HempWood offers a sustainable wood alternative with endless applications

February 24, 2021 by  
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With an educational background in vinyl siding and wood flooring, Fibonacci owner Greg Wilson has developed HempWood, an American-produced wood material made from a fast-growing agricultural product. Hemp has long been acclaimed for its versatility, but regulations in the United States have historically hampered research and development on the material. Now, hemp may be the material surrounding you inside your home. Replacing wood with other natural materials The company’s name is Fibonacci, although it’s now mostly known as HempWood with a focus on its primary product. No trees were harmed in the making of HempWood, since it is made of all-natural, U.S.-grown hemp, and the uses are just beginning to take shape.  Related: Levi’s announces product line made with Cottonized Hemp In the grand scheme of things, HempWood sees the opportunity to sit alongside the major players in the wood industry. Its current products include flooring, furniture, countertops and accent walls. Basically anything for indoor use made out of hardwoods, tropical woods, cork or other agricultural products, such as bamboo and eucalyptus , can be made using HempWood instead. Wilson originally worked in China with another plant-to-product material, bamboo. While great for many things, bamboo lacked strength as a commercial product. Wilson was part of a team that unlocked a process that turned bamboo into a more durable product. Later, he used a similar process in working with strand wood eucalyptus. As hemp availability and an interest in the possibilities for the material grew, Wilson moved back to the U.S. and opened shop in Kentucky to use his prior experiences in the advancement of hemp development. The environmental impact of hemp Even with Wilson’s prior dealings with similarly behaving materials, hemp has presented some unique challenges. Plus, launching a business in 2020 was no easy feat. Wilson told Cool Hunting in a recent interview, “It’s all based off this one algorithm that allows you to transform a plant fiber into a wood composite,” he explained. “You’ve got to modify it a little bit for the different fiber coming in, but for hemp we’ve also had to duck and weave around government regulation, COVID, wildfires and everything else 2020 has to offer.” Wilson and his team were already aware of the sustainability aspects of hemp, like the fact that plants grow quickly and are ready for harvest in only 120 days. Compared to traditional tree-based woods such as oak, hickory and maple that grow for hundreds of years, hemp can provide a renewable option for the wood industry. Plus, as a plant, hemp naturally helps create cleaner air by removing carbon and releasing oxygen. Hemp’s versatility means every part of the plant is used, leaving no waste behind. While HempWood primarily relies on the bottom part of the plant, the upper parts of thhe plant has other commercial uses, such as chicken feed. From a sustainability aspect, HempWood offers additional advantages. Harvesting trees damages the natural habitat of plants and animals . For example, removing a single large oak tree takes away a food and housing source. Plus, it eliminates protection for the plants growing underneath it. Forests are a carefully balanced ecosystem, so removing a single component can easily upset the stability within the region. As an agricultural product, hemp doesn’t have that lasting effect.  As a bio-based product, HempWood avoids creating future issues with its natural ability to biodegrade . Even the non-toxic, soy-based adhesive can dissolve back into the soil. “It’s a wood-composite comprised of greater than 80% hemp fiber,” Wilson explained. “We take the whole stalk and put it through a crushing machine which breaks open the cell structure. Then we dunk it into these enormous vats of soy protein, mixed with water and with the organic acid used by the paper towel industry. It’s essentially papier-mâché.” Corporate responsibility Fibonacci chose a location within 100 miles of the hemp farms it relies on for materials. This decreases transportation costs and the carbon emissions that result from shipping materials across the country. The company is currently looking into expanding with more facilities to create a web of strategically placed hubs on each coast and around the U.S. Inside the HempWood facility, the company is committed to a small carbon footprint . In addition to basic steps like using low-consuming LED bulbs throughout the buildings, the company has installed a bio-burner. This device not only vents heat throughout the facility, but it also provides energy savings and comprehensive waste reduction by burning material off-cuts onsite. The team at HempWood has enjoyed promoting an alternative for the green building community as well as creating a base product that people can get creative with. Customers report making many types of products out of the material, including duck calls, art projects, bowls and picture frames. There is no cap on the number of applications this material can be used for in the building industry and beyond. + HempWood Images via HempWood

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Responsible Mushroom Hunting

November 19, 2020 by  
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A time-honored autumn pastime for locavores that neatly fits into … The post Responsible Mushroom Hunting appeared first on Earth 911.

