Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change

August 7, 2020 by  
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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change Alex Thornton Fri, 08/07/2020 – 00:30 How much space do you think you need to grow a forest? If your answer is bigger than a couple of tennis courts, think again. Miniature forests are springing up on patches of land in urban areas around the world, often planted by local community groups  using a method inspired by Japanese temples. The idea is simple — take brownfield sites, plant them densely with a wide variety of native seedlings and let them grow with minimal intervention. The result, according to the method’s proponents , is complex ecosystems perfectly suited to local conditions that improve biodiversity, grow quickly and absorb more carbon dioxide. The Miyawaki method The method is based on the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki . He found that protected areas around temples, shrines and cemeteries in Japan contained a huge variety of native vegetation that co-existed to produce resilient and diverse ecosystems. This contrasted with the conifer forests — non-indigenous trees grown for timber — that dominated the landscape. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. His work developed into the Miyawaki method — an approach that prioritizes the natural development of forests using native species. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. They act as oases for biodiversity, supporting up to 20 times as many species as non-native, managed forests. Local pollinators such as butterflies and bees, beetles, snails and amphibians are among the animals that thrive with a greater diversity of food and shelter. Greening urban spaces worldwide The popularity of Miyawaki forests is growing, with initiatives in India , the Amazon and Europe. Projects such as Urban Forests in Belgium and France, and Tiny Forest in the Netherlands, are bringing together volunteers to transform small patches of wasteland. Urban forests bring many benefits to communities beyond their impact on biodiversity. Green spaces can help to improve people’s mental health , reduce the harmful effects of air pollution , and even counter the phenomenon of heat islands in cities, where expanses of concrete and asphalt raise temperatures unnaturally high. Carbon sinks The potential for helping to combat climate change makes Miyawaki forests a particularly attractive option for many environmentalists. Reforestation is a key part of strategies to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge , Trillion Trees Vision and the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org project setting ambitious targets. It’s estimated that new or restored forests could remove up to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. However, not all forests are equally effective in sequestering carbon. Mature forests of native trees soak up much more carbon dioxide than the monoculture plantations that make up many reforestation projects. As scientists learn more about the role of other factors, such as carbon in the soil , it is increasingly clear that planting the right kind of trees matters as much as the number. Conservation groups stress that Miyawaki forests should not be seen as an alternative to protecting existing native forests. Small, unconnected wooded areas never can replace the large tracts of forest that are vital to so many species — and that remain under threat from commercial plantations and slash-and-burn farming. But if you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Pull Quote Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Topics Forestry Cities World Economic Forum Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An urban forest in Shirakawa-Go, Japan. Photo by Rap Dela Rea on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change

Check out this handmade wood cabin in North Carolina

August 3, 2020 by  
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This 400-square-foot cabin, nicknamed The Nook, can be found in the charming, forested area of Swannanoa, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville. The project was a labor of love by owner and professional photographer Mike Belleme, who built the cabin himself along with a rotating crew of local community craftspeople. Even better, he used locally sourced materials in the construction, milling some of the wood himself from fallen trees on the property. The spacious cabin’s 18-foot ceilings help provide plenty of opportunity for natural light. This is only magnified by its large windows and open design, which was executed by local firm Shelter Design Studio. With a special breakfast alcove, a tea loft and dedicated lofts for entertainment and sleeping, it is easy to see how The Nook got its name. In an effort to take the cabin’s simple form and enhance it with as many distinct zones (or “nooks”) as possible, the Asheville-based studio has achieved a unique and thoughtful space with lots of room for lounging and storage. Related: Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin A network of talented local artisans and craftspeople including woodworkers, weavers and metalworkers were involved in the building process, so the result is both custom and high-quality. A selection of the materials used in the furnishings was foraged by the owner himself, such as a handmade ladder made from found ash wood . Locally sourced cypress wood makes up the exterior siding, and the entryway is made of reclaimed oak treated with the Japanese wood charring technique of shou sugi ban. There is a modern kitchen, bathroom and a set of sliding glass doors that open to an outdoor back porch. To add a touch of whimsy, an indoor swing is installed in front of one of the massive windows. The Nook is available to rent now through Airbnb . + Shelter Design Studio Images via Mike Belleme

