Certified Passive House in New York generates all of its own energy

August 13, 2019 by  
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In New York’s Hudson Valley, a beautiful new beacon for sustainable, net-zero design has taken root. New York-based North River Architecture & Planning recently added another energy-efficient build to its growing portfolio of environmentally friendly projects — the Accord Passive House, a modern home that has not only achieved PHIUS+ Certification but also boasts no net energy costs annually. Located in the hamlet of Accord, the contemporary house is sensitive to both the environment as well as the local culture and history. The architects drew inspiration from the rural farm buildings for the design of a gabled , barn-like house that emphasizes connection with the outdoors and flexible living spaces accommodating of the homeowners’ changing needs. As with traditional farm buildings, the construction materials were selected for longevity, durability and low-maintenance properties. Related: Architect designs and builds his dream Passive House in New York Galvanized corrugated steel siding wraps the exterior, while a trowel-finished concrete slab is used for the floor inside and is visually tied to the xeriscaped pea gravel patio that requires no irrigation. “Trim materials inside and out were chosen for their adaptive reuse and low resource extraction properties, including the use of engineered lumber for trim work, salvaged white oak slats and carmelized cork throughout the project,” the firm added. “The cork was used inside and out for its sustainable harvest and broad utility for acoustics, water resistance and insulation value.” Topped with a 9kW photovoltaic array, the impressive net-zero energy build was also created to show how Passive House design can be beautiful, resilient and comfortable without incurring sky-high costs. The firm said it has achieved “a competitive price per square foot relative to regional costs for this market niche.” During construction, the architects hosted open-house learning events to promote open-source sharing of energy-efficient design methods and solutions with the local community. + North River Architecture & Planning Photography by Deborah DeGraffenreid via North River Architecture & Planning

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Certified Passive House in New York generates all of its own energy

Energy-efficient home in Whitefish was inspired by the region’s agrarian vernacular

July 29, 2019 by  
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Whitefish, Montana is known for its spectacular natural scenery, and now a family of four has a beautiful new home that reflects the region. Using an existing barn as inspiration, CTA Group designed the Railway Residence, an impressive, 3,500-square-foot energy-efficient home, to frame the surrounding views from virtually any angle. Tucked into an idyllic landscape of 4.5 acres in the eastern outskirts of Whitefish, Montana, the Railway Residence is surrounded by the mountain ranges to the north and east, connected by the historic Great Northern Railroad, which was inspiration for the home’s name. This amazing, natural setting set the tone for the design, both in its aesthetic and its energy performance. Related: A modern, energy-efficient home is built around a beloved madrone tree From a distance, the barn-like gabled roof and extension pay homage to the agrarian vernacular architecture found throughout the region. But the traditional volume conceals a savvy blend of contemporary features that create a soothing, sophisticated home with an impressive number of energy-efficient features. Clad in light-hued cedar siding, the wooden exterior is a nod to the wooded areas that surround the home. This pleasing envelope contains a strategic, energy-saving profile including ultra tight insulation that provides a 50 percent improvement over code minimums. Additionally, the use of prefabricated wood trusses allowed the structure to be sealed and insulated as well as naturally ventilated. Adding to the tight thermal envelope, the home was also installed with an abundance of high performance glass doors and triple-pane windows. The interior spaces are divided into four spaces arranged around a central glass walkway. The social areas, including a spacious living area, home office and music studio along with a garage and storage, are located on one side, while the private sleeping areas are on the other. The interior design, comprised of no-fuss, sophisticated furnishings, was meant to put the focus on creating a comfortable, bright living space where the family could enjoy the incredible views from anywhere in the home. The concrete flooring was installed with radiant in-floor heating that’s paired with a heat recovery ventilator to significantly reduce energy usage, especially in the chilly Montana winters. Bright windows placed underneath the many roof eaves allow natural light inside while the eaves provide shade from solar gain in the hot summer months. Adjacent to the main home, a separate barn, original to the site, was restored and is now a backdrop for the homeowner’s photography business. + CTA Group Photography by Gibeon Photography via CTA Group

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Energy-efficient home in Whitefish was inspired by the region’s agrarian vernacular

