Avoid the crowds with these 10 alternatives to Black Friday shopping

November 23, 2018 by  
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The unofficial kick-off to the holiday season is virtually stamped on the calendar the day after Thanksgiving . Titled Black Friday — from the idea that it is the time of year retailers leave the red column and enter the profit, or black, column — the commercialization of the third Friday in November is somewhat of a pop phenomenon with a cult-like following. Merchants hype up and advertise specials, deals and savings weeks in advance while people prepare to rise at 4 a.m. just hours after completing their holiday feasts. If you prefer to avoid the madness, here are some alternatives. It’s not surprising that so many people participate in Black Friday. After all, it is the season of giving. Many look forward to spending the day with spouses, siblings or parents. Others like to complete their holiday shopping early so they can enjoy the upcoming weeks in other ways. But from a different perspective, Thanksgiving offers a rare 4-day weekend, leaving many unencumbered by school and work obligations. This is an opportunity to enjoy the last bits of decent fall weather, spend time with family or try something new. So while everyone else is out battling for the newest electronics, fill your Black Friday with some of these shopping alternatives, many of which are good for your health , the environment and your wallet. Volunteer Nothing feeds the soul like helping others. Volunteer to serve a meal at a local homeless shelter; these shelters often seek volunteers for special meals served during the holidays. Also, track down your local food bank. Food banks are always looking for extra hands during the busy season. Volunteer options abound, so choose to participate in something that you’re passionate about such as a church bazaar, a beach clean-up or a gift wrap event to support foster children or servicepeople. If you’d rather spend the day alone, make crafts to donate to a worthy cause, scoop leaves out of drains on your street or make repairs at an elderly neighbor’s home. Get into nature Fall is that forgiving season where you might need an extra layer, but the harsh winter days have not yet arrived. Take advantage of the weather and enjoy some time in nature . Invite a friend for a walk or take the dogs for a long hike. Pedal the miles on your street bike or hit the hills with your mountain bike. Go bird watching, camping or kayaking. If the snow has arrived, hit the slopes for skiing or snowboarding. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Take a trip The long holiday weekend is the perfect time to take a mini vacation. Hit the beach , visit family or explore someplace you’ve never been. Locally, you can set a goal of visiting all the parks in your area. Do home improvements Life gets busy with the daily 9-5, so when you have a couple of days off work, it’s nice to tackle home improvement. Clean out the garage, donate cans and bottles to a local fundraiser, make trips to donation centers and get the recycling out of the house. Perhaps paint a room or install new flooring. You could also complete those outdoor tasks of cleaning up the garden, building new beds and repairing gates. Attend a local event Merchants and vendors know that you’re spending the day with family, so there are ample opportunities to find an event that suits your interests. Look on community boards for information about craft fairs, wine tastings and musical events. With part of your thoughts wrapped up in holiday gift giving, pick up gift certificates for lunch while you’re at the winery, buy concert tickets for a friend or purchase small local goods such as honey and tea and then put together gift baskets as the holidays get closer. Host a friendsgiving Friendsgiving is a growing tradition where people assemble for a casual pre- or post-Thanksgiving gathering. Commonly, people bring leftovers or a favorite recipe , so everyone contributes to a potluck-style dinner. You could make it a family event, invite couples or just have friends over. Structure the day the way you want with an emphasis on quality time together and no stress. Make it a pajama party. Write thank you cards to each other or others. Have a movie marathon or cue up a sporting event on TV. Make gifts Instead of marching in to the nearest mall, spend the day making your own gifts . Have a wreath-making party, whip up a batch of Kahlua drinks and place in cute bottles, prepare gifts in a jar such as cookie or soup ingredients, make salt dough ornaments or get out the sewing machine to create heat packs or door draft blockers. Related: Inexpensive DIY holiday centerpieces and decorations Schedule a date Get out with others and attend a movie, go bowling, visit the zoo, head to the theater, check out an art exhibit or museum, get a pedicure or massage or check out a local escape room. Create memories at home In today’s busy world, it’s rare to truly unplug and revel in moments at home. Plan a craft with the kids, make snowflakes for decorations, work a puzzle, make homemade popcorn and gather the family for a movie or dig out the board games. These are the things your family will remember long after the store-bought items are unwrapped and eventually discarded. Support alternatives to big box stores Hit up the secondhand market through thrift stores and estate sales, shop locally and support small businesses and scour Etsy and other online merchants for crafters who make creative, one-of-a-kind items. When you do make purchases from retailers, support those in alignment with your eco-friendly beliefs. Also check out Shop for Good Sunday , a community of companies that aim to be responsible stewards in business. If you decide to go shopping, remember to carry the spirit of the season with you. Allow someone to park in a space when you arrive simultaneously, offer to return a shopping cart for a mother with small children, help the elderly across the road and let someone with only a few items check out before you. Also think about ways you can minimize waste by purchasing items with responsible packaging, bring your own bags to the store and refuse bags or boxes that you do not need. Images via Rawpixel ( 1 , 2 ), Fidel Fernando , Kane Reinholdtsen , Traveler , Kelsey Chance , Michael Mroczek , Myke Simon , Picsea ,  Heidi Sandstrom and Shutterstock

