LEED Gold home brings modern luxury to a Colorado working ranch

May 24, 2017 by  
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LEED-certified luxury living comes to a working ranch in Eagle County, Colorado. CCY Architects designed the Gambel Oaks Ranch, a lovely low-lying home that blends into its surroundings and is imperceptible from public roadways. In addition to its beauty, the 5,687-square-foot property achieved LEED Gold certification for its innovative use of a horizontal loop field ground-source heat pump, solar array, and other energy-saving techniques. The three-bedroom, predominately one-story Gambel Oaks Ranch sits low on the landscape and follows the natural topography so as to minimize the home’s visual impact on the environment. Panoramic views to the south are prioritized in the design and revealed in a carefully choreographed sequence. “Entering the home, the view is released by a series of layers building from interior to exterior space, pool terrace, pasture, distant lake, and mountain peaks,” write the architects. Related: Tiny modern cube home boasts spectacular desert views Corten steel volumes divide the interior into different zones, with private areas housed within the steel boxes including the master suite, guest suite, and garage. The public gathering spaces occupy the voids and flow into outdoor entertaining areas. The material palette of the interior and exterior spaces reference the landscape, from the gabion walls filled with locally sourced stone to the beetle-kill pine and Blue Ledge Stone that match the color of the distant mountains. + CCY Architects Via Dezeen Images via CCY Architects

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LEED Gold home brings modern luxury to a Colorado working ranch

Amazing plastic bottle architecture withstands earthquakes in Taipei

May 15, 2017 by  
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Plastic bottle architecture is fantastic at turning a problem into an eco-friendly opportunity. The amazing EcoARK in Taipei , Taiwan is one such example. Built from 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles, this massive pavilion is surprisingly strong enough to withstand the forces of nature—including fires and earthquakes! Designed by architect Arthur Huang, the nine-story $3 million USD pavilion is powered by solar energy and was built to the mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Constructed for use as an exhibition hall during the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo, the EcoARK pavilion continues to spread its message of sustainability for seven years strong. Though Taiwan is home to one of the world’s most respected recycling programs, the country consumes a whopping 4.5 million PET bottles a year. To spread awareness about plastic waste, the Far Eastern Group , one of the world’s largest producers of PET products, commissioned architect and Miniwiz founder Arthur Huang to design and build the eco-friendly EcoARK. As the world’s first building of its kind, EcoARK is an incredible architectural feat. The key to the EcoARK design lay with polli-bricks, a hollow building block made of recycled PET developed by Miniwiz. The polli-bricks were manufactured from over a million recycled plastic bottles melted down into PET pellets and re-engineered into a new bottle-like shape. The blow-molded polli-bricks feature interlocking grooves that fit tightly together like LEGOs and only require a small amount of silicon sealant. Once assembled into flat rectangular panels, the polli-bricks are coated with a fire- and water-resistant film. The EcoARK’s curved and transparent facade is made up of these modular panels screwed and mounted onto a structural steel frame. Although the EcoARK weighs half as much as conventional buildings, it’s resistant to earthquakes and typhoons, and can withstand sustained winds up of to 130 kilometers per hour. Related: Basurama transforms landfill trash into playgrounds in Taipei Use of recycled plastic bottles isn’t the only eco-friendly feature of the EcoARK. The pavilion was built with low-carbon building techniques to maintain a zero-carbon footprint during operation. The building stays cool without air conditioning thanks to natural ventilation. The air inside the polli-bricks also provides insulation from heat and rainwater is collected and reused to cool the building. The polli-bricks’ transparency allows natural light to illuminate the interior during the day. Solar – and wind-powered systems generate the electricity needed to power 40,000 LEDs that light the building up at night. + Miniwiz Images © Lucy Wang

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Amazing plastic bottle architecture withstands earthquakes in Taipei

Escape into the glass rivers and lakes of these beautiful wood tables

May 15, 2017 by  
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If getting lost in a coffee table sounds improbable, you may change your mind once you see these beautiful furnishings. Artist and designer Greg Klassen transforms reclaimed wood into mesmerizing works of art embedded with glass rivers and lakes. Klassen, who we’ve featured previously , handcrafts unique pieces that mimic topographic forms in the Pacific Northwest. Spotted by This is Colossal , Klassen’s newest works include a variety of coffee tables of different sizes and shapes, as well as wall hangings. “The collection is inspired by the exciting edges and vivid grains found in the trees sustainably taken from the banks of the Nooksack River that twists below my studio,” wrote Klassen. Related: Amazing Abyss Table Layers Glass and Wood to Mimic the Depths of the Ocean Blue Klassen uses a variety of reclaimed wood including maple, cottonwood, walnut, and sycamore. He uses the wood’s existing edges to inform the shape of waterways hand-cut from tempered blue glass. Each piece is one-of-a-kind and sells for thousands of U.S. dollars. + Greg Klassen Via This is Colossal Images via Greg Klassen

