A green lung brings sunlight and air into a narrow Vietnamese home

January 7, 2020 by  
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In the tightly packed cities of Vietnam, residential houses are often placed close together on long, narrow plots of land — a setup that can make it hard for residents to get access to natural light and ventilation. When VRA Design was tapped to design a home on a plot tightly sandwiched between two others, the Hoi An-based architecture firm inserted a large courtyard to bring fresh air and light deep into the house. Built to the edges of its narrow and long plot, the HH Green Lung house spans three floors over 270 square meters. The main communal rooms, including the living room and kitchen, are located on the ground floor while two bedrooms, a prayer room and a relaxation room are placed above. Rather than install a courtyard that spans all three floors of the home, the architects instead designed a double-height courtyard located on the second floor — “if the courtyard is too deep, it would have made people who stand in it feel uncomfortable,” according to the architects — and cut out nine holes on the courtyard floor to let light and views into the living room below. Related: A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam “These holes are created not only to allow the light that can penetrate the ground floor, but we also want to look [at it] as a symbolic representation of the fusion between the sky and the earth of the eastern notion,” the team explained. “This space is like a buffer space between outdoor space and indoor space .” Filled with plants and open to the sky, the interior courtyard serves as a “green lung” that brings natural ventilation and sunlight into the rooms through operable glazing. To protect the home from heavy rain or high winds, the architects have also installed an operable roof cover that can be programmed to open or close depending on the time of day and weather conditions. + VRA Design Photography by Ha Phong DANG via VRA Design

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An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

January 7, 2020 by  
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Bend, Oregon is a sunny spot in a state known for rain. This area of central Oregon is the fourth fastest growing region in the country. About nine people move there daily, often because they want a healthy outdoor lifestyle and a smaller town. Tourists love this town of 81,000, too. If you’re venturing that way, leash up Fido; Dog Fancy magazine once nicknamed it Dog Town, USA. Bend outdoors Start your Bend adventure with an easy walk around downtown. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has many attractive, century-old buildings that now serve as cafes and boutiques. Crow’s Feet Commons is a must-visit for outdoorsy types who stop in for ski boot fitting, bike shopping and Oregon craft beers. If you’re ready to pick up the pace, check out Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails. For a short run, the 3-mile Deschutes River Trail loop is very pretty, and you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy it. Visiting runners can pick up trail maps and connect with locals at FootZone , a running shoe store that sponsors running events. Bend is probably best known as a magnet for rock climbers. About 25 minutes outside of Bend, the 651-acre Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. It offers challenges for all levels, from newbies taking their first lessons with local climbing schools to pros ready to tackle the 500-foot volcanic rock walls. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on a trail, the park also offers a lovely, flat trail along Crooked River and a steep climb to the tops of cliffs. Seventy miles southeast of Bend, the Fort Rock State Natural Area makes for a geologically intriguing day trip. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring that rises 325 feet above the surrounding high desert plain. This is a magical, quiet place, with soft, sandy trails, scrubby bushes and orange and chartreuse lichen coating the rocks. The nearby Homestead Village Museum is an interesting collection of old buildings, including a small church and a one-room schoolhouse. Did you bring Fido? After a day of exploring Bend and environs, stop by Pine Nursery Park so he can cool off on the seasonal splash pad. Join a canine-friendly canoe adventure with local outfitter Wanderlust Tours . Don’t forget a doggy life jacket made by the Bend-based company Ruff Wear. Bend wellness Jinsei Spa is a local favorite for facials, massages and body treatments using natural and organic ingredients. Namaspa Yoga Community offers public yoga classes in the Baptiste power and yin styles, as well as yoga for groups such as seniors, people in recovery and inmates at the local jail. They also provide Reiki, massage, cupping and energetic healing. Those who like to drink while doing yoga will enjoy Bend Beer Yoga . While these teachers usually hold classes in craft breweries, they may also add the odd cocktail, cider or glass of wine . Plant-based restaurants in Bend For vegan burgers, milkshakes and fries, visit the original location of the Bend-based chain Next Level Burger . Its house-made burger patties feature combinations of quinoa, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds and other nutritious ingredients. Taj Palace has an excellent lunch buffet with several vegan dishes. In addition to curries, Taj Palace also serves South Indian specialties like idlis, vadas and dosas. The cheery interior and friendly staff make it an extra nice place for a meal. Bethlyn’s Global Fusion is a cute cafe with a wide-ranging menu. Vegan choices include a Thai coconut curry bowl or a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. Lots of menu items can be made vegan upon request. For a fancier night out, Joolz is a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that uses the tag line “where the Middle East meets the Wild West.” Delicious menu items include dukkah nuts, an appetizer of toasted bread, olive oil and crushed mixed nuts flavored with coriander and cumin. The vegetarian platter provides a good variety of Mediterranean foods, such as tiny stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo beans and roasted cauliflower. Ice cream-lovers flock to Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato . The shop crafts inventive flavors, including a few sorbets and coconut-based ice creams for those avoiding dairy. Bend’s public transit While a car is very convenient for traveling outside Bend to places like Smith Rock, it’s possible to fly into Bend and get around town without driving. Cascades East Transit provides bus service in Bend and to nearby towns. It also operates recreation-based shuttles, including the Ride the River bus during the summer for folks floating the Deschutes River and the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in winter for skiers . The Ride Bend shuttle cruises around downtown and the Old Mill District during summer. There’s also a bike share program run by Oregon State University – Cascades. It’s open to the public as well as students. Uber and Lyft operate in Bend, too. Sustainable hotels in Bend The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend is especially known as a chic, boutique eco-hotel. It was built with sustainable materials and operates on 100 percent renewable energy . The Riverhouse on the Deschutes is Oregon’s only LEED Silver hotel and convention center, featuring high-efficiency HVAC and renewable energy. If you want to go for LEED Gold, the Helios Eco-House is available as a vacation rental. The McMenamins Old Saint Francis School is a 1936 schoolhouse that was turned into a hotel . Highlights include a movie theater and an extensive collection of works by local artists . Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