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Avoid the crowds with these 10 alternatives to Black Friday shopping

Long Lodge is an elegant and sustainable mass timber retreat proposal in the woods

November 19, 2018 by  
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Mass timber construction is growing more popular thanks to efforts like the 2018 Maine Mass Timber Competition , which has prompted elegant and sustainable wood-based designs such as “Long Lodge,” a design concept that won a 2018 Honor Award. Proposed for a specific north-facing property along the Appalachian Trail, the building consists of two wings — one for living and the other for sleeping — joined by a central void that frames views of the “Caribou Pond Trail” that connects to the main trail. The cross-laminated timber building would be elevated off the ground to minimize site impact and would also be wrapped in full-length glazing for direct connections and views of the outdoors. The Long Lodge was designed by a four-person team: Yueqi ‘Jazzy’ Li as the design lead, Shuang Bao, Nan Wei and Braham Berg. To protect the building against winter winds from the west, the designers positioned the building on a north-south axis and installed full-height glazing along the south facade to take advantage of solar gain. Elevated wooden walkways lead to the building and convene in the central outdoor terrace with a lookout point and outdoor grill. The west “living” wing consists of the foyer, lounge, food bar, dining area, library, meeting rooms, a kitchen, food storage and a gear storage/drying room. The “sleeping” wing on the opposite side comprises all the sleeping areas, bathrooms and a staff room. Built with cross-laminated timber for everything from the roof trusses and structural panels to the columns and beams, the building is set on insulated continuous footing foundation. Related: MIT develops a sustainable, mass timber-building prototype modeled after the longhouse “The elegant horizontality of the lodge, punctured by the verticality of native pines, bring to mind the pairing of the most fundamental forms,” the design team explained in their project statement. “An upside down glulam timber truss provides a single roof pitch outside but two opposing slopes inside. The truss makes for an efficient use of material as well as providing flexibility for employing other building systems. As the building pinches in the middle and fans out toward the ends, these trusses accommodate varying spans of 25’-60’. Each truss is supported by a series of posts and beams near their ends and a CLT panel in the middle that does the heavy lifting.” + Maine Mass Timber Images by Yueqi ‘Jazzy’ Li, Shuang Bao, Nan Wei and Braham Berg

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Long Lodge is an elegant and sustainable mass timber retreat proposal in the woods

1960s home remodeled with energy-efficient and non-toxic hempcrete

November 19, 2018 by  
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When homeowner Pam Bosch was looking for ways to remodel her 1960s home in Bellingham, Washington, she was determined to renovate the older home with energy efficient and non toxic materials. Through her research into various potential sustainable materials, she found that hempcrete, a hemp-based render made out of a mixture of hemp, lime and water, would be the best option. Working in collaboration with Matthew Mead from Hempitecture , the now solar-powered Highland Hemp House was reborn and constructed with an insulative hempcrete thermal envelope. When inspired to renovate her home using sustainable , eco-friendly and non-toxic materials, Bosch decided to work with hempcrete, a bioaggregate building material that is derived from the woody core of the industrial hemp stalk. When combined with hydrated lime and water, it solidifies by absorbing carbon dioxide, resulting in a concrete-like material. However, when compared to concrete, hempcrete is a more sustainable and affordable material, which is estimated to absorb about seven pounds of CO2 per cubic foot. Related: The tiny solar-powered hemp home with a green roof To begin the process of remodeling the three-story home , Mead worked with local contractors to create a new framework suited for a hempcrete wall system. Once the home was primed for its new envelope, the next step was to create the hempcrete material by mixing 12,000 pounds of hemp aggregate with 23,000 of lime binder. When mixed at a specific ratio, the material solidifies, creating a concrete-like texture. The material was then cast around the home’s frame, forming a monolithic wall. From a distance, the home’s construction process may look like any other home renovation. However, in working with hempcrete , Pam Bosch’s madeover Highland Hemp House is insulated with a material that is fireproof, breathable, resistant to mold, pests, and regulates moisture. Additionally, the new thermal envelope of the home is estimated to sequester about 15,372 pounds of CO2. + Hempitecture Images via Hempitecture

