These modular plywood sanctuaries are completely customizable

June 16, 2020 by  
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As more and more people around the world adjust to remote employment and socially distanced hobbies, Equals Architecture is offering a way to add sustainability to a customizable personal space suitable for work or play. Enter the Equals Sanctuary, a modular, prefabricated space that customers can tailor to their exact work or life requirements. Multifunctional and installed onsite, each Equals Sanctuary is made-to-order. The design calls for multiple core elements called “loops,” each fabricated using five sheets of plywood via a machine that leaves only about 2% waste. The loops can then be fitted into eight different options. To add another element of customization, the sanctuaries can be left without insulation, or insulation can be added between the plywood ribs using sustainable materials such as expanded cork, hemp batts or recycled denim. The exterior finishes are made of rubber, reused waterproof canvas and corrugated steel. Customers can choose between a number of face options as well, depending on the use, site and function. Window options range from standard size to full-height. Related: Prefab eco-pods offer luxury lodging in any environment No matter the type of layout, Equals Architecture will only use FSC-certified, sustainable and recycled materials . Necessary structural plates and ground anchors are used in place of invasive concrete foundations whenever possible. According to the architects, the main goal is to make each structure entirely reconstructable to maintain longevity. Each sanctuary will be easy to move, adapt and reconfigure throughout its lifespan. Equals Sanctuaries can be viewed, customized and purchased on the architects’ website in the form of flat-pack DIY kits delivered straight to the chosen site. If customers don’t want to build it themselves, they can opt for an onsite team to build it for them. There are four presets to start with — Vitae, Officium, Studio and Tabernam — each designed to appeal to a distinct target audience. + Equals Architecture Images via Equals Architecture

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These modular plywood sanctuaries are completely customizable

Mountain Refuge is a modular tiny home made from plywood

June 10, 2020 by  
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Inspired by the human need to connect with nature, history and origin, the Mountain Refuge in Milan, Italy is a dramatic tiny home made from customizable wood modules. At just 258 square feet of interior space, the prefab wooden structure allows for multiple construction possibilities with optional add-ons and different floor plans. This cozy dwelling, created by Gnocchi+Danesi Architects, is perfectly designed to reside near snow-capped mountains, or really in any location that would suit such a quiet, minimalist sanctuary. The design merges traditional and contemporary with a rustic wooden interior, natural log furniture and striking black pine tar-finished roof pitches. Each plywood module works as its own independent structure, giving owners the freedom to reconfigure or expand depending on their tastes and needs. Different interior layouts grant the creativity to personalize the space even more based on preference. Related: The FLEXSE tiny house module is built from 100% recyclable materials The cabin itself consists of two separate prefab modules made out of plywood for a total of just over 258 square feet. An additional 129-square-foot module can be added at the owner’s discretion to expand the interior to 387 square feet. A helicopter delivery system opens up multiple possibilities for remote locations that might not otherwise be accessible for a tiny home. The modules have no need for foundation work or poured concrete, although the designers may recommend a thin concrete slab depending on the location. All finishes are made with plywood , with the exterior coated in black pine tar for waterproofing and a classic aesthetic. The front glazing, recommended as a single glass panel, is large enough to bring in plenty of natural light and gorgeous views. Additional equipment such as heating, water and electricity can also be added. According to the architects, construction price for a furnished and mounted Mountain Refuge cabin will vary from $40,000 to $50,000, depending on the specific plan and the location. + Mountain Refuge Images via The Mountain Refuge

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Scientists discover "pristine" fresh air in a unique location

June 10, 2020 by  
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It is difficult to think of a place on Earth where the air has yet to be contaminated by human activity. From metropolises like New York and large cities like Mumbai to even small villages, human activity has affected the natural air we breathe. However, a recent publication from  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  shows that there is still one place on Earth with “pristine” air. The Southern Ocean , an area south of 40 degrees latitude, has been identified as one place on Earth where the air has not been contaminated. According to the publication, scientists have established that the air in this region is dominated by bacteria emitted in sea spray. Researchers used this bacteria as a “diagnostic tool” in the study. Essentially, findings from this study show that the air of the Southern Ocean is free of aerosols resulting from human activities. This makes the Southern Ocean one of the rare places where you can breathe pristine air. The study leading to this discovery was conducted by Colorado State University and used data collected by R/V Investigator, an Australian research ship. The R/V Investigator is operated by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. In sampling the air, the R/V team collected samples from the marine boundary, which is in direct contact with the ocean water. The exercise mainly included collecting airborne microbes and analyzing them with source tracking, DNA sequencing and wind back trajectories to establish their marine origins. According to Colorado State University Scientists, the results of the samples from the Southern Ocean were very different from those in subtropical and Northern Hemisphere oceans. In those waters , the air quality is largely influenced by anthropogenic aerosols from the Northern Hemisphere. As the R/V team found, the process of sampling the air over the Southern Ocean can be difficult. The air was so clear that the team had little DNA to work with. Given that the sampling process included DNA tracking, the team struggled to collect the data needed to conclude the study. The news of fresh air existing on a planet dominated by human activity is good news for all humanity. It shows us that there is hope in our conservation efforts. Even though human activities are causing harm to the environment, some gains can be attained if we keep pushing for a better environment. + Cosmos Images via Pexels

