Wood lattice walls ventilate this beautiful Costa Rica home

July 10, 2020 by  
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Perched in the mountains of Nosara, a surfing paradise on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica , Casa Guayacán boasts a beautiful ocean view and a tranquil setting. A stunning example of sustainable architecture in a tropical setting, this home being designed by two talented professional architects comes as no surprise. Evangelina Quesada and Lucca Spendlingwimmer, architects who moved to the remote mountain location with their two daughters, built the home based on their mutual love for contemporary tropical architecture. The home takes advantage of the ocean breeze with ventilating lattice walls and is equipped with a rooftop solar panel system that provides 100% battery autonomy throughout the day and night. Related: Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool The facade incorporates a design that combines spacious floor-to-ceiling windows and wood lattice walls for natural cross ventilation . Elongated from north to south, most of the space faces the sea, with the west side facing the sunset in the evening. Half-open wood slats help emphasize airflow, while also creating a unique light pattern that changes during different times of the day. To move the house as far from the public street as possible and address the site’s uneven terrain, the design was developed over two levels. A shorter lower level allows for entrance access below the main structure, room for parking, a studio and service area. The upper level contains common areas, bedrooms and the property’s best ocean views. The home’s modular floor plan allowed for a faster construction time and less material waste. The home uses materials such as stone, polished cement, metal, wood and glass. The wood , taken from controlled teak plantations, was treated with linseed oil to maintain natural texture and color. Incorporating traditional building methods and talent from local artisans in the woodwork helps make Casa Guayacán a captivating addition to the tropical Costa Rican foothills. + Salagnac Arquitectos Images via Salagnac Arquitectos

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Wood lattice walls ventilate this beautiful Costa Rica home

Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

May 28, 2020 by  
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Even the remotest islands have no lack of used toothbrushes. Researchers studying  Cocos Keeling Islands  — 6 square miles of uninhabited land 1,300 miles off  Australia’s  northwest coast — found 373,000 toothbrushes among the mountains of plastic debris. Reading studies like this makes almost any thinking person wonder why we can’t recycle toothbrushes. Toothbrushes pose a problem, as no matter how much we care about the planet, most of us aren’t going to sacrifice our dental hygiene. So why is it so hard to recycle toothbrushes? Dental professionals and the American Dental Association recommend getting a new toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles fray. This means the average American — or at least one that follows dental advice — goes through three to four toothbrushes per year. Even if each American used only two toothbrushes annually, that’s roughly 660 million toothbrushes headed for the  landfill . Why? “Regular toothbrushes are hard to recycle because they are made from many components, including plastics derived from crude  oil , rubber and a mix of plastic and other agents,” explained Dr. Nammy Patel , DDS and author of  Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.  “It takes the plastic toothbrush over 400 years to decompose.” Usually, the plastic handle would be the most desirable part for recycling. Nobody wants those grotty nylon bristles that spent the last several months poking between your teeth. And it takes a lot of effort to separate the bristles and the metal that keeps them in place from the  plastic handle. The  Colgate Oral Care Recycling Project  is one rare effort to recycle used dental gear. The project accepts toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, toothpaste cartons, toothbrush outer  packaging  and floss containers. Reusing your old toothbrushes Instead of recycling your toothbrush, it’s easier to find ways to reuse it. Patel suggests using your old toothbrush for coloring hair, cleaning car parts, or anything that can be accessed by the small bristles. “It can be used for cleaning mud under shoes,” she suggested. Toothbrushes are the best tools for cleaning grout on your kitchen counter or between your bathroom tiles. Just add baking soda or bleach. You can also use a dry or just slightly damp toothbrush to clean the sides of your computer  keys. It’s amazingly gross, the stuff that accumulates in a keyboard. Other places to use those tiny bristles to your advantage include cleaning grunge out of your hairbrush, scrubbing around faucets and reviving Velcro by removing the lint. Old toothbrushes even have  artistic  uses. Painters can use them for splattering paint on a canvas, or for adding texture. In another artistic application, toothbrushes are great for scrubbing crayon marks off walls. Sustainable alternatives Of course, the best way to avoid disposing of a non-recyclable item is by not buying it in the first place. “Toothbrushes made from more sustainable products are great,” said Patel. “They offer the same or better clean and are better for the environment.” Bamboo  is the most popular alternative toothbrush handle material. However, most still have nylon bristles. Some companies use compostable pig hair bristles, but this won’t be a happy solution for vegetarians. Still, the handle is the biggest part of the toothbrush, so using a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is still a step in the right direction. Some companies even offer replaceable heads so you can use the same bamboo handle for years. If style is of paramount importance, check out  Bootrybe’s  pretty laser-engraved designs. You could also opt for a toothbrush that’s already been recycled. Since 2007,  Preserve  has recycled more than 80 million yogurt cups into toothbrushes. They partner with Whole Foods to get people to recycle #5 plastics, which is one of the safer yet least recycled types of plastic . And when your Preserve toothbrush gets old, you can mail it back to the company for recycling. Or ditch the plastic and go electric. “Electric toothbrushes are a better alternative than regular toothbrushes,” said Patel. “They give a great clean and they minimize the amount of waste.” She recommends eco-friendly brands like Foreo Issa and Georganics. “There are some brands like Boka brush which have activated  charcoal in its bristles to help reduce bacteria growth. Many companies also have a recycling program where you can send your toothbrush head and they will recycle it for you.” Better yet, she said, get the electric rechargeable brushes so there is no battery waste. “If you have to purchase a battery-operated one, make sure to use rechargeable batteries to decrease waste.” Some people like to further reduce waste by making their own toothpaste and mouthwash. While homemade toothpaste lacks the cavity-fighting power of fluoride, you might want to occasionally use homemade products to decrease packaging waste and save money, or just to tide you over until your next trip to the store. For a very simple and inexpensive paste, combine one teaspoon of baking soda with a little  water . + Dr. Nammy Patel Via Toothbrush Life Images via Teresa Bergen

