This museum is carved into the seaside sand dunes of China’s Gold Coast

December 18, 2018 by  
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International firm  OPEN Architecture has unveiled a stunning museum embedded into the sand dunes along China’s Gold Coast. At 10,000 square feet, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is a massive structure, but its all-white cladding and various low, curved volumes tucked deep into the rolling landscape give the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) a modern yet unassuming character. Located on the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay, the museum was a labor of love for the architects, who spent three years carefully crafting the design to be as much a work of art as the museum’s collection. Embedding the structure into the sand dunes was a strategic decision to help protect the landscape from over-development. Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency “The decision to create the art museum underneath the dunes surrounding it was born out of both the architects’ deep reverence for nature and their desire to protect the vulnerable dune ecosystem, formed by natural forces over thousands of years,” said the project description. “Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments, as has happened to many other dunes along the shore.” The unique space is comprised of various pod-like structures whose curved volumes were made possible thanks to small linear wood strips bent into shape. During the construction, the architects collaborated with local workers from Qinhuangdao, many of whom are former shipbuilders. The architects paid their respect to the handcrafted labor by leaving the imperfect textures of the formwork visible. Covered in concrete and painted a stark white, the museum’s multiple roofs are finished with sand . This feature not only helped connect the design to the natural landscape, but it also helps to reduce solar gain on the interior. Additionally, the museum is equipped with a low-energy, zero-emissions ground source heat pump that keeps the building cool during the searing summer months. Embedded into the rolling sand dunes, the curvaceous volumes house the museum’s 10 galleries. Visitors to the museum enter through a long, dark tunnel and small reception area. Further into the structure, the exhibition spaces are made up of immense cave-like rooms clad in raw concrete. Throughout the interior, large cutouts in the roof and multiple skylights of varying sizes flood the galleries with natural light . A large spiral staircase leads visitors from the underground galleries up to the museum’s open-air viewing platform as well as a cafe space. Here, guests can enjoy the stunning views of the sea. + OPEN Architecture Via Archpaper Photography by Wu Qingshan via Open Architecture

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This museum is carved into the seaside sand dunes of China’s Gold Coast

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for your significant other

December 18, 2018 by  
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Oftentimes, choosing a gift for a significant other is the most difficult task of the holiday season. But finding a gift that is good for the planet? That’s a no-brainer. Shower the person you love with gifts (and experiences) that are good for the planet, and they are bound to be impressed. Plus, gifting your lover is a prime opportunity to find a present you both can enjoy together! LUSH skincare From a lack of packaging to natural, sustainable ingredients, there’s nothing hotter than a gift from LUSH . Pamper your lover with an array of bath bombs, body lotions, body sprays and more. There are also plenty of gift sets to choose from for a perfectly curated present. Romantic getaway It’s no secret that we love Glamping Hub , as seen here and here . Book a dreamy trip with your loved ones to one of 350,000 available accommodations, or let them choose with a gift card . These vacations are designed to immerse you in nature in unique stays like treehouses, tents, tiny homes and more — any of which are guaranteed to keep you close together in cozy quarters. Spa time Everyone could use a little relaxation, especially after a hectic holiday season. Book a couple’s massage at a local spa, or make it a fun, DIY night at home by surprising your significant other with hot stones, massage oils, organic lotions and homemade face masks. Fancy plants Not to be confused with fancy pants, take time to select a beautiful plant (bonus if it is from a local grower!) and a stunning, handcrafted pot to accompany it. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, although it will be a welcome surprise to gift your loved one a plant that they normally wouldn’t spend the money on for themselves. Vegan handbags Let a chic new handbag carry your lover into the New Year and beyond! Made from vegan leather, these bags are sleek and sturdy, ready to hold all the essentials. The minimalist design matches a wide variety of outfits, and each bag is made ethically. Images via Stock Snap , Glamping Hub , Gundula Vogel , Kara Eads , Kestan and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for your significant other

