New guest home in Estonia uses a weathered metal facade to blend into ancient castle ruins

February 1, 2019 by  
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Visitors to the the ruins of a 14th-century castle in Vastseliina, Estonia will now have a beautiful place to stay in this beautiful guest home by Estonian architects, Kaos Architects . The Pilgrims’ House was clad in a weathered steel to compliment the ancient ruins of a 14th-century castle. Located in southeastern Estonia, the complex is a medieval setting with the ruins of a 14th century castle and an old pub house tucked into the rolling green hills and valleys adjacent to the Piusa river. When tasked with designing a guest home for the unique space, the bucolic atmosphere prompted the architects to create something that would be modern and comfortable, but that would blend in seamlessly with the landscape as well as the older buildings on site. Related:Modern gabled guesthouse embraces passive solar in Australia Along with the idyllic landscape, the architects were also inspired by the castle’s long history . After a miracle was reported to have taken place there in 1353, the castle complex became a popular pilgrimage destination. Although in ruins today, the site is used as an “experience center” to welcome guests who would like to experience the medieval way of life. To create the new addition to the complex , the architects tucked the Pilgrims’ House into a deep slope in the landscape so that it would not block the view of the castle ruins. Partially hidden by bushes and trees, the center’s weathered metal facade was intentionally used so that it would compliment the red brick and granite of the ruins. On the interior of the building, the design went medieval through and through. High ceilings and wooden doors, brick floors and secret niches create a vibrant, fresh interior with plenty of medieval features such as the steel chandeliers. Various small windows are reminiscent of early castles, offering scenic views while providing the utmost in privacy. In one room, a jet black wall showcases white graphics that were inspired by old engravings, featuring the area’s long history. Guests will enjoy a stay in the Pilgrim’s House where the personnel is dressed in medieval clothing and serve traditional fare. Although the guest rooms are quite humble, they do have hints of modern comforts such as a claw foot bathtub and simple Scandinavian-inspired furniture . + KAOS Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Terje Ugandi and Maris Tomba via KAOS Architects

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New guest home in Estonia uses a weathered metal facade to blend into ancient castle ruins

Aquaponic gardens bring life to an unused balcony in an architects’ office

February 1, 2019 by  
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When a young architecture start-up in Vietnam went looking for office space, the Farming Architects  team, led by founder An Viet Dung, looked to the local vernacular for inspiration. The result is the Urban Eco Balcony, a 376-square-foot office designed to showcase how it’s possible to bring new life to the empty and unused balconies found throughout Hanoi. The interior space is comprised of a unique steel grid system, which was installed with an aquaponic system to breathe new life and green space into the office. According to Farming Architects founder An Viet Dung, when the budding design practice decided to open its first office in Hanoi, the team realized that the city’s ubiquitous balconies were largely unused, most likely because of urban pollution , noise and even security issues. Related: New library in Hanoi aims to show young children the benefits of aquaponics in an urban setting Using this urban challenge as inspiration, the firm decided to rent a downtown office that would focus on the importance of giving purpose to these “dead spaces.” By using a number of architectural solutions, Farming Architects created an open and vibrant working space , referred to as the Urban Eco Balcony, with various multi-functional features. First, the architects installed a steel girder-tree system that helps create a strong connection between the interior and the balcony areas. Large floor-to-ceiling glass doors lead to the outdoor spaces and welcome  natural light inside. The steel grid formations also provide protection from harsh sun rays and help block the rain from coming into the office. Additionally, the steel frames are modular, meaning they can be rearranged depending on necessity. This feature adds a lot of functionality to the office, as the structures can be used as storage, book cases, mounts for additional lighting and more. Perhaps the steel grid system’s best use, however, is to support the office’s aquaponic system , which fills the balcony. Filling the “dead spaces” with plants would be an obvious choice to liven up the work space, but the architects wanted to take it a bit further by creating a system of aquaculture with plants grown hydroponically. This system requires little-to-no maintenance and creates a fresh, healthy atmosphere for the working space. + Farming Architects Photography by Thai Thach and Viet Dung An via Farming Architects

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Aquaponic gardens bring life to an unused balcony in an architects’ office

