Yurt-inspired visitor’s center in China blends into its exceptional surroundings

February 9, 2018 by  
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This gorgeous visitor center in China was inspired by Mongolian yurts . Architecture firm HDD combined locally sourced stone and wooden beams to create a multi-functional space where local children can play and read. The Mulan Weichang Visitors Center also offers overnight accommodations and a great spot for astronomy enthusiasts to observe the night sky, all nestled within the stunning Mongolian grasslands. The building is located in the northeast of Hebei province, an area connected to inner Mongolia grasslands where ancient Chinese emperors used to hold autumn hunting festivals. Blending into its grassy surroundings, the building resembles the traditional Mongolian yurt. This layout creates a series of round, semi-public spaces that fit perfectly with the modern lifestyle. Related: A Firsthand Look at the Magnolia 2300 Yurt – the First Energy Star Home in British Columbia The middle of the library is a sunken living space, and the kitchen and dining area located off to the side. Large windows fill the interior with natural light and offer views of the landscape. This openness toward the exterior dominates every corner of the interior, including the bathroom, where a freestanding bathtub sits in front of another large window. Related: Trakke Transforms Ancient Yurt into a Packable Round House That Pops Up Anywhere for the Everyday Adventurer The architects used local materials including old stone and used wooden beams in order for the building to blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings. The main structure of the building is steel framing, combined with triple layered low-e glass panels, while the exterior wooden frames double as an efficient shading system. + HDD Architecture Via Contemporist Photos by Shengliang Su

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Yurt-inspired visitor’s center in China blends into its exceptional surroundings

Scientists uncover hidden Mayan city of 10M people in Guatemala

February 5, 2018 by  
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An international team of researchers have identified tens of thousands of previously unknown Mayan structures using a high-tech aerial mapping technology known as Lidar. Discovered in the jungles of Guatemala , the ancient structures include homes, pyramids, defense installations, large-scale agricultural fields, and irrigation canals, suggesting that up to 10 million people lived in the area at its peak. “That is two to three times more [inhabitants] than people were saying there were,” Marcello A Canuto, a professor of anthropology at Tulane University, told The Guardian . Those that did live there clearly altered the landscape far more dramatically than previously thought. The research team, which includes scientists from the United States , Europe, and Guatemala working in collaboration with Guatemala’s Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation , used Lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging, to virtually cut through the thick jungle . Lidar works by bouncing pulsed laser light off of the ground to unveil contours otherwise hidden. In addition to its use in archaeology, lidar also serves to assist the control and navigation of self-driving cars. Further areas of lidar application include seismology, laser guidance, and atmospheric physics. Related: Hidden passageway discovered at ancient Mayan ruins The recent discoveries in the Peten region of Guatemala have shown that in some areas of the now-thick jungle, up to 95 percent of land was used for agriculture . “Their agriculture is much more intensive and therefore sustainable than we thought, and they were cultivating every inch of the land,” Francisco Estrada-Belli, research assistant professor at Tulane University, told The Guardian . To do so, the Mayans drained swampland that even today is considered unfit for farming. The large scale of the projects demonstrates the coordinated effort required to complete them. “There’s state involvement here, because we see large canals being dug that are re-directing natural water flows,” Thomas Garrison, assistant professor of anthropology at Ithaca College in New York, told The Guardian . Despite the discovery’s massive size, it would have likely remained unknown without Lidar technology. “I found [an ancient road],” explained Garrison, “but if I had not had the Lidar and known that that’s what it was, I would have walked right over it, because of how dense the jungle is.” Via The Guardian Images via Ithaca College and Depositphotos

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C.F. Mllers Storkeengen tackles climate challenges in a Danish town

