Red brick firehouse in Belgium runs on solar power

May 4, 2020 by  
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Rotterdam-based studio Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven has built a charming new firehouse for Wilrijk, Belgium. The firehouse is clad in bright red bricks that stand out thanks to white grout and vertical columns made of larger bricks. The building is also incredibly sustainable, generating its own clean energy through a massive rooftop solar array . Located on the city’s main road, the three-story Fire Station Wilrijk doubles as a local landmark. According to Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven, “The monochrome character provides a recognizable identity in the neighborhood, an architecture parlante in which form and appearance irrevocably remind us of the function of the building and the urgency of its users.” Related: LEED Platinum fire station is powered with solar energy in Seattle The building is clad in a robust red brick to help it stand out. In contrast, the interiors feature gray concrete walls framed in CLT panels for a minimalist feel that emphasizes comfort and ease of movement. Spacious rooms and hallways are connected by wide doorways to allow firefighters to respond quickly during emergency calls. The building is divided into two spaces: a double-height garage toward the front that accommodates three firetrucks and firehouse support areas toward the back. The back of the firehouse includes operation rooms, dressing areas, a lounge, sleeping quarters, a kitchen and dining space. The work-focused rooms are on the lower two levels, while beds, the lounge and dressing rooms are on the top floor to make it feel more like home. To power all of these spaces, the firehouse generates its own solar energy via photovoltaic panels on the roof. The project also includes a solar water heater and heat pump to further boost its sustainability. + Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven Via Dezeen Images via Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven

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Whimsical guesthouse uses prefab timber and corten steel

May 4, 2020 by  
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Belgian firm  Atelier Vens Vanbelle  has created a stunning guest home for a client who works in the film industry. Located in the Uitbergen region of East Flanders, the Alex Guesthouse boasts an eye-catching design comprised of a unique curved volume made out of prefabricated timber  and clad in corten steel. Tucked into a wooded area of a private yard, the guesthouse sits on a slightly-raised hill, overlooking the main home on one side and a dense forest on the other. The property belongs to an executive in the film industry who tasked the Belgian architects to create a unique space to accommodate international guests. Comprised of a main cabin-like area with living space and one bedroom, the  compact structure  also houses a bar and cinema for entertaining. R elated: Old ruins are transformed into a cozy, off-grid guesthouse in France Prefabricating the materials off-site  enabled the architects to reduce the project’s construction time and costs, as well as reduce the home’s impact. Additionally, the natural materials used in its construction not only allow the structure to blend perfectly into its peaceful natural surroundings, but also reduced the project’s overall environmental footprint. Inside the whimsical guest home, visitors will find a bright and airy space, with minimal furnishings. With walls lined in varying exposed layers of LVL wood, the interior has a modern cabin-like aesthetic. The fun space is flooded with  natural light  thanks to a massive circular window. On the ground floor, the main living area, along with a combo kitchen and dining room make up the central living space, with the large bedroom off to the side. The guest home also has a basement space below and a watchtower above. The basement is set up with a quaint entertainment space, complete with a bar and film-viewing room with ample seating. Working upwards through the home, a  spiral staircase  wraps upwards to the watchtower that leads out to an open-air outdoor space to take in the views. + Atelier Vens Vanbelle Via Design Boom Photography by Tim Van de Velde

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Whimsical guesthouse uses prefab timber and corten steel

A clean-energy school in southern France draws power from the sun

March 10, 2020 by  
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The French city of Nîmes recently welcomed the Ada Lovelace Secondary School, Occitania’s first-ever clean-energy school that’s earned both BEPOS energy level certification and a sustainability rating of Silver-level BDM (Bâtiments Durables Méditerranéens). Opened in the fall of last year, the eco-friendly school is the work of French design firm A+ Architecture . In addition to its energy-saving and -producing features, the Ada Lovelace Secondary School features a bold and contemporary design to help boost the neighborhood’s ongoing urban revitalization efforts. Crowned winners of a 2015 design competition for the project, A+ Architecture was tasked to reconstruct the 400-student secondary school to a new site that would also include space for housing for half of the student population, sports facilities, a race track and three staff houses. The 5,898-square-meter school also needed to be held up as a positive sign of urban renewal in the Mas de Mingue district. Related: New BU academic tower will be 100% free from fossil fuels “Beyond the environmental basics, we have produced a contemporary, bold, powerful and dynamic architectural structure,” the architects explained. “We wanted people to be drawn to this place of education in this difficult neighborhood. Shapes collide, as stainless-steel panels make it seem as though the facades are empty, which are broken up by rows of windows.” Topped with 800 square meters of solar panels, the Ada Lovelace Secondary School is clad in locally sourced stones that vary in size for visual interest and to help give the volume a more human scale. For stable indoor temperatures, the architects insulated the walls with wood and hemp and installed wood boilers for supplemental heating. Students have also been invited to learn about the school’s energy-saving systems through a digital building model accessible through a game and website managed by Citae. + A+ Architecture Photography by Benoit Wehrle via A+ Architecture

