A Melbourne workers cottage gets revamped into a solar-powered family home

May 30, 2019 by  
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When a young family with two children approached Melbourne-based practice Gardiner Architects for a renovation and extension of their existing worker’s cottage, sustainable design was at the forefront of their minds. Not only would a small footprint ease the building’s environmental impact, but it would also help the family stick to their modest budget. Consequently, the architects combined passive solar principles with energy-efficient technologies to create the Allan Street House, a solar-powered home full of daylight and contemporary character. Located on a quiet side street in the Melbourne inner suburb of Brunswick, Allan Street House was transformed from a “pokey terrace house” into an open, light-filled house that embraces both indoor and outdoor living. In renovating the property, the architects retained the existing worker’s cottage and added a single-story extension to the rear. In order to ensure the thermal performance of both the new and old structures, the architects compartmentalized the two sections with operable doors, which also offers the added benefit of noise separation. “A tight budget demands lateral thinking to optimise the amount of space, or amount of function, that can be inserted within the least amount of building,” explain the architects. “We employed a few design tricks, such as having the corridor into the new extension expand out to become part of the dining and living room. There is also a study nook at the end of the living area, which is within the same building form, the roof of which continues to the rear boundary to create an external storage area– a cheap, efficient way to gain extra space.” Related: Green-roofed Ruckers Hill House gives curated views of nearby Melbourne Also key to the design was maximizing natural light and creating connections to the outdoors, whether with full-height glazed sliding doors that open up to the backyard or sight lines that bring the eye up and out beyond the cottage. Moreover, the large windows were oriented toward the north for warmth and light, while a large overhang and pergola helps block out the harsh summer sun. For energy efficiency , all the walls and ceilings have high levels of insulation, cross-ventilation is optimized and exposed concrete was used for the floor and equipped with an in-slab hydronic system that provides heating in the communal areas. The home is also topped with solar panels on the roof. + Gardiner Architects Images by Rory Gardiner

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A Melbourne workers cottage gets revamped into a solar-powered family home

This elevated prefab home in Chile takes in striking volcano views

April 18, 2019 by  
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In the Chilean city of Pucón, Santiago architect Alejandro Soffia has recently completed a prefab home that visually pops against its wooded surroundings. Fittingly named the Yellow House after its bright yellow facade, the modular residence is elevated off the ground for reduced site impact and to create a treehouse-like feel. The home’s modules were strategically connected with wooden joints and punctuated by full-height glazing to frame views of Lake Villarrica on one side and the Villarrica volcano on the other. Built from a series of SIP modules that Soffia designed himself, the prefabricated Yellow House spans just under 1,100 square feet and consists of a long hallway that connects an open-plan living room, kitchen, library and dining area on one end of the house to the two bedrooms on the other side. The house also opens up to an outdoor terrace built from wood. “The hypothesis is, that if you create a prefabricated system which has a good architectural design, then you can reproduce this quality as much as you need it, within the laws of short/long production series,” explains Soffia, who adds that he prefers prefabrication due to its reduced site impact and speed of construction without compromising quality. “And if in the serial industrial production of buildings you get bored, you can also customize form and function through the system. More benefits when you fasten the building process and have more control over quality and cost.” Related: A modular classroom for environmental education pops up in a Barcelona park Full-height glazing fills the interior with light and creates an indoor/ outdoor living experience that immerses the owner in the forest. In contrast to the bright yellow corrugated facade, the interiors are lined in wood, with some sections left unpainted and others painted black. Minimalist decor keeps the focus on the outdoors. + Alejandro Soffia Via ArchDaily Images by Juan Durán Sierralta, Mathias Jacobs

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LEED Platinum fire station is powered with solar energy in Seattle