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How to prepare your pets for the end of lockdown

August 7, 2020 by  
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Between nonstop news and social media use, we’re all too familiar with the effects of COVID-19 on humans around the world. But the lives of our furry friends have also been impacted in ways large and small. Whether your dog is bummed because admirers can’t pet her during walks or your cat is alarmed by your 24/7 work-from-home presence, nobody has escaped the impact of the pandemic . We talked to three veterinarians — Tory Waxman, chief veterinarian at Sundays ; Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary ; and Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food — who weighed in about how lockdown has affected pets and how to prepare them for our eventual return to the workplace. Related: Fostering and adopting pets during the pandemic How has lockdown affected pets? Bernal: The past few months have seen many of us make sure that we are there for our pets just as much as they are for us. We’ve loved having our dogs sit by our feet, follow us around and go out with them on long daily walks. However, any changes in routine can leave pets feeling anxious or stressed, so it’s important for pet parents to make proper adjustments to help the time at home stay equally as beneficial for both parties. Richardson: Unless your pet is particularly independent, they are likely to have loved having you around almost 24/7 during lockdown! For most pets, it will have been a very enjoyable time — and they’ll have been making the most of the extra attention and cuddles. There are, however, a few other effects that some pets may experience: increased dependency, weight gain/loss of fitness and missed veterinary appointments. If we’re continuing to work remotely, how can we make that situation more comfortable for our pets? Waxman:  Exercising your pets (both physically and mentally) is a great way to keep them content in our new reality. It’s important to start gradually with physical exercise. Once your pup is in shape, a few miles of walking before an important meeting will help ensure they sleep right through it. Additionally, mental stimulation can be very helpful when the weather is bad or you just don’t have time for a walk. For dogs, frozen Kongs, snuffle mats and puzzle toys are all great options. We use a Manners Minder treat dispenser in our office to reward our dogs to rest quietly while we work. For cats, the Doc & Phoebe Indoor Hunting Feeder is a great way to get a cat to exercise while being mentally stimulated. Bernal: Continue a regular routine, allow them to have their own space to retreat to that they feel comfortable in, daily exercise and mental stimulation. Help your dog with some social time with other dogs such as time at the dog park now that most areas are out of stay-at-home orders, and look to doggy daycare options. This will give your dog some doggy time that they simply love as well as bring them home ready for a good night’s sleep! Giving your dog some alone time where you are out of the house is also important, even if you aren’t planning on going back to work anytime soon. Thirty to 60 minutes a day will help minimize their anxiety for when you do go back to work. Remember during these times to avoid emotional departures or greetings and give them their favorite distraction several minutes prior to your leaving the home. Long-lasting food treats or favorite toys are a good tip here. Will they be glad when we go back to work? Will they miss us? Waxman: Our pets will definitely miss us but will also enjoy some time on their own! For some pets, it is hard for them to truly relax with us around all the time. Richardson: Some independent pets may enjoy time to themselves, but many pets may miss us. If the transition back to work is a sudden one, your pet may display signs of separation anxiety, even if they have never experienced it before. Common signs of anxiety in pets include aggression, soiling in the home, destructive behavior, excessive barking/whining/meowing, pacing or restlessness, changes in appetite or weight, change in