Two energy-efficient cork homes are elevated off the landscape in northern Spain

February 27, 2019 by  
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Barcelona-based firm López-Rivera Arquitectos has unveiled two beautiful homes tucked into a dense forest in northern Spain. The natural forest, which is comprised of cork and pine trees, inspired the architects to clad both homes in a gorgeous cork facade . The sustainable material helped create an energy-efficient and resilient design that is also raised off the ground to reduce the impact on the landscape. Located in Platfrugell, Catalonia, the two cork houses are located on a rugged landscape, marked by uneven and steep terrain. The challenging topography, as well as the architects’ respect for nature, inspired the design to go vertical. Anchored into a strong base of concrete, the two homes are elevated on cross-laminated timber supports, which were locally-sourced. Related: Solar-powered cork house pursues healthy, sustainable living Both of the homes are entirely clad in two layers of cork to connect the homes into the environment, which is a dense, wooded landscape dominated by the presence of cork trees. The designers also chose the material for its durable and long-lasting features, and for its ability to tightly insulate the homes, conserving energy throughout the year. In fact, the project’s many passive features have earned both of the homes a Class A energy rating. The interior design of the two structures was also based on their natural setting. The wooden walls were left exposed to continue the cabin-the-woods atmosphere. To keep the residents warm and cozy in the cold months, the ceramic-tiled floors are heated through a system of underfloor heating. During the summer months, the adjustable casement wood windows enable almost constant air ventilation  through the interior. For those searing hot days, an adjacent swimming pool is the perfect cool-down spot. With no hallways and rooms of varying sizes, the living spaces were arranged so that there is no clear distinction between them. According to the architects, this was strategic so that the interior spaces would be defined by their relationship to the outdoors. Large open-air decks are at the heart of the design and offer stunning views of the surrounding forest as well as distant views of the sea. + López-Rivera Arquitectos Photos by José Hevia and Juande Jarrillo via López-Rivera Arquitectos

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Two energy-efficient cork homes are elevated off the landscape in northern Spain

Designer creates algae-sourced alternative for plastic packaging

February 27, 2019 by  
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Food packaging has a become a target in the world of sustainability and environmentalism. Walk down the aisle of any supermarket or look in your own shopping cart, and you’re likely to see package after package made from petroleum-based plastic. A few resourceful scientists and engineers have chosen to tackle the problem, including designer Margarita Talep, who has developed an algae-based alternative to plastic. With the short lifecycle of most packaging, Talep wanted to create a material that would stand up to the task of holding food and other products but break down quickly once it hit the waste stream. Related: Nuatan is the bioplastic that could answer the plastic pollution crisis Agar, a gel-like substance sourced from seaweed, is not new to the food world, as it is commonly used as a food thickener. With that understanding, Talep heats the agar to create a polymer and then adds water as a plasticizer and natural dyes for color. To achieve the goal of all-natural ingredients, natural dyes are sourced from fruits and vegetables such as beets, carrots, blueberries and purple cabbage. After the mixture of agar and other ingredients is heated, it is cooled, a process that transforms it into a gel. At this point, the mixture is turned into thin plastic or poured into molds to cool. By adjusting the ingredients, Talep has created a firm material that will mold into shapes, such as the trays that a package of donuts sit in. The technique is versatile enough that it can also create a replacement for plastic bags, like those pasta is sold in. With the overarching goal of replacing single-use , disposable packaging, the algae packaging breaks down naturally within two to three months during warm summer months, depending on the thickness of the material. In the colder winter months, the material still breaks down, but requires a few extra weeks. + Margarita Talep Images via Margarita Talep

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Designer creates algae-sourced alternative for plastic packaging

