This year, save the planet by geocaching

February 16, 2021 by  
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If you’re familiar with geocaching, you already know it’s one more way to get outdoors and is especially helpful if you have family members who can’t stand to put down their electronic devices to go on a hike . But this year, geocache aficionados are being challenged to use the activity to improve the outdoors, not just spend time there. If you don’t know anything about geocaching, it’s a treasure-hunting game that uses GPS-enabled devices to find caches other players have hidden. Caches could be a small container, like a film canister; as large as a trash can; or something tricky, like a fake rock with a hidden compartment. Inside each cache, there’s a logbook so players can log their finds and often choose some small, fun thing to take away. However, players are expected to leave something of equal or greater value, so the next seeker isn’t disappointed. More than 3 million active geocaches are hidden in 191 countries. You can even find them in Antarctica . Related: Help NASA save endangered coral with a new gaming app To celebrate the 20th anniversary of geocaching, players will be doing something different this year — logging a locationless cache that in some way improves the environment . Geocaching HQ is behind the challenge. The base is “where the tools for your geocaching adventures are created and maintained. From the wickedly smart developers, to our artistic geniuses, to the community and volunteer support teams, Geocaching HQ is where all the magic happens,” according to the Geocaching website. To participate, Geocaching HQ asks people to — individually or with your family or roommates — do something like clean up a walking path, plant trees or help a community group remove invasive species in a park. Geocaching HQ urges players to use green transport like walking, biking, skating or taking public transportation to get to the improvement site. To succeed at the locationless cache mission, players need to log at least one photo of themselves or a personal item with the results of the outdoor improvement and say where the activity took place. More images and stellar storytelling are encouraged. The locationless cache initiative is available for logging now through December 31, 2021. “We hope you seek out many opportunities to improve the outdoors, but you can only log one find on this cache,” the Seattle -based organization said in a statement. Players will earn the Locationless Cache icon plus a special souvenir on their Geocaching profiles. + Geocaching Image via Groundspeak Inc. (dba Geocaching)

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This year, save the planet by geocaching

Amazon unveils spiraling, tree-covered skyscraper for Arlington HQ2

February 16, 2021 by  
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Amazon has unveiled images of The Helix, a LEED Platinum-targeted, spiraling tower that will serve as the centerpiece building for the Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia. Like The Spheres, Amazon’s first headquarters in Seattle, the new building takes inspiration from biophilia with a form that mimics the shape and beauty of a double helix. Designed by international architecture firm NBBJ , the 350-foot-tall building — dubbed The Helix — will run entirely on renewable energy sourced from a solar farm in southern Virginia that will be used to power an all-electric central heating and cooling system. Located in Arlington’s Crystal City, the Amazon HQ2 is a planned corporate headquarters and expansion of the company’s existing Seattle headquarters and is expected to consolidate 2.8 million square feet of offices, public gathering areas and street-front retail distributed across three 22-story buildings. The recently unveiled Helix building is part of Amazon’s recently submitted development proposal for HQ2’s second phase of new construction. All new buildings are designed to meet LEED Platinum standards. Related: Amazon’s incredible plant-filled biospheres open in Seattle Described by the tech giant as “an alternative workplace integrating work with nature,” The Helix prioritizes healthy work environments with its indoor-outdoor design that includes a pair of spiraling, fresh-air “hill climbs.” The unique building will be open to the public on select weekends every month. In addition to the LEED Platinum-targeted office buildings, Amazon HQ2’s second phase also calls for 2.5 acres of public space with a dog run as well as an outdoor amphitheater that seats over 200 people; three retail pavilions that comprise 100,000 square feet of new space for restaurants, shops and plentiful outdoor seating; and a dedicated 20,000-square-foot community space that can support educational initiatives and an artist-in-residence program. All vehicular access will be tucked underground wherever possible to prioritize pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly paths. + NBBJ Images via NBBJ

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Amazon unveils spiraling, tree-covered skyscraper for Arlington HQ2

