These low-energy prefab cabins are inspired by the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’

September 5, 2018 by  
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Prefab housing startup Koto has unveiled a series of tiny timber cabins with minimalist designs inspired by friluftsliv — translated as “free air life,” this Nordic concept is the act of embracing indoor-outdoor living and a connection with nature. The low-energy, modular Koto cabins can be configured in a variety of sizes and are crafted specifically for those looking to reconnect with nature. Koto was founded by Johnathon Little and Zoe Little earlier this year. The name Koto means “cozy at home” in Finnish and is the ethos behind the company’s minimalist cabin design. To create the ultimate nature-based retreat, the cabins — which are made with eco-friendly materials  — allow for a comfortable atmosphere. Related: This off-grid, prefab tiny cabin in Michigan fits a family of five Black cladding allows the tiny cabins to blend into nearly any environment. The sloped roof, a hallmark of the company, is part of the architects’ design strategy to add space to the interior. “Our initial range of modules — Pari, Muutama and Ystava — are all represented with the Koto wedge shape roof,” Jonathan told Dezeen . “This shape allows for an interesting form and experience both internally and externally, a modern twist on the traditional vernacular.” According to the designers, the interiors are meant to be private retreats in the middle of serene landscapes. The living area is extremely space-efficient with storage concealed within the walls. The fresh Scandinavian-inspired aesthetic is achieved thanks to all-white walls and light wood flooring. A large skylight and glass front facade floods the interior with natural light and allows for a strong, constant connection to the outdoors. The modular cabins can be configured in a number of sizes, but a medium-sized cabin contains a bathroom, a fold-out king-sized bed, hidden wall storage, a window bench and a wood-burning stove. There are various options to customize the space, including a small kitchenette, an outdoor shower and a sauna cabin. + Koto Via Dezeen Images via  Joe Laverty

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These low-energy prefab cabins are inspired by the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’

Solar-powered autonomous car could revolutionize travel

September 5, 2018 by  
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There’s finally hope for those tired of waiting on mile-long taxi stands at the airport. Developed by architect Steve Lee of Los Angeles-based Aprilli Design Studio , the Autonomous Travel Suite is a solar-powered electric vehicle that could revolutionize the future of travel and urban design. Lee was inspired to create the driverless  mobile suites to provide travelers with a comfortable door-to-door transportation service, complete with a memory foam mattress, kitchen and mini bar, a washroom and work space. Recently chosen as a finalist in the Radical Innovation Awards , the self-driving hotel suite would be part of an Autonomous Hotel Chain. Conceptualized as a personal rental car and hotel room, the self-driving cars are meant to be an extension of what Lee calls a “parent suite,” offering all of the comforts of a luxury suite while on the road. Related: GM unveils new self-driving car with no pedals and no steering wheel When not in use, the solar-powered cars would charge in a docking facility at the main hotel, of which the mobile unit would serve as an extension. Guests would be able to choose between different room types and sizes at different prices, and they could order custom features, such as a televisions or extra beds. The futuristic design was created with the busy traveler in mind, offering a driverless, door-to-door car service  that would allow guests to work or rest while on the go. The car interiors would include a foam mattress, a wash room and a working space, along with ample storage for luggage. In addition to the comfy living area, the suites would be built with smart glass, which can be dimmed for privacy. At the moment, the driverless hotel suite on wheels is just a concept, but Lee maintains that its real-world cost would be beneficial to travelers. Pricing would be cost-effective, because the solar-powered cars would bundle both transportation and lodging. + Aprilli Design Suite Via Curbed Images via Radical Innovation Awards

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A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat

June 20, 2018 by  
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A city-dwelling family in need of rural respite reached out to Von Weise Associates to make their country escape a reality. In response, the Chicago-based architecture firm delivered a stunning modern getaway that fully embraces the rural vernacular with a sensitive renovation of an existing farmhouse and barn. Located in the southeast Michigan township of Sawyer near Lake Michigan, the Retreat House consists of a new single-family house and adjacent studio for the artistic couple. In designing the home’s layout, Von Weise Associates took cues from the layouts of traditional farms , where the different functions were typically located in different buildings. In much the same way, the retreat conceptually places the different living spaces — including the sleeping, cooking and work areas — into separate volumes. Anchoring the home is the kitchen , dining area and living space housed within the refurbished old barn with a striking gambrel roof and soaring arched ceilings. The light-filled great room opens up to an adjacent screened porch. The original farmhouse was gut- renovated into an artist’s painting studio and sleeping loft. Large windows and skylights flood the interiors with natural light, while the reflective whitewashed walls emphasize a bright and airy feel throughout. Modern and unfussy furnishings, natural timber and a rusty-red painted exterior help tie the building to its rustic past. Related: Solar-powered forever home is a modern take on the rustic farmhouse “All portions of the house have a close relationship to the ground, making the landscape a vital part of the program,” Von Weise Architects said. “The orientation of the house creates multiple outdoor living spaces, plus a gardening area. The landscape and the orientation of the structures set up layers of space that moves from the public way to privacy of the house. The most private space beyond the house embraces the expansive wooded site on three sides.” + Von Weise Associates Images by Steve Hall

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Michigan adopts most robust lead water rules in US

June 15, 2018 by  
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In the wake of the Flint crisis, Michigan is adopting new lead water rules — the strictest in the U.S., according to Reuters . Lead service lines will have to be replaced, and the lead concentrations allowed in drinking water will be lower than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s standard. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Michigan Senior Policy Advocate Cyndi Roper said in a statement , “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, so despite some troubling loopholes, these rules set an example other states and the Environmental Protection Agency could follow to address an issue plaguing water systems across the country.” More than 18 million Americans received water through systems with lead violations in 2015, the NRDC said . Lead contamination of drinking water still troubles people across the U.S., and Michigan is taking some action. Their new Lead and Copper Rule, as laid out in a statement from Governor Rick Snyder, lowers the level of allowable lead to 12 parts per billion (ppb) in 2025. The EPA’s Lead Action Level is 15 ppb . Related: Flint activist and stay-at-home mom wins the Goldman Environmental Prize All public water systems will be required to replace lead service lines at a rate averaging 5 percent a year starting in 2021 during a 20-year period. The rules also require a second sample collection at locations that obtain water from lead service lines and the creation of a statewide water system advisory council. All public water systems will have to conduct asset inventory under the new rules as well. “The new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule is the most stringent in the world when applied to cities with lead pipes, yet it strikes a reasonable balance between cost and benefit,” Virginia Tech University engineering professor Marc Edwards said in the governor’s statement. “It provides the EPA  with a good exemplar to follow, if they ever begin to wage their long-promised war on lead in water.” + Office of Governor Rick Snyder + Natural Resources Defense Council (1 , 2) Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2)

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Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

May 24, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to keep certain people out of a toxic chemical summit, according to reports. Some journalists were barred from entry on Tuesday, and representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), who represents Flint , said on Twitter  that his staff wasn’t allowed to attend the EPA’s summit on Wednesday. Kildee said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s “lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling.” My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt 's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o — Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018 Several sites in Kildee’s district are contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Kildee’s district, according to Earther — and those substances were the focus of the National Leadership Summit on PFAS. So, it seems like it would have made sense for Kildee’s staff to attend an event on the chemicals. Pruitt said in an op-ed piece published by the Detroit Free Press that, at the summit, representatives “from more than 35 states — including Michigan — more than 20 federal partners, several tribes, dozens of industry, non-governmental groups and other national organizations will share valuable recommendations for how EPA should deal with PFAS in communities and communicate the risks associated with PFAS.” Related: The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations Tuesday’s attendee list included Kildee’s staff, and they were told Wednesday sessions were “limited to federal agency folks and states.” A spokesperson for Kildee said that was accurate but the “larger issue, in the Congressman’s opinion, is the EPA limiting or denying access to the taxpayer-funded PFAS summit, either to Members of Congress, the media, or the general public.” Pruitt said Michigan is to spend $1.7 million on testing water supplies — “including in 1,380 public water systems and 461 schools” — after finding PFAS in drinking water and lakes. Michigan stopped providing bottled water to Flint residents in April and said the water is safe. Many Flint residents don’t buy that; local LeeAnne Walters, a 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner , and other residents launched an ongoing Chuffed campaign to get water to the housebound, elderly, and disabled. + White House Via ThinkProgress and Earther Images via Depositphotos (1)