The sustainable wardrobe: its more accessible than you think

January 29, 2019 by  
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When it comes to making sure our homes are eco-friendly, it is easy to neglect the closet. Your clothes, however, might just be the biggest culprit. All those synthetic fabrics will take over 200 years to fully decompose, and the microfibers often end up in the ocean and in the bellies of sea creatures. The fashion industry produces 20 percent of all wastewater, and the amount of pollutants it emits is the second largest in the world (the first is oil). This is all while generating 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined total from all international flights and maritime shipping. So what can you do to build a more sustainable wardrobe? First and foremost, educate yourself. Before you do anything, learn why you’re doing it. Start out by doing some research to figure out what your biggest priority is. Vegan and cruelty-free? Non-toxic materials? Organic materials? Do you care more about what the clothes are made out of, or who made the clothes? Arming yourself with information makes it easier to make better decisions for yourself and the environment. Support ethical businesses The rise of fast fashion has brought about high demand for cheap, trendy clothing items. The cost of manufacturing these inexpensive clothes has led many factories to turn toward cheap labor and sweatshops in developing countries — often with dangerous work conditions on unlivable wages. When you do purchase clothes, read the label and see where it was made. If you’re not sure about the country, opt for the U.S. and the U.K. where the labor laws are more strict and regulated. Invest in higher quality, eco-friendly fabrics Growing materials for certain fabrics take a heavier toll on the planet, so buying clothes made from natural materials like organic cotton, linen or hemp can help offset the environmental impacts. Not only do certain fabric materials take huge amounts of water to grow, but the chemicals used to rid these crops of pests also seep down into the soil and natural water supply. The upside is that not all crops are grown this way. Organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Hemp is versatile, strong and requires much fewer pesticides or fertilizers to grow. Linen, made from flax, demands less water and energy sources, and it is naturally biodegradable. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Don’t throw clothes away This seems simple enough, but it’s surprising just how many pieces of clothing end up in the trash every year. In 2015, there were 10.5 million tons of textiles in landfills, and many of those were synthetic fibers that don’t decompose. When a favorite piece of clothing gets torn, mend it up rather than tossing it in the trash — you’ll save more money, too! Not a master sewer? Take it to a tailor. If you really want to get rid of something, take it to a donation center or thrift store. Or, try a clothing swap with a friend — you’ll both get new pieces for your wardrobes without anything ending up in the trash can. Related: Eco-friendly options for decluttering waste Shop vintage and thrift When it comes to fashion, choose timeless over trendy. Buy clothes that will work year-round rather than just for a season. Think multi-purposefully. Most importantly, don’t think that being on a budget means limiting yourself to cheap clothes or fast fashion trends. Shop mindfully Stop to ask yourself: do I need this, or do I just want it? There’s a big difference there. If you really need something new for a wedding or special event, buy with purpose. Don’t just go into a store to shop for nothing in particular, or you’ll most definitely end up with something you don’t need. Also, if you buy items that are more versatile, it will actually help you in the long run. You’ll have more outfit choices and less clutter to worry about in your closet. Take good care of the clothes you have Using a lower temperature in your washing is not only less damaging to fabrics, but it’s a win for the environment, too. Heating accounts for 90 percent of the energy used from doing a load of laundry. If you can swing it, skip the dryer altogether and hang-dry your clothes (of course, this works better in a dry, warm climate). You can also try washing your clothes in larger batches, because this will waste less water and electricity. Consider switching to an eco-friendly brand of detergent as well. Keep an eye out for ones that are biodegradable , phosphate-free and made from plant-derived ingredients. The better shape your clothes are in, the longer they will last. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners DIY Here’s the good news: there are more ways to express your personal style than buying clothes. Learn to make your own accessories or bags; it might turn into a fun new hobby or a skill you never knew you had! Rather than throwing old clothes away, repurpose them into something new. Old T-shirts make great dusting rags, and soft materials like cotton can be made into pillowcases or quilts. Check out these great ideas for recycling old clothes from DIY for Life. Images via Charles Etoroma , MNZ , Prudence Earl , Raw Pixel , Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke , Egle and Shutterstock

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The sustainable wardrobe: its more accessible than you think

