1980s cottage in Melbourne is updated into an energy-efficient retreat

March 19, 2020 by  
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Melbourne-based firm Jost Architects has managed to breathe new life into a rundown 1980s cottage house in the beachside community of St Kilda. The renovation process focused on retaining as much of the building’s original features as possible, with the resulting design boasting several energy-efficient features that reduce the home’s environmental impact. The original home consisted of a one-story layout with two front bedrooms and a bathroom as well as an extension that was previously added to the back of the house. During the green renovation process, the architects decided to remove the addition but retain the original living areas. Related: A Mel bourne worker’s cottage gets revamped into a solar-powered family home Once the project started, the designers had to work around the local building restraints to add an upper level. The extension had to fit just right on the original, irregular layout without causing a distraction from the street. Working within the restrictions, the team carefully added a second floor with a new master bedroom and en suite at the front of the house. This space also has a front balcony with windows that open completely. From the bedroom, a hallway leads to another east-facing deck with an operable aluminum screen that provides the homeowners with a bit of outdoor privacy as well as protection from the western summer sun . The new area on the ground floor was also transformed into a spacious, open-plan living room. The entrance is now through a lovely outdoor courtyard that leads into the modern living area. Farther past the main space is the kitchen followed by two additional bedrooms. The green renovation not only gave the residents a bigger space that is flooded with natural light, but the home is now much more energy-efficient. Adding new outdoor spaces provided the living areas with optimal natural ventilation, both upstairs and downstairs. New materials, such as double-paned windows and decorative concrete with zoned hydronic heating, help keep the home well-insulated. For energy generation, the home was outfitted with a 2.6 kW solar power system on the roof. + Jost Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Tom Roe and Shani Hodson via Jost Architects

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1980s cottage in Melbourne is updated into an energy-efficient retreat

1920s building in Buenos Aires becomes a gorgeous, solar-powered residence

February 4, 2020 by  
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Buenos Aires is known for its beautiful architecture, but retaining the city’s historic character while breathing life into its abandoned buildings is often challenging. Thankfully, local firm Moarqs  rose to the challenge when presented with the task of renovating a 1920s building into what is now the Tacuari House — a modern, energy-efficient residence that operates on solar power. Located in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, the home was previously a dilapidated building that, according to local records, dates back almost a century. The building was originally broken up into several rental units centered around two open-air courtyards . Related: A Seattle midcentury home is restored to its original brilliance with a modern twist Led by architect Ignacio Montaldo, the design team faced numerous challenges when working on the historic building’s renovation . The first objective was to update the space into a modern residence while retaining its character. According to the studio, some elements, such as the ironwork and some ornate plasterwork, were able to be salvaged in the updated building. The first step was to rework the home’s layout so that the first central courtyard on the ground floor would become the heart of the home. To expand this space, the team demolished the back rooms to create a new central space, complete with a swimming pool and garden. The second step to the renovation process focused on adding a new building on the second floor, which would be used as the primary living space. Setting the new structure back from the official line of the home allowed the residents to have more privacy as well as more outdoor space. The new structure is made of a metal enclosure painted jet-black to contrast nicely with the bright outdoor space. A series of operable black shutters shade the interiors from the harsh sunlight in the summer , while welcoming in the heat and light during the cold winter months. Moarqs was able to restore the original calcareous and wooden floors as well as some of the home’s original ironwork. To modernize the space into an energy-efficient home, the designers added an array of solar panels on the roof and thermal panels for heating water. Now, the home perfectly blends its historic character with contemporary, green design. + Moarqs Via ArchDaily Photography by Albano Garcia and Javier Agustin Rojas via Moarqs

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Treehouse hotel in Bali offers maximum views with a minimal footprint