Green-roofed home cantilevers over a remote mountainside in Argentina

February 1, 2019 by  
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Córdoba-based firm  Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos has just unveiled a stunning, green-roofed vacation home in Argentina’s remote Calamuchita Valley. The rocky, sloped landscape drove the inspiration for Casa FM’s design, which is a massive concrete 3,444-square-foot structure with a rectangular shape that juts out over the mountain ledge, offering dreamy views of the valley below. The architects chose to use concrete as the primary building material mainly for its low maintenance properties. Using a simple rectangular shape, a concrete shell adds strength, flexibility and insulating properties to the structure. Its low stature and expansive green roof stretches out over the entirety of the home and also helps blend the structure into its natural surroundings. Related: A striking concrete home in Ontario targets minimal environment impact Casa FM is actually comprised of two autonomous houses, with the lower one-bedroom house embedded into the terrain and the second level housing two bedrooms. Connected via a stone staircase adjacent to the building, each of the two spaces was designed to offer guests an intimate relationship with the surrounding environment. The interior is clad in the same smooth concrete as the exterior. Rectangular skylights flood the living space with natural light , providing a sense of contrast with the concrete walls and flooring. Warm wood furnishings along with leather couches and woven rugs give the space a welcoming, cozy feel. Like most houses that were built around amazing landscape, the interior design of Casa FM was laid out strategically to make the most of its setting. All of the rooms lead toward the open-plan living room, which features one long floor-to-ceiling glass wall. From this main living area, an expansive open patio space offers spectacular, unobstructed views of the valley below and the surrounding mountain range. + Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos Via Dwell Photography by Federico Cairoli and Federico Ferrer via Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos

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Green-roofed home cantilevers over a remote mountainside in Argentina

Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need?

January 25, 2019 by  
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The media is abuzz with talk of a wildly ambitious proposal to address climate change and transform the economy. A group of progressive, first-term Democrats and youth activists are behind the proposal, called the Green New Deal. Met with doubt, inaction and controversy, these political newcomers argue that this extreme legislation is not only possible but absolutely necessary given the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent report , which warns that the causes of climate change must be dramatically addressed within the next decade or the impacts will be catastrophic. In support of the youth activists, Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) drafted a Green New Deal proposal and demanded that a newly selected committee convene to design a viable solution within one year. The ambitious proposal has seven goals: 1. Shift 100 percent of national power generation to renewable sources. 2. Build a national energy-efficient “smart” grid. 3. Upgrade all buildings to become energy-efficient . 4. Decarbonize manufacturing and agricultural industries. 5. Decarbonize, repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, especially transportation. 6. Fund massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases . 7. Make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major U.S. export. Centered around building a green economy, the plan does not stop at decarbonization solutions; instead, it incorporates economic and social justice programs aimed at drastically reducing inequality. “The activism and enthusiasm, partly triggered by Ocasio-Cortez, seems to tie the climate problem in with a variety of other issues — including jobs for all, living wages, healthcare for all — and that coupling is a new twist in this story, and I think it’s really exciting,” Dan Schrag, professor of climate studies at Harvard, told PRI’s Carolyn Beeler . But this ‘reach for the moon’ approach by the optimistic freshman Democrats has been met with controversy and doubt from both major parties. In a lukewarm response, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), reinstated a previous Climate Crisis Select Committee, headed by Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL). Ocasio-Cortez and the youth activists, spearheaded by the Sunrise Movement , argue that Pelosi’s response is insufficient, pointing to inexcusable appointment of committee members who accept donations from, or have existing investments with, fossil fuel companies, including the committee Chair, Representative Castor herself. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration Furthermore, critics of the response argue that the committee is ineffective without subpoena power, or the right to summon witnesses to court. Pelosi and other seasoned Democrats, however, are concerned the plan is naively optimistic, and wary that the environmental proposal includes divisive platforms such as guaranteed employment and universal healthcare . They argue the proposal must focus more singularly in order to receive the support needed to be effective. Opponents also question how the government will afford the aggressive budget. Since the proposal is more of what the Intercept called a “plan to make a plan,” no exact cost-analysis exists, but the green economy overhaul is expected to cost the government trillions of dollars . Watch Rep. Ocasio-Cortez answer the funding question with CNN’s Chris Cuomo: Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, is similarly unapologetic about the price tag. He  confirmed to The Intercept that the Green New Deal deliberately “touches on everything — it’s basically a massive system upgrade for the economy.” Supporters are determined that green energy -related policy and jobs can be the vehicle on which they transform pervasive inequality and unchecked capitalism and respond to catastrophically urgent climate issues. In fact, IPCC’s report states that adequately addressing climate change will require “unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society.” Despite the spike in tweets and Google searches over the past few months, media attention and controversy alone will not save the planet. So when the media’s attention shifts, will the committee be able to make any traction toward the proposed goals? Related: 6 positive advancements against climate change to lead us into 2019 Given the Trump administration’s disregard for climate science and refusal to hinder the fossil fuel industry, many believe it is unlikely there will be any legislative impact until 2021 at the earliest. This month, however, Governor Cuomo of New York announced his own state-level proposal , explicitly calling it a Green New Deal and including a statewide goal to become 100 percent renewable by 2040. A recent poll by the Yale Program on Climate Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication revealed that a majority of respondents from left, right and center political-affiliations support the general goals of the Green New Deal. Among millennials, a group that will soon become the largest voting group in the country, 51 percent of all respondents support the Deal. While the specific legislative promises are uncertain and likely impossible without more controversy and political disobedience , the proposed Green New Deal has politicians and the American public thinking about the need for drastic actions toward climate change and may succeed in turning the tide on inaction just moments before our last chance. Via Vox Images via Makunin and  Mrganso

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Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need?

