The Micropolis custom net-zero home generates all its own energy

September 6, 2018 by  
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When Cheryl and Ken Serdar saw one of the homes belonging to Micropolis®, a collection of sustainable and contemporary house plans designed by architect Arielle Condoret Schechter , they knew they wanted a custom home based on the original 950-square-foot “Happy Family” plan. Taking into account the couple’s needs for extra space, Schechter designed a 2,222-square-foot dwelling that also offered all of the sustainable and modern design features defined in her Micropolis® line. Located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, the custom net-zero home is the most energy-efficient residence that the architect has designed to date. The clients were very clear with their expectations of their new three-bedroom house and asked for an abode that was “very modern, extremely green [and] almost industrial.” The modified Micropolis® meets all three targets with its predominate use of concrete for durability and sustainability measures as well as through passive solar principles. The home is oriented toward the south for maximum solar gain, while all the aluminum-framed windows and doors were sourced from Awilux and certified for Passive House construction. Ample glazing opens the home up to natural light, natural ventilation and a connection to the outdoors. To minimize unwanted solar gain, Schechter designed deep roof overhangs built with cypress soffit to visually soften the prefab concrete sandwich panels with built-in insulation. The home is also outfitted with space-saving solutions such as sliding interior barn doors, built-in closets, cabinets and shelving. An industrial feel is achieved with exposed ductwork, concrete elements, minimalist cabinetry and a large factory fan. A wall of glazed folding doors opens the home up to the outdoors to create a greater illusion of spaciousness. Related: The net-zero Lightbox 23 boasts sustainable features and stunning views The net-zero energy house is powered by a small 6 kW solar array . An energy recovery ventilator paired with seals on all air gaps makes for an airtight envelope. Under-slab insulation was installed beneath the polished concrete floors, and the home has achieved a HERS rating of -13. + Arielle Condoret Schechter Images via Kim Weiss / Arielle Condoret Schechter

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The Micropolis custom net-zero home generates all its own energy

A former ski lift station takes on new life as a bold mountain lodge

July 12, 2018 by  
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A small mountain lodge has replaced an old ski lift station on the Krkonoše mountains in the Czech Republic. Czech studio ADR designed the ?erná Voda, named after a nearby stream, to serve as a place of respite for short-term guests of a nearby lodge’s owner. The isolated retreat stands in a meadow apart from the Horní Malá Úpa village, among tall trees and lush shrubbery that shroud the cabin in serenity. Stepping inside the ?erná Voda, guests will find a bright, minimalist design. Light timber, which covers the walls, floors and ceilings, creates an open, airy feel. The kitchen space offers a sharp contrast with blackened wood cabinetry. The simple interior draws focus to the large windows and their picturesque views of the mountains , including Sn?žka, the highest mountain peak in the country. One window opens to the outdoors and allows a breath of fresh air into the cabin. Upstairs, a sleeping loft outfitted with protective netting offers a quiet space for visitors to rest. As natural light filters into the ground floor at daybreak, the loft benefits from the pitched ceiling and retains some darkness for guests who prefer to sleep in. During cooler months, a small wood-burning stove keeps the cabin toasty and inviting after a long day of exploring the outdoors. The mountain lodge blends into its forested surroundings in the summer with its dark metal and blackened wood cladding. When the landscape becomes blanketed in snow, the gabled cabin stands out boldly in its environment. On the west end of the home, a deck extends the living areas to the outdoors. The ?erná Voda mountain lodge has been nominated for a 2018 Czech Architecture Award , which promotes projects that embrace the public and the environment by both new and seasoned architects. + ADR Images via Jakub Skokan and Martin T?ma / BoysPlayNice

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A former ski lift station takes on new life as a bold mountain lodge

