A lush public park grows on the roof of a luxury Wuhan mall

November 20, 2019 by  
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When Los Angeles-based design studio 5+design was tapped to create a high-end mall in Wuhan, China, the firm was also given the opportunity to create a publicly accessible green space — an amenity in decline in the city due to rapid development. As a result, the 164,000-square-meter Wuhan North Pavilion supports a lush public rooftop park that’s accessible from the ground level and provides active and passive spaces for children and adults alike. Designed to foster community and an added sense of identity, the park’s seasonal planting palette references Wuhan’s pastoral landscapes and the region’s agricultural past. Built to span the entire length of the mall, the rooftop public park features a mix of walkways, recreational spaces and children’s play areas. The landscape design helps define a variety of active and passive spaces, while the plant choices create “an ecological haven.” Greenery is also integrated into the street-level landscape and along the other parts of the architecture to soften the appearance of the building and to give the mall a more human scale. Related: Studio NAB wants to rehab parking lots into energy-producing urban gardens “With Wuhan’s steady decline of green space in the face of rapid development, Wuhan North Pavilion preserves a place to observe and absorb nature that goes beyond the standard use of today’s retail spaces,” the designers explained in a project statement. “The addition of careful planting with variety in scale, openness and intimacy creates a new kind of public space within the city that fosters community and an added sense of identity.” In addition to the rooftop park’s benefits in fighting the urban heat island effect , the Wuhan North Pavilion incorporates energy-saving features such as LED lighting, fans, pumps and chillers. Water usage has been reduced thanks to low-flow urinals and bathroom fixtures fitted with sensors. Low-emitting materials, adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings were also selected to help reduce indoor air pollutants. + 5+design Images via 5+design

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A lush public park grows on the roof of a luxury Wuhan mall

BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

November 14, 2019 by  
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After five years in the making, BIG has completed The Heights, a new public school building in Arlington, Virginia that not only offers a unique and energy-efficient take on school architecture, but also helps maximize density and open space. Located along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, The Heights combines two existing secondary schools into a new 180,000-square-foot building that opens like a fan with a cascade of green-roofed terraces to provide an indoor-outdoor learning landscape. An emphasis on natural daylighting, green space, material reuse and energy efficiency has put the building on track to achieve LEED Gold certification . Completed on a $100 million budget, the dynamic new school building houses two programs: the H-B Woodlawn Program that offers visual and performing arts-focused curricula for grades 6 through 12, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program that serves students aged 11 to 22 with special needs. The school can accommodate an expected enrollment of up to 775 students. Related: Rammed earth Kopila Valley School is the “greenest school in Nepal” To make the most of a compact urban site bounded by roads on three sides, BIG organized the school as a stack of five rectangular floorplates rotated around a fixed pivot point to create a series of outdoor green-roofed terraces connected with a rotating central staircase. The spacious first terrace can be used for special events while the upper terraces are more suitable as classroom and study areas. The classroom “bars” have also informed the interior layout, which is anchored by a central vertical core containing the elevators, stairs and bathrooms as well as a triple-height lobby with stepped seating on the ground floor. For easy accessibility and to encourage public interaction throughout the school, the lobby is directly adjacent to many of the school’s common spaces, such as the 400-seat auditorium , main gymnasium, library, reception and cafeteria. Intuitive wayfinding is also extended to the classroom spaces in that each classroom “bar” is defined by its own color used to paint the walls and lockers. In contrast to its colorful interior, The Heights’ exterior is clad in white glazed brick to unify its fanned-out massing and to respect the surroundings, including the historic architecture of Old Town Alexandria. Select materials from the former Wilson School, which The Heights was built to replace, have been salvaged and reused in the new build. + BIG Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

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BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

November 8, 2019 by  
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Milan-based architecture firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled innovative designs for a nature-infused smart city in Cancun, Mexico that will serve as a model for resilient and sustainable urban planning. Created for Honduras-based textile conglomerate and property developer Grupo Karim, ‘Smart Forest City – Cancun’ is a proposed alternative to plans for a shopping district in the area. The masterplan would reforest a 557-hectare site — currently used as a sand quarry for hotels — and create mixed-use development that would be completely food and energy self-sufficient. The proposed Smart Forest City – Cancun would house 130,000 residents as well as 7,500,000 plants of 400 different species selected by botanist and landscape architect Lauri Gatti. More than 200,000 trees would be planted to create a ratio of 2.3 trees per inhabitant, while the remainder of the vegetation would be mostly shrubs, bushes, green roofs and vertical gardens. “Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint,” the press release stated. Related: Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design With help from the German company Transsolar, the mixed-use development would be surrounded by a ring of solar panels that provide enough renewable energy to meet the residents’ needs. The city would also include an agricultural field belt that wraps around the urban area. The fields would be irrigated by a water channel fed by an underwater maritime pipe and treated with a desalination tower. Parking for traditional vehicles would be located on the city periphery; a MIC (Mobility in Chain) system would provide internal electric and semi-automatic vehicles to transport residents and visitors throughout the development. As a testing hub for sustainable urbanism , the Smart Forest City – Cancun proposal includes a center for advanced research large enough to host international organizations, university departments and companies. The center would include research and development facilities dedicated to sustainability issues and green infrastructure. + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti and The Big Picture