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1960s home remodeled with energy-efficient and non-toxic hempcrete

Two moody, tranquil cabins perch above a Quebec forest

November 14, 2018 by  
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Montreal-based firm  Nature Humaine has unveiled a beautiful pair of adjoining cabins tucked into a remote forest outside Quebec. The cube-like structures are clad in a burnt wood facade, giving the design a distinctively minimalist aesthetic. To make the most of the incredible setting, the timber cabins have two massive glass walls that provide breathtaking, panoramic views from the interior. Located in the Eastern Townships, Quebec, the two tiny cabins hold court over a steep, rocky terrain. The cabins are clad in a dark, burnt wood that, along with the pre-woven hemlock planks used for the exterior walkways and connection point, create a quiet, natural palette that easily blends into the landscape. Related: Linear Cabin is an elegant hideaway in the woods of Wisconsin To reduce the project’s footprint, the cabins were anchored into thick, but nearly invisible, raw concrete foundations. Overhanging roofs on both structures were designed to emphasize the views but also to reduce solar gains in the hot summer months. The two cabins were slanted just a bit to follow the natural slope of the ground, giving off the rather frightful sensation that they are just about to slide off into the forested abyss below. The cabins are comprised of two modules connected by an interior walkway. The first module houses the living space and kitchen, while the bedrooms are in the second cabin. In keeping with the minimalist nature of the design, the interiors were also kept simple, with just a few select pieces of furniture. From anywhere inside the cabins, sweeping views are provided by the front glass facades, establishing a strong and seamless connection with the outdoors. + Nature Humaine Via Archdaily Photography by Adrien Williams via Nature Humaine

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Two moody, tranquil cabins perch above a Quebec forest

MAD Architects to transform an ancient Chinese courtyard into a kindergarten with a "floating roof"

November 14, 2018 by  
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Beijing-based design practice MAD Architects has broken ground on the Courtyard Kindergarten, a striking adaptive reuse project that transform a traditional siheyuan courtyard from the 1700s into the site of a creative and colorful kindergarten. Located in Beijing, the project aims to preserve the cultural heritage of the site while injecting fresh life through the addition of new structures, including a “dynamic floating roof” that surrounds the historic courtyard. As with many of the firm’s projects, the design features curvaceous elements and is evocative of a Martian landscape. “There is a saying in old Beijing when children are naughty: ‘if you go three days without being punished, the roof will cave in,’” said MAD principal Ma Yansong of one of the inspirations behind the eye-catching rooftop , a place the firm describes as “full of magic — a playful escape for the children that is a symbol of freedom and endless imagination.” Designed as the primary space for children to engage in outdoor sports and activities, the multicolored floating roof will curve around the siheyuan’s existing hipped roofs and tree canopy and will also feature an undulating landscape of several small ‘hills’ and ‘plains.’ Classrooms, a library, a small theater and a gymnasium will be located below the roof in a new building with an open-plan layout that’s surrounded by walls of glass to let in ample natural light as well as views of greenery and the historic buildings next door. The building will also wrap around three existing ancient trees, creating miniature courtyards where children can connect with nature. The Courtyard Kindergarten will accommodate 400 children between the ages of two and five. Related: A 650-foot-long running track tops this space-saving elementary school in China The design aims to reconcile new and old elements, from the existing modern building on-site that was built in the 1990s to the nearly 400-year-old courtyard. Having just broke ground this month, the Courtyard Kindergarten is expected to be completed and operational in the fall of 2019. + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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MAD Architects to transform an ancient Chinese courtyard into a kindergarten with a "floating roof"