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Scientists discover "pristine" fresh air in a unique location

Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

June 10, 2020 by  
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In May, the French nonprofit Opération Mer Propre reported collecting several used face masks within waves of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organization’s report, there has been a surge in “COVID waste”, including masks, latex gloves and plastic hand sanitizer bottles, in the past 3 months. Unfortunately, this only compounds a waste problem that has been around for many years. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 13 million metric tons of plastic waste go into the oceans each year. UNEP predicts that the amount of waste dumped in the oceans will increase up to 10 times the current amount in the next 15 years. However, the UN report did not anticipate a situation where people around the world had to use face masks on a daily basis. The pandemic now complicates all efforts geared toward a safer and more sustainable environment. Related: How to safely dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more According to Joffrey Peltier of Opération Mer Propre, dozens of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer bottles were found at the bottom of the sea among other plastic waste. Opération Mer Propre is one of many organizations concerned about the fate of the environment after the coronavirus pandemic . “Soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. Now, Opération Mer Propre and other organizations are calling for a more cautious approach to the use of face masks and other medical tools. Environmental activists are championing the use of reusable face masks and more washing of hands instead of wearing latex gloves. The oceans are already overwhelmed with plastic waste from our normal lifestyles. If we keep on pumping medical waste into the environment, we risk pushing thousands of ocean species to extinction. In the words of Peltier, “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from COVID.” Via The Guardian Image via Noah

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

Solar-powered Lowell Justice Center will be Massachusetts first LEED Platinum courthouse

June 4, 2020 by  
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Half-an-hour north of Boston, the Massachusetts city of Lowell has recently welcomed the new Lowell Justice Center, a modern facility on track to become the state’s first LEED Platinum-certified courthouse. Designed by Boston-based Finegold Alexander Architects , the $146 million courthouse has consolidated a series of courts and service offices that had formerly been located in outdated and dysfunctional buildings across Lowell and Cambridge. The Lowell Justice Center also serves as a new and welcoming civic landmark that emphasizes transparency, local history and community. Located on a 3.2-acre site within Lowell National Historic Park, The Lowell Justice Center serves as the cornerstone of the city’s Hamilton Canal District development masterplan. The 265,000-square-foot modern building comprises 17 courtrooms , a variety of office spaces and a two-story entrance lobby that can accommodate waiting lines of over 100 people at any time. Related: Renzo Piano reveals designs for Toronto courthouse targeting LEED Silver “The justice center is designed to create a welcoming and calming environment, featuring generous natural daylight, warm finishes and public art that reflects the diverse history and culture of Lowell,” said Moe Finegold FAIA, principal in charge for Finegold Alexander Architects, in reference to the quadrilingual quotations and words about justice that decorate the building as well as the natural material palette and artwork that pay homage to Lowell’s textile history. The courthouse is also universally accessible with sloped walkways and offers easy access via public transportation, car or bicycle. Ample glazing reflects the courthouse’s values of transparency while letting abundant natural light into the building to minimize reliance on artificial lighting. The center has also been designed in response to its site and to follow passive solar principles to meet high standards of energy efficiency. In addition to highly insulated walls and high-performance mechanical and lighting systems, the courthouse also contains a chilled beam HVAC system and photovoltaic panels to help achieve performance targets 40% better than code. + Finegold Alexander Architects Photography by Anton Grassl Photography via Finegold Alexander Architects

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Solar-powered Lowell Justice Center will be Massachusetts first LEED Platinum courthouse

