Net-zero home brings sustainable design to a walkable Iowa City neighborhood

August 31, 2018 by  
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A 1960s home has been reborn into an eco-friendly abode with an impressive net-zero energy footprint. Designed by local architecture firm Neumann Monson , the Koser II is a single-family home that combines forward-thinking sustainable strategies within a contemporary envelope in a leafy and walkable Iowa City neighborhood. Powered by solar and geothermal energy, the home doesn’t sacrifice comfort or luxury in its pursuit of energy efficiency — it even includes a beautiful backyard pool. Covering an area of 2,850 square feet (including a 420-square-foot finished basement), the Koser II house is mainly spread out over a single level. To provide privacy, the street-facing facade is primarily clad in dark cedar planks and punctuated with few windows. A long slatted timber screen near the entrance also shields the home from views and frames an outdoor dining area. In contrast to its introverted exterior, the home’s interior is bright and airy with full-height glazing that lets in plenty of natural light and views. “The design bears the mark of the 1960s home that came before it,” the architecture firm explained. “Removing the existing house’s superstructure and incorporating its slab-on-grade foundation into the new construction makes the most of the predecessor’s limited potential. Additional foundations and a concrete collar support exterior walls of nine- and 10-foot pre-cut studs. Their height differential provides adequate slope to the 14-inch truss-joists spanning the 20-foot width. Operable windows extend to the ceiling plane, maximizing daylight penetration and encouraging cross-ventilation .” Related: After a makeover, this local “shack” becomes the envy of the neighborhood The renovated home also features foamed-in-place insulation and a continuous rigid insulation shell with R-24 walls and an R-40 roof. The light-filled interior is supplemented by LEDs at night and equipped with EnergyStar appliances. Radiant floor heating is complemented with a geothermal climate control system connected to an underground horizontally bored loop. A rain garden in the backyard mitigates stormwater runoff, while a 10.08kW solar array brings the home to zero-energy building performance. + Neumann Monson Images by Cameron Campbell Integrated Studio

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Net-zero home brings sustainable design to a walkable Iowa City neighborhood

Treetop House combines the best of two worlds

August 6, 2018 by  
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There’s nothing as special as being with family – that is, until you need to be alone. The family of five who contracted with Ben Callery Architects  to design the Treetop House wanted this concept to play a key part in the house’s design, and they were delighted when Callery so easily grasped it. He also understood that the design had to commune with nature, include as many views as possible of the lush parkland  around the site, and incorporate as many aspects of sustainability as possible. Callery knew the kitchen was the favorite family gathering place. Dedicated to nurturing casual yet intimate communications between parents and children, Callery’s design concentrated on the kitchen views of the parkland tree canopies, a never-ending source of wonder for young and old year-round. The tall kitchen ceilings and oversized windows flood the room with natural light and provide an unobstructed view of the rooftop deck, a favorite venue for family activities and entertaining. A turf roof , though inaccessible to pedestrian traffic, brings the magnificent foliage of the park even closer. The high, banistered deck protrudes out, bringing the treetops even closer, accelerating the excitement of nature at one’s fingertips. To create private spaces for everyone to retreat for alone time, Callery designed the other rooms with lower ceilings to create a cozy atmosphere of privacy and security. While no family member in the house is ever far away, the sanctuaries everyone needs now and then to read, study or just reflect on life are readily available. Related: The Treebox is an amazing modern home set high up in the treetops Easy-opening windows with electric external blinds help control the rays of the sun from dawn to dusk and provide shelter from the variable winds. The house also runs on solar power, has energy-saving underground water tanks, and was constructed with green materials that provide optimum thermal efficiency . + Ben Callery Architects Images via Nic Granleese and Jack Love

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Geothermal-powered Forest House showcases sustainable features in Maryland

July 13, 2018 by  
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Set on the edge of a forest conservation area in central Maryland , the Forest House is a contemporary home integrated with a wide variety of energy-efficient features. Local design firm Gardner Architects LLC designed the spacious home that responds to passive solar principles and rises to the height of the tree canopy to capture surrounding views. The sustainable technologies include geothermal energy, rooftop solar panels and rain gardens, as well as low-tech solutions like stack ventilation. Commissioned by clients who wanted a spacious home yet desired a sustainable footprint, the Forest House spans 25,000 square feet across three levels. By building upwards on the 0.6-acre wooded property, Gardner Architects sought to create a compact building footprint that would minimize site disturbance . The Forest House embraces the outdoors with covered balconies, a large roof deck that overlooks the forest, and ample low-U value glazing that wraps around the south side to maximize solar gain in winter. The upper level is cantilevered over the glazed south facade to provide shade from the harsh summer sun. The home was constructed with framing panelized off-site in a factory to reduce material waste as well as onsite construction time. The energy-efficient building envelope is bolstered with rigid insulation on the exterior to prevent thermal bridging. In addition to natural daylighting that’s brought in through the skylights and other glazed openings, the openings were carefully placed in concert with an open stair tower so as to promote stack ventilation that brings in cooling breezes. Related: 13 energy-efficient modules make up this prefab modern home in Maryland The Forest House is powered with a ballasted solar array that sits atop the roof deck. A ground source heat pump provides heating and cooling. To further reduce energy needs, the house is equipped with central DC-powered low voltage LEDs that can be controlled remotely. The project was completed in 2016. + Gardner Architects LLC Images by John Cole

