LEED Platinum-certified Half Moon Bay Library targets net-zero energy

May 26, 2020 by  
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At three times the size of its predecessor with a recently minted LEED Platinum certification, California’s Half Moon Bay Library is an impressive community resource in more ways than one. Designed by Berkeley-based firm Noll & Tam Architects , the $18.2 million library serves a diverse and growing coastal region that includes Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County and 10 other unincorporated communities along the coast as well. Flexibility, energy efficiency and emphases on nature and the community drove the design of the new regional library that has won multiple awards, including the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Award. Completed in 2018, the 22,000-square-foot Half Moon Library minimizes its visual impact with its low-profile massing that includes two single-story rectangular volumes along the street and a larger, second-story volume tucked behind. Minimizing the building’s presence in the neighborhood was part of the architects’ strategy to draw greater attention to views of the ocean, which is located just a short walk away. A low-maintenance natural material palette — including reclaimed wood , patinated copper and rough stone — takes inspiration from the coastal landscape and helps draw the outdoors in. Related: Charles Library boasts one of Pennsylvania’s largest green roofs As a result of extensive community workshops, the Half Moon Library is highly flexible. Three-quarters of the stacks are on wheels so that the layout of the room can be easily changed over time to accommodate a variety of events. In addition to multipurpose spaces, the library also includes a 122-seat community room, adult reading area, children’s area, quiet reading area, teen room, maker space and support areas. Sustainability is at the heart of the project, which is designed to achieve net-zero energy . The high-performance building envelope draws power from rooftop solar panels, while thoughtful site orientation and implementation of passive principles for natural ventilation and lighting reduces energy demand. The Half Moon Library also features bioswales , recycled materials, low-water fixtures, high-performance HVAC systems and drought-tolerant plantings. + Noll & Tam Architects Photography by Anthony Lindsey via Noll & Tam Architects

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LEED Platinum-certified Half Moon Bay Library targets net-zero energy

Modern farmhouse targets net-zero energy in Vermont

April 27, 2020 by  
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On a hillside meadow in rural Vermont, local architecture firm Birdseye has completed Bank Barn, a new residence that, from afar, might look like any another agricultural building. But it is actually a modern farmhouse strategically engineered to meet future net-zero energy targets. The architects drew inspiration from the regional farm structures built into the banks of hills to create the gabled dwelling, which is clad in weathered cedar and topped with a durable metal roof. An intensive energy consultation and modeling informed all parts of the design. The resulting project features an electricity-based energy system that is expected to achieve net-zero energy operations, pending a future 18 kW solar array. Set into a steep slope, the 4,566-square-foot Bank Barn comprises three levels with the lowest floor — containing the garage, pool room and support spaces — below grade and flanked by two 160-foot linear concrete retaining walls. The long walls support an extended plinth for the floor above that houses an open-plan living area, kitchen and dining room with access to the rear outdoor deck as well as a spacious office that looks out over a green roof atop the garage. A central, freestanding steel staircase leads up to the three en suite bedrooms located on the upper floor. Related: Sublime net-positive energy farmhouse pays homage to the local vernacular Walls of floor-to-ceiling glass surround the home, filling the interior with natural light and uninterrupted views of the outdoors. To keep the focus on the landscape, the architects used a subdued palette of exposed steel, plaster, concrete and wood for the minimalist and modern interiors. “Early in the design process, the house was modeled to assess the design in terms of energy efficiency , thermal comfort and visual comfort,” the architects explained. As a result, the home boasts an airtight envelope with thermally separated r-40 walls, an r-60 roof, closed-cell polyurethane foam cavities and triple-glazing throughout. The house draws power from geothermal heating and cooling through water-to-water and water-to-air systems as well as heat recovery ventilators. + Birdseye Photography by Jim Westphalen Photography via Birdseye

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Should you make sourdough starter?