February 4, 2020 by  
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Bali-based architect Alexis Dornier has become known for his tropical architecture that creates a seamless connection between the human-made and nature. His latest project, the incredible Lift Treetop Boutique Hotel just outside of Ubud, Bali, continues the architect’s signature building technique of elevating eco-friendly structures off the ground to further reduce environmental impact. Located in Penestanan, a village just outside the popular tourist town of Ubud, the Lift Treetop Boutique Hotel is comprised of three soaring treehouses , each one distinct from the next. Embedded into a lush tropical forest, the treehouses offer guests the perfect spot to reconnect with nature while enjoying incredible views from high up in the canopy. Related: Prefab homes on stilts include solar panels, water collection systems and organic gardens Although all of the thatched-roof accommodations come with king-sized beds with en suite bathrooms and outdoor spaces, the treehouses are all different from one another. The Ernest Hemingway House was built using traditional methods of the Javanese people. The lowest of the three units on offer, this treehouse offers guests a serene, one-story lodging filled with rattan and reclaimed wood furniture. The George Orwell House has two stories. The top floor of this serene treehouse has a bedroom with an extended outdoor balcony and a rooftop deck for a bit of stargazing or bird watching. Next up is the largest of the three treehouses — the luxurious Stanley Kubrik House. Here, guests will enjoy a world of understated luxury, with an interior that offers unobstructed views from any angle. This treehouse offers a large en suite bedroom as well as an outdoor area with plenty of seating, including a hammock . Guests of the hotel will not only be able to immerse themselves in their own little paradise up in the trees, but they can also enjoy the hotel’s luxurious common areas. The treehouses are gathered around a central area with an abundance of lounge spaces, including a small sauna and a swimming pool. There is also an elevated yoga deck for getting bendy before hitting up the snack bar. + Alexis Dornier + Lift Bali Via ArchDaily Images via Alexis Dornier

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myfoods smart greenhouses can grow nearly 900 pounds of produce a year

February 4, 2020 by  
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At CES 2020, French startup myfood presented a smart greenhouse that it says can grow up to 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of organic fruits and vegetables a year with only a few hours of work a week. Combining permaculture principles with smart technology to monitor plant health, the myfood smart greenhouses aim to change people’s relationships with food as a means of reducing the global carbon footprint . The startup has distributed nearly 200 smart greenhouses in 14 countries around the world and hopes to target the North American market next. Based in the French commune of Molsheim, myfood was born as a reaction against the agro-food industry’s intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers that have contributed to the loss of biodiversity and negatively affected human health. To reconnect people with nature, myfood developed a series of compact smart greenhouses to give communities around the world the opportunity to cultivate a healthy and diverse diet with fresh produce year-round from the comfort of their homes. Related: 3-hectare desert farm in Jordan can grow 286,600 pounds of veggies each year myfood currently has three types of smart greenhouses. For urban dwellers, the startup developed the 3.5-square-meter City smart greenhouse that can produce up to 100 kilograms of fruit and vegetables and can fit atop a rooftop, terrace , large balcony or small garden. Single urban dwellers with a very small living footprint can consider the 0.65-square-meter Aerospring Vertical Garden, which can grow up to 40 kilograms of fruit and vegetables a year in a small pot. The largest option, which is best suited for a single-family home with a yard, is the 22-square-meter Family smart greenhouse that can grow up to 400 kilograms of fruit and vegetables a year and is ideal for four people. All myfood structures are designed for easy and quick installation and are equipped with LED lighting and other energy-efficient systems that can be monitored remotely from a smartphone. Buyers also have the option to customize their smart greenhouses to best suit their needs, from off-grid applications to winterizing. “ Climate change requires a profound change in our consumption habits to limit our carbon dioxide emissions,” said Mickaël Gandecki, myfood co-founder. “To easily cultivate in a sustainable and efficient way, we employ both a synergy between fish and plants, as well as an approach inspired by nature and based on cutting-edge agronomic research. The connected and intelligent features enrich the experience by collecting parameters useful for managing the greenhouse. A dedicated social network supports users from the launch of the project, to the first harvests and beyond.” + myfood Images via myfood

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Green Mountain’s Svein Atle Hagaseth on carbon neutral data centers

November 12, 2019 by  
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As companies’ data center use continues to grow, there’s an expanding need for the facilities to be energy efficient.

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This unique eco home was designed to reduce energy use

