Garden House brings nature back to the city

September 23, 2020 by  
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As urban areas grow around the world, housing seems to get farther and farther from nature, turning cities into concrete jungles lacking in greenery. This is not only less than ideal for humans, but it is hard on the planet as well. The team at Christos Pavlou Architecture addressed this issue with the Garden House, a nearly 2,000-square-foot home complete with nature elements inside and out. Built in Nicosia, Cyprus, the home “brings nature back to the city” with inviting outdoor areas for gathering with friends and neighbors as well as balconies and rooftops for more indoor/outdoor living opportunities. The designers put the focus on nature after realizing the development of Nicosia lacked greenery and public communal areas as part of its urban development. With this in mind, the team incorporated an abundance of potential for microclimates within the space. To achieve this goal, 60% of the ground floor incorporates garden space, which includes lush plants and wildflowers . Additionally, a green terrace on the first floor continues the garden theme. All areas within the home open up to the outdoors; the ground floor is connected via a centralized courtyard. Related: Instagram data uncovers the world’s top #urbanjungles While creating all this green space is great for the residents of Garden House, it’s also beneficial to pollinators . The bee-friendly landscape includes 40 kinds of native wildflowers and encourages the return of local bird species that have mostly been driven out of the city. In addition to improving the air and visual appeal for humans and supporting wildlife , the design is a thoughtful gift to the planet with elements that work to slow global warming. Christos Pavlou Architecture is a small design studio that opened in 2003. With a focus on indoor/outdoor spaces and attention to solving problems related to customer needs and climate conditions, the firm has earned several recognitions, including a first-place Cyprus state architecture award in 2019 in the Outstanding Architecture category. Christos Pavlou Architecture is currently a nominee for the European Union Mies Van Der Rohe Award 2021, Barcelona.  + Christos Pavlou Architecture Photography by Charis Solomou via v2com

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Garden House brings nature back to the city

Award-winning solar home with spectacular desert views asks $5.35M

August 28, 2020 by  
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On the edge of the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas, an AIA award-winning home has hit the market for $5.35 million. Designed by PUNCH Architecture and built by Bugbee Custom Homes, this custom, 3,270-square-foot residence embraces the breathtaking desert landscape with carefully framed views and an indoor/outdoor design approach. The luxury Montana Court home is built largely with natural, modern materials and is topped with solar panels as well as a living roof. Recognized by the American Institute of Architecture’s Las Vegas chapter for its architectural innovation and design, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath luxury home keeps the spotlight on the southern Nevada desert landscape with a restrained palette and contemporary aesthetic. The two-story home is built into the mountainous landscape and blends in with the desert with a natural materials palette, which will develop a patina over time. According to the real estate firm, The Ivan Sher Group, this site-sensitive approach is an exception to the typical Las Vegas luxury home, which tends to stand out from the background rather than complement it. Related: Sustainable desert home has a small water footprint in Nevada “This is a home for those who fully appreciate nature and the outdoors, in addition to the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip,” said listing agent Anthony Spiegel. “There are panoramic views of Blue Diamond’s stunning mountain and desert scenery, and at night you can see millions of stars light up the sky. This home is also nearby one of the top biking trail systems in Southern Nevada, allowing residents the convenience to ride at any time.” Located in the small town of Blue Diamond, the Montana Court home is nestled among Joshua and Pinion trees, cacti, creosotes and rock formations in a setting that offers complete privacy in the outdoors. The exterior is wrapped in weathered steel that will evolve as the home ages. The home also includes a 1,200-square-foot garage, outdoor shower, barbecue area, fire pit and multiple sheltered outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition to the indoors through full-height glass doors. + 4 Montana Court Listing Images courtesy of The Ivan Sher Group

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Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires

August 28, 2020 by  
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The beloved giants of Big Basin Redwoods State Park have been facing massive wildfires in California. Fortunately, many survived, proving how tough and resilient these trees can be, although there has still been considerable damage. Meanwhile, a condor sanctuary has also been devastated, with experts fearing the loss of some of these critically endangered birds. Big Basin’s redwoods have stood in the Santa Cruz Mountains for more than 1,000 years. In 1902, the area became California’s first state park. The trees are a combination of old-growth and second-growth redwood forest, mixed with oaks, conifer and chaparral. The park is a popular hiking destination with more than 80 miles of trails, multiple waterfalls and good bird-watching opportunities. Related: Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia Early reports of the Santa Cruz Lightning Complex fires claimed the redwood trees were all gone. But a visitor on Tuesday found most trees still intact, though the park’s historic headquarters and other structures had burned in the fires. “But the forest is not gone,” Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, told KQED . “It will regrow. Every old growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them. They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this.” Scientists have done some interesting studies on redwoods, including one concluding that redwoods might be benefiting from climate change . A warming climate means less fog in northern California, which allows redwoods more sunshine and therefore more photosynthesis. Researchers have also looked into cloning giant redwoods, which could save the species if they burn in future fires. A sanctuary for endangered condors in Big Sur also suffered from the wildfires. Kelly Sorenson, executive director of Ventana Wildlife Society, which operates the sanctuary, watched in horror as fire took out a remote camera trained on a condor chick in a nest. Sorenson saw the chick’s parents fly away. “We were horrified. It was hard to watch. We still don’t know if the chick survived, or how well the free-flying birds have done,” Sorenson told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m concerned we may have lost some condors. Any loss is a setback. I’m trying to keep the faith and keep hopeful.” The fate of at least four other wild condors who live in the sanctuary is also still unknown. Via CleanTechnica , EcoWatch and KQED Image via Anita Ritenour

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Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing

August 28, 2020 by  
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Community First! Village in Austin, a 51-acre sustainable development, provides  affordable housing  to Central Texas’ chronically homeless. McKinney York Architects recently designed two new micro-house concepts inside the community. These tiny homes are changing lives by providing homes for hundreds of locals who have fallen on hard times. The program, developed by Austin-based non-profit  Mobile Loaves & Fishes , consists of 120 total units. The organization is a social outreach ministry that has worked with the local Austin  homeless  community since 1998 through prepared feeding programs, community gardening and more. Related: Modular, affordable housing project opens in Portland McKinney York Architects founder Heath McKinney and her team chose to design two pro-bono micro-houses inside the community. These homes showcase the firm’s creativity and attention to detail while contributing to a  sustainable  cause. “Being a good neighbor to our local community is an important part of our office culture,” said Aaron Taylor, project manager for the first micro-home . “This, coupled with the firm’s mission to provide quality design for everyone, really made working at CommunityFirst! Village a fulfilling experience.” This first  tiny home  features what McKinney York Architects’ website describes as “humble modular materials” that “lend dignity to the dwelling through a straightforward, logical aesthetic expression.” The home also includes a screen porch positioned to take advantage of summer breezes while providing shelter from winter winds. Openings encourage cross-ventilation, and a double roof creates shaded heat gain reduction during the warmer months. “We try to find opportunities for great design, despite the inevitable constraints, whether it’s the size and orientation of an existing concrete slab or the available construction budget,” said Navvab Taylor, leader of the second home design team. The second home includes a butterfly roof to catch breezes and  collect rainwater  for the garden. Pine paneling accents the interior, and a screened porch keeps mosquitoes away while creating an open public space for socializing. + McKinney York Images © Thomas McConnell

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Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

August 26, 2020 by  
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People around the world have watched with increasing horror as Amazon forest destruction has accelerated in recent years. Now,  U.K.  officials have proposed a law to make large companies operating within the U.K. comply with environmental laws and show where their products originate.  The new law would cover  soy , rubber, cocoa, palm oil and other commodities. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey, 67% of British consumers want more government oversight on companies, and 81% think businesses should be more transparent about product origin. Related: Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation ,” said Ruth Chambers from the Greener UK coalition. Additionally, this law could require businesses to publish purchasing details for commodities like soy and  palm oil , to prove the resources were produced following local laws protecting natural ecosystems. Failure to do so would incur fines. Critics say the plan needs ironing out, especially regarding details on penalties. Though delayed, the COP26 climate conference will occur in Glasgow in 2021. In the meantime, the U.K. works to show international leadership on environmental and climate concerns, including deforestation. About 10% of the world’s known species make their home in the  Amazon , which is the largest rainforest and river basin in the world. Already 20% of the Amazon biome has disappeared, and matters are getting worse. At the current rate of deforestation, WWF estimates that more than a quarter of the Amazon biome will be treeless by 2030. The new U.K.  law  remains in the planning stage. Emphasizing the law’s significance, Chambers said, “The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed.” Via BBC and WWF Image via Pexels

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Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