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Geothermal-powered Forest House showcases sustainable features in Maryland

The LEED Gold-seeking Edible Academy teaches urban farming in NYC

June 29, 2018 by  
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New York-based architecture firm Cooper Robertson recently completed the latest addition to the New York Botanical Garden  in the Bronx — the Edible Academy, a new LEED Gold -seeking facility that will teach the greater community about sustainable agriculture, healthy eating and the environment. Created as an expansion of the New York Botanical Garden’s Children’s Gardening Program founded in 1956, the $28 million state-of-the-art development covers three acres on the grounds of the existing Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden. The facilities offer a wide array of programming as well as many sustainable features such as vegetated green roofs, composting toilets and geothermal heating and cooling. Opened earlier this month, the Edible Academy serves as a year-round teaching center that celebrates New York’s native landscapes. The campus comprises a collection of gabled structures that blur the distinction between indoors and out. The structures are positioned to frame views from the city’s largest uncut expanse of old growth forest to the Bronx River and its waterfall. The buildings were placed around the teaching and display gardens with the re-imagined Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden taking up a sizable portion of the campus. New gardens include the Meadow Garden with native perennial shrubs and herbaceous plants experienced through winding paths as well as the Barnsley Beds, a formal vegetable garden with ornament plantings, arranged around the Event Lawn. The 5,300-square-foot green-roofed Classroom Building serves as the heart of the Edible Academy and boasts a child-friendly demonstration kitchen and technology lab. A connecting greenhouse doubles as a teaching space and a potting and propagation area. Outdoor lessons can be held in the shade under the Solar Pavilion, named after its rooftop solar panels, as well as in the 350-seat outdoor amphitheater carved from the site’s natural topography. Related: Solar-powered school will teach children how to grow and cook their own food “With its combination of inventive and flexible spaces for gardening programs, classes and outdoor events, the Edible Academy offers a strong design framework for addressing the 21st-century needs and interests of schools, families and the public,” said Bruce Davis, AIA, LEED AP, a partner with Cooper Robertson. “With this dedicated three-acre facility, the Edible Academy also provides an innovative national model for other institutions and schools expanding their garden -based education programs.” + Cooper Robertson Images by Marlon Co / The New York Botanical Garden and Robert Benson Photography

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Eco-friendly Community Rowing Boathouse boasts a stunning kinetic facade

June 27, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based Anmahian Winton Architects has designed a new eco-friendly home for the largest public rowing organization in the United States—the Community Rowing Boathouse in Boston, Massachusetts. Created to offer rowing opportunities at all skill levels, the modern community landmark comprises two buildings that cater to underserved populations, such as Boston public middle school students, the physically disabled and veterans. To lower energy demands and reduce the rowing boathouse’s environmental footprint, Anmahian Winton Architects optimized the buildings for natural lighting and ventilation and also installed stormwater reuse systems and geothermal wells. Located on the south side of the Charles River in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton, the Community Rowing Boathouse’s site had long been used as a staging area for heavy construction equipment. Instead of simply plopping a building on site, Anmahian Winton Architects considered the surrounding environment in their design and sought to remediate the land and restore habitat in the process. Thus, the design process included improving soil permeability and the implementation of stormwater and rainwater harvesting and reuse. The larger building’s appearance was also created in response to the environment and features a kinetic facade that changes shape with the movement of the sun and users’ movements around the structure while mimicking the rhythmic patterns of rowing and the river. Related: Boston outlines its plans to adapt to rising sea levels “CRI’s design expands the traditional vocabulary of rowing facilities on the river, reflecting the proportions and cladding of regional precedents, such as New England’s iconic tobacco barns and covered bridges, and anchoring this new building to its surroundings,” explains Anmahian Winton Architects. “The main building’s pre-fabricated kinetic cladding system of large-scale, hand-operated panels facilitated fabrication and expedited installation on a compressed construction schedule. These operable vents eliminate the need for mechanical cooling and ventilation of the 300-foot long boat storage bays, providing functionality and energy efficiency. Glass shingles sheath the sculling pavilion to protect, ventilate and display smaller boats to the adjacent parkway.” + Anmahian Winton Architects Images by Jane Messinger

