Old barn and granary gains a new life as an inspiring community hub

November 26, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based design practice MCW Architects has completed the transformation of a heritage barn and granary into an uplifting community center and home of local charity ACE Foundation . Purchased by the charity in 2009 on the outskirts of Cambridge , the Victorian farm was renovated in a two-part process, the second phase of which MCW Architects was commissioned to design and implement. In addition to refurbishing the existing structure and improving energy efficiency, the £1,500,000 second-phase transformation also included new build elements, such as the glazed hall that links the Stapleford Granary to the barn. As a champion of adult and continuing education both locally and internationally, the ACE Foundation wanted to create an inspiring place conducive to hosting all types of learning. Its vision was to transform the Victorian farm and granary into a sustainable working environment and accessible community amenity. In the first phase, the granary and surrounding outbuildings were transformed into a small performance space for 60 people, including multipurpose facilities for chamber music, lectures and exhibitions, as well as recording facilities, a seminar room and some office spaces. When MCW Architects was brought on for the second phase, the firm converted the existing barn into offices for the ACE Cultural Tours team and refurbished the ground floor of the granary — along with the cart lodge — into a creative space for fine and applied art. The glazed corridor connecting the existing structures is multipurpose and serves as a foyer, gathering space and long gallery. All areas are naturally ventilated without reliance on air conditioning. In addition to passive design components, the buildings save energy with an underfloor heating system, additional windows and skylights that let in greater daylight and energy-efficient lighting systems throughout. Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The architects said, “The redevelopment of this sensitive site was carried out in a way that retains the character of the existing fabric and spaces whilst being able to breathe new life into the place so that it can support and sustain the uses and needs of the Foundation into the future.” + MCW Architects Photography by Jim Stephenson and ACE Foundation via MCW Architects

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Old barn and granary gains a new life as an inspiring community hub

