A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

November 12, 2018 by  
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A new experimental office on the 12th floor of The Shard in London offers a breath of fresh air … literally. Wrapped in bamboo surfaces and punctuated by living plants, facilities management company Mitie’s headquarters in London was created by local practice DaeWha Kang Design . The biophilic project — dubbed the Living Lab at The Shard — mimics nature from its natural materials palette to the circadian lighting system linked to an astronomical clock. As its name suggests, the Living Lab at The Shard will be used as a pilot study to measure the impact of biophilic design on worker wellness and productivity. In addition to the client, the project was created in collaboration with Dr. Marcella Ucci (head of the MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings at the University College of London). A post-occupancy study will compare daily surveys of Mitie employees who will work at the Living Lab desks for four weeks at a time followed by a four-week work period in a “control area” on the same floor with similar environmental conditions but without biophilic design. “Biophilia refers to human beings’ innate need for a connection with nature,” DaeWha Kang Design said in its press release. “Human physiology is wired to seek qualities of light, view, material and other factors common in the natural world. The Living Lab is fully immersive, with rich and intricate patternization, natural materials  and interactive and dynamic lighting.” Related: This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido The project comprises two main spaces: the “Living Lab” immersive work environment and two “Regeneration Pods” for short-term rest and meditation. Bamboo was used for the sculptural privacy screens that curve up at the ceiling; different textures and shades of bamboo were also used for the floor, desks and task lights providing a warm contrast to The Shard’s cool glass-and-metal palette. The Regeneration Pods, also built of bamboo, were created by combining digital fabrication with hand-finishing techniques and feature plush built-in seating that faces walls of glass for city views. A subtle circadian lighting system uses color-changing lights to mimic the sun — a cool blue is cast in the morning that changes to bright white in the afternoon and finally reaches a fiery orange near sunset. + DaeWha Kang Design Images by Tom Donald for Aldworth James & Bond and Kyungsub Shin via DaeWha Kang Design

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A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

A modern home in India stays naturally cool without AC

October 31, 2018 by  
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When Surat-based architect Ankit Parekh of Parekh Collaborative was asked to design a family home in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, one of the prerequisites was for a comfortably cool residence without air conditioning. In response, Parekh turned to ancient, low-tech methods for natural cooling, from decorative yet functional jali screens to stack ventilation. As a result, the house, named Rambaugh, maintains a temperature variation of 6 to 8 degrees year-round. Crafted with a contemporary appearance rooted in traditional techniques, Rambaugh was designed to house a family of six in Burhanpur. Slightly over 20,000 square feet in size, the residence includes ample space for large gatherings — the client’s extended family lives in the same precinct — and celebrates indoor-outdoor living. Shared communal areas flanked by green space form the heart of the two-story home, from the open-plan living room and dining area bookended by courtyards on the ground floor to the lounge that opens up to a lower terrace on the first floor. The formal living room and kitchen are cordoned off in opposite corners of the home. The master bedroom and two other bedrooms are located on the ground floor, while two additional bedrooms can be found upstairs. A solar site study informed the orientation of the building and the placement of openings that, combined with mechanically operated turbulators, take advantage of stack ventilation . The stone jali (a traditional, perforated, decorative screen) was hand-cut on site and installed on the southwest side of the home to deflect unwanted solar gain. A large existing Tamarind tree on the southeast of the site provides additional shade. The layout of the house also promotes natural ventilation and access to ample daylight. Moreover, rainwater is harvested and reused in the home. Related: A beautiful perforated facade shields this office from India’s harsh sun “The house is picturesque from all the sides because of ample appreciation space around it,” Parekh Collaborative noted. “This space is well designed with landscape elements and complements the house exteriors. A textured crimson block abutting a white mass on the side adds to iconic imagery of the house in abstraction. A dialogue between the house and landscape is generated using Mughal garden patterns.” + Parekh Collaborative Images by Nachiket Gujar

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A modern home in India stays naturally cool without AC