This luxurious tiny home is powered by Southern Californian sunshine

January 15, 2019 by  
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Who says a tiny house can’t be luxurious? Certainly not David Latimer and Taylor Mallon of New Frontier Tiny Homes, designers of this comfortable and alluring solar-powered tiny home. The contemporary farmhouse style of the Orchid House allows for off-grid living without sacrificing comfort, and it is entirely powered by solar energy. Though it was built in Nashville, the Orchid House currently resides on an undeveloped piece of property in Southern California . The owner is an LA-based artist who decided a tiny house was the best option for the remote space. The structure is built on wheels, so it can be moved easily for relocation or emergencies (like wildfires, from which it recently had to be saved). Related: Breathtakingly beautiful tiny home is surprisingly luxurious inside The structure is wholly powered by the famous Southern Californian sunshine. Both the siding and the roof of the house are made of the same dimensional cedar. The designer used an intricate process to give the roof a floating appearance inspired by Scandinavian architecture . The inside walls and ceiling of this beautiful tiny home are made of maple plywood, except for inside the bathroom, which is made entirely of tile and mirrors. The floor is solid oak and all the furniture is walnut. New Frontier Tiny Homes custom-built all of the furniture except for the kitchen table and chairs, which are from West Elm. A combination of floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights brings  natural light into the entire dwelling. A garage door allows for the opening up of the entire wall as well, so there’s a sense of openness between the interior and the natural environment outside. The designers’ love of clean lines inspired the storage, which is completely hidden. The open-floor plan makes room for a guest area, and the loft has space for a lavish king-sized bed. The restroom features a full-sized shower and “The Rolls Royce of non-flushable toilets ,” according to the designers. The incinerator toilet ensures there are no pesky sewer or septic systems for the property, making it both uncomplicated and environmentally friendly. As gorgeous as this home looks during the day, it is just as breathtaking at night. Inspired by a total solar eclipse witnessed in 2017, the designers used valence LED lighting strips to create a lovely glowing effect around the light fixtures and front porch. Each lighting strip can be dimmed and has a separate switch. + New Frontier Tiny Homes Via Dwell Photography by StudioBuell Photography via New Frontier Tiny Homes

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This luxurious tiny home is powered by Southern Californian sunshine

California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses

December 12, 2018 by  
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The California Building Standards Commission has given its final approval to a new housing rule that is the first of its kind in the United States. Starting in 2020, the commission is requiring that all new homes built in the state include solar panels. “These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said commissioner Kent Sasaki. “[It’s] the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels .” Related: California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms In addition to the solar panel requirement, the new standard also includes an incentive for homeowners to add a high-capacity battery to their electrical system to store the sun’s energy. The rule does have an exemption for homes that are built in locations that are often in the shade. California has a history of setting trends across the country, and this new rule is the next step in the state’s progressive environmental policy. The state has a goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions and drawing all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. The California Energy Commission first endorsed the solar panel rule back in May as part of California’s Green Building Standards Code. This past week, the Building Standards Commission added the requirement with a unanimous vote. Drew Bohan, executive director of the energy commission, said that the homes built under the new rule should use about 50 percent less energy compared to previous standards. The new solar power requirement is for single-family homes and multi-family buildings up to three stories high. It will add about $10,000 to the upfront cost of a home, but the lower electricity bills should balance that out over time. Bohan said that over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a homeowner should save about $19,000. Homeowners will have the option of buying the panels outright, leasing them or taking part in a power purchase agreement with the home builder. Via NPR Image via Ulleo

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California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses

Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in

December 12, 2018 by  
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Nestled in the Laurentian Mountains about a hundred kilometers from Montreal is TRIPTYCH, a crisp and contemporary home that blurs the boundaries of indoor and outdoor living. Designed by Montreal-based architecture firm yh2 , the residence was built in the image of three interconnected pavilions fitted out in a natural material palette as well as full-height glazing to pull the forested landscape indoors. Envisioned as a “theatrical stage for the surrounding nature,” the sculptural abode was carefully situated and angled for optimized views accentuated by the roofs that slope upwards in three directions. Constructed over the span of two years in Wentworth-Nord, Quebec, TRIPTYCH includes 2,500 square feet of living space spread out across two floors. The main living spaces—comprising an open-plan kitchen, dining room, and living room—are centrally located on the first floor in addition to an office, spacious outdoor terrace, and a guest suite located in the west wing. The master bedroom, on the other hand, is found on the ground floor’s east wing beneath the living room and is separated from the interior parking garage on the east end by centrally located storage and utility rooms. “The architects designed this building with a classical triptych in mind,” explains the firm in their project statement. “It features a central piece, with direct views of Lac St-Cyr, and two side pavilions meant to be in more intimate contact with the nearby trees. The project is about the idea of fragmentation; it evolved from the desire to integrate three discrete shapes among existing trees on naturally sloping grounds.” The three pavilions are connected with two glassed-in passageways. Related: Decrepit lumberjack shack transformed into a beautiful retreat with minimal site impact Natural materials were predominately used in construction. Eastern cedar planks clad the exterior facade and continue into the entrance area to blur the line between the indoors and out. The interior walls and ceiling are mainly gypsum board or white cedar while the floors are white oak or polished concrete. Black aluminum casings on the wide patio doors and windows provide a pop of contrast against the light-colored wood. + yh2 Photo credit: Maxime Brouillet

