Award-winning Owl Woods Passive House playfully mimics birdhouses in Australia

January 24, 2020 by  
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Australian design studio Talina Edwards Architecture recently completed the Owl Woods Passive House — the first certified Passivhaus project designed by a woman architect in Australia. Located in the Victorian town of Trentham, the sustainable home not only follows Passivhaus standards for an extremely energy-efficient build, but it also adheres to biophilic principles with its pitched roofs in the shape of unique “bird beaks” for solar shading. The project also won the Sustainability Medal at the 2019 Architeam Awards and was an official finalist in the New Home Category at the 2019 Sustainability Awards. As the 20th certified Passive House project in all of Australia, the Owl Woods Passive House is designed and constructed to meet strict Passivhaus standards that translate to an airtight building envelope for comfortable indoor temperatures year-round, energy efficiency, durability, controlled ventilation and adherence to passive solar design principles. Due to the building envelope specified for the site, the high-performance home is oriented slightly northwest but includes extended roofs along the western sides to protect the interiors from the afternoon summer sunlight. Related: This student housing is the largest Passive House-certified building in the Southern Hemisphere Inspired by the farmhouses of a Scottish village, where the clients previously lived, the home is organized into four interconnected gable-roofed pavilions. The easternmost wing houses two bedrooms and a shared bath. The central wing, which is topped with two pitched roofs, contains the open-plan living area and service rooms. The wing to the west comprises the master en suite with a sitting room. The home also includes an outdoor deck on the north side and is punctuated with large windows and glazed doors throughout for a constant visual and physical connection to nature and natural light. In addition to Passive House certification, the timber-framed project has also earned a NATHERS 7.4-star rating and is solar -ready. The interiors continue the exterior’s palette of natural materials and are finished with low-VOC paints for a healthy home environment. “The Owl Woods Passive House is a unique blend of biophilic design and Passivhaus standards of construction — a balance of creative design outcomes, which focus on how the occupants will feel in their home, along with the integration of building science, which delivers a high-performance home,” the architects explained. “In this aspect, it really is a pioneer project for Passivhaus homes in Australia.” + Talina Edwards Architecture Photography by Tatjana Plitt via Talina Edwards Architecture

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Award-winning Owl Woods Passive House playfully mimics birdhouses in Australia

Off-grid home is inspired by the iconic Australian Akubra hat

January 22, 2020 by  
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The Australian Akubra hat is one of the many symbols of the country, and one architectural team has used the hat’s recognizable form as inspiration for a spectacular off-grid home in the small NSW town of Nundle. Designed by architect Alexander Symes, the Upside Down Akubra House, which is located on a bull farm, features a massive flat roof that is about 2.5 times the size of the building’s footprint. But the unique volume isn’t all about whimsy. In fact, the structure is actually a powerhouse of passive and active design features that allow it to operate completely off the grid . Throughout the design process, the architect worked closely with the homeowners, who are bull farmers. Set in a large grove of eucalyptus trees, the owners requested that their new house not only provide unobstructed, 360-degree views of the stunning landscape but also offer them the off-grid lifestyle required by the remote location. Related: Off-grid farmhouse on Australia’s remote French Island runs on solar energy Accordingly, the resulting home features wide windows and sliding glass doors that lead out to a wrap-around deck, allowing the interior to have a strong connection to the outdoors. Additionally, this outdoor space is shaded by the oversized roof. This shading strategy provides a lovely open-air place to hang out with friends and family and keeps the house nice and cool during the searing-hot summers. The interior of the three-bedroom home boasts sleek concrete flooring and walls that contrast nicely with natural wood accents. The main living area has a spacious layout that opens up to the decks, which feature ample room for dining and lounging. A cozy fire pit welcomes the homeowners and their guests to gather together at the end of the day. The beautiful design lets the residents take full advantage of its breathtaking setting and enjoy the perks that come with living off the grid. An adjacent 800-square-foot carport is covered with solar panels , which allow the house to generate and store all of its own energy. Additionally, the rooftop also has a catchment system to reroute rain into water tanks for reuse. + Alexander Symes Architect Via ArchDaily Images via Alexander Symes Architect

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Off-grid home is inspired by the iconic Australian Akubra hat

