Sustainable teak home blends into the Costa Rican hills

August 19, 2020 by  
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San Jose-based Studio Saxe has completed Tres Amores, a contemporary family home that takes in spectacular ocean and mountain views in Costa Rica. Nestled on the hilltops in the town of Nosara, the luxury home was designed to blend in with its lush surroundings through its staggered massing and natural materials palette, which includes exterior cladding of charred teak wood with black-framed windows. The home also takes full advantage of its beautiful surroundings with an emphasis on indoor/ outdoor living via floor-to-ceiling glazing and sheltered outdoor patios. In response to the seismic conditions and constrained footprint of the site, the architects created a lightweight steel structure that was pre-cut offsite and then quickly assembled onsite. The structure is wrapped in sustainably sourced teak wood cladding that was charred for longevity and finished with natural oils. The dark exterior takes cues from the landscape.  Related: Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof Covering an area of approximately 515 square meters, Tres Amores is spread out across two staggered floors topped with extended horizontal roof planes that shield the interiors from the sun. The living spaces located on the lower floor connect to the private bedrooms above via a light-filled stairwell with full-height glazing that frames views of the ocean. The interior decor is kept minimalist so as not to detract from the landscape views. As with all of Studio Saxe’s projects, special design consideration was given to sustainability and site conditions. Tres Amores’ bioclimatic design was informed by site studies that include wind patterns, sun exposure and temperature data. The home further minimizes energy use with solar hot water heaters and water recycling through filters and state-of-the-art treatment plant systems. The architects said, “This design is a clear reflection of an approach to design that combines high tech preemptive design with low tech construction methods.” + Studio Saxe Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Sustainable teak home blends into the Costa Rican hills

Wood lattice walls ventilate this beautiful Costa Rica home

July 10, 2020 by  
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Perched in the mountains of Nosara, a surfing paradise on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica , Casa Guayacán boasts a beautiful ocean view and a tranquil setting. A stunning example of sustainable architecture in a tropical setting, this home being designed by two talented professional architects comes as no surprise. Evangelina Quesada and Lucca Spendlingwimmer, architects who moved to the remote mountain location with their two daughters, built the home based on their mutual love for contemporary tropical architecture. The home takes advantage of the ocean breeze with ventilating lattice walls and is equipped with a rooftop solar panel system that provides 100% battery autonomy throughout the day and night. Related: Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool The facade incorporates a design that combines spacious floor-to-ceiling windows and wood lattice walls for natural cross ventilation . Elongated from north to south, most of the space faces the sea, with the west side facing the sunset in the evening. Half-open wood slats help emphasize airflow, while also creating a unique light pattern that changes during different times of the day. To move the house as far from the public street as possible and address the site’s uneven terrain, the design was developed over two levels. A shorter lower level allows for entrance access below the main structure, room for parking, a studio and service area. The upper level contains common areas, bedrooms and the property’s best ocean views. The home’s modular floor plan allowed for a faster construction time and less material waste. The home uses materials such as stone, polished cement, metal, wood and glass. The wood , taken from controlled teak plantations, was treated with linseed oil to maintain natural texture and color. Incorporating traditional building methods and talent from local artisans in the woodwork helps make Casa Guayacán a captivating addition to the tropical Costa Rican foothills. + Salagnac Arquitectos Images via Salagnac Arquitectos

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Wood lattice walls ventilate this beautiful Costa Rica home

Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof

June 25, 2020 by  
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In a remote jungle on the hilltops of Costa Rica’s Santa Teresa province, San José-based architecture firm  Studio Saxe  has completed Santiago Hills Villa, a luxury home that embraces nature in more ways than one. To ensure that all rooms of the villa have access to ocean views, the architects created a zigzag floor plan that turns the bedrooms and living spaces sideways to face the shoreline. The unconventional home, which resembles a series of interconnected villas, is topped with a large white roof that protects the interior from unwanted solar gain .  Given the project brief’s emphasis on a connection with nature, Studio Saxe sought to minimize the home’s environmental footprint. The architects decided to  prefabricate  the home’s light steel frame off-site to minimize site intervention and ensure quality construction for the remote property. The use of a steel frame with sturdy I beams allowed the architects to install full-height glazed openings with enough support for the angular roof.  “Every space in the home has been angled to view the ocean, and this twist creates a geometric relationship between the roofline and the spaces that became the primary element of design that both addresses the need for large overhangs (for  climate control  and comfort) but also generates a literal connection between the view and every space,” Studio Saxe explains on its website. Related: Costa Rican surf hotel gets stunning new athletic center Contrasting with the lush green surroundings, the minimalist and modern home is predominately white, serving as a canvas that reflects the changing colors of the jungle. In addition to featuring incredible views and a reduced site impact, Santiago Hills Villa also embraces nature with its adherence to  passive solar  principles. The home is oriented to take advantage of winds for natural cooling, while the wing-like roof’s long overhangs protect the interior. The roof is also engineered to allow for rainwater collection. + Studio Saxe Images by Andres Garcia Lachner

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Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof

Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

June 25, 2020 by  
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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been concerns that using reusable containers and bags at grocery stores and cafes could enhance the spread of the virus. However, such claims have now been refuted by a team of 119 scientists. The team, which includes scientists from 18 countries, has published a document stating that reusable containers are safe. Many cafes, restaurants and grocery stores around the world have stopped accepting reusable cups, bags and other containers for fear that these items would spread COVID-19. Environmentalists have pushed for a long time to have restaurants and other businesses adopt the use of reusable containers. But these gains made over the years risk being eroded almost overnight if people continue to revert to single-use containers. Environmentalists are now accusing plastic manufactures of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to lobby for single-use plastics. Related: COVID-19 leads to plastic ban reversals The scientists involved in reassuring the public include epidemiologists, virologists, biologists and doctors. They have compiled a statement that encourages restaurants and individuals to continue using reusable containers as long as public health requirements are observed. The team said that reusable items are safe as long as high standards of hygiene are observed. One of the signatories to the statement, professor Charlotte Williams of Oxford University, explained that COVID-19 should not stop the efforts made toward a sustainable future. “I hope we can come out of the COVID-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment,” Williams said. According to the scientists’ statement, the coronavirus primarily spreads through aerosol droplets and not from contact with surfaces. Although surfaces can transfer the virus, washing reusable containers is much safer than relying on single-use ones. The scientists explained that most people do not bother cleaning single-use containers under the assumption that they are safe. Unfortunately, the virus can get in contact with any surface, including single-use containers. Europe plans to ban all single-use plastics starting next year. There is concern that plastic manufacturers are now using the coronavirus pandemic to delay the ban. Such a move would be detrimental, considering that plastic waste contributes 80% of all marine pollution . + Health Expert Statement Via The Guardian Image via Goran Ivos

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Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

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

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