New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

July 29, 2019 by  
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Just when you thought the environmental news couldn’t get any worse, a shocking new report warns Americans that they may be facing temperatures of 127 degrees Fahrenheit. By the year 2100, more than one-third of the U.S. population could be exposed to this kind of heat and its accompanying health risks. The county-by-county survey predicts that by mid-century, more than 250 American cities will suffer from at least one month of days where the heat index surpasses 100 degrees. Historically, this number has been 29 cities. The heat-index scale combines temperature with humidity to arrive at what the temperature feels like. Related: Extreme heat wallops the US “We were very surprised at how steeply and quickly the number of days of dangerous heat increased in such a short time,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dahl co-authored the dire new report, “ Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days .” Extreme heat will hit the Southeast and Southern Great Plains the hardest. Texas and southern Arizona will also be sweltering. But even temperate areas, such as Seattle, will notice a significant increase in hot days. Humans, with a normal internal temperature of 98.6, function poorly in extreme heat. Climate researcher Tom Crowther said the increase in heat events “represents a terrifying prospect” and “a direct and immediate threat to human health and wellbeing.” Droughts, floods and wildfires will accompany the extreme temperatures. Sea level rise and compromised food production will also make life tougher. Humankind’s best hope? A fast and drastic reduction in carbon emissions . “Our past climate can no longer guide us,” said meteorologist Richard Rood. “We have to build and adapt to what’s coming.” + Union of Concerned Scientists Via National Geographic Image via Mark Hemmings

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New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US

Endangered California condors are making a comeback with the birth of 1,000th chick

July 23, 2019 by  
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The largest bird in North America is making a comeback after reaching an alarming population size of about 20 birds . The California condor was highly endangered during the late 20th century but holds spiritual importance to indigenous tribes and nature-lovers. Last week, conservationists announced that the 1,000th chick hatched and successfully survived, giving new hope that the birds’ population will continue to grow. The condor population plummeted in the 20th century because of hunting , habitat loss and lead poisoning from eating the carcasses of animals that had been shot with lead bullets. When the population was nearing just 20 birds, conservationists began breeding them in captivity. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration According to Tim Hauch, manager of the Peregrine Fund’s condor program, more than 300 wild California condors exist today. There is a total of more than 500 when those in captivity are included. The newest chick was born in Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah. Condors lay only one egg at a time , and female condors do not nest every year. Conservationists are incredibly hopeful every time one is born. “We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Hauck told NPR. “And that’s just a step toward success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” Although the chick was born in May, it was not considered to be a survivor until July, given the typical mortality of young condors within the first two months. The chick will be able to leave the nest and begin flying around November. California condors are unique birds that can live up to 60 years in the right conditions. That makes condors not only the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of 10 feet, but also one of the longest living birds in the world. Those who study California condors also believe that the birds are capable of having distinct personalities, which separates them from many other avian species. Via NPR Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Endangered California condors are making a comeback with the birth of 1,000th chick