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Escape into the glass rivers and lakes of these beautiful wood tables

Church built for $35k stays naturally cool in Malawi

May 1, 2017 by  
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Design nonprofit Architecture for a Change continues their life-changing work with the completion of a new church for the Chimphamba community in Malawi. Built to replace a dilapidated community center, the Rural Church draws inspiration from the traditional African drum with its circular floor plan. The building relies on the thermal mass of earthen bricks, wall openings, and a ventilation tower to stay naturally cool in Malawi’s subtropical heat. Created in collaboration with Youth of Malawi and the chiefs of the Chimphamba community, Architecture for a Change’s Rural Church was designed to meet the skill set of local builders while providing some new learning opportunities. The building was constructed with a cylindrical form, a shape that symbolizes safety and protection in the community. Citing the community’s use of cylindrical chicken coops and maize storage containers, the architects say the Christian church’s shape “was used as a metaphor for the design: as space that will protect and safeguard the sense of community in Chimphamba.” Three boxes, built of locally burnt red brick to match the rural vernacular, are inserted into the round building. The first box serves as a foyer while a second, taller box uses the stack effect to function as a ventilation tower for natural cooling . Using temperature differences and lower air pressures at higher heights, the ventilation tower passively pulls hot air to the top of the building and sucks fresh air into the building. Related: Architecture For a Change Designs Lightweight Church for South African Zandspruit Community Small holes punctuate the building to let in natural light and ventilation. The church’s roof symbolizes a Christian cross and is covered with translucent roof sheeting to allow additional natural light in. The building was completed in early 2017 with a budget of $35,000 USD. + Architecture for a Change Images via Architecture for a Change

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Church built for $35k stays naturally cool in Malawi

Natural ventilation and light filters through this glittering perforated facade

February 17, 2017 by  
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Photo by W Workspace The natural environment permeates through the faceted,  perforated facade of this shopping center in Bankok. Taiwan-based studio Architectkidd designed the project, named The Street Ratchada, by renovating an existing retail development and combining Thailand’s traditional metalwork techniques with digital design to create an engaging envelope that allows air and light to filter through the porous diamond panels. The building features a semi-outdoor atrium , a variety of programs and public activities that help embed the project into the existing urban tissue of Bangkok . Traditionally planned interior gave way to a more flexible layout. Related: Architectkidd’s Blue Bird Hut saves injured birds in Thailand One of the building’s most prominent features is its facade which creates an inviting glow from within at night. Gradient transparencies of the panels facilitate natural ventilation and ever-changing lighting conditions. The metallic surface has a monumental appearance, while delicately influencing the use of the building by functioning as a porous layer composed of triangulated, uniquely cut slivers. + Architectkidd Lead photo by Luke Yeung

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Natural ventilation and light filters through this glittering perforated facade

A lush curtain of greenery provides privacy for this sprawling home in Vietnam

January 4, 2017 by  
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A curtain of lush greenery  flows along the main hallway of this gorgeous residence in Vietnam. MIA Design Studio designed the Drawer House for a family of nature lovers looking for a home that would integrate nature with the interior, all while providing privacy. The architects came up with a solution which protects the residents from noise, maintains privacy, and creates a harmonious environment dominated by greenery. The main concept behind the design of the Drawer House is rooted in the need for individual privacy and direct contact with nature. In order to reconcile all the requirements, the design team created a layout that divides all the functional spaces into “drawers” separated by courtyards . These patches of greenery, conceived as “drawers of landscape”, are connected by an elongated hallway running the entire length of the building and lined with a layer of Bridal Veil Creepers. Related: Solar-powered Elevate Structure is wrapped in a living, breathing wall of green In-between gardens offer privacy while creating a smooth transition to the next space. By opening and closing parts of the partitions, users can ensure better natural ventilation which helps cool down the entire residence. The presence of natural light , breeze and greenery maximize the connection between interior and exterior spaces while preserving privacy for each individual room. + MIA Design Studio Via Archdaily Photos by Hirouyki Oki

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A lush curtain of greenery provides privacy for this sprawling home in Vietnam

