Net-zero Del Mar Civic Center celebrates community and the great outdoors

January 30, 2020 by  
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After decades of planning, the Californian seaside city Del Mar has finally welcomed a new civic center to consolidate all of its primary public functions into one location at the heart of the community. Located on a 1.5-acre site with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the Del Mar Civic Center is the work of West Coast-based The Miller Hull Partnership , who took inspiration for the design from the surroundings. The new civic center is also engineered for net-zero energy operations and is outfitted with a rooftop solar array, a rainwater harvesting system and programmable windows that take advantage of passive ventilation. Set adjacent to Camino Del Mar, the town’s main thoroughfare, the Del Mar Civic Center comprises a 3,000-square-foot Town Hall, a 9,000-square-foot City Hall, a 13,000-square-foot Town Commons and parking for 140 vehicles, most of which is tucked beneath the complex. All of the buildings were constructed with warm, natural materials such as wood and integrally colored concrete; durable ipe wood siding clads much of the exterior. The architects have likened the civic center to a set of family beachside cabins translated into a series of interconnected structures that follow the contours of the site to maintain a low-slung residential profile. Related: Lush greenery blankets a passive solar community center in Singapore The architects preserved 40% of the site as open space for gardens showcasing native and drought-tolerant plants, active and passive courtyards and a dedicated area for the community farmers market. Further emphasizing the complex’s connection to the outdoors is the abundance of windows, which frame views of the Pacific Ocean in almost every room and promote natural ventilation. Additional sustainable features include the complex’s partial earth sheltering for temperature regulation, porous paving, EV charging stations, daylight sensors and stormwater swales. “City Halls have evolved into being much more than places representing civic gravitas,” noted Mike Jobes, design principal for the project. “They are a public investment in the infrastructure for the social aspects of community , where civic identity is formed through the ritual of public gatherings that are made possible by these spaces.” + The Miller Hull Partnership Photography by Chipper Hatter via The Miller Hull Partnership

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Net-zero Del Mar Civic Center celebrates community and the great outdoors

Sunflower-inspired tower design envelopes urban residents in mini forests

May 7, 2019 by  
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Concerned by the rampant growth of cities across Latin America and the loss of endemic species, Ecuadorian design studio oficina de Diseño (odD+) has proposed the Sunflower Tower, a conceptual residential building inspired by the seeds and petals of a sunflower. Proposed for Quito , the Sunflower Tower has been envisioned as a “vertical ecosystem” with lush, self-sustaining planters located on every floor of the high-rise. As a result, the building would offer year-round interest and natural air purification as well as food and habitat for local birds and insects. Currently in the design development phase, the Sunflower Tower was created as a residential high-rise spanning a little over 77,000 square feet. The multifaceted facade is defined by a series of arches backed by floor-to-ceiling glazing for panoramic views of the city. The balconies directly in front of the arches support lush gardens, while the facade’s protruding opaque elements provide protection from the sun. “Sunflower Tower utilizes its equatorial context to become a depository of plant and animal life in the city,” the architects explained. “With the ability to thrive all year round, incorporating a self-sustaining ecosystem into the built environment reduces the tower’s carbon footprint  and creates a constant and direct connection with nature, as every apartment is surrounded by its own mini forest in the midst of a dense urban setting. This creates a unique user experience, and changes the typical urban backdrop by adding a layer of nature to the lens.” Related: This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito The interiors have been envisioned with a minimalist and contemporary aesthetic where even the private rooms, such as the bedroom and bathroom, look out across views of the gardens and city. The material palette’s muted colors keep the focus on the outdoors. The building is topped with a landscaped terrace and lounge space. + oficina de Diseño (odD+) Photography by Julia Bogdan via oficina de Diseño (odD+)

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Taichung Discovery Pavilion champions biodiversity in new "Half Earth" multimedia art installation

