9 ways to introduce nature into your dull work space

March 27, 2019 by  
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Your home, office or home office can be your sanctuary even when deadlines loom. Mitigate the stress of your work surroundings by bringing the intrinsic calm of nature into your office space. From the selection of natural elements to green design,  there are many ways to connect with nature even when you’re trapped between four walls. Here’s some inspiration to help transform your work space into a lively zen zone. Set a theme It’s easier to pull together a complete look with a theme in mind. Are you thinking Japanese garden , have an affinity for hot air balloons, need a forest feel or love the beach? When planning, think about the colors, sights and sounds associated with that activity or space. Choose scents, colors, textures and green designs that represent your favorite natural places. Related: A tiny, 96-square-foot rustic pavilion brings the outdoors in Music For an all-encompassing natural environment , set up a station on your favorite listening app and enjoy tropical birds, ocean waves, wind or simple meditative sounds as you work. Paint and wallpaper If you have the ability to design your own space, start with a wall color that screams nature. From seafoam to forest green right through greys, browns and blues, there are endless options for your wall color. For a bolder look, you could have someone paint a mural or use a premade wall wrap with a forest or ocean print. Wallpaper is another option for all or part of your space, especially if you don’t have any windows where you can actually see the world during your work day. Wall and room decor Your eyes can play tricks on you, and that is not always a bad thing. Surrounding yourself in outdoor decor can visually transport you from the monotonous task at hand to a sandy beach with an umbrella drink until you are able to make it there in person. Again, follow your theme if you wish, but always select pieces that bring you joy. For some, that might be a framed photo of a bike race and for another it might be the profile a person standing on the summit of a mountain. Choose wall decor with your outdoor happy place in mind. Then, accentuate that theme around the room with seashells, pinecones, wood carvings, glass floats, rocks and a snuggly theme-printed blanket. Plants Plants obviously grow in nature, therefore making them the most obvious way to bring the outdoor world inside and a touch of green to your day. Depending on the size of your work space, you could have a single plant or an entire wall of them. For a desk in a cubicle, think about plants that will thrive without direct sunlight. If you are blessed with a window to the outdoors, take advantage of the filtered or focused light. Add plants to bookcases and file cabinets to surround yourself in greenery. Many plants are forgiving enough to survive less-than-ideal growing conditions. Put a spider plant up high so it can drape down the sides. For your desk, incorporate succulents, cactus or bamboo. Even fresh flowers, rotated out frequently, will bring a smile when you enter your space. Remember to stay away from wildflowers and strong scents if you share a space with others who might be allergic. Related: 10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips Open the window In addition to artificial scents, bring in the real thing every chance you get. Open the windows regularly and swing open the door— if you have one. Combine sounds and smells with natural wood or seashell wind chimes. Set fragrant flowers near the window to encourage the pleasant scent to waft through the space. Scents In addition to the visual aspect of your office design, remember to feed the other senses too. Part of the joy of nature is the scents that surround you while you paddleboard or meditate. The good news is that you can bring those scents into the workplace to bring a little calm to your day. Candles or incense (again consider the allergies of others) can remind you of that Caribbean vacation or afternoon in the salty beach air. Musky or woodsy aromas take you right to the forest. If candles are too strong of a scent, try bringing in natural woods. Think of the smell when you open a cedar chest or lay fresh bark dust and you’ll see what we mean here— maybe some driftwood from a recent trip or pinecones you’ve collected at some point. Water feature Another way to feed the need for the outdoor sensory experience is through the sounds of moving water. Even a small desktop fountain can help muffle the sounds from the neighboring cubicle and help maintain focus. For a larger space, you can bring in a freestanding wall water feature or other fountain. With so many varieties available you can create the sound you want through material selection and size. The further the water falls, the louder the sound and remember that wood mutes the sound more than rock and other materials. Other natural elements If you have the opportunity to design your space from the ground up, consider each material carefully. For example, go with a natural wood flooring option in either a hardwood or laminate material. Select soft, natural window coverings that allow light into the room. Even desk accessories can bring a natural element when you select bamboo instead of metal or plastic. Just because you are saddled up to a desk doesn’t mean you have to lock the outdoors out. Instead, envision where you want to be and surround yourself with those green elements. Remember to consider all of the senses when you brainstorm ideas and make your workspace a retreat that inspires. Images via Shutterstock

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9 ways to introduce nature into your dull work space

