March Story Roundup: From Global Warming Ban to Tallest Prefab to 3D-Printed Bricks

So here we are again at the end of the month with our story roundup.  We’ve compiled 8 of the most popular and interesting stories around the Web, from ingeniously insulating 3D-printed bricks to wooden buildings to a statewide ban of mentioning global warming in Florida.


1.     Algae Overgrowth Can Be Harnessed as Biofuel

Satellite view of algae bloom in Lake Erie

Satellite view of algae bloom in Lake Erie

New research presented at the American Chemical Society looks into the possibility of harnessing harmful algae bloom into biofuel.  The technique involves controlled growth of algae using 3D printed materials, allowing it flourish closer to the source but not letting it spread downstream.  They can be then harvested and used as biofuel.

Some algae produce toxins that poison fishes and other marine life, which can get passed on to humans who eat them.  Non-toxic algae on the other hand can clog fish gills and choke them.

Via PopSci


2.     Photo Book Metamorpolis Captures Chongqing’s Rapid Urbanization

An upcoming photo book, Metamorpolis, by French-Polish lensman Tim Franco captures the images of the city of Chongqing in China.  This relatively obscure megacity is in a state of rapid urban development, steadily abandoning its rural roots.  In 2010, the Chinese government encouraged migration to urbanize Chongqing’s rural population, with more than 1,300 people moving into the city daily.

Traditional farmer caught in the rapid transition of Chongqing from ...<br clear=

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Gone Building: China’s Disappearing Historical Buildings




China’s historical sites are fast disappearing in the face of rapid economic development.



There is no room for nostalgia in economic development.  At least that’s what’s been happening to China and thousands of its historical buildings and sites for the past thirty years.


Before and After: A shrouded building awaits demolition while a man holds a photograph of its former glory. (Image from

Before and After: A shrouded building awaits demolition while a man holds a photograph of its former glory.
(Image from

China’s rapid development is such that, between 2011 and 2013, the country used 6.6 gigatons of cement, more than the entire amount used by the U.S. in a span of 100 years.  All that cement has to go somewhere.  And thus, ancient temples, tombs, courtyard homes, villages, and other heritage architecture have given way to new structures: high-rise buildings and roadways, new towns built upon old towns—all of them adamant in their steel-and-concrete reincarnation.  Before you know it, development has spread to neighboring towns, forcing them to abandon their traditional rural character and adopt a shiny new urbanized mode.

Very steadily and surely, China’s architectural past is being replaced at the expense of economic growth.


Alarming Rate

To be fair, not all historical buildings have fallen victim to real estate development.  Natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods have also played their part in …

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Google’s Brave New Headquarters Hopes to Inspire Urban Communities from Now On

Google’s plans for its North Bayshore headquarters in Mountain View, California were revealed at YouTube last week.  The renderings look totally sci-fi, dynamic, and avant-garde.  Bjarke Ingels (of BIG) and Thomas Heatherwick (of Heatherwick Studios) are collaborating on the project.  And definitely it’ll be interesting to see what sort of mighty fusion they can come up with for one of the world’s most influential companies.

Google North Bayshore biodome like structures

The expanded campus will be a drastic shift from Google’s traditional or even quirky corporate offices.  This is something entirely brave and new.  Most striking are the biodome-like see-through membranes enveloping the buildings, permitting …

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Don’t Just Click to Share Under the Dome; Watch It!

Whether that Under the Dome documentary goes offline or stays online, it’s still smoggy in Beijing and most other cities in China.

Last Saturday, after a brief yet hugely popular online presence, the environmental documentary Under the Dome, was taken down from various video sites in China.  No official word as to the reason of its being shut down, but most probably it’s the old censorship at work again.  Which is sad in so many ways.

Chai Jing and her insightful film Under the Dome.

Chai Jing and her insightful film Under the Dome. (Image from the Guardian)

Journalist Chai Jing, the film’s director, had made it as her own personal journey (all documentaries are essentially)…

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A Cup of Fair Trade Coffee, Please

We’ve always thought the only complexities of coffee was in its preparation.  The finest coffee beans had to be chosen, freshly ground, only the purest water, the right temperature and pressure, etc.  There were certain requirements to be carefully met if one is to achieve that perfect elusive crema.  There was an art to it.

Coffee has ceased to be a mere beverage for jumpstarting mornings; For some it's a way of life. (Image from

Coffee has ceased to be a mere beverage for jumpstarting mornings; For some it’s a way of life.
(Image from

It turns out the coffee industry itself is just as intricate and significant—maybe even more so because of the many lives at stake.  Who could have known that that simple transaction of buying a cup of mocha latte at Starbucks actually has ripple effects to the life of the humble impoverished coffee farmer somewhere in Kenya?


A cup of fair trade coffee, please.

We’ve always heard of the fairtrade label, but never did dig enough to find out what it truly meant.

To put it rather simply, fairtrade is a mechanism that ensures coffee farmers get the price they deserve …

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