Beautiful modular homes raise the bar for affordable housing in Ontario

January 27, 2021 by  
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In response to the pressing need for sustainable and affordable housing in Ontario, Canadian design firm Montgomery Sisam Architects has unveiled plans for Durham Modular Supportive Housing, a modular, affordable housing development to be located in the town of Beaverton just outside of Toronto, Ontario. Created to “push the boundaries of affordable housing,” the prefabricated project will provide 49 self-contained bachelor suites in just 12 months from design to occupancy. The Scandinavian-inspired houses will take cues from the rural environment with a natural materials palette to harmonize the built environment with nature. Located in a rural neighborhood near Lake Simcoe, the ongoing Durham Modular Supportive Housing project will span 38,200 square feet and include senior living units. The simple gabled architecture takes inspiration from the rural vernacular with elements such as sloped roofs, dark exterior cladding and light-toned timber interiors. Connective exterior joists and interior module connections will be highlighted and exposed to draw attention to the project’s modular construction. Related: Affordable senior housing gets a climate-responsive upgrade in California “Utilizing the prefabrication construction process not only allows for an extremely rapid delivery, the off-site, indoor manufacturing of the units ensures that quality control is particularly consistent, while the predictability of design and construction eliminates unforeseen costs, facilitates building assembly and site organization, and reduces waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” Montgomery Sisam Architects explained in a project statement. The project consists of two cypress-clad buildings connected via a glazed, single-story link. The larger of the two volumes will house the residences while the other will serve as a community space with residential services including a dining space, work rooms, meeting rooms and wellness support offices. Large windows will punctuate the building envelopes to frame views of surrounding greenery. Residents will also have access to outdoor amenities such as gardens, bike storage, dining tables and basketball hoops. + Montgomery Sisam Architects Images via Montgomery Sisam Architects

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Prefab timber home prototype pops up in just 5 days

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

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San Francisco Bay could make the perfect sea otter habitat

December 29, 2020 by  
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San Francisco Bay could become the new home to extinction-threatened sea otters, according to a  recent report  published in PeerJ. Although the bay is located in the middle of a major urban area, it may still offer a suitable environment for the otters. While most parts of the bay may not suit wild animals, some sections manage to meet the requirements for a conducive sea otter habitat.  Sea otters have struggled to grow in numbers due to increased shark attacks along California’s central coast, which has been their home for decades. In the early 1900s, people hunted otters to the brink of extinction due to their luxury fur. However, protection measures enacted in 1911 helped the otter population grow to about 3,000 by 2020. Unfortunately, their population seems to have stagnated over the past decade due to increased shark attacks. To help the otter population continue growing, wildlife managers have looked at alternative residences in pockets of coastal waters. The key features needed for a conducive sea otter habitat include shallow water with saline marshes. According to Jane Rudebusch, the lead author of the study and a spatial ecologist at San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center, the findings surprised the scientific community. At the start of the study, researchers did not expect the busy shoreline to accommodate such delicate animals. In the study, the researchers used existing data to create a map of the bay area, providing a clear picture of areas the animals could inhabit safely. “A large part of the north bay is a sweet spot,” Rudebusch says. As Scientific American further explains, “Much of this area is only about three feet deep and has ample salt marsh in protected areas, including China Camp State Park and the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.” While the study identifies areas perfect for sea otters, some question food abundance for the animals. One 2019 study published in  PeerJ suggested  that the entire bay area contains enough food for about 6,600 sea otters. However, the study did not map the parts of the bay where the food can be obtained. Rudebusch says that the study findings are just the beginning. More research must be done before wildlife managers think of moving the otters to the area.  + Scientific American Image via Pixabay

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Mitosis: sustainable living modules cloaked in plants

December 15, 2020 by  
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Together with Arup , Amsterdam architecture practice GG-loop has unveiled designs for Mitosis, a modular building system that emphasizes regenerative, sustainable living and urban development. Designed with biophilic principles and parametric design tools, the prefab timber modules would be optimized for flexibility and scalability to allow for construction in a variety of urban settings. Options range from off-grid, single-family homes to high-density, mixed-use zones. The project builds on GG-loop’s pilot project Freebooter , an award-winning pair of prefabricated, cross-laminated timber apartments completed last year in Amsterdam. Named after the biological process of a single cell dividing itself into two identical daughter cells, the Mitosis project was designed to mimic a flexible organism that evolves to adapt to different settings. The scalable buildings would be made up of individual, rhomboid-shaped modules stacked together to create shared outdoor spaces and private terraces. These outdoor areas would be generously planted with greenery to reconnect residents with nature and to offset the urban heat island effect . The lightweight timber units would primarily consist of cross-laminated timber, which would be reinforced with hybrid concrete construction in larger scale developments. Related: This new 3D-printed house was built by a portable robot in just 48 hours “Mitosis adopts the 14 principles of biophilic design and articulates the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment,” the architects explained in a project statement. “Its construction is organic and flexible, providing large areas of urban and vertical farming, greenhouses, wildlife corridors and integration of habitat creation, that encourage shared outdoor activities among residents.” Collective living is a central tenet of Mitosis, which would not only provide shared outdoor activities but also amenities to bring neighbors together and encourage them to participate in environmentally friendly activities. Social cohesion could help to promote residents’ health and well-being, which would also be boosted through a natural materials palette, flexible layouts and easy access to greenery in both private and public areas. + GG-loop Images via GG-loop with Hexapixel

