Squirrel Park turns shipping containers into affordable housing units

November 25, 2019 by  
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In recent years, shipping container architecture has been moving forward as a real-world solution for affordable housing. What’s even more impressive is that savvy architects around the globe are finding new ways to create inexpensive, practical living spaces without sacrificing comfort and style. London-based firm Allford Hall Monaghan Morris has done just that with Squirrel Park, a shipping-container housing development in Oklahoma City that combines the best of green building with sophisticated design. The large shipping container complex contains four two-bedroom homes built on a 27,000-square-foot plot of land. The firm used 16 reclaimed steel shipping containers to construct the four homes, which were built on a tight budget of $1.1 million. Related: Striking apartment complex is made of 48 raw shipping containers The individual units feature two containers on the ground floor that house the living room, kitchen and dining areas. Two more containers, for the home’s two bedrooms, were cantilevered over the ground floor to create a sheltered porch below and a first-floor balcony for the master bedroom. Keeping Oklahoma’s extremely hot and humid climate in mind, the team painted the exterior of the shipping containers white to reduce solar heat gain and added mirrored strips to reflect the sun’s glare. The containers were also cut to make way for large windows that provide natural light and air ventilation. The interiors are light and airy to give the living spaces a modern feel. An extremely tight exterior envelope and high degree of insulation will keep the homes energy-efficient and at stable interior temperatures year-round. Residents will be able to enjoy a number of extra amenities, such as the spacious front porches with porch swings, which lend a dose of traditional charm to the otherwise modern structures. Working around the local landscape and weather conditions, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris elevated the houses off the landscape on pile footings to allow for optimal surface draining. The firm also planted the surrounding landscape with specific greenery to catch and absorb rainwater runoff. Because Oklahoma is in the middle of Tornado Alley, the container homes were reinforced to be as resilient as possible by welding steel tubes into plates in the foundations. There is also an eight-person tornado shelter built underground. In addition to its many sustainable features , the project will also help people who are struggling to get back on their feet. The owner of the property, who also plans to live onsite, runs a local restaurant that often hires individuals who have been incarcerated and strives to give back to the local community. As such, the homes will be made available to residents for “competitive market rates.” + Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Via Dezeen Photography by Timothy Soar via Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

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Squirrel Park turns shipping containers into affordable housing units