How to provide a backyard habitat to protect animals in the winter

November 26, 2018 by  
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We live in an ecosystem where plants and animals depend upon one another for survival. During the cold winter months, the animals in your area may struggle to find adequate food, shelter and water; however, you can make a difference in these tough situations. To help animals survive the winter, here are a few simple actions you can take in your own yard in the name of wildlife conservation . Hold off on deadheading Birds eat seeds and make nests from grasses. Critters store nuts and seeds from plants . Although you might find it unsightly, leaving the dried heads of roses, wildflowers, sunflowers, coneflowers and blazing star makes it easier for birds to forage during the winter. So instead of cutting them back in the fall, allow them to overwinter, and trim them back in the spring instead. Rethink your landscaping selections Every gardener knows that some plants appeal to animals more than others. We need flowers for insects to pollinate, attractants for butterflies and plants that produce seeds for small critters to eat. Most of this activity happens during the summer months, which is why animals store up for winter. But when the stores run out or animals seek fresh foods, the right plants in your garden can provide year-round feedings. Related: How to plant fruit in the winter If you are due for a change or some additional shrubbery, consider planting trees that produce nuts such as hazelnut, walnut or oak trees. Plant foliage that produces berries year-round to feed the animals. Some examples include bayberry, viburnum, chokeberry, wintergreen teaberry, dogwood and winterberry holly. Also plant trees that produce pine cones as a food source for birds, and while you’re considering evergreens, note that the juniper tree also provides berries. Some varieties of crabapple trees are an additional option for providing fruit throughout the winter. Create water reservoirs Animals can’t drink snow or ice — keep fresh water available. Build a small pond or maintain bird baths. Keep your water source warm enough to avoid freezing with an easy-to-find heater that you can run in your pond or bath. A layer of ice on the top of your pond will not only trap invertebrates and frogs inside, but it also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. If you live in a generally mild climate but have a water source ice over during an unseasonal cold snap, place a pot of hot water on the icy surface. Related: Birdbath care during the winter You don’t want rodents falling into the water sources, so make sure that any water available is in the form of a bird bath or other elevated source. Reservoirs, like rain collection barrels, should be completely sealed around any openings to repel critters who could get trapped inside. Build protection out of debris Your yard clippings, especially tree branches, make an appealing refuge for foraging rodents, rabbits, squirrels and reptiles . They also allow birds to have a protected space for building nests in preparation of spring. To create a brush pile for housing, start with a pile of the largest branches and cuttings. Stack smaller debris on top for additional layers of protection and warmth.  Critters and nesting birds will thank you for the protection. You can also encourage animals to take shelter in your woodpile by stacking wood pieces with copious spacing. Criss-crossing split wood chunks provides protection for rabbits, squirrels and other small animals. Craft tiny animal homes Animals that are cold during winter will seek out warmth and shelter wherever they can. That’s why you’ll find rats sneaking into the house, mice burrowing into covered patio furniture or taking over the RV and birds tucked into the rafters. To keep them happy and warm without sharing your living space, build them their own homes. In addition to mounds of protective foliage, put together a row of basic wooden birdhouses resting on posts, hanging from trees or mounted to the fence. Bat houses have visual appeal and functional elements, too. If you have space, choose an area away from the main activity on your property to place a recycled chicken coop, bus stop shed or other small building; lay down straw for added warmth. Put out food Fill your bird feeders and remember to check them often during the winter. Those that keep food dry are the best. Also make and hang some pine cone feeders from your trees. Simply smear some nut butter on the pine cone and roll it in bird food for an easy and animal-friendly craft that the whole family can work on together. Related: Attracting backyard birds in winter Leave the leaves Autumn is dubbed fall because of the obvious characteristic of leaves dropping everywhere. As leaves float away from the trees and onto your property, resist the urge to get out the leaf blower and yard debris cart. Instead, move those leaves over to your flower beds. Not only will they provide mulching benefits to your plants, but they will also offer a habitat for ground birds, such as the thrush, and frogs, which prefer the moist environment that leaves provide. While it’s tempting to strip the yard down to the ground during your fall list of chores, remember to think about the animals. By holding off on debris removal and taking a few calculated steps, you’ll not only improve their winter habitat, but you will also have a more appealing green space with foliage and animals to view. Via Humane Society , Discover Wildlife and HGTV Images via Annie Spratt , Maria Shanina , Peter Trimming , Zailin Liu , Phil Roeder , Erin Wilson , Wes Hicks , DaPuglet and Rachel Kramer

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Delhi High Courts new expansion taps into green building principles

November 1, 2018 by  
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New Delhi-based architecture practice Design Forum International has completed the New Courts Complex, a modern extension to the Delhi High Court. The new project was completed as part of the Delhi High Court’s ambitious expansion plan to increase capacity by 60 percent by the year 2020. Designed with energy efficiency in mind, the building was informed by passive solar principles to ensure comfortable indoor temperatures, while smart water management is practiced using sensor-operated fixtures and recycled water systems. Located in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, the New Courts Complex mimics its predecessor with grand steps that lead to a high podium fronted with a large fountain  focal point. The complex includes 15 courtrooms across four floors as well as nine registrars’ courts on the ground level. Moreover, there are 16 new chambers for judges, nine new chambers for junior registrars and additional work spaces for judicial officials. Discussion and sitting rooms for members of the bar, as well as a women-only sitting room, were also integrated into the plan. Since security was also a paramount concern, open sight lines and transparency were stressed throughout. “The task was to somehow create a visual vocabulary that could bridge 500 years of discordance with a harmonious note,” Design Forum International said. “The principles of green building design have been employed with a tilt toward passive techniques that require the basic design starting from the envelope and massing to be correct. In the overall analysis, the New Courts Block is a fine example of how to build a green building that is both energy-efficient , functional and aesthetic.” Related: Architects transform a derelict lot into an urban oasis in New Delhi The outer walls of the building are built from A.E.C. blocks chosen for their thermal properties, and the roof was built with heat reflective tiles. In addition, high-performance coated glass and solar panels help reduce dependence on air conditioning. As a result, the total energy demand has been reduced by approximately 20 to 25 percent. Natural light is optimized in the entire building, even in the basement, thanks to carefully placed skylights. + Design Forum International Images via Design Forum International