April 26, 2019 by  
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In Taichung , Taiwan, the recently completed Discovery Pavilion at the Taichung World Flower Expo explores what life could be like if humans returned half of the Earth’s habitable surfaces to nature — a concept known as “Half Earth” proposed by the “Father of Biodiversity” Edward Wilson in 2016. Taipei-based Cogitoimage International Co., Ltd designed the pavilion to advocate such preservation with a large-scale exhibition that covers the ecology of the Taichung Dajia River as it flows from high to low altitudes. In keeping with the eco-friendly ethos of the project, the main materials used in the project include recycled glass and cork, sustainably sourced timber and other natural materials. Created with the theme of “Viewing Half-Earth through Taichung’s Ecology,” the Discovery Pavilion uses mixed multimedia — from poems and crafts to art installations and new media — to promote environmental stewardship  and biodiversity preservation. Spanning an area of 31,861 square feet, the exhibition covers the vertical ecology along the Dajia River, the main river in Taichung city, as it morphs from the low-lying estuary to the snow-topped mountains at 12,740 feet above sea level. Endemic species are highlighted in the exhibition, from native flora to the endangered leopard cat and the Formosan Landlocked Salmon. “With the theme of “Viewing Half-Earth through Taichung’s Ecology”, Discovery Pavilion advocates to preserve half of our planet for other species and reinterpret the ecology of Dajia River,” read the Discovery Pavilion press release. “Edward’s “Half-Earth” concept has two main points. On the one hand, we should be aware that human beings are not the only masters and inhabitants of the earth. On the other hand, we need to think about how to reserve more spaces for other inhabitants of the earth, i.e. flora and fauna in the ecosystem .” Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan The Discovery Pavilion consists of nine exhibition areas that are independently crafted with different styles that come together as a cohesive whole. To create a multi-sensory experience, the designers used a variety of materials and technologies to reproduce different landscapes, from the pyramidal glass and hand-woven rice straw roof that evokes the low-lying rural areas in Lishan to the use of imaging technology that creates the sensation of being underwater with the Formosan Landlocked Salmon and reproduce the overall biodiversity of Taiwan. + Cogitoimage Images by Te-Fan Wang

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Taichung Discovery Pavilion champions biodiversity in new "Half Earth" multimedia art installation

Green roofs to take over NYC skyline by law

April 26, 2019 by  
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Moments before Earth Day, New York City passed a major Climate Mobilization Act with new regulations for reducing emissions and becoming a more resilient city — including requiring all new buildings to have green roofs . New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act has been likened to the Green New Deal for its progressive and holistic approach to reducing emissions and sparking a sustainable economy. Green buildings are a critical component to the act, because buildings are the city’s biggest contributor of carbon emissions. Related: New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80% According to the act, all new buildings will be required to incorporate vegetation, solar panels and/or small wind turbines into the roof design. This mandate also includes existing buildings that are undergoing major renovations. High-profile buildings have already set precedence in New York City for progressive green roof designs, including the Barclays Center, Javits Center and Brooklyn Steel. Critics of the act fear that the policies unfairly force landlords to pay for costly construction and retrofitting. The act includes loopholes for small buildings and places of worship as well as phasing options that spread out costs. There are also exemptions for buildings that include rent-stabilized apartments . This exception attempts to prevent evictions and rent spikes following major renovations — a familiar pattern in rapidly gentrifying areas. By 2030, according to the city’s estimates, the reduction in carbon emissions created by the mandated green roofs will be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road. The Climate Mobilization Act is also predicted to create thousands of jobs, including an estimated 3,600 construction jobs and 4,400 maintenance jobs. Council member Costa Constantinides said in a statement, “The Climate Mobilization Act is a down payment on the future of New York City — one that ensures we lead the way in the ever-growing fight against climate change .” Via Dwell Image via Javits Center

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Fueled by chocolate: Ghana’s newest biofuel

April 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Ghana are testing a system that will turn cocoa into biofuel  — but don’t worry — it uses the green waste produced during harvest, so you can still eat all of the chocolate! The project is funded by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and will be tested in Ghana, one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar international industry, with the bulk of cocoa coming from Africa. “Every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks,” says Jo Darkwa , professor of energy storage technologies at Nottingham and one of the project team leads. Husks are typically discarded during harvest after the beans are extracted. Usually, the husks are left to decompose on the cocoa plantation while the beans head to fermentation and drying facilities before they are turned into chocolate. Now, researchers have developed a system that will use the husks as feedstock to generate biofuel. The husks are processed into pellets, or bricks, that can burn in generators and produce “green” electricity. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa “Feasibility studies indicate that cocoa pod husks could be converted into valuable biofuels and become an important energy supply for rural areas that only have 15 percent coverage at present,” explained Professor Darkwa. The many benefits of cocoa fuel This initiative is not only an innovate green technology, it also has other secondary benefits: Increase access to electricity If successful, the project could contribute to the Ghanaian government’s pledge to ensure 100 percent of Ghanaians have access to electricity by 2030. Reduce deforestation and improve climate and human health Currently, 80 percent of households in Ghana use wood as their main source of fuel for cooking and heating water. This practice not only leads to widespread deforestation in order to harvest wood, but indoor air pollution from wooden stoves is one of the top four leading risk factors for death worldwide. Create jobs If successful, the biofuel system would need workers to collect, transport , treat and process cocoa pod husks, which would create additional jobs and provide income for rural communities. Cocoa as chocolate, cocoa as compost Since it is the beans that are used to make chocolate, the husks are simply bio-waste, and therefore the biofuel system would not take away from farmers ’ profits in any way— in fact it would augment the profitability of the entire cocoa pod. However, cocoa pod waste is an important source of nutrients for cocoa trees. During harvest, ripe cocoa pods are collected and piled throughout the plantation. When the farmers are ready to extract the beans, the pods are cracked open and usually left in a heap to decompose. When husks biodegrade, they are an incredibly rich source of nutrients that help trees grow, improve soil quality and reduce plant disease. Studies show that the decaying pods host beneficial fungi and microbiotics, so will farmers and their crops be losing out on natural fertilizer if they ship their husks off to biofuel systems? Farmers with the capacity to do so might collect and bring the husks to an on-site composting location, but most small farmers do not have the capacity to process or evenly distribute the nutrients from the pile of decomposing husks and rely on nature to take its course. Farmers who do maximize the use of the compost may prefer to continue to do so, however those without that ability now have the option to profit from electricity generation instead. Testing the system in Ghana and the world “Undoubtedly, provision of sustainable energy services through cocoa pod husks would go a long way towards improving the quality of lives and thus alleviate poverty in rural communities as well as fight against climate change,” Professor Darkwa told Climate News Network . The project team is expected to test a prototype of their system at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in July 2019. The plan is to design, build and operate a small-scale bio-power electricity generation unit that burns husks in a gasification system. Each system includes a gasifier, small generator, solar drier and pelletizer and costs approximately US $50,000. If the prototype is successful, the system could be replicated in other countries following additional feasibility studies. Via Climate News Network Images via Flickr ,  dghchocolatier

