Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof

June 25, 2020 by  
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In a remote jungle on the hilltops of Costa Rica’s Santa Teresa province, San José-based architecture firm  Studio Saxe  has completed Santiago Hills Villa, a luxury home that embraces nature in more ways than one. To ensure that all rooms of the villa have access to ocean views, the architects created a zigzag floor plan that turns the bedrooms and living spaces sideways to face the shoreline. The unconventional home, which resembles a series of interconnected villas, is topped with a large white roof that protects the interior from unwanted solar gain .  Given the project brief’s emphasis on a connection with nature, Studio Saxe sought to minimize the home’s environmental footprint. The architects decided to  prefabricate  the home’s light steel frame off-site to minimize site intervention and ensure quality construction for the remote property. The use of a steel frame with sturdy I beams allowed the architects to install full-height glazed openings with enough support for the angular roof.  “Every space in the home has been angled to view the ocean, and this twist creates a geometric relationship between the roofline and the spaces that became the primary element of design that both addresses the need for large overhangs (for  climate control  and comfort) but also generates a literal connection between the view and every space,” Studio Saxe explains on its website. Related: Costa Rican surf hotel gets stunning new athletic center Contrasting with the lush green surroundings, the minimalist and modern home is predominately white, serving as a canvas that reflects the changing colors of the jungle. In addition to featuring incredible views and a reduced site impact, Santiago Hills Villa also embraces nature with its adherence to  passive solar  principles. The home is oriented to take advantage of winds for natural cooling, while the wing-like roof’s long overhangs protect the interior. The roof is also engineered to allow for rainwater collection. + Studio Saxe Images by Andres Garcia Lachner

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Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof

Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

June 25, 2020 by  
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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been concerns that using reusable containers and bags at grocery stores and cafes could enhance the spread of the virus. However, such claims have now been refuted by a team of 119 scientists. The team, which includes scientists from 18 countries, has published a document stating that reusable containers are safe. Many cafes, restaurants and grocery stores around the world have stopped accepting reusable cups, bags and other containers for fear that these items would spread COVID-19. Environmentalists have pushed for a long time to have restaurants and other businesses adopt the use of reusable containers. But these gains made over the years risk being eroded almost overnight if people continue to revert to single-use containers. Environmentalists are now accusing plastic manufactures of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to lobby for single-use plastics. Related: COVID-19 leads to plastic ban reversals The scientists involved in reassuring the public include epidemiologists, virologists, biologists and doctors. They have compiled a statement that encourages restaurants and individuals to continue using reusable containers as long as public health requirements are observed. The team said that reusable items are safe as long as high standards of hygiene are observed. One of the signatories to the statement, professor Charlotte Williams of Oxford University, explained that COVID-19 should not stop the efforts made toward a sustainable future. “I hope we can come out of the COVID-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment,” Williams said. According to the scientists’ statement, the coronavirus primarily spreads through aerosol droplets and not from contact with surfaces. Although surfaces can transfer the virus, washing reusable containers is much safer than relying on single-use ones. The scientists explained that most people do not bother cleaning single-use containers under the assumption that they are safe. Unfortunately, the virus can get in contact with any surface, including single-use containers. Europe plans to ban all single-use plastics starting next year. There is concern that plastic manufacturers are now using the coronavirus pandemic to delay the ban. Such a move would be detrimental, considering that plastic waste contributes 80% of all marine pollution . + Health Expert Statement Via The Guardian Image via Goran Ivos

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Research facility minimizes its carbon footprint to attract international talent

