YEZO is a nature retreat perched on a Japanese hillside

February 23, 2021 by  
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Anyone passionate about design knows the fun is in the possibilities. Looking for low site impact , a focus on nature or a retreat? YEZO is all of that and more. This design concept comes from Hong Kong-based Laboratory for Explorative Architecture and Design Ltd. (LEAD) and team leaders Kristof Crolla and Julien Klisz. YEZO is a small retreat, designed with a spot in the northern mountain range of Hokkaido, Japan in mind. The idea spawned from a request from private clients who were looking for “a private retreat on a spectacular site,” according to a brief provided by LEAD. The limitations of the site put the focus on immersing the home into the surrounding landscape along with natural elements of wood , stone, water and light. Related: Tiny mobile dwelling celebrates local Shinshu larch in Japan Basically a studio apartment, the YEZO concept is tucked into a mountainside, allowing for 360-views. The striking architecture centers around a distinctive wooden shell roof. Glue-laminated ( glulam ) timber beams replace traditionally harvested timber for a more sustainable option. The curved elements of these beams provide tension from side to side that supports the structure while requiring up to 90% less materials than blueprints with traditional straight wood beams. This opportunity to use architectural innovations to reduce environmental impact was at the core of the design. Because these beams can be made from a single mold, they also reduce cost and transport requirements. A massive, centralized concrete fireplace offers warmth and ambiance, along with support for the roof and a separation from the bathroom and storage area. A staircase tucked behind the fireplace provides access to a balcony that looks down on the slate-covered roof and the hills beyond. Natural light seeps into the stairway via frosted and stained glass windows. The balcony itself is open yet tucked within the curving roofline. An additional patio area rests outside the main-level living space, carefully perched on a rocky hillside. Inside, the space is enclosed in floor-to-ceiling windows for views in every direction. + LEAD Images via LEAD

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YEZO is a nature retreat perched on a Japanese hillside

Australian government stumbles in climate crisis response

December 30, 2020 by  
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The Australian government appears conflicted in its efforts to adopt environmentally progressive policies following the country’s recent bushfires and record temperatures. A recent Australian Institute  survey  shows that private sector leaders and the general public favor a comprehensive climate policy with renewable energy investments. However, Prime minister Scott Morrison and his administration remain tied to the fossil fuel industry, making it hard for the country to progress.  Currently, Australia is one of the heaviest greenhouse gas emitters. The country continues lagging behind Paris Agreement goals that aimed to reduce fossil fuel pollution by at least 26% come mid-century. Even these goals are now outdated, though, with several other countries having signed onto updated agreements. Australia contributes  three times  more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere than the G20 average emissions. To make matters worse, Australia is one of the global leaders that has not committed to a clear climate change policy; the U.K., U.S., Japan and China have all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  While the Australian government slowly finds its way to green energy, the public sector and individual states are keen to lead the way. As CNN reports, “In November, New South Wales announced a plan to support 12 gigawatts of wind and solar and 2 gigawatts of energy storage through the construction of renewable energy zone to replace its aging coal plants.” Additionally, the two richest people in Australia are backing a project to create the world’s largest solar farm. The private sector and individual states see green energy as an economic opportunity. “Australia has a plan to put the technology in place to reduce emissions and ensure we achieve the Kyoto commitments, as we already have demonstrated, and, importantly, the Paris commitments before us. What matters is what you get done, and Australia is getting it done on emissions reduction,” Morrison  said  while addressing parliament on December 10. However, his words and actions are a complete contrast. Morrison’s government has already announced a gas -based economic recovery plan post-COVID-19. His government also authorized the exploration of Carmichael mines in Queensland. Climate experts view these coal mines as a threat to the Great Barrier Reef due to carbon pollution. Experts advise phasing out coal power in all countries by 2040 to avoid catastrophic climate change . In contrast, Australia is set to experience a 4% increase in coal mining by 2030 — unless actions are taken to stop current and new explorations. No matter how hard the private sector and individual states try to cut emissions, they can’t succeed on a large scale without proper government policy. + CNN Image via John Englart