This tiny home on stilts features an awesome secret patio

August 25, 2020 by  
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Known as LaLa’s Seaesta, this 410-square-foot tiny home located just blocks from the beach features reclaimed wood and a secret hidden patio. The home, designed by Texas-based Plum Construction, takes full advantage of its small stature with a dining nook that converts into a sleeping area and a swinging bed made from salvaged wooden doors. In addition to the 410 square feet of main living space, there is also an 80-square-foot interior loft accessible by ladder. The ladder to the loft was designed and built by Christine of Plum Construction and includes a closed system to stop it from falling and keep it flush against the wall while not in use. Christine also built and installed the beautiful wall treatment in the main bedroom that is made of old beadboard salvaged from a 100-year-old building in downtown Galveston. Related: This gorgeous tiny home features a greenhouse and wooden pergola The exterior is painted in a bold black hue, while the inside is soft pink, adding a unique contrast of tones. Inside, the dining nook and ottoman utilize custom upholstery, and the full kitchen contains custom Carrara marble countertops and a vintage-style refrigerator. This dining nook easily converts from a sitting area to a full-sized bed. The contemporary sofa, the centerpiece of the living room, was given a second life through reupholstering. Local artwork from a Galveston artist adorns the walls throughout the home, and the patio section has a painted mural inspired by a Brooklyn graffiti wall. The gable decoration in the front of the house is constructed from reclaimed cypress wood from a nearby house that dates back 120 years. The real hidden gem in this tiny home is the large patio underneath. It provides the occupant with a fun, bonus hangout space with ventilated slatted walls. The patio comes complete with several swings, a hammock, a bar, an outdoor shower for rinsing off after the beach, a sitting area, electrical outlets for a fan or watching TV and, of course, the lovely swinging bed made from two salvaged doors. Century-old reclaimed wood was also used in the construction of the bar and swings. LaLa’s Seaesta is available for rent on Airbnb . + Plum Construction Images via Plum Construction

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This tiny home on stilts features an awesome secret patio

Thousands of farm workers face extreme conditions in California

August 25, 2020 by  
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Have you ever thought about the cost of the sweet, fresh fruits you purchase from the store? While produce seems cheap, thousands of low-income laborers at farms are paying a heavy price. In the past few weeks, hundreds of wildfires have broken out in California , filling the air with thick smoke. From the COVID-19 pandemic to wildfires, heatwaves and drought, farm workers in California have been forced to continue working despite unhealthy conditions. Many farm workers who are forced to work under these conditions come from marginalized communities. They are already disadvantaged by the fact that they have no way to shelter from the virus . It is not possible for such workers to harvest produce from their homes. Further, many farms in California are not automated and as a result, farm workers have to manually harvest the fruits and vegetables. Related: Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia According to the Community and Labor Center at the University of California, more than 381,000 people in California work in the frontline agriculture industry. This means that they cannot shelter from COVID-19, as food is considered an essential service. “Whether it’s wildfire , pandemic, drought or storm, farmworkers are out in the field,” said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. “It’s a largely immigrant workforce, many undocumented. Many are from Indigenous communities from southern Mexico who face even greater barriers to accessing services and reporting labor abuses.” Zucker said that the wildfires’ impacts on the workers are far-reaching. Some workers have reported experiencing chest pains and headaches after several days of working under harsh conditions. Each fire season, there are many farm workers who do not receive N95 masks to protect them from smoke. During the pandemic, these masks are even harder to come by. As such, farm workers are left to face the wildfire smoke and the virus in addition to heatwaves and drought. Zucker said employers need to provide workers with safety education and better protective gear. Via The Guardian Image via Bureau of Land Management

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There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping

August 21, 2020 by  
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There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping Jim Giles Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:45 Avrom Farm sits in the hills above Green Lake in central Wisconsin. With 5,000 chickens, 200 pigs and six acres of vegetables, it’s a minnow in an industry dominated by an increasingly small number of producers and processors.  In March, a stay-at-home order hit the region. In just a week, the restaurants the farm sold to shut up shop, and local farmers’ markets closed. That might have been the end for Avrom. But then something interesting happened. Owner Hayden Holbert cleared space in a corner of his barn and created a tiny fulfillment center, the back-end operation for an online store and delivery service that he had quickly set up. Then he added products from nearby farms to the site.  Soon his digital business outgrew the barn and had to be moved into a newly constructed hoop house. In a few weeks, business online had pretty much compensated for the losses from restaurants and markets. Now Holbert is raising money to outfit an even larger space nearby, complete with a retail store, which will allow him to sell direct to local people year round. Stories such as Holbert’s have popped up repeatedly in the five months since the coronavirus pandemic forced the United States into varying degrees of lockdown. “There’s been a big uptick in demand — probably 3X,” Joe Heitzeberg, CEO of Crowd Cow , which connects consumers with small producers, told me this week. The demand to buy direct from producers existed before COVID. Consumers like to connect directly with farmers and to feel more confident about what they’re buying. But a combination of broken supply chains, reluctance to visit supermarkets and more time spent cooking at home has accelerated this trend.   This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched. “The consumer during COVID has been willing to explore the fastest way to secure healthy, fresh food in their home,” said Anne Greven , head of food and ag innovation at Rabobank, which highlighted the rise of farm-to-consumer channels in its latest trends report . “This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched.” I get this. One of the delights of summer here in San Francisco is my local farmers market, where the peaches and plums and kale taste so much better than supermarket options, which often arrive via lengthy supply chains. It’s also great to see new ways for farms to prosper. Yet I think that we should be careful not to assume that farm-to-consumer channels are clearly better than alternatives.  Price is one issue. A whole organic free range chicken on Crowd Cow costs $5 per pound; the equivalent non-organic product in Safeway goes for $1.49 per pound. Don’t get me wrong: I know there are multiple good reasons for this difference, including animal welfare standards. My point isn’t to question the value of organic methods. I’m raising the issue of price to note that low-income families can’t necessarily participate in this trend. It goes back to something I raised a few weeks back in the context of race : We all agree that we need a better food system, but we don’t always ask for whom it’s better. (To be fair to Heitzeberg, he was well aware of this issue and said he was working hard to reduce the price of everyday essentials. Crowd Cow prices for some products, such as ground beef, come closer to those at Whole Foods and other premium supermarkets.)  There’s a second question about sustainability. How do you know your local small-scale producer has a lower environmental impact than a distant mega-farm? As I noted last week, our intuitions about the industrialization of food aren’t necessarily correct. We need to consider the amount of land required for production, the methods used on the farms and the transport costs. It’s a complicated comparison to make, and we urgently need more data to guide us. The good news is that progress is being made on both fronts. On the equity side, the pandemic has promoted companies and nonprofits to partner on projects that provide farm produce directly to food-insecure communities . Several research groups are looking at scale and sustainability in food systems, including one major think tank, whose report I hope to write about soon. I’ll close with an intriguing aside about Hayden Holbert and Avrom Farm. I came across his story via Steward, an investment platform that lets regular people — not just well-heeled, accredited investors — put money into sustainable agriculture projects. This means that you and anyone else can help Holbert build out his new business, and earn a projected 6 to 8 percent return in the process. (You know the drill: Projections are not guarantees of future results.) More details at Steward . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched. Topics Food & Agriculture Social Justice Farmers Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Avrom Farm owner Hayden Holbert cleared space in a corner of his barn and created a tiny fulfillment center, the back-end operation for an online store and delivery service. He quickly outgrew that space. Courtesy of Avrom Farm Close Authorship

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Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products