April 11, 2019 by  
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The north end of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has recently become home to a new, contemporary fire station that’s also a beacon for sustainability. Certified LEED Platinum, Fire Station 22 was designed by local architectural practice Weinstein A+U to harvest solar power, as well as rainwater , which is used for all of the station’s non-potable water uses. The building also has an enhanced civic presence with a super-scaled and illuminated “22” on its facade and large walls of glass that invite the neighborhood in. Due to its location on a long and narrow corner lot confined by two freeways and a heavily trafficked road, Fire Station 22 forgoes the conventional back-in configuration in favor of a drive-through layout for better visibility and safety. However, this configuration and the constraints of the space meant that the two-story support and crew spaces needed to be put at the front of the site, thus blocking views of the fire station’s apparatus bay, which has always traditionally been visible to the public. To reengage the community, the architects added a public plaza at the main entry, a super-scaled “22” sign on the concrete hose-drying tower and a glazed lobby and station office. “The station needs to mediate this complex site while maintaining rigorous programmatic requirements and balancing users’ desire for privacy,” said the architects , who completed the project as the last full-building replacement project under the 2003 Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy. “It does so with a sculptural facade along E. Roanoke Street, which provides privacy for the building’s users while creating pedestrian interest and texture. The station opens up to the future 520 Lid at the northeast corner, with a fully glazed lobby, the iconic Apparatus Bay egress doors, and a hose tower that acts as a landmark on the singular site.” Related: LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle Built to meet current program standards, Fire Station 22 features highly efficient mechanical and plumbing systems in addition to a solar PV system and rainwater harvesting systems. The project has earned three 2018 AIA Merit Awards. + Weinstein A+U Images by Lara Swimmer

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LEED Platinum fire station is powered with solar energy in Seattle

LEED Platinum fire station is powered with solar energy in Seattle

April 11, 2019 by  
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The north end of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has recently become home to a new, contemporary fire station that’s also a beacon for sustainability. Certified LEED Platinum, Fire Station 22 was designed by local architectural practice Weinstein A+U to harvest solar power, as well as rainwater , which is used for all of the station’s non-potable water uses. The building also has an enhanced civic presence with a super-scaled and illuminated “22” on its facade and large walls of glass that invite the neighborhood in. Due to its location on a long and narrow corner lot confined by two freeways and a heavily trafficked road, Fire Station 22 forgoes the conventional back-in configuration in favor of a drive-through layout for better visibility and safety. However, this configuration and the constraints of the space meant that the two-story support and crew spaces needed to be put at the front of the site, thus blocking views of the fire station’s apparatus bay, which has always traditionally been visible to the public. To reengage the community, the architects added a public plaza at the main entry, a super-scaled “22” sign on the concrete hose-drying tower and a glazed lobby and station office. “The station needs to mediate this complex site while maintaining rigorous programmatic requirements and balancing users’ desire for privacy,” said the architects , who completed the project as the last full-building replacement project under the 2003 Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy. “It does so with a sculptural facade along E. Roanoke Street, which provides privacy for the building’s users while creating pedestrian interest and texture. The station opens up to the future 520 Lid at the northeast corner, with a fully glazed lobby, the iconic Apparatus Bay egress doors, and a hose tower that acts as a landmark on the singular site.” Related: LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle Built to meet current program standards, Fire Station 22 features highly efficient mechanical and plumbing systems in addition to a solar PV system and rainwater harvesting systems. The project has earned three 2018 AIA Merit Awards. + Weinstein A+U Images by Lara Swimmer

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A solar-powered luxury home blends into a Pacific Northwest landscape

