Energy-efficient villa in Portugal uses locally sourced cork for insulation

February 5, 2019 by  
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When tasked with reforming an existing home for an older couple looking to live out their retirement years in picturesque Algarve, Portugal, local firm Core Architects looked to make the structure as energy-efficient as possible. In addition to converting the previously two-story home into a one-story reborn as Villa GK, the architects used various ecological building materials such as cork insulation and travertine rock, which were both locally-sourced. The homeowners had visited Algarve for years, but when it came to living there full-time, they knew that they had to reform the two-story home to adjust to their comfort levels as they aged. Working closely with the couple, the architects created a plan that would turn the 2,000-square-foot home into a more open, one-story layout. To do this, the team decided to slope the home and add an outdoor staircase that leads to the garden, complete with a putting course. Related: A modern vacation retreat is embedded into the rolling hills of southern Portugal The home’s new layout not only helped create a flowing living space, but it was also orientated to take advantage of the sun’s position . Additionally, the architects were able to optimize cross-ventilation for the interior. A large glazed facade looks out over the swimming pool and, of course, stunning views of the sea in the distance. To create an energy-efficient home that would keep the interior temperature comfortable and reduce energy costs, the home was built with concrete and clad in heat-efficient clay blocks. This system not only added a tight thermal shell, but it also made the home more secure in case of an earthquake, which are somewhat common in the area. According to the architects,”In our projects we only use thermal clay tiles with mortar-free butt jointing. These are produced in Portugal and are fast and easy to work with. Their thermal performance is more than twice as efficient than the traditional bricks that are conventionally used.” They used locally-sourced cork boards and cork caulking to further insulate the home. The home was also installed with a solar thermal system for heating water. The interior living space is bright and airy with optimal natural light reaching each room. A neutral color palette of all-white gives the space a sleek, Mediterranean feel. The living room runs into an open kitchen, which features a beautiful island made out of locally-sourced travertine. + Core Architects Via Dwell Photography by Alexander Bogorodskiy via Core Architects  

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Energy-efficient villa in Portugal uses locally sourced cork for insulation

It’s time to decide: clean your room or plant a tree

February 5, 2019 by  
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Are luxury and sustainability compatible? The Parq Vancouver complex in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia strives to have it all by balancing two luxury hotels, a casino and eight restaurants with LEED gold standards and a host of environmental initiatives, including the option to forgo one common hotel amenity in favor of a greener option. One of the Parq’s newer programs is a twist on skipping housekeeping in favor of an alternative reward, something becoming more popular among hotels . At the Parq , when a guest checks in for more than two nights, they can skip room cleaning and opt instead for either 500 bonus Marriott points per night or having a tree planted. That’s one tree for every two nights. If they stayed at the hotel long enough, soon they’d foster a small grove. Related: Meet the teen planting 150 trees for every person on Earth To personalize the tree planting program, the Parq allows guests to include their names or dedicate the seedling to somebody else. This information appears on a webpage showing a cartoon version of the forest, including where the tree is planted and to whom it’s dedicated. Workers plant the trees in the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area near Calgary, Alberta. Cutting down on hotel housekeeping is better for both the environment and the hotel’s operating costs. Less frequent washing of towels and bedding means decreased water usage and fewer chemicals dripping into sewers. “You get the benefit of not using cleaning chemicals in the rest of the room,” Jeanne Marie Varney, who teaches courses on sustainability at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, told the New York Times . “Not running vacuum cleaners saves energy .” The Parq, open since late 2017, also offers an unusual 30,000-square-foot park on its sixth floor, designed by landscape artist Christopher Phillips of PFS Studio. This elevated park combines an oxygen hit from more than 200 pine trees with dramatic views of Vancouver’s skyline. If that’s not enough green space , travelers can visit next door province Alberta to look for the tree that exists because they skipped room cleaning. The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area welcomes hikers and snowshoers. + Parq Vancouver Via New York Times Images via Heiko Stein

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It’s time to decide: clean your room or plant a tree

Concrete home perched on Greek island cliffside designed with large cut outs to frame the amazing sea views

