Eco-friendly Brae restaurant and retreat targets net-zero energy in Australia

January 22, 2019 by  
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Sustainability is woven throughout Brae , a renowned restaurant and retreat nestled on a hillside of a 30-acre organic farm in rural Australia. Designed by Fitzroy-based studio Six Degrees Architects , Brae is best known for its seasonally inspired menu and talented chefs — the restaurant was named among the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2017 — and the idyllic establishment also boasts six eco-friendly guest suites designed to target net-zero energy consumption. Durable and recycled materials are used throughout the handcrafted buildings, which are powered with solar energy and use recycled rainwater. After Six Degree Architects completed Brae in 2013, the firm revisited the site to add a new accommodation building that would emphasize the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability and seasonality. Completed in 2016, the six guest suites are housed in a structure referencing the archetypal utilitarian rural shed and built with simple and robust materials including recycled timber and brickwork, raw steel and brass. Local builders and tradesmen built the project, and the guest suites are carefully fitted out with bespoke, engaging objects to make each room feel homey and welcoming. “The restaurant is renowned for seasonally sourcing raw produce from either the property or local region,” the architects explained. “There was a desire to bring this careful, considered approach into the crafting of the rooms and restaurant. Simple robust materials, contrasting hard and soft, and a level of intricate detailing remind you that hands have made and shaped the buildings. The project purposefully plays off the materiality and self-build nature of old rural buildings, reinterpreting them into contemporary and luxurious interiors, framing views of the working landscape beyond.” Related: Peek inside the BIG-designed garden village for one of the world’s best restaurants The guest suites are oriented for south-facing views of the landscape, while a landscaped berm to the north protects the building from view of the carpark. To achieve net-zero energy use during operation, the project is equipped with 48 solar panels that generate a daily average of nearly 44 kWh. Rainwater is harvested in two 40,000-liter tanks and reused for drinking and washing. Waste is broken down in a large worm farm. Thanks to these systems and passive thermal design, the 500-square-meter Brae guest suites have achieved a NatHERS energy rating of 7 stars. + Six Degrees Architects Photography by Trevor Mein via Six Degrees Architects

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Eco-friendly Brae restaurant and retreat targets net-zero energy in Australia

Climate-responsive H House celebrates the heritage of Kosovo

December 31, 2018 by  
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Recycled materials, energy-saving systems and references to Kosovan culture have been woven throughout the H House, a handsome and contemporary residence in ?aglavica, a village near the Kosovo capital of Pristina. Designed by  4M Group , the home serves as a beacon of optimism and energy-efficiency for the self-declared independent state, which has been defined by a long and troubled history. Sustainability is paramount to the dwelling and is expressed through the adoption of passive deign principles, locally sourced and recycled materials  and sensor-activated fixtures. As a partially recognized state and disputed territory in Southeastern Europe, Kosovo is home to a rich culture and a long history of war. “Demonstrating awareness of the dichotomy of Kosovo’s recent history, the client wanted a house where safety and security was paramount, but with open, light-filled interiors,” said the architects, adding that they wanted to “reflect the cultural legacy and illustrate a renewed optimism in Pristina with the creation of the H House.” As a result, the outer appearance of the home takes inspiration from the Fustanella, the traditional Albanian dress worn by men, and mimics the folds of the white garment in its multifaceted facade. The angular exterior also has a practical purpose as well. The architects followed passive solar principles in the design of the airtight building to mitigate the region’s extreme temperature fluctuations and also installed heavily insulated reinforced concrete walls as well as deeply recessed triple-glazed windows. The construction materials and labor were sourced locally and recycled materials were used wherever possible. Consequently, the H House only takes a little energy to maintain a comfortable indoor environment year-round. Related: MVRDV will transform the Tirana Pyramid, a former communist monument, into an education center In addition to low-tech strategies, the architects installed smart systems for comfort control including automatically operating louvers and window fan lights. Heating is supplied via a dual air/water thermal heat pump that also powers the underfloor heating . A wood pellet boiler provides supplemental heating. Low-energy lighting and water-efficient fixtures have also been installed. + 4M Group Via ArchDaily Photography by Ilir Rizaj and Fitim Muçaj via 4M Group

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Climate-responsive H House celebrates the heritage of Kosovo