Fires in Australia create dangerous weather conditions

January 8, 2020 by  
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Authorities warn that the unprecedented ferocity of Australia’s wildfires can produce extreme  weather  systems — dangerous and unpredictable conditions known as cumulonimbus flammagenitus, or pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) clouds. These pyroCb are associated with fire clouds, ember attacks, fire-driven tornadoes and lightning storms that could create further wildfires. Australia’s Climate Council advisory says that these occurrences are likely to become more common as  climate change  persists and  greenhouse gas emissions  increase. Even more worrisome, pyroCb can make firefighting efforts more difficult. “A fire-generated thunderstorm has formed over the Currowan fire on the northern edge of the fire near Nowra. This is a very dangerous situation. Monitor the conditions around you and take appropriate action,” the New South Wales Rural Fires Service (NSW RFS) recently shared via social media. Related: Half a billion Australian animals, even 30% of koala population, likely lost to wildfires NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons brought attention to the situation when an RFS firefighter died because of the wildfire-associated bizarre weather phenomena. “That extraordinary event resulted in a cyclonic-type base flipping over a 10-tonne truck. That is the volatility and danger that exists,” Fitzsimmons explained. According to a  Climate and Atmospheric Science journal study, wildfire-triggered thunderstorms, or pyroCb, have been observed before in other regions of our planet and were first discovered in the early 2000s. They were originally thought to have been precipitated by volcanic eruptions until they were reclassified as being wildfire -induced. The study of wildfire-associated pyroCb is still a nascent science, yet to be systematically researched. In recent years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s  Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) has monitored pyroCb in cooperation with both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). CIMSS classifies pyroCb as a “deep convective cloud…generated by a large/hot fire.” CIMSS has been monitoring the pyroCb formations above Australia as the wildfires continued to grow in quantity and magnitude. Several factors make pyroCb a formidable atmospheric force. The speed at which they form and change, coupled with heat from wildfires, can cause rapid, massive temperature swings. In turn, this fosters unpredictably severe winds that exacerbate wildfire intensity. The dynamics of pyroCb and their destructive power can, therefore, put the lives of both firefighters and the public at risk. “PyroCb storms are feared by firefighters for the violent and unpredictable conditions they create on the ground,”  The Guardian  reported. Not only are pyroCbs capable of creating lightning strikes and hail, but they can also engender embers that are “hot enough to start new fires…at distances of 30km from the main fire.” Dr Andrew Dowdy, a meteorologist at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology,  adds that the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the resultant  climate crisis facing our planet makes conditions favorable for pyroCb. As Simon Heemstra, manager of planning and predictive services at NSW RFS, said, “What’s happening now is that we are noticing an increase in incidence of these sorts of events. With a changing and heating climate, you are going to expect these effects.” Via Reuters , HuffPost , The Guardian Images via Harry Stranger and Rob Russell

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Chic B&B in New South Wales is inside a shed made of upcycled materials

December 4, 2019 by  
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Australia was recently voted the destination of the year for 2020 . If you are thinking about going down under for a vacation, make sure to check out this beautiful B&B located in a shed in New South Wales. Made almost entirely from upcycled materials , The Shed is an old machinery shed that has been converted into a unique, eco-friendly accommodation. Guests to The Shed will take comfort in not only staying in a unique hotel but also one that has been crafted from reclaimed materials. Walking into the spacious living area through a set of vintage doors, guests will find that the building materials, such as reclaimed wood and timber ceiling beams, were left exposed. Related: These enchanting, off-grid cabins are handcrafted from salvaged materials The living space of the fun hotel consists of a large lounge area with vintage sofas centered around a fireplace. An open kitchen with a breakfast bar comes with all of the typical amenities. A family-style dining table provides a great place for everyone to gather around and eat or play games together. The Shed sleeps up to seven guests among its three bedrooms. Two of the bedrooms have spacious, king-sized beds, while the third room is home to bunk beds. The full bathroom has a free-standing bathtub, a walk-in shower, a sink and a toilet. There is also a half bathroom. Just over two hours away from the NSW capital , Sydney, the Shed is set on an idyllic plot of land with chickens and an herb garden. Visitors can enjoy dining al fresco in the outdoor dining area, which comes complete with a barbecue grill and a pizza oven. The location offers all types of activities for nature-lovers, including hiking and biking trails. + Glamping Hub Images via Glamping Hub

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Chic B&B in New South Wales is inside a shed made of upcycled materials