January 25, 2019 by  
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When Stockholm-based firm, OOAK Architects were tasked with building a beautiful home for two windsurfing aficionados on the Greek island of Karpathos, they created a design completely driven by the incredible surrounding nature. The Patio House is a beautiful concrete home with large open cutouts that sits gently on the landscape, cantilevering over the rocky cliff to provide breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. According to the architects, the design and orientation of the home was driven by the rugged landscape, which is comprised of two stepped plateaus. Due to the nature of the terrain, the architects decided to cantilever the home from the higher ledge, a decision that would optimize the amazing sea views. Related:This off-grid home on a Greek island provides ‘cinematic frames’ of the sea “The question became how to introduce a foreign object– a house –into this spectacular landscape, enhancing its qualities without altering its character,” said OOAK. “Rather than trying to mimic the landscape, the house is gently placed on the site as an object, leaving the surrounding landscape as untouched as possible.” The natural terrain not only influenced the home’s overall design, but also its materials. To install the home into the rocky cliffside, the architects built the home with reinforced concrete , clad in a board-marked finish that gives the home a strong Mediterranean aesthetic. Additionally, the home’s roof was covered with gravel to blend in with the surroundings. The home’s volume is a fairly simple horizontal silhouette that stands out due to its various distinctive cutouts. These large apertures, some windows and some left completely open, were strategic to provide breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea from virtually anywhere in the home. The interior design , which includes Scandinavian-inspired furnishings and all white walls, is bright and airy, giving the design a fresh, modern aesthetic. Located high above the sea, the home is often exposed to strong winds, which prompted the architects to add a sheltered open-air patio at the heart of the living area. This space is a usable outdoor space, with a small dining area and plenty of greenery, that the family can use to enjoy fresh air despite the severe winds. For entertaining, the homeowners can also enjoy a large terrace that was placed on the lower plateau and accessed by a large staircase. + OOAK Architects Via Dezeen Photography by Yiorgos Kordakis and Åke E:son Lindman, via OOAK Architects  

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Concrete home perched on Greek island cliffside designed with large cut outs to frame the amazing sea views

Light-filled, sustainable office in the Netherlands produces all of its own energy

January 25, 2019 by  
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Dutch firm Team Paul de Vroom + Sputnik has just completed work on a beautiful, light-filled office in the Netherlands. Built around an open-air patio, the Big Green Egg’s new European office is designed to foster an inspiring work environment. Additionally inspiring, however, is the building’s sustainable profile, which includes solar panels that make the building 100 percent self-sufficient, a gray water collection system, natural building materials and a large green roof. The architects worked closely with the Big Green Egg Europe team to create an office environment that was vibrant and healthy. The volume of the building is quite humble, a square, two-story volume clad in brick. However, the combination of natural building materials such as stone and wood offer a strong connection to the environment. Massive glazed facades flood the interior with natural light . Related: A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace The office space generates its own electricity as well as energy for heating and air conditioning thanks to a rooftop solar array. Additionally, a green roof runs the length of the building and is installed with a rainwater collection and storage system that is used to irrigate the building’s landscaping. At the heart of the design is the open-air central patio . This space was designed to offer employees an outdoor area for casual meetings or simply to take in some fresh air under the massive tree that sits in the middle of the space. Additionally, the patio is designed for entertaining and is the perfect place to highlight the company’s famous high-end ceramic barbecues. On the interior, each room is tailored to a specific use but with flexible features. There is ample space for formal conferences as well as smaller offices for teamwork sessions or private phone conversations. Natural flagstone flooring runs throughout the interior to give the space continuity. The smaller rooms also have custom-made dynamic wall furniture that provides optimal versatility depending on desired use. Within the walls, there is a pull-out desk and bench that can be extended depending on the number of seating spaces needed. To add a bit of whimsy into the interior design, there are fun animal statues throughout the space and even a boardroom wall covered in soft felt. + Team Paul de Vroom + Sputnik Photography by Ossip van Duivenbode via Team Paul de Vroom + Sputnik

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This striking concrete home uses mesh walls to connect with nature

