Bee kind to bees, celebrate National Honey Bee Day

August 16, 2019 by  
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Give hard-working honey bees the respect they deserve on National Honey Bee Day. The holiday on Saturday, August 17 is a good time to show extra support for these winged creatures, as these fast-flying insects are responsible for pollinating 30 percent of the world’s food crops and 90 percent of the globe’s wild plants. Here are some tips on how to save the bees on National Honey Bee Day. Use this fun holiday to educate family and friends about the crucial role honey bees play, especially in light of their recent struggles. The number of honey bee colonies fell by 16 percent in the winter of 2017-18, according to an international study led by the University of Strathclyde. As bee populations decline, food security, the economy and healthy ecosystems are all threatened. Related: Native bees are going extinct without much buzz “But the exciting thing is that there are so many tiny actions all of us can do to play a part in protecting bees,” said Cedar Anderson, co-creator of Flow Hive . “Protecting bees is not just the job of beekeepers — we all have a role, and it can start in our own backyards.” If you want to join in and celebrate National Bee Day, think about creating thriving habitats for “these essential little pollinators ,” Anderson said. He suggests these simple tips to help bees thrive. Stop using sprays Don’t reach for the pesticides or sprays, as they are considered one of the leading threats to pollinators worldwide. Instead, garden pesticides can be replaced with natural alternatives such as garlic; onion or salt spray; soap and orange citrus oil; or a chili or pepper spray. Keep in mind that natural sprays can also harm pollinators; use them only outside of foraging hours. Add bee-friendly plants to your garden Maybe you don’t keep bees, but planting a bee-friendly garden at home is easy. Buy plants that bloom at various times to support different pollinators throughout the seasons. Trees and shrubs produce higher quantities of pollen and nectar; however, smaller plants produce forage more regularly. Try to have a combination of different sizes of native plants. Let your garden grow wild Allow veggie and herb plants to flower and dandelions to bloom. This way, the bees get to forage, and you don’t have to worry about gardening for a while. Related: It might be time to let your garden grow wild Teach kids about bees and other pollinators One of the most effective ways to teach children about pollinators is to take them outdoors and get them involved with planting flowers or building hummingbird feeders. Talk to them about the importance of bees to help them appreciate these important creatures. Take it to the next level by becoming a beekeeper Why not delve into becoming a beekeeper and caring for your own colony? It can help you connect with your local environment and keep the bee populations from disappearing. + Flow Hive Image via Christiane

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Bee kind to bees, celebrate National Honey Bee Day

The ‘tipping point’ has arrived as temperatures rise in 70 US counties

August 16, 2019 by  
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The heat is on this summer as sweltering temperatures are felt throughout the U.S., all thanks to the “tipping point”— a warning once echoed in the 2015 Paris accord. The “tipping point,” a 2 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels that was forewarned in 2015, has arrived and hit the U.S. with extreme climate change , leaving 34 million people living in areas that are rapidly heating. Related: Climate change will push 120 million into poverty The fastest state to experience such extreme warming is Alaska , a state where summer temperatures generally range from 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, has seen a recent increase of heat waves and wildfires . Other areas of the Northeast, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, who was the first state to pass the 2 degree Celsius, have also seen climes beyond normal. According to the Washington Post, most regional increases were due to warmer winters rather than summer heat waves. Less snowfall and ice mean those areas aren’t as likely to reflect solar dispersion during the winter months, ultimately feeding into a warming period. Although scientists can’t figure out why the Northeast is warming so rapidly, some experts believe the 2-degree Celsius hotspots are a glimpse into our future. Aside from the higher than average regional temperatures, there are also other factors that pose a threat to U.S. communities such as cold, heat, flooding, drought and even rising sea-levels. Four of the top five cities with the “lowest degree of readiness” are in Southern California alone (Anaheim, San Bernardino, Santa Ana and Riverside) and have all reached between 1.8 degrees Celsius and 2.1 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial levels. While it may be summer in the U.S., some communities have experienced a real climate crisis , signaling climate change needs to be addressed now. Via Grist, Washington Post Image via Isengardt

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The ‘tipping point’ has arrived as temperatures rise in 70 US counties