German forester says trees are social beings with friends and personalities

January 4, 2017 by  
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A German forester said in a recent interview that trees are social beings that have friends and their own personality. Author of The Hidden Life of Trees , Peter Wohlleben shared with Yale Environment 360 fascinating stories of relationships between different trees he has observed. His revelation of their inner lives may be vital for the battle against climate change . We rarely attribute feelings to trees, but Wohlleben does so without hesitation. He spun compelling tales to illustrate why he says trees are sentient. For example, he said in about one in 50 cases, trees form special friendships, such as the one he glimpsed between two beeches. He told Yale Environment 360, “Each one was growing its branches turned away from the other rather than toward each other, as is more usually the case. This kind of partnership is well known to foresters. They know that if you see such a couple, they are really like a human couple; you have to chop down both if you chop one down, because the other will die anyway.” Related: Trees form special bonds with “friends and family” Trees send signals to warn others of dangerous insects, and pass along food to nearby sick trees. Wohlleben describes an instance of trees keeping each other alive: “This one beech tree was cut four to 500 years ago by a charcoal maker, but the stump is still alive – we found green chlorophyll under the thick bark,” he said. “The tree has no leaves to create sugars, so the only explanation is that it has been supported by neighboring trees for more than four centuries.” He has heard similar stories from other foresters. Some people have criticized Wohlleben for attaching emotional language to trees, but it’s all part of his strategy to help people view trees as living beings instead of commodities. Sustainable forest conservation is crucial in a changing, hot world, and Wohlleben eschews heavy machinery and insecticides, instead hand-harvesting trees and hauling them via horses. He cautioned against the trend of “indiscriminately cutting timber ,” which weakens ecosystems and the trees’ “social structures.” You can read the full interview here . You can also find Wohlleben’s book on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Via Yale Environment 360 Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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German forester says trees are social beings with friends and personalities

Off-grid Utah home nestled inside a natural cave-like opening

January 4, 2017 by  
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The word ‘incredible’ does not begin to encompass the awesomeness of this Utah abode, hidden in the side of a cliff. Built in 1986, Cliff Haven is an off-grid dream come true , and it’s for sale. A closed auction invites bidders to imagine living right in the heart of one of America’s most dramatic canyons, amid orange-hued bluffs and tumbleweeds aplenty. With all the amenities needed to thrive (not just survive) off the grid , the Cliff Haven will make a perfect home for someone looking to escape America’s recent chaos without actually having to leave the country. The unique home sits on 12 acres of land, situated 20 minutes outside of Monticello, Utah, in the scenic Montezuma Canyon, and the home is entirely self-sufficient . Cliff Haven spans 2,100 square feet of indoor living space within its rectangular footprint, including three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a three-car garage. From the outside, the home appears to sink into the cliffside itself, as it was constructed within an existing natural cave-like opening. Behind the home, a tunnel has been dug out to provide natural air circulation and an outlet for rainwater to run off. The tunnel doubles as a fire escape as well. Related: These 6 extraordinary cliffside homes will give you chills In addition to just looking downright cool, Cliff Haven features all the technical amenities necessary for supporting life off the grid. A solar power system with 120-volt current charges a battery system, and the home is also equipped with a backup generator for emergencies. A private well supplies water for use inside the home while two 2,000-gallon water tanks collect and store rainwater for other uses. The property has a mature orchard, vineyard, and garden – so the potential irrigation applications are plentiful. If you’re tempted to bid on Cliff Haven and finally getting away from it all, head to the property’s website to check out the full video tour. Then, mark your calendar for January 21, when the closed auction will take place. + Utah Cliff House Via New Atlas Images via Utah Cliff House

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Off-grid Utah home nestled inside a natural cave-like opening

Irish scientists identify new human organ

January 4, 2017 by  
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You’ve been walking around with an unknown organ without even realizing it. The mesentery, which connects the abdomen and intestine, isn’t exactly a new find, but doctors previously thought it was fragmented, instead of continuous. Now University of Limerick scientists are seeking to reverse the centuries-old viewpoint in an article explaining why this piece of the body deserves to be classified as an organ. For more than 100 years, scientists thought the mesentery was comprised of several different, complex segments. Not so, say J. Calvin Coffey and D. Peter O’Leary. They found the mesentery was in fact “one continuous structure,” according to Coffey, and worthy of classification as an organ. The mesentery serves to help organs like the colon and small intestine maintain their shape, wrapping around them in one ribbon of tissue. Coffey told Discover Magazine, “Without it you can’t live. There are no reported instances of a Homo sapien living without a mesentery.” He and his team established the continuous structure of the mesentery back in 2012, and have been building up evidence since then. Related: Scientists grow test tube human brains with potential to think and feel A better understanding of the mesentery could help doctors as they operate on the body, even resulting in less invasive surgeries and complications, according to the University of Limerick. Patients could recover faster and pay less if the medical community had further knowledge of the mesentery. Coffey said in a statement, “When we approach it like every other organ…we can categorize abdominal disease in terms of this organ.” So who gives the final word on whether the mesentery is officially an organ? Coffey told Discover Magazine he doesn’t actually know. For now his article can be read in the journal The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology , who published the research in late 2016. Via Discover Magazine and University of Limerick Images via Alan Place and J. Calvin Coffey/D. Peter O’Leary/Henry Vandyke Carter

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Irish scientists identify new human organ

