Passive solar home makes the most of a difficult, triangular site in Sydney

July 17, 2019 by  
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When asked to renovate and expand a home on a challenging triangular lot in Sydney, local architectural practice studioplusthree decided to build upward to make the most of the awkward site. By elevating the home’s new addition into the canopy of a large existing fig tree, the architects maximized access to natural light and city views while taking advantage of the tree’s shade. Dubbed the Platform House after its “new living platform,” the updated house also boasts increased energy efficiency thanks to the use of passive solar strategies as well as the installation of solar hot water panels and a rainwater collection system. Completed over the span of 36 months on a tight budget, the Platform House has been enlarged to cover an area of 2,131 square feet with a 753-square-foot basement. The existing ground floor was retained but reconfigured to house four bedrooms, a sitting room and an outdoor courtyard, while most of the attention was given to the new elevated extension. In contrast to the all-white ground floor volume, the new “platform” is clad in blackened timber and cantilevers out to provide shelter to the courtyard below. Related: A prefab home in Sydney celebrates indoor-outdoor living “Responding to the triangular site, the diagonal cut of the first floor volume is manifested in elements throughout from window reveals to planter boxes and outdoor seating,” the architects explained in the press release. “Acting as both cladding and screen, the upstairs volume is wrapped in a charred cypress , all of which was undertaken by hand, on-site. The design aims to integrate functionality into the details to enrich family living — such as the northern edge of the elevated deck, expressed in a continuous element that incorporates planting, outdoor seating, privacy screen, benchtop and storage.” For added privacy, the new living platform is partially sheathed in a series of sliding perforated bronze screens that protect against solar heat gain yet still let in natural light when closed. Deep eaves and recessed blinds shelter glass openings, while the fig tree provides additional protection against the western sun. The open-plan living spaces also open up to a north-facing outdoor terrace. + studioplusthree Photography by Brett Boardman via studioplusthree

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Passive solar home makes the most of a difficult, triangular site in Sydney

EPA lifts ban on pesticide proven to be toxic to honeybees

July 17, 2019 by  
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has re-approved a pesticide for use throughout the country despite its known toxicity to honeybee populations. The chemical , sulfoxaflor, is produced by DowDupont, a major chemical company that contributed $1 million to President Trump’s campaign. Sulfoxaflor was originally approved for use by the EPA in 2013, but the approval was adamantly opposed and challenged by beekeepers and environmentalists. In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to discontinue the chemical’s approval since DowDupont could not provide enough evidence proving their product is not harmful to bee populations. Despite this ruling, the government continued to offer “emergency approvals” of its use and now has officially re-approved its use on over 190 million acres of crops. Their product is now approved for use on corn, strawberries, citrus, pumpkins, pineapples and soybeans. Related: Native bees are going extinct without much buzz Although the EPA’s own studies provide evidence that the substance is “highly toxic to honeybees at all life stages” and similarly toxic to native bee populations, the EPA announced it was thrilled to lift the ban on such a highly effective agricultural product. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy and environment, ” says a legal representative from Earthjustice. Both honey bees and native bees have seen a rapid decline in their numbers over the past few decades. This winter, beekeepers reportedly lost over 35 percent of their colonies. Since 1947, the population of honeybees has dropped from 6 million to under 2.4 million. “The Trump EPA’s reckless approval of this bee-killing pesticide across 200 million acres of crops like strawberries and watermelon without any public process is a terrible blow to imperiled pollinators,” says the director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Via Huff Post Image via Johann Piber

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EPA lifts ban on pesticide proven to be toxic to honeybees