April 27, 2020 by  
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Because the pandemic has ushered in a back-to-the-kitchen movement, social media is filled with gorgeous, professional-looking loaves of sourdough bread. Is it easy to make a sourdough starter? Should you jump on the sourdough bandwagon? Here’s what you need to know about making a sourdough starter. Initial reservations Making sourdough starter has one big advantage. It only requires two ingredients: flour and water. It’s like magic, how these two ingredients , plus time, can produce yeast. Really, it’s more like science. As it says on the King Arthur Flour website, “Wild yeast is in the air around us. It settles on kitchen work surfaces and in your ingredients, including flour. Add liquid to flour, and this wild yeast is activated and starts to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. This growing army of gas bubbles, effectively trapped by gluten within the dough, are what ultimately make sourdough bread rise.” Related: How to bake bread Together, the yeast and lactobacilli form a harmonious symbiotic relationship right on your countertop. Making your own yeast out of thin air is especially popular now, since the yeast supply chain has dried up as the pandemic turns us into a nation of home bakers. But as I read online guidance about how to create my starter, I had some reservations. First, I don’t have filtered water. I drink good ol’ Oregon tap water that has some small amount of chlorine , which isn’t good for sourdough starter. Second, my online sources advised keeping the starter at room temperature, which they claimed was 70 degrees. Not in my house, which currently ranges between the upper 50s and low 60s. My third reservation was that you must constantly “feed” the starter with flour, each time discarding much of the starter. In the name of science (and this article), I endeavored to persevere. The starter would just have to deal with my water. Next, the temperature. The King Arthur Flour website advised those living in cooler houses to “try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Your turned-off oven — with the light turned on — is also a good choice.” It was just too creepy to put the starter on the water heater in my dungeon-like basement, and no way am I leaving my oven light on for a week. We’re also trying to conserve energy , here! So the fridge it was. Unfortunately, the top of my fridge doesn’t seem any warmer than the rest of the house. How to make your own sourdough starter The process for making sourdough starter is quite simple. It is also perfect for sheltering in place, because starter likes a regular schedule. Though I consulted many websites, I decided to go with King Arthur as my guru. It has a five-day program to turn your flour and water into sourdough starter. On day one, you combine one cup of pumpernickel or whole wheat flour with one-half cup water in a non-reactive container with at least one-quart capacity. This means crockery, glass, stainless steel or food-grade plastic. I used a blue plastic mixing bowl. Unfortunately, I only had all-purpose flour, so I used that. This isn’t the time to be running out to the shop for one ingredient, right? You mix your flour and water until you can’t see any flour. Use cool water if your house is warm or warm water if your house is cool. Cover loosely with a kitchen cloth and set the starter somewhere warm. On day two, discard half the starter (or save that for a recipe to reduce food waste). Add a cup of all-purpose flour and one-half cup of water to the remainder. Stir well, re-cover and return the starter to its warm spot. By day three, your starter is supposed to start bubbling and increasing in size. Its appetite soars, and it demands two flour feedings a day, spaced 12 hours apart. Each time you feed, you must reduce the starter to about one-half cup before adding the new flour and water. Sometime after day five, the starter is supposed to be very lively and will have doubled in size. “You’ll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little ‘rivulets’ on the surface, full of finer bubbles. Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma — pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering,” according to King Arthur. Now, your starter is ready to become sourdough bread. You’ll use some in the bread recipe and keep the rest in your fridge, where it needs to be fed once a week and used for future loaves. You might want to name your starter — it could be around for a long time. The famous Boudin Bakery in San Francisco is still using the yeast Isidore Boudin collected in 1849. Hardcore bread lover Seamus Blackley, with the help of an Egyptologist and a microbiologist, managed to collect 4,500-year-old yeast off ancient Egyptian pottery for his loaves. So treat your starter well. Cooking with sourdough starter discard What is the reality of joining this long line of sourdough bakers ? Is it as romantic as it sounds? You might spend a lot of time asking yourself if your sourdough is really bubbling yet, whether it’s supposed to smell this way and what on earth are you going to do with all the discarded starter, especially as you move onto feeding and discarding twice a day. Related: Bakers yeast and sourdough starter — it looks alive to me! The first day, I added some starter discard to a regular cornbread recipe, pretending it was just more flour. It was a little hard to stir in, but for the most part, it worked out okay. My most successful dish was vegan sourdough pancakes, which involved following this recipe from Food52 and stirring in a ripe banana. They tasted more like delicious flat donuts than pancakes. My low point came when I tried to fashion a flatbread out of starter. The stomachache-inducing flatbreads wouldn’t cook all the way through. As I made my fifth attempt, my back aching, smoke alarm screeching and my husband and quarantine-mate sniping at my starter — “That (bleep) is like (bleeping) glue!” — I realized it was not the lifestyle moment those Instagram bakers had promised. The main event: sourdough bread All this feeding the starter eventually leads to making delicious sourdough bread. Theoretically. “When your starter has doubled in size, you see bubbles breaking on the surface, and it feels somewhat elastic to the touch, it’s ready to bake with,” King Arthur explained. But woe to us in cold houses. As I read down to the comments section, another cool-home dweller said his took two weeks to bubble sufficiently! Meanwhile, my starter has eaten nearly all of my flour, so there won’t even be enough to bake a loaf with. At press time, I’m trying to decide between A) trying my luck with my prepubescent starter and remaining flour to make a mini loaf, B) aborting the mission and turning all the starter into pancakes or C) throwing it all in the compost . A more persistent soul could add option D) going to the store and buying more flour to see the process through. Another option? Try making a “mini starter” , which requires much less flour but also takes longer to yield enough discard to make anything. But let’s assume you’re in a warmer house and have a bubbly, delightful starter. Now you’re in for a long process of kneading, folding, autolyzing (letting your dough rest), watching like a hawk for sufficient rising and eventually baking a delicious loaf. Best of luck to you. Here’s the Clever Carrot’s guide to that multistep process. The verdict I was not sufficiently committed to sacrificing all my flour to the voracious starter, nor did I have the right container. I thought all those upright glass vessels that look like vases were just for show on social media. As it turns out, they help you watch the starter. Maybe mine doubled in size and dropped back down when I wasn’t looking. Who knows? It’s in an opaque bowl atop the fridge covered with a tea towel. This experiment will also tell you more about what kind of person you are, if you don’t already know. Good candidates for making starter include people who love being in the kitchen, who take pride in their cooking or who have kids at home that enjoy culinary science experiments. If you cannot commit to your sourdough starter, it could just lead to a lot of food waste . Some of us lack the patience and interest. For the last 15 years, whenever I wanted a quick bread fix, I’ve made baking powder biscuits from a recipe in PETA’s The Compassionate Cook. The whole process takes about 20 minutes. My slightly more ambitious bread-making friend swears by this no-knead bread recipe . These might be better options if you don’t feel confident in working on a sourdough starter. The biggest thing I learned from making my own starter is how lucky I am that Trader Joe’s sells sourdough loaves for $3.99. Even my neighborhood boutique bakery that charges $7 or $8 a loaf seems like a bargain now. If you’re like me, you can consider making sourdough starter an exercise in bread appreciation. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat, Tommaso Urli , Thomas Bock , Oscar S , Richard Klasovsky

