Solar canopy allows even the most crowded city roof to go solar

In addition to large solar farms in rural areas, distributed rooftop solar power is incredibly important for the most populated areas to move to clean energy. In cities, the larger rooftops are easily outfitted with solar power systems, but smaller residential buildings are a bit trickier.


Urban rooftops aren’t just flat, open spaces. They often are covered in vent pipes, hatches, skylights and more, and in New York City, fire codes require a six-feet-wide and nine-feet-high open path on every roof. That means that solar panels have to fit in what little space is left.



The engineers at Brooklyn SolarWorks have found a way around that by raising the solar panels above the rooftops with a solar canopy. The canopies were designed by Brooklyn-based Situ Studio.


“If you want to lay solar panels flat on the roof, you really don’t have a whole lot of usable space,” says T.R. Ludwig, co-founder of Brooklyn SolarWorks to FastCoExist. “You wind up with these really small solar systems, maybe 10 panels or something like that. When you use a canopy, you raise above basically all of these requirements, and you can fit a much larger system.”


The canopies also fix another problem. Outside of cities, homes have sloped roofs causing the solar panels to sit at an angle, which maximizes the amount of sunlight they can capture. The canopies angle the panels over flat city roofs so that they also get the most sunlight.




The company takes measurements of each roof and plugs them into design software that generates a custom design for each building. The canopies rise above the height needed to meet the fire codes and leaves the roof space open, so the company says that the system makes it easier to get the solar power systems approved by the city, a process that is often complicated and lengthy.


The only obstacle that remains for the solar canopies is a little bit of NIMBYism. Brooklyn SolarWorks says that most neighbors think that the designs are cool and futuristic looking, but some people don’t think they fit with historic buildings like brownstones.


With that in mind, they are looking to come up with a separate design that would blend in better with older buildings, but they also hope that more people will change their minds and realize that buildings and design can evolve, especially in order to replace fossil fuels with solar power.


The company hopes to start installing solar canopies in other cities soon. You can watch a short video about the solar canopies below.


Via: treehugger

10 stylish counter top compost bins

Collecting kitchen scraps for composting is commendable regardless of your receptacle, but if you want to step up your bucket game, consider one of these.

Of course we can all have simple plastic buckets or recycled jars on our countertops in which to house our kitchen scraps before they head to greener pastures, and that’s lovely. But that may not be fair to ask of those with more specific ideas of how they want their kitchens to look. If there is a good way to marry nice design with something as valuable as composting garbage, and if that can lead more people to be more conscious of their waste, then I’m all for it.


I am generally disinclined to suggest kitchen items designed with a single purpose – egg cookers and sandwich machines and all of their extended family from the as-seen-on-TV clan. Because once the novelty wears off, too many of these convenience contraptions get kicked to the curb. But with a composting bin I’m going to take that chance with the caveat that if your composting efforts prove to be a failure (though that would be a bummer) or you change your system, you can still use most of these for another purpose. (There’s nothing wrong with a flour canister labeled “compost,” right?)


So without further ado, cute composting bins:


Typhoon Compost Caddy



Crafted from high-quality, color-coated steel, this bin from the vintage kitchen line has a (not-so-vintage) plastic liner for easy cleaning. This one uses a charcoal filter to keep odors under control. (Typhoon, from $37.99)


Noaway Countertop Compost Bin



Sustainability-centered furniture making studio Cliff Spencer uses offcuts of wood (like bamboo or walnut) from their shop and crafts them into mitered boxes with no shortage of organic-meets-modern warmth. There are a few styles, and each comes with a dishwasher-safe stainless steel pan and lid. This is a perfect example of a nice piece that could serve many uses if it were ever retired from a life of collecting organic waste. (Cliff Spencer, $125-$150)


OXO Good Grips Compost Bin



OK, this is the kind of product that I might not generally recommend: a hunk of plastic with a single purpose. That said, I’ve never had an item from OXO Good Grips that wasn’t designed very well. They make things that work and are durable – so I am including it here. But only if you are dedicated to composting and promise not to toss it in a year. Features include a nice size, quick-to-flip lid, smooth interior to prevent food and liquid buildup, contoured bottom and removable lid for easy emptying and an easy-to-handle rotating handle. (OXO, $19.99)