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This striking concrete home uses mesh walls to connect with nature

May 24, 2018 by  
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When it comes to home design, architects around the world are forgoing the conventional for the experimental – all in the name of passive design . For a brilliant example, look no further than Ma of Wind, a unique concrete home from Japanese firm  Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects  with north and south facades made out of steel mesh. Over time, the mesh will be covered with plants to help shade the interior during the hot summer months. Located on Japan’s Okinawa Island, the Ma of Wind home is a daring attempt to bring outdoor elements into the interior as much as possible. Using the island’s traditional vernacular for inspiration, the architects explain that the design concept was “characterized by a respect towards the natural environment, and maintaining harmony between man and nature.” Related: A Minimalist Steel “Green Box” Home that Puts Nature First in Vietnam The structure is made out of a reinforced concrete shell chosen for its resilience against typhoons, a fairly common occurrence in the area. Additionally, the home uses several passive design features to cool the interior during the hot and humid summer months. The open walls on either side of the home open the space to optimal ventilation and natural lighting on the interior. Additionally, extra-large eaves were placed over the terraces to provide extra shade during the summer months. Without a doubt, however, the home’s most striking feature is its steel mesh facade . The architects hung two mesh walls on the north and south facades of the home; these walls will serve as trellises for climbing plants over the years, providing a natural shade system for the building. During the winter when some of the plants lose their leaves, daylight will stream through the interior. “Depending on the season, vegetation engulfs the house, fusing architecture with nature,” the studio explained. The architects based the interior layout on that of traditional Japanese homes . An open living space and kitchen make up the heart of the house, which is flanked by large terraces on either side. The bedrooms are laid out perpendicular to the main living area and have sliding glass doors that open up the rooms to the exterior. The home creates as much of a connection with the island’s natural climate as possible, no matter how harsh. “Sun, wind, water, and the unique climatic features of Okinawa Island together modeled the design as a space exposed to the prevailing winds, looking to south and north for enhancing natural ventilation,” the architects said. + Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects Via Dezeen Images via Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects

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This striking concrete home uses mesh walls to connect with nature

MVRDV will transform the Tirana Pyramid, a former communist monument, into an education center

May 24, 2018 by  
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Albania’s controversial Tirana Pyramid—a former monument to the country’s communist leader—will finally be repurposed after years of decay. MVRDV  has officially unveiled designs to transform the pyramidal structure into a large green technology education center. The pyramid will be opened up to the surroundings and filled with natural light and greenery, ultimately making the interior more welcoming to the public. Set in the center of the city, the Tirana Pyramid originally served as a museum honoring the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the long-time leader of communist Albania. Following the collapse of Communism in 1991, the concrete communist monument was repurposed for a variety of uses, from a nightclub to a NATO base, during the Kosovo War. In recent years, developers have called for the Tirana Pyramid’s demolition, which stirred controversy among its architects and the greater populace, many of whom had developed an attachment to the monument despite its increasingly decrepit and vandalized appearance. Rather than demolish the unique structure, MVRDV aims to preserve the silhouette while making the 127,000-square-foot building more accessible. “Though in the past, there were plans to transform this monumental building into a national theatre, this never materialised which left this fantastic building in ruin for more than a decade,” says Winy Maas , co-founder of MVRDV. “It is a symbol for many Albanians. For the older generation, it is a memory to the cultural events during communist times, for the recent generation it became the place to celebrate the new era. We will open it up to its surroundings as a structure in the park, that can be populated by people, trees, and containers for co-working. We will make the beams accessible and safe so that we can all climb to the top and celebrate the structure, with views of the city of Tirana. We create an inhabited monument.” Related: BIG unveils designs for bow tie-shaped National Theater of Albania In addition to natural light , the architects will introduce greenery to the building atrium. The team will also make the facade roof—a popular hangout spot for young people—officially available to all visitors, populating it with pavilions and other pop-up structures conducive to temporary events and sightseeing. The project is slated for completion in 2019. + MVRDV Renderings by MVRDV, Exterior image by Gent Onuzi and Wikimedia