January 5, 2018 by  
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The modern age’s best landscape architecture projects aren’t one-trick ponies. C.F. Møller Landscape takes this to heart in their recent design for Storkeengen (Stork Meadow), a multipurpose nature park that offers recreation, beauty, and strengthened protection against storm floods. Located in the Danish town of Randers, Storkeengen aims to “resolve the city’s current and future climate chal-lenges” and bring the townspeople closer to nature and to Denmark’s longest river, the Gudenå River. Created in collaboration with Randers Vandmiljø, Randers Municipality, and Orbi-con, Storkeengen is envisioned as a pioneering project combining water purification , recreation, and climate adjustment. According to C.F. Møller, the riverside town of Randers is threatened by the effects of climate change due to its low-lying position next to the Gudenå River. Thus, the city has developed a vision to protect the town called ‘The City to the Water,’ with the implementation of Stor-keengen as the first step. The 83-hectare Storkeengen is designed to function like a wetland meadow. C.F. Møller designed “cloudburst routes” that direct stormwater runoff into the park, where it’s then naturally filtered in wetland meadow areas before being dis-charged in the river. A dyke will also be installed between the park and the river to protect the nearby residences from flooding and provide new connectivity be-tween Randers and the park. Related: Denmark just opened the “world’s most humane” maximum security prison “Storkeengen is a climate adaption project on Nature’s own terms – also when it comes to the project’s technical wastewater solutions, which are designed to strengthen the nature qualities of the wet meadows,” wrote C.F. Møller. “To in-crease accessibility and enhance the nature experi-ence, new pathways and ac-tivity plateaux are created, so that Storkeengen’s unique flora and fauna, and the wet meadows’ changing habitat, can be experienced at close hand. The plateaux also make it possible to get up close to the area’s grazing cattle, enjoy the sun-set, or navigate the Gudenå stream by canoe.” The project will break ground this fall and is slated for completion in 2021. + C.F. Møller Images via C.F. Møller

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Geothermal-powered forever home targets environmental and social sustainability

December 27, 2017 by  
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Japanese influence weaves throughout the stunning Pound Ridge Residence, a luxurious forever home in rural New York designed by Tsao & McKown Architects for an acclaimed international clothing designer and her husband. The strong architect-client relationship spanning the course of 20 years granted the architects design control not just over the architecture, but the landscape, interiors, and custom furnishings as well. Built to target environmental and social sustainability, the timber-framed house minimizes its energy and resource footprint and is designed for aging in place. Set on 30 acres of forested land, the 2,900-square-foot Pound Ridge Residence opens up to the outdoors through ample full-height glazing and covered walkways. “The structure is formed of exposed heavy timber construction , a rarity today, which, in addition to its natural beauty, has the added advantage of reducing the need for interior walls,” wrote the architects, adding that timber frame construction was built of local wood . “The load-bearing timber beams span the interiors and, with their darkened hues, recede from view as they frames the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the gardens and surrounding woods.” With design control over the architecture, interiors, furnishings, and landscaping, the architects achieved a customized and “holistically conceived environment” reflecting needs and preferences of the clients, whom they knew well. “With full awareness of how they live, work, and entertain, we conceived the furnishings simultaneously with the architecture,” said the architects. Related: Solar-powered forever home is a modern take on the rustic farmhouse The single-story home mainly features open-plan layouts that take advantage of natural ventilation and light through sliding glass doors, windows, and operable timber panels. Light is also let in through two large asymmetrically shaped skylights. Radiant geothermal heating and cooling regulate indoor temperatures and are complemented by two hearths with sculptural custom bronze chimneys. Low-energy materials were used in construction and all excavated stone was reused in the gardens and landscape. The exterior spaces and landscaping feature native species and minimize impermeable paving to capture runoff water. + Tsao & McKown Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Simon Upton

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Geothermal-powered forever home targets environmental and social sustainability

Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials

December 27, 2017 by  
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Select residents of  Glasgow , Edinburgh, Fife, and North Ayrshire will soon begin receiving unconditional monthly payments as part of a Scottish universal basic income experiment. Universal basic income (UBI) is a policy that offers direct unconditional income for all citizens to ensure that everyone benefits from a basic standard of living. UBI is currently being tested in Scotland, as well as countries like Canada and Finland, and has attracted £250,000 (~$334,500) in public funding for feasibility studies. The selected cities must submit their plans for locally implementing the basic income program by March 2018. Proponents of a basic income claim that it will be necessary to implement UBI in some form in order to compensate for the major economic disruption and potential job losses from increasing automation due to advanced artificial intelligence . While the idea is still controversial, it is being increasingly taken seriously in cities and countries around the world. “It might turn out not to be the answer, it might turn out not to be feasible,” said Scotland ‘s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “But as work changes as rapidly as it is doing, I think its really important that we are prepared to be open-minded about the different ways that we can support individuals to participate fully in the new economy.” Related: Wind power supplied 124% of household electricity needs in Scotland from January through June Scotland is not alone in its endeavor to understand how UBI might feasibly function. California , the Netherlands, Ontario, India, Italy, and Uganda all took steps in 2017 towards someday being able to implement a UBI system. In California, this work is being supported by companies like Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s largest start-up accelerator. “In a world where technology eliminates jobs, it will mean that the cost of having a great life goes down a lot,” tweeted Sam Altman, president at Y Combinator. “But without something like basic income, I don’t think we can really have equality of opportunity.” Via ScienceAlert Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials

Historic White House tree to be chopped down

December 27, 2017 by  
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The Jackson Magnolia that has adorned the White House South Lawn since the 1800s is coming down. Brought by President Andrew Jackson from Tennessee, and said to be planted in memory of his wife Rachel who died not too long after his 1828 election, the tree is slated for removal later this week. According to CNN , First Lady Melania Trump made the call as the tree is reportedly too decayed to stay in place. The Jackson Magnolia is the oldest on White House grounds, reported CNN. There have been many efforts to preserve it over the years, such as a cabling system. United States National Arboretum specialists came in at the request of the White House to assess the tree, and CNN obtained documents that said, “The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.” Related: Washington DC’s national monuments are getting slimed White House officials fear the tree could fall when President Donald Trump’s helicopter takes off nearby. The First Lady’s director of communications Stephanie Grisham told CNN, “After reviewing the reports, [Mrs. Trump] trusted that every effort had been made to preserve the historic tree and was concerned about the safety of visitors and members of the press who are often standing right in front of the tree during Marine One lifts,” adding the First Lady asked that wood from the Jackson Magnolia be preserved. CNN reported offshoots of the tree have grown to around eight to 10 feet tall at an undisclosed location nearby, and there are plans for a new Jackson Magnolia to be planted in place of the old. Via CNN Images via U.S. Pacific Command and achuertas on Flickr

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Historic White House tree to be chopped down

Antony Gibbon’s Ventt House is a minimalist retreat embedded into the rocky landscape

December 6, 2017 by  
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UK-based architect Antony Gibbon just unveiled his latest nature-inspired design , the Ventt House. Designed to integrate into the rocky coastal landscape, the minimalist black-roofed home is surrounded by glazed walls that offer stunning views of the surroundings. The Ventt house is a minimalist retreat for those wanting to disconnect from the world. Designed to be embedded into the landscape, the contemporary volume cuts into the rugged cliffside , mimicking its rocky surroundings. An exaggerated chimney soars dramatically out of the home’s base, creating a modern take on a lighthouse beacon. Related: Antony Gibbon’s Helix House is a twisting tiny home that towers amidst the treetops Clad in dark geometric panels with an exterior wall of glass , the focus is entirely on the home’s beautiful environment. On the interior, minimal furnishings were used to create a clutterless living space. Further fusing the home into the outdoors is the marble flooring, which runs continuously from the interior to the exterior where it forms a large deck that surrounds the home, eventually jutting out over the cliffside. + Antony Gibbon Designs + Antony Gibbon on Instagram

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Antony Gibbon’s Ventt House is a minimalist retreat embedded into the rocky landscape