August 21, 2020 by  
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Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products Deonna Anderson Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:15 When shopping online, consumers are able to see a lot of information about a product. There’s the product description and specifications of an item. For a bottle of perfume, the listing would declare the fluid ounces and describe the scent. A piece of clothing would show the material makeup and available sizes. A page for a bookshelf would have information about the dimensions. And of course, all of these would display the cost. But even with so much information at the ready, it is still rare to see details about the impact the product has on the climate or the chemical makeup of an item. The Environmental Defense Fund is calling for change. “You have this greater real estate available to share this information about products right on the product page, just like you would the size of a product or colors or product reviews and you have the ability to tell more of the sustainability story, because you essentially have endless shelf space online,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of EDF+Business at the Environmental Defense Fund, the arm of EDF focused on corporate sustainability. In late July, EDF+Business released a report called ” The Roadmap to Sustainable E-commerce ” that pushes companies to do better by their customers and the environment by sharing more information about the products they offer. “We want to call attention to how the biggest environmental impacts and the biggest health impact of products is really due to the products themselves and the creation and the use of a product,” Brown-West said. As the COVID-19 crisis rages on in the United States, some people are relying on e-commerce retailers for their needs — from household goods to food. Making these goods and transporting them has a cost to the environment. And as my colleague Joel Makower wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, “This is exactly the right time to be talking about climate change.” The EDF+Business report outlines how the world’s biggest e-commerce retailers — such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart — could use their influence to benefit the environment and their bottom lines.  In addition to calling on e-commerce retailers to step up, the report outlines seven steps to do just that: Assessing chemical and carbon footprints of the products they sell. This would help e-commerce companies understand the prevalence of toxic chemicals in their product assortment as well as their contribution to global climate change. Setting ambitious goals to address footprints. This step could set retailers on the path to offer products with safer chemicals and reduce their climate impact. To improve their chemicals footprint, e-commerce businesses are encouraged to establish a chemicals policy with specific, time-bound goals that incentivize their suppliers to use safer ingredients in their products. Regarding retailers’ climate impact, the report suggests setting specific, time-bound goals that reduce their Scope 3 emissions. That could look like setting a waste goal that prioritizes eliminating single-use plastics or one that encourages the growth of reuse and recycling infrastructures. Align business operations with sustainability goals. E-commerce retailers would need to integrate sustainability goals into their organization and operations. Engaging product suppliers and sellers to meet goals. E-commerce companies should establish new expectations with their suppliers and incentivize them to lead. Help consumers make sustainable choices. This step could look like translating product data into compelling consumer terms. Measure progress and share it publicly. Companies should regularly report and share on their sustainability goals with employees, consumers and investors. In this effort, leaders should include both their successes and lessons learned in their reporting. Lead the industry forward on sustainability. By stepping up, e-commerce industry leaders can recruit other parts of the value chain to participate in relevant industry groups, commitments and coalitions. Some retailers already are doing this work, although not specifically in the context of e-commerce. For example, back in 2013, Target launched its Sustainable Product Index , which tasked vendors with assessing the sustainability of product ingredients as well as their health and environmental impacts.  “We definitely see some movement in [companies] trying to communicate to consumers some more information about environmental or health impacts of products,” said Brown-West, who authored the report. “But we haven’t seen a full, we haven’t seen the full experience.” Screenshot of a page from SustainaBuy, a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint Transparency from companies is key to ensuring consumers know about the work a company is doing to improve (or not improve) on its sustainability efforts, Brown-West said. In addition to the report, EDF+ Business launched SustainaBuy , a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint. EDF+Business envisioned SustainaBuy as a way to weave sustainability into the entire shopping experience, Brown-West said. There are numerous reasons for companies to employ this type of approach to transparency. For one, there is consumer demand for this type of information. The report notes a Nielsen projection that estimates consumers are projected to spend $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021. “Consumers want to buy sustainable products and e-commerce retailers can help them do so by sharing environmental and social data on their online platforms,” said Tensie Whelan, professor and director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and author of the report’s foreword, in a statement. “Whether companies choose to jump at this opportunity will determine their ability to cultivate the consumer and remain competitive over the long-run.” Brown-West noted that since releasing the report, EDF+Business already has started having conversations with some e-commerce retailers about how to improve their transparency, which is key for accountability of their sustainability goals. Topics Retail Transparency E-commerce Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit:  Jacob Lund

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Berkshire Residence targets Passive House standards

August 6, 2020 by  
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Brooklyn-based design studio Of Possible recently completed the Berkshire Residence, a 3,600-square-foot contemporary home that the designers describe as a “marriage of spatial poetry and building science.” Built by Massachusetts company Kent Hicks Construction , the home blends traditional New England construction with sustainable and cutting-edge building science principles to ensure the home’s longevity and to meet Passive House Institute standards. Located in Sheffield, Massachusetts, the Berkshire Residence was commissioned by a client who wished to combine elements of his childhood home — a two-story colonial dwelling surrounded by an apple orchard, barn, horse corral and a variety of landscapes — with contemporary and sustainable design. As a result, the house not only takes cues from traditional New England construction with its gabled form and muted, natural palette, but it also follows a contemporary design aesthetic with its clean and minimalist form. Related: Award-winning passive tiny house is insulated to combat New Zealand’s weather “The result is a home where every window and door is a floor-to-ceiling picture frame of the spaces of memory throughout the property,” the architects explained. “The architectural finishes are a sober palette chosen to enhance the effect of these frames against the ever-changing seasonal New England landscape. Moving through the home over the course of the day, one is drawn from the inside spaces to the outside landscape. This is a home for creating new memories and honoring old ones.” Although the Berkshire Residence is not Passive House certified, the house follows Passive House Institute standards with its focus on energy efficiency and a small carbon footprint. Materials were also sourced regionally and selected for durability. Field stones and boulders, for instance, were salvaged onsite and from local construction sites to create landscape retaining walls. The airtight home and its energy-saving systems make Berkshire Residence net-zero-ready ; the homeowners can reach energy self-sufficiency with the addition of a small, ground-mounted solar array.  + Of Possible Photography by Justina via Of Possible

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