How to easily make your own reusable produce bags

July 22, 2019 by  
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If you’re focused on sustainability and/or zero waste , you probably cringe every time you return home from the grocery store and pull out bag after bag of fruits and vegetables, each tucked inside plastic bags conveniently located in the produce section where you shopped. The good news is that it’s easy to end the cringe with reusable cloth produce bags. Fortunately, it’s easy to make your own cloth produce bags at very little cost. There are even no-sew options if a sewing machine isn’t your thing. The best part is that you likely already have everything you need to whip up a pile of reusable cloth bags this weekend. Related: RÆBURN upcycles North Face tents into one-of-a-kind bags Material An old, but freshly washed, bed sheet makes the perfect upcycle material for your cloth produce bags. Alternately, grab some lightly-used pillow cases. These work great since they already have seams on some of the sides. Ideally, you will want cotton or linen and organic is always best, but remember that turning one product into something else is already an eco-friendly action so give yourself a break if your sheets aren’t organic.  The linen closet is an easy place to start, but it’s certainly not the only place to find material in your home. Old clothing is an accessible option, especially when you look for shapes that make produce bags easier to make. For example, a child’s shirt will only need small adaptations to turn into a bag. Same goes for wide sleeves or a tight skirt.  No sew Sewing just might not be your thing. Perhaps you don’t have a sewing machine, or you don’t enjoy the whole needle and thread experience. That’s fine with us. To use no-sew reusable produce bags, simply use Velcro instead. Lay your fabric pieces out inside out. Glue Velcro to the length of each side and allow the strips to dry. Then press the Velcro pieces together completely. Use high-quality Velcro for a firm hold.  Sew Making your own produce bags doesn’t require extensive sewing experience. Simply cut and lay out two rectangles of fabric, back to back (or inside out). You can make bags in a variety of sizes. Sew the edges of three sides, leaving the top open. If you are using a material with existing seams, finish the additional edges. For example, cut a pillowcase in four quarters, turn each quarter inside out, finish the seams and turn it back right side out to see your completed bag. The top Now you have your upcycled produce bag ready to go, but you may be wondering how to keep it closed once you stuff your favorite produce inside. The answer is that you don’t really need to if your bag is deep enough. However, if you prefer to have a top that closes, there are several ways you can go about it. For those that enjoyed the sewing portion, go ahead and add a drawstring to the top. To do this, fold over the material at the top leaving about 1/2 inch before making a seam. The 1/2 inch gap allows room for a piece of rope or that non-partnered shoelace in the junk drawer. You can lay it into the space before stitching it up, but be sure not to stitch over it, which locks it into a stationary position and will inhibit the bag from pulling closed. For a no-sew option attach the two sides with Velcro. An even easier solution is to close the top while you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market using a hair tie band. The elasticity allows the cashier to peak inside the bag hassle free. Plus, if you use your produce bag in the bulk section, you can attach the product number tag directly to the tie band.  Other Uses Produce bags are never just for produce. You can use them to store any number of foods . Beans are an excellent example. Rice, pasta and other pantry items also store well in fabric bags. Shopping bulk is a sustainable action that removes much of the packaging waste from the typical shopping venture. While glass jars are best for some things, fabric bags can handle the “bulk” of your dried foods. Outside the food realm you can use them to store art supplies such as markers, paint brushes and rocks. When it comes time to do laundry, throw small items such as kid’s socks inside and wash the entire bag. Care Fabric produce bags are easy to care for because they are machine washable alongside the rest of your laundry. It’s best to wash bags after each use considering the amount of germs they encounter in the shopping cart, at checkout and in your car. Bags can be hung to dry or tossed into the dryer if necessary. Remember to put your bags somewhere you will remember to take them with you for your next shopping trip, or take them directly to the car for storage. Congratulations on your step towards reducing plastic waste ! Images via Sean and Lauren , Pixabay , Laura Mitulla

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Millenials are bringing camping back

