A solar-powered luxury home blends into a Pacific Northwest landscape

March 27, 2019 by  
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When a client commissioned Seattle-based architectural practice Hoedemaker Pfeiffer to design their new solar-powered home, they asked that the design take inspiration from a stone-and-wood retreat that they had lost to a fire decades ago in the hills of Appalachia. As a result, the new build takes cues from the client’s former property as well as its location on a remote forested plateau atop a steep hillside in the San Juan Islands . The dwelling, named Hillside Sanctuary, is built of stone and wood volumes and appears to naturally grow out of the landscape, while its large walls of glass take in sweeping views of Puget Sound. The Hillside Sanctuary comprises two buildings: a main house and a guest house, both of which comprise two floors and are oriented for optimal views of Puget Sound to the southwest. In the main house, the master bedroom and the primary living spaces can be found on the upper floor, with the main rooms sharing access to an outdoor patio. Secondary rooms are located below. The smaller guesthouse also places the primary living spaces on the upper level. On the lower level are two bedrooms and an outdoor dining area and kitchen. The bases of both buildings consist of thick stone walls topped with light-filled timber structures. Simple shed roofs with long overhangs shield the interiors from intense southern summer sun and support solar panels . Walls of glazing along the buildings’ southern elevation let in ample natural light. Strategically placed clerestory windows allow for northern light and permit the escape of warm air. A particularly impressive application of glass can be seen in the guest house dining room, which is cantilevered into the forest and wrapped on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass. Trees were carefully preserved so as to create the room’s treehouse-like feel. Related: Lakeside cabin made out of reclaimed wood is as idyllic as it gets “Taken together the buildings provide two related but distinct ways of appreciating the beauty of this site,” the architects explain. “Together they provide friends and family comfortable accommodation while offering a sanctuary for the owner at the main home.” + Hoedemaker Pfeiffer Images by Kevin Scott

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A solar-powered luxury home blends into a Pacific Northwest landscape

Coal prices continue to rise, becoming more costly than solar and wind alternatives

March 27, 2019 by  
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Coal prices are on the rise in the United States. The vast majority of coal production now costs more than wind and solar energy. Unless the price of coal production drops quickly, experts believe the fossil fuel will be replaced in the near future. “Even without major policy shift, we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, who authored a new study for Energy Innovation on the rising costs of coal. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar .” The new study examined financial data obtained from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to determine how much it costs to produce coal in the United States. Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early According to The Guardian , the researchers discovered that over two-thirds of coal produced in the United States is more costly than solar and wind alternatives. This includes the cost of building solar panels and wind turbines and maintaining them. If the cost of coal continues to rise, the fuel will no longer be a viable option for energy over the next five to six years. Americans across the country will be able to save money by replacing their coal energy with wind or solar power. The scientists leading the study already knew that coal prices have gone up, but they did not expect it to be so widespread. There are several reasons why coal prices have skyrocketed in recent years. The two biggest causes are maintenance bills and the cost of retrofitting factories to comply with new pollution laws. While coal prices are on the rise, wind and solar energies have actually decreased in cost as technology improves. Coupled with an increase in demand for natural gas, renewable energy is killing the coal industry. Renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar power, now make up about 17 percent of electrical production in the United States. Although coal is clearly on its way out, the Trump administration has been advocating for it, which has only slowed its demise. Financial institutions have also kept coal alive by handing out around $1.9 trillion dollars in loans over the past four years. But if coal prices continue their current trend, the industry is doomed to be replaced by more affordable, cleaner energy alternatives. Via The Guardian Image via Lucas Faria / U.S. Department of Energy

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Coal prices continue to rise, becoming more costly than solar and wind alternatives

Is cargotecture the future of construction? What you need to know for your next project