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Modular home in Delft boasts low-carbon timber build and a green roof

December 8, 2020 by  
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Building information modeling ( BIM ), modular construction and low-carbon timber materials combine in the sustainable Buitenhuis, a small, low-impact home with beautiful farmland views in Heinenoord, the Netherlands. Dutch architecture firm VLOT architecten designed Buitenhuis with a strong connection to the outdoors not only by framing sweeping landscape views with an entire glazed facade but also by integrating existing trees and plants into the green-roofed structure. The home is engineered to be completely dismountable with dry connections so that it can removed with minimal environmental impact. Although the main brief for Buitenhuis seems simple — to create a home for enjoying garden and farmland views — the process for creating the structure was anything but. The architects completely engineered the building with BIM and developed 3D models for the steel foundation and wooden load-bearing structure to minimize construction waste. The modeling also led to a modular structure design based on a 1.5-meter grid with prefabricated components. Laminated larch and cross-laminated timber are the main construction materials; the architects also used wood fiber insulation, padouk decking and birch plywood for the floors and ceilings. Related: Energy-plus home is a beacon of sustainability in Tel Aviv To blur the boundary between indoors and out, Buitenhuis opens up to a large deck in warmer weather. The outdoor living space expands the footprint of the home from 54 square meters to 210 square meters. The deck is cantilevered over a garden and existing ditch, which serves as the boundary between the garden and the farmland that stretches in all directions. The garden is irrigated with rainwater harvested from the sedum-covered roof. Passive solar principles also informed the design of the home, which is outfitted with all-electric appliances as well as electric floor heating. Extended roof eaves mitigate unwanted solar gain in the summer while permitting winter sun, and the windows can be opened on all sides to promote natural ventilation. + VLOT architecten Images via VLOT architecten

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Modular home in Delft boasts low-carbon timber build and a green roof

Nimble makes phone accessories from recycled plastic, CDs and more

December 8, 2020 by  
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Technological innovation is here to stay. With it comes the struggle to control e-waste and its assault on the environment. So the three co-founders of Nimble for Good, PBC have combined their extensive experience in the tech, marketing and design development industries to launch a brand of personal tech products committed to ethical and sustainable material sourcing, manufacturing and post-consumer disposal. How it all started The concept is simple, really — develop and use products made from recycled materials to divert waste from the landfill , be transparent as a business and give customers an easy way to support those efforts with eco-friendly products they use every day. Related: Pela offers biodegradable phone cases and other zero-waste products With a strong background in the industry and a quick $2.5 million from investors as a startup just two years ago, Nimble wasted no time jumping into the tech market with the Bottle Case — a cell phone case made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles . With the sale of each case, the company donated “5% to those working to protect the planet’s oceans and marine life.” In alignment with the company’s mission to reduce pollution through material collection and post-consumer recycling, the Bottle Case was a stand-out release that set the stage for a variety of other products. CEO Ross Howe summarized the vision by saying, “Our oceans are drowning in plastic. We’re not interested in creating new plastic to make phone cases. Virtually all phone cases made today require production of virgin materials, while there’s an overwhelming abundance of plastic material already in the ecosystem. We want to keep existing plastic in the economy and out of our oceans and landfills.” Nimble’s phone accessories The newest product from the team, supervised by co-founders Howe, Kevin Malinowski, head of marketing, and John Bradley, head of creative, is simply named the Disc Case. This is the first protective case for iPhones that is made from 100% recycled compact discs . The process involves collecting the CDs, cleaning them and using the polycarbonate components for the phone cases. Using recycled materials eliminates the need for virgin plastics, but the phone cases are also recyclable when they are no longer usable. “Think about how many CDs, DVDs, and software discs are no longer being used,” Howe said. “Facing obsolescence, most go to landfills or incineration, creating a massive stream of toxic waste and pollution . We’re continuing to demonstrate how recycled materials in new products are essential to achieve a more sustainable future.” Nimble also manufactures portable chargers with an interior composed of hard, plant-based plastics made from materials like corn and sugarcane. The devices also incorporate recycled aluminum and the natural mineral crystal, mica, which provides the non-slip exterior. Other similarly earth-conscious products include wireless chargers and fast-charge kits. All products come with a biodegradable bag and prepaid mail-in label that makes it easy to participate in the company’s e-waste recycling program, One-for-One Tech Recovery Project. All devices, phone cases, cables and cell phones are shipped directly to an e-waste recycling partner for proper disassembly and recycling. According to the company website, “Since Aug 2018, we’ve collected over 3,000 lbs. of e-waste, phone cases and compact discs from our customers for proper reclamation by Homeboy Electronics Recycling and other partners.” Sustainable shipping, packaging and partnerships The team is equally focused on minimizing Nimble’s impact from shipping and manufacturing as they continue to explore material options such as recycled plastic, organic hemp , recycled aluminum, bioplastic and more. Each product is shipped using 100% plastic-free options, like recycled scrap paper, and leaves out harmful inks or dyes. Every shipping package is fully recyclable and biodegradable. Not everything in business can be controlled in-house, so when Nimble relies on suppliers, they must agree to conform to the Supplier Code of Conduct. This means all suppliers are evaluated and verified in order to ensure that they share Nimble’s values regarding workers’ rights, sustainable materials and minimal environmental impact. In further highlighting its dedication to corporate responsibility , Nimble is one of around 3,600 Certified B Corporations in the world, meaning it meets the highest standards of human and environmental considerations. In addition, Nimble is dedicated to donating at least 1% of annual sales to environmental nonprofit organizations as a member of 1% for the Planet. Nimble has also partnered with Verizon Wireless as part of the telecommunication company’s initiative to offer more eco-friendly options to its customers. + Nimble Images via Nimble