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Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

Buhais Geology Park opens in UAE’s Sharjah Desert

January 31, 2020 by  
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British architectural firm  Hopkins Architects has completed the Buhais Geology Park Interpretative Centre, a new research and education facility highlighting the “prehistoric and geological significance” of the former seabed known as al-Madam Plain. Located southeast of the UAE city of Sharjah, the Geology Park was created as part of a series of learning and conservation centers operated by Sharjah’s Environmental Protected Areas Authority. The design of the site-sensitive complex comprises five interconnected pods inspired by prehistoric sea urchin fossils. The Buhais Geology Park Interpretative Center is located within the Jebel Buhais, an archaeological site that’s most notable for its extensive necropolis spanning the Stone, Bronze, Iron, and Hellenistic ages, as well as for its abundance of marine  fossils  from over 65 million years ago. To highlight the archeological importance of Jebel Buhais, the Park was conceived as an important educational resource and destination for tourism.  Taking cues from the region’s well-preserved prehistoric fossils, the architects crafted the Interpretive Center into five interconnected pods that house a series of exhibition spaces with model-based interactive displays as well as an immersive theater, a cafe with panoramic views of the dramatic Jebel Buhais range, a gift shop, and other visitor facilities. An outdoor trail accessible from the main exhibition area links the pods and includes viewing areas of the mountains, a  classroom  shaded by a high-tensile canopy, and raised walkways across select geological sites of note such as ancient burial grounds.  Related: Off-grid Fossil Discovery Exhibit camouflages into the Texan desert “Our first sight of Jebel Buhais was in the late afternoon sun, exploring the area after the midday heat,” Simon Fraser, Principal at Hopkins Architects, said. “It is an amazingly beautiful, barren setting, with the Jebel providing a powerful backdrop. We have ensured that our design  touches lightly  on this fragile landscape, so rich in remarkable fossils and prehistoric burial sites. This exciting new facility will allow thousands of people from all over the world to understand the way in which landscapes are formed by tectonic activities and how the Earth has changed over time.” + Hopkins Architects Images © Marc Goodwin

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Buhais Geology Park opens in UAE’s Sharjah Desert

Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threatens global supply of freshwater