Sustainable Brook Hollow homes feature unexpected pops of color

February 16, 2021 by  
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Jeannie and Daryl Losaw, owners of Texas-based Losaw Construction and IBS Homes, have begun construction on their affordable and sustainable homes at Brook Hollow Club Estates in San Marcos, Texas. The Brook Hollow homes will have playful, brightly colored exterior accent walls to give them a touch of extra character in the Texas Hill Country. The company, which owns and developed the Brook Hollow Club Estates, has been in operation since 2006. During that time, it has focused on sustainable and affordable homes in Central and South Texas, especially near the state’s capital of Austin. Related: Solar-powered dome in the Texas desert is the perfect place to go off the grid Surrounded by willow trees on a quarter-acre of land, the group of 25 houses will include shed roof styles with clean lines, multiple windows and front porches . The light gray paint on the outside of the homes is accented by a bright splash of color, giving these structures a unique style in an otherwise contemporary design. There are four models available ranging from 1,400 to 1,700 square feet: the Stanton, the King, the Chavez and the Ginsburg. Homes cost anywhere from $220,000 to $259,000, but the many green features included in the design will likely help reduce customer costs in the long run. These include an efficient residential air conditioning system taken from a commercial method where air is exchanged and treated. The system, which also helps keep the interior free from outside allergens, is complemented with spray foam insulation. Aside from this high-performing HVAC design, the Brook Hollow homes use a steel foundation that is more carbon-friendly than concrete, according to the company. These helical pier foundations are easily recycled and moved from place to place if need be, taking up less resources. Additionally, the metal roofing used in construction is also recyclable, highly durable and comes prepared for solar installation. + Brook Hollow Club Estates Images via IBS Homes

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Reused teak and earthy stone make up a luxury Goan home with canal views

November 24, 2020 by  
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In the village of Solid in North Goa, international architecture practice SAV Architecture + Design has completed the Earth House, a luxury home of 700 square meters that makes the most of its lush, tropical surroundings. Set next to a canal lined with coconut trees, the expansive home has allowed the outdoors to shape its design, from the massing that’s built to preserve existing mature trees to the natural materials palette. Internal courtyards, louvered semi-open spaces and an open-plan layout help achieve an indoor/outdoor living experience that makes the tropical landscape the focus. The Earth House’s site-specific massing comprises a series of long bays that open up to views of the canal that wraps around the north side of the site. Folding glass doors and large, glazed openings connect the indoors to the outdoor living areas, where sheltered patios with cane furnishings and a long pool extend the footprint of the home toward the canal. Upstairs, private terraces extend the bedrooms to the outdoors to continue the home’s constant connection with nature. Related: Luxury home in Kerala produces all of its own energy Inside, the home is centered on a white Fibonacci-style spiral staircase that serves as a sculptural focal point and connects to a spacious, double-height living room that overlooks the pool and canal. Teak wood is used throughout — from the custom-crafted entrance door to the wooden artwork wall in the living room — and imbues the home with a sense of warmth in contrast to the cool Goan-Portuguese concrete floors. “With large overhangs and exposed concrete roofs, the house is designed to brace the Goan tropical rains,” the architects said. “The inner courtyards around tall existing trees as the several louvred spaces keep the house passively cool and well-ventilated in the tropical hot climate. Most of the glazing is double-glazed and is oriented towards the north to allow minimal heat and direct sunlight into the house. The lines and forms of the Earth House are designed to connect constantly with its outdoors, bringing nature and all its coconut palm filled views in a modern, crafted and fluid manner.” + SAV Architecture + Design Photography by Fabien Charuau via SAV Architecture + Design

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Reused teak and earthy stone make up a luxury Goan home with canal views

Award-winning solar home with spectacular desert views asks $5.35M

August 28, 2020 by  
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On the edge of the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas, an AIA award-winning home has hit the market for $5.35 million. Designed by PUNCH Architecture and built by Bugbee Custom Homes, this custom, 3,270-square-foot residence embraces the breathtaking desert landscape with carefully framed views and an indoor/outdoor design approach. The luxury Montana Court home is built largely with natural, modern materials and is topped with solar panels as well as a living roof. Recognized by the American Institute of Architecture’s Las Vegas chapter for its architectural innovation and design, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath luxury home keeps the spotlight on the southern Nevada desert landscape with a restrained palette and contemporary aesthetic. The two-story home is built into the mountainous landscape and blends in with the desert with a natural materials palette, which will develop a patina over time. According to the real estate firm, The Ivan Sher Group, this site-sensitive approach is an exception to the typical Las Vegas luxury home, which tends to stand out from the background rather than complement it. Related: Sustainable desert home has a small water footprint in Nevada “This is a home for those who fully appreciate nature and the outdoors, in addition to the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip,” said listing agent Anthony Spiegel. “There are panoramic views of Blue Diamond’s stunning mountain and desert scenery, and at night you can see millions of stars light up the sky. This home is also nearby one of the top biking trail systems in Southern Nevada, allowing residents the convenience to ride at any time.” Located in the small town of Blue Diamond, the Montana Court home is nestled among Joshua and Pinion trees, cacti, creosotes and rock formations in a setting that offers complete privacy in the outdoors. The exterior is wrapped in weathered steel that will evolve as the home ages. The home also includes a 1,200-square-foot garage, outdoor shower, barbecue area, fire pit and multiple sheltered outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition to the indoors through full-height glass doors. + 4 Montana Court Listing Images courtesy of The Ivan Sher Group