mood, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, shaking/trembling/tiding, tail-tucking and excessive licking or chewing, which may result in reddened skin and/or bald patches. Bernal: Dogs have loved us being home and even if they are a dog who is content on their own, they will miss having us there to keep them company. There’s a chance that our dog may have become more attached to us than normal, potentially causing separation anxiety in the coming weeks as we start to go back to work or our daily lives. Separation anxiety is a behavioral reaction triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they are attached to the most. How can we prepare pets for the end of lockdown? Waxman: If you expect to eventually go back to work for most of the day outside your home, start teaching your pet in small increments of time to be content when you are not around. Start with leaving them in a safe place (enclosed room or crate) for short periods of time. Make sure to actually leave your home or apartment during these times away — your pet is smart enough to know if you are just in the other room. Also, start up a routine similar to that of your routine if you were to go into the office . Wake up, feed and exercise them at the same time as if you were going to work. Just like us, dogs and cats thrive with predictable routines. Richardson: Associate your absence with positive rewards. When you leave your pet alone, give them a special treat, Kong frozen with peanut butter or low-sodium broth or other high-value reward that you only give during this alone time. Provide a ‘den’ for your pet. Consider crate-training your dog if you haven’t already, or use a gated space. A crate provides a safe space for your dog to retreat to when they are anxious. Cats enjoy a quiet, darker space, tucked away from busy areas of the home. Always use exciting rewards so they come to love this space. Increase exercise and play before leaving. Tire out your pet before you leave. If a pet has lots of excess energy, it’s more likely to turn into nervous energy and fuel separation anxiety. Take dogs for a long walk or run before work, or have a vigorous play session with both dogs and cats to help mentally stimulate and tire them out. Switch up your routine when leaving home. If you follow the same routine, your pet may pick up on this and notice those departure cues: the sound of your keys, putting on shoes or grabbing a bag. Mix things up so your pet doesn’t associate these signals with you leaving and subsequently with anxiety. How will going back to work outside the house affect pets that were adopted during the pandemic? Waxman:  Going back to work will be hard on pets that were adopted during the pandemic, as many have never been left alone for long periods of time. Work on leaving your pet for short periods of time, slowly working up to long stretches out of the house, reflective of your actual workday. For some dogs, going to doggy daycare or having a dog walker will be part of their routine — it’s a good idea to acclimate your pup to these activities now so it’s already part of their routine when you do go back to work. Bernal:  For adopted pets, going back to work may be a new experience entirely for them and exacerbate the chance of them demonstrating separation anxiety. Training your dog to spend time alone is crucial. Doggy daycare or having a walker come in to your home while you are at work is an option for many dogs. Let your dog meet the walker when you are home so they get to know them. For doggy daycare, work with your local facility to see if you can take your dog early on the morning they are due to start so that it is less daunting compared to entering a full room of dogs. What other effects of the pandemic have you seen on pets? Richardson: We have observed that pet owners are noticing things that they may not have previously noticed now that they’re home more frequently — medical problems like allergy symptoms (such as itching or paw licking), the frequency of seizures, changes in mobility or odd behaviors. Pet owners are picking up on things their pet may be experiencing with greater frequency. Images via Bao_5 , Fran Mother of Dogs and Makieni777

