A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming alpine village getaway

December 17, 2018 by  
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Bolzano and Berlin-based design practice NOA (network of architecture) recently renovated and expanded the Zallinger Refuge, a holiday guesthouse in the Dolomites that prides itself on its eco-friendly features. Located in Seiser Alm at 2,200 meters with breathtaking mountain views, the updated hotel comprises a cluster of structures that reference the site’s history and South Tyrolean architecture. The project has been certified under Climahotel, a certification program by the Climate House Agency of the Province of Bolzano that recognizes eco-tourism development. The Zallinger Refuge traces its beginnings to the mid-nineteenth century. Seven barns once surrounded the structure, however were later replaced by a single large building near the turn of the century. In a nod to the early site history, the architects constructed seven new chalets arranged in pairs to “bring back the charm of an alpine village.” Crafted to reflect the structure of the ancient barns with a modern twist, the chalets are built using prefabrication methods with stacked wooden blocks and wood shingle roofs to achieve a contemporary “log cabin” appearance. “In this project we have also tried to bring out that strong relationship between architecture and context, which characterizes all our works,” said architect Stefan Rier. “We want to propose new models of life and hospitality that on the one hand recover traditional forms and materials, on the other hand express quality of design, high levels of comfort and sustainability. The alpine environment is a complex and fascinating system that must be understood and respected. We think it’s important to think of new spaces and ways to inhibit it: environments on a human scale, comfortable, welcoming, but above all unique and authentic.” Related: Luxury lakeside hotel promises a return to nature in Italy In addition to the original 13 rooms in the central guesthouse, the Zallinger Refuge has added 24 rooms in the new mini-chalets. Timber lines the interiors for a cozy feel, while an energy-efficient pallet boiler provides the heating and hot water supply. The historic lodge was redesigned to include the reception, the lobby, the lounge and the restaurant. A new metal-clad building introduced to the site houses the wellness area with a sauna overlooking stunning views. + NOA Photography by Alex Filz via NOA

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A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming alpine village getaway

Futuristic eco-city powered with renewable energy is unveiled for the Maldives

December 7, 2018 by  
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Beijing and New York-based design studio CAA Architects has placed first in the “Maldives Airport, Economic Zone Development” competition with their design of a futuristic, energy-producing eco-city on the east coast of the reclaimed island Hulhumalé, Maldives . Named Ocean’s Heaven after its nature-inspired design connecting the ocean with the city, the project features striking, sinuous buildings covered in green roofs and solar panels and will be capable of producing almost all of its own energy on-site. Commissioned by the Beijing Urban Construction Group Co. in partnership with the Maldives central government, the eco-city is yet another example of China’s increasing influence over the archipelago country. Global warming and rising sea levels are serious concerns for the Maldives, a tropical paradise famed for its pristine beaches and aquamarine waters. In response to the climate change threats and to celebrate the island country’s natural beauty, CAA Architects crafted Ocean’s Heaven with organically inspired buildings integrated with energy-producing systems to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The mixed-use development will cover nearly two-thirds of the 100,000-square-meter site and include residences, an airport company service center, international trade center, convention center, island transport hub, shopping centers, a business hotel, dining, along with a centralized cultural center that will serve as the island’s “nervous system”. Ocean’s Heaven will promote high-density urban living and public transportation that includes both surface and water commuting. Ample green space, including sky gardens, will strengthen the community’s ties with nature. Related: This stunning underwater art museum is now open in the Maldives In addition to the solar photovoltaic arrays mounted on the buildings and the sculptural canopy elements along the boardwalk, Ocean’s Heaven will also draw power from tidal waves to generate over 70 percent of the electricity needed to power the development. Rainwater harvesting and passive cross ventilation are also woven into the design. The project, which will be carried out in two phases, is slated for completion in 2021. + CAA Architects Via ArchDaily Images via CAA Architects

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Futuristic eco-city powered with renewable energy is unveiled for the Maldives