A stone barn is transformed into a modern, energy-conscious home in Verona

December 19, 2018 by  
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Milan-based architecture practice Studio Wok has revamped a historic stone barn into a contemporary country home using environmentally friendly materials and design choices. Located in the small parish of Chievo in the west of Verona, Italy, the adaptive reuse project carefully respects the architectural heritage of the site while tastefully bringing the residence up to modern living standards. The result is a charming dwelling filled with natural light, warm timber surfaces and framed views of the Italian countryside. Completed in 2018, the country home in Chievo included the renovation of not only the architecture, but also the surrounding garden in the agricultural court. A massive magnolia tree — preserved upon the clients’ request — forms the focal point of the garden and is edged in by a square black flowerbed next to the new pool bordered by stone flooring. To emphasize the site’s history and allude to traditional building techniques, the architects peeled back the plaster on the barn’s facade to reveal the river pebbles that make up the load-bearing walls. This honest approach to materials is echoed throughout the house from the exposed timber beams to the minimalist palette with natural finishes. The materials used also reference the local rural vernacular found throughout Verona from the river pebbles grafted onto modern frames in Biancone to the local stone sourced from Lessinia. Related: Old barn and granary gains a new life as an inspiring community hub A large masonry arch marks the entrance and leads guests into a series of spacious, light-filled living spaces with Vicenza stone paving as well as a library with a brick fireplace. The upper floors house the bedrooms. Warm birch plywood cladding is inserted to bring warmth and delineate the spaces within the home. “The project’s leitmotif is a spatial and material dialogue between history and modernity, and it is also characterized by the great care taken in terms of environmental sustainability,” the firm explained. “In addition to the use of technical devices and systems for efficient energy, special attention has been given to the surrounding territory and landscape in the use of materials and design choices.” + Studio Wok Photography by Simone Bossi via Studio Wok

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A stone barn is transformed into a modern, energy-conscious home in Verona

Glass building in China is filled with soaring timber pillars in the shape of trees

December 19, 2018 by  
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Beijing-based firm  LUO Studio has unveiled a beautiful, all-glass headquarters for an eco-farm operator in China’s Henan province. The transparent Longfu Life Experience Center features a spectacular interior comprised of multiple soaring timber “trees” that can be easily reconfigured or dismantled entirely. The modular design not only reflects the current company’s commitment to providing clients with greener lifestyles, but it offers future tenants an adaptable building structure with infinite possibilities. According to the architects, the inspiration of the design stemmed from wanting to develop a structure that could offer optimal flexibility for years to come. By using  modular design , the building’s three main volumes can be reconfigured depending on the desired use. The timber “clustered columns,” which were inspired by the shape of trees, can be arranged as singular structures or combined “just like Lego bricks.” Related: Long Lodge is an elegant and sustainable mass timber retreat proposal in the woods “The clustered column was divided into five segments,” the architects explained. “The bottom part of each clustered column is in the shape of a regular polygon. These extend upward from the bottom and form a square outside edge.” Further adding flexibility to the design, the expansive 17,000-square-foot interior is arranged in an open-plan layout that relies primarily on  natural light . The two stories include a multi-functional space on the ground floor that can be used for large events or sectioned off for smaller gatherings. The first floor is a mezzanine gallery protected by series of glass balustrades. On the upper level, the timber structures have table spaces that wrap around their width to provide space for work or play. + LUO Studio Via Dezeen Photography by Jin Weiqi via LUO Studio

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Glass building in China is filled with soaring timber pillars in the shape of trees

Nh Nhm Homestay is built from upcycled waste in Vietnam

December 19, 2018 by  
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Born from waste materials, the stylish Nhà Nhím Homestay is giving upcycling a good name with its smart eco-friendly design. Designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architectural practice A+ Architects , the hotel comprises a series of contemporary structures built of locally sourced materials and positioned for optimal views over the landscape. Completed last year, the project is located in Da Lat, the capital of Lam Dong province in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The long and narrow project site for the Nhà Nhím Homestay proved a challenge due to the dimensions and the sloped terrain. Rather than create a single structure stretched across the slender site, the architects split the hotel into a series of buildings strategically staggered and spaced apart to protect against cold winds and to encourage connection between units. The structures were also elevated off the ground for improved views and to create usable open space underneath. The sleeping areas—seven beds in total—are located upstairs while the communal spaces are on the ground floor. After the architects sketched out the initial design, they began to study the site surroundings in more detail. After multiple trips out to Da Lat, the firm found inspiration in the region’s abundance of waste material and decided to upcycle those materials to tie the design into its surroundings. Unwanted cutoffs from the local textile factories, for instance, were recycled into different parts in the buildings, while external wood cells were reused in the ceiling modules. Leftover pine branches were transformed into fencing and other old timbers were given new life as furnishings. Related: An old warehouse is remade into a stylish hotel with a copper chevron crown The architects add: “There were also test concrete blocks being thrown away. No longer garbage. We recreated a new purpose for them, when they were carefully aligned to recreate the iconic talus slope of Da Lat. In the end, this project was a story of giving so-called “garbages” a second chance and an architect’s adventure of creating something meaningful from trash.” + A+ Architects Images by Quang Tran  

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Nh Nhm Homestay is built from upcycled waste in Vietnam

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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