Solar-powered Austin home embraces sustainability in more ways than one

November 13, 2019 by  
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In South Austin, Miró Rivera Architects has completed the Westridge Residence, a contemporary home with an emphasis on sustainable design. Built for a family of four, the sculptural home features rounded roofs on its two structures — the main house and a detached garage with a guest apartment — connected with a trellis of rebar suspended in a natural curve. To minimize its environmental footprint, the house is powered with solar and geothermal energy and was built with durable, long-lasting materials to minimize long-term maintenance. Set on the flattest part of a wooded sloping site in the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the Westridge Residence was designed to follow the natural terrain and minimize site impact. To take advantage of the site’s natural beauty, the home opens up to the outdoors with large windows, glazed sliding doors and outdoor decks on both levels. The outdoor Ipei deck that connects the two buildings also conceals five 2,000-gallon rainwater storage tanks that are used for irrigation and to compensate for seasonal evaporation loss in the adjacent 40-foot-long swimming pool. Related: Solar-powered Austin home can save owners nearly $100K in energy costs The main house includes an open-plan living area, dining room and kitchen as well as the master suite on the ground floor. The upper level contains two bedrooms, a playroom with a kitchenette, a small media room and a flex room in addition to the open-air covered deck. The detached guest house contains an open-air carport, workshop and storeroom below; the upper level holds a home office and a guest apartment with a bathroom and kitchenette. To reduce the home’s energy demands, the architects specified “double wall” construction for a highly insulated envelope with R-21 walls and R-30 ceilings. Installation of Energy Star-certified lighting fixtures and appliances as well as a 6.8-kW rooftop solar system and a geothermal loop field have translated to energy savings of approximately 22 percent annually as compared to an energy model from a baseline case study. During construction, waste was minimized and recycled wherever possible. In the revegetation of the landscape, invasive species were replaced with native plants. + Miró Rivera Architects Photography by Paul Finkel | Piston Design and Cris DeWitt via Miró Rivera Architects

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Solar-powered Austin home embraces sustainability in more ways than one

Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

October 18, 2019 by  
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As the crisp, misty mornings of fall greet the day, autumn colors emerge across the landscape. Meanwhile, your garden and flower pots begin to look barren and colorless as annuals die off and perennials go dormant for the upcoming winter. In most areas, though, there is still plenty of life left in the fall, even in the smallest spaces around your home. With a bit of planning, you can bring a new season of life to your porch, patio or balcony, even during the short days of fall. To get started, follow these tips for color, variety, texture and height variation. Color Fall is synonymous with falling leaves and bare trees, leaving a trail of red, orange and yellow along the roads. You can match the colors associated with the season using pumpkin decor, rusty red or gold mums, plants that produce berries, ornamental grasses and plants that retain their colorful leaves until late into the season. Grab a journal and list some plants common to your area that offer complementary colors. Then, add in some accents, like prolific white mums, silver-leaved herbs such as sage and evergreens like boxwood for a stable green color. On that note, remember that evergreens are a delightful option for every season and make a nice backdrop to seasonal plants that you can swap out every few months. This gives you a lot of options year-round, even with limited space. Related: 11 unique edible plants for your garden Variety Along with the plan for color comes a blueprint for variety. Your preference might be to have window boxes full of a single varietal. If so, great! If not, choose plants that contrast each other throughout the space. Include plants with different types of leaves, heights and lifespans. Put some in the window box, but surround it with potted plants, shrubs, trees and even an ever-changing vase of fresh wildflowers. Just be sure to choose options that can be pruned to stay small or are naturally compact. Even your planters can add to the variety in texture and color. Use galvanized buckets or watering cans mixed with colorful ceramic pots and a miniature wheelbarrow. Insert a glass vase with bamboo , surround plants with an old tire or carve out a pumpkin for a naturally-compostable planter. Use bronze, terracotta or copper to add to the fall color palette, and make them really stand out by surrounding them with white rocks. Texture Plants in nature vary from each other as much as the human face or fingerprint. Embrace that diversity to feed the need for visual appeal. After all, your garden space, no matter how small, should bring you pleasure. Mix it up — bring in some spiky leaves and balance those with the dainty Sweet Alyssum. Throw in some curvy-edged flowering kale, and place it next to your Aster that still might be in bloom, attracting bees and butterflies well into the season. Height Nothing adds variety and depth like a display of flowers, plants and shrubs of varying heights. This can be accomplished using supports or props. For example, use a window box. Then, place a table beneath it with potted plants ranging from tiny succulents to larger herbs . On the ground, add another layer of potted or planted options. Mix in small trees and shrubs if your space allows. You can also choose plants that are all planted in the same bed with diverse heights. Just plant the tallest selections in the back, so they don’t obscure the view of the lower-to-the-ground superstars behind them. Depending on how much space you have, you might include a dwarf conifer, Dogwood or slow-growing Japanese Maple. For very small spaces , use pots to contain purple fountain grass, croton and other plants. Also, use those long-lasting summer climbers to your advantage. Create height with the hops over the pergola, grapes covering the arbor or ivy up the pillars in the front of the house. Placement Another planning consideration includes the placement of your plants. For a back patio or areas where you still spend a lot of time outdoors in the fall, create clusters of texture or color along the edges. Plant a tree just off the edge of the deck and surround it with seasonal potted plants that sit on the deck, creating a vignette of eye-catching cohesion. If you spend most of your time next to the window near the front porch, invest in color within the frame of the window. For an upstairs office, load up the window box. If you’re going for curb appeal, make sure to include border plants to pull the look together. A simple display of a few potted chrysanthemums with some decorative gourds can spice up the entrance to your home. Hanging baskets are another option that complement your decor in any season and work in any space, large or small. Small gardens might present some challenges, but with the right plant selections, you can create spaces that bring visual interest and life to your balcony or patio throughout the seasons. Images via Shutterstock

