Domed, desert eco-dwellings are built of organic papier-mch

July 15, 2020 by  
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Illinois-based design studio i/thee has teamed up with Los Angeles firm Roundhouse to create Agg Hab — short for Aggregate Habitat — an experimental eco-dwelling built from papier-mâché. The project, which the designers say is possibly the world’s largest self-supporting papier-mâché structure, functions as a prototype for a semi-subterranean house integrated into the desert of Clarendon, Texas. Made with nearly 200 liters of glue and 270 pounds of paper, Agg Hab measures over 20 feet in length and 8 feet wide and stands at a height of 4.5 feet. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Agg-Hab-I-thee-3-889×593.jpg" alt="irregular paper domes in the desert" class="wp-image-2274847" Developed as part of an exercise to push the possibilities of construction with as few resources as possible, Agg Hab follows a simple design and construction process that began with the excavation of two “mirrored convexo-concave” holes, each 4.5 feet deep. The designers then cast each hole with multiple layers of organic papier-mâché mixture — comprising recycled paper and non-toxic glue — to create dome-shaped shells spanning over 20 feet in length. The 4-millimeter-thick shells were flipped over and set atop the holes to create the roof of the semi-subterranean dwelling.  Related: Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Agg-Hab-I-thee-6-889×667.jpg" alt="rammed-earth and paper dome interior with large opening" class="wp-image-2274850" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Agg-Hab-I-thee-8-889×666.jpg" alt="round skylight bringing light into a paper dome home" class="wp-image-2274852" “Together, the holes, matched with their respective shells, create a semi-subterranean house in which the negative and positive expressions of a series of excavated forms take on a reciprocal relationship to create multiple habitable spaces,” the designers explained. “The result of this process is a formal and phenomenal experience derived from the earth itself. There are no perfect lines or manufactured shapes or colors in the design. Instead, the formal language of the habitat follows cues from those found in nature: the contours of the domes perfectly matching those of the excavated dirt; the surface of the paper stained with a plethora of natural, earthen tones.” <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Agg-Hab-I-thee-9-889×667.jpg" alt="people resting against earth and paper walls of a dome home" class="wp-image-2274853" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Agg-Hab-I-thee-10-889×667.jpg" alt="people looking into skylight of a dome home" class="wp-image-2274854" Large circular openings have been cut into parts of the papier-mâché shells to let in light and views of the desert. The Agg Hab eco-dwelling serves as a prototype for a larger project the designers are working on.  + i/thee Photography by Neal Lucas Hitch via i/thee <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Agg-Hab-I-thee-4-889×592.jpg" alt="aerial view of two elongated, irregular paper domes in the desert" class="wp-image-2274848"

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Domed, desert eco-dwellings are built of organic papier-mch