June 16, 2020 by  
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Spain’s coastal city of Badalona has recently welcomed the Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image, a new research facility designed to meet high standards of energy efficiency and sustainability. Pilar Calderon and Marc Folch of Barcelona-based architecture firm Calderon-Folch Studio teamed up with Pol Sarsanedas and landscape designer Lluís Corbella to create a site-specific building that would offer the highest levels of comfort as a means to attract and retain both local and international talent. Embedded into the landscape, the compact facility was constructed with a prefabricated wooden framework and clad in larch to blend in with the nearby forest. Because the Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image is located on sloped terrain, the architects placed the portion of the building containing the research floors partly underground to take advantage of thermal mass for stable climatic conditions year-round. Building into the landscape has also allowed the architects to create two access levels: one used as a general entrance for the administrative area, and the other for logistic purposes for the scientific-technical area. The separation of areas by levels optimizes building operations and adheres to the strict requirements of biological containment. Related: Green-roofed Honey Bee Research Centre targets LEED Gold “The new Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image holds a research center of the first order,” the designers explained in a project statement. “A research facility based on ethical research criteria, technical and functional complexity, and comfort features that have been resolved in an efficient and sustainable way that strongly considers its relationship with the environment.” Natural materials, large glazed openings and naturalized exterior spaces visually tie the research facility to the environment. Eco-friendly considerations were also taken with the use of a modular , lightweight wooden framework with loose-fill cellulose and structural insulated panels that minimize material waste. Moreover, the building follows passive solar principles. The research facility is equipped with high-performance energy and air-flow recycling technologies as well as a 250-square-meter rainwater collection tank for sanitary and irrigation purposes. + Calderon-Folch Studio Photography by José Hevia via Calderon-Folch Studio

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Research facility minimizes its carbon footprint to attract international talent

These modular plywood sanctuaries are completely customizable

June 16, 2020 by  
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As more and more people around the world adjust to remote employment and socially distanced hobbies, Equals Architecture is offering a way to add sustainability to a customizable personal space suitable for work or play. Enter the Equals Sanctuary, a modular, prefabricated space that customers can tailor to their exact work or life requirements. Multifunctional and installed onsite, each Equals Sanctuary is made-to-order. The design calls for multiple core elements called “loops,” each fabricated using five sheets of plywood via a machine that leaves only about 2% waste. The loops can then be fitted into eight different options. To add another element of customization, the sanctuaries can be left without insulation, or insulation can be added between the plywood ribs using sustainable materials such as expanded cork, hemp batts or recycled denim. The exterior finishes are made of rubber, reused waterproof canvas and corrugated steel. Customers can choose between a number of face options as well, depending on the use, site and function. Window options range from standard size to full-height. Related: Prefab eco-pods offer luxury lodging in any environment No matter the type of layout, Equals Architecture will only use FSC-certified, sustainable and recycled materials . Necessary structural plates and ground anchors are used in place of invasive concrete foundations whenever possible. According to the architects, the main goal is to make each structure entirely reconstructable to maintain longevity. Each sanctuary will be easy to move, adapt and reconfigure throughout its lifespan. Equals Sanctuaries can be viewed, customized and purchased on the architects’ website in the form of flat-pack DIY kits delivered straight to the chosen site. If customers don’t want to build it themselves, they can opt for an onsite team to build it for them. There are four presets to start with — Vitae, Officium, Studio and Tabernam — each designed to appeal to a distinct target audience. + Equals Architecture Images via Equals Architecture

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Prefab, floating waterlilliHaus is completely self-sustaining in Brazil

June 15, 2020 by  
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Brazilian construction company SysHaus has recently installed a new prefab home that generates its own energy as it floats on an idyllic São Paulo lake. Dubbed the waterlilliHaus, the plug-and-play home is the floating version of the lilliHaus, the largest option in SysHaus’ lineup of prefab homes. The waterlilliHaus measures 3.2 meters wide by 12 meters in length and is mounted atop a floating catamaran that can be moored or sailed at speeds of up to 4 knots. Modern, eco-friendly and adaptable, the prefab home series produced by São Paulo-based SysHaus comes in a range of sizes from the compact 9.6-square-meter nanoHaus to the 38.4-square-meter lilliHaus. All homes are prefabricated in a controlled factory environment with automated, computer-controlled machines to ensure quality, traceability and waste minimization. The units can be assembled in less than two days and can even be delivered with all of the furnishings and equipment pre-installed.  Related: This eco-friendly prefab home was built in just 28 days In keeping with the startup’s commitment to sustainability, all Syshaus units can be designed for off-grid use, such as the recently installed waterlilliHaus that was delivered by truck and then craned atop a catamaran at the lake. Topped with rooftop solar panels, the floating home generates all of the energy it needs. Blackwater and graywater is collected and filtered through a three-phase biodigester system; the water is cleaned before it is returned to the environment. Rainwater is also collected and treated for drinking water. To reduce energy demands, the waterlilliHaus is punctuated with operable openings to take advantage of natural ventilation and the stack effect . Energy-efficient lighting, appliances and other electrical systems can be hooked up to a centralized smart home system for remote monitoring. The smart home system can be programmed to adapt to the user’s daily routines for energy-saving automation purposes. + SysHaus Images via SysHaus