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Solar-powered Harvard ArtLab to meet net-zero energy targets

March 13, 2020 by  
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Harvard University  has added yet another sustainable building to its campus — the Harvard Artlab, a contemporary art space projected to meet net-zero energy targets. Designed by Berlin-based architecture studio Barkow Leibinger  in collaboration with Boston-based  Sasaki Associates , the 9,000-square-foot facility was created for students, teachers, visiting artists and the wider community. Rooftop photovoltaic panels power the building, which features a steel frame clad in transparent insulated glass and lightweight, high-insulating polycarbonate panels for easy assembly and disassembly. Located on Harvard University’s Allston campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard Artlab is an  adaptable  space with a design that takes inspiration from its industrial surroundings. The boxy one-story building features a pinwheel-like plan centered on a common “Hub” space. A series of large sliding partitions can expand or close off the Hub to cultivate interactivity and enable a wide range of performances and exhibitions. The surrounding spaces house recording studios and sound-editing stations, as well as rooms for rehearsal, improvisation and other performances.  “The ArtLab encourages and expands participants’ engagement with interdisciplinary arts-practice research, serving as a collaborative activator for the school and the greater Allston and  Cambridge  neighborhoods,” explained the architects in a project statement. Like its industrial appearance suggests, the art space will serve as an incubator for producing and experimenting with different art forms.  Related: Harvard unveils Snøhetta-designed HouseZero for sustainable, plus-energy living Built to meet Massachusett’s high energy efficiency standards, the solar-powered Harvard Artlab was built using insulated glass and polycarbonate panels that range from transparent to translucent to opaque. The panels allow natural light to fill the building during the day while creating a glowing “lightbox” appearance at night. Since the building needed to be engineered for possible relocation in the future, the architects constructed the building with lightweight steel columns and open web steel trusses on a concrete slab on grade for easy and efficient disassembly.  + Barkow Leibinger Images by Iwan Baan

