Minimalist hotel gym made out of locally-sourced stone features one of the largest glass panels in the world

November 5, 2019 by  
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UK architecture firm  Invisible Studio has become known for its ground-breaking low-impact designs , but this time the innovative architects have just unveiled a beautiful structure that manages to combine sustainability with elegant minimalism. To put it simply, “Room in a Productive Garden” is a small hotel gymnasium made out of natural stone with a large window that looks out over a vegetable garden. However, even though it may just appear to be a big window, it is, in fact, one of the largest glass panels in the world! The new project is part of an expansion of a hotel in Somerset. Located on  the grounds of Hadspen House, the single-story 1,600-square-feet room is a bright and airy gymnasium where guests can enjoy a nice workout while taking in the serene view of the vegetable garden out front. Related: This tiny timber cabin was built from construction waste for under $30K The small gym was strategically designed to blend into its natural surroundings. It’s minimalist volume was intentional to reduce the project’s impact on the landscape. Additionally, the designers used natural stone sourced on site to create the exterior cladding. The stone was crushed and rammed into the walls to add an earthy tone to the facade. According to the architectural studio, the eco-friendly building was “conceived in a manner as ‘no building’ – more, a window on to a mature productive garden with as few distractions from the garden as possible,” they explain. “The garden provides food for the hotel, and is an important part of the arrival experience into the gymnasium. At the heart of the design is the massive glass window , which not only lets in optimal light into the workout space, but also provides serene views of the surrounding nature. At 50 feet wide and 10 foot tall, the continous glass panel is one of the largest in the world. The interior of the building is also an example of sophisticated minimalism . The gym walls are lined entirely in beech wood, with slats concealing the lighting and ventilation systems. At the base of the glass panel, there is a long continuous bench for those who would like to take in the unobstructed views calmly versus running on the treadmill. + Invisible Studio Via World Architecture Images via Invisible Studio

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Minimalist hotel gym made out of locally-sourced stone features one of the largest glass panels in the world

Biodegradable coffee pods are now available for composting

November 5, 2019 by  
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In the United Kingdom alone, approximately 95 million cups of coffee are consumed daily, with more than one-third of British coffee-drinkers admitting that they dispose of their coffee capsules into trash bins. Roughly 20 billion non-biodegradable, one-cup coffee pods end up in landfills. But Italian espresso giant Lavazza is offering a more eco-friendly alternative — a compostable coffee pod. Non-biodegradable coffee pods are a challenge to recycle because a single capsule is comprised of a mix of materials, including aluminum, foil and especially plastic . Plastic takes up to 500 years before it begins to disintegrate. Related: The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead Lavazza, meanwhile, is now offering more sustainable coffee pods, called Eco Caps, that are biopolymer-based. In contrast to the non-biodegradable coffee pods, Eco Caps take just six months to degrade. These pods are convenient to dispose of in the food waste bin, depending on your local composting rules. Lavazza has partnered with TerraCycle, a waste collection service that specialized in hard-to-recycle items, to make it easier for Eco Caps to be industrially composted if local composting is not available. The TerraCycle partnership was formed to solve the issue of consumers being generally confused about what can be recycled. Compostable and biodegradable coffee pods are becoming a trend. For instance, online retailer Halo also offers a separate range of compostable pods that are made with paper pulp and sugar cane. “The coffee revolution has happened, and one of the key challenges the industry now faces is the millions of tons of waste created as a result,” explained Richard Hardwick, Halo’s co-founder. “Aluminum and plastic coffee capsules are difficult to recycle, so most of them end up in the bin. And that’s why up to 75 percent are currently being sent to landfill every minute. Most people don’t understand the irreversible damage these coffee capsules are inflicting on the planet.” + Lavazza Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Biodegradable coffee pods are now available for composting

Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

September 10, 2019 by  
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A student finalist in this year’s Radical Innovation competition has found a possible solution for conserving Iran’s deserts while also promoting ecotourism in the region. Sharareh Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System could be applied to both residential and tourist accommodations in deserts. Radical Innovation “mobilizes disruptors from around the world with the ideas to propel the industry forward,” according to its website. A jury of design and hospitality experts judged the competition on design, creativity and potential for impacting the industry. Nearly 50 people entered from more than 20 countries. The judges chose three professional finalists, one student winner and two student honorable mentions, with the Nebka Protective System earning a student honorable mention. Related: Experimental design-build festival takes over Californian desert The Iranian desert faces problems like air pollution , inaccessibility and, well, a huge mass of sand. But it’s also a hauntingly beautiful place of great interest to desert researchers and with potential for increased tourism. Almost a quarter of Iran’s land is desert. The Lut Desert is the most famous and is a UNESCO-registered natural phenomenon. While the shifting sands make for a magical landscape, desert wildlife benefits from some stability — that’s where nebkas come in. A nebka is a little, wind-blown accumulation of sand anchored by a bush or a tree. Nebkas help desert animals survive and help control evaporation and shifting sand sediments. Having more nebkas in deserts close to developed areas could protect cities from shifting sand. Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System is an elaborate but intriguing way to increase the number of nebkas over a 12-year cycle. Imagine a circular area in the desert that’s free of nebkas; Faryadi proposed placing a round observatory building in the center of the circle, with a long, arm-shaped hotel reaching out from that center like a clock hand. The circle is divided into 12 sections. During the first year, the long walls of the hotel would act as a dam against wind-blown sand. Each tourist and researcher staying inside would plant a seed. Some of these would sprout, spawning nebkas to stabilize the sand. After a year, the whole hotel would be lifted into the second section, and the nebka development would begin all over again. Twelve years later, the hotel would make a full circle, and the empty desert would turn into a jungle of young nebkas. The round, central area would include a glass elevator for watching the desert, and people would be able to walk around it for 360-degree views. Faryadi also planned for lots of common space, restaurants , cafes, a museum and desert research institute and areas for sand therapy, said to ease muscle and joint pain. The design incorporated traditional Iranian architecture, such as a large, open space to serve as the central yard in the family suites. Solar and wind would provide power, including that required for moving the structure every year. + Radical Innovation Images via Radical Innovation

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Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

An eco-friendly island resort immerses guests in the wild beauty of northern Norway

July 23, 2019 by  
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On a remote island above the Arctic Circle, Norwegian architecture firm Stinessen Arkitektur has created the Manshausen Island Resort, an eco-friendly getaway with spectacular views that has also been recently expanded with a new extension. Located on the Steigen Archipelago off the coast of northern Norway, the resort comprises a series of contemporary cabins carefully sited and elevated off the ground to minimize site impact while maximizing individual panoramic views. The new addition, which was completed three years after the resort’s opening in June 2015, includes new cabins and a sauna that was constructed from materials leftover from the first stage of construction. Sandwiched between mountains and sea, Manshausen Island features a dramatic landscape and a harsh climate with long winters and temperamental weather conditions. Despite the short building season, remote location and disagreeable weather conditions, the architects succeeded in developing a low-maintenance and sustainably minded resort with cabins designed in the image of the island’s two main existing structures: the old farm-house and stone quays. Each compact cabin was crafted for minimum impact on the landscape; the resort team plans to make the island self-sufficient by 2020 and all waste is already treated on the island. Related: A cluster of wooden cabins create a serene weekend retreat in Norway As with the original cabins at the resort, the new cabins in the extension — dubbed Manshausen 2.0 — have been built from cross-laminated timber , aluminum sheet cladding and custom, full-height glazing that allows for unobstructed views of the landscape. Prefabricated elements were used for “plug and play” installation of the shelters. Each 30-square-meter cabin was designed to be as compact as possible yet can comfortably accommodate up to four to five people and includes a kitchen and plenty of storage space. “Although [the new cabins] enjoy much of the same undisturbed sea views, the positioning in the landscape offers a unique approach to the design,” the architects explained. “Wave heights, extreme weather conditions and also future raise in sea level were studied to determine the exact positions of the cabins.” + Stinessen Arkitektur Images by Adrien Giret, Snorre Stinessen, Kjell Ove Storvik

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An eco-friendly island resort immerses guests in the wild beauty of northern Norway

Endangered California condors are making a comeback with the birth of 1,000th chick

July 23, 2019 by  
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The largest bird in North America is making a comeback after reaching an alarming population size of about 20 birds . The California condor was highly endangered during the late 20th century but holds spiritual importance to indigenous tribes and nature-lovers. Last week, conservationists announced that the 1,000th chick hatched and successfully survived, giving new hope that the birds’ population will continue to grow. The condor population plummeted in the 20th century because of hunting , habitat loss and lead poisoning from eating the carcasses of animals that had been shot with lead bullets. When the population was nearing just 20 birds, conservationists began breeding them in captivity. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration According to Tim Hauch, manager of the Peregrine Fund’s condor program, more than 300 wild California condors exist today. There is a total of more than 500 when those in captivity are included. The newest chick was born in Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah. Condors lay only one egg at a time , and female condors do not nest every year. Conservationists are incredibly hopeful every time one is born. “We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Hauck told NPR. “And that’s just a step toward success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” Although the chick was born in May, it was not considered to be a survivor until July, given the typical mortality of young condors within the first two months. The chick will be able to leave the nest and begin flying around November. California condors are unique birds that can live up to 60 years in the right conditions. That makes condors not only the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of 10 feet, but also one of the longest living birds in the world. Those who study California condors also believe that the birds are capable of having distinct personalities, which separates them from many other avian species. Via NPR Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Endangered California condors are making a comeback with the birth of 1,000th chick