Architect Stefan Hitthaler breathes new life into a 1970s UFO-inspired chalet

August 14, 2018 by  
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A UFO-inspired house may be one of the last things you’d expect to find in a quaint Italian village, but this Space Age mountain chalet fits surprisingly well in its forested surroundings. Charmed by the unusual home, which had been designed by Innsbruck-based architect Josef Lackner in 1973, Bruneck-based architect Stefan Hitthaler has given the five-sided building a modern refresh and expansion for better usability and comfort. The remodeled chalet is used as a holiday retreat that can sleep multiple guests. When architect Stefan Hitthaler was commissioned to renovate the UFO House, the dwelling had fallen into disrepair and was in sore need of an amenities update. Hitthaler decided to replace all the siding and introduce a fresh material palette mainly comprising untreated larch , fir and gray-waxed concrete. The home, set on six low concrete pillars, was also expanded to include a more spacious outdoor deck and a retracting spaceship-inspired ladder entrance. The relatively compact mountain chalet offers just over 61 square meters of space across a main floor and smaller basement level, which is why the architect opted for an open plan . Full-height glazing that frames landscape views and opens up to a balcony also brings plenty of natural light into the main room, which is anchored by a fireplace and two large beds on either side. Behind the fireplace is a small kitchen unit and two extra, smaller bedrooms. A bathroom has been added to the lower level, which is finished in waxy gray concrete. Related: Off-grid UFO home is completely powered by wind, water and sun “The project provides better usability and optimized living comfort thanks to an increase in thermal insulation and the installation of floor heating with heat pump and ventilation,” said Stefan Hitthaler of the energy-efficient upgrades to the UFO House. “All these solutions generate a greater energy savings. These interventions haven’t compromised the idea and the structural quality of the outer shell and the interior.” + Stefan Hitthaler Images via Harald Wisthaler

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Architect Stefan Hitthaler breathes new life into a 1970s UFO-inspired chalet

Abandoned 400-year-old Greek ruins transformed with brilliant bursts of color

August 6, 2018 by  
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Artists Thomas Granseuer and Tomislav Topic of the multidisciplinary German design practice Quintessenz have transformed ancient stone ruins in Kagkatika, Greece into a spectacular work of art that straddles the line between the analog and digital worlds. Commissioned by the Paxos Contemporary Art Project , Quintessenz crafted a large-scale art installation using 120 mesh layers of varying colors. Dubbed Kagkatikas Secret, the colorful artwork flutters in the wind, creating an extra dimension to the surreal piece. Kagkatikas Secret stands in striking contrast to its centuries-old stone backdrop. The mesh panels, strung up with thin wires, were spray painted a variety of colors and then cut into differing sizes. The panels were hung in order of their size—the largest were placed at the rear near the stone windows that frame views of the sea—to create the illusion of depth. This installation builds on Quintessenz’s signature style, which derives inspiration from graffiti culture, graphic design and chromatics. “The work unfolds in an approximately 400-year-old ruin and forms a unique contrast,” explains Quintessenz in a project statement. “It is detached from the usual city bustle and is not in competition with glaring lights or obtrusive advertising. The wind and the sunlight make the installation appear like a digital body in the real world. It forms the interface between analog and digital, between today and then and between old and new. The great contrast makes the installation look almost unreal, as soon as the wind settles in the layers and the sunlight underlines the colors even more, it seems as if there is only one place for this installation. This, in turn, the contrast fits in and creates exciting synergies.” Related: Nendo Unveils Collection of Sculptural Objects Made From Japanese Farming Nets Quintessenz was selected along with seven other artists for the inaugural Paxos Contemporary Art Project, a site-specific artist initiative on the Ionian island of Paxos. + Quintessenz Images via Quintessenz

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Abandoned 400-year-old Greek ruins transformed with brilliant bursts of color

Nearly all new US energy capacity came from solar and wind in early 2018

April 25, 2018 by  
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In the first two months of 2018, the United States installed 1,568 megawatts of wind and 565 MW of solar — which accounted for a whopping 98 percent of all new power generation capacity. Meanwhile, only 40 MW of natural gas capacity was installed in the same time period. These findings are detailed in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest “ Energy Infrastructure Update ,” which arrives even as the Trump administration attempts to align federal policy with the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Despite administration resistance to renewable energy, several states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election are benefiting from the installation of major clean energy projects within their borders. This includes the 170 MW Beaver Creek Wind Project and the 168 MW Prairie Wind Project in Iowa , as well as the 81 MW Stuttgart Solar Project in Arkansas . As the cost of solar and wind energy continues to drop, the fundamental economics of the situation encourage further investments in clean energy. Related: Solar outshined all fossil-fuels sources combined in 2017 The recent FERC report projects that renewable energy will continue to dominate new power generation capacity installed over the next several years. FERC estimates that 147,000, or 69 percent, of the 212,000 MW power generation capacity expected to be installed between now and March 2021 will be from renewable energy sources. It also predicts that coal plants, despite a more industry-friendly administration, will continue to close without replacement, shrinking the number of active coal plants over time. Net coal power generation is expected to fall by 15,000 MW over the next several years. Via Think Progress Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Nearly all new US energy capacity came from solar and wind in early 2018

