LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood

June 14, 2019 by  
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This 39-room inn in the popular Wine Country town of Healdsburg boasts sustainable, natural materials and an eco-friendly design that earned it a LEED Gold certification. Glass is used to encase the lobby entry, while the walls and floors are made of textured and smooth concrete. Steel and reclaimed redwood slats are utilized throughout the exterior to create a naturally open feel and provide views of the surrounding trees and foliage. Artfully-described as “modern organic” by the building’s creators at David Baker Architects, Harmon Guest House is the natural companion to its two sister boutique eco hotels, the swanky Hotel Healdsburg and the trendy h2hotel. As described on the firm’s website , “This contextual new inn slips into the Healdsburg scene as a fresh surprise with an understated California vibe, yet seems as if it’s always naturally been there.” Related: This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism These organic intentions are apparent from the moment you walk up to the building. The design subconsciously promotes sustainable transportation thanks to the sheltered bus stop bench built into the face of the hotel and a shared fleet of bicycles available for guest use. Even the check-in desk has been crafted from one single, fallen eucalyptus tree. The combination of a vast glass entryway, bare polished concrete and unadorned wooden screens is a reminder to all who enter that the condition of being natural is just as beautiful (if not more) than decoration or embellishment. The 39 rooms (including six suites) are connected by a centralized courtyard and glass-enclosed bridges. Each room provides a private outdoor space with a balcony or patio. Both the common spaces and individual rooms feature locally sourced art and fixtures. The presence of the hotel benefits Healdsburg’s own Foss Creek, which is visible from the rear of the inn and accessible via footbridge. A creekside park allows guests to enjoy the restored area between the water and land while the property’s presence spanning the creek aids in the protection of the natural area. + David Baker Architects + Harmon Guest House Photography by Bruce Damonte and Angie Silvy via David Baker Architects

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LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood

A pair of minimalist cabins is a serene retreat in a Portuguese forest

May 30, 2019 by  
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While most architectural firms often work with demanding clients, Portuguese firm Studio 3a only had two very basic instructions when tasked with building a peaceful retreat for a client: the design must have a bed and a bathtub. Working within these simple parameters, the designers came up a gorgeous minimalist design that consisted of two jet-black timber cabins tucked into an idyllic spot surrounded by wild pine trees. Peacefully tucked into a dense forest in the coastal village of Comporta, the natural surroundings as well as the local climate drove the design’s many passive features . The area is known for its intense summer heat, so the architects carefully positioned the cabins so that they would be illuminated by natural light but also protected from the harsh sunlight. Additionally, the cabins have large overhangs and a tensioned solar shading system that provide respite from the heat while residents are outside. The cabins are also installed with low-E windows to add efficiency to the project. Related: Triangular treetop cabins offer an unforgettable stay in the Norwegian woods The project consists of three prefabricated cabins , two of which are connected by an open-air wooden deck. Fulfilling the client’s simple wish list, the first cabin, which is referred to as the “intimate module” is just 129 square feet and contains a bed and a bathroom. The second cabin, the “social module,” houses the main living space, complete with an open-plan living room and kitchen. The third cabin conceals the home’s utility services and a garage and is just steps away from a swimming pool. The minimalist cabins were inspired by the area’s traditional fishermen huts. The simple, cube-like formations emit a sense of functionality on the exterior, while the all-white interiors speak to a more modern aesthetic. Clad in charred Douglas wood finish achieved through the Japanese technique shou sugi ban, the cabins are camouflaged into their natural surroundings. In addition to its beautiful appearance, the charred timber also adds sustainability and resilience to the design. The architects explained that the Japanese technique is one of their favorites, because there are “no toxins or chemicals involved, [it is] maintenance-free and shows the beauty of the veins of the wood itself.” The two main cabins are connected through a wooden platform that was built around a large tree. This area not only connects the private spaces with the social living spaces but provides a beautiful spot to enjoy the fresh air. The entrance to the cabins is through two sliding glass doors. In contrast to the all-black exteriors , the interior of the cabins are bright and modern. With sparse furniture, concrete flooring and all-white walls, the living space boasts a soothing yet sophisticated atmosphere. + Studio 3a Via Wallpaper Photography by Nelson Garrido via Studio 3a

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A pair of minimalist cabins is a serene retreat in a Portuguese forest

