Calm Booth is a soundproof office retreat made out of recycled plastic bottles

October 21, 2019 by  
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The stresses of work often make us want to crawl under our desks. Now, one innovative firm is providing offices with a designated place to tune out the noise and find inner peace. Designed by New York-based firm ROOM , the Calm Booth, which is made out of 1,088 recycled plastic bottles , was created for companies that want to provide their employees with a space to enjoy a moment of peace while working. According to the designers, the inspiration for the Calm Booth came from the common difficulty that workers face when wanting to find a moment of  peace during a long, hectic workday. The booth is designed to be a place where “meditation meets privacy,” allowing workers to enjoy a respite to relax and refocus during the day. Related: Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter ROOM has long been known for its soundproof booths that are designed to create private spaces for office use . But this time around, it is partnering with a meditation app, called Calm, to create a soothing space that has an extensive library of meditation soundtracks, from nature soundscapes to music to “nap stories.” The Calm Booth is a simple structure clad in a crisp, white facade with a frosted, acrylic privacy door. The booth is made soundproof thanks to three layers of insulation made with more than 1,000 recycled plastic bottles . On the interior, the space is minimalist with a simple, green forest print on the walls. The booth also comes with a small shelf, a built-in Ethernet port, soft motion-enabled LED lighting and a ventilation system. According to the American Institute of Stress , work-related stress accounts for high absenteeism in offices around the country. Hopefully, companies will begin to take notice that providing a place for workers to practice mindfulness within the office is both beneficial to employees as well as the bottom line. Creating that space with recycled materials is better for the planet, too. + ROOM Architects Images via ROOM Architects

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Calm Booth is a soundproof office retreat made out of recycled plastic bottles

Halloween generates frightening amounts of plastic waste each year

October 21, 2019 by  
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Two eco-minded British charities, Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust, have revealed that Halloween generates mounds of plastic waste equal in weight to millions of plastic bottles. Besides food and costume packaging and masks and accessories, plastic lurks in the costumes, which are often made from fabrics like polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic fibers. After polling 19 prominent British retailers, Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust found that more than 2,000 metric tons of plastic waste are generated from Halloween clothing and costumes alone. That’s because 83 percent of the materials in costume pieces were made from non-biodegradable, oil-based plastic — the same trash accumulating in both landfills and oceans and equivalent to the weight of 83 million plastic bottles.  Related: How to have a plastic-free Halloween Hubbub Chief Executive Trewin Restorick warned, “These findings are horrifying. However, the total plastic waste footprint of Halloween will be even higher once you take into account other Halloween plastic such as party kits and decorations, much of which are also plastic, or food packaging .” Synthetic plastic fibers are cheap and extremely versatile — able to stretch and breathe while providing warmth and durability — thus making them highly desirable as costume materials. Unfortunately, these plastic-based fabrics and their consequential microfibers leach into the environment, whether through laundry water or refuse disposal, further exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis. Additionally, the study found that about 7 million costumes are tossed annually in Britain. This pales in comparison to the National Retail Federation ’s findings that in the United States, more than 175 million people celebrate the spooky holiday each year, with 68 percent of those people purchasing Halloween costumes. Many of these costumes will quickly find their way in the garbage can before the next Halloween. Both Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust are calling for manufacturers and retailers to rethink Halloween product ranges to go beyond single-use , synthetic garments. Similarly, the charities want industry-wide labels to indicate that textiles like polyester are plastic. Doing so would educate the public on these plastic-based fabrics, informing them that these clothing materials are a significant part of the plastic pollution ravaging our planet. The charities hope that manufacturers, retailers and consumers seek non-plastic alternatives . Both Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust encourage Halloween celebrants to go plastic-free and shift toward a more environmentally sustainable and circular model for the holiday industry. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Halloween generates frightening amounts of plastic waste each year

Eco-sensitive community in northern India harvests rainwater

September 4, 2019 by  
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Near the Himalayas, a new eco-conscious residential development known as the Woodside has taken root in the mountains of Kasauli, a small town in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Indian architectural firm Morphogenesis used a site-sensitive approach to design the luxury development, which not only follows the contours of the landscape to minimize site disturbance but also makes use of passive solar conditions and rainwater harvesting systems to reduce energy and water usage. Envisioned as a nature retreat for city dwellers, the Woodside is perched on extremely steep terrain that includes level differences of approximately 100 meters within the site boundaries. The development’s 37 cottages and the internal roads were strategically placed to minimize cut and fill operations as well as to preserve the existing vegetation and body of water on site. Locally sourced natural materials, such as stone, timber and slate, were primarily used for construction. Related: Passive solar school in Indonesia celebrates the natural landscape “The cottages are positioned on the slope in a manner that ensures unobstructed panoramic views of the scenic hills of the Shimla valley; the largest ones enjoy the farthest view,” the architects explained. The lush landscape is left mostly untouched save for agricultural uses. “This is achieved by maintaining a minimum height difference between the roof level of each cottage and the ground level of the preceding cottage uphill.” To minimize energy usage, the cottages, which come in four different types, all feature thick outer walls to provide a thermal mass to reduce reliance on air conditioning. The community’s rainwater harvesting systems also help reduce water use. The collected water is used for irrigation or is stored in a sump downhill for later use. + Morphogenesis Photography by Suryan & Dang via Morphogenesis