Arctic sea ice is filled with record levels of microplastics

April 25, 2018 by  
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Even the Arctic can’t escape plastic pollution . Scientists gathered ice samples from five distinct regions in the Arctic Ocean , and some of those samples contained over 12,000 microplastic particles per liter of ice – a record-breaking amount. All told, they uncovered 17 different kinds of plastic , including paints and packaging. A team of 9 scientists at Alfred Wegener Institute recorded record levels of microplastics, or plastic fragments between a few micrometers to under five millimeters big, in sea ice collected in the Arctic. They gathered these samples aboard the research icebreaker Polarstern in 2014 and 2015. They utilized a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer to scrutinize the ice samples layer by layer to light up microparticles; particles reflect varying wavelengths depending on their ingredients so the scientists could determine their substances. Related: New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected Their methods helped them discover minuscule particles. Scientist Gunnar Gerdts, who runs the laboratory where the researchers carried out measurements, said in a statement , “In this way, we also discovered plastic particles that are tiny 11 microns in size. This is roughly a sixth of the diameter of human hair and was also the key reason why, with more than 12,000 particles per liter of sea ice, we were able to detect two to three times higher plastic concentrations than was the case in a previous study.” 67 percent of the particles in the ice samples fell in the 50 micrometers and below category: the smallest one. Biologist Ilka Peeken said, “We found out in our study that more than half of the microplastic particles trapped in the ice were smaller than one-twentieth of a millimeter and thus easily eaten by Arctic microorganisms such as crayfish, but also copepods.” This is concerning, she said, because “so far no one can say to what extent these tiny plastic particles harm the sea dwellers or end up even endangering humans.” The journal Nature Communications published the research this week. + Alfred Wegener Institute + Nature Communications Images via Tristan Vankaan , Mar Fernandez , and Stefan Hendricks

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Arctic sea ice is filled with record levels of microplastics

Piuarch kicks off Milan Design Week with a beautiful urban light installation

April 11, 2018 by  
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Milan-based architecture firm Piuarch has created an amazing light installation for this year’s Milan Design Week . Named AgrAir, the project takes the form of an open-air pavilion with transparent, prism-shaped inflatables that sway in the air. Underneath these lights, the public can enjoy pedestrian walkways lined with herbs and flowers. Piuarch developed the installation to transform unused urban spaces into vibrant social areas. For cities that want to breathe new life into decaying areas, AgrAir provides a pleasant outdoor space. The project includes various light-filled “lanterns” that illuminate the mini-botanical gardens lining the walkways. The landscaping, designed by Cornelius Gavril , will include flowers, bushes and herbs. Related: Piuarch’s FlyingGarden Installation for Milan Features Mossy Japanese Kokedamas The prism-shaped lanterns, which are made out of ultra-soft recyclable film , emit a soft light to create a soothing atmosphere. The lights are supported by acrylic glass rods installed at various heights, evoking the image of trees in a forest. According to the designers, “This ethereal composition is a metaphor of a forest, but also of the city itself, an expression of its identity, versatility, luminosity and lightness.” After its time at the Milan Design Festival, which runs from April 17-22, the installation will move to the architects’ rooftop garden in their Milan office. + Piuarch Via v2com

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Piuarch kicks off Milan Design Week with a beautiful urban light installation