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20% of US population produces 46% of food-based emissions

March 22, 2018 by  
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A monumental new study demonstrates that one-fifth of the American population is responsible for nearly half of all food-based emissions. Popsci reports that people who eat a lot of animal protein, especially beef, account for a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions — although, author Sara Chodosh also illustrates the extreme complexity behind the study’s potentially groundbreaking conclusions. Read on for a closer look. Published in Environmental Research Letters specifically sought to understand how diet and associated emissions varies among the American population. Martin Heller, an engineer at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and study contributor, told Popsci it was surprising to realize just how varied they are. “I don’t think any of us really had a strong sense of how distributed the greenhouse gas emissions would be,” he says. “That was perhaps the most striking result.” Getting to the meat of the matter (sorry, I couldn’t resist) involved consulting several different databases and picking apart the life-cycle analysis of every morsel. Chodosh writes : “The NHANES survey results can tell you what a broad spectrum of American plates look like on any given day, but tells you nothing about the environmental impact of those foods. To do that, you have to go to the Food Commodities Intake Database, run by the EPA, and figure out how much meat might be in that meat lasagna, or how many tomatoes are in a generic salad. From there, you have to link the quantities of each type of food to the emissions associated with producing it.” Related: Garlic may be the key to slashing methane emissions from cows When evaluating the emissions of a single tomato, it was necessary to know how much fertilizer was used in its production, and then how much fuel was used to transport that tomato. With poultry, the researchers had to also consider feed production, and when analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with eating beef, they had to calculate the amount of methane released by cow burps. I urge you to head over to Popsci to read the full details , because this short synthesis doesn’t do their reporting justice, but here’s the bottom line that we found so interesting: What next? Now that we know one-fifth of the American population is producing nearly half of food-based emissions — which in their turn are helping to melt glaciers and unleash devastating wildfires, not to mention the numerous adverse health hazards attributed to climate change — what do we do with that information? Heller tells Popsci, “Clearly we’ve not been very good at encouraging people to shift their diets for their own health. Relative to what our recommended healthy diet is, Americans do pretty poorly,” he says, “But I’ve started to try to think about it as the secondhand smoke of diet choice.” Fascinating. If you understood that your dietary choices directly hurt your neighbor, would you make a switch? + Environmental Research Letters Via Popsci Images via DepositPhotos 1 , 2

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A series of other thoughts about NAIAS 2018