A 1940s cottage is transformed into a solar-powered Hanok-inspired home

September 6, 2019 by  
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Portland-based collaborative design practice Woofter Architecture has recently completed the expansion and renovation of a 1940s cottage in Portland , Oregon. Redesigned to follow the design concepts of traditional Korean houses known as ‘hanoks’, the residential project — dubbed the Wilshire House — has been remade into a courtyard layout and includes a new south-facing garden space. The home has also been thoroughly modernized and outfitted with sustainable features, including rain chains and solar panels that top the roof. Spanning an area of 1,850 square feet, the Wilshire House largely maintains the majority of the existing single-story structure, while tacking on a sensitive extension that elongates the footprint of the house to the rear of the rectangular plot. While the front of the property maintains a traditional gabled appearance, new exterior cladding and roofing give the home a sleek and contemporary appearance.  Following principles of Hanok, a traditional Korean house typology that dates back to the 14th century and promotes site-specific design for both the positioning of the house and interior layout, the Wilshire House takes solar passive conditions into consideration. The best example of this can be seen in the orientation of the long and narrow addition towards the south to take advantage of natural light and warmth from the sun. Roof overhangs help deflect unwanted solar gain.  best example of this can be seen in the orientation of the long and narrow addition towards the south to take advantage of natural light and warmth from the sun. Roof overhangs help deflect unwanted solar gain.  Related: This green-roofed home for a master gardener embraces nature The architects have also dubbed the Wilshire House the “House of the Seven Skylights” for its inclusion of skylights that punctuate the new series of vaulted spaces — including bedrooms, an artist’s studio and a secret play room accessible via pull-down ladder — that flood the airy and modern interior with an abundance of natural light. Large windows and the glazed doors along the courtyard garden-facing porch also let in daylight to reduce dependence on artificial light. + Woofter Architecture Images by Pete Eckert

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Scientists warn we are now entering the plastic age

