University of Toronto Scarborough learning hub to welcome nature indoors

September 17, 2020 by  
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Canadian firm ZAS Architects and Denmark-based CEBRA Architecture have unveiled the design for the Instructional Centre Phase 2 (IC-2), a new companion building at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Deigned as a “dynamic learning landscape,” the building eschews the traditional boxy arrangement of rooms for a more fluid layout that prioritizes flexibility and stacks learning spaces on top of each other. In addition to a large green roof that will top the fourth floor, the new five-story building will also feature sloped garden beds and an indoor landscaped courtyard. Proposed for a site currently used as a surface parking lot, the new institutional building will offer a variety of technology-enabled spaces, including 21 classrooms of varying sizes and configurations, from a 500-seat auditorium to smaller, 24-seat learning spaces. The project will also contain 124 faculty and staff offices, study spaces, lab rooms, meeting areas and multiple co-working spaces designed to encourage peer collaboration. The ground floor will be used as a social hub with a cafe and informal gathering spaces complete with soaring ceiling heights and an open floor plan. Related: UK University unveils efficient, BREEAM-certified learning center “We envisioned a truly flexible environment that broke down traditional pedagogies and instead, encouraged a fluid learning experience unconfined by the walls of the classroom,” said Paul Stevens, founder and senior principal at ZAS Architects. “Peer-to-peer learning is emulated in all aspects of the design.” Fitted with a mix of translucent and fritted glazing, the contemporary building will be awash in natural light to promote student health and wellness while reducing the facility’s energy footprint. To further provide both mental and physical support to students, the design dedicates a state-of-the-art central floor to student health that will include counseling and mental health resources, a meditation room, a breastfeeding room, a physician and nurse office and academic advising and accessibility services. + ZAS Architects Images via ZAS Architects

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University of Toronto Scarborough learning hub to welcome nature indoors

Luxury home in Kerala produces all of its own energy

July 30, 2020 by  
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Thrissur-based design studio LIJO RENY Architects has taken full advantage of Kerala’s sunny, tropical climate with its design of The House Within the Grid, a luxury residence that produces all of its own energy via rooftop solar panels. Commissioned by a doctor couple with four children, the solar-powered home is currently used as a holiday escape from the clients’ primary residence in Sharjah; however, the house will eventually serve as the family’s permanent home in the future. Located on a slightly elevated half-acre lot in the coastal neighborhood of Andathode, the House Within the Grid encompasses nearly 9,000 square feet of living space to accommodate the primary family of six and the clients’ extended family and friends on holiday visits. To provide privacy to the main sleeping wing, the architects divided the home into two connected yet distinct parallel bays — a single-story bay housing the public and semi-private areas on the east side and a double-story bay on the western side that comprises six en suite bedrooms and a compact office space. Two large courtyards are located in between the bays. Related: Mud and recycled materials make up this sustainable Kerala home “A mix of primary and secondary functions, with its two different room widths, creates a visible repetitive spatial pattern throughout the house,” the architects explained of the layout. “This project was an exercise in exploiting the spatial possibilities offered by the surprisingly flexible modular grid. Juxtaposing the rigorous but serene geometry of the house with the incoherent landscape of its site, a distinct spatial language evolved to become a subtle stage for the contemplative daily activities.” In addition to adding rooftop solar panels that meet all of the home’s electricity needs, the architects have strategically placed windows to tap into cross ventilation for natural cooling. Extended roof slabs also help protect against unwanted solar gain from Kerala’s intense sunlight. A rainwater collection system has been installed along the floating roofs as well to further reduce the home’s resource footprint. + LIJO RENY Architects Photography by Praveen Mohandas via LIJO RENY Architects

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Luxury home in Kerala produces all of its own energy