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First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

These glass vases let you grow your own avocado tree no toothpicks required

November 8, 2019 by  
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While most home gardens tend to conceal the roots within decorated pots, Ilex Studio ‘s new collection of glass vases displays one of the most underrated parts of a plant — the roots. The studio’s transparent glass vases, which can be used to grow avocado and oak trees, feature minimalist silhouettes with spherical bases that showcase the plant’s incredible root systems. Recently unveiled at the London Design Festival , Ilex Studio’s collection was designed to let people skip the prickly process of using toothpicks to grow avocado trees. Additionally, the vases can be used to turn a humble acorn into a magnificent oak tree. Related: AvoSeedo makes growing avocado trees easier than ever Unlike most home gardens , where the plants’ roots are buried deep in the soil, these glass vases let you watch the magical powers of sprouting seeds. The hourglass shape has a small neck, where the avocado seed or acorn sits. The strategic shape lets the seed or avocado stay nice and dry up top while the roots begin to sprout below. Did we mention that there’s no need to stick anything with toothpicks? Over time, the roots begin to spread out into the water. Letting the roots hang freely allows them to become stronger until they are eventually ready to be planted in soil . The bulbous shapes of the vases actually magnify what is going on inside, giving you an up-close view of the roots as they grow. The Avocado Vase is slightly larger than the Acorn Vase, but according to the studio, the growing pattern is similar for the acorn and the avocado tree. The oakling can be left in the vase for up to one year, but growing an avocado tree is a bit more complicated. They both come with instruction booklets to guide you through the process of growing your own trees, straight from the seeds. These playful growing vases cost between £22 and £35 (about $28 to $45), with the larger avocado vase costing a bit more and the vases sans acorns costing less. Each order comes with a 20-page handbook of helpful instructions. + Ilex Studio Via Design Milk Images via Ilex Studio

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These glass vases let you grow your own avocado tree no toothpicks required

Green-roofed CLT classrooms immerse children in nature

October 22, 2019 by  
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After transforming a historic castle into a secondary school for the Groenendaal College, Antwerp architectural firm HUB was approached once again by the same client to tackle another inspiring school project — an energy-efficient primary school addition in the middle of leafy Groenendaal Park. Fittingly titled the Park Classrooms, the recently completed project provides four classrooms and a large central gathering space for up to 90 Groenendaal Primary School children aged between 6 to 7 years old. The building opens up on all sides to the park and minimizes its environmental impact with a compact footprint, use of CLT materials and additional energy-efficient features. Opened in September, the Park Classrooms were developed as part of a government-funded effort to create extra school places in Antwerp. The new pavilion replaces four classrooms, previously housed in containers, with a single structure with a compact floor plan and an emphasis on sustainability. To that end, the architects used circular construction techniques, including cross-laminated timber for the main structure and eco-friendly finishing materials and also engineered the building for ease of dismantling for maintenance and replacement. Topped with a sloping moss-sedum roof cantilevered to provide shade, the Park Classrooms is minimalist and modern to keep focus on the outdoors. Large windows, glazed double doors, and skylights flood the interior with natural light and blur the boundary between indoors and out. Natural materials are used throughout the interior to strengthen ties with the outdoors. The four classrooms are each located on a corner of the pavilion and open up to the outdoors and to a central indoor “living room” that can serve as a reception or be used for cross-classroom activities. Related: UK’s first energy positive classroom produces 1.5x the energy it uses “They were created with ‘quality of life’ in mind, which is based on the vision that sustainability is more than just energy efficiency and that architecture departs from building a liveable environment,” explain the architects. “The four classrooms that surround this space all have double external doors that give access to a covered outdoor area in the park. In this way, the children can also work or play outside, in the immediate vicinity of the familiar classroom environment.” + HUB Images © David Jacobs

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LEED Platinum Sitka captures the Pacific Northwest spirit with a lush, fog-enabled courtyard

