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

This green wall uses upcycled clay tiles for natural cooling

May 15, 2020 by  
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In its latest project to creatively repurpose clay roof tiles, Indian architecture firm Manoj Patel Design Studio has upcycled locally produced tiles into a green wall with natural cooling benefits. Dubbed the Ridge Clay Roof Tile Plantation, the project was created to promote the use of locally produced clay products. It also serves as a reaction against the proliferation of plastic and metal planters that have increasingly replaced clay pots. The Ridge Clay Roof Tile Plantation was installed on the shaded outdoor terrace of a residence in Vadodara, a Gujarati city with an extremely hot climate and temperatures that regularly near or exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Manoj Patel Design Studio created the green wall with repurposed kiln-fired clay roof tiles to help promote natural cooling, stimulate the local economy and to bring a touch of nature to the urban apartment. Artificial turf has also been laid on the terrace. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay “Such creative clay roof tile plantations are best suited to hot climatic considerations as clay surface absorbs water from the plants and when air comes in contact with the surface, it releases cool air into the space which also provides close to nature experience to the viewers,” the architects explained. “The use of clay tiles serves the purpose of plantation with environment sensitive transformation providing expression of everlasting beauty in less space.” Produced by local craftsmen, the V-shaped clay tiles are slightly modified with the addition of little grooves to help the tiles bond together. Attached to the wall with cement, the textural wall is assembled by hand and comprises tiles arranged in a zigzag pattern. The “pockets” created by two V-shaped tiles placed opposite one another are used to hold plants and lights or can be sealed off to create a small surface for placing objects. + Manoj Patel Design Studio Images via Manoj Patel Design Studio

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This green wall uses upcycled clay tiles for natural cooling

Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India

February 24, 2020 by  
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Southeast of New Delhi, in Greater Noida City, Rahul Jain Design Lab (RJDL) has transformed recycled shipping containers into a dynamic new cafe and gathering space for ITS Dental College. Named Cafe Infinity after its infinity loop shape, the building was created as an example of architecture that can be both economical and eco-friendly. The architects’ focus on sustainability has also informed the shape and positioning of the cafe for natural cooling. Cafe Infinity serves as a recreational space for ITS Dental College students, faculty and patients. The team deliberately left the corrugated metal walls of the 40-foot-long recycled shipping containers in their raw and industrial state to highlight the building’s origins. The rigid walls of the containers also provide an interesting point of contrast to the organic landscape. Related: Shipping container retreat in Brazil is inspired by tiny homes “The idea of using infinity was conceived to emphasize on the infinite possibilities of using a shipping container as a structural unit, regardless of the building type and site,” the architects explained of the building’s infinity loop shape that wraps around two courtyards. “The flexibility, modularity and sustainability makes shipping containers a perfect alternate to the conventional building structures, to reduce the overall carbon footprint while also being an ecologically and economically viable solution.” In addition to two cafe outlets and courtyards, Cafe Infinity also includes viewing decks, bathrooms, seating areas for faculty and visitors and a student lounge. To promote natural cooling , the architects turned the shipping container doors into louvers and installed them on the south side of the building to minimize unwanted solar gain while providing privacy. The building was also equipped with 50-millimeter Rockwool insulation, a mechanical cooling system, strategically placed openings and tinted windows.  + RJDL Photography by Rahul Jain via RJDL

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Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India