Mysterious seeds from China arriving in mail across America

July 30, 2020 by  
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Agricultural officials from several states have expressed alarm over unsolicited packages of seeds delivered to residents. The packages appear to come from China, as they feature China Post labeling. Agricultural officers advise farmers not to plant the seeds, in case they are harmful or invasive. Warnings sent out to farmers and residents follow reports of unsolicited seed packages being delivered in residents’ mail. Several people reported receiving seeds in white pouches that featured Chinese writing and the words “China Post.” Another concerning detail is that the seed packages were not labeled as food or agricultural products. Envelopes included misleading labels, with some listing the contents as jewelry, toys or earbuds. States that have released public notices against planting the unsolicited seeds include Washington, Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Dakota, Texas, Alabama and Florida. Kentucky , one of the first states to receive reports of unsolicited seeds, issued warnings to residents. As Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, wrote on Twitter, residents should “put the package and seeds in a zip lock bag and wash your hands immediately.” Residents must also send any seeds they receive to the Department of Agriculture. Following the reports, several other states, including Arkansas, Michigan , Oregon and New Jersey, issued warnings to residents. Such measures may help prevent farmers from planting harmful, contaminated seeds. The Chinese Embassy in Washington claims these China Post packages “to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries.” Cecilia Sequeira, spokesperson for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says the department is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop illegal importation of prohibited seeds. Should you receive any mysterious seeds in the mail, report it to the nearest Agriculture Office. + NY Times Image via Pexels

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Mysterious seeds from China arriving in mail across America

Green-roofed Stonecrop home rises from rural English landscape

March 6, 2020 by  
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London-based architecture firm  Featherstone Young  recently completed Stonecrop, a new home in Rutland, East Midlands that’s also an example of how thoughtful architecture can draw new interest to declining rural communities. Topped with a sloping green roof that touches the ground, the sculptural building features two wings — one that houses the main living areas and the other for guest quarters — that wrap around a central courtyard. To reduce the home’s environmental footprint , the architects used locally sourced Clipsham limestone and oriented the home according to passive solar principles.  When the architects were asked by their clients to design a home on the edge of a village designated as a conservation area, they were initially met with pushback from the local planning authority. In response, the firm created a successful two-stage planning approach that not only detailed designs for a 347-square-meter sustainable home, but also showed how sensitive new construction could protect and enhance the surrounding countryside by preventing linear sprawl.  “Releasing overlooked sites such as these helps keep villages compact and distinct, and kicks against the usual housing development we see sprawling into the countryside,” explained Sarah Featherstone, architect and co-director of Featherstone Young. “This, coupled with the house’s two-wing strategy, makes for a more sustainable approach to building in  rural settings .” Related: Contemporary barn-inspired home adheres to passive house principles Stonecrop’s two-wing design also helps clients save on energy costs. When the secondary wing for guests is not in use, the clients can choose to only heat the main wing for day-to-day living. The principal wing is defined by its “buffer” wall of textured dry stone that provides privacy and thermal mass. In contrast, the three-bedroom guest wing, which is also constructed from the same locally sourced Clipsham  limestone , features a smooth ashlar finish. The two wings wrap around a central courtyard that helps funnel natural light and ventilation indoors. Large glazed walls frame views of the garden and meadow, while a natural material palette further ties the interiors to the outdoors.  + Featherstone Young Images © Brotherton-Lock and © James Brittain

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Green-roofed Stonecrop home rises from rural English landscape

LEED Platinum-targeted Santa Monica apartments are powered by solar energy

January 30, 2020 by  
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Los Angeles-based design practice KFA Architecture has recently completed Pico Eleven, a new multi-unit residential housing project designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. In addition to the building’s inclusion of solar panels, energy-efficient appliances and passive solar strategies, Pico Eleven has also dedicated approximately one-third of its units to affordable housing, with four units set aside for very low-income households. Located near Downtown Santa Monica, the housing project reflects its waterfront environment with reclaimed timber siding that recalls the rustic California beach house aesthetic. Nestled into a sloping hillside just blocks from Downtown Santa Monica , Pico Eleven comprises 32 units spread out across four floors and is organized into three distinct masses that step down the slope. The 33,000-square-foot building also includes two levels of subterranean parking with space for 64 vehicles. Eleven of the 32 units — which mainly comprise one- and two-bedroom units — are reserved for rent control, while four units are designated low-income. Related: Eco-friendly crematorium is envisioned for Santa Monica To take advantage of the building’s proximity to the waterfront, the architects have added three upper-level decks with sweeping ocean views and amenities including built-in barbecue grills, gas fire pits and outdoor seating. Outdoor space is further integrated into the design with the private patios that come with every unit as well as the inclusion of two large, open courtyards with drought-tolerant landscaping. Open floor plans and expansive glazing on the sides of every residential unit also give residents access to ocean cross breezes and plenty of natural light. In addition to an emphasis on cross ventilation and daylighting throughout Pico Eleven, the architects have added photovoltaic panels to the roof to generate electricity for the entire building. All units come with energy-efficient appliances and residents have access to two electric vehicle charging stations as well.  + KFA Architecture Images via KFA Architecture