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New BU academic tower will be 100% free from fossil fuels

January 29, 2020 by  
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To advance a Climate Action Plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, Boston University has recently broken ground on the Center for Computing & Data Sciences, a 19-floor complex expected to become the “University’s and Boston’s biggest and most sustainable, energy-efficient building” once built. Toronto-based firm KPMB Architects led the design of the 345,000-square-foot project, which will house BU’s mathematics, statistics and computer science departments under one roof. The tower, which will be the tallest building on campus , will feature a suite of energy-saving and energy-generating technologies, including geothermal wells, state-of-the-art shading systems and triple-glazed windows. Located at the heart of the campus, the Center for Computing & Data Sciences will be the university’s first major teaching center in half a century and is slated for completion in 2022. Key to the design of the tower is the “vertical campus” concept that encourages a sense of community over 19 floors. In addition to maximizing transparency and accessibility, the architects have strategically configured the building to house the most-trafficked areas — such as the classrooms, learning labs and functional spaces — on the lower levels, while the upper floors contain the university departments. The rooftop hosts quiet lunch and meeting spaces optimized for concentration. Collaborative spaces will be woven throughout, including expansive whiteboard walls and a series of terraced platforms for small-group interactions. Related: The new Center for Student Services is a sustainable gateway for Boston University “The new Center for Computing & Data Sciences building makes a dynamic urban place that is a crossroads and a beacon for Boston University’s central campus,” the architects explained in a project statement. “The design maximizes opportunities for mixing, interaction and interconnectivity. The building serves as a platform for innovation formatted as a vertical campus. Every element is integrated to establish Data Sciences as Boston University’s new iconic heart.” To meet net-zero energy standards, the Center will depend on a ground-source heat exchange system with 31 1,500-foot-deep geothermal wells for heating and cooling. Energy loss will be minimized with external sun shading devices, triple-glazed windows, enhanced heating and ventilation systems and LED lighting . The tower will also be built 5 feet above the city for Boston’s suggested level for sea level rise. + KPMB Architects Images via KPMB Architects

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Net-zero community planned for Hamburg will rely on geothermal and solar energy

December 17, 2019 by  
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The formerly industrial borough of Harbugh in Hamburg, Germany will soon get a strikingly modern and eco-conscious facelift thanks to Neuländer Quarree, a new mixed-use community planned for the area. Cape Town-based architecture and design firm SAOTA won the architectural competition for the project with its design of a net-zero energy development powered by geothermal wells, wood pellet-fuelled cogeneration plants and photovoltaic panels. The project was also ‘Highly Commended’ in the Residential Future Project category of the World Architecture Festival, a global architectural awards program and festival, earlier this month. Created in collaboration with Cologne-based BeL Architecture and Berlin-based ROBERTNEUN Architects, the new Neuländer Quarree design aims to revitalize the Harburg inland port with mixed programming and an attractive streetscape with contemporary architecture rooted in historic context. The development will span a site of approximately 44,000 square meters and include 400 apartments, a hotel, offices, retail trade and a technology park with space for businesses, manufacturing and crafts. Related: LAVA designs carbon-neutral LIFE Hamburg with an edible green roof “What sets this project apart is the introduction of communal roof gardens and a variety of social functions on the roof, including sports facilities with running and walking routes, outside dining areas, toddler and kids play areas, an outside cinema and a large area dedicated to urban agriculture,” said Phillippe Fouché, director of SAOTA, in a press release. “As a public gesture, the design introduces a raised public enclave which allows visual access to the canal, the steps leading to it also double as urban seating and meeting place, creating an inclusive urban interface.” Sustainability is also a key feature of the net-zero energy community and part of the overarching goal of promoting “long-term commitment to future residents and users.” In addition to the sculptural buildings, the waterfront development will be defined by attractive public spaces and retail to attract residents and visitors alike. Construction on Neuländer Quarree is scheduled for 2020 with planned completion in 2023. + SAOTA Images via SAOTA

