LEED Gold-certified WE3 shows off its skin at Silicon Beach

March 17, 2021 by  
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In the rapidly developing area of West Los Angeles known as “Silicon Beach,” local architecture firm SPF:architects has recently completed WE3 at Water’s Edge, a 160,000-square-foot creative workspace with a striking, perforated facade that takes inspiration from the play of light on water. This unique design protects the interior from unwanted solar gain. Certified LEED Gold , the six-story structure is optimized for energy savings and low-resource consumption, from the integration of operable, insulated windows and sunshades on every floor to the use of locally sourced and recycled construction materials. The newly completed workspace is the third and final building in a pre-existing, 6.5-acre commercial campus in the Playa Vista Specific Plan.  Designed to attract top-level tech and creative talent, including the likes of Google, Yahoo and YouTube, WE3 prioritizes flexibility, workplace health and views toward Baldwin Hills and the Pacific Ocean. To gracefully complement the campus’ existing buildings and maximize the lot’s buildable area, the sleek office building stretches 400 feet in length along the site’s eastern edge and frames a new public courtyard. WE3 comprises four floors of parking — two of which are tucked underground to accommodate a total of 600 cars — as well as four levels of open workspace, each with a footprint of approximately 40,000 square feet and 15-foot floor heights. Related: Perkins Eastman’s WELL Platinum Chicago office prioritizes employee health In addition to crafting a “floating” skin that visually lightens the building’s mass, the architects left the concrete superstructure exposed to achieve WE3’s modern and minimalist aesthetic. All circulation is located on the exterior to promote outdoor interaction and wellness. Occupants can also enjoy a sky garden on the top floor along with a wind-shielded terrace that can be used for impromptu meetings.  “The objective was to create a clean and simple building that both practically and symbolically completes the architecture of the site,” said Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA, SPF:architects’ founder and design principal. “From an urbanistic perspective, this plan simultaneously manages to maximize both visibility and workable density.” + SPF:architects Images via SPF:architects

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Tribal Textiles employs local artisans to uplift rural Zambian community

March 15, 2021 by  
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On the edge of the beautiful South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, social enterprise  Tribal Textiles  has made significant strides in uplifting a small rural community with eco-friendly and ethically crafted textiles. The company, which is now in its 30th year, is one of the biggest employers in the remote area and follows a corporate social responsibility strategy that provides sustainable employment and reinvests a percentage of the profits back into local community and conservation initiatives. Developed for minimal environmental impact from sourcing to production, Tribal Textiles’ home decor pieces are handmade at their workshop in  Zambia  and shipped around the world with a portion of shipping costs donated to supporting children at the local Hanada orphanage.  With 86 local Zambians currently employed, Tribal Textiles offers a wide variety of handmade home decor pieces and accessories from pillowcases and tablecloths to face masks and aprons. All products use locally sourced and sustainable materials with  waste repurposed  wherever possible. The hand-painted textiles are inspired by Africa’s vibrant heritage and culture and combine traditional Batik techniques with contemporary compositions and bold colors.  According to the company, all employees receive a fair monthly wage with annual paid leave, sick pay, bereavement pay, a housing and travel allowance as well as other benefits such as daily breakfasts and lunches and access to free HIV screenings. By providing sustainable and stable employment in a job-scarce area, Tribal Textiles is also able to help reduce the rates of poaching and  deforestation  in the wildlife-rich region. Related: Orkidstudio’s 10 Handpicked UK Students Build a Zambian Community Center in Just Seven Weeks Five percent of every Tribal Textiles purchase is reinvested into local community and  conservation  initiatives, including Conservation South Luangwa, Zambian Carnivore Programme, BirdWatch Zambia, and Bio Carbon Partners as well as the Malimba School, Hanada Orphanage & Chipembele Education Trust and the Luangwa Artisan Collective. The local artisans have also helped supply the community with approximately 35,000 hand-sewn face masks.  + Tribal Textiles Images via Tribal Textiles

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The Australian government unveils plan to end plastic pollution