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This cool electric skateboard is made from recycled plastic

January 30, 2020 by  
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Native of Porto, Portugal, designer João Leão was becoming more and more concerned about the abundance of plastic waste he saw clogging up his city’s beautiful coastline. Inspired to act on the issue, the ambitious designer decided to find a way to clean the ocean by using that waste to create an innovative product. As a result, Leão created the PET MINI — an electric skateboard made completely out of plastic waste. Founder of the design studio Maker Island , Leão has made a career out of  creating innovative and collaborative designs that are geared toward addressing local problems on a global scale. But with his latest invention, Leão is trying to address an issue close to his heart — Porto’s plastic waste. Related: New line of men’s swimwear is made from recycled ocean plastic “It all started with two problems, the plastic waste I was seeing being gathered on the beaches of my hometown, Porto, and the increasing commute times due to the high increase of people on the city and poor public and personal transportation infrastructures,” Leão explained. The resulting design is the PET (Personal Electric Transport) skateboard. The process began by experimenting with various types of discarded plastic. By examining the most common types found in Porto’s waters — ABS, PP and PET HDPE — Leão was able to better understand the mechanical and aesthetic properties of each. Finally, he discovered that the most suitable type of plastic for creating the electric skateboard was HDPE. From there, Leão began to outline the design itself. Using the body of an armadillo as inspiration, he first created the electronics enclosure, which is a series of modular pieces that run along the underside of the board. The enclosure is durable enough to protect the board’s electronic components without affecting the smooth ride of the deck. The deck of the board was 3D-CNC milled at the local VIVA Lab using recycled thermoplastics as the main manufacturing material. The PET MINI electronic skateboard weighs just over 17 pounds and is 75 centimeters long. With a top speed of 21 miles per hour, the board can go up to 22 miles with a single charge time of almost 2 hours. Built for under $550, the innovative board is comparable to other commercial electric skateboards on the market that typically cost about $1,700. +  João Leão Images via João Leão

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This cool electric skateboard is made from recycled plastic

The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community

January 22, 2020 by  
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Prefab architecture and energy efficiency go hand-in-hand at The Union Flats, one of the largest completed modular housing developments in Northern California. Located in Union City directly across from a new public plaza and the local BART station, the transit-oriented community celebrates walkability and the outdoors with its amenities and proximity to green space. Completed in August 2018 by David Baker Architects , the solar-powered project has earned LEED Platinum certification and includes 40 flexible live-work lofts — a new housing type for Union City. Spanning an area of nearly 290,000 square feet, The Union Flats is a high-density community with 243 modern, practical rental homes. The project was developed as part of a transit-oriented masterplan that includes the adjacent Station Center Family Housing, an award-winning affordable housing development completed by DBA in 2012. As with Station Center Family Housing, The Union Flats emphasizes an active and vibrant streetscape — a landscaped promenade is shared between the two developments — with features that include raised stoops connecting directly to the sidewalk, widened sidewalks and ground-level patios. A sense of community is fostered by the large central courtyard that features a large swimming pool along with freestanding green-roofed pavilions housing wellness, co-working, residential lounge, and dog-washing spaces, as well as a leasing office. At the rear of the site is an embedded garage with 244 parking spaces for 1:1 parking and 184 bicycle parking slots. The garage is strategically placed to buffer units from the sound of the adjacent rail tracks. The building design has also been informed by solar studies to mitigate unwanted solar gain. Related: Prefab housing pods pop up with speed at Dyson Institute’s modular village The Union Flats was constructed with a variety of prefabricated construction types: modular set on a foundation, modular atop a Type I podium and modular wrapping the Type 1 concrete garage. Guerdon Enterprises fabricated the 388 modular components in Boise, Idaho while foundations were being poured in Union City. A giant crane was used to assemble the components at a rate of about 12 a day. + David Baker Architects Images by Bruce Damonte