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These are the best 7 tips to follow for a more eco-friendly backyard

April 17, 2019 by  
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Incorporating and eco-friendly lifestyle to your home can be easier than you think, especially when it comes to your backyard. While we do our best to use energy efficient light bulbs, reduce the use of everyday plastics and limit food waste throughout our homes, why not bring our environmental awareness to the place where we have celebrations and weekend barbecues— our backyards. The backyard is the best place to add our eco-friendly touch and transform into a thriving sustainable environment . An eco-friendly backyard is a great way to create a beautiful space for you and your family to enjoy all year long. Follow these seven tips to turn your backyard into a place that respects the environment without breaking your budget. Save Water Conserving water is a great way to make your backyard more eco-friendly. You can install large water tanks in your backyard that hook up to the gutters in your house. The tanks will fill up whenever it rains . If you do not want a large tank consuming space in your yard, consider buying a smaller one that you can empty more frequently. You can use the recycled water for a number of different applications. This includes watering your garden, drinking (after it has been filtered) and other household projects. Not only is this a good move for the environment, but it can also save you on future water bills. Related: Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products Incorporate Ground Cover Different types of ground cover, such as moss and clover, are good alternatives to traditional grass lawns . These varieties of ground cover require far less mowing and water through the hot summer months. Moss is great for shady areas of your backyard, as it will keep its color in the summer heat and feels great underfoot. For other areas of the lawn that get more sun, consider adding some clover as a grass replacement. Clover smell sweet, is resistant to drought, and is great for the soil. Clover also requires less mowing and you can even let it bloom to attract bees . Go Native According to Better Homes and Gardens , you should always pick native trees and plants when selecting flora for your backyard. Trees and plants that are native to your area will attract butterflies, birds and wildlife, and are more suited for the local environment. These plants also come equipped to handle diseases and pests that are common in your location. After they take root, native flora is also easy to maintain. These plants typically do not need extra fertilizers or pesticides because they are already accustomed to the soil. They also require less watering and tend to do well with the natural weather patterns. Use Wood Composite Lumber If you are building a new deck or adding on to an existing structure, consider using wood composite instead of traditional lumber. Wood composite is made out of recycled plastic and reclaimed lumber. According to Tata and Howard , the end result is a sturdy product that is more durable than natural wood and easier to maintain. This type of wood will also last longer than the traditional alternative, which makes it friendly to your budget. Using recycled plastic is also great for the environment and helps reduce the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills . Best Mowing Practices When mowing your grass, only cut off a third of the grass length each time. You should also mow more frequently as this will allow your lawn to retain water. After you mow, consider leaving the clippings in the lawn or try mulching them in. The clippings are mostly made of water and have high concentrations of nitrogen. If you simply cannot leave the clippings behind, you can always add them to your compost pile instead of throwing them in the trash . Related: Tips and tricks to make spring cleaning more eco-friendly Avoid Harmful Pesticides It is no secret that pesticides are bad for the environment and people’s health . Several pesticides that were once widely used, such as DDT, have since been outlawed and deemed hazardous. For best practices, it is recommended that you avoid using pesticides in your backyard. Instead, try pesticide alternatives like natural herbicides or wildlife for pest control. If you need to fight mites or other bug infestations, you can use oil-based sprays or soaps that work as natural insecticides. If you are in need of some exercise or want to soak up some sun, you can always go the old fashioned route and pull weeds by hand. You can also introduce certain types of insects into your garden, like praying mantises or lacewings, which are great at eating pests, creating the ultimate eco-friendly backyard. Build A Compost Composting cuts down on garbage production and gives you a high quality fertilizer for your garden. Better yet, starting a compost pile only requires some soil and a warm location. You can build a compost pile out in the open or invest in a bin if you are concerned about aesthetics. Compost bins are affordable and come in a variety of styles to match existing décor. You can put all kinds of things in a compost pile. From veggie scraps and eggshells to newspapers and lawn clippings, anything that rapidly decomposes is ideal for composting. These types of items will attract the right kind of bugs, which then will turn the waste into fertilizer. A compost pile typically takes around six to nine months to produce fertilizer. Images via Shutterstock

