Woven bamboo pavilion offers shelter to passion fruit farmers in China

August 18, 2017 by  
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A team of students at the University of Hong Kong is exploring the limitless potential of bamboo as a sustainable alternative to conventional building materials. After completing a glowing pavilion in their hometown, they designed another innovative bamboo structure– this time in China– using traditional weaving techniques and digital technologies. The 215-square-foot Sun Room pavilion is located in the village of Peitian, amidst a passion fruit plantation. The structure references the area’s cultural history, and it provides shelter from storms and sun while serving as a tea house where farmers can rest and relax. Related: Elegant bamboo bridge adds unexpected beauty to ancient Chinese town In an attempt to revive the ancient craft of bamboo weaving, the design team worked with the last remaining bamboo weaver in the village. They also used digital software and CNC machines to come up with an optimal wave-like form. The outer shell of the pavilion is made from woven bamboo, while the pine load-bearing structure was sourced regionally and cut by local carpenters. Related: Gorgeous bamboo gridshell combines Cambodian design with mathematical forms “Tools and jigs were developed and then digitally fabricated at HKU using the faculty CNC and robotic equipment,” said HKU architecture course leader Donn Holohan. “These elements along with the pattern maps allowed the villagers to achieve the complex form without a prior training in the craft of bamboo weaving ,” he added. + University of Hong Kong (HKU) Via Dezeen

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Woven bamboo pavilion offers shelter to passion fruit farmers in China

Beautiful bamboo building withstands floods and storms in Vietnam

July 13, 2017 by  
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Architecture firm RÂU ARCH created this beautiful thatched roof building burrowed deep into the lush rainforests of Vietnam. The MOOC Spring building is designed to accommodate the many visitors that come to the nearby natural springs. Due to the reoccurring storms and floods in the area, the architects chose to use a combination of locally-sourced stone, timber and bamboo , along with traditional building techniques in order to create a resilient structure able to withstand the harsh climate. The building was designed as an addition for an adjacent resort and houses a restaurant and lounge area. In addition to using locally-sourced materials in its construction, the Mooc Spring building was also built using traditional methods. The circular shape was chosen to withstand harsh winds and the building sits on a base made out of local stone. The first floor contains utility rooms as well as the kitchen and bathrooms. Related: Luxurious bamboo beach bar and restaurant bolsters spa in Vietnam The upper level, which houses the reception area and restaurant, was constructed using timber and bamboo . Although concrete pillars were used for optimal strength, they were wrapped with honey-hued nulgar bamboo for added resilience and of course, for its beautiful aesthetic. The local material was woven throughout the building in various intricate patterns and details to create an atmosphere that would blend in with the natural surroundings. The interior space is exceptionally well-lit thanks to the large glass skylight in the thatched roof that floods the interior with natural light . + RÂU ARCH Via Archdaily Photography by Hùng Râu Kts

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Beautiful bamboo building withstands floods and storms in Vietnam

Australia’s largest commercial timber building rises in Sydney

July 12, 2017 by  
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Timber constructions are rapidly carving their rightful place in urban environments all over the world, and now, beautiful Sydney is home to the Australia’s largest commercial all-timber building. The International House by Tzannes Architects is a beautiful seven-story building constructed entirely with engineered or cross laminated timber . Located between the Barangaroo South area and the historic heart of the city, the International House is a beautiful all-wood design. With the exception of the single ground retail level, which is made out of conventional concrete, the striking building was constructed with engineered or cross laminated timber , including the floors, columns, walls, roof, elevator shafts, etc. The building is the first timber commercial building of its size in Australia. Related: Nation’s largest cross-laminated timber academic building is an icon of sustainability The architects chose to go with timber for its many sustainable features , but were also determined to create a design whose all-wood aesthetic would serve as an iconic landmark for the city. According to the architects, “We have turned the structural limitations imposed by the use of timber to advantage and celebrated them, forming a unique colonnade form evocative of a forest of trees which gives the building its distinctive character.” The project used a massive 3,500 cubic meters of sustainably grown and recycled timber . Using timber instead of concrete resulted in saving thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the environment. + Tzannes Architects Via Archdaily Photography by The Guthrie Project