Green-roofed luxury home blends historic Spanish influences with contemporary design

August 2, 2019 by  
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In between the Mediterranean Sea and the coastal mountain range in northern Spain, Tarragona-based architect Guillem Carrera has completed Casa VN, an energy-efficient luxury home that pays homage to the region’s historic heritage. Set on a steep slope, the modern home uses terraces to step down the landscape and is faced with walls of glass to take advantage of panoramic views. To reduce energy demands, the house follows passive solar principles; it is also topped with insulating green roofs and equipped with home automation technology. Casa VN is located in Alella, a village near Barcelona that was historically used for farming and marked by large estates and stonewall terraces. However, in recent years, changes in the economy have led to increased urbanization in the area. Given the landscape history, Carrera strove to conserve the original character of his client’s property while introducing modern comforts. Related: Minimalist home in northern Spain uses geothermal energy to reduce energy consumption The goal was to “preserve the soul and the morphology, to preserve each one of those things that make it unique and characteristic: the terraces, the retaining walls, the different elements of pre-existing vegetation and the dry stone chapel ,” Carrera said. “These elements are delimited and identified to be preserved in the plant, and once they have been delimited, a respectful implementation of housing directly on the existing land is established, so that the house coexists and interacts spatially and functionally with these elements. The resulting ensemble seeks to be a whole, timeless and heterogeneous, that is part of the place and the landscape.” At 869 square meters, Casa VN recalls the large estates that were once typical in Alella. Locally sourced stone — the same used in the preserved stone chapel — and native Mediterranean landscaping also respect the local vernacular. Meanwhile, the residence features modern construction with a structure of reinforced concrete, steel and glass. Passive solar principles also guided the design and placement of the house to reduce unwanted solar gain and promote natural cooling. + Guillem Carrera Photography by Adrià Goula via Guillem Carrera

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Green-roofed luxury home blends historic Spanish influences with contemporary design

Shark fin soup on menus of nearly 200 restaurants, despite state bans

August 2, 2019 by  
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On land, the world is tuning in for Shark Week celebrations, but out in the oceans, the reality for sharks is much more grim. A recent update of the digital database maintained by the Animal Welfare Institute indicates that almost 200 restaurants across the country offer shark fin soup and other shark products despite being banned in more than 12 states. Shark fins are festive delicacies, especially for East Asian communities, but the practice of removing fins from sharks is an abusive tradition condemned by conservationists and animal rights activists around the world. “The United States is a major producer, exporter and trade stop for shark fins,” said Cathy Liss, president of Animal Welfare Institute. “Clearly, the existing patchwork of state laws and uneven enforcement have failed to shut down a lucrative billion-dollar industry. When shark fin soup is on the menu, so is animal cruelty.” Related: Shark fins still being sold in US restaurants amid ban California has the highest number of restaurants offering shark dishes (59 restaurants) despite a full ban on shark fin possession, sale, trade or distribution in 2013. New York passed a similar ban in 2014 but still has 19 restaurants that offer shark products. Bans are also pending in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Approximately 73 million sharks are killed every year just to harvest their fins. The practice often includes the capture of sharks and the bloody removal of their fins while they are still alive. The sharks are then tossed back in the water, where their chances of survival are nearly impossible. This widespread method is considered inhumane and cruel because of the suffering that the sharks endure during and after the removal of their fins. Despite their reputation, sharks are absolutely essential for healthy marine ecosystems . According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, all species of warm-water flat sharks are considered critically endangered except for one. This year, Canada passed a national ban on shark imports and exports, but in the U.S., legislation is still on a limited state-by-state level. + Animal Welfare Institute Image via Alondav

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Shark fin soup on menus of nearly 200 restaurants, despite state bans

Climate anxiety: Is hopelessness preventing us from confronting our biggest challenge?

