DJC Green Building Blog

16 reasons you’ll want to live in a shipping container

Posted on March 9, 2015

A new website offers plans, advice and a community of container home fans.

I’m Tom Woods.  I run Container Home Plans along with my assistant Claire.  I have a background in construction and studied sustainable development at Yale. Whilst studying, I developed my passion for sustainable buildings and this is what caused me to come across the idea of making homes out of recycled shipping containers. Earlier last year, I was browsing online to try and find more information on how to build shipping container homes and was frustrated because I couldn’t find much information out there. This is how Container Home Plans was born.

So I made the site to act as a central online resource for shipping container homes and to help people who are looking for detailed information on how to build their own. We feature on our site case studies of other people who have built their own container homes and go in detail, outlining the materials they used, the length of time it took them and the cost of the build. We also run a feature called container home of the week, where we show off the very best shipping container homes as inspiration for people! It’s our hope that Container Home Plans will act as a hub for the community of container home enthusiasts so they can share their experiences with other enthusiasts and help each other as they build their own.

We run the site because we believe that using shipping containers can be not only environmentally friendly but it can also be a very affordable option that allows people to make homes they otherwise couldn’t afford to if they used conventional building materials.

I’d be delighted to hear from people, so feel free to send any questions to me at: tom@containerhomeplans.org.

 

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Here’s a tool to help green roofs grow

Posted on February 9, 2015

The following post is by Oregon BEST:

A unique modeling tool developed at Portland State University with support from Oregon BEST is helping local green roof manufacturer Columbia Green Technologies speed adoption of green roofs to meet legislation aimed at reducing combined sewer overflows during heavy rains and thereby grow the Portland based start-up's national market share.

The new tool is the result of a research project funded by Oregon BEST and led by Graig Spolek, a PSU professor and director of the Green Roof Design and Test Lab. Columbia Green uses the tool when working with civil engineers and architects who need accurate, quantitative data about how much stormwater a green roof in a specific geographical location will both retain and detain.

A green roof sits atop the new Apple store in downtown Portland.

"This new tool has been very helpful; it's helped us open doors to some of the best engineering and architecture firms in the country," said Elaine Kearney, Technical Director at Columbia Green. "Being able to generate this kind of data bolsters our reputation as being innovative and technologically very forward looking."

Eric Zickler, an associate principal at Aecom, one of largest engineering firms in the world, said his firm uses many different tools to measure performance of their stormwater management infrastructure designs, but the Columbia Green tool stands out.

"Generally the calculators and modeling modules are generic and do not provide a high level of confidence in predicted performance," Zickler said. "The green roof stormwater management tool developed by Columbia Green is specific to green roofs and developed using both theory and empirical data for multiple geographies across varying storm intensities, making it a valuable resource in building our confidence in the stormwater management benefits of green roofs."

The new tool, which can generate data specific to geographic areas and weather patterns, gives Columbia Green a competitive advantage when the company interacts with potential clients.

"The ability to quantify our performance with this degree of accuracy is unique, so it's a significant advantage for us," said Robin Schneider, marketing director at Columbia Green.

This strategic funding exemplifies how Oregon BEST, a state-funded organization that fosters technology-based economic development, helps clean-technology companies collaborate with universities to advance and commercialize products to grow Oregon's green economy.

"It's been very rewarding to see Columbia Green leverage our investment in research and transform that into expanded distribution and sales opportunities," said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST.

Green roofs and other green infrastructure approaches are gaining visibility at all levels of government, both in the United States and abroad, as officials try to implement policies to address aging public infrastructure.

Two years ago, Vanessa Keitges, CEO of Columbia Green, was selected to sit on the President's Export Council at the White House.

"We greatly appreciate the Oregon BEST support that allowed us to take advantage of the PSU rain lab and develop a tool that's helping us succeed," Keitges said. "Local cooperation between industries and academia is recognized as a model for innovation to solve global problems."

Oregon BEST is a state agency that nurtures clean technology innovation by transforming new ideas, research, and products into green-collar jobs, greater sustainability, and economic prosperity for Oregon.