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies

December 7, 2018 by  
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Food is an important aspect of our daily lives, but many of the treats we love are wrapped in single-use plastics or come from pesticide-ridden conventional farms . This year, show the foodies in your life how much you care with sustainable gifts that improve their cooking skills and make the planet a better place to live. Stainless steel straws After reviewing several types of reusable straws, we fell in love with the stainless steel variety. As the war on plastic straws wages on, give everyone you know a pack of stainless steel straws to keep on them anywhere they go. Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is the best for the future? Yogurt maker Many people love yogurt, but the individually packaged options on the market only contribute to the global waste crisis. Instead, create your own flavor combinations in reusable glass jars using this handy yogurt maker . Make yogurt-making part of your weekly routine, and you’ll see it is as easy as “set it and forget it.” Stasher bags Although quite wasteful, you have to admit that plastic, resealable baggies are incredibly handy for storing extra food and other miscellaneous items. Luckily, Stasher has taken this idea and made it even more useful and sustainable. These reusable , resealable bags are made with BPA-free silicone and can be boiled, frozen, baked in the oven, microwaved and more. They last much longer than their single-use counterparts, but when they reach the end of their life, Stasher will recycle them into playground pebbles. Beeswax food wrap Avid cooks and bakers can find many uses for plastic wrap, but unfortunately, it is a single-use item that goes straight to the landfill. Gift your favorite foodies these reusable food wraps made using beeswax. These are a natural, zero-waste alternative to plastic wrap, and they come in an adorable pattern for wrapping sandwiches, leftover produce, cheeses and more. Reusable water bottles If you’re friends or family still haven’t converted to carrying reusable water bottles over plastic, it’s time to make the change. With a wide variety of colors and patterns, these S’well bottles make a great gift for everyone on your list. CSA subscriptions For the most serious foodies, nothing is better than cooking with fresh, local produce . Get in touch with farmers in your gift recipient’s area to set up a CSA subscription, which will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to your loved one’s door. Start your search here . Fair trade chocolate Chocolate always makes a great gift, but make sure your present is being harvested ethically and sustainably. Check out some of these brands to add to stockings this year. Metal tea strainer A hot cup of tea soothes the soul… or at least warms you up during these cold, chilly days. Put together a cute and functional gift for every foodie you know with a mug, some local and organic tea (packaged sustainably, of course!) and one of these metal tea strainers , which eliminate the need for single-use tea packets. Images via Amazon ,  Stasher , Abeego , S’well , Jill Wellington , Nawalescape , Drew Coffman , Pexels and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies

Robotically fabricated Wander Wood Pavilion pops up in just over three days

December 4, 2018 by  
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Traditional materials and futuristic technologies have come together in the Wander Wood Pavilion, a large-scale robotically fabricated structure completed by students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Installed as a temporary addition to the campus grounds, the experimental pavilion was fabricated and assembled in just over three days using a state-of-the-art eight-axis industrial robot at the UBC Center for Advanced Wood Processing . Constructed with built-in seating, the sculptural installation was built mainly of wood, a renewable material selected for its sustainable features and ability to store carbon. Completed in October 2018, the Wander Wood Pavilion is the result of the Robot Made: Large-Scale Robotic Timber Fabrication in Architecture workshop led by David Correa of the University of Waterloo, Oliver David Krieg of LWPAC, and SALA professor AnnaLisa Meyboom. A large team of students, staff, faculty and external partners worked on the project as part of the university’s SEEDS Sustainability Program , an initiative that aims to advance campus sustainability through multidisciplinary projects. Forestry Industry Innovation provided the funding. “Starting with computational tools for parametric design, structural principles for wood construction, robotic CNC milling and digital workflow management, participants were provided with a unique insight into the new opportunities and challenges of advanced design to fabrication processes for timber structures,” explains the team in their project statement. “Parametric design and robotic fabrication are disruptive new technologies in architecture that allow us to build high performance structures of unprecedented formal complexity.” Related: Provocative timber horn explores the hypnotic pull of the unknown The sinuous and latticed form of the sculptural Wander Wood Pavilion not only helps activate the surrounding public area, but its curved shape also creates a cocoon-like environment for visitors using the built-in bench seating. The research workshop installation was installed next to the university fountain in the Martha Piper Plaza. + UBC Center for Advanced Wood Processing Images by David Correa

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Robotically fabricated Wander Wood Pavilion pops up in just over three days