‘Funnel-shaped’ cabin in an Ecuadorian forest is made of locally sourced wood

March 22, 2019 by  
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When it comes to creating living spaces that meld into their environment, savvy architects are showing us that sometimes less is definitely more. Quito-based architect Emilio Lopez has just unveiled a beautiful cabin made with  locally sourced wood and bamboo. At approximately 1,200 square feet, Cabana Don Juan is formed like a boxy funnel, with both sides featuring large glazed walls that provide stunning views of the coast on one side and a lush forest on the other. Located in the country’s Manabí Province, the beautiful two-story cabin is tucked into a native deciduous forest. Built on top of a hill along the coast line, the home rests in a setting that is picture-perfect, with views of the ocean on one side and the forest on the other. Related: Sculptural wood cabin is an alpine retreat with magnificent views To make the most of its natural environment, Lopez designed the cabin in a unique funnel shape with two extended sides that feature ultra-high, all-glass facades. The shell of the home is made out of concrete and covered with locally-sourced Amarillo and Asta wood. The interior was clad in eco-friendly bamboo , which provides a warm and cozy atmosphere. The living space is approximately 1,200 square feet, spanning two levels that connect through double-height ceilings. The ground floor houses the living, dining and kitchen area, while the two loft-like bedrooms are on the second floor, facing the ocean. The open-plan layout with large windows not only embeds the cabin and its inhabitants into the surroundings but also provides natural light and ventilation throughout the year. + Emilio Lopez Via Dwell Photography by Jag Studio via Emilio Lopez

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‘Funnel-shaped’ cabin in an Ecuadorian forest is made of locally sourced wood

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

Competition-winning Bamboo Stadium is a sustainable solution to Lagos former landfill

January 30, 2019 by  
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In Lagos , Nigeria, one of the world’s fastest growing cities, a visionary design has been proposed to rethink waste and provide much-needed urban green space atop the metropolis’ former Olusosun Landfill. The proposal, titled Bamboo Stadium, is the winner of ‘ Waste: Multipurpose Stadium ’, the latest open ideas architecture competition launched by architectural research initiative arch out loud. The sustainable design explores transforming the brownfield into a bamboo forest that would provide the raw material for building a future stadium and community gathering space on-site. According to arch out loud, Lagos had, until recently, managed waste by relocating it to the 100-acre Olusosun landfill opened in 1992. However, due to the metropolis’ rapid population growth, the once-remote landfill has now become edged in by urban development and was shut down earlier this year and rezoned for redevelopment as a public park by the local government. The WASTE Competition sought to explore new redevelopment ideas and how stadium typology could serve the surrounding community. Iulia Doroban?u and Lucas Monnereau of ENSA Paris Belleville submitted the competition-winning Bamboo Stadium design, which proposes turning the landfill into a community meeting space fitted with multipurpose and adaptable modular structures that can cater to housing and public facilities such as a marketplace, school, cinema, sport courts, shops, restaurants, and workshops. The stadium would therefore not only serve as a platform for local and international football matches, but could also be used year-round by the community for other purposes. Related: Nine African cities commit to reaching zero carbon by 2050 “We propose an evolutive system — from a bamboo forest and stadium to a checker-board infinite pattern, composed of built blocks and yards, alternating between them,” the designers explained. “Bamboo grown on the whole site will become the dominant building material: transformed in standardized arches that will bear the platforms and roof-structures, between yards and bridges. Patterned units make the construction process extremely efficient and cost-effective. The building act becomes possible in-situ, offering the flexibility to change form, add or retain pieces on short notice. Looking forward, a local grow and support of the direct participation of dwellers in the design work can raise awareness and repel the soil, reduce carbon emissions or heat in the process.” + Waste: Multipurpose Stadium Competition Images by Iulia Doroban?u and Lucas Monnereau via arch out loud

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Competition-winning Bamboo Stadium is a sustainable solution to Lagos former landfill