May 24, 2018 by  
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When it comes to home design, architects around the world are forgoing the conventional for the experimental – all in the name of passive design . For a brilliant example, look no further than Ma of Wind, a unique concrete home from Japanese firm  Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects  with north and south facades made out of steel mesh. Over time, the mesh will be covered with plants to help shade the interior during the hot summer months. Located on Japan’s Okinawa Island, the Ma of Wind home is a daring attempt to bring outdoor elements into the interior as much as possible. Using the island’s traditional vernacular for inspiration, the architects explain that the design concept was “characterized by a respect towards the natural environment, and maintaining harmony between man and nature.” Related: A Minimalist Steel “Green Box” Home that Puts Nature First in Vietnam The structure is made out of a reinforced concrete shell chosen for its resilience against typhoons, a fairly common occurrence in the area. Additionally, the home uses several passive design features to cool the interior during the hot and humid summer months. The open walls on either side of the home open the space to optimal ventilation and natural lighting on the interior. Additionally, extra-large eaves were placed over the terraces to provide extra shade during the summer months. Without a doubt, however, the home’s most striking feature is its steel mesh facade . The architects hung two mesh walls on the north and south facades of the home; these walls will serve as trellises for climbing plants over the years, providing a natural shade system for the building. During the winter when some of the plants lose their leaves, daylight will stream through the interior. “Depending on the season, vegetation engulfs the house, fusing architecture with nature,” the studio explained. The architects based the interior layout on that of traditional Japanese homes . An open living space and kitchen make up the heart of the house, which is flanked by large terraces on either side. The bedrooms are laid out perpendicular to the main living area and have sliding glass doors that open up the rooms to the exterior. The home creates as much of a connection with the island’s natural climate as possible, no matter how harsh. “Sun, wind, water, and the unique climatic features of Okinawa Island together modeled the design as a space exposed to the prevailing winds, looking to south and north for enhancing natural ventilation,” the architects said. + Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects Via Dezeen Images via Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects

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This striking concrete home uses mesh walls to connect with nature

This prefab concrete house harvests rainwater with food-growing vertical gardens

October 10, 2017 by  
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Students from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri  designed this beautiful solar-powered home completely out of prefabricated concrete. Built to showcase the viability of building with concrete , the spectacular design includes a series of gutters on the exterior that serve as a large-scale hydroponic growing system that can produce food all year round. According to the team, the design of the Crete House is meant to be a reminder that concrete continues to be a viable and sustainable building material that makes for a beautiful alternative to wood constructions. Thanks an ultra-strong envelope comprised of four inches of standard concrete, five inches of insulation, and one inch of Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC), the home is incredibly resilient against fire, moisture, mold, insects, seismic activity, and extreme weather. Related: 8 amazing homes that are 100% powered by the sun The design focuses on providing the ultimate in self-sufficiency – including energy generation, water reuse, and food production. Solar panels provide sufficient energy to the home, and a water-to-water heat pump provides hot water for domestic use as well as water for the home’s radiant heating and cooling system installed in the floor and ceiling. The precast insulated concrete panels of the home are factory-manufactured, but assembled on-site, reducing travel time and energy. In addition to the home’s structure, the concrete panels were used to create a series of large L-shaped gutters that extend out and away from the house. The shape of the gutters was strategic in creating an innovative system of water collection that directs to vegetated channels built into the vertical gutters that extend out into horizontal planters on the ground level. This all-in-one hydroponic system, complete with drip emitters, integrates a home garden system into the design, allowing occupants to grow their own food all year round. + Crete House + Solar Decathlon Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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This prefab concrete house harvests rainwater with food-growing vertical gardens

Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth

October 10, 2017 by  
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To satisfy black market demand for ivory , poachers have turned to hippos . Hippopotamus teeth offer an unfortunate alternative as elephant populations plummet. But now the animals could face extinction – with one estimate suggesting the species could vanish within 100 years . The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies hippos as vulnerable . Their populations have fallen in Africa as their habitats have shrunk, and they’ve been hunted for teeth, skin, and meat. They’re in trouble – but according to Anglia Ruskin University teaching fellow Ben Garrod, writing for The Guardian , “The simple truth is that they are not high on the priority list of the international conservation community.” Related: China promises to end ivory trade by the end of this year A study published earlier this year in the African Journal of Ecology dug into the issue; two researchers at the University of Hong Kong found discordance in trade data that they said could undermine regulatory measures and harm African hippo populations. They said 90 percent of the global hippo teeth trade goes through Hong Kong . 75 percent of the imports come from Uganda or Tanzania . But Hong Kong declared a different volume of imports than the exports those two countries reported. The researchers think the trade in hippo teeth exceeds quotas that have been agreed upon internationally, saying more than 14,000 kilograms – around 30,865 pounds – are “unaccounted for between Uganda and Hong Kong, representing more than 2,700 individual hippos – two percent of the global population.” According to Quartz, demand for hippo teeth spiked after a 1989 ban on the international trade of ivory from elephants. Also, it’s far less difficult to smuggle hippo teeth than elephant tusks. Lead author Alexandra Andersson said in a statement , “It is imperative that authorities in both exporting and importing nations cross check the volumes of threatened species declared on paper to those actually received, work together to understand the cause of any discrepancies, as well as correct any reporting errors or fraudulent declarations. The fate of hippos – and a plethora of other species – could depend on it.” Garrod said hippos now desperately need our help as do elephants, and will until there’s a change in the demand for ivory. Via The Guardian and Quartz Africa Images via Pixabay and Pexels