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

April 10, 2019 by  
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After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! It’s time … The post Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

April 10, 2019 by  
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After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! It’s time … The post Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito

October 4, 2018 by  
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Acclaimed architecture firm Safdie Architects has been tapped to design a new residential tower that’s expected to be one of the tallest in Quito , Ecuador. Rising to 24 stories, the eye-catching project — dubbed Qorner — features a staggered tower with large garden terraces on every floor. Created in collaboration with local construction firm Uribe & Schwarzkopf, the striking high-rise will also feature operable glass walls for residents to embrace indoor-outdoor living and take advantage of Quito’s year-round temperate temperatures. Oriented to face the city’s central park, La Carolina, at the corner of the popular shopping street Avenida Portugal, Qorner mirrors the neighboring park’s lush environment in its design. In addition to the double-height garden terraces on each floor, the north facade of the building is partly covered with a dramatic living wall planted with native vegetation. A tree-lined infinity-edge swimming pool and garden top the roof. The projecting terraces on the east and west faces of the tower help shield full-height glazed openings from the sun and create a variety of double-height corner terraces that boast views in multiple directions. Perimeter concrete walls and columns as well as a central stabilization core were used to create a column-free interior with maximum flexibility. Related: Nature-inspired housing mimics the curvature of the landscape in Chongqing “We pride ourselves on developing projects unique to the place and program, and at the same time, incorporating principles that have long guided our work,” Moshe Safdie said. “While our projects around the world are diverse, our principles remain steadfast for each one: access to green space , the maximization of daylight and views in each dwelling, and fostering a sense of a ‘vertical neighborhood’ wherein each apartment forms part of a greater whole.” The Qorner is slated for completion in 2020. + Safdie Architects Images via Safdie Architects

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This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito

A hygrothermal-optimized house boasts thermal comfort with volcano views

October 4, 2018 by  
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Known for its hot and humid summers, the Costa Rican town of Naranjo de Alajuela can be a tricky place to build a cool and comfortable home with a small energy footprint. Yet San Rafael de Escazú-based design studio 10?84? Arquitectura shows that crafting a naturally cool home can be a breeze if you employ the right passive design strategies. One such example can be seen in the VV Residence, a 2,023-square-foot abode that features a well-ventilated environment as well as a strong connection to nature, including spectacular northern vistas of three volcanoes and the Central Valley. The key to the design of VV Residence was 10?84? Arquitectura’s approach to the home’s hygrothermal properties, an assessment that led to careful management of the building’s heat and moisture so as to prevent early degradation and homeowner discomfort. To that end, the one-bedroom home was strategically oriented to minimize excessive thermal load, and openings were maximized to capitalize on the existing views of nature and promote natural ventilation . A solar study informed the placement of sun overhangs and blinds; the north and south-facing facades, for instance, were constructed with vertical and horizontal solar shades to protect the interior from direct solar radiation. To promote natural ventilation and passive cooling, the architects designed double-height spaces and installed glass louver windows. Ample glazing also lets in plenty of natural light to help reduce energy demands. Moreover, VV Residence is equipped with a rainwater harvesting system that supplies water for home sanitation and irrigation as well as solar hot water heaters. To reduce landscape impact, the building’s steel structure was pre-cut offsite, and the surrounding landscape design incorporated existing native species. Related: Natural stone and an expansive green roof blend the stunning Gozu House into the Andes Mountains “Through the incorporation of various passive design strategies, the VV Residence reaches a high performance level in reducing its environmental impact and energy use during its life cycle,” the architects explained. “The project achieves a high hygrothermal comfort rating while taking full advantage of its surrounding environment to create optimal living spaces without sacrificing connections with nature and the surrounding landscape.” + 10?84? Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images by Adrián Aguilar González

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