Kengo Kuma weaves bamboo and carbon fiber into a nest-like structure at the V&A Museum

October 2, 2019 by  
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At the 2019 London Design Festival, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has crafted a new eye-catching outdoor installation in the John Madejski Garden at the V&A Museum — just one year after his completion of the V&A Dundee museum in Scotland. Dubbed Bamboo (?) Ring, or ‘Take-wa ??’, the temporary doughnut-shaped structure is woven from rings of bamboo and carbon fiber. The sculpture was developed in partnership with Chinese consumer electronics brand OPPO. Best known for his design of the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, architect Kengo Kuma has won international acclaim for his contemporary projects that draw inspiration from traditional Japanese design and emphasize natural materials . A recurring theme in his work is the expression of lightness and transparency, qualities that have also guided the design of the Bamboo (?) Ring.  Curated by Clare Farrow, the cocoon-like structure is based on a 2-meter diameter ring made from strips of the bamboo Phyllostachys edulis reinforced with carbon fiber used to laminate each ring. “For Kuma, working with Ejiri Structural Engineers and the Kengo Kuma Laboratory at The University of Tokyo, the installation is an exploration of pliancy, precision, lightness and strength: by pulling two ends, it naturally de-forms and half of the woven structure is lifted into the air,” reads the London Design Festival 2019 press release. “Bamboo (?) Ring, or ‘Take-wa ??’, is intended to be a catalyst for weaving people and place.” Related: Kengo Kuma unveils bold timber museum in Turkey that pays homage to the region’s Ottoman heritage Kuma’s installation was on display at 35 Baker Street for the duration of the London Design Festival , from September 14 to September 22, 2019. The project was developed in partnership with Chinese electronics brand OPPO, which recently built an OPPO design center in London during its new smartphone series launch. The experience center’s temporary installation, called “Essence of Discovery,” blended technology and art to introduce their smartphone products during the festival. + Kengo Kuma Images via Sassy Films

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Kengo Kuma weaves bamboo and carbon fiber into a nest-like structure at the V&A Museum

Toyota is testing a new Prius model that runs on solar power

July 26, 2019 by  
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Toyota has announced that the official testing of its solar-powered Prius will begin in late July 2019. Trials set to take place in the Tokyo area will test the cruising range and fuel efficiency of the car model, which has been equipped with high-efficiency solar panels . Teaming up with Toyota for the testing is the electronic products manufacturer Sharp Corporation and NEDO, a Japanese government agency focused on promoting the research of environmental and energy technology. The demo car produced for public road trials will include a solar battery panel created by Sharp and developed for a NEDO-led project. Thanks to the thin design of the efficient panels, Toyota was able to install them on the roof, hood and rear hatch door of the new model to enhance the efficiency. The new and improved utilization of these panels means that the car will be able to achieve a conversion efficiency of over 34 percent and capable of delivering an impressive 860 watts of power. Related: Toyota’s ultra-customizable, self-driving vehicle can transport people, goods or services Apart from the obvious environmental advantages of using solar power in cars , the supercharged Prius can also provide consumers with an improved range. According to a study conducted by Volvo, 65 percent of electric vehicle drivers experienced “range anxiety” after purchasing an EV , making it one of the leading reasons why potential electric vehicle buyers hesitate on buying one. The anxiety is understandable — what if you run out of power in the middle of nowhere with no charging station in sight? The application of solar-powered cars has the potential to lessen those worries, as this Toyota Prius demo model aims to charge both while parked and while being driven. Toyota will evaluate the test runs on the number of times the car needs charged and the reduction of carbon emissions and share results with NEDO and Sharp as the collaborative group continues to work toward improving the sustainability of transportation. + Toyota Via Popular Mechanics Images via Toyota

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Toyota is testing a new Prius model that runs on solar power

Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones

July 26, 2019 by  
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Next Summer, the top athletes in the world will compete in the Tokyo Olympics and those who come out on top will receive the ancient game’s first 100 percent recycled medals. The gold, silver and bronze medals will all be made from metals recycled directly from old cell phones, computers and other electronic waste . The Olympic Committee selected Japanese artist Junichi Kawanishi’s design out of over 400 entries. They then spent the next two years collecting almost 79,000 tons of gadgets, including more than 6 million cellphones. Their “Everyone’s Medal” collection campaign gave ordinary people the opportunity to feel proud that their old phones would be reborn as Olympic medals. Related: Prada jumps into the sustainability realm with six Re-Nylon bags made from recycled plastic waste “I never dreamed that the design I submitted, only as a memorial to this lifetime event, would be actually selected,” said designer Kawanishi. “With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes’ efforts, reflecting their glory and symbolizing friendship.” Olympic medals have not been made of solid gold since the Stockholm games in 1912, but Olympic regulations do dictate the minimum quantity of each precious medal. The Tokyo medals will feature six grams of gold plating with a silver interior. The silver medal is indeed pure silver and the bronze is a blend of copper and zinc. Regulations also mandate standard design features: the Olympic rings, the Greek goddess Nike and Panatheniac stadium, and the official name of the games. Brazil led the way in 2016 with mercury-free gold medals, but Tokyo’s design is an unprecedented emblem of sustainability both around the world and within the Olympic games and village. Over 5,000 medals will be produced and used for both the Olympics and the Paraolympics. Via Tokyo 2020 Images via Tokyo 2020

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A solar-powered, concrete home in Brazil is a powerhouse of sustainability

July 26, 2019 by  
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São Paolo-based firm Steck Arquitetura has just unveiled the Julieta House, a concrete home that spans nearly 7,000 square feet. Located in the city of Piracicaba, the house is comprised of a concrete shell that provides a strong thermal envelope along with a bevy of sustainable features such as solar power to help the home reduce its energy needs to a bare minimum. Surrounded by a low-lying concrete wall, the three-story home is located on a sloped lot that creates extra space for its large volume. The partially-embedded ground floor houses the garage, storage space and maintenance equipment. Related: Solar-powered prefab home in Texas features a whimsical pop art water catchment system The main living area is located on the first floor, where high ceilings with sunken spaces add a sense of whimsy to the atmosphere. The main social areas, along with the private bedrooms, all boast a modern, minimalist design. Sparse furnishings bring out the warm palette of wood and concrete that is further enhanced by an abundance of natural light . At the heart of the home is the massive swimming pool . Thanks to a few savvy design techniques, the indoor area and outdoor area have a seamless connection. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide completely open to create one large, open-air living space, which includes easy access to the pool. Concrete features prominently throughout the design. From the exterior envelope to the concrete roofs that have several shade-providing overhangs, the raw concrete surfaces throughout the home create an interesting juxtaposition with the Mediterranean-style layout. In addition to the tight thermal envelope, the home also boasts a number of sustainable features. A green roof shares space with a solar array hooked up to meet the home’s energy needs, including the solar-powered water heater. Additionally, using the wet Brazilian climate to its advantage, the home was installed with a rainwater catchment system that is used to irrigate the gardens. + Steck Arquitetura Via ArchDaily Photography by Adriano Pacelli via Steck Arquitetura

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This minimalist prefab playhouse features locally sourced timber, recycled rubber flooring and all-natural finishes

July 8, 2019 by  
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While many children’s playhouses might be filled with overly complicated bells and whistles, sometimes the minimalist route is the best way to go when it comes to connecting young minds with nature. Already known for its exquisite minimalist prefab structures , Japanese firm Koto Design has unveiled the Ilo Playhouse, a tiny prefabricated cabin made out of sustainable materials. Inspired by the simplicity of Scandinavian log cabins, the Ilo Playhouse was designed to create a space where kids could be inspired by nature. The tiny cabin is an angular volume with a sloped roof, adding a geometric aesthetic to the interior and exterior. Three walls envelope the interior with the fourth wall left entirely open to create a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. Related: BIG and WeWork design a nature-inspired school for kids in NYC According to the architects, the openness of the design, enhanced by additional cutouts in the walls, was intentional so that the space could be open just enough to not feel isolated. It also makes the structure a fun place to play in inclement weather, providing shelter from light rain, for example. The minimalist layout on the interior allows for children to make the space their own, with furniture, toys, art and craft tables, or to simply take in the fresh air during a good old-fashioned game of tag. In addition to being a nature-inspired design, the cabin is also entirely constructed out of sustainable materials chosen for their durability. The playhouse is clad in an attractive, locally sourced larch wood, and the flooring is made out of recycled rubber . Additionally, all of the paints and finishes used in the cabin’s construction were all sourced from natural products. The structures are prefabricated in the U.K. and can be delivered to nearly any location. + Koto Design Photography by Tracey Hosey via Koto Design