Mirrored outhouse disappears into a lush river valley landscape

November 13, 2019 by  
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In Australia’s Kangaroo Valley, Paddington-based design studio Madeleine Blanchfield Architects carefully crafted a freestanding bathroom that all but vanishes into its surroundings. Designed for minimal impact, the compact outhouse is wrapped in one-way mirrors to blend into the lush landscape. Its use of solar energy and gray water recycling helps reduce the building’s carbon footprint . Moreover, the mirrored building is elevated off the ground and can be easily assembled and disassembled with limited site impact. Built to service a small cabin for overnight stays, the freestanding bathroom is set on a privately owned hillside about 30 meters from the accommodation. Its secluded location helps to enhance the feeling of being immersed in nature. The mirrored facade camouflages the structure by reflecting the lush landscape. When the space is used at night, the interior lighting makes the bathroom visible from the outside; the building orientation and remote location ensure privacy. Related: Mirrored home in the woods is hidden in plain sight The bathroom contains a bathtub and shower at the center that look out to unobstructed views of nature in all directions to give guests the sense of bathing outdoors. The architects also equipped the building with sustainable technologies, including solar-powered lights and a gray water recycling system with septic tanks. The landscape was minimally altered, and the bathroom can be easily removed without harm to the site. “The client’s desire to create a haven that not only provided connection to the landscape but a place to truly escape and unwind was met through the design,” the architects explained. “By avoiding the temptation to create a visually intrusive folly, the brief for the outhouse was met both visually and experientially. The outhouse heightens the sense of place, makes one consider their location.” + Madeleine Blanchfield Architects Photography by Robert Walsh via Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

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Mirrored outhouse disappears into a lush river valley landscape

Architects reveal winning design for Western Sydney Airport

November 6, 2019 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects and Sydney-based Cox Architecture have won the international design competition for the Western Sydney International Airport, a new travel hub that is slated to become the largest international gateway to Australia by 2060. Located in Sydney’s new western Parkland City region, the greenfield airport draws inspiration for its form and material palette from the unique local flora and nearby mountains. In addition to referencing the natural landscape, the architecture will emphasize energy efficiency through daylighting, natural ventilation and water recycling. Selected from a shortlist of five competitors narrowed down from 40 entries, Zaha Hadid Architects and Cox Architecture’s winning design mirrors the surrounding terrain with its wavy roof and gold-toned color palette. The Western Sydney International Airport — also known as the Nancy-Bird Walton Airport after the famous Australian aviatrix — aims to catalyze the city’s western expansion and cement Parkland City’s position as the third urban hub of Sydney . Related: Zaha Hadid Architects completes futuristic, energy-saving airport in Beijing Under the direction of Zaha Hadid Architects and Cox Architecture, who will jointly serve as Master Architect for the entire airport precinct, the project will be constructed in four phases. The initial phase will accommodate 10 million annual passengers and is slated for completion in 2026. The project will be completed in its entirety by 2060 and is expected to accommodate 82 million annual passengers. The architecture follows sustainable design and construction principles for an energy-efficient, modular build. “We are honored to have been selected for this amazing project,” said ZHA Project Director Cristiano Ceccato in a press statement. “The design is an evolution of Australian architecture past, present and future. It draws inspiration from both traditional architectural features such as the veranda as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding bushland.” + Zaha Hadid Architects + Cox Architecture Images via Zaha Hadid Architects

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Architects reveal winning design for Western Sydney Airport

Aluminum cans vs plastic bottles: which is best for the environment?