VermiTek Bamboo Compost Pail



VermiTek is dedicated to composting and all of their products are designed with composting success in mind. Their bamboo compost pail has an air-vented lid with odor-eating charcoal filters and a removable plastic bucket for toting scraps and easy cleaning. (VermiTek, $37.59)


Rustic Compost Pot



This durable, powder-coated steel bin with a cute vintage feel gets great reviews. It’s simple, easy to clean and includes carbon filters in case your scraps develop too much “personality.” At five quarts, it’s a tad larger than some of the other models. (Gardener’s Supply Company, $29.95)


Boxy Bamboo Compost Pail



I like how bins in boxy shapes fit on the counter, and this one in bamboo looks pretty good. It holds 4.5 quarts and is equipped with a charcoal filter in the lid and a plastic liner with a carry handle for easy transport to its final destination. (RSVP, $37.59)


“Antique Enamelware” Bucket



It’s not really antique enamelware, but this bucket looks like it with its durable steel construction and rustproof powder-coat finish. One-gallon capacity and a removable plastic bucket. (Williams-Sonoma, $29.95)


Stoneware Compost Crock



For the homey country kitchen! This nice model is made of glazed ceramic and includes an activated charcoal filter for odor control. It’s dishwasher-safe, has a one-gallon capacity, and looks as if it could be holding your sauerkraut, rather than your eggshells and carrot tops. (Gardener’s Supply Company, $29.95)


VermiTek Stainless Compost Pail



Another one from the compost pros VermiTek, this time in stainless steel. The polished stainless steel body and satin-finished lid are durable and will resist rust; a heavy handle makes it comfortable to carry and the pail can put into the dishwasher. (VermiTek, $32)


Via: treehugger

Filmmaker converts cargo van into modern live-work space on wheels

There are a lot of mainstream stereotypes aimed at those who have the gumption to live an alternative lifestyle. Live off the grid in a solar-powered home? Well, then you must be a tree-hugging hermit living out in the boonies. Believe in zero-waste? Then you must be a hippie zealot. Anyway, as you can imagine, stereotypes can be inaccurate at best, and hurtful at the worst, but the conventional response to someone who’s living out of their vehicle is that they must be too poor to afford an apartment, or some irresponsible, slacker millennial with no direction.


Busting all of these stereotypes is American filmmaker Zach Both, who has been living in this converted ten-year-old Chevy cargo van for the past year. It’s a home and mobile filmmaking studio all rolled into one modernist package on wheels.




He tells us his story:

“I left my job as an art director at a tech startup to pursue filmmaking full-time. The filmmaking process is inherently nomadic, so living and working out of a converted van was a natural fit.


[Filmmaking] is a constant migration to and from different locations based on what the storytelling requires. With this van, I now have complete freedom to write a script surrounded by mountains, direct a shoot in a remote desert town and then collaborate with an editor or composer in Los Angeles — all within the same month. That would be impossible any other way.”





Inside, Both used reclaimed wood on the ceiling and walls, taken from a nineteenth-century church in Cleveland, Ohio. There’s a futon bed that can be put up for a more comfortable seat, as well as a beautiful workspace. (The stool apparently doubles as a trash receptacle!) At the other end, is a custom-made curtain that divides the front part of the van from the back. Windows are shaded with awnings that double as chalkboards, great for creating the storyboards for films.









We love the kitchen, which is hidden under the workspace surface.




Outside, Both has installed solar panels on the roof, which provide power for the low-energy appliances like the refrigerator, home theater system and Both’s mobile wifi network, crucial for any digital nomad. The van is also heavily insulated to keep its interior as warm as possible (see how to do it here). Both showers at the gym whenever he needs to.




Both tells us that living a mobile lifestyle can be at times very trying and “exhausting”, especially when one is “constantly being a stranger to the environment and the people around.” But, despite the possbility of disorientation, there are upsides, says Both:


“During my time on the road, there has been a seemingly endless supply of memorable experiences. Making films and collaborating with artists across the country. Hitchhiking 30 miles in the dead of winter to get help pulling my van out of the snow. Racing a moose on a Wyoming backroad. Sleeping next to massive mountains and oceanside cliffs. Spending Christmas Day making tamales and sharing stories with a family I had met only the day before.”