European parliament supports the ban of single-use plastics

October 31, 2018 by  
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The EU adopted new plans last week to ban single-use plastic items like plates, straws, cutlery, balloon sticks and cotton buds — which make up over 70 percent of marine litter — by 2021. Under draft plans approved by Parliament, MEPs also added items to the banned list that contained products made of oxo-degradable plastics, like bags and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene. The ban also incorporates a plan for several other items that do not have an alternative, like single-use sandwich boxes and containers for fruits, veggies, ice cream and desserts. For those products, EU member states will need to reduce their use by at least 25 percent by 2025. The strategy for those items includes using multiple-use products and recycling . Parliament also approved other plastics, like beverage bottles, to be collected separately and then recycled at a rate of 90 percent by 2025. Related: Jamaica will ban plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam by 2019 MEPs have also targeted waste from tobacco products, particularly cigarette filters that contain plastic, in the plastic ban . The plan for those items is a 50 percent reduction by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2030. Cigarette butts are the second-most littered single-use plastic item in the EU, and just one can pollute between 500 and 1000 liters (132 and 264 gallons) of water. When thrown on the roadway, they can take up to 12 years to degrade. There is also a plan for lost or abandoned fishing gear, which represents about 27 percent of the waste found on European beaches. Member states are to ensure that at least half of it is collected each year, with a recycling target of 15 percent by 2025. The costs to reach the goals set for cigarette butts and fishing gear is to be paid for by tobacco companies and manufacturers of fishing gear. Frédérique Ries, who drafted the report, said that the ban is an ambitious directive that is essential for protecting the marine environment. + European Parliament Image via Tim Parkinson

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European parliament supports the ban of single-use plastics

We love electric scooters but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment?