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Architecture students design and build a LEED Platinum smart home in Kansas

November 25, 2019 by  
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Every year, graduate students at the University of Kansas Department of Architecture enroll in the nonprofit Studio 804 program to design and build a sustainable, affordable and innovative home over the course of the year. In 2018, the group not only accomplished their goal of a LEED Platinum-certified house but also created the program’s first fully integrated smart house. Located in the Brook Creek neighborhood of Lawrence, Kansas, the net zero energy-targeted residence is a shining example of sustainable housing that even comes with an accessory dwelling unit. Located in a flood plain, the house takes the form of two floating, modern glass boxes that are elevated yet accessible with a ramp. The home takes flooding into account and makes water conservation and management a central theme in its design. All stormwater is managed onsite and is either funneled through underground pipes to native plantings or absorbed into the onsite subsurface. Inside the home, low-flow fixtures were installed and all but one fixture are WaterSense-rated. An Energy Star-rated heat pump water heater also helps reduce energy and water use. Related: Students build a low-cost yet high-quality sustainable home from recycled materials The house achieves energy savings through its airtight, highly insulated envelope, Energy Star-rated appliances and use of solar panels on the highly reflective roof. The east side of the building is completely glazed to let natural light flood the interiors and to bring the outdoors in. As a fully integrated smart house, all the appliances can be remotely controlled and “communicate with each other” to ensure energy efficiency. “As we always try to do, we took the potential negative of the site — being in a flood plain — and tried to make it a positive,” Studio 804 explained. “The buildable site was built up with compacted earth above the flood plain. The dwellings are carefully composed glass boxes perched on concrete plinths, off which they cantilever. The buildings seem to float in what is a park-like setting.” + Studio 804 Photography by Corey Gaffer Photography via Studio 804

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Architecture students design and build a LEED Platinum smart home in Kansas

Net-zero energy DPR office becomes Austins first WELL-certified workplace

November 11, 2019 by  
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Construction management firm DPR Construction has recently moved into an impressive new workplace of its own making — a LEED Gold -certified facility located on the east side of Austin, Texas. Designed to follow sustainable principles, the net-zero energy office is fitted with energy-efficient fixtures, environmentally friendly materials and health-minded features that have also earned the project WELL Silver certification. The interiors of the new office — DPR’s regional team occupies the top floor of the mixed-use facility — were designed by IA Interior Architects . DPR’s Austin office is the fifth net-zero energy office completed by the company across the country and is seen as one of the firm’s “living labs” for sustainable design. In addition to a focus on energy efficiency, the building is notable for its promotion of healthy living. Natural lighting is emphasized while materials with volatile organic compounds are limited wherever possible. Circadian lighting design, ergonomic workspaces, a spotlight on healthy eating and activity incentive programs have helped the project achieve WELL Certification. Related: Sound-absorbing materials fold into a giant origami-like meeting pod The workspace design is also reflective of DPR’s four core values: integrity, enjoyment, uniqueness and ever-forward. As an extension of the company’s flat organizational structure, an open-office concept was created in place of private offices. Instead, employees can work from a variety of different work areas with adjustable-height workstations. Amenity spaces such as the bar/break room and the gaming corridor surround the office. “Multiple green walls with air plants and succulents, like the one in reception, enhance and in some cases provide privacy,” reads a project statement by IA Interior Architects. “Environmentally friendly and sustainable local materials, views to the outside, circadian lighting design and an increase in natural light provided by the added skylights are all factors contributing to the design’s sustainability story and DPR’s commitment to wellness in the workplace.” + IA Interior Architects Photography by Robin Hill via IA Interior Architects