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Solar-powered prefab cabins keep naturally cool in Portugal

June 11, 2019 by  
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When a client approached Lisbon-based architectural practice Studio 3A for a small residential project in the seaside village of Comporta, the architects knew that a major challenge would be keeping the house naturally cool during the oppressively hot summers. In keeping with their commitment to sustainable architecture, the architects used passive solar strategies and efficient insulation to mitigate solar heat gain. The firm also teamed up with design studio Mima Housing to prefabricate the buildings, named Cabanas in Comporta, which were topped with solar panels and sheathed in charred timber for a durable and maintenance-free finish. The architecture of Cabanas in Comporta follows a modular design of three types: the “intimate module” that houses the bedroom and bathroom; the “social module” for the living spaces with room for an outdoor pool; and the “service module” that also serves as storage for items such as the client’s car collection. Together with Mima Housing, Studio 3A prefabricated the modular buildings with oriented strand board sandwich panels and wooden joints. The facades are clad in timber charred black using the Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban. Related: The elegant MIMA Light prefab home ‘floats’ on thin air “As local connoisseurs, we based our construction method on the traditional fishermen huts/cabanas as an inspiration for our project,” explain the architects. These huts have been built in this area for years and are very functional and quick to build which were another important point of our brief. With this construction type we had a couple of challenges to face which was the hot-summer Mediterranean climate and the mosquitos which are well known to bug you in the area. We implemented various sustainable strategies to reduce the heat sensation such as the calculated overhangs in front of the main windows, low emissivity window panes and a tensioned solar shading system in between the cabana modules.” Heat gain is further controlled with a double blind system installed in both the interior and exterior. The external blind also zips down to protect the home from mosquito invasions. Strategic placement of the buildings optimizes solar orientation and access to cooling breezes. Dark cement flooring is used to take advantage of thermal mass, while photovoltaic panels and heat pumps help heat the buildings in winter. + Studio 3A Images by Nelson Garrido

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Beautiful solar-powered minimalist cabins are clad in locally sourced charred timber

June 5, 2019 by  
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Bordeaux-based firm  A6A has unveiled beautiful minimalist cabins designed to be almost completely self-sufficient thanks to solar power and a micro wastewater treatment system. Additionally, the 236-square-foot H-Eva Cabins are prefabricated offsite to reduce construction and impact on the environment. Lightweight, but sturdy, the tiny cabins are clad in locally sourced timber that has been charred through the ancient Japanese technique Shou Sugi Ban. The minimalist cabin design comes in three sizes and can be customized to connect multiple to make a larger structure. All of the cabins are prefabricated in a workshop to reduce the structures’ impact on their intended landscape. Once built, they are delivered to the destination on a flatbed truck and easily installed with a crane. The structures are placed lightly on the land so that they can be disassembled quickly, leaving little-to-no footprint behind. Related: These low-energy prefab cabins are inspired by the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’ In addition to their eco-friendly assembly process, the cabins are designed to go off the grid. A rooftop solar array generates energy to power the cabin’s minimal electricity needs. Heat is provided by a wood-burning stove, and natural light is more than enough to illuminate the interior during the daytime. In addition to the low-flow faucets in the shower and kitchen, the bathrooms are also installed with dry toilets to conserve water. To further add to its sustainability, the cabins have integrated micro wastewater treatment systems. The exterior is clad in locally sourced Douglas fir that has been charred through the ancient Japanese technique  Shou Sugi Ban , which adds resilience to the cabin. The deep black color also helps camouflage the design into nearly any backdrop, letting the residents truly immerse themselves in their surroundings. The rectangular volumes are punctuated by several slender windows and large sliding glass doors. The interior living spaces are clad in natural plywood. The central living rooms are complete with a family-style table that can easily be moved outdoors on the wooden deck, creating the perfect spot for taking in the incredible views while dining. A small kitchenette, although compact, comes with all of the basics. The sleeping space is comprised of two large bunk beds integrated into the walls. + A6A Via Archdaily Photography by Agnès Clotis via A6A