Saving the Scottish Wildcat from extinction

February 24, 2020 by  
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In the wilds of Scotland lives the elusive Scottish wildcat, denoted scientifically as Felis silvestris grampia and colloquially as the “Highland tiger.” Considered as one of the planet’s most endangered animals, and possibly the world’s rarest feline, it is estimated that there are fewer than 50 purebred F. s. grampia individuals left, which accounts for their vulnerability. Meager population estimates, and a lifespan averaging 7 years in the wild, lead many biologists and conservationists to conclude that there might no longer be a viable enough Scottish wildcat population extant in Scotland’s wilderness. Ruairidh ‘Roo’ Campbell, priorities area manager for the Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) program, said, “There are very few pure wildcats — the worry is that none are left. About 12% to 15% of cats we see look like they could be pure.” Related: How hobbyists are saving endangered killifish from extinction F. s. grampia is unlike the domestic cat in several ways. The species is a larger, more muscular relative to the tamed housecat, with the former exhibiting a powerful, stocky body conducive for pouncing. Its legs are longer and larger. The Scottish wildcat is also highly adapted to survive in the wild with its thick, dense fur. This fur tends to have tabby markings with distinctive black and brown stripes, yet no spots. Plus, its feet are not white, nor is its stomach. The tail is blunt at its end rather than tapered. The F. s. grampia ’s head is flatter, with ears that stick out of the side. Evolutionary-wise, F. s. grampia has been isolated from other wildcats for millennia. It is surmised to be “a descendant of continental European wildcat ancestors that colonized Britain after the last Ice Age (7000 – 9000 years ago),” according to the Scottish Natural Heritage . F. s. grampia is unlike its continental cousin, Felis silvestris silvestris , for example, by being even larger. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) , curiously enough, does not consider the Scottish wildcat as a subspecies, which is why on the Red List , it is grouped together with other Felis silvestris . Yet authorities elsewhere recognize the Scottish wildcat as a distinctly different wildcat. Some would say the moniker “Scottish” might be slightly misleading, given that only recently has this feline been restricted to the Scottish wilds, for it had previously roamed more widely in Great Britain. Nonetheless, because it can now only be found in Scotland itself, this feline wonder is highly regarded, particularly by Scottish biologists. As David Barclay, cat conservation project officer at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), described in The Tigers of Scotland , F. s. grampia “is Scotland’s only native cat, [but it’s] more than a native cat species . It’s a symbol for Scotland, a symbol for the wild nature that we have.” Unfortunately, historical persecution, habitat loss from mismanaged logging and genetic integrity dilution from interbreeding with either domestic or feral cats have all pushed the Scottish wildcat closer to extinction in the wild. Mismanaged logging has adversely affected the Scottish wildcat, particularly in altering the landscape it has called home and the food web it relies on to thrive. In fact, the Scottish Natural Heritage reported, “Scotland has much less woodland cover than other countries in Europe, although it did increase in the 20th century. In 1900, only about 5% of Scotland’s land area was wooded. Large-scale afforestation had increased this figure to about 17% by the early 21st century.” Environmental advocates have been diligently pushing for conservation of this treasured feline. This wildcat has not only become an icon and legend for the Scots, but F. s. grampia has likewise come to represent the need for wildlife conservation and reforestation to restore the Scottish, and by extension the British, countrysides. “The reality is we just don’t know how many wildcats we’ve got left,” David Hetherington, ecology adviser with the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said in The Tigers of Scotland . “Estimates vary from as low as 30 to as high as 400, but we just don’t know. We’re still trying to ascertain just how many there are, where they are and where they’re not.” Several conservation plans have been implemented, even at the national level, to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction . These include initiatives to restore the feline’s habitat and its population numbers. By expanding the woodlands of Scotland through reforestation programs with the help of organizations like the Scottish Woodland Trust , it is hoped the wildcats have a better chance of averting extinction. Woodland expansion would create viable habitats, in which the wildcats can flourish. But rewilding Scotland by planting trees is not enough, because Scottish wildcats are also being threatened by other factors. Threats of hybridization with domestic or feral cats, minimizing disease transmission, reducing accidents (trapping, road impacts, mistakes by gamekeepers) and boosting genetic integrity all need to be curtailed. The Aigas Field Centre , for instance, has the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Breeding Project that endeavors to mitigate the “greatest threat to the gene pool of the Scottish wildcat.” With a captive population at Aigas, the genetic purity lines are safeguarded. When the captive breeding progeny lines are viable, they will be reintroduced into the wild in regions that are heavily forested and protected to ensure survival success. Additionally, the Aigas Field Centre has an adoption program that encourages donations toward food, veterinary costs and healthy stewardship. Barclay said, “We know the road ahead for wildcat recovery will be challenging, but our strong partnerships with SWA and international conservation specialists give us an incredible opportunity for success.” Images via Peter Trimming ( 1 , 2 and 3 )

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Saving the Scottish Wildcat from extinction

