Solar Impulse 2 breaks records by reaching California

Monday, 25 April 2016 0 comments

Solar Impulse 2 landed at Moffett Airfield after a 62-hour flight

Last night, Solar Impulse 2 completed the Pacific Ocean crossing leg of its round-the-world flight. According to the Solar Impulse organization, the aircraft with founder and chairman Bertrand Piccard at the controls touched down in a night landing at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California on April 23 at 11:44 pm PDT after a flight time of 62 hours and 29 minutes from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii.

Taking off from Kalaeloa on April 21 at 6:15 am HST, the one-man, solar-powered airplane reached a maximum altitude of 28,000 ft (8,634 m) and an average speed of 40.4 mph (65.4 km/h) as it covered a distance of 2,810 mi (4,523 km). During the day, power to the electric motors was provided by the solar panels on the upper wing surfaces while special batteries kept it aloft at night.

According to Solar Impulse, Solar Impulse 2 set several records during the Pacific flight, including distance, speed, duration, altitude, and altitude gain for an electric airplane. These records are still pending US FAA confirmation.

Piccard at the controls of Solar Impulse 2 in Hawaii

During the flight, on April 22, Piccard addressed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 175 heads of states in New York via a cockpit video link as part of the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Yesterday's landing finished the ninth leg of the Solar Impulse 2 circumnavigation. The next destination is New York, followed by Europe or North Africa, with the voyage ending at its starting point in Abu Dhabi, where Solar Impulse 2 took off in March 2015.

Solar Impulse 2 was stranded in Hawaii due to damage sustained by the power system during the record five-day flight from Japan to Oahu. Due to over-insulation, the batteries that sustain Solar Impulse 2 during the hours of darkness overheated. After landing, ground crews discovered that the batteries had been extensively damaged and the weeks required for repairs meant that the daylight/weather window for the next leg was missed, requiring the delay.

"Solar Impulse showcases that today exploration is no longer about conquering new territories, because even the moon has already been conquered, but about exploring new ways to have a better quality of life on Earth," says Piccard. "It is more than an airplane: it is a concentration of clean technologies, a genuine flying laboratory, and illustrates that solutions exist today to meet the major challenges facing our society."

Huilo Huilo: A night in Patagonia's fairytale eco-lodge

Friday, 27 November 2015 0 comments

The Nothofagus Hotel Lodge at Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve

After toiling away on gravel roads for about four hours we pulled over to ask an elderly Mapuche man for directions. We were undertaking a bumpy off-road adventure through Chile's southern Andes in search of one of the country's more remarkable eco-destinations – the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve. Home to bizarrely-shaped hotels crafted from local timber and surrounded by dense Patagonian rainforest and crashing waterways, this magical getaway stands tall as a beacon of sustainable architecture in one of the world's most pristine environments.

The main entrance to the Magic Mountain Lodge is found in the towering Nothofagus Hotel, so named for the surrounding Nothofagus trees (also known as southern beech trees) that inspired its design. Across its seven stories, the building widens from bottom to top in an awe-inspiring imitation of treetop canopy formations. Not a moment after the door closed we were struck with the kind of genuine wide-eyed wonder you always long for in new travel experiences. It's Ewok village meets The Magic Faraway Tree.

For the next couple of hours we get lost in winding corridors, bent stairways and luxurious lounges complete with open fireplaces and grand pianos. Huilo Huilo is sometimes rough around the edges with its bark-covered beams and doors that don't close quite so neatly, but this only adds to its unique charm. It features four different lodges. In addition to Nothofagus and Magic Mountain, there is the high-end Nawelpi Lodge that hosts luxury holiday-makers and overlooks the river snaking through the reserve and Hotel Reino Funghi, which translates to Mushroom Kingdom.

On-site is a classy restaurant where locals don crisp white shirts and serve icy pisco sours, a delicious cocktail of lemon juice, a little sugar and of course pisco, the South American grape liquor. Diners can pick from dishes of wild game hunted in the surrounding forests, such as boar and deer. The breakfast buffet is extensive and certainly caters to international tourists, with waffles, pancakes, eggs and bacon all part of the mix.