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Twin timber buildings draw inspiration from traditional Japanese shrines

April 1, 2019 by  
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Local architectural firm Yuji Tanabe Architects recently completed twin timber buildings on a historic street in the Japanese city of Kamakura. In deference to the existing street architecture and the city’s Great Buddha landmark, the buildings feature a double roof facade with proportions inspired by traditional Japanese shrines. The project, dubbed SASAMEZA, is built of locally sourced timber to reduce embodied energy. Built for commercial use, SASAMEZA occupies a commercial block facing Yuigahama Street, a major transit corridor that connects central Kamakura to the iconic Great Buddha statue. Because the developers wanted the option to divide and sell the site once construction was complete, the architects split the property and created two buildings around a central courtyard . Each building is approximately 970 square feet in size, and they are near mirror images of one another. Due to the nature of the plot, the building on the right has a slightly different shape. “By taking the water under the roof slope of each building on both sides, it creates a sense of unity like a single building,” the architects explained. “In addition, by setting the opening parts across the passage and the court in the same position on the plane, the connection and the spread to the next wing are created. With the visualization of the structural material (offset column + double beams) in the interior space, the aim is to maintain a sense of unity in the entire building even if different tenants move in.” Related: An angular timber cabin is hidden inside an ancient mountain forest Designed with the environment in mind, the architects used timber procured from a mountain forest in Kanazawa Prefecture’s Hakone area. Along with the client, a forester and a builder, the architects visited the forest in person and selected and harvested the trees that would later become the columns and beams, all which are exposed and unpainted. Japanese wood joinery and fastening methods were applied so that the timber elements can be reused . + Yuji Tanabe Architects Images via Yuji Tanabe Architects

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Modern timber winery blends Japanese and Viennese influences

February 7, 2019 by  
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Wien-based architecture practice Architects Collective used innovative timber construction for the contemporary Nett Winery in the Pfalz wine region of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Germany. Unlike traditional wine cellars that typically feature massive walls or industrial steel, this new winery features comparatively lightweight construction using ecological materials, including a wooden outer shell and an inner structure of pumice-concrete. Inspired by Japanese architecture and Viennese modernism, the contemporary winery features an origami-like facade and a minimalist aesthetic with natural materials throughout. Covering a massive area of nearly 4,500 square meters, the Nett Winery manages the impressive feat of appearing to sit lightly on the land. The building consists of two long rectangular halls connected with a covered passage and includes not only the entire production facilities for winemaking  but also the sales area, tasting room, storage, office and living spaces for the family of winemakers as well. The hall on the west side houses the retail and showroom as well as the wine barrels, steel tanks, refrigeration and the living spaces. The storage facilities, garage and trash area are located on the east side. The roofed passageway that connects the two halls is used as a multipurpose space for seasonal work such as pressing, fermentation, pre-treatment or mobile bottling. Large windows offer panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards , including the famous ‘Mandelberg.’ Related: An award-winning winery in British Columbia elegantly steps down a hillside “With the three distinctive sheds on the roof that let light and air radiate into the interior, the shape of the building unexpectedly resembles a Japanese tea pavilion inspired by the hits of Viennese modernism,” the architects said. “This impression is reinforced by the very special treatment that the large wooden outer walls have undergone, known as Shou-Sugi-Ban, a thousand-year-old Japanese wood finishing technique in which the surface is protected by charring. The wooden surface of the 5-meter-long building was further developed through a brushing and oiling technique, making it extremely durable and giving it an imposing aesthetic.” + Architects Collective Via ArchDaily Images by Rui Camilo via Architects Collective

