A net-zero modern farmhouse kicks off a sustainable community in Texas

July 26, 2018 by  
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When a pair of retired ordained ministers set their sights on creating a sustainable community for “spiritual renewal,” the couple turned to Austin-based design practice Miró Rivera Architects to bring their vision to life. Located on a 47-acre meadow property in Texas , the recently completed Hill Country House serves as the community’s first housing prototype and as a private residence for the clients. Affectionately dubbed “The Sanctuary” by its owners, the spacious farmhouse-style abode combines rural influences with a modern aesthetic on a very modest budget. Arranged in a linear layout spanning 5,100 square feet, The Hill Country House cuts a striking and sculptural silhouette in the landscape with its zigzagging standing-seam metal roof that mimics the surrounding hilly topography. The home is primarily clad in white corrugated aluminum siding interrupted by vertical planks of warm cedar siding. The tapering limestone chimney, inspired by an existing shed on site, was built of dry-stacked local stone. Natural and locally sourced materials were used to reduce environmental impact and to tie the appearance to the landscape. Inside, the home is flooded with natural light and overlooks framed outdoor views. Crisp white walls and tall ceilings lend the home its bright and airy character. The public and private areas of the home are located on opposite ends. “Particular attention was paid to creating spaces that would enable hosting large groups of friends and family, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor space,” the architects explained. “The stark white aluminum cladding is broken at various intervals by warm cypress siding that defines a series of rooms outside the house, including a temple-like screen porch that extends from the volume containing the main living spaces.” Related: Spectacular wildflower roof grows atop a dreamy Texan cabana The environmentally friendly features of the Hill Country House have earned it a 4-star rating from the Austin Energy Green Building, a precursor of the LEED certification system. An 8 kW solar array meets nearly two-thirds of the home’s annual energy usage, while a five-ton geothermal system supplies mechanical heating and cooling. The homeowners’ water needs are supplied by a 30,000-gallon rainwater collection system. According to a project statement, the owners hope their modern farmhouse will serve “as a model for future off-the-grid development.” + Miró Rivera Architects Images by Paul Finkel / Piston Design

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A net-zero modern farmhouse kicks off a sustainable community in Texas

A 1920 Swiss barn is reborn as a modern home for a family of five

June 11, 2018 by  
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Swiss design studio Ralph Germann architectes  has overhauled an old drafty barn into a beautiful contemporary home with a new timber annex. Located in the rural village of Orsières in southeast Switzerland, the barn renovation and expansion project was commissioned by a family of five who sought a modern and light-filled abode. The adaptive reuse project—named the House EKC—was built with locally sourced materials and is equipped with an air-water heat pump, solar thermal panels, and dimmable LEDs. The House EKC covers an area of 2,153 square feet and includes a 108-square-feet outdoor terrace . The old barn had originally been used for hay storage in the upper loft while the lower volume was used as a stable for goats or sheep. Ralph Germann completely gutted the barn and rebuilt a reinforced concrete structure, including the walls and slabs, to meet seismic code. Thermal insulation was applied in the interior in order to preserve the barn’s “‘vernacular’ aesthetics.” “The insertion of large windows into the masonry respected “the principle of origin”,” said the architects. “The glass simply took the place where wood has originally been and supplies light and passive heat. A balcony-loggia made out of concrete and wood took the place of the old balcony which was used to sun-dry the hay.” The new wooden annex mimics the proportions and low gabled roofline of the historic barn. The timber, which includes larch and spruce wood, were sourced locally from the Val Ferret region. Related: The rustic exterior of this abandoned barn hides a surprising space to get away from it all The light-filled interior features plaster walls and ceilings finished in mineral paint “white RAL 9010” that reflect light and helps create the illusion of more space. Oiled-brush larch wood lines the floors. The main staircase is built of solid larch and serves as the backbone of the house. The solid larch furniture was designed by Ralph Germann to ensure a cohesive interior design. The custom design also presented the opportunity to create a high-back bench in the dining area that doubles as a guardrail for the staircase. The kitchen features white laminate with “Dekton gray concrete” countertops. + Ralph Germann architectes Images by Lionel Henriod

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A 1920 Swiss barn is reborn as a modern home for a family of five

