LEED Platinum-seeking home in Cincinnati asks $3.25 million

October 14, 2020 by  
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Near the border of Ohio and Kentucky, a stunning sustainable home has hit the market for $3,249,000. Designed by local architect Jose Garcia , the home was built with natural materials, from the exterior cladding of cedar and cypress wood to the interior use of century-year-old reclaimed Douglas fir. The Douglas fir was sourced from a demolished cotton mill and used for the ceiling and walls. The Cincinnati home is in the process of obtaining LEED platinum certification and boasts 38 solar panels on the roof, a geothermal energy system and a smart home system for optimizing energy efficiency. Located at 1059 Celestial Street, the custom, single-family home in the city’s Mt. Adams suburb spans 6,778 square feet on a quarter-acre lot with four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths and a three-car garage. The home’s elevated location allows for stunning views of downtown Cincinnati as well as the Ohio River, which marks the boundary between Ohio and Kentucky. A rooftop deck with a fire pit and a vegetable garden bed takes advantage of these panoramic views. The main bedroom, which is bathed in light by a skylight, connects to a bridge that leads directly to the rooftop deck.  Related: Architecture students design and build a LEED Platinum smart home in Kansas Natural light and a sense of spaciousness define the interiors of the modern home, which is centered on an atrium . The atrium allows for direct sight lines from the entrance to the pocket sliding glass doors, which open up to a 45-foot-long balcony along the entire side of the home. Full-height windows, a natural materials palette and a courtyard garden also help to usher the outdoor landscape indoors, while tall ceilings and an open-plan layout direct views toward downtown Cincinnati. The abundance of wood that lines the interior is complemented by exposed brick and concrete in parts of the home. The kitchen cabinetry, designed by the architect, is bleached European White Oak and paired with white quartzite countertops. To meet LEED Platinum standards, double-pane windows imported from Luxembourg were installed throughout the residence. Two geothermal wells were drilled beneath the driveway to provide an additional energy source to solar, which collected from the solar array on the front part of the roof. In addition to home automation, the building is equipped with an air-purifying system that filters air in the entire home. The property is listed with Coldwell Banker . + Jose Garcia Design Images via Coldwell Banker

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LEED Platinum-seeking home in Cincinnati asks $3.25 million

