Taipei Will Soon Get a Tree Covered Tower

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The tower in question was designed by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut and it is great to see it finally beginning to take shape in Taipei, Taiwan. Construction of this sustainable building began in 2013, and it is aptly named the Agora Garden Tower, since it will be clad in all sorts of greenery, including full-sized trees.

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The unique shape of the tower was inspired by the double helix of DNA strands and it twists 4.5 degrees at each floor, to a total of 90 degrees. This twisting shape offers panoramic views of the surrounding cityscape to all residents. When completed the Agora Garden Tower will have 20 stories. This will yield a total of 40 luxury apartments that will each have a balcony clad in greenery. The total floorspace of the building is 455,690 sq ft (42,335 sq m), which also includes amenities such as a fitness center, swimming pool and rooftop terraces.

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But the most interesting thing about this tower is that the complex will also feature 23,000 trees. These will be located in the grounds as well as on the balconies of the apartment units. According to Callebaut’s calculations, these trees will be able to absorb 130 tons of CO2 per year.

They are also aiming to receive the LEED Gold certification. The building will feature a rooftop rainwater catchment and recycling system, and the water collected will be used for flushing the toilets. There will also be a 10,763 sq ft (1000 sq m) solar panel array mounted on the tower’s roof, which will offset the building’s energy needs considerably.

The building is slated for completion by September, 2017, and it will be very interesting to see how the finished tower will look, as well as how well it will perform.

UK Team to Get a Sustainable Wooden Stadium

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It’s always great to hear about new, large-scale construction projects getting underway in a sustainable way. One such is certainly the new stadium that will soon be built for the Forest Green Rovers soccer team in the UK. It will be designed and built by Zaha Hadid Architects, and it will be a low-carbon structure made out of sustainably-sourced wood.

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The stadium will be located in the town of Stroud, UK and will be large enough to accommodate up to 5,000 fans. The design of the structure will also allow for increasing this capacity to 10,000 people. This will be achieve by adding extra seating space along the sides once Phase One of the building process is completed. As such, the expansion will not require costly construction work.

The stadium will have the shape of a continuous spectator bowl that will feature a low profile, sweeping curves and a wooden skeleton. Each seat will have a clear sightline to the field, and the closest spectators will be seated just 16 ft (5 m) from the pitch.

This new wooden stadium will be a part of the so-called Ecotricity’s Eco Park development, which is a sports and green tech business park that is set to cover an area of 40 ha (100 ac), and will cost about $125 million to build. Construction of the stadium is set to begin in late 2017 or early 2018, and it will take two years to complete.

This stadium will be the first of its kind constructed entirely of wood. While the use of this sustainable material is commendable, it does present a risk of a devastating fire, while a building of such size could arguably never be considered entirely sustainable, due to the amount of electricity it requires to run. Heating such a structure is also quite a burden on the environment. Yet given the alternative of building it out of concrete, this stadium will still very sustainable.

MIT Has Developed a Tiny Power Usage Monitoring Device

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The ability to monitoring energy usage and adjusting it according to how much is needed to avoid unnecessary drainage is one of the key ingredients to building a more sustainable future. And a team of researchers at MIT has come up with a clever system that allows you to see exactly how much power each of your devices is using with great accuracy. And the system is also very easy and affordable to install and use.

The key part of the system is a sensor the size of a postage stamp, which is attached to the incoming power line of a home. The data collected by the sensor is analyzed by special software, which looks at the spikes and patterns in voltage and thus identifies and monitors the energy use of each device. The software can accurately distinguish between all different kinds of lights, motors, and other devices in the home and know exactly which ones are turned on or off, and at which times.

Privacy of an individual’s home energy usage information is also protected by this system, since all the info is circulated only within the home and isn’t shared with anyone else. They’ve already done extensive testing and the system proved great at saving energy and money, while also increasing safety. In one of the tests, the sensor detected a voltage anomaly, which was the result of faulty wiring that was causing copper plumbing pipes to carry a live voltage.

It took the team about 10 years to research and develop the system. The first hurdle was developing a device that would be easy to install. The next step was coming up with the software that would be able to accurately interpret the data collected by the sensor. As a result of thorough testing, the software is now smart enough to, for example, show how much energy the refrigerator has used in a given time frame, when it is turned on and off or when it goes into defrost mode.

They are planning to bring the sensor to market soon, and once they do, it will cost less than $30. Homeowners will also be able to install it themselves using a zip tie.

A Device That Purifies Polluted Air While Producing Hydrogen

Air pollution is one of the key problems that need to be overcome in order to secure a more sustainable future for our planet. So it’s great news that a team of scientists from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven, have devised a process that can both mitigate air pollution as well as provide a clean energy source in the form of hydrogen, at the same time. This device does so using nanomaterials and sunlight.

The nanomaterials are contained within the membrane of the device the team developed, where they are used as a catalyst in this process. Previously, this same type of membrane was used to extract hydrogen from water, but the team has now found that it’s possible for this material to also be used to extract it from polluted air. And on top of that, this membrane is also more efficient at doing so. To test it, the team has made a small prototype of the device, which measures just a few square centimeters, but they plan to scale it up to make it industrially applicable.

The energy for the process to run comes from sunlight, and the device which makes it possible is described as an “all-gas-phase unbiased photoelectrochemical cell”. It works by converting volatile organic pollutants into CO2 at one photoanode, and by harvesting hydrogen gas at the cathode. The device is most efficient when applied to organic pollutants in inert carrier gas, while if oxygen is present, the cell performs less efficiently though significant photocurrents are still generated, meaning that it can be effectively used to purify organic contaminated air.

It will most likely take some time before this device is ready for use on an industrial scale, but it does show a lot of promise. If they successfully scale it up, air pollution could become a source of clean energy instead of being an energy sink and a health hazard.

Innovative Revolve House Wins This Year’s SMUD Competition

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The so-called SMUD Tiny House Competition is very new, and this year it took place in Sacramento, California. Its main aim is to promote sustainable living and eco-construction of tiny homes. This year, the winning entry was the so-called Revolve House, which was entered into the competition by Santa Clara University. It competed against 9 other California-based college teams and their creations.

Revolve House is powered by a solar power array, which is comprised of eight 330 W panels. The array is hooked up to saltwater batteries and this system provides all the needed power for the home. Revolve House gets it’s name from the fact that it is designed in a way that allows it to automatically rotate to follow the sun, thereby maximizing the solar array’s energy harvesting potential. This is possible because Revolve House sits on a trailer, which is placed atop a Colossun sun tracking ring that rotates the home and ensures the array gets hit with as much sunlight as possible. Apparently this entire system improves the home’s solar efficiency by a 30 percent over a regular home fitted with solar panels.

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Revolve House was constructed out of SIPs (structural insulated panels) and measures 238 sq ft (22 sq m). The interior features a dining and kitchen area that has a clever pull down table. There is also a wet-room type bathroom, while the living area also doubles as a bedroom, which was achieved by installing a murphy-style bed. The house also features a deck on the roof, which has space enough for six people and can be accessed via an exterior staircase.

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The home is equipped with an efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) unit. This unit, as well as the lighting and skylight are controlled by a touchscreen system. The home also has a greywater recycling system in place.

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The home was actually designed to be used by disabled veterans, so all the doorways, as well as the shower and appliances are wheelchair-accessible. Not sure how they will be able to access the roof deck though, and there is also a step leading to the lounge, while someone in a wheelchair would also have trouble pulling down the Murphy bed, though maybe they will still solve these things in some way. The home will be donated to Operation Freedom Paws, an organization that teaches veterans and other people with disabilities to train their own service dogs.