 

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See the Super Bowl in a whole new light: LED

Posted on January 21, 2015

The following post is by Ephesus Lighting:

It’s not the first time a championship football game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium and the two teams will not be there for the first time. But for the first time ever, the big game will be illuminated by high performance LED stadium lights from Ephesus Lighting,  which provides LED lighting for sports facilities.

Earlier this season, University of Phoenix Stadium became the first NFL venue to light its playing surface with LED lighting. Ephesus reports the lights have been a hit with fans, players, broadcasters and facility operators.

“This year LED sports lighting proved to be ready for primetime as we illuminated more than 1,000 sporting events with our Ephesus LED stadium and arena lights,” said Mike Lorenz, President of Ephesus Lighting. “It’s fitting that the biggest sporting event in the world will be lit by our LED lights, the future of sports lighting.”

City of Glendale

The new LED fixtures at University of Phoenix Stadium slash energy use by 75 percent.

Ephesus fixtures, which are powered by Cree LEDs, provide an increase in illumination compared to the traditional metal halide lights that were previously installed at University of Phoenix Stadium. LED lighting also provides brighter and more uniform light which eliminates shadows on the playing surface, creating a better stage for players and fans, both in the stadium and watching on high-definition television.

The Ephesus installation is well-suited to HDTV broadcasting and feedback from broadcasters this season has been positive. Not only is the light brighter and more uniform across the playing surface, but the new lighting ensures that colors are reproduced more accurately. Since broadcasters do not need to open the camera’s aperture as wide to let in more light, they can present a clearer picture, show greater field depth, zoom in closer and even offer more detailed slow motion replays.

“The capabilities of LED technology have changed the way we view sports lighting,” said Joe Casper, Founder and CTO of Ephesus Lighting. “There is no doubt in our minds that both the fans in the stadium and millions more watching on television will see the game in a whole new light thanks to our ground-breaking system.”

University of Phoenix Stadium installed 312 Ephesus Stadium fixtures to replace the 780 metal halide fixtures. The new system uses just 310,000 watts of energy as compared to the 1.24 million watts needed to power the previous system for a 75% reduction in overall sports lighting energy consumption.

Additionally, LED lights can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch, whereas metal halide fixtures require a 20-minute warm-up period. This on/off feature allows facility operators to create light shows for fan entertainment, and, if a power outage were to cause a blackout, like it did in 2013 at the Superdome, the LED lights can be turned back on immediately with the flick of a switch.

“As the host venue for the 2015 Super Bowl, we are excited about demonstrating the benefits of LED technology to a global audience,” said Peter Sullivan, General Manager and Regional Vice President for Global Spectrum at University of Phoenix Stadium. “The Ephesus Lighting LED solution has improved lighting for the athletes, fans and broadcasters, all while reducing energy consumption and eliminating conventional sports lighting maintenance expense.”

The University of Phoenix Stadium has a retractable roof and field. The multi-purpose facility, which opened on August 1, 2006, previously hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, two BCS National Championship Games (2007 & 2011), the annual Fiesta Bowl, and numerous international soccer matches. The 63,400-seat stadium, which is expandable to seat 72,200 fans, is owned by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) and operated by Global Spectrum.

Since lighting the first sports venue with LED technology in North America in 2012, Ephesus Lighting luminaires have been operational for over 300,000 hours in more than 100 indoor and outdoor sports and entertainment venues across North America.

Ephesus Lighting is a Syracuse, New York-based company that manufactures high-output LED lighting solutions for the industrial and sporting markets.

 

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Lush landscaping without all the water

Posted on January 6, 2015

The following post is by Jasmine McDermott:

Z Living Systems installed a water-saving, living wall crafted of 6,000 individual plants on a new resident activity club in Los Angeles. The building, which implements a number of sustainable features, achieving LEED Platinum, ultimately creates an “oasis in the middle of a city.” The 1,200 sq. ft. living wall, featured both indoors and outdoors, stretches the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool while only requiring less than half the amount of water an individual would use showering in one week.

