Old barn and granary gains a new life as an inspiring community hub

November 26, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based design practice MCW Architects has completed the transformation of a heritage barn and granary into an uplifting community center and home of local charity ACE Foundation . Purchased by the charity in 2009 on the outskirts of Cambridge , the Victorian farm was renovated in a two-part process, the second phase of which MCW Architects was commissioned to design and implement. In addition to refurbishing the existing structure and improving energy efficiency, the £1,500,000 second-phase transformation also included new build elements, such as the glazed hall that links the Stapleford Granary to the barn. As a champion of adult and continuing education both locally and internationally, the ACE Foundation wanted to create an inspiring place conducive to hosting all types of learning. Its vision was to transform the Victorian farm and granary into a sustainable working environment and accessible community amenity. In the first phase, the granary and surrounding outbuildings were transformed into a small performance space for 60 people, including multipurpose facilities for chamber music, lectures and exhibitions, as well as recording facilities, a seminar room and some office spaces. When MCW Architects was brought on for the second phase, the firm converted the existing barn into offices for the ACE Cultural Tours team and refurbished the ground floor of the granary — along with the cart lodge — into a creative space for fine and applied art. The glazed corridor connecting the existing structures is multipurpose and serves as a foyer, gathering space and long gallery. All areas are naturally ventilated without reliance on air conditioning. In addition to passive design components, the buildings save energy with an underfloor heating system, additional windows and skylights that let in greater daylight and energy-efficient lighting systems throughout. Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The architects said, “The redevelopment of this sensitive site was carried out in a way that retains the character of the existing fabric and spaces whilst being able to breathe new life into the place so that it can support and sustain the uses and needs of the Foundation into the future.” + MCW Architects Photography by Jim Stephenson and ACE Foundation via MCW Architects

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How to provide a backyard habitat to protect animals in the winter

November 26, 2018 by  
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We live in an ecosystem where plants and animals depend upon one another for survival. During the cold winter months, the animals in your area may struggle to find adequate food, shelter and water; however, you can make a difference in these tough situations. To help animals survive the winter, here are a few simple actions you can take in your own yard in the name of wildlife conservation . Hold off on deadheading Birds eat seeds and make nests from grasses. Critters store nuts and seeds from plants . Although you might find it unsightly, leaving the dried heads of roses, wildflowers, sunflowers, coneflowers and blazing star makes it easier for birds to forage during the winter. So instead of cutting them back in the fall, allow them to overwinter, and trim them back in the spring instead. Rethink your landscaping selections Every gardener knows that some plants appeal to animals more than others. We need flowers for insects to pollinate, attractants for butterflies and plants that produce seeds for small critters to eat. Most of this activity happens during the summer months, which is why animals store up for winter. But when the stores run out or animals seek fresh foods, the right plants in your garden can provide year-round feedings. Related: How to plant fruit in the winter If you are due for a change or some additional shrubbery, consider planting trees that produce nuts such as hazelnut, walnut or oak trees. Plant foliage that produces berries year-round to feed the animals. Some examples include bayberry, viburnum, chokeberry, wintergreen teaberry, dogwood and winterberry holly. Also plant trees that produce pine cones as a food source for birds, and while you’re considering evergreens, note that the juniper tree also provides berries. Some varieties of crabapple trees are an additional option for providing fruit throughout the winter. Create water reservoirs Animals can’t drink snow or ice — keep fresh water available. Build a small pond or maintain bird baths. Keep your water source warm enough to avoid freezing with an easy-to-find heater that you can run in your pond or bath. A layer of ice on the top of your pond will not only trap invertebrates and frogs inside, but it also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. If you live in a generally mild climate but have a water source ice over during an unseasonal cold snap, place a pot of hot water on the icy surface. Related: Birdbath care during the winter You don’t want rodents falling into the water sources, so make sure that any water available is in the form of a bird bath or other elevated source. Reservoirs, like rain collection barrels, should be completely sealed around any openings to repel critters who could get trapped inside. Build protection out of debris Your yard clippings, especially tree branches, make an appealing refuge for foraging rodents, rabbits, squirrels and reptiles . They also allow birds to have a protected space for building nests in preparation of spring. To create a brush pile for housing, start with a pile of the largest branches and cuttings. Stack smaller debris on top for additional layers of protection and warmth.  Critters and nesting birds will thank you for the protection. You can also encourage animals to take shelter in your woodpile by stacking wood pieces with copious spacing. Criss-crossing split wood chunks provides protection for rabbits, squirrels and other small animals. Craft tiny animal homes Animals that are cold during winter will seek out warmth and shelter wherever they can. That’s why you’ll find rats sneaking into the house, mice burrowing into covered patio furniture or taking over the RV and birds tucked into the rafters. To keep them happy and warm without sharing your living space, build them their own homes. In addition to mounds of protective foliage, put together a row of basic wooden birdhouses resting on posts, hanging from trees or mounted to the fence. Bat houses have visual appeal and functional elements, too. If you have space, choose an area away from the main activity on your property to place a recycled chicken coop, bus stop shed or other small building; lay down straw for added warmth. Put out food Fill your bird feeders and remember to check them often during the winter. Those that keep food dry are the best. Also make and hang some pine cone feeders from your trees. Simply smear some nut butter on the pine cone and roll it in bird food for an easy and animal-friendly craft that the whole family can work on together. Related: Attracting backyard birds in winter Leave the leaves Autumn is dubbed fall because of the obvious characteristic of leaves dropping everywhere. As leaves float away from the trees and onto your property, resist the urge to get out the leaf blower and yard debris cart. Instead, move those leaves over to your flower beds. Not only will they provide mulching benefits to your plants, but they will also offer a habitat for ground birds, such as the thrush, and frogs, which prefer the moist environment that leaves provide. While it’s tempting to strip the yard down to the ground during your fall list of chores, remember to think about the animals. By holding off on debris removal and taking a few calculated steps, you’ll not only improve their winter habitat, but you will also have a more appealing green space with foliage and animals to view. Via Humane Society , Discover Wildlife and HGTV Images via Annie Spratt , Maria Shanina , Peter Trimming , Zailin Liu , Phil Roeder , Erin Wilson , Wes Hicks , DaPuglet and Rachel Kramer