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Saving New Zealands kakapo from extinction

January 2, 2020 by  
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One of the world’s rarest birds, the kakapo, is on the brink of extinction. Found only on some New Zealand sanctuaries, it is the planet’s only flightless parrot. The current population number is at 211, thereby sparking conservation initiatives, especially because the Maori people continue to uphold a strong spiritual connection with the kakapo, whose name translates as “parrot of the night.” One initiative, for instance, is the Predator Free 2050 project to eliminate predators across the New Zealand wilds to help native species thrive again. The 2019 kakapo breeding season saw record success, according to Andrew Digby, New Zealand’s kakapo science adviser, who said, “Between January and April, 86 chicks were born, of which 70 are still alive.” Nonetheless, nine kakapos succumbed to aspergillosis, a respiratory infection attributed to airborne fungi. Related: Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires Interestingly, humans did not populate New Zealand until the 1200s. Kakapos were not threatened, having only a couple of bat species to compete with for food. Their natural predators were birds of prey that they could elude, thanks to highly-evolved feathers that camouflage kakapos against the forest floor. All that changed upon the arrival of the first Polynesians in the 13th century and was exacerbated further five centuries later, when European settlement began. Tane Davis of the Maori Ngai Tahu tribe’s kakapo conservation team explained that the early Polynesians “ate the kakapo, used their feathers to weave cloaks and carved their bones into fish hooks.” Europeans accelerated kakapo demise with their hunting dogs, cats, English ferrets and weasels, stoats, deer, stowaway rodents and even Australian possums. Plus, extensive forest clearances, to build towns, cities and farmland, led to extreme habitat loss that devastated kakapo populations. By 1995, only 51 birds were left, galvanizing conservation efforts. Kakapos are even more vulnerable because 40 percent of their eggs are infertile, a consequence of today’s inbreeding. Contemporary success rates are boosted with artificial insemination of pairs genetically matched as compatible. Meanwhile, the islands of Anchor, Chalky, Hauturu and Whenua Hou have been cleared of predators to become kakapo conservation sanctuaries. A drone transfers sperm between conservation teams working in the different locations. Two new kakapo sanctuaries are being planned for the future. Other measures taken to ensure kakapo survival rates are that each mother bird is given one chick to raise, while the rest are hand-raised to ensure proper nutrition . Likewise, all kakapos are microchipped and outfitted with a transmitter to maximize tracking efforts. The birds are so closely monitored because, if left on their own, they only breed once every two to four years, to coincide with when New Zeland’s rimu trees bear fruit. But conservationists “trick” kakapos to breed more often by feeding supplementary food and maintaining bird weights for better egg health. These efforts contributed to a more successful breeding season in 2019, and conservationists hope to continue boosting those numbers to save this rare and unique bird. Via CNN Image via Chris Birmingham / Department of Conservation

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Saving New Zealands kakapo from extinction

A midcentury barn is thoughtfully reclaimed for a family retreat in California

January 2, 2020 by  
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In California wine country, north of San Francisco, Faulkner Architects repurposed a 1950s tack barn as part of a Glen Ellen retreat for a family of four. In addition to salvaging original construction materials and retaining the shape and atmosphere of the agricultural building, the architects minimized the accessory dwelling’s energy footprint with the optimization of cross ventilation as well as with the installation of a new radiant concrete slab for heating, which is complemented with a 10,000 BTU propane-fired boiler. Inspired by Glen Ellen’s strong agricultural roots and beautiful rural views, the clients sought a weekend retreat from the city that would pay homage to the landscape’s history. The family’s multi-acre property includes a main residence, a lawn, a pool, a car shed and the repurposed barn that sits close to the main road. The original tack barn had comprised a single interior tool and workspace with a crushed gravel floor in addition to an upper-level sleeping attic and a lean-to shed roof for horses. Related: Weathering steel wraps around a solar-powered California home In repurposing the barn into a habitable space, the architects retained the original wood frame structure and removed the attic to maximize usable interior space while staying within the 850-square-foot permitted size for accessory dwellings. The minimalist interior includes an open-plan kitchen, living room and dining area that opens up to a new terrace on the west side. Meanwhile, the existing stable was turned into an unconditioned porch to house four beds, bump up the usable area to 1,530 square feet and take advantage of prevailing southwest winds . Along with the preserved Douglas fir elements of the barn, an insulated, locally reclaimed redwood rain screen was added to the exterior. “The reuse of an old barn to house people on weekend getaways from urban life presents a conflict in identity for the built form,” the architects noted. “Uses change over time; the intention here was to maintain and use the embodied energy of the familiar barn in the neighborhood while allowing the signs of human inhabitation to be subtle, but evident.” + Faulkner Architects Photography by Joe Fletcher Photography via Faulkner Architects

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A midcentury barn is thoughtfully reclaimed for a family retreat in California

Trump administration wants to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list