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Australia’s largest commercial timber building rises in Sydney

Dilapidated 1800s dairy barn resurrected into a stunning home in Wyoming

June 8, 2017 by  
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Architecture firm JLF Design Build has breathed new life into a dilapidated 1800s dairy barn by transforming it into a stunning new home. “The Creamery” was built using materials salvaged from an abandoned dairy farm in Montana and reconstructed just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. According to the architects, the ambitious project focused on retaining the same “authentic craftsmanship and rugged austerity” of the original stone building, while converting it into a contemporary living space. According to the creamery’s history, the original structure was built by anonymous Scottish stonemasons who laid two-foot-thick walls that lasted centuries. However, left empty and and unprotected for decades, the structure fell into severe disrepair. After convincing their antique-loving clients to acquire the original barn as “the ultimate antique”, the team used painstaking care to gather and transport as much of the old building’s materials as possible to Wyoming where they rebuilt a stunning new home in an idyllic setting. Related: 6 barns converted into beautiful new homes The home’s stone structure pays a beautiful homage to its original design, both on the outside as well as the inside. The interior decoration is pure rustic sophistication, with beautiful stone walls, exposed wooden trusses on the ceiling and large reclaimed wood planks as flooring. The structure is now home to a family who appreciates the timeless architecture of the design, “The relic itself inspired a sense of responsibility to its origins,” says JLF Design Build principal Paul Bertelli. “This building in its existing form, with its scale and proportion, was much purer than any contemporary architectural solution we could have applied. Ultimately doing nothing at all was the genius of the architecture in this project.” + JLF Design Build Photography by Audrey Hall

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Dilapidated 1800s dairy barn resurrected into a stunning home in Wyoming

Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

June 8, 2017 by  
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Researchers are quickly learning that plants are far more complex than once thought. Not only has it been determined that plants are capable of sensing and preparing for drought conditions, a team from the University of Birmingham recently learned that a cluster of cells in seeds act like a brain that decide when they should germinate. As a result of this finding, crop yields may be improved. The study, published in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , explains that the researchers worked with a species called thale cress to determine whether or not plants have human-like “brains.” After locating the group of cells in the seed that are responsible for controlling decision-making processes, they discovered something interesting. Reportedly, the group of cells is made up of two competing types: one promotes germination and the other promotes dormancy. The scientists describe the relationship as a “tug of war” match, as hormones are swapped back and forth in a process that’s very similar to mechanisms in the human brain when someone decides whether or not to move. The team says the separate competing cells are key to the decision-making process in both humans and plants . The mechanism serves an important purpose in vegetation, because germinating too early may result in death due to frost. Alternatively, germinating too late will result in growing complications due to the wrong climate conditions. Said George Bassel, lead author of the study, “Our work reveals a crucial separation between the components within a plant decision-making center. In the human brain , this separation is thought to introduce a time delay, smoothing out noisy signals from the environment and increasing the accuracy with which we make decisions. The separation of these parts in the seed ‘brain’ also appears to be central to how it functions.” Related: Seed-Planting Tumbleweed Robot Draws From Nature to Fight Desertification After creating a mathematical model of how the separate cells work to control how sensitive the plant is to its environment , the researchers concluded that the more variation there is in environmental conditions, the more seeds will sprout. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the results were confirmed when the team tested it in a laboratory. “Our work has important implications for understanding how crops and weeds grow,” said Bassel. “There is now potential to apply this knowledge to commercial plants in order to enhance and synchronize germination, increasing crop yields and decreasing herbicide use.” + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Via New Atlas Images via Pixabay

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Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