Mecanoo unveils stunning glass lake house that harmonizes with nature

December 14, 2018 by  
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Dutch firm Mecanoo has just unveiled Villa on the Lake — a stunning example of contemporary home design that sits in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings. Tucked against a lake near the U.K. city of Lechlade, the cube-like home features facades of floor-to-ceiling glass panels and a massive rooftop terrace that offers optimal views over the water. At just over 6,000 square feet spanning three floors, the Villa on the Lake is a mammoth of a home. Despite its large size and predominantly glass facade, however, the bold design creates a strong harmony with its all-natural forest and lake surroundings. The entrance is connected to a long bridge that winds through the lake’s edge of thick forest. Curving the bridge allowed the architects to avoid felling trees, leaving the landscape in its natural state. Related: Mecanoo to update Washington’s MLK Library with massive green roof According to the architects, the home was designed from the inside out, so the homeowners could enjoy unobstructed views from anywhere in the home while still maintaining a sense of privacy. Glass panels make up the front and side facades, giving off the appearance that the home is floating on the water. Inside, white walls and sparse furnishings, along with an abundance of natural light, brighten the space. The main living area is on the second floor while the bedrooms and private areas are on the top floor. A large staircase joins the three stories, one of which is actually underwater. The sunken basement houses a cinema, game area, bar and wellness spa. Of course, for truly enjoying the stunning panoramic views, the home boasts two open-air terraces . The rooftop terrace is more than 800 square feet, and the second deck, which leads out from the living space, wraps around the home’s volume, hovering just over the water. + Mecanoo Via Archdaily Photography by Mariashot.photo and Blue Sky Images via Mecanoo

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Mecanoo unveils stunning glass lake house that harmonizes with nature

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children

December 14, 2018 by  
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While it’s obvious that we want the children in our lives to have only the most natural, clean, organic clothes and toys , it’s also important to our planet that we introduce sustainable goods from the start. As children grow up with eco-friendly items at their side, they will naturally grow up to respect the Earth, seeking out these types of green products for the rest of their lives. To get them started on the right foot, here are some of our favorite sustainable gifts for kids and babies. Veggie Crayons These crayons , which are made from organic herb and vegetable powders as well as food-grade soy wax, are safe for babies and children to use. While they shouldn’t be eaten, they are safe for hand to mouth transfer, and they do not contain toxic ingredients like petroleum. Plus, the square shape also makes them fun for stacking and playing. “Adopted” animals Support organizations like WWF , Oceana , The Nature Conservancy and more, and in return, your child will have an opportunity to learn more about our planet and the animals that roam it. Many organizations will allow you to symbolically adopt an animal , and for your donation your child will receive a plush animal, coloring books, educational materials and more. Related: 20 sensory table activities that offer creative ways to teach kids through play Plush toys Kids love their “stuffies,” so gift them their new favorite this year. These options from Ouistitine are adorable yet minimalist, so they’ll still look chic lying all over your living room floor. Plus, each toy is handmade from the scraps of natural, eco-textiles like wool, linen and cotton . Sustainable clothing Clothing is a gifting staple in many households, but conventional fashion often relies on unsafe fabrics and unethical production processes. If you’re looking to give the little ones clothing this year, be sure to choose options that are organic , non-toxic and responsibly made. Gardening kits Most kids love to get messy, so add in the benefits of growing their own food and teaching them the importance of gardening, and you have quite a gift! Surprise the kids with a gardening kit (like this one ), which is fun for children of all ages. You can also check out this website for educational resources to go along with the gift. Images via  Wee Can Too , WWF , Christopher Michel , Ouistitine ,  Phichit Wongsunthi and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children

Floating prefab architecture addresses climate change on Chengdus Jincheng Lake

November 26, 2018 by  
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Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi of the firm NLÉ Architects recently unveiled his third iteration on the award-winning Makoko Floating School, a prefabricated building system aimed at addressing “the challenges and opportunities of urbanization and climate change” through sustainable and alternative building typologies. Dubbed the MFS IIIx3, the thought-provoking collection of structures has been set afloat on a lake in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. The project was created in collaboration with local Chengdu partners Fanmate Creative Furniture Company and Chengdu Keruijiesi Technology Company. Located on Jincheng Lake in Chengdu’s new ecological belt, MFS IIIx3 marks NLÉ Architects’ fourth prototype of the Makoko Floating School. The first prototype floating structure was built in 2013 for and by the historic water community of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria, an area considered at-risk for climate change . Although the initial project has met its demise , the architects have gone on to improve and reiterate their designs. In 2016, the Waterfront Atlas (MFS II) was launched in Venice, Italy, as well as the Minne Floating School (MFS III) in Bruges, Belgium. In their latest take on the Makoko Floating School, the architects have recreated the modular building in three sizes — small, medium and large. All structures were prefabricated from wood and locally sourced bamboo . The collection of floating buildings includes an open-air concert hall, an indoor exhibition space and a small information center. All three spaces are organized around a communal plaza. Related: Sustainable Makoko Floating School in Nigeria is finally complete “MFS IIIx3 is introduced into the dynamics of a 2,200 year-old history of water management expertise, originating from the Min River (Minjiang) and from Dujiangyan — an ingenious irrigation system built in 256 BC, and still in use today — keeping the southwestern Sichuan province free of floods and drought and making it one of the most fertile and economically developed urban and agricultural areas in China,” the architects explained. “MFS IIIx3 offers an approach to and revives an ancient yet contemporary civilizational relationship with water, originally inspired by the water community of Makoko in Lagos, and now adapted for the water city of Chengdu.” + NLÉ Architects Images via NLÉ Architects