Green-roofed home is built of waste bricks and wood in Poland

January 23, 2019 by  
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Environmentally friendly with a beautifully textured facade, this brick house built of recycled materials in Poland has been nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award 2019. Polish architecture firm Biuro Toprojekt designed the dwelling — fittingly named the Red House — that pays homage to the Cistercian landscape and history of Rudy Wielkie, a region in the Upper Silesia known for its brick architecture, with its walls built from hand-sorted waste bricks sourced from nearby brickworks. Environmentally friendly principles guided the design of the Red House, which was built mainly from locally accessible timber and bricks. The spacious, 364-square-meter building was constructed on a clearing at the edge of the forest. Views of the forest are embraced through full-height glazing that pull the outdoors in. A green roof was also installed and will blend the building into the landscape as the roof grows increasingly lush and the brick walls develop a patina. Unlike traditional brick construction, Red House adopts a more textural approach to its brick walls inspired by chiaroscuro, an art term describing the contrast between light and dark. The architects explained how they achieved this effect: “A variation of cross-linking was used, in which two bricks next to each other with heads on top of each other are pushed out on one side and pressed on the other side in relation to the face of the wall. This simple treatment significantly enriched the work of chiaroscuro on the façade. By completely removing the same pair of bricks , an openwork wall was created, concealing the window openings that could break the clean structure of the façade.” Related: Lego-like kindergarten sparks creativity with a playful brick facade Roughly square in plan, the Red House is accessed through an outdoor brick courtyard that takes up approximately a quarter of the home’s footprint. The entry foyer opens up to a stairway leading up to a small upper floor as well as the L-shaped, open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen. The master bedroom is located to the south of the living areas. A large outdoor patio on the west side of the house connects seamlessly to the living spaces and the master bedroom through sliding glass doors. + Biuro Toprojekt Photography by Juliusz Soko?owski via Biuro Toprojekt

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Green-roofed home is built of waste bricks and wood in Poland

California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans

January 23, 2019 by  
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The plastic waste in our oceans is a major environmental problem thanks to humans tossing out single-use items like take-out containers, plastic straws, water bottles and plastic bags. But there is also an unexpected source of plastic waste that a teenage diver recently discovered — golf balls. When 16-year-old Alex Weber was swimming in a small cove near Carmel, California two years ago, she looked down and discovered there were so many white golf balls in the water that she couldn’t see the sand. Weber immediately decided to pick up as many as she could. Over the next few months, she and her father hauled hundreds of pounds of golf balls out of the water and stored them in the garage. But with five coastal golf courses nearby, golfers continued to hit the balls into the ocean. Eventually, Weber discovered Matt Savoca, a Stanford University scientist who studies plastic waste in the oceans . The teen emailed Savoca and invited him to look at her stash, which featured thousands of golf balls. Weber’s haul impressed Savoca, and he told her that she should write a scientific paper, but Weber didn’t know how to do that. So the two ended up working together, and he started diving with her. They also brought kayaks so they could take the golf balls back to land. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world After grabbing the golf balls, Savoca said they would put them on the kayak, and Weber explained that the kayaks were “so filled with plastic ” that they had to tow them by swimming them to shore. The biggest threat to the pair while they were recovering the golf balls wasn’t the sharks in the water. Instead, it was golf balls flying from the nearby courses right into the spot where they were collecting. Golf balls are coated with a thin polyurethane shell, and overtime as the shells degrade, they emit  toxic chemicals . The balls also degrade into microplastic pieces that marine animals eat. Since the first discovery, Weber continues to collect golf balls and manages The Plastic Pick-Up to encourage eliminating ocean pollution. Weber said, “If a person could see what we see underwater, it would not be acceptable.” + The Plastic Pick-Up Via NPR Images via Alex Weber

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California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans

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

How I Cured My Caffeine Addiction (and you can, too!)

January 8, 2019 by  
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Most people won’t leave the house, can’t make it through … The post How I Cured My Caffeine Addiction (and you can, too!) appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How I Cured My Caffeine Addiction (and you can, too!)

