This private island resort in Panama promises sustainable luxury

November 19, 2019 by  
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Just off the western Pacific shore of Panama lies Isla Palenque , a private island sanctuary with nearly 400 acres of lush jungle and a luxury resort that prides itself on low-impact living. Unlike the traditional beach resort, Isla Palenque promises paradise for wildlife and nature lovers who are invited to explore a relatively undeveloped island — over half of the island has been set aside as a nature reserve. From jungle hikes to kayaking to cooking classes and birdwatching, all activities at the award-winning resort aim to cultivate a greater appreciation of Panamanian biodiversity. Created as part of the Cayuga Collection, a hotel group of sustainable luxury hotels and lodges in Central America, Isla Palenque gives guests of all ages the chance to experience “nature in the raw.” Amble Resorts founder and architect Benjamin Loomis designed the sustainably minded resort and deliberately kept its total development footprint to approximately five percent of the island while capping the guest count to 40 people at a time. Related: Sleep in sustainable luxury inside this eco-friendly jungle treehouse Isla Palenque is also a partner of the community-supported Dock to Dish sustainable fishing program and offers a reforestation program that invites guests to plant a primary rainforest seedling of their choice in an area of secondary growth. To further reduce the resort’s carbon footprint, locally sourced materials and ingredients are used wherever possible, from the wooden furnishings made on-site from naturally felled trees on the island to the locally grown ingredients used at the Las Rocas Bar & Restaurant. The onsite guided activities and excursions on and near the island — there are over 8 miles of hiking trails and seven accessible private beaches — that are included in the daily resort rates also emphasize a minimal environmental footprint. Guests can stay in one of Isla Palenque’s eight sumptuous Beachfront Casitas — romantic 650-square-foot bungalows that face the island’s largest beach, Playa Palenque — or choose among the Beachfront Villa Estates that include two Ocean Suites, three Jungle Rooms and a single Garden Room scaled with children and teens in mind. Rates at the Isla Palenque vary depending on the season. + Isla Palenque Images via Isla Palenque

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This private island resort in Panama promises sustainable luxury

MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple designs holiday retreats for an island community

October 23, 2019 by  
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Renowned for beautiful views, indigenous history and a famous golf resort, Ontario’s Bigwin Island will also soon be home to a new planned community spearheaded by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects , a Halifax-based studio that won the bid for the project with their contemporary and eco-friendly proposal. The first three cabins of the 40-unit community have recently been completed and feature a locally sourced natural materials palette, an oversized roof reminiscent of Muskoka’s historic cottages and boathouses, as well as energy-efficient geothermal heating and passive ventilation systems. Located a couple hours north of Toronto in the middle of Lake of Bays, the cabins at Bigwin Island are part of an island revitalization plan set forth by property owner Jack Wadsworth, who decided to create 40 site-sensitive guest houses — ranging from 1,230 to 1,350 square feet — instead of a 150-room hotel. In keeping with their client’s desires, MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects began the design process by “listening to the land” and crafted three cabin typologies, each inspired by a different type of landscape on the island: “linear on the lake, courtyard in the woods, and pinwheel on the meadow.” Based on the design of Muskoka vernacular housing, each cabin will be assembled from a kit of parts that include a screened-in porch, a deck, a hearth, a great room, a sleeping box and a roof. Designed with minimal site impact , each cabin will also be oriented to take advantage of views as well as passive cooling strategies. In addition to using local materials and labor, the construction process will be kept simple due to the challenges of building on the island in winter between the fall and spring golf seasons. A geothermal heating system will draw heat from the lake and warm the cabins through the floors.  Related: Passive solar Martin-Lancaster House is wrapped in glass and cedar shingles “The ambition of this project transcends the individual guesthouses; Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple is bringing to Bigwin Island a vision of community,” explain the architects in a press release. “The buildings engage not only with the landscape, but with each other. They are sited in clusters, where their transparency and openness put them in conversational relationships.” + MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Images by Doublespace Photography

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MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple designs holiday retreats for an island community