Eco-friendly spiritual living at Holy Wisdom Monastery

March 3, 2020 by  
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A basket of bread comes around, and the person next to me removes a chunk, holds it up and says, “Bread of life.” I accept it and do the same for the person on my other side. It’s the first time I’ve ever attended a religious service so egalitarian that all participants are assumed qualified to give each other communion. Earlier, the part of the service where folks exchanged the sign of peace seemed to go on forever; instead of a restrained handshake with their nearest neighbors, people were walking all over the room hugging their friends. This is a Sunday morning gathering at the  Holy Wisdom Monastery  in Middleton, Wisconsin. The unconventional group of Benedictine nuns who run the monastery oversee a whole host of enterprises, from managing a retreat center to restoring the surrounding prairie. While church attendance has declined rapidly in the US, with a Pew Research Center study reporting that more than half the population attends church between zero and a few times a year, Holy Wisdom has a robust turnout even during a Sunday morning snowstorm. What is it about this non-denominational Christian monastery that draws people from the progressive area around  Madison ? The welcoming attitude of the congregation, the relatability of the presiders, the gender-neutral language when speaking of divinity and the eco-spirituality of Holy Wisdom attract many people who are looking for a deeper connection with others and with the earth. An eco-retreat center In the 1950s, three Benedictine nuns from  Iowa  arrived in Madison to start a girls’ high school. They purchased 43 acres of pasture land overlooking Lake Mendota that would eventually become Holy Wisdom. But big changes were happening in the Catholic Church in the early 1960s. In 1966, the sisters closed the high school and re-opened as the Saint Benedict Center. The retreat center was ecumenical, meaning it was open to all denominations. As more retreatants attended events at the center, the sisters felt very connected to people they met from other faiths. “Praying with people from different denominations changed our hearts to be ecumenical hearts,” Sister Mary David Walgenbach said as she showed me around on a snowy February morning. Eventually, the sisters began a long, slow process to become an ecumenical order of nuns open to Protestant women as well as  Catholics . Nowadays, all kinds of people go on  retreat  at the monastery, either as individuals or in groups. The retreat house accommodates 19 people, plus the monastery has two more isolated hermitages for people seeking solitude. “There are more and more people who want to get away from everything because our world is more and more connected in every way,” said Sister Denise West. Buddhists are frequent visitors. “The Dalai Lama was here in ’79, so Buddhist groups like to come,” said Walgenbach. Sometimes they’ll do 10-day retreats, using the monastery’s nature trails for walking meditation and taking meals in silence. Nonprofit organizations also rent the monastery’s meeting facilities, plus breakout rooms. The sisters replaced their original Benedictine House — which was deconstructed and 99.75% recycled or reused — with a new, eco-friendlier monastery, which opened in 2009. The 30,000 square foot, two-story structure is “right-sized” at half the size of its predecessor. The sisters worked with Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. to envision one of the country’s greenest  buildings . In 2010, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Holy Wisdom Monastery a  LEED  Platinum rating. Four years later, the monastery became Madison Gas and Electric’s largest solar customer. The monastery building generates 60% of its energy needs. The sisters are aiming for 100% eventually. “For us, sustainability is not a trend,” Sister Joanne Kollasch said on the monastery website, “but a commitment to the earth—a 21st century expression of 1500 years of Benedictine tradition.” The designers carefully planned the location of windows based on the orientation of the sun to reduce glare and minimize unwanted solar heat gain. The new building also uses geothermal heating and cooling. Friends of Wisdom Prairie The monastery’s grounds cover more than 130 acres, including woodlands, Lost Lake, gardens, orchards, nature  trails  and restored prairie. Lots of animals live on the property, too, with whom the sisters try to live with in harmony. As Sister Mary David Walgenbach showed me around the monastery, we stopped in a room downstairs that the sisters use for prayer. She told me about a  turkey  that would often catch sight of his reflection in the room’s windows while they were praying. “He’d puff up, turn around,” she said. “And we would split laughing.” When somebody suggested setting bow and arrow hunters on him, the sisters leapt to his defense. “We said, ‘You can’t harm Brother Tom!’” Walgenbach remembered. They fed him from the back door of their house to help him through a harsh winter. Come spring, he flapped off with a roving band of hens. The five sisters couldn’t take care of the monastery’s land without a lot of help. “We depend on  volunteers  all over the place,” said Walgenbach. While they’ve been relying on volunteers to help restore prairie lands since the 1990s, the more formal  Friends of Wisdom Prairie  was established in 2014. The sisters are thrilled to have Greg Armstrong, who directed the University of Wisconsin Arboretum for twenty years, as their director of land management and environmental education. The Friends raise funds for caring for the land, including reducing runoff into the lake and constructing a bike trail. Environmental volunteers join in work parties while learning about ecological land management. Sometimes the Friends host special events, like moonlight snowshoeing on the monastery’s trails or lectures on subjects like owls of Wisconsin or climate change and eco-spirituality. Life among the sisters Times have changed and religious life holds less allure to most people than it did 60 years ago. “Not a lot of  women  are flocking to become sisters,” said Walgenbach. “But we have a niche.” Holy Wisdom attracts women looking for a more contemplative life, who share Benedictine values like listening, respect and silence. The five sisters live together across the lake from the monastery. Walgenbach and Kollasch entered religious life as Catholic nuns in the 1950s. Sister Lynne Smith, a Presbyterian pastor, became the first Protestant sister in 2000. Sister Paz Vital, a lifelong Catholic, and Sister Denise West, who comes from a secular background, both joined the order in the last few years. The sisters often have a sixth woman staying with them who is going through the six-month Sojourner program for spiritual seekers. That’s what originally brought West to Holy Wisdom. “I came here to learn spiritual life with zero intent of becoming a sister,” she said. But once she was back home in New York City, the former  schoolteacher  felt an undeniable pull back to the monastery. It’s a pull that many progressive Christians around Madison feel, judging from the Sunday morning turnout when I visited, or the 100 people who showed up the day before to help the sisters devise a ten-year plan. People are hungry for connection with the divine, each other and the land , and Holy Wisdom fills this void for folks in Madison and further afield. Images via Teresa Bergen and Kent Sweitzer