March 11, 2019 by  
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Government officials in the U.S. are looking to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. The move, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would allow states in the Lower 48 to lawfully hunt populations of the gray wolf. “Recovery of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of our nation’s great conservation successes,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shared. According to NPR , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing the proposal in the Federal Register this month. After the rule is published, officials will entertain public comments for a short period before passing anything into law. The public comments period usually lasts a few weeks. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration Gray wolves were labeled endangered back in 1978, when populations dwindled to only 1,000 in the United States. Since then, the numbers have risen to more than 5,000 across the country. As populations have grown, ranchers and farmers have spoken out against the federal protections, as they often consider wolves a threat to livestock. While the numbers are a good sign, conservationists warn that the gray wolf has not fully recovered in all of the areas it used to roam. In some locations, the numbers are so small that removing the hunting ban could have disastrous effects on populations. For example, wolves may never reach recoverable levels in the southern Rockies unless the federal protections are extended. The former head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jamie Rappaport Clark, believes that states will not treat gray wolves the same as other species once the endangered status is lifted. Clark is fighting for additional protections that will ensure the wolves will not be hunted in mass once they are off the list. It is unclear when the law would be put in place if officials decide to move forward with their plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to respond to the criticism of removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list. Via NPR Image via Christels

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COBE unveils LEED Gold-seeking affordable housing units in Toronto

March 11, 2019 by  
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Danish architectural firm COBE has unveiled a new mixed-use residential development in Toronto designed for LEED Gold certification. Created in collaboration with Toronto-based architectural firm architectsAlliance , the project will comprise three buildings — two designed by COBE — set in West Don Lands, a former industrial area on Toronto’s waterfront. The housing development will consist of 761 market rental apartments, including 30 percent affordable rental units indistinguishable in design from the others. Designed to celebrate the area’s different building typologies, the mixed-use residential buildings are made up of three architectural styles stacked one atop of another. The first layer at the street level will be a contemporary take on the redbrick warehouses found in the neighboring Distillery District; the middle layer is an interpretation of the Canary District warehouses north of the site; and the uppermost section is built of light concrete in reference to the existing industrial silos found on the harbor front. The resulting towers will be an “urban ensemble of unique structures,” the architects said. These three architecturally distinct layers are stacked and staggered to make way for large landscaped terraces to serve as shared outdoor amenity spaces, where residents can enjoy urban farming  and al fresco dining as well as landscape gardens, a playground and a pool area. This strong sense of community is strengthened in the center-most building containing additional amenities such as a cinema, fitness center, spa and music and childcare facilities; the other two buildings will also have local resident lounges and dining areas. Publicly accessible retail and restaurants will be located on the ground floor. Related: Former concrete factory is reborn as a unique music-inspired high school in Denmark “We want to create attractive homes that appeal to many different types of people,” said Dan Stubbergaard, architect and founder of COBE. “We have been working alongside the client team to develop a concept of radical mixed-use that provides all residents with a generous apartment, flooded with light through floor-to-ceiling windows  and access to attractive amenity spaces.” The project is expected to begin construction in mid-2019 with completion scheduled for early 2022. + COBE Images by COBE

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COBE unveils LEED Gold-seeking affordable housing units in Toronto

Iceland approves killing of more than 2,000 whales

February 26, 2019 by  
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Iceland has just approved the killing of 2,000 whales over the course of the next five years. The country’s government is allowing whaling companies to slaughter 217 minke and 209 fin whales per year until 2025, sparking outrage among environmental and conservation groups around the world. Officials in Iceland believe that killing these two groups of whales is sustainable and based on scientific studies. In fact, the minister of the fisheries department, Kristján Þór Júlíusson, says that minke and fin whales are overpopulated in Iceland’s oceans and hunting them will help reduce overpopulation. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans “Whaling in Icelandic waters is only directed at abundant whale stocks, North Atlantic common minke whales and fin whales, it is science-based, sustainable, strictly managed and in accordance with international law,” a statement from the government read. Not everyone agrees with the ministry’s research. Conservationists say that their conclusion is based on faulty research and that killing whales does not offer any benefits to the country. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), heavily criticized the new law, and claims that it does not have support from local residents— many of whom do not use whale products on a regular basis. Whale watching is a huge tourism draw for Iceland. The whale watching industry accounts for $13.4 million of the country’s economy. Hunting whales, meanwhile, brings in around $8 million. While Iceland employs more individuals in whale watching, hunting these ocean faring creatures pays more. Regardless of the justification, hunting whales was banned by the International Whaling Commission back in 1986. The law was put in place because whale populations were on the decline due to hunting. Despite these widely upheld laws, Iceland continues to kill whales on an annual basis — and minke and fin whales are not the only two species caught in the crosshairs. In 2018, a whaling crew out of Iceland called Hvalur hf killed a blue whale, an act in direct violation of international laws . The incident sparked outrage around the world and drew attention to the country’s whaling practices. Undeterred by worldwide condemnation, Iceland has not shown any signs of stopping the hunting of whales over the next five years. Via CNN Images via janeb13

