cause any toxic chemicals to enter the water as is the case with many currently used on-site water filtration options.

The filter they created works on the basis of the positively-charged polymer attracting the negatively charged bacteria and viruses in the water. The bacteria which are stuck to the surface of the polymer in this way cannot get unstuck or reproduce, and they eventually die. No chemicals or antibacterial agents are used in this process, which also means that creating bacterial resistance is not an issue.

Disposal is also easy, since the wood filter can simply be burned once it is no longer effective.

Solar Cells That Harvest Energy All Day Every Day

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One huge drawback of going solar is the fact that it only makes sense in areas which get abundant sunshine year-round. However, a team of scientists from China has now come up with a new solar cell, which can harvest energy even when it’s raining.

This solar cell is made using graphene, which has proven to be a very promising material for use in the production of solar cells in the past. One of these properties of graphene is its conductivity, which is such that it allows electrons to flow freely across its surface. So when this material is put into an aqueous solution, the so-called Lewis acid-base reaction occurs, namely that pairs of positively charged ions bind with the material’s negatively charged electrons. Studying this property of graphene, the team developed a solar cell, which can generate power from raindrops.

Raindrops are comprised of various salts, which have positively and negatively charged ions. So when rainwater hits graphene the positive ions bind with the negative ions on its surface. Where the rainwater and graphene come into contact, they form a double-layer of electrons and positively-charged ions, which creates a so-called pseudocapacitor. The two layers thus have a difference in potential, which is sufficient to generate a voltage and current.

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The scientists have produced a prototype dye-sensitized solar cell and applied a thin film of graphene to it. They tested this cell in a lab, using salty water made to closely resemble rain. The cell they tested successfully generated hundreds of microvolts and had the solar to electricity conversion efficiency of 6.5 percent. Their next step will be to further refine the cell, and they are confident that they will succeed in creating a market-ready all-weather solar cell soon.

Man Made Island in the Works in Holland

Holland is a small country, and they have already found many ways to expand its territory into the sea. Now they’ve come up with one of their most ingenious ideas to date. The Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) is currently working on designing an artificial island.

The MARIN island will be made of large triangles which will be connected in a modular way. They are currently running computer simulations and testing the idea with a scale model island, which is composed of 87 triangles. They are doing so in a facility called Offshore Basin, namely in a 131 by 131 ft (40 by 40 m) pool where they can simulate all the conditions a real life artificial floating island will face, such as wind, waves, and currents.

Once complete, this island will be able to support homes, public spaces, as well as ship docks, and fishing and seaweed-harvesting facilities. It will also be able to house various renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, tidal or even wave energy generators.

The project is still being tested. They are currently working on finding the best ways to lock the triangles together and how best to anchor the whole island into the seabed. There is also the movement of water to consider, and how the homes and other structures on it will be effected by it. There are also other effects of the environment to consider and address.

It is certainly a clever idea, and will hopefully see the light of day. With the rising sea levels many other countries will soon be facing the need for additional land and building artificial islands like this could be one way to gain it.