The energy-efficient Aspen tiny home is built tough to withstand Canadian winters

June 11, 2018 by  
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Over the years, tiny homes have popped up everywhere from coastal landscapes to lush woodlands. But now, one Canadian-based builder is proving that tiny homes can be just as resilient in the harsh frigid winters of British Columbia. Borealis Tiny Homes come installed with various features that keep the interior warm and cozy year-round, including radiant underfloor heating, efficient heat recovery ventilation systems and gel fuel fireplaces. Clad in honey-toned cedar and dark metal slats, the company’s latest project, the Aspen, is a luxurious tiny home on wheels  that boasts a a sleek, cabin-inspired design. According to Borealis, the structure was built with locally-sourced materials whenever possible. A local wood mill crafted the Aspen’s interior paneling and loft area. The cedar siding, metal roofing, hardwood flooring and bamboo countertops are also local products. Related: Custom ordered tiny homes provide compact living options without sacrificing on comfort Inside, the tiny home is quite spacious. There is 200 square feet of living area on the lower level and a 68-square-foot upper level sleeping loft.  The living space is bright and airy thanks to several windows that let in optimal natural light . The home is also equipped with LED lighting. The minimalist decor inside the tiny home is custom-made to be extremely space-efficient. The living room has a fold-out sofa and small working area in the corner. Stairs that double as storage space lead up to the kitchen, which is equipped with a beautiful bamboo countertop. The space is installed with full-sized appliances, and there is additional space for a dishwasher or washer/dryer combo. The sleeping loft , which is big enough for a queen-sized bed, is accessed by climbing some steps up onto a landing and then into bed. Thanks to the high ceiling, the bedroom is incredibly spacious, especially when compared to traditional tiny homes. The Aspen is also equipped with various energy-efficient features to withstand the cold Canadian climate. The radiant flooring has an additional heat recovery system to keep the home at a pleasant temperature all year long. The temperature is also maintained by a gel fuel fireplace, which provides a nice ambiance for the cabin-like tiny house. + Borealis Tiny Homes Via New Atlas Images via Borealis Tiny Homes

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The energy-efficient Aspen tiny home is built tough to withstand Canadian winters

This Vietnamese home has moving walls that bring in natural light and fresh air

May 10, 2018 by  
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Ho Chi Minh City-based firm Nishizawa Architects created a gorgeous multi-family home that is built to withstand and embrace the natural climate. To provide a breezy, naturally-lit interior, the architects decided to forgo solid walls and install movable partitions that create a peaceful harmony between the living space and its surroundings. Located in Chau Doc, a border town about seven hours from Ho Chi Minh City, the home was constructed for three families to share. The home’s interior  was designed to provide each family with privacy without sacrificing a pleasant living environment. Related: Renovated apartment in Barcelona boasts flexible wooden walls and gorgeous mosaic floors The house’s frame is made from locally-sourced timber set into concrete columns. The architects decided to top the home with three butterfly roofs at differing heights to create an open, spacious interior. The windows and walls were made from thin corrugated metal panels that swing open to let optimal amounts of natural sunlight and ventilation into the home. These natural elements help maintain the various pockets of greenery found throughout the residence. The home also offers stunning views of the expansive rice fields in the distance. + Nishizawa Architects Via Fuzbiz Images via Nishizawa Architects

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This Vietnamese home has moving walls that bring in natural light and fresh air

Scandinavian-inspired hotel emerges from the lush Costa Rican landscape

May 2, 2018 by  
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European design elements meet Costa Rican craftsmanship in the newly completed Mint Santa Teresa , a modern hotel set into a steep hillside in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. San Jose-based architecture firm Studio Saxe completed the upscale hotel for Swedish owners who fell in love with the beautiful area, which has become a hotspot for surfing and yoga. Built to harmonize with the landscape, the hotel is comprised of pavilion-like structures that step down towards the beach. Mint Santa Teresa has multiple spacious,  pavilion -like guest rooms that fully open up to views of the surrounding nature while preserving privacy. Each room comes with a personal terrace overlooking the ocean in front of the hotel, as well as the tropical gardens behind it. Guests also enjoy access to a rooftop terrace with hammocks , lush landscaping, and elevated views. Rattan furniture sourced from the famous crafts town Sarchí is used throughout the hotel, as are locally sourced materials, such as the caña brava grass ceilings and other custom furniture made from  locally sourced wood. An infinity pool and sunset bar are located at the heart of the hotel, in the communal lounge area where the breakfast buffet is served. Related: Costa Rica eco-resort combines jungle yoga with sustainable design “Hotels traditionally became vast objects in the landscape that bear no relation to their surroundings and are devoid of genuine human interaction,” according to architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe. “At Mint, we endeavored to create a contextual design that adapts to its landscape and offers a new type of experience for a breed of traveler seeking authenticity.” + Studio Saxe