Building homes that fight against climate change

November 21, 2019 by  
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Even with concerted efforts to curb climate change, it’s clear we are already living through the effects of a warming world. As such, it’s time to get serious about where and how we build our homes to keep our families safe while also lessening our impact on the planet. From incorporating renewable energy and ethical labor practices to reducing waste and designing for resilience, B Corp-certified home builder Deltec Homes is exemplifying just how to design and build homes that keep your family and Mother Earth safe and secure for generations to come. Building for resilience With hurricanes intensifying around the world, resilient design is becoming more and more important as the climate crisis worsens. As such, it is important to design homes that can stand strong against these natural disasters. Deltec Homes keeps disaster-proofing at the forefront of its designs. For example, the company has homes that feature a unique, eye-catching panoramic layout. Deltec Homes has built structures that have withstood some of the most intense storms in recent years, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Michael and Dorian. The rounded design ensures that wind pressure doesn’t build up on a traditionally flat side of the home, which can collapse the walls. Instead, the pressure is dispersed around the structure. Additionally, Deltec Homes uses reinforced windows with impact glass to help keep the wind and water from breaking the windows and entering the building. The team also uses a special grade of lumber that is twice as strong as traditional lumber to boost resiliency. “We build what we believe to be the strongest wood homes on the planet, as evidenced by thousands of homes in the path of these major hurricanes that performed incredibly well,” said Steve Linton, president of Deltec Homes. Linton and the company are well aware that hurricanes are becoming more damaging, but Deltec Homes is continuously improving the strength of its homes. “We are seeing hurricanes hitting really high wind speeds. After Hurricane Dorian, we sat with our engineering team and said, ‘We know we can withstand 185 mph. What happens when these storms are 200 to 250 mph?’ We are continuing to innovate the system to stand up to the next generation of storms, whatever that turns out to be.” Following the Deltec Way for minimal impact Deltec Homes is the first prefabricated home builder to earn B Corp-certification , meaning it meets strict standards for ethics and sustainability. In an industry notorious for mass amounts of waste, the company is focused on lessening the impact that our homes tend to have on the planet. “Everything we build is with 100 percent renewable energy,” Linton said. “In 2007, we had, at the time, the largest solar array in North Carolina. We are proud to produce homes with low environmental footprints. Deltec is  not a company with a single-minded focus on profit; we want to solve social and environmental challenges. This is used as a way to gain clarity on our purpose, thinking of that purpose beyond financial. It’s a kind of concept that in order to be the best in the world, you also have to be the best for the world.” As such, renewable energy is important to the Deltec Way. Every prefabricated home is constructed through 100 percent renewable energy and is made almost entirely with local, U.S. building materials. The company also continuously works to reduce its own energy consumption while helping homeowners reduce theirs as well, with homes that exceed the energy code by at least 30 percent. Construction is a wasteful practice as we know, but it doesn’t have to be. Prefabrication is one of the top ways to reduce waste in homebuilding, not to mention it leads to faster building times — this way, your family can move into your dream home in no time. Deltec Homes’ prefabrication building techniques actually divert more than 80 percent of construction waste from our landfills, leaving the planet a cleaner place. Having proved that building for a better planet is possible, Deltec notes that its vision is to change the way the world builds. “We’ve been doing this for over 50 years. It’s hard for this industry to adapt to the changing world, but it’s crucial for future generations that we rise to the challenge of standing up to climate change,” Linton said. Reducing energy usage and choosing renewable energy sources One of the biggest impacts on the climate is energy usage. Relying on fossil fuels to power, heat and cool a home can quickly increase your family’s carbon footprint and drain the planet of its resources. Unfortunately, this means future generations will suffer the consequences. But if you are looking to build a sustainable home, Deltec Homes will work with you to design and build one that will last your family for years to come without sacrificing planetary health. Each Deltec home is, on average, 55 percent more energy efficient than traditional homes . This is in part to stringent airtightness, which prevents harsh winds (both hot and cold air, depending on the season) from entering the structure. Deltec Homes boasts structures that are three to five times more airtight than traditional new construction. Similarly, Deltec Homes emphasizes passive design, which means you won’t need to rely much on the furnace or the air conditioner. Instead, your home will naturally maintain a comfortable temperature year-round. If you want to further future-proof your home, you can also consult with Deltec Homes regarding renewable energy systems, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, LEED Certification and even the Zero Energy Ready Home program , which meets energy efficiency, water use reduction and indoor air quality goals. Deltec Homes works with each client personally to help them meet their sustainability goals and even encourage them to do more in giving back to the planet. “We have a dedicated sustainability manager who spends a large part of her time listening to customer goals and also offering suggestions on the latest tech to achieve those goals,” Linton explained. The team speaks with clients about how to “build a high-performance home and put renewable energy in today, or design to add [renewable energy] 5 years from now.” According to Linton, they use this consulting to get clients to think about the future and how to make their homes continue to fight against climate change. “What we try to do when working with a customer is to encourage them to think about their home in the future and for it to perform in a way that makes a difference, from reducing energy use and carbon to withstanding storms. We want to help people prioritize what they want to do in their home, so that together, we can change the way the world builds.” To learn more about Deltec Homes, you can schedule a call, attend an event or receive a free informational magazine here . + Deltec Homes Images via Deltec Homes

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Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