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Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in

Solar-powered modular retreat design in Melbourne inspired by the local landscape

December 12, 2018 by  
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A family’s wish to spend time in a self-sufficient weekend home has resulted in a beautiful modular design. Located just southeast of Melbourne, the solar-powered Fish Creek Home is a prefab design, comprised of two Archiblox modules that boast various sustainable features that make the home completely energy efficient. The large home, which is 1,371 square feet, is clad in corrugated Colorbond in a slate grey color. A wooden pergola and wrap-around deck are made out of natural timber panels . Built to reduce impact on the landscape, the interior space is comprised of just two elongated modules, the main living area and the bedrooms. The sleeping module was oriented to the northwest to protect it from the wind. Strategic skylights allow for stunning night sky views. Butting up to a lush green forest, this part of the home is calm and quiet, the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a soak in the private outdoor bathtub that sits on the deck. Related: Australia’s first carbon-positive prefab house produces more energy than it consumes The living module was orientated to the North to make the most out of the amazing sea views. Multiple floor-to-ceiling glass facades and windows flood the interior living space with natural light . A pair of large sliding doors open up to a wrap around deck, creating a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. The two spaces are connected by sliding doors that can close to provide a noise barrier between the rooms. Additionally, closing the wall allows the home to minimize heat loss in the wintertime. The home’s beautiful design is not only pleasing to the eye, but also hides a powerhouse system of sustainability . The home runs on a rooftop solar power array. Operable windows and doors throughout the home provide optimal cross ventilation while a wood-burning fireplace keeps the energy use down in wintertime. Additionally, the home was installed with a rainwater collection system to reduce water waste. The landscaping around the home was left in its natural state, with expansive stretches of greenery that lead out to the sea. The homeowners plan to use this space to create a permaculture edible garden so that their home is 100 percent sustainable. + Archiblox Via Dwell Images via Archiblox

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Solar-powered modular retreat design in Melbourne inspired by the local landscape