March 27, 2019 by  
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When a client commissioned Seattle-based architectural practice Hoedemaker Pfeiffer to design their new solar-powered home, they asked that the design take inspiration from a stone-and-wood retreat that they had lost to a fire decades ago in the hills of Appalachia. As a result, the new build takes cues from the client’s former property as well as its location on a remote forested plateau atop a steep hillside in the San Juan Islands . The dwelling, named Hillside Sanctuary, is built of stone and wood volumes and appears to naturally grow out of the landscape, while its large walls of glass take in sweeping views of Puget Sound. The Hillside Sanctuary comprises two buildings: a main house and a guest house, both of which comprise two floors and are oriented for optimal views of Puget Sound to the southwest. In the main house, the master bedroom and the primary living spaces can be found on the upper floor, with the main rooms sharing access to an outdoor patio. Secondary rooms are located below. The smaller guesthouse also places the primary living spaces on the upper level. On the lower level are two bedrooms and an outdoor dining area and kitchen. The bases of both buildings consist of thick stone walls topped with light-filled timber structures. Simple shed roofs with long overhangs shield the interiors from intense southern summer sun and support solar panels . Walls of glazing along the buildings’ southern elevation let in ample natural light. Strategically placed clerestory windows allow for northern light and permit the escape of warm air. A particularly impressive application of glass can be seen in the guest house dining room, which is cantilevered into the forest and wrapped on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass. Trees were carefully preserved so as to create the room’s treehouse-like feel. Related: Lakeside cabin made out of reclaimed wood is as idyllic as it gets “Taken together the buildings provide two related but distinct ways of appreciating the beauty of this site,” the architects explain. “Together they provide friends and family comfortable accommodation while offering a sanctuary for the owner at the main home.” + Hoedemaker Pfeiffer Images by Kevin Scott

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A solar-powered luxury home blends into a Pacific Northwest landscape

Coal prices continue to rise, becoming more costly than solar and wind alternatives

March 27, 2019 by  
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Coal prices are on the rise in the United States. The vast majority of coal production now costs more than wind and solar energy. Unless the price of coal production drops quickly, experts believe the fossil fuel will be replaced in the near future. “Even without major policy shift, we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, who authored a new study for Energy Innovation on the rising costs of coal. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar .” The new study examined financial data obtained from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to determine how much it costs to produce coal in the United States. Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early According to The Guardian , the researchers discovered that over two-thirds of coal produced in the United States is more costly than solar and wind alternatives. This includes the cost of building solar panels and wind turbines and maintaining them. If the cost of coal continues to rise, the fuel will no longer be a viable option for energy over the next five to six years. Americans across the country will be able to save money by replacing their coal energy with wind or solar power. The scientists leading the study already knew that coal prices have gone up, but they did not expect it to be so widespread. There are several reasons why coal prices have skyrocketed in recent years. The two biggest causes are maintenance bills and the cost of retrofitting factories to comply with new pollution laws. While coal prices are on the rise, wind and solar energies have actually decreased in cost as technology improves. Coupled with an increase in demand for natural gas, renewable energy is killing the coal industry. Renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar power, now make up about 17 percent of electrical production in the United States. Although coal is clearly on its way out, the Trump administration has been advocating for it, which has only slowed its demise. Financial institutions have also kept coal alive by handing out around $1.9 trillion dollars in loans over the past four years. But if coal prices continue their current trend, the industry is doomed to be replaced by more affordable, cleaner energy alternatives. Via The Guardian Image via Lucas Faria / U.S. Department of Energy

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Coal prices continue to rise, becoming more costly than solar and wind alternatives

Breezy caravan-inspired annex uses passive design for thermal comfort

February 28, 2019 by  
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In Melbourne, Australia, a 1960s family home has been updated with a new contemporary extension that draws inspiration from a traveling caravan. Flanked by lush greenery, the Bent Annexe is filled with natural light and designed to follow passive solar principles for energy efficiency. The modern addition was designed by Australian architectural practice BENT Architecture for an outdoor-loving family of four and their two active Dachshunds. The primary goal of the Bent Annexe was to open the relatively introverted midcentury home up to the garden and bring greater amounts of natural light and ventilation into the living spaces. To that end, the architects removed existing ancillary structures in the rear of the property to make space for the new addition . With the primary living spaces now located in the annex, the architects also took the opportunity to remodel the existing dwelling, which now houses larger bedrooms, a family bathroom, and a second living space. “The trick to making the Annexe feel like a part of the garden is creating green spaces on both sides, by separating the addition from the original home with a courtyard ,” the architects explain of their design process. “Of course, the central courtyard improves cross-flow ventilation and lets north light into the master bedroom, but with full-height windows on both sides of the living area, it also creates the illusion of one continuous space, blurring the boundary between inside and outside.” Related: A 1960s home gets a modern facelift with solar panels and rainwater collection Built to wrap around the original home beneath a continuous roofline, the extension houses open-plan living areas that overlook the landscape through full-height glazing and casement windows. A retractable shading device—a caravan-inspired canvas element—provides shade to a decked outdoor dining area that strengthens the home’s new indoor/ outdoor connection. The use of concrete floors for thermal mass and operable louver windows help passively heat and cool the space to reduce the home’s energy bills. + BENT Architecture Via ArchDaily Images © Tatjana Plitt

