Breezy caravan-inspired annex uses passive design for thermal comfort

February 28, 2019 by  
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In Melbourne, Australia, a 1960s family home has been updated with a new contemporary extension that draws inspiration from a traveling caravan. Flanked by lush greenery, the Bent Annexe is filled with natural light and designed to follow passive solar principles for energy efficiency. The modern addition was designed by Australian architectural practice BENT Architecture for an outdoor-loving family of four and their two active Dachshunds. The primary goal of the Bent Annexe was to open the relatively introverted midcentury home up to the garden and bring greater amounts of natural light and ventilation into the living spaces. To that end, the architects removed existing ancillary structures in the rear of the property to make space for the new addition . With the primary living spaces now located in the annex, the architects also took the opportunity to remodel the existing dwelling, which now houses larger bedrooms, a family bathroom, and a second living space. “The trick to making the Annexe feel like a part of the garden is creating green spaces on both sides, by separating the addition from the original home with a courtyard ,” the architects explain of their design process. “Of course, the central courtyard improves cross-flow ventilation and lets north light into the master bedroom, but with full-height windows on both sides of the living area, it also creates the illusion of one continuous space, blurring the boundary between inside and outside.” Related: A 1960s home gets a modern facelift with solar panels and rainwater collection Built to wrap around the original home beneath a continuous roofline, the extension houses open-plan living areas that overlook the landscape through full-height glazing and casement windows. A retractable shading device—a caravan-inspired canvas element—provides shade to a decked outdoor dining area that strengthens the home’s new indoor/ outdoor connection. The use of concrete floors for thermal mass and operable louver windows help passively heat and cool the space to reduce the home’s energy bills. + BENT Architecture Via ArchDaily Images © Tatjana Plitt

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Breezy caravan-inspired annex uses passive design for thermal comfort

10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips

February 28, 2019 by  
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Decorating a home is intimidating enough without taking the environment into account, but choosing eco-friendly decor will be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some simple tips and rules for green alternatives in home decorating that will help reduce your  carbon footprint and even save you some money along the way. Perks of vintage The simplest way to positively affect the environment with your home decor choices is to buy pre-used. Some people even prefer a more wear-and-tear or “distressed” look. Not to mention, vintage decor is chic and costs way less than buying new. So head over to your local thrift store, estate sales or flea markets (you can even raid your grandma’s attic for forgotten treasures). If you still can’t find anything to your taste, Ebay and other media sites are a great place to explore pretty much anything vintage. Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Choose sustainably-sourced materials Work with companies that are focused on ethical labor standards and fair trade. There are some great globally inspired home products that give back to the artisans and communities who make their pieces and are passionate about eco-friendly decor. Obviously, one of the best material for furniture is wood, but making sure that you choose a wood that doesn’t contribute to the deforestation epidemic is just as important as choosing the style of furniture itself. Make sure all wood is FSC certified and sustainably-sourced. Donate When you absolutely do need to get rid of something in your home, choose to donate it or even sell it. Even if you don’t make much money off the sale, it still means that the item transferred its value to someone else (and more importantly, didn’t end up in a dumpster or landfill ). The Goodwill is an amazing organization that gives back to the community and ReStore by Habitat for Humanity has a free pick-up program that will help local families find homes. Most donations are tax-deductible as well. Don’t assume that just because it is used or old that no one will want it. Use non-toxic materials Whether you’re painting your walls or repurposing a piece of furniture, the type of paint you choose matters. Eco-friendly paints are free of volatile organic compounds or “VOCs,” which can be harmful to both the environment and to humans. Even carpet has been known to emit high levels of VOCs and contribute to accumulations of allergens . Houseplants A well-cared-for houseplant can give renewed life to any space. There are even some houseplants such as ferns or palms that can increase oxygen and help purify your home. Houseplants are a less-expensive decoration that adds a natural, fresh accent and can combat pollutants and chemicals produced from man-made materials. Thermal alternatives Even a plain thermal lining can drastically reduce how much hot or cold air is escaping from your home. This will also save money on your electricity bill and make your home that much more comfortable for your family and guests. For eco-friendly insulation, there are alternatives to fiberglass made from sustainable materials like wool or hemp. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials Repurpose It may take a little more elbow grease, but DIY-ing your old stuff into new stuff is more rewarding and satisfying than buying new every time. Repaint wooden tables to match your new decor with an artsy pattern or reupholster your old chairs to make them look brand new. If your creative side refuses to come out, hire someone else to do the job. It will still cost less money than buying new while still feeling new to you. Look out for furniture made from reclaimed and salvaged materials like aluminum and recycled wood as well. Go with timeless styles One of the biggest problems with home decor is changing trends. A type of furniture or style may be in vogue one year and out of style the next. That leaves trendy homeowners with the options of either getting rid of their decor or repurposing it in order to keep up. Investing in sturdy, timeless designs will ensure that your home decor never goes out of style and you get plenty of use out of it before it needs to be altered or donated. Use nature Go wildflower picking or gather herbs from the garden to decorate. Add natural accents like citrus to elevate a vase or candle holder for a special effect, or use cranberries or holly during the holidays. Driftwood is also a wonderful alternative for doorstops or shelving and can be DIY -ed into wall art. Sometimes the most memorable and special decorations can be found in the most unlikely places. Redecorate If your home is feeling dull and in dire need of an upgrade, sometimes just a simple change of scenery can make all the difference. Try moving furniture or shelving around, switching out photos or re-arranging artwork onto different walls. You may save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort and stress just by finding new spots for your furniture in your home . Images via Shutterstock

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Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age

February 28, 2019 by  
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When the owner of a beautiful natural site in Falmouth, Maine tapped Portland-based architectural studio Kaplan Thompson Architects to design his house, it was clear from the beginning that the forested surroundings would play a major role in the design. Not only did the architects use a predominately timber palette to bring the woods indoors, but the two-story home was also engineered to produce all of its own energy to reduce impact on the environment. Dubbed the Blackwood House, the net-zero dwelling is fitted with a variety of renewable energy systems and low-maintenance materials for long-term sustainability. Topped with a slanted roof, the Blackwood House takes on a shed-like appearance with a utilitarian vibe that’s strengthened by the exterior surface materials. Combined in what the architects call a “complex textile pattern”, the low-maintenance and cost-effective facade includes weathering steel, fiber cement board (Viroc), and black-stained cedar (Maibec), all of which will develop a natural patina over time. An open timber-framed carport completes the utilitarian look while keeping the design within budget. “Unlike contemporary modern spaces that are cold and sterile, this house is modern and sleek yet roughhewn,” the architects say of the two-story house. “With fine woodworking alongside the clean lines of the interior structure, raw and cooked come together in harmony. Taking into consideration the beauty of the surrounding natural forest, this design places focus on exposed materials in their most basic form. Timber beams throughout the living areas bring the woods inside and provide structure to the rooms. Hidden storage and flowing spaces combine with large, strategically placed windows to allow the forest and natural light to take center stage.” Related: Kaplan Thompson Architects Unveil Super-Efficient Harborview Townhomes in Portland, Maine Completed in 2017, the Blackwood House spans an area of 2,775 square feet yet feels even larger thanks to full-height glazing that frames views of the outdoors, while a treehouse -like feel is achieved in the second floor balcony. Careful construction and triple-glazed windows ensure that the light-filled, open-plan interior maintains comfortable indoor temperatures year-round. Photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof of the carport power the energy-efficient home. + Kaplan Thompson Architects Images by Irvin Serrano via Kaplan Thompson Architects

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Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age

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