This living wall in Los Angeles is the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

In response to California’s severe drought, Governor Brown’s office released regulations surrounding water conservation and is encouraging a number of water conservation practices. Z Living Systems incorporates a number of these practices into their living walls creating a sustainable alternative for landscaping.

Z Living Systems' proprietary system takes plants, hardy drought-tolerant native species, which are first transplanted into the company's living wall pots from their original nursery pots, delivers them onsite, and then hangs them onto a prefabricated structure. The system allows for first day, full coverage of vegetation. Following the installation, the company utilizes an irrigation controller that allows the control of irrigation remotely in response to weather conditions. In collaboration with Rios Clementi Hale Studios, there was an effort to blur the lines of indoor and outdoor by continuing the living wall through the exterior and interior of the building.

Firms involved

  • Architect- Rios Clementi Hale Studios
  • Contractor- Fassberg
  • Builder- Brookfield Residential

Water Conservation Practices Utilized by Z Living Systems Living Wall

  • Smart irrigation controller
  • Drip irrigation
  • Drought tolerant or native plants
  • Mulch
  • Watering once a week
  • Preventing runoff

Jasmine McDermott is a co-founder of Z Living Systems, a living-wall provider based in San Luis Obispo, California.

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What’s missing in green buildings? Training

Posted on December 2, 2014

The following post is from Washington State University:

More than one-third of new commercial building space includes energy-saving features, but without training or an operator’s manual many occupants are in the dark about how to use them.

Julia Day recently published a paper in Building and Environment that for the first time shows that occupants who had effective training in using the features of their high-performance buildings were more satisfied with their work environments. Day did the work as a doctoral student at Washington State University; she is now an assistant professor at Kansas State University.

Julia Day

She was a WSU graduate student in interior design when she walked into an office supposedly designed for energy efficiency and noticed that the blinds were all closed and numerous lights were turned on. The building had been designed to use daylighting strategies to save energy from electric lighting.

After inquiring, Day learned that cabinetry and systems furniture throughout the building blocked nearly half of the occupants from access to the blind controls. Only a few determined folks would climb on or under their desks to operate the blinds.

“People couldn’t turn off their lights, and that was the whole point of implementing daylighting in the first place,” she said. “The whole experience started me on my path.”

Working with David Gunderson, professor in the WSU School of Design and Construction, Day looked at more than 50 high-performance buildings across the U.S. She gathered data, including their architectural and engineering plans, and did interviews and surveys of building occupants.

She examined how people were being trained in the buildings and whether their training was effective. Sometimes, she learned, the features were simply mentioned in a meeting or a quick email was sent to everyone, and people did not truly understand how their actions could affect the building’s overall energy use.

freeimages.com

Green-building occupants aren't always taught how to use the building's energy-saving features.

One LEED gold building had lights throughout to indicate the best times of day to open and close windows to take advantage of natural ventilation. A green light indicated it was time to open windows.

“I asked 15 people if they knew what the light meant, and they all thought it was part of the fire alarm system,” she said. “There’s a gap, and people do not really understand these buildings.”

According to CBRE Research, the amount of commercial space that is certified as high-performance in energy efficiency through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star or U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED has grown from 5.6 percent of commercial space in 2005 to 39.3 percent at the end of 2013.

Yet in many cases, the corporate culture of energy use in buildings hasn’t caught up. While at home our mothers nagged us to turn off the lights when we left a room or to shut the door because “you don’t live in a barn,” office culture has often ignored and even discouraged common-sense energy saving.

Day found that making the best use of a highly efficient building means carefully creating a culture focused on conservation. In buildings with an energy-focused culture, workers were engaged, participated and were satisfied with their building environment.

“If they received good training, they were more satisfied and happier with their work environment,” she said.

She is working to develop an energy lab and would like to develop occupant training programs to take advantage of high-performance buildings.

“With stricter energy codes, the expectations are that buildings will be more energy efficient and sustainable,” she said. “But we have to get out of the mindset where we are not actively engaged in our environments. That shift takes a lot of education, and there is a huge gap right now.”