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10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips

February 28, 2019 by  
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Decorating a home is intimidating enough without taking the environment into account, but choosing eco-friendly decor will be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some simple tips and rules for green alternatives in home decorating that will help reduce your  carbon footprint and even save you some money along the way. Perks of vintage The simplest way to positively affect the environment with your home decor choices is to buy pre-used. Some people even prefer a more wear-and-tear or “distressed” look. Not to mention, vintage decor is chic and costs way less than buying new. So head over to your local thrift store, estate sales or flea markets (you can even raid your grandma’s attic for forgotten treasures). If you still can’t find anything to your taste, Ebay and other media sites are a great place to explore pretty much anything vintage. Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Choose sustainably-sourced materials Work with companies that are focused on ethical labor standards and fair trade. There are some great globally inspired home products that give back to the artisans and communities who make their pieces and are passionate about eco-friendly decor. Obviously, one of the best material for furniture is wood, but making sure that you choose a wood that doesn’t contribute to the deforestation epidemic is just as important as choosing the style of furniture itself. Make sure all wood is FSC certified and sustainably-sourced. Donate When you absolutely do need to get rid of something in your home, choose to donate it or even sell it. Even if you don’t make much money off the sale, it still means that the item transferred its value to someone else (and more importantly, didn’t end up in a dumpster or landfill ). The Goodwill is an amazing organization that gives back to the community and ReStore by Habitat for Humanity has a free pick-up program that will help local families find homes. Most donations are tax-deductible as well. Don’t assume that just because it is used or old that no one will want it. Use non-toxic materials Whether you’re painting your walls or repurposing a piece of furniture, the type of paint you choose matters. Eco-friendly paints are free of volatile organic compounds or “VOCs,” which can be harmful to both the environment and to humans. Even carpet has been known to emit high levels of VOCs and contribute to accumulations of allergens . Houseplants A well-cared-for houseplant can give renewed life to any space. There are even some houseplants such as ferns or palms that can increase oxygen and help purify your home. Houseplants are a less-expensive decoration that adds a natural, fresh accent and can combat pollutants and chemicals produced from man-made materials. Thermal alternatives Even a plain thermal lining can drastically reduce how much hot or cold air is escaping from your home. This will also save money on your electricity bill and make your home that much more comfortable for your family and guests. For eco-friendly insulation, there are alternatives to fiberglass made from sustainable materials like wool or hemp. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials Repurpose It may take a little more elbow grease, but DIY-ing your old stuff into new stuff is more rewarding and satisfying than buying new every time. Repaint wooden tables to match your new decor with an artsy pattern or reupholster your old chairs to make them look brand new. If your creative side refuses to come out, hire someone else to do the job. It will still cost less money than buying new while still feeling new to you. Look out for furniture made from reclaimed and salvaged materials like aluminum and recycled wood as well. Go with timeless styles One of the biggest problems with home decor is changing trends. A type of furniture or style may be in vogue one year and out of style the next. That leaves trendy homeowners with the options of either getting rid of their decor or repurposing it in order to keep up. Investing in sturdy, timeless designs will ensure that your home decor never goes out of style and you get plenty of use out of it before it needs to be altered or donated. Use nature Go wildflower picking or gather herbs from the garden to decorate. Add natural accents like citrus to elevate a vase or candle holder for a special effect, or use cranberries or holly during the holidays. Driftwood is also a wonderful alternative for doorstops or shelving and can be DIY -ed into wall art. Sometimes the most memorable and special decorations can be found in the most unlikely places. Redecorate If your home is feeling dull and in dire need of an upgrade, sometimes just a simple change of scenery can make all the difference. Try moving furniture or shelving around, switching out photos or re-arranging artwork onto different walls. You may save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort and stress just by finding new spots for your furniture in your home . Images via Shutterstock