July 12, 2019 by  
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Located in Toronto, Canada, this eco home by Craig Race Architecture was built entirely with sustainability in mind. The 1,800-square-foot house was a passion project for the architect, who wanted to use the space to test high-performing methods for the outer elements that facilitate climate control within the house. The highlight of the home is its high-quality insulation . Superior insulation in a structure design can maintain a dry, hot or cold temperature inside by creating a barrier between exterior and interior environments. In the Curvy Eco Home’s case, a majority of the insulation was installed as a continuous, unbroken layer on the outside of the building, which greatly reduced the number of localized areas with low thermal resistance. Related: This family-friendly home is a beacon of modern energy-efficient design in Calgary In combination with the insulation, the home is also almost completely airtight. According to the architects’ energy modeling, they were able to reduce the heating energy in the home by 40 percent by using $1,500 worth of tape to ensure exceptional airtightness. Not only will this dramatically reduce the owner’s electricity bill, but the home itself will be much more comfortable no matter the season. A large amount of glass on the south side of the home allows for passive heating. To reduce energy needs, an in-floor radiant system was installed with separate thermostats for either side of the home. This way, when the passive heating is being utilized on the south side, the owner can turn off half the electric heat, maintaining a comfortable temperature throughout. There is an air conditioner in the house for the hottest days of summer; however, it rarely needs to be used thanks to the skylight purposely placed to move air in and out of the house for natural ventilation. The curvature in the exterior design of the home was intended to follow the same pattern as the street and to maximize space. All of the materials used for cladding are either recycled and/or sustainable, including the cedar shingles. The roof, side walls and south wall were made with standing-seam galvalume panels, which are long-lasting and maintenance-free. The panels are also untreated — meaning no toxic paint or coating — and can be recycled in the future. Inside, the eco home features a rather minimalist design. Each room benefits from a bright, airy atmosphere thanks to natural light, white walls and light wood accents. The kitchen boasts marble countertops and backsplash, while the bedrooms earn extra charm from exposed wood ceiling beams. + Craig Race Architecture Via ArchDaily Photography via Robert Watson via Craig Race Architecture

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This unique eco home was designed to reduce energy use

Cool ways to skip the air conditioning and still keep your home chill

June 17, 2019 by  
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Summer is right around the corner, and the rising temperatures in many areas have already arrived. As the searing summer months approach and drag on, finding ways to keep your house cool will make you more comfortable. Chilling out without the use of energy-thirsty air conditioning will not only save you money but is good for the planet, too. For thousands of years, humans found ways to stay cool, even in the hottest climates, without the use of AC. Take a card from that playbook to keep your home comfortable without relying on energy-intensive resources by incorporating the ideas below. Related: A modern home in India stays naturally cool without AC Open the windows Creating a cross-breeze is one of the most effective ways to cool a home. Many resorts and vacation homes in tropical areas rely on this technique instead of installing AC for a good reason — it works. The key to effective breeze cooling is figuring out which direction the wind blows. In some areas, it’s fairly consistent, commonly coming from the same direction during the same times each day (most often in the afternoon). Open up windows during that “window” of breeze to encourage the flow through your home. Also take advantage of cooler nighttime and early morning temperatures. Leave screened windows open to allow the cool air to come inside. Then, trap it by shutting windows on each side of the house as the sun hits it, i.e. the east side in the morning and the west side in the afternoon. Rely on the blinds When your windows are closed, also close off heat absorption by closing the blinds. For windows that are in direct sunlight for a good portion of the day, consider installing shutters or rolling blinds on the outside of the window as well. If you don’t want to block out the light entirely, install window film that is made to insulate against heat while letting light into the room. Blackout the light The most effective way to keep the sun from injecting blistering heat into a room is to keep it dark. Completely close off rooms when they are not being used. If you don’t mind being left in the dark, install blackout curtains, which effectively block the heat from entering the room through the window. Become a fan of fans Both ceiling fans and box fans are effective in cooling a space without cranking up the energy bill. For ceiling fans, make sure they are rotating in a counterclockwise direction during the warm months. Most ceiling fans have a switch near the top that changes the direction in which the blades rotate. This is so that the fan pushes cooler air downward during the summer. Reverse the blades during the winter, which pulls cool air up toward the ceiling to keep the living space warmer. Box and other fans help keep the air flowing throughout the space for a cooling effect. To create cooler air, place a container of ice directly in front of the fan. The air from the fan will bounce off the ice and direct the cool air across the room. Insulate against the heat With all of this talk about the importance of air flow, it seems counter-intuitive to mention insulation . However, keeping hot air from entering your space prevents from having to then cool it. Just like with cold air during the winter, evaluate any place that hot air may seep in. Close the damper in your fireplace. Feel around your doors and windows for airflow, and install weatherstripping as needed. Grab a package of insulation foam for your light switches and outlets. Related: 7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home Turn off appliances Even during the sizzling days of summer, you need to eat and do laundry , but appliances in the home generate a lot of heat and compromise your success in the battle against a hot house. Plan ahead to avoid turning on appliances as much as possible. Dust off that slow cooker book and cook dinner without turning on the stove. Also enjoy some summer grilling that takes the hot cooking outdoors. Better yet, on very hot days, go with a cold sandwich or salad and avoid cooking altogether. You can also keep the clothes dryer from heating up your space by hanging clothes to dry or only running it at night after the temperature drops. Even the dishwasher sends out heat, so wash dishes by hand and allow them to air dry in the warm space, or run the dishwasher without the final dry cycle that produces heat. Give your refrigerator a bit of a break. It works hard during hot weather, so keep up maintenance by cleaning the vent in the front and the coils in the back. Keep food away from the edges inside the fridge, so air can flow freely. Get shade from plants Keeping the home cool on the inside starts on the outside. Your landscape design can have a huge impact on the temperature inside your house. Plan ahead by placing trees where they will block intense sun rays during the height of the season. Put shrubs and vines on south- and west-facing walls to help insulate against the heat. Stop unwanted heat gain with awnings For a long-term, albeit less natural, approach, build permanent awnings or invest in retractable awnings over corridors, decks and windows. This will also make enjoying the outdoors on super hot days a little easier! Images via Shutterstock

