Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

Bangkoks Mega Park reimagines mega-malls as green community hubs

December 18, 2020 by  
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Thai architecture firm Architectkidd has flipped the script on the typical Southeast Asian shopping mall with its completion of Mega Park, a nature-focused retail connection in Bangkok. Designed to connect the Megabangna shopping mall with a future mixed-use development, Mega Park was created to give the closed-off mega-mall a more “extroverted” character by encouraging visitors to go outdoors to enjoy a richly programmed public park that features a nature walk, a tree top walk and even an amphitheater. Mega Park’s white galvanized steel column structure can also double as a “green scaffold” for supporting vertical vegetation. Completed in 2019, the Mega Park is the newest large-scale addition to the Megabangna, the first low-rise super regional mall in Southeast Asia that was completed over a decade ago. Mega Park connects to the shopping mall with a steel elevated pathway inspired by the local footbridges and pedestrian pathways found across Bangkok . The galvanized steel columns, which measure 20 centimeters by 20 centimeters, are spaced a meter apart to provide sufficient support for the walkways, canopies and programming while allowing for generous views toward the lush, landscaped grounds. Related: Asia’s largest organic rooftop farm can grow 20 tons of food annually Universal design ramps are integrated throughout the park for a seamless transition between the skywalk and ground-level circulation. The ground-level circulation takes the shape of a winding red path that weaves through a variety of garden spaces planted with native tropical species, such as ironwood. Perennial plants provide food and habitat for local pollinators as well. “It has been over 10 years since the original shopping center was built housing the first IKEA in Thailand ,” the architects said. “Since then the retail and urban environment in South East Asia have evolved significantly. Architectkidd’s design brings a vision of change to the shopping center model as well as an opportunity to experiment with new approaches that combine the commercial with community and the public.”  + Architectkidd Photography by WWorkspace, Ketsiree Wongwan and Panoramic Studio via Architectkidd

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Bangkoks Mega Park reimagines mega-malls as green community hubs

Architects propose a massive forest park to be the Green Lungs of Hanoi

October 30, 2020 by  
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Air pollution has become a major problem in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, that was ranked the seventh capital city with the highest average annual PM 2.5 concentration by the 2019 World Air Report. In a bid to improve air quality while encouraging healthier lifestyles, local architecture firm ODDO Architects has embarked on an ambitious project to transform the tail end of the city’s Banana Island into a 26-hectare subtropical alluvial forest with recreational activities. Dubbed the Green Lungs of Hanoi, the proposed design is based on a 15-year plan for developing a lush canopy with mature trees measuring 8 to 15 meters tall. Located close to the city center, Banana Island is a 7-kilometer-long island that is largely undeveloped and unoccupied. According to the architects’ site study, the island suffers from inefficient land use, lack of management and illegal land usage that’s tied to poor living conditions for families who live there without access to clean water or electricity. With “Green Lungs of Hanoi,” the architects want to turn the island into a welcoming green space for the public with forest trails, pedestrian bridges and recreational activities that emphasize connections with nature. Related: Fruit trees grow on the roofs of this rammed earth home in Hanoi To realize their vision that they’ve developed over the past 1.5 years, the architects plan to work closely with the local government and community to recruit a team of volunteers of all ages to plant native trees and oversee long-term maintenance. The project also aims to raise awareness of the region’s endangered bird species, which have dwindled in recent years. In addition to providing an attractive green respite for Hanoi citizens, the architects hope to create a biodiverse habitat to increase local fauna populations. “The alluvial soil on the island also poses an issue regarding flooding and landslides due to its softness,” the architects noted of one of the project challenges. “However with semi-aquatic tree species like the one Green Lungs proposes, the land surrounding the river will be reinforced and become much stronger: preventing landslides from occurring. The location of Banana Island is extremely favorable for a green space. With its large area, and central location, it acts as Hanoi’s Lungs — purifying the air quality but also reviving an ecosystem, attracting new biodiversity and becoming a valuable and rich alluvial forest amidst the city.” + ODDO Architects Images via ODDO Architects

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Architects propose a massive forest park to be the Green Lungs of Hanoi

Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

October 1, 2020 by  
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For the entire month of July, the Estonian city of Tartu transformed one of its main streets in the heart of the city into the Autovabaduse (Car-Free) Avenue, a popular pedestrian-friendly paradise. The project not only observed COVID-19 social distancing guidelines but also gave local businesses a much-needed economic boost. Commissioned by the local government, the Car-Free Avenue 2020 project was designed by Tõnis Arjus, Ragnar Kekkonen, Maris Peebo and Anna-Liisa Unt. The area used for the urban intervention spanned approximately 8,000 square meters and accommodated a wide range of programming, from dance courses and morning yoga to national radio broadcast pop-ups, concerts and more. Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2024 with the slogan “Arts of Survival.” The recent Car-Free Avenue project fits in perfectly with the city’s agenda for development, which prioritizes sustainability. The main street that was closed — known as Vabaduse (Freedom) Avenue — was selected for its location between the classical old town and the river Emajogi that flows through the city. The Car-Free Avenue helped to better connect the old town and river and provided a jumping-off point for revitalizing the riverside. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “It [also] created a public discussion all over Estonia on climate change, excessive car ownership and different methods in tackling the issues of building a sustainable future,” the designers explained in a project statement. The month-long urban intervention attracted people from all over Estonia and abroad, counting around 18,000 visitors in the first three days. The road was completely redesigned to create a versatile, car-free public space that abided by social distancing rules. All of the design elements follow a 2-by-2-meter module, including the grass portions, which were cut into 2-meter stripes. + Tartu Autovabaduse Images by Mana Kaasik, Maanus Kullamaa, To?nis Arjus, Eva-Maria Tartu

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

This luxurious home is a pollutant-free paradise and it’s for sale

October 1, 2020 by  
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Located in Norwalk, Connecticut, this recently listed pollutant-free home at 88 Old Saugatuck Road has been void of chemicals, insecticides and pesticides for more than 26 years. The house has been rebuilt to 100% green standards by the seller, an award-winning LEED AP interior designer specializing in sustainable luxury, green consulting and holistic homes. The house at 88 Old Saugatuck Road isn’t just an energy-efficient, green home built with non-toxic materials and finishes — it is also a stunning example of a residence with clean air . The indoor air is refreshed every 20 minutes with a specialized heat recovery ventilation system that exchanges indoor air with fresh outdoor air. The system filters out allergens like dust, pollen, mold, mites, dander and VOCs all while recovering up to 80% of the heating and cooling energy. There is even a whole house central vacuum system designed to prevent dust from going back into the air while vacuuming. Related: IKEA’s new air purifying curtain will decrease indoor pollutants Thoughtfully constructed with fewer natural resources to minimize its environmental impact , the house also has custom, FSC-certified solid rock maple cabinetry throughout. The cabinetry is free from interior particleboard and formaldehyde-based finishes. Additionally, the walls and trim are painted with no-VOC, water-based latex paint. During the remodel, when a wall was taken out between the original kitchen and living room, the design team reused the appliances in a lower-level catering kitchen rather than purchasing them new. The garage has a charging station for electric vehicles as well as an automatic air filtration system that activates for 20 minutes each time the car pulls in to filter harmful fumes. To reduce electromagnetic fields, there is metal-clad cable electric wiring used instead of non-metallic sheathing. For landscaping, the property’s 1.15 acres are planted with trees and pines to help filter out any car fumes from the street and organic, perennial gardens to promote less maintenance. A driveway storm drain filters pollutants before runoff can enter local waterways, and a five-ring meditation walkway can be found in the back garden . The 4,094-square-foot, single-family home has three bedrooms, three full baths and a two-car garage. + Coldwell Banker Images via Coldwell Banker

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This luxurious home is a pollutant-free paradise and it’s for sale

Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge winners want to bring a forest to NYC