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WOHA unveils a lush, net-zero Singapore Pavilion for the 2020 World Expo

September 5, 2019 by  
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Singapore-based architecture firm WOHA has unveiled plans to create a net-zero energy green oasis for 2020 World Expo Singapore Pavilion in the Dubai desert. Dubbed “Nature. Nurture. Future.,” the self-sufficient Singapore Pavilion will run entirely on solar energy and solar desalination systems. The temporary structure will symbolize a “forward-looking Singapore” emphasizing livability and sustainability. Appointed to the project by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore’s land use planning and conservation agency, WOHA will integrate the 1,550-square-meter pavilion with greenery, renewable energy systems, a food market, interactive multimedia stations and informative displays on Singaporean culture and industries. Plants will grow on all levels of the multi-story structure: tropical trees, shrubbery and orchids on the ground plane; a hanging garden suspended from the solar canopy; and vertical gardens that grow along the three structural “cones” anchoring the building. Related: New images show greenery engulfing Singapore’s tropical skyscraper Visitors will be guided through the pavilion on a meandering canopy walk that weaves through the cones and leads to the open sky market platform with panoramic views of the surroundings, a gathering area and an eatery serving Singaporean cuisine. A variety of exhibits and programs are embedded into the walk, which concludes at the Ground Galleria with a display on Singapore’s design culture and a retail area. The interior is kept comfortably cool thanks to shade from the solar canopy, fine mist fans and the evapotranspiration from the abundant vegetation. “The uniqueness of the Singapore Pavilion is that despite its location in the desert, it is green, soft and alive, demonstrating the great potential of the respectful, seamless integration and co-existence of nature and architecture,” the architects said. “It represents a captivating and forward-looking Singapore, one that is sociable, sustainable and livable, and shows a way architecture can make a meaningful contribution to the fight against the effects of climate change .” + WOHA Architects Images via WOHA

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WOHA unveils a lush, net-zero Singapore Pavilion for the 2020 World Expo

BIG unveils a sustainable floating city in response to rising sea levels

April 9, 2019 by  
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BIG and a coalition of partners have unveiled Oceanix City, a visionary proposal for the world’s first resilient and sustainable floating community for 10,000 people. Presented at the first UN high-level roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities, the conceptual design was created as a potential solution to the perceived threat of climate change and rising sea levels. Conceived as a “modular maritime metropolis,” Oceanix City is engineered for self-sufficiency with features from net-zero energy and zero-waste systems to a sharing culture. According to UN-Habitat, 90 percent of the world’s largest cities will be exposed to rising seas by 2050. As part of UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda, BIG teamed up with MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, Mobility in Chain, Sherwood Design Engineers, Center for Zero Waste Design and other partners to propose Oceanix City. This is a 75-hectare floating city  that is meant to grow and adapt organically over time — from neighborhoods to cities — with the possibility of scaling indefinitely. To that end, Oceanix City uses a modular design with two-hectare modules serving mixed-use communities of up to 300 residents centered on communal farming. Larger 12-hectare villages comprise six neighborhood modules clustered around a protected central harbor accommodating social, recreational and commercial functions for up to 1,650 residents. For a city of 10,000 residents, six villages are connected around a larger protected harbor. Construction materials will be locally sourced whenever possible, and components would be prefabricated on shore and then towed to their final site to keep construction costs low and thus permit affordable housing. Related: How the world’s first floating city could restore the environment “The sea is our fate — it may also be our future,” Bjarke Ingels said. “The first sustainable and self-sustained floating community, Oceanix City, is designed as a human made ecosystem channeling circular flows of energy, water, food and waste. Oceanix City is a blueprint for a modular maritime metropolis anchored in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The additive architecture can grow, transform and adapt organically over time, evolving from a neighborhood of 300 residents to a city of 10,000 — with the possibility of scaling indefinitely to provide thriving nautical communities for people who care about each other and our planet.” + BIG Images via BIG

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