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

December 30, 2020 by  
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Whether winter conjures thoughts of cozy fires and hot cocoa or trudging through snow and ice on the way to work, it’s essential to have a plan for coping with the season in a sustainable way. Here are some tips to saving energy, water and money while staying toasty and warm all winter long. Heat and electricity bills Not only will the bills add up as you bump up the heat, but so does energy consumption. Create a more Earth-friendly indoor environment by keeping your heating and electrical costs down. Remember the basics, like unplugging chargers and small appliances when not in use. Put your holiday and winter lights on a timer. Turn out the lights when you leave the room. Related: 7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home Add layers of clothing before heading to the thermostat. Bundling up can save you a bundle in heating costs. Also invest in a digital thermostat and set it to a lower temperature at night and while you’re away during the day. A simple way to spin more warm air into the living space is to flip the switch on the side of your ceiling fans. When they spin clockwise, they push warm air from the top of the room to the bottom. To really improve energy efficiency in your space, consider additional insulation around door and window openings, such rolled towels or a draft snake under door cracks, and an added layer of eco-friendly insulation in the attic, walls or basement. Maintain your furnace. Regular maintenance results in better efficiency and longevity for your home’s heat source. It’s always important to regularly replace your furnace filter, but make it a priority during the winter when the appliance is blowing more often. Snow and ice Depending on where you live, snow and ice may be part of your daily routine or only appear on occasion. When they do, avoid the chemical-laden deicers; use natural kitty litter or sand instead. Skip the gas-powered and polluting snow blowers. Instead, use an electric snow blower. Better yet, get the family out for a good old-fashioned snow removal with shovels and brooms. Water Many people focus on water savings during the summer, but few emphasize it during the winter when we’re not watering lawns. However, winter brings bulkier clothing that results in more laundry, the temptation for long showers or baths on cold days and the potential for broken pipes.  Check your water consumption by setting a timer for the shower and only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Turn off the water supply and winterize the automatic sprinklers, AC units and RV plumbing. Recycle the water you do use by cooling the pot of water after cooking pasta or by collecting water in the shower. Use this to water indoor plants. For an added layer of efficiency, add a water recycling system to your house where the laundry or shower can provide water for the toilet. Take advantage of rainy weather by having those rain barrels ready to collect and store water you’ll be using in a few months. Compost By the time gardening season rolls around, the compost from last summer will be ready to use. But you can continue to build your compost pile throughout the winter, too. It won’t break down as quickly as it does in the hotter months, but there’s no reason to trash tree trimmings, leaves or food scraps. If your compost pile is inaccessible, you can at least collect food scraps in a container in the freezer to add to the pile later. Transportation Slick roads and dangerous driving conditions make winter the perfect time to rely on public transportation. Dust off the bus pass or start using the subway and let someone else do the driving while reducing air pollution from carbon emissions.  If public transportation isn’t an option, do your part by ensuring your car is maintained. Change your oil along with cabin and engine air filters. Replace spark plugs, hoses and fuel filters at recommended intervals. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The more efficiently your car functions, the less gas it will require and the less emissions it will release. Waste When you’re ready to warm up with a hot cup of coffee or tea, opt to make your drinks at home in your reusable mugs. When you head for the store or if you shop online, be mindful of packaging. Find retailers that offer sustainable packaging options instead of plastic foam (like Styrofoam) and plastic . Remember your reusable produce and shopping bags when you head to the store or garden stand, so you can buy fresh fruits and veggies without the plastic waste . Efficient kitchens Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by vacuuming out the vents along the bottom. Deice your freezer if it doesn’t have an auto-defrost option. Keep the blender, coffee maker and toaster unplugged when not in use, and leave the oven door open after use to release the warm air into your home. Create a more sustainable coffee station by ditching the single-use plastic coffee pods in favor of a reusable version. Better yet, convert to a ceramic drip or French press, skipping the waste and composting the leftover coffee grounds. Winter is soup season , meaning it is the perfect time to use up a variety of vegetables and incorporate a meat-free dinner at least once each week. Stay cozy! Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together