October 30, 2019 by  
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We’ve all been guilty of buying an unsustainable beverage every once in a while, but when faced with the perplexing conundrum of whether to grab that plastic bottle or aluminum can, which do you believe to be more environmentally-friendly ? The history of plastic goes back to the early 1900s when the first fully synthetic plastic was invented as an alternative to the shellac used in electronic insulation. During World War II, plastic production increased by 300% in the United States as it was used for everything, from nylon in ropes and parachutes to plexiglass in airplane windows. After the war, commercial use of plastic had completely taken off and incorporated into virtually every product and market in modern life. By the 1960s, the first occurrence of plastic pollution in the oceans was recorded. Related: This rechargeable camping headlamp is made out of sustainable wood and recycled aluminum Today, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 80% of the marine debris found in our oceans originated as land-based trash that was not recycled. Over 90% of the plastics found in the ocean is comprised of microplastics, which commonly end up ingested by aquatic animals, often killing them through choking or toxicity. The National Geographic Society found that 91% of the world’s plastic was not recycled in 2018. That alarming statistic means that all but 9% of plastic waste ends up either in landfills or in the ocean. Plastic bottles are made from petroleum, or “crude oil.” Oil drilling, also known as fracking, wastes water, releases methane into the atmosphere, produces oil spills and generally wreaks havoc on the environment. Plastic bottles are typically too thin to recycle into more plastic bottles, but the material can be made into fibers for things like carpets, clothing and sleeping bags. In 2018, the recycling rate for plastic bottles was just over 29%. The use of aluminum cans was first introduced to the general public in 1959 by Coors. About five years later, Royal Crown Cola brought aluminum into the soft drinks game with their RC Cola and Diet Rite. Since then, they’ve been used for everything from energy drinks and sparkling waters to sodas and wine. Aluminum offered an affordable alternative to steel as well as a more convenient surface for company printed text and graphics. Aluminum cans can be recycled into more cans in a true “closed-loop” recycling process. In 2018 the recycling rate for aluminum cans was 49.8%. The liquid inside the aluminum can benefit from the material as well, since aluminum blocks light, moisture and oxygen from permeating the outside. This makes the drinks more sustainable , as they have a longer shelf-life. Lightweight cans have only decreased in weight over the years, with the first aluminum cans weighing about three ounces per unit and modern cans weighing less than half an ounce. Typically recycling programs value aluminum over plastic or glass, with the former holding $1,317 worth of value per ton of recyclable material versus plastic’s $299 per ton. This allows more municipal recycling programs to stay in service. IFC International, a global management consulting and technology company, found in a 2016 study that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation and refrigeration of aluminum are 7 to 21 percent lower than that of plastic and 35 to 49 percent lower than glass. The easy-to-recycle aluminum material doesn’t stop there; the shiny stuff’s strength is another advantage. According to the Aluminum Association , four six-packs can hold up a two-ton vehicle thanks to the packaging’s aversion to rust, corrosion and ability to withhold carbonation pressure. This stamina allows companies to package and transport more product using less material. Related: Prada jumps into the sustainability realm with six Re-Nylon bags made from recycled plastic waste When it comes to the amount of recycled material found in cans versus plastic bottles, aluminum has the upper hand, as well. In 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency found that aluminum cans contain three times the amount of recycled content than plastic. They also estimated that aluminum cans are made up of 73% recycled material on average.  Aluminum doesn’t occur in nature and is primarily comprised of bauxite rock, which is primarily found in Australia, India and Brazil. Collecting bauxite comprises of open-pit mining, which usually involves moving or bulldozing large amounts of vegetation and surface rocks. This type of mining negatively affects ecosystems and creates air and water pollution , which can cause health issues for wildlife and humans. Not to mention, the combination of electrolysis and chemical processing that it takes to turn bauxite into conventional aluminum takes a large amount of heat and energy. However, the Aluminum Association assures that land conservation has become an important focus among bauxite mining. Topsoil from the site is stored to be replaced after the process is finished, so “an average of 80 percent of the land mined for bauxite is returned to its native ecosystem.” So how can you make sure you’re not contributing to plastic or aluminum pollution? Always reach for that reusable water bottle before going out! Fill it with water, soda, juice or whatever you like. For those unavoidable times when you end up with plastic or aluminum waste, get some inspiration for recycling through Inhabitat! Images via pasja1000 , gepharts3d , filmbetrachterin , Enriquehgz , Mr.TinDC

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Travertine and teak sustainably ground a modern home into a harsh coastal climate

October 3, 2019 by  
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Built to look like an extension of the landscape, the Point Nepean Residence in the town of Portsea, Australia is a sustainably crafted home designed to withstand extreme coastal weather. Melbourne-based design practice B.E Architecture created the home for a retired couple who wanted a beachside abode that would highlight the site’s natural beauty. In addition to a natural material palette that complements the coastal aesthetic, the home also uses site-specific, passive solar design principles to reduce energy demands. Set amongst thick tea tree parklands, the Point Nepean Residence enjoys sweeping views of Portsea Pier and Port Phillip Bay. In a nod to the rocky breakwater located below the site, the home features a facade made of imported Travertine from Eco Outdoor, a stone material selected for its weathered texture and ability to withstand the harsh coastal climate. Sustainably sourced plantation teak wraps the lower portion of the building and is also used for the mechanically operated screens on the upstairs windows. “The house is set back from the road with only glimpses of the building details being evident from the entranceway,” explain the architects in a press release. “It is only on approaching that slowly the house reveals itself, and one becomes more aware of the materiality of the elements used. Once inside the tall front gate, occupants and visitors are guided down a long walkway next to an atrium style internal courtyard that opens out into the main living area with views over the pier and ocean beyond.” Related: Locally sourced materials make up a timber home that mimics its forest landscape The thick travertine walls provide beneficial thermal mass for regulating internal temperatures, which is further stabilized with insulation in the walls and roof. Natural sea breezes are also maximized throughout to ventilate the building, while daylight streams in from multiple openings. The simple palette of timber and stone create a minimalist and modern appearance that’s also low maintenance.  + B.E Architecture Images by Derek Swalwell

