Beachfront hotel in Costa Rica pays tribute to the land and its inhabitants

November 27, 2019 by  
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A new hotel, Hotel Nantipa , located in the Puntarenas area of Costa Rica, has been built with several sustainable features while also paying homage to the indigenous Chorotegan people who first inhabited the area. Designed by local firm Garnier Arquitectos , the hotel is integrated with water-saving systems, solar-powered water heaters, reclaimed building materials and more. Paying homage to the native inhabitants of the area, the hotel’s name, Nantipa, means “blue” in the Chorotegan language. Positioned right at the shoreline, the hotel’s accommodations are centered around the idyllic landscape, including, of course, the stunning blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. Related: This eco-hotel in Costa Rica will be completely solar-powered by 2019 Wanting to redefine the Costa Rican concept of “barefoot luxury,” the boutique hotel is arranged in a semi-circle made up of 11 individual beachfront bungalows (Ninta) and 24 family-style rooms (Nanku). Most of the rooms have private balconies with ocean vistas, while others look out over the garden and central swimming pool. Spread out over nearly six acres, the hotel also offers guests access to conservation areas, an ocean-view swimming pool and a spectacular beachfront restaurant. These areas, as well as the private bungalows, were all built using native, raw materials that date back centuries. Throughout the complex, natural stone, palm trees, leaves and large tree trunks were used to create structures that are reminiscent of indigenous huts. Surrounding the property is lush vegetation and palm trees, which were fiercely protected during the construction. Only six of the existing trees on the property were cut down (with a license), and the felled lumber was reused in the hotel’s construction or furniture . Multiple native trees and plants were added to the landscaping to keep the grounds as green as possible. In addition to the hotel’s commitment for keeping the land as intact as possible, the buildings have been integrated with several sustainable features . Waste water is processed in a state-of-the-art treatment plant and is then used to irrigate the Nantipa gardens. Solar water heaters are found in each room, and energy sensors are installed throughout the hotel to reduce energy waste. The hotel and the restaurant all have systems in place to reduce single-use plastics. No straws or plastic bottles are allowed, and take-out meals are packaged in biodegradable containers. + Garnier Arquitectos Via ArchDaily Photography by Andres García Lachner via Garnier Arquitectos

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Beachfront hotel in Costa Rica pays tribute to the land and its inhabitants

Amsterdams new circular archives building sustainably generates all of its own energy

November 27, 2019 by  
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The city of Amsterdam has officially opened the Depot Amsterdam Noord, a new repository for the capital’s Stadsarchief city archives. Designed by cepezed and cepezedinterieur, the new building offers nearly double the amount of space of the existing archive facilities. Even more impressive is its use of circular design principles and energy-neutral operations thanks to an airtight envelope, energy-efficient systems and solar panels. Realized by BAM Bouw en Techniek within a Design, Build & Maintain assignment, the Depot Amsterdam Noord does not receive visitors and is used solely for the reception, quarantine, intake, cleaning and processing of archival documents. The 2,665-square-meter facility houses all municipal archives from 1811, when Napoleon introduced the Civil Registry. All documents before 1811, as well as posters, prints, photos and film material, are located in the publicly accessible De Bazel building in the heart of Amsterdam .  Related: Cepezed completes the first self-sufficient bus station in the Netherlands Located in the northern part of the city, the building sports a “fierce and robust” appearance. “The building block is almost completely closed and from the outside, it does not reveal what it contains,” the architects said. “It has a dark, completely flush and anthracite-colored facade with a horizontal band of solar panels in the middle that is also dark gray. The detailing is minimalist. The sleek and basic character of the building makes for a firm landing of the storage place within its surroundings.” An enlarged version of Amsterdam’s iconic logo — the three red Andreas crosses — have also been added to the gray facade. To achieve a stable, climate-controlled interior, the architects designed the building with an airtight, highly insulating shell with minimal ventilation and an uninsulated concrete floor that acts as a passive heat and cold storage facility. All of the energy the building needs is generated by more than 1,600 square meters of solar panels on its facade and roof; any energy surplus is fed back to the electricity grid. A water management system also ensures responsible stormwater practices. The prefabricated components of the building are detachable, removable and reusable in keeping with the circular ambitions of the design team and Amsterdam. + cepezed Photography by Lucas van der Wee via cepezed