November 25, 2020 by  
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More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together Deonna Anderson Wed, 11/25/2020 – 08:00 Black Friday is upon us. For IKEA, that marks the expanded launch of a program to buy back furniture in an effort to curb consumption . “We don’t want to encourage people to overconsume. That’s one of the challenges we’ve identified that we feel like we can make a big impact on within our whole strategy,” said Jenn Keesson, sustainability manager at IKEA U.S.  As part of the program, the home furnishings company, widely known for its flat-pack packaging and ready-to-assemble furniture, will be taking back a range of IKEA products: bookcases and shelf units; small tables; chairs and stools without upholstery; and chests of drawers. When a customer returns an item, they’ll receive a voucher to use for future purchases. If IKEA can’t resell an item, the company plans to recycle it or donate it to community organizations.  The effort, which will be running in 27 countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia are on the list), is temporary for now, running from Nov. 24 through Dec. 3. But it is part of a larger circular approach being pioneered by the company.  While the U.S. is not on the list of countries for this year’s Black Friday buyback initiative, IKEA U.S. has done some experimenting with such a program in the past, in partnership with Goodwill. And Keesson said the company is working to get a buyback program launched in the country. There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. “We just have a few other complexities when it comes to legislation and around different municipalities that we’re in,” she said about developing the plan to launch in the U.S. Here are a few of IKEA’s other recent waste reduction and circular economy efforts: The retailer plans to remove all non-rechargeable alkaline batteries from its global home furnishing offerings by October 2021. For context, IKEA calculates that if all its customers switched to its rechargeable batteries and charged them 50 times, its global waste could be reduced by as much as 5,000 tons on an annual basis. Earlier this month, IKEA opened its first secondhand IKEA store in Sweden. The store initially will be open for six months, and it is a sort of experiment. According to the news release about the collaboration with ReTuna Shopping Center , a recycling mall, the initiative “will help IKEA understand why some IKEA products are turned into waste, what condition they are in when thrown away, why do people choose to donate or recycle products, and if there’s an interest in buying the products that have been repaired.” And in June, IKEA announced a strategic partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , which will build on the company’s commitment to become fully circular by 2030. What would it mean for IKEA to be fully circular? “I think in a dream world, it is that every product that you would buy is coming from recycled materials that are closed-loop in our own supply chain. And that [with] everything we’re utilizing in a store, there is no waste going to landfill,” Keesson said. “We’re finding alternate ways to reuse it or we have partners that we’re working with who can reuse the materials or recycle materials in some way. But getting there is a long journey.” But getting there could make a big impact because of how large the company is. There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. Aerial view of IKEA Baltimore location and Maryland solar car park. Photo courtesy of Distributed Solar Development. Beyond circular Over the years, IKEA has made a number of bold commitments to address the impacts of its operations on the environment, outside of its recent circular economy efforts. In 2018 , for example, the retailer pledged to having electric vehicles complete the last-mile portion of delivery to its customers by 2025.  In IKEA’s 2019 fiscal year, its e-commerce sales grew by 46 percent, according to website for Ingka Group, its parent company. And based on current trends — e-commerce revenues are projected to grow to $6.54 trillion in 2022 from $3.53 trillion in 2019, according to Statista — IKEA’s growth is likely to increase.  Ingka announced in September that it was investing more than $715 million over the next 12 months for IKEA to become ” climate positive” by 2030 , in addition to past investments . “We believe it’s good business to be a good business. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. We want to be part of the solution, which is why we will continue to focus our future investments to ensure a cleaner, greener and more inclusive recovery,” said Juvencio Maeztu, deputy CEO and CFO of Ingka, at the time of the announcement. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. In recent years, Ingka has invested in companies such as Optoro , a software startup that provides reverse logistics for retailers; RetourMatras, a company that makes it possible to recycle more than 90 percent of the materials in a mattress; and Winnow, a company that has developed an artificial intelligence-enabled food waste tracking solution to help reduce food waste in commercial kitchens. Tangentially related to food, this week, the company announced several food-related commitments . One goal: By 2025, IKEA plans for 50 percent of the meals offered in its restaurants to be plant-based and 80 percent to be non-red meat. Because it touches everything from furnishings to food, IKEA’s reach is wide. And with all the commitments the company has set, it still has a lot of work to do to continue its work as a corporate sustainability leader. “We have a lot of goals by 2030. We have the ambition to be climate positive and fully circular,” Keesson said. “We’re super excited and energized to see how we can continue to make impacts and continue to be this leader.” Pull Quote There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. Topics Circular Economy Retail IKEA Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off IKEA Baltimore location. Photo courtesy of Distributed Solar Development.

