War ruins are reborn as a sustainable home in Lebanon

October 11, 2018 by  
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Having survived the Lebanese Civil War as a torture and detention center for militia forces, The House With Two Lives has a colorful past to say the least. So when Lebanese design practice Nabil Gholam Architects was asked to renovate the structure — originally built as a resort building in the 1930s — the firm took its time to sensitively pick apart the site’s history and breathe new and positive life into the property. Described as a “difficult exorcism,” the design process saw the reuse of the historic ruins and the insertion of a brand new home celebrating nature and sustainable design, from rainwater harvesting systems to passive cooling strategies. Located near the Lebanese mountain village of Bois de Boulogne and surrounded by beautiful pine forests, the House With Two Lives was designed to blend in with its idyllic surroundings. To “cleanse the house of its troubled history,” the architects introduced new plant growth to camouflage the building into the landscape, from vines that climb over the ruins to more than 1,000 pine trees planted in the garden, including umbrella pines, oak trees, cork trees, Lebanese cedars and more. The site has also gained a new rose garden. The theme of regrowth and revival has also been applied to the architecture of the house, which comprises a three-story main house of 2,000 square meters as well as an annex and guard house of 850 square meters. The new additions to the existing 1,500-square-meter stone ruins of the main house were articulated as a series of Corten steel -clad boxes that will develop a patina over time and are perforated with tree-shaped patterns. Sustainability guided the design of the renovated structure, which is built with high-performance insulation and follows passive solar strategies. The home also harvests solar energy for winter heating and uses rainwater collection systems. Related: Modern alpine home is built on the ruins of an old rustic structure “The case of this house is as dreadful as it is beautiful,” said the architects, who spent months stripping the existing structure of leftover torture devices, black ashes and graffiti. “The story behind it and the testimonials backing it makes it stand as a powerful message. The House With Two Lives restores faith in man’s will to fight and is with no doubt an example of an architectural work of high precision.” + Nabil Gholam Architects Photography by Geraldine Bruneel, Nabil Gholam, Joe Kesrouani and Richard Saad via Nabil Gholam Architects

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This rustic Quebec cottage now has a beautiful, prismatic extension

May 23, 2018 by  
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When a client with a large family reached out to ACDF Architecture for an extension of their rustic country cottage in Quebec , the Montreal studio responded with a modern building that provides a visually arresting contrast to the historic house. Dubbed the Chalet La petite soeur, the addition mirrors the original building’s dimensions with a sharply gabled roof. Unlike the existing cottage, however, the new building is clad in white-painted timber and a sheet metal roof for a crisp and modern appearance. Located on Lake Ouareau near the town of Saint-Donat in Quebec, the charming 1,400-square-foot countryside cottage and its new addition are designed to optimize enjoyment of the outdoors and views of the lake. The architects took inspiration from the surrounding landscape of birch trees when designing the new space, described as a “refined version of the existing house.” The chalet’s smooth, white-painted wood cladding mimics shiny birch bark and recalls the whitewashed walls of rural barns, while providing a sleek contrast to the natural silvery patina on the facade of the existing home. An elevated glass bridge connects the old cottage to the chalet and lies on an axis between the kitchen of the old building and the new living room. Glazed on both sides, the bridge overlooks views of the landscape and garden. The floor and ceiling of the bridge are finished in timber that matches the warmth of the existing home’s old wood planks. Both ends of the bridge are framed in wood, evoking the appearance of large picture frames. Related: Dreamy cabin is the perfect lakeside escape for large families An open-plan family room dominates the ground floor and overlooks spectacular views of the lake through large windows. The minimalist interior is dressed in polished concrete floors and natural wood details, like the central fireplace with a black-slatted wood surround. Hidden storage inside the built-in benches helps reduce visual clutter. The new master bedroom is tucked into the lower level, which is built of concrete. + ACDF Architecture Images by Adrien Williams

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This passively cooled house in Australia features a green roof, recycled brick, and ocean views

March 22, 2018 by  
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The residents of Greenacres,  Austin Maynard Architects ‘ first completed project in New South Wales, originally asked for a light-filled home and a room with a view. The architects decided to take it a step further, building a house that not only affords ocean views from almost every interior space, but also incorporates the existing landscape and uses sustainable design to maximize energy efficiency. Perched on a steep block in Newcastle, the house utilizes the existing topography to create different spaces across three levels and provide expansive views of its surroundings. The garage lies hidden at the base of the property, with the entry path and garden weaving along the structure and through the green roof . A landscaped driveway reduces the visual impact of the hard surfaces in front of the house. Propped on three steel “legs” above this section, the building’s main level houses the kitchen, living and dining areas. And finally, two bedrooms and a bathroom are tucked in beneath this rectangular space. Related: Eco-Friendly Tinbeerwah House Rises on Steel Stilts in the Australian Bush Austin Maynard Architects also made sure Greenacres didn’t get in the way of its own view. Whether in the living space, the rear of the building, or any space in between, you have a clear view of the ocean, the Merewether Ocean Baths, and the city.   Related: Australia’s first carbon-positive prefab house produces more energy than it consumes In addition to these main design considerations, the architects included sustainable features to help save energy. They used locally sourced recycled brick throughout the house. The orientation, window shading, attention to cross ventilation, and central fish pond aid passive cooling and reduce reliance on mechanical ventilation. All windows are double glazed and protected from the northern and western sun. Water tanks, buried in the garden, provide ample water for the gardens and the toilets. The result is the best of both worlds: a house with stunning ocean views that also manages to be energy-efficient. + Austin Maynard Architects Via World Architecture News Photos by Tess Kelly  

