Biofase has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits

February 15, 2019 by  
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A Mexico-based company has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits. Biofase, a startup founded in Michoacan, Mexico, is using discarded waste from the fruit to create biodegradable cutlery and straws in a bigger fight against single-use plastics and food waste. A biochemical engineer named Scott Munguia created Biofase in 2013. The company uses a technique that transforms avocado waste into bioplastics, which are then used to form materials. All of the products the company creates from the pits are fully biodegradable and decompose within 240 days. Related: How to grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit “Our family of biodegradable resins can be processed by all conventional methods of plastic molding,” Biofase explained in a tweet. According to EcoWatch , the organization processes around 15 metric tons of avocado waste every day. Not only is the operation proving profitable, but it is also good for the environment. Apart from the biodegradable utensils and straws, Biofase is preventing a significant amount of agricultural waste from ending up in Mexico’s landfills and surrounding bodies of water. Biofase claims to be the sole biopolymer supplier in its home country of Mexico . The company ships its biodegradable products to more than 11 countries in Latin America. Several chain restaurants also order cutlery and straws from Biofase, including Chili’s Grill & Bar, Fiesta Americana and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Although Biofase is leading Mexico in the production of biopolymers, new laws will likely create a need for more development in the industry. In fact, several municipalities in the region have passed laws against single-use plastics , emphasizing a growing need for eco-friendly alternatives. For example, Querétaro banned plastic bags in 2017, and Tijuana followed suit the following year. Ditching single-use plastics is a growing trend in Mexico. To date, there are more than 15 laws at city and state levels that are meant to discourage the use of disposable plastics. Biopolymers come with their own disadvantages, but these are a viable solution to the growing problem of plastic waste around the globe. If a company like Biofase can come up with an ingenious way to create biodegradable straws and biodegradable utensils, we can only hope that other forms of biodegradable plastics will follow. + Biofase Via EcoWatch Image via Julie Henriksen

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Global warming to blame for insect collapse in Puerto Rican rainforest

January 23, 2019 by  
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35 years ago, scientist Brad Lister left the Puerto Rican Luquillo rainforest after studying the arthropods of the region. He left an area that had a thriving insect population that provided food for all of the birds in the national park. But, when he returned in 2018, Lister and his colleague, Andres Garcia, made a shocking discovery — 98 percent of the ground insects had vanished. “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” Lister told The Guardian. “We were driving into the forest, and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” According to Lister’s study , published in October 2018, 80 percent of the insects in the leafy canopy were gone, and on the ground, 98 percent of the insects had disappeared. The believed culprit? Global warming. Lister noticed the huge decline as insects barely covered the sticky ground and canopy plates in the rainforest, and recalled the long hours it used to take to pick them off.  But now, after twelve hours in the forest, there were maybe one or two insects trapped on the plates. Related: Farming insects too much too fast could create an environmental disaster “It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” Lister said. “We began to realize this is terrible– a very, very disturbing result.” Lister’s study is one of a handful of recent studies about the decline of  insect population, and the results are “hyper-alarming” according to experts. In Germany’s natural reserves, the number of flying insects has plummeted 75 percent in the last 25 years. A lack of insects due to drought and heat in the Australian eucalyptus forest has been blamed for the disappearance of birds. Lister and Garcia also studied the insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico, and found an 80 percent insect collapse within the last three decades. Scientists call the crash of insect numbers a significant development and an “ecological Armageddon” as they are a vital part of the foundation of the food chain. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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The Nogal House saves energy with smart site-specific design

November 15, 2018 by  
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Mexican architecture practice BGP Arquitectura recently completed the Nogal House, a contemporary dwelling in San Pedro Garza García, Mexico that’s shaped by its environment in more ways than one. Named Nogal after the existing type of walnut trees on site, the building features a curved and asymmetrical layout informed by the locations of the trees and site preservation goals. The residence also adopts passive solar principles to minimize its energy footprint and uses insulated double glazing throughout. Spanning an area of 670 square meters over three floors, the Nogal House stretches east to west on a triangular site. Nature plays a central role in the design of the home, with its curvaceous, organic forms and natural materials palette . The boundary between indoor-outdoor living is blurred through full-height glazing and use of steel, rattan and wood-based furnishings, designed by the architects to match the colors and textures in the gardens. Multiple timber patios built around the walnut trees extend the living space to the outdoors. “The entrance to the house is through the middle level, where living, dining room and kitchen are located besides a home theater that, by opening and closing doors, could be an independent extra room for the house,” explained the architects of the layout. “A double-height space connects this level with the upper library, studio and pool area with a grill. In the ground level, in touch with the patios, are the bedrooms and the family room, in a more intimate atmosphere.” Related: Zigzagging green terraces make up a luxury residential block in Mexico City In addition to strengthening the dwelling’s connection with the outdoors, the operable walls of glass also flood the interiors with natural light to minimize dependence on artificial lighting while allowing for natural ventilation. Windows were minimized on the south facade to further reduce HVAC requirements. The home is also partly buried into the ground to take advantage of thermal mass ventilation and equipped with low-maintenance landscaping, low-flow fixtures and low-energy appliances. + BGP Arquitectura Photography by The Raws via BGP Arquitectura