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This treehouse-inspired home in Los Angeles wraps around a cedar tree that grows through the roof

September 3, 2019 by  
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Known for its seemingly endless urban sprawl and noisy traffic, Los Angeles makes finding serenity no easy task. But Los Angeles- and Berlin-based firm Anonymous Architects has managed to create a soothing design that sits perched up high in a forest just a short distance away from the bustling cityscape. To blend the home into its idyllic surroundings, the architects incorporated a number of wooden elements into the design, including reclaimed cedar siding  and a massive tree that grows straight up through the middle of the home. Located in Echo Park, California, the 2,400-square-foot residence is embedded onto a steep hillside. Although the topography was challenging to say the least, the designers managed to use it to their advantage. Related: This off-grid retreat in Ohio was inspired by a treehouse According to the architects, the goal from the outset was to preserve the site’s natural features as much as possible. This meant cantilevering the home over the sloped landscape using a concrete base for support. This strategy enabled the house to sit high up in the air, giving it a treehouse effect. Cantilevering the structure over the landscape also meant that the home would enjoy more green space, both planted and natural. The layout and shape of the home was also marked by the existing vegetation. Set between three large cedars, the frame was angled to fit in between the trees. The fourth tree grows up straight up through one of the bedrooms , soaring up from the forest floor through the roof. The house, which is a rental, was conceived as two separate units that can also serve as a large family home . The main unit is comprised of two bedrooms and is designed for a family of four. From the living space, an outdoor walkway leads to the other unit with an additional bedroom, living area, bath and kitchen. If not in use as part of the main home, it can be used as an office or closed off as a rental space. Throughout the interior, homage is respectfully paid to the natural settings through the use of wood and natural light. Reclaimed chestnut flooring runs through the structure. Wooden doors, bookshelves and cabinets were also custom-made for the house. A covered wooden deck provides the perfect place to take in the forest views. In addition to its reclaimed materials, the home also boasts a number of sustainable features , including a solar water heater. The residence was built with tight insulation to keep the interior at stable temperatures during the year, and optimal natural light reduces the need for electricity during the day. + Anonymous Architects Via Dwell Photography by Steve King via Anonymous Architects

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This treehouse-inspired home in Los Angeles wraps around a cedar tree that grows through the roof

Mixed-use complex aims to minimize heat gain with greenery in Saudi Arabia

August 26, 2019 by  
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In a bid to keep the notorious heat of Saudi Arabia at bay, Istanbul- and London-based architectural firm Avci Architects has created an upscale, mixed-use complex in the coastal city of Al Khobar that is carefully oriented to maximize natural cooling. In addition to careful site placement and building massing, the architects will add shading elements and an abundance of greenery to create a cool microclimate to encourage use of outdoor space and community building. The project, which has yet to be built, was recently selected as the 2019 Architizer A+ Awards Popular Choice Winner in the Residential Multi-Unit Housing category. Covering an area of approximately 60,000 square meters, the Al Khobar mixed-use development will offer a mix of housing, office space, a hotel, retail space and restaurants as well as a mosque. To protect the privacy of the residential areas, the architects have oriented the openings of the offices to face away from the residences and added pergolas or mashrabiya — decorative enclosed balconies common in Islamic architecture — to shield views with the added benefit of mitigating unwanted solar heat gain . Related: A Mumbai industrial complex becomes a modern, mixed-use campus “The facades are layered in shading elements that are designed appropriately to the orientation of the buildings in relation to the sun,” the architects explained. “Our approach would be to create a massing and facade articulation that becomes reminiscent of old Islamic cities, where a sense of community is created between neighbors by allowing them the opportunity to interact through some of the adjacencies of such articulated spaces at higher levels in the buildings.” The outdoor spaces have also been sheltered from the heat with shade elements, landscaping and evaporative pools so that residents and the public can comfortably enjoy the outdoors for most of the year, barring the most intense summer months. + Avci Architects Images via Avci Architects

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Mixed-use complex aims to minimize heat gain with greenery in Saudi Arabia