This solar-powered home in Brazil blends into its environment with a massive green roof and an open-air ground floor

July 23, 2019 by  
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When it comes to modern homes, most architects focus on creating a soothing harmony between the indoors and outdoors, meaning lots of natural light, floor-to-ceiling windows, natural vegetation and so on. But Brazilian firm Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados has gone one step further by completely eliminating exterior walls. Located São Paulo, the solar-powered RFC Residence features an open-air ground floor that leads out to a connecting courtyard, blurring the lines between nature and the man-made. Spanning more than 6,500 square feet, the RFC Residence was built for a family of four with a strong passion for cooking. They asked the architects to design an open-plan layout that would place the kitchen at the heart of the living area to be not only a functional space for preparing meals but a spacious social area as well. Related: A micro home with a green roof sits atop a granite wine cellar in rural Portugal Topped with a green roof that shares space with a solar array, the home was built with a number of passive and active design measures. The rectangular volume is made up of two levels: an open-air ground floor and an upper floor clad in exposed brick with a long interior hallway lined in glass panels. The upper level houses the master bedroom and the kids’ bedrooms. The social spaces are all located on the first floor, which contains a living room, entertainment area, dining room and a large chef’s kitchen in the middle. Wrapped around a central courtyard , these wall-less living spaces are all connected, creating a seamless connection between the rooms as well as the interior and the exterior. Native vegetation was used in the landscaping to create a lush outdoor area. The main living areas all maintain a nice, cool temperature year-round thanks to natural air circulation . Additionally, the second level was built with overhangs that shade the ground floor, creating a more comfortable space for residents to take in the fresh air. There is also a small swimming pool as well as a wooden sauna and dressing room in the backyard. + Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados Via ArchDaily Photography by Nelson Kon via Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados

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This solar-powered home in Brazil blends into its environment with a massive green roof and an open-air ground floor

City of Berkeley bans natural gas in new buildings and homes

July 23, 2019 by  
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The Californian city of Berkeley has become the first in the country to pass a ban on natural gas piping in new buildings, including private homes. Although it is considered cleaner than oil, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and contributes to global warming . New buildings in Berkeley, with few exceptions, will have to rely on electricity for heating water and kitchen appliances starting in January 2020. The natural gas ordinance was spearheaded by councilmember Kate Harrison, who told the San Francisco Chronicle , “It’s an enormous issue. We need to really tackle this. When we think about pollution and climate change issues, we tend to think about factories and cars, but all buildings are producing greenhouse gas .” Related: California is the first US state to require solar energy for new houses The legislation passed unanimously, but some critics outside of the city town halls and council meetings argue that electricity prices are higher than natural gas . The mandate will come at an expense to homeowners and renters in the Bay Area’s already stifling housing market. The ordinance also comes with funding for a two-year position for one staff member in the Office of Planning and Development who will oversee the implementation of the ban. David Hochschild, chairman of the California Energy Commission, reported that at least 50 other cities throughout the state of California are considering such a ban in hopes of addressing the contribution that buildings make to climate change and to encourage higher usage of electricity and renewable energy. Berkeley has a history of progressive bans, including becoming the first city in the country to ban smoking in restaurants and bars back in 1977. Earlier this year, the city banned single-use plastic utensils in restaurants (such as plastic forks). Restaurants and cafes throughout the city must use compostable utensils for takeaway meals and beverages. The city also passed an ordinance adding a 25 cents tax onto single-use cups, such as coffee cups. Via San Francisco Chronicle and NRDC Image via Pixabay

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City of Berkeley bans natural gas in new buildings and homes

LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood

June 14, 2019 by  
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This 39-room inn in the popular Wine Country town of Healdsburg boasts sustainable, natural materials and an eco-friendly design that earned it a LEED Gold certification. Glass is used to encase the lobby entry, while the walls and floors are made of textured and smooth concrete. Steel and reclaimed redwood slats are utilized throughout the exterior to create a naturally open feel and provide views of the surrounding trees and foliage. Artfully-described as “modern organic” by the building’s creators at David Baker Architects, Harmon Guest House is the natural companion to its two sister boutique eco hotels, the swanky Hotel Healdsburg and the trendy h2hotel. As described on the firm’s website , “This contextual new inn slips into the Healdsburg scene as a fresh surprise with an understated California vibe, yet seems as if it’s always naturally been there.” Related: This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism These organic intentions are apparent from the moment you walk up to the building. The design subconsciously promotes sustainable transportation thanks to the sheltered bus stop bench built into the face of the hotel and a shared fleet of bicycles available for guest use. Even the check-in desk has been crafted from one single, fallen eucalyptus tree. The combination of a vast glass entryway, bare polished concrete and unadorned wooden screens is a reminder to all who enter that the condition of being natural is just as beautiful (if not more) than decoration or embellishment. The 39 rooms (including six suites) are connected by a centralized courtyard and glass-enclosed bridges. Each room provides a private outdoor space with a balcony or patio. Both the common spaces and individual rooms feature locally sourced art and fixtures. The presence of the hotel benefits Healdsburg’s own Foss Creek, which is visible from the rear of the inn and accessible via footbridge. A creekside park allows guests to enjoy the restored area between the water and land while the property’s presence spanning the creek aids in the protection of the natural area. + David Baker Architects + Harmon Guest House Photography by Bruce Damonte and Angie Silvy via David Baker Architects

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LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood

A gorgeous eco hotel to open in the Dolomites

May 30, 2019 by  
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In June, the Adler Hotel Group will debut ADLER Lodge Ritten, a new eco hotel in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range. Sited on the Ritten plateau, the new hotel features views of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains and forests. The hotel group expects the ADLER Lodge Ritten to attract city dwellers wishing to get away from it all. The retreat was designed to blend into the surrounding forest rather than stand out. It is built from local timber and resembles other rural alpine structures. Related: A series of geometric, sustainable treehouses is imagined for the Italian Dolomites The ADLER Lodge Ritten meets Klimahaus ( Climate House ) standards, which means it adheres to strict environmental protection and energy conservation measures. In addition to the main structure, which houses the lobby, bar, restaurant and spa, two additional buildings each contain 10 junior suites. Twenty private one- and two-story chalets are also scattered around the property, with some built around a small lake. Each room has its own bio sauna. Billed as a gentler alternative to a Finnish sauna , bio saunas warm the body without getting as hot as a regular sauna nor as humid as a steam room. Guests who yearn for hotter temperatures can use the classic steam sauna in the main building or venture into one of two saunas set in the forest. “Under treetops, you can experience the feeling of untouched nature even better,” said spa director Emily Brugnoli. The hotel will work on an inclusive arrangement, meaning meals and drinks are included in the room rate. Chef Hannes Pignater’s menus will focus on local and regional products, and he’ll use organic ingredients whenever possible. “My cuisine is creative and authentic at the same time, an interaction of two culinary traditions — quality products from our committed local farmers in South Tyrol, and delicious specialties from other parts of Italy,” he said. Guests who want the most relaxing getaway don’t even need to drive themselves around the area. The Rittnerbahn, a historic narrow-gauge railway , stops 200 meters from the hotel. While visiting, guests can get around on bikes, skis or snowshoes, depending on the season. + Adler Lodge Ritten Images via Adler Resorts

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A gorgeous eco hotel to open in the Dolomites

