London becomes the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

April 10, 2019 by  
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London is officially the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The zone, which is active all hours of the day and night, will improve air quality in the city by cutting down on pollution caused by vehicle emissions . Any vehicle traveling inside the ULEZ will have to meet strict emission codes or be subject to fines. Scientists believe that vehicle emissions, specifically nitrogen oxide, account for the majority of air pollution in London and are a serious threat to public health. These harmful chemicals have been known to increase risks of dementia and cancer. Related: Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says “This is a landmark day for our city. Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan shared. The ULEZ was activated on April 8 and any vehicles traveling inside the zone that do not meet emissions standards will face charges of around $16 per day. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, will have to pay heftier fines upwards of $130. The zone currently covers an area roughly four miles in size and will be expanded to a much larger area by the fall of 2021. The ULEZ is part of a larger plan to discourage high-emission vehicles from travelling around London. The first stage of the plan initiated what was called a T-charge, which went into effect in the winter of 2017. In the two years since, London has witnessed a drop of around 11,000 vehicles every day from the targeted area. The plan has also increased the number of vehicles becoming compliant with emissions standards in the area. The city’s famous fleet of red double-decker buses, for example, is being upgraded to comply with the new ULEZ.  There are approximately two million residents who live inside the ULEZ, and officials hope the new plan will improve the quality of air so that it meets standards enacted by the European Union. London may be the first city to enact an Ultra Low Emission Zone, but other locations, like New York City, are looking into similar plans. Via CNN Image via  Shrinkin’ Violet

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Black charred-timber home embraces forest views in Zrich

April 2, 2019 by  
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In the midst of a centuries-old forest sits the Two Family House, an aptly named project that houses a pair of maisonette apartments for two families at the edge of Zürich, Switzerland. Local architecture firm Hajnoczky.Zanchetta Architekten collaborated with architect Angela Waibel on the design, which takes advantage of its wooded location with full-height windows that capture views of the changing landscape. Due to regulations that enforce minimal disturbance to the landscape, the building’s unusual triangular shape is dictated by the forest, which diagonally divided the parcel. To fit two homes onto the constrained space without compromising space and comfort, the architects used the slope of property to vertically separate the two apartments. Each of the four levels has a slightly different floor plan and size; the upper floors, for instance, have cantilevered elements, such as projecting windows, that increase floor space. The larger of the two maisonette apartments occupies the ground floor, which comprises the bedrooms, and the first floor, where the communal spaces are located. Since the building is set into the existing slope, both the ground floor and first floor have direct access to the gardens. The second apartment occupies the uppermost two floors. To make up for the smaller footprint, the upper apartment has access to three rooftop terraces. The building is primarily a timber-clad concrete structure, aside for the topmost level, which is built of timber construction. Related: Massive tree-like sculpture takes over Switzerland’s largest train station “To enhance the distinctiveness of the building, we have chosen a black timber facade to elegantly contrast with the surrounding nature,” the architects explain in a statement. “The tree grove is part of a forest arm that permeates through the city. From dense foliage in summer, the location metamorphoses in winter into a snowy scenery with a beautiful creek that flows to the lake of Zürich .” + Hajnoczky.Zanchetta Architekten Images © Lucas Peters

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Twin timber buildings draw inspiration from traditional Japanese shrines

April 1, 2019 by  
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Local architectural firm Yuji Tanabe Architects recently completed twin timber buildings on a historic street in the Japanese city of Kamakura. In deference to the existing street architecture and the city’s Great Buddha landmark, the buildings feature a double roof facade with proportions inspired by traditional Japanese shrines. The project, dubbed SASAMEZA, is built of locally sourced timber to reduce embodied energy. Built for commercial use, SASAMEZA occupies a commercial block facing Yuigahama Street, a major transit corridor that connects central Kamakura to the iconic Great Buddha statue. Because the developers wanted the option to divide and sell the site once construction was complete, the architects split the property and created two buildings around a central courtyard . Each building is approximately 970 square feet in size, and they are near mirror images of one another. Due to the nature of the plot, the building on the right has a slightly different shape. “By taking the water under the roof slope of each building on both sides, it creates a sense of unity like a single building,” the architects explained. “In addition, by setting the opening parts across the passage and the court in the same position on the plane, the connection and the spread to the next wing are created. With the visualization of the structural material (offset column + double beams) in the interior space, the aim is to maintain a sense of unity in the entire building even if different tenants move in.” Related: An angular timber cabin is hidden inside an ancient mountain forest Designed with the environment in mind, the architects used timber procured from a mountain forest in Kanazawa Prefecture’s Hakone area. Along with the client, a forester and a builder, the architects visited the forest in person and selected and harvested the trees that would later become the columns and beams, all which are exposed and unpainted. Japanese wood joinery and fastening methods were applied so that the timber elements can be reused . + Yuji Tanabe Architects Images via Yuji Tanabe Architects