September 18, 2018 by  
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The debut of electric scooter programs in cities such as Austin, Washington D.C. and San Diego has been making headlines with promises of cleaner air , but is this really the case? Between LimeBike, Waybots, Spin and Bird, which has been newly introduced to the Los Angeles area, there is a plethora of companies jumping on the trend of promoting eco-friendly scooters to city planners and residents. With public transportation methods significantly improving in environmental efficiency — and the majority of distances traveled by scooter being walkable distances — the carbon footprint might not be as small as scooter-share programs are claiming. “Today, 40 percent of car trips are less than two miles long,” said Travis VanderZanden , founder and chief executive of Bird. “Our goal is to replace as many of those trips as possible, so we can get cars off the road and curb traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.” The scooters are the latest trend to enter the app-based mobility market, which has passengers whimsically racing through city streets at a $1 rental price, plus 15 cents for every minute after. Related: Paris launches electric scooter sharing program with Coup and Gogoro While Bird is assuming that half of its scooter rides are replacing mile-long car trips, Phil Lasley, who has been studying traffic, bicycle and pedestrian issues for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said , “We honestly don’t know yet.” According to his evaluations, it is possible that the scooters are replacing short drives but with quantities still uncertain. He said there are many other aspects to consider. “Are these trips taking away from other bicycle trips? Are they taking away from transit? Are they taking away from walking?” Lasley asked. For instance, a mile-long trip to the office means that the 15-mph vehicle would charge for a minimum of 4 minutes plus extra for time in traffic. This exceeds the average public transportation fares for cities such as Austin and L.A., where the average full-fare ticket only costs $1.25 to $1.50 and can get you a lot farther. City bike-share programs are available at comparable rates to those of public transportation, as seen with L.A.’s new bicycle advertising campaign . The green transit platform is promoting the city’s carbon-free single rides at the same cost as a bus or metro ticket, while daily users of a monthly plan are seeing fractions of a dollar for their commute cycles. It goes without saying that owners of bikes, non-motorized scooters and skateboards are at a monetary and ecological advantage in comparison to those using electric scooters. Related: Gogoro revs up Smartscooter expansion with $300 million in new funding From an economic standpoint, Bird and LimeBike rides might be behind compared to alternatives such as buses, trains and bikes. But according to a Bird press release on its Austin launch, “Riders were able to prevent 445,334 pounds of carbon emissions.” LimeBike similarly claimed an estimated 8,500-pound reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in Austin in just two weeks. “With the launch of Lime-S, we are expanding the range of affordable, space-efficient and environmentally friendly mobility options available to D.C. residents,” said Jason Starr, a LimeBike executive for the company’s Washington D.C. division, back in March. With competing green vehicles focusing on both affordability and environmental friendliness, many people are looking to “space-efficien[cy]” to account for the hype of electric scooters. The space efficiency feature makes electric scooters fun to ride and easy to park anywhere, but it also means that chargers are driving long distances to pick up the scooters one by one. Each morning, electric scooters are dropped off en-mass at various hubs throughout the city. From there, riders can take the vehicles and drop them off wherever they wish within the city. Scooters now litter random sidewalks, storefronts and restaurant walkways — rarely in a collective group. At night they are “captured” (in the case of Birds) by the company’s chargers, who are individual citizens signed up to make money by collecting, powering and redistributing the scooters to the hubs each morning. Each scooter has a price tag on it, with those more difficult to collect scoring the charger a higher paycheck. The higher valuations on the remote scooters means that chargers are likely to drive farther to and from the stranded scooters, consuming more gas and emitting more carbon dioxide in the process. Similarly, morning commuters who wake up to find an empty dropping pad might eagerly run back to their reliable, personal vehicles instead of public transportation, because they are in a time-crunch. Whether these factors are being taken into account by the companies in their statistics is unclear. Related: Lyft is making all their rides carbon neutral Their popularity is as much their undoing as it is their achievement according to Haje Jan Kamps, portfolio director at venture capital firm Bolt. The entrepreneur recently published a piece on TechCrunch about the business models e-scooter companies would need to adopt in order to succeed. “They are currently in a massive scaling mode and so the only concern they have, really, is to get as many scooters on the roads as possible and as many rides as possible for each individual scooter,” Hamps said. “There is a real risk that some of the things like reusability or recyclability might be first on the chopping block.” The scooters are estimated to have a two-year life span , meaning they could end up in landfills at the end of their short life-cycle. This is something that Lasley agreed with. “It appears that these services are being heavily used,” he said, adding that the more popular they become, the more waste they will create. While we want to love the fun idea of electric scooters , it is clear that some things need to be improved. For these new companies, a learning and improvement process is to be expected. We are eager to see where these companies are headed in terms of creating a more eco-friendly product. Via Austin Monitor , The Washington Post ( 1 , 2 ) and  Chester Energy and Policy Images via Elvert Barnes ( 1 , 2 ), Luis Tamayo and Tim Evanson

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We love electric scooters but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment?

Christine Riccardi, Regional Director of the Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, infrastructure resiliency

June 29, 2018 by  
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Christine Riccardi, Regional Director of the Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, infrastructure resiliency, disruption prevention, self-sufficiency of communities, public-private-partnerships

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Christine Riccardi, Regional Director of the Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, infrastructure resiliency

Foster + Partners turn an office tower into Hong Kongs newest luxury hotel

May 25, 2018 by  
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Foster + Partners transformed a former government headquarters tower into a luxury hotel in Hong Kong , and it has just opened its doors to the public. Located on the southern edge of Central with sweeping views of The Peak, the 336-room hotel — named The Murray — not only includes a striking interior overhaul, but also features new street frontage and green space to reconnect the 25-story tower with the urban fabric. The adaptive reuse project preserved the existing self-shading facade to maximize daylight penetration while reducing solar gain. The office tower, known as the Murray Building, was designed in the 1970s during an era that primarily catered to the automobile. To make the site more pedestrian friendly , Foster + Partners created new street frontage and added landscaped parks on the ground level to remove the site’s road-dominated appearance. Inside the building, the architects replaced the former car park with hotel lobbies and restaurants; transformed the plant room spaces into banquet halls, pools and spas; and turned the upper-floor office spaces into guest rooms. Though dramatic, the transformation from office to luxury hotel was sensitively executed in order to preserve the building’s architectural integrity. The architects also took care to retain the original facade, which earned the structure an Energy Efficient Building Award in 1994. The exterior features deeply recessed windows that are carefully positioned to avoid harsh tropical sunlight. Enlarged insulated glazing units improve energy efficiency , while a new suite of luxury materials create the hotel’s sense of grandeur. Related: Foster + Partners unveils sustainable masterplan for India’s new state capital Luke Fox, the Head of Studio for Foster + Partners, said, “Our design for The Murray creates a dialogue between the old and the new – giving the building a new lease of life and a renewed purpose, with a unique sense of character that is embedded within the fabric of the building.” + Foster + Partners Images via Foster + Partners , by Nigel Young and Michael Weber