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Travertine and teak sustainably ground a modern home into a harsh coastal climate

This off-grid tiny cabin in the Australian wilderness is just what you need for a late summer getaway

August 23, 2019 by  
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If you’ve been stuck at your desk all summer, now is the perfect time for a little break, and this beautiful tiny cabin in Australia is just the place to get away from it all. Designed by Sydney-based firm Fresh Prince , the Barrington Tops cabin is an off-grid eco cabin that is nestled into the remote wilderness. Located in New South Wales, the 150-square-foot cabin , which is available on Airbnb , is surrounded by pristine woodland just steps away from a babbling brook. The serene location inspired the architects to create something classic and minimalist. Related: 160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler Clad in matte black Weathertex (an eco-friendly, locally sourced timber product made from forest thinnings and other industry by-products), the prefab structure manages to blend in quietly with its location. Built on a wheeled chassis, the lightweight cabin is quite mobile. Designed to be used as an off-grid retreat, the cabin produces all of its own energy and was built to have minimal impact on the environment. A solar array is affixed to the pitched roof, which generates sufficient power for the residence. The design also features sustainable plywood lining, a composting toilet and low-E glass windows with operable louvres that provide a natural system of air ventilation. The dark black exterior gives way to a bright, light-filled interior thanks to a large glass door. The door, along with several windows, let in an abundance of natural light , which, paired with the lightly-hued plywood walls, opens up the compact space. The layout is simple , with a bed at one end and a bathroom at the other, separated by a compact kitchen with a small refrigerator and a two-burner gas stove. There is a small dining set in front of the door, which can be moved outside to dine al fresco. To make the most out of the cabin’s limited interior space, the architects went with a function-first mentality. Fresh Prince founder Richie Northcott explained, “Working within a small footprint, everything must earn its place; there is no room for waste or inefficiency. The cabin was conceived as one continuous piece of joinery, interlocking and aligning to provide space for storage, cooking, sleeping and sitting, without disrupting the overall space.” + Barrington Tops Cabin + Fresh Prince Via TreeHugger Photography by Rachel Mackay via Fresh Prince

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This off-grid tiny cabin in the Australian wilderness is just what you need for a late summer getaway

Giraffes win CITES protection

August 23, 2019 by  
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Giraffes are doing a victory dance today after winning international trade protection on Thursday. Delegates at the World Wildlife Conference in Geneva voted to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES ). Countries will now be required to issue non-detriment findings before exporting or importing giraffe parts. This means that in order to get permits, a scientific authority of the state must decree that the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. The number of giraffes has declined by 40 percent over the last three decades, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council , which calls the situation a “silent extinction.” Habitat loss, poaching for meat, trophy hunting, disease and trade in their parts has left giraffes more endangered than elephants. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified seven of the nine giraffe subspecies as threatened with extinction. Related: Don’t forget to fight for these “less glamorous” endangered species Giraffes range through 21 sub-Saharan African countries. Six of the range states — Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal — submitted the proposal to curtail indiscriminate trading of giraffe parts. The U.S., E.U., New Zealand, much of South and Central America and 32 African nations supported the proposal; however, some countries in southern African wanted to be exempt. CITES discourages this kind of split listing, as it makes things difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal trade. Fortunately, this idea was overruled. Because giraffes haven’t been listed under CITES in the past, there is not much international data on the trade in giraffe parts. But U.S. data points to a heinous level of trade, with nearly 40,000 giraffe parts arriving in the U.S. between 2006 and 2015. This equals at least 3,751 whole giraffes. Skins, bone carvings and raw bones were the parts most commonly intercepted. Taxidermied trophies and knives made with giraffe bone handles were other frequent imports. The long-necked ruminants and all their supporters are hoping that the U.S. will soon list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act . After conservation groups spent more than two years petitioning for protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finally conducting an in-depth review of the status of giraffes. Hopefully, it will act sooner rather than later. + CITES Via Reuters and NRDC Image via Loretta Smith

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