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More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together

Climate change is leading to increased winter drownings

November 24, 2020 by  
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A new study, published in the journal PLoS One , has revealed that there is a significant relationship between increased drownings in the winter and climate change. According to the study, regions that have experienced a sharp increase in average winter temperatures are also experiencing more drownings. The study, which was published last Wednesday, analyzed data collected in 10 countries in the Northern Hemisphere: U.S., Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Russia, Finland, Latvia and Estonia. Many of the drownings that were studied happened when temperatures were just below freezing point. It was also observed that many increases in drownings occurred in Indigenous communities, where the people depend on the ice for their customs as well as for survival. Related: Danger looms as world’s largest iceberg heads toward a critical wildlife habitat The research showed that those affected by the drownings varied demographically. For instance, the most affected were children under 9 years old followed by teenagers and adults from ages 15 to 39. People who are accustomed to walking on icy landscapes may assume that the ice is stable enough without thinking about recent temperature fluctuations. One of the lead authors of the study, Sapna Sharma, explained that people may not think about how climate change is already impacting their everyday lives. Sharma, who is also an associate professor of biology at York University, said that we no longer have to just think about polar bears when we talk about climate change. The drownings are evidence enough that this crisis can affect anyone in any part of the world. “I think there’s a disconnect between climate change and the local, everyday impacts,” Sharma said. “If you think about climate change in winter, you’re thinking about polar bears and ice sheets, but not about these activities that are just ingrained in our culture.” According to Sharma, colder temperatures can be deceiving, especially at a time when the temperatures keep fluctuating. “It might be minus 20 Celsius today and tomorrow and the weekend, but last week it was 15 Celsius,” Sharma said. “Well, we might have forgotten as individuals that it was warm and sunny last week on a Tuesday, but the ice didn’t forget.” If the temperatures are milder than usual, the ice will not be as thick as one might expect. Robert McLeman, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier, explained, “Milder temperatures mean that the ice is not as thick, or not as solid as it would otherwise be. And so people are going out onto it and not realizing that the ice is rotten.” + PLoS One Via The New York Times Image via Pixabay

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Climate change is leading to increased winter drownings

Prime Roots offers ready-made, plant-based holiday meals

November 17, 2020 by  
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The pandemic is obviously creating many downsides for Thanksgiving this year. But one overlooked upside is that it will be much easier to eat what you really want to for the holidays without judgment. If you’re vegetarian, vegan or just cutting back on animal products, this is the perfect year to experiment with vegan meats without any hassle from the family. Plant-based meat producer Prime Roots is offering some special choices. If you’re craving plant-based versions of traditional foods like garlicky mashed potatoes or balsamic and bacon Brussels sprouts, Prime Roots will send them to you all cooked and ready to reheat. The Prime Roots Turkey Special even has something most vegan turkeys lack: legs. Yep, Prime Roots has fashioned little legs onto your mock bird so it looks much like its traditional meaty cousins. Related: 7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving celebration The secret to all Prime Roots’ flavor is koji, a substance sometimes called Japan’s national mold . Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve almost surely consumed some. The mold is added to cooked grains like barley or rice, then paired with a second product to become substances such as soy sauce, miso or sake. The result is a satisfying umami flavor. If you’re having a holiday away from your most carnivorous family members, this is the best year to try this. Remember when they were skeptical about that tofu dish you brought to the family party? You really don’t want to explain koji. Although this turkey does look and sound delicious enough to tempt meat-eaters, too. The folks at Prime Roots have a lot of goals, including making the food system more equitable and inclusive, educating people about decreasing their meat consumption and manufacturing nutritious, protein-filled products without the greenhouse gas emissions or cholesterol of real meat . “At Prime Roots, we make meals that matter for our planet, and for our connection to each other and food ,” co-founder Kimberlie Le says on the Prime Roots website. “I hope that one day we’ll be able to feed millions if not billions of people our delicious and sustainable foods. We’ll know that we are successful when every person on the planet has access to clean water and delicious and nutritious foods.” Check out the Prime Roots website for the new, seasonal meals, side dishes and limited-time holiday specials. + Prime Roots Images via Prime Roots

