A Super Green Building Planned for Brussels

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Architect Vincent Callebaut is well-known for his ambitious sustainable architecture project proposals, and this latest one that he’s proposing for the EU city of Brussels is no exception. His plans call for turning the city’s industrial area of Brussels into a sustainable community. They plan to renovate existing buildings, as well as build new high-rises, which would be equipped with a wide array of sustainable features.

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Callebaut’s plans call for the building of three high-rises, which would have a total floorspace of 915,000 sq ft (85,000 sq m). These buildings would feature a slide-like shape and rise to a max height of 328 ft (100 m). The roof would be clad in solar panels, while the balconies could be used to grow fruits and vegetables.

The plans also include the renovation of the old Marine Terminal, which measures 538,000 sq ft (50,000 sq m) to serve the communities needs. It would be divided up into different areas, and would feature several geodesic domes that would house restaurants, bars and other structures. There would also be raised pods made from CLTs that would serve as meeting spaces. Retail and office spaces would be housed in another set of CLT structures. It would also be possible to attach small greenhouses to the exterior of the buildings.

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Among the green tech planned for this project are the already mentioned large solar power arrays, wind turbines, airtight building envelopes, natural ventilation, and rainwater collection systems. They calculated that the complex would generate 186 percent of its annual electricity requirements, and this surplus would then me used to power the historic buildings in the area, as well as any planned future developments.

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We will, however have to wait and see whether this project gets picked up by the city’s planning commission.

Eco-Resorts Going up in the Azores

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The Azores, a group of gorgeous islands just off the coast of Portugal, has seen increased tourism in recent years. However fortunate that maybe, it also presents a problem for the environment, so in a bid to retain the unspoiled state of the landscape, the local Tourism and Agribusiness Development Company of the Azores (TADA) has come up with a way to preserve it. They will be developing eco-resorts across the islands, which will be sustainable and have a minimal footprint.

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The resorts will basically be made up of solar powered cabins, which they are calling the Eco Pods. They are currently planning to build six of these eco-resorts and the first is already under construction in the Vila Franca Do Campo Region of São Miguel Island. It’s set to open in the summer of 2017.

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The resort will feature an as yet undisclosed number of Eco Pods. The smallest of these will measure 161 sq ft (15 sq m) and will feature a sleeping area and a sitting area, along with a small food preparation space. The pod will be equipped with a fridge, a coffee machine and a TV. The bathroom will be located outside and will be heated by an external wood burner.

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There will also be a few 215 sq ft (20 sq m) Eco Pods. These will have all of the above, but the bathroom will be an inside one. The largest of the Eco-Pods making up the resort will measure 322 sq ft (30 sq m) and will feature all of the above as well as a small kitchenette.

All the EcoPods are prefabricated and raised off the ground on stilts that are made from recycled electricity poles. Among the other materials used for the construction are locally-sourced pumice stone, windows made from recycled plastic bottles, and timber that is grown locally. The cabins will be powered by a solar panel array. The Eco-Pods currently have normal toilets with septic tanks installed, though the plan was to equip them with composting toilets, which sadly fell through.

The Eco-Pods are built to withstand high-winds and earthquakes, while TADA also plans to put the designs to use for other purposes, such as disaster relief housing, or garden pavilions.

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An Awesome Towable Tiny Office

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Perhaps living in a tiny home isn’t quite feasible for most people, but I’m sure many entrepreneurs would appreciate their own tiny mobile office. And this one fits the bill perfectly. It was designed by the creators of the Minim House and is called the Minim Workspace. It’s towable and can even run off-the-grid. And it’s certainly a great alternative to working in a coffee shop and offers a way to enjoy nature while working.

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The Minim Workspace measures 80 sq ft (7.4 sq m), which is enough room for a sizable working surface as well as a comfy lounge area. They also managed to incorporate a sink, a tiny fridge and a microwave. There is no toilet or shower though, which is a shame. The reason for this is that they envisioned it as being parked near a home or business, where these facilities would be accessible.

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According to the company, it can be parked anywhere legally and renters require no permits to do so. They are advertising it as the perfect mobile office for startups or even as a portable music studio. Heating and cooling is provided via a noiseless air-conditioning and heating system, while the office also features LED lighting throughout.

The basic version is designed to be hooked up to the grid, but there is the option to install a solar power array on the roof, which would make it independent of the grid. It also doesn’t come with mobile Wi-Fi included, so occupants would need to have their own personal hotspot.

It seems they plan to only rent these offices out and not sell them. The on-grid version of the Minim Workspace can be rented for $775 per month, while the off-grid version costs $925 per month. They can be booked within a 75 mile (120 km) radius around Washington DC, and they will be available by March 2017. Once the mobile office is delivered, the person renting it can’t tow it to another location.

Battery Made From a Sheet of Paper

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As bacteria feed on organic waste electrons are produced, so they could potentially be used as a source of power. A team of researchers at Binghamton University, NY have found a way to incorporate microbial fuel cells into a battery that is made of paper and also foldable. Since this new battery is paper-based, it is also completely biodegradable.

The battery they created can be paired with low-power biosensors, and then easily disposed of in an environmentally friendly way once it is no longer needed. It is also extremely cheap to make. This battery is perfectly suited for use in environmental sensors or medical procedures, as it can create power from virtually anything where microbes are present, such as water, soil or even the human body. It can also work using any liquid, including body fluids, namely blood, sweat, urine, or saliva.

To create the battery the scientists placed an anode on one side of the paper, which is made from a reservoir of bacteria-filled water and from a conductive polymer. On the other side of the paper, a small amount of silver nitrate encased in a thin layer of wax forms the cathode. As the paper is folded an electric current is produced. An accordion-style fold creates the most electricity, while the paper can also be folded in different ways to generate different levels of electrical output.

This is the upgraded version of the paper-based origami-style battery that lead researcher on the team, Seokheun “Sean” Choi built some time ago. It doesn’t need as many layers of paper as the previous version, since all the components are integrated into a single sheet of paper.

The uses for this innovative new battery are many and varied. It could be used in disaster relief situations, on battlefields, as well as in medical clinics in remote areas. In addition, they can also easily be used to detect pathogens and toxins in the environment.

A Breakthrough in Sustainable Hydrogen Production

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A shift to using renewable sources of energy to fuel our lifestyle is a must if we want to ensure a sustainable future. But finding such sources that are reliable, scalable, affordable and eco-friendly has been a challenge. Hydrogen is certainly one such potential source, if it could be produced and stored more efficiently, and using renewable energy to do so. But all this has proven difficult. However, the company HyperSolar has recently come up with a solution, which they believe could change all that.

HyperSolar have made a breakthrough in producing low-cost, scalable, and renewable hydrogen, using polluted or dirty water as its main source. They created a device called the H2 Generator to do the job. The device is powered by sunlight, and has a solar array attached to it, meaning it doesn’t need an additional or separate array to run. The device is a “self-contained Photoelectrochemical Nanosystem” and the technology was designed in a way that mimics photosynthesis. They claim that the nanoparticle-based system they developed leads to a significantly more efficient electrolysis process compared to a system that would be powered by a separate solar unit. Since the device has the solar array attached to it, there is also very little energy loss. The entire device, including the solar array can be submerged in water.

According to HyperSolar, the device optimizes the science of water electrolysis, using sunlight to separate hydrogen from any available source of water to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable hydrogen. To work, the H2 Generator does not need conventional electrolyzers that are energy intensive and expensive.

They are currently testing the lab-scale prototype of the H2 Generator, but they believe it could easily be scaled up and set to work turning wastewater into energy. Let’s hope this tech becomes available soon.