November 1, 2019 by  
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The village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin hasn’t changed much since Harold Friestad was a kid, he told me as we walked through Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (KNC). Now almost 80 and the conservancy’s chairman, Friestad is proud of being a factor in stunting the small town’s growth. He was president when the village board bought 231 acres of lakefront property in 1989 to create KNC. “What I want on my tombstone,” he said as our sneakers sank into the wetlands , “is, ‘Because of Harold, there will never be a stoplight in Williams Bay.’” Nature conservancy history The nature conservancy sits against Geneva Lake , long a summer playground for rich Chicagoans . Before that, it was home of the Potawatomi people. The name Kishwauketoe comes from a Potawatomi word meaning “lake of the sparkling water.” The current conservancy land was once a rail yard. But when the train was decommissioned, developers swooped in, wanting to build hotels, golf courses and shopping centers. Area residents wished to stop the developers and keep Williams Bay small and quiet. The Williams Bay Village Board, led by Friestad, negotiated a price of $1.575 million for the 231-acre parcel. “People knew I was a businessman,” said Friestad, who worked for Lake Geneva Cruise Line for 50 years, retiring as general manager in 2015. “They didn’t know I love nature so much.” Even though he got an excellent price — a 10-acre estate could now cost $15 million — Friestad said, “A lot of people didn’t like the idea of me spending all that money to buy it.” But now people value the conservancy, and some of Williams Bay’s 2,500 residents even bought their homes in the village so they could walk the wetland trails every day. “It’s almost sacred now,” Friestad said. “I don’t know how you put a value on it. But it’s priceless to me, and it’s priceless to many, many people.” Donations, volunteer hours, summer interns and a few part-time workers power the conservancy, which has never received tax dollars. During my weekday visit, one woman was chainsawing dead branches, a couple of folks were repairing a boardwalk and a controlled burn was going on in the distance. In the conservancy’s nearly 30-year run, the crew has restored more than 65 acres of prairie, planted a 15-acre arboretum, created a spawning area for lake trout, installed boardwalks over the wettest wetlands, cleared invasive species and constructed a four-story viewing tower. They’ve also built and continue to maintain more than 4 miles of trails. Visiting the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy On the October day I visited, the conservancy was quiet. I saw only a half-dozen other walkers during the hour or two I was there. Things are busier in summer, Friestad said, when up to 500 people may visit in a day. Non-human residents include deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Some years, beavers move in. The conservancy has a public education campaign about the benefits of beavers, not the most-loved local animal. Reptile-wise, the conservancy is home to garter snakes and the rare Blanding’s turtle, which has a striking yellow throat. People can walk through the area on their own 365 days a year. The conservancy also offers many guided walks, some focusing on particular aspects, such as history, geology, botany or trees . Those who want to get dirt under their nails can join volunteer workdays and autumn seed harvesting. Every summer, the conservancy hosts a 5K run/walk. I’d recommend the Friday morning walk, which Friestad usually leads. Trail cams Kishwauketoe participates in the statewide Snapshot Wisconsin program, a network of trail cameras. The project provides information for wildlife managers and lets citizen scientists get involved in monitoring Wisconsin’s natural resources. Jim Killian, KNC board member, Wisconsin master naturalist program instructor and coauthor of an upcoming book on the conservancy , learned about Snapshot Wisconsin while attending a master naturalist conference in March 2018. “I immediately sought permission from the Wisconsin DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to host a wildlife trail camera for the Wisconsin Snapshot Wisconsin in KNC,” Killian said. “Because of the location and size of KNC, I learned that I qualified to host two trail cameras in our conservancy. While the program participation requirements are quite stringent, I thoroughly enjoy this volunteer work.” The cameras work with a motion sensor. “At night and in low light, the cameras utilize an infrared flash to capture images,” Killian said. “That is why they appear as black and white. One camera is located on the edge of a small open field/prairie area, while the other is located on the edge of a very dense, wooded area and on the bank of a small stream, which is a popular watering spot for wildlife of many varieties. This stream remains as a source of open water all year, including in the midst of a very cold winter.” Killian services each trail camera at least once every three months to replace the memory card and batteries and to upload the captured images to the Wisconsin DNR. The DNR places the images on a website and invites the public to help classify them. Of the thousands of images captured at KNC so far, Killian said deer are No. 1, followed by squirrels, turkeys , coyotes, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, redtail foxes, woodchucks, blue jays, cardinals, sandhill crane, northern flickers and mink. Do the trail cams reveal any surprises? “The humor of wildlife,” he said. “I would have never suspected that animals do the funniest things, including selfies, when they know or sense that their image is being captured by a camera. This is particularly true for deer.” KNC is open year-round. If you’re looking for immense peace and quiet, visit in winter … and bring your cross-country skis . + Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Images via Harold Friestad / Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin DNR Snapshot Wisconsin (trail cam imagery) and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Two sustainable rental units dressed in reclaimed brick are self-sustaining through solar power