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Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

February 7, 2019 by  
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The impacts of climate change are felt most intimately by poor and rural women. Many women rely directly on nature for their income, and their lack of resources prevents them from shifting to alternate jobs or safer locations during disasters. However, the same factors that make women vulnerable — their connection to nature and ties to community — are also the strengths that make women critical and competent leaders in times of crises. In the Caribbean, climate experts are increasingly looking at not only at how they can include female perspectives to alleviate inequalities, but how they can empower women to lead the way toward resilience. Women and climate vulnerability According to a UN Population Fund report , “The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women.” With men leaving rural communities to find jobs in urban areas or overseas, women in the country-side are often the primary — and in many cases the sole — caretaker and breadwinner for their families. Many women lack the freedom, flexibility and mobility to relocate or readjust their lives for work, or for safety when disasters hit. Small islands are on the front lines of climate change The Caribbean region is particularly vulnerable, with small rises in sea level and temperatures having drastic consequences ranging from flooding, severe erosion and massive die-off of coral reefs to consecutive category five hurricanes. Caribbean nations depend on natural resources for their economies — namely agriculture, fisheries and coastal tourism. With so much at stake, Caribbean leaders united to demand world leaders commit to curbing global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, arguing that the agreed upon increase of 2 degrees would be catastrophic. As small islands fight to have their struggles and solutions heard in global debates about global warming, they are also fighting for the muffled, but mighty voices of women. Women, advocates argue, are accustomed to being resilient, community-driven and goal oriented — especially when it comes to the goal of feeding their families. “In climate change decision making, when women are in control in critical large numbers, we see the emphasis placed on the social issues of housing, refugees, food , food security — in a way that doesn’t happen if women are absent,” said Dessima Williams, Grenada’s previous ambassador to the UN and Chair of the Association of Small Island States. Related: The world is close to annihilation according to the iconic Doomsday Clock Natural disasters exacerbate inequalities During natural disasters, limited resources are further diminished. Limited jobs — such as clearing roads and restoring power — are often earmarked for men. Social services, such as child care, are slow to restart, preventing women from returning to work as swiftly as their male counter parts. “Homelessness and overcrowding in damaged homes, reduced income, health problems, lack of transportation, disrupted social services and other disaster effects impact women disproportionately, exacerbating preexisting power imbalances between women and men,” wrote  Dr. Elain Enarson in her book, Women Confronting Natural Disasters: From Vulnerability to Resilience . Women are part of the solution Sustainable development experts argue that a power shift to give women decision-making authority would not only uplift women and their dependents, but societies as a whole. In fact, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s website stated, “Women’s participation at the political level has resulted in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, often increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines and delivering more sustainable peace.” Recognizing the benefits of including women in decision making, the Caribbean region has hosted a number of meetings to spur discussion on including gender perspectives into climate adaptation strategies. “There needs to be dialogue, learning and listening. The power relationships determine how action on climate change is played out and the success rate of projects to deal with climate change,” Vijay Krishnarayan, director general of the Commonwealth Foundation, said at a regional meeting on the intersection of gender and climate change in the Caribbean. Related: Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need? “Much more needs to be done to completely capitalize on women’s potential, requiring methods that encompass their access to education and quality training, to economic resources and financial services, and to new forms of financing,” Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Alicia Bárcena underscored at a High-Level Political Forum at the UN headquarters. The inclusion of women is not unique to the Caribbean, and leaders throughout developing nations have united to recognize the importance of sharing successful solutions across continents and then enabling women’s leadership in implementing localized projects that fit for their own communities. “A lot of women have developed micro-level adaptation approaches, indigenous solutions and traditional knowledge that are not being replicated at the macro level,” said Kalyani Raj, a representative from India during a climate conference in Paris. “We must recognize that women are not just victims, we are powerful agents for change. Therefore, women need to be included in the decision-making processes and allowed to contribute their unique expertise and knowledge to adapt to climate change, because any climate change intervention that excludes women’s perspective and any policy that is gender blind, is destined to fail.” Via Panos Caribbean Images via Shutterstock

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