September 6, 2019 by  
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A recent study reports plastic pollution has deposited itself into our fossil record. Water bottles, lunch bags and clothing laced with microfibers— welcome to what some are calling the “plastic age.” However, this didn’t occur overnight as contamination has been building since 1945. Related: Babylegs — the inexpensive, educational way to monitor ocean plastic pollution “Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record ,” said lead researcher Jennifer Brandon at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. “We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she told The Guardian. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.” Experts think the findings could be used to calculate the onset of the Anthropocene, a proposed geological epoch said to be created by human actions taking over Mother Earth. The highly researched study shows the rise of plastic pollution in sediments and looked at yearly layers off California’s coast dating from 1834 and over the last 70 years. The plastic particles found were mostly fibers from synthetic fabrics indicating plastics move voluntarily on the ocean via wastewater. The journal Science Advances published the research and said microscopic plastics in the sediments has doubled about every 15 years since the 1940s. It’s not hard to see why as mass amounts of plastics are sent into the environment annually and broken down into small pieces, but fibers aren’t biodegradable. This could be worrisome as people consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year via food and water. While the impact on health is still a mystery — microplastics which are found everywhere from ocean floors to the tallest mountains — can release toxic substances and could penetrate tissues, experts said. Via The Guardian, Science Advances Image via Rey Perezoso

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Exquisite Japanese house wraps around a generations-old tree

January 1, 2018 by  
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The line between nature and architecture is often blurred in Japan to beautiful effect. Japanese architect Takashi Okuno practices this kind of nature-fused architecture with Hiiragi’s House, a modern Japanese-style residence built around a courtyard and old tree that the client’s family has tended to for generations. Located in the Ehime Prefecture, the house is minimally decorated and built with large expanses of glass to focus the eye on the use of simple, natural materials and courtyard views. Named after the venerated generations-old tree, Hiiragi’s House was built to wrap around a mature hiiragi (Japanese for ‘holly osmanthus’ that’s not seen in the photographs due the tree’s “recuperation”). The architect highlighted the importance of the tree by making the courtyard visible from nearly every room in the home, including the entrance hallway. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors frame views of the courtyard from the open-plan living room, where a wood-burning stove visually delineates the lounge from the kitchen and dining area. Related: Beautiful cedar home stands high on stilts to accommodate heavy snowfall in Japan Environmentally friendly practices were also put into place. Rather than solely rely on fans for cooling, natural ventilation is optimized, as is the stack effect, where cool outside air is pulled into the double-height living room and hot air exits through clerestory windows on the second floor. Rain chains collect rainwater runoff from the roof, while cellulose fiber is used for heat insulation. The architect also stressed the use of natural materials throughout the building to create a healthy and welcoming environment, seen from the solid timber framing and straw-floor tatami mats to washi-paper screens and diatomaceous earth used as a finishing material. + Takashi Okuno Via Dezeen Images by Shigeo Ogawa

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Exquisite Japanese house wraps around a generations-old tree

Zen-like Seattle retreat keeps a minimal footprint in a lush landscape

July 20, 2017 by  
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For those seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, feast your eyes on this beautiful light-filled cabin just outside Seattle in Greenwater, Washington. Robert Hutchison Architecture designed Crystal River Ranch House, a cedar -clad home hidden in the shadow of Mount Rainier that exudes a zen-like air of tranquility. Crafted to blend into the lush evergreen landscape, the 1,900-square-foot retreat was kept as compact as possible to minimize site impact and to epitomize the small home living movement. Set within a forest on the banks of the White River, the two-bedroom Crystal River Ranch House emphasizes connection with nature through its large glazed walls and natural materials palette . Custom-run and blackened Western Red Cedar planks clad the building and help it blend into the landscape. The entry courtyard serves as a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor environment. Despite the home’s compact size, the interior looks surprisingly spacious thanks to use of a centrally located double-height space , large glazed windows, white-painted surfaces, and abundance of natural light. The modern design is characterized by simple, clean leans and a cozy yet minimalist aesthetic. The communal areas, including the open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living room, as well as a covered patio and outdoor patio, are located on the east and south sides of the home. The two bedrooms are placed on opposite ends of the house, with the master suite on the northeast side and the guest bedroom on the southwest side. Related: Natural material palette brings warmth to minimalist Swiss home The architects write: “Designed as a zen-like retreat from the bustle of the city, the open living area uses large glass walls to create a sense of space and light even on the Northwest’s darkest, rainy days. A steel-clad fireplace mass serves as a central architectural feature and utility, complementing the natural wood interiors while separating the living room from the covered outdoor patio.” + Robert Hutchison Architecture Images by Mark Woods