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Zigzagging green terraces make up a luxury residential block in Mexico City

October 24, 2018 by  
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A challenging hillside site in Mexico City has given rise to Alcázar de Toledo, a luxury residential development designed by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos to look like an extension of its lush landscape. Embedded into the rugged terrain, the five-unit apartment block is made up of a series of green terraces that zigzag up the slope and provide deep roof overhangs to the bands of glass that wrap around the residences. In addition to its striking and sculptural form, the 5,471-square-meter building also affords spectacular panoramic views of the city. Completed in 2018, Alcázar de Toledo consists of four levels. The parking spaces are located on the topmost floor that descends via ramp down 5 meters to the reception and lobby with views of a large wooded area as well a water focal point with fountains. The five apartment units are spread out across the remaining floors, with two 500-square-meter properties on the level below parking; a 700-square-meter unit on the floor below; and two more 500-square-meter apartments placed on the lowest level. The different sizes of each unit translate to different programming and range from two to four bedrooms. A pool , spa, gym, terrace, dressing rooms and bathrooms are located on the second level from the bottom. “The architectural concept is based on a linear element, which folds itself over the topography in a right-angled zigzag shape,” the architects explained. “Each fold responds to different needs and contains the spaces for the five departments, with large terraces , amenities and parking. This resulting piece of four levels, as it adapts to the ground, is transformed into a structure element (like a wall or slab) or an open plaza or terrace. A solution that creates an elegant and subtle shape with a clear horizontality between the native vegetation of the context.” Related: A lush rooftop oasis flourishes on this renovated Art Deco townhouse in Mexico City Natural light and ventilation are maximized through the interiors, which all feature tall ceilings, open-plan common areas and full-height glazing shaded by the overhanging green roofs. Rainwater is also harvested, treated and reused on site for irrigation. The rainwater cistern is located beneath the building. + Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos Photography by Jaime Navarro via Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos

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This elegant vacation retreat rises from the pink earth in Mexico

August 29, 2018 by  
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Mexican design studio Taller Héctor Barroso crafted a cluster of pinkish holiday homes that appear to emerge straight out of the earth. Dubbed Entre Pinos in reference to the surrounding pine forest, this modern vacation retreat derives its natural appearance from local soil that covers the exterior and interior brick walls. The soil was  recycled from the onsite excavations for burying the foundations, and it blends the buildings into the landscape. Located in the idyllic town of Valle de Bravo, two hours west of Mexico City , Entre Pinos comprises five identical weekend houses arranged in a row to follow the site’s sloping topography. Covering an area of 1,700 square meters, the homes were built from local materials, including timber, brick and earth. Each weekend home consists of six smaller volumes arranged around a central patio. The volumes toward the north are more solid and introverted, while those to the south open up to embrace the garden, forest and sunshine, which penetrates deep inside the buildings. The communal areas, as well as one of the bedrooms, are arranged on the ground floor and connect to the outdoors through terraces and patios. Three bedrooms can be found on the top floor and frame views of the pines through large windows. The Entre Pinos project recently received a 2018 AZ Award in the category ‘Best in Architecture – Residential Single Family Residential Interiors.’ Related: This gabled home wraps around an existing pine tree in Mexico “The firm led by architect Hector Barroso seeks to generate architectural proposals that manage to merge with their environment, taking advantage of the natural resources of each place: the influence of light and shadows, the surrounding vegetation, the composition of the land and the geographic,” reads the project statement. “Thanks to this, the projects merge in harmony with the environment that surrounds them, creating spaces that emphasize the habitable quality of the architecture.” + Taller Héctor Barroso Images by Rory Gardiner

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HW-Studio transforms a warehouse into a food market in Mexico