Both estimates that he spent about USD $4,000 on the used van, and another $8,000 on materials, tires, tools and repairs, coming in for a total of $12,000. Both says that he also did some bartering for $3,000 to cover his appliances. Best of all, Both is sharing tips on how he was able to transform the van from start to finish into a gorgeous live-work space, in what he’s calling The Vanual. It’s well-written, well-organized and visually appealing, and well worth a visit for anyone who is interested in doing their own campervan conversion.


Via: treehugger

This modern prefab home has windows that double as solar panels

If you love natural lighting, prepare to swoon over the light-filled Reflect Home. Designed and built by Sacramento State students, this modern prefab house soaks up the California sun and surrounding views through numerous openings. However, not all windows are made equal—our favorite feature of the house is the rows of photovoltaic skylights that harness solar energy while letting the sun shine through.




Chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to compete in the annual Solar Decathlon student competition, Sacramento State’s Team Solar NEST (Natural, Elegant, Sustainable, Tranquility) spent months designing and planning the Reflect Home. The 996-square-foot home was created to meet the DOE’s stringent net-zero and cost-effective requirements without sacrificing stylish and comfortable living. “The Reflect Home’s design is focused on the resident, with the intention of making the house as functional, livable, and comfortable as possible,” says the team. “The Sacramento State team believes net-zero design will achieve widespread application only when homebuyers realize that sustainability can be achieved without sacrificing accommodations.”




Inspired by local Craftsman bungalows and small mid-century ranch homes, the two-bedroom Reflect Home emphasizes indoor-outdoor living with its numerous windows and glazed accordion doors that open to the outdoor living area. Raised ceilings and an open-plan dining, living, and kitchen area create a sense of spaciousness. Each room is individually warmed and cooled by an efficient air-to-water heat pump with a ductless mini-split HVAC system.


Via: inhabitat

Exotic solar and wind-powered Bangkok Tree House resort is a masterpiece of sustainable design

Located a few miles from the bustling streets of central Bangkok, this eco-friendly resort pushes the limits of sustainable passive design. Its sustainability features are endless, including LED lighting powered by solar and wind energy, solar cookers, rainwater harvesting, floors, as well as walls and ceilings built from reclaimed wood and bamboo and insulated with discarded juice cartons.


The hotel and restaurant complex named The Bangkok Tree House, was conceived by 36-year-old Jirayu (Joey) Tulyanond, who wanted to see how far can one go to create a comfortable retreat relying on sustainable design. It turns out, pretty darn far – hit the jump for a closer look.


Via: inhabitat

Futuristic eco city breaks ground in Kazakhstan for the World Expo 2017

Construction works on the highly anticipated Expo City 2017, designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG), are well underway in Astana, Kazakhstan. The 429-acre master plan responds to the Expo theme “Future Energy” by incorporating buildings that will operate as power plants, generating energy from solar panels and wind turbines to power themselves and the rest of the campus through an innovative smart grid.




The project focuses on using renewable energy as the primary source for infrastructure and daily operation of the buildings. Each element of the design aims to encourage and support the idea of clean energy across the project, which will feature exhibition and cultural pavilions, a residential development, commercial areas, educational and civic facilities, as well as parks and parking.


Santiago Calatrava picked to design UAE pavilion for Dubai World Expo 2020




Located at the very heart of the campus, the sphere-shaped Kazakhstan Pavilion will be a true symbol of the “Future Energy” concept. Its transformative skin will reduce thermal loss and reduce interior solar glare, at the same time increasing the building’s energy output through integrated sustainable systems such as photovoltaics.




Each building was designed to reduce energy use and increase the amount of clean energy that can be harvested. “The building forms are the direct result of a considerate and thorough design process, which AS+GG practices as ‘Form Follows Performance,” said AS+GG partner Adrian Smith, FAIA.