July 24, 2019 by  
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Every day, news reporters circulate the latest climate studies that seem to prove the world is ending. The reports appear to be working — if the goal of environmental journalists is to inform people of our existential crisis and create panic. Amidst the current fervor of political discontent, scores of people hit the streets for climate protests and evidence suggests that the marches are working — again, to inform and worry people. Since the release of a U.N. report claiming we have just 12 years to address climate change before it’s too late, hundreds of people have showed up in therapists’ offices with palpable symptoms of what practitioners are now calling “eco-anxiety” or “climate anxiety.” What is eco-anxiety? The term eco-anxiety entered the lexicon after Psychology Today described the phenomena as “a fairly recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis.” In 2017, a report by the American Psychological Society went viral and described the term as a “chronic fear of environmental doom.” Climate or eco-anxiety are new terms and no licensed doctor will explicitly diagnose you with it, but it is increasingly discussed with patients, especially among younger patients. As a result, the American Psychological Association published a lengthy manual about climate change to help practitioners guide patients through their anxiety surrounding the climate crisis. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness in the face of environmental threats around the world and at your doorstep are not specific to any one kind of person. It is not, though it may seem, only for those with enough time to read all the doomsday news, nor only for those who can afford therapists and college counselors. Those directly impacted by climate-related disasters, which are happening every week , experience “profound negative impacts” on their mental health. Disaster survivors have increased risk of depression, anxiety, anger issues, grief, post-traumatic stress disorders and even suicide. Related: Climate change will push 120 million into poverty Young people are panicking Youth in particular are stressed out about climate change, so much so that students in more than 70 countries across the world walked out of their classrooms and participated in Youth Climate Marches . Bombarded with messages about climate catastrophes for the entirety of their short lives, the youngest generation has only experienced a world where global warming is a known fact, yet adults don’t seem to be taking it seriously. Young people overwhelmingly feel despair that they will be left with a dysfunctional world, inherited from careless generations before them. This year, Harvard reported that 46 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 24 believe climate change is a crisis that requires urgent action, and this conviction is simply not mirrored by those in power. This discrepancy leads young people to feel hopeless and powerless in the face of such a large and impending catastrophe. The American Psychological Association reported that 58 percent of people born after 1995 feel stressed when they see news coverage about climate change. Is anxiety useful, though? How much is climate anxiety is “normal” or at least inevitable? After all, shouldn’t we be enraged by injustice? Shouldn’t we be sickened by the declining health of the planet? Aren’t these visceral reactions part of the process and a catalyst for change? The answer, experts say, depends on how debilitating the emotions are. The difference is between letting your anxiety prevent you from taking action or even living your daily life versus using it to fuel personal and political changes . Doctor’s orders: how to use your climate anxiety for good Below are a few tips for finding meaning, hope and progress despite what might seem like an overwhelming and unsolvable crisis. Start with yourself Even when you feel powerless, you still have the authority to make your own choices and adjust your personal behaviors. Audit your own energy and consumption patterns, and make small changes that help you feel more in control and more sustainable. Consider following a vegan diet , biking to work, refusing single-use plastics or selecting more sustainable shipping options when shopping online. Related: The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping “Firstly, make climate change a factor in the decisions you make around what you eat, how you travel and what you buy,” said Duncan Greere , editor of the American Psychological Society report on eco-anxiety. “Secondly, talk about climate change with your friends, family and colleagues. Finally, demand that politicians and companies make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing for the climate.” Join a climate action group There are environmental and climate action groups everywhere. Research those in your areas and attend a meeting. Not only will you find solace among others who are similarly concerned, but together you can take small steps that contribute to a larger push toward sustainability. Not all groups are on the front lines protesting; there is diversity in the work that needs to be done, including contacting your representatives, planting trees , organizing beach clean-ups, advocating for plastic bans and much more. Participate in a clean-up activity Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, but there is something you can do about it now. Seeing the change you’ve made by way of a hefty trash pile properly sorted, recycled and sent to the right place can help calm your anxiety, even if just temporarily. Beach and river clean-ups are often organized by neighborhood and community groups or nature conservation groups and can be fun social activities that encourage people to get outside. Focus on local policy If you are feeling hopeless because the national government isn’t doing enough — and sometimes is doing more harm — focus on making changes at the state or local level. Oftentimes, home-grown legislators are better able to understand the local environment and can make more effective policies. For example, while the Green New Deal proposal was causing a ruckus at the national level, New York City passed its own Green New Deal. City and state governments have a better idea about specifically what ecosystems need to be protected, which infrastructure needs to become more resilient and how to pass plastic foam bans without hurting local businesses. Stay informed about solutions It’s great to stay informed and up-to-date with the news, but learn to step away from your computer, TV or newspaper when you start to feel overwhelmed or depressed. Seek out sources that provide positive news about people working toward solutions. See a therapist If your anxiety or depression is disrupting your life and mental health , don’t hesitate to seek out professional help. No, climate-anxiety cannot be diagnosed, but it manifests similarly as general anxiety, and therapists are well-equipped with tools to help you cope and overcome. Via The Washington Post Images via Pixabay , Jonathan Kemper , Jaymantri and Rika C

