A solar-powered home in Maine rises above the sand dunes on wooden stilts

March 20, 2019 by  
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Portland-based firm  Caleb Johnson Studio has unveiled a beautiful cedar-clad home elevated off the ground on stilts so that the natural “landscape is allowed to flow under the house.” The solar-powered home, named “In the Dunes,” was designed to not only protect the natural dune terrain, but the resilient design also reduces the risk of damage caused by potential coastal flooding. Located in the coastal town of Wells in southern Maine, the three-story home is built on sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Due to instability of the dune landscape, the architects decided to elevate the home off the ground by large wooden stilts  built into a concrete plinth. According to the firm, this was a strategic decision to allow the landscape to continue in its natural state under the home. It is also a resilient feature to protect the home from coastal flooding. Related: Stormwaters sweep beneath this coastal beach house raised above dunes The design was meant to fit into the local vernacular, comprised mainly of charming beach houses . “This home was influenced by the vernacular coastal structures that can be found dotting the Maine coast,” Caleb Johnson Studio said in a project description. “The building was simplified to pure geometric forms and then manipulated and modernized to take advantage of the sea and marsh views.” With its cedar cladding, pitched roofs (installed with solar panels ) and multiple large windows, the home certainly manages to blend in with its natural surroundings. On the interior, the space is also focused on the incredible views. The ground floor is marked by the large wooden stilts that form a pleasant, open-air space, which wraps around the home with a wooden pathway leading the way to the glass-enclosed entryway. From the front door, a large window surrounded by natural stones leads up to the upper floors. Once inside, an abundance of strategically placed windows provide panoramic views from nearly any angle. An interior design comprised of a neutral color palette and minimal furnishings creates an incredibly welcoming home. + Caleb Johnson Studio Via Dezeen Photography by Trent Bell via Caleb Johnson Studio

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A solar-powered home in Maine rises above the sand dunes on wooden stilts

Are bioenergy facilities the solution to the growing garbage problem?

March 20, 2019 by  
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Have you ever heard of bioenergy? Or, have you ever wondered where your garbage goes once you throw it out? For many people — especially Americans — once their trash leaves the house, there is no more thought about where it goes or what happens to it. As soon as a sanitation worker picks up your garbage , there is no reason to think about the serious problems that massive amounts of waste can cause. Every year, Americans discard about 250 million tons of resources, making them the largest generator of waste on Earth. Approximately 136 million tons are buried, 89 million tons are composted or recycled  and 33 million tons are burned. Yet, have you ever thought about how those methods of trash disposal impact communities and the environment ? In an effort to dispose of trash in a more eco-friendly way, many countries have started increasing the disposal method of waste-to-energy, or bioenergy , because when the garbage is burned, it generates energy. Some countries have even switched to bioenergy completely, like Sweden, who has actually run out of its own trash and imports 700,000 tons annually to meet the capacity of their waste-to-energy plants. In Norway, they are experimenting with fueling their public transportation system with biogas. According to Energy Central, one kilogram of food waste produces a half liter of fuel . The city of Oslo powers 135 buses with their organic waste. It may seem like a good idea to turn trash into energy, but is the process really as environmentally-friendly as it sounds? Related: Scientists invent a solar panel that produces hydrogen The Controversy When waste is burned to produce energy and heat, the process produces an enormous amount of smoke. Nearly all of that smoke is carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and there is nothing clean about that. Could this really be better than recycling or even burying trash in a landfill ? Waste-to-energy is not a “renewable” process because unlike solar or wind, once the waste is burned, that’s it. There is no more energy production from that specific resource. Gayle Sloan, chief executive of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, says that the goal is to create energy from burning materials that recycling programs leave behind. This means the waste hierarchy is prevention and recycling before bioenergy and landfills. But, according to Jane Bremmer, coordinator of the campaign group Zero Waste Oz, waste-to-energy incinerators are actually a threat to recycling. “We appear to have this system where waste-to-energy incinerations are being allowed to remove material recovery facilities (recycling centers) from their planned projects,” says Bremmer. “They are doing that because it assures their waste stream.” Not only is waste-to-energy emitting greenhouse gasses and threatening recycling, but it can also be polluting the air. Wheelabrator, an incinerator located in Peekskill, New York, burns 2,250 tons of waste every day and provides “clean, renewable electricity.” But, is that an honest claim? The plant emits toxins into the air that can be deadly — 577 million pounds of carbon dioxide and 131,000 pounds of carbon monoxide every year, according to the Emissions Containment Totals Report . Then there is the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen, which means the citizens around that plant are breathing in a plethora of dirty pollutants . Related: Verizon pledges $1 billion for programs that help the environment In Australia, there is also a problem when it comes to funding. Not only are their waste-to-energy plants polluting the air and damaging their recycling programs, but they are also gobbling up cash from government grant and loan programs. “It’s consuming, in a large degree, a petroleum product into an energy stream which produces CO2 equivalent,” says Robin Chapple, Greens Western Australian MP. “We managed to control the emissions, like dioxins, but we are still turning the plastics into a greenhouse gas . If you have a good recycling program which deals well with waste, the feedstock for incineration disappears.” Smart Solutions Inventors from the Center for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) program at the University of New South Wales are attempting to take recycling to the next level . Instead of burning materials to create energy, they have developed a microfactory that can be placed at waste sites that can turn discarded items into molecules which can then be transformed into something new. “If you are using something and then, after a single life, saying, ‘I’m done with it, and I’m going to burn away the fundamental molecules and elements and everything else to release a bit of energy’, then that’s not good,” says UNSW engineering professor Veena Sahajwalla, the head of the SMaRT project. She says that if we simply burn our waste, then we aren’t trying hard enough to find ways to repurpose materials and resources. For Sahajwalla, bioenergy is not the solution to our environmental problems. Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Are bioenergy facilities the solution to the growing garbage problem?

Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in these bamboo huts built on a remote Vietnamese beach

March 20, 2019 by  
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When it comes to completely disconnecting from the stresses of everyday life, sometimes it’s worth the while to really go off-the-beaten-path. Thanks to Vietnamese architecture firm, VTN Architects , now you can find a little slice of serenity in a very remote area of Vietnam. Located about 2 hours from the nearest port and only accessible by boat, the Castaway Island Resort is comprised of five bamboo guest huts , covered in thatched roofs and engulfed on one side by a verdant mountain range and on the other by a private white sand beach. The Ho Chi Minh City-based firm designed the resort to offer the ultimate in lodging for those who want to reconnect with nature. Located on a tiny island that’s part of the Cat Ba Archipelago, the idyllic area is a well-known tourist destination. Tucked into a soaring mountain range on one side and a private beach on the other, guests at the eco-retreat can enjoy breathtaking views from anywhere inside the bamboo huts and outside the property. Related: Top 6 Must-See Summer Eco Resorts Around the World! Using the natural landscape for inspiration, the architects used environment-friendly bamboo to craft the huts that make up the guests rooms, as well as the restaurant and multi-use pavilion. The huts were built using thin bamboo rods that were treated in a traditional Vietnamese technique that involves soaking the bamboo in mud first and then smoking it afterwards. Once properly treated, the bamboo frames were assembled by bamboo dowel nails and re-enforced by rope. Covered with thatched roofs, the huts not only offer an authentic Vietnamese cultural experience, but also reduce the building’s impact on the existing landscape. Using bamboo as the primary building material meant adding durability to the design, as well as the option to be easily removed without leaving a footprint on the beautiful landscape. Guests will enjoy staying in the spacious guest rooms, but can also enjoy spending time in the restaurant and onsite pavilion. Built in the same style as the bamboo huts , the restaurant is built in a hyperbolic-parabolic shell volume. This shape allows the communal area to be covered, but open on all sides so that guests can take in unobstructed views while they enjoy local fare served by the restaurant. + VTN Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Hiroyuki Oki, via VTN Architects

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Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in these bamboo huts built on a remote Vietnamese beach