Recyclable art pavilion made of mesh pops up in Kolkata

January 10, 2019 by  
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West Bengal’s biggest annual festival recently saw the addition of a strikingly contemporary pavilion that is 100 percent recyclable in Kolkata , India. Designed by Abin Chaudhuri of the firm Abin Design Studio , the metal mesh pavilion was one of many temporary pavilions — or pandals — constructed to honor the goddess Durga as part of a five-day Hindu festival called Durga Puja. Unlike the other pandals, which are typically built of natural materials and reference traditional motifs and artworks, Abin Design Studio’s creation is architecturally modern with a dynamic form made from steel wire cubes. Installed inside an alley surrounded by buildings, Abin Design Studio’s Festival Pavilion stands out from its predecessors for the way it embraces the site. Rather than covering up the buildings, Abin Chaudhuri regarded the structures as a backdrop for his stacked cubes of steel wire mesh. The pavilion , which appears as a heap of cubes threatening to topple at any moment, is not only used to frame the deity, but it has also been manipulated to create an entrance arch and immersive sculptural artwork. “The installation is based on the idea of ‘Childhood,’” Abin Design Studio explained. “At the entrance of the installation, an abstract flight of birds overhead depicts the freedom of thought and creativity in young children. The wings gradually diminish and the birds tessellate into an array of boxes. Along with the deconstructed arrangement, the boxes put forward a commentary on the scenario of a child’s immense inherent potential getting slowly confined into a metaphorical box. The form of the installation then compels the viewer into a ‘void’, a place to sit and contemplate, in the axial presence of ‘Maa Durga.’” Related: A glowing river of books creates a traffic-free haven in Ann Arbor All parts of the temporary 350-square-meter pavilion are recyclable , from the steel mesh cubes and bamboo framing system to the plywood support system for the platform and stage as well as the old newspaper folded into origami birds. Moreover, the pavilion was also created as a module that could be replicated to activate forgotten urban spaces throughout the city, even in non-festival times. + Abin Design Studio Photography by Suryan/Dang, Abin Chaudhari, Sohomdeep Sinha Roy and Nancy Mandhan via Abin Design Studio

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Recyclable art pavilion made of mesh pops up in Kolkata

Bamboo community center empowers the local Brazilian community

December 11, 2018 by  
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The beautiful beach town of Camburi, Brazil, has gained a new community center that not only serves as a communal gathering space, but is also an inspiring social development project that was built for and by the local low-income community. Belgium and Brazil-based design practice CRU! architects provided the design as well as technical assistance and financial support, however, it was the community that decided all of the programming. The project started in 2004 and its first completed building is the community center, a low-impact building primarily built of bamboo and rammed earth. Located on the Brazilian coast not far from Sao Paulo , the community center at Camburi is a multi-phase project that includes a computer room, library, preschool, office space, assorted storage space and a bakery that is currently undergoing construction. CRU! architects was careful not to interfere in all of the decision making behind the programming and scope of the project beyond the design and technical details. The firm’s final design was shaped by the local association of Camburi’s brief for a centrally located communal space with space for classrooms and storage that would be visually integrated with the surrounding landscape and the neighboring school. “The entire Bamboostic project was foreseen as an educative training for this cooperative to perfect their techniques, whilst building community infrastructure,” explains the firm of the project, which spans 175 square meters. “The community decided all of the content and program of the building and its different parts built in different times over the last 10 years.” Related: Community hub built of recycled materials spotlights exploitation of nature in Vietnam Set 50 meters in land from the beach, the community center is oriented towards the sea to take advantage of cooling cross breezes that flow unimpeded through the building thanks to the raised roof and minimized perpendicular walls. The rammed earth bricks provide natural insulation and thermal mass, while bamboo was used for the structural frame and on the exterior doors and windows to help shield the interiors from harsh sunlight. + CRU! architects Images by Nelson Kon

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Bamboo community center empowers the local Brazilian community