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Floating prefab architecture addresses climate change on Chengdus Jincheng Lake

Old barn and granary gains a new life as an inspiring community hub

November 26, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based design practice MCW Architects has completed the transformation of a heritage barn and granary into an uplifting community center and home of local charity ACE Foundation . Purchased by the charity in 2009 on the outskirts of Cambridge , the Victorian farm was renovated in a two-part process, the second phase of which MCW Architects was commissioned to design and implement. In addition to refurbishing the existing structure and improving energy efficiency, the £1,500,000 second-phase transformation also included new build elements, such as the glazed hall that links the Stapleford Granary to the barn. As a champion of adult and continuing education both locally and internationally, the ACE Foundation wanted to create an inspiring place conducive to hosting all types of learning. Its vision was to transform the Victorian farm and granary into a sustainable working environment and accessible community amenity. In the first phase, the granary and surrounding outbuildings were transformed into a small performance space for 60 people, including multipurpose facilities for chamber music, lectures and exhibitions, as well as recording facilities, a seminar room and some office spaces. When MCW Architects was brought on for the second phase, the firm converted the existing barn into offices for the ACE Cultural Tours team and refurbished the ground floor of the granary — along with the cart lodge — into a creative space for fine and applied art. The glazed corridor connecting the existing structures is multipurpose and serves as a foyer, gathering space and long gallery. All areas are naturally ventilated without reliance on air conditioning. In addition to passive design components, the buildings save energy with an underfloor heating system, additional windows and skylights that let in greater daylight and energy-efficient lighting systems throughout. Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The architects said, “The redevelopment of this sensitive site was carried out in a way that retains the character of the existing fabric and spaces whilst being able to breathe new life into the place so that it can support and sustain the uses and needs of the Foundation into the future.” + MCW Architects Photography by Jim Stephenson and ACE Foundation via MCW Architects

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Victorian home’s painted facade is stripped to restore its original red brick glory

November 21, 2018 by  
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When Melbourne-based firm  Merrylees Architecture was tasked with giving on old Victorian home a modern makeover , they wanted to retain the home’s original features as much as possible. After stripping layers and layers of exterior paint off the home, the architects discovered that the original red bricks underneath were in excellent condition, leading the way for the Unbricked House’s rebirth, which included a number of restored and new materials. When the homeowners of the 2,637 -square-foot home first contacted the architects, they requested that their beloved Victorian home be restored , but with a focus on maintaining the home’s charming character. Additionally, they wanted a new layout that would cater to their personal lifestyle and one that would be thermally-sound year round. Related: A Seattle midcentury home is restored to its original brilliance with a modern twist Beginning on the exterior, the architects stripped the old paint completely off the red brick walls. Once they discovered the brick facade was in excellent condition, they decided to use it to establish a distinct connection between the old home and a new red brick addition, which would add more space and light to the family home. The second request from the client was to add as much natural light into the home as possible. With this in mind, the home’s new addition was made out of multiple black steel framed windows. According to the architects, “Early discussions about materiality lead to a combination of recycled red brick, black steel framed windows, blackened blackbutt and black metal trims. Contemporary yet sustainable materials; solid and everlasting just like the original home.” To create a family-friendly layout, the living space was reconfigured to include large proportions on the areas that serve as communal spaces, the living room, kitchen, etc. These spaces are flooded with natural light thanks to not only the large glazed walls, but the strategically-placed skylights throughout the home. The interior design throughout the home is fresh and modern, with white walls, hints of a soothing light blue and light timber features. + Merrylees Architecture Via Archdaily Images via Merrylees Architecture

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Victorian home’s painted facade is stripped to restore its original red brick glory

A floating greenhouse is inserted behind a renovated Belgian home

October 23, 2018 by  
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Urban farming can be tough, especially when it’s in the middle of the densely packed Belgian city of Mechelen. But thanks to the determination of a client “with green fingers” and the clever design thinking of Belgian architecture firm dmvA , a solution was conceived in House TP, a renovation project with a new greenhouse in the rear. In addition to space for growing greens, the transformed property also enjoys greater access to natural light and views of the outdoors. Located next to a church, the compact, 90-square-meter home is sandwiched between two buildings with a north-oriented rear side. To improve access to sunlight, the architects removed the back of the building save for a single steel beam that inspired the firm to insert extra beams to create a base for a “floating” greenhouse , which allows natural light to pass through to the patio space below. In contrast to the mostly closed front facade, large glazed openings were also added to the back of the building to frame views of the greenhouse from the second and third floors. Since the top floor enjoys the greatest access to natural light , the architects decided to place the primary living areas on the third floor while placing the bedroom downstairs. The ground floor houses an additional living space that can be converted into a bedroom. The removal of walls and an open-plan layout make the compact home feel larger than its footprint lets on. The stairs were also strategically placed to the side of the building to avoid blocking sight lines. Related: An urban farm and restaurant flourishes in Utrecht’s “circular” pavilion In contrast to its redbrick neighbors, the building exterior is painted a bright white. Another major exterior change includes the addition of a gate with steel blinds installed at an angle of 45 degrees. “This kind of gate provides sufficient privacy but still gives an open, light impression,” reads the firm’s project statement. “Previously, the dark corner at the gate was a problematic spot in the street, but with the intervention of dmvA, it has become a fresh corner that revives the street. dmvA not only created a house that met the wishes of the owner, but the refurbishment also led to a revival of the street.” + dmvA Via ArchDaily Images by Bart Gosselin