August 9, 2018 by  
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When local architecture practice HW-Studio was tapped to redevelop an abandoned warehouse into a food market in the Mexican city of Morelia, the firm looked to the site’s extant conditions and the surroundings for inspiration. HW-Studio founder and lead project architect Rogelio Vallejo Bores was born and raised in the city and loved the site’s sense of solitude — a quality that he says is uncommon in the downtown of any Mexican city. As a result, he and his team used a minimalist design and material palette to create a food market, named the Mercado ‘Cantera’ (also known as the Morelia Market), that would defer to its surroundings. Completed this year on a budget of approximately $80,000 USD, the new food market in Morelia spans an area of 3,444 square feet. Before the architects began work on the design, they studied the perimeter and found it was located two blocks from one of the country’s most important music schools — a former convent of XCI Century Dominican nuns of Santa Catalina de Siena — as well as one of the most beloved and popular city squares, Las Rosas. Then the architects mapped out the most popular food spots in the area and found that people congregated in the public squares to eat. As a result, the guiding principles of the food market are borrowed from the design of public squares, from the use of natural materials, axial routes and sense of openness and connection with nature. “We thought that the place had lost its soul,” said the architects of the warehouse due to its numerous renovations. “Everything antique with architectural value would be rescued, and the new would formally and materially have a different nature: a white and defined nature that would demonstrate its own presence and its own historical and conceptual moment. With this, we would try to achieve a balance between the new and the old.” Related: Grain silo transformed into a community food hall in the Netherlands In contrast to the stone walls and other antique details that were preserved, the architects inserted minimalist and modern white volumes to house the food vendors. They also added a new tree-lined central corridor between the new volumes to emphasize the open-air market’s connection with the outdoors. The eating areas are located on the top of the stalls. The architects noted, “Its most important function is to frame, without exclusion, the different layers of architectural history left over the centuries.” + HW-Studio Via Dezeen Images by Bruno Gómez de la Cueva

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The Goldtree House is designed for sustainable family living

August 3, 2018 by  
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When kids hit their teens, your house suddenly feels smaller. The atmosphere is hectic, groups of friends traipse in and out, and parents often retreat to a bedroom for peace and quiet. However, one clever family with teenage twins got ahead of the curve, asking Hartree and Associates Architects to remodel their home to accommodate these changes and create a private apartment for the parents down the road. The owners of the Goldtree House, a 1950s home in East Fremantle, Australia, wanted the renovation to include ample space for their children to entertain guests, as well as help the house withstand frequently inclement weather. They also needed a revamp that adhered to their firm budget while providing the best views of nearby Fremantle Harbor. The first step was removing the existing roof and constructing a new top story. The added level includes a new master bedroom, plenty of living space, and a kitchen with sweeping views all around. The owners envision this level as their private “apartment” many years in the future. The ground level is devoted to the needs and tastes of teenagers and their friends. The internal spaces were simplified and revamped to include ample views of the surrounding landscape as well as optimum sunlight and a current of internal breezes. The floor plan easily flows from the entryway to the great room for adolescent games and socializing. It also provides easy access to the terrace, thriving garden and pool, the latter of which was designed to eliminate the need for a privacy fence. Related: A 1950s house receives a bioclimatic renovation in Mexico Besides a photovoltaic solar panel array , the home also includes eco-friendly water and energy management through natural air ventilation, energy-efficient fixtures and equipment, and native garden plants that require minimum watering. Two wind turbines and storage batteries for power are also part of the home’s green technology. The twins were involved in the renovation from inception through completion, which gave them a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. They proudly share the outcome with their friends. + Hartree and Associates Architects Images via Robert Frith

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A 1950s house receives a bioclimatic renovation in Mexico