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Scandinavian-inspired hotel emerges from the lush Costa Rican landscape

Wet wipe pollution is clogging up riverbeds across the UK

May 2, 2018 by  
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The UK’s obsession with wet wipes is completely changing rivers around the country. A London environmental group found a 1,000-fold increase in the number of wet wipes showing up in waterways, with more than 5,000 of them covering the bed of the Thames in just 116 square meters (about 1,250 square feet). “The Thames riverbed is changing. Wet wipes are accumulating on the riverbed and affecting the shape of the riverbed,” said Kirsten Downer of Thames 21 , a non-profit working to clean up the rivers in England. “It looks natural, but when you get close you can see that these clumps are composed of wet wipes mixed with twigs and mud.” The wet wipe industry has expanded beyond baby wipes – now there’s ‘moist towelettes’ for everything, including pet wipes and anti-malarial wipes. The market is expected to grow into a $4 billion industry by 2021, and as it grows, there will be an increase in wipes polluting waterways around the world. Even though many companies advertise their products as flushable, wet wipes are usually made from cotton and plastic weaved together, which means they definitely aren’t biodegradable. People “don’t realize that you are not supposed to flush wet wipes down the toilet,” Downer said to The Guardian . Related: “Family cloths” reusable toilet wipes: gross or great? A study in the UK showed that wet wipes are particularly insidious when it comes to clogging up sewers. According to the research, wet wipes comprised 93 percent of the material in blockages. “We want people to realize that this is not just happening on the Thames, but on rivers and canals all around the country,” Downer said. “All the time we were working, people kept coming to ask what we were doing. People are far more upset and concerned about the plastics problem than they ever have been.” Via The Guardian Images via Deposit Photos and Luca Micheli

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Wet wipe pollution is clogging up riverbeds across the UK

This hand-built island is the start of Copenhagens parkipelago of floating public spaces

March 14, 2018 by  
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A tiny wooden island floating in Copenhagen harbor is bringing life and interest back to the city’s waters. Australian architect Marshall Blecher and Magnus Maarbjerg of Danish design studio Fokstrot designed CPH-Ø1, an experimental floating island park buoyed by recycled plastic bottles that could bring about more floating public spaces all along the city’s waters. Created as a prototype for the Copenhagen Islands project, the 215-square-foot timber island is punctuated by a single linden tree and is temporarily located in Sluseløbet. Launched last year with support by Kulturhavn365, CPH-Ø1 first served as a resting area for adventurous Copenhageners who are invited to moor alongside the island by boat or kayak. The public space also doubles as a small events venue and, according to Dezeen , will host a lecture series next month about the future of harbor cities. CPH-Ø1 was constructed by hand in Copenhagen’s boat building yards using traditional wooden boat building techniques with locally and sustainably sourced materials. Related: Copper-clad Copenhagen landmark boasts Denmark’s most energy-efficient laboratories CPH-Ø1 is the first in what the designers hope will be a ‘parkipelago’ of nine islands that offer creative public spaces in the harbor, particularly in forgotten and unused areas. Future iterations may include a floating sauna island, floating mussel farms, floating gardens, and even a floating sail-in cafe—all of which will be open to the public. The islands can be connected together or float separately. + Copenhagen Islands Via Dezeen Images via Fokstrot

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This hand-built island is the start of Copenhagens parkipelago of floating public spaces