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A floating greenhouse is inserted behind a renovated Belgian home

A solar-powered home hides behind a colossal, sloped green roof

October 12, 2018 by  
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We often profess our love of green roofs , but a recent home design in Krakow has really taken the idea to the next level. Polish firm Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa has just unveiled a beautiful home with an enormous green roof that’s sloped over the entire northern side of the home. The roof is so large that it camouflages the barn-inspired home entirely on one side, providing the home with its name, the House Behind the Roof. The 2,000-square-foot home is located in a residential area outside Krakow. The building is part of a housing estate with 10 other homes built relatively close together. According to the architects, the first stages of the planning were focused on ensuring the privacy of the homeowners. As a result, the home’s design was created with the immense roof that pulls double duty as an eave that shades the interior while providing the utmost in privacy. Related: A green-roofed underground extension breaks the mold for school architecture Although the architects wanted to go with a traditional, flat green roof, local building codes prohibited them from doing so. As an alternative, the architects decided to top the home with a 45-degree sloped plane on the northern side. Covered with lush succulents, the roof gives a touch of whimsy to the design but also acts as a privacy shade and insulation. On the southern side of the home, multiple solar panels soak up the sun’s energy. At the apex of the A-frame roof, a series of large skylights allow natural light into the home. The house is clad in a light-hued Western Red Cedar. Because of the resilient nature of the wood , it wasn’t necessary to treat the timber beforehand. As a result, the wood will take on a silver-gray patina over time. Additionally, care for the green roof is also minimal. Long-lasting dry periods in this region are not common, and the succulents planted on the roof are low-maintenance. The rustic wooden aesthetic continues throughout the interior of the two-story home. Along with the skylights, there are multiple windows that are mounted high in the walls to provide the interior with natural light and ventilation. The home is laid out in a rectangular plan, reminiscent of a traditional barn . The ground floor houses the kitchen and living space, along with a bathroom and utility room. The master bedroom and en suite bathroom are on the top floor, as well as two extra bedrooms and a children’s playroom. On the bottom floor, large sliding glass doors lead out to an open-air deck with a barbecue and dining space. + Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa Via Archdaily Photography by Bart?omiej Drabik

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A solar-powered home hides behind a colossal, sloped green roof

New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns

October 12, 2018 by  
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The lush green lawns surrounding many homes, businesses, parks and other outdoor spaces might not be the greatest idea, according to Australian scientist Maria Ignatieva and Swedish scientist Marcus Hedblom. In a new study published in the journal  Science , the urban ecologists suggested that we need to rethink the modern lawn in favor of more sustainable options. Ignatieva and Hedblom said that the negative environmental consequences of green lawns far outweigh the natural benefits, and we need to start exploring new forms of groundcover. The scientists claimed that the amount of water , fertilizer and mowing that lawns require is a problem — especially when we use gas-powered mowers that emit carbon monoxide and other toxins into the air. The use of those mowers negates any positives of the lawn pulling carbon dioxide out of the air. Related: How to transform your wasteful grassy space into a food forest garden The ecologists also pointed out that globally, lawns occupy an amount of land equivalent to the area of England and Spain combined. In arid regions of the U.S., lawns are responsible for 75 percent of household water consumption. To make matters worse, weed killers and fertilizers used to keep lawns pristine find their way to the water table. If you think artificial turf is a solution, think again. Turf does not contribute to carbon sequestration — the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — and it also causes problems with water runoff. It is also possible that it could poison local water tables. Ignatieva and Hedblom said that some communities have started allowing natural meadows to grow instead of lawns. In places like Berlin, residents have allowed the landscape to grow wild. These ideas are a step in the right direction, but the ecologists suggest the need for more scientific research into some plant types that could develop into naturally short grass alternatives that don’t require a lot of water for survival. The study also urges people to change their way of thinking when it comes to their lawns. + Science Mag Via Phys.org Images via Daniel Watson

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New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns

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