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Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

Elevated bamboo housing protects an Indian community from floods

October 17, 2019 by  
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After the catastrophic 2017 Northeast India floods ravaged the state of Assam, the nonprofit SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) teamed up with local organization NEADS (North-East Affected Area Development Society) to create 80 core houses that are resistant to flooding. Designed and built in collaboration with the local community in Assam’s subdivision of Golaghat, the 80-unit development draws inspiration from the region’s vernacular of stilt houses built from bamboo. Concrete footings and rubberized coatings were introduced to strengthen the elevated, disaster-resilient homes. Located within India’s largest bamboo reserve, near the major Brahmaputra River, Golaghat lies in the valley of Assam and experiences a tropical monsoon and rainforest climate that brings heavy rainfall and flooding almost every year, problems that are compounded by the region’s high seismic activity. Related: Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides “Vulnerable to natural disasters, the self-reliant Assamese communities have developed indigenous construction and planning techniques over the centuries, creating a built-environment exclusive to the terrain,” SEEDS explained. “However, due to haphazard development in the region, the traditional knowledge systems are being ignored, leading to an unsafe environment, loss of lives and livelihoods. The intervention was formulated with a vision to build resilient communities through participatory design, illustrating a model of contemporary vernacular architecture.” With financial support from Indian conglomerate Godrej, the community-driven project saw the completion of 80 bamboo stilt houses, each 23 square meters in size and designed to meet Sphere Humanitarian Standards. The stilts that elevate the house are tall enough to create a spacious shaded area underneath that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as weaving, rearing livestock, storing boats or recreation. The building’s flexible joinery system also allows the homeowners to raise the floor even higher in case of overflooding. The construction is strengthened with deeper bamboo footings encased in concrete, rubberized bamboo columns for waterproofing and cross-bracing. + SEEDS Images via SEEDS

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Elevated bamboo housing protects an Indian community from floods

Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

October 17, 2019 by  
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Modern homes come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems that architects are opting to take a simpler route these days when it comes to creating amazing designs. Case in point is the beautiful BL House by Mas Fernandez Architectos . Located in a coastal area in Chile’s Valparaíso region, the gorgeous home was built using prefabricated and modular materials, then topped with an eye-catching, origami-inspired metal roof. Tucked into a hilly landscape covered with trees and vegetation, the almost 2,000-square-foot home was designed to embrace its idyllic, quiet setting. Using the surrounding nature as inspiration , the team at Mas Fernandez used simple, cost-effective materials to create a design that would offer the homeowners a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica The single-level home is gently nestled into the topography of the land in order to minimize impact. Using concrete pillars, part of the home is elevated over a gentle slop. The home is topped with a fun, origami-inspired aluminum roof that gives off the impression that it is about to take flight at any moment. The roof juts out over the home’s frame, shading the interior from harsh sunlight during the hot summer months. The roof also has two triangular cutouts that allow for natural light to filter into the two interior courtyards. The house was built using prefabricated materials that allowed the architects to keep construction costs down and minimize construction time. The project is clad in a dramatic, dark pine cladding with some walls made of glass panels. The five-bedroom home features an open-concept living, dining and kitchen area that is filled with simple, rustic decor reminiscent of a contemporary cabin. Massive, floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a seamless connection between the outdoors and indoors. Additionally, the walls and ceilings are lined with native treated pinewood, adding warmth to the atmosphere. For outdoor space, the home has an enviable, open-air deck with plenty of space for seating and dining. + Mas Fernandez Arquitectos Via Dezeen Images via Mas Fernandez Arquitectos