July 15, 2019 by  
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Let’s get one thing straight: camping was always cool. It wasn’t, however, always a very popular pastime among young people. According to the 2019 North American Camping Report, sponsored by Kampgrounds of America, there are more millennials and Gen Xers likely to identify themselves as lifelong campers now than in any other year. The study, which began in 2014, was conducted through surveys in both the United States and Canada.  The percentage of North Americans who camp three or more times per year has increased by 72 percent since 2014, adding 7 million more camping households (families with children under 18 years-old who camp) to the Canadian and American campgrounds. Younger campers are also helping to increase the popularity of hiking and backpacking while they camp, according to the report. Related: Seven commandments of Leave-No-Trace Camping While the majority of campers choose the traditional approach of camping (sleeping in tents), there are more millennials choosing to camp in cabins and RVs instead, with 14 percent using cabins in 2016 and 21 percent in 2018 to be exact. The study also found that campers are more diverse than ever. Of the 1.4 million households that went camping for the first time in 2018, 56 percent were millennials and 51 percent identified as nonwhite. For the first time since 2014 (when the study began), the percentage of non-white first-time campers outpaced the percentage of new campers who identified as Caucasian. When it comes to trendy “glamping,” all age groups are showing interest. Particularly in millennials, 50 percent of which said they were interested in glamping in 2018 versus the 25 percent who said they wanted to try it in 2017. Glamping refers to unique camping accommodations that often includes enhanced services like luxury yurts, king-sized beds, spas and even private chefs. Some glamping companies have been praised for providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional hotel or resort accommodations. Many take advantage of locally-sourced food, composting toilets and solar power to give their guests opportunities to connect with nature while still having access to the creature comforts they’re used to. The same goes for “van life,” a camping lifestyle that uses altered camper vans, or motorized class B vehicles, as opposed to RV’s or tents. The main objective is often to go off the grid and easily move from place to place without having to disassemble a tent or find an electrical power source for your RV. The number of millennials who wanted to experience van life shifted up by about 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. Those who live the van life trade modern comforts and space for a chance to get as close to nature as possible while living a minimalist lifestyle.   So why the spike in camping interest? 30 percent of millennials say that major life events such as having kids is impacting their desire to camp more, while another 30 percent said that the ability to see other people traveling and exploring popular destinations (thank you, social media) made them want to spend more time camping. Even more encouraging, half of all campers said that the “love of the outdoors” first sparked their interest in camping, meaning that more camp-loving North Americans are beginning to value nature even more than before— a good sign for our national parks , and the planet as a whole. One out of every 20 camping families said that 2018 was the first time they’d ever camped. 2018 also saw the highest number of self-identified lifelong campers ever recorded, with more millennials identifying themselves as lifelong campers than in past years. As studies have shown, spending as little as two hours in nature can improve mental health, and camping offers the opportunity to connect with nature with the added benefits of unplugging from the internet and electronic devices. Additionally, activities such as hiking which often accompany camping provide good exercise , even setting up your tent and site counts! Since the study began in 2014, the amount of North Americans who intend to camp more has almost doubled. The groups who were most optimistic about their camping future were families and millennials, as 61 percent of millennials said that they planned to camp more in 2019. There’s no denying it, the future of camping looks bright. So if you were in one of those families growing up that had an annual camping trip, consider yourself lucky. You’re already ahead of the pack! Via Matador Network , Curbed Images via Xue Guangjian , Kun Fotografi , Rawpixel.com , Cliford Mervil , Snapwire

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Millenials are bringing camping back

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

De Stijl-inspired modern home generates all of its own energy

July 10, 2019 by  
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When a couple decided to “break free” from their cookie-cutter home and realize their long-awaited eco-friendly dream home, they turned to Chapel Hill-based architect Arielle Condoret Schechter to bring their vision to life. With their grown son now out of the house, the couple wanted to downsize to a simple modernist home where they could peacefully age in place. Nestled in a secluded place in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, the resulting sustainable home is custom-designed to meet all their needs, from achieving net-zero energy to its modernist design with architectural elements inspired by the Netherlands-based De Stijl movement of the early 1900s. Completed earlier this year, the contemporary zero-energy home embraces the outdoors without compromising the clients’ needs for privacy. Along the front, street-facing elevation, architect Arielle Condoret Schechter installed a natural cypress screen that filters light, obscures views and references the surrounding woods. The windows along the front are also placed high up along the fiber cement walls. In contrast, the rear of the property is completely open to the outdoors with a large outdoor deck with full-height windows and walls painted with geometric blocks of primary colors in the style of the De Stijl art movement. “We want a house just for the two of us,” said the clients. “We don’t want to socialize. We want to be left alone to enjoy our life…[and have] a sheltered place to sit outside and watch the rain.” To meet the clients’ needs for aging in place, the architect created an interior with zero thresholds, curb-free showers and oversized doorways. Meanwhile, the couple can watch the outdoors in comfort from the south-facing deck that’s protected by a deeply cantilevered roof. Related: Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age The large roof overhangs around the entire house also help reduce solar heat gain and support a rooftop solar array. Highly efficient insulation wraps the home’s three rectilinear volumes to create an airtight envelope, while an energy recovery ventilator keeps indoor air fresh without producing ozone. In addition to following passive design principles such as maximizing natural light and ventilation wherever possible, the architect also installed windows and doors certified for Passive House Construction to ensure that the house archives Net Zero performance. + Arielle Condoret Schechter Images via Arielle Condoret Schechter

