Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof

June 25, 2020 by  
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In a remote jungle on the hilltops of Costa Rica’s Santa Teresa province, San José-based architecture firm  Studio Saxe  has completed Santiago Hills Villa, a luxury home that embraces nature in more ways than one. To ensure that all rooms of the villa have access to ocean views, the architects created a zigzag floor plan that turns the bedrooms and living spaces sideways to face the shoreline. The unconventional home, which resembles a series of interconnected villas, is topped with a large white roof that protects the interior from unwanted solar gain .  Given the project brief’s emphasis on a connection with nature, Studio Saxe sought to minimize the home’s environmental footprint. The architects decided to  prefabricate  the home’s light steel frame off-site to minimize site intervention and ensure quality construction for the remote property. The use of a steel frame with sturdy I beams allowed the architects to install full-height glazed openings with enough support for the angular roof.  “Every space in the home has been angled to view the ocean, and this twist creates a geometric relationship between the roofline and the spaces that became the primary element of design that both addresses the need for large overhangs (for  climate control  and comfort) but also generates a literal connection between the view and every space,” Studio Saxe explains on its website. Related: Costa Rican surf hotel gets stunning new athletic center Contrasting with the lush green surroundings, the minimalist and modern home is predominately white, serving as a canvas that reflects the changing colors of the jungle. In addition to featuring incredible views and a reduced site impact, Santiago Hills Villa also embraces nature with its adherence to  passive solar  principles. The home is oriented to take advantage of winds for natural cooling, while the wing-like roof’s long overhangs protect the interior. The roof is also engineered to allow for rainwater collection. + Studio Saxe Images by Andres Garcia Lachner

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Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof

Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

June 25, 2020 by  
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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been concerns that using reusable containers and bags at grocery stores and cafes could enhance the spread of the virus. However, such claims have now been refuted by a team of 119 scientists. The team, which includes scientists from 18 countries, has published a document stating that reusable containers are safe. Many cafes, restaurants and grocery stores around the world have stopped accepting reusable cups, bags and other containers for fear that these items would spread COVID-19. Environmentalists have pushed for a long time to have restaurants and other businesses adopt the use of reusable containers. But these gains made over the years risk being eroded almost overnight if people continue to revert to single-use containers. Environmentalists are now accusing plastic manufactures of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to lobby for single-use plastics. Related: COVID-19 leads to plastic ban reversals The scientists involved in reassuring the public include epidemiologists, virologists, biologists and doctors. They have compiled a statement that encourages restaurants and individuals to continue using reusable containers as long as public health requirements are observed. The team said that reusable items are safe as long as high standards of hygiene are observed. One of the signatories to the statement, professor Charlotte Williams of Oxford University, explained that COVID-19 should not stop the efforts made toward a sustainable future. “I hope we can come out of the COVID-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment,” Williams said. According to the scientists’ statement, the coronavirus primarily spreads through aerosol droplets and not from contact with surfaces. Although surfaces can transfer the virus, washing reusable containers is much safer than relying on single-use ones. The scientists explained that most people do not bother cleaning single-use containers under the assumption that they are safe. Unfortunately, the virus can get in contact with any surface, including single-use containers. Europe plans to ban all single-use plastics starting next year. There is concern that plastic manufacturers are now using the coronavirus pandemic to delay the ban. Such a move would be detrimental, considering that plastic waste contributes 80% of all marine pollution . + Health Expert Statement Via The Guardian Image via Goran Ivos

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Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Floating’ Kayak Point makes a home in the trees

June 22, 2020 by  
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Sometimes architecture means not building, or at least not in the traditional sense. Presented with logistical challenges, the team at Christopher Wright Architecture used innovation and creativity to create Kayak Point, a house perched in the trees along the Puget Sound coastline in Washington state. The clients, one of whom is originally from Switzerland , came to the architects with an idea in mind. They wanted a house that combined Swiss design elements with modern touches all nestled within a wooded coastal lot. With a focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail, they developed a plan for a strong yet environmentally-sensitive home with the smallest footprint available . Portions of the home don’t sit on the ground at all. Suspended slightly above ground, support beams run across the bottom of the home’s center to provide the needed structure. Related: Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone As with most architectural design, the plan changed and evolved as the team studied the available land. Construction only being allowed on a small portion of the property meant finding ways to work around the challenge. The single-story structure presented an even larger challenge in the form of massive cedar trees that the clients wanted to be kept intact. With such a small available building area, the home had to be situated directly in those trees, but digging a traditional foundation would have endangered the tree roots below ground. To avoid this, the entire center of the house was elevated instead.  “We wanted to create a home that seems to belong where it is–as if it could have always been there–but does not necessarily blend or disappear. Here, I like the strength of the simple form set against the natural landscape,” said architect Christopher Wright. To further this goal, cedar clads the entire structure, both inside and out. An outdoor space connects the expansive views to the function of the interior. For interior design, Kayak Point encompasses natural elements combined with a streamlined, cozy vibe that invites the owners to relax and enjoy the view. The architects catered to requests for a TV viewing area, fireplace and large European -style kitchen, each focusing on dynamic lighting and deliberate lines for a finished home cemented into refined tranquility. + Christopher Wright Architecture Photography by Anna Spencer and Ben Benschneider  