September 23, 2019 by  
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Melbourne-based firm Breathe Architecture has brought a bit of California flair to a Melbourne suburb. Using the empty space behind two existing Cali-style bungalows, the designers have managed to create two single, light-filled dwellings enveloped in reclaimed brick facades. The two rental properties were designed to offer the area environmentally sustainable and affordable rental housing that homogenizes with the local vernacular. Located in the area of Glen Iris, the Bardolph Garden House was designed as a building comprised of two rental units that blend in with the neighborhood aesthetic and each other. The simple, brick-clad volumes with pitched roofs emit a classic, traditional look while concealing dual contemporary interiors. Related: This home made of broken bricks features a series of rolling green roofs The two units are similar in size, both measuring just over 2,000 square feet. The entrances to the homes are through a covered courtyard and a landscaped garden area. The exterior spaces remain private thanks to several brick screens that also let natural breezes flow into these outdoor areas. When designing the layout of the two properties, the firm was dedicated to creating two energy-efficient units. As such, the project incorporated a number of passive features to reduce the homes’ energy needs. In addition to the greenery-filled pocket gardens that help insulate the properties, the gabled roofs and external steel awnings help maximize northern solar gain during the winter and minimize it during the summer months. Thanks to the region’s pleasant temperatures, the bright living spaces are incredibly welcoming. Vaulted ceilings add more volume to the interior, and an abundance of windows draw in plenty of natural light. The interior design, which features furnishings by StyleCraft and textiles by Armadillo & Co , is bright and airy with a neutral color palette that enhances the natural materials. Concrete flooring and white walls contrast nicely with the timber accents found throughout the living spaces. Additionally, the interior boasts a number of reclaimed materials, such as a repurposed timber bench tops and terrazzo tiles. Carefully designed to maximize thermal performance, the two units are completely self-sustaining. Their energy is supplied through a solar PV array on the roof, and a sustainable heat pump system supplies hot water. A rainwater collection system was also installed so that gray water could be collected and stored on-site for reuse. + Breathe Architecture Via ArchDaily Photography by Tom Ross via Breathe Architecture

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Two sustainable rental units dressed in reclaimed brick are self-sustaining through solar power

Tesla solar panels now available to rent

August 23, 2019 by  
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If you’re looking to cut your electric bill by installing solar panels but are looking for an affordable option, Tesla may have the answer– rent them. Hoping to offer homeowners a better money-saving option by renting the streamlined panels, Tesla offers renters monthly payments, no installation costs, no long-term contracts and the ability to cancel monthly rental payments anytime. However, the company will charge a $1,500 fee to remove the system from your roof and return it to its original condition. Related: Chattanooga becomes first 100% solar-powered airport in US If customers were to sell their homes, Tesla offers a convenient contract transfer option that can be set up under the home’s new owner. The solar panel rental program is currently available to rent in six states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. The Tesla panels come in three sizes starting at a small 3.8 kilowatt solar panel at $50 per month which generates an average of 10 to 14 kilowatt hours of energy per day; a medium 7.6 kWh for $100 per month, generates between 19 to 28kWh per day; or the large 11.4kWh option for $150 per month producing 29 to 41kWh per day. Keep in mind that the average U.S. household uses about 28 kilowatt hours of electricity per day While Tesla expects the solar panel renting to be a big hit, energy experts say the company wants to give customers the chance to rent panels as way to boost its struggling solar business. Earlier this year the company reportedly cut its solar panel prices and also allowed customers to purchase residential systems in increments. +Tesla.com Via Yale Environment 360 Image via Tesla