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Prime Roots offers ready-made, plant-based holiday meals

Brussels train station transformed into wooden shopping and event center

November 17, 2020 by  
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The Gare Maritime railway station in Brussels has seen a huge transformation. The building, formerly one of Europe’s largest railway stations for goods, has been renovated into a new city district shopping and event development made of cross-laminated timber. Reimagined as a multi-purpose public space for companies and events, the building is covered entirely in  wood  and highlights sustainable architectural practices such as solar energy and rainwater collection systems. According to the architects at Neutelings Riedijk, the structure is the largest  cross-laminated timber  project in Europe. Architects added a series of 12 new building volumes to accommodate a new program of 45,000 square meters. Along with the existing halls, roofs and side aisles, the new design creates a structure that mimics a small city with streets and parks. Related: Sweden’s tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2 The choice of wood came down to sustainability and weight, as a concrete construction would have been five times heavier. Cross-laminated timber with a facade finishing in oak offered the perfect solution to create a prefabricated and dry construction method with shorter building time. As a result, the design features demountable connections and modular wooden building elements to promote sustainability. The central space is reserved for public events and contains a green walking boulevard on both sides. Routes measure 16 meters wide, giving pedestrians plenty of room to enjoy the spacious inner garden complete with a hundred trees. Overall, the space includes a total of 10 gardens based on four themes: woodland, flowers, grass and fragrance. As Brussels enjoys a Mediterranean climate, designers chose plants that adapt to the specific growing conditions. The Gare Maritime also remains completely energy neutral and fossil-free thanks to glass facades and solar cells, with a total area of 17,000 square meters of roof space dedicated to  solar panels . The building uses geothermal energy and a rainwater collection system to water the massive gardens. + Neutelings Riedijk Architects Via ArchDaily Photo: Filip Dujardin/Sarah Blee/Tim Fisher | © Neutelings Riedijk Architects

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Companies in Japan launch edible single-use bags to save Nara deer

October 23, 2020 by  
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Local companies in Nara, Japan have developed single-use bags made from milk cartons and rice bran that are safe if ingested by the city’s iconic deer. In 2019, multiple deer accidentally swallowed trash , namely plastic bags, that were littered by tourists. Several of the deer died, including one that had consumed nearly 9 pounds of waste. This prompted concerned entities to create a safer alternative to plastic packaging that can be digested without harm to the deer. The newly developed bags have been instrumental in saving the lives of the hundreds of deer that roam Nara. The bags are safe for deer, because the milk cartons and rice bran used to make these bags contain easy-to-digest ingredients. While there has been a decline in tourists and their plastic waste during the pandemic, the single-use bags still stand as a positive change to continue into the future. Related: Climate change is killing reindeer in the Arctic Tourists in Nara can purchase treats to feed the deer, and signs are posted warning visitors to only feed the deer approved treats that do not come in plastic packaging. Still, many tourists left behind waste that was consumed by the animals . After hearing of the deer that died from ingesting plastic , Hidetoshi Matsukawa, a local businessman, reached out to other firms with the interest of creating bags and packaging that would be safe in the event that they were eaten by the deer. “We made the paper with the deer in mind,” Matsukawa said. “ Tourism in Nara is supported by deer so we will protect them and promote the bags as a brand for the local economy.” The efforts to market the bags as a safe option for visitors to the city have been fruitful. About 35,000 bags have already been sold to local businesses and Nara’s tourism bureau. Since 1957, Japan has deemed the deer in Nara as national treasures that are protected by law, as they are considered divine messengers in the area. Via The Guardian Image via Matazel