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McKinstry honors its favorite teams

Posted on October 17, 2014
McKinstry, Avista Corp

Front row: Dan Thompson (McKinstry) Back row (left to right): Paul Zasada (McKinstry), Dennis Vermillion (President of Avista Utilities); Scott Morris (CEO & President and Chair of the Board, Avista Corp); Dean Allen (CEO McKinstry), Mireya Fitzloff (McKinstry), Eric Bowles (Avista Head of Facilities) and Rod Staton (Avista Facilities).

McKinstry is honoring its clients for their commitment to sustainability. Each is called a “Champion of Sustainability” and is presented with an award at a Seahawks home game.

The next winner, The Allen Institute for Brain Science, will be honored at the November 2nd Seahawks game against the Raiders. The award goes to Vulcan Real Estate, GLY Construction, Perkins+Will Architects, and Architectural Building Inspection (ABI) Inc. This energy efficient, design-build project has a central plant system that is designed to perform 24% better than the ASHRAE standard.

Recent winners of the prize include Avista Corp. for its corporate headquarters and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for the Thomas Foley U.S. Courthouse.

McKinstry said the five-year remodel of Avista Corp.’s 150,000-square-foot office building will save 1.4 million kilowatt-hours per year, which is enough to power 116 homes, and will save $149,000 every year in energy costs. This LEED Gold Certified project will be completed by the summer of 2015.

The Thomas Foley U.S. Courthouse project dealt with the unique constraints of providing extensive upgrades to an existing building. The upgrades reduced baseline energy consumption by 50 percent, and reduced carbon emissions by 693 tons.

Other 2014 Champions are Vulcan Real Estate, GLY Construction, Clise Properties, Lydig Construction, Seattle University, Gresham-Barlow School District.

One of the largest solar arrays in the state of Washington is included in McKinstry’s many energy conservation initiatives at CenturyLink Field and Event Center.

Here are some other conservation facts about CenturyLink Field:

  • Solar panels spanning the area of two football fields sit atop the roof and generate more than 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, meeting 30% of the facilities energy needs with solar power, an equivalent of powering 95 Seattle area homes for a year.
  • 100% of urinals have been retrofitted with ultra-low-flow water fixtures, saving more than 1.3 million gallons of water every year. That’s enough to turn CenturyLink Field into a giant 3-foot-deep swimming pool.
  • Less water means less energy and lower CO2 emissions – the equivalent of planting 278 football fields worth of trees.
  • Through the use of 614 recycle and compost bins located throughout, 94% of waste generated at CenturyLink Field and Event Center is diverted from landfills.

 

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Housing Summit 2014: how to get more housing on less land

Posted on October 1, 2014

The following post is by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties:

Housing affordability and the impact of the Puget Sound region’s dwindling supply of buildable land was the focus of the recent Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties' (MBA) 2014 Housing Summit in Bellevue.

“Accommodating Housing Needs with Less Land” included presentations by top national and regional housing experts and a panel discussion with state legislators and homebuilders.

Are we running out of room to build new houses here?

“There is an explicit link between the availability of buildable lands and housing affordability,” said MBA Executive Director Shannon Affholter. “The Summit served as a starting point in a frank discussion about what’s working, and what’s not, in meeting the Growth Management Act housing targets and the region’s growing needs.”

A presentation by Todd Britsch, regional director for Metrostudy Inc., a leading provider of research and analysis to the housing industry, underscored the immediate challenge to the buildable land supply: based on projected population growth, King County has 3.87 years of supply remaining of assumed total inventory, and only 3.29 years of supply in Snohomish County.

“We’re seeing lot prices absolutely skyrocket, and the numbers are staggering. It’s a long-term issue and we have to address it sooner rather than later,” he said. “And if we don’t, the Puget Sound region is going to become the next San Francisco Bay Area, where only the ‘elite of the elite’ can afford to own a home.”

Nancy Bainbridge Rogers, land use attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann, noted that GMA-mandated Buildable Lands Reports generated periodically by counties don’t provide a full and accurate picture of future trends.