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20% of US population produces 46% of food-based emissions

March 22, 2018 by  
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A monumental new study demonstrates that one-fifth of the American population is responsible for nearly half of all food-based emissions. Popsci reports that people who eat a lot of animal protein, especially beef, account for a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions — although, author Sara Chodosh also illustrates the extreme complexity behind the study’s potentially groundbreaking conclusions. Read on for a closer look. Published in Environmental Research Letters specifically sought to understand how diet and associated emissions varies among the American population. Martin Heller, an engineer at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and study contributor, told Popsci it was surprising to realize just how varied they are. “I don’t think any of us really had a strong sense of how distributed the greenhouse gas emissions would be,” he says. “That was perhaps the most striking result.” Getting to the meat of the matter (sorry, I couldn’t resist) involved consulting several different databases and picking apart the life-cycle analysis of every morsel. Chodosh writes : “The NHANES survey results can tell you what a broad spectrum of American plates look like on any given day, but tells you nothing about the environmental impact of those foods. To do that, you have to go to the Food Commodities Intake Database, run by the EPA, and figure out how much meat might be in that meat lasagna, or how many tomatoes are in a generic salad. From there, you have to link the quantities of each type of food to the emissions associated with producing it.” Related: Garlic may be the key to slashing methane emissions from cows When evaluating the emissions of a single tomato, it was necessary to know how much fertilizer was used in its production, and then how much fuel was used to transport that tomato. With poultry, the researchers had to also consider feed production, and when analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with eating beef, they had to calculate the amount of methane released by cow burps. I urge you to head over to Popsci to read the full details , because this short synthesis doesn’t do their reporting justice, but here’s the bottom line that we found so interesting: What next? Now that we know one-fifth of the American population is producing nearly half of food-based emissions — which in their turn are helping to melt glaciers and unleash devastating wildfires, not to mention the numerous adverse health hazards attributed to climate change — what do we do with that information? Heller tells Popsci, “Clearly we’ve not been very good at encouraging people to shift their diets for their own health. Relative to what our recommended healthy diet is, Americans do pretty poorly,” he says, “But I’ve started to try to think about it as the secondhand smoke of diet choice.” Fascinating. If you understood that your dietary choices directly hurt your neighbor, would you make a switch? + Environmental Research Letters Via Popsci Images via DepositPhotos 1 , 2

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‘World’s smallest computer’ could be manufactured for under 10 cents

March 22, 2018 by  
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Need a computer that’s smaller than a single grain of salt ? IBM has got you covered. Mashable reported the company unveiled what they’re calling the world’s smallest computer, that, according to IBM , “packs several hundred thousand transistors into a footprint barely visible to the human eye.” The world’s smallest computer is one-by-one millimeter in size, according to The Verge . IBM says it can have as many as one million transistors and will cost under 10 cents to create. Features include an LED communications unit and photo-detector, static random-access memory (SRAM), and an integrated photovoltaic cell. The photo above is actually a set of 64 motherboards, according to The Verge, each of which contain two of the world’s smallest computers. Below is a solo computer on salt to give you an idea of its small size: Related: IBM creates first-ever artificial neurons that behave like the real thing The miniscule computer is among the IBM Research team’s 5 in 5 technology predictions, which they “believe will fundamentally reshape business and society in the next five years,” according to a blog post from IBM Research head Arvind Krishna. Krishna called the computer a cryptographic anchor, or crypto-anchor — defined in an IBM video as “tamper-proof digital-fingerprints” to be embedded into products to ensure authenticity and detect counterfeit items. The company is showing off their 5 in 5 at the IBM Think 2018 conference. Mashable said testing of the first prototype is still underway, so there’s no word yet on when exactly the world’s smallest computer will be available, although Krishna said cryptographic anchors “will be embedded in everyday objects and devices” in around five years. + Changing the Way the World Works: IBM Research’s “5 in 5” + IBM 5 in 5: Crypto-anchors and blockchain Via Mashable and The Verge Images via IBM and IBM

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‘World’s smallest computer’ could be manufactured for under 10 cents

Rebuilding a resilient, renewable Caribbean

September 19, 2017 by  
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Instead of reconstructing the existing electricity grid, we can leapfrog ahead with technologies that make the Caribbean region less vulnerable to future storms.