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Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

Travertine and teak sustainably ground a modern home into a harsh coastal climate

October 3, 2019 by  
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Built to look like an extension of the landscape, the Point Nepean Residence in the town of Portsea, Australia is a sustainably crafted home designed to withstand extreme coastal weather. Melbourne-based design practice B.E Architecture created the home for a retired couple who wanted a beachside abode that would highlight the site’s natural beauty. In addition to a natural material palette that complements the coastal aesthetic, the home also uses site-specific, passive solar design principles to reduce energy demands. Set amongst thick tea tree parklands, the Point Nepean Residence enjoys sweeping views of Portsea Pier and Port Phillip Bay. In a nod to the rocky breakwater located below the site, the home features a facade made of imported Travertine from Eco Outdoor, a stone material selected for its weathered texture and ability to withstand the harsh coastal climate. Sustainably sourced plantation teak wraps the lower portion of the building and is also used for the mechanically operated screens on the upstairs windows. “The house is set back from the road with only glimpses of the building details being evident from the entranceway,” explain the architects in a press release. “It is only on approaching that slowly the house reveals itself, and one becomes more aware of the materiality of the elements used. Once inside the tall front gate, occupants and visitors are guided down a long walkway next to an atrium style internal courtyard that opens out into the main living area with views over the pier and ocean beyond.” Related: Locally sourced materials make up a timber home that mimics its forest landscape The thick travertine walls provide beneficial thermal mass for regulating internal temperatures, which is further stabilized with insulation in the walls and roof. Natural sea breezes are also maximized throughout to ventilate the building, while daylight streams in from multiple openings. The simple palette of timber and stone create a minimalist and modern appearance that’s also low maintenance.  + B.E Architecture Images by Derek Swalwell

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Travertine and teak sustainably ground a modern home into a harsh coastal climate

Using Reclaimed Materials in Your Home & Yard

October 3, 2019 by  
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When most of us think of landfills, we think of … The post Using Reclaimed Materials in Your Home & Yard appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Using Reclaimed Materials in Your Home & Yard

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

Locally sourced materials make up a timber home that mimics its forest landscape

September 4, 2019 by  
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On the edge of the southern regional city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australian design practice Porter Architects has completed the Ballarat East House, a modern home that embraces the surrounding treed landscape with large windows and a materials palette of locally sourced Australian timber. Elevated off the ground to mitigate a tricky sloped site, the residence also emphasizes indoor-outdoor living throughout. Spanning an area of 200 square meters on a half-acre lot, the Ballarat East House is divided into two main pavilions — the northern pavilion houses three bedrooms while the southern pavilion contains the master bedroom and an open-plan living area — that are set on either side of an outdoor deck along with a recreational room in the middle. The home is wrapped in locally sourced Australian hardwood board and batten vertical siding to mimic the trunks of the surrounding trees. The cladding also has a three-dimensional effect that creates an attractive play of light and shadow throughout the day. The timber palette is continued in the interior, which includes locally sourced, recycled Australian hardwood floorboards as well as native hardwood joinery and furnishings. White walls, black metal accents and other materials, such as the travertine stone countertops and backsplash in the kitchen, help break up the use of timber. Tall glazed doors visually connect the living areas to the landscape, while a large outdoor courtyard protected from the elements serves as a second living zone. Related: A 1940s home gets a modern update with reclaimed materials “The two main living/private pavilions are defined by a dark stained Australian hardwood shiplap vertically clad entry/circulation area, enlivening the architectural experience from the hideaway laneway view,” the architects explained. “The passerby pedestrian is welcomed with an unassuming surprise in a neighborhood of common suburbia.” + Porter Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Derek Swalwell via Porter Architects