“The reports compare housing targets to the actual growth. The reports must determine whether sufficient land exists to accommodate population projections.  Unfortunately, the reports are not required to include a feasibility component or an assessment of affordability.”

A lively panel discussion focusing on legislative solutions included Senator Joe Fain (R) 47th District, from Auburn; Senator Marko Liias (D) 21st District, from Mukilteo; Representative Jay Rodne (R), 5th District, from Snoqualmie; and Representative Larry Springer (D), 45th District, from Kirkland. Other participants included homebuilders Mark Kaushagen of the Pulte Group and Lynn Eshleman from Pacific Ridge Homes.

Individual panel members cited specific action items that could advance the goals of housing availability and affordability, including:

  • couple housing demand with affordability in future planning
  • passage of a transportation package and infrastructure financing bill
  • comprehensive review of the Urban Growth Boundary and its possible expansion
  • require cities in King and Snohomish counties to do a planned action on remaining undeveloped lands to assess infill housing opportunities
  • eliminate redundancies in the review and permitting process, and establish a meaningful time limit in which permits can be outstanding.

 

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How are millennials changing cities?

Posted on September 10, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Want to know more about the way millennials are changing Metro Vancouver — and other cities around the world, like Seattle?

You can catch a free public talk on the topic next week in Vancouver or watch a live webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 16, starting at 7 p.m.

The speaker is Dr. Markus Moos, assistant professor of planning at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He will share insights into millennials focusing on their values; housing and commuting decisions; and transportation preferences — especially what this means for employers, developers, planners and other residents.

The talk is presented by TransLink and Simon Fraser University’s City Program.

Fewer millennials hold drivers’ licenses or own a vehicle.

iStock photo

If you want to attend the event it will be in SFU Harbour Center at 515 W. Hastings St. Registration to attend is required.

Millennials are the folks who started to reach early adulthood around 2000 and they outnumber even the Baby Boomers. A press release from Simon Fraser University says there are roughly nine million millennials in Canada and more than 500,000 in Metro Vancouver. They think, communicate, travel and work differently from their parents and grandparents.

SFU offers some stats about millennials:

• More than 25 percent of Metro Vancouver’s population are millennials.

• The percentage of young adults living in neighborhoods near transit is two to three times the Metro Vancouver average.

• Living close to downtown is important to millennials in cities across North America — in Vancouver, proximity to transit matters more than to downtown alone.

• Fewer and fewer millennials hold drivers’ licenses or own a vehicle, with a more than 10 percent decrease among 25–to-29-year-olds and five percent among 30-to-34-year-olds from 2004 to 2013. Young adults in 2011 used transit 11 percent more than their counterparts in 1999.

SFU says Markus Moos is a planner and assistant professor who does research on the changing economy and social structure of cities. He has examined the factors shaping Canada’s housing markets; the changing characteristics of suburbs; and the implications of change on affordability, sustainability and equity.

He lived in Vancouver from 2006 to 2010 and completed his PhD at the University of British Columbia.

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The contractor’s role in LEED can make a big difference

Posted on August 28, 2014

The following post is by James Jenkins:

There’s been a lot of controversy over the expense and effectiveness of LEED certification. The controversy is affecting the perception of LEED, driving governments to remove laws requiring certification for publicly funded projects and pushing organizations that used to pursue Gold at a minimum to pursue Silver as a maximum. It’s a disturbing trend that is ill-informed.

SMR Architects rendering courtesy of PHG

Using a different solar thermal system saved money that was spent on upgrades for the Williams Apartments. The Plymouth Housing project opened in 2013 and is certified LEED platinum.

Many projects achieve LEED certification without any impact to their construction budget. Of course there are registration and certification fees that cannot be avoided but those costs are generally inconsequential. The costs to achieve LEED that do get noticed are the ones that change the design. Often times the contractor is not expected to change the outcome of LEED certification as many of the decisions and features were included during design. However, the contractor can contribute significantly by taking an active and educated role in the LEED process.