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The pros and cons of electromobility

July 17, 2019 by  
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To those of us who concentrate on sustainability and green options for travel, electromobility appears to be a godsend — but the increasingly popular electromobility lifestyle still holds good and bad traits. Thankfully, as the market continues to grow, electric vehicles such as e-bikes and scooters only continue to improve since they were first introduced, and electric cars continue to get more and more sophisticated and efficient each year. While there are obvious benefits to using or even owning one of these trendy vehicles, the electromobility industry still has some kinks to work out. Here are the pros and cons to consider before embracing electromobility. Pro: less utilization of fossil fuels Though the extraction of different kinds of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) present different levels and types of impact on the environment, they all have one thing in common: emitting harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned. These pollutants can include sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that contribute to acid rain, smog and soot. While the burning of fossil fuels poses serious issues, it doesn’t stop there. The only ways to extract these fossil fuels from the Earth is by mining or drilling, and both have the potential to generate significant air and water pollution , inflict serious health issues to workers or the local community and alter ecosystems. Offshore drilling poses risks of oil spills that can absolutely devastate ocean life. As the transportation sector as a whole relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels, it is responsible for a majority of the hidden environmental costs that the fossil fuel industry implements on the Earth. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy , “In general, EVs produce fewer emissions that contribute to climate change and smog than conventional vehicles … EVs typically produce fewer life cycle emissions [emissions from vehicles over the course of its life from production to disposal] than conventional vehicles, because most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning gasoline or diesel.” Con: batteries Replacing harmful fossil fuels with electric vehicle batteries comes at a cost. Producing these large lithium batteries requires natural resources from lithium and nickel mines, which can emit pollutants such as sulfur dioxide into the air and pose health risks to workers. Most batteries, especially in smaller EVs like scooters and e-bikes, have a limited lifespan. After disposal, batteries can end up in landfills to release toxins into the environment or in the ocean to harm sea life. Related: We love electric scooters — but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment? Pro: improved air quality The potential to dramatically improve air quality is arguably the biggest draw for electromobility from an environmental perspective. The lack of exhaust systems in electric vehicles means less carbon dioxide emissions and less greenhouse gas buildup in our atmosphere. According to the U.N. , air pollution causes 1 in 9 deaths around the world and, “Transport contributes approximately one quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, which is set to reach one-third, growing faster than any other sector.” The majority of car growth in the world is expected to take place in developing countries, most of which don’t have any type of vehicle emissions standards or programs incentivizing low-emission transportation. U.N. Environment is working to sponsor 50 countries and cities around the world to introduce electric cars and electric methods of public transportation. Con: energy use Even though electric vehicles don’t emit as much carbon dioxide, the batteries still need to be recharged regularly. As the demand for electric modes of transportation grows, so does the need for energy — and not all energy comes from renewable sources. For this reason, many owners of electric cars opt to install solar panels onto their homes to charge the vehicles from inside their garages at a much lower cost both financially and to the environment. Pro: decreased expenses Just the knowledge alone that their vehicle is better for the environment is enough for some consumers when it comes to purchasing an electric car, scooter or bike, but the reasons to make the investment into electromobility go far beyond peace of mind. A 2018 study from the University of Michigan revealed that in no U.S. state is it cheaper to use gasoline than electricity. Operating an EV in the United States, according to the study, was $485 per year, while the cost for operating a gas-powered car was $1,117. That means on average, gasoline-powered vehicles cost twice as much as electric ones. Because EVs don’t require oil either, oil changes aren’t necessary, meaning maintenance time and cost is significantly reduced as well. If all that still doesn’t convince you, some EV owners are eligible for a tax break as high as $7,500 depending on the individual tax situation and type of vehicle. The EPA website can help you estimate just how much money you could save by making the switch. Images via Airwheel , Trinity eRoller , RJA1988 and Markus Roider

