LEED Platinum Sitka captures the Pacific Northwest spirit with a lush, fog-enabled courtyard

October 2, 2019 by  
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Local architectural practice Runberg Architecture Group has raised the bar for sustainable design in Seattle with the completion of Sitka, a LEED Platinum-certified multifamily development on target to achieve Seattle’s 2030 Challenge for Planning goals of reducing water and energy use. Built to use nearly a third less energy than the typical baseline design, the 384-unit development features numerous energy-saving systems — Sitka is the nation’s first multifamily project to use a Wastewater Heat Recovery system — as well as a stunning courtyard that mimics the Pacific Northwest landscape with a running stream, tree-covered hilltops and a lounge that resembles a treehouse. Located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, Sitka is a seven-story building centered on an outdoor courtyard. Runberg Architecture Group drew inspiration from Northwest Modernism and the landscapes of the nearby San Juan Islands to create the project. A sloping green roof and rooftop community garden help capture stormwater runoff as well. The tree-filled courtyard also features a fog system and a treehouse, designed by Seattle’s Lead Pencil Studio, that includes a working fireplace with views of the courtyard. Related: Energy-efficient house embraces panoramic views of Puget Sound “Our mission is to design places where people want to be,” said Brian Runberg of the project’s human-centered design. “When creating Sitka, we asked ourselves what was missing from most of South Lake Union — what would make people feel good about spending time here — and it was green space . We wanted to create an oasis for residents and neighbors in the midst of the hard cityscape.” To minimize energy usage, the architects strategically broke up the building mass to allow natural light and ventilation into the courtyard and interiors. The development also includes LED lighting, EnergyStar appliances, recycled and locally sourced materials, low-flow toilets and fixtures and a high-efficiency 14-foot-diameter fan in the fitness center, all of which contribute to the development’s energy goals. + Runberg Architecture Group Images by Christophe Servieres and Michael Walmsley via Runberg Architecture Group

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LEED Platinum Sitka captures the Pacific Northwest spirit with a lush, fog-enabled courtyard

2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard reveals leading states in clean energy adoption

October 2, 2019 by  
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Just in time for the annual celebration of Energy Efficiency Day, the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. For this year’s report, the states leading on clean energy adoption are Massachusetts and California, while North Dakota and Wyoming still have more than a few strides to go before fully catching up. In step with Energy Efficiency Day’s message of “Save Money, Cut Carbon, Breathe Easier,” ACEEE’s goal is to share tips and tools that promote a clean energy future. No surprise then that ACEEE firmly advocates for effective energy usage to reduce consumer bills and limit pollution . The full report shows Maryland has improved immensely, more than any other state, since last year’s scorecard thanks to a focus on public transit, electric vehicles, utility efficiency programs and more. New York and New Jersey were also listed as “states to watch,” as they have made impressive goals for clean energy and reduced emissions. Related: Minnesota to implement low- and zero-emission clean vehicle standards Meanwhile, Kentucky dropped the furthest in rankings compared to last year, as state utilities have continued to have program funds cut. Ohio also dropped in ranking compared to its position last year, primarily due to a policy that promotes power plants and moves away from renewable energy goals. The Energy Efficiency Scorecard also found that states all over the map are creating policies for greener appliances, improved building energy codes, vehicle emissions standards and general energy reduction goals. ACEEE’s annual scorecard can be accessed here . The scorecard is a resource intended by ACEEE to assist in benchmarking an individual state’s energy policy and progress. On an as-needed basis, the scorecard can be akin to a road map for state-level policymakers to follow, if they choose, as they strive to improve and invest in clean energy goals and initiatives. Utilizing a 50-point scale across six policy categories, the ACEEE scorecard reveals where a particular state may benefit from energy efficiency improvements. The six criteria are appliance and equipment standards, buildings and their efficiency, combined heat and power, state government-led initiatives around energy efficiency, transportation policies and utilities and public benefit programs. ACEEE executive director Steve Nadel said, “If states embrace robust energy-saving measures nationwide, Americans can slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and deliver more than $700 billion in energy savings by 2050,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of ACEEE. “We commend the top states for their clean energy leadership and urge states that are lagging to implement the strategies laid out in this report, so they can deliver energy and cost savings for their residents.” + ACEEE Image via Jpitha

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Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