New solar farm in Indiana boosts local pollinators

July 15, 2020 by  
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Goodbye, dirty old coal-fired power plant. Hello, sunshine,  bees  and butterflies. That’s what the folks of Logansport, Indiana are saying as they trade their last coal power plant for a new 80-acre, 16-megawatt solar farm complete with a pollinator habitat. Inovateus Solar, headquartered in South Bend, is developing the solar installation for Logansport Municipal Utility (LMU). The project will take place on former  farmland  near the city’s light industrial area. LMU aims to reduce its carbon emissions and help stabilize customer costs. The solar farm will generate enough power for about 3,700 homes. Related: Celebrate National Pollinator Week from June 22-28 Power purchase agreement The old  coal -fired power plant toiled for over 120 years before recently shutting down. In its wake, Alchemy Renewable Energy financed a 30-year power purchase agreement with LMU. Alchemy is a portfolio company of Monarch Private Capital. Founded in 2016, Alchemy’s projects include building solar installations in North Carolina, Florida and Texas. A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial arrangement where the developer is responsible for designing, permitting, financing and installing a solar energy system on a customer’s property. The customer pays little or nothing for the setup but agrees to pay a fixed rate to the developer for the power generated. The developer gets the income from  electricity  sales as well as tax credits and incentives earned by the renewable energy system. After the term of the agreement — typically 10 to 25 years — the customer can buy the solar installation, extend the PPA or get the developer to remove the system. The contract between LMU and Alchemy Renewable Energy allows LMU to purchase the  solar  power at a fixed kilowatt-hour rate with no upfront capital costs. LMU has the option to eventually buy the solar energy system. “Inovateus is excited to be working with Alchemy to develop LMU’s first solar energy installation for the citizens and businesses of Logansport,” Jordan Richardson, Inovateus Solar’s business development manager, said in a press release. “We want to thank the City of Logansport, LMU, the Logansport Utility Service Board, Alchemy, Cass County, and all the residents who helped us to design a solar system that will create local  jobs  and enhance the city’s natural habitats.” Bees and butterflies The plan is to complete the solar installation construction in early 2021, then plant a  pollinator  seed mix underneath the solar panels. This mix will attract bees and butterflies more than traditional groundcover, which will be beneficial for these species and local farmers. Inovateus will partner with Fresh Energy and the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund for this phase of the project. Combining beneficial insects and solar is part of a growing trend. “Pollinator-friendly solar is rapidly emerging as a best practice for all solar farms build on arable soils or prime farmland,” Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy, told Inhabitat. “Within the last year, Clif Bar, Aveda, Dr. Bronners, Organic Valley, Perdue Farms, Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Denison University, University of Dayton, and many more have announced or build and  seeded  pollinator-friendly solar project.” According to Davis, the 80-acre project site will plant more than 40 species of pollinator-friendly plants, including sky blue aster, purple coneflower, crimson clover, goldenrod and lemon bee balm. The project will benefit local  butterflies , bees and farmers, too. “We have about 430 species of bees, 140 species of butterflies, thousands of moth species…and many species of flower-visiting flies, wasps, ants, and beetles,” said Dr. Brock Harpur, an entomologist at Purdue University. “These new landscapes can provide nesting sites and food sources for pollinators that need it most.” Attracting more pollinators will also benefit certain  crops , Davis said. “Having a diverse assemblage of pollinators (not just one or a few species) can dramatically improve crop yield. By providing food and habitat for pollinators, we can, potentially, boost the number of pollinators in an area and help surrounding farms be pollinated more efficiently.”  Plants  will also benefit the solar panels by creating a cooler micro-climate. Deep-rooted plants can boost resilience to both drought and heavy rains. Celebrating solar After continuously operating coal-fired smokestack power plants for 122 years, Logansport closed its last one in 2016. The  city  looks forward to a solar future. In fact, people are so excited about it that Mayor Chris Martin signed an official proclamation naming June 26 as Bird & Pollinator-Friendly Solar Day. Fittingly, this date falls within National Pollinator Week. “We are proud to work with Inovateus Solar to bring the first ever solar energy project to Logansport,” said Martin. “How exciting to be a part of pioneering this clean, alternative energy source right here in our community that will help curb LMU energy costs for our consumers. The creation of a bee and butterfly  habitat  will also be a great environmentally friendly addition to the city’s west side!” + Rob Davis and Dr. Brock Harpur Images via Schuler Publicity

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New solar farm in Indiana boosts local pollinators