Rammed-earth walls make up a beautiful retreat hidden in the Zhejiang mountains

October 10, 2019 by  
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Hidden in the misty mountains of Zhejiang , a new eco-sensitive resort made from local materials entices visitors with spectacular views and laid-back charms. International architecture firm kooo architects designed the Retreat Village, which comprises a cluster of luxury suites, for their client Hangzhou Origin Villa Hotel & Resort in the Dashan Village in Zhejiang, China. Taking inspiration from the local vernacular, the architects used local materials and techniques, such as rammed-earth construction, to create a resort that blends into its surroundings. Completed over the course of two years, the new Retreat Village is located on a remote, rural mountain. Although most of the original village architecture was built from rammed earth walls using local soils, the architects decided to only use rammed earth for a portion of the new construction so as to keep the interior from feeling too dark and constrained. The earthen walls are complemented by a natural material palette of bamboo, red bricks, stone and carbonized wood. To reduce site impact, the architects used locally produced as well as recycled materials and carefully sited the buildings to follow the natural contours of the mountain. Each of the buildings point in different directions to preserve privacy and to maximize views. An indoor- outdoor living experience is also emphasized in the design. Moreover, the use of natural materials and careful siting help make the village disappear into the landscape. Related: MAD’s ethereal Yiwu Grand Theater will “float” on Zhejiang waters “There is no light coming from this lonely village’s surrounding at night, so one can feel sufficient brightness even with a minimum amount of lighting,” adds the firm. “We kept the lights that can illuminate the entire space uniformly, such as downlights, to the minimum, and used all-directional soft umbrella-like lights such as free-standing lamps and table lights throughout the space. These fixtures project soft arches of light and shadow, illuminating the seamless finish and rounded edges of the walls and ceilings. Wrapped with the warmth of light, the rooms feel more calming and comfortable.” + kooo architects Images by Keishin Horikoshi / SS

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Rammed-earth walls make up a beautiful retreat hidden in the Zhejiang mountains

Locally sourced materials make up a timber home that mimics its forest landscape

September 4, 2019 by  
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On the edge of the southern regional city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australian design practice Porter Architects has completed the Ballarat East House, a modern home that embraces the surrounding treed landscape with large windows and a materials palette of locally sourced Australian timber. Elevated off the ground to mitigate a tricky sloped site, the residence also emphasizes indoor-outdoor living throughout. Spanning an area of 200 square meters on a half-acre lot, the Ballarat East House is divided into two main pavilions — the northern pavilion houses three bedrooms while the southern pavilion contains the master bedroom and an open-plan living area — that are set on either side of an outdoor deck along with a recreational room in the middle. The home is wrapped in locally sourced Australian hardwood board and batten vertical siding to mimic the trunks of the surrounding trees. The cladding also has a three-dimensional effect that creates an attractive play of light and shadow throughout the day. The timber palette is continued in the interior, which includes locally sourced, recycled Australian hardwood floorboards as well as native hardwood joinery and furnishings. White walls, black metal accents and other materials, such as the travertine stone countertops and backsplash in the kitchen, help break up the use of timber. Tall glazed doors visually connect the living areas to the landscape, while a large outdoor courtyard protected from the elements serves as a second living zone. Related: A 1940s home gets a modern update with reclaimed materials “The two main living/private pavilions are defined by a dark stained Australian hardwood shiplap vertically clad entry/circulation area, enlivening the architectural experience from the hideaway laneway view,” the architects explained. “The passerby pedestrian is welcomed with an unassuming surprise in a neighborhood of common suburbia.” + Porter Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Derek Swalwell via Porter Architects

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Locally sourced materials make up a timber home that mimics its forest landscape