Denver firefighter uses 9 shipping containers to build a stunning family home

November 13, 2018 by  
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Denver-based firefighter Regan Foster used to spend his days putting out fires, but while recovering from a work-related injury, Foster decided to try his hand at building his dream home. The results are breathtaking. Using his own designs, Foster converted nine repurposed shipping containers into a massive 3,840-square-foot home with sophistication that rivals that of any professional architect’s work. Working with architect Joe Simmons of BlueSky Studio , Foster created the design and worked as the principal contractor on the project. To build out the frame of the home, four shipping containers were placed on the ground in pairs set 24 feet apart. Another four containers were then stacked on top of the first level, with a few pushed forward so that they cantilever over the ground floor. The ninth container was placed perpendicular to the back of the second level. Related: Starburst shipping container home to rise in the California desert The team topped the sections of the home with a series of flat roofs, and they covered the front facade in wood panels, contrasting nicely with the corrugated metal. An abundance of large windows were cut out of the containers in order to provide the interior with natural light . Although the exterior of the home is outstanding, the interior of the seven-bedroom, five-bathroom home is just as impressive. Walking into the great room, visitors are greeted with soaring 25-foot ceilings and an open floor plan that leads out to a large patio. As part of the master plan, Foster was determined to maintain the inherent industrial aesthetic of the shipping containers . The inside of the exterior walls were insulated and covered in drywall, but the interior walls and ceilings throughout the living space were left intact so that the corrugated metal would be visible. Foster, who has a passion for furniture making, used reclaimed wood in many of the home’s custom furnishings and design elements. For example, the flooring throughout the home is made with reclaimed barn wood and boards from a felled tree. Foster even refashioned an old walnut slab into a sliding door and used some waste lumber to create a cantilevered walkway that runs the length the second floor. Needless to say, the process of building his own home sparked a new professional path for Foster and his family. After completing the project, Foster retired from the fire department and started his own design and construction company, Foster Design . The family also rents out their home on Airbnb. + Foster Design + BlueSky Studio Via Dwell Photography by Regan Foster and Chris Boylen via Foster Design

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Denver firefighter uses 9 shipping containers to build a stunning family home

A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

November 12, 2018 by  
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A new experimental office on the 12th floor of The Shard in London offers a breath of fresh air … literally. Wrapped in bamboo surfaces and punctuated by living plants, facilities management company Mitie’s headquarters in London was created by local practice DaeWha Kang Design . The biophilic project — dubbed the Living Lab at The Shard — mimics nature from its natural materials palette to the circadian lighting system linked to an astronomical clock. As its name suggests, the Living Lab at The Shard will be used as a pilot study to measure the impact of biophilic design on worker wellness and productivity. In addition to the client, the project was created in collaboration with Dr. Marcella Ucci (head of the MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings at the University College of London). A post-occupancy study will compare daily surveys of Mitie employees who will work at the Living Lab desks for four weeks at a time followed by a four-week work period in a “control area” on the same floor with similar environmental conditions but without biophilic design. “Biophilia refers to human beings’ innate need for a connection with nature,” DaeWha Kang Design said in its press release. “Human physiology is wired to seek qualities of light, view, material and other factors common in the natural world. The Living Lab is fully immersive, with rich and intricate patternization, natural materials  and interactive and dynamic lighting.” Related: This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido The project comprises two main spaces: the “Living Lab” immersive work environment and two “Regeneration Pods” for short-term rest and meditation. Bamboo was used for the sculptural privacy screens that curve up at the ceiling; different textures and shades of bamboo were also used for the floor, desks and task lights providing a warm contrast to The Shard’s cool glass-and-metal palette. The Regeneration Pods, also built of bamboo, were created by combining digital fabrication with hand-finishing techniques and feature plush built-in seating that faces walls of glass for city views. A subtle circadian lighting system uses color-changing lights to mimic the sun — a cool blue is cast in the morning that changes to bright white in the afternoon and finally reaches a fiery orange near sunset. + DaeWha Kang Design Images by Tom Donald for Aldworth James & Bond and Kyungsub Shin via DaeWha Kang Design

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A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

The remote Blacktail Cabin offers a convenient escape in Montana

November 12, 2018 by  
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If you dream of escaping the hustle of daily life at a remote cabin in the woods, the Blacktail Cabin might just be your ideal getaway. Situated along the shore of Flathead Lake in Montana , the Blacktail Cabin offers guests a home base amidst an array of outdoor activities. During the summer months, frolic in the lake with an afternoon of swimming, paddling or fishing. In the winter, head up to the nearby Blacktail Mountain Ski Area for some skiing or snowboarding. However you decide to spend your day, your rental provides for your needs upon your return. Create a rustic or modern meal in the fully equipped kitchen. Relax in front of the floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace , or warm up next to the wood-burning stove in the dining room. Related: This geometric cabin in Slovenia is a perfect romantic getaway for nature-lovers The cabin decor emulates the relaxing vibe of a ski lodge with wood peaked ceilings, ample windows inviting in natural light and comfy leather furniture. The home furnishings are rustic with a hand-carved appeal. Four wooden stools line the breakfast bar, while the dining room hosts a knotted wood table with six chairs. Each of the three beds welcome guests with carved-wood frames and nature-themed linens. There’s no need to worry about leaving anyone behind, as there is sleeping room for six and acceptance of your four-legged friends (for an additional fee). While you might feel a million miles from civilization, the cabin is only a few minutes from town, making for a quick trip to the Tamarack Brewing Company for dinner or a dash to the grocery store for breakfast supplies. All in all, Blacktail Cabin is comfortable, impeccably clean, spacious, relaxing and stocked with amenities. But the best part of the vacation home is, of course, the gorgeous surrounding nature that welcomes visitors to their own secluded paradise. + Blacktail Cabin Images via Vacasa