A crimson red home is tucked into a dark green forest in Portugal

October 22, 2018 by  
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Lisbon-based architect Luis Rebelo de Andrade is world renowned for his Tree Snake Houses in Portugal’s Pedras Salgadas Park, but now the prolific architect has unveiled another eye-catching design. Located in an expansive green forest in Portugal, House 3000 is gable-roofed family home clad in a bright crimson red that can be seen for miles. According to the architect, his vision for the home was inspired by the building site itself, a heavily wooded area in Herdade da Considerad. Thousands of cork oaks and umbrella pines form an expansive, maze-like landscape. To create harmony with this pristine environment, de Andrade went with pure, unbridled contrast with a bold landmark among the greenery. Related: Charming Tree Snake Houses stand on stilts at Portugal’s Pedras Salgadas eco-resort The architect explained, “In the absence of geodesic markers — which nature did not offer Herdade da Considerada — it is architecture that takes the place of the reference points that from time immemorial has guided man, complementing the landscape with a building that is overwhelmingly visible.” The volume of the home is a simple design with an elongated form following the gabled roof’s direction. Sharp lines and simple doors and windows make the home reminiscent of a child’s drawing. Behind the striking design, there are quite a few sustainable features, such as the solar array just steps away from the home. Solar power , along with a thermal sensing system, allow the home to produce more energy than it uses. The home’s bright tone changes quite dramatically on the interior. The living space is clad in light panels of warm wood with muted highlights. Decorated with minimal furnishings throughout the living area and bedrooms, the interior is light and airy. Earthy, woven textiles give off hints of color, but the overall interior design aesthetic is soothing in its simplicity. + Luis Rebelo de Andrade Via Dwell Photography by Carlos Cezanne via Luis Rebelo de Andrade

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A crimson red home is tucked into a dark green forest in Portugal

Japanese cherry blossoms spring into unusual fall blooms

October 22, 2018 by  
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The springtime cherry blossom festival in Japan is an annual celebration that draws in spectators from all around the world. For the Japanese, the ‘hanami,’ or flower viewing, is a moment shared among family and friends who gather to celebrate nature’s beautiful and awe-inspiring rebirth. This week, however, cherry blossoms have been blooming two seasons ahead of schedule following two recent typhoons in the area. The premature fall blooms are extremely uncharacteristic of the sakura trees, which seemed to have been tricked by the extreme weather events to spring before … well, spring. “I have never seen anything like this,” tree surgeon Hiroyuki Wada said to local broadcasters. “This year’s storms affected wide regions, and the strong winds may have caused the blooming.” The strength of the September and October typhoons stripped many cherry blossom trees of their leaves, which experts are saying caused early indications for the trees to bloom. Furthermore, warm temperatures following the typhoons misled the trees by inviting the early flowering. Related: Climate change is causing spring to come earlier in national parks Normally, the earliest blooms are witnessed in the northern parts of Japan , where cherry blossom festivals begin as early as February in Naha. For the rest of the nation, the viewing season is concentrated around the first week in April, and the latest viewings in Hakodate and Sapporo occur in early May. While the current blooms are not expected to affect this year’s spring hanami, the unusual events are drawing attention to the issue of earlier bloom patterns. Last year, a report in The Washington Post shed light on the work of Yasuyuki Aono, an environmental sciences professor at Osaka Prefecture University, who assembled a data set of Kyoto’s blossom-flowering dates . The research chronicles blooms as far back as A.D. 850 and, when graphed, shows an undeniable and worrisome change in bloom periods over the past 200 years. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann said, “Kyoto is just one location on the planet. But the large-scale warming of the past century is so distinct and widespread that it is increasingly evident from diverse records all around the globe.” Mann isn’t wrong. In 1912, Japan gifted Washington D.C. 3,000 sakura trees as a sign of friendship between the two nations. The National Park Service’s records, dating back to 1921, show a similar pattern of earlier and earlier blooming each year. Meteorologist Jason Samenow explained, “In both Kyoto and Washington, the warming trends and earlier blooms are most likely due to a growing urban heat island effect and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Beautiful though they may be, the second blooming of the cherry blossom trees are not a welcome sight for the Japanese nor for scientists. While there is hope that this is a once in lifetime event, there is still much work to be done in ensuring this anomaly doesn’t become commonplace. Via NPR , The Washington Post  and Japan Specialist Image via Don Kawahigashi

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Japanese cherry blossoms spring into unusual fall blooms