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NASA scientists propose to make Pluto a planet again

February 21, 2017 by  
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Alan Stern has never been happy with Pluto’s demotion to dwarf planet. Principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, he told Gizmodo the International Astronomical Union’s new definition of a planet, which excludes Pluto, is “bullshit.” So he and a team of other NASA scientists have submitted a proposal to the IAU to once again refine the definition of what makes a planet, which would not only include Pluto , but also pretty much any round object in space that is smaller than a star. In the introduction of the new proposal , the scientists express concern that Pluto’s demotion to dwarf planet diminishes its standing in the public perception. Apparently a lot of people want to know why NASA sent New Horizons to Pluto if it’s not a planet anymore. To mitigate the public’s concern, they propose a “geophysically-based definition of “planet” that importantly emphasizes a body’s intrinsic physical properties over its extrinsic orbital properties.” In this case, a planet would be “a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters.” Related: New evidence of clouds could make Pluto a planet again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmqDpuDLVYw As Gizmodo points out, such a definition would make a lot more objects in space planets, including Earth’s moon , but the existing definition excludes a lot of space bodies that deserve new consideration. Here are a few of NASA’s concerns with the existing definition of planets, as broken down by Science Alert: “First, it recognises as planets only those objects orbiting our Sun, not those orbiting other stars or orbiting freely in the galaxy as ‘rogue planets’,” they explain. Second, the fact that it requires zone-clearing means “no planet in our Solar System” can satisfy the criteria, since a number of small cosmic bodies are constantly flying through planetary orbits – including Earth’s. Finally, and “most severely”, they say, this zone-clearing stipulation means the mathematics used to confirm if a cosmic body is actually a planet must be distance-dependent, because a “zone” must be clarified. This would require progressively larger objects in each successive zone, and “even an Earth-sized object in the Kuiper Belt would not clear its zone.” While Stern formerly expressed concern that astronomers, not planetary scientists, have control over this definition, the final decision rests with the IAU. Pluto fans stay tuned. Via Gizmodo Images via NASA

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Inhabitat is giving away an organic Avocado Green Mattress

February 21, 2017 by  
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We spend one third of our lives sleeping, but how many of us have taken the time to learn what’s inside our mattresses? Studies have found that conventional mattresses contain toxic levels of volatile organic compounds that could be the source of many ailments, including chronic allergies, asthma, sleep problems, endocrine problems and even cancer. And once traditional mattresses bite the dust, their synthetic materials resist degradation, resulting in an enduring toxic legacy that would give anyone insomnia. If you’re looking for a new mattress and really want to rest assured, here’s your chance to win the best sleep of your life. We’re giving away your choice of an Avocado Green Mattress made from 100 percent natural latex harvested from tree-­tapped and sustainable sources, 100 percent natural Joma® New Zealand Wool, and certified organic cotton. This completely non­toxic, luxurious mattress, made with chemical-free, biodegradable, and compostable materials, is far better for both you and the planet. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN! Win your choice of an Avocado Green Mattress , Standard or Pillow-Top, in your preferred size: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, or California King. a Rafflecopter giveaway Contest open only to residents of the continental U.S. Handmade in sunny California, the Avocado Green Mattress is all about luxury and transparency. Using 100 percent natural hydrated silica as a fire barrier, the Avocado isn’t filled with the dangerous flame retardants or petroleum­-based foams that traditional mattresses contain. Each mattress is made to order and hand-tufted without chemical adhesives, formaldehyde, heavy metals, or other toxic substances. Made with natural and organic materials, the Avocado’s eco-INSTITUT®-certified, chemical­-free design is surprisingly more durable than synthetic materials, nor does it come with that unpleasant, chemical odor most new mattresses carry. And the natural latex , natural Joma® New Zealand Wool and GOTS-­certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic and pesticide-free cotton make this mattress a healthy and sustainable choice. Wool and cotton also naturally regulate temperature and moisture wicking, giving the Avocado mattress superior insulating and cooling properties. Part of Avocado’s hybrid design includes a support layer filled with up to 1,303 ergonomic, individually ­pocketed support coils. This allows for cooler, more durable support than standard foam mattresses. Made from recycled steel, this support system is tuned to three strategically positioned comfort zones that provide incredible support to the hips, back and shoulders. There’s never any need to flip an Avocado mattress – just rotate it. The Standard Avocado Green Mattress is ideal for back and stomach sleepers, characterized by a gentle, yet perfectly firm feel. Its 11-inch-thick base delivers a balanced level of firmness, comfort and support to create a natural sleeping environment. If you want even more luxury, you can instantly upgrade to a plush European-­style feel when the mattress is topped with the optional Pillow­-Top. Its extra 2­-inch layer of 100 percent natural Dunlop latex rubber foam is perfect for side and back sleepers, athletes, and those in need of intense pressure relief. If you aren’t the lucky winner in this giveaway, don’t fret. The Avocado is relatively affordable for a luxury mattress, starting at $959. Each one comes with a risk-free 100-night sleep trial, 10-year warranty, free shipping and returns, and financing with rates as low as 0% APR. For an extra $99, the company will send someone over to set up your new bed for you. Enter above for your chance to win, and dream of sleep in the lap of luxury. + Avocado Green Mattress

