This nature center proves zero-energy is possible even in wintry Minnesota

November 16, 2020 by  
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Environmental stewardship comes alive in spectacular fashion at the new Westwood Hills Nature Center, an interpretative center in the heart of St. Louis Park, Minnesota that blends energy efficiency, environmental education and beautiful architecture. Designed by multidisciplinary design firm HGA, the center not only serves as a teaching tool about Minnesotan flora and fauna but also as a beacon of sustainable architecture with its net-zero energy design. With passive and active strategies installed, from solar panels to high-performance thermal mass walls, the Westwood Hills Nature Center is on track to achieve International Living Future Institute’s zero-energy certification — the first of its kind in the state. Commissioned by the City of St. Louis Park as an extension of its Green Building Policy and Climate Action Plan, the new Westwood Hills Nature Center was built to replace a small, nondescript building from the 1980s. At 13,000 square feet, the environmental learning center will have ample space to host classrooms and public events in multipurpose rooms as well as an outdoor classroom space, an expanded public exhibit, offices for staff and additional flexible learning and support spaces. Related: Ugakei Circles sustainable nature park set to open in 2021 The architects drew inspiration for the building design from nature. The structure features Alaskan Yellow Cedar glue-laminated columns and beams left exposed in a nod to the larger scale of “the microscopic structure of bundled parallel cellulose fibers of wood.” The varied cladding mimics bark-like layers while the fiber cement panels and wood window designs abstractly evoke the geometry of trunks and branches. To meet zero-energy standards, the architects used several site analyses to optimize daylighting and natural ventilation while minimizing exposure to glare and biting, wintry conditions. Active energy strategies — put continually on display on an interactive dashboard — include a geothermal wellfield, in-floor radiant heating and solar panels. The building also captures rainwater as part of its responsive stormwater management plan.  + HGA Photography by Peter J. Sieger via HGA

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This nature center proves zero-energy is possible even in wintry Minnesota

Silver Oak becomes worlds most sustainable winery

June 2, 2020 by  
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After a devastating fire ravaged the Silver Oak Winery in California’s Napa Valley nearly 15 years ago, the owners turned tragedy into opportunity when they rebuilt the facility to target the most stringent sustainability standards in the world. After achieving LEED Platinum certification, the redesigned winery has now also earned Living Building Challenge (LBC) Sustainability Certification from the International Living Future Institute — making it the world’s first LBC-certified winery. Sagan Piechota Architecture led the redesign of the Silver Oak Winery with sustainable services provided by international engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti . Founded in the early 1970s, the family-owned Silver Oak Winery now covers 105 acres of land in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley and is dedicated to producing only Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery is the largest building globally to achieve Living Building Challenge certification and meets requirements of all seven LBC performance petals including site/place, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. Related: LEED-seeking winery in Uruguay is built almost entirely of locally sourced materials “The Living Building Challenge is considered to be the world’s most rigorous green building standard,” said Thornton Tomasetti in a press statement. “It encourages the creation of a regenerative built environment and is based off of actual rather than modeled or anticipated performance. Silver Oak was awarded the certification after more than five years of planning and construction.” The Silver Oak Alexander Valley project comprises two buildings — the tasting room with event spaces and offices and the production and administration building — totaling over 100,000 square feet. All materials used were vetted to meet the Red List Imperative, which restricts the use of the most harmful chemicals. Rooftop solar panels power all of the winery’s energy needs, while solar thermal energy systems and CO2 heat pumps provide heating. To minimize water consumption, the winery uses recycled hot water systems and a water-management system that captures and treats rainwater as well as wastewater for reuse. + Silver Oak Winery Photography by Damion Hamilton

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Silver Oak becomes worlds most sustainable winery