RIBA crowns Children Village in Brazil as the worlds best new building

November 30, 2018 by  
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On the edge of a rainforest in northern Brazil , a recently built school complex by Brazilian architecture firms Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum has been awarded the RIBA International Prize 2018 for the ‘world’s best new building.’ Dubbed Children Village, the contemporary project earned praise not only for its beautiful and low-impact design but also for its social impact as boarding accommodation to 540 children aged 13 to 18 attending the Canuanã School. The winning entry was selected by a grand jury chaired by visionary architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Funded by the Bradesco Foundation, the roughly 25,000-square-meter Children Village is one of 40 schools backed by the foundation that provides education for children in rural communities across Brazil. The architects — Gustavo Utrabo and Petro Duschenes from Aleph Zero along with Marcelo Rosenbaum and Adriana Benguela from Rosenbaum — worked closely with the children while designing the school. Key to the design was creating an intimate environment that felt like a “home away from home.” Instead of dormitories for 40 students, for instance, Children Village offers rooms for six children as well as a mix of private and public spaces that cater to study, play and relaxation. The school comprises two identical complexes: one for girls, one for boys. The building has been praised for “reinventing Brazilian vernacular” by bringing together a contemporary aesthetic with traditional techniques and local resources. The architects also drew from the local vernacular to mitigate the sweltering summertime temperatures in a cost-effective and sustainable way. For instance, the large canopy roof built from cross-laminated timber beams and columns allows for cooling cross-breezes as well as shade. Earth blocks handmade on site were also used for the walls and latticework. Related: Carbon-neutral Caring Wood wins RIBA award for best new house in the UK “Beyond being a standout work of architecture, Children Village embodies the generosity of the Bradesco Foundation’s philanthropic mission to provide much-needed amenities to those who otherwise have limited access to schools,” Diller said. “Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum have achieved a humble heroism, utilizing a sophisticated approach to detailing and construction that belies the fact that the building’s users are predominately teenagers, age 13-18, in a remote area in Brazil. The architect’s inventive rethinking of the region’s traditional techniques and materials succeeds in building community and in proving that space matters in education.” + RIBA International Prize Images via Leonardo Finotti and Cristobal Palma of Estudio Palma

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Cheap drainage nets keep water pollution at bay in Australia

November 30, 2018 by  
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Water pollution is a growing crisis around the world, but one city in Australia is doing its part to tackle the huge surges of waste that come from stormwater drains. By using a somewhat obvious, simple and cost-effective system of nets, or “trash traps,” the City of Kwinana is moving to prevent waste from entering its waters. In Spring 2018, the City of Kwinana collaborated with supplier Ecosol to install two drainage nets in the Henley Reserve. The netting was simply attached to concrete drain pipes, and these nets have since collected 370 kg (about 816 lb) of waste, including plastic food wrappers and bottles. Related: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution The system, including manufacturing, installation and additional labor, cost the municipality about $20,000 — prior to the nets, city workers would collect debris in the water by hand. The new system is picked up and cleaned out using cranes when the nets become full of waste. Then, the waste is sorted in a designated facility. Here, green waste is transformed into mulch, and other materials are separated into recyclable /non-recyclable. The City of Kwinana has considered the drainage nets a huge success, with plans to install three more nets in the nature reserve area over the next two years. “We know that the Kwinana community is very passionate about environmental initiatives and rallies around actions with positive environmental impact, and if it was not for the drainage nets, 370 kg of debris would have ended up in our reserve,” Mayor Carol Adams said. “The nets are placed on the outlet of two drainage pipes, which are located between residential areas and natural areas … This ensures that the habitat of the local wildlife is protected and minimizes the risk of wildlife being caught in the nets. To date, no wildlife has been caught up in either of the City’s nets.” The system took off on social media, in a viral storm that Adams said shows the importance for all levels of government to focus on initiatives to save the environment . + City of Kwinana Image via Shutterstock

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Zaha Hadid Architects weaves energy-saving tech into an otherworldly UAE landscape

