An Upstate New York studio heated and cooled without fossil fuels

April 5, 2021 by  
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With retirement and grandchildren on the horizon, a Manhattanite couple reached out to  GRT Architects  to design their new home in Upstate New York’s Dutchess County. Since the clients were on the fence about leaving New York City, the architects started by building a small studio that sensitively frames views of the 24-acre site’s pastoral landscape. Simply dubbed the Dutchess County Studio, the 800-square-foot dwelling provides an elegant getaway in nature and reduces its carbon footprint with a fossil-fuel-free heating and cooling system that relies on  radiant energy .  Located by a lake with zero neighbors in sight, the Dutchess County Studio was developed as part of GRT Architects’ site-sensitive master plan that includes schematic signs for a three-bedroom house, a workshop, a swimming pool, fire pit and dock along with a new shared driveway, septic system, well and electrical service. Knowing that the clients once lived in a  Frank Lloyd Wright -planned Usonia community, the architects also drew from Wright’s nature-centric design philosophy to place each building “where it would have a view but not be the view.” To recede the studio into the landscape, the architects clad the building in textured black brick and, to lend a sense of warmth to the exterior, topped the roof with natural cedar shakes with copper trim. The 800-square-foot  open plan  studio comprises three equally sized volumes arranged in a pinwheel formation and placed to follow the topography. Built-in volumes help maximize interior space while subtly delineating the three different rooms — cooking, living and sleeping — each of which is oriented to different landscape views. The living room includes a  Murphy bed  to accommodate guests.  Related: Cold Spring Residence, a family’s low-impact weekend retreat Happy with the successful design and build of the studio, the clients have given the architects the green light to move on with other elements of the master plan, with planning for the home underway. + GRT Architects Images by Ithai Schori

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An Upstate New York studio heated and cooled without fossil fuels

Niagara Falls welcomes zero-emission electric boats for sustainable tours

November 4, 2020 by  
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After nearly two centuries of bringing visitors up close and personal with the awe-inspiring waterfalls at Niagara Falls , the iconic Maid of the Mist attraction has been upgraded with two new all-electric, zero-emission boats. Launched in the first week of October, Niagara Falls’ new Maid of the Mist passenger vessels not only offer a greener experience but also a quieter and smoother ride in the nation’s oldest state park. The sustainable initiative helps advance Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal that mandates New York’s power be 100% carbon-free by 2040. First launched in 1846, the Maid of the Mist is one of North America’s longest running tourist attractions. The national park’s new electrified boats are the first passenger vessels of their kind in the U.S. and include the ‘James V. Glynn’ named in honor of the longtime Maid of the Mist chairman and CEO James V. Glynn as well as ‘Nikola Tesla’ in honor of the world-famous engineer who designed and constructed the world’s first hydroelectric power plant located on the American side of the Niagara Falls. The pair of zero-emission vessels were introduced as part of a $70 million revitalization of Niagara Falls State Park.  Related: Cold front turns Niagara Falls into a glorious icy wonderland To highlight the environmentally friendly benefits of the Maid of the Mist boats, the vessels feature a blue-and-green color pattern on the exterior as well as graphics of waves that represent Niagara Falls, a lightning bolt symbolic of electricity and a turbine in a nod to hydroelectric power. The blue lines on the sides of the vessels represent water flowing from the upper deck of the vessel into the turbine. “Niagara Falls is a wonder of the world unique to Western New York and Maid of the Mist has given people from all walks of life an up-close look at its majesty for more than 150 years,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a press release. “Having this natural wonder in our backyard means we have a special responsibility as its steward and protecting it for future generations. This new fleet of all-electric vessels will protect the health of our waterways and environment, and is another example of New York State building back better, smarter and greener.” + Niagara Falls Images via New York Power Authority

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How a green-roofed shopping center is redefining ‘reuse’

