Extraordinary man builds 25 plastic bottle homes for refugees in Algeria

May 18, 2017 by  
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A Sahrawi refugee in Algeria is rebuilding lives – literally. Born and raised in the refugee camp in Awserd near Tindouf, 27-year-old Tateh Lehbib Breica is constructing disaster resistant homes using discarded plastic bottles – for himself and others. These recycled homes are specifically built to endure harsh desert conditions for an affordable price. It’s no easy feat to construct homes in a climate where temperatures can spike to around 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Sandstorms also prey on refugee shelters in five camps near Tindouf, Algeria, where people live after fleeing violence in the Western Sahara War over 40 years ago. But the area also faces destructive rainstorms – in 2015 heavy rains wrecked thousands of homes. Related: Mayor born in Syria converts abandoned Greek resort into a sanctuary for refugees Breica may have found a solution in old plastic bottles filled with sand. He has a master’s degree in energy efficiency after participating in a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) scholarship program. He’d intended to build a rooftop garden, growing seedlings in the bottles, but the circular shape of the energy efficient home he was building posed a challenge to that idea. He wondered what he could do with the bottles instead and recalled a documentary on building with plastic bottles he’d seen during his time at university. The plastic bottle homes can better withstand storms than adobe , mudbrick, or tent homes, and are water resistant. The homes have thick walls, and partnered with their circular shape, stand up better to sandstorms. Breica built the first bottle home for his grandmother, who was hurt while being carried to a community center to hunker down during a sandstorm. Working with UNHCR, Breica has built 25 homes so far. He’s earned the nickname Crazy with Bottles for his work. Although he’s won awards for his design, he said, “People still see me as the guy obsessed with recycling bottles and building unusual houses.” Via UNCHR Images © UNHCR/Russell Fraser

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Extraordinary man builds 25 plastic bottle homes for refugees in Algeria

Score an organic mattress worth 2199 from PlushBeds

May 18, 2017 by  
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Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a lot of things, but a well-made, comfortable mattress can make all the difference. Unfortunately, the majority of mattresses on the market (especially the cheap ones) are made with synthetic chemicals, such as polyurethane foam doused in toxic flame-retardants, which can contribute to health problems like allergies, asthma, endocrine issues and even cancer . Non-organic mattresses also come with an environmental footprint that would give any conscious person nightmares. Now there’s a mattress company called PlushBeds that raises the bar with a luxurious line of Botanical Bliss mattresses . Constructed with the highest quality natural materials derived from ethical sources, they have zero synthetic materials, chemical fire-retardants or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) mixed in, so they don’t off-gas toxic fumes – and they are carefully designed to give you lasting comfort for years to come. If you’re in need of a new mattress, you’re in luck, because we’ve teamed up with PlushBeds to give away an organic mattress worth 2199 : ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN! a Rafflecopter giveaway Contest open only to residents of the continental U.S. PLUSH BEDS BOTANICAL BLISS MATTRESSES Each Plushbeds botanical bliss mattress has a dense core of 100 percent organic latex, a cover of non-woven organic cotton , and up to 10 pounds of 100 percent Jona New Zealand wool for loft. The most important element of a Botanical Bliss organic latex mattress is the natural latex – made from the ‘white milky fluid’ tapped from rubber trees. Poorly managed rubber plantations use a lot of pesticides, not to mention water and energy, to produce latex, but Plushbed’s latex is responsibly and ethically harvested. PlushBeds keeps their mattresses clean and green by using organic latex from Sri Lanka’s ARPICO , which is certified in accordance with the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and uses at least one form of renewable energy to power their operations. Unlike talalay latex, according to the company, organic latex results in a heavier, denser mattress core that provides optimum support — freeing you from the tyranny of a sagging mattress that leaves you feeling stiff and cranky in the morning. Natural latex is springy, resilient (meaning it doesn’t sag), and naturally anti-microbial. Adding to the Botanical Bliss mattress’ comfort level is its cover, which is made with 100 percent GOTS certified organic cotton . PlushBeds says their non-woven mattress covers are softer, more breathable, and more elastic than woven covers, and offer better moisture control and pressure relief. And because the cotton was grown sans harmful herbicides or pesticides , it is safer for both the environment in which the cotton is grown and the end user. Topping each mattress’ layer of latex is up to 10 pounds of Jona New Zealand wool. Wool is naturally fire-resistant, so there’s no chemical flame retardants to disturb your sleep or health. Natural wool also allows your body to quickly reach a comfortable sleeping temperature and maintain it throughout the night. Two inches of pressure-reducing latex provides additional cushion, and an orthopedic foundation comprised of all-natural spruce wood lends superior pressure-absorbing support, rounding out the five main components of an American-made Botanical Bliss mattress. If you don’t win our contest but still want your own Botanical Bliss mattress , note the price tag is reasonable for a luxury mattress of this quality – starting at $1,099. Each comes with a risk-free 100-night sleep trial, 100-day comfort exchange, and a 25-year warranty with free shipping and returns. Also, PlushBeds is having a Memorial Day Sale with $1200 off all Organic Latex Mattresses – use the code INHABITAT50 for an additional $50 off. + PlushBeds