Passive solar school in Indonesia celebrates the natural landscape

August 19, 2019 by  
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In the Indonesian city of Tangerang, Jakarta-based design studio RAW Architecture has completed the School of Alfa Omega, a new school that emphasizes a connection with the outdoors. Set on a former rice paddy, the project has been a challenging endeavor — not only was the first phase expected to be ready for occupancy just six months from the design commission, but the muddy site conditions and the tight budget of less than $1.2 million also posed concerns. By combining low-cost materials and design inspiration from the local vernacular with easy-to-follow modular designs, the architects were able to successfully complete the first phase in just four months and within budget. The School of Alfa Omega caters to 300 students ranging from preschool to high school and is divided into three levels of preschool, six levels of elementary school, three levels of junior high school and three levels of senior high school. For ease of construction, the architects designed modular classrooms of equal size that are arranged in clusters. Related: Cooling breezes blow straight through a low-energy brick house in Indonesia “The brief of the project was to design a school with a value where ‘every child is [considered] a genius’; to be functioned in a curriculum system that does not rely solely on academic scores,” the architects explained. “The school aims to explore all of the students’ potency — even of those laid outside the ‘formal education realms’ such as craftsmanship, applied art, ecological awareness, social sensibility, etc., hence it is also required the establishment of growing talent classes.” To mitigate the swampy conditions and risk of flooding, the architects elevated the steel-framed school on stilts. In addition to the use of steel and concrete for durability and strength, the architects turned to locally sourced materials to bring down costs and relate the building to its surroundings. Wavy walls of locally sourced red brick — found to be more sturdy than the linear form — add visual interest. A thatched roof of local bamboo with long overhangs help shade outdoor spaces. Tall ceilings, porous brick walls, balconies and large openings were also integrated into the design to promote natural ventilation and optimize natural lighting in the school. According to the architects, the materials and design help the building remain at a stable interior temperature of 27 degrees Celsius year-round. + RAW Architecture Photography by Eric Dinardi via RAW Architecture

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A massive green wall grows up the side of this luxury Italian hotel

July 9, 2019 by  
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On the banks of Italy’s spectacular Lake Como sits Il Sereno , a five-star hotel that not only offers top-of-the-line luxury, but also boasts sustainable features throughout. Milan-based Patricia Urquiola Studio designed the building with a palette of locally sourced natural materials and an eye-catching Patrick Blanc-designed vertical garden that grows up the side of the building. The designers’ attention to energy-saving elements and eco-friendly materials earned Il Sereno Climate House certification. Conceived as a contemporary spin on the rationalist-style Casa del Fascio by Giuseppe Terragni, Il Sereno celebrates the historical heritage of the lake and the natural beauty of the surroundings. As such, natural materials were used for construction and include locally sourced stone marble and timber throughout the sustainable hotel. Thorough site analyses informed the placement of the building and the operable facade, which allows for natural ventilation and lighting to reduce the hotel’s environmental impact. The lake is visible from every room in the hotel as well as from the common areas. “I was inspired by the color of the Lake, and its glistening water, the nature of the dramatic mountains, and the adjacent village of Torno,” says designer and architect Patricia Urquiola in a press statement. “The color palette is the lake. It includes green, light-blue, copper, grey and natural tones. For Il Sereno we used natural materials (stone, wood, wool natural fibers) for a sustainable style and timeless elegance.” Related: LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood To reinforce the hotel’s connection with nature, the architects wrapped parts of the building in full-height glazing and balconies to create a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience and commissioned renowned green wall designer Patrick Blanc to create three artworks for Il Sereno. The largest vertical garden is mounted to the facade facing the northern lakefront to soften the structure’s appearance, while the other two artworks are found near the entrance on the south side. + Patricia Urquiola Studio Images by Patricia Parinejad

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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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Local, natural materials make up this eco-friendly jungle refuge in Tulum

March 28, 2019 by  
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Mexican architectural firm Jaquestudio recently completed a new boutique hotel nestled in a leafy paradise within Tulum, Mexico. Carefully sited to preserve nearly three-quarters of the existing jungle vegetation, the Jungle Keva is an environmentally friendly retreat that minimizes site impact and the use of plastics. Moreover, the hotel is built of locally sourced, natural materials that tie the building to the landscape. Designed to mirror the Tulum environment, Jungle Keva features five beautiful lodges with expansive walls of glass that pull views of the trees into the interiors. Each lodge includes double-height , open-plan spaces flooded with natural light. The communal areas and shared amenities are located in a building at the north of the property. The hotel draws water from an on-site well and includes a newly built, state-of-the-art septic treatment system. The five lodges vary in size, from 505 square feet to 600 square feet, and accommodate three to four guests. All accommodations include a private terrace with a hammock overlooking the jungle and an indoor-outdoor bathroom as well as Wi-Fi, natural bamboo sheets and organic toiletries. Guests also have access to on-site yoga classes, a pool, a restaurant and excursion activities. Related: This breathtaking Tulum art gallery was created by Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson The structures are built with low-maintenance and natural finishes that lend the buildings a sense of warmth. The distinctive earthy color found throughout the hotel is achieved with the “chum” finish, a Mayan stucco local to the region that’s made from tree resin. “The objective was to use materials that age with dignity, so that with the passing of time, the architecture acquires character and a deeper sense of belonging,” the architects explained. “The different volumes of the complex are scattered along the lot, between the trees and stone paths, which provide a sensation of being in a small village in the Mayan jungle.” + Jaquestudio Via ArchDaily Photography by César Béjar via Jaquestudio