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EU moves forward with its plastic ban

April 1, 2019 by  
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The European Union is moving forward with its plastic ban initiative. The EU just signed off on a plan that will prohibit single-use plastics throughout participating countries by the year 2021. The law targets specific plastics while forcing companies to pay for any pollution their products may cause. “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas,” the European Commission’s Frans Timmermans explained. “Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.” Related: EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics According to EcoWatch , the new law will eliminate around 70 percent of the plastics that pollute oceans. Banned plastics include single-use cutlery, plates, straws, cotton swabs (that feature plastic sticks), polystyrene cups and oxo-degradable plastics. The plan also requires that companies use at least 25 percent of recycled materials in plastic bottles over the next six years. When it comes to paying for pollution , the law will require companies to help in the clean-up efforts related to their products. For example, cigarette businesses will have to pay to pick up butts that are carelessly thrown away, while companies that make fishing gear will be required to help fund the removal of plastic nets from the ocean. Lastly, the new initiative will force companies to create better labels for products that contain plastic . More specifically, the EU wants companies to better inform customers when their products include plastics, especially when it is harder to discern. The revised labels will also encourage people to recycle the items if necessary. The European Commission originally announced the ban back in the spring of 2018. With full backing from Parliament, the ban is expected to be completed and sent to member states soon. If the law is followed by all of the countries in the EU, experts hope that it will significantly curb ocean litter , which is largely made up of single-use plastics. The law should also save the EU around 22 billion euros by the year 2030. The EU hopes that its plastic ban will become a model for other countries around the world to follow. + European Parliament Via EcoWatch Image via Matthew Gollop

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A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

March 28, 2019 by  
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In the aftermath of the Puebla earthquake that struck central Mexico in September 2017, Fundación PienZa Sostenible and Love Army México tapped Mexico City-based firm Francisco Pardo Arquitecto to design a home for a family who had lost their house in the disaster. Working in close collaboration with the Guzman family, the architects created a new and more earthquake-resistant dwelling that not only caters to the family’s needs but also offers improved living conditions. Named Casa Karina after the matriarch in the family of four, the home is built largely of compressed earth blocks , created in situ, along with pinewood used for the doors and windows. Located in the rural town of Ocuilan de Arteaga, the Guzmans’ 807-square-foot lot is located on family land split into five equal parts among the siblings. The Guzman’s original home was of poor construction: a single-story wood structure covered in metal sheets without insulation ; the floors were bare soil. In designing an improved home for the Guzmans, the architects decided to build a multi-story house with the communal areas and full bathroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the second floor and an open terrace on the third floor from where views of the town, the neighboring fields and the surrounding volcanoes can be seen. By building upward, the architects also allocated enough area on the grounds for a field for growing crops and space where the couple’s two daughters can play outdoors. The kitchen, located at the heart of the home, overlooks views of the field. Related: This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation The new construction is also far more robust than the previous house, with concrete foundations and polished cement floors. The compressed earth block walls are reinforced with concrete slabs. The architects said, “This is how we were able to entirely adapt the design to the needs and uses of the Guzman family and to build a new and more resistant home for them, providing better space conditions.” + Francisco Pardo Arquitecto Photography by Jaime Navarro, Pablo Astorga and Fernanda Olivares via Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

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Rammed concrete home in Portugal boasts passive design features and a green roof