Students use rice husks to build affordable homes in the Philippines

March 17, 2017 by  
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Rice husks used to be considered a waste product good for nothing but fire or landfills, but now enterprising companies are beginning to realize their potential as a sustainable building material . A group of students from the Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering at University of California used waste rice husks to manufacture termite-resistant composite boards with help from a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and build affordable housing in the Philippines. In addition to protecting rice during the growing season, rice hulls can be put to use as building material, fertilizer, insulation material or fuel. The students at Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering used it to manufacture boards ideal for building relief shelters and affordable housing. The Husk-to-Home team developed the project by environmental engineering student Colin Eckerle who has been working on it since 2014. However, the rice husk boards last longer. The students received a two-year grant by EPA which will pay for manufacturing equipment and space and allow the team to go into full-scale production of the boards. In the design, the rice husks—a waste product of rice milling– replace commonly used woodchips. They are a great alternative to plywood, bamboo and coconut wood. Eckerle claims the board will cost about $7 for a 4 ft. x 8 ft. board—the same as the plywood boards currently used by IDEA. A recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE), also a waste product , binds the rice husks together and provides strength and resistance to humidity. Related: Modules Made from Material Waste Form Furniture, Walls and Rooms “While it has taken a lot of trial and error to get a material that is strong and consistent enough to build homes with, we have finally reached a point where we can produce a prototype board that is comparable in terms of strength to commercially available particleboard,” Eckerle said. “Our tests have shown that termites will not eat rice husk or our building material, which will increase the lifespan of the houses in the Philippines ”. + Bourns College of Engineering Lead photo by C IAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture via Flickr

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Haiti renovation project boosts community using local labor and materials

January 27, 2017 by  
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Nothing warms our design-loving hearts like a project built by and for communities, and with local resources to boot. Working pro bono, Thrive Architecture teamed with nonprofit organization Building Goodness Foundation and local workers to expand an existing Center of Hope Haiti school and orphanage just outside of Hinche. Not only is the project socially meaningful, but environmentally-conscious as well. The project, which was completed in October, 2016, included a series of new facilities for an existing school and orphanage run by The Center of Hope Haiti (COHH). As the funding allowed, the construction team was able to build four new buildings to create much-needed space for the educational complex. Related: Earthquake-resistant orphanage is a welcoming ray of hope in Haiti The entire project followed BGF’s construction scheme, which includes using a team of skilled craftsmen and trade professionals along with local unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. The entire group works on the project from start to finish, from site planning and concept design to construction, allowing the communities to create a capable, self-sustaining labor force. The layout for the school included a new “sheltering landscape” built on the highest elevation possible in order to offer additional protection during the storm seasons . The team was also careful to protect two existing Mango trees that offer shade from the tropical heat. Related: Architectural Association School of Architecture bamboo workshops in Haiti teach post-disaster construction techniques From the beginning of the project, the construction plan consisted of using conventional Haitian construction techniques, including the use of traditional Haitian “parging”, which was left unpainted. Locally-sourced materials made up a good part of the project, including quarried stone that wraps around each of the buildings’ exteriors. Additionally, locally-sourced steel pipes were used as the tie-downs for the roofs, offering solid protection from strong winds. To reduce the school’s energy usage and costs, the buildings mainly depend on natural daylight, but LED lighting is installed throughout the buildings. All of the buildings were constructed with an extended roof, which double as shade and shelter from the harsh summers. As for the project’s energy conservation strategy , the exterior walls have low operable windows on the courtyard side of the buildings designed to optimize natural air ventilation. For insulation, the walls were built with lightweight Ubuntublox made from repurposed Styrofoam trays that were cleaned, shredded and sewn into rice bags by women in Port-au-Prince. + Thrive Architecture + Building Goodness Foundation + Center of Hope Haiti Images via Thrive Architecture and Tom Cogill

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Haiti renovation project boosts community using local labor and materials