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Amsterdams new circular archives building sustainably generates all of its own energy

These ultra-cool, vintage-style travel trailers can go off the grid for a week

November 27, 2019 by  
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Handcrafted in California by Bowlus Road Chief , these aluminum-clad travel trailers offer race car-inspired aerodynamics that provide the smoothest ride possible. Additionally, the incredible campers can even go off the grid for various periods of time before needing recharged. The beautiful, vintage-style campers are available in two models. The smallest of the two, the On The Road model starts at $137,000. It is 24′ long and can sleep up to four people. At 2,500 lbs, it can be easily hitched and towed, and this model takes up minimal space for parking. The camper features a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and a dining space that can seat two. Related: Hit the road in style this summer in this ship-inspired travel trailer The larger model, the Endless Highways , is 26′ long and weighs 3,200 lbs. Starting at $185,000, this model has a larger, more comfortable living space than its counterpart, and it offers some additional flexible design features. The spacious bedroom, for example, converts from two twin beds to a larger king-sized bed, adding extra space to accommodate all types of travel companions. There is also a kitchen and enough dining space for four people. In addition to their versatile sizes and features, the Bowlus campers also offer high-quality homes on wheels that cater to the adventurer in all of us. The campers are four-season capable with heated floors and tight insulation that keeps the interior temperatures constant year-round. For those rugged adventures, the incredible campers come equipped with powerful lithium iron phosphate power systems that allow these travel trailers to go off the grid for varying periods of time. The On The Road model can operate off the grid for a long weekend, while the Endless Highways model can go a full week without charging. + Bowlus Road Chief Via Tiny House Talk Images via Bowlus Road Chief

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These ultra-cool, vintage-style travel trailers can go off the grid for a week

Get away from the urban chaos in one of these 8 amazing eco-friendly treehouses

September 24, 2019 by  
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Imagine just for a moment waking up to the chirpy birdcall and the crisp sounds of rustling leaves coming from the surrounding tree canopy.  The rest of your day can be spent exploring the deepest part of the Costa Rican rainforest or strolling along pristine coastal waters. You might just want to sleep in and enjoy a mid-morning yoga class, too. Although all of this may seem too good to be true, it’s not. This is life within the rainforest sanctuary known as the Finca Bellavista community. Located in the southern region of Costa Rica, this idyllic sustainable community offers ecotourists their choice of eight amazing eco-friendly treehouse retreats. Casa Tamandua Entrenched in lush vegetation, the three-level Casa Tamandua offers family-style lodging high up in the tree canopy. The solar-powered treehouse has two bedrooms plus a cool sleeping loft. The main living area offers ample space to enjoy the great outdoors, but for those looking to really immerse themselves in nature, the place to be is swinging on the dual hammocks hanging on the spacious decks. Related: 9 treehouses you can actually rent for an off-the-ground getaway Fila Tortuga For those looking for a serene off-grid respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Fila Tortuga is calling your name. The one bedroom treehouse sits high up in the canopy, surrounded by vegetation. Although it has no electricity, it comes with all of the basics, including a well-equipped kitchenette. There is plenty of indoor living space, but at the heart of the treehouse is the large balcony with plenty of room to watch the amazing wildlife. Cabina Colibri Get back to the basics with this lovely studio treehouse that offers the glorious delight of off-grid simplicity. The Cabina Colibri offers a quiet treehouse stay, complete with a furnished balcony with outdoor dining space to enjoy the daily sightings of the wildlife among the rusting of the tree leaves. El Castillo Mastate El Castillo Mastate stays true to its name by offering guests a castle in the sky. Reached by a fun plankway, the two-story treehouse is another great family-oriented retreat. The treehouse features three bedrooms with Queen-sized beds, two bathrooms, plus a fully-equipped kitchen and large dining table that seats up to eight people. Although, the large open-air deck is the perfect place for dining al fresco while listening to the birds and other wildlife. Solar-powered electricity provides enough charge for lights, refrigeration, phones, etc. Casa Estrella With its robust all-wood interior, including exposed wooden beams, this two bedroom, 1.5 bathroom treehouse is like a tiny wooden cabin in the sky. Along with a spacious living and dining area, the solar-powered treehouse comes with furnished balconies and canopy views that offers the best in wildlife viewing. As the closest treehouse to basecamp, Casa Estrella is especially suited for those who are looking for a getaway, but not one that’s not so far from civilization. Casa de Tigre This studio-style treehouse offers a beautiful stay for anyone wanting to explore the Costa Rican jungle. Tucked into the vegetation, this cabin sits high off the ground, but is accessible via a small ramp. It even has its own trail leading to an adjacent river. With a large-open air balcony and screen-in windows on every wall, it’s perfect for getting in tune with the surrounding nature. Casa de Leon This three-level treehouse is a perfect location for anyone wanting to truly go off-grid with a large group. Casa de Leon sleeps ten, spread out between two bedrooms and a loft. And although there is no electricity in the off-grid treehouse, there is a well-equipped kitchenette with everything needed to whip up tasty meals. La Torreluna Reached by a stairway leading up from the landscape, La Torreluna treehouse is a perfect escape for a small family. The treehouse offers one queen bed and two twin beds, along with a bathroom. Although there is no electricity, families can spend their time bonding as they hike through the large network of hiking trails that lead to some seriously breathtaking views. Along with a vast choice of amazing eco-friendly treehouses to choose from, Finca Bellavista offers an incredible chance to explore the Costa Rican jungle. In addition to wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain biking, etc., the community offers complimentary daily yoga classes with reservations secured. Fresh organic produce is grown on site at their expansive gardens. Guests can also enjoy spending time at the camp’s community center which provides internet service, happy hour gatherings, games, etc. + Finca Bellavista Images via Finca Bellavista