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Check out this handmade wood cabin in North Carolina

This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell

July 16, 2020 by  
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This small, shell-shaped villa — made using local wood, rammed earth and traditional techniques — is located in the forest of Nagano Prefecture in the center of Japan. Known as the Shell House, the project request came from a client who wanted a contemporary and unique home that could blend into the surrounding forest with minimal environmental impact. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-13-889×592.jpg" alt="small, round wood home with wood door" class="wp-image-2275164" To blend the Shell House into the surrounding environment as organically as possible, the designers chose a rounded, shell-inspired shape and constructed the structure using locally sourced natural materials . Local, FSC-certified wood and earth went most into most of the building, with additional sustainable elements including hand-built construction and the elimination of petrochemical materials. Related: Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-2-889×592.jpg" alt="round wood home in a forest" class="wp-image-2275175" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-7-889×592.jpg" alt="wood kitchen island facing a wall of glass" class="wp-image-2275170" The entire structure was built per passive house principles to Japanese standards. The home satisfies the environmental assessment’s primary energy consumption requirements, and then some, with 11% less energy consumption than the country’s standard. Windows and doors are made of aluminum and resin composite with double- and triple-paned glass. The outside roof is made of asphalt, and the fireplace inside is also made of rammed earth. The earthen walls are combined with 180 millimeter wool insulation to complete the energy-efficient package. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-11-889×592.jpg" alt="fireplace built into a rammed earth wall" class="wp-image-2275166" <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-9-889×592.jpg" alt="loft with wood ceiling beams above a kitchen with wooden island and cabinets" class="wp-image-2275168" Interior rooms are finished with local earth and wood as well as the rammed earth wall that makes up the curved surface of the exterior. The southeast wooden fittings are designed to become integrated with the forest through the deck, which is also made of sustainably sourced wood . According to the architects, the seven beams connected to the rammed earth wall are inspired by the cycle of human life and the universe, with the two inscribed circles representing the correspondence of them. Ideally, once the villa has reached the end of its life, the materials can be returned back to the earth. + Tono Mirai Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Tono Mirai Architects <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Shell-House-10-889×592.jpg" alt="kitchen opening up to wooden outdoor deck" class="wp-image-2275167"

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This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell

Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

April 27, 2020 by  
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Studio Precht has turned the rules of social distancing into a design guideline for Parc de la Distance, an innovative park proposal that ensures all visitors will be separated at least 6 feet from one another at all times. Created in the shape of a fingerprint with spiraling ridges represented by tall hedge rows, the conceptual park takes inspiration from both French baroque gardens and Japanese Zen gardens. The hedge-lined paths slowly spiral toward a center, where fountains are located. With all famous parks across Vienna closed due to the pandemic , Studio Precht wanted to create a safe way for local residents to get access to a brief time of solitude and nature. As a result, it has proposed Parc de la Distance for a vacant lot in Vienna that comprises multiple spaced-out pathways for individual walks. “Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint,” the architects explained. “Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape.” Related: Architects propose produce markets designed for social distancing Each lane is bookended by an entrance gateway and exit gateway to indicate whether the path is occupied or free to stroll . The lanes are spaced 8 feet apart and flanked with nearly 3-foot-wide hedges on either side for visual separation. The height of the hedges vary along the path. Each individual path is 0.37 miles long and takes around 20 minutes to walk from start to finish. Although visitors are often shielded from view from one another, they will be able to hear the sounds of footsteps on the reddish granite gravel that line each path. “For now, the park is designed to create a safe physical distance between its visitors,” Studio Precht founder Chris Precht said. “After the pandemic, the park is used to escape the noise and bustle of the city and be alone for some time. I lived in many cities, but I think I have never been alone in public. I think that’s a rare quality.” + Studio Precht Images via Studio Precht

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Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