India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

May 20, 2019 by  
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The Indian government has embarked on many large scale renewable energy projects that are predicted to enable the world’s second most populous country to surpass its commitment to cut carbon emissions. According to a recently released report from Moody’s, 45 percent of all energy produced in India will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022. This is impressive, considering India only committed to 40 percent non-fossil fuel sources under the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Although coal remains the largest energy source, the aggressive additions of renewable sources will decrease coal’s overall contribution. Moody’s report, “Power Asia – Climate goals, declining costs of renewables signal decreasing reliance on coal power,” focuses on the role of investors in the energy industry as well as predictions for investments. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 “There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India’s interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables,” Sameer Kwatra, from the Natural Resources Defense Council,  said . The Indian government has invested in large scale wind, power and solar projects, including tripling its solar power capacity in three years. Much of the increase in renewable energy has been due to decreased prices in renewable technology and interest from private investors. If battery production and storage capacity also increase, the report expects that renewable energy sector growth could spike. Similarly, banks and private investors are under increased pressure to withdraw investments in fossil fuel companies and pipeline projects. Despite the fact that investments in renewable energy have been higher than fossil fuel investments for three years in a row, the coal industry is still growing steadily alongside the renewable industry, with Indian populations using more electricity annually. India’s success is a considerable achievement for the entire world. After the U.S. and China, India is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases . Via CleanTechnica Image via DoshiJi

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

Breezy home in Mexico uses strategic cross ventilation and natural light to reduce its energy use

May 20, 2019 by  
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RDLP Arquitectos have unveiled Casa Puebla, a beautiful family home that incorporates traditional Mexican design with modern passive features . The stunning project features a contemporary shell over two rectangular volumes clad in raw concrete, paying homage to the tilework found in traditional Mexican constructions. The design features several passive design elements, including cross ventilation, natural light and sun shades, all of which reduce the home’s energy needs. According to the architects, one of the principle inspirations behind Casa Puebla’s beautiful,  nature-inspired design was the Popocatépetl volcano, one of the most beloved natural icons in central Mexico. Using the fiery landmark as a pillar of the design, architects then blended a series of natural elements with an avant-garde aesthetic. Related: The Nogal House saves energy with smart site-specific design The structure was built with two interconnecting rectangular volumes that form an L-shape. To add a bit of “visual contradiction,” the heavier concrete block was set on top of the lower glass-enclosed block. This unusual feature was instrumental in creating a double-height formation that ensures continual vertical ventilation throughout the interior. In addition, the design was strategic in creating multiple outdoor nooks that are shaded by the roof of the upper level. These outdoor areas, used for reading, entertaining and dining, forge a strong connection between the interior and the outdoors. As an implicit tribute to the local vernacular, the home was built with locally sourced, natural materials, primarily concrete and wood. The exposed concrete cladding , which provides a strong thermal envelope, pays homage to the use of tiles in traditional Mexican architecture. Vertical wooden shutters provide shade from the harsh summer sun while diffusing natural light throughout the interior. The use of concrete continues inside, where board-formed concrete makes up the walls and the pillars that frame the floor-to-ceiling glass panels . On the ground floor, an open floor plan houses the kitchen, dining and living rooms, and sliding glass doors lead to the exterior spaces. Contemporary furniture and elements run throughout the home, including a “floating” staircase that leads to the upper level. + RDLP Arquitectos Via Archdaily Images via RDLP Arquitectos

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Breezy home in Mexico uses strategic cross ventilation and natural light to reduce its energy use

Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

May 16, 2019 by  
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At least 15 states have passed or proposed bills that further criminalize trespassing on fossil fuel infrastructure, a trend that environmental and free speech advocates argue unnecessarily targets pipeline protesters and indigenous leaders. In 2018, Louisiana passed a bill that makes trespassing on so-called “critical infrastructure” a more serious offense than existing trespassing laws. While trespassing has long been considered a misdemeanor, the law now specifies that the same act on particular private property is now a felony. Throughout the country, trespassing laws have been edited to define ‘critical infrastructure’ as fossil fuel facilities, including proposed pipeline routes where there is no existing infrastructure yet. Related: For the first time in 86 years, environmental activists in the UK sentenced to jail “These are people saying, ‘let’s make sure we have something left for future generations’ … and for that we were charged with felonies, we were beaten, we were stepped on, I was choked,” Cherri Foytlin, a pipeline protester in Louisiana,  told the press . Similar laws have passed in Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Indiana and Iowa. The backlash is largely due to the massive 2017 protest of a pipeline at Standing Rock , led by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Bi-partisan supporters of the states’ new legislation argue that the intent is to dissuade acts of terrorism; however, many opponents feel the existing trespassing laws were sufficient. For many environmental activists, these new laws are further proof of the government’s allegiance to the fossil fuel industry, and they believe threats of felonies, jail time and high fines will discourage other activists from voicing their opinions against pipeline development. Across 15 states, possible consequences include 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Those who do not trespass themselves but merely support activists verbally or financially are also liable before the law. This month, the Natural Resources Defense Council published an alarming blog post inquiring if merely “liking” a Facebook post about a pipeline protest could be considered illegal under South Dakota’s newest legislation. In Indiana’s Bill 471 , so-called “conspirators” can also be fined up to $100,000. Via Grist Image via Luke Jones

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Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

Ennead designs a striking nature preserve to protect Chinas most important river

March 25, 2019 by  
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Ennead Architects and Andropogon Landscape Architects have won an international competition for the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Chinese Sturgeon Nature Preserve. The proposed design takes the shape of an undulating sculpture mimicking the curves of Asia’s longest river while referencing “biomorphic anatomy.” The building will be clad in translucent PTFE panels and engineered with sustainable, energy-efficient technologies such as geothermal heating and cooling loops. The purpose of the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Chinese Sturgeon Nature Preserve is to rescue critically endangered species and to restore the natural ecology of Yangtze River, which has been plagued by pollution and construction. The project also aims to engage the public and raise environmental awareness with immersive exhibit experiences. To achieve these goals, the 427,000-square-foot nature reserve building, which will sit on a 17.5-hectare site on an island at the mouth of the Yangtze River, will consist of a dual-function aquarium and research facility, bringing together efforts to repopulate the endangered Chinese Sturgeon and Finless Porpoise. Ennead Architects and Andropogon Landscape Architects proposed a dramatic design for the building that takes cues from nature. Split into three wings united around a central spine, the structure will be built with a cross-laminated timber structural system wrapped in a lightweight PTFE skin, which will fill the interior with daylight. Inside, constructed wetlands landscaped with local flora and aquatic plants provide a beautiful connection with the outdoors, sequester carbon and serve as a biofiltration system for aquarium water, “resulting in a new paradigm of environmental equilibrium,” the designers said in their press release. Related: Ennead Architects break ground on celestial Shanghai Planetarium The landscape design in and around the buildings mimics the natural shoreline ecosystems found throughout the Yangtze River basin and provides opportunities for breeding and raising Chinese Sturgeons and Finless Porpoises. Visitors will be able to view these pools from suspended walkways that weave throughout the campus grounds. + Ennead Architects Images via Ennead Architects

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Ennead designs a striking nature preserve to protect Chinas most important river

Santa Barbara home is surrounded by wooden screens for natural climate control

March 15, 2019 by  
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Indoor-outdoor living never looked so good! This modern design by Shubin Donaldson takes full advantage of the beachy climate of Santa Barbara, California. Wooden screens and a central skylight flood the entire beach house with natural sunlight while keeping the space protected from the ocean winds. “Environmentally, the home is cooled passively by ocean breezes, lit evenly during the day by daylight, and ipe wood screens minimize sun load on the extensive view windows,” the designers said. The unique structure also uses stacked volumes of steel, concrete and glass to create the look and utilize the space. Related: Circular, solar-powered beach house is a sustainable holiday retreat Because the client was an industrial designer, it allowed for a special collaboration with the architects of Shubin Donaldson. “He came to SD knowing that our design values were in-sync, and this stunning home is the result of a very productive and satisfying client/architect relationship.” The suburban building site was generally narrow and oddly shaped, so the designers had quite a challenge on their hands. “These constraints resulted in a unique formal solution deploying a concrete and steel structural frame to maximize the formal responsiveness of the structure,” according to Shubin Donaldson. To address the limited space, the beach house stacks different living spaces on top of each other, creating three separate floors. The garage, den and laundry room sit on the ground floor, while the second floor houses the bedroom and terrace . The main sitting area was built into the third floor. This stacking design not only takes full advantage of the residential hilly area but the lovely ocean-side location as well. Thanks to the elevated flooring, the owners enjoy vast wrap-around views. Outside of the main structure extends a wooden planked deck, perfect for enjoying the California weather. The beautiful patio has additional privacy thanks to a well-manicured landscape of native plants such as cacti and palms. A majority of the concrete walls were left uncovered and exposed, adding another modern aspect to the design. A gorgeous response to a challenging site while also utilizing eco-friendly options, the Skyline Residence is truly a one-of-a-kind design. + Shubin Donaldson Via Dezeen Photography by Jeremy Bittermann via Shubin Donaldson