World's longest glass bridge set to open in China next year

Saturday, 13 June 2015 1 comments

An artist's concept of people walking across the glass bridge high above the Zhangjiajie canyon in China

In a bid to attract more tourists to the region, Hunan Province in China has commissioned the architectural firm of Haim Dotan to produce a completely transparent glass bridge spanning 370 m (1,214 ft) across the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. Dizzyingly high at about 400 m (1,312 ft) above the canyon floor, the span is claimed to be capable of holding up to 800 people at a time.

China seems to be enamored with terrifyingly high, world-beating glass structures. Gizmag recently detailed the world's longest glass-bottomed cantilever skywalk in Longgang National Geological Park, Chongqing, for example, which extends 26.64 m (87.4 ft) over a straight drop of 718 m (2,356 ft), making it some 5 m (16 ft) longer than the Grand Canyon Skywalk in Arizona. The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon glass bridge continues this trend of oneupmanship.

Funded as part the Tourism investment cooperation meeting at the Central China Expo in 2012, and slated for opening some time next year, the glass bridge is touted as a "Wonder of the World" by Hunan Province.

Set to be constructed between the summits either side of the canyon, the deceptively fragile-looking structure will also have an added thrill for those that find the idea of walking across a sheer drop on a see-through bridge too tame: A bungee jump. To be located in the middle of the structure, the bungee jump is also said to be another world-first for Hunan province as the highest bungee on the planet, at around 60 m (197 ft) or so higher than the current highest commercial bungee of 233 m (764 ft) on the Macau Tower.

Reclaimed Modern home hits near net zero

Monday, 23 February 2015 6 comments

Reclaimed Modern is a near net zero home that makes use of recycled materials

When we think about sustainable homes, we tend to think about energy usage. A new home in Columbia City, US, can claim to not only be energy efficient, but to make sustainable use of materials. Reclaimed Modern has near net zero energy consumption and is built using reclaimed metal, wood and concrete.

Designed by architecture firm Dwell Developments, Reclaimed Modern covers 3,140 sq ft (290 sq m) and houses four bedrooms. It has a detached garage and rooftop deck from which there are views of Seattle, Columbia City and Lake Washington. Much of the building's character, however, comes from the reclaimed materials of which it makes use.

"We have always used a lot of materials with high recycled content," says design project coordinator at Dwell Development Abbey Maschmedt. "But the idea of actually taking and reusing materials from old buildings slated for demolition was the next step – a natural evolution."

The materials used include metal and wood from a deconstructed barn in the Willamette Valley. Corrugated metal from the barn was used for cladding on the side of the house, as well as to create fencing in the garden. The barn wood, meanwhile, forms part of the overhang, or "soffit," above the rooftop deck. The pathway leading up to house is made out of repurposed concrete from a public sidewalk that was removed during construction.
The rooftop deck at Reclaimed Modern

The house has a 7.29 kW solar array installed on the roof and was built targeting a net zero level of energy consumption. With it only having only recently been occupied, there is no practical usage data available yet, but Dwell tells Gizmag that it came in just short of the target, with a HERS rating of 15.

The HERS index is a US rating of a house's energy performance. A score of 150 means a house is 50 percent less energy efficient than a standard new home, while a score of 100 puts a house at the same level of efficiency as a standard new home. A score of 0, meanwhile, indicates that a house produces as much energy as it consumes ... a net zero home.

Reclaimed Modern's HERS score of 15 shows that it has an excellent level of energy efficiency. Dwell tells Gizmag that the building could be brought up to net zero level by adding another 4 kW of solar panels.

Any electricity generated that isn't used is sold back into the grid at a premium over the cost at which the owners buy their electricity, earning them a projected US$4,500 per year for the next four years plus.
The outside patio of Reclaimed Modern

Elsewhere, the house makes use of Enviro-Dri coating on its exterior that helps to create a weather-resistant barrier and seals the building against moisture. Triple glazing helps to insulate the house and a blower door test for airtightness has also been carried out. This measures the number of times in an hour that indoor air is replaced at pressure and Reclaimed Modern's result of result of 2.5 at 50 Pa indicates a high level of air tightness.

Building work on Reclaimed Modern began in February 2014 and was completed later that year in October

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