LEED Gold office in Austin offers wearables to promote employee wellness

October 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

The Texas Mutual Insurance Company’s new headquarters in Austin, Texas’s Mueller Development has earned both LEED Gold and Austin Energy Green Building 4-Star certifications in recognition of the building’s energy-efficient design and focus on occupant wellness. Designed by Texan architecture firm  Studio8 Architects , the four-story office building is notable for its adherence to the “Design for Active Occupants” LEED innovation strategy to prioritize a healthy and active workplace as opposed to the traditionally sedentary office environment. Texas Mutual also provides occupants with wearable devices to track activity and employee access to an online portal for evaluating individual health scores and biometric data.  As one of the first members of the Austin Green Business Leaders group, Texas Mutual has used its headquarters as an inspiring example of the firm’s sustainable objectives. The four-story headquarters is strategically located in the LEED ND Gold-certified Mueller neighborhood, a  mixed-use  and mixed-income area that’s pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. The offices sit above ground-floor retail space — currently occupied by a restaurant and daycare facility — and a parking garage. To meet  LEED Gold  standards, architects wrapped the building with a highly insulating envelope punctuated with full-height windows and wove biophilic design elements throughout the interior. Daylight responsive LEDs and an HVAC system that draws chilled water from Austin Energy’s Mueller District Energy System help to further reduce the building’s energy footprint.  Related: SUNY New Paltz Engineering Innovation Hub achieves LEED Gold Natural materials, daylighting and greenery indoors further promote a healthy work environment. Occupant health is also targeted with ergonomic workstations with adjustable sit/stand desks, an on-site gym and a Green Housekeeping program to maintain a clean and non-toxic space. “Social spaces were sporadically placed to encourage movement across floors, a multi-story  green wall , and a courtyard and rooftop terrace with Wi-Fi connection encouraged employees to be connected to each other and to nature,” the architects said. + Studio8 Architects Images by Lars Frazer

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LEED Gold office in Austin offers wearables to promote employee wellness

Dream of an escape to the off-grid cabins in Kogelberg Nature Reserve

October 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

When the team at KLG Architects, a South Africa-based company that specializes in contemporary design, was asked to design a retreat deep inside a nature reserve, the result is architecture that respects nature while providing a safe, comfortable and off-grid space for humans in it. Located in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, 1.5 hours outside of Cape Town, the retreat’s purpose is to accommodate the environmental staff who work on the reserve as well as provide guest amenities, which include a natural swimming pool and several cabins . Related: Nimmo Bay offers a remote, eco-friendly spa experience The challenges were significant with the remote location, including an inability to get large equipment into the region, so the team began by studying the landscape to understand the topography and vegetation. Careful consideration in protecting the fynbos region was a primary goal. With this central focus, the team selected a location for the structures that would have the lowest impact and began sketching designs on paper. In the end, the architects created five two-person cabins and three six-person cabins set in place with minimal site impact , including small concrete supports. Each cabin is raised off the ground, allowing animals to cross and water to flow beneath. A network of floating boardwalks connects the cabins while preserving the natural environment. Pine was selected as the primary building material due to its availability and natural gray fading that allows it to blend into the landscape. Each cabin is situated to highlight the views and comes complete with an outdoor deck with a private pergola for protection from the sun and heat. Inside, small wood-burning stoves warm the cabins at night while strategically placed vents provide cooling cross-ventilation . High specification insulation throughout the cabins further contributes to energy savings. The designers also incorporated off-grid technology such as waterless Enviro-loos. This form of dry sanitation relies on heat from the sun to convert sewage into compost without the use of water, chemicals or electricity. The water that is needed in the retreat is sourced from the nearby Palmiet River, which is treated at a new water purification plant. Full solar geyser systems were used throughout. In addition, green roofs are planted with carefully chosen endemic grasses, which help cool the space. As described by KLG Architects, “The resultant design sits harmoniously in the environment and connects the user to the natural landscape, providing a perfect retreat experience.” + KLG Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by David Southwood via KLG Architects

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Dream of an escape to the off-grid cabins in Kogelberg Nature Reserve

An apartment complex in Amsterdam follows biophilic design principals

May 24, 2019 by  
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Dutch architecture firm  GG Loop has wrapped an apartment building in Amsterdam with a beautiful facade of timber slats. According to the architects, the design for the Freebooter Apartments incorporates a number of biophilic design principals in an attempt to connect the building’s residents with nature. In addition to its light-filtering timber screen, the building also includes a number of materials that pay homage to the city’s maritime traditions. The four-story apartment block is a prefabricated structure that was manufactured offsite using steel and cross-laminated timber. The prefabrication process not only reduced the cost and environmental footprint of the project but the construction time as well. In fact, the entire construction process only took six months from start to finish. Related: Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume According to architect and founder of GG Loop Giacomo Garziano, the design for the Freebooter Apartments was inspired by the principles of biophilic design, which aims to connect architecture with natural elements. “We are part of nature in a deep and fundamental way, but in our modern lives, we’ve lost that connection,” Garziano said. “Freebooter is a response to that; as I see biophilic design as the key to truly innovative design, balancing the technical aspects of environmentally conscious construction with the qualitative, lived-in experience of an organic and natural space.” The sustainable design was focused primarily on natural materials and natural light. Before the project broke ground, the architects conducted a study of the sun’s movement over the course of the year. This analysis was instrumental in the positioning the building and placing the timber louvers at certain angles so that the interior spaces were properly lit by diffused natural light. The long vertical planks of timber cover the entire building, including the terraces. Cutouts in the timber screen allow more light to stream into certain spots of the complex. As a nod to the city’s long history of shipbuilding, the design also features various elements of marine architecture, such as the red cedar planks, pine wood, steel and glass. These aspects are found throughout the interior, where natural light , pine-clad walls and curved stairways and corridors create an atmosphere of being in a ship’s cabin. The two-story units all feature open-plan living spaces on the ground floor with the bedrooms on the second floor. Throughout the space, minimalist design features and large glass facades that open up to spacious terraces shaded by the tops of the louvers enhance the feeling of being close to nature. + GG Loop Via Wallpaper Photography by Francisco Nogueira

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An apartment complex in Amsterdam follows biophilic design principals

Moss walls: the newest trend in biophilic interiors

November 25, 2015 by  
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Why a highway in California suddenly lifted and twisted within a matter of days

November 25, 2015 by  
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If you took a glimpse at the uprising and jagged Vasquez Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, California, and immediately suspected underground “graboids” from the 90s movie Tremors, you’re not alone. Residents joked about subterranean worms causing this weekend’s sudden, three-day lifting and warping of the highway, yet the actual cause may be just as mysterious. Read the rest of Why a highway in California suddenly lifted and twisted within a matter of days

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