This off-grid, lunar lander-inspired tiny home is out of this world

July 12, 2018 by  
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If you’ve ever dreamed of going to outer space, prepare to swoon over this spacecraft-inspired tiny home  perched on the edge of the Columbia River in Central Washington. The holiday home — named the Lunar Lander — was designed and built by Kurt Hughes, a naval architect of Kurt Hughes Sailing Designs , who applied boat-building techniques to make the unique structure habitable, comfortable and environmentally friendly. Elevated off the ground on steel pillars, the off-grid, geometric abode measures only 250 square feet and weighs 3,000 pounds. Inspired by the image of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, Hughes sought to create a tiny house with futuristic features, both in appearance and in function. Drawing on his years-long experience with boat- and home-building, Hughes used the latest marine composite technology to construct the dwelling, which is waterproof, airtight  and resistant to vermin, mold and insects. An air-to-air heat exchanger provides comfort and ventilation. The Lunar Lander has neither roofing nor siding, and it is primarily built of plywood, epoxy and fiberglass . Related: Subterranean fridge pod: keep food cold without electricity “The Lunar Lander is not only an interesting configuration, but an homage to a time when people did new things,” explained Hughes of his desire to push the envelope. “Innovators were prized, not feared. And what’s more, the actual Apollo astronauts trained some 25 miles from where this project is sited. The Lunar Lander can rest comfortably on drastic, uneven terrain, with virtually no environmental footprint .” Related: Sail your worries away on this solar-powered floating tiny home Topped with a transparent geodesic dome that fills the tiny home with natural light, the interior features external modules for the bathroom, galley, dining space and storage. A stairway leads down to the sleeping space. Solar panels are affixed to the top of the structure, and the unit is optimized for minimal maintenance. Hughes has also expressed the possibility of making larger models of the Lunar Lander in the future. + Kurt Hughes Sailing Designs Images via Kurt Hughes

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This off-grid, lunar lander-inspired tiny home is out of this world

Architects used reclaimed materials to create this stunning home

June 27, 2018 by  
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Tijuana-based firm Guillot Arquitectos has unveiled the gorgeous PS House, a private residence that was built with reclaimed materials salvaged from a previous home on the same lot. The beautiful home design focuses on providing a strong connection with the outdoors and creating a long-lasting space that will accommodate the owners’ needs as they age. The PS House is located on a 10,000-square-foot plot in a secluded residential area of Tijuana, Mexico. The previous home had endured years of structural damage that was too severe to repair; however, when the building team demolished the original structure, they managed to salvage plenty of construction materials that they then used in the new home or donated to other projects. Related: Breezy Verandah House embraces indoor-outdoor living in India From the very beginning, the plan for the PS House’s design  had two main pillars. First, Guillot Arquitectos wanted to create a layout that would allow for a south-facing garden as well as a central patio. Secondly, the residence had to be limited to two floors in order to accommodate the owners’ needs as they aged. The building’s facade of exposed concrete and insulated red brick was chosen to provide the home with optimal energy efficiency . Double-glazed windows and an insulated metal roof bolster this feature by providing an ultra-tight thermal envelope. Solar panels help to provide the PS House with energy, and a greywater system sustains the landscape around the home, including the garden space. The main entrance to the home is through an outdoor patio with a fountain. Once inside, visitors follow an interior walkway that opens up to a spacious living room with plenty of seating. A large, red-brick wall gives the space a modern yet natural atmosphere. The living area, as well as the kitchen and dining room, all lead out to the heart of the home: a large open-air patio . A sliding glass wall connects the interior with the patio, which has a BBQ area, outside chimney and ample seating and dining space. The rest of PS House was equipped with various connections to the outdoors. The master bedroom enjoys beautiful views of the green space that surrounds the home. A wide staircase leads to the bottom floor, where the extra bedrooms, an office space and a small wine cave all have access to the garden area as well. + Guillot Arquitectos Via Archdaily Photography via Guillot Arquitectos

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Architects used reclaimed materials to create this stunning home