How to throw a fun, zero waste Halloween party

October 22, 2018 by  
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October is flying by, and Halloween will be here before you know it. To celebrate the holiday, many of us like to throw a party at home, work or school full of pumpkins, candy, costumes, food and decorations. Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween every year, and many of the things that we buy (plus the packaging) end up in the trash on November 1. But if you love celebrating Halloween with a fun party, it doesn’t mean you have to generate piles of garbage. There are plenty of ways to have a festive holiday without leaving behind a trail of trash. While you put together ideas for your ghoulish celebration, keep the environment in mind — throw an eco-friendly party with zero waste. Invite your guests to bring food and containers Instead of purchasing dozens of baked goods and treats from the store, ask each of your guests to bring a home-baked item like cookies, cupcakes, pies or brownies. They can bring them in containers that can easily be washed instead of thrown away, and this will keep the trash at your party to a minimum while also saving you money. Another bonus of guests bringing baked goods is that it reduces the number of leftovers you will have at your house, since everyone will take home the dish they brought. Speaking of leftovers… also ask guests to bring their own containers if they’d like to take home any food that is left at the end of the night. This way, everyone can enjoy the party even after it ends, and you can keep food waste to a minimum! Use natural decorations Decorating for Halloween is one of the most fun parts of the holiday, but you don’t need to head to your local Halloween mega-store to buy a bunch of plastic decorations that you might never use again. This can get expensive, and the waste from the packaging and the poorly made plastic products with toxic paints and chemicals just aren’t good for the environment. Related: 10 sustainable Halloween decorations for your green home Instead, use pumpkins and other gourds to decorate. You can keep them plain, paint them or decorate them with ribbons and bows. Also, get creative with fall outdoor items like pine cones, branches and leaves. Going natural with your decor and centerpieces keeps with the spirit of the fall season without requiring a ton of money or leaving behind waste. Make recycling bins easily accessible For items at the party that can be recycled, place recycling bins in the room and near the front door, so that people will remember to use them before they leave. Adding recycling bins to the party instead of using just trash cans will help minimize your party waste. This is especially important if you choose to use disposable, recyclable items. If you want to skip doing a lot of dishes and decide to use paper plates or recyclable plastic cups and utensils, having recycling bins in a convenient spot will prevent them from going into the garbage and reduce your carbon footprint . Provide finger foods Try serving finger foods so you don’t need as many plates and utensils, if you need them at all. Deviled eggs, chicken (or soy ‘chicken’) wings, chips with dip, bread, cupcakes, brownies and sandwiches are all great party foods that you can easily eat with your hands. Light your space with natural candles Lighting for an indoor Halloween party can be far from environmentally friendly. Instead of using a ton of electricity, try creating some ambiance with natural candles. Not only do candles nicely illuminate any space, but they can also create a spooky, mysterious vibe. If you want to get really creative, use  pumpkins as candle holders . Compost perishables Instead of throwing away food and perishables, compost them! You can even compost your pumpkin decorations. You don’t want to throw them out and take up all of that space in the garbage (and later, a landfill). Instead, compost everything you can to help next year’s garden. Related: Composting for beginners Offer eco-friendly party favors If you enjoy giving out goody bags to your guests, think about what you are putting inside as well as the type of bag you are using. Instead of buying items at the store, you can make things like cupcakes or cookies that your guests can take home. Use small, reusable gift bags or paper bags that can be recycled. Even tiny glass jars filled with candy make a cute, zero waste gift that doesn’t cost a fortune. It’s never too late to make your Halloween party a big green bash. These simple tips will help you reduce your carbon footprint, and some items could initiate good, thought-provoking conversation topics during your zero waste celebration. Via Recycle Nation and Joy of Zero Waste Images via  Raw Pixel , Helena Yankovska , Imordaf , Damien Creatz ,  Element5 Digital ,  Ben Kerck , Clem Onojeghuo and Shutterstock

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How to throw a fun, zero waste Halloween party

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