How stone can help you create a more sustainable home

November 23, 2016 by  
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From the pyramids at Giza, to Stonehenge, to Machu Picchu, it is no coincidence that all of the longest lasting human structures are made from stone. Stone lasts forever, is natural, and is readily available in the environment. When it comes to outdoor landscaping or interior applications that see a lot of use and moisture (i.e. kitchens and bathrooms), natural stone is often the most durable and lowest-maintenance choice for surfaces. Unlike wood, plastics or composite materials, stone will not rot, mildew or disintegrate over time. From granite, to marble, to slate, read on to find out more about how natural stone can help you create a more beautiful and sustainable home. The stone walls at Saksaywayan outside of Cusco, Peru, are still in great shape after 1000 years! photo courtesy of wikimedia Durability = sustainability As I argued in my article Resilient Design is Green Design , the ability to stand the test of time is the epitome of sustainability. Out of all of the building materials that humans can utilize to create structures, stone is the longest lasting, and for this reason, the most sustainable. Image via Pixabay Architects and builders have always held stone in a high regard due to its durability, aesthetic, and ease of maintenance, but one of the most compelling reasons for homeowners to consider stone is its environmental sustainability . And this doesn’t just mean “sustainability” in the stereotypical treehugger sense of low carbon footprint, but also the material’s ability to endure over time. Unlike bricks or concrete, natural stone requires no baking or heating and is a fully formed, finished product upon extraction. This means no additional CO2 needs to be released in producing it. Natural stone also doesn’t have toxic chemicals like VOCs that can off-gas into your home, polluting the indoor air, unlike synthetic surfaces such as carpeting and vinyl. If positioned optimally within a house, natural stone has the ability to passively heat and cool a home due to its ability to store heat and release it gradually. And of course, the biggest appeal to most homeowners is that natural stone has an incredibly long lifespan with very low maintenance, which means that you are not going to have to refinish it, replace it, or send it to a landfill in 15 years. photo courtesy of Artistic Tile Low maintenance = sustainability Natural stone typically doesn’t show dirt and wear and tear in the way that materials such as wood, gypsum board or vinyl do. It doesn’t easily get scratched, waterlogged or stained, and is easy to clean. An imperviousness to moisture makes materials like limestone, marble, and slate popular choices for bathrooms, while sturdy, scratch-proof, and easy-to-clean granite is an obvious choice for kitchen countertops that endure sharp knives, liquids and food spills (and the microbes that come with them). Outdoors, designers like to use stone for everything from patios to walkways, retaining walls to landscape planters. Stone’s longevity and durability makes it a smart investment that, if cared for properly, means it won’t need to be replaced. This keeps wasteful, synthetic materials out of landfill. photo courtesy of Connecticut Stone Stone is a natural material Stone is a natural material that comes straight from the earth, unlike most other commonly used building materials. How the stone is quarried, processed, and transported affects its environmental footprint, as does the distance the stone must travel to get to you. The kinds of natural stone endemic to where you live are likely to differ from those found in other regions, but with so many different types of stone available, finding something local that fits your taste and budget should be fairly easy. Gneiss, granite, limestone, marble, quartzite, sandstone, and serpentine are all common to North America and exist in a range of colors and textures. Consumers who value environmental sustainability will be happy to know that there are stone quarry sites within 500 miles of nearly any building site in the United States and Canada. photo courtesy of Matthew Giampietro, Waterfalls Fountains and Gardens Inc. Using stone outdoors As Mother Nature’s original green building material, natural stone is the best material available when it comes to withstanding the elements and aging gracefully outdoors. Because of its ability to weather harsh changes in temperature and moisture conditions, landscape designers prefer stone for everything from patios to walkways, retaining walls to planters. photo courtesy of Stone Pavers Concrete Natural stone can add charm to your yard or garden by adding a sense of timelessness. While concrete, wooden decking and other manmade materials often impose rigid lines and hierarchy onto the nature world, stone fits organically into nature’s design. Stone is also just the most long-lasting outdoor material, hands down. Since it won’t warp, rot or disintegrate over time, it’s an ideal choice for withstanding weather, biological and environmental stresses. Termites, beetles and funguses may enjoy munching on wood, but they can’t eat stone. Stone doesn’t erode over time with wind and rain, unlike soil. While