Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing

August 28, 2020 by  
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Community First! Village in Austin, a 51-acre sustainable development, provides  affordable housing  to Central Texas’ chronically homeless. McKinney York Architects recently designed two new micro-house concepts inside the community. These tiny homes are changing lives by providing homes for hundreds of locals who have fallen on hard times. The program, developed by Austin-based non-profit  Mobile Loaves & Fishes , consists of 120 total units. The organization is a social outreach ministry that has worked with the local Austin  homeless  community since 1998 through prepared feeding programs, community gardening and more. Related: Modular, affordable housing project opens in Portland McKinney York Architects founder Heath McKinney and her team chose to design two pro-bono micro-houses inside the community. These homes showcase the firm’s creativity and attention to detail while contributing to a  sustainable  cause. “Being a good neighbor to our local community is an important part of our office culture,” said Aaron Taylor, project manager for the first micro-home . “This, coupled with the firm’s mission to provide quality design for everyone, really made working at CommunityFirst! Village a fulfilling experience.” This first  tiny home  features what McKinney York Architects’ website describes as “humble modular materials” that “lend dignity to the dwelling through a straightforward, logical aesthetic expression.” The home also includes a screen porch positioned to take advantage of summer breezes while providing shelter from winter winds. Openings encourage cross-ventilation, and a double roof creates shaded heat gain reduction during the warmer months. “We try to find opportunities for great design, despite the inevitable constraints, whether it’s the size and orientation of an existing concrete slab or the available construction budget,” said Navvab Taylor, leader of the second home design team. The second home includes a butterfly roof to catch breezes and  collect rainwater  for the garden. Pine paneling accents the interior, and a screened porch keeps mosquitoes away while creating an open public space for socializing. + McKinney York Images © Thomas McConnell

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Solar-powered dome in the Texas desert is the perfect place to go off the grid

August 18, 2020 by  
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The Terluna off-grid adobe dome home is located in a remote part of the Texas desert near Big Bend National Park, inside one of the country’s few remaining dark sky ordinance territories. Along with the opportunity to completely cut yourself off from the modern world, the dome’s setting offers incredible views of the night sky along with unobstructed access to the desert horizon. The dome is an earthen structure, built with an adobe barrier, that provides shelter from the elements. In this part of the state, those elements can range from extreme heat and wind to cold and rain. All power comes directly from an installed solar energy system, with just enough energy to also power phones, laptops and lights. Related: Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle Terluna is isolated, but because the entrance to Big Bend National Park is just a 25-minute drive away, it is easily accessible for those who want to do some exploring. For history buffs, the historic Terlingua Ghost Town can be found about 25 minutes away as well. Wi-Fi is also available in the dome for those who aren’t quite ready to go fully off the grid just yet. Fans of HGTV’s “Mighty Tiny Houses” may recognize the Terluna, as it has been featured on the show in the past. The dome home includes a kitchen with a two-burner propane stove, an oven and a refrigerator. The kitchen sinks get water from a small rain collection tank; guests are recommended to bring their own drinking water. There is space for two people to sleep comfortably, and linens, pillows and blankets are included. Additional space on the pallet couch allows for a third guest. A no-flush, composting toilet can be found in a separate, private outhouse next to the main structure, and guests will have to utilize a nearby coin shower if they want to wash up. The off-grid nature of this space means that occupants will have to sacrifice AC, but the Airbnb stay does have a fan and plenty of windows. + Airbnb Images via Airbnb

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Luxury home in Kerala produces all of its own energy

July 30, 2020 by  
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Thrissur-based design studio LIJO RENY Architects has taken full advantage of Kerala’s sunny, tropical climate with its design of The House Within the Grid, a luxury residence that produces all of its own energy via rooftop solar panels. Commissioned by a doctor couple with four children, the solar-powered home is currently used as a holiday escape from the clients’ primary residence in Sharjah; however, the house will eventually serve as the family’s permanent home in the future. Located on a slightly elevated half-acre lot in the coastal neighborhood of Andathode, the House Within the Grid encompasses nearly 9,000 square feet of living space to accommodate the primary family of six and the clients’ extended family and friends on holiday visits. To provide privacy to the main sleeping wing, the architects divided the home into two connected yet distinct parallel bays — a single-story bay housing the public and semi-private areas on the east side and a double-story bay on the western side that comprises six en suite bedrooms and a compact office space. Two large courtyards are located in between the bays. Related: Mud and recycled materials make up this sustainable Kerala home “A mix of primary and secondary functions, with its two different room widths, creates a visible repetitive spatial pattern throughout the house,” the architects explained of the layout. “This project was an exercise in exploiting the spatial possibilities offered by the surprisingly flexible modular grid. Juxtaposing the rigorous but serene geometry of the house with the incoherent landscape of its site, a distinct spatial language evolved to become a subtle stage for the contemplative daily activities.” In addition to adding rooftop solar panels that meet all of the home’s electricity needs, the architects have strategically placed windows to tap into cross ventilation for natural cooling. Extended roof slabs also help protect against unwanted solar gain from Kerala’s intense sunlight. A rainwater collection system has been installed along the floating roofs as well to further reduce the home’s resource footprint. + LIJO RENY Architects Photography by Praveen Mohandas via LIJO RENY Architects