July 23, 2018 by  
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When Mexican architecture practice Hector Delmar Arquitectura was tapped to renovate a dark and dated 1950s house in the city of Naucalpan, it did more than just update the dwelling to modern standards. The architects dramatically opened the existing structure up to light and the outdoors, expanded the footprint to a site area of 8,288 square feet and applied bioclimatic and sustainable strategies such as radiant floors and solar photovoltaic panels. The breezy home — called the C260 House — erases boundaries between the light-filled interiors and the lushly-planted landscape. Set on an old garden with large trees, the original 1950s flat-roofed house suffered from a lack of ventilation . In renovating the building, the architects began by tearing back layers of materials applied to the building after numerous alterations to reveal 21-centimeter-thick brick walls and concrete slabs that the architects retained as their starting point. The team also knocked down some walls to expose the home to cross breezes and installed thin protruding roofs to offer shelter from the elements and to give the residence an airy  pavilion -like feel throughout. The team also focused on using reclaimed and recycled materials in renovating the old home. “Carpentry and wooden features were reclaimed from demolition, also timber beams were reclaimed from a demolished restaurant nearby and used for shading the terrace and other additions,” the architects said. Related: This sustainable bioclimatic home is made of volcanic ash and prickly pear fibers The primary rooms of the home were moved to the new addition, while the old structure is now used for secondary functions including a gymnasium, three bathrooms, a dressing room, pool and service areas. Outdoor areas were carved from the garden to further emphasize the home’s connection with the landscape, and the concrete slab slopes were modified to capture storm water and to optimize thermal mass. The house is also equipped with solar hot water heaters, water pumps, radiant floors and a solar array. + Hector Delmar Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images via Luis Gordoa

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This weekend home in Mexico blends in with the forest landscape

July 19, 2018 by  
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Mexican architecture firm AM30 Taller de Arquitectura has inserted a site-specific weekend home into a forested location in Atemajac de Brizuela, a small town southwest of Guadalajara, Mexico. Dubbed the EC House, the dwelling is split up into a series of interconnected stone-clad volumes placed around existing pine trees and oriented for the best views of the nearby mountains. In addition to a natural materials palette that blends the home into the landscape, the EC House was designed to minimize site impact . Located on the outskirts of town, the EC House combines traditional architecture styles and local materials with a contemporary design vision. The asymmetrical home is laid out along a north-south axis on the sloped site with the communal rooms located at the heart of the floor plan. The programmatic functions were separated into different volumes; the bedrooms are located on the extremities while the kitchen, living area and dining room are housed in the central volume. “Three volumes arranged around a circulation core constitute the main house,” explained AM30 Taller de Arquitectura. “Designed with spatial richness in mind, the main floor adjusts to the terrain surface and inner patios provide light and ventilation creating atmospheres with unique characteristics. A terraced courtyard functions as a central plaza linking the front and back of the plot, as well as creating a space for interaction between the main house and the guest rooms. Across the main social areas on the ground floor, a visual axis is respected to facilitate communication between spaces.” Related: Son builds modern dream cabin from recycled materials for his aging father The stone walls found on the exterior are continued into the interior and are complemented with hardwood flooring that extends to the outdoor spaces for a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience. The use of natural materials and large windows immerses the weekend home into the pine-studded landscape. + AM30 Taller de Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images by Lorena Darquea Schettini

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Escape into nature at Alberto Kalachs timber cabins in Oaxaca

July 16, 2018 by  
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Renowned Mexican architect Alberto Kalach has designed a series of idyllic timber cabins along the Pacific Ocean in Oaxaca , Mexico. Available to rent on Airbnb, these cabins were developed as part of the Punta Pájaros, an ecological development located approximately 25 minutes from Puerto Escondido, a port town with stunning surf, pristine beaches and a buzzing nightlife. The cabins, which are strategically placed away from the hustle and bustle and are oriented to face the ocean, offer a blissful opportunity to reconnect with nature in all directions. The Alberto Kalach-designed cabins include Casa Mar and Casa Arena as well as eight other cabins with private pools and gardens. These holiday getaways are built almost entirely of timber and are raised approximately a meter above the ground to minimize site impact. Each dwelling is fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom and al fresco shower. Sliding doors built of palm wood completely open the interior up to the landscape, let in cooling cross breezes and provide panoramic views of the stunning landscape. “Each cabin was designed based on a simple wooden structure, reticulated in modules of 3 x 3m, concentrating the wet core at the center of the house, to leave a bedroom and common area at opposite ends with views of the landscape and a wide perimeter covered terrace,” explained Kalach’s firm. “Using the same modulation, other rooms were allocated to kitchen and dining services. The houses are camouflaged in the local landscape, being identifiable only by their twisted water covers, which look like bird profiles.” Related: Casa Bruma’s blackened concrete pavilions create a serene retreat in Mexico The cabins face a long, nearly private beach with rock climbing and fishing opportunities on one end and the Manialtepec Lagoon on the other. The cabins are also very close to Casa Wabi , a multicultural and multidisciplinary community artists’ retreat designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando . The cabins start at around $200 USD a night. + Alberto Kalach Images via Alberto Kalach

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