December 11, 2019 by  
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A study recently published in Nature found that glacier-based freshwater systems are highly threatened by climate change. Called “mountain water towers,” they supply water to communities in the downstream basin by generating and storing vast quantities of water from their high-elevation rain and snow. Unfortunately, ice melt is becoming more pronounced and precipitation patterns are disrupted, in turn placing these water towers’ storage capacity at critical risk. The study warns that the depletion of freshwater supplies and severe water shortages will become more evident, especially as “water stress, governance, hydropolitical tension and future climatic and socio-economic changes” put these natural water towers at risk. Narratives on climate change must shift to include discussions on mountain ice melt and loss and not just revolve around sea level rise. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis The research, authored by 32 scientists across the globe, recognized 78 mountainous regions as crucial water towers primarily found in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Based on the study, Asian water towers were the most vulnerable, particularly the Indus water system. “The study quantified for the first time both the natural water supply from the mountains as well as the water demand by society and also provided projections for the future based on climatic and socioeconomic scenarios,” said Tobias Bolch of the University of St. Andrews’ School of Geography and Sustainable Development. “The projected loss of ice and snow and increasing water needs makes specific densely populated basins located in arid regions, like the Indus basin in South Asia or the Amu Darya basin in Central Asia, highly vulnerable in the future.” Reliance on these water towers means these mountain ecosystems must be safeguarded. Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist at National Geographic Society, explained, “This research will help decision-makers, on global and local levels, prioritize where action should be taken to protect mountain systems, the resources they provide and the people who depend on them.” + Nature Image via Ashish Verma

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Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threatens global supply of freshwater

Minimalist home in the Brazilian countryside is made from mining waste

December 6, 2019 by  
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Brazilian architectural firm Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados (GPA&A) has unveiled a tiny, minimalist home with a small stature that conceals a powerhouse of sustainable design. Located in a former mining region, the architects decided to build the 484-square-foot Sustentable House out of bricks manufactured from mining sludge waste. The family home is also installed with solar panels and a wind turbine to produce energy and heat water. Additionally, the residence is almost completely zero-waste thanks to an integrated waste water treatment system and organic waste incinerator. The small home is located in the pristine, mountainous area of Ouro Branco, once an important base located on the transportation route from the mines of Minas Gerais to the coast. Paying homage to the region’s history, the architects were able to construct the Sustentable House with bricks made out of the byproducts of mining . Related: Sustainable desert home has a small water footprint in Nevada Tucked into an open lot surrounded by forest, the house sits on a small, flat plot of a sloping hill. The volume has a cube-like base topped with a slanted rooftop. The sloped roof was an important factor in protecting the interior from direct sunlight . The roof was also installed with a small solar array that heats water for the residence, although it will eventually power the entire home. At the front of the building, a wall rises up past the slanted rooftop. The cutout space in this section is outfitted with a wind turbine that generates energy for the home. The design also incorporates an organic waste incinerator that produces energy through hot air and an integrated, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system that can be used as an additional power system. All of these sustainable features are wrapped up in one gorgeous design. The two-bedroom house’s brick walls wrap around the exterior and interior, except for the front facade, which is made out of floor-to-ceiling glass panels. The wide glass doors slide open completely, opening up the living room to the great outdoors. This allows the homeowners to enjoy unobstructed views of the mountains and valleys that stretch out across the horizon. + GPA&A Via ArchDaily Photography by Jomar Bragança via GPA&A

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Minimalist home in the Brazilian countryside is made from mining waste