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Mysterious seeds from China arriving in mail across America

July 30, 2020 by  
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Agricultural officials from several states have expressed alarm over unsolicited packages of seeds delivered to residents. The packages appear to come from China, as they feature China Post labeling. Agricultural officers advise farmers not to plant the seeds, in case they are harmful or invasive. Warnings sent out to farmers and residents follow reports of unsolicited seed packages being delivered in residents’ mail. Several people reported receiving seeds in white pouches that featured Chinese writing and the words “China Post.” Another concerning detail is that the seed packages were not labeled as food or agricultural products. Envelopes included misleading labels, with some listing the contents as jewelry, toys or earbuds. States that have released public notices against planting the unsolicited seeds include Washington, Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Dakota, Texas, Alabama and Florida. Kentucky , one of the first states to receive reports of unsolicited seeds, issued warnings to residents. As Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, wrote on Twitter, residents should “put the package and seeds in a zip lock bag and wash your hands immediately.” Residents must also send any seeds they receive to the Department of Agriculture. Following the reports, several other states, including Arkansas, Michigan , Oregon and New Jersey, issued warnings to residents. Such measures may help prevent farmers from planting harmful, contaminated seeds. The Chinese Embassy in Washington claims these China Post packages “to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries.” Cecilia Sequeira, spokesperson for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says the department is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop illegal importation of prohibited seeds. Should you receive any mysterious seeds in the mail, report it to the nearest Agriculture Office. + NY Times Image via Pexels

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Check out Glasir, the tree-shaped urban farming solution

February 20, 2020 by  
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In a bid to revolutionize agriculture, New York City and Bergen-based innovation studio  Framlab  has proposed Glasir, a community-based system for urban farming that combines the flexibility of modularity with aeroponics to vastly reduce the environmental footprint for growing food. Created in the likeness of a tree, the space-saving conceptual design grows vertically and can be installed in even the densest of urban areas. The high-yield, vertical farming proposal would be integrated with smart technology, sensors, and renewable systems such as solar panels to optimize production and minimize its carbon footprint. Named after a fabled and supernatural tree in Norse mythology, Glasir was conceived by Framlab as a response to the World Health Organization’s estimates that half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. To curb the water-guzzling and land-intensive processes of modern  agriculture , Framlab developed Glasir as an alternative that would provide neighborhoods with affordable, local produce year-round. The self-regulating system comprises a monopodial trunk that is expanded with branch-like modules and would occupy only a two-by-two-foot space, about the same size needed for a small street tree on a sidewalk.  The basic components for a Glasir system comprise ten base  modules : five growth modules, three production modules, and two access modules. The modules are all interconnected and feed information to one another through an artificial intelligence program. Environmental sensors track and evaluate site conditions such as solar gain, temperature levels, and winds to optimize growth. The system can be assembled in a variety of configurations to fit the needs of the community that it serves.  Related: Sustainable agriculture cleans up rivers in Cuba In addition to the use of extremely water-efficient aeroponic growing methods, Glasir reduces its environmental impact with translucent photovoltaic cells that power its electricity needs. A  rainwater collection  system stores, purifies and redirects runoff for irrigation in the production modules. The exterior of the modules will also be coated in Titanium Oxide to help clean air pollutants.  + Framlab Images via Framlab

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Marc Thorpe designs live/work buildings built from earth bricks