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MVRDV will transform the Tirana Pyramid, a former communist monument, into an education center

Curvaceous pair of towers mimics Malaysia’s dramatic topography

May 24, 2018 by  
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International design firm SPARK Architects  recently completed a pair of condominium towers with rippling facades that pay homage to the dramatic surrounding landscape on Malaysia’s Penang Island. Located at Jalan Bukit Gambier near the state’s UNESCO-designated capital of George Town, the Arte S twin residential towers stand in sculptural contrast to its more staid neighbors. Designed to embrace the tropical environment, the units are optimized for natural light, views and cross-ventilation without the need for air conditioning. Commissioned by Malaysian property developer Nusmetro, the Arte S residential development includes 460 apartments. The taller of the two towers soars to a height of 590 feet, making the buildings the island’s tallest “twin tower” development. The apartments are designed to be flexible with large open spaces free of columns and beams. All the common areas are naturally ventilated and filled with natural light . The architects drew inspiration from the existing site, from the undulating verdant hills of Bukit Gambier to the waters of the Penang Strait. The curvilinear forms found in nature are echoed in the towers’ balconies, terraces and pools. To achieve the twisted appearance, a waveform brise-soleil is subtly rotated at each elliptical floor plate. “The mountain landscape has been interpreted as a series of layered flat surfaces that resemble steps, a graduated terracing of the building podium and its twisting towers is the signature of the Arte S project,” the architects explained. Related: Colorful bamboo pavilion champions sustainable design in Kuala Lumpur The taller tower sits closer to a mountain to the west and rises to a height of 50 stories, overlooking spectacular views of the ocean. The shorter 32-story tower sits atop a layered podium. Both towers step back at the upper levels to create three-story penthouses . The taller tower also includes a sky garden on the 35th floor with “resident club” pods that accommodate events. + SPARK Architects Via ArchDaily Images via SPARK Architects

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Curvaceous pair of towers mimics Malaysia’s dramatic topography

Fallingwater Institute adds four timber ‘portals’ to Frank Lloyd Wright landmark

February 15, 2017 by  
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Students participating in the Fallingwater Institute’s summer residence program will now have a beautiful new home-base from which to study the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright design and national monument. Architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed four “modest wood portals” to provide updated lodging to the rustic 1960s teaching facilities. Wright completed work on the iconic Fallingwater home in 1939. The stunning design, which was built for the Kaufmann family, sits over a waterfall in southwest Pennsylvania. Today, the home is a National Historic Landmark run by the Fallingwater Institute, which has been offering summer residency programs to architecture lovers of all ages for over 20 years. Related: Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt Trinity Chapel brought to life in vivid renderings Now, students will be able to live a bit more comfortably as they study thanks to four new cabin-like structures built on the High Meadow farm next to the main home. The new residences are made up of four wooden cabins clad in a cedar stained shale gray. On the interior, built-in shelves and most of the furniture were constructed out of simple plywood, and cork flooring is used throughout the cabins. A horizontal pine screen, which was harvested and milled on site , connects the four cabins, which all have stunning views of the surroundinga. The angled nature of the design was strategic to provide shade in the summertime while also optimizing air ventilation throughout the cabins. Bill James, project architect from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s Pittsburgh office, explains that the four new cabins were designed to be subtle, but comfortable additions for summer tenants: “The building’s main entry welcomes visitors into a central screened porch, which joins the new architecture to an existing cabin and serves as the outdoor gathering and dining space,” he said. “A horizontal screen, made of Norway Spruce harvested and milled on site, extends from the main cabin and continues along the walkway leading to the dwellings.” + Fallingwater Institute + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Via Archinet Photography by Nic Lehoux