Design Document are not Absolute: Work with and educate your entire team and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

On a project we recently completed for Celgene we were able to achieve 30% Recycled Content, well beyond the initial 10% that was indicated on the LEED Scorecard. By identifying all scopes of work that could contribute Recycled Content and working directly with our subcontractors to help them understand what we were looking for and the documentation we needed to support it we were able to substantially increase the recycled content and contribute an additional 2 points to the project. Collaboration and education were key to accomplishing this.

Know the Intent of a LEED Credit and Get Creative: Many LEED Credits are achieved using one of few technologies or methodologies but sometimes simple, creative solutions can be used with little added cost.

At Northeastern University’s Seattle Campus we initially dismissed achieving LEED CI EA Credit 1 for HVAC Zoning because two private offices shared a single VAV box and the cost was determined to be prohibitive to add an additional one. The fact that we were so close to meeting the criteria kept nagging at the team. One day someone asked why we couldn’t control a damper using the occupancy sensors already installed for the lighting. It turns out that we could! While, not a typical way to achieve the credit the USGBC agreed that this simplified occupied/unoccupied status of providing ventilation to the space sufficiently met the zoning criteria.

Understand the Goals, Build it Effectively: If you understand the end goal, not the specific technology, you can find better solutions at a lower cost without affecting the project.

Plymouth Housing’s LEED Platinum Williams Apartments included a solar thermal system in the design. Initially, the project assumed that evacuated tube collectors would be used on the project, indeed the attractiveness of this newer technology and the capacity to produce higher temperature water appears to be the best option.  However, looking at total cost combined with efficiency led us to a different conclusion. In our research, on a flat roof where the angle we could set the collectors was infinite the efficiency of the two systems were nearly identical and the costs roughly the same for the same heating capacity. However, the evacuated tube collectors needed twice the roof area, twice the racking, more connection points in the roof and longer piping. The flat plate collectors were the lowest first and life-cycle cost. The savings between these two systems allowed us to include upgrades elsewhere that further enhanced the sustainability of the project.

As you can see, these examples did not involve spending large amounts of money but raised the certification level for each project. There are more than enough examples of LEED by addition and these are the projects that give opponents of LEED something to argue. These projects prove that LEED can be a tool of inspiration, when used as such pushes everyone on a team to do more with the same, or less, resources.

James Jenkins is the in-house Sustainability Manager and Net Zero Specialist for BNBuilders in Seattle. James has completed dozens of LEED projects and three Living Building Challenges.

 

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Do rain gardens work at industrial sites?

Posted on July 29, 2014

The following post is by the Washington Environmental Council:

Rand Lymangrover thought he had tried everything. His company, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), was failing to meet benchmarks for their general stormwater permit for the runoff from their Port of Tacoma facility. The main problems were zinc and copper: two metals in abundant supply at an industrial terminal with lots of galvanized fencing and heavy vehicle traffic.

Before the rain gardens were installed.

After failing to get below benchmarks by cleaning up and installing stormwater vault filters, Lymangrover turned to rain gardens. If it worked, he reasoned, the company would save money: at $24,000, it would cost about 10 percent of a more traditional, industrial-scale filtering system.

The contractor was David Hymel with Rain Dog Designs. The rain gardens were installed with the help of Stewardship Partners, which is working with Washington StateUniversity to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Puget Sound region.

Three years later, the rain gardens are working perfectly and are a regularly visited by other industrial businesses, city council members and many others.

After the rain gardens were installed.

“In addition to getting us below the benchmark, the rain gardens have really improved how things look down here and show that this green infrastructure feature works at an industrial level,” Lymangrover said. “You can always find a place to do a rain garden.”

During heavy rainfall, the TOTE rain gardens can handle over 160 gallons of runoff per minute.

Lymangrover invites other industrial businesses that are looking for solutions to their stormwater issues to consider a rain garden – and visit the ones at TOTE. His ultimate goal: to eliminate all stormwater runoff from the terminal.

Washington Environmental Council is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to protect, restore and sustain Washington’s environment.

 

 

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