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Researchers convert durian and jackfruit biowaste into ultracapacitors

March 10, 2020 by  
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Durian fruit is notable for its funky stench, making it a rather malodorous waste when it is discarded. But a new study from Australia’s University of Sydney, published in the Journal of Energy Storage , focused on recycling durian waste into an affordable, sustainable source of energy storage to counteract global warming. How? The researchers have discovered a way to create ultracapacitors from durian and its related jackfruit cousin. Who knew that putrid-smelling biowaste could pack an electrical punch? “Super-capacitors are like energy reservoirs that dole out energy smoothly. They can quickly store large amounts of energy within a small battery-sized device and then supply energy to charge electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, within a few seconds,” explained associate professor Vincent Gomes. “Using durian and jackfruit purchased from a market, we converted the fruits’ waste portions (biomass) into super-capacitors that can be used to store electricity efficiently.” Related: New technological process transforms everyday trash into graphene As TreeHugger reported, the waste biomass of durian and jackfruit are “converted into a carbon aerogel using non-toxic methods.” These aerogels are then leveraged and converted into electrodes, “which are tested for their energy storage properties.” Interestingly, these durian- and jackfruit-derived electrodes “demonstrate outstanding performance, making them a green, low-cost energy solution for charging phones, laptops and tablets.” When compared to what’s currently on the market, the electrodes developed from durian and jackfruit have proven to be a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional ultracapacitors derived from activated carbon. “The durian and jackfruit super-capacitors perform much better than the materials currently in use and are comparable, if not better, than the expensive and exotic graphene -based materials,” Gomes said. “We have reached a point where we must urgently discover and produce ways to create and store energy using sustainably sourced materials that do not contribute to global warming.” + Journal of Energy Storage Via TreeHugger Image via Jonny Clow

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Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