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‘Floating’ Kayak Point makes a home in the trees

Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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Modern prefab retreat in Italy takes in panoramic alpine views

April 29, 2020 by  
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Perched atop a hill in Aosta Valley’s highest municipality in northwest Italy is the newly completed House in Chamois, a modern, prefabricated home by Torino-based design and build firm Leap Factory . As with all “Leap Houses,” the home’s entire design and construction process was managed by the Leap Factory team and was constructed with a modular system built of natural, recyclable materials to allow for maximum flexibility. All of the components provided by Leap Factory for the House in Chamois were also designed and produced in Italy.  The House in Chamois was created for Barbara and Giorgio, a duo with a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Used as a base for exploring the alpine landscape, the two-story home echoes the traditional vernacular with its gabled shape but is undeniably contemporary as defined by its streamlined form, minimalist design and full-height glazing. Its position above a main road turns the house into a new landmark for the village and has become a local attraction for visiting hikers. Related: LeapHome unveils sustainable, super-efficient Frame prefab As a ‘Living Ecological Alpine Pod’ (LEAP), the House in Chamois was designed to be environmentally friendly. The use of prefabrication helps minimize construction waste, and the installation process was done with minimal site impact. The structure is also “hyper secure” and engineered to resist earthquakes, hurricanes and other extreme climate activities. The modular nature of the home also makes it modifiable. As with all Leap Houses, the House in Chamois was also designed with integrated furniture and finishes. “With its minimal shapes and spaces full of light, the house shows incredible attention to details, lines and materials,” the architects explained. “The layout of the rooms, furnishings and technical systems are fully integrated to give life to spaces where one can fully express their personality and live in harmony with their surroundings.” + Leap Factory Photography by Francesco Mattuzzi via Leap Factory

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Modern prefab retreat in Italy takes in panoramic alpine views

This recycled metal jewelry is inspired by our world

April 29, 2020 by  
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Raised in the countryside of South West England, creative artist Emma Aitchison has developed a jewelry line inspired by and respectful to nature . Furthermore, Aitchison wanted her unique designs to act as a symbol for environmental awareness and to provoke conversations about protecting vital resources on the planet. While Aitchison offers a line of handmade classics, she excels at giving old jewelry new life . This often means turning an antiquated family heirloom into something modern and personal or redesigning a broken piece into something striking. Each product is inspired by and named after our world, from the Current ring and Wave necklace to the popular Polluted bracelet and Magma earrings. Related: This jewelry is made with upcycled gold from Dell computers Sustainable practices have always been at the heart of the company. Emma Aitchison is based in the U.K. and has made a concentrated effort to partner only with other local businesses. This keeps transportation costs for materials and production low and reduces emissions. All items are packaged using eco-friendly filler that is reusable and recyclable. Perhaps the most notable nod to the planet is the company’s dedication to using only recycled gems. That means no virgin gems are mined or created in a lab for these necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings. Instead, Emma Aitchison uses gems from old jewelry, including pieces already owned by customers. All silver necklaces are also made from 100% recycled metal. The company maintained carbon neutrality throughout 2018 and 2019 with these decisions plus its commitment to carbon offsetting. Every successful business looks to the future, but Emma Aitchison’s list of company goals looks different than most. It aims to continue streamlining supply, production and delivery in an eco-friendly way. For example, although the current gold-plating is done in London at a sustainable company, Ella Aitchison hopes to improve this practice by transitioning to solid gold that can be Fair Trade-certified and recycled. The company hopes to become zero-waste , too. In addition to eco-friendly packaging, delivery will employ bike couriers in the local area and carbon-neutral shipping companies elsewhere. A future studio update even includes recycled materials, solar panels and wind power to further reduce Emma Aitchison’s overall impact on the planet. During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, the company has vowed to remain loyal to suppliers who are unable to provide products at this time. Instead, Emma Aitchison is continuing sales with the inventory it has in stock and is taking pre-orders for shipments once it can restock. It is also offering a 25% discount during this time. + Emma Aitchison Images via Emma Aitchison

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This recycled metal jewelry is inspired by our world