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Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires

August 28, 2020 by  
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The beloved giants of Big Basin Redwoods State Park have been facing massive wildfires in California. Fortunately, many survived, proving how tough and resilient these trees can be, although there has still been considerable damage. Meanwhile, a condor sanctuary has also been devastated, with experts fearing the loss of some of these critically endangered birds. Big Basin’s redwoods have stood in the Santa Cruz Mountains for more than 1,000 years. In 1902, the area became California’s first state park. The trees are a combination of old-growth and second-growth redwood forest, mixed with oaks, conifer and chaparral. The park is a popular hiking destination with more than 80 miles of trails, multiple waterfalls and good bird-watching opportunities. Related: Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia Early reports of the Santa Cruz Lightning Complex fires claimed the redwood trees were all gone. But a visitor on Tuesday found most trees still intact, though the park’s historic headquarters and other structures had burned in the fires. “But the forest is not gone,” Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, told KQED . “It will regrow. Every old growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them. They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this.” Scientists have done some interesting studies on redwoods, including one concluding that redwoods might be benefiting from climate change . A warming climate means less fog in northern California, which allows redwoods more sunshine and therefore more photosynthesis. Researchers have also looked into cloning giant redwoods, which could save the species if they burn in future fires. A sanctuary for endangered condors in Big Sur also suffered from the wildfires. Kelly Sorenson, executive director of Ventana Wildlife Society, which operates the sanctuary, watched in horror as fire took out a remote camera trained on a condor chick in a nest. Sorenson saw the chick’s parents fly away. “We were horrified. It was hard to watch. We still don’t know if the chick survived, or how well the free-flying birds have done,” Sorenson told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m concerned we may have lost some condors. Any loss is a setback. I’m trying to keep the faith and keep hopeful.” The fate of at least four other wild condors who live in the sanctuary is also still unknown. Via CleanTechnica , EcoWatch and KQED Image via Anita Ritenour

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Green-roofed CLT classrooms immerse children in nature

October 22, 2019 by  
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After transforming a historic castle into a secondary school for the Groenendaal College, Antwerp architectural firm HUB was approached once again by the same client to tackle another inspiring school project — an energy-efficient primary school addition in the middle of leafy Groenendaal Park. Fittingly titled the Park Classrooms, the recently completed project provides four classrooms and a large central gathering space for up to 90 Groenendaal Primary School children aged between 6 to 7 years old. The building opens up on all sides to the park and minimizes its environmental impact with a compact footprint, use of CLT materials and additional energy-efficient features. Opened in September, the Park Classrooms were developed as part of a government-funded effort to create extra school places in Antwerp. The new pavilion replaces four classrooms, previously housed in containers, with a single structure with a compact floor plan and an emphasis on sustainability. To that end, the architects used circular construction techniques, including cross-laminated timber for the main structure and eco-friendly finishing materials and also engineered the building for ease of dismantling for maintenance and replacement. Topped with a sloping moss-sedum roof cantilevered to provide shade, the Park Classrooms is minimalist and modern to keep focus on the outdoors. Large windows, glazed double doors, and skylights flood the interior with natural light and blur the boundary between indoors and out. Natural materials are used throughout the interior to strengthen ties with the outdoors. The four classrooms are each located on a corner of the pavilion and open up to the outdoors and to a central indoor “living room” that can serve as a reception or be used for cross-classroom activities. Related: UK’s first energy positive classroom produces 1.5x the energy it uses “They were created with ‘quality of life’ in mind, which is based on the vision that sustainability is more than just energy efficiency and that architecture departs from building a liveable environment,” explain the architects. “The four classrooms that surround this space all have double external doors that give access to a covered outdoor area in the park. In this way, the children can also work or play outside, in the immediate vicinity of the familiar classroom environment.” + HUB Images © David Jacobs

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A modernist home in Brazil brings a tropical garden indoors