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Eco-friendly Community Rowing Boathouse boasts a stunning kinetic facade

The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the worlds greenest buildings

May 14, 2018 by  
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The Frick Environmental Center (FEC) in Pittsburgh just became the first municipally owned building in the U.S. to achieve Living Building certification — arguably the most rigorous proven performance green building standard in the world. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson , the FEC is among the world’s greenest certified buildings and it earned LEED Platinum certification last year. The 15,600-square-foot building produces as much energy and water as its consumes annually and it incorporates a wide array of other sustainable features including geothermal heating and cooling, locally sourced non-toxic building materials and daylight dimming controls and sensors. Conceived as the gateway to Frick Park, the city’s largest public park, the FEC serves as an experiential environmental education center. Locally and sustainably harvested black locust clads the building and — combined with the native landscaping on its nearly four-acre site — helps blend the project into its surroundings. The FEC comprises a public living room and gallery; K-12 classrooms for environmental education programs; and offices and facilities for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Education staff. Related: Man builds ultra-efficient green home as a love letter to the environment The FEC is one of only 21 buildings in the world to achieve Living Building certification and is the world’s first Living Building in the U.S. that’s municipally owned and open to the public. Designed as a “living laboratory,” the building makes its many sustainable technologies – such as its 650-kilowatt photovoltaic array and reclaimed water system – as visible as possible to the public as part of their commitment to hands-on environmental education. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Interior images by Alexander Denmarsh, outdoor walkway image by Elliott Cramer for Denmarsh Studios

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The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the worlds greenest buildings

Gleaming copper-colored steel wraps a solar-powered Dutch sports campus

March 21, 2018 by  
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You don’t need to be a sports fanatic to be taken with Sportcampus Zuiderpark —a €50 million sports park designed to promote a healthier society in The Hague, Netherlands. Completed by British design studio Faulkner Browns Architects , the green-roofed recreational facility draws the eye with its copper-hued steel ribbon that changes color throughout the day and its sensitive approach to human scale. Completed June 2017, the 33,000-square-meter Sportcampus Zuiderpark comprises a gymnastics hall, beach sports hall, spectator area, a multipurpose sports hall , as well as a variety of sports science and education spaces. “With Sportcampus Zuiderpark we have an iconic building in the city. Our green lung, the Zuiderpark, has a new heart,” said The Hague Councillor Rabin Baldewsingh. In deference to its historic surroundings, the sports complex takes on an ovoid shape that the architects say “creates the perception that the building’s edges are retreating into the distance, minimising its visual scale.” The largest interior spaces were placed in the rear of the building so that the building height at the front could be reduced to provide a more comfortable human scale. Related: Breathtaking bamboo building withstands earthquakes and boasts a zero-carbon footprint Textured precast concrete panels make up the plinth on the ground level, while wraparound glazing on the upper level is partly shielded by a striking metallic ribbon. Near the entrance, the swooping roof opens up to frame a small courtyard. Three-quarters of the roof is covered in heat-regulating sedum , solar panels , and solar water heaters. Geothermal energy is used in the heating and cooling system. + Faulkner Browns Architects Via Dezeen Images via Faulkner Browns Architects

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Gleaming copper-colored steel wraps a solar-powered Dutch sports campus

The future of energy on islands

March 2, 2018 by  
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Islands are places of exceptional biodiversity and economic value, not to mention their great natural beauty. However, because of their isolation from the mainland, they are also difficult to power. This fact is particularly poignant as Puerto Rico , several months after Hurricane Maria, struggles to turn the lights back on. To prepare for a world in which climate change continues to energize super-storms and sea level rise, islands, on which 10 percent of the world’s population lives, must rethink their energy systems for future success. Read on for several solutions that will allow island communities to thrive in the 21st century. Islands currently receive most of their energy from fossil fuels , with some using imported oil, an expensive energy source, to power their electrical grid. With their costs dropping every year, solar and wind could provide cleaner, localized, cheaper energy. Since islands must contend with a limited amount of land, large-scale wind farms may be the preferred utility-scale option. However, neither option will be particularly effective without a battery storage system. To serve this need, Tesla is rolling out battery systems in Puerto Rico , Nantucket and other island communities in hopes that they may someday become ubiquitous. Related: The sinking island nation of Tuvalu is actually growing For islands with the appropriate natural resources, such as Iceland , geothermal power is an attractive energy option. New drilling technologies, such as those developed by  GA Drilling  and  AltaRock Energy , could enable geothermal prospectors to dig deeper and ultimately provide greater energy output. While it has drawn criticism from some environmentalists in the past, nuclear power may also be an effective energy source for island communities. The incredible energy density of nuclear fuel translates into a much more effectively shipped power source than fossil fuels, while the newest Gen IV nuclear reactors are passively safe . Nuclear power plants could even be established on ships, similar to nuclear-powered ships and submarines in the United States Navy, allowing power generation to be moved where it is most needed. Via World Economic Forum Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Scientist warns Elon Musk’s Starman could be a bio-threat to Mars