September 9, 2020 by  
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The Van Alen Institute and the New York City Council have announced the winners of Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge . The international design competition intended to spark public dialogue about the Brooklyn Bridge, which has become one of New York’s most recognizable landmarks since its opening in 1883. However, the bridge’s iconic status has also led to major pedestrian and cyclist traffic jams on the promenade as commuters and tourists jostle for space. Participants in the competition were asked to rethink the walkway by redesigning for greater accessibility, sustainability and safety for both New Yorkers and visitors alike. The Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge competition had two finalists categories: a Professionals category for participants 22 years of age and older and a Young Adults category for those 21 years of age and younger. An interdisciplinary jury with a wide-ranging set of perspectives evaluated proposals based on team composition, accessibility, safety, environmental benefit, security, respect for the bridge’s landmark status, feasibility and potential for sparking delight and wonder for users. The competition garnered over 200 submissions from 37 countries; each winner was chosen by a combination of public vote and scores from the competition’s jury. Related: Architects want to transform an old Dutch bridge into zero-energy apartments Pilot Projects Design Collective along with Cities4Forests, Wildlife Conservation Society and Grimshaw Silman were crowned the winners of the Professional category with their ‘ Brooklyn Bridge Forest ’ proposal, a design that reimagines the bridge as “an icon of climate action and social equity.” To make the bridge safer and to accommodate higher flows of traffic, the multidisciplinary team proposes expanding the historic walkway with planks sustainably sourced from a forest community partner in Guatemala. A separated and dedicated bike lane would be installed as well to avoid cyclist-pedestrian conflicts on the bridge. “Microforests” would bookend the bridge to provide additional green space while boosting biodiversity.  The winning proposal in the Young Adult category was created by Shannon Hui, Hwans Kim and Yujim Kim. Titled ‘Do Look Down,’ the design envisions a glass surface floor above the bridge’s girders to create a new pedestrian space activated by seasonal programming and art installations. Kinetic paving would power an LED and projection system that depicts the city’s cultures, histories and identities. + Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge Images via Van Alen Institute

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Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge winners want to bring a forest to NYC

CX Landscape proposes futuristic coastal park in response to climate change

May 19, 2020 by  
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Australia-based CX Landscape has unveiled designs for Sea Line Park, a conceptual project to link the eastern and western inner suburbs of Melbourne with a linear coastal park. Designed to serve as a new line of defense against rising waters, the Sea Line Park would comprise three islands, two pontoon bridges and undersea roads to provide a new direct connection between Williams Town to the west and Elwood in the east. The fantastical proposal would also draw power from renewable sources, including tidal and solar power. Bookended by two movable pontoon bridges, the Sea Line Park consists of three curvaceous green islands : two “Sports Islands” flanking a central “Art Island”. The Sports Islands would function as public outdoor recreation space for both active and passive programs. The Art Island serves primarily as an events space and would be home to a large north-facing meadow that can host open cinemas, performances, markets and other events. A naturalistic landscape with pedestrian and cyclist paths would be integrated onto all islands. Related: Olson Kundig solar sail proposal could power up to 200 Melbourne homes with clean energy The linear parks would also house a live seed bank within a series of pods, the design of which is inspired by the diamond-patterned totem polls of the Wurundjeri tribe. Solar panels would cover the exterior of each pod and — along with the tidal power generation units integrated in the two pontoon bridges — provide energy for the entire park. The islands are also punctuated by bubble-like structures that house seawater purification and freshwater storage systems. To address ocean waste, the designers have proposed using submarine robots to collect plastic ocean debris and repurposing the waste as raw material for 3D printing construction materials. “This park will grow, adapt and innovate with the help of cutting-edge technologies, to be resilient and resistant to natural disasters and climate change ,” the designers said. “A self-sustained living hub is suitable for any coastal cities around the world, which can carry the critical resources and civilizations to create a mobile global village.” + CX Landscape Images via CX Landscape

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CX Landscape proposes futuristic coastal park in response to climate change

Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

May 7, 2020 by  
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As part of Barcelona’s efforts to reclaim its car-congested streets for pedestrians, the city has tapped architects to create “superblocks” — groups of streets transformed into car-free public plazas. One such project was completed in 2019 by Leku Studio in the trendy neighborhood of Sant Antoni. Redesigned with attractive way-finding elements and street furniture, the Superblock of Sant Antoni is the second of six superblocks completed to date. The Superblocks Program was conceived as a way to curb air pollution while addressing a lack of green and social spaces in the city. Each superblock comprises nine city blocks and is closed off to thru-traffic, with parking tucked underground. New street furniture, colorful graphics and removable planters are added to encourage walking, cycling and social gathering. Related: How Barcelona “superblocks” return city streets to the people “Where previously there was an urban highway, now there is a healthy street full of life and green, where there was a traffic intersection now there is a livable plaza ,” explained the architects, who implemented the first phase of the Superblock of Sant Antoni in 2018. “Car noise has been replaced by children playing, cheerful conversations between neighbors or elderly people chess games. The transformation continues together with this flexible landscape capable of integrating new changes derived from urban testing and social innovation.” Reversibility was a guiding principle behind the design of the Superblock of Sant Antoni. As a result, the architects created an “adaptive urban furniture toolkit” so that the street furniture and planters — built with eco-friendly materials — could be combined in a variety of ways. The graphic tiles and signage also provide a reference for the arrangement of the new urban elements. The City of Barcelona plans to create 503 superblocks that will eventually connect to one another to create a series of “green corridors” that total 400 acres of new green space by 2030. + Leku Studio Photography by DEL RIO BANI via Leku Studio

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Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

ODA designs an urban experiment masterplan for Chengdu

April 28, 2020 by  
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On the invitation of the Chengdu government, New York-based architecture firm ODA has created a visionary new masterplan for the southwestern Chinese city. Spanning 1 million square feet, the proposal would include four 13-story residential towers integrated into a 700,000-square-foot, mixed-use commercial park with modern buildings optimized for passive energy savings. Described by the firm as an “urban experiment in rearranging priorities for the public realm,” the masterplan emphasizes pedestrian-friendly design and indoor-outdoor living throughout. Located along a river, ODA’s masterplan engages multiple levels, from the riverfront at the bottom to the elevated walkways that provide access to rooftop terraces. The design departs from the traditional street experience by prioritizing pedestrian access. It also provides a wide variety of gathering spaces and green spaces, from the accessible green roofs and residential gardens to urban farming plots and reflection pools. Related: ODA to transform Rotterdam’s historic post office into a vibrant destination In addition to apartment buildings, the proposed development is home to a mix of offices and retail that primarily relate to the creative fields. “Anchor” offices would include space for architecture firms, graphic design studios, incubators, startups, fashion studios and interior design firms. Ground-level retail would activate the streetscape and include galleries, community kitchens, markets, artist studios, bakeries, breweries, maker spaces and other stores and restaurants. All offices, residences and retail spaces would have direct outdoor access, while the tiered architecture would ensure ample access to natural light and air throughout the development. “The design combines personal security with common territories that allows neighbors to see and connect with one another,” ODA said. “The idea is that the program is staggered, creating pockets of privacy and connectivity, nooks for relaxation as well as recreation. ODA believes this is what smart design means in the future. Design that meets all our needs, that speaks to the collective whole, and therefore the collective good.” + ODA New York Images via ODA

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ODA designs an urban experiment masterplan for Chengdu

Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

April 27, 2020 by  
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Studio Precht has turned the rules of social distancing into a design guideline for Parc de la Distance, an innovative park proposal that ensures all visitors will be separated at least 6 feet from one another at all times. Created in the shape of a fingerprint with spiraling ridges represented by tall hedge rows, the conceptual park takes inspiration from both French baroque gardens and Japanese Zen gardens. The hedge-lined paths slowly spiral toward a center, where fountains are located. With all famous parks across Vienna closed due to the pandemic , Studio Precht wanted to create a safe way for local residents to get access to a brief time of solitude and nature. As a result, it has proposed Parc de la Distance for a vacant lot in Vienna that comprises multiple spaced-out pathways for individual walks. “Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint,” the architects explained. “Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape.” Related: Architects propose produce markets designed for social distancing Each lane is bookended by an entrance gateway and exit gateway to indicate whether the path is occupied or free to stroll . The lanes are spaced 8 feet apart and flanked with nearly 3-foot-wide hedges on either side for visual separation. The height of the hedges vary along the path. Each individual path is 0.37 miles long and takes around 20 minutes to walk from start to finish. Although visitors are often shielded from view from one another, they will be able to hear the sounds of footsteps on the reddish granite gravel that line each path. “For now, the park is designed to create a safe physical distance between its visitors,” Studio Precht founder Chris Precht said. “After the pandemic, the park is used to escape the noise and bustle of the city and be alone for some time. I lived in many cities, but I think I have never been alone in public. I think that’s a rare quality.” + Studio Precht Images via Studio Precht

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Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

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