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Cool ways to skip the air conditioning and still keep your home chill

This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

March 28, 2019 by  
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A unique location and environmentally-friendly passive house design are what define this lovely home on the Czech Republic/German border. 750 meters above sea level and in the middle of a ridge within the Ore Mountains, it almost looks like a modern farmhouse from the outside. On the inside, however, you’ll find a sleek, clean design with light colors, glass and wood. The rustic home was built by Stempel & Tesar Architects and is a certified passive house . A passive house technique dramatically reduces a building’s environmental footprint by essentially reusing the heat generated by electrical and gas appliances (refrigerators, ovens, even computers) to heat the home. A ventilation system is used to supply fresh air from outside the house to keep the air quality clean, and an efficient heat recovery unit contains and exhausts the recycled heat. Related: Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style Ultra tight insulation and advanced windows that don’t allow for the heat to escape is required to produce a passive house. Conversely, a passive house is also designed to keep your home comfortable in the warmer months. So rather than using a separate heating or cooling device like a heater or air conditioner that drains energy , a passive house can recycle the heat that is already being generated. The result is a low-cost, energy efficient design that reduces the ecological footprint of the home. Outside the home is a covered walkway leading to the front entrance and an exterior of dark wood. Using an environmentally-friendly method, the wood was colored using a heating technique that eliminated the need for synthetic varnishes. The wood was also used to match the two-car garage to the look of the main house, and the roof is made of simple ceramic tiles. The location of the property allows for plenty of sunlight to brighten the home through the large windows. The home is comprised of two levels and also features a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a sliding door that allows for the entire house to be opened to the garden in the warmer months. Though the summer is short in this part of the world, the designers still included a winter garden and a covered terrace outside. + Stempel & Tesar Architects Via Archdaily Images via Stempel & Tesar Architects

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This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