February 20, 2020 by  
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New York-based architecture studio Marc Thorpe Design has unveiled renderings for the Dakar Houses, a series of live/work spaces for the artisans of furniture brand Moroso, located on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Designed with compressed earth bricks, a common building material in western Senegal, the multipurpose units take inspiration from the local architectural vernacular. The economical earth bricks also have the advantage of thermal mass to provide comfortable indoor temperatures without artificial heating or cooling.  Created to house Moroso’s Dakar-based artisans, the Dakar Houses will consist of two apartments that flank a central workshop for manufacturing the furniture brand’s decade-old line of handcrafted and brightly colored outdoor furnishings. In echoing the furniture line’s celebration of local craftsmanship, the Dakar Houses also pay homage to building materials and techniques common to the West African region.  Related: Ancient green building technique helps ease West Africa housing crisis “The intention was to create a work-based community allowing a village to develop around a central economic constituent,” Marc Thorpe Design explained. “The units are designed to house the workers as well as various parts of the manufacturing process of M’Afrique’s furniture , such as the handicraft work of welding and weaving. The apartments would be designed based on the required space for each individual family.” Each unit comprises three volumes — two apartments and a central workspace — that are staggered to create favorable solar shading conditions. Steeply pitched roofs top the minimalist units, which are left unadorned to emphasize the earth bricks. Made from local soil, the bricks are cured over several weeks. Next, they are soaked in water each morning, then baked in the sun beneath a tarp until they are ready for construction. During the day, the earthen walls absorb heat to provide a cool indoor environment; at night, that heat is slowly dissipated and warms the air.  + Marc Thorpe Design Images via Marc Thorpe Design

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Industrial building is reimagined as a zero-carbon paragon for Paris 2024 Olympics

June 19, 2019 by  
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In anticipation of the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, French architectural firm Jakob + MacFarlane has set its sights on reinventing a large, post-industrial facility into an innovative beacon for carbon-neutral design. Located directly adjacent to the planned site for the Olympics in Quartier Pleyel, the existing building is a towering relic of Saint-Denis’ industrial past that now lies at the intersection of major metropolitan projects. The zero-carbon, adaptive reuse proposal, dubbed Odyssee Pleyel, is one of the winning proposals in Reinventing Cities , a competition created by C40 Cities that asked architects to sustainably transform vacant and abandoned spaces in cities around the world. Spanning an area of over 15,000 square feet and rising to a height of nearly 79 feet, the Hall de décuvage Pleyel was previously used to remove electric transformer windings. Rather than tear down the building, Jakob + MacFarlane suggests retrofitting the structure into a carbon-neutral landmark for the city, as it is prominently located on the perimeter of the 2024 Olympics site. In addition to renovating the existing structure, the architects suggest adding a modular wood construction structure and renewable energy systems to ensure energy self-sufficiency. Related: Eiffel Tower site to become a pedestrian-friendly garden “Reflecting the historical industrial heritage of Saint-Denis, the Odyssee Pleyel project showcases thought-leadership in the global clean energy transition in a quest to become a carbon-neutral development,” the architects said. “The Odyssee Pleyel bears witness to the human, technological and cultural achievements of this area. The Energy Plug building is an excellent example of reinventing a former industrial site into a reflexive building of the future.” Topped with hybrid photovoltaic and thermal solar cells, the Odyssee Pleyel would also tap into rainwater collection and reuse to minimize resource demands. Excavated soil from the Grand Paris Express — the Pleyel district is to host one of 72 stations for the 2023 transport project — would be reused and integrated into the Odyssee Pleyel construction site. Most importantly, the zero-carbon building would encourage ecological innovation and awareness by hosting workshops, clean energy start-ups and educational programs on topics of sustainability. + Jakob + MacFarlane Images via Jakob + MacFarlane

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Solar-powered home stays naturally cool in Keralas tropical heat

April 2, 2019 by  
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In the South Indian city of Kochi, local architectural practice Meister Varma Architects recently completed Maison Kochi, a contemporary home for a family of four that mitigates the region’s intense tropical heat with energy-efficient and cost-effective techniques. Inspired by the concept of chiaroscuro, a Renaissance artistic technique named after the strong contrasts between light and dark, Maison Kochi features a solid white exterior and a dark interior finished in polished concrete to create a cool indoor environment. The interior layout is also arranged to buffer the heat, while the roof is equipped with solar panels and a rainwater collection system. Slotted on a tight, 1,830-square-foot lot, Maison Kochi was commissioned for a family of four who also sought a studio and office space in the home. As a result, the west-facing building is split into two volumes — the volume on the south side is slightly taller to provide shade on the second volume throughout the day — for a clear division of space between the work areas and the primary living spaces. An open-plan layout and large windows allow for cross ventilation, while a vent in the roof access hatch lets hot air escape for natural cooling. On the ground floor, the work areas (a studio, tool shed and flex meeting room that can be used as a guest bedroom) are located on the south side of the house, while an open-plan living and dining room are located opposite; the two volumes are joined by the entry foyer and a compact kitchen. The master bedroom with a terrace, a children’s bedroom, a TV room and a study are upstairs. To soften the polished concrete walls and black oxide floors, the interior is dressed with Kerala sari-inspired fabrics and multicolored baskets that mimic traditional urban crafts. Almost all of the interior furnishings are custom-made. Related: This rammed earth home in India uses recycled materials throughout “ Rainwater channels are integrated in the roof design as are solar panels,” the architects added. “Collected water is used to recharge the groundwater through an injection system. Flat roofs are insulated with hollow clay blocks and sloping roofs with polyurethane sandwich panels.” + Meister Varma Architects Photography by Praveen Mohandas and Govind Nair (drone photography) via Meister Varma Architects