Inside The Mohicans: an Ohio treehouse empire

May 22, 2019 by  
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Waking up in a tree 30 feet off the ground with no noise but birdsong, you might not think you were halfway between Columbus and Cleveland. But The Mohicans is a collection of treehouses and cabins in the quiet woods of Ohio’s Amish country. The treehouses are situated off the road and far enough apart that you can spend a night or two and never run into your human neighbors. Kevin Mooney began building treehouses on his property in 2012. Now, he’s a treehouse addict— with seven completed and a couple more nearly done. “When I hit 20, I might slow down,” he said. Building a Treehouse Empire Mooney was in junior high school when he first visited this area of woods, Amish farmhouses, rolling hills and the canoe-friendly Mohican River. A friend’s family owned 300 acres and Mooney and his classmates spent many weekends in an old farmhouse . Mooney loved the area at first sight. As an adult, he bought land near his old friend’s house. When he left his work as a banking entrepreneur 15 years ago, Mooney decided to share his land with visitors. He started building cabins. Related: Futuristic treehouse in Arkansas is designed to inspire imagination Then a friend showed Mooney a book by master treehouse builder Pete Nelson. “I looked at the treehouse book and I had one of those ‘ah’ moments.” Immediately he saw treehouses in his future. “I really believed in treehouses. I thought, people are going to come here to stay in treehouses.” Mooney was already working closely with an Amish builder named Roman Hershberger. The two men studied Pete Nelson’s treehouse books and began figuring out how to construct them. Mooney then decided to contact Nelson, who eventually visited Ohio and built a treehouse on Mooney’s property for the first season of his Animal Planet/Discovery Network show,  Treehouse Masters. The show introduced The Mohicans to a worldwide audience. Meet the treehouses The Little Red Treehouse Nelson built for his show is the most immediately striking. Its bright red exterior and gothic faux stained glass windows make it look like a cross between a chapel and a one-room schoolhouse. The neutral colors of the other treehouses blend into the forest . The Old Pine Treehouse was built inside the property’s only pine stand from reclaimed barn siding. Inside, the feel is rustic, with hand hewn beams and vintage touches. White Oak Treehouse, suspended from oak and hickory trees, is the most spacious, with two full bedrooms. The romantic Moonlight Treehouse boasts a crystal chandelier. The Octagonal Nest treehouse, designed by the famous treehouse builder Roderick Romero, includes cathedral windows and is popular with honeymooners. The more modern Tin Shed Treehouse has a corrugated metal exterior, big windows and a rolling garage door that opens onto a deck. Other treehouses are coming soon, including an aerial Airstream trailer. Each treehouse has its own staircase and suspension bridge, which is part of the fun of staying there. How many hotel rooms come with a private bridge? Eco measures  Standing in a cabin at The Mohicans, it seems like the lights are on. But that’s the clever placement of skylights .  Since the Amish don’t use electricity, they are masters at maximizing passive light and energy. They’re firm believers in insulation and even take advantage of the earth’s seasonal tilt. “We built our overhangs about three feet out from the structures,” Mooney said, “so in the wintertime the sun comes in the structure and in the summertime it doesn’t.” Buildings at the Mohicans that sit on the ground, rather than in the trees,  such as the cabins and the wedding venue, are heated through hot water lines on the floor. In summer, these structures are 20 degrees cooler inside than out. “We do a lot of repurposing,” Mooney said. Whether it’s buying two thousand dollars’ worth of repurposed insulation or disassembling four old barns from Toledo, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania, it’s likely that parts of Mooney’s treehouses had a previous life. Weddings Mooney soon discovered that brides and grooms were drawn to The Mohicans’ rustic charm and beauty, so he began to dream up a central building. His Amish crew built the grand barn wedding venue without a drawn plan. The builder stood on the site, calling out to his assistant the size of the lumber he needed; the assistant would go cut a tree and saw it to the correct length. The result is a fabulous rustic barn that incorporates 100-year old barn siding, hand hewn beams, re-purposed windows and doors, and endless vintage accents and details such as sliding barn shutters, hay loft ladders and solid pine trusses. Old wagon wheels have been turned into chandeliers. Despite the warnings of friends who told Mooney his rustic weddings would never catch on, lots of couples find treehouses romantic. He’s had many out of state couples, and some from as far as Norway and England. One couple from London got engaged there; the bride insisted they come back this June for the wedding. The Treehouse Experience Like many of the treehouses, the octagonal El Castillo is made from old barn wood. This treehouse is so new it isn’t even on the website yet. Red textiles and wrought iron light fixtures bolster its castle image. Downstairs is one good-sized room— large enough for a person to do yoga or two people to have a restrained dance party— which serves as the sitting area and kitchen, unless you pull down the Murphy bed— which takes up most of the downstairs room. The kitchen is well-stocked with pots, pans, a two-burner hot plate and a microwave. Related: This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood If you don’t want to drive five miles to the nearest restaurant, you need to plan ahead and bring all your food , including spices and cooking oil. This is especially important if you have special dietary restrictions. Vegans , take heed and buy provisions in Columbus before you drive into the woods. Also, bring your own soap. A gorgeous, rustic spiral staircase takes you to El Castillo’s upstairs bedroom. The king-sized bed is comfortable, so plan to sleep in. El Castillo has a small balcony off the bedroom and a larger one off the sitting room. A small bathroom is downstairs. There’s also an outside shower on the lower balcony. The amount of insulation inside these treehouses is surprising. Inside was cool, quiet and bug-free. The treehouses are an interesting combination of remote yet modern. There’s no Wi-Fi and you probably won’t have cell service, but there are tons of outlets for charging all your devices. While El Castillo technically sleeps four, most would find that crowded. however, couples, friends and especially families delight in the treehouse experience. Mooney’s favorite thing about running a treehouse empire? Without hesitation, he says, “Hearing the kids run across the bridge laughing.” Via The Mohicans Images via Inhabitat

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