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The remote Blacktail Cabin offers a convenient escape in Montana

3XN unveils a sustainable redesign for the Sydney Fish Market

November 8, 2018 by  
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Danish design practice 3XN has revealed its competition-winning redesign for the Sydney Fish Market, a waterfront marketplace that will undergo a $250 million expansion and, in the process, revitalize the waterfront. Topped with an undulating, wave-inspired roof, the contemporary building will emphasize connections with the outdoors while improving visitor access. Sustainability has also guided the design of the structure, which will feature smart, water-saving strategies including rainwater harvesting , graywater recycling and bio-filtration systems. The Sydney Fish Market, one of the city’s top tourist draws, will be relocated from its existing location in Pyrmont to an adjacent wharf on a 3.6-hectare site at Blackwattle Bay on the east side of the Sydney Harbor. 3XN has proposed upgrades to enhance the visitor experience with the addition of improved public space and circulation, a flexible and modular interior and room for several new features: a seafood cooking school, restaurants, bars, a new promenade and a new ferry stop. At the same time, the Danish architects will strive to preserve the architectural heritage and character of the existing market. Individual stalls will fill the interior’s semi-open layout to evoke traditional marketplaces. Built of timber and aluminum, the undulating roof will sport a fish scale-like pattern. In addition to the new market’s connections and strengthened sight lines with the waterfront , the building also aims to improve the harbor ecosystem through sustainable design. The bio-filtration system, for instance, will filter water runoff while doubling as a habitat for local birds. Industrial food waste will be recycled. Related: 3XN unveils competition-winning designs for Denmark’s Climatorium “Environmental and social sustainability are essential and inseparable parts of the design,” said Kim Herforth Nielsen, founding partner of 3XN. “The roof, landscaped forms, open atmosphere, plantings and materials that characterize the experience of the design are examples of this union. Throughout the course of the new market’s concept and design development, public amenity and environmental sustainability have formed the core of our decision-making processes.” The project is expected to break ground in 2019 and is slated to open in 2023. + 3XN Images via 3XN, Doug&Wolf, Aesthetica.Studio and mir.no

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3XN unveils a sustainable redesign for the Sydney Fish Market

Pizza Hut unveils a zero-emissions delivery truck that makes pizzas on the go

November 5, 2018 by  
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Pizza Hut and Toyota have teamed up to bring fresh, piping hot pizza to your doorstep with the help of a roaming pizza machine. The Toyota Tundra PIE Pro is a full-size pickup truck with a complete pizza making factory in the back that is entirely operated by computer-guided robotic arms. Not only does the next generation of pizza delivery get the pizzas made and delivered in the blink of an eye, but the delivery trucks are also  zero emissions . The incredible design, which was unveiled at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, is a truly unique invention. Although we’ve seen plenty of ingenious food trucks , the Tundra Pie Pro is quite possibly the future of pizza delivery. Related: Mouthwatering edible pizza box is waste-free because you can eat it The custom-made truck is installed with a unique truck bed that has been converted into an open-air kitchen. When a pizza order is placed, a pair of computer-guided robotic arms  open the refrigerator and remove the selected pizza. The arms then place the pies on a conveyor belt that passes under a high-speed, ventless oven. Once cooked to perfection, a second arm removes the pizza and places it on a cutting board, where it then cuts it into six identical slices. The arms even put the pizza into a box and off it goes to the customer. The entire process, from start to finish, takes up to seven minutes. Although the objective was to create a faster delivery system, the Pizza Hut and Toyota team were also focused on creating an eco-friendly vehicle. The team took the conventional gasoline-powered drivetrain of the Tundra out and replaced it with a hydrogen fuel-cell electric power unit to make the truck, as well as all of the kitchen components, emissions-free. According to Marianne Radley, chief brand officer of Pizza Hut, the ambitious project was focused on getting piping hot pizza to customers in a faster, more efficient way that won’t contaminate the environment. “Nothing tastes better than a fresh Pizza Hut pizza straight out of the oven,” Radley explained. “The Tundra PIE Pro brings to life our passion for innovation not just on our menu but in digital and delivery in order to provide the best possible customer experience.” + Toyota Tundra PIE Pro Via Core 77 Images via Pizza Hut

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