October 2, 2019 by  
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Alder Creek, a 530-acre forest billed as the largest privately owned giant sequoia property in the world, will be acquired by century-old conservation group, Save the Redwoods League. The group will ultimately transfer the land to the United States Forest Service to safeguard the trees as a national treasure. Alder Creek’s sequoia trees number 483, many with diameters of 6 feet or greater. Mightiest of Alder Creek’s sequoias is Stagg Tree, believed to be the fifth-largest tree in the world. It towers at 250 feet with a width of 25 feet. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment Known for reaching heights of more than 300 feet, giant sequoias are esteemed for their rarity. What sets apart the giant sequoia from other trees is that it lives to be up to 3,000 years old, older than Christmas itself. Only two other tree species — the Great Basin bristlecone pine and the Patagonian cypress — have members older than the giant sequoia. These trees are only found in approximately 73 groves across 48,000 acres of Sierra Nevada territory. Most of the land these majestic behemoths grow on is in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park .  The height and girth of one giant sequoia means this ancient type of tree is resilient. Its carbon-sequestering capacity makes it irreplaceable, which is why its long-term conservation is of poignant significance. It is also home to such endangered animals as the American marten, California spotted owl and Pacific fisher. “Old growth of any species , let alone the world’s largest trees, is extraordinarily rare,” explained Samuel Hodder, president and SEO of Save the Redwoods League. “There is precious little left of the natural world as we found it before the Industrial Revolution. Alder Creek is the natural world at its most extraordinary.” Alder Creek, located about 10 miles south of Yosemite National Park, is comparable in size and significance to the renowned Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Of the 1,200 acres of giant sequoia stands still held privately, Alder Creek is the largest, measuring about five times the size of other privately owned parcels. Alder Creek has been on land owned by the Rouch family since the 1940s. Claude Albert Rouch initially purchased the land for logging . While the family logged pine and fir for lumber, they made sure the giant sequoias remained unscathed. The deal has been under negotiation for the past 20 years, and the group has until the close of 2019 to garner the $15.6 million required to secure Alder Creek’s purchase. + Save The Redwoods League Via Times Standard Photography by Victoria Reeder via Save the Redwoods League

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Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

Kengo Kuma weaves bamboo and carbon fiber into a nest-like structure at the V&A Museum

October 2, 2019 by  
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At the 2019 London Design Festival, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has crafted a new eye-catching outdoor installation in the John Madejski Garden at the V&A Museum — just one year after his completion of the V&A Dundee museum in Scotland. Dubbed Bamboo (?) Ring, or ‘Take-wa ??’, the temporary doughnut-shaped structure is woven from rings of bamboo and carbon fiber. The sculpture was developed in partnership with Chinese consumer electronics brand OPPO. Best known for his design of the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, architect Kengo Kuma has won international acclaim for his contemporary projects that draw inspiration from traditional Japanese design and emphasize natural materials . A recurring theme in his work is the expression of lightness and transparency, qualities that have also guided the design of the Bamboo (?) Ring.  Curated by Clare Farrow, the cocoon-like structure is based on a 2-meter diameter ring made from strips of the bamboo Phyllostachys edulis reinforced with carbon fiber used to laminate each ring. “For Kuma, working with Ejiri Structural Engineers and the Kengo Kuma Laboratory at The University of Tokyo, the installation is an exploration of pliancy, precision, lightness and strength: by pulling two ends, it naturally de-forms and half of the woven structure is lifted into the air,” reads the London Design Festival 2019 press release. “Bamboo (?) Ring, or ‘Take-wa ??’, is intended to be a catalyst for weaving people and place.” Related: Kengo Kuma unveils bold timber museum in Turkey that pays homage to the region’s Ottoman heritage Kuma’s installation was on display at 35 Baker Street for the duration of the London Design Festival , from September 14 to September 22, 2019. The project was developed in partnership with Chinese electronics brand OPPO, which recently built an OPPO design center in London during its new smartphone series launch. The experience center’s temporary installation, called “Essence of Discovery,” blended technology and art to introduce their smartphone products during the festival. + Kengo Kuma Images via Sassy Films

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Kengo Kuma weaves bamboo and carbon fiber into a nest-like structure at the V&A Museum

A cluster of coast forest cabins brings a nature-loving family closer together

September 9, 2019 by  
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With their grown children living in different parts of North America, Indiana-based couple John and Pat Troth sought a retreat where they could bring their nature-loving family together in one place. To that end, the couple asked Seattle-based architectural firm Wittman Estes to transform a midcentury cabin in Washington’s Hood Canal into a getaway that would immerse their family into the coastal forest. Using repurposed materials, a simple and modern aesthetic, as well as an indoor/ outdoor living approach, the architects created the Hood Cliff Retreat, a cluster of timber cabins where the family can watch birds and take in the nature of the Hood Canal .  Located on a 1.13 acre site atop a bluff, the Hood Cliff Retreat replaces an existing cedar cabin that was originally built in 1962 but was largely closed off from its surroundings. To better accommodate the family’s needs for space and desire to be connected with nature, Wittman Estes demolished the original cabin and repurposed its 20-foot-by-20-foot footprint for the new main cabin. An extension was added to the side of the main cabin and a new bunkhouse and bathroom were placed on the north side of the site.  The three single-story structures were kept deliberately simple so as to keep focus on the outdoors and to minimize the construction budget. Clad in rough-sawn cedar siding and cement panel finishes, the light-filled buildings simultaneously blend into the forest and open up to the landscape with large glass openings, sliding doors, and continuous decking. Reclaimed beams and siding from the original cabin were used for countertops and interior cladding in the new buildings. Related: Danish-inspired holiday cabin is a dreamy Pacific Northwest hideout “We sought to dissolve the barriers between the inside and out, between forest, garden, and structure,” says Wittman, who describes the sustainably minded retreat as an expression of “tactile modernism,” connecting the family to the rich sensory experiences of the Puget Sound ecosystem. + Wittman Estes Images by Andrew Pogue