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An old warehouse is remade into a stylish hotel with a copper chevron crown

November 16, 2018 by  
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An 80-year-old warehouse has been elegantly remade into the chic Paramount House Hotel, a boutique property that champions sustainable practices in more ways than one. Designed by Melbourne-based Breathe Architecture , the adaptive reuse project in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia houses 29 unique rooms as well as a sun-soaked lobby that weaves original architectural features together with contemporary elements. In addition to the sensitive renovation of the historic building, the architects also used locally sourced materials wherever possible and installed a 7-kW photovoltaic solar array on the roof deck to supplement the building’s energy needs. Named after the Paramount House (formerly Paramount Pictures Studio) next door, the Paramount House Hotel was completed over the course of four years and opened to guests this year. In addition to capturing the raw industrial qualities of the 1930s brick corner warehouse into the redesign , the architects also took cues from the art deco styles of the surrounding former film district from dressing the interiors to reimagining the exteriors. Most notably, the architects added a copper, chevron-patterned screen that crowns the brick building and provides solar shading. Within the restored brick and timber shell, Breathe Architecture inserted structural and architectural metalwork, concrete, recycled timber floorboards, low-VOC finishes, locally designed tiles and furnishings that are entirely made in Australia. A former film vault was transformed into the welcoming reception lodge. Each of the suites includes an external terrace carefully placed for shading and natural ventilation. Related: Old Sydney warehouse is transformed into an industrial-chic home “Contextually responsive to its Sydney location, it is about expressing everything that was old and true, honest and raw, about the existing warehouse,” the architecture firm explained in the project statement. “It captures the spirit and excitement of the golden era of film. Staying there, you truly feel at home.” + Breathe Architecture Images by Tom Ross and Katherine Lu

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An old warehouse is remade into a stylish hotel with a copper chevron crown

This bold, sustainable home will age gracefully near an Indiana wetland

October 16, 2018 by  
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Compact, energy-efficient and built with locally sourced materials, this hillside home takes a low-impact approach to its wetland surroundings in the city of Valparaiso in northern Indiana. Local design firm Bamesberger Architecture completed the home for a client who wanted a relatively small dwelling overlooking a pristine 400,000-square-foot wetland site. Named The Box after its boxy appearance, the home boasts low-energy needs and does not rely on air conditioning, even in the summer Completed in 2013, The Box spans an area of 960 square feet and consists of a main house, a screened porch and a small storage building. All three structures are slightly offset from one another to offer varied views of the landscape and are connected with two square timber decks. In response to the client’s wishes for a “very affordable” house with wetland views, the architects selected a budget-friendly yet attractive natural materials palette — including blackened steel, stone, concrete and birch plywood — to complement the property’s native trees and grasslands. “To set the house into the site, the main living space was built into the hillside,” the architecture firm explained. “Excavated rocks were reused as a base for the steel encased fireplace as well as a stepping stone inside the front door. The front door was built from a walnut tree found dead on the site.” Related: Charming home uses local, natural materials to pay homage to a chestnut tree The main dwelling includes an open-plan kitchen, dining area and living area on the ground floor. Above, a small loft offers space for sleeping and a home office. A two-story shower takes advantage of the double-height volume, adding what the architects call “a spatial surprise in the otherwise small space.” To minimize energy needs, The Box is wrapped in high-performance insulation and built into the side of the north-facing hill. Radiant underfloor heating and natural ventilation also help keep the home at comfortable temperatures year-round with minimal utility bills. + Bamesberger Architecture Images via Fred Bamesberger