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Eco-friendly spiritual living at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Geothermal-powered home fuses high-end luxury with restraint

October 30, 2019 by  
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In central Hungary, Budapest-based architectural studio Benyei Architectural Studio has designed an elegant family home that pairs luxury with restraint to beautiful effect. Fitted with custom designs and high-end finishes, the home’s decor is deliberately pared down for a modern and minimalist look that inspired the project’s name, “Bold, rather than brash.” The result of a close collaboration between architect and client, the residence follows passive house criteria and is equipped with a geothermal system that meets the family’s energy needs. Spread out across two floors and 517 square meters, the “Bold, rather than brash” residence was completed over the course of four years and was mainly built with reinforced concrete for a monolithic appearance. Citing 1930s architecture and mid-century design as inspirations, the architect sought to create a building that would communicate strength and elegance through simplicity. The home also comes with a spacious 1,600-square-meter garden, the enjoyment of which is enhanced by the building’s connected terraces . Related: Luxury condo in Budapest will bring residents closer to nature “It was crucial for Benyei’s team to ensure there was a purity to the building and born from that was its cavernous sense of attachment to the land, as though it is a natural part of the surrounding environment as it seems to subtly emerge from it rather than exist within it,” the firm said. The interior design complements the boxy silhouette of the building yet introduces a wider variety of textures and finishes for character and warmth. The living room wall, for instance, is covered with three-dimensional tiles created by KAZA Concrete that give the room a more tactile feel. Custom-designed pieces abound in the home, from the living room textiles created by textile designer Andrea Heged?s to the spectacular Manooi crystal chandelier that hangs above the Italian volcanic rock dining table. In addition to the minimalist decor, the home’s sense of grandeur and spaciousness is emphasized with an open-floor layout and large walls of glazing. + Benyei Architectural Studio Photography by Zsolt Batár via Benyei Architectural Studio

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WilkinsonEyre gets green light for giant geothermal-powered biodome in Iceland

July 23, 2019 by  
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London-based practice WilkinsonEyre has just been granted planning permission for the Aldin Biodomes, a massive biodome complex that will showcase a rich tropical environment and local food production techniques in Iceland’s Reykjavik region. Designed for local consultancy firm Spor í sandinn, the ambitious development aims to be the “world’s first geo-climate biodome” that will also be carbon-neutral . Powered by Iceland’s abundant geothermal energy, the greenhouses are envisioned as a major city landmark in the same vein as Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, also designed by WilkinsonEyre. Spanning approximately 48,000 square feet, the Aldin Biodomes will consist of a Main Nature Dome and a Tropical Dome. Elevated on a hilltop, the domes are designed to be seen from the city skyline and will catch the eye with undulating forms and glittering glass facades. The complex will be located on the edge of the outdoor recreational area Elliðaárdalur in the center of the Capital region, where it will serve as a new gateway to the largest green area closest to Reykjavik. The domes are oriented toward the northwest for guaranteed views of Iceland’s midnight sunsets during summer and the Northern Lights in wintertime. Related: These beautiful desert biodomes will be 100% self-sustaining The geothermal-powered Aldin Biodomes are envisioned as a year-round attraction offering more than just a welcome escape into a tropical environment during the harsh winters. In the lush Tropical Dome, visitors can enjoy a rich showcase of exotic plants as well as the Farm Lab, an educational environment on local food production. The Main Nature Dome will house a multifunctional space with a reception, an information area, a specialty restaurant, a visitors’ shop and a marketplace that emphasizes Iceland’s fresh products. “The unique and thought-provoking environments of the Biodomes are eye-catching visual landmarks on the city skyline,” said a statement on Spor í sandinn’s website. “Close attention is paid on the choice of materials, their aesthetic qualities and sustainability . Each structure catches and reflects the ever-shifting play of light from day to day and season to season — similarly to the burgeoning plant-life within. Striking colors, forms and textures of the vegetation, and the bustling throngs of visitors, will create a world of magic and a feast for the senses and the imagination.” + WilkinsonEyre Images via WilkinsonEyre

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Cargill, GM, P&G among group calling for market-ready renewable thermal energy

March 21, 2019 by  
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Scalable commercial options for loads like heating or manufacturing processes haven’t caught up with climate goals.