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Luxury condo in Budapest will bring residents closer to nature

July 24, 2019 by  
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Hungarian architect István Benyei’s design studio has created a new luxury condo for Budapest that will immerse residents in nature. Conceived as a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of city living, the proposed Budapest condo will comprise four apartments that boast views of the forest, gardens and water. To reduce impact on the environment, the construction will follow passive house principles and preserve existing trees. Nestled in Budapest’s forested hills, the planned condo takes advantage of its lush surroundings with full-height glazing on all floors and covered balconies. The building’s location on a steep plot allows it to be almost completely hidden from view; the top floor will be level with the street. To minimize visual interference with the landscape, the architects have tucked the parking garage underground so that the entrance will be accessed via a footbridge. Rather than fencing, subtle architectural and landscaping solutions were used to mark property lines. “As our lives become increasingly metropolitan, many of us are seeking to be closer to nature,” the architecture studio explained in a project statement. “The pace of urban life can be exhausting as we lose ourselves to our mobile phones and the digital age, which can make the importance of connections with our fellow humans all the more significant. Restoring our connection with both nature and personal relationships is crucial for a harmonious lifestyle, and that’s the overriding thought behind Benyei’s architecture studio’s latest plan. The modern-day sense of a luxury residential space goes beyond quality of design or premium construction materials; the true luxury is a building’s ability to unite family, friends and the silence of nature.” Related: Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square The four apartments vary in size from 130 to 290 square meters, and each will have a private terrace and a private garden with water features that help reflect light into the living spaces. The building will be topped with an undulating roof that echoes the surrounding hilly topography. The building is slated for completion in 2020. + István Bényei -B13 architect Ltd. Images via István Bényei -B13 architect Ltd.

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Luxury condo in Budapest will bring residents closer to nature