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Prefab Morgan Motor Company Experience Centre uses sustainable timber

November 27, 2020 by  
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Bath, U.K.-based Hewitt Studios has given a stunning makeover to Morgan Motor Company’s aging café, museum and showroom with the new Experience Centre, a prefabricated visitor center made from sustainably sourced timber . Designed with reusability in mind, the building takes cues from the British motor car manufacturer’s hand-built sports cars that are constructed from three recyclable core elements: ash timber, aluminum and leather. The sustainably minded building also reduces its carbon footprint with high-performance insulation, daylighting and a responsible stormwater management strategy. With more than a century of experience working with local craftsmen to construct its handmade cars, the Morgan Motor Company has built its reputation on ethical sourcing, natural materials and a focus on longevity. As a result, Hewitt Studios wanted the new Experience Centre to reflect the company’s sustainable values and used three prefabricated structures built of timber in a nod to the company’s historic ash body frames. These structures include the Jewel Box, a display space for the company’s hero car and customer handovers; a sculptural visitor entrance foyer; and an external covered car canopy that is large enough to shelter the demo car fleet. The car canopy features an undulating profile evocative of the Malvern Hills’ rolling topography. Related: Visitor center disguised as a hill to welcome visitors to Denmark’s historic Kalø Castle Ruins The architects also put new cladding and roofing atop the existing buildings and built out the internal spaces. Timber and easily recyclable aluminum flashings were used for the cladding and are detailed for easy dismantling and recycling. Metsawood Kerto laminated veneer lumber, an inexpensive off-the-shelf industrial product made with certified timber from sustainably managed forests, was also incorporated into all of the new structures, particularly in the sculptural canopies.  The architects explained, “This strategy of using a single conventional product in a number of unconventional ways delivers terrific value for Morgan, creating the impression of an expensive bespoke outcome using readily available ‘stock’ timber sections — maximum bang for their buck!” + Hewitt Studios Images via Morgan Motor Company

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Modular treehouse concept is inspired by wasp nests