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Cargill, GM, P&G among group calling for market-ready renewable thermal energy

Century-old Iowa warehouse is transformed into LEED Platinum offices

August 13, 2018 by  
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Des Moines-based Neumann Monson Architects has breathed new life into a historic industrial warehouse in Iowa by transforming the 117-year-old building into LEED Platinum multi-tenant offices. Commissioned by Blackbird Investments, this eco-friendly renovation not only involved salvaging and reusing original elements in the century-old building, but also inserting energy efficient systems including a combination of geothermal and solar that have helped the project achieve net-zero energy certification. Dubbed Market One, the thoughtfully restored structure has sparked greater revitalization in the surrounding industrial neighborhood and is the state’s first commercial building to produce more energy than it consumes. Completed in 2015, Market One comprises 55,000 square feet of renovated warehouse space in addition to 1,887 square feet of added construction. Originally built in 1901 as the offices and manufacturing center for the Advance-Rumely Thresher Company, the warehouse comprises three main floors as well as a basement. While renovating the building, Neumann Monson Architects also added a rooftop office and deck. The block immediately east of the building was converted into a surface parking lot with an overhead photovoltaic canopy. Related: LEED Platinum housing for the homeless takes over a formerly vacant L.A. lot “The project achieves a rich, nuanced dialogue between new and old,” Neumann Monson Architects said. “In some locations, the two are carefully delineated. In others, modern interventions blend in and take a backseat to historic character. Throughout the building, transparency and compatible finishes allow space to flow freely. To maintain the large volumes’ spatial continuity, the design locates new enclosed areas at the building’s core and terminates their walls well below the ceiling plane. Extensive glass and polycarbonate interior partitions allow light penetration deep into the building and maintain open visual connection throughout each floor level.” Local, sustainable and durable materials were used throughout Market One. A planned green belt and pedestrian trail will soon be added to the north of the building and a new Amtrak station will also be added in the future. + Neumann Monson Architects Via Dezeen Images via Cameron Campbell

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Century-old Iowa warehouse is transformed into LEED Platinum offices

This modular family home has its own indoor pond

August 13, 2018 by  
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When a young family shops for a home , they often want a simple floor plan and open spaces for kids to play and for parents to relax and entertain. This low-profile home, designed by Adolfo Mondejar Arquitectos and located in an outer neighborhood of Cordoba, Spain , is logically configured and easily adaptable to the ever-evolving requirements of a family over the years. The design caters to the natural sunlight and cool breezes of the area, with windows all around and a spacious yard, decks, and balconies for fun and play. The home connects to the surrounding outdoor spaces, which are are wide open and ideal for residents who want to experience the environment, whether through bike riding, picnicking or simply taking a stroll. Related: This striking, bright-red modular home connects to its surroundings through contrast The interior flows from one space to the next, with long hallways flanked with bedrooms and bathrooms. Playful colors and names on the bathroom doors add whimsy and and a personal touch to the atmosphere. Rich brown paneling in the hallways gives the interior a warm, inviting feeling. A large terrace at the top of the staircase, built from two concrete walls and topped with a rustic slab of exposed concrete , provides an ideal venue for large parties as well as small family gatherings. Walls covered with quebracho wood add warmth to bathrooms and pivotal use spaces. All the rooms are comprised of an aesthetically balanced combination of wood , concrete and glass, with smooth, finished concrete floors. The home relies on sunlight for natural heat and daily breezes to cool it down . In a unique twist, the minimalist home includes a pond in the master bedroom, which further brings the outdoors in and promotes feelings of peace and tranquility. A particularly sunny spot in the living room has vines sprawling in all directions, another feature that gives the home a feel of nature, energy, life and sustenance. + Adolfo Mondejar – Estudio de Arquitectos Images by Gonzalo Viramonte

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This modular family home has its own indoor pond

Inside Kathy Hannun’s quest to provide accessible household geothermal energy

May 16, 2018 by  
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It’s about the consumer-friendly product, yes, but for this ex-Googler, it’s especially about the right employees.