January 19, 2018 by  
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Let’s start out with my in-the-moment string of notes during the Press Preview at this year’s NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show). This covers the main ideas about this year’s program at the time. I’ll add a few more comments and expanded thoughts at the end. Not sure if it’s an actual color trend, but there’s a lot of orange at this year’s #NAIAS #NAIAS2018 Attendance seems down and space more open at #NAIAS2018. Things just seem off this year. First thought it was decline of auto industry. There’s been gap-filling of various kinds over the last few years, suppliers and related fields, but not the vacant corridors this year. The concept of automotive ownership may be starting to decline, but it’s not to that level yet. More media info is being released directly from the companies’ media sites directly – cheaper and easier than preparing press kits. The political environment can’t help. I don’t have #NAIAS info, but my personal impression is that foreign journalist turnout seems low. Even the “rides” are empty. Maybe journalists are all jaded, and these will fill during the public show. But lotsa folks standing around. There’s a hominess to a number of the displays. Wood flooring, even on the turntables. And a giant cozy shadowbox wall display. Maybe fewer booth babes (of the stand next to the car on the turntable variety) at #NAIAS2018 Don’t know about public show in comparison. Pretty sure this display was also at #naias2017 so there’s some recycling going on, even if -green- is no longer part of the program. Again, I don’t have specific numbers, but there seem to be fewer cars per display. There’s a subduedness, even in all the flash &bombast Outrageous seems to be the antithesis of #NAIAS2018 There’s too much of it in the world already, and adding to it won’t go far. They get it. Not sure if #NAIAS is relevant to @ecogeek anymore. Transport is an important element in a greener world, but carmakers have moved on. It wasn’t the first thing that occurred to me, but gradually, I had the growing sense that this was not nearly as full of a show as previous years.  There are several things that could be causing that, and it’s likely some combination of all of those factors.  (And I could be completely wrong, the numbers might be different, but it’s my sense of what I observed this year.)  I’m fairly certain that foreign coverage was down from previous years.  The increased travel difficulties (getting a visa at all, let alone a working visa) mean fewer reporters.  A few years ago, I recall the big, welcoming banner in the giant media room with flags of many nationalities.  In 2011, I wrote elsewhere : “The polyglot nature of the show is reinforced both by the numbers of national flags hanging from the ceiling overhead as well as the languages one overhears walking through the room.”  There was none of that in 2018. The cost of travel could be another factor.  With the big automakers increasingly running their own media, the handouts and press kits are in decline.  Now, all a writer needs to do to get lots of press releases and images is go to the media website of the company (media.carcompany.com or some such) and download all the information they need.  No travel and dealing with Michigan winter required. Could it be that ownership of automobiles is beginning to decline, and with it a waning interest in cars in general?  I’m not sure that we are quite at that point yet, but there could be an overall fading of interest in cars, and a matching reduction in the amount of coverage that media outlets are willing to provide for it.  Even the local TV and radio stations, that have had a notable presence at recent years’ shows were less present this year. There were cars to be seen, of course, but very much a less compelling show, especially for an EcoGeek.  Sure, there are still electric vehicles as part of the mix, and some ongoing forward steps from a couple of the companies that seem to be doing some things toward being greener.  But, at the end of the day, not a strong show, and not one with much in the way of green news at all.

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A series of other thoughts about NAIAS 2018

Nestl pays $200 per year to bottle water near Flint, Michigan – while residents go without

October 2, 2017 by  
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For three years, residents of Flint, Michigan, have had to rely on sub-par bottled water to meet their daily needs. Though the crisis attracted national attention and inspired cities elsewhere to check their own water supplies for lead, little has changed in Flint in terms of the poor water supply. Adding insult to injury, The Guardian reports that just two hours away, Nestlé pumps nearly 100,000 times what the average Michigan resident uses into bottles that are later sold for $1 each. And the cost? A measly $200 per year. In 2014, Flint switched water sources to save funds. While a new pipeline connecting Flint with Lake Huron was under construction, the city began to rely on the Flint River as a water source during the two-year transition. The issue was, the water in the Flint River is of poor quality. Because the state Department of Environmental Quality was not treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent — which violated federal law, the river was 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit, according to a study by Virginia Tech. The corrosiveness of the water resulted in lead leaching from service lines to homes. To this day, the crisis has yet to be resolved. And to make matters worse, Nestle now wants to pump more water from Michigan. The Guardian reports that in a recent permit application, Nestlé asked to pump 210 million gallons per year from Evart, the small town two hours away from Flint where residents don’t live in fear of their water supply. Within the next few months, the state will decide whether or not to grant Nestlé this permit. Understandably, residents in Flint are infuriated — and confused — by this recent development. Some are asking, “Why do we get undrinkable , unaffordable tap water, when the world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestlé , bottles the state’s most precious resource for next to nothing?” Chuck Wolverton, a resident of Flint, told The Guardian bottled water “is a necessity of life right now.” Every night, he drives 15 miles outside of town to his brother’s residence where he showers and washes clothes. “Don’t seem right, because they’re making profits off of it,” said Wolverton. He says of the Flint water he pays $180/month for, “I don’t even give it to my dogs.” As Gina Luster, a mom who lives in Flint with her family, told the paper, “With the money they make, they could come and fix Flint – and I mean the water plants and our pipes. Me and you wouldn’t even be having this conversation.” Related: Michigan health department head charged with involuntary manslaughter over Flint crisis Though bottled water is a detriment to the environment, it became the most highly-consumed beverage in North America this year, largely due to fears of lead-tainted water. Nestlé is but one corporation profiting from the lead-water crisis. In 2016, the company had $92bn  in sales in 2016 and $7.4bn from water alone. Yet, all it pays to harvest water in the town two hours away from Flint , Michigan, is $200 a year. It’s an unfair reality, one Flint residents and activists demand to see changed. “We’re not saying give everyone a new car, a new home. We’re just asking for our water treatment,” Luster said. “That’s a no-brainer.” Via The Guardian Images via  EcoWatch ,  The Overlook Journal ,  CNBC