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Foster + Partners turn an office tower into Hong Kongs newest luxury hotel

Couple builds an ‘Earthship’ tiny home for less than $10K

May 25, 2018 by  
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DIY home builds are never easy, and rarely cheap, but one ambitious couple managed to create a beautiful tiny home for under $10,000. Taylor and Steph Bode from Nomadic Roots created their sustainable 560-square-foot ‘Earthship’ mainly using reclaimed and repurposed materials. Inspired by the design principles of visionary architect Mike Reynolds and his company, Earthship Biotecture , the couple focused on creating a sustainable home that would employ passive and sustainable features to stay comfortable throughout the seasons, without air conditioning or heat sources. Related: Firefighter’s self-built tiny house is an earthship on wheels Once they found the perfect lot, the couple moved into a 14′ yurt while they slowly started the building process. To begin the project, they planned the home’s perimeters to maximize its potential thermal mass. Built into a south-sloping hill, the east, west, and north walls are buried underground , insulating the home and providing stable indoor temperatures. According to the owners, “The stylistic elements were secondary to creating a functionally competent structure that was well-suited for its environment.” To create the frame for the house, the couple cut down two young redwood trees from an adjacent grove. The siding and trim is crafted from old redwood fence boards. For the rest of the construction materials, Taylor and Steph scoured various sites to find discarded materials that could be reclaimed . They found new uses for countless thrown-away items such as automobile tires, glass bottles and aluminum cans. All of the home’s windows and doors were salvaged or found for free on Craigslist. Although the majority of the walls are buried, the many repurposed windows help flood the interior with an abundance of natural light . The couple created an earthen floor with a mixture of sand, clay, straw and water. After laying the mixture, they finished it with a hemp oil to create a warm, soft look. The Bodes used reclaimed barn wood for the interior walls, and they made or salvaged all their furnishings. + Nomadic Roots Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Taylor Bode via Nomadic Roots

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Couple builds an ‘Earthship’ tiny home for less than $10K

LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

May 16, 2018 by  
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Firefighting is consistently ranked one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. — which is why the well-being of firefighters becomes all the more important in architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design of Seattle Fire Station 32. Located in the heart of the Alaska Junction neighborhood in West Seattle, the 18,000-square-foot fire station boasts a handsome and modern appearance that not only enhances firefighters’ wellness, but also welcomes the community. The fire station , completed last year, is crafted to be highly energy efficient, and it recently achieved LEED Platinum certification. Filled with natural light and optimized for scenic views, Seattle Fire Station 32 is set in the heart of the neighborhood at the threshold between single-family residential areas and a denser commercial zone. To mitigate the site’s small size, the architects built upward, resulting in a four-story building with a basement. The building engages the civic arena with public areas that are visible from the street, such as the beanery and station office. The entrance of the office is marked by a 25-foot-tall wall-mounted fire truck sculpture . A 59-foot-long ladder truck and the firefighters’ activities are also put on full display behind a glazed end wall along Alaska Street. Related: Seattle’s Firestation 30 is a Copper-Clad Green Community Beacon Private bunk rooms and individual offices are tucked along the quiet residential-facing side of the building. The operational and administrative areas are housed on the lower floors, while the firefighters’ living spaces are located on the third floor. This floor opens up to an outdoor terrace overlooking the green roof . “The hose drying tower acts as a visual marker for the station between the southern residential hillside and tall mixed-use buildings to the north,” the architects wrote. “With a subtle lantern effect at night, the tower acts as a beacon of safety for residents and visitors.” The project was awarded a 2018 Green GOOD DESIGN Award , and earned LEED Platinum certification this month. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Images by Nic Lehoux