Mountain in Sweden loses highest peak title as global warming shrinks it

September 9, 2019 by  
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Kebnekaise, the highest mountain peak in Sweden, has fallen victim to global heating. Scientists reported that the glacier at the iconic mountain’s summit is shrinking because of rising Arctic temperatures. Now, the peak is no longer considered the highest in the country. “This is quite a symbol,” said Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist, a geography professor at Stockholm University who has been measuring the glacier for years. “A very obvious, very clear signal to everyone in Sweden that things are changing.” Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Located in northern Sweden and about 95 miles inside the Arctic Circle, Kebnekaise has two peaks, each of which has been measured regularly since 1880. The southern peak has always been higher, but after scientists measured in early September of this year, they found the northern peak was now the highest by 1.2 meters. “We suspected this was probably the case last year,” Rosqvist said. “But unfortunately, our measurements were not precise enough. Now we can say with certainty: we are accurate to within a couple of centimeters.” In fact, the most recent measurements showed that the southern peak was the lowest it has ever been. “Almost all the shrinkage has been in the past two decades when the glacier has lost an average of one meter a year,” Rosqvist said. But all may not be lost; the glacier could reach its status as the tallest peak once again with winter snow and ice. “It will keep changing for a while,” Rosqvist said. “But the trend is now firmly established and very clear.” This is not the first time there has been trouble atop Kebnekaise. Sweden reached unprecedented high temperatures at more than 10 degrees Celsius, or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, above average in May and July 2018. The Kebnekaise glacier also shrunk by about 4 meters because of the Arctic wildfires . Although scientists expected this would happen, the official title loss for the southern peak was emotional for the research team. Rosqvist said, “We can see the climate changing before our eyes up here, and we need to do something about it.” Via The Guardian Image via Kaj Schmidt

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Eco-sensitive community in northern India harvests rainwater

September 4, 2019 by  
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Near the Himalayas, a new eco-conscious residential development known as the Woodside has taken root in the mountains of Kasauli, a small town in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Indian architectural firm Morphogenesis used a site-sensitive approach to design the luxury development, which not only follows the contours of the landscape to minimize site disturbance but also makes use of passive solar conditions and rainwater harvesting systems to reduce energy and water usage. Envisioned as a nature retreat for city dwellers, the Woodside is perched on extremely steep terrain that includes level differences of approximately 100 meters within the site boundaries. The development’s 37 cottages and the internal roads were strategically placed to minimize cut and fill operations as well as to preserve the existing vegetation and body of water on site. Locally sourced natural materials, such as stone, timber and slate, were primarily used for construction. Related: Passive solar school in Indonesia celebrates the natural landscape “The cottages are positioned on the slope in a manner that ensures unobstructed panoramic views of the scenic hills of the Shimla valley; the largest ones enjoy the farthest view,” the architects explained. The lush landscape is left mostly untouched save for agricultural uses. “This is achieved by maintaining a minimum height difference between the roof level of each cottage and the ground level of the preceding cottage uphill.” To minimize energy usage, the cottages, which come in four different types, all feature thick outer walls to provide a thermal mass to reduce reliance on air conditioning. The community’s rainwater harvesting systems also help reduce water use. The collected water is used for irrigation or is stored in a sump downhill for later use. + Morphogenesis Photography by Suryan & Dang via Morphogenesis

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World’s largest solar plant at sea is installed at Maldives resort

September 4, 2019 by  
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There’s more than sunbathers and yachts floating near the resort Lux* South Ari Atoll in the Maldives. The five-star property, located on the beautiful island of Dhidhoofinolhu, called on SwimSol to provide its patented SolarSea system, the world’s largest solar power plant at sea, to help power the island resort. The SolarSea technology helps gather solar energy to power the island and can withstand the often brutal conditions caused by waves, storms and saltwater. Related: The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens for business “Innovation is key to achieving true sustainability , and we are happy to partner with Swimsol to work toward our goal of minimizing our ecological footprint,” said Jonas Amstad, general manager at Lux* South Ari Atoll. Solar energy is not a new concept to the resort , as it was already using a Swimsol rooftop system before deciding to go beyond its shores with 12 SolarSea platforms on the sea. The floating solar panels are not only saving money but reducing the resort’s carbon footprint . The property’s solar capacity increased by 40 percent and reached 678 kWp — enough to power all of the resort’s guest villas at peak times. Lux* South Ari Atoll is saving more than 260,000 liters of diesel annually, an amount that was once needed to produce the same amount of power via combustion engines. Guests can get involved, too, by viewing a live “solar tracker” available in the villas that shows the energy produced, diesel saved and carbon dioxide emissions saved. Visitors aren’t the only benefactors of solar at the resort; the floating solar platforms offer shelter to young fish. Because the platforms float, they are also able to stay well above the coral reefs and seabed dwellers. With the SolarSea system just off of the shore, Lux* South Ari Atoll can boast that it is now home to the largest solar plant at sea. The resort isn’t stopping there — it is already looking to increase its future solar capacity. + Swimsol Via The Island Chief Images via Swimsol