March 15, 2021 by  
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The Australian federal government has launched the  National Plastic Plan , which seeks to deal with plastic pollution in various areas. According to the government, the plan will be aimed at banning single-use plastics on beaches, ending expanded polystyrene packaging and introducing microplastic filters for washing machines. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the plan is that the government intends to bring biodegradable plastic to an end. Most countries that have plastic pollution reduction plans tend to be lenient on biodegradable plastic products. But experts have warned that biodegradable plastic is not any better than regular plastic . The term “biodegradable plastic” is used to mean plastic derived from plant-based materials and is said to be biodegradable after use. It is also often called bioplastic. While some people may think that biodegradable is good, there are no standards that regulate the type of products that can be labeled as biodegradable. Some of these products can take several decades or centuries in landfills before breaking down. Related: Are bioplastics better for the environment or a waste of time? The recently unveiled plan seeks to bring together industry players to forge a way forward in dealing with the problem. Its implementation will lead to the phasing out of “fragmentable” plastic by July 2022. The other area of concern for the Australian government is recyclable plastic. Many companies produce plastics in huge quantities and label them as recyclable. The problem is that only 18% of plastics in Australia are recycled while just 9% of plastics are recycled globally. Recycling plastics is a process that still faces plenty of challenges. First, recycling is very expensive compared to making new plastics from fossil fuels. As a result, most companies prefer investing in fresh plastic. In Australia , the recycling system is well-developed, but it faces challenges of cost and waste separation at residential levels. The National Plastics Plan will also seek to deal with compostable plastic. The Australian government already has regulatory standards and certifications for this type of plastic. Unfortunately, most of the standards only apply to plastics that can be composted within an industrial facility. The plan hopes to help recover more plastic through methods like composting, but the government has yet to outline how it will support specialized collection and composting systems. + National Plastic Plan Via Phys.org Image via Brian Yurasits

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The Australian government unveils plan to end plastic pollution

Prefab timber home prototype pops up in just 5 days

December 29, 2020 by  
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Modular, transportable and built entirely with locally sourced timber, the prefab Proto-Habitat is an exercise in sustainable living. French design studio Wald.City designed and built the prototype project as part of a one-year research program at the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici to explore new forms of housing. The 60-square-meter (approximately 645 square feet) abode is scalable and adaptable to a variety of settings and can be used for everything from individual housing to collective buildings. As part of its focus on sustainable design, the Proto-Habitat was constructed with 100% timber materials sourced within 500 kilometers of Bordeaux in southwestern France. Products were carefully chosen from local industries that follow responsible waste management and sustainable forestry practices. The use of wood is celebrated throughout the structure, which features a minimalist and contemporary design. Related: Prefab holiday cabins appear to float among misty tea fields in China Designed with mobility in mind, the base unit of the modular Proto-Habitat can be assembled in just five days by three people and a truck crane. That means there is no need for a foundation. The base module comprises an open-plan ground floor of 30 square meters, a mezzanine of 15 square meters and a 30-square-meter elevated sunroom that is tucked beneath the curved roof. The flexible layout allows the structure to be adapted and expanded to meet a variety of uses and settings. “Shifting the role of the architect to ‘facilitator,’ the prototype and research aim to elaborate new forms and spaces to live together, and alternative financing methods,” the architects explained in a project statement. “This first project tries to develop a possible answer for the contemporary needs of flexibility, close relationships between home and office . It is a prototype to create new social relationships, new forms of commons, and redefining in housing standards what comfort, minimalism, and appropriation could be.” + Wald.City Images via Wald.City

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An indoor-outdoor home in Colombia is remodeled with local reclaimed wood

September 29, 2020 by  
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Located at the top of a mountain in Colombia’s Calandaíma River Valley, Casa Volcanes is a stunning home that promotes indoor-outdoor living and natural materials . Martínez Arquitectura kept the project budget low by choosing local and handmade elements in its redesign. Eighty percent of the woodwork for the home was reclaimed from demolition deposits in nearby Bogotá. Dark materials are used both for economic value and to highlight the raw sensation of the building’s relationship with its environmental surroundings. The architects chose handmade chircal brick to continue the home’s theme of blending seamlessly into the forest. Its location in Anapoima, just two hours from Bogotá, provides incredible jungle views and serene scenery that are enhanced by the locally sourced building materials. Related: This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood “Its hot tropical climate is a discovery of sensations and surprises. From time to time, you can feel the extreme humidity of the fog, the torrential rain and the blizzards that scare, as well as the dry periods of high temperatures, which suggest fires,” said Marisol, owner of Casa Volcanes. “The delight of the air and the insatiable sound of cicadas and frogs, of birds and insects inviting you to stay, are always a fundamental part of this marvelous environment.” Originally, the plot had a one-level construction, typical for a home in the Colombian coffee zone. Casa Volcanes, though it revolved around a communal space with picturesque windows surrounded by railings, had rudimentary and barely functional amenities. The owner wanted to keep the magical, organic feel of the place while updating the space to provide a more contemporary functionality. The kitchen is remodeled with a cobblestone floor, a new opening to the south and more space for social gatherings. The rooms themselves now act as semi-open spaces with mobile doors that allow them to be extended into the gardens. The designers kept the high ceilings and rustic lattices to respect the essence of the house, but painted the exterior a darker shade to create a reduction in thermal sensation and complement the stone rainwater pond. The existing railings are shortened to make their presence less obvious yet still harmonious to the property. + Martínez Arquitectura Photography by Carlos Alberto Martínez Valencia, Jesús Fiallo and Ana María Díaz Parra via Martínez Arquitectura y Fiallo Atelier