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Prefab, floating waterlilliHaus is completely self-sustaining in Brazil

Mountain Refuge is a modular tiny home made from plywood

June 10, 2020 by  
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Inspired by the human need to connect with nature, history and origin, the Mountain Refuge in Milan, Italy is a dramatic tiny home made from customizable wood modules. At just 258 square feet of interior space, the prefab wooden structure allows for multiple construction possibilities with optional add-ons and different floor plans. This cozy dwelling, created by Gnocchi+Danesi Architects, is perfectly designed to reside near snow-capped mountains, or really in any location that would suit such a quiet, minimalist sanctuary. The design merges traditional and contemporary with a rustic wooden interior, natural log furniture and striking black pine tar-finished roof pitches. Each plywood module works as its own independent structure, giving owners the freedom to reconfigure or expand depending on their tastes and needs. Different interior layouts grant the creativity to personalize the space even more based on preference. Related: The FLEXSE tiny house module is built from 100% recyclable materials The cabin itself consists of two separate prefab modules made out of plywood for a total of just over 258 square feet. An additional 129-square-foot module can be added at the owner’s discretion to expand the interior to 387 square feet. A helicopter delivery system opens up multiple possibilities for remote locations that might not otherwise be accessible for a tiny home. The modules have no need for foundation work or poured concrete, although the designers may recommend a thin concrete slab depending on the location. All finishes are made with plywood , with the exterior coated in black pine tar for waterproofing and a classic aesthetic. The front glazing, recommended as a single glass panel, is large enough to bring in plenty of natural light and gorgeous views. Additional equipment such as heating, water and electricity can also be added. According to the architects, construction price for a furnished and mounted Mountain Refuge cabin will vary from $40,000 to $50,000, depending on the specific plan and the location. + Mountain Refuge Images via The Mountain Refuge

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Scientists discover "pristine" fresh air in a unique location

June 10, 2020 by  
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It is difficult to think of a place on Earth where the air has yet to be contaminated by human activity. From metropolises like New York and large cities like Mumbai to even small villages, human activity has affected the natural air we breathe. However, a recent publication from  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  shows that there is still one place on Earth with “pristine” air. The Southern Ocean , an area south of 40 degrees latitude, has been identified as one place on Earth where the air has not been contaminated. According to the publication, scientists have established that the air in this region is dominated by bacteria emitted in sea spray. Researchers used this bacteria as a “diagnostic tool” in the study. Essentially, findings from this study show that the air of the Southern Ocean is free of aerosols resulting from human activities. This makes the Southern Ocean one of the rare places where you can breathe pristine air. The study leading to this discovery was conducted by Colorado State University and used data collected by R/V Investigator, an Australian research ship. The R/V Investigator is operated by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. In sampling the air, the R/V team collected samples from the marine boundary, which is in direct contact with the ocean water. The exercise mainly included collecting airborne microbes and analyzing them with source tracking, DNA sequencing and wind back trajectories to establish their marine origins. According to Colorado State University Scientists, the results of the samples from the Southern Ocean were very different from those in subtropical and Northern Hemisphere oceans. In those waters , the air quality is largely influenced by anthropogenic aerosols from the Northern Hemisphere. As the R/V team found, the process of sampling the air over the Southern Ocean can be difficult. The air was so clear that the team had little DNA to work with. Given that the sampling process included DNA tracking, the team struggled to collect the data needed to conclude the study. The news of fresh air existing on a planet dominated by human activity is good news for all humanity. It shows us that there is hope in our conservation efforts. Even though human activities are causing harm to the environment, some gains can be attained if we keep pushing for a better environment. + Cosmos Images via Pexels