This modern hiking hotel blends into the dark alpine forests of Italy

February 23, 2018 by  
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The darkened wood façade of the award-winning Hotel Bühelwirt is tinted to complement the moody, dark green of the surrounding forest. Pedevilla Architects designed the hotel as an extension of the breathtaking alpine landscape in South Tyrol, Italy. While designing the space, the architects sought to create harmony with the environment and give every room a breathtaking view of the landscape. The 20-room hotel references traditional hiking hotels of the region. Rectangular forms meet an asymmetrical saddle roof and feature diagonally protruding bay windows that offer expansive views of the mountains. Each room in the hotel features stunning views, strengthening the connection between guests and the surrounding landscape. Related: 17th-century farm transformed into amazing hotel in the hills of Norway The minimalist interior features accents that add warmth and a feeling of coziness to the space, while creating focus on the outdoor environment. This is achieved through the use of locally sourced materials such as larch wood . Handcrafted copper lamps and locally manufactured curtains reflect a strong regional connection between the design of the hotel and its locale. + Pedevilla Architects Via Dwell Photos by Gustav Willeit

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This modern hiking hotel blends into the dark alpine forests of Italy

New ‘category 6’ may be necessary to describe strengthening storms

February 23, 2018 by  
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Do we need a category six in defining storms ? Some climate scientists think so, as tropical cyclones increase in duration, intensity, and strength, The Guardian reported . Climatologist Michael Mann said, “Scientifically, [six] would be a better description of the strength of 200 miles per hour storms, and it would also better communicate the well-established finding now that climate change is making the strongest storms even stronger.” The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale currently runs from one to five, based on sustained wind speed, according to the National Hurricane Center . Should we change the scale to include a six rating? Climate scientists at the Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington, New Zealand floated the idea, according to The Guardian. Related: “We are not prepared” for climate change — scientists issue bleak warning New Zealand climate change minister James Shaw said 2016’s Cyclone Winston could have been a category six storm if that rating existed. Winston, according to The Guardian, is the strongest cyclone we’ve recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. Shaw said at the conference, “The only reason it wasn’t a category six cyclone is because we don’t have a category six, but we might need one in the future.” Mann said adding category six or reevaluating the scale could hold implications for how communities prepare for cyclones, and for how scientists understand changing cyclone behavior in the climate change era. But not everyone is convinced we need a category six. Principal scientist Chris Brandolino at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said meteorologists and the public are already familiar with the established scale, saying, “Categories are engaging to the public and it’s easy for us to understand and communicate the severity of a storm. I always encourage us reevaluating the science , we should always be asking, ‘Is what we are doing appropriate for the time?’ But I think if we are seriously to consider this it requires a holistic approach, looking at the whole scale, not just adding a category. Maybe the whole scale gets rejigged to reflect the times.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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New ‘category 6’ may be necessary to describe strengthening storms

Gorgeous site-sensitive home ushers in the outdoors

February 23, 2018 by  
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In Northern California, a spectacular modern home embraces nature in more ways than one. Palo Alto-based Field Architecture designed the spacious residence, named Forty-One Oaks after the property’s oak trees that became the inspirational spark behind the design. The home was envisioned as an extension of the oak-studded landscape, an effect achieved through full-height glazing , a natural materials palette, and preservation of an on-site wildlife corridor through which deer, bobcats, and mountain lions traverse. Located in Portola Valley south of San Francisco, Forty-One Oaks comprises a series of rectilinear volumes built with great expanses of glass to blur the indoor-outdoor boundary, concrete walls that echo the verticality of tree trunks, and deep steel roof overhangs for solar shading . “41 Oaks produces an architecture that is in conversation with nature,” wrote the architects. “The house is centered around the idea of creating porosity, connecting with the forty-one oaks that dot the site. Instead of creating a massive block of living space, [we] created a series of pavilions that jut into the landscape.” Related: Solar-powered family retreat beautifully blends into California’s rolling hills The contemporary interior is awash in natural light and the mostly neutral palette keeps attention on the outdoors. Forty-One Oaks’ best example of indoor-outdoor connection can be seen in the dining room, housed in a cantilevered window box with floor-to-ceiling views of the canopy for a treehouse -like feel. Outdoor terraces are reached through sliding glass doors from the main living space, while the master bedroom opens up to a Japanese rock garden. + Field Architecture Via Dezeen Exterior photography by Steve Goldband, interior photography by John Merkl

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Gorgeous site-sensitive home ushers in the outdoors

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