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Student designs inflatable bamboo greenhouses for sustainable farming

September 1, 2020 by  
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University of Westminster Master of Architecture (MArch) (RIBA Pt II) student Eliza Hague has proposed an eco-friendly alternative to the plastic-covered greenhouses commonly found in India. In place of the polythene sheeting that is typically used to cover greenhouses , Hague has created a design concept that uses shellac-coated bamboo. If applied, the weather-resistant and durable bamboo-shellac material would give the greenhouses a beautiful, origami-like effect and cut down on the excessive plastic waste generated by polythene sheeting. Created as part of her school’s Architectural Productions module that emphasizes biomimicry in designs, Hague’s shellac-coated bamboo greenhouse proposal follows her studio’s focus on challenging unsustainable architectural structures with nature-inspired alternatives. Polythene sheeting is currently the most popular greenhouse covering material in India. However, it needs replaced every year, which leads to excessive plastic waste. Related: 3-hectare desert farm in Jordan can grow 286,600 pounds of veggies each year Hague minimizes the environmental footprint of her design proposal by using locally sourced bamboo and natural resins extracted from trees. The paper-like bamboo covering is coated with shellac resin for weather-resistance. Hague also took inspiration from the Mimosa Pudica plant in redesigning the greenhouse structure, which would be built with collapsible beams and “inflatable origami hinges” so that the building could be flat-packed and easily transported. Once on site, the greenhouse would be inflated with air, covered with the bamboo-shellac material and fitted with expandable black solar balloons that would sit between the infill beams and cladding for the hinges to promote natural ventilation.  “The tutors in Design Studio 10 encourage you to analyse what it means to be truly sustainable in architecture, rather than integrating sustainability as a generic requirement which is often seen throughout the industry,” Hague said to the University of Westminster. “This helped to develop my project into something that challenges the suitability of widely used materials and current lifestyles.” + University of Westminster Images via University of Westminster

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Portland welcomes first Living Building Challenge project

May 8, 2020 by  
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Pacific Northwest architecture firm  Mahlum  has made history with the certification of its new architecture studio as Portland’s first Living Building Challenge ( LBC ) project. As an LBC-certified workspace, Mahlum’s new studio meets rigorous sustainability targets including net-zero embodied carbon emissions and the diversion of almost all construction waste from the landfill. The project is the 48th LBC-certified project in the United States and 57th in the world.  Located in a renovated 1930s structure that once served as a Custom Stamping facility, Mahlum’s newly minted 7,500-square-foot  office  in Portland meets the LBC guidelines for the Materials Petal, the Place, Equity and Beauty Petals, and the Health & Happiness Petal. As a result, workplace health and wellness have been emphasized alongside environmentally friendly design and construction. All products used were screened to comply with VOC emission restrictions.  Local materials and labor were also key to the office’s design. Nearly all of the wood used was sourced from the state of Oregon and 100% of all the wood is either  FSC-certified  or salvaged. Working with partners such as Sustainable Northwest Wood and Salvage Works, the architects also used over a dozen unique salvaged products, including Douglas fir wood reclaimed from the nearby National Historic site of Fort Vancouver. Moreover, local artist Paige Wright was commissioned to create nature-inspired ceramic vessels used as planters in the office. Materials have also been vetted to ensure compliance with the Red List, which screens for “worst-in-class” chemicals and environmentally harmful materials. Related: Glumac’s pioneering net-zero Shanghai office paves the way to greener buildings in China Mahlum will receive recognition for their LBC certification at the Living Future Conference, which will be digitally hosted in May 2020. The firm also plans to participate in Design Week Portland , currently expected to take place at the beginning of August, to welcome visitors as part of an Open House event.  + Mahlum Images by Lincoln Barbour

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LEED Platinum Akademeia High School caters to millennials

April 13, 2020 by  
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When  Medusa Group Architects  was tasked to design a high school in Warsaw, the Polish interdisciplinary design studio’s team seized the opportunity to address the perceived failures of the public education system to keep up with changing millennial needs. As a result, their design of Akademeia High School, completed in 2015, encourages a welcoming and flexible “lifestyle atmosphere” where students are encouraged to stay in school even after classes end. Built primarily of locally sourced timber, the school also boasts low energy consumption and has achieved LEED Platinum certification with a total of 86 points.  Spanning an area of 14,369 square meters, the Akademeia High School comprises a U-shaped building that wraps around a central  courtyard . Taking inspiration from urban design and place-making principles, the architects deliberately introduced a sense of ambiguity to many of the indoor spaces to encourage students to adapt the rooms to multifunctional uses. Seating, for example, is no longer limited to benches and chairs but also encompasses sculptural interior surfaces and the stairs of the outdoor amphitheater-like structure facing the central courtyard. The school cafeteria has also been transformed from a traditionally single-use space into a  multi-use  space akin to a “fashionable restaurant” that is open throughout the day for various functions. “This is a place where you can work with literature, meet with a psychologist, wait for parents and at the same time sit at a laptop and do homework, preparing the elders,” explain the architects in their project statement. “We wanted pupils in small groups to learn the culinary art from the kitchen, get to know the flavors and make inspiring, culinary travels – geography with gastronomy in one.” Related: A clean-energy school in southern France draws power from the sun Students can further their culinary arts education on the accessible roof, where an  urban garden  grows and houses beehives during the summer. The herbs grown on the roof are used in the school cafeteria. The rooftop space can also host classroom activities, from biology and physics to astronomy and geography.  + Medusa Group Architects Photography: J?drzej i Juliusz Soko?owscy