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An old office is transformed into the Netherlands’ most sustainable renovated building

March 22, 2019 by  
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In Amsterdam South, a newly renovated office building with a shimmering silver roof has achieved BREEAM Outstanding , a green building rating that arguably makes the property the most sustainable adaptive reuse project in the Netherlands. Formerly a neglected office complex, the empty building was transformed in the hands of Dutch architectural firm Benthem Crouwel Architects and now serves as the energy-positive offices for Goede Doelen Loterijen (Dutch Charity Lotteries). A major goal of the new Goede Doelen Loterijen office was to gather the company’s approximately 600 employees — who had been distributed at different branches for years — into a single location. Because sustainability is a core value of Goede Doelen Loterijen , the new office also needed to be highly sustainable and render the company’s social ambitions visible. Therefore, the building design emphasizes accessibility and transparency, communicating the message that it serves both the employees and the neighborhood. In addition to offices, the building includes a public restaurant, an auditorium and a TV studio. “The Charity Lotteries employees were involved in the design from the very beginning,” the architects explained. “Everyone was invited to share their thoughts, and through this unique process of co-creation, a building emerged that fits the unique atmosphere and work practice of this organization like a glove. It was the employees’ wish to bring the green from the park at their old locations to the new office. To fulfill this wish, a roof was created that is green in every possible way.” Related: MVRDV to transform an Amsterdam office complex into a green residential zone Nearly 7,000 leaves made of polished aluminum cover the roof, supported with slender, tree-shaped columns. The new forest-inspired roof shimmers and changes appearance depending on the time of day and is easily recognizable and visible from afar. In addition to the glittering silver leaves, the roof is also integrated with 949 solar panels and a rainwater collection system for green roof irrigation. Materials from the former office complex were reused, while all new materials have been selected for their sustainable and recyclable qualities. + Benthem Crouwel Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Jannes Linders via Benthem Crouwel Architects

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An old office is transformed into the Netherlands’ most sustainable renovated building

Solar-powered home puts an eco-friendly twist on the farmhouse vernacular

March 14, 2019 by  
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When architect Paul O’Reilly of the Australian architectural practice archterra was asked by his mother to design a modern farmhouse, he delivered a handsome dwelling that not only takes inspiration from traditional barn architecture, but also deftly addresses the region’s climatic extremes with its site-specific, energy-efficient build. Aptly named the Farm House, the roughly 2,000-square-foot abode features a gabled roofline, a veranda and timber cladding to mimic traditional barns, while the interior is decidedly contemporary and dressed in natural materials, including rammed earth and oiled timber cladding. Moreover, the home is energy-efficient , taking cues from passive solar principles and drawing power from a 2.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array. Located on a grassy paddock on a working cattle farm near Margaret River, the Farm House is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom abode that places the sleeping areas toward the south and the open-plan living areas to the north. Large outdoor decks open off of the two bedrooms and the living area toward the east. “Primary outlook across paddocks to the east and a need to maintain a passive solar orientation to the north generated a T-shaped plan response with the living pavilion orientated to the north, whilst the sleeping areas align east-west,” explained the architecture firm. “Morning sun is moderated on the sleeping pavilion by the traditional veranda to the east whilst a thick rammed earth wall to the west ensures the thermal lag effect of the earth wall keeps internal spaces cool into the early evening.” Related: Solar-powered Bush House exemplifies chic eco-friendly living in the Australian outback The home’s passive solar orientation mitigates unwanted heat gain and permits cooling cross breezes to flow through the home from all directions. In addition to the thermally efficient envelope, the energy efficiency of the Farm House is bolstered by the addition of an evacuated tube solar hot water heater, a solar photovoltaic array, rainwater collection  and wastewater treatment systems. Recycled timber and bricks lower the embodied energy of the project as well. + archterra Photography by Douglas Mark Black via archterra

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