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Worlds first Rose Museum in Beijing is wrapped in a beautiful perforated facade

July 13, 2016 by  
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? Set on a 100-hectare rose park that exhibited over 2,000 species of roses for the convention, the Beijing Rose Museum was designed to engage and overlook its stunning surrounding views. The museum is a modern take on the historical Chinese courtyard house that embraces and encloses open spaces, as a nod to traditional Chinese architecture. To showcase the history and culture of rose cultivation in China, which dates back to at least the 11th century B.C., NEXT architects wrapped the building in a 300-meter-wide, 17-meter-tall soft, stainless steel facade perforated with rose-shaped patterns. The detached facade creates a series of walled-off courtyards. Related: Bat bridge provides shelter for our winged friends in the Dutch town of Monster “The main challenge with the Rose Museum was to find a modern Chinese identity for a building which significance is so deeply rooted into Chinese culture,” said John van de Water, partner at NEXT Architects. The semi-transparent stainless steel walls blur the boundaries between the indoor and outdoor landscape. At night, the museum lights up from within for a beautiful glowing appearance that can be enjoyed from across a lake. + NEXT Architects Images via NEXT Architects , by Xiao Kaixiong

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Worlds first Rose Museum in Beijing is wrapped in a beautiful perforated facade

Solar-powered home in Tainan puts a modern twist on the traditional courtyard house

June 27, 2016 by  
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WLA built the Spring House for a single client who wanted a clear delineation of space between her personal living area and the rooms for entertaining guests. As a result, the 288-square-meter home is split into two interconnected sections: a three-story structure that houses the homeowner’s main living areas and is set farthest from the busy roadways on the northeast side; and a two-story L-shaped structure on the opposite side that’s mostly used for visiting friends and family. The communal areas are kept on the ground floor, while the guest bedrooms, master bedroom, and library and located on the upper levels. In keeping with the vernacular courtyard house style, the home is centered on an open-air space used as a light well for bringing natural light and ventilation deep into the building. Like its courtyard house neighbors to the north, the Spring House also makes use of wood and brick building materials. The architects combined those traditional materials with glass, concrete, and a steel framework for a contemporary finish. “The location was formerly agriculture-based settlement, and there are many local industrial factories appeared through the changing times,” said the architects. “After the completion of the high speed railway in recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear that the area is intertwined with old and new, tradition and technology, quiet and speed…such contrast characteristics, these qualities create a unique geographical character. Therefore, while we follow the example of Taiwan’s traditional architecture that combined with wood structure and load-bearing brick structure, and combine them into a modern steel structure with brick, on the one hand, we use this combination to produce a unique local architectural type whereby create the symbol of the janus characteristics of the environment on the other.” Related: Stunning South Korean Courtyard Home Balances Tradition With Modern Design The client’s desire for a self-sufficient, disaster-ready home was born from fears of climate change and seismic activity. Thus, WLA equipped Spring House with rooftop solar panels and rainwater collection . The roofs are sloped to facilitate rainwater runoff and to maximize rooftop solar exposure. Natural ventilation and solar shades were also carefully attended to as a means to mitigate Taiwan’s hot summers. + Wu & Liu Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Wu & Liu Architects , by AKIRA Photography

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Solar-powered home in Tainan puts a modern twist on the traditional courtyard house

‘Tunnel’ linking two parts bathes a house in Australia in natural light

February 22, 2016 by  
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