October 2, 2019 by  
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Local architectural practice Runberg Architecture Group has raised the bar for sustainable design in Seattle with the completion of Sitka, a LEED Platinum-certified multifamily development on target to achieve Seattle’s 2030 Challenge for Planning goals of reducing water and energy use. Built to use nearly a third less energy than the typical baseline design, the 384-unit development features numerous energy-saving systems — Sitka is the nation’s first multifamily project to use a Wastewater Heat Recovery system — as well as a stunning courtyard that mimics the Pacific Northwest landscape with a running stream, tree-covered hilltops and a lounge that resembles a treehouse. Located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, Sitka is a seven-story building centered on an outdoor courtyard. Runberg Architecture Group drew inspiration from Northwest Modernism and the landscapes of the nearby San Juan Islands to create the project. A sloping green roof and rooftop community garden help capture stormwater runoff as well. The tree-filled courtyard also features a fog system and a treehouse, designed by Seattle’s Lead Pencil Studio, that includes a working fireplace with views of the courtyard. Related: Energy-efficient house embraces panoramic views of Puget Sound “Our mission is to design places where people want to be,” said Brian Runberg of the project’s human-centered design. “When creating Sitka, we asked ourselves what was missing from most of South Lake Union — what would make people feel good about spending time here — and it was green space . We wanted to create an oasis for residents and neighbors in the midst of the hard cityscape.” To minimize energy usage, the architects strategically broke up the building mass to allow natural light and ventilation into the courtyard and interiors. The development also includes LED lighting, EnergyStar appliances, recycled and locally sourced materials, low-flow toilets and fixtures and a high-efficiency 14-foot-diameter fan in the fitness center, all of which contribute to the development’s energy goals. + Runberg Architecture Group Images by Christophe Servieres and Michael Walmsley via Runberg Architecture Group

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LEED Platinum Sitka captures the Pacific Northwest spirit with a lush, fog-enabled courtyard

LEED Gold-seeking wildlife center emphasizes energy conservation in Quebec

October 1, 2019 by  
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The Canadian city of Laval in southwestern Quebec has recently gained a new wildlife interpretation center with an impressive, energy-efficient design. It’s the first of its kind in the city and is targeting LEED NC v3 Gold certification . Designed by Montreal-based architecture firm Cardin Julien , the $11.5 million project provides a new community and educational resource for visitors to Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, an urban wildlife sanctuary that spans 26 hectares rich with recreational opportunities including kayaking, canoeing and island hiking. Completed October 2018, the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles exploration center features a main building with three floors. The ground floor houses a large multipurpose hall with a cafe and reception area framing views of the river through full-height glazing as well as museum programming and a monitoring room for conferences and events. The equipment rental space, locker room, ecology laboratory, researchers’ offices and day camp facilities are placed on the lower “river” level. The uppermost floor comprises an employee relaxation area and a flexible multipurpose room that can be partitioned into three sections. Related: Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in “In order for the project to integrate seamlessly into its environment, the use of wood was recommended for the building’s exterior,” reads the press release. “This material, which can also be found inside the building, fosters a warm environment and allows a connection between visitors and the nature around them. In addition, the structure was built in such a way that it preserves the mature trees growing onsite.” The project also includes a new parking pad, bike path, pedestrian walkways and landscaping as well as a new workshop and equipment distribution kiosk housed in a renovated stable. The main building is topped with a green roof as part of the project’s water conservation strategy that includes rainwater recycling. A high-performance building envelope and strategically placed windows and roof overhangs help contribute to energy savings and visitor comfort. + Cardin Julien Photography by David Boyer via Cardin Julien

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LEED Gold-seeking wildlife center emphasizes energy conservation in Quebec

This plant-based ski wax keeps nasty chemicals off the snowpack

October 1, 2019 by  
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For those looking to hit the slopes as the weather cools down, a new eco-friendly ski wax will not only help you glide through the fluffy snowpack but will also help keep the environment free of the dangerous chemicals found in most ski waxes. In a world where nearly all ski wax is made from petroleum, the innovative MountainFLOW eco wax is made entirely from plants. The sight of white snow-covered hills is enough for most skiers to call off of work and hit the slopes, hopefully in a sustainable retreat . But whatever we put on our skis quickly enters the snowpack, eventually making its way into local streams and rivers. Considering that most ski wax is made out of petroleum, this means that pollution during the ski months increases substantially for these water systems. Related: Top 6 sustainable winter resorts for snowboarding and skiing in the US Thankfully, the eco-conscious team at MountainFLOW has kicked off a new Kickstarter campaign to announce the launch of North America’s only line of plant-based ski wax . Designed to keep harmful chemicals out of the environment, this eco-friendly product is rapidly catching the attention of the ski world. Over the years, the team has worked to develop a petroleum-free wax that offers the same hydrophobicity, durability and ease of application that most traditional petroleum-based waxes offer. Not only have they created a product that does just that, but they have created a ski wax that is much better for the environment. Other plant-based ski waxes have been made with soy. Although the MountainFLOW wax does include a little bit of soy, the eco-friendly product uses a high-quality combination of other plant-based waxes that offer a faster, more durable product. The MountainFLOW packaging is also made from 100 percent recycled materials and is completely biodegradable. + MountainFLOW Images via MountainFLOW