Harvard unveils Snhetta-designed HouseZero for sustainable, plus-energy living

December 4, 2018 by  
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The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design has just completed HouseZero, an energy-positive living lab for sustainable architecture. Designed by renowned architecture firm Snøhetta , along with Skanska Teknikk Norway , the groundbreaking building aims to produce more energy over its lifetime than it consumes. Hundreds of sensors are embedded inside of HouseZero to continually monitor energy performance and advance data-driven research to help produce more energy-efficient and sustainable architecture. Billed as “an energy-positive prototype for ultra-efficiency,” the HouseZero living lab is set in a retrofitted pre-1940s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The renovated structure aims to meet near zero-energy targets for heating and cooling, use zero electric lighting during the day, produce zero carbon emissions and operate with 100 percent natural ventilation. The working prototype will serve as a research tool for understanding energy inefficiencies in existing buildings as a means to curb the current and future building stock’s impact on climate change while simultaneously helping property owners save on energy costs. “HouseZero’s flexible, data-driven infrastructure will allow us to further research that demystifies building behavior, and design the next generation of ultra-efficient structures,” said Ali Malkawi, founding director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities and the creator and leader of the HouseZero project. “By creating both a prototype and an infrastructure for long-term research, we hope to raise interest in ultra-efficient retrofits and inspire substantial shifts in the design and operation of buildings.” Related: Snøhetta designs an energy-positive data center to fight climate change A combination of low-tech and cutting-edge technologies is used in HouseZero to meet the ambitious energy targets. In addition to passive design strategies and operable windows, for instance, the building is equipped with a window actuation system that uses sensors and a computer system to automatically open and close windows. Using data collected over time, the building will “adjust itself constantly” throughout the seasons to create a healthy and thermally optimized environment year-round. + HouseZero Photographer Credit: Michael Grimm

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Harvard unveils Snhetta-designed HouseZero for sustainable, plus-energy living

This home gently wraps around towering 80-year-old coconut trees

November 27, 2018 by  
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Bombay-based firm  Abraham John Architects deftly crafted a beautiful home to carefully sit near 19 80-year-old coconut trees. The massive, 6,500-square-foot private residence is broken up into various fragmented volumes, taking on a small village feel that gives the home its name, Villa in the Palms. According to the architects, the unique layout was essential in ensuring that not a single tree was felled during the building process. To build the home around the trees, the architects created a unique, fragmented layout, reminiscent of a traditional Goan Village. Additionally, the team used traditional Goan building techniques and materials in the project. The exterior walls are clad in resilient laterite stone, giving the home an earthy aspect that blends it into the natural surroundings while providing a strong thermal envelope. Also climate-inspired are the pitched roofs that slope at different angles to harvest rainwater and withstand strong winds during monsoon season. Related: A modern, energy-efficient home is built around a beloved madrone tree The home is broken up into several individual spaces, which are connected by various outdoor decks, passages and bridges that wind through the trees, pools and gardens. The main living area provides stunning views of the gardens. The room is flooded with natural light through a large skylight that also provides sun for the interior garden. To blend the home further into its natural setting, the outer frame was installed with large screens made out of 100-year-old reclaimed teak wood . The living space, kitchen and dining room all look out over the pool, which is comprised of three distinct bodies of water covered with teak-wood bridges and little islands that were built to protect the existing trees .  This area also opens up to the natural gardens of lush greenery and, of course, the towering palm trees. + Abraham John Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Alan Abraham via Abraham John Architects

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This home gently wraps around towering 80-year-old coconut trees

China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’