Humanscale is the world’s first company to make truly net-positive products

September 20, 2016 by  
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Humanscale is the first company to ever obtain full Living Product Challenge Certification offered by the International Living Future Institute , which they achieved for not only one, but two products. Their Diffrient Smart chair and Float table both received the prestigious certification and can now be described as “Living Products.” These products are about as sustainable as it gets. The Diffrient Smart and Float had to fit 20 imperatives, and the International Living Future Institute visited Humanscale’s manufacturing facilities to assess their sustainability. Every process to create the products had to be powered by solely renewable energy and ” within the water balance of the places they are made .” The International Living Future Institute also looked for products informed by design approaches like biophilia and biomimicry . Related: Humanscale’s Horizon LED Task Light Packs High Design Into a Slim Profile The Diffrient Smart chair has a curved, mesh back and is designed to adjust to each sitter’s unique weight. The Float table allows users to move between sitting and standing as they work at the desk. Humanscale CEO Robert King said his company’s goal is to “have a net positive impact on the earth.” Not only does the company design sustainable, ergonomic products, they’ve partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to support conservation and are part of the U.N. Global Compact . Humanscale works to continue improving their processes through composting and updates like a rainwater capture system. Living Product Challenge Director James Connelly said, “Humanscale has really taken the Living Product Challenge to heart. They are challenging our current manufacturing paradigm and fundamentally transforming their products and processes to be as beautiful and efficient as anything found in the natural world. We haven’t always known if creating truly net positive products is possible. Humanscale is taking their role as an innovator in human and life-centric design to the next level and proving that if you set your aspirations high enough, you can achieve incredible things.” While other companies received partial certifications, Humanscale is the only one to achieve full certification. + Humanscale + International Living Future Institute Images courtesy of Humanscale

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Humanscale is the world’s first company to make truly net-positive products

Volvo SuperTruck improves big rig fuel efficiency by a whopping 70%

September 20, 2016 by  
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The race toward eco-friendly transportation has mostly involved innovating more and more compact commuter cars, but big trucks need to get green as well . Volvo has been working on its SuperTruck concept for the past five years, which initially aimed to increase fuel efficiency by 50 percent over existing cargo trucking technology. Now, Volvo says the SuperTruck is 70 percent more fuel efficient than a comparable base model and has achieved over 12 miles per gallon in tests which, for a semi truck, is really stellar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KndAcoPLZQY In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a challenge to car companies to create a cargo truck with 50 percent higher freight efficiency over existing trucks. Five years later, the Volvo SuperTruck has exceeded that goal. The truck’s lightweight design is a key element of its efficiency, and Volvo managed to create a concept semi truck that weighs over 3,200 lbs less than its cousins on the road. Most of the weight was saved by the aluminum chassis, which is half the weight of traditional steel (only the bolts on the SuperTruck are steel). Because of the vast difference in weight, the SuperTruck uses a slightly smaller engine, which increases fuel efficiency even further. Related: This next-gen SuperTruck is twice as efficient as today’s semis The SuperTruck’s entire roof, hood and side fairings are made from lightweight but super strong carbon fiber, which increases performance while saving weight. To reduce production costs, Volvo is working to develop alternative materials, such as a recycled version of carbon fiber. Volvo created a new integrated powertrain with refined mechanics to chase peak efficiency as well. There was no existing technology to achieve the program’s goals, so the company and its partners designed a new turbo compounding system to recover the energy normally wasted, boosting fuel efficiency by up to 6.5 percent. In tests, the SuperTruck rates more than 12 miles per gallon, compared to the 4 to 8mpg by current semi trucks on the road. Via Green Car Congress Images via Volvo

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Volvo SuperTruck improves big rig fuel efficiency by a whopping 70%

10 organizations leading the pack on healthy materials

August 11, 2016 by  
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This article was originally published in Trim Tab, the International Living Future Institute’s magazine for transformational people and design.

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10 organizations leading the pack on healthy materials

Buildings move faster toward net zero

May 22, 2013 by  
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At last week's Living Future conference, engineers and architects discussed designing and operating buildings that achieve net zero energy use.

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Google Avoiding ‘Red List’ Building Materials

June 30, 2011 by  
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Last month, Google announced that it would no longer use any of the construction materials found on the Living Building Challenge’s “red list.” For a company that is opening new office space at a rate of 40,000 square feet (about 3,700 square meters) per week, that’s a lot of construction activity, and a lot of materials that are no longer being used for those projects. It’s also a leadership role from a company that wants to be environmentally positive. The red list (as opposed to the green list) is a list of construction materials that include components made from products such as mercury, asbestos, PVC, formaldehyde and lead

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Google Avoiding ‘Red List’ Building Materials

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