8 ways to make your bathroom more eco-friendly

March 22, 2019 by  
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An outdated bathroom isn’t just an eyesore; it can also be quite harmful to the environment, because old toilets and faucets waste a ton of water, most of the building materials aren’t sustainable and many water heaters use way more energy than needed. In recent years, there have been significant changes in the world of bathrooms, with many eco-friendly fixtures, decor and accessories hitting the market. If it is time for a bathroom remodel in your home, take the opportunity to go green with some of these eco-friendly bathroom ideas. Interior design Recycled tile Most bathrooms feature some kind of tile, and now you can easily find options made from recycled content available in just about every aesthetic you can think of. Related: How to retile your bathroom You can find bathroom tile made from bamboo, cork or eco-friendly concrete. Newer options on the market include tiles made from reclaimed wood and vegetable ivory. Cabinets and vanity sinks Most traditional cabinets and vanity sinks use plywood, particle board, pressed wood and medium density fiberboard (MDF). But the glue used in those materials contains formaldehyde. Now, there are eco-friendly cabinets and vanity options  made from solid wood or recycled and reclaimed materials that are much safer. Think of cabinets made from bamboo or recycled concrete and countertops made from recycled glass or paper. Steel bathtubs Forget fiberglass and acrylic, and instead, consider a steel bathtub. The German company KALDEWEI offers bathtubs made from a steel enamel that come with a 30-year guarantee. Instead of ending up in a landfill at the end of its lifespan, these bathtubs — as well as their steel bathroom fittings — can be completely recycled. Fixtures Low-flow showerheads, toilets and faucets It should come as no surprise that every time you flush the toilet, you are wasting a significant amount of water . But there have been major advancements in recent years with low-flow and dual-flush toilets that have reduced water usage. Just a few years ago, toilets used more than three gallons of water with each flush. Now, high-efficiency toilets use less than a gallon. Considering how often your family flushes the toilet each day, this new technology can save thousands of gallons of water every year. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also helps lower those utility bills. The same goes for faucets and showerheads. The flow rates have dropped significantly over the years, so upgrading can result in less water usage, increased energy efficiency and even more savings on your utility bills. A fantastic resource for finding water-efficient appliances is the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program website. It offers a list of approved appliances that meet the EPA criteria, and it rates everything from showerheads to bathroom accessories. If you want to reduce your water usage without replacing your showerhead and faucet, you can add an aerator that will reduce the water flow rate without affecting water pressure. Energy-efficient water heater The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that nearly one-fifth of your home energy use is for heating water. An eco-friendly bathroom remodel should include the installation of an energy-efficient water heater. When shopping for water heaters, look for the EPA’s Energy Star label, so you know the product has been certified energy-efficient. Related: Adjusting a tankless water heater Eco-friendly options include a heat pump water heater, which uses heat from the air to heat the refrigerant that heats your water; a tankless water heater, which will heat the water as you use it; a condensing storage water heater, which will use less energy to create hot water; or a solar water heater, which will slash your energy costs. Accessories Oiled teak shower mat Cloth bath mats can invite mold and mildew, so opt for a mat made from teak wood that resists harmful bacteria while giving your bathroom a modern look. Oiled teak shower mats are slip resistant, naturally warm and easy to clean. Organic cotton towels and washcloths Harmful chemicals are often used when making traditional cotton bathroom linens, so when you are updating your bathroom, don’t forget to upgrade your towels and washcloths with organic cotton towels that don’t use pesticides. Related: How to save the environment one hair wash at a time Bamboo toothbrushes Get rid of those plastic toothbrushes and replace them with biodegradable bamboo. Mable offers a chic, self-standing bamboo brush at an affordable price. When you buy one, the company gives one to a child in need. Toothbrushes are just the beginning when it comes to bamboo bathroom accessories. You can find things like bathtub trays, soap dispensers and toothbrush holders that are made from this all-natural, sustainable material. It’s easy to go green when you remodel your bathroom. Even though some of these options may seem to be a bit pricey, remember that many of them will save you a ton of cash in the long run because of reduced energy bills. Try some of these eco-friendly bathroom ideas when you are turning your outdated bathroom into a sustainable home spa. Image via La Belle Galerie and Shutterstock

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Solar-powered home puts an eco-friendly twist on the farmhouse vernacular

March 14, 2019 by  
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When architect Paul O’Reilly of the Australian architectural practice archterra was asked by his mother to design a modern farmhouse, he delivered a handsome dwelling that not only takes inspiration from traditional barn architecture, but also deftly addresses the region’s climatic extremes with its site-specific, energy-efficient build. Aptly named the Farm House, the roughly 2,000-square-foot abode features a gabled roofline, a veranda and timber cladding to mimic traditional barns, while the interior is decidedly contemporary and dressed in natural materials, including rammed earth and oiled timber cladding. Moreover, the home is energy-efficient , taking cues from passive solar principles and drawing power from a 2.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array. Located on a grassy paddock on a working cattle farm near Margaret River, the Farm House is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom abode that places the sleeping areas toward the south and the open-plan living areas to the north. Large outdoor decks open off of the two bedrooms and the living area toward the east. “Primary outlook across paddocks to the east and a need to maintain a passive solar orientation to the north generated a T-shaped plan response with the living pavilion orientated to the north, whilst the sleeping areas align east-west,” explained the architecture firm. “Morning sun is moderated on the sleeping pavilion by the traditional veranda to the east whilst a thick rammed earth wall to the west ensures the thermal lag effect of the earth wall keeps internal spaces cool into the early evening.” Related: Solar-powered Bush House exemplifies chic eco-friendly living in the Australian outback The home’s passive solar orientation mitigates unwanted heat gain and permits cooling cross breezes to flow through the home from all directions. In addition to the thermally efficient envelope, the energy efficiency of the Farm House is bolstered by the addition of an evacuated tube solar hot water heater, a solar photovoltaic array, rainwater collection  and wastewater treatment systems. Recycled timber and bricks lower the embodied energy of the project as well. + archterra Photography by Douglas Mark Black via archterra

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