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Eastern Puma officially extinct, allows for mountain lion reintroduction

February 8, 2019 by  
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The eastern puma, which used to range from Quebec and Manitoba to South Carolina and Illinois, is now officially  extinct , said Officials with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The government agency has also removed the cougars from endangered species list. Taking the eastern pumas off the endangered list will enable eastern states, such as New York, to reintroduce western pumas, also called mountain lions, into the region. The last eastern puma killed in the wild was in Maine over 80 years ago. Hunters killed off the majority of these pumas in the 18th and 19th centuries. “We need large carnivores like cougars to keep the wild food web healthy, so we hope eastern and midwestern states will reintroduce them,” Michael Robinson, who works for the Center for Biological Diversity, explained. Reintroducing western pumas will cut down on deer population and help decrease tick-borne illnesses that are harmful to humans. Government officials believe there are eastern regions that are suitable for the reintroduction of pumas. These areas include New England, Adirondacks and the Great Lakes. Related: Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years Unlike their eastern counterparts, western pumas have successfully repopulated regions in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Although western pumas and their close relative the Florida panthers have been spotted in eastern states, they have not been able to successfully reproduce because of human intervention and hunting . Deer populations have skyrocketed in the absence of predators like pumas and wolves. Certain kinds of deer populations, like white-tail deer, eat saplings and acorns, which has led to a rapid decline in new tree growth in the region. This also hurts ground-nesting birds as they do not have enough vegetation to protect themselves. Now that eastern pumas have been taken off the endangered list, politicians can start spearheading efforts to reintroduce western pumas into the region. Although it is extremely sad that the eastern puma has gone extinct, experts hope that reintroducing another predator will help the environment in the long run. At one point in time, pumas were one of the most widespread animals in North and South America. Via Biological Diversity Image via Shutterstock

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Flat-pack treehouse offers "extreme wilderness" glamping with a light footprint

February 8, 2019 by  
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British company Tree Tents International has unveiled its most innovative and adaptable glamping structure yet. Meet the Fuselage, a flat-pack treehouse that can be set up almost anywhere, even on the most challenging terrain. Dubbed by the firm as an “extreme wilderness cabin,” the cylindrical dwelling takes inspiration from modern aerospace design for its durable and lightweight structure. Designed with a triple-layer insulated skin, low-voltage radiant heating and a micro wood stove, the solar-powered Fuselage has been precision-engineered for thermal comfort in a wide variety of climate conditions, including the wintry environment of Northern Sweden, where one of Tree Tents’ first Fuselages was installed just a few hundred miles below the Arctic Circle. “I designed the Fuselage to access some pretty extreme environments — allowing people to stay in these amazing locations with a structure that is both lightweight in construction but as tough as old boots,” Fuselage designer Jason Thawley said in a press release. To minimize the environmental impact of the Fuselage, the structures are flat-pack and modular so that no heavy machinery is required onsite for installation. Built from sustainably sourced wood and recycled aluminum , the units can be suspended from trees or mounted on stilted feet without need for large foundations. The firm even uses the waste from the manufacturing process to make camping accessories, such as stools and rucksacks, as part of its commitment to sustainable design. Related: Pinecone-shaped treehouse provides stunning 360-degree views of dense Redwood forest Assembled from a kit, the Fuselage features a fully insulated wood-and-aluminum structural frame with an aluminum outer shell. The interior, which measures 3 by 5 meters, includes quality marine ply hardwood flooring and birch liner as well as a lockable entrance door and double-glazed windows . Each bespoke unit also comes with furnishings and can be upgraded with different custom offerings. The base price for Fuselage starts at £26,000 (about $33,672 USD), not including valued-added tax or installation costs. + Fuselage

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