Off-grid village with game-changing green solutions blooms in the Middle East

January 3, 2017 by  
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An oasis for clean-tech solutions has bloomed in an unexpected place—the arid Negev desert. Located at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura north of the Red Sea, the Off-Grid Demonstration Village is a hot bed for game-changing off-grid solutions that aim to improve the lives of people outside the grid and to provide a testing ground for eco-minded companies. Rapidly deployable housing, low-cost renewable energy systems, and experimental technologies flourish in this factory of ideas for a greener tomorrow. The availability of off-grid technologies has improved in recent years as the price of solar continues to fall and as research and development chugs along. But for the millions of people in developing and emerging countries who are disconnected from the national water and energy grids, the research has not yet kept up with demand. That’s why the non-profit Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative teamed up to launch the Off-Grid Demonstration Village (also known as the Eilat-Eilot Off Grid Hub) in 2014. The fairly remote and spartan desert with its temperature extremes provides a fitting environment for the village as a place of experimentation to test technologies designed for hard-to-reach, undeveloped areas around the world. “Living off-grid has a direct impact on quality of life and health and it is the most prominent indicator of the global injustice in the distribution of resources,” writes the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative. “In most of these cases, there is no future prospect of obtaining traditional grid connectivity. Consequently, there is a dire need to implement solid strategies and tools to deal with the implications of living off-grid.” The initiative and Arava Institute work directly with African communities and Bedouin communities in Israel to test out the viability and sustainability of these off-grid technologies. Individuals, companies, and governments from around the world visit the Off-Grid Demonstration Village to learn how they can bring these technologies back to their home country. Related: Israel’s greenest building produces more energy than it consumes The products and technologies currently showcased at the village fall under four main categories—buildings, energy, water, and food. The village currently comprises three demo buildings—a rural home, urban structure, and earthbag dome—each host to different off-grid products as well as large-scale technologies like the solar water desalination system by SunDwater ; more buildings are planned for the village in the future. Each building is based on existing building types found in off-grid communities and can be built inexpensively with locally found materials. The innovations lie in the easy-to-implement improvements to these types of houses, such as the addition or solar stoves or a biogas system to substitute fuel for cooking and heating to reduce pollution, risk of asthma, and the taxing labor of collecting wood for fuel. Rural Home Modeled on traditional and existing designs found in rural developing regions, the rural home is a round building topped with a thatched roof. The simple construction of grass, earth, and stone makes it easy and affordable to build. While the traditional rural structure is sufficient in providing shelter, the designer who worked on the project added a pagoda-shaped dome above the roof and inserted more openings to let in more natural light and improve ventilation for hot air and smoke to escape. Plastic bottles filled with purified water and bleach punctuate the thatched roof to serve as low-tech light bulbs that can reach up to 40 or even 60 watts. The backing of the rooftop solar panel was also removed to let in more natural light. A backyard biogas system, called HOMEBIOGAS, sits outside the home to convert household waste into energy and organic fertilizer. Urban Structure The urban structure is the largest of the three demonstration homes and is based on buildings found in informal urban settlements like slums. Built easily and inexpensively, this boxy communal building can suit a variety of needs such as a primary school building. The urban structure was built from plywood, a cheap and commonly found construction material, but the designers improved upon the traditional design by adding an insulating layer made from simple materials like straw or unprocessed sheep wool. Ventilation is also improved with the inclusion of a double roof: the first roof of palm leaves allows for natural ventilation and cooling, whereas the upper metal roof protects the structure from rain. The backyard includes an adjustable solar panel hooked up to a monitoring system so that users inside can adjust the position of the solar panel to maximize energy efficiency. A vacuum tube solar oven on display on the south side of the structure features insulated inner tubes that absorb solar energy to heat up food or water placed in the tubes to boiling temperatures. Earthbag Dome The earthbag dome house was constructed using methods developed by Iranian-born American architect Nader Khalili in the 1980s. The building was cheaply and quickly constructed with sacks of soil, called ‘earthbags,’ to create a stable and thermally balanced structure with no need for deep foundations. Since the roof was built as part of the dome, the builders don’t need to construct beams or a separate support system. To improve insulation, the designers built the earthbag dome with two layers: a thermal mass layer of compacted sacks of soil and an external insulating layer made from straw and soil. The Off-Grid Demonstration Village serves as a crucial step of validation between the research and development phase and implementation in developing countries. This testing ground encourages startups and larger companies to experiment with new ideas and gives them a space to demonstrate their products to potential investors, educators, and other innovators. Open to visitors, this inspiring village hidden away in an unlikely place in the desert is part of a greater aim to tackle world poverty by improving the quality of life for the millions who live off grid, one clean tech solution at a time. + Arava Institute + Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Lucy Wang

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Off-grid village with game-changing green solutions blooms in the Middle East

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