This solar-powered school produces enough surplus energy to power 50 homes

June 27, 2018 by  
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This timber elementary school and kindergarten in Switzerland boasts more than just good looks — the School in Port, designed by Zürich-based architecture firm Skop , also gives back to the community through excess energy production. Located in a residential neighborhood, the energy-plus building and communal power station draws from a rooftop array with more than 1,100 solar panels that completely covers the school’s energy needs and powers 50 additional households. Moreover, the school is visually tied to its neighbors with a contemporary zigzagging roof that references the pitched roofs of the local vernacular. Skop won an international competition in 2013 to design School in Port, which is largely informed by sustainable principles. The building was prefabricated using timber sourced from sustainably-managed forests. Wood, which was chosen for its ability to sequester carbon , was also used throughout the interior and in the furnishings. All other construction materials were chosen for their non-toxic, recyclable and low-impact properties. The school covers an area of more than 180,000 square feet to cater to 280 children from kindergarten to elementary school. The light-filled interior is organized around a “central circulation zone,” a zigzagging east-west spine and open learning space that branches off to staggered classrooms and other enclosed spaces to the north and south. Flexibility is a major theme of the interior design — in addition to the multifunctional circulation zone, adjacent classrooms and group working spaces can be connected through large doors — that encourages a variety of teaching and learning methodologies. Related: This minimalist prefab hotel offers stunning views of the Swiss Alps “Placed on a gentle slope, the building takes advantage of the topography and links various outdoor spaces according to the different access routes of the school children,” Skop explained. “On the main level, all rooms benefit from the spatial qualities of the folded roof. Each classroom appears to be an independent little house, creating a cozy and homelike atmosphere for the children.” The School in Port has achieved a MINERGIE-A rating and is also connected to the district heating. + Skop Images via © Simon von Gunten and © Julien Lanoo; illustration via © Skop

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This solar-powered school produces enough surplus energy to power 50 homes

More than 50% of New York Citys public schools now have gardens

October 17, 2017 by  
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There’s a food revolution brewing in over half of New York City’s public schools, and it’s not slowing down. Thanks to the local nonprofit GrowNYC , The Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, and Grow to Learn , five boroughs have been established to set up sustainable gardens in public schools. There are now at least 700 gardens across the city, and teachers are witnessing a myriad of changes in the kids who are spending more time outdoors and less time in a “traditional” classroom setting. From container gardens to bottle planters in the classrooms, teachers and the kids are getting creative to grow produce at their schools. Arielle Hartman, School Gardens Coordinator with GrowNYC, said, “I’ve seen teachers grow plants in soda bottles and old shoes or in projector carts with fluorescent lights.” Some of the most popular vegetables and fruit that are being grown include tomatoes , cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, mint, collard greens, and herbs. At some schools, grapes and strawberries are cultivated, as well. The benefits of school gardening extend beyond the children learning about where their food comes from — which is an important lesson. For many kids, the gardens exist as a place of respite and contemplation. Rodale’s Organic Life reports, “Schools are using these green spaces not only as teaching tools and hands-on laboratories for math and science, they’ve also become arenas for social and emotional growth, particularly for students who may not do well in the traditional classroom environment, as well as serving as a respite for teachers and administrators.” As a result of improved emotional well-being among the student body, teachers are witnessing a reduction in behavioral issues . Julie Walsh, Assistant Director at GrowNYC, said, “Behavioral issues are dramatically reduced when kids are exposed to nature and to this kind of real sensory and experimental learning that the natural world offers.” Research presented at the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition supports this observation. It noted that green schoolyards — which are bursting with nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables — provide children, families and their communities a “healthy environment ” for relaxation and play. Related: The Garden School is a New Green-Roofed Learning Facility for China Walsh says that by partnering with agencies, such as the Parks Department and the Department of Education, the challenge of introducing gardens into schools was made much easier. “Historically, one of the challenges for successful and sustainable school garden models has been a lack of coordination,” said Walsh. “If you try to do this in a vacuum, you run into bureaucratic impediments. By partnering […], we’re able to help schools run the gauntlet with these agencies so they don’t run into obstacles.” Other schools can easily implement a garden by partnering with the Grow to Learn program. Registered schools can attend free workshops that cover a number of relevant topics, and schools are eligible to receive free garden materials, access to an online resource library and garden network and the tools to apply for mini-grant funding to start or expand a school garden. The future of school gardens is only limited by the creativity of the teachers, parents, administrators, and students. As long as all involved are willing to work together, public school gardens can flourish across the entire city — and perhaps, the entire nation. GrowNYC , + Grow to Learn Via Rodale’s Organic Life Images via  Pinterest , Arielle Hartman, Grow to Learn, Pixabay

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More than 50% of New York Citys public schools now have gardens