ceramics like brick and concrete are porous and can crack and absorb water, most types of outdoor stone are much harder, and generally last longer. photo courtesy of Smokey Mountain Tops Patios, walkways and outdoor ground cover For outdoor patios and walkways, the choice often comes down to stone, brick, wooden decking, or gravel. Gravel is inexpensive and easy to work with, but erodes over time, needs constant raking to look nice, and is often tracked into the house. Wooden decking provides a nice warm feeling to the touch, but need to be sealed and stained on a regular basis, and still eventually will give in to dry rot. (Trust me, I just fell through a rotten board on my wooden deck the other day, and it wasn’t fun.) Concrete has the advantage of a smooth, even surface, but it needs to be poured and can also contribute to flooding and water runoff where it doesn’t allow proper drainage. While stone is one of the most expensive outdoor materials, it has the advantage of long life and durability with little maintenance. Depending on how it is installed, spaced stone pavers can also allow greenery and soil to break up the hardscape, providing a green look, and allowing water to drain naturally. photo courtesy of SBI Materials Landscaping with natural stone For retaining walls and raised planter beds, stone can’t be beat. Landscape plants and trees need a constant supply of water, and that irrigation can lead to erosion of soil and to the disintegration of competing materials, like wood, over time. Strategically placed stones can reinforce the shape of your designed landscape with retaining walls and berms, preventing soil erosion. Although it is heavier and more expensive than wood, natural stone makes a far more durable and long-lasting material for planters. photo courtesy of Lundhs Using natural stone indoors Stone is as resilient indoors as it is outdoors. From the kitchen countertop to the bathroom floor, natural stone is easy to clean with mild dish soap and water, is naturally slip resistant, and is one of the most durable surfaces on the planet. According to the Natural Stone Council , stone can last more than 100 years with proper maintenance. Its lifecycle continues beyond the life of a building, because of the fact that it’s so recyclable and can be reused in so many other applications. photo courtesy of Calvetta Brothers Stone flooring Stone is a great flooring material for high traffic areas, because of its innate durability. Stone is pretty hard to scratch or damage, and any damage that does occur tends to be hard to see due to color variations and texture. Unlike vinyl or wood, natural stone will hardly ever show a scratch or be dulled, and needs only regular sweeping or vacuuming to look as good as new. If you are considering radiant floor heating for your home, stone is the best material to combine with that type of heating system due to the natural ability of stone to absorb and retain heat (and not absorb moisture). Using stone for walls One might not immediately think of stone as a common wall surface aside from a kitchen backsplash, but walls can be a great use for recycled and salvaged stone. Stone walls, like stone floors, are very resilient, can’t be easily damaged, and don’t show fingerprints and dirt. Stone is also readily recyclable. Old stone buildings can be deconstructed and used for retaining walls , and small flat stones can be repurposed in mosaic wall designs. photo courtesy of MSI Using stone in your bathroom If there’s one room in the home that takes the best advantage of stone’s imperviousness to moisture, it’s the bathroom. From limestone showers, to pebbled shower floors, to slate sinks, to marble countertops, stone is easy to clean, resistant to wear, and in many cases, highly resistant to staining. Stones used for bathroom applications must be pretreated to prevent damage from bath products, cleaning products, and water, and must be resealed regularly. If maintained properly, natural stone is a long term investment that adds luxury, durability and character to any bathroom. Stone in the kitchen Many cooks are more passionate about their counter space than they are about their range, since countertops are where the bulk of the food preparation takes place. Countertops endure daily wear from a range of sharp utensils, spills, extreme temperatures, and mechanical force, causing synthetic materials to wear over time and become dingy. Granite and marble are ideal materials for kitchen countertops because of their sturdiness, imperviousness to moisture and heat, and lack of absorption (which makes them easier to keep clean and hygienic). Very difficult to scratch and easy to wipe down, granite helps keep bacteria at bay, making it the counter material of choice for those who are serious about cooking. Its inherently cool temperature makes it ideal for working on with pastry or pizzas, and a resistance to warping under high heat makes working with hot dishes a breeze. The bottom line is that stone is a great choice throughout any part of a house for durability, quality, low-maintenance and environmental sustainability. To learn more about different types of natural stone, check out the Natural Stone Institute . + Natural Stone Institute Article underwritten by the Natural Stone Institute