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De Stijl-inspired modern home generates all of its own energy

Chteau La Coste adds a solar-powered cottage designed by Jean Prouv

July 10, 2019 by  
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Chateâu La Coste is known as one of the world’s most innovative art and architectural escapes. Located in fairytale-esque Provence, the 600-acre property is comprised of biodynamic vineyards and a winery designed by architect Jean Nouvel, among countless works of art and designs by other notable names. Now, the famed Chateâu has added another incredible property: a solar-powered luxury suite inside a refurbished Jean Prouvé-designed one-room shelter. Self-taught architect and designer Jean Prouvé is known as one of the great modernist masters. In 1944, he famously created a design for demountable, 6-meter-by-6-meter temporary shelters. Related: Group of friends build a DIY cabin retreat, complete with suspended tree decks Now, a refurbished version of this shelter design holds court in a serene pine forest as a solar-powered luxury suite for guests lucky enough to stay at the Chateâu La Coste. The Suite N° 30 is a one-bedroom studio space clad in natural wood paneling . The structure’s front entrance is through an open-air platform with ample room for seating. Blue-framed glass doors open up to the interior space, which, like the exterior, boasts an off-grid cabin feel. The interior of the suite is filled with midcentury furniture from the likes of Pierre Jeanneret and Serge Mouille, among others. While the cabin mainly stays true to the original design, the suite has an added bathroom and kitchen. This is not your ordinary kitchenette — it is a cylindrical pod designed by none other than Richard Rogers . The pod houses a solar-powered kitchen, complete with all of the amenities needed to put together a tasty meal. The tiny cottage is an important addition to the sprawling art estate, not only for its design prowess, but as a way of keeping Prouvé’s legacy alive. “Prouvé is as important as Le Corbusier, although completely different in terms of scale and ambition,” said Daniel Kennedy, director of Château La Coste’s Art Centre. “We wanted to offer the adventure of living inside a completely autonomous nomadic house and make it function as a hotel, which meant adding phone lines, light switches, softer lighting, bathrobes and filling up the kitchen fridge like a mini-bar.” + Château La Coste Via Wallpaper Images via Château La Coste

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Chteau La Coste adds a solar-powered cottage designed by Jean Prouv

Chic prefab home annex pops up with speed and efficiency in Mexico

July 1, 2019 by  
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When a client pressed for time approached SOA Soler Orozco Arquitectos to design his home annex, the Mexico City-based architectural firm decided that prefabrication would be the best way to abide by the tight construction timeframe. Built offsite in a factory and then transported to the client’s property for final assembly, the modular abode— named Casa Molina—proves that quick construction can translate to beautiful results. Completed in 2015, the chic and contemporary two-bedroom annex embraces a minimalist aesthetic and outdoor living in Mexico. Spanning approximately 1,800 square feet, Casa Molina comprises a set of modules with dimensions— nearly 24 feet by nearly 8 feet— determined by the transport vehicle. The building was prefabricated in an off-site workshop where all the lighting, electrical, plumbing, and finishes of the floors, walls and ceilings were fitted into place before the modules were shipped to the site. A foundation was prepared at the site and the modules were assembled over several days. Related: This prefab treehouse can be assembled in merely a few days Set within a steel structural frame and elevated off the ground, the modules are arranged in a roughly L-shaped layout that consists of the larger bedroom wing on the south side and the communal spaces on the north end, housed within three modules. The private and public wings are connected with a centrally located terrace with a wide set of stairs that lead up from the grass to the elevated building. In keeping with the quick construction timeframe, a minimalist material palette was used. The black steel framing was left exposed and paired with gray floor tiles throughout while engineered timber planks add a sense of warmth into the space. The timber furnishings and soft fabrics also soften the industrial feel of the boxy annex. The communal areas are fully exposed to the outdoors, while the bedrooms are enclosed for comfort. + SOA Soler Orozco Arquitectos Via Archdaily Images by Cesar Béjar

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Chic prefab home annex pops up with speed and efficiency in Mexico

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