November 4, 2020 by  
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Now that eco-friendly building and reuse projects are on the rise, there have been some pretty amazing transformations. Many architects and designers are embracing the adaptive reuse trend, breathing new life and new purpose into old buildings rather than demolishing them. A new design by Herzog & de Meuron that transforms an old depot into a shopping center is truly inspirational, showcasing innovative ways to approach reuse projects while still adding creativity and functionality to a design for the betterment of a community. The building in question used to be a customs depot in Basel, Switzerland. But it will soon become a shopping center, in a project called Dreispitz Nord, that even has a school onsite. Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron headed the project, a mixed-use district that will expand Basel’s downtown. Herzog & de Meuron is no stranger to innovation. The firm first began the project in 2017, when it won a competition for a massive redevelopment plan for Basel. The goal in this project is to create an urban building with “large, public green space,” according to a statement released by the firm, which recently shared more details and updates on its original design. Related: BIG weaves green roofs into a mixed-use development on stilts in Miami The Dreispitz Nord project includes three mixed-use, high-rise towers surrounded by mid-rise buildings; these mid-rise buildings will add more affordable housing to the city. In addition to the shopping center, there’s also a public park and the school, which is big enough for about 600 students. The school and its accompanying gymnasium will be prefabricated to save time and construction waste. A flourishing green roof will serve as another public park, where a DIY and garden center will welcome Basel residents to get creative. There will also be playing fields, community gardens and a youth center. The project’s blend of adaptive reuse and newly added high-rise towers will transform the Basel skyline while also adding plenty of public amenities for the community to enjoy. + Herzog & de Meuron Via Archinect Images via Herzog & de Meuron

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How a green-roofed shopping center is redefining ‘reuse’

Contemporary Camp O communes with nature in the Catskills

April 1, 2020 by  
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Humble natural materials and modern sensibilities combine in Camp O, a light-filled house-studio nestled in the middle of the Catskills’ preserve. Designed by New York City-based designer  Maria Milans del Bosch  as a private getaway for herself and her husband, the holiday home pays homage to the local vernacular with a distinctly contemporary twist. The forested landscape also inspired the home, which is wrapped in a cedar rain screen treated with the Japanese charring technique “Shou Sugi Ban.” Carefully placed on an existing clearing to minimize site impact, the 2,190-square-foot Camp O takes cues from the local vernacular architecture for its palette of low-maintenance  natural materials , such as the concrete foundation, wood siding, plywood sheathing, wood stud walls, beams and joists, and metal double-pitched roof. Where the home differs from the neighboring barns and cabins is in how those materials are combined to create a sculptural geometric abode defined by natural light, clean lines and minimalism. The  charred cedar facade  that gives the home its contemporary appeal also protects the building from water, fire and insects and doesn’t require maintenance. Sustainability is further integrated into the design through the strategic orientation of the home for natural ventilation and optimal sun exposure to minimize energy consumption. Insulation was placed outside the building envelope to maximize interior comfort and to allow the interior elements to remain exposed. Bathed in natural light from multiple directions, the airy home appears to change throughout the day and seasons. Related: Beautiful solar-powered minimalist cabins are clad in locally sourced charred timber “At Camp O, the dialogue between the stereotomic and the tectonic together with its haptic qualities transcend the mere appearance of the technical in much the same way as its place-form withstands the passing of time rooting the building into the Nature that surrounds it,” explained the architect in a press release. “The building becomes a resonance box that intensifies the experience of the outdoors indoors : Its insertion into the site, its volumetry and its materiality express the site’s calling into matter.” + Maria Milans Studio Images © Montse Zamorano

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Contemporary Camp O communes with nature in the Catskills