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family

December 11, 2018 by  
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When it comes to family, we want to offer the best of the best. The smartest way to gift high-quality gifts to your loved ones is by shopping sustainably. Eco-friendly products (and experiences) are made with love and care for people and the planet. Here are some of our top picks for everyone in your family. For mom: Eco-friendly yoga mats Mom deserves some ‘me’ time. Whether she is an avid yogi or is just getting started, this plant-based yoga mat is made with cork . It’s also free of harsh chemicals, antibacterial and odor-free. The cork is sustainable and helps provide a stronger grip. Hobby classes Does your mom love to cook? Maybe she could spend hours making pottery , or perhaps she enjoys painting. No matter her preferences, buy a pass or certificate for classes that interest her. This is a thoughtful gift of experience, which will leave her with lovely memories for years to come. Sweaters Who doesn’t love a snuggly sweater? We love the various options from Patagonia — the company is a champion for the environment, plus their products are built to last whether Mom likes to sit on the couch in her sweater or explore the great outdoors. Sustainable jewelry Add a little extra bling to your mom’s envy-inducing jewelry box with eco-friendly, ethical accessories. There are many beautiful, unique options from 31Bits , which works with women artisans in Uganda, Indonesia and the U.S. to provide fair working conditions and wages as well as healthcare, mentorship, counseling and more. For dad: Organic skincare There is no better way to show your love for someone than by giving them the gift of healthy skin. Whether it is something to moisturize the rough patches under a beard, something to soothe cracked knuckles or a myriad of products, gift Dad with organic skincare that will allow him to pamper himself daily. We love this line , which is made from recycled coffee grounds and only uses plant-based packaging. Watches Adorn Dad’s wrist with a new watch that will keep him punctual and stylish. Be sure to choose a brand with the environment in mind, like WeWood . WeWood offers wood watches free of toxic, artificial materials. Plus, WeWood plants a tree for each watch sold, and these wooden watches are sure to stand out among a sea of their metallic counterparts. Related: Inhabitat test drives a gorgeous WeWood watch Wool shirts Wool is incredibly durable with the ability to withstand the coldest of temperatures and wick away moisture with ease. Add a sleek wool shirt to Dad’s closet with options like Ramblers Way , a family-owned business in the U.S. that is dedicated to respecting the sheep, the environment and the people. The company uses 100 percent wool and donates time and money to local causes ranging from environmental conservation to human need to arts and education. Vegan or recycled leather jackets The jokes might be lame, but Dad can at least look cool in an environmentally responsible leather jacket. There are many vegan options on the market, or you can embrace reuse with a jacked from Better World Fashion . These jackets are made from recycled leather and the buttons are made with recycled metal. The certified B corp also relies on responsible production methods, uses zero water or chemicals and creates zero waste. For siblings: Eco-friendly subscription boxes Subscription boxes are the gift that keeps on giving, but it is important to find ones that advocate for the environment. Surprise your siblings month after month with a subscription to companies like the Bloomin’ Bin , Feeling Fab , KloverBox , MightyFix  and more. Everlane clothing With a commitment to ethical, sustainable fashion, Everlane offers eco-friendly unisex clothing, shoes and accessories that are sure to please. Be sure to browse the ReNew collection , which offers puffer coats, pullover sweaters and parkas all made from recycled water bottles. Zero-waste kit Help your siblings lower their carbon footprints (truly the best gift of all) by gifting them a zero-waste kit. Specifically, we recommend the {Zero} Waste Kit , which includes a glass jar with a leak-proof, organic bamboo lid; a sustainable cork sleeve for mugs; a reusable, ethically-sourced bamboo dual utensil; a stainless steel straw with an eco-friendly cleaner; a napkin made from upcycled fabric scraps; a knife with a ceramic blade and a bamboo handle; and organic cotton produce bags. Whew! That’s a lot of bang for your buck, and everything your loved ones could need to really embrace the zero-waste lifestyle. Indoor garden With a snappy indoor garden , your siblings can grow their very own food for weeks, months and years to come. We love Click + Grow , which is energy-efficient, small space-friendly and easy to use. In our own tests, we had sprouts from seed in just two days! It’s a great gift for those who would love to grow their own food, but might not have a lot of time or space to do so. For grandparents: Natural candles Nothing beats visiting your grandparents and taking in the comforting scents that fill their home (especially if they love to bake!). Add to the aroma with natural candles. Standard, store-bought candles can be toxic, so be sure to find sustainable candles made from responsibly sourced soy, coconut or palm wax. Also, ensure the wick is lead-free and made with cotton. Check Etsy for a wide range of handmade, eco-friendly candles. Related: Making soy candles for the holidays Birdhouses We all get a bit of joy from hearing birds chirp and watching as they soar above us. Gift this joy to Grandma and Grandpa by giving them a beautiful, handcrafted birdhouse that will spruce up their yard and bring cheerful birds around each day. Reading subscriptions Another gift that continues long after the holidays are over, a subscription for books, magazines or newspapers are an excellent present for grandparents who love to read. If they are open to going digital, it’ll save paper — otherwise, encourage them to recycle or upcycle the products when they have finished them! Choose their favorite media and topics, or introduce them to some reading that focuses on sustainability. Family photos Most grandparents would love to receive pictures of their family to place around their homes. Have your images printed with eco-friendly ink on sustainable paper , and then frame it in reclaimed wood or recycled materials. If you really want to go all out, organize a photoshoot with the whole family, and then frame those photos for a sweet sentiment. Images via George Dolgikh , Urbivore , Cally Lawson , Rocknwool , Artem Bali , Grums Aarhus , Ramblers Way , Franklin Heijnen , Kloverbox , Everlane , Alex Mortensen / {Zero} Waste Kit , Click + Grow , Joanna Kosinska , Nora Vellinga , Jonas Jacobsson , Shutterstock and Inhabitat