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World’s largest solar plant at sea is installed at Maldives resort

$87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions

August 23, 2019 by  
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Mountain lions in Southern California will have a safer place to roam by 2023 thanks to an $87 million bridge being designed northwest of Los Angeles and spread out above the busy 101 Highway. California is the only state in the country where shooting the creatures for sport is banned . But a March study published in the journal Ecological Applications suggested mountain lions could be extinct within 50 years if changes to their environment don’t happen. Related: Utah plans $5 million wildlife bridge over deadly I-80 highway “ Animals were able to move around through different parts of the mountains until humans cut them off with giant roads,” said Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation. “GPS tracking shows that the animals are largely isolated in their own small areas, unable to mingle. Segmentation impacts animals both large and small: lizards and birds up to mountain lions.” Once the project is completed, the wildlife bridge will connect various sections of the Santa Monica Mountains, hopefully giving mountain lions and other wildlife better protection. It is designed to blend into the scenery, so the creatures won’t know they are on a bridge. Pratt stressed this ecological environment needs to be rebuilt for the sake of all animal welfare and thinks the wildlife bridge is a good idea. “This is an animal that is particularly beloved in California ,” Pratt said. “We want these animals on the landscape, and the population will go extinct if we don’t do something soon.” The project has been 20 years in the making, with the National Park Service closely studying the area during this time. It wasn’t until about a decade ago the idea became a reality; funds totaling $13.4 million have been raised by private contributors, according to The Guardian. The project has caught the attention of actor Leonardo DiCaprio , who has been a supporter of the project, as well as other big names around the world. About 9,000 comments were posted in favor of the project, and only 15 were against it when the public was given the opportunity give feedback. “We’re doing this in LA, a city of 4 million people,” Pratt said. “If LA can do it, it can work anywhere. Even in a giant city , we’ll make a home for a mountain lion.” + Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains + Clark Stevens Via The Guardian Design and images via Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and Clark Stevens Architect/Raymond Garcia Illustrator

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A timber observation tower with a vertical forest is proposed for Zagreb

July 10, 2019 by  
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Istanbul-based design studio SUPERSPACE has proposed a new landmark for Croatia’s capital of Zagreb that combines an architecturally striking observation tower with a vertical forest in the heart of the city. Dubbed Ascension, the timber structure would serve as a “new gate” between the historic parts of the city and the post-war areas. If built, the tower would be the 10th tallest building in all of Zagreb and one of the tallest wooden structures in Europe. Proposed for the heart of Zagreb , the Ascension tower is optimally positioned to take in views of the natural landscape, from the south bank of the Sava river to the forests of Medvednica Mountain. The tower location also marks the split between the old and the new parts of the city, from which the architects drew design inspiration. The history of Zagreb dates as far back as 1094 A.D. and much of the city prior to the 20th century was developed north of the Sava river. After World War II, a construction boom that took place south of the Sava river resulted in a modern development now called Novi Zagreb (“New Zagreb”). Related: Foster + Partners designs solar-powered Tulip observation tower for London “As the Novi Zagreb is the future and modern face of Zagreb, Ascension represents and empowers the connection with the past and future; nature and man-made; old and new; as though the ground ascended to the sky and created this void, to engage this dialogue with a strong flow and visual relation,” the designers explained in a press statement. “As a connecting and reflective feature of the old and the new city, Ascension greets the landmarks of the downtown with respect and claims a unique form with analogical proportions.” The Ascension tower features three main parts: a white and convex outer “shell” that symbolizes the revitalization of the new city; a timber-lined inner “shell” that symbolizes the identity of the old city; and a vertical forest of trees planted on multiple levels of the high-rise to create a visual link to Zagreb’s forested landscape. Viewing platforms are located on different heights of the tower to overlook select vistas including the Sava river, the city and the mountains. + SUPERSPACE Images via SUPERSPACE

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