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Locally sourced materials make up a timber home that mimics its forest landscape

Artist creates a living quilt to commemorate Santa Rosa fires

September 4, 2019 by  
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Memorials and national landmarks are common across the country as a way to respectfully remember events of historical relevance. This often takes the form of a statue or plaque, but following the Santa Rosa fires in October 2017, one artist took her own approach to honor the community following the devastation in the form of a living quilt . With a grant initiated and awarded by the city of Santa Rosa Public Art Program, artist Jane Ingram Allen completed the public art project, which took form in colorful plants grown in the design of a handmade quilt. The outline for the quilt consisted not of your typical fabric squares, but handmade paper. The pattern was then enhanced with seeds embedded into the pulp to match the quilt design. Related: New York Botanical Garden’s new artist residencies connect people with plants The “Living Quilt for Santa Rosa” incorporates the traditional “Wild Geese” pattern. A variety of colors are integrated into the living quilt, and each color uses a different source material and subsequently matches to a wildflower of the same color. Blue is comprised of a pulp made from recycled denim; matching flowers include the California Bluebell and other mixed blue wildflowers. Abaca, a type of fiber from banana leaves, is colored with a non-toxic fiber reactive dye and used for the yellow and orange shades. White also stems from the uncolored abaca and marries well with Baby’s Breath and white poppies. All of the materials, from wildflowers to the dyes, are eco-friendly and biodegradable while offering the hope of continued life for many seasons to come. Although Allen is credited for the work, the project was completed with the help of community members who laid out the paper, planted the seeds and built the “headboard” and “footboard” from locally harvested branches. During the time of construction, air pollution and burnt trees still plagued the area. The original work was dedicated at Rincon Ridge Park in Santa Rosa, California in the fall of 2018, but what began as a temporary art installation just might bloom into a long-term testament to the resolution of both the land and the citizens. The idea to commemorate the destruction from the fires with life in flowers represents the regrowth, perseverance and tenacity of the Santa Rosa community as they recover. + Jane Ingram Allen Photography by Timothy S. Allen via Jane Ingram Allen

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Artist creates a living quilt to commemorate Santa Rosa fires

This treehouse-inspired home in Los Angeles wraps around a cedar tree that grows through the roof

September 3, 2019 by  
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Known for its seemingly endless urban sprawl and noisy traffic, Los Angeles makes finding serenity no easy task. But Los Angeles- and Berlin-based firm Anonymous Architects has managed to create a soothing design that sits perched up high in a forest just a short distance away from the bustling cityscape. To blend the home into its idyllic surroundings, the architects incorporated a number of wooden elements into the design, including reclaimed cedar siding  and a massive tree that grows straight up through the middle of the home. Located in Echo Park, California, the 2,400-square-foot residence is embedded onto a steep hillside. Although the topography was challenging to say the least, the designers managed to use it to their advantage. Related: This off-grid retreat in Ohio was inspired by a treehouse According to the architects, the goal from the outset was to preserve the site’s natural features as much as possible. This meant cantilevering the home over the sloped landscape using a concrete base for support. This strategy enabled the house to sit high up in the air, giving it a treehouse effect. Cantilevering the structure over the landscape also meant that the home would enjoy more green space, both planted and natural. The layout and shape of the home was also marked by the existing vegetation. Set between three large cedars, the frame was angled to fit in between the trees. The fourth tree grows up straight up through one of the bedrooms , soaring up from the forest floor through the roof. The house, which is a rental, was conceived as two separate units that can also serve as a large family home . The main unit is comprised of two bedrooms and is designed for a family of four. From the living space, an outdoor walkway leads to the other unit with an additional bedroom, living area, bath and kitchen. If not in use as part of the main home, it can be used as an office or closed off as a rental space. Throughout the interior, homage is respectfully paid to the natural settings through the use of wood and natural light. Reclaimed chestnut flooring runs through the structure. Wooden doors, bookshelves and cabinets were also custom-made for the house. A covered wooden deck provides the perfect place to take in the forest views. In addition to its reclaimed materials, the home also boasts a number of sustainable features , including a solar water heater. The residence was built with tight insulation to keep the interior at stable temperatures during the year, and optimal natural light reduces the need for electricity during the day. + Anonymous Architects Via Dwell Photography by Steve King via Anonymous Architects

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This treehouse-inspired home in Los Angeles wraps around a cedar tree that grows through the roof

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