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This bold, sustainable home will age gracefully near an Indiana wetland

Barn-inspired home offers back-to-nature living with a crisp, contemporary twist

October 15, 2018 by  
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Reconnecting with rural roots has never looked better than at Silvernails, a beautiful hillside home fashioned as a rural barn in Rhinebeck, New York. Set on a picturesque 120-acre property near the east side of the Hudson River, the gabled holiday retreat is the first “ground-up” residential work of Manhattan-based Amalgam Studio . In addition to its modern good looks and spectacular outdoor views, Silvernails also boasts an energy-efficient design optimized for cross-ventilation and daylighting. Spanning 5,000 square feet, the timber-clad home is organized as a long and linear rectangular mass clad in timber inside and out. “Much like the traditional communal barn-raising events of the region, the double-height Bent Frames were raised and bolted into place, with the entire timber structure completed in one day,” explained Amalgam Studio founder Ben Albury, who noted that although many people are drawn to the airy and warm character of barns , the rural buildings’ lack of insulation and comfort are turn-offs. To make the barn-inspired residence a comfortable and welcome place to call home, the architects used high-performance glazing and insulation to ensure stable indoor temperatures year-round. In-wall heat-recovery ventilation units and operable windows also promote continuous fresh air. “From the very beginning, the clients wanted a comfortable house. I believe it would have been irresponsible for me not to look at, and ultimately follow, Passive House Standards,” Albury said. “As far as I’m aware, the home features the longest triple-glazed Passive House Certified residential skylight in North America.” In addition to natural ventilation and lighting, Silvernails features LED lighting, an energy-efficient multi-split heat-pump air conditioning system and locally sourced materials. Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The exterior is clad with unpainted “plantation pine” treated to withstand rot and pests and applied using a “unique, innovative clip system to the standing seams of roof sheeting.” The interiors include white oak flooring and lining, walnut cabinetry and hickory vanity units. The timber palette is complemented with domestically quarried stone, including granite and slate. + Amalgam Studio Via ArchDaily Images by Oliver Mint

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Explore the worlds driest desert at these eco-friendly geodomes

September 27, 2018 by  
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On the coastal edge of northern Chile’s Atacama Desert sits the Piedras Bayas BeachCamp , sustainable lodgings that offer a low-impact stay in the world’s driest desert. Chilean architecture firm MOREAS designed the eco-friendly retreat using local materials, non-contaminant sanitary systems and off-grid energy systems. Billed as a “sustainable tourism station,” the beach camp is oriented toward the water and offers an immersive experience in the virgin landscape. Elevated on stilts, the Piedras Bayas BeachCamp consists of a centrally located service center and three freestanding hotel suites. Spaced 50 meters apart to preserve privacy, each suite houses up to four people and comprises a white geodome for the sleeping quarters, a private bathroom and a personal terrace oriented for views of the water. The service center is equipped with a communal kitchen with all the appliances and tools needed for food prep, two outdoor dining areas, an office, two bathrooms, a staff room and a living area. Exterior raised pathways connect the various buildings. To minimize impact on the landscape, the project was constructed in three phases with a team of three carpenters, two local artisans and an architect on site. “The strategy was to have a wood structure as the skeleton, with skin made out of local materials,” the architects explained in a project statement. “The structural basis was made from wooden pillars, buried one meter in the sand compacted with salt water, and the foundations did not use any cement at all. The main local materials used for this project were ‘Brea’ and ‘Totora.’ It is inspired by a small village located 40 minutes from the site.” Related: Desert dome camp in Jordan offers tourists “The Martian” experience Nightly rates at the Piedras Bayas BaseCamp start at $120 USD with a minimum two-night stay requirement. Guests will have access to kayaks as well as electricity and hot water 24/7. + MOREAS Via ArchDaily Images by Alejandro Gálvez, Cristina Ananias and Eduardo Montesinos

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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 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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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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