October 28, 2019 by  
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Holidays and celebrations can take a toll on the environment. Between waste and consumption, Halloween festivities leave behind a giant carbon footprint. But with a little purposeful planning, your holiday can be fun and eco-friendly at the same time.  Go plastic free Obviously plastic is problematic for the planet from the petroleum used in production to the lack of sustainable disposal options. With some foresight you can mostly avoid plastic in favor of alternatives. For costumes, shop local or make your own so you can see plastic parts and avoid shipping packaging. Make costumes from natural fibers such as organic cotton or hemp. Use accessories of metal or wood. Swap out plastic trick-or-treat buckets with pillow cases or reusable shopping bags. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween Multi-purpose decor One way to cut back on the “stuff” you accumulate for the holiday is to think seasonally. Focus on decor that can serve throughout the fall season rather than just until Halloween. Hay bales, corn stocks, pumpkins, gourds and potted plants create a welcoming display at the front door that is both sustainable and inviting well past Thanksgiving. Inside the home, target the classic sights, sounds and smells of fall with pumpkin spice candles, reflective glass displays and wreaths from burlap, straw or herbs. Organic plant-based food Holidays are for celebrating with friends and Halloween is the perfect time to invite your favorite witches and demons over for a party. Since it’s always in season to be nice to the planet, plan your party around organic (no pesticides and other toxins in the water and soil), plant-based (sans the carbon footprint of meat production) food . Make taco dip with tortilla headstones, adorable pumpkin cookies, a veggie platter in the shape of a skeleton or individual spider pizzas. Save gas Reducing gas consumption avoids the need for more oil drilling and limits your contribution to air pollution. Pick up your party supplies in advance when you are already running other errands to avoid extra trips to the store. Also, stay in your neighborhood for trick or treating if possible. Zero waste Aim for zero waste during Halloween as a challenge to yourself and your family. Work together to brainstorm ways to keep trash from taking over the holiday. Using the real plates and utensils is a great start, but you can avoid the need for dinnerware altogether by creating a menu consisting only of finger foods. Drag out the cloth napkins, too. Avoid throwing out your costume at the end of the holiday by using recyclable materials such as cardboard or save the outfit for another occasion. Be sure to donate or resell when it’s time for the final goodbye. Go second hand If Halloween is really your season to shine and you enjoy widespread decorating, spend some time at the local thrift shop where holiday decor comes in year-round. While you might still end up with non eco-friendly materials like plastic , giving those items a second life keeps them out of landfills. This is also true for costumes, lawn decorations and clothing. Tricks and treats Candy has become an integral part of the holiday and you can enjoy a treat without contributing to wasteful consumption. Start by setting a reasonable limit. While it’s fun to be out with the kids on Halloween, the treats they gather shouldn’t last until Valentine’s Day. There’s not much you can do about the plastic you’ll acquire during your trip around the neighborhood, but you can do your part when it comes to making a conscience choice about what you hand out at your door. Shop from fair trade companies and look for sustainable packaging. Also consider non-candy items or offer up a trick instead. Cut the electric bill You can enjoy your party without a spike in electrical use by making a few simple changes. Skip the TV shows and music and consider cutting the electricity all together. Halloween is the perfect occasion to take the party outside to celebrate around a wood fire under the stars and the harvest moon. Drop some submersible LED lights in the bottom of the apple dunk barrel and use solar lights to create paths or designate gathering areas. If the weather in your area isn’t cooperating with a nature party, bring it inside for a blackout party instead. Grab the solar lights from the yard and further illuminate the space with beeswax candles displayed on reflective metal or glass plates. For entertainment, share spooky stories and explain the history of the holiday to the younger generations.  Halloween is a ghoulishly fun holiday, but it doesn’t have to have a gastly impact on the planet. Set an example for your kids, guests and neighbors with thoughtful decor, costumes and party ideas that just may inspire them to make Halloween a real treat for the planet, too. Images via Shutterstock

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Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

MVRDV breaks ground on Pixel, a mixed-use development that embraces indoor-outdoor living

August 23, 2019 by  
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MVRDV has started construction on Pixel, a mixed-use development in Abu Dhabi that promotes an innovative building typology very different from the prevalent style of disconnected towers in the United Arab Emirates. Designed to encourage community building and enjoyment of the outdoors, Pixel will comprise seven mid-rise towers of varying heights grouped around a central plaza. The 85,000-square-meter development will be located in Abu Dhabi’s new Makers District and will emphasize the neighborhood’s values of creativity, learning and sharing. Named after the pixelated appearance of the building facades, Pixel will include 525 apartments of varying sizes — ranging from studios to spacious three-bedroom homes — shops, flexible office space suitable for startups and established companies, restaurants and a range of amenities such as a pool, gym, community spaces and a children’s playroom. Related: MVRDV designs a Dutch office building covered in potted plants Staggered building heights have been informed for optimal shade conditions and views. The public plaza at the heart of the development will form part of “The Artery,” a continuous pedestrian public space that cuts through the Maker’s District and connects Pixel to the nearby beach. “The weather in Abu Dhabi is very pleasant for about eight months of the year, yet most housing there doesn’t really encourage people to spend time outside,” said Jacob van Rijs, a founding partner of MVRDV. “With Pixel, we wanted to show that a connection with the outdoors is not only possible in this city, but beneficial.” In addition to the creation of outdoor spaces and connection with neighboring Makers District spaces, the design of the towers encourages social engagement as well. The facades “break down” into balconies and bay windows that face the lively plaza below. Ceramic screens with a shimmering pearlescent finish — a nod to Abu Dhabi’s pearl diving heritage — help create a comfortable outdoor environment. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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MVRDV breaks ground on Pixel, a mixed-use development that embraces indoor-outdoor living