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family

This family-friendly home is a beacon of modern energy-efficient design in Calgary

September 26, 2018 by  
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Located in one of the most coveted lots in Calgary’s inner-city neighborhood of Rosedale, this modern single-family home crafted by local design/build firm Alloy Homes was, as the firm puts it, “designed to lead by example.” Created with an undeniable contemporary aesthetic, the Rosedale House also pays homage to the local neighborhood vernacular with a large front porch, subdued color palette and other details that match the nearby homes. The home also emphasizes energy efficiency with its incorporation of triple-glazed windows, in-slab radiant heat, a solar-ready electrical system and highly efficient insulation. Covering an area of 3,300 square feet, the Rosedale House is spread across two floors with the communal levels on the ground floor and the private areas on the upper level. Crafting a home that embraced indoor-outdoor living was of particular importance to the clients, not least because the house is sited next to parkland. As a result, giant triple-glazed windows and doors were installed to facilitate a seamless flow between indoors and out, while a natural material palette with neutral, earth-tone colors help ground the home into the site. A rooftop patio at the front of the home also extends the living spaces and overlooks views of the cityscape and mountains beyond. Privacy was maintained with strategically placed planting and a carefully designed layout that adheres to the clients’ lifestyle and places the “public” areas near the front of the home while the rear is reserved for private living. Despite the floor plan’s open feel, the layout can also be adapted as the needs of the family evolve using walls that can be added with no demolition required. Related: Energy-efficient Guitar House embraces indoor-outdoor living in Calgary “The key challenge with this project was to reconcile a number of contradictory programmatic requirements: Create a home that was simultaneously modern and family friendly; open to the adjacent green space yet private; modern yet timeless,” explained Alloy Homes. + Alloy Homes Images via Alloy Homes

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This family-friendly home is a beacon of modern energy-efficient design in Calgary

Passive House-inspired home ushers in spectacular Grand Tetons views

September 17, 2018 by  
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The sublime beauty of the Grand Tetons is fully embraced in the stunning House of Fir, a forever home that boasts sustainable and durable elements throughout. Designed by Wyoming-based architecture firm kt814 for a pair of retirees who actively volunteer for the National Park Service, this Jackson Hole abode was crafted to prioritize low-maintenance comfort with passive house design principles and universal design for aging in place. In fact, the home’s energy-efficient construction was put to the test this past winter, when the homeowners lost power — the home was able to stay comfortably snug for four consecutive days despite below-zero temperatures outside. The House of Fir comprises three connected pavilion-like units clad in Douglas fir and cedar that span a total area of 2,500 square feet, plus a 685-square-foot garage. Sloped rooflines help the structures shed snow in winter. Architects Rich Assenberg and Nathan Gray of kt814 carefully positioned the home to follow passive solar principles and to maximize privacy as well as unobstructed views of the spectacular Teton Range. The key to success was the installation of FSC-certified Thermo Clad Pine, triple-glazed windows that usher in landscape views; the strategic placement of the full-height glazing also blocks views of the homes to the east and west. Related: Modern open-plan home in Jackson Hole reduces construction waste with six prefab units In addition to triple-glazed windows, the House of Fir incorporates an airtight double wall system with superior insulation and hydronic radiant-floor heating . Local designer Jacque Jenkins-Stireman dressed the clean and modern interiors in a natural material palette that matches the architecture to keep the focus on the outdoors. For instance, many of the furnishings, like the kitchen cabinet doors, dining table and master bedroom furniture were constructed from a mixture of walnut. Alex Everett, the homeowner’s son-in-law, also handcrafted custom pieces for the house, giving it a personal touch. + kt814 Images by David Agnello

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Passive House-inspired home ushers in spectacular Grand Tetons views

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