Our Thursday green news brings you the latest on green architecture, climate change, energy and communities:
- Modern green prefab homes go mainstream: Factory-built homes, also known as prefabricated (or prefab) homes are nothing new, but in many countries including the U.S. they have always been considered as homes for low income citizens or for trailer parks. Today, prefab construction is up to 11% of the construction market with almost 13,000 factory-built single family homes completed last year in Canada alone. Prefab homes range from modules completed on site, to homes assembled from smaller factory-built components (IKEA-style) to fully built homes. As Pieter Venema, president of Ontario based company Royal Homes stated. “Today architects are “embracing” industrialized building. It’s got more of an upscale cache to it now. People are really beginning to understand the concept and see the benefits of it. It’s slow to change but we do see it.”
- D.C. sewage system will soon generate electricity: The Washington D.C. Water Authority is currently investing significant amounts of money into projects protecting the city’s water system from rising seas, storm surges, and other types of destruction resulting from climate change. What’s more, they are also investing $450 million in an on-site digester that will soon transform its daily 120 tons of treated solid waste into natural gas that can keep the plant running even if extreme power outages occur. There are also plans for an installation of about 50 acres of solar panels on top of the Blue Plains treatment plant that could generate an additional 8 megawatts of electricity. This installation would represent a major contribution to the power system since the D.C. Water Authority is currently the largest consumer of electricity in the District. As Lauren Fillmore, Senior Program Director at the nonprofit Water Environment Research Foundation explains: “At the turn of the century, we looked at waste-water just as a public health issue, it was all about keeping people from getting sick. And then in the 1970s, with the Clean Water Act, we started dealing with everything else in the water besides pathogens that was damaging the environment. Now, we are just starting to look at waste-water management as really water resource recovery.”
- Fungi could help boost crops and slow global warming: Scientists are constantly searching for new ways to boost crop yields, and now they looking into an ancient union between plants and fungus. This myco relationship was formed about 460 million years ago, allowing plants to migrate from the sea onto land, where they started helpfully drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, stowing carbon in the soil, and releasing oxygen into the air. According to Toby Kiers, researcher at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam: “Cheap-date-tolerating fungi hold promise for the ecosystems of the future — a world in which land recovers more quickly and produces more bountiful crops than ever before.” This research could also help deal with climate change since these fungi take carbon captured by their plant partners and deposit it into the soil in the form of glomalin. The U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered glomalin in the 90s, and scientists now estimate that 27 percent of the global carbon in the soil is of this form.