October 29, 2018 by  
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A private aerospace institute in China has announced its ambitious plan to launch an “artificial moon” into stationary orbit above the city of Chengdu. Referred to as an “illumination satellite,” the new moon would serve as a sunlight reflector to provide a nighttime and backup light source for residents in the Sichuan province city. The venture — still obscure due to a lack of information — was first reported by Chinese newspaper People’s Daily in mid October. Since then, there have been many conflicting reports and figures on how the new moon would operate — or if it even could. Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., Ltd. and head of Tianfu New District System Science Research Institute, said the artificial moon has been under development and testing for a few years and “is now nearly ready to launch.” Related: California plans to launch its own satellite to monitor air pollution There have been no accounts of what the stunt-double moon actually looks like or if it has any official support from the government or financial backers. Both experts and the general public have expressed widespread skepticism and even ridicule at the announcement. If the 2020 project does succeed, Wu claimed that two additional moons could be ready for orbit by 2022. “By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, realizing illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously,” he said. The project aims to help Chengdu save money and electricity on street lamps and provide a reliable light source during blackouts caused by natural disasters and grid malfunctions. According to the aerospace center’s figures, a whopping $173 million ($1.2 billion yuan) could be saved on streetlights yearly for illuminating even a small portion of 19 square miles (50 sq km). The cost of illuminating the whole city? Well, in the long run, it’s certainly less than putting a moon in space, according to Wu. Dr. Matteo Ceriotti, a professor of space systems engineering, said the project is feasible and not as silly as it sounds. “Think of this as sort of an investment,” he explained to BBC . “ Electricity at night is very expensive, so if you could say, have free illumination for up to 15 years, it might work out better economically in the long term.” Recent social media backlash against the Chengdu moon has centered around the issue of animal protection. While Harbin Institute of Technology Director Kang Weimin insists that the fake moon “should not affect animals’ routines,” because its light would be similar to a “dusk-like glow,” other scientists disagree. Despite his agreeable response to the project, Ceriotti said, “It will disrupt the night cycle of nature [if the light is too strong], and this could possibly affect animals.” Wu insisted that the aerospace company’s technology could dim and brighten the moon. The light, which has the ability to reflect a beam “eight times” brighter than the moon, could also be timed. All in all, the few and contradicting details surrounding the project makes it uncertain whether the new moon will launch successfully in 2020. While experts debate whether or not it should be launched in the first place, those in Chengdu are probably looking upward, wondering whether or not they’ll miss this night sky — one that might never look the same again. Via BBC , China Daily  and  People’s Daily Images via Spencer Arquimedes and Mike Petrucci

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China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’

Endangered Malayan tigers are threatened by the demand for durian

October 24, 2018 by  
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The habitat of the Malayan tiger — one of the world’s most endangered tigers — is being threatened by a strange fruit. Because of a growing demand in China for durian, a ‘smelly’ and controversial fruit, Malaysian forests are being cleared to make room for growing the crop. This deforestation could destroy the chances of survival for the Malayan tigers, of which only 300 remain in the world. Forests in the Malaysian region of Raub, home of the Malayan tiger , have become a popular destination for “durian tours.” As such, this forested land is being burned and cleared to make room for plantations to grow the Muang King variety of durian. Related: Wild tigers are returning to Kazakhtstan after 70-year absence According to Siti Zuraidah Abidin from WWF Malaysia, the Hulu Sempam area of the country had been named an “expected tiger habitat.” Now, plans for a new durian plantation in this region are in place, despite its proximity to the habitat of most of the planet’s 300 remaining Malayan tigers. Perbadanan Setiausaha Kerajaan, a company with ties to the government, has plans to cut down more than 1,200 hectares of land in Hulu Sempam for a durian plantation. The Pahang Forestry Department said that the company does not need permission for the project, even though Malayan tigers exist only on the Malay Peninsula and southern Thailand . “Land clearing at Hulu Sempam can cause the wider forests to be fragmented, which in turn can affect the wildlife movement,” Abidin warned. As The Guardian reported, the durian market has become incredibly profitable. In just the last year, demand has increased the cost of the fruit in China, leading to a surge in durian farming in Malaysia. Some experts even predict that it could replace palm oil as the country’s largest export. Over the past decade, the value of China’s durian imports has jumped about 26 percent each year, reaching $1.1 billion in 2016. Environmental groups are afraid that durian will be just like palm oil and lead to the same destruction of endangered wildlife habitats, particularly of the Malayan tigers. Via  The Guardian Images via Kent Wang and Rennett Stowe

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Endangered Malayan tigers are threatened by the demand for durian