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Get away from the urban chaos in one of these 8 amazing eco-friendly treehouses

For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona

September 24, 2019 by  
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Since the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, there has been growing awareness for the importance of good air quality in American cities. Air quality plays a significant role with health and sustainable living. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recognizes this, which is why for the 2019 American Fitness Index rankings, the ACSM added air quality as an environmental indicator of a city’s health. According to its findings, these are the 10 cities in the U.S. with the worst air quality. The annual Fitness Index assesses 100 of the United States’ largest metropolitan areas. The cities are evaluated, then ranked from the highest score to the lowest score. The index is a helpful tool to compare the air quality of these 100 cities. It does so by considering the healthy behaviors of a city’s residents, the population of residents with chronic diseases as well as the community’s infrastructure. In turn, the rankings provide insight on air quality safety that can helpfully instruct a city’s policy makers, infrastructure management and governmental direction. Related: Almost all U.S. national parks have polluted air According to the 2019 Fitness Index, these are the 10 worst metropolitan areas with bad air quality, or air pollution . They each have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution: Long Beach, California Los Angeles, California Gilbert, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Scottsdale, Arizona Chandler, Arizona Mesa, Arizona Glendale, Arizona Riverside, California Bakersfield, California What determines air quality? Geography and weather are the natural agents influencing air quality. But man-made elements — including vehicular use plus industrial emissions — especially affect air quality. In fact, two of the most common pollutants are ozone and particles, like soot from wildfires. Exposure to pollutants and airborne toxins predisposes a given area or region’s population to ailments. These include cardiovascular harm (heart disease and stroke), shortness of breath, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, wheezing, coughing, susceptibility to infections, even allergies — all of which can be influenced and impacted by air pollution. Annual rankings indicate a consistent monitoring of air quality, which is a positive takeaway. This type of monitoring can inform agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ), so that key safeguards and their enforcement can be put in place. + American Fitness Index Image via Florian Lehmuth

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For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona

Green-roofed beachfront home fully embraces its coastal surroundings

June 17, 2019 by  
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Topped with green roofs and surrounded by walls of glass, the Beach Front Gardens homes in Costa Rica were designed by Tamarindo-based architectural firm Laboratory Sustaining Design (LSD) to embrace the coastal landscape. The complex, which spans a little over 8,000 square feet, comprises two homes — Casa Sare and Casa Caracali — on beachfront property in an exclusive area of the Nicoya Peninsula facing the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 65 percent of the roof surfaces are covered with vegetation to blend the building into the surroundings and to help reduce energy demands for cooling. To minimize maintenance and ensure structural longevity, the architects designed Casa Sare and Casa Caracali with durable materials and finishes to withstand the corrosive powers of the ocean air and harsh tropical elements. The flat, turf-topped roofs also include long overhangs to protect the interiors from unwanted solar gain . The desire to blend both homes into the environment drove the design of simple architectural shapes, a minimalist material palette and walls of operable glass that open up to completely blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living. “Each house was designed for users to experience the tropical weather and beautiful nature, and every single space of both houses has a great relation with the exterior, bringing in the natural light to all the interior areas and looking for cross ventilation using the sea breeze year-round,” the architects explained. “Around 65 percent of the interior areas are covered by green roofs , reducing the footprint of the project in this protected environment.” Related: This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood Organized into a V-shaped layout, Casa Sare was placed closest to the beach on the flattest part of the property. The private areas are separated from the communal areas with an exterior terrace accessible from all rooms. In contrast, Casa Caracali was placed on higher elevation and is segmented to step down on the slightly sloped terrain. The social areas are located near the rear at the higher elevations to take advantage of ocean views, while the bedrooms are placed closer to the beach. + LSD Photography by Fernando Alda via LSD

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Green-roofed beachfront home fully embraces its coastal surroundings

This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood

May 9, 2019 by  
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There’s a good reason why this beautiful, natural wood treehouse blends in perfectly to its surroundings on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica — the entire structure was built using the trees from the property site. Nestled in the jungle and complete with ocean views, the house, designed by Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig , was inspired by the owners’ love for surfing and environmentalism. There are three floors to the treehouse , with the top floor visible from above the tree canopy, and the bottom two levels hidden among the dense trees. Occupants are able to check the surf at nearby Playa Hermosa Beach from the comfort of the top floor. Related: A rustic, surfside home connects a young family to the beach Wood has the power to be a green, renewable resource when used with sustainability in mind. Nowadays, there are plenty of companies that offer certifiably sustainable wood that comes from forests that are responsibly managed to avoid things like erosion, pollutants and habitat loss. Locally harvested trees, like the ones used to build this surfer’s treehouse, can reduce the environmental impact of construction projects. Apart from contributing to social aspects of sustainability by utilizing local employment, green construction using locally harvested trees also helps to minimize carbon emissions from transportation. The designers took advantage of the natural sea breezes and tropic environment through the passive , open-air design of the structure. The lush vegetation is accessible from the bottom floor, which opens to a courtyard that helps blend the house into its setting. A double-screen shutter system, also made of teak wood, allows the two bottom floors to either open up to the elements, ventilation and natural light, or close to provide privacy. The treehouse is powered using a 3.5 kW solar array, and a rainwater collection system helps reduce the house’s  carbon footprint . In the evenings, the lights shine through the slatted walls to create an ethereal glow that shimmers through the thick leaves and trees that surround the property, making this unique treehouse an even more beautiful addition to the area. + Tom Kundig Photography by Nic Lehoux via Olson Kundig

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This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood

Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

October 25, 2018 by  
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Located mere steps away from idyllic white sand beaches on one side and a coconut grove on the other, this beach house designed by Studio Saxe is giving us major home envy. Situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, the spacious 3,250-square-foot Villa Akoya’s beautiful aesthetic hides several passive strategies designed to reduce the home’s energy use and impact on the environment. The breathtaking location serves as the principal inspiration for the design. Built using traditional cinder block construction, the one-story home was was raised off the ground to create a continuous sight line with the ocean views. This feature also helped reduce the footprint on the landscape . Related: Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth The beach house’s dimensions are divided into four separate horizontal roof planes that slant slightly upward, covering each of the three bedrooms plus the main living area. This strategy creates distinct volumes within the structure. Additionally, the flat wooden roofs extend out over the exterior walls to create large overhang extensions that shade the interior while creating several indoor-outdoor living spaces around the exterior. The interior layout includes several spaces that are open to the exterior, creating a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. All of the bedrooms have their own outdoor spaces, and an all-glass wall in the living room slides completely open, leading to a wooden deck and a swimming pool . Concealed within the design are several passive features to create an energy-efficient beach house. The “elevated” roof lines create a natural system of air ventilation, cooling the home in the hot summer months. The abundance of windows and glass doors brighten the interior during the day, further reducing the need for electricity. The home also operates on solar-generated hot water and has a gray water system. + Studio Saxe Via Archdaily Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

