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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Students use rice husks to build affordable homes in the Philippines

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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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

Foster + Partners breaks ground on Ferring Pharamceuticals headquarters in Copenhagen

September 6, 2016 by  
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Foster + Partners just kicked off construction on Ferring Pharamceuticals’ new light-filled headquarters in Copenhagen . Surrounded on all sides by water, the 39,000-square-meter office building takes advantage of its waterfront position with a glass envelope that captures surrounding views and natural daylight. The visually striking building is built like an inverted pyramid and the generous use of glass gives the structure a floating appearance that contrasts with the heavy plinth on which it sits. Located near the Copenhagen International airport in the city’s Kastrup area, Ferring Pharamceuticals’ new country headquarters design is strongly informed by its surrounding urban landscape. Since the site is flanked by predominately low-rise development, the architects designed the building facade with a strong horizontal emphasis and clad the structure almost entirely in glass to take advantage of views. The headquarters’ triangular form was dictated by the shape of the waterfront site and is set atop a large stone plinth that protects the building from flooding. Six glazed floors and a cantilevered roof canopy are stacked atop the plinth and are arranged in such a way to create self-shaded spaces on each floor. A large atrium punctuates the heart of the building and comprises the entrance lobby, cafe, breakout spaces, conference facility, and other social, collaborative spaces. The areas for quiet individual work, such as the offices and laboratories, are tucked away at the edges. The workspace layout was determined by in-depth studies of the company’s work culture. Daylight streams in to illuminate the workplaces from all sides. Related: Foster + Partners’ Droneport will launch aerial vehicles to deliver medical supplies in Africa “We wanted to create a very strong base that directly connects to and celebrates this unique waterside location and lifts the building above that level – so that there are uninterrupted views from the ground floor to the strait and the surrounding harbour,” said Grant Brooker, who led the building design. “For such a significant project it was vital that the building reflected the personality of the organisation and that it would create a collaborative and flexible working environment to carry them through the next century.” + Foster + Partners Images via Foster + Partners

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Foster + Partners breaks ground on Ferring Pharamceuticals headquarters in Copenhagen

First Cradle to Cradle Platinum certified product is reclaimed Bark House shingle

August 30, 2016 by  
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The unique bark shingles met the Platinum requirements in all five C2C certification categories : material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. Bark House poplar shingle siding is made from reclaimed tree bark, with artisan craftsmanship transforming what was once a waste material into handcrafted wall covering for exteriors and interiors. The company’s approach to sustainability doesn’t stop with the procurement or manufacturing stages, but extends into the business community by educating local loggers in handling RAWTM (Recycled Appalachian Wood Waste) poplar bark in order to spread sustainable practices beyond its own operations. Related: 13 Cradle to Cradle products for a safe and eco-conscious home “Bark House’s approach to sustainability is certainly rooted in its naturally derived product line, but the company has gone much beyond that, embracing a holistic approach that is the essence of Cradle to Cradle’s own philosophies,” said Stacy Glass, Vice President, Built Environment for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, in a statement . “Achieving an overall Platinum certification requires achieving top marks in all five categories, an accomplishment that truly demonstrates the depth and commitment of the company’s efforts to provide safe products that can be perpetually cycled and are manufactured in ways that respect humans and the environment.” The C2C certification program rates products on five levels , in progressive order of sustainability: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Of the 425 certifications covering more than 5,000 Cradle to Cradle Certified products since the program began, Bark House shingles are the first product to ever achieve a Platinum rating. The shingles previously held a Gold level certification, and the company honed its processes and metrics to meet C2C’s Platinum standards. “At Bark House, we have always taken a holistic approach to business, from the low impact of our product lines to the high impact of our social outreach. This mentality is key to creating balance, and without balance, systems will ultimately fail,” said Chris McCurry, co-founder for The Bark House at Highland Craftsmen Inc. “This line of thinking is what drew us to the Cradle to Cradle methodology. With its multi-tiered system under five categories, Cradle to Cradle offers a balanced framework across people, planet, and prosperity that allows a business to measure its progress and plan for improvements. The achievement of Platinum across each evaluation area further showcases the holistic, regenerative nature of our work.” + Bark House + Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program Via Treehugger Images via Bark House

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First Cradle to Cradle Platinum certified product is reclaimed Bark House shingle

Designers, get ready for the BioDesign Competition – cash prize of $1000

August 5, 2016 by  
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Calling all future-looking designers and architects! We’ve got a cool new design competition coming up for you — for the X-Prize — with some great cash prizes. We’ll be launching this competition the week of August 15th. When it comes to design, Mother Nature clearly knows best . The buildings that humans currently design – homes and skyscrapers which consume tons of energy to produce and maintain – pale in comparison to the elegant, complex and efficient design solutions that can be found in the natural world. What if, like forests, our buildings could grow over time to accommodate changes in the environment? What if they could produce their own energy instead of constantly sucking energy from pollution-generating fossil fuels? What if they could heal and help their occupants instead of making them sick? The prestigious X-Prize Foundation is developing a new competition for Regenerative Buildings, and we’re teaming up with Organic Architect Eric Corey Freed to assist its ideation X-Prize by launching a new design competition on Inhabitat: BioSesign Futures ! We’ll be launching the competition on the week of August 15th with a $1000 cash prize. If you’re interested in entering, read on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVEqIDR-_TI&feature=youtu.be We’re calling on you to mark your calendars for the BioDesign Futures Competition — an opportunity to imagine the future of the built environment — with a shot at winning $1000 and getting your work in front of the X-Prize Foundation . If you could use any material in the world to design the buildings of the future, what would you use? Do you think buildings one day could be grown instead of assembled ? Launching the week of August 15th, the BioDesign Futures Competition is calling on “bold and innovative visions for the future of construction at the intersection of the physical, the digital and the biological.” Visions for the following categories will be considered: A. Spaces for living – Single family home in the suburbs – Multi-family apartment in the city – Informal settlement or slums in the context of an emerging economy – In situ revitalization of abandoned buildings in the context of cities with declining population B. Spaces for learning or healing Inhabitat will be announcing the launch of the competition later this month, so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, you can start dreaming up your visions for the future of the built environment right now. We’re going to be asking for high-resolution PDFs and JPGs in A3 size, so if you’re interested in entering, get started on your renderings now! + X-Prize + Eric Corey Freed + Organic Architect Illustration by Redmer Hoekstra

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Designers, get ready for the BioDesign Competition – cash prize of $1000

Tiny green-roofed house proves the superiority of Ecuador’s traditional construction techniques

October 16, 2015 by  
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New concrete can repair its own cracks with bacteria

May 19, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of New concrete can repair its own cracks with bacteria Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: beneficial bacteria , bioconcrete , bioengineering , biological building materials , concrete , green building materials , green buildings , self healing materials , self repair , self repairing building , Self-healing concrete

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