March 11, 2019 by  
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As the construction industry continues to evolve and adapt to innovations like green buildings, the push for more sustainable materials  and the efforts to reduce waste, there is one trend that is pushing the limits of design — cargotecture. Steel shipping containers have been a key component of global trade for the past 50 years, and now these steel boxes that are 8 feet wide by 8-and-a-half feet high — and either 20 or 40 feet long — are becoming a recycled building material that you can use to build your own home. There are millions of shipping containers all over the world just sitting in various ports, as returning empty containers to their original location is extremely costly. But now, these shipping containers are being used to build everything from low-cost housing to fabulous vacation homes instead of being scrapped. However, could cargotecture be too good to be true when it comes to building a home? Here are the pros and cons of using shipping containers for your next construction project. Related: Massive shipping container shopping center to pop up in Warsaw Pros Cost-effective The shape of shipping containers makes them ideal for repurposing into buildings . Compared to building a similar structure with brick and mortar, on average, a cargotecture can be 30 percent cheaper. However, the savings will depend on the location and what type of home you are building. Another thing to keep in mind is that a cargotecture home won’t be the same as what you are used to in a traditionally-built home— if cost is a top priority. The look and function will be different, and you will have to make compromises.  You can upgrade to get the features you want with a little more money. Ultimately, you can definitely cut costs when using cargotecture. Structural stability Since steel containers are designed to carry tons of merchandise across rough ocean  tides, they are “virtually indestructible.” Earthquakes and hurricanes are no match for cargotecture, which make containers an excellent choice for building a home in areas prone to natural disasters. Construction speed A traditional housing structure can take months to build, but with cargotecture, all you need is about two to three weeks since they are basically prefabricated. Not to mention, modifications can be made quickly off-site. Or, if you are a hardcore DIYer , you can build a home out of a shipping container much easier than you could with lumber, a hammer and nails. You can also customize a layout by stacking the containers for multiple floors and splicing them together for a larger space. However, there is a lot of modification required when you use cargotecture. Depending on the design, you may need to add steel reinforcement. Heating and cooling can also be a major issue, so you definitely need to have a temperature control strategy in mind. Recycling materials When recycled shipping containers are used in cargotecture, it can be extremely eco-friendly . Repurposing the containers instead of scrapping and melting them can save a lot of energy and carbon emissions while preventing the use of traditional materials. Safety Good luck breaking into a cargotecture structure. Unless thieves have some dynamite or a blow torch, they are not getting inside. This makes cargotecture a perfect choice for building in rural and remote areas. Related: Stacked shipping containers transform into a thriving arts space in Venezuela Cons The green myth The downside with cargotecture is that sometimes it’s not as green as you would believe. Some people are using brand new containers instead of recycling old ones, and this completely defeats the purpose of cargotecture. And, to make a container habitable, there is a lot of energy required because of the modifications like sandblasting and cutting openings. Plus, the amount of fossil fuels needed to move the building makes cargotecture’s ecological footprint larger than you might think. Health hazards Obviously, when shipping containers are made, human habitation was not a factor in their design or construction. Many shipping containers have lead-based paints on the walls and chemicals like arsenic in the floors. You must deal with these issues before moving into a cargotecture home. Temperature control We mentioned earlier that modifications need to be made when you use cargotecture, and one of the biggest concerns is insulation and heat control. Large steel boxes are really good at absorbing and transmitting heat and cold. This ultimately means controlling the temperature inside your cargotecture home can be a challenge. You don’t want to be living inside an oven or a freezer, right? Building codes With cargotecture still being relatively new, it has caused some issues with local building codes. When you build small structures and don’t use traditional building materials , you should always check to see if they meet local regulations. Images via Julius Taminiau Architects, Mattelkan Architect, Whitaker Studio

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Is cargotecture the future of construction? What you need to know for your next project

Corporate neighbors in Pennsylvania share solar power, courtesy of blockchain

February 19, 2019 by  
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The installation could be a model for other deregulated markets.

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Corporate neighbors in Pennsylvania share solar power, courtesy of blockchain

The Green New Deal would boost the restoration economy. What does that mean?

February 19, 2019 by  
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Few are paying attention to a thriving $25 billion economy that’s already supporting more than 200,000 jobs outside of renewable energy. These 11 points clear up misconceptions and myths.

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The Green New Deal would boost the restoration economy. What does that mean?

Built to last: The business case for living buildings in 2019

February 12, 2019 by  
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And four value propositions that have incentivized companies and organizations such as NRDC, Etsy and Google to complete them.

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Built to last: The business case for living buildings in 2019

The perfect match: businesses and the SDGs

February 12, 2019 by  
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How sustainability and inclusivity are driving the business models of the future.

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The perfect match: businesses and the SDGs

Matt Ellis, CEO & founder of Measurabl, on why the built environment needs ESG data management

November 5, 2018 by  
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What happens when you start thinking of tenants as customers of the built environment?

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Matt Ellis, CEO & founder of Measurabl, on why the built environment needs ESG data management

VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: NuLeaf Tech

November 5, 2018 by  
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A pitch competition that provides entrepreneurs in energy, buildings, transportation, supply chains, water, food, and cities the opportunity to present to the diverse VERGE community: executives from the world’s largest companies, public officials from progressive cities, venture capitalists, and others.VERGE Accelerate on Day 3 of our event focuses on the most promising early-stage CIRCULAR ECONOMY startup solutions.

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VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: NuLeaf Tech

VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Infinited Fiber

November 5, 2018 by  
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A pitch competition that provides entrepreneurs in energy, buildings, transportation, supply chains, water, food, and cities the opportunity to present to the diverse VERGE community: executives from the world’s largest companies, public officials from progressive cities, venture capitalists, and others.VERGE Accelerate on Day 3 of our event focuses on the most promising early-stage CIRCULAR ECONOMY startup solutions.

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VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Infinited Fiber

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