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Inside Kathy Hannun’s quest to provide accessible household geothermal energy

Colorado meth lab transformed into a minimalist artist retreat with rammed earth walls

April 23, 2018 by  
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A former meth lab in North Boulder, Colorado has received a new lease on life as an artist retreat with a beautifully minimalist design. Denver-based tres birds workshop designed the Swoon Art House with a careful eye on environmental stewardship, using “100 percent renewable resources” including rammed earth walls and geothermal wells. Created as part of the Swoon/ Boulder Museum Contemporary Art International Artists Residency , the 7,000-square-foot Swoon Art House merges forward-thinking design and technology with ancient construction techniques. Designed like a sculpture in itself, the artist retreat features two long structures set at an angle to one another. Round metal roofs top the building and contrast with the 30-inch-thick rammed earth walls created using soil from the site. Four vertical geothermal wells power the building’s heating and cooling system. Related: Tattoo shop-turned-distillery renovated using materials reclaimed on-site The first building houses two lofted bedrooms with bathrooms and a full kitchen for artists in residency. A small glass-walled passageway leads to the second building, which serves as an art studio. Energy-conserving windows line the studio walls, while hidden storage spaces add to the clean, minimalist feel. “The structure, from the physical design to the flow of energy, is based on the circle,” the architecture firm said. “The circle holds particular significance in ancient and modern culture, symbolizing that which is without a beginning or an end.” + tres birds workshop

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Colorado meth lab transformed into a minimalist artist retreat with rammed earth walls

Even NASA isn’t quite sure how to explain these holes in the Arctic Sea’s ice

April 23, 2018 by  
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Can you identify the holes in the sea ice pictured above? If so, let NASA know. They recently posted the image, snapped over the Beaufort Sea, as the April 2018 Puzzler on their “Earth Matters” blog. They aren’t quite sure what caused them, although they ventured a few ideas, including heat, thin ice, and even rogue seals. NASA Operation IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag captured the baffling image from a P-3 research plane soaring over the eastern Beaufort Sea. Sonntag had never seen holes like this before; writing from the field, he said, “We saw these sorta-circular features only for a few minutes today. I don’t recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere.” Related: The first salty lakes discovered in the Arctic could hold the key to finding alien life Before the agency revealed that the photo was from the Arctic , Internet users offered plenty of guesses as to its location – from fires in Oklahoma to the surface of Mars. User Scott Stensland came close when he guessed the circles were open water holes in ice created by ocean mammals, such as seals . Indeed, that’s similar to one answer NASA has come up with: the holes bear a resemblance to photographs of breathing holes harp seals and ring seals have created. National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt Meier told NASA, “The encircling features may be due to waves of water washing out over the snow and ice when the seals surface. Or it could be a sort of drainage feature that results from when the hole is made in the ice.” Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory sea ice scientist Chris Polashenski told NASA he’d glimpsed features like these holes in the past. Seals could offer one answer; another is convection. University of Maryland at Baltimore County glaciologist Chris Shuman, who’s based at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told NASA, “This is in pretty shallow water generally, so there is every chance this is just ‘warm springs’ or seeps of ground water flowing from the mountains inland that make their presence known in this particular area. The other possibility is that warmer water from Beaufort currents or out of the Mackenzie River is finding its way to the surface due to interacting with the bathymetry , just the way some polynyas form.” + NASA Earth Observatory + Curious Circles in Arctic Sea Ice Images via John Sonntag/Operation IceBridge/NASA and NASA/Joe MacGregor

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Even NASA isn’t quite sure how to explain these holes in the Arctic Sea’s ice

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