New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike

September 19, 2019 by  
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Tomorrow, on September 20, a global climate strike is scheduled to bring awareness about the need for transformative action against the growing climate crisis . The strike will take place three days before the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City. Unlike other strikes, this one invites New York City minors to participate, thanks to the event coinciding with efforts already begun by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. In support of Thunberg’s efforts, the New York City Department of Education recently announced via Twitter that it will excuse any of the city’s 1.1 million students who are interested in attending the scheduled September 20 climate strike . But they must provide parental consent, per their school’s attendance protocols, to be formally excused from class. Related: Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably New York Mayor Bill de Blasio similarly tweeted his stamp of approval, saying, “We have 10 years to save the planet. TEN YEARS. Today’s leaders are making decisions for our environment that our kids will have to live with. New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience. We support the 9/20 #ClimateStrike.” Thunberg will be speaking at the NYC event, as will climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. The event is supported by organizations such as Fridays for Future, National Children’s Campaign, OneMillionOfUs, 350.org, Zero Hour and many more. Participants in the New York City climate strike are asked to assemble on Foley Square at noon Eastern Time, then head southward toward Battery Park, where the rally is to take place between 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. local time. Meanwhile, students and adults alike will be striking around the world, with strikes taking place in cities from September 20 to September 27. You can join in by using this map to find an event near you. + Global Climate Strike Via CNN Image via Jasmin Sessler

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New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike

Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle

September 19, 2019 by  
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Costa Rica has long been renowned for its commitment to protecting its natural environment, but one home nestled into 2.5 acres of a permaculture farm is really setting an example for green building. Located in the idyllic area of Diamante Valley, the House Without Shoes is an incredible rammed-earth complex made up of three interconnected domes, which are joined by an open-air deck that looks out over the stunning valley and ocean views. Measuring a total of 2,000 square feet, the House Without Shoes is comprised of three domes that were constructed with bags of rammed earth. All of the domes feature custom-made arched windows and wood frames with screens. They also have skylights that allow natural light to flood the interior spaces. Related: Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume The main dome , which is approximately 22-feet high, houses the primary living area as well as the dining room and kitchen. A beautiful spiral staircase leads up to the second floor, which has enough space for a large office as well as an open-air, 600-square-foot deck that provides spectacular views of the valley leading out to the ocean. The two smaller domes, which house the bedrooms, are separated by the main dome by an outdoor platform. The rammed-earth construction of the structures keeps the interior spaces naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition to its tight thermal mass, the home operates on a number of passive and active design principles. The home’s water supply comes from multiple springs found in the valley. Gray water from the sinks and shower are funneled into a collection system that is used for irrigation. At the moment, the house runs on the town’s local grid but has its own self-sustaining system set up. The domes are set in a remote area, tucked into the highest point of a 60-acre organic, permaculture farm in the Diamante Valley. Not only is the house surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and abundant wildlife, but it also enjoys the benefits of organic gardening. The vast site is separated into three garden areas that are planted with everything from yucca and mango to coco palms and perennial greens, not to mention oodles of fresh herbs. + SuperAdobe Dome Home Images via Makenzie Gardner

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Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle

New York Botanical Garden’s new artist residencies connect people with plants

May 10, 2019 by  
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Despite its irrefutable success — founded in 1891 and now receiving one million visitors a year — the New York Botanical Garden’s staff tirelessly finds innovative ways to stimulate visitors’ connection to nature. This year, it launched a new artist residency program, inviting internationally acclaimed visual artist Michele Oka Doner and sought-after composer Angélica Negrón to be the first participants. “People come to nature in different ways,” Barbara Corcoran, NYBG’s vice president for continuing and public education, told Inhabitat. “Some people come to the garden and they’re very observant, they really see the plants, they read the labels, and they have quite a good knowledge. They’re gardeners themselves or they’re naturalists.” Others might need extra help connecting. “ Music and art are two ways to do that,” she said. Carrie Rebora Barratt, who became CEO and president of the garden in 2018, came up with the residency idea. Her training as an art historian and museum administrator and her previous position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art had shown her the value of artist residencies. Michele Oka Doner Love of nature fuels Michele Oka Doner’s five decades of artwork. This is apparent as soon as you walk into her SoHo studio. “It’s like a treasure trove of nature,” Corcoran said. “She’s a collector of natural objects and archaeological finds like fossils and little bird skulls, like dozens of them, and old stone tools and shells and nature books. So this is like a laboratory. When you go there, you really get to see what she’s all about.” Doner’s past works include “A Walk on the Beach,” composed of 9,000 bronze starfish, sand dollars, coral and other sea-inspired sculptures embedded in the concourse at Miami International Airport. Her installation at the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory in Munich includes 400 shamanistic sculptures . She’s still developing her ideas for the site-specific work she’ll create at the New York Botanical Garden . Related: Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls On June 12, Doner will give a free talk at the garden called “Ecstatic Nutrition: The Trees of My Life” about three trees that greatly influenced her. “It kicks off our Wellness Wednesdays, which we have through the summer,” Corcoran said.  “Michele is a close observer of nature and a fine storyteller. She has this kind of enchantment with the natural world and its sacredness, and it really comes across. I think it will be very inspiring to hear her talk.” Angélica Negrón Composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón is a classically trained violinist who is well-known for her electronic music. Much of her work includes nontraditional instruments, such as toys, music boxes and electrodes hooked up to vegetables. A YouTube video shows Negrón in a market, lining up vegetables on a shelf to gauge their aesthetic as well as musical potential.  “I try to find vegetables or fruits that match the textures of the songs. I do love cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, vegetables that have kind of design element. I call it a vegetable synth,” she said in the video. “I try to coordinate it so it all looks like part of the same instrument.” Corcoran said that both artists are interested in science and technology. Negrón has met with a New York Botanical Garden scientist and horticulturalist to learn more about tree communication. “ Trees communicate largely through their roots,” Corcoran said. “That’s all very fascinating to her.” Negrón has already performed twice at the garden, delighting the public with her vegetable synth. “She assigns each vegetable with a different note,” Corcoran explained. “And then when she touches them, the water in those fruits and plants and vegetables conduct the electricity that creates the notes. By tapping different vegetables, she creates a musical piece.” She also adds in acoustic and electronic instruments and found sounds for a result Corcoran describes as “soothing and mesmerizing.” Negrón’s residency will culminate in November with a world-premiere performance in the Thain Family Forest. “We’ll have several choruses here,” Corcoran said. “So it’s a mix of live choral music with sounds that are coming from the trees. I think that’s going to be a real artistic happening that you wouldn’t want to miss if you’re in New York in the fall. Plus, it’s in the old growth forest at a beautiful time of year.” Visiting the garden The New York Botanical Garden is open Tuesday through Sunday year-round, plus occasional holiday Mondays. In addition to leisurely strolling and soaking up the beauty, there’s always something going on. Activities range from the extremely practical — learning to repot orchids — to something as celebratory as the Brazil-themed World Pride Night in June. The botanical garden is a vital center for plant research. Its herbarium contains 7.8 million specimens, and it employs about 200 PhD-level scientists and support staff who travel the world to collect plants and bring them back for study. But most of all, it’s a place where busy urbanites can spend time in nature . “It’s a real oasis for people,” Corcoran said. “And I think now more than ever, people need that.” + New York Botanical Garden Images via NYBG and Ben Hider / NYBG

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Minimalist home in northern Spain uses geothermal energy to reduce energy consumption

May 10, 2019 by  
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There are few things we love more than a gorgeous minimalist design that boasts energy-efficiency features, and Barcelona-based firm, Pepe Gascón Arquitectura,  has managed to combine the two beautifully. Located just east of Barcelona, the Elvira&Marcos House is a minimalist, all-white rectangular volume with slender windows, surrounded by a natural landscape of overgrown grass and wildflowers. The home’s minimalist design conceals an extremely tight insulative shell and geothermal energy system to reduce the home’s energy consumption. The 2,475 square foot home was built on a lot that was slated for development years ago, before Spain’s economy was hit by the economic crisis. Today, the Elvira & Marcos home is the only residence in the area, adding a touch of mysterious solitude to the gorgeous home design. Related: Geothermal-powered Forest House showcases sustainable features in Maryland The all-white, rectangular-shaped home is surrounded by a plot made up of overgrown greenery that partially hides the home from view. According to the architects, leaving the landscape in its wild state was a strategic move to create “a house with a clear geometry but without resorting to unnecessary gestures, offering a forceful interpretation with a certain neutrality in the midst of the surrounding heterogeneity.” The exterior of the home is made out of flexible stucco finish that comes with an integral Exterior Thermal Insulation System (SATE), creating a tight insulative shell for the structure. In addition to the exterior insulation, the SATE system was also used in the roof to avoid energy-wasting thermal bridges. The end result is an extremely tight envelope, that, together with a geothermal energy system installed, drastically reduces the home’s energy consumption. The interior of the three-story home is connected by an large interior steel staircase that holds court in the middle of the kitchen. The home’s minimalist aesthetic continues throughout the home’s open layout with all-white walls and a continuous concrete floor. Natural light shines into the living area from the slender slat windows— which is made even more open and airy thanks to its double height ceilings. + Pepe Gascón Arquitectura Via Design Milk Photography by Aitor Estévez via Pepe Gascón Arquitectura  