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Score an organic mattress worth 2199 from PlushBeds

IKEA’s Better Shelter is being redesigned due to safety concerns

May 2, 2017 by  
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IKEA ’s groundbreaking flat-pack refugee shelter may have won acclaim and industry awards, but project’s deployment has now been temporarily delayed due to safety concerns. Better Shelter, the social enterprise that produces the shelter, told Dezeen that the existing design has accessibility issues and potential fire risks that need to be addressed. The new model will hopefully be completed and ready to deliver to the people who need it later this year. The improvements will include better ventilation and lighting, as well as a stronger frame and wall panels. Not only will these components be lighter and tougher, but a new process will also reduce production costs. The shelter’s lamp and solar panel will be updated, and additional ventilation inlets will be installed. Hopefully, the redesign will also address the raised sill and narrow doorway that make the shelters inaccessible to wheelchair users as well. Concerns have also been raised that the shelter could constitute a fire hazard to residents. Though the Swiss city of Zurich purchased 62 of the shelters , in the end, they ended up not being used when inspections showed they did not meet national fire protection requirements. Related: IKEA unveils plan to lift 200,000 people out of poverty Better Shelter is addressing these worries by issuing new guidelines on how to improve the safety distance between units so that fires can’t easily spread through potential camps. Though deployment of new shelters has been put on hold, existing homes aren’t being pulled off the ground, so refugees won’t suddenly find themselves homeless. Instead, they’re being redeployed with an eye toward greater fire safety. Hopefully, the new and improved version will be available to replace those existing units soon. Via Dezeen Images via Better Shelter

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IKEA’s Better Shelter is being redesigned due to safety concerns

Student invents computer program to help Bedouin villages build better homes

April 11, 2017 by  
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Architecture student Nof Nathansohn is on a mission to provide decent living solutions for the marginalized Bedouin communities scattered throughout Israel’s Negev desert region. For her thesis project, Nathansohn created a computer program called Home Made that lets communities design affordable, environmentally-friendly housing without the need for an architect. The Bedouin villages are unrecognized by the Israeli government, so the shanty-like structures are under constant threat of demolition. Nathansohn’s Home Made software would allow the communities to build homes that are not only affordable and green , but easily assembled and disassembled. Related: Smart architecture app lets you turn almost anything into a digital stencil A major feature of the home-design application is that it is extremely user friendly. The software is designed to guide the user at every stage of the design process, from the initial design to the final construction. Users can choose from four different designs platforms with a variety of layouts. Each platform is designed according to different parameters such as sun direction, size and height, available materials, local topography, cost, etc. Although created for the Bedouin communities, the program enables the design and construction of low cost, green energy temporary housing easy for any location, under almost any circumstance. The flexibility offered by the application not only lets families construct a personalized living space, but can be used to create thriving villages as well. In fact, Nathansohn tested the application on the unrecognized village of Al-Sara, near the town Arad. She designed multiple structures for the village based on their current size as well as growth expectancy. She even designed a community center for the local children. + Nof Nathansohn

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Student invents computer program to help Bedouin villages build better homes