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A cluster of coast forest cabins brings a nature-loving family closer together

An old 1930s home gets a modern makeover into a cozy beach cabin

May 23, 2018 by  
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Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig is no stranger to cabin design, having completed many beautiful retreats across the Pacific Northwest. So, when Alan Maskin, principal and owner of Olson Kundig, decided to a renovate and expand an original 1938 beach cabin on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the results were nothing short of spectacular. In keeping with Maskin’s love for “the various uses of history,” the Agate Pass Cabin deftly combines the spirit of the 1930s with a modern refresh. Located on the shore overlooking Agate Pass, the Agate Pass Cabin came about when Maskin began searching for a home located between his “work life and love life,” formerly separated by a three-hour commute. It was then that he found a rundown 1930s cabin that won him over with its nice proportions, stained wood interiors and potential. The original structure was only one-story with low ceilings and an attic. Maskin expanded the property to 1,100 square feet and added a second story fronted with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that frame views of the water and Agate Pass. The second floor also opens up to a small terrace built atop the original screened-in porch, which was converted into a dining room and office. The existing interior was clad in wide planks of Douglas Fir  — a plentiful and popular material choice in the area 100 years ago. Whenever those panels were removed or altered, Maskin repurposed them into everything from cabinetry to ceilings. Related: This Puget Sound eco cabin is made almost entirely from reclaimed materials “Throughout the design, Maskin worked to make the different construction periods legible,” Olson Kundig said. “Modern additions are demarcated with different wood types from the original planks, making it clear to see what was ‘then’ and what is ‘now.’” To develop a spacious feel, Maskin removed the attic and the living room’s low ceiling to create a cathedral ceiling that soars to 17 feet tall at the gable. The design team added new foundations and made seismic upgrades. Maskin also designed most of the built-in furniture and cabinets, much of it made with glulam plywood . + Olson Kundig Images by Aaron Leitz and Kevin Scott/Olson Kundig

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An old 1930s home gets a modern makeover into a cozy beach cabin

Exxon aims to cut methane emissions 15% by 2020

May 23, 2018 by  
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ExxonMobil isn’t typically known for climate action , but the world’s biggest publicly traded oil and gas company is now fighting climate change with greenhouse gas reduction measures. The oil and gas giant recently announced measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions , including a 15 percent drop in methane emissions , in an effort to address climate change. To slash methane emissions, Exxon is drawing on multiple initiatives, one of which is leak-detection-and-repair efforts at XTO Energy , an Exxon subsidiary focused on shale . According to the company, operational improvements at production and midstream sites in the United States, combined with the leak-detection-and-repair efforts, have lowered methane emissions by around two percent in the last year. Exxon thinks it will reach the 15 percent target with these initiatives and “additional measures outside the U.S. focused on the most significant sources of methane.” Exxon also aims for a 25 percent reduction in natural gas flaring ; it believes the most significant reductions will happen in West Africa. Related: New Exxon CEO supports Paris climate deal, carbon tax The oil and gas company describes itself as “the most energy efficient refining company in the U.S. and internationally.” It said it has reached “a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency” across “global refining operations” after launching an effort in 2000, and that it invests in lower-emission energy solutions such as biofuels , cogeneration, and carbon capture and storage. CEO Darren Woods said in their statement, “We have a longstanding commitment to improve efficiency and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s announcement builds on that commitment and will help further drive improvements in our business.” Almost two-thirds of greenhouse gases released during the last 150 years originated from 90 companies . Exxon was in the top 10, according to a 2013 study from Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute; he blames the companies for most climate change . + ExxonMobil Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Gorgeous lakeside home takes cues from Pacific Northwest midcentury modernism