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The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community

Lush Sky Green towers are the first of their kind in Taichung

January 8, 2020 by  
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Taichung, Taiwan has taken yet another step toward becoming a greener, more livable city with the recent completion of Sky Green, a sustainably minded, mixed-use development. Designed by Singaporean architecture firm WOHA , the high-rise is named after its inclusion of sky gardens and terraces that are filled with lush, subtropical greenery. The project’s integration of green spaces is expected to raise the city’s standards for “skyrise greenery” in future sustainable developments. As an expert in sustainable high-density design, WOHA was initially invited to share its knowledge in 2012 upon invitation by the Taichung City Government and Feng Chia University. The architects’ “Breathing Architecture” exhibition was showcased in Taichung to help inform the government’s new regulations to turn Taichung into a more sustainable, smart city. Following the exhibition, property developer Golden Jade tapped WOHA to design a green mixed-use development in the heart of Taichung — the first of its kind in the city. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan “The architectural strategies of Sky Green are new for Taichung, but they have been developed by WOHA over the last 25 years, and many prototypes have been successfully built in Singapore and other regions,” the architects explained in a statement. “The design of Sky Green has been adapted to suit the local culture and subtropical climate, as well as to ensure safety during earthquakes and typhoons. As the first high-density development in Taichung that also provides high amenity with its recreational facilities and ample integrated green spaces, Sky Green will be influential in defining the new benchmark of sustainability and skyrise greenery for the city’s future developments.” The project comprises two rectangular plots with two 26-story residential towers that consist of apartment units stacked atop retail spaces spanning the ground floor to the third level. Large recreational facilities for indoor and outdoor use are integrated throughout the towers. True to the development’s name, the buildings are also engineered with protruding balconies to accommodate sky gardens and even tree planters that give the building a “breathable facade.” Residents can also enjoy a series of sky terraces located at every five floors that emphasize a plant-filled, indoor-outdoor living environment. + WOHA Photography by Kuomin Lee via WOHA

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Lush Sky Green towers are the first of their kind in Taichung