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New York is curbing food waste and helping people in need with a new initiative

April 17, 2019 by  
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New York is making important strides toward reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, recently agreed to a new food waste initiative with the state legislature that will recycle scraps and send wholesome food to people in need. The new law is called the Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Act. Once the bill goes into practice, all surplus food items will be donated to local food shelters while any scraps will be sent to recycling centers, preventing a large portion of food from entering the waste stream. Related: 5 simple ways to reduce your food waste right now Food waste is a growing concern in the United States. According to NRDC , experts estimate that around 40 percent of food ends up in the waste bin on an annual basis. In New York City, this statistic is particularly alarming given that there are close to 2.5 million people in the city who struggle to find food. Food comprises around 18 percent of solid waste, most of which ends up in landfills across the country. Food breaks down easily in the landfill , but the process results in methane gas. You also have to account for wasting all the energy it took to create that food, including water and labor. Governor Cuomo hopes that the new bill will help prevent the majority of food waste from ending up in the landfill. The law will require facilities that create food waste to mark any excess for donation. Once things are in full swing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation believes that it will save around 250,000 tons of food on a yearly basis. The top priority of the new law is to feed people in need. Following that, any food scraps will be donated for animal feed, followed by industrial uses — such as oil rendering — and composting . The new food waste law will not go into effect in New York City , because there is a similar law already in place. Via NRDC Image via Jasmin S.

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New York is curbing food waste and helping people in need with a new initiative

Barn-inspired home offers back-to-nature living with a crisp, contemporary twist

October 15, 2018 by  
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Reconnecting with rural roots has never looked better than at Silvernails, a beautiful hillside home fashioned as a rural barn in Rhinebeck, New York. Set on a picturesque 120-acre property near the east side of the Hudson River, the gabled holiday retreat is the first “ground-up” residential work of Manhattan-based Amalgam Studio . In addition to its modern good looks and spectacular outdoor views, Silvernails also boasts an energy-efficient design optimized for cross-ventilation and daylighting. Spanning 5,000 square feet, the timber-clad home is organized as a long and linear rectangular mass clad in timber inside and out. “Much like the traditional communal barn-raising events of the region, the double-height Bent Frames were raised and bolted into place, with the entire timber structure completed in one day,” explained Amalgam Studio founder Ben Albury, who noted that although many people are drawn to the airy and warm character of barns , the rural buildings’ lack of insulation and comfort are turn-offs. To make the barn-inspired residence a comfortable and welcome place to call home, the architects used high-performance glazing and insulation to ensure stable indoor temperatures year-round. In-wall heat-recovery ventilation units and operable windows also promote continuous fresh air. “From the very beginning, the clients wanted a comfortable house. I believe it would have been irresponsible for me not to look at, and ultimately follow, Passive House Standards,” Albury said. “As far as I’m aware, the home features the longest triple-glazed Passive House Certified residential skylight in North America.” In addition to natural ventilation and lighting, Silvernails features LED lighting, an energy-efficient multi-split heat-pump air conditioning system and locally sourced materials. Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The exterior is clad with unpainted “plantation pine” treated to withstand rot and pests and applied using a “unique, innovative clip system to the standing seams of roof sheeting.” The interiors include white oak flooring and lining, walnut cabinetry and hickory vanity units. The timber palette is complemented with domestically quarried stone, including granite and slate. + Amalgam Studio Via ArchDaily Images by Oliver Mint

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