A guide to the best holiday gifts for an eco-friendly home

December 5, 2018 by  
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As adults, receiving gifts to adorn a home or apartment is one of the greatest joys in life. Whether you’re searching for a unique furniture piece for your parents, adorable trinkets for a friend or something extra special for yourself, these gifts top our list of favorite presents for a green home this year. Natural Escape Mattress This holiday season, give the best gift of all: the gift of a good night’s sleep. Free from the toxic VOCs and chemical flame retardants that lurk in most traditional mattresses, the Natural Escape mattress from My Green Mattress is organic and USA-made, making it the perfect gift for just about anyone on your list. We certainly won’t judge you for purchasing it for yourself — once you’ve slept on the contouring, supportive layers of organic cotton and latex as well as natural wool, it will be even harder to leave your bed each morning. Smart thermostats This green technology will allow its recipient to keep their home cozy and comfortable year-round while saving energy and lowering utility bills. Check out the high-tech options by Nest or ecobee . Related: 4 things you need to know about smart thermostats Cork and bamboo coffee press Made from cork, bamboo and glass, this eco-friendly French press is a stylish gift that will look beautiful on any kitchen counter. The wood is left unstained for food safety, and the simple device is just as quick and easy to use as any other coffee maker but without throwaway filters or electricity. Best of all, each purchase helps the company, GROSCHE, provide more than 50 days of safe, clean drinking water for those in need. Bidet Is a bidet attachment for a toilet the most romantic or exciting gift? Maybe not. But it is incredibly useful and better for the environment, considering people around the world flush the equivalent of about 27,000 trees daily . Nomadix Many people have towels for different purposes: bathing, camping, swimming, yoga. But  one towel from Nomadix  can do it all, and these brightly patterned towels are even made from post-consumer  plastic  bottles. It’s a win-win. Terra Klay If you really want to take someone’s breath away, snag some impressive dishware from Terra Klay . From bowls and mugs to teapots and casserole dishes, this pottery is handcrafted with care by women artisans in Manipur, India. They make a striking addition to any kitchen. Fan-folded paper lights Really wow someone you love with these luxurious (but budget-friendly) pendant lights . The fixture of each light is made from upcycled vinyl records, while the intricately folded shade is made from scrap cardboard paper. It also includes LED bulbs and comes in four colors, from neutral to flashy. Rio sofa from Stem At first glance, this is a simple couch that can blend into any living room. But this sofa also features eco-friendly and customizable materials from colors and fabrics to fillings and legs. The sofas are made with FSC-certified timber frames and avoid harsh chemicals. Inmod Azara dresser This stylish dresser is made from 100 percent Moso bamboo and features six soft-close drawers to hold plenty of clothing, accessories or extra blankets. The finish is distinct enough to stand out, but subtle enough to match the recipient’s existing furnishings. Wool comforter We spend a lot of time sleeping or snuggling in bed. Make that time count with these warm, snuggly wool comforters that are made with 100 percent organic wool and cotton. This is also a durable comforter that will last and last. Melrose furnishings from Urban Woods You can’t go wrong with the Melrose set from Urban Woods . Each piece uses reclaimed wood as well as low-VOC and non-toxic materials. These furnishings are also made in L.A., reducing the environmental impact of shipping (compared to ordering items shipped from outside the country). This collection is bold and modern, but you can also find many other sets or make a custom order to suit your gift recipient’s style. Teak wood bowls and salad servers Made from reclaimed teak wood, these bowls and salad servers are a must-have for anyone who loves to entertain. Each is hand-formed with distinct graining, leaving no two items the same. From salads to fresh fruits, anything served in these bowls will be the star of the show. Recycled pouf The incredibly relaxed lounge chair, or the pouf, is becoming a staple for modern living rooms. Choose a unique, sustainable option like this eye-catching black pouf made from recycled textiles like leather and cotton. Each pouf uses a different blend of materials, making each one an original. Organic crinkled percale sheets It’s no secret that well-loved (read: old) sheets are the most comfortable to sleep in, so imagine the joy of opening a set of brand new, organic sheets that already have that worn-in softness from the start. These sheets come in soothing neutral shades to match any bedroom, and the soft, slightly crinkled cotton will make your bed even cozier than normal. Images via My Green Mattress , Nest , GROSCHE , Amazon , Terra Klay , Nomadix , ABCD , Stem , Inmod , Haiku Designs , Urban Woods , CB2 ( 1 , 2 ), Coyuchi and Amira Hegazy

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A guide to the best holiday gifts for an eco-friendly home

A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

November 12, 2018 by  
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A new experimental office on the 12th floor of The Shard in London offers a breath of fresh air … literally. Wrapped in bamboo surfaces and punctuated by living plants, facilities management company Mitie’s headquarters in London was created by local practice DaeWha Kang Design . The biophilic project — dubbed the Living Lab at The Shard — mimics nature from its natural materials palette to the circadian lighting system linked to an astronomical clock. As its name suggests, the Living Lab at The Shard will be used as a pilot study to measure the impact of biophilic design on worker wellness and productivity. In addition to the client, the project was created in collaboration with Dr. Marcella Ucci (head of the MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings at the University College of London). A post-occupancy study will compare daily surveys of Mitie employees who will work at the Living Lab desks for four weeks at a time followed by a four-week work period in a “control area” on the same floor with similar environmental conditions but without biophilic design. “Biophilia refers to human beings’ innate need for a connection with nature,” DaeWha Kang Design said in its press release. “Human physiology is wired to seek qualities of light, view, material and other factors common in the natural world. The Living Lab is fully immersive, with rich and intricate patternization, natural materials  and interactive and dynamic lighting.” Related: This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido The project comprises two main spaces: the “Living Lab” immersive work environment and two “Regeneration Pods” for short-term rest and meditation. Bamboo was used for the sculptural privacy screens that curve up at the ceiling; different textures and shades of bamboo were also used for the floor, desks and task lights providing a warm contrast to The Shard’s cool glass-and-metal palette. The Regeneration Pods, also built of bamboo, were created by combining digital fabrication with hand-finishing techniques and feature plush built-in seating that faces walls of glass for city views. A subtle circadian lighting system uses color-changing lights to mimic the sun — a cool blue is cast in the morning that changes to bright white in the afternoon and finally reaches a fiery orange near sunset. + DaeWha Kang Design Images by Tom Donald for Aldworth James & Bond and Kyungsub Shin via DaeWha Kang Design