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Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth

These Dutch designers are harvesting stardust from rooftops

October 10, 2017 by  
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Did you know that 37,000 to 78,000 tons of stardust falls on the earth’s surface every year? The dust is made up of micrometeorites that make it through the earth’s atmosphere – and now two Dutch designers are collecting this rare material from rooftops in the Netherlands. Kirstie van Noot and Xandra van der Eijk are exploring ways to utilize these mini meteorites as a precious resource that literally falls from the sky. Kirstie and Xandra believe that stardust could become a new resource for a world that is quickly using up its own natural resources: “As terrestrial resources are depleting and rare earth metals are arguably indispensable for our way of life and our survival as a species, we are in dire need of alternatives,” explains van Noot in her website. To salvage stardust, the pair first collects matter from the rain gutters and roofs of houses. They then incinerate the matter and use magnets to pull out particles for inspection. By studying the shape and composition of these particles, the pair is able to identify which ones came from outer space. The designers recently displayed their star dust exhibition, “As above, so below” at this year’s London Design Festival. The exhibition included the star dust itself as well as a solid cube made of meteoric material. + Dutch Invertuals Collected + Kirstie van Noot + Xandra van der Eijk + London Design Week Coverage Photography by Ronald Smits Photography

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These Dutch designers are harvesting stardust from rooftops

Stunning home in India blends into the earth with segmented green roofs

August 14, 2017 by  
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Jodhpur-based firm Misa Architects has created a contemporary concrete home that – despite its brutalist structure – manages to blend in to its bucolic surroundings. Tucked into rural farmland, the concrete and glass house is sandwiched between the rolling green landscape and a series of verdant green roofs . The home is located on agricultural farmland just outside of Vansajada, India, and it was designed to create a harmonic balance with the natural horizon. Although the building is made from concrete, its elongated shape, segmented green roofs, and verdant landscaping help camouflage it amidst the land. Related: Massive stone walls rotate to bring natural light inside this extraordinary Indian home The home’s structure is broken up into various segments, courtyards and open-air spaces that create a dynamic living environment. The abundant greenery embeds the home within its sites while providing natural insulation to keep the interior cool during India’s sweltering summer months. The roof features a water collection system that reuses rainwater to irrigate the on-site greenery. The home features open-air courtyards and well-lit nooks that create a seamless connection between the interior and exterior. Large glass windows and doors also bring in an optimal amount of natural light . + Misa Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Zurich Shah

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Stunning home in India blends into the earth with segmented green roofs

Glass-encased circular Solo House snakes through a Spanish forest

May 25, 2017 by  
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Brussels-based Office KGDVS just unveiled an amazing glass-enclosed circular building that winds through a lush green forest in Spain’s mountainous Matarraña region. The curved home is built on a high plateau and clad in floor-to-ceiling windows to give the space one continual breathtaking view of its evergreen setting. Solo House II is part of a series of individual retreats designed by French developer Christian Bourdais and built by various architects. Office KGDVS put their own stamp on the second Solo Home design by placing the the concrete and glass home on top of a high plateau to provide optimal views. Related: Villa Nyberg: A Passive Swedish Prefab with a Cool Circular Floorplan “Since the scenery is so impressive, we felt architecture should be invisible, merely emphasising the natural qualities of the surroundings,” said the architects, “A simple circular roof with a diameter of 45 metres underlines the qualities of both the plateau and its edge.” The circular concrete roof is supported by multiple rows of columns that intersect throughout the length of the structure. The four sections of the home are made up of both straight and curved edges, which elongates the design. Sliding glass panels line the home’s volume, and open up to various open-air terraces. On the interior, sliding curtains made of metal mesh provide shade and privacy when needed. The home’s circular design was intended to put the focus on the home’s beautiful natural setting, but the curved shape also delivers a number of advantages. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels that run the length of the home flood the interior with natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting. The first Solo House was built by Chilean studio Pezo Von Ellrichshausen back in 2013. According to Bourdais, the Solo House project in Matarraña will eventually be joined by 15 other houses and a hotel. + Office KGDVS + Solo Houses Via Dezeen

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Glass-encased circular Solo House snakes through a Spanish forest

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