Solar-powered ‘ecotopia’ proposed as alternative to Trump’s border wall

April 7, 2017 by  
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In response to Trump’s maddening determination to build a wall along the US and Mexico border , one group of fed-up designers has proposed an entire new territory, called Otra Nation , that would be open to citizens of both Mexico and the United States. The high-tech ecotopia designed by Made Collective (Mexican & American Designers & Engineers) is a new country that spans 1,200 miles across the border, powered by massive solar farms and connected with a hyperloop transportation system. The ambitious proposal is being called a “shared co-nation.” The territory would stretch for over 1,200 miles and encompass 12 miles on each side of the border, effectively joining Tijuana, El Paso, and San Diego. The land would be considered unincorporated territory, with an independent local government and non-voting representatives. Otra Nation residents would retain their natural-born citizenship, but would be granted a new ID microchip for identification purposes, giving them access to the independent health care and education systems . Related: Donald Trump would probably hate this crossable border wall The plan also depicts Otra Nation as a sustainable community , generating energy from 90,000 square kilometers of solar panels that would meet the demands of the new territory and then some. Watersheds and local ecosystems on both side of the current border would also be restored. Under the plan, an intercity hyperloop would be used for clean transportation. As far as the economic structure, companies built on “sharing principles” would be encouraged, but any company or service looking to “minimize human employment with autonomous vehicles and drone technologies” would be prohibited. According to Made Collective, the project would be focused on bringing communities together versus creating divisions, “The 19th century brought us boundaries, the 20th century we built walls, the next we will bridge nations by creating communities based on shared principles of economic resiliency, energy independence and a trust based social contract.” In an interview with The Verge , members from the Made Collection admit that, although they have formally applied for a US government contract, there’s little possibility that the US and Mexican governments will take their proposal seriously. Although, they are still holding out hope that their idea might make it to a popular referendum so that, as collective member Marina Muñoz puts it, “We can really make the complete American continent great again.” + Otra Nation Via The Verge Images via Otra Nation  

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Solar-powered ‘ecotopia’ proposed as alternative to Trump’s border wall

Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower

March 20, 2017 by  
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The far reaches of northern Vietnam are beautiful but heartbreakingly poor. Children of the Hmong ethnic minority who live in the villages routinely suffer from lack of access to healthcare and education. Vietnamese architecture firm 1+1> 2 has provided a ray of hope for those in Lung Luong village in the remote Thai Nguyen Province with the construction of a beautiful new school made from local materials including rammed earth and bamboo. The school’s beautiful swooping and colorful form is an inspiration to the village and serves as a welcoming haven protected from the harsh elements. The Lung Luong elementary school is sited on a mountain peak and constructed to replace a poorly insulated structure that was piercingly cold in days of heavy rain and draught. Under the leadership of architect Hoang Thuc Hao, the villagers excavated part of the peak to create an even foundation. The excavated soil was recycled into rammed earth bricks used to build the school’s structure. The soil bricks’ thermal properties help maintain a temperate indoor climate year round. Locally sourced timber and bamboo were also used in construction and existing trees were protected during the building process. The elementary school is spread out across the mountaintop, covering an area of over 1,400 square meters. The orientation and placement of the buildings and the swooping colorful bamboo canopy above optimize natural lighting, ventilation, and sound insulation. The school comprises classrooms, playgrounds, gardens, multipurpose rooms, a medical room, library, kitchen, toilets, and dormitory. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier “The goal of this project is to create a school with conveniences striving against the harsh nature,” write the architects. “The classrooms are compatible with the mountain, spaces between them are slots which makes everything appears like an architectural picture pasted on the terrain. The corridor connects all functional areas. The foundation of the buildings respects the natural terrain which means that they wind up and down as the mountain path.” + 1+1> 2 Via ArchDaily Images © Son Vu

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Rammed earth school in Vietnam blooms like a colorful jungle flower

Diapers, sanitary products could provide alternative fuel source

March 20, 2017 by  
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A waste-management company has developed a new, patented process that turns sanitary products, baby diapers, incontinence pads, and other so-called “absorbent hygiene products” into power. PHS Group , which serves 90,000 households, schools, offices, and retirement homes across the United Kingdom and Ireland, says that it handles about 45,000 tons of the stuff a year. A plant in the Midlands is currently converting 15 percent of that waste into compressed bales that can be burned to provide fuel for power stations. Refuse-derived fuel is neither an untested concept in Europe, where the practice is par for the course, nor in the U.K., where it’s gaining ground. But diapers, tampons, and their ilk have proved trickier because their dampness makes incineration most costly. But neither is dumping them in the landfill, where they’ll take decades to degrade, a sustainable solution. “Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue,” Justin Tydeman, CEO of the PHS Group, told Guardian . PHS Group’s system, which is being evaluated by the University of Birmingham for its effectiveness, not to mention its impact on the environment, sounds simple in principle. Related: How Sweden diverts 99 percent of its waste from the landfill The company begins by shredding and squeezing the material, then disposing of any waste liquid as sewage. The remaining dry material is packed into bales, ripe for tossing into the fire. “Whether or not it turns out to be a major source of energy in itself, the key thing is we find a good way to handle what is a complex and growing waste stream,” Tydeman said. “We don’t want this stuff just going into the ground.” An aging population makes PHS Group’s tack even more vital than ever, Tydeman added. “The great thing about life today is people are living longer, but what comes with that is often incontinence issues,” he said. We want this to be a growing issue, because we want people to live longer.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash , Pixabay

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Diapers, sanitary products could provide alternative fuel source