A beachside resort on a remote Indonesian island resembles a traditional village

February 4, 2019 by  
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Indonesian firm Atelier Riri has designed a stunning eco-resort on the Indonesian island of Lombok. The small Kiyakabin Resort is an intimate, village-esque layout with just four cabins that open up to breathtaking, beachside views of the Bali Sea. The retreat’s cabins were made with locally-sourced charred timber and built with traditional construction methods by local builders. The Kiyakabin resort has just four units: three accommodations and a communal restaurant and dining area. The guest rooms are arranged in a strategic manner with the swimming pool at the center. This was an intentional decision by the architects to pay homage to the traditional villages of the local Sasak ethnic group. Related: Eco-resort in Tulum features luxury beach huts made of natural materials “Kiyakabin was designed and built to represent the Sasak culture,” the architecture studio explained. “Built in collaboration with local artisans, Kiyakabin wants to combine the characters of local vernacular living with a modern yet low-energy building concept.” The four cabins were constructed out of a timber frame and clad in locally-grown teak wood that was charred using the Shou Sugi Ban technique . The charred timber facades not only give the resort a modern feel; it is also a strategic feature that will protect the buildings from the affects of the sea climate. Two of the four timber cabins sit on the ground, with one facing the beach and one facing the swimming pool. The third cabin is raised off the ground on stilts to provide stunning views of the natural surroundings. The fourth and largest cabin houses the restaurant and dining area. This space is open on two sides to provide beautiful views as well as natural air circulation while dining. The interior of the guests rooms were clad in the same natural teak wood as the exteriors but without the charred finish. The exposed natural wood, also used in the furniture, creates a soothing living space that contrasts nicely with the dark exteriors. Simple but luxurious bedding and natural woven textures add a bit of local style into the interior design . + Atelier Riri Via Dezeen Photography by William Sutanto via Atelier Riri

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A beachside resort on a remote Indonesian island resembles a traditional village

Eating In: 5 Ways to Start Your Indoor Gardening This Winter

December 21, 2018 by  
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Just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean … The post Eating In: 5 Ways to Start Your Indoor Gardening This Winter appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Eating In: 5 Ways to Start Your Indoor Gardening This Winter

This dreamy Malibu beach house is designed to withstand climate change

August 21, 2018 by  
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Ask any number of people what they envision as their dream home, and the majority will likely respond with something along the lines of, “A house on the beach where I can hear and see the crashing waves.” With the right amount of money (in this instance, $5.7 million), you can make that vision a reality with House Noir, a spacious, three-story beach house in marvelous Malibu, California . Built on the sandy Las Flores beach, just steps from the mighty Pacific Ocean, House Noir has unmatched views of the mountains, sea and Catalina Island. Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) met the challenge of designing an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable home that can also withstand natural disasters and the impacts of climate change : earthquakes, rising sea levels and an eroding coastline. Related: Hurricane-resistant home uses resilient boat-building techniques to weather the storm The team began by elevating the 1,790-square-foot house a generous 20 feet above the beach to accommodate a tall seawall and subterranean caisson foundation (or pier foundation), an impermeable retaining structure sunk into the ground. The added energy-absorbing features help the structure withstand earthquake tremors. To combat the caustic effects of sea air, which can seriously depreciate exterior paint and metal facades, LOHA enveloped the house with aluminum and non-corrosive metal and finished it off with high-quality rustproof paint. The entire exterior package is wrapped in standing-seam siding that is seamlessly molded up the sides of the structure over the roofline, all the way to the roof deck. The luxurious — and well-protected — interior of the home offers mesmerizing views throughout. Full-height glass doors, which lead to oblique balconies, allow ocean breezes to cool the beach house. An open-air staircase ascends from the ground floor up through the heart of the home to the rooftop deck, with perforated metal risers and treads that encourage beams of natural light  to illuminate every floor. Other amenities include a large designer kitchen, imported tiles, European fixtures, white oak floors, an airy mezzanine, two bedrooms, two and a half baths and the spacious, private rooftop deck with an outdoor shower. + Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) Via Dwell Images via Paul Vu/Simon Berlyn

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This dreamy Malibu beach house is designed to withstand climate change

Solar-powered multi-generational home offsets its energy consumption

June 5, 2018 by  
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Toronto-based architecture firm Williamson Williamson has completed a stunning home that embraces aging in place with a sustainably minded footprint. Located in the Ontario town of Hamilton, the House on Ancaster Creek comprises two distinct residences—one for the clients and the other for their elderly parents. The multigenerational home also reduces its energy demands with a 10KVa solar array, daylighting techniques, and low-energy fixtures throughout. Conceived as a high-density solution, the House on Ancaster Creek combines the functions of two separate homes into a single L-shaped entity. To accommodate any future mobility limitations, the architects placed the parents’ suite on the ground floor, where it’s joined with additional living spaces. Elder-friendly design considerations and features were also incorporated, such as the well-located drains and a master power switch that can immediately switch off any fixtures accidentally left on due to memory loss. The second floor master suite is accessed via a dramatic wood-clad spiral staircase that ascends from the first-floor living room located at the intersection of the two rectangular volumes. The main residence is positioned parallel to the creek and overlooks the views through floor-to-ceiling glazing. Full-height glazing is also used throughout the home to create a seamless connection with the outdoors. The material palette also reflects this connection: the ground floor of the home is clad in three-and-a-half-inch thick locally quarried Algonquin limestone while timber is used throughout. Related: Fabulous multigenerational home allows owners to comfortably age in place Despite the abundance of glazing, the home manages to keep energy demands to a minimum thanks to a highly insulated envelope and a high-performance triple-pane wood-frame window system with an average Uw of .77. Radiant heating is also used to complement a high-efficiency furnace, while LEDs and low-energy fixtures are installed throughout. A 37-module 9.8 kW solar array is installed on two of the flat roofs to offset energy consumption. + Williamson Williamson Via ArchDaily Images by Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