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This plant-based ski wax keeps nasty chemicals off the snowpack

Mixed-use complex aims to minimize heat gain with greenery in Saudi Arabia

August 26, 2019 by  
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In a bid to keep the notorious heat of Saudi Arabia at bay, Istanbul- and London-based architectural firm Avci Architects has created an upscale, mixed-use complex in the coastal city of Al Khobar that is carefully oriented to maximize natural cooling. In addition to careful site placement and building massing, the architects will add shading elements and an abundance of greenery to create a cool microclimate to encourage use of outdoor space and community building. The project, which has yet to be built, was recently selected as the 2019 Architizer A+ Awards Popular Choice Winner in the Residential Multi-Unit Housing category. Covering an area of approximately 60,000 square meters, the Al Khobar mixed-use development will offer a mix of housing, office space, a hotel, retail space and restaurants as well as a mosque. To protect the privacy of the residential areas, the architects have oriented the openings of the offices to face away from the residences and added pergolas or mashrabiya — decorative enclosed balconies common in Islamic architecture — to shield views with the added benefit of mitigating unwanted solar heat gain . Related: A Mumbai industrial complex becomes a modern, mixed-use campus “The facades are layered in shading elements that are designed appropriately to the orientation of the buildings in relation to the sun,” the architects explained. “Our approach would be to create a massing and facade articulation that becomes reminiscent of old Islamic cities, where a sense of community is created between neighbors by allowing them the opportunity to interact through some of the adjacencies of such articulated spaces at higher levels in the buildings.” The outdoor spaces have also been sheltered from the heat with shade elements, landscaping and evaporative pools so that residents and the public can comfortably enjoy the outdoors for most of the year, barring the most intense summer months. + Avci Architects Images via Avci Architects

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Mixed-use complex aims to minimize heat gain with greenery in Saudi Arabia

Cheer Project creates zero-waste products from pine needles

August 26, 2019 by  
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Sourcing materials is the foundation of every design process, but the practice often doesn’t align with sustainable philosophies . Increasingly, companies and individuals alike are seeking natural products that can be used in new and innovative ways. One designer, Gaurav MK Wali, is an example of this goal with his use of discarded pine needles as a 100 percent bio-based and biodegradable material that can be incorporated into a variety of products. The Cheer Project, as Wali has dubbed the innovation, is a result of the desire to solve a fire hazard issue in the nearby forests. According to Wali’s website , “The northern region of India is home to the pine trees. These forests cover most of the lands of Himachal and Uttarakhand, but these states are facing menacing problems caused by an excess of dry pine needles on the forest floor, causing frequent forest fires and several other environmental issues. With a forest cover of about 40,000 square kilometers, the damage is incalculable with no significant solution to the problem yet.” Related: Biodegradable ‘Forest Wool’ furniture is made entirely out of pine needles The process of converting pine needles into a durable product material begins by “shedding” the pine needles into smaller components. Subsequently, a composite is produced by adding natural waxes and binders to the pine needle fibers. For variety, some of the composite is dyed with natural colors from local vegetables and spices. Because the initial and final products are all-natural, the Cheer Project has created a material that is not only bio-based and biodegradable but also water-resistant, fire-resistant and recyclable. Perhaps most importantly, the innovation incorporates materials that are otherwise unused and would feed forest fires. The full manufacturing process produces no waste or pollution. At its core, the Cheer Project is an experiment aimed at finding a sustainable material as an alternative to plastic, petroleum-based products and other environmentally damaging substances. In addition, the goal is to boost the economies of rural areas of Himachal via a sustainable craft . “It has been an experiment to understand the root of a local material and its potential and possibilities in an ever-increasing demand for alternatives for the production of sustainable objects,” Wali said. “The ultimate concept rested on the fusion of local craftsmanship and sustainable utilization of a naturally abundant novel material — the rediscovery of the pine needle.” + Gaurav MK Wali Images via Gaurav MK Wali

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Cheer Project creates zero-waste products from pine needles

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