January 2, 2018 by  
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The tradition of midcentury modernism in the Pacific Northwest lives on in the handsome West Mercer Residence nestled along the shores of Lake Washington. SKL Architects designed this cedar-clad abode and worked closely with local craftspeople to create the custom 5,500-square-foot home with enviable views framed through large expanses of glass. California may be considered the stronghold of midcentury modernism in the West, but the design movement also crept up to the Pacific Northwest led by the likes of architects William Fletcher and Paul Kirk. Taking cues from the neighborhood, the West Mercer Residence continues the “tradition of mid-century Pacific Northwest modernism.” The three-story home is wrapped in native cedar that contrasts beautifully with black steel, rock, and cement. Full-height windows blur the line between the indoors and outdoors, as does the series of steps that lead down the grassy slope towards the lakeshore. SKL Architects was tasked to design a home that would replace a small, cluttered one with a more spacious abode accommodating a busy family with young children. “The house can be imagined as two bars of space, one public and one private, which are connected by a central double height volume,” wrote the architects. “The design emphasizes the seamless connection between internal and external spaces. The house is oriented towards the lake, so that water and light are present throughout the house. Floor and wall materials are continuous from indoors to outside, blurring the delineation of the two spaces.” Related: Gorgeous copper-clad home celebrates craft in the Pacific Northwest The large communal areas are mostly placed on the main level, while the comparatively smaller bedrooms are located above on the upper floor and the secondary rooms tucked below on the lower level. Local craftsmanship is visible throughout the home from the bronze and leather front door to a custom steel chandelier that can be raised and lowered. + SKL Architects Images by Tim Bies

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Gorgeous lakeside home takes cues from Pacific Northwest midcentury modernism

Zen-like Seattle retreat keeps a minimal footprint in a lush landscape

July 20, 2017 by  
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For those seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, feast your eyes on this beautiful light-filled cabin just outside Seattle in Greenwater, Washington. Robert Hutchison Architecture designed Crystal River Ranch House, a cedar -clad home hidden in the shadow of Mount Rainier that exudes a zen-like air of tranquility. Crafted to blend into the lush evergreen landscape, the 1,900-square-foot retreat was kept as compact as possible to minimize site impact and to epitomize the small home living movement. Set within a forest on the banks of the White River, the two-bedroom Crystal River Ranch House emphasizes connection with nature through its large glazed walls and natural materials palette . Custom-run and blackened Western Red Cedar planks clad the building and help it blend into the landscape. The entry courtyard serves as a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor environment. Despite the home’s compact size, the interior looks surprisingly spacious thanks to use of a centrally located double-height space , large glazed windows, white-painted surfaces, and abundance of natural light. The modern design is characterized by simple, clean leans and a cozy yet minimalist aesthetic. The communal areas, including the open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living room, as well as a covered patio and outdoor patio, are located on the east and south sides of the home. The two bedrooms are placed on opposite ends of the house, with the master suite on the northeast side and the guest bedroom on the southwest side. Related: Natural material palette brings warmth to minimalist Swiss home The architects write: “Designed as a zen-like retreat from the bustle of the city, the open living area uses large glass walls to create a sense of space and light even on the Northwest’s darkest, rainy days. A steel-clad fireplace mass serves as a central architectural feature and utility, complementing the natural wood interiors while separating the living room from the covered outdoor patio.” + Robert Hutchison Architecture Images by Mark Woods

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Zen-like Seattle retreat keeps a minimal footprint in a lush landscape

PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem

July 20, 2017 by  
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Much of our trash is hidden from our daily lives, which is why design collective Luzinterruptus is shining the light on wastefulness in their latest environmental art installations. Located at the heart of Madrid’s popular tourist attraction Plaza Mayor, PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a massive maze constructed from the thousands of plastic bottles that had been consumed in and around the plaza in the past month. The Madrid City Council commissioned the installation, built in June for the fourth Centennial Celebration of Plaza Mayor within the “Four Seasons” city art program. The PlasticWaste Labyrinth design developed out of Luzinterruptus’ desire to create a large-scale interactive installation befitting the historical plaza. The giant plastic bottle maze is intentionally claustrophobic so as to make the public feel disoriented while exploring the intricate path and narrow passages flanked with three-meter-tall walls. Wrapped around the King Philip III statue, the 300-square-meter maze features corridors measuring 170 meters in length and takes three minutes to pace. “The idea was to graphically visualize the amount of plastic we generate in our daily lives which we don’t often recycle accordingly,” said Luzinterruptus. “As a consequence, all this plastic is dumped in nature and ends up floating in the ocean, forming huge plastic islands that are destroying the marine ecosystem and will not ever decompose. Bearing all this in mind, we thought it was paramount that the piece didn’t look friendly.” Related: Glowing circle made from thousands of recycled notebooks celebrate Bilbao’s book festival Around 15,000 plastic bottles, inserted with lights and placed in bags, were used for the walls of the PlasticWaste Labyrinth. The plastic bottles were collected from businesses surrounding the square as well as from local residents and visitors who could dispose of their plastic waste in two giant containers placed in the square. The maze was open day and night for four days. + Luzinterruptus Photography: Lola Martínez © 2017

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