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Nestl pays $200 per year to bottle water near Flint, Michigan – while residents go without

Stunning Lake Michigan home is built from dying ash reclaimed onsite

October 2, 2017 by  
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This stunning timber home by the lake sensitively embraces its Midwestern landscape with its design and use of local, reclaimed materials. Designed by Desai Chia Architects in collaboration with Environment Architects (AOR) , the Michigan Lake House boasts stunning lake views and a striking folded roof. The site-sensitive home features a native plant palette and stormwater management in addition to locally sourced and salvaged materials. Located on a woodland bluff, the 4,800-square-foot Michigan Lake House comprises three offset structures: one for the communal areas, including the living room, kitchen, and covered terrace; and the two others that separately house the master bedroom suite and three children’s bedrooms. A dining area breezeway connects the three structures. The undulating roof takes inspiration from the natural rolling terrain as well as the vernacular architecture of nearby fishing villages. The roof also cantilevers over the south end of the home to provide shade for the lakeside-viewing terrace. Related: Exquisite Shore House is a modernist triumph that embraces nature Shou Sugi Ban timber—charred to protect the wood from rot and pests—clads the exterior to blend the home into the landscape. The use of dark timber continues inside the home but is offset by light-colored ash, which was inhabitat.com/tag/reclaimed-materials reclaimed onsite and milled into custom furnishings, flooring, ceiling panels, and trim work. “The interiors of the house embody the indigenous landscape that once thrived with old growth ash,” wrote the architects. Locally sourced stone was used for the outdoor seating areas, pathways, and steps. + Desai Chia Architects + Environment Architects Images via Desai Chia Architects

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OMAs MPavilion 2017 with a floating roof opens today in Melbourne

October 2, 2017 by  
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Melbourne is heating up for the summer with a new OMA-designed amphitheater. OMA founder Rem Koolhaas and colleague Daniel Gianotten just completed MPavilion 2017, a temporary pavilion that opened today in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens. Commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, MPavilion 2017 is the fourth annual architect-designed summer pavilion for the city and is OMA’s first Australian commission. The multifunctional amphitheater will host hundreds of free events throughout the four-month season. OMA designed MPavilion 2017 as a 19-by-19-meter aluminum-clad steel structure that transforms to accommodate a variety of unexpected programming. Surrounded by an artificial hill landscaped with native plants , the adaptable amphitheater comprises one fixed tiered grandstand and one moveable grandstand that rotates to open up to the park. The floating translucent roof is built with a two-meter-deep gridded, machine-like canopy with embedded advanced lighting technology. Related: Studio Mumbai unveils handmade pavilion crafted from seven kilometers of bamboo “Our design for MPavilion 2017 is intended to provoke all kinds of activities through its configurable nature and a materiality that relates to its direct surroundings,” said Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten of OMA. “We are happy that MPavilion can perform as a theater of debate around the city and its development, and contribute to the ongoing civic discourse of Melbourne.” MPavilion will be open everyday from 9AM to 4PM until February 4, 2018. At the end of the four-month season MPavilion will be moved to a permanent new home within Melbourne’s Central Business District. + OMA + MPavilion 2017 Images by Timothy Burgess and John Gollings

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OMAs MPavilion 2017 with a floating roof opens today in Melbourne

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