April 27, 2020 by  
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Studio Precht has turned the rules of social distancing into a design guideline for Parc de la Distance, an innovative park proposal that ensures all visitors will be separated at least 6 feet from one another at all times. Created in the shape of a fingerprint with spiraling ridges represented by tall hedge rows, the conceptual park takes inspiration from both French baroque gardens and Japanese Zen gardens. The hedge-lined paths slowly spiral toward a center, where fountains are located. With all famous parks across Vienna closed due to the pandemic , Studio Precht wanted to create a safe way for local residents to get access to a brief time of solitude and nature. As a result, it has proposed Parc de la Distance for a vacant lot in Vienna that comprises multiple spaced-out pathways for individual walks. “Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint,” the architects explained. “Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape.” Related: Architects propose produce markets designed for social distancing Each lane is bookended by an entrance gateway and exit gateway to indicate whether the path is occupied or free to stroll . The lanes are spaced 8 feet apart and flanked with nearly 3-foot-wide hedges on either side for visual separation. The height of the hedges vary along the path. Each individual path is 0.37 miles long and takes around 20 minutes to walk from start to finish. Although visitors are often shielded from view from one another, they will be able to hear the sounds of footsteps on the reddish granite gravel that line each path. “For now, the park is designed to create a safe physical distance between its visitors,” Studio Precht founder Chris Precht said. “After the pandemic, the park is used to escape the noise and bustle of the city and be alone for some time. I lived in many cities, but I think I have never been alone in public. I think that’s a rare quality.” + Studio Precht Images via Studio Precht

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Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

These recycled plastic tracksuits are naturally dyed with plants

April 3, 2020 by  
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Environmentally conscious clothing companies are few and far between, with the fashion industry as a whole being one of the top polluters on Earth. But with the planet in mind, PANGAIA (pronounced Pan-guy-ya) creates fabrics that are responsibly made to the benefit of the environment and your wardrobe. The newest addition to the PANGAIA lineup is the tracksuit collection consisting of hoodies and track pants. The 15 colors range from standard gray and off-white to strikingly bright shades of orange and green, each of which are naturally dyed with plant-derived colors. The non-toxic, natural dyes are made from food waste, plants, fruits and vegetables to achieve the richly toned hues. As an example, the pink track pants are colored with a natural dye extracted from roots and rhizomes of Rubia cordifolia . The Rennet yellow track pants and hoodies are colored with a natural dye extracted from Gall Nut of Quercus infectoria . Related: PANGAIA presents FLWRDWN, a down alternative made from biodegradable wildflowers According to the company, 100 billion articles of clothing and 500 billion plastic bottles are produced annually, with half ending up in landfills. Instead of contributing to the waste, PANGAIA turns discarded plastic, mostly from single-use water bottles, into yarn and then into long-lasting clothing. To add softness and comfort, it combines 45% recycled cotton with 55% organic cotton, grown without damaging pesticides and herbicides that pollute the soil and water. “The organic raw cotton we use holds the transaction certificate from the Control Union, meaning that the yarn is processed according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS),” the company stated. “All trims, labels and threads are either recycled or responsibly sourced.” Additional consideration is taken for the product packaging, which is part bio-based and able to break down at a compost facility in 24 weeks. PANGAIA has a history of sustainable material development, with a variety of products made from plants. For example, it has produced a seaweed fiber that is naturally organic and easily biodegradable, and the company spent 10 years developing FLWRDWN, a goose and duck down alternative made from flowers. Similar products are available as part of the botanical dye T-shirt line, all of which are colored from dyes created from food waste and natural resources. For example, PANGAIA’s Sakura Tee is dyed from excess Japanese sakura cherry blossoms after they are collected for making tea. PANGAIA reports its “supplier dyes textiles in a way that uses less water, is non-toxic and biodegradable.” To ensure transparency throughout the manufacturing process, each garment tag includes blockchain technology that shows the full history of the garment. A blockchain cannot be altered and provides a record of each stage of the journey, with complete traceability and authenticity. The new tracksuits are made in Portugal. + PANGAIA Images via PANGAIA

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These recycled plastic tracksuits are naturally dyed with plants