The pros and cons of electromobility

July 17, 2019 by  
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To those of us who concentrate on sustainability and green options for travel, electromobility appears to be a godsend — but the increasingly popular electromobility lifestyle still holds good and bad traits. Thankfully, as the market continues to grow, electric vehicles such as e-bikes and scooters only continue to improve since they were first introduced, and electric cars continue to get more and more sophisticated and efficient each year. While there are obvious benefits to using or even owning one of these trendy vehicles, the electromobility industry still has some kinks to work out. Here are the pros and cons to consider before embracing electromobility. Pro: less utilization of fossil fuels Though the extraction of different kinds of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) present different levels and types of impact on the environment, they all have one thing in common: emitting harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned. These pollutants can include sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that contribute to acid rain, smog and soot. While the burning of fossil fuels poses serious issues, it doesn’t stop there. The only ways to extract these fossil fuels from the Earth is by mining or drilling, and both have the potential to generate significant air and water pollution , inflict serious health issues to workers or the local community and alter ecosystems. Offshore drilling poses risks of oil spills that can absolutely devastate ocean life. As the transportation sector as a whole relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels, it is responsible for a majority of the hidden environmental costs that the fossil fuel industry implements on the Earth. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy , “In general, EVs produce fewer emissions that contribute to climate change and smog than conventional vehicles … EVs typically produce fewer life cycle emissions [emissions from vehicles over the course of its life from production to disposal] than conventional vehicles, because most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning gasoline or diesel.” Con: batteries Replacing harmful fossil fuels with electric vehicle batteries comes at a cost. Producing these large lithium batteries requires natural resources from lithium and nickel mines, which can emit pollutants such as sulfur dioxide into the air and pose health risks to workers. Most batteries, especially in smaller EVs like scooters and e-bikes, have a limited lifespan. After disposal, batteries can end up in landfills to release toxins into the environment or in the ocean to harm sea life. Related: We love electric scooters — but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment? Pro: improved air quality The potential to dramatically improve air quality is arguably the biggest draw for electromobility from an environmental perspective. The lack of exhaust systems in electric vehicles means less carbon dioxide emissions and less greenhouse gas buildup in our atmosphere. According to the U.N. , air pollution causes 1 in 9 deaths around the world and, “Transport contributes approximately one quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, which is set to reach one-third, growing faster than any other sector.” The majority of car growth in the world is expected to take place in developing countries, most of which don’t have any type of vehicle emissions standards or programs incentivizing low-emission transportation. U.N. Environment is working to sponsor 50 countries and cities around the world to introduce electric cars and electric methods of public transportation. Con: energy use Even though electric vehicles don’t emit as much carbon dioxide, the batteries still need to be recharged regularly. As the demand for electric modes of transportation grows, so does the need for energy — and not all energy comes from renewable sources. For this reason, many owners of electric cars opt to install solar panels onto their homes to charge the vehicles from inside their garages at a much lower cost both financially and to the environment. Pro: decreased expenses Just the knowledge alone that their vehicle is better for the environment is enough for some consumers when it comes to purchasing an electric car, scooter or bike, but the reasons to make the investment into electromobility go far beyond peace of mind. A 2018 study from the University of Michigan revealed that in no U.S. state is it cheaper to use gasoline than electricity. Operating an EV in the United States, according to the study, was $485 per year, while the cost for operating a gas-powered car was $1,117. That means on average, gasoline-powered vehicles cost twice as much as electric ones. Because EVs don’t require oil either, oil changes aren’t necessary, meaning maintenance time and cost is significantly reduced as well. If all that still doesn’t convince you, some EV owners are eligible for a tax break as high as $7,500 depending on the individual tax situation and type of vehicle. The EPA website can help you estimate just how much money you could save by making the switch. Images via Airwheel , Trinity eRoller , RJA1988 and Markus Roider

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The pros and cons of electromobility

Steven Holls new solar-powered concert hall plays up the dramatic contrast between new and old

July 16, 2019 by  
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New York-based Steven Holl Architects and Architecture Acts has won an international competition to design the new 1,300-seat concert hall in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Created as a “perfect acoustic instrument in its case,” the acoustics-driven design has a strikingly contemporary appearance with a rounded zinc-clad exterior that stands in dramatic contrast with the Ostrava Cultural Center, a modern classicism-style building that will be overlapped by the new concert hall. In addition to optimized acoustics, the shape of the new building is engineered to minimize energy demands and the hall will be entirely powered by rooftop solar panels. Slated to begin construction in 2022, the new building has a roughly teardrop-shaped form with the concert hall positioned at the rear to shield it from urban traffic noise. The new entrance on the promenade appears to float over the top of the existing Cultural center and connects to a new sky-lit lobby. The rounded facade is clad in zinc with a titanium oxide smog-eating coating and punctuated with triple-glazed windows to prevent heat gains. The roof is topped with solar panels, while stormwater will be collected from the roofs of the Cultural Center and the new building and then treated and collected in a garden pond to create a cooling microclimate. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects wins bid for Russia’s new Sverdlovsk Philharmonic Concert Hall “The smooth case of zinc holds an “instrument” in an extended vineyard-type plan made of concrete and maple wood,” explain the architects in a press statement. “Czech composer, Leoš Janá?ek’s theories of time will guide and give order to the concert hall’s interior geometry. Acoustic wall panels are organized according to scasovani, or rhythm, in three variants: Znici = sounding; Scitaci = counting; and Scelovac = summing.” The new concert hall will fulfill a decades-long dream of Ostrava to provide a more suitable space for the Janá?ek Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the leading orchestras in the Czech Republic . The concert hall competition was the biggest architectural competition in the city’s recent history. The opening ceremony for the new concert hall and refurbished Ostrava Cultural Center building is scheduled for 2024. + Steven Holl Architects Images Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

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Steven Holls new solar-powered concert hall plays up the dramatic contrast between new and old

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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