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How stone can help you create a more sustainable home

Sublime reading cabin in upstate New York built with timber felled on site

September 6, 2016 by  
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According to the architects, the timber cabin’s construction came about after building a main home nearby. The remaining felled oak trees left over from the larger construction area were cut into large rectangular logs and left to dry on site for several years. Related: The Rock Bottom is a tiny off-grid reading cabin built for just $300 in Vermont “The strategy for the cottage centered on preserving and transforming a material that would otherwise have become construction waste,” said principal Brandon Padron. As for the building strategy, the log cabin and its interior shelving was an all-in-one process. As they horizontally piled the logs on top of one another, spatial gaps emerged, which were used to create floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The process also included leaving larger gaps for the windows, strategically placed to let in natural reading light, of course. Albeit compact, the one-room space has just enough space for a bed, comfy armchair, and a small desk. A wood-burning stove heats the tiny room so visitors can enjoy some literary downtime all year round. + Studio Padron Via Dezeen

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Sublime reading cabin in upstate New York built with timber felled on site

World’s first all-terrain flat-pack truck folds in on itself

September 6, 2016 by  
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The world’s first flat-pack truck, the OX by Global Vehicle Trust (GVT) recently unveiled in London, promises a low-cost answer to the challenges of transportation in developing nations. The OX was designed to enable true all-terrain mobility without a dizzying price tag, and it’s well suited for regular transportation needs as well as disaster recovery. Because each truck packs flat for shipping, they can be stacked together and drop-shipped just about anywhere in the world, a feature which could translate into life-changing and life-saving transportation in areas where there may not even be roads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9_Zb-veBd0 Sir Torquil Norman founded GVT specifically to create a low-cost all-terrain vehicle capable of transporting heavy loads of cargo and people across difficult environments. Norman tapped automotive designer Gordon Murray to develop the OX to fulfill that need. With its high ground clearance and weight distribution, the OX can do what many other large trucks can do, but it has one important feature that has never been seen before on this scale. The OX flat-packs within itself, making it much easier to build and transport the trucks from their origin in the UK to wherever they are needed in Africa and other developing parts of the world. Related: This truck lays 50m of its own road in 6 minutes and then picks it back up It takes three people less than six hours to build each truck, and six of the OX trucks can be shipped together a 40-foot-high cube container. Upon arriving at their final destination, the OX trucks will be assembled and maintained by hired local professionals; it takes three people around 12 hours to assemble one OX. Each truck is powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine and can carry a load of over 4,000 lbs. The OX’s cabin holds three passengers, with the driver seat positioned in the middle for optimal weight distribution (in the event that the driver is alone in the cab) as well as to account for differences in traffic rules (i.e. which side of the road people drive on). “My inspiration for the OX goes back to seeing the ‘ Africar ’ project of the 1980s,” said Norman. “This project shares some of the aims of that vehicle, but its execution is radically different. OX was just a dream six years ago, but it is now a realistic prospect for production with working prototypes that have completed a comprehensive testing program.” GVT unveiled its prototype in London, has been communicating with aid organizations in Africa, and is now seeking investors to bring the project of five-plus years to fruition. The end foal? To fulfill Norman’s dream of seeing “an OX in every village in Africa.” + The OX Images via Global Vehicle Trust

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World’s first all-terrain flat-pack truck folds in on itself

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