6 tips for crafting an eco-friendly Halloween costume

October 19, 2018 by  
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It is hard to believe, but it’s almost that time of year again when sugar-hyped witches, ghosts, superheroes and princesses will be ringing your doorbell and asking for candy. Halloween is a fun holiday for many of us, but the celebration can easily become expensive and far from eco-friendly, thanks to the decorations, candy and greeting cards. Worst of all, the plastic-packaged costumes can also be an enemy of the environment as well as your wallet. Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween goods each year, but you don’t have to contribute to the waste. Instead, keep this Halloween season as eco-friendly as possible with these tips for making a costume that will be a hit at your holiday party, but won’t crush your bank account — or the planet. Certified pre-owned Buying a brand new, expensive, cheaply-made costume is never necessary. Instead, there are a variety of ways that you can get a used costume that will work perfectly. You can visit your local thrift shop to find a used costume that won’t cost much, and reusing items is good for the environment. Related: 11 brilliant ideas for family costumes that will blow you away You can also get together with friends, family and neighbors and host a costume swap party. You can easily do this for adults’ or kids’ costumes, and it can give you some Halloween inspiration. Send out some electronic invites to your friends with details about bringing old costumes they have stashed. Then, enjoy an evening of mixing and matching costumes until everyone has what they need.  You can use different parts of old costumes to create something new, or swap for one that is already complete. Either way, it will help you avoid a Halloween mega-store. Look in your closet It is quite possible that something already sitting in your closet would be perfect for a costume. Striped, plaid or polka dot clothing works for a clown costume, a sheet works for a ghost and black clothing can easily turn you into a bat or witch. Do you have a formal dress or suit in your closet? Get dressed up and add a white sash to the outfit with the word “apology” written on it, and you can go as a “formal apology.” Do you have some old medals from winning competitions in school? Put them all around your neck, grab some loaves of bread and be a “breadwinner” this Halloween. With just a few items, you have an entire costume that costs you next to nothing. Makeup and face paint Instead of buying an overpriced plastic or rubber Halloween mask, use makeup that you already have or non-toxic face paint to create your look.  You can even make your own DIY makeup by mixing cornstarch, solid shortening and natural food color. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has other face paint recipe options, while Smart Mama has a  recipe for fake skin . There are tons of tutorials online to help you with this project, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how it turns out. Raid the recycle bin and watch what you throw away There are many things that we throw in the trash or into the recycling bin that can be used for Halloween costumes and decorations. Cardboard boxes and soda bottle caps can be the beginning of a robot costume; soda can tabs can become chainmail sleeves on a Monty Python costume ; cardboard boxes and paint can turn you into a Tetris game piece; plastic cups, cardboard and paint can transform you into a LEGO character. Related: 10 ingenious Halloween costumes made from recycled junk Work uniforms Do you have a friend or family member that delivers pizzas? Or maybe you know someone who is a Subway sandwich artist. Anybody who wears a recognizable uniform to work can be the source of your next Halloween costume idea. Just ask them to borrow it for a night and add a special detail or two — like food service gloves or a pizza delivery bag — and you will be the life of the party. DIY treat bags If you are going trick-or-treating, you will need to add an eco-friendly candy bag to your Halloween ensemble. From reusable shopping bags to duct tape, there are many ideas out there — including 14 from The Spruce Crafts — that you can easily make so you can avoid the cheap plastic candy bucket. A little bit of craftiness and creativity can go a long way during the Halloween holiday season. All it takes is using resources like items in your closet, the recycle bin and your real-life social network to avoid spending a ton of cash while keeping the celebration eco-friendly. Via Sierra Club , Boston.com and Earth 911 Images via Shutterstock

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6 tips for crafting an eco-friendly Halloween costume

An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection

October 19, 2018 by  
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A surprising and experimental pocket of nature has popped up in the middle of a heavily trafficked intersection in Copenhagen , Denmark. Danish architect Simon Hjermind Jensen of SHJWorks recently unveiled “Biotope,” a sculptural pavilion that houses a microcosm of plants and insects. Sixty different seeds have been sown into the soil, and a beehive has been attached inside the installation to foster a thriving and evolving ecosystem of activity for the enjoyment of passersby. Created in the likeness of a primitive organism or bacteria, Biotope comprises a translucent shell made from a 4-millimeter-thick polycarbonate membrane that is set in a curved concrete bowl with a rim thick enough to double as bench seating. The installation measures 7 meters in length, 4 meters in width and 3 meters in height at its tallest point. The bowl collects rainwater and directs the water through the small holes in the polycarbonate membrane toward the soil within, thus creating what the designers call a “self-watering greenhouse.” Located near a train station, Biotope will be seen by many pedestrians, cyclists and motorists daily who will have the opportunity to observe the evolution of the greenhouse over its three-year installation period. Neither maintenance activity nor other interference will take place inside the shell during this period; the public will also not be allowed to access the interior. The shell’s site-specific form is optimized for views from the three lane road. Related: This hand-built island is the start of Copenhagen’s “parkipelago” of floating public spaces “Our climate will change,” SHJWorks said. “And maybe we will integrate plants and biological microcosms in our future dwellings and cities. Most likely there will be more harsh and exposed environment on our planet. And we ask ourselves if a solution will be to create microclimates where we — like the bees in this project — have our homes connected to and intertwined with?” + SHJWorks Images via SHJWorks

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An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection

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