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Friends and family help repurpose a concrete carport into an inspiring home for an ALS patient

December 6, 2016 by  
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This temporary residence facilitates both physical and mental accessibility for a client diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). With the help of more than a 100 friends and family of the client, design studio Wim Goes Architectuur repurposed an existing concrete carport, which proved to be more suitable than the existing house, and created an environment that focuses on hope instead of sickness. Once the client no longer needs the space, most of the construction materials can be recycled or reused, celebrating the circle of life. The architects met with the client’s ergotherapist to figure out a solution that would work best for the client’s limiting circumstances. They converted the existing concrete carport into a barrier-free space built with the help of more than 100 friends and family members, and tutoring from professionals experienced with sustainable heating , ventilation, and home automation . Related: Assisted living home replicates a friendly American neighborhood to help treat patient memory loss After demolition, 83% of the project – straw and loam – will be used for fertilizing the landscape. All the technical equipment is returnable, while glass, metal and wood elements can be recycled . The entire project, including its construction, was designed to celebrate the circle of life. + Wim Goes Architectuur Via Archdaily Photos by Filip Dujardin

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Heres every bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and how to switch

December 6, 2016 by  
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People around the world are celebrating the U.S. Army Corps’ decision to block the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, but that doesn’t mean the project is not forging forward in other areas. Locals at Standing Rock fear that this move is just a foil and a way to avoid protesters at the build site. Although many of us can’t join in the fight for tribal rights and clean water, we can make a powerful statement – by switching financial institutions away from banks funding the 1,172-mile-long underground pipeline set to transport crude oil across four states from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to an oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, recently announced that it had sold its assets in the Dakota Access Pipeline and that it is reconsidering its loan, accounting for 10 percent of the total funding for the project. There are 17 banks directly funding the pipeline project, according to Food & Water Watch. They are: Wells Fargo BNP Paribas SunTrust The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Mizuho Bank Citibank (CitiGroup) TD Securities Credit Agricole Intesa SanPaolo ING Bank Natixis BayernLB BBVA Securities DBN Capital ICBC London SMBC Nikko Securities Societe General Related: Sign this petition to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline Switching banks is not just a form of protest at this point. While a long shot, a massive movement of money out of the project’s primary lenders could convince these banks to back out. The financial institutions are holding on to the remaining $1.4 billion that is needed to complete the pipeline, pending approval of final permits by the Army Corps of Engineers. After closing your account, you will of course want to open an account at a bank that isn’t financing environmental destruction and the trampling of Indigenous rights. Options include banks that fund renewable energy projects, community banks and credit unions. Related: 8 ways to help the water protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation Banks supporting renewable energy Since the Connecticut Green Bank was founded in 2011 as the first green bank in the United States, green banks have expanded to New York, California and other states. Green banks are great tools for accelerating financing of clean energy projects by using public funds to leverage private capital investment. While green banks should be encouraged at every level of government, you will need a checking account from a commercial bank that invests in clean energy after switching out of one of the 17 banks financing DAPL. A 2014 Bloomberg Markets’ ranking of the world’s greenest banks includes Royal Bank of Canada, Goldman Sachs, Spain’s Banco Santander SA, UniCredit SpA of Italy, HSBC Holdings Plc of the UK, SEB AB of Sweden, Credit Suisse Group AG of Switzerland and JPMorgan Chase. However, it is important to keep in mind that in addition to renewables many of these financial institutions also invest in dirty energy projects. Community banks After big banks brought the economy to its knees during the 2008 Wall Street crash, many Americans rediscovered independent, locally owned and operated financial institutions, otherwise known as community banks . These old-fashioned neighborhood banks are a great way to go. Instead of investing in megaprojects like DAPL, community banks typically finance local projects that benefit the community they are located in. Credit Unions Switching to a credit union is another option. Credit unions are democratically controlled by members, not shareholders. They are not-for-profit institutions funded mostly by voluntary member deposits. Credit unions can also finance community and residential renewable energy projects such as solar PV, solar hot water, geothermal energy and energy efficiency sealing and insulation. Images via Sacred Stone Camp and Rob Wilson , Wikimedia Commons , Duncan Smith/Corbis , and The Street

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