Cheer Project creates zero-waste products from pine needles

August 26, 2019 by  
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Sourcing materials is the foundation of every design process, but the practice often doesn’t align with sustainable philosophies . Increasingly, companies and individuals alike are seeking natural products that can be used in new and innovative ways. One designer, Gaurav MK Wali, is an example of this goal with his use of discarded pine needles as a 100 percent bio-based and biodegradable material that can be incorporated into a variety of products. The Cheer Project, as Wali has dubbed the innovation, is a result of the desire to solve a fire hazard issue in the nearby forests. According to Wali’s website , “The northern region of India is home to the pine trees. These forests cover most of the lands of Himachal and Uttarakhand, but these states are facing menacing problems caused by an excess of dry pine needles on the forest floor, causing frequent forest fires and several other environmental issues. With a forest cover of about 40,000 square kilometers, the damage is incalculable with no significant solution to the problem yet.” Related: Biodegradable ‘Forest Wool’ furniture is made entirely out of pine needles The process of converting pine needles into a durable product material begins by “shedding” the pine needles into smaller components. Subsequently, a composite is produced by adding natural waxes and binders to the pine needle fibers. For variety, some of the composite is dyed with natural colors from local vegetables and spices. Because the initial and final products are all-natural, the Cheer Project has created a material that is not only bio-based and biodegradable but also water-resistant, fire-resistant and recyclable. Perhaps most importantly, the innovation incorporates materials that are otherwise unused and would feed forest fires. The full manufacturing process produces no waste or pollution. At its core, the Cheer Project is an experiment aimed at finding a sustainable material as an alternative to plastic, petroleum-based products and other environmentally damaging substances. In addition, the goal is to boost the economies of rural areas of Himachal via a sustainable craft . “It has been an experiment to understand the root of a local material and its potential and possibilities in an ever-increasing demand for alternatives for the production of sustainable objects,” Wali said. “The ultimate concept rested on the fusion of local craftsmanship and sustainable utilization of a naturally abundant novel material — the rediscovery of the pine needle.” + Gaurav MK Wali Images via Gaurav MK Wali

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Cheer Project creates zero-waste products from pine needles

Forgotten urban spaces get new lives as beautiful gathering areas on Skid Row

August 16, 2019 by  
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As part of its project to update a 110-unit affordable housing project on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, California architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa has revitalized a couple of unloved service courtyards and a debris-filled alley into beautiful outdoor gathering spaces. Completed on a minimal budget, the Rossmore + Weldon Courtyards will provide a major positive impact on the quality of living for the tenants, who were formerly homeless. Low-cost design strategies were used to transform the neglected spaces into contemporary and welcoming areas. Completed for a cost of $140,000, the Rossmore + Weldon Courtyards include three small spaces measuring 7 feet by 50 feet, 10 feet by 12 feet and 15 feet by 20 feet for a total combined area of less than 850 square feet. These outdoor spaces had been poorly utilized and typically cluttered with debris and tenant bicycles. When the architects discovered these spaces, they convinced the client of their transformation potential on a minimal budget. To keep costs low, most materials were reused, recycled or purchased from a local hardware store. Related: Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles At Weldon, the architects turned a southern courtyard and an alley on the west side into attractive outdoor living spaces. To brighten up the areas, the architects used white paint and an “interactive green wall ” of custom steel pot holders attached to a white CMU wall that holds potted plants, for which the tenants can provide care. Poured-in-place concrete seats and tables provide space to gather and rest, while white gravel and concrete pavers create visual interest and complete the light-toned color palette. In contrast, the Rossmore courtyard features a predominately timber palette. Designed around an existing ficus tree, the updated space features rolling wood-slatted benches mounted on steel-angle track as well as new planters. Bicycle storage has been integrated in all of the courtyard designs.  + Brooks + Scarpa Images via Brooks + Scarpa

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Forgotten urban spaces get new lives as beautiful gathering areas on Skid Row