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7 tips for decorating a tiny home

July 8, 2019 by  
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Tiny homes mean less room for items of all kinds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add decor that fits your personality and lifestyle. Decor includes furniture but also those little touches that gel your interior design style, whether that be eclectic, zen or cultural. With a few tips in mind, you’ll be able to pull together a look while adding function and flair. Pick a theme Your tiny home doesn’t have to fall into one category of interior design, but take the time to think about what makes you happy. Do you want to be surrounded by images of waterfalls or native objects from your travels? Is it more important to have a vase of flowers, a jar of paint brushes or a fruit bowl? The easiest way to funnel down the myriad decor options you face is to choose a theme of sorts. Select certain colors, fabrics or styles that appeal to that theme, at least in a general way. If you’re aiming for a beach-y feel, incorporate shells, sand and the natural tans and blues of the coastline. If southwestern appeal is your thing, opt for cacti, rock art and tribal prints. For a retro vibe, add in some old records, classic small appliances and a vinyl cover for the sofa. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? Think multipurpose With exceedingly limited space, every item in a tiny home should serve dual functions — especially those related to decor . There are endless ways to achieve this goal, so aim to source decor items that serve multiple functions. For example, that adorable small trunk you just have to have for the bookcase can hold candles, office supplies, paperwork, medicine or any number of other needed household items. Any bench, bed or table should allow for storage, too, so while it’s functional on its own as furniture, it also doubles as a storage cabinet. Be selective If you’ve begun your tiny living lifestyle, you’ve already whittled down the kitchen accessories, clothing options and bathroom clutter. The same process applies to decor. Be selective so that each item you choose has the impact you want without adding clutter. Don’t keep any items out of guilt, say those you feel obligated to keep because it was a family heirloom or a gift. Items kept out of guilt will not bring joy to your space. Let it go, and replace it with an item that brings positive feelings of contentment, satisfaction or inspiration. Choose versatile pieces With minimalism and tiny living becoming increasingly more popular, modern designs aim to offer two or more products in one. Look for wall art or tapestries that have a different design on each side. This offers an easy way to change your decor by simply flipping it over. For the kitchen, tile art in a frame can be swapped out with different tiles to freshen the look or welcome a new season. You can even use this idea at the front door with rubber mats that allow you to switch out the carpet in the center to accommodate different holidays without replacing the mat altogether. Go big In a small space, one large item creates a cleaner look than several smaller items grouped together. Plus, that larger ottoman on the floor or stainless steel canister on the counter can provide a storage option that small items cannot. This is an idea that also allows you to display larger items that you may not have cupboard space for, such as a colorful water pitcher or an appealing serving platter on a stand. Embrace the light Tiny spaces can mean less windows and natural light . Take advantage of the windows you do have by making sure the light isn’t blocked out by furniture or bulky window coverings. Counterbalance the dark with light colors throughout your decor theme. From sand to white walls to soft textiles, create a foundation of neutral colors for a brightening effect on the entire space. You can fulfill your desire for color with a sprinkle here and there throughout the home. Your color splashes will have a bigger impact against a muted background than in a bold space. While we’re on the topic of light, make sure to add plenty of lighting options to your decor, too. LED strip lighting on stairs and ladders adds a cozy touch and a safety measure. Task lighting in the kitchen and bathroom will aid in your daily activities, and efficient overhead lighting will provide a general glow to the home. Use wall space While attempting to find adequate storage in your tiny space, remember the walls go all the way to the ceiling. Use that vertical space to your advantage, but make sure you keep it from becoming overly cluttered. Attach hooks for your more attractive shopping bags, umbrellas, canes and coats. Add shelving and line it with attractive baskets that discreetly hide hats, gloves and scarves. Also use wall space to mount hanging plants so that you don’t have to rely on the limited surfaces available in the living area. Save the kitchen counter and tables for daily activities instead of decor. Mount canning jars filled with herbs to the wall, and provide a hanger for a hot pad and kitchen towel. Tiny living doesn’t have to equal tiny decor. In fact, streamlining your selections with a focus on the overall design can easily provide a homier feel than a large house crammed with clutter. Images via B&C Productions , Tiny Home Builders , Perch & Nest , Modern Tiny Living , A Tiny House Resort , Mint Tiny Homes , Borealis Tiny Homes and Tiny Heirloom