Tiny Toronto lighthouse serves multiple functions at once

March 2, 2017 by  
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This minimalist wooden lighthouse installed at Woodbine beach in Toronto doubles as a temporary drop-off location for local charity donations. Portuguese design firm João Araújo Sousa & Joana Correia Silva Arquitectura wrapped The Beacon in aged wood to make it look as if it has been part of the beach for a long time. The Beacon, which shoots a vertical beam of light into the night sky, captures the essence of traditional lighthouses, while translating their archetypal conical shape into a single spatial gesture. Beside its role as a lighthouse, the structure also functions as a place where people can leave non-perishable foods and clothes for charities. Related: The government is giving away free lighthouses to the right owners The lower part of the structure acts as a repository for such items and features openings at different heights through which they can be easily inserted. While the architects hope the Beacon will become part of a larger, permanent network of donation hotspots in Toronto , this small structure can also be repurposed as a wildlife observation tower , a wilderness shelter or a fire lookout tower . + João Araújo Sousa & Joana Correia Silva Arquitectura Photos by Steven Evans

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Tiny Toronto lighthouse serves multiple functions at once

High school students are building tiny homes to give to flood survivors

February 20, 2017 by  
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In West Virginia, students that would normally be constructing birdhouses or bookshelves are instead contributing their labor and newly acquired skills to help give those who lost everything a new start. Last year, historic floods devastated the state, destroying over 5000 homes and killing over 20 people. So students from across the state have gathered together to build compact, energy efficient tiny homes for victims of the flooding. West Virginia has struggled to provide adequate housing for those thousands made homeless by the storm. So high school students attending 12 vocational schools throughout the state are demonstrating that they may have a promising solution. The participating vocational schools, such as Carver Career and Technical Education Center in Charleston, traditionally teach practices such as carpentry and plumbing.  A new, first of-its-kind partnership between the West Virginia Department of Education and the Greater Recovery and Community Empowerment initiative enables students to access hands-on learning to design and build homes for local flood survivors from concept to completion. Each unique  tiny house i s just 500 square feet. Related: Studio H launches Kickstarter Campaign to Build a Shipping Container Classroom at Berkeley’s REALM Charter school 15 homes have been built so far, thanks to funding from the state’s Board of Education and regional community supporters. All of the homes are unique and some are designed to be portable.  Unlike trailers that are supplied by FEMA in post-disaster zones , each of the tiny homes will have individual design accents. Each home includes a bathroom, kitchen, living room and laundry room.  The ground-breaking program has potential to be scaled to serve communities in other post-disaster zones. + WV Public Broadcasting Via NPR Photos Courtesy of West Virginia Department of Education  

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High school students are building tiny homes to give to flood survivors

Self-assembling shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing

February 16, 2017 by  
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Emergency shelter design is becoming increasingly important due to the various refugee situations occurring around the world. Although some designs have already been awarded for their crucial role in providing emergency housing, other forward-thinking designers such as Haresh Lalvani are actively working to create a biomimicry-based system where shelter structures would be able to assemble themselves. As cofounder of the Pratt Institute Center for Experimental Structures , Lalvani is employing a “wildly interdisciplinary range of tools” to create a type of generative geometry that would be able to assemble and repair, grow, and evolve all on its own. The designer is using concepts found in biology, mathematics, computer science and art to create systems where matter would start encoding information, a similar process to that of stem cells and genes in the human body. Lalvani explains that these biological systems are “the only place where software and hardware are the same thing.” Related: ASU’s new Biomimicry Center offers first-ever master’s degree in biomimicry https://youtu.be/fh-fMUo0Kjk Using biomimicry as inspiration, Lalvani is testing the potential of giving physical objects the power to assemble through a similar system of genomic instructions encoded into the raw material. His prototypes stem from a concrete and humanitarian approach that could potentially create, for example, rapidly deployable disaster housing . Creating an “inherently ephemeral building type”, however, is no easy task, and one that requires a futuristic level of technology. Working with metal fabricator, Milgo/Bufkin, Lalvani has managed to convert 2D sheets of perforated metals into rigid 3D structures using a computer controlled laser cutter that perforates “variable openings” into the sheets. Using a force such as gravity for instance, the spaces can be pulled apart or stretched, therefore creating another, more flexible form that is completely distinct from the original material. This type of installation could be a potential game changer for shelter design considering some of Lalvani’s installations take less than one minute to bend into shape. Additionally exciting is the fact that the raw material is just one thin sheet of metal, and can be easily transported and requires no tools for assembly, making it especially useful for emergency situations. + Haresh Lalvani + Pratt Institute Center for Experimental Structures Via Archdaily Images via Haresh Lalvani

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Self-assembling shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing

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