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Santa Barbara home is surrounded by wooden screens for natural climate control

New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

March 11, 2019 by  
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Cochineal beetles are rejoicing this month as the Hansen sweet potato proves a viable alternative for producing the carmine color crushed beetles have long added to foods and cosmetics . Chr. Hansen, a bioscience company based in Denmark and founded in 1874, developed and commercialized the Hansen sweet potato™ Ipomoea batatas . “For the first time, we’ve created a whole new variety of vegetable to create the natural color our customers are asking for,” said Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, vice president of commercial development at Chr. Hansen Natural Colors. Vegetarians have long wanted an alternative to this common coloring, but the sweet potato took time to develop. “Over 10 years ago, we discovered a promising pigment in a root vegetable’s tuber, but the plant’s pigment content was on the low side. We took this plant and embarked on a process of selective breeding using traditional, non-GMO methods. The result is a plant-based , brilliant red that gives our customers a natural alternative to carmine and synthetic colors,” said Dalmose Rasmussen. Related: California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics Chr. Hansen launched its FruitMax® line of concentrates to provide a variety of red coloring options. “Strawberry red is a popular shade for food products — from cakes to confectionery to milkshakes,” noted Dalmose Rasmussen. “But until now it has been nearly impossible to make a fire-engine red color with no risk of off-taste without using carmine.” Cochineal beetles live on cacti in Latin America. Their color comes from carminic acid, a substance which deters predation and makes up almost a quarter of the insects’ weight. The Incas and Aztecs both used the beetle for dye. Once Spaniards arrived in the New World, they quickly discovered that the cochineal beetle dye was far superior to anything they had in Europe, and dried bugs became the second most valuable export after silver. It’s still big business. In 2017, Peru exported more than $46 million dollars’ worth of carmine. Over the centuries, people have used the beetles to dye everything from cardinals’ robes to modern lipsticks. As the Hansen sweet potato gains popularity, perhaps the cochineal beetles will be able to relax on their cacti. While some studies indicate that plants also feel pain, the legless tuber could neither run nor be reached for comment. + Chr. Hansen Via Food Navigator Image via Aunt Masako

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New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead

March 1, 2019 by  
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Having access to soft, fluffy toilet paper is one of those modern conveniences that makes life in the 21st century that much easier. But did you know that using this luxury could be doing more damage to the environment than driving a large, gas-guzzling SUV? On average, every American uses three rolls of  toilet paper  each week (28 pounds per year), meaning that just 4 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 20 percent of total tissue consumption. This is destroying forests and impacting climate change in a significant way. “The Issue with Tissue” A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council titled “The Issue with Tissue” said that many toilet paper manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia Pacific use wood pulp from Canadian forests and zero recycled content when making their at-home toilet paper. “Most Americans probably do not know that the toilet paper they flush away comes from ancient forests, but clear-cutting those forests is costing the planet a great deal,” Anthony Swift, director of the NRDC’s Canada Project, said in a news release. “Maintaining the Canadian boreal forest is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change .” What is toilet paper made of? Companies use different ingredients to make tissue products, but the typical main ingredient is paper pulp. It can come from a variety of sources, like post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content or wheat straw and bamboo . However, the most common source of paper pulp by far is wood, AKA virgin fiber, because it has never been used in another product. Virgin fiber is “environmentally destructive” according to the NRDC. The two types of virgin pulp are softwood and hardwood, with softwood coming from spruce and other coniferous trees and hardwood coming from deciduous trees. Spruce and other coniferous trees are found in places like the southeastern U.S. and the Canadian boreal, and they produce long fibers that strengthen the tissue. Related: Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity Without getting too scientific, making pulp from virgin fiber requires a mill that makes logs into wood chips, plus an energy-intensive chemical process to separate the wood fibers. To whiten the pulp, it also has to go through a chemical bleaching process. Making toilet paper from 100 percent virgin fiber “generates three times as much carbon as products made from other types of pulp,” according to the NRDC report. Manufacturing a single roll of toilet paper also uses 37 gallons of water , and transporting the paper can waste loads of gas. Sustainability scores The NRDC report gave “sustainability-based scores” for different at-home toilet paper brands. Because they use zero recycled content in their products, brands like Charmin Ultra, Quilted Northern, Kirkland, Up & Up Soft and Strong and Angel Soft received an “F.” Scott 1000, Scott Comfort Plus, Cottonelle Ultra and Trader Joe’s Super Soft Bath Tissue received a “D.” Brands that scored an “A” because they use recycled paper include 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Earth’s First, Natural Value, Green Forest, Seventh Generation and Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue. The report concluded that when it comes to using sustainable components, Procter & Gamble was the worst paper company in the U.S. P&G has yet to comment on the report. A Georgia-Pacific spokesperson said that the company does use recovered fiber in addition to virgin wood, and a Kimberly-Clark spokesperson said the company’s goal is to cut the virgin pulp content in its products in half by 2025. Eco-friendly alternatives Who Gives A Crap This company began with crowdfunding back in 2012, and it has been growing ever since. It offers  eco-friendly toilet paper made from 100 percent recycled paper as well as no added inks, dyes or scents. Who Gives A Crap claims its 3-ply is as “soft as unicorn kisses and as strong as 1,000 ponies,” and you can buy it in bulk at just $1 per jumbo roll, which is 400 sheets. This company also donates 50 percent of profits to help improve sanitation and build toilets in developing countries. Family cloth This might be an option that is out of most people’s comfort zone , but in the spirit of cloth diapers comes family cloth —  wiping with fabric swatches , which are then placed in a wet-dry bag and laundered so they can be reused . Bidet attachment For some reason, Americans haven’t fallen in love with alternatives like bidets as many Europeans have. This is unfortunate, because bidets have amazing environmental benefits. Plus, they are great for personal hygiene. Related: How to upgrade your toilet with a handheld bidet sprayer If you aren’t familiar with a bidet attachment, it is a fixture that you add to your toilet seat. It will wash your bum and genitalia with water after you use the toilet. You can greatly reduce the need for toilet paper in your house by adding a bidet attachment to your toilet. If everyone in America reduced their toilet paper use by just one roll per week, it would save thousands of trees and have a significant environmental impact. Images via Shutterstock

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The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead

This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation

March 1, 2019 by  
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Rammed earth is a building technique that uses packed raw materials from the earth like gravel, sand, silt or clay to build walls and foundations. Casa Lasso, designed by Rama Estudio in San Jose, Ecuador utilized the rammed earth approach (or “tapial”) to create five strong walls made of natural elements to both protect the home from strong winds and improve the thermal quality inside the home. The rammed earth provides added support for the wooden-beamed roof every 70 centimeters. Glass windows make up the upper closures of the structure, giving the entire area the potential for  sunlight  to shine through and light up the living areas. Speaking of living areas, there is room for six beds, all built into the rammed earth framework, in the communal area. There is also a master bedroom with pivoting panels to either integrate or close off the spaces. Much of the furniture and shelving in the kitchen and bedroom is built into the structured wall, ensuring that no space is wasted, no matter how small. The designers built the rustic fireplace into the lowest part of the home, with the intention of creating a centralized space that would “embrace” the area. Casa Lasso also uses a waste management system that connects solids and liquids into an internal irrigation and fertilizer network, meaning that there is no sewage system. Using pivoting panels, occupants have the option of closing the doors for added warmth and security or creating an extended and almost unblocked view of the outdoor area beyond the property. The area around the house is surrounded by eucalyptus plantations, making the land arid and soil difficult to grow in. Designers chose to plant native species in small landscaped islands throughout the property in order to combat this dilemma. As a result of the rammed earth building technique, Casa Lasso maintains an organic color. The combination of brown earth tones from the wooden panels, the large beams making up the roof and natural stone work makes this home blend in beautifully with the native landscape. + RAMA Estudio Via ArchDaily Photography by Jag Studio and  Andrés Villota via RAMA Estudio

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This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation

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