Award-winning Australian winery adds new, sustainable building

December 25, 2019 by  
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Victoria’s Yarra Valley is an idyllic region known for its award-winning vineyards. Now, guests to the  Medhurst Winery  have a new, sustainable tasting area to enjoy the label’s delicious wine selection. The family-run winery has just added the Cellar Door — a contemporary extension that was built with resilient and  sustainable features . Designed by  Folk Architects , the new contemporary space allows visitors to view the entire wine-making process, from the vineyards and production area to the gorgeous tasting facility. The main building of the winery sits in a prestigious location, elevated on a sloped landscape overlooking the vineyards. A low-lying elongated volume, the contemporary building features one section made of heat-reflective, polycarbonate material. The translucent walls allow natural light to illuminate the wine-making area during the day, while at night revealing a picturesque view of wine-making equipment found within. Related: Modern timber winery blends Japanese and Viennese influences The winery’s rooftop features an expansive green roof with a state-of-the-art rainwater collection system. According to the winery, the roof collects around 500,000 liters of rainwater every year. This water is filtered and used in the wine-making process. Now, visitors to the winery will have a sophisticated place to taste the wonderful Medhurst wines. The new Cellar Door sits adjacent to the 250-ton wine-making facility and features a design that mimics its linear volume, while subtly curving around the ends. Located in a bushfire zone, the Cellar Door’s materials were chosen for their durable and sustainable qualities. The building’s main materials include a bold mix of oxidized steel and fire-resistant timber. Additionally, the roof eaves were carefully designed to jut out over the building’s frame to let in the maximum amount of sunlight during winter, while also reducing solar glare during summer. This passive feature allows the building to reduce its mechanical heating and cooling throughout the year. On the inside, visitors are greeted by a warm space designed for taking in the incredible views and tasting the award-winning wine. The entrance-way includes a 40-foot concrete bench that sits under a wall of thin timber slats . Raw steel accents throughout give the interior a modern industrial feel. With the addition of the Cellar Door, visitors can view the entire wine-making process. From the wine tastings offered at the Cellar Door, visitors can follow a winding path through the beautiful landscape to the production area, before making their way out to the vineyards beyond. + Folk Architects + Medhurst Winery Via ArchDaily Photography by Peter Bennetts

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Award-winning Australian winery adds new, sustainable building

Planned community embraces luxe, eco-conscious design in Bocas del Toro, Panama

December 25, 2019 by  
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More than 12 years in the making, the 457-acre planned community of Casi Cielo has just begun sales for its first phase. Located on Panama’s northern province of Bocas del Toro, the high-end resort will emphasize a sustainable, low carbon footprint with site-specific architecture informed by passive solar principles and the natural environment. Led by developer Circular Strategy Group, the Casi Cielo development was created with help from Mario Lazo & Unidad Diseño, WATG and XOC2 to create a “future-forward” masterplan on an undeveloped peninsula next to the ocean within close proximity of the 45,000-acre protected San San-Pond Oak natural reserve. The mixed-use site will include a grid of 75 turn-key sites with 118 hotel suites and 77 branded luxury residences designed by Zurcher Arquitectos, Wimberly Interiors and GOCO Hospitality. Related: This private island resort in Panama promises sustainable luxury “Being from Panama , I felt this was a golden opportunity, not only to preserve Bocas and make positive impact in the region but also introduce a new way for conscious communities to be built,” said Moshe Levi, co-developer of Casi Cielo. “With the infrastructure already in place, Casi Cielo essentially serves as a blank canvas that will continue to evolve, while remaining a true haven for those seeking a different way of life.” Indoor-outdoor living will be celebrated at Casi Cielo, which will also emphasize its connection with nature by offering outdoor-oriented wellness and eco-tourism programs that take advantage of the site’s proximity to world-class surf and a tropical jungle landscape. To optimize the energy performance of the community, the architects have taken passive solar strategies into account when placing and orienting the buildings. Solar thermal and rainwater collection systems are expected to be integrated into the design as well. Casi Cielo is slated to open in 2021. + Casi Cielo Images via Casi Cielo

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Planned community embraces luxe, eco-conscious design in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