Adaptable home brings together multiple generations under a solar roof

January 16, 2019 by  
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When local design studio Jost Architects was approached to design a home in Kew East, Melbourne , the firm not only navigated a challenging, complex site, but it also designed for multigenerational living that wouldn’t feel claustrophobic. The result is an adaptable 358-square-meter home spread out across three floors and designed to harmonize with its surroundings. Moreover, the Kew East House was also crafted with a reduced energy footprint thanks to the use of passive solar principles and solar photovoltaic panels. The clients, a couple with teenage children and a dog, Timba, asked Jost Architects to create a multigenerational home in anticipation of when the grandparents, who currently live overseas, move in in the future. To accommodate the clients’ elderly parents, the architects designed an internal granny flat on the ground floor next to the garage. Above, the first floor houses the master bedroom and main living areas. The two children’s bedrooms and a rooftop balcony with sweeping views of the park to the city are located on the top level. Strict council setbacks and a steep terrain informed the design of the house, which is recessed into the slope. The architects also took cues from the neighborhood and landscape to knit the Kew East House into its surroundings. “The banded fascias fold and rake, vertically and horizontally, braiding the building into the streetscape. The functional spaces are layered within this fabric,” the architects said. “Externally, the materials are selected for their robust and tonal hue responding to the huge eucalyptus enveloping the site and the other beautiful native flora around the Kew Billabong and Yarra River beyond.” Related: Fabulous multigenerational home allows owners to comfortably age in place Natural light floods the interior through thermally broken windows and multiple skylights, while Melbourne’s intense heat is kept at bay with deep eave overhangs, external sliding and fixed timber batten screens as well as operable glazing that allows for cross ventilation. The Kew East House is powered with a 4.95 kW photovoltaic system . + Jost Architects Photography by Shani Hodson – Zoso via Jost Architects

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Award-winning luxury townhouses boast energy-efficient, passive solar design

August 28, 2018 by  
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Melbourne Design Studios has dramatically transformed a row of townhouses in the historic, post-industrial neighborhood of Richmond, Melbourne . The six bespoke urban homes—named ‘No Two The Same’—are strikingly contemporary, with light-filled interiors, handsome facades and a bevy of sustainable features that have earned the project an average 7-Star NatHERS Rating across all townhouses. The sustainable development was recently awarded Building Design of the Year at the 2018 Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) Awards. Located opposite a former shoe factory, the project included a number of challenges in addition to its narrow laneway location. The heritage setting required careful design attention, particularly due to its unusual battle-axe shape and the inclusion of a derelict heritage home in desperate need of an extensive renovation. Wanting to complement the neighborhood’s mix of Victorian architecture and warehouse conversions, the architects scaled the development to fit the area’s proportions and gave each townhouse an individualized facade constructed with materials that reference the area’s industrial past. The perforated laser-cut screens, in particular, double as artwork referencing local culture. Each home comprises three to four bedrooms and two bathrooms within 200 to 230 square meters of space that opens up to 100 to 120 square meters of outdoor space. “Marking a significant departure from conventional townhouse typology, each dwelling offers multi-functional and spacious living in an otherwise tightly built-up urban area,” explain the architects. “Boasting a rare combination of light-filled internal spaces gathered around multiple outdoor spaces and rooftop terrace with city skyline views, each townhouse has over 20% more outdoor space than a typical solution, with the six different outdoor spaces designed for various activities and purposes.” Related: Solar-powered home cuts a bold and sculptural silhouette in Melbourne To meet sustainability targets, the architects relied on passive solar principles, which dictated north-facing orientation, the “thermal chimney” effect that dispels hot air in summer, and cross-ventilation year-round. Natural and recycled materials were used throughout. Natural light is drawn deep into the home through double-glazed, thermally broken windows. The home also includes highly efficient insulation, solar hot-water heaters, and rainwater tanks that provide 14,000 liters of storage across the entire development. + Melbourne Design Studios Images by Peter Clarke

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It "sounded like an explosion:" avalanche of trash kills 16 people in Mozambique