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Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age

February 28, 2019 by  
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When the owner of a beautiful natural site in Falmouth, Maine tapped Portland-based architectural studio Kaplan Thompson Architects to design his house, it was clear from the beginning that the forested surroundings would play a major role in the design. Not only did the architects use a predominately timber palette to bring the woods indoors, but the two-story home was also engineered to produce all of its own energy to reduce impact on the environment. Dubbed the Blackwood House, the net-zero dwelling is fitted with a variety of renewable energy systems and low-maintenance materials for long-term sustainability. Topped with a slanted roof, the Blackwood House takes on a shed-like appearance with a utilitarian vibe that’s strengthened by the exterior surface materials. Combined in what the architects call a “complex textile pattern”, the low-maintenance and cost-effective facade includes weathering steel, fiber cement board (Viroc), and black-stained cedar (Maibec), all of which will develop a natural patina over time. An open timber-framed carport completes the utilitarian look while keeping the design within budget. “Unlike contemporary modern spaces that are cold and sterile, this house is modern and sleek yet roughhewn,” the architects say of the two-story house. “With fine woodworking alongside the clean lines of the interior structure, raw and cooked come together in harmony. Taking into consideration the beauty of the surrounding natural forest, this design places focus on exposed materials in their most basic form. Timber beams throughout the living areas bring the woods inside and provide structure to the rooms. Hidden storage and flowing spaces combine with large, strategically placed windows to allow the forest and natural light to take center stage.” Related: Kaplan Thompson Architects Unveil Super-Efficient Harborview Townhomes in Portland, Maine Completed in 2017, the Blackwood House spans an area of 2,775 square feet yet feels even larger thanks to full-height glazing that frames views of the outdoors, while a treehouse -like feel is achieved in the second floor balcony. Careful construction and triple-glazed windows ensure that the light-filled, open-plan interior maintains comfortable indoor temperatures year-round. Photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof of the carport power the energy-efficient home. + Kaplan Thompson Architects Images by Irvin Serrano via Kaplan Thompson Architects

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This light-filled home and office in Portugal blurs indoors and out

February 5, 2019 by  
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On the outskirts of Ílhavo, Portugal, architect Maria Fradinho of the firm FRARI – architecture network recently designed and built her own industrial-inspired home and office using a modern and playful house-within-a-house concept. Sandwiched between two red-shingled homes, the contemporary abode stands in stark contrast to its more traditional neighbors. Dubbed the Arch House, the dwelling was named after the “theatricality” of its facade, a simple gabled shape with strong geometric lines and massive walls of glass. The Vista Alegre Porcelain Factory, one of the region’s most important industries, inspired the Arch House design. As a result, the home features a sleek, black, metal-clad exterior. In contrast, the interior is dominated by white surfaces and filled with natural light and strategic views that give the rooms a sense of expansiveness without sacrificing privacy. Full-height glazing also pulls the outdoors in, while indoor-outdoor living is emphasized with a covered patio that spills out to the backyard. A house-within-a-house concept is explored with the insertion of shipping container-inspired stacked volumes, each faced with windows, which overlook the indoor living room on the ground floor. “It was important for the architect to guarantee this process of transition from the public to the private, as well as ensuring adequate privacy in the interior, because of the maximum exposure desired,” according to the a project statement. “Inspired by ship containers , the volume set with which the interior is developed, creates a total height in some areas, recreating the great industrial environment of a main ship. This set of different roof heights widens the spaces and makes them more comprehensive, providing a visual relation between the various places in the house.” Related: A house within a house in Slovakia unfolds in layers Spanning an area of 300 square meters, the Arch House occupies a little less than a third of its long and narrow lot. The home is spread out across three floors and includes a basement. The open-plan ground floor houses the primary communal spaces, including the living room, kitchen and dining space, while the private areas are located above. + FRARI – architecture network Via ArchDaily Images by ITS – Ivo Tavares Studio via FRARI – architecture network

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