March 26, 2019 by  
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Portuguese firm  Atelier 1111 has unveiled a gorgeous home designed to strategically blend into the rural region of Grândola in southern Portugal. The Cottage House is an angular design embedded into a small hillside, putting part of the home underneath the arid landscape. This technique provides the house with a strong thermal envelope, which — along with additional passive cooling strategies such as a green roof and thickened stone walls — boosts energy efficiency. Using the idyllic setting as inspiration for the design, the exterior of the home is clad in a rammed concrete, which gives the exterior a textured, neutral color that blends in with the arid soil. According to the architects, the rammed concrete was part of the structure’s many passive features, which also include a green roof and thick, insulative walls. Related: This breezy, green-roofed home in Singapore embraces nature from all angles “Thermal comfort was one of our biggest concerns, especially in the summer, because it is a region with high temperatures,” the architects explained. “We avoid mechanical systems, because we have a green roof and considerable thick walls.” Although angular in form, the contemporary home manages to subtly and respectfully blend in with its surroundings. Using the rolling topography to their advantage, the architects created a main open-air corridor that weaves through the structure, leading to the interior living space as well as various cutouts that frame the incredible views. Throughout the interior, the home’s walls and ceilings are also made out of concrete , but in a polished version. Locally-sourced marble was used for the flooring, and the design is enhanced with brass features on the interior doors. The Cottage House is actually part of a bigger plan that is set to be built on the same site, including a garage and a swimming pool. The design of the home, as well as the remaining buildings, was almost entirely inspired by the surrounding landscape, which is characterized by protected stone pine, olive and  cork  trees. The sloped land at its highest point provides a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. + Atelier 1111 Photography by Nuno Pinto via Atelier 1111

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This cabin offers outstanding views of Oaxaca from a massive, cantilevering terrace

March 26, 2019 by  
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Nature-based refuges come in many shapes and forms, but this gorgeous cabin in Oaxaca manages to capture the serenity of its location thanks to a massive, cantilevering terrace in addition to two spacious rooftop terraces. Designed by Mexican firm  LAMZ Arquitectura , the Teitipac Cabin features two interconnecting volumes that were made with reclaimed natural materials , including natural stone found on-site as well as reclaimed steel and wood. Located in the mountainous region of San Sebastián Teitipac in Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico, the beautiful cabin is actually made up of two separate volumes. This was a strategy employed by the architects to build the cabins into the smallest footprint possible without altering the existing natural terrain of oaks and copal trees. Related: Get away from it all in this off-grid concrete cabin just steps away from the Appalachian Trail Spanning a total of just under 2,000 feet, the cube-like volumes were set on a small hilltop to provide stunning views of the surrounding mountain range. According to the architects, the project design centered around providing an abundance of open-air spaces in order to take in these breathtaking views from anywhere on-site. In addition to providing a strong visual connection to the environment, the architects also wanted to create harmony between the man-made and the natural by using as many natural and reclaimed materials as possible. The cabins are tucked partially into the landscape, creating structures with various levels, including a basement embedded into the rocky landscape and two large rooftop terraces. The two structures are connected to a simple staircase that leads from one terrace to another. Several additional walkways wind around the cabin, leading past glass-panel enclosures and various entrances. Both of the volumes are clad in natural stone, which blends the structures into the rocky terrain. The cabin also features expansive glass panels that further drive the connection between the indoors and the outdoors. Additionally, throughout the interior living space, reclaimed wood was used in the flooring and ceilings. The two structures are divided according to their uses: one houses the communal living areas, while the other is home to the bedrooms. Clad in natural stone and wood, the interiors are warm and inviting. While outdoor space is abundant for both volumes, the master bedroom’s  cantilevering terrace is at the heart of the design. + LAMZ Arquitectura Via Archdaily Photography by Lorena Darquea via LAMZ Arquitectura

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This cabin offers outstanding views of Oaxaca from a massive, cantilevering terrace

Adobe brick combines with wood in a low-carbon villa in Chiang Mai

March 14, 2019 by  
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Architectural practice Chiangmai Life Architects has completed a striking villa that blends elements of traditional Thai architecture together with environmentally savvy construction practices and modern amenities fit for 21st-century living. Located in the mountains of northern Thailand , the project, dubbed the ‘Earth & Wood Villa,’ was built primarily of locally sourced natural materials from the self-made adobe bricks to the exposed timber elements throughout. In addition to mountain vistas, the property is sandwiched between Lamyai tree orchards and rice fields, views of which are maximized throughout the home. Spanning an area of nearly 7,500 square feet, the expansive residence serves as the family home for a couple and their three children. The main house is a U-shaped structure oriented toward the north with four bedrooms lined up in a row in the east-facing private wing. The open-plan living area, dining room, kitchen and pantry are clustered across a hallway in the south of the building; full-height glazed folding doors open the living room and dining area up to an outdoor swimming pool. An entertainment area is in the west wing. A small home office is tucked into a second-floor mezzanine gallery and overlooks views of the surrounding landscape. The guest cottage with a sunset veranda sits adjacent to the main house. To meet modern living comforts, the residence is equipped with air conditioning in the private wing; however, it relies solely on natural ventilation in the living areas. Large openings allow for cross breezes and hot air while the raised roof — inspired by local vernacular architecture — permits hot air to escape and induces air circulation. The thick adobe brick walls that were built of local clay, sand and bamboo shavings provide thermal insulation. The exterior is coated in a water-resistant mixture of lime and fine earth powder. Related: Breathtaking bamboo building withstands earthquakes and boasts a zero-carbon footprint Locally sourced  bamboo  was used to construct the carport, barn and entrance gate; natural stone tiles were used for flooring. “The client was looking for a modern interpretation of using natural materials,” Chiangmai Life Architects explained. “Adobe brick walls combined with wooden roof structures were designed in a way to make this earth and wood residence both functional as a modern family home as well as in harmony with its environment and surroundings. This meant a design and finish fit for the needs and requirements of a 21st century family.” + Chiangmai Life Architects Photogrpahy by  Alberto Cosi , drone shots by Markus Roselieb via Chiangmai Life Architects