November 14, 2019 by  
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In hopes of reinventing its image, new life is breathing into Fukushima, the Japanese northeastern prefecture that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami and consequent nuclear power plant meltdown. Fukushima, which is Japan’s third largest prefecture, is revitalizing and transforming into a renewable energy hub. Eight years ago, in March 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, overwhelming the Fukushima reactors and causing the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Decontamination of Fukushima’s nuclear plant and surroundings are ongoing. Related: Global renewable energy is projected to rise by 50% in the next 5 years, IEA finds Since 2011, both the Japanese state and Fukushima local governments have ramped up the prefecture’s renewable energy production. To meet the entire region’s needs with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, endeavors are underway to cultivate and integrate clean energy sources like biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. There are already investor plans to construct 11 new solar farms and 10 wind power plants on under-utilized farmlands and hillsides tainted by radiation. Development of these new solar and wind power plants will take place in the next five years, with the first solar plant being a 20-megawatt (MW) installation planned for Minamisoma. Estimated costs for all the green energy construction runs upward of 300 billion Japanese yen, or $2.75 billion in U.S. dollars. Financiers and stakeholders supporting the renewable energy hub construction include the state-run Development Bank of Japan and the private lender Mizuho Bank. The Japanese are optimistic about the electrical power that will be generated, given the region’s current trajectory. Back in 2012, Fukushima only generated 400 MW of electricity, then increased to 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2016. By 2018, Fukushima region’s combined electrical power generation from renewables reached 1.5 GW. The 21 new plants under construction are expected to bring additional 600 MW to Fukushima’s energy output, the equivalent to powering 114,000 average American households. A new, 50-mile wide grid is similarly in the works. Via the power transmission network of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the grid will connect and feed power from Fukushima into metropolitan areas of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, about 155 miles south of the prefecture. Cost projections for the grid are 29 billion yen, or $267 million. This new clean energy action plan is aligned with the Fukushima prefecture’s goal of having renewables supply 40 percent of its electricity demand by 2020, two-thirds by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. The end goal for 2040 is that the entire Land of the Rising Sun will be completely powered through renewable energy. Via Yale360 , Japan Times and Nikkei Asian Review Image via Andreas

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Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

November 14, 2019 by  
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After five years in the making, BIG has completed The Heights, a new public school building in Arlington, Virginia that not only offers a unique and energy-efficient take on school architecture, but also helps maximize density and open space. Located along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, The Heights combines two existing secondary schools into a new 180,000-square-foot building that opens like a fan with a cascade of green-roofed terraces to provide an indoor-outdoor learning landscape. An emphasis on natural daylighting, green space, material reuse and energy efficiency has put the building on track to achieve LEED Gold certification . Completed on a $100 million budget, the dynamic new school building houses two programs: the H-B Woodlawn Program that offers visual and performing arts-focused curricula for grades 6 through 12, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program that serves students aged 11 to 22 with special needs. The school can accommodate an expected enrollment of up to 775 students. Related: Rammed earth Kopila Valley School is the “greenest school in Nepal” To make the most of a compact urban site bounded by roads on three sides, BIG organized the school as a stack of five rectangular floorplates rotated around a fixed pivot point to create a series of outdoor green-roofed terraces connected with a rotating central staircase. The spacious first terrace can be used for special events while the upper terraces are more suitable as classroom and study areas. The classroom “bars” have also informed the interior layout, which is anchored by a central vertical core containing the elevators, stairs and bathrooms as well as a triple-height lobby with stepped seating on the ground floor. For easy accessibility and to encourage public interaction throughout the school, the lobby is directly adjacent to many of the school’s common spaces, such as the 400-seat auditorium , main gymnasium, library, reception and cafeteria. Intuitive wayfinding is also extended to the classroom spaces in that each classroom “bar” is defined by its own color used to paint the walls and lockers. In contrast to its colorful interior, The Heights’ exterior is clad in white glazed brick to unify its fanned-out massing and to respect the surroundings, including the historic architecture of Old Town Alexandria. Select materials from the former Wilson School, which The Heights was built to replace, have been salvaged and reused in the new build. + BIG Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

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BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

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