A modernist home in Brazil brings a tropical garden indoors

August 5, 2019 by  
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Designed by São Paulo-based architecture firm BZP Arquitetura , the Casa Flamenco is a modernist home that makes the most of its lush, tropical setting. Surrounded by operable walls of glass and punctuated by interior courtyards , the home pulls the outdoors in at every turn. To further tie the luxury residence into nature, the architects included bioclimatic strategies to ensure a low-energy, comfortable micro-climate; a natural materials palette defined by stone and wood accents; and renewable systems such as solar hot water systems and a rainwater collecting cistern. Spanning an area of 1,300 square meters, Casa Flamenco was created for a young family of four in Jardim Europa, one of São Paulo’s most coveted and upscale residential neighborhoods. The house is spread out across three floors that engage the outdoors with large sliding glass doors. A minimalist materials palette defines the home’s light-toned interior. The design consists of white surfaces and natural materials, such as granite and hickory walnut, to keep the focus on the lush landscaping that is irrigated by collected rainwater. Related: This modern solar-powered retreat is topped with a massive green roof “We have included bioclimatic strategies for the project, such as the use of green slabs in landscaping, protective films on glass, photovoltaic panels that absorb solar energy and convert it to heat, heating water from showers and faucets, and creating a cross ventilation system in environments and greater climatic comfort and air movement inside the residence, reducing the constant use of air conditioning,” the architects said. To keep the emphasis on the landscape, the architects tucked the parking into the underground level, which also houses the technical and service areas. The spacious ground floor comprises the main social spaces including the living areas, dining room, kitchen, office space, home theater and access to an outdoor lap pool. The private sleeping areas are located upstairs. A separate building houses a gym, sauna and toy library. + BZP Arquitetura Via ArchDaily Photography by Tuca Reines via BZP Arquitetura

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A modernist home in Brazil brings a tropical garden indoors

Green-roofed home in Poland is made out of reclaimed brick

July 25, 2019 by  
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Polish architectural firm Biuro Toprojekt has unveiled a beautiful home that showcases a brilliant brick and glass facade. The Red House is a 3,900-square-foot home clad with chiaroscuro-style walls made from reclaimed bricks on one side, while the back consists almost entirely of glass doors and windows that frame incredible views of the serene forestscape surrounding the residence. Located in Poland’s Upper Silesia, the brick house sits on the edge of an expansive forestscape. Using the idyllic setting as inspiration, the architects decided to use as many eco-friendly and reclaimed building materials and features as possible, including a solar array that generates sufficient power to the house. Related: A beautiful brick home is embedded into the Brazilian countryside At first glance, the stunning brick exterior catches the eye. Made out of old bricks reclaimed from a nearby brickworks, the facades were hand-laid in a chiaroscuro style, creating a vibrant, three-dimensional pattern made up of light and shadows. The lovely brick facade is topped with a green roof planted with native vegetation, including vines, which will begin to fall over the roofline over time, further melding the structure into its natural setting. The entrance is through an open cutout in the exterior wall that leads into a brick courtyard and garage. As the residents walk inside, the mood changes dramatically as the surroundings transform from a solid brick exterior to a contemporary, luminous space. Although the front facade is marked by its brilliant brick walls, the back of the home consists of entire walls made up of large, sliding glass doors and full-height windows that frame the views of the forest. White walls, along with a natural color palette and minimal furnishings , create a modern but comfortable atmosphere. + Biuro Toprojekt Via Dwell Photography by Juliusz Soko?owski via Biuro Toprojekt

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Green-roofed home in Poland is made out of reclaimed brick

Fashion brands ranked for toxic textiles and sustainability

July 25, 2019 by  
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A leading green economy nonprofit, Green America, released a report ranking top fashion companies based on their sustainability and transparency. The results reveal the inadequacies of greening the fashion industry.  Their study investigated 14 major corporations, each with household-name brands. The report scored companies based on transparency, sustainability, working conditions, chemical use, waste and water management. Their findings concluded that none of the top 14 corporations, nor their distinct brands, can be considered industry leaders in terms of ethics or the environment . However, the companies that ranked higher than average include Target, Jan Sport, Nike, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and The North Face. Companies that scored below average include Ann Taylor, American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie and Fitch, Walmart, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Free People. Related: Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025 The worst companies, which failed metrics on Green America’s score card, include J. Crew, OshKosh B’gosh and Forever 21. “Consumers want sustainable clothing, and the market is responding. But too often, many of the promises we hear from conventional companies are token sustainability initiatives that are band-aids to one small part of the problem, or empty platitudes without a plan to achieve real change. Sustainability shouldn’t just be a marketing trend,” said Green America’s social justice campaigns manager, Caroline Chen.  The report also called out corporations’ practice of promoting “token brands,” or one eco-textile line that they can use for public relations knowing that consumers will associate their name with sustainability without looking further into the rest of their lines. Similarly, many corporations make sweeping sustainability pledges without specifying metrics nor timelines and hardly follow through with implementation. Overall, the textile industry uses 43 million tons of toxic chemicals every year, and most companies do not disclose the source of their chemicals so it is difficult to understand the health impacts. Green America’s report suggests that those who are concerned about chemicals in clothing should shop at thrift stores and wear clothing until it wears out– this not only helps reduce the amount of new clothing produced, it also reduces how many chemicals you are personally exposed to. + Green America Images via Pixabay

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