America’s Prettiest Natural Swimming Holes

May 29, 2017 by  
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Grab your swimsuit and some eco-friendly sunscreen — it’s time to explore the outdoors. The heat has arrived in the U.S., and that means swimming. Rather than splashing around in fossil-fuel-heated public pools, take your summer entertainment…

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America’s Prettiest Natural Swimming Holes

Sweden lists entire country on Airbnb because roaming should be free

May 24, 2017 by  
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In Sweden, citizens aren’t only encouraged to explore the outdoors , they guaranteed the right to. The principle Allemansrätten, which is protected by Swedish law and literally translates to “freedom to roam” allows anyone to camp anywhere in the country – even on other people’s property. Because the government wants people to feel at home wherever they are in Sweden, the entire country was recently listed on Airbnb. The AirBnB listing reads , “Swedish nature isn’t just a piece of land with trees and lakes and cliffs – it’s a home with all the necessities and amenities that any great home should have. It’s a place where you can eat berries from the ground, sleep under the stars, swim in the lakes and roam freely. To make this home available for everyone, Sweden has listed the entire country on Airbnb .” Visit Sweden , the country’s global marketing department) worked with agency Forsman & Bodenfors to advertise nine astonishing locations on Airbnb. Listings include “ Rocky Island in the Stockholm Archipelago ,” Rustic Forest Retreat in Vintage Style ,” and “ Cozy Glade in Beech Forest .” Every location boasts 365-day availability and the reviews are just as inviting as the pictures. One can look forward to an “open roof bedroom” in any location they choose and is guaranteed “natural heating” through the months of May and August. Wild pets are also welcome – which is a plus for nature lovers. Related: Sweden opens an entire mall full of reclaimed goods According to Jenny Kaiser, president of Visit Sweden’s US office, the arrangement with Airbnb wasn’t a paid placement. Kaiser said, “As the initiative is a pure branding campaign for Sweden as a destination, the partnership is strategic for both parties and no payment has been done from/to either side.” Additionally, this is the first collaboration between the country of Sweden and Airbnb. Some suspect other countries will follow suit to drive tourism and encourage more citizens to explore the outdoors. + Sweden on Airbnb Via Fast Company Images via Sweden on Airbnb

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Sweden lists entire country on Airbnb because roaming should be free

Magical Blue Forest treehouse is a fairytale castle for your backyard

May 24, 2017 by  
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There’s a lot blooming at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show , but the biggest standout is sure to be Blue Forest ‘s amazing tree house . Holding court front and center, the cedar-clad mini-castle is topped with a sophisticated copper turret and surrounded by a lush woodland garden created by Architectural Plants. The cedar tree house has various curved volumes with thin vertical strips of cedar that, along with the turret, creates a mini-castle feel. According to the designers, the tiny space is designed to be a serene garden retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The exterior space at the bottom of the house is covered with a fun garden of verdant greenery and plenty of outdoor seating, including a swinging pod hammock . Related: This playful Airbnb treehouse near San Francisco lets you sleep in a 150-year-old oak tree Once inside via wooden steps, visitors can relax in the off-grid tiny space thanks to plenty of comfy sitting space including a sweet window seat. The design includes a number of subtle, but sophisticated touches such as copper finials, intricate rope work, and a fun, but chic interior design. The team from Blue Forest says the are honored to have their tree house design in the famed flower event, “We have worked hard to develop a reputation as the world’s leading tree house experts. This year’s tree house will be the largest we have ever exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show. We are delighted to be on Main Avenue this year and can’t wait to experience the vibrant atmosphere of the show!” says Blue Forest Founder, Andy Payne. + Blue Forest + RHS Chelsea Flower 2017 Images via Blue Forest

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Magical Blue Forest treehouse is a fairytale castle for your backyard

WonderSphere safely brings nature indoors for hospitalized children to enjoy

December 4, 2016 by  
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Many studies link exposure to nature to improved health and healing , but it’s risky to exposure immunocompromised patients to the dirt and microbes of the outdoors. That’s why science teacher and nature lover Katie Stoudemire created the WonderSphere , a sealed chamber that children can safely stick their hands into to touch and explore plant life. The design recently won the Core 77 Design for Social Impact Award .

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WonderSphere safely brings nature indoors for hospitalized children to enjoy

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