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

June 10, 2020 by  
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In May, the French nonprofit Opération Mer Propre reported collecting several used face masks within waves of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organization’s report, there has been a surge in “COVID waste”, including masks, latex gloves and plastic hand sanitizer bottles, in the past 3 months. Unfortunately, this only compounds a waste problem that has been around for many years. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 13 million metric tons of plastic waste go into the oceans each year. UNEP predicts that the amount of waste dumped in the oceans will increase up to 10 times the current amount in the next 15 years. However, the UN report did not anticipate a situation where people around the world had to use face masks on a daily basis. The pandemic now complicates all efforts geared toward a safer and more sustainable environment. Related: How to safely dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more According to Joffrey Peltier of Opération Mer Propre, dozens of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer bottles were found at the bottom of the sea among other plastic waste. Opération Mer Propre is one of many organizations concerned about the fate of the environment after the coronavirus pandemic . “Soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. Now, Opération Mer Propre and other organizations are calling for a more cautious approach to the use of face masks and other medical tools. Environmental activists are championing the use of reusable face masks and more washing of hands instead of wearing latex gloves. The oceans are already overwhelmed with plastic waste from our normal lifestyles. If we keep on pumping medical waste into the environment, we risk pushing thousands of ocean species to extinction. In the words of Peltier, “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from COVID.” Via The Guardian Image via Noah

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

Architects squeeze 2 energy-efficient homes into a narrow infill lot in Toronto

May 13, 2020 by  
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Toronto-based firm  baulkultur/ca has unveiled a pair of beautiful homes built into a very narrow infill lot in Toronto. With just 25 feet of width to work with, the zero79 project features two intertwined homes, both created with an abundance of space-efficient strategies as well as several sustainable features that enabled the prefabricated homes to minimize their carbon footprint. The zero79 project consists of two three-level homes built strategically to fit into a challenging lot in downtown Toronto. From the start, the architectural team implemented a three-part design strategy that focused on space efficiency, wellness and sustainability. The team decided to work with prefabricated materials, which reduced costs, construction time and waste. Once they were delivered, the parts were assembled on-site in just 5 days. All in all, this process allowed the building to be erected and weatherproofed in under a week, enabling a substantial reduction in the environmental impact of the overall project. Relaated: Distinctly modern net-zero home sits in harmony with its woodland surroundings Intertwined together to maximize space, the two homes are incredibly energy-efficient . Using both passive and active energy-saving features, the homes emit 80% less energy than conventional houses. Heavily insulated walls, heat-reflective roofs and triple-paned windows provide a tight envelope to minimize energy loss. Additional features include a high-tech cooling and energy recovery system and LED lighting with smart controls. In addition to its energy-saving shell, the homes’ interior designs also play a part in creating a healthy atmosphere for the residents. Most of the interior materials were chosen because of their VOC-free or low-VOC properties. Additionally, an energy recovery system provides constant fresh, filtered air throughout the residences. In focusing on wellness, the architects also designed each home to have an abundance of natural light that streams through the living spaces, which are clad in bright white walls and ceilings. White oak floors and white trim complete the sophisticated, minimalist design. + baulkultur/ca Photography by Michael Peart via baulkultur/ca

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Modern prefab retreat in Italy takes in panoramic alpine views

April 29, 2020 by  
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Perched atop a hill in Aosta Valley’s highest municipality in northwest Italy is the newly completed House in Chamois, a modern, prefabricated home by Torino-based design and build firm Leap Factory . As with all “Leap Houses,” the home’s entire design and construction process was managed by the Leap Factory team and was constructed with a modular system built of natural, recyclable materials to allow for maximum flexibility. All of the components provided by Leap Factory for the House in Chamois were also designed and produced in Italy.  The House in Chamois was created for Barbara and Giorgio, a duo with a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Used as a base for exploring the alpine landscape, the two-story home echoes the traditional vernacular with its gabled shape but is undeniably contemporary as defined by its streamlined form, minimalist design and full-height glazing. Its position above a main road turns the house into a new landmark for the village and has become a local attraction for visiting hikers. Related: LeapHome unveils sustainable, super-efficient Frame prefab As a ‘Living Ecological Alpine Pod’ (LEAP), the House in Chamois was designed to be environmentally friendly. The use of prefabrication helps minimize construction waste, and the installation process was done with minimal site impact. The structure is also “hyper secure” and engineered to resist earthquakes, hurricanes and other extreme climate activities. The modular nature of the home also makes it modifiable. As with all Leap Houses, the House in Chamois was also designed with integrated furniture and finishes. “With its minimal shapes and spaces full of light, the house shows incredible attention to details, lines and materials,” the architects explained. “The layout of the rooms, furnishings and technical systems are fully integrated to give life to spaces where one can fully express their personality and live in harmony with their surroundings.” + Leap Factory Photography by Francesco Mattuzzi via Leap Factory

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