Modern black house juts out like a natural extension of Quebecs forest landscape

December 1, 2017 by  
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If you haven’t tired yet of the blackened timber trend, feast your eyes on this modern retreat that’s backed up on a forested hillside in Quebec, Canada. Montreal-based studio Atelier General designed The Rock, a boxy timber home that, like its name implies, is meant to evoke a natural extension of the mountainous terrain. Full-height glazing and extensive use of wood inside and out blur the line between indoor-outdoor living. Topped with a flat roof, the two-story home avoids a monolithic appearance thanks to its main living space that, supported by slender black columns, juts out towards the landscape, shielding a carport underneath. Black-painted timber clads the 2,300-square-foot home that’s contrasted by light-toned timber used in the interior and outdoor terrace that extends into the hillside. Related: Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact The entrance is located on the smaller ground floor, which contains two bedrooms and a bathroom. A large south-facing open-plan living area, dining room, and kitchen take up the majority of the L-shaped upper level. Full-height glazing wraps around the communal area that also opens up to a small triangle-shaped deck. The master ensuite is placed between the two decks. Polish concrete floors are used throughout the home. + Atelier General Via Dezeen Images via Atelier General , photos by Adrien Williams

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Low-impact ‘Outside House’ is built on an old lava flow in the mountains of Maui

November 22, 2017 by  
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Oregon-based firm FLOAT Architectural Research and Design recently built the “Outside House” for a client who wants to spend her days communing with nature at its fullest. To provide a strong connection to the surroundings, the architects created two simple wooden cabins – the Mauka house and the Makai house – on top of a three-hundred-year-old solidified lava flow high up in the Maui mountains. According to FLOAT architect Erin Moore, the design was inspired by a back-to-basics philosophy that puts the focus on enjoying nature, “The Outside House is a place to live outside. Two small pavilions shape the basics of daily life and structure an intentional relationship with the land.” Related: World’s most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid home—and you can stay overnight The first cabin, the Mauka (Hawaiian for “inland toward the mountains” ) pavilion, is an enclosed cabin with a small bedroom. It’s equipped with just the basic necessities – a bed, built-in bench and small desk with chair – and it has a large sliding window that provides beautiful views of the landscape. The cabin is raised off the ground by four concrete blocks to reduce its impact on the ground. The Makai (Hawaiian for “seaward”) pavilion is an open-air deck with a small kitchen that offers stunning view out over the Pacific and the island of Kahoolawe in the distance. The wooden cladding and deck were are made from Juniper – a tree that is harvested for its protective qualities in the Pacific Northwest. An open shower is located on the backside of the kitchen, covered with a privacy panel made out of woven marine rope. Based on the wishes of the homeowner, the construction process took great lengths to protect the land. The architects built the cabins using prefabricated galvanized steel, which was carried to the building site by hand to anchor one of the cabins to the ground, while the other one was placed on concrete blocks. This reduced the impact of the project while also allowing the structures to be easily dismantled. + FLOAT Architectural Research and Design Via The Contemporist Photography by Olivier Koning

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Low-impact ‘Outside House’ is built on an old lava flow in the mountains of Maui

World’s largest botanical garden to bloom in the desert of Oman

November 15, 2017 by  
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Perhaps the dry desert landscape of Oman may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of lush forests, but the Arabian nation is getting a massive infusion of greenery with the world’s largest botanical garden . Showcasing the country’s rich bio-diversity, the Oman Botanic Garden – designed by Arup, Grimshaw and Haley Sharpe Design – will be a whopping 1,037 acres of land filled with native flora, with two beautiful biomes housing the country’s most unique plant species. Located in the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains in the Sultanate of Oman, the botanical garden’s site is one of the few locations in the world where the ancient sea bed is still visible after the landscape was elevated by tectonic activity. Working with this unique landscape, the architects designed a complex that would blend into the Mars-esque environment. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: 7 best botanical gardens from around the world Visitors to the gardens will enjoy open walkways that run through the undulating landscape, winding through the wadis, mountains and desert plains as they enjoy the impressive botanic diversity. Inside the two biomes, which house the most unique or sensitive flora, the interior environments were carefully designed to mimic the natural temperature and humidity of the plants’ native climate. Along with the visitors center, the complex will have additional spaces for education and research facilities dedicated to protecting the region’s ample bio-diversity. The garden’s buildings and the landscape architecture were all designed to meet the standards of LEED Platinum . Making the design sustainable was quite a challenge given the region’s water scarcity. Thanks to advanced systems, the entire complex will operate with a grey water irrigation system that works in collaboration with sustainably-sourced water. + Arup + Grimshaw + Haley Sharpe Design Via World Architecture News

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