7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home

January 4, 2019 by  
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Insulation is an important part of any home. Not only does it retain heat during the winter by restricting air flow, but it also reduces the cost of heating and cooling throughout the year. For more than a century, most new homes were built with fiberglass insulation, but this can cause many health issues. If you are building a new house or remodeling in the near future, try one of these green home insulation alternatives to make your home safe and healthy. Sheep’s wool Not only is sheep’s wool fire retardant, but the material can keep your home warm the same way it helps sheep survive frigid temperatures. In recent years, scientists have figured out how to apply the insulating properties of sheep’s wool to home construction. The compressed wool fibers form millions of tiny air pockets, and the outer layer is resistant to water while the inner layer absorbs moisture. This helps it generate heat while preventing condensation, and it keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. When you use sheep’s wool, you won’t have to adjust your heating and cooling system often, and that will save you energy and money. Cotton/denim Because cotton is a natural and renewable resource, it is one of the most eco-friendly insulation options on the market. Leftover blue jean scraps are shredded and recycled into thick batts that fit into your walls just like fiberglass. To make it safe for humans as well as the environment, companies treat the cotton with a borate solution, so the insulation isn’t flammable. Cotton is also a natural insect repellent, doesn’t contain formaldehyde and doesn’t cause respiratory problems. However, compared to fiberglass, it is incredibly expensive, costing nearly twice as much. Icynene One of the strongest home insulation alternatives, Icynene is a spray foam made out of castor oil that expands about 100 times its volume when you spray it into a wall or ceiling. Not only does it seal leaks and drafts, but it also cancels noise. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home During the foaming process, Icynene traps in tiny air bubbles, and when the foam cures, the air remains in place. This is why the insulation works so well. However, the sealing powers of Icynene are so strong, you have to install a ventilation system. Because of the additional requirements, the upfront costs to install Icynene are expensive. However, it will reduce your energy bill so drastically, in the long run, you will save money. Polystyrene At first glance, this might not sound like a green option, but polystyrene is considered to be green because it helps you save an enormous amount of energy. Polystyrene is a plastic that comes in two forms: rigid foam boards that will add structural integrity to your walls and a spray foam. Aerogel This man-made material is 90 percent air, but it is difficult for heat to pass through it, making it excellent for insulation. The legend has it that Samuel Stephens Kistler invented aerogel in 1931 after making a bet with a friend. Kesler bet that he could replace the liquid in a jelly jar without causing the jelly to shrink, and he won by removing the liquid and replacing it with air. This led to aerogel, which is made by removing the liquid from silica under high pressure and temperature. Aerogel is ultra lightweight and comes in sheets or stickers for easy installation. However, it is pricey, costing up to $2 a foot. ThermaCork This option actually has a negative carbon footprint , because the finished product is made from the outer bark of oak trees. It is natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, plus it cancels noise and is free of toxins. Cellulose If you are looking to minimize the toxins in your house, cellulose is a good choice. Made from recycled newsprint and other paper, it is safe to install. Using this kind of insulation means that the paper in your walls didn’t make its way to a landfill to release harmful greenhouse gases . When it comes to insulation, there is no right or wrong choice. But there are many different options out there with various qualities, good and bad. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each to find the insulation that works best for you and your home. Images via Icynene , Tony Webster , Jon Collier and Shutterstock

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7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home

Solar-powered smart home puts a modern spin on rural Italian architecture

December 28, 2018 by  
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Montebelluna-based architecture firm Reisarchitettura, has put a contemporary twist on the traditional countryside vernacular of Southern Italy with the BS House— a modern energy-efficient dwelling in the rural outskirts of Ostuni. Defined by large stone walls and muted natural material palette, the seemingly rustic home boasts a modern interior and energy-efficient systems including home automation technology that allows the homeowners to remotely control the home with their smartphones. To maximize energy savings, the BS House is powered with solar energy as well as an integrated heat pump. Commissioned by a German executive and his journalist wife, the BS House serves as a live-work house rather than a holiday getaway. The clients selected an elevated site with beautiful olive trees and stellar views of the landscape. The design of the house also pays homage to nature through its natural material palette that comprises dry stone and lime plaster for the walls, minimal window frames made of oak wood, and Apricena stone paving; architectural detailing gave these traditional materials a contemporary twist. “The project started from the idea of a central patio, used since antiquity in the hot climate of the southern Mediterranean as passive protection from the sun,” explains the architecture firm of the 170-square-meter home. “The house shaped as a C around the patio facing north to protect the large windows from the hot Apulian sun and enjoy the best view. To the east are the living area and the studio of the owner, in the center the dining area with kitchen and to the west the master bedroom with a second studio for his wife. At the west end is a guest room with separated entrance and services. North of the House, in front of the patio, the swimming pool, with gazebo, services and sauna, overlooks the countryside.” Related: Solar-powered home embraces sustainable design in Chihuahua In anticipation of future business trips, the clients requested that their home be equipped with a KNX home automation system that allows for the remote control of everything from the safety and alarm systems to the air conditioning and lighting. Solar panels power the house as well as the recharging station for the clients’ electric vehicle . + Reisarchitettura Via ArchDaily Images by Alessandra Bello

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Solar-powered smart home puts a modern spin on rural Italian architecture

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