In addition to the excellent energy performance of individual buildings, the architects ensured that the entire development will be interconnected by including a smart energy grid, smart recycled water grid, integrated waste management system, and inter-seasonal underground thermal energy storage. After the Expo, the site will be converted into an office and research park for international companies and entrepreneurs.


Via: inhabitat

Adidas launches trainers made from ocean plastic with Parley for the Oceans

Sports brand Adidas and environmental initiative Parley for the Oceans have released the first batch of running shoes with uppers made using recycled plastic recovered from the sea (+ movie).

Coinciding with World Oceans Day held on June 8, the Adidas x Parley trainers have been launched as a limited edition of 50 pairs to be earned rather than purchased.

Those who wish to gain a pair are required to take part in an Instagram competition, submitting a video that demonstrates their commitment to stop using single-use plastic items.



Designed by London-based Alexander Taylor, the shoes are made using Adidas’ existing footwear manufacturing processes but the usual synthetic fibres are replaced with yarns made from the recycled Parley Ocean Plastic.


“This project triggered a new way for me to work and imagine how my studio could adapt and evolve in the future,” said Taylor.


“A designer can be the agitator and the agent for change. He must be entrepreneurial in spirit, seeking out collaborators to reach amazing solutions which outperform and offer truly viable alternatives to current methods.”




The green wave pattern across the uppers is created from recycled gill net, which was dredged from the sea and recycled into the fibre.


The rest of the upper is formed using waste plastic collected around the Maldives, where the government is collaborating with Parley to rid the island chain of the issue within five years.


Via: dezeen

Scrapped public transport bus converted into chic living space

In the search for a second life, old public buses, trucks and the like have been converted into anything from gardens, greenhouses and to even community art centers (well, actually a trailer). In a similar spirit, two women from Even Yehuda, Israel recently converted a decommissioned bus into a elegantly minimalist home, hoping to propose an affordable alternative in a country where housing access is a hot-button issue.




According to Oddity Central, Tali Shaul, a psychotherapist, and Hagit Morevski, an ecological pond water treatment specialist, are friends who were looking for a creative project to collaborate on. Shaul tells Hebrew language site Xnet that their eureka moment arrived when “[she] read an article about alternative housing solutions, such as containers and tents, and suggested [they] turn an old bus into a living space.”




Within less than a week, they were the proud owners of an old public transportation bus scrounged from the scrapyard. They brought in designer Vered Sofer Drori, who assisted with tweaking the bus’ layout, measuring 2 by 12 meters.




Adapting their design ideas to fit around the existing windows, doors and the large, interior wheel arches, the team was able to preserve the bus’ unique character, while also integrating a bathroom, rear bedroom, storage throughout, a full kitchen and even hot-weather luxuries like air-conditioning.













Now that the bus’ swanky transformation is completed, the women are looking to pitch this one-of-a-kind, motorized home to interested, local buyers who might not be able to afford a house otherwise. With thousands of public transportation buses going out of circulation annually worldwide, this could be an efficient and stylish way to re-use them.

$5 Bicycle Cell Phone Charger By 16-Year-Old Romanian Inventor

Thomas, a brilliant 16-year-old inventor living in Romania, has created a DIY wind turbine cell phone charger for his bike that lets him charge his phone while he rides – and it only cost him $5! He’s shared the instructions on Instructables so that you can make one, too.

The instructions do require some rudimentary knowledge of how to work with electronics, but they are also very clear, so if you’ve got the tools on hand, you’ll figure out how to make Thomas’ green technology invention in no time!


He often took long bike trips through nature, and his phone’s battery couldn’t keep up

He used a simple PC fan…

…and turned it into a wind turbine

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Via: boredpanda

More info: Instructables



Liquidity Launches To Bring Clean Water To Everyone

liquidity9 Liquidity Nanotech is trying to change the world. But for once, the cliché could actually be applicable. The company is launching today onstage at Disrupt NY 2015 with the Naked Filter, a consumer water bottle with its proprietary water-filtration membrane built-in.
Liquidity doesn’t look like an average startup. Built on over 15 years of patented university research, the team is a… Read More