Climate change, deforestation lead to younger, shorter trees

June 4, 2020 by  
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Recently published research in  Science  magazine warns that older, taller  trees  are quickly becoming a thing of the past, consequently leaving forests in disarray. Forest dynamics being disrupted like this spells trouble for ecosystem equilibrium and  biodiversity .  While natural disturbances —  flooding , landslides, insect infestations, fungi, vine overgrowth, disease, wildfire and even wind damage — negatively impact  forests , they do not compare with the magnitude of harm humans have precipitated. Consider how over-harvesting trees for more land use has altered forest landscapes. The felling of numerous tree stands has severely dwindled the carbon sinks required to fix excess atmospheric carbon resultant from human-induced  greenhouse gas emissions .  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? Without the necessary  carbon  storage from forest trees, global temperatures will continue to rise and intensify consequent climate change damage.  Climate change  exacerbates conditions through insect and pathogen outbreaks that further compromise tree health and development. In fact,  research  has shown that annual “carbon storage lost to insects” equals “the amount of carbon emitted by 5 million vehicles.” This illustrates how substantial tree decline due to insects can be.  Why are biologists worried about the adversely shifting forest dynamics? As the  U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)  explained, “Wood harvests alone have had a huge impact on the shift of global forests towards younger ages or towards non-forest land, reducing the amount of forests, and old-growth forests, globally. Where forests are re-established on harvested land, the trees are smaller and  biomass  is reduced.”  Conservationists  subsequently admonish that continuing with business as usual will only worsen the conditions that increase tree mortality rates and the accompanying biodiversity crisis. As  NPR  reported, “Researchers found that the world lost roughly one-third of its old growth forest between 1900 and 2015. In North America and Europe , where more data was available, they found that tree mortality has doubled in the past 40 years.” It is believed these worrying trends will persist unless changes are made and new protection policies enacted.  Research team lead, Nate McDowell of PNNL, realized there was a major problem as he studied how global temperature rise affected tree growth and the changes occurring within a forest. Satellite imagery and modeling data unveiled a comprehensive view of the state of global forests and their shifts from older, taller trees to younger, shorter ones. The overall picture is of extensive loss. “I would recommend that people try to visit places with big trees now, while they can, with their kids,” McDowell advised. “Because there’s some significant threat, that might not be possible sometime in the future.” McDowell’s research ties in closely with last summer’s study from  National Science Review , which showcased how exposure to both rising temperatures and extreme temperature ranges have decreased  vegetation  growth throughout the northern hemisphere. The finding upended previous beliefs that  global warming  would increase vegetation photosynthesis and extend the photosynthetic growing season. Instead, global warming was seen to increase the chances of  drought  and wildfire, which reduced water availability and therefore distressed forest vegetation. + Science Via NPR and PNNL

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This colorful prefab school was created in only 13 months

May 13, 2020 by  
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When  Crossboundaries  was tapped to design the Jinlong School, an educational campus with classrooms and dorms in Shenzhen’s newly established Pingshan district, the Beijing-based architecture firm was challenged by a limited budget and a scheduled opening date in only 13 months. To adhere to the tight deadline, the architects enlisted a local Shenzhen-based factory to prefabricate the majority of the school’s construction. Prefabrication not only allowed the architects to meet the brief’s budget and timeline, but also kept on-site construction waste to a minimum as well.  Completed in January 2020, the Jinlong School comprises 36 classrooms, dormitories, sports facilities, a canteen, office space, a theater, a library and other amenities on a compact 16,000-square-meter site. Following a five-month design period, construction took place from November 2018 to August 2010; approximately 75% of the project used prefabricated components. Created to help ease  Shenzhen’s  public school shortage, the campus is expected to enroll 1,620 students by 2025.  To show that prefab architecture doesn’t have to be boring, the architects created a dynamic facade punctuated with different colors and windows of varying sizes with protruding metal frames. Yellow accent colors were used to define areas of socialization, such as common areas in the dorms, while the color blue indicates circulation spaces such as hallways and stairwells. The dormitories and classrooms were primarily built from prefabricated components and the public spaces, such as the running track at the heart of the campus, were mainly constructed with conventional techniques. Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen The campus design also responds to Shenzhen’s subtropical climate with the public areas mostly open to the outdoors to promote access to natural ventilation and daylight. “We were extremely intrigued to take on this project, to create a human, people-oriented school within all those limitations, and at the same time to still be as creative as possible, in designing a space that provides a solution for a realistic problem that we all have to face in quickly expanding cities in the future,” Hao Dong, Founding Partner of Crossboundaries, said. + Crossboundaries Images by Yang Chaoying

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This colorful prefab school was created in only 13 months