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LEED Platinum Akademeia High School caters to millennials

Sasaki weaves an ecological landscape into Tianfu Vanke City

April 3, 2020 by  
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Sasaki Associates has recently completed the first phase for its landscape design of Tianfu Vanke City, a new 173-hectare community near the Western Chinese city of Chengdu. Located on land that had long been used for agriculture , the development takes a holistic approach to landscape and ecology restoration and will not only preserve and reintroduce native species but will also emphasize aquatic health. Nature has also been made a major focus of the built environment so that residents and visitors can enjoy the landscape through a wide range of outdoor activities. Unlike the relatively flat terrain of Chengdu , Tianfu Vanke City is surrounded by mountains and is rich in aquatic features. Sasaki Associates’ vision for the new urban community celebrates the local landscape by drawing design inspiration from the local environment, culture and materials. To that end, the team used GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping to analyze the site’s topographical features, which informed their plans for roadways, trail systems, water systems, landscape zones and outdoor activities. Related: Floating prefab architecture addresses climate change on Chengdu’s Jincheng Lake Site analyses also directed the division of the site into two interconnected neighborhoods — the North Valley and the South Valley — based on the ridgeline and the two sub-watersheds that feed into two scenic lakes at the mouths of the two valleys. To highlight successful landscape reclamation efforts and surrounding nature, the community will be integrated with a comprehensive trail system that will cater to mountain biking, hiking and camping. The project even includes an animal adventure park. Walls of locally sourced red sandstone will snake through the landscape to accentuate the rolling terrain. The first 13.5-hectare phase of the Tianfu Vanke City landscape was completed in October 2019 and features a three-zoned playscape, which encourages children to experience nature . The most eye-catching zone is the Hill Adventure Park with The Cloud, a 25-meter-by-13-meter netted play structure. The playscape also includes the Water Adventure Park with a sculptural wading “Ripple” pool and the Field Adventure Park with a “Maze” of boardwalks, meadows and pea stone paths. + Sasaki Associates Photography by Holi Photography via Sasaki Associates

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Sasaki weaves an ecological landscape into Tianfu Vanke City

Floating ICEBERG creatively confronts global warming

March 26, 2020 by  
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In summer 2019, a surprising sight popped up on a New Hampshire lake — ICEBERG, a floating, iceberg-shaped pavilion made of locally sourced wood and recycled plastic. Created to raise awareness on the issue of polar ice melt, the temporary installation was the work of  Bulot+Collins , an international architecture firm that guided over a hundred Beam Campers to build the project on-site. The environmental installation also doubled as a play space with a resting area for sunbathing and a staircase that leads to a diving platform.  ICEBERG was designed and built for  Beam Camp , a summer camp in Strafford, New Hampshire that teaches campers hands-on skills and creative thinking through large-scale collaborative projects selected through an annual worldwide design competition. In 2019, Bulot+Collins’ ICEBERG project was chosen and built in three weeks by 104 campers between the ages of 10 to 17.  Located in the middle of Willy Pond, the 700-square-foot ICEBERG pavilion features a slanted wood frame buoyed by a series of empty barrels. The structure is covered in locally sourced plywood panels clad in recycled HDPE tiles manufactured on-site by the campers with a process exclusively developed by the architects for the project. Recycled plastic was melted and molded into triangular shapes and then covered in a mix of resin and thermochromic paint to simulate the appearance of a melting iceberg : the hundreds of tiles turn from different shades of blue in the cold to a polar white in the heat.  Related: ICEBERGS immerse visitors in a beautiful underwater world in Washington, D.C. In addition to its striking visual appearance, ICEBERG served as a play space with a sunbathing area and a 10-foot-tall diving platform. “As architects accustomed to working in an environment where the designer, the client and the users are often three distinct parties, we were stimulated to have the future users play an active role in the building process of the project,” note the architects. “This blurring of boundaries familiarized campers with the subtle implications of building a space, and allowed them to evolve in a structure that they constructed with their own hands.” + Bulot+Collins Images via Bulot+Collins

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Floating ICEBERG creatively confronts global warming

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