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Adobe brick combines with wood in a low-carbon villa in Chiang Mai

Plastic waste has met its match with the viral #Trashtag challenge

March 14, 2019 by  
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It is rare when a social media trend actually results in a physical change to the environment, especially when it comes to picking up plastic waste . But a new viral challenge has thousands of people from around the world coming together to clean up places that have become overrun with plastic. The new challenge, #trashtag, encourages people to clean up litter and share photos from before and after the clean-up job is over. So far, tens of thousands of individuals have participated in the social media challenge. These participants have cleaned up roads, parks, beaches and wilderness areas. The challenge has also increased awareness of important environmental issues, like how much plastic waste ends up in the trash. Related: China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports While the challenge only recently went viral, it actually started a few years ago. A company called UCO Gear came up with the idea in 2015 to help with its wilderness protection program. The challenge did not catch on until this year, after a post on Facebook tagged “tired teens” in the photo. Since then, there have been well over 25,000 posts with #trashtag tagged, although it has a few other variations, such as #trashchallenge and #trashtagchallenge. Although it is great to see people cleaning up the environment in their free time, conservationists hope it will eventually lead to bigger changes. According to BBC , the director of Canada’s Ecology Action Centre (EAC), Mark Butler, hopes the hashtag gets people to understand why we need to eliminate single-use plastics altogether. “Getting plastic out of the environment is important,” Butler shared. “We need to do more than go behind the people that are littering and clean it up. We need to turn off the plastic tap.” Butler argued that if we do not start curbing our plastic use, then the clean-up job will never end. Given all of the photos we’ve seen from the trash challenge, Butler has a point. Hopefully, viral challenges like #trashtag will help initiate more lasting changes as we continue to deal with the problem of plastic pollution. Via BBC Image via Pacific Southwest Region 5

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Plastic waste has met its match with the viral #Trashtag challenge

Rugged Wilderness House optimizes bush views and passive solar principles

March 7, 2019 by  
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Drawing inspiration from the midcentury Case Study houses, Osmington-based Archterra Architects designed the Wilderness House, a contemporary elevated home with treetop canopy views. Located on a secluded bush block in coastal banksia woodland near Australia’s iconic Margaret River, the home was created to take advantage of its rich and remote environment using large windows and a natural materials palette. The client’s desires for long-term durability and low-maintenance also informed the design and construction of the home, which was crafted with energy efficiency in mind. Covering an area of 1,743 square feet, with much of the footprint elevated on the second level, the Wilderness House features a simple rectangular plan that stretches east to west. The second floor interior layout follows the trajectory of the sun: the master suite is located on the east side to allow the homeowners to rise with the sun, while the open-plan living areas are placed on the opposite end to overlook sunset views. Access to the upper floor is reached via a raw galvanized expanded mesh walkway ramp. On the ground level are a single guest bedroom suite and a series of slender galvanized columns that support the insulated upper floor concrete slab. “Raw galvanized steel Juliet balconies in front of sliding glass doors to the bedroom, bathroom and living room enable the entire house to be opened up to the outdoors and the constant summer hum of cicadas and chatter of birds amongst the trees,” the architects explained in a project statement. In addition to floor-to-ceiling sliding glass , the exterior is clad in zero-maintenance and bushfire-resistant Colorbond sheeting, hot dip galvanized steel, raw compressed cement panels and raw spotted gum decking. Related: Solar-powered Bush House exemplifies chic eco-friendly living in the Australian outback For energy efficiency, the architects installed roof overhangs that shield the walls of low-E glass from the hot summer sun, yet still allow the winter sun to penetrate the charcoal-pigmented floor slab. The open floor plan also ensures that natural light and cooling winds can penetrate all parts of the home. + Archterra Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Douglas Mark Black

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