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A vacant lot in New Orleans is converted into resilient and affordable housing for war veterans

July 2, 2019 by  
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New Orleans-based firm Office of Jonathan Tate has unveiled a modern residential complex for combat veterans and their families. Located in the Gentilly district of the city, the Bastion Community is comprised of 29 two-unit apartment buildings laid out specifically in a way to foster social interaction. Additionally, considering the area’s history for severe flooding, the development was constructed with several resilient features . Located on a formerly vacant lot that spans 6.4 acres, the Bastion Community is now a vibrant residential complex comprising 29 apartment buildings, each containing two units. Within the development, there are various one-, two- or three-bedroom options, ranging from 720 square feet to 1,200 square feet. Related: BIG completes low-income “Homes for All” project in Copenhagen Already known locally for creating modern but affordable housing complexes, the architects specifically designed the Bastion Community to be a “protected but inclusive and thriving live-work environment” for post-9/11 combat veterans and their families. The layout of the homes as well as the on-site community and wellness center were part of a strategy to create a strong sense of community for those who often feel isolated. The homes are uniform in their design, which includes pitched roofs, pale exterior tones and wooden fencing. All units were built to be adapted to be ADA accessible . Considering the location has a long history of flooding , resiliency was at the forefront of the design. All of the structures are elevated off the landscape via concrete piers to allow flood waters to flow freely under the buildings without causing harm. Additionally, landscaping and building strategies for filtering, storing and returning water to the soil were also incorporated into the design. In addition to their resiliency, the apartments were designed to be sustainable and durable for years to come. Tight insulation and high-performance HVAC equipment were used to cut energy costs, and there are tentative plans to install solar panels in the future. Each unit has high vaulted ceilings and operable windows to allow for natural air ventilation. + Office of Jonathan Tate Via Dezeen Photography by William Crocker and aerial photography by Jackson Hill

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A vacant lot in New Orleans is converted into resilient and affordable housing for war veterans

The Akshar Foundation is creating sustainable schools to teach children important life skills