Solar-powered timber home in Chile embraces ocean views

April 15, 2020 by  
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Earlier this year, Chilean architecture firm Cristobal Vial Arquitectos completed Casa Rural #01, a solar-powered holiday home oriented for views of the Pacific Ocean and optimal passive solar conditions. Located just outside the coastal town of Matanzas in Navidad, the building was designed for a reduced environmental footprint, from the use of elevated foundations that minimize site impact to the rooftop solar panels that meet all of the home’s electrical needs. Set atop hilly remote terrain high in the pine-studded mountains, Casa Rural #01 marks the first home to be constructed within a new housing development. Conceived for a single family, the modestly sized building embraces the outdoors with its framed views and material palette. The structure is built entirely of dimensioned wood with structural insulated panels (SIPs) and is topped by a metal butterfly roof with solar panels.  Inside, Casa Rural #01 measures 60 square meters and is organized as three modules, all of which open up to an exterior west-facing terrace . The house includes three bedrooms, an open-plan living room with a kitchen and dining area, and a bathroom. The interior spaces are minimally dressed and wrapped entirely of timber with the roof timber elements exposed.  Related: This elevated prefab home in Chile takes in striking volcano views “The proposed volume is proposed longitudinally in favor of the slope,” explains the architects in a project statement. “That is why a modulation of three separate volumes is solved, which organize the public, private (children) and private (adults) program. The separation of these volumes is done through two cuts that allow having the north-south domain of the land in which it is located. In order not to lose the continuity of these, a broken gable roof is proposed, as an envelope, which seeks to dialogue with the existing slope and at the same time marks what is the circulation space within it and the opening towards the views.”  + Cristobal Vial Arquitectos Images via Cristobal Vial Arquitectos

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A welcoming healthcare center in New Delhi follows passive design principles

May 1, 2019 by  
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New Delhi-based architecture and interior design firm VYOM has completed the Dental Care Centre, a recently opened healthcare facility in New Delhi that offers much more than a teeth cleaning. Designed to follow passive solar principles, the light-filled facility immerses patients in a spa-inspired environment with views of nature from every room. A natural materials palette also helps tie the bright and airy building to the landscape. Built to embrace nature, the Dental Care Centre was carefully laid out on a linear site so as to avoid removing any mature trees. The thoughtful design not only reduced site impact , but also helped maximize access to shade while reducing heat load on the structure. The shaded areas also informed the team’s decision to add an outdoor deck and outdoor seating for patients and visitors, while bamboo screens provide privacy to the staff quarters. Views of the preserved canopy are swept indoors through large glazed openings and include clerestory windows , walls of glass and skylights. The most dramatic opening can be found at the heart of the Dental Care Centre, where an open-air courtyard is punctuated by a square fishpond enclosed in glass on four sides. A raised wooden roof with deep overhangs helps mitigate glare from southern sunshine while allowing natural daylight to flood the interior. Related: Light-filled dentist clinic shows how good design can calm patient fears “Addressing the functional, medical requirements while always keeping the focus on positive patient care has resulted in a scheme where the colors and materiality harmoniously enhance the spatial quality,” the architects explained of the healthcare facility, which is dressed in off-white walls and timber accents. “The Dental Care Centre is a singular and exclusive design that enhances the levels of patient care, while mitigating patient stress levels by giving them an environment which is close to nature, dynamic, cheerful and full of natural light .” + VYOM Photography by Yatinder Kumar via VYOM

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A welcoming healthcare center in New Delhi follows passive design principles

Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

May 1, 2019 by  
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A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office predicts an alarming $54 billion in hurricane and flood damage over the next few years — much of which can be avoided by spending money upfront to protect and prevent against losses. The frequency of what are called “billion-dollar storms” appear to be increasing. In 2018, there were 39 “billion-dollar” disasters around the world — 16 of which were in the U.S. Already in the first four months of 2019, the U.S. has endured winter storms Quiana and Ulmer, and each one caused more than a billion dollars  in damage to infrastructure and homes. The new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focuses on hurricanes, which are the mostly costly natural disasters according to NOAA. Since 1980, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $927.5 billion in damages and are also the most expensive individual storm events in both financial cost and lives lost. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Of the annual losses predicted by the CBO, $34 billion is estimated in damage to homes, plus $12 billion for the public sector and $9 billion for private businesses. The direct cost to taxpayers is estimated at approximately $17 billion per year. However, the CBO report also underscores several preventive actions that could significantly reduce these costs. By some analyses , mitigation measures (such as flood prevention or watershed protection) could save Americans $6 dollars in losses for every $1 spent in preparation. Solutions to mitigate hurricane damage The following suggestions from the report include environmental and policy-level recommendations to reduce loss in infrastructure and lives from tropical storms and hurricanes. Reduce carbon emissions Hurricanes, and their rising frequency and intensity, are intricately tied to climate change . Increasing temperatures melt glaciers and cause sea level rise, which leads to higher storm surge levels and more destructive flooding. The rising temperatures have also been linked to increased rainfall. Climate change is a result of greenhouse gas emissions; therefore,  reducing emissions would slow and prevent some of the future damage caused by intense storms and extreme flooding. One primary way to reduce emissions, according to the CBO, is by expanding cap-and-trade programs. These programs incentivize companies to keep emissions below designated thresholds and allow the purchasing of emission credits between companies that pollute less and companies that pollute more. However, the CBO also acknowledges that limiting emissions may negatively impact the economy by increasing the cost of goods and services and reducing jobs. Likewise, the CBO argues that such strategies must be enforced at a global scale, otherwise corporations will relocate to countries that allow unfettered pollution. Increase funding for flood mapping The weather is changing, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is struggling to keep up. Rapid urban development in wetlands and flood zones, combined with sea level rise and erosion, are changing the landscape of flood risk. The scale of this need is overwhelming — in 2018, FEMA spent $452 million on flood mapping and data collection, but it was nowhere near enough. Expand flood insurance coverage Flood insurance agencies need accurate spatial data and maps in order to adequately provide coverage, charge appropriate rates and adequately inform the public about their specific risks. Most people simply do not buy flood insurance and of those that do, 25 percent drop their plan within the first year. More accurate data and delineated risk zones can help inform residents of their direct risks and incentivize homeowners to implement mitigation measure, such as relocating heating and cooling equipment above of the predicted flood level. Accurate risk data will also help justify changes for long-standing insurance policy holders who have been “grandfathered” into plans that grossly underestimated their vulnerability before climate science and spatial mapping were widely available. An estimated 20 percent of insurance policy holders are paying rates lower than their appropriate risk level, which is good news for the policy holder up until a storm hits and they are in need of benefits that correspond to the damage they endured. Encourage local and state governments to share recovery costs When the president declares a disaster emergency, municipalities receive federal dollars to provide basic needs and support recovery efforts. Though the federal government plans to ramp up funding for preventive measures, such as sea walls, the CBO believes that if local and state governments had to foot more of the bill, they would be more inclined to enforce important mitigation policy . For example, if local and state governments expected to have to pay for damage to infrastructure, they would be more strict about limiting new development in flood zones — something they have more power to control from a local level. The message is clear — mitigation efforts are worth every penny. The National Weather Service already predicted more severe flooding this hurricane season than previous years. As evidence piles up in favor of mitigation, the only question remaining is ‘where do we start?’ + CBO Via The Weather Channel Image via Raquel M  and Pamela Andrade ( 1 , 2 )

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Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

Cozy pop-up Seedpods let you escape into nature with a minimal footprint

April 24, 2019 by  
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Reconnecting with Mother Nature has been elevated to new heights with Nomadic Resorts ‘ latest treehouse initiative — the Seedpod. Shaped like a human nest, these lightweight sleeping pods are designed for minimal landscape impact and can pop up in remote locations in just one day. The pop-up hotel rooms were recently installed in Mauritius’ Bel Ombre Nature Reserve, where they were hung from trees and made to “float” above the forest floor. Founded in 2011 as a reaction against the environmental footprint of traditional hotel development, Nomadic Resorts is an interdisciplinary design and project development company that services the hospitality industry with sustainable and contemporary projects. The Seedpod, developed after years of research, builds on the company’s commitment to low-impact design. Drawing inspiration from the shape of a seed and a bird’s nest, Nomadic Resorts crafted an aerodynamic structure that is not only capable of resisting wind speeds of 120 kilometers per hour, but can also be quickly installed in remote locations without using heavy machinery or power tools. “Our goal was to take inspiration from the humble seed to create a floating hotel room that was both ephemeral and robust — comfortable but exciting to sleep in,” said Louis Thompson, the CEO of Nomadic Resorts. “The idea is that sleeping in the pod is a transformative experience in its own right — a chance to spend a night in a human nest where you can see the movement of the wildlife below and hear the gurgling of the stream. Our team has been striving to find a symbiotic, harmonious relationship with the sites we develop. To achieve that, we need to find a compromise between durability and sustainability, environmental integrity and guest comfort — size was an important consideration in that discussion — it is the place, not the space, that is true luxury.” Related: Nomadic Resorts’ tiny prefab pod homes can pop up anywhere The Seedpod debut at the Heritage Nature Reserve consists of two units set up for a unique picnic experience where visitors can learn about the endemic forest, swim in the natural pools and enjoy a mosquito-free lunch inside each room. The pods, which were attached to trees at the reserve, can also be erected on their own with an optional tripod and equipped with lighting, solar panels , a ceiling fan, a cool box and a charging station for devices. Each unit measures nearly 12.5 feet in height (nearly 7.5 feet for internal height) and slightly over 7 feet in diameter. + Nomadic Resorts Images via Nomadic Resorts and The Heritage Nature Reserve

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