November 27, 2020 by  
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As an entry to the Young Architects Competitions’ Tree House Module contest, the architecture team of Garvin Goepel and Christian Baumgarten have proposed a modular treehouse called Nidus Domum that is made up of two shelters inspired by wasp nests. The modules are designed to sit on the property of Vibrac castle in France to help visitors escape modern civilization. Curved in shape and designed to shelter visitors high up in the trees, Nidus Domum provides a closer connection to nature . The layering, addition and multiplication of individual elements of the modules are inspired by the way that wasps build their nests, in a similar systematic and engineered pattern. With wasps, oval-shaped nests are protected by a layer of chewed wood chips and wasp saliva, like a glue. The insects build layers next to each other in order to strengthen the inner population’s protection. Related: Treehouse hotel in Bali offers maximum views with a minimal footprint The modules interlock through single parts rather than in a continuous large surface, making the production and fabrication of the treehouse highly customizable. Panels can be adapted to specialized contextual arrangements, like tree branches, by exchanging and customizing single panels. Individual elements are designed small enough to be prefabricated in local factories, quickly transported to building sites and easily assembled. Subsequently, the modules are also easy to take apart and move to other locations. The treehouse modules are composed of 24 individual panels with a wooden frame that includes inner bent wood paneling and an outer cladding made of liana tree bark splits sourced from the building site. The first module, Nidus Dolichovespula sylvestris (Nest of a Tree Wasp), suspends from the tree high above the ground. From the shelter, inhabitants gain an elevated view through the forest toward the castle on one side and the remote wild landscape on the other. In contrast, the second module, Nidus Polistinae (Nest of a Field Wasp), has a free-standing construction. The design is elevated by pilings, so it doesn’t require a tree as structural support and maintains space for a sauna . This sauna is built using the same system and connects to a terrace poised over the lake surface. Users can steam in the sauna before dipping their feet in the cold water below. + Garvin Goepel + Christian Baumgarten Images via Christian Baumgarten

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Architects envision a lush, solar-powered oasis to cool Abu Dhabi

November 13, 2020 by  
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Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) has named European architecture firm Mask Architects’ palm tree-inspired Oasys proposal one of the 10 winners in ‘Cool Abu Dhabi’ . This global design competition sought sustainable solutions for mitigating the urban heat island effect . The winning design calls for a solar-powered refuge with modular, palm tree-like structures that would provide protection from the elements and respite from the heat with solar-powered misters and lush landscaping. The multipurpose, pop-up spaces could also be used for a variety of functions, from cafes and and retail stands to exhibition spaces. Mask Architect’s Oasys proposal draws the eye with its massive palm tree-inspired structures that the architects said would be topped with solar panels and integrated with lights and nozzles that spray a cooling mist into the air. Dubbed the Artificial Breathing Palm modular structure system, the design includes a “foundation base” that conceals all of the technical equipment — including water and electric lines as well as solar batteries — as well as five triangular module types of varying sizes. The modules can connect together in different configurations to fit a variety of settings, while lush landscaping would be planted around the modules to give the space more of an oasis-like feel. Related: Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center blends into the landscape “The ‘Oasis’ design concept has been influenced by the need to create a greener city as well as creating a real oasis in the middle of the city,” Mask Architects explained. “Besides the the flexible and replaceable design line, any outdoor functions are adapted easily into ‘Oasys’ conceptA mechanism that can be replicated easily to form a network of hubs and centre points in which they act as islands of rest places, socialising and sociable communal for the collective and community.” The ‘Cool Abu Dhabi ’ global design competition concluded earlier this year and received over 300 entries from nearly 70 countries. The 10 winning entries were announced online and each received $10,000 each in prize money.  + Mask Architects Images via Mask Architects

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Modular Tree-House School concept connects kids with nature

October 27, 2020 by  
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Could this be the school of the future? Designer Valentino Gareri has created a concept for the Tree-House School, a sustainable and modular educational building that highlights children’s relationship with nature. The treehouse design distributes classes and age groups through multiple levels, incorporating usable roof classroom space and combining indoor with outdoor educational activities. As more and more schools prepare to reopen, the importance of having ample opportunities for distance learning and access to fresh air has become paramount. The Tree-House School envisions a learning center that is not only suspended and immersed in nature but also includes all phases of the educational process from kindergarten to secondary school. Related: Rimbin concept offers a look into the future of infection-free playgrounds Additionally, as people continue to relocate from big cities to less-populated areas thanks to the flexibility of remote work, rural areas around the world are gaining more popularity. The proposed design includes a modular educational center containing multiple levels of schooling, with all spaces fitting into two rings that create two courtyards and additional accessible rooftops. Classrooms are located inside the main circle, all with easy connection to courtyards and outdoor landscapes to help increase the relationship with nature both physically and visibly. Each 55-square-meter module is made of cross-laminated timber and corresponds to 20-25 students per classroom connected by a central corridor. The Tree-House School is operable 24/7 and features a community center, a plaza, a café and a library available to the entire community . The modular design allows for future school expansions, different programming and even opportunities for multiple functions, like temporary residential units or medical centers for emergencies. The building’s faceted facade is created by alternating solid timber and glazed panels; the circular perimeter blocks direct sunlight with opaque panels and diffuses light through transparent ones. Sustainability and energy-efficient measures include rainwater collection systems, natural cross-ventilation, photovoltaic panels and wind energy devices. + Valentino Gareri Images via Valentino Gareri

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