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LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

Bold, monolithic stone home in India reveals its secret gardens

May 15, 2018 by  
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Mumbai-based Spasm Design recently unveiled a bold, monolithic home made from Dhrangadhra stone. The House of Secret Gardens features a cross-shaped layout with various access points to the exterior spaces, which feature vibrant greenery and an elevated rooftop garden . Dhrangadhra stone is a common building material in Ahmedabad that has been used for centuries due to its strong insulative qualities. The stone, which is found in local quarries, keeps homes warm in the winter months and cool during the searing hot summers. Additionally, the stone walls and floors help reduce reflected glare on the interior. Related: This home is a small timber cottage on the inside and an automated concrete monolith on the outside The living space is located in the center of the home. From there, multiple walkways lead to other rooms, including the kitchen, office and bedrooms. The architects used the unique layout to connect the home to its surroundings and installed transparent walls and open spaces to provide access to the outdoors. The result is a breezy home that seamlessly links to the outdoors. Several cutouts and windows throughout the home allow for optimal air ventilation. Because the light in Ahmedabad can be harsh, slatted skylights were included to filter in the sunlight . The interior rooms are clad in lime plaster with a texture similar to the exterior Dhrangadhra stone walls. The monolithic aesthetic is accented with timber statement walls and timber-clad ceilings. An abundance of courtyards and gardens add greenery while aiding the home’s passive climate control . Air moves through the courtyards and into the interiors, cooling off the living spaces. Several passages lead to the lush courtyards. Designed to mature over the years, the green lawn is decorated with trees and bushes. The home also features an extended pond and a stairwell that leads up to the impressive rooftop garden . + Spasm Design Via Archdaily Photography by Umang Shah , Photographix , Edmund Sumner via Spasm Design

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Bold, monolithic stone home in India reveals its secret gardens

Casa Bruma’s blackened concrete pavilions create a serene retreat in Mexico

May 15, 2018 by  
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Architects Fernanda Canales and Claudia Rodriguez completed a unique weekend home that consists of nine pavilion-like volumes, each carefully positioned for optimal views. Located in a rural site just a few hours outside Mexico City , the 6,500-square-foot holiday retreat — named Casa Bruma — was designed as a series of boxes in order to sidestep the removal of existing trees. To soften the look of the concrete, the architects darkened the facades with a black pigment and topped most of the units with gardens. Casa Bruma features nine volumes of varying heights — corresponding to topographic conditions and spatial hierarchy — clustered around a central stone-paved courtyard . “This design solution was born out of the need to respect every existing tree on the site and to provide every space with sunlight both during the morning and the afternoon,” the architects explained. “The result is an ‘exploded house,’ where the dwelling is composed of isolated volumes that are placed according to the views, the orientations and the existing vegetation.” Walkways connect the main buildings, which house the kitchen, dining room, living room, master bedroom and children’s bedroom. The two guest bedrooms and the garage are located in the remaining units on the other side of the courtyard. The living room and one of guest rooms also open up to outdoor roof terraces . Related: A lush rooftop oasis flourishes on this renovated Art Deco townhouse in Mexico City The minimalist design uses only five materials: black concrete , wood, stone, metal and glass. The natural materials palette and subdued colors give the home a “timeless character” and help the buildings recede into the landscape. Throughout the site, the element of surprise is a common theme, starting with a semi-hidden path at the entrance that gradually reveals glimpses of the courtyard. + Fernanda Canales Via Dezeen Images by Rafael Gamo

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Casa Bruma’s blackened concrete pavilions create a serene retreat in Mexico

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