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A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

Hong Kongs greenest school champions environmental stewardship

October 22, 2018 by  
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Copenhagen-based Henning Larsen Architects has unveiled images of its recently completed French International School of Hong Kong – Tseung Kwan O, a colorful and energy-efficient development that the firm has declared as the city’s “greenest school.” Designed to promote sustainability, the new primary and secondary school serves as a green oasis in the city. Boasting significant water savings and sewage reduction, the school is designed to meet Building Environmental Assessment Method (BEAM) Plus Gold standards, a Hong Kong rating tool for green construction. Completed in September, the new campus of the French International School serves 1,100 students in a multicultural learning environment — the student body represents 40 nationalities — that champions collaboration and sustainability. Its distinctive facade speaks to the diverse campus vision and features a grid of 627 multicolored ceramic tiles. In addition to the primary and secondary classrooms, the campus includes a library, a canteen, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, an auditorium with a multifunctional arena, multiple gardens and a 400-meter-long track called “The Loop” that connects the campus playgrounds and gardens. A healthy environment is promoted through ample green space, which improves urban air quality, provides natural shading and creates a green refuge in an urban environment where access to nature is limited. A total of 42 native trees grow within the campus, and the Native Garden offers educational opportunities. The interior is dressed in eco-friendly surface materials including natural rubber floors, bamboo ceilings, non-toxic paints and fabrics made from pure wool. The buildings are oriented to optimize access to natural daylight and seaborne winds to minimize the need for air conditioning and artificial lighting. Low-flow fixtures offer up to 30 percent water savings. Related: Henning Larsen unveils green, mountain-inspired buildings for Shanghai The learning environment is further enhanced with improved room acoustics, reduced background noise and a layout that encourages team building. “We dissolved the traditional classrooms,” said Claude Godefroy, design director and partner at Henning Larsen Hong Kong. “We pushed boundaries on how learning spaces can allow teachers and classes to work together in a more collaborative, open space.” + Henning Larsen Photos by Philippe Ruault

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Hong Kongs greenest school champions environmental stewardship

This chic Moganshan resort celebrates the local Chinese landscape

July 20, 2018 by  
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Blessed with serene mountain vistas and a rich history, Moganshan also boasts a wide array of beautiful resorts including Anadu, a new rural retreat designed by local architecture firm Studio 8 . Located at the northern foot of the Mogan Mountain in Huzhou, about two hours from Shanghai , the luxury resort embraces its enticing surroundings comprised of lush bamboo forests, tea fields and ancient villas. Constructed with natural materials throughout, the hotel is undeniably connected to its rural setting while still offering a contemporary edge. Completed in 2017, Anadu covers nearly 13,000 square feet spread across three floors. Studio 8 was commissioned to oversee the architecture, interior design and visual identity of the luxury resort, which highlights  local resources from the ingredients used in the restaurant to the selection of construction materials. Following the brand’s motto of “Find yourself in nature,” every floor embraces the outdoors through large windows and stunning water features. “Water itself, and especially a very calm water surface, generates immediately a sense of relax,” explained Studio 8 in a statement. “[We] decided that this element would be the core of the hotel, a connection between the rooms that articulates the structure of the entire building. For that purpose, the roof of each floor was turned into an infinity water feature. By bringing natural elements into the architectural spaces, the design fosters a connection between the building and the outside.” Related: Heatherwick Studio wants to build a tree-covered mountain in the middle of Shanghai The resort’s various rooms are organized in four major narratives inspired by the immediate surroundings. The Tea Room, for instance, faces the white tea fields and is dressed in a material palette echoing the tea theme. To the south, the Mountain Room features a dark gray color palette and a water feature that reflects the distant mountain range. On the east side, the Bamboo Room mimics a bamboo forest with its bamboo wood furnishings and a rice-pink palette. The penthouse suite on the third floor follows the theme of Sky and is surrounded by an infinity pool to create the effect of a “floating island.” + Studio 8 Images by Sven Zhang ???

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This chic Moganshan resort celebrates the local Chinese landscape

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