Elevated, green-roofed cabin minimizes impact on mountain in Norway

May 7, 2020 by  
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Designed by San Francisco- and Oslo-based firm Mork-Ulnes Architects , the Skigard Hytte Cabin in Norway features various openings on each side that allow the architects, who designed the cabin for themselves, to immerse themselves in the incredible, mountainous surroundings. The 1,500-square-foot cabin is resilient to the extreme weather and is elevated off the landscape to reduce its impact. To top it all off, the cabin is crowned with a lush green roof . Located close to the peak of the mountain, the beautiful wood cabin holds court west of Kvitfjell, a ski resort about 45 minutes north of Lillehammer. The pristine area is known for its skiing opportunities and is appreciated for its spectacular natural beauty. With a shared love of skiing and exploring the outdoors, architects Casper and Lexie Mork-Ulnes decided to build their dream cabin here. Related: Pinwheel-shaped timber cabin grows more beautiful over time Perched on a steep slope on thin CLT stilts to reduce its impact, the cabin was designed to pay homage to the area by using traditional building materials such as skigard , a cut log that is typically used for fencing by Norwegian farmers. The rough, diagonal facade gives the cabin a unique appearance throughout the year. But in the wintertime, snow falls and gathers within the log gaps, blending the Skigard Hytte Cabin into its surroundings. The cabin’s grass-covered rooftop is also a nod to the vernacular architecture , including the typical log house constructions found throughout Scandinavia in the 19th century. The sod roof moves with the wind, contrasting and complementing the cabin’s otherwise rigid exterior. The interior design is also Scandinavian in both appearance and materials. Throughout the cabin, the minimalist design features solid pine paneling. From nearly every angle, full-height glazing provides ample natural light and, of course, picturesque views. Spanning about 1,500 square feet, the cabin has three bedrooms and a spa, along with a guest annex. The main living area follows an open-plan layout housing the kitchen, dining area and lounge space. At the end of this area is the master bedroom and sauna . Walking through the other side of the home, the residents are greeted by a unique, open-air portal that leads to the guest annex. The annex offers breathtaking views of the mountain range and valleys below. + Mork-Ulnes Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Bruce Damonte, Juan Benavides and Tor Ivan Boine via Mork-Ulnes Architects

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Elevated, green-roofed cabin minimizes impact on mountain in Norway

WKE LifeProof phone cases use recycled ocean-bound waste

May 7, 2020 by  
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In an effort to find a balance between protecting the significant investment in our cellular devices and protecting the planet, LifeProof has developed a phone case that sources materials diverted from the ocean  and simultaneously supports organizations directly involved in providing safe water, protecting ocean life and maintaining river habitat.  W?KE, the newest case line from LifeProof, is made from 85% recycled plastic waste. Materials for the protective case are sourced from fishing nets and ropes to help prevent those plastics from reaching the ocean. The plastics are then woven into a polypropylene material that is both durable and strong. This practice reduces the need to produce virgin plastic, and the company also offers a program to recycle your phone case when you decide to make a change.  Related: Adorable baby gorilla wants you to recycle your phone As a company, LifeProof has long strived to make its cases more sustainable and find ways to give back to the Earth. “LifeProof’s existence has centered around two things: a love of the water and an innate need to give back,” said Jim Parke, LifeProof CEO. “With this new case and the charitable partnerships we’ve formed, we’re not only creating products that help ensure a longer,  repurposed life for plastics  from the fishing industry, we’re supporting water organizations that can make an even larger impact than we would be able to alone.” The water organizations he refers to are long-established non-profits on a mission to provide clean water  to underprivileged communities, protect coral across the ocean floor and maintain healthy rivers for communities and wildlife.  According to a press release from LifeProof, “With the purchase any LifeProof case, including existing lines like FR?, NËXT and SL?M, and registration of the case at lifeproof.com/makewaves, we’ll donate a dollar to one of three charities who share our vision for a world with clean water for all – Water.org, the Coral Reef Alliance or American Rivers.” The W?KE case is currently available for the Apple iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11, iPhone XR, iPhone SE (2nd Generation), iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+. It is also available to preorder for Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Cases are priced at $39.99. + LifeProof  Images via LifeProof 

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WKE LifeProof phone cases use recycled ocean-bound waste

Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

May 7, 2020 by  
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As part of Barcelona’s efforts to reclaim its car-congested streets for pedestrians, the city has tapped architects to create “superblocks” — groups of streets transformed into car-free public plazas. One such project was completed in 2019 by Leku Studio in the trendy neighborhood of Sant Antoni. Redesigned with attractive way-finding elements and street furniture, the Superblock of Sant Antoni is the second of six superblocks completed to date. The Superblocks Program was conceived as a way to curb air pollution while addressing a lack of green and social spaces in the city. Each superblock comprises nine city blocks and is closed off to thru-traffic, with parking tucked underground. New street furniture, colorful graphics and removable planters are added to encourage walking, cycling and social gathering. Related: How Barcelona “superblocks” return city streets to the people “Where previously there was an urban highway, now there is a healthy street full of life and green, where there was a traffic intersection now there is a livable plaza ,” explained the architects, who implemented the first phase of the Superblock of Sant Antoni in 2018. “Car noise has been replaced by children playing, cheerful conversations between neighbors or elderly people chess games. The transformation continues together with this flexible landscape capable of integrating new changes derived from urban testing and social innovation.” Reversibility was a guiding principle behind the design of the Superblock of Sant Antoni. As a result, the architects created an “adaptive urban furniture toolkit” so that the street furniture and planters — built with eco-friendly materials — could be combined in a variety of ways. The graphic tiles and signage also provide a reference for the arrangement of the new urban elements. The City of Barcelona plans to create 503 superblocks that will eventually connect to one another to create a series of “green corridors” that total 400 acres of new green space by 2030. + Leku Studio Photography by DEL RIO BANI via Leku Studio

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Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

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