February 26, 2018 by  
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A devastating garbage landslide precipitated by heavy rainfall wounded six people and killed 16 in Maputo, Mozambique , The Guardian reported . The 42-acre Hulene dump — located in the impoverished neighborhood of Hulene — rises nearly 50 feet above residents who live around the edges, and the avalanche consumed over 10 homes. Local Paulina Cosa told The Guardian, “It was late and the rain was pouring down, but I was woken up by something that sounded like an explosion.” Hulene dump collapse: Sixteen people confirmed dead – #Mozambique civil protection https://t.co/2h9vnyX45T #SADC #Africa pic.twitter.com/b26ecZouGd — Club of Mozambique (@clubOmozambique) February 20, 2018 People who live near the Hulene dump and earn money salvaging trash are exposed to stench, mosquitoes, and disease. Life isn’t easy, and 16 people lost their lives when rains triggered an avalanche around 3 AM one morning last week. The rubbish swallowed around 328 feet of land, consuming houses and killing people. Related: Tel Aviv’s notorious ‘Garbage Mountain’ transforms into world’s largest recycling park Maputo’s director of health and cemeteries Joao Mucavele told The Guardian people from the neighborhood, municipality, and Red Cross came to help. Recovery operations are over now as earth-moving equipment shoves back heaps of trash. Mucavele told The Guardian, “We are now working to return the waste to where it came from. The people who were living here will be given help, but no one can live here from now on.” Residents at the collapse site were moved to a temporary shelter around 30 minutes away. Authorities believe more bodies could be buried at the Hulene garbage dump on the outskirts of Maputo, and a search was underway. https://t.co/0ggbX9kJs1 pic.twitter.com/osRmrCUdFQ — All4Women.co.za (@all4women) February 20, 2018 Some people have called for the resignation of mayor David Simango, who campaigned for re-election in 2013 with the promise to shut down the dump. Livaningo , a local environmental activism organization, has been trying to get the dump closed for 15 years. They say it’s operating way above capacity and creating hazardous living conditions. Activist Manuel Cardoso said they’ve been telling the government such an event like this one would happen for years, telling The Guardian, “What we are looking for now is how we can help these families find justice. Where is the responsibility of the government?” Eight people were buried in a state-sponsored funeral last week. Maputo City governor Iolanda Cintura said in a speech, “On behalf of the government, in my own name we apologize to the Uamusse, Ngovene, Thousene, Mondlane, and Bendene families for what happened. We expect everybody to help all these families to recover their hope.” Via The Guardian Image via Depositphotos

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It "sounded like an explosion:" avalanche of trash kills 16 people in Mozambique

Extreme Arctic warmth deeply concerning, scientists say

February 26, 2018 by  
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A recent bout of extreme warm weather in the far north Arctic Circle is setting new temperature records and unnerving climate scientists. “To have zero degrees [Celsius] at the North Pole in February – it’s just wrong,” researcher Amelie Meyer told the Sydney Morning Herald . “It’s quite worrying.” Cape Morris Jessup in Greenland , the most northern land-based weather station, has already experienced 61 hours above freezing this year, an all-time record. The previous record was set in 2011 at only 16 hours above freezing by the end of April that year. The world’s weather seems to literally be upside down. Climate scientist Andrew King told the Sydney Morning Herald “Parts of Greenland are quite a bit warmer than most of Europe”. In addition to, and likely connected to, climate change, the so-called polar vortex that has kept frigid polar air contained in the Arctic has weakened in recent decades. As a result, warm air more frequently settles in the far North even during winter while extremely cold air has dipped deep into North America and Eurasia, bringing temperatures in normally warm regions to record lows. As north Greenland experiences its relatively balmy weather, continental Europe endures a deep freeze, with temperatures in Berlin dropping as low as minus 12 degrees Celsius. The abnormal weather is even changing the orientation of weather systems. “For Britain and Ireland, most weather systems would typically blow in from the west, but [on Tuesday] we will see a cold front cross Britain from the east,” said Dr. King. Related: Scientists dash to explore Antarctic ecosystem hidden by ice for 120,000 years In light of the extreme weather, the ice coverage in the Bering Sea is now at levels usually seen in May or June. The long-term effect of shrinking ice coverage acts as a positive feedback loop. Sunlight is reflected off of ice back into space, protecting the frozen seas . When the ice is gone, this heat is absorbed by the water, which then warms ice that remains. The situation is grim; while scientists had originally predicted an ice-free Arctic by 2050, these recent warm spells calls this prediction into question. Via Sydney Morning Herald Images via Climate Reanalyzer and NASA  

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