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Fallingwater Institute adds four timber ‘portals’ to Frank Lloyd Wright landmark

Bill Nye is back with new (real) science show

February 15, 2017 by  
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Scientist and television personality Bill Nye the Science Guy is returning to television with a new show, Bill Nye Saves the World . With bombastic claims about alternative facts and fake news threatening to distract us from issues that matter, Nye plans to inject a little reality into the mix with his new series. According to Netflix , where the show will air on April 21, the program will refute “antiscientific claims that may be espoused by politicians, religious leaders, or titans of industry.” Nye , known for his Emmy-winning children’s program Bill Nye the Science Guy , will target a different audience through his Netflix series. Bill Nye Saves the World will feature a talk show format with what Nye referred to as essentially a monologue, guests, expert panels, and comedy pieces. He’ll approach topics as diverse as climate change , sex, and technology from a point of view that is both entertaining and scientific. Related: Bill Nye the Science Guy backs revolutionary solar company https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-_HKOcYBK8 Some of Nye’s topics, specifically climate change, could be considered political, especially under a president who’s tweeted his denial of global warming . But The New York Times notes the program isn’t a reaction to the November election, as filming finished in October. And according to Nye it wasn’t the climate science community but people in fossil fuel industries that politicized the issue. He pointed out no one has to watch his show, but he does hope it will influence some people. Nye told The New York Times, “You have to be optimistic. You’re not going to solve global problems or address global issues without being optimistic. If you don’t think you can do anything about it, you won’t.” The show will feature 13 30-minute long episodes, released all at the same time. Although Nye doesn’t yet know if the new show will be renewed for a second season, he plans to continue injecting science and critical thinking into political dialogue. Via The New York Times Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and screenshot

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Bill Nye is back with new (real) science show

New net-zero Solar Farmhouse from Deltec generates all its own energy

January 24, 2017 by  
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In these uncertain times of erratic weather and changing climate patterns, net-zero energy (or NZE) is quickly becoming the gold standard in green building. If you can generate all of your own energy on site, you never need to rely on the grid or worry about energy bills. The North Carolina prefab builders at Deltec launched a line of affordable net-zero energy homes last year to great fanfare from off-grid buffs around the U.S. Now we’re thrilled to see them introduce a brand new design to this collection; a charming, classically-styled Solar Farmhouse with all of the old-fashioned curb appeal, plus the futuristic technology that makes this home achieve net-zero energy.

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New net-zero Solar Farmhouse from Deltec generates all its own energy

French schools create extra classrooms with Lego-style PopUp Houses

January 11, 2017 by  
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Two savvy private schools have just upped their learning space by almost 4,000 square feet with Multipod Studio ‘s incredible prefab Pop-Up Houses that snap together like LEGO bricks. Located in Indre-et-Loire, France, both schools went with the low-cost option not only due to budget restrictions, but also because of the structures’ sustainable materials and optimal energy performance. Low-cost and energy efficient pop ups are becoming the go-to solution for those with limited budgets in need of additional space. The PopUp House system is easy to assemble, lightweight and made with breathable materials. Constructed with insulating blocks and wooden panels, the design is a very practical system that provides optimal thermal insulation, reducing dependence on additional heating and cooling. Related: Multipod Studio’s Affordable Pop-Up House Snaps Together Like LEGO Bricks The staff at Rollinat High School and Alfred de Vigny High School worked with Multipod Studio to design the most efficient version of the structures to meet their needs. The popup building for Rollinat High School is 1614 square feet and includes two connected classrooms, while the three classrooms at Alfred de Vigny total about 2422 square feet. Once the materials were on site, the actual construction process happened (with just a screwdriver as the only required tool) in about two weeks. The final building was completed in December, 2016 and students began using their new classrooms in early January, 2017. + Multipod Studio + Arc A3 Sud Touraine Via Business Insider

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French schools create extra classrooms with Lego-style PopUp Houses

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