May 24, 2019 by  
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Based in Assam, India, the Akshar Foundation is on a mission to create a new type of sustainable school with its unique education model. The education reform initiative strives to create government schools that are eco-friendly, low-cost and centered in building the most successful environment for children to learn and grow. At the forefront of the school’s positive environmental impact is its recycling model. Instead of tuition, students pay “plastic school fees” by bringing in a minimum of 25 pieces of plastic from their homes or communities each week. Most of these plastic items are non-recyclable and would otherwise be destined for a landfill. Instead, the school staff and students find creative ways to reuse the plastic throughout the campus. While India doesn’t have nearly as much plastic use per capita compared to the United States, the country’s massive population (and the fact that 40 percent of plastic waste is neither collected nor recycled) means that India still produces enough plastic to pollute its oceans and rivers substantially. Luckily, thanks to the country’s recent bans on single-use plastics, along with innovative organizations like the Akshar Foundation, India is beginning to fight back against plastic pollution. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 Clean plastic waste is collected by the children, who can take items that would otherwise be thrown out from their own homes or collect plastic from around their communities. The material is then separated and cleaned, and the plastic bottles are compacted with other plastic materials, such as plastic bags and packets, to create a “brick.” These “eco-bricks” are used to construct things for the school, everything from toilets to flower planters, to save money and teach the students important vocational skills. The kids learn how to make the bricks, mix the cement and learn the construction skills necessary to build with and reuse recycled materials. In addition to the recycling program and regular curriculum, students are trained in sustainable subjects such as gardening , carpentry and solar tech. The foundation plans to eventually implement irrigation, electronics and lighting into the educational program to supplement the Akshar Landscaping Enterprise as well. Through this program, students are taught to run a profitable business in the landscaping industry and how to beautify public spaces, all while connecting with nature. India accounts for over one-third of the world’s rabies-related deaths, most of which are spread by the large number of stray dogs that live on the country’s streets. The school runs a campus animal shelter in order to bring awareness to the street animal crisis. The students and faculty sheltered, cared for and found homes for 20 dogs in the first year of the program. The children play a part in the medical care for the dogs, as well as caring for them while they are recovering from medical procedures before finding them forever homes. Students are able to learn basic medical skills thanks to this program. Akshar schools enable a “meta-teaching” program so that each student has access to personalized, private tutoring to supplement regular lessons. Each younger child is mentored by an older student who has been trained to tutor, all while being guided by an adult teacher. Related: Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably Children in India are often motivated to quit school out of pressure to earn an income and help their families, resulting in about 47 million students dropping out of school by the 10th grade throughout the country. Akshar has this covered, too. The foundation pays students to work part-time at the school to supplement their learning, with wages based on academic level and teaching skill (meaning students are motivated to improve grades even more). With sponsorship from the Motivation for Excellence Nalanda Project , Akshar students have access to the latest technology to aid in their learning. Student teachers are able to utilize tech such as tablets to add an extra resource to tutoring and mentoring. Younger students are therefore able to familiarize themselves with technology and be taught by a peer who is closer to them in age in addition to an adult teacher. All students take part in the secondary curriculum that combines abstract learning with practical life skills. Some examples include pairing carpentry with mathematics, solar technology with physics, embroidery with economics, teaching with psychology, recycling with ecology and landscaping with biology. Through these inventive school models, the Akshar Foundation hopes to arm its students with skills that will help them in all aspects of life. In addition to gaining experience in the usual subjects of math and science, children learn empathy, responsibility, sustainability and cooperation. The flagship 100-student school, Akshar Forum, serves as a “testing ground” for teaching methods that will eventually spread to more and more schools throughout the country in the coming years. By implementing a fellowship program, government schools will have the chance to learn Akshar’s innovative education design for a period of two years by a trained fellow. Partners for the school include the United Nations, The Education Alliance and the Education Research & Development Foundation. Learn more about the Akshar Foundation by visiting its website . + Akshar Foundation Images via Akshar Foundation

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The Akshar Foundation is creating sustainable schools to teach children important life skills

Labour Party launches solar panel program for 1.75M homes

May 17, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

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Britain’s Labour Party has announced a major new green program, pledging to install solar panels on up to 1.75 million government-subsidized and low-income houses. In what has been called the start of a U.K. version of America’s Green New Deal , the goal of the project is to radically address climate change while creating green jobs. The Labour Party will provide free solar panels to one million government-subsidized homes and offer grants and interest-free loans for panels on up to 750,000 additional low-income homes. The panels will be enough to power the homes, providing residents with free electricity and savings of approximately $150 USD per year. Any additional electricity produced from the panels will return to the national grid, which the party says will become publicly owned by local authorities. The program will also provide nearly 17,000 jobs in the renewable energy  industry. Related: Britain celebrates first week without coal power since 1882 When completed, the 1.75 million solar-powered homes will reduce electricity-related carbon emissions by 7.1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to taking four million cars off the road. Like the Green New Deal, the Labour Party’s green revolution promises to benefit low-income people and spur economic growth. This so-called “just transition” provides democratic access to energy sources at affordable prices as well as support for current employees of carbon-emitting industries to gain skills in green industries like renewable energy and technology . The program is led by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, who said , “By focusing on low-income households, we will reduce fuel poverty and increase support for renewable energy. Social justice and climate justice as one. Environmental destruction and inequality not only can, but must be tackled at the same time.” Critics of the program, however, argue that solar panels on private residences are a distraction from addressing and regulating large-scale carbon polluters . Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Labour Party launches solar panel program for 1.75M homes

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