March 2, 2018 by  
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Starman, the “driver” of Elon Musk ‘s Tesla Roadster as it cruises through the cosmos, may be carrying the largest collection of terrestrial bacteria ever sent into space. “Even if they radiated the outside, the engine would be dirty,” scientist Jay Melosh said in a  statement . “Cars aren’t assembled clean. And even then, there’s a big difference between clean and sterile.” SpaceX has not yet commented on whether Starman and Musk’s Roadster were sterilized before being sent into space. Starman is not scheduled to land on a planet nor are most bacteria species able to survive in the extreme conditions of space. Nonetheless, life will find a way and, if certain circumstances arise, Starman may be the potential vehicle for bacterial colonization of Mars. When scientists send objects into space, they adhere to the most strict precautions to ensure that no terrestrial organisms could potentially stowaway onto another planet. NASA operates an  Office of Planetary Protection for this very purpose. Scientists are particularly concerned that Earth life could establish a foothold in Mars, then either colonize the planet or be mistaken for Martian life by researchers. “Would Earth’s organisms be better adapted, take over Mars and contaminate it so we don’t know what indigenous Mars was like, or would they be not as well adapted as the Martian organisms?” Melosh said. “We don’t know.” Related: NASA just unveiled a tiny nuclear reactor for future Mars residents While most terrestrial life would perish in the harsh environment of space, species like the tardigrade, which can survive in space and go up to 30 years without food or water . There is a very small chance that Starman and his Roadster will ever arrive on the Martian surface. Therefore, Starman is less an invasive Trojan Horse, more a curator of an interstellar museum of terrestrial life. “The load of bacteria on the Tesla could be considered a biothreat—or a backup copy of life on Earth ,” astronautics scientist Alina Alexeenko said in a statement. If life on Earth ever becomes extinct, there is a chance that Starman, crash-landing back on his home planet, could get the party started again. Via Motherboard Images via SpaceX and NASA

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Groundbreaking new energy storage device charges up in just 20 seconds

March 2, 2018 by  
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A new aqueous storage device can be fully charged in a mere 20 seconds. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Kangwon National University scientists developed the device suited for portable electronics , with KAIST emphasizing in a statement that their device is both safe and environmentally friendly. Aqueous storage devices are less flammable than today’s lithium batteries , and could be cheaper too, according to ScienceAlert , but limitations have held scientists back. Cells comprising a battery transfer electrons between two materials, but aqueous solutions limit voltage range between the points, according to ScienceAlert. But scientists at institutions in South Korea , according to KAIST, “came up with new structures and materials to facilitate rapid speed in energy exchange on the surfaces of the electrodes and minimize the energy loss between the two electrodes.” They described their strategy for high-performance aqueous hybrid capacitors in the journal Advanced Energy Materials in January . ScienceAlert said hybrid capacitors like this one are basically a mixture of capacitor and battery. Related: Scientists just created a new type of battery inspired by electric eels Graphene to the rescue again: the scientists utilized graphene-based polymer chain materials for anodes. Graphene’s web-like structure afforded a high surface area, enabling higher capacitance, according to the institute. Metal oxide nanoparticles served as cathode materials. KAIST said, “This method realized higher energy density and faster energy exchange while minimizing energy loss.” The device they developed can charge up in 20 to 30 seconds via low-power charging systems like flexible solar cells or USB switching chargers. It boasts a power density 100 times greater than conventional aqueous batteries. And it can sustain capacity for more than 100,000 charges, according to ScienceAlert. KAIST professor Jeung Ku Kang said in the statement, “This eco-friendly technology can be easily manufactured and is highly applicable. In particular, its high capacity and high stability, compared to existing technologies, could contribute to the commercialization of aqueous capacitors.” + KAIST Via ScienceAlert Images via

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