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Local, natural materials make up this eco-friendly jungle refuge in Tulum

This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

March 28, 2019 by  
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A unique location and environmentally-friendly passive house design are what define this lovely home on the Czech Republic/German border. 750 meters above sea level and in the middle of a ridge within the Ore Mountains, it almost looks like a modern farmhouse from the outside. On the inside, however, you’ll find a sleek, clean design with light colors, glass and wood. The rustic home was built by Stempel & Tesar Architects and is a certified passive house . A passive house technique dramatically reduces a building’s environmental footprint by essentially reusing the heat generated by electrical and gas appliances (refrigerators, ovens, even computers) to heat the home. A ventilation system is used to supply fresh air from outside the house to keep the air quality clean, and an efficient heat recovery unit contains and exhausts the recycled heat. Related: Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style Ultra tight insulation and advanced windows that don’t allow for the heat to escape is required to produce a passive house. Conversely, a passive house is also designed to keep your home comfortable in the warmer months. So rather than using a separate heating or cooling device like a heater or air conditioner that drains energy , a passive house can recycle the heat that is already being generated. The result is a low-cost, energy efficient design that reduces the ecological footprint of the home. Outside the home is a covered walkway leading to the front entrance and an exterior of dark wood. Using an environmentally-friendly method, the wood was colored using a heating technique that eliminated the need for synthetic varnishes. The wood was also used to match the two-car garage to the look of the main house, and the roof is made of simple ceramic tiles. The location of the property allows for plenty of sunlight to brighten the home through the large windows. The home is comprised of two levels and also features a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a sliding door that allows for the entire house to be opened to the garden in the warmer months. Though the summer is short in this part of the world, the designers still included a winter garden and a covered terrace outside. + Stempel & Tesar Architects Via Archdaily Images via Stempel & Tesar Architects

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This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

March 28, 2019 by  
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In the aftermath of the Puebla earthquake that struck central Mexico in September 2017, Fundación PienZa Sostenible and Love Army México tapped Mexico City-based firm Francisco Pardo Arquitecto to design a home for a family who had lost their house in the disaster. Working in close collaboration with the Guzman family, the architects created a new and more earthquake-resistant dwelling that not only caters to the family’s needs but also offers improved living conditions. Named Casa Karina after the matriarch in the family of four, the home is built largely of compressed earth blocks , created in situ, along with pinewood used for the doors and windows. Located in the rural town of Ocuilan de Arteaga, the Guzmans’ 807-square-foot lot is located on family land split into five equal parts among the siblings. The Guzman’s original home was of poor construction: a single-story wood structure covered in metal sheets without insulation ; the floors were bare soil. In designing an improved home for the Guzmans, the architects decided to build a multi-story house with the communal areas and full bathroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the second floor and an open terrace on the third floor from where views of the town, the neighboring fields and the surrounding volcanoes can be seen. By building upward, the architects also allocated enough area on the grounds for a field for growing crops and space where the couple’s two daughters can play outdoors. The kitchen, located at the heart of the home, overlooks views of the field. Related: This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation The new construction is also far more robust than the previous house, with concrete foundations and polished cement floors. The compressed earth block walls are reinforced with concrete slabs. The architects said, “This is how we were able to entirely adapt the design to the needs and uses of the Guzman family and to build a new and more resistant home for them, providing better space conditions.” + Francisco Pardo Arquitecto Photography by Jaime Navarro, Pablo Astorga and Fernanda Olivares via Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

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