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Design experiment examines safety of food grown in urban vertical gardens

October 23, 2020 by  
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Interior architecture firm Annvil has brought together a team of urban planners, designers, environmentalists and natural scientists to study the interaction between the urban environment and horticulture. The project, called G(U)ARDEN, is a vertical garden experience set in Latvia aimed at exploring the safety of growing food in urban gardens. Urban agriculture has already been proven to reduce air pollution, collect and use runoff, increase productivity of space and aid in urban cooling, but it is still lacking in substantial scientific research in the safety of these plants being used for food. The G(U)ARDEN project will measure the biochemical composition of vegetables and fruits grown in urban environments, especially in places with intense traffic and air pollution.  Related: Snøhetta to revitalize Midtown Manhattan with vibrant garden The primary urban vertical garden of this project is located in Riga, Latvia and is made up of local plants from the city’s horticulture centers and nurseries. Researchers chose to use endemic plants to inspire residents to grow and conserve locally as well as to encourage sustainable and effective urban environmental development discussions. “Today we live in a digital world where everything is instantaneous. In answer to that, we want to stimulate people’s interest in real life — interest in the physical world and in being close to nature,” said Anna Butele, author of project G(U)ARDEN and the founder of Annvil. “We can do that by creating even more green environments in the city — meeting places that bring together different groups of society. This way we can also bring attention to neglected environments in the city.” The pilot program has started with the team studying the garden’s vegetable and fruit harvest in a scientific laboratory. Crops are measured for the presence of heavy metals, while the air and water is measured for microbiological composition to help identify all possible risk factors associated with the impact of the urban environment on edible plants . The data obtained from the experiment will aid in continued projects to help create a series of urban gardens in Latvia’s largest cities next year. + Annvil Photography by Ingus Baj?rs via Annvil

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Tiny mobile dwelling celebrates local Shinshu larch in Japan

October 9, 2020 by  
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In only three months, eco-conscious Japanese architect  Tono Mirai  crafted a charming tiny timber structure that can be moved by truck. Dubbed the Red Container, the compact building was primarily designed as an exercise to promote Shinshu larch, a beautiful local larch species in the Saku area of Japan’s  Nagano Prefecture that had long been overlooked because of its tendency to warp and twist. However, due to advancements in drying technology, says Mirai, Shinshu larch can now easily work in construction projects — as demonstrated by the stunning Red Container project. Designed over the course of half a year and constructed in just three months, the minimalist Red Container dwelling can be moved by a four-ton truck. The prototype building, which measures just under 10 square meters (107 square feet), can adapt to a variety of functions, from a small mobile store to a  tiny house , and can be custom made to order. The working prototype includes electricity, light fixtures and air conditioning, while its large operable windows facilitate natural ventilation.  Larch  features prominently in the build — the project name is a nod to the natural reddish tones found in Shinshu larch — and shows up in the structural frame’s beams and columns as well as the walls, eaves and furnishings. The wood is left exposed so that users can appreciate the natural grain and craftsmanship from the local carpenter who used local, traditional methods to construct the timber interior.  Related: This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell “In addition, a new blue larch that tends to give a dark and smooth impression, I tried a different expression such as blue material (color change material due to fungi) that is not normally used as the floor material, and 30 mm wideness larch material with unevenness is used to the inner wall,” Mirai explained in a statement. He also added an accent wall to the interior built of  clay  sourced from the local Kita-Aika village in Nagano. A twisted asphalt shingle roof tops off the building. + Tono Mirai Photos by takeshi noguchi

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