This scarf protects against air pollution, allergens and viral infections

October 1, 2018 by  
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Air pollution is a major problem around the world, but one company is helping people stay safe no matter where they live. Bioscarf has created a stylish accessory that doubles as a safety mask for people living in places with high concentrations of pollution. These handy scarves help fight against air pollutants, allergens and viral infections, like the cold and flu. Bioscarf offers its product in a handful of colors, including white, black, green and a camouflage print. Each scarf is made from high-quality polyester and carries the company’s logo. They are roughly 7 feet long and just under a foot wide, making them ideal for burying your face into when cold winds breeze by you. While these scarves are fashionable , they also protect against allergens and viral infections. This includes the cold and influenza, both of which are common infections that become a problem every year in larger urban areas. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to significant decline in cognition The scarves work by filtering out more than 94 percent of contaminants in the air , keeping you just as healthy as a traditional safety mask. According to the company, testing showed that the Bioscarf filtered nearly 100 percent of airborne particulates with a size 0.1 or larger, including pneumonia, step throat, influenza, tuberculosis, animal dander, pollen and cigarette smoke. Co-founder Hazel Solle was inspired to create the scarf after a vacation to China with her family. Her husband, Carlton, got sick overseas, and a doctor told them it was likely because of the air pollution. The doctor recommended they wear masks, inspiring the couple to think of a better solution. Hazel also recalled growing up in Costa Rica and making tiny scarves out of leftover materials for her dolls. The idea hit her that scarves could double as fashion pieces and air pollution masks. In addition to its scarf lineup, the company also has a special program where it donates a scarf to charity for each one it sells — a great incentive for consumers who want to help those in need. “Experts say that over 2 billion kids around the world are breathing toxic air and nobody is talking about it,” Hazel said.“It’s time to not only raise awareness about this issue, but to more importantly give many of the people at risk who don’t have the means to protect themselves something to help them combat air pollution on a daily basis.” + Bioscarf

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This scarf protects against air pollution, allergens and viral infections

Nature-inspired housing mimics the curvature of the landscape in Chongqing

October 1, 2018 by  
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International design practice Safdie Architects recently completed the Eling Residences, a nature-inspired housing development built to look like an extension of the highest plateau of Eling Hill in Chongqing , China. Elevated high above the Yangtze River, the residences are nestled in a densely forested environment yet enjoy close proximity to the city. In addition to optimizing residents’ access to natural light, ventilation and greenery, each unit is also equipped with a private balcony for indoor-outdoor living. Completed this year in the city’s Yuzhong District, the Eling Residences cover an area of 460,000 square feet with 126 apartments. The architects took cues from the existing slope to develop the various building designs, which change from terraced structures at the bottom of the hill to a pair of freestanding dome-shaped villas near the top. The stepped configuration and layout also helps ensure that every apartment enjoys uninterrupted views of the landscape. In addition to the apartment units, the Eling Residences also features a four-story clubhouse, multiple pools and additional recreational areas. According to the architects, these amenities not only help build a sense of community but are also reflective of the firm’s commitment to design spaces with humanizing scale and vibrant social atmospheres. Unlike the concrete jungle that defines much of Chongqing, the Eling Residences feels like a retreat into nature thanks to ample landscaping, organic curved forms and the use of a natural materials palette . Related: A sprawling green roof fuses this community center with Chongqing’s mountainous landscape “Complementing the sloped low-rise buildings is an intricate landscape system, which interweaves terraces , gardens, trellises, overlooks, stairs and promenades throughout the site,” the architects said. “The combination of landscape and architecture works together to evoke the character of lush, hanging gardens, integrating the project site with the green oasis of Eling Park. The terraced levels maximize residents’ access to light, air and greenery, while architectural screens partially shade individual apartments, extending living spaces outward into the garden landscape.” + Safdie Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Safdie Architects, by ArchExist

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Nature-inspired housing mimics the curvature of the landscape in Chongqing

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