Experimental furniture eyeing urban regeneration pops up in Madrid

April 9, 2018 by  
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Enorme Studio teamed up with MINI to create an urban installation that taps into concepts of sustainability and urban regeneration. Called Mountain on the Moon, the experimental project comprises three mobile structures: a glass house/office and terraced bench seating units with attractive greenery on either side. The installation, located in Plaza de la Luna, was created for the Madrid Design Festival. Mountain on the Moon embraces the ideas of flexible and portable architecture as a means of encouraging collaboration and connection in the city. “Every day we all become increasingly aware of the need to improve our habits and the collective awareness about our environment, although nonetheless our cities—gigantic and vast—are often far from reflecting this change of paradigm,” wrote Enorme Studio. “It is urgent that, as citizens we contribute, along with different players like designers, public institutions, brands… and to start to collectively rethink new collective visions for our cities, which can regenerate the urban landscape in a way cohesive with people and their environment.” Related: Portable ParkedBench parklet injects a breath of fresh air in London The installation’s green spaces serve as informal seating, while the gabled glass house doubles as an office or lecture space equipped with USB charging points and reading lights powered by solar energy . Plywood lines the light-filled interior decorated with plants for a greenhouse -like feel. The paintings on the outside of the green terraces, which appear to mimic mountains or waves, reinforce this connection to nature. + Enorme Studio Via domus Images by Javier de Paz García, Luis Alda

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Experimental furniture eyeing urban regeneration pops up in Madrid

Wind-powered machine mimics the sound of 500 galloping horses

September 11, 2017 by  
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How do you bring an ancient landscape to life? Architecture studio NEON breathes life into England’s historical Chesters Roman Fort by recreating the sound of 500 galloping horses. Architect Mark Nixon led the design of Cavalary 360, a wind-powered installation that mimics the sounds of horse hooves clopping on the ground while framing the North Tyne landscape. The site-specific musical instrument pays homage to the 500 horses that belonged to the Roman cavalrymen that roamed the land 1,600 years ago. Calvary 360 was created as part of Hadrian’s Calvary, an exhibition that celebrates the Roman cavalry with unique installations installed along Hadrian’s Wall . “It can be difficult to make a connection between the preserved walls of the Roman cavalry fort (the most extensive in Britain) and the powerful mounted troops based here,” wrote NEON. “Cavalry 360° is a vast site specific musical instrument which uses the force of the wind to create the sound of the cavalry moving across the landscape beyond. The piece creates an equine soundscape as a means of evoking the imagination of the viewer to fill in the gaps.” Related: Mobile residence for writers to meander the border of England’s former Roman Empire The massive musical instrument is a circular structure made up of 32 wind turbines elevated on tall black frames. Each wind turbine is connected to 15 beaters, each of which represents a single horse in the cavalry. The frame units are visually paired to represent the 30 horses in a turma, the term for a cavalry unit in the Roman Roman army. The cups at the end of the three turbine arms catch the wind, which powers and rotates the insulation that changes sound depending on the direction and speed of the wind. Visitors are encouraged to stand in the middle of Cavalary 360 to experience the full effect and look out to views of the fort and landscape through the black frames. + NEON Via Dezeen Images by Lightly Frozen

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Wind-powered machine mimics the sound of 500 galloping horses

Alex Chinnecks mesmerizing crack on a brick building turns heads in London

August 1, 2017 by  
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From a melting house to a floating building, British artist Alex Chinneck has a knack for turning heads—and his latest work is no exception. For his first permanent artwork, Chinneck created an enormous crack down the side of the building in an optical illusion called “Six pins and half a dozen needles.” Created with a group of engineers, steelworkers, and brick-makers, this monumental artwork at Assembly London is officially unveiled to the public today, August 1. Commissioned by AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets , the surrealist Six pins and half a dozen needles artwork is located at Assembly London , a major mixed-use campus on a site that previously housed publishing facilities. Chinneck references the publishing industry in his design, which resembles a torn sheet of paper. “The work was conceived to engage people in a fun and uplifting way,” said Chinneck. “Although we use real brick , it was designed with a cartoon-like quality to give the sculpture an endearing artifice and playful personality. I set out to create accessible artworks and I sincerely hope this becomes a popular landmark for London and positive experience for Londoners. Following 14-months of development, this represents my studio’s first permanent project and we are excited to be working on more. Forthcoming artworks include a trail of four sculptures with a combined height of 163-metres that will be constructed from over 100,000 bricks.” Related: Alex Chinneck Builds a Wax House in London Just to Watch it Melt Six pins and half a dozen needles is constructed from 4,000 bricks and over 1,000 stainless steel components. A crane was used to carefully position the artwork in place at 20 meters above ground level. The installation leans against a concrete facade and weighs approximately ten-tonnes. + Alex Chinneck Images by Charles Emerson

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Alex Chinnecks mesmerizing crack on a brick building turns heads in London

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