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Solar-powered multi-generational home offsets its energy consumption

Exit Interview: Paul Murray, Shaw Industries

April 16, 2018 by  
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A 30-year veteran of sustainability covers the ground on what it takes to be a leader.

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Exit Interview: Paul Murray, Shaw Industries

The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

March 23, 2018 by  
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Local residents, infrastructure, and oil and gas pipelines could be at risk from the ground heaving and sinking in West Texas after years of fossil fuel production, according to a new study from Southern Methodist University (SMU) scientists. In an SMU statement , research scientist Jin-Woo Kim said, “This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s and our findings associate that activity with ground movement.” Two large sinkholes around Wink, Texas, may just be the start, according to Kim and SMU professor and geophysicist Zhong Lu. Scientific Reports published their research online earlier this month: Kim and Lu drew on radar satellite images revealing significant ground movement in an area of 4,000 square miles. One spot saw movement of up to 40 inches in two and a half years. Lu said the ground movement isn’t normal. Related: Massive sinkhole opens up in the middle of a Brazilian farming town Imagery and oil well production data from the Railroad Commission of Texas helped the researchers connect the ground movement to oil activity. Pressurized fluid injection into what SMU described as “geologically unstable rock formations” in the area is one of those activities; the scientists discovered ground movement corresponded with “nearby sequences of wastewater injection rates and volume and CO2 injection in nearby wells.” And, outside the 4,000 square mile area, more dangers may lurk. Kim said, “We’re fairly certain that when we look further, and we are, that we’ll find there’s ground movement even beyond that.” SMU said the region is vulnerable to human endeavors because of its geology , including shale formations and water-soluble salt and limestone formations. Lu said, “These hazards represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines, as well as potential pollution of ground water . Proactive, continuous detailed monitoring from space is critical to secure the safety of people and property.” + Southern Methodist University + Science Reports Images via Nicolas Henderson on Flickr and Zhong Lu, Jin-Woo Kim, SMU

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The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

Scientists solve the mystery of Turkey’s deadly ‘Gate to Hell’

February 22, 2018 by  
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According to the ancient Romans, the Mediterranean is riddled with places where mortals can access the underworld. These “gates to hell” (or Plutoniums) are marked by stone structures, and some of them, like a cave in Hierapolis (now modern-day Turkey ) seem to have supernatural powers. Ancient Romans would bring animals into the mysterious haze inside the cave, where they would swiftly die. Now, scientists have answered the mystery of what is killing these animals and how humans could escape seemingly unscathed. According to the ancient Romans, humans would enter the grotto as part of a ritualistic sacrifice and leave unharmed, while animals would quickly die. The Greek geographer Strabo once said, “This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.” Some believed that the vapor was the breath of the hellhound Kerberos. Legend also has it that even birds flying by would drop out of the air. Related: Egyptians discover three sunken ships full of 2,000-year-old treasure Scientists have found that the cause of this deadly mist is actually carbon dioxide from a volcanic fissure in the earth underneath the cave. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are stronger towards the ground, which helps explain why animals were impacted more than humans. The time of day also impacts its concentration, with wind and sunlight dispersing the vapor. That means that nighttime, and particularly right before dawn, are the deadliest times to enter the cave. At dawn, concentrations are strong enough to kill a human within a minute. Researchers believe that priests participating in the rituals understood that the higher you were from the ground, the longer you could stand in the cave, making them to appear to have supernatural powers. They may have also adjusted the time that they entered the cave to coincide with lower concentrations. The cave was actually forgotten until just seven years ago, but the mystery around it has remained. Brave researchers, led by Hardy Pfanz at the University of Duisburg-Essen , wanted to understand the enigma, so they examined the grotto in detail. Pfanz’s method could be used to help solve the mysteries of other Plutoniums as well. Via IFL Science Images via Chris Parfitt and Carole Raddato

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Scientists solve the mystery of Turkey’s deadly ‘Gate to Hell’

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