The best eco tourism spots in San Diego

January 8, 2020 by  
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With 70 miles of coastline and average high temperatures ranging from 66 degrees in January to 77 in August, San Diego is a city where people like to spend time outside. This city of over 1.42 million between Los Angeles and Mexico has endless beaches, parks and cultural opportunities to explore. Its history combines native Kumeyaay people, Mexicans and European explorers, who first landed in San Diego Bay in 1542. Nowadays it’s home to people from around the world and welcomes nearly 36 million visitors per year. San Diego outdoors San Diego’s mild temperatures and beautiful topography make it ideal for biking, hiking and, of course, water sports. La Jolla Sea Kayak will take you on a tour of this beach town’s seven sea caves, where you might see sea lions, leopard sharks and dolphins. If you prefer a more placid paddle, the SUP Connection at Liberty Station offers a sheltered area to practice your SUP and kayak maneuvers. Some of San Diego’s best views are from Cabrillo National Monument at the end of the Point Loma peninsula. An excellent historic lighthouse welcomes lighthouse lovers, the ocean views stun bicyclists and hikers, and this national park unit has some of the best tide pools in the area. In springtime, the wildflowers are awesome. If you’re visiting San Diego with your canine friend, don’t miss the dog-friendly beaches. Dog Beach is a spacious section of Ocean Beach where dogs can run off-leash 24/7. Most of Fiesta Island in Mission Bay is also open to dogs. The SUP Connection offers SUP Pups — private lessons for if you want help training your dog to join you paddle boarding. If you can tear yourself away from the ocean, Balboa Park is an enduring San Diego attraction for museums, gardens , a miniature railroad, the zoo and just walking around. Much of the park was built for the 1935-36 California-Pacific International Exposition. The botanical building and lily pond are much beloved photographic backdrops. On the park’s eastern edge, the less-trafficked historic cactus garden features succulents and African protea. The Spanish Village Art Center houses 35 working art studios for those who like to shop and meet makers. Some of the area’s best beaches are on Coronado Island. For a varied outing, take the ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado, rent a bike and explore. Don’t miss the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Built in 1888, the wooden Victorian beach resort provided the setting for many movies, including Marilyn Monroe’s “Some Like it Hot.” The beach in front of the Hotel Del has calm water and family-friendly swimming. San Diego wellness Not only does San Diego have a bazillion yoga studios, but many classes are also held outside. Whether you want to do yin yoga in Ocean Beach or vinyasa at Bird Rock in La Jolla, yogis dot every major beach. Mission Bay Aquatic Center will help you take your practice onto a stand-up paddleboard. Or go a little inland and join a Hatha class beside a koi pond at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Just a little bit up the coast in San Diego’s North County, you can visit the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, the SRF offers lectures, meditations, kirtans and other events. Or just stroll through the beautiful meditation gardens. Also in North County, the Chopra Center is part of Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. It hosts varied multi-day meditation and wellness retreats from an Ayurvedic medicine perspective. Dining out in San Diego San Diego has a high veg IQ, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. For old-school veg food, try Jyoti-Bihanga in Normal Heights. Run by devotees of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy, this vegetarian restaurant has been serving Neatloaf sandwiches and other hearty meals for more than thirty years. For modern fast-casual wraps, bowls, tacos and burgers, try one of Native Foods’ three vegan outlets in San Diego County. In Ocean Beach, Peace Pies has all your raw vegan needs covered, from mango curry wraps to coconut cream pie. Veganic Thai Café in Hillcrest and Plumeria in University Heights and Encinitas allow you to enjoy your pad thai without worries of fish sauce contamination. Heartwork Coffee Bar in Hillcrest offers a case full of delicious vegan croissants, scones and other treats. Public transit Southern California is known for its car-centered ways, but many San Diego neighborhoods are extremely walkable. Since the city is large and spread out, you might need to take a bus, trolley or Uber to get between neighborhoods. San Diego Metropolitan Transit System runs the county’s extensive bus and trolley system. If you’re visiting Tijuana , the easiest way is to take the trolley to the border and walk across. For those with limited time who are firmly on the tourist track, buying a day-pass on the Old Town Trolley will take you directly to San Diego’s most-visited spots. You can hop on and off as much as you like. Guides will clue you in on the city’s history and lore between stops. Amtrak is a good way to get to other southern California cities, such as Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, without braving the hectic highways. For those needing to cross water, ferries run to Coronado Island, or you can call a water taxi. Since San Diego’s airport is downtown, it’s one of the few American cities where you can easily walk to many hotels. A shared-use bike/pedestrian path connects the airport to Liberty Station and Point Loma to the west, and downtown San Diego to the east. Eco hotels Many San Diego hotels are getting greener, but the city has a few real standouts. Hotel Indigo is the city’s only LEED-certified and Platinum Level GreenLeader, featuring rooftop composting and an eco-roof. It’s also central to all kinds of public transit. The Lafayette Hotel , Sheraton Hotel & Marina , Bahia Resort Hotel , and La Jolla’s Estancia Hotel & Spa are Gold Level GreenLeaders. The Bahia’s long list of eco measures includes subsidizing public transit for employees, converting cooking oil to biodiesel , participating in beach cleanups, and composting 100 percent of food waste. The Lafayette combines eco-consciousness with 1940s Hollywood style glamour. One warning: Avoid the many hotels located in the area called Hotel Circle, as you’ll find yourself walled in by unsightly freeways and a total lack of charm. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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

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