October 12, 2018 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects has revealed designs for the Central Hub, a new leisure and entertainment destination for the United Arab Emirates that looks positively out of this world. Marked by swirling pathways and pod-like buildings, the futuristic Central Hub will serve as the focal point for the $6.5 billion Aljada development in Sharjah, the UAE’s third-most populous city. Spanning an area greater than 25 football fields, the 1.9 million-square-foot Central Hub will be entirely car-free and integrate a variety of energy-saving technologies. With Phase One slated for completion in the end of the first quarter of next year, the Central Hub is expected to be the city’s largest mixed-use lifestyle destination. The first phase spans over 328,000 square feet in size and includes the Aljada Community Center; a food truck village; a children’s play area, outdoor activity zone and skate park; outdoor event space for film screenings, pop-up events and markets; as well as Arada’s experiential sales center. The second and third phases of the Central Hub will be completed in 2020 and 2022, respectively, and include more recreational and retail facilities, such as an 11-screen cinema, extreme sports center and an expansive community park . Much like the Aljada masterplan, which is designed with walkability and sustainable systems in mind, the Central Hub is flush with over 700,000 square feet of public squares and gardens that include natural cooling strategies for year-round enjoyment. Inspired by water droplets, the elliptical buildings will also help channel crosswinds into the public spaces. The grounds will be irrigated with recovered and recycled water and planted with native species. Lighting will be powered entirely by smart solar. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects designs robot-assisted vaulted classrooms for China “ Sustainability is absolutely central to Arada’s vision, and that has been reflected in the Central Hub’s design,” said HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, vice chairman of Arada. “We are working hard to protect and encourage local native species and natural environment. We’re doing this in a way that is cost-efficient and leaves as small an impact on the planet as possible.” + Zaha Hadid Architects Lead image by VA, others by Cosmoscube

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Zaha Hadid Architects weaves energy-saving tech into an otherworldly UAE landscape

Green-roofed Czech Forestry Headquarters seeks symbiosis with the forest

March 9, 2018 by  
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Imagine if your office was set in the middle of a forest—that’s the image Chybik + Kristof aims for in their competition-winning designs for the new Czech Forestry Headquarters. Located in Hradec Králové, the office building draws direct inspiration from the surrounding forest with its liberal use of timber, a facade evocative of tree trunks, and canopy-like green roofs that encourage bird nesting. The interiors continue the vision of the forest as a workplace with a calming environment full of greenery and natural materials. The Chybik + Kristof-led design team’s “Forestry in the Forest” proposal was born from an initial site visit. When the team explored the Hradec forest beyond the Lesy ?eské republiky campus, they noticed the dramatic temperature difference between the hot campus buildings and the cool forest . “We asked ourselves what we really are forced to work in the hot interior when it would be best to take your laptop among the trees and work in an environment full of peace? Peace,” wrote the architects. Related: Paris hopes to create a forest 5 times bigger than NYC’s Central Park The forest-inspired office is centered on an open courtyard from where buildings radiate outwards, following the design philosophy that “the building grows into a forest, and the forest into the building.” Natural daylight streams through the buildings which recreate the outdoor environment with exposed timber framework indoors, hanging plants, and a natural materials and color palette. A natural trail with educational signage winds around the building and take visitors through areas planted with particular species like spruce, beech and fir, and oak and hornbeams. + Chybik + Kristof Via ArchDaily Images via Chybik + Kristof

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Green-roofed Czech Forestry Headquarters seeks symbiosis with the forest

Low-impact Abbotsford Eco House uses recycled materials wherever possible in Melbourne

January 9, 2018 by  
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Recycled and reclaimed materials are fitted throughout the Abbotsford Eco House, a sustainable residence that earned a 7.5+ Green Star rating for its energy-efficient features. Design and planning company First Angle completed the home for a client seeking a sustainable low-impact home in Melbourne. In addition to recycled construction material, the designers also turn to recycling in other parts of structure from recaptured heat to recycled rainwater and treated gray water. The Abbotsford Eco House was built largely from materials sourced from the original home on site as well as reclaimed materials taken from local second-hand shops. To minimize energy usage, First Angle placed the residence on a north-east orientation for optimized cross ventilation and solar access for natural heating. Concrete mass stone-clad walls and polished concrete floors throughout the home capture heat during the day and dissipate it at night. Hydronic heating installed in the insulated concrete floor slab complements the natural heating. The designers also take advantage of the stack effect to naturally cool the home in summer. Related: Beautiful Northcote Solar Home shows off modern energy-efficient family living High-performance woolen thermal insulation and double-glazed windows help lock in internal temperatures. Harvested rainwater is reused for flushing toilets and irrigation. A treatment system filters and recycles gray water throughout the home. The interior decorating also echoes the eco-friendly ethos with some of the pieces also salvaged and repaired. + First Angle Photos by Catherine Bailey

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