August 5, 2019 by  
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Designed by São Paulo-based architecture firm BZP Arquitetura , the Casa Flamenco is a modernist home that makes the most of its lush, tropical setting. Surrounded by operable walls of glass and punctuated by interior courtyards , the home pulls the outdoors in at every turn. To further tie the luxury residence into nature, the architects included bioclimatic strategies to ensure a low-energy, comfortable micro-climate; a natural materials palette defined by stone and wood accents; and renewable systems such as solar hot water systems and a rainwater collecting cistern. Spanning an area of 1,300 square meters, Casa Flamenco was created for a young family of four in Jardim Europa, one of São Paulo’s most coveted and upscale residential neighborhoods. The house is spread out across three floors that engage the outdoors with large sliding glass doors. A minimalist materials palette defines the home’s light-toned interior. The design consists of white surfaces and natural materials, such as granite and hickory walnut, to keep the focus on the lush landscaping that is irrigated by collected rainwater. Related: This modern solar-powered retreat is topped with a massive green roof “We have included bioclimatic strategies for the project, such as the use of green slabs in landscaping, protective films on glass, photovoltaic panels that absorb solar energy and convert it to heat, heating water from showers and faucets, and creating a cross ventilation system in environments and greater climatic comfort and air movement inside the residence, reducing the constant use of air conditioning,” the architects said. To keep the emphasis on the landscape, the architects tucked the parking into the underground level, which also houses the technical and service areas. The spacious ground floor comprises the main social spaces including the living areas, dining room, kitchen, office space, home theater and access to an outdoor lap pool. The private sleeping areas are located upstairs. A separate building houses a gym, sauna and toy library. + BZP Arquitetura Via ArchDaily Photography by Tuca Reines via BZP Arquitetura

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Largest nature reserve in Niger threatened by oil development

August 5, 2019 by  
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One of the largest nature reserves on continental Africa may soon be destroyed by the China National Petroleum Corporation in the name of oil exploration and economic development. Just seven years after its establishment, and only months after finally becoming operationally managed, Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve could be reduced in size by half. The Niger government announced plans to remove over 17,000 square miles from what was originally a 38,600-square-mile park. The park is known for containing part of the Sahara desert and low mountain ranges. The specific area of the park that will be converted into oil operations is the most important section in terms of threatened biodiversity. It is home to the critically endangered addax (a type of antelope) and the dama gazelle. There are only an estimated 100 addax remaining, but they continue to be hunted for their meat. Now, the oil development project could shrink their habitat and decimate the addax’s main source of water. The China National Petroleum Corporation is one of the largest oil companies in the world. In exchange for a much-needed $5 billion investment in Niger, the Chinese have exploration rights and permission to build a pipeline that carries 20,000 barrels of oil out of the country every day. Paradoxically, China will be hosting the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, yet government officials and oil executives seem unbothered by this localized biodiversity issue in the Sahara. The government has proposed to add land to the park along a different border. According to Sébastien Pinchon, a member of the nonprofit that manages the park on behalf of the Niger government, that new area “has little ecological value.” Via Mongabay Image via Shankar S.

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This futuristic, solar-powered travel trailer can be pulled by small cars

April 22, 2019 by  
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There’s no dispute that travel trailers are gaining popularity among those looking to get off the grid and use fewer natural resources, especially while enjoying activities such as camping and road tripping. At 760 pounds and just over 12 feet in length, the Polydrop trailer is an impressive option for your next adventure. Created by architectural designer Kyung-Hyun Lew, this travel trailer has a lightweight frame and sleeps two people comfortably. For the minimalist traveler, it has pretty much all the essentials. The 2017 prototype was so lightweight that the designer was able to travel for an entire year with the personal trailer hitched to a small 4-cylinder car. The attention gained from Lew’s initial 2017 trip influenced the newer 2019 version with improved parts. Inside the wooden cabin bolted to the aluminum frame, there is a three-quarter-sized mattress, three sections of storage cubbies, two USB outlets and a vented roof. The interior is lit with recessed  LED lighting , and thick insulation protects inhabitants from all sorts of weather while saving energy. Heating (controlled by a thermostat), lighting and the electronic system are all powered by a solar panel. Related: Lume Traveler offers panoramic sky views from an open roof There is also a kitchenette with cabinets for electric hookups as well as two storage drawers in the rear. Unlike other travel trailers , the Polydrop doesn’t leave much room for the kitchen space, but the makers insisted that it has all the essentials for a camping trip at a site with separate facilities, like restrooms and benches, available. This isn’t your grandfather’s travel trailer — the Polydrop makes use of a polygonized teardrop shape with a super modern design and a futuristic feel. Safety wise, Timbren Independent suspension and hydraulic disk brakes get the job done for safe driveability. For the unfussy traveler who just needs a place to rest and some storage, the Polydrop certainly offers a successful approach to camping and road-tripping. The simplicity with a sleek, modern design is perfect for those looking for something not quite as bulky as a traditional travel trailer but more comfortable than a tent. + Polydrop Via Curbed Images via Polydrop

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