3 ways to capture water for your backyard garden (that wont break the bank)

September 14, 2017 by  
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One major issue a lot of backyard farmers have to contend with is water . All plants need water in order to thrive, and that generally means people have to hose down their gardens twice a day to ensure a healthy, generous harvest. With droughts and water shortages becoming more frequent, we need to be innovative when it comes to harvesting and using this precious resource: read on to find out how you can capture water around your own home, for startlingly less cost than you might have guessed. Trashcan Barrels For about $20, you can make a rainwater collection barrel from a simple trash can. What you’ll need and how to make it: A 20-gallon plastic garbage can—make sure to get one with a domed lid Mosquito netting A drill with a small hole saw bit 1 valve spigot that has a bulkhead fitting Waterproof duct tape or plumbing tape Teflon tape to secure the spigot Step 1 : Use your drill to create several drainage holes in the center of the garbage can’s lid. Then drill an overflow hole into the side of the barrel, about 3 inches down from the top. Step 2 : Cut a piece of mosquito netting large enough to cover those holes, and use the duct or plumber’s tape to secure it on the convex side. You’ll be tipping the lid upside-down to create a bowl, so you want the netting facing downwards, into the barrel. Step 3 : Drill a hole about 3 inches from the barrel’s bottom, get your bulkhead into place, and then insert the spigot. It’s a good idea to use the teflon tape around the spigot first to make sure it’s watertight, and then twist it firmly into place to secure it. Step 4 : Secure that upside-down lid onto the barrel, and seal with duct tape. You’ll need to prop your barrel a foot or two above the ground, so stack up some cement masonry blocks or random bricks as a stand for it. Voila! It’ll catch rainwater when it falls, and the netting will prevent leaf detritus from falling into the water below. Related: Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments Earth Mounds Got a shovel? Then you can make these. Basically, this technique just involves moving soil around in your yard to create channels that direct rainwater to where you want it to collect. Pretty much every bit of land has naturally occurring microclimates : these are areas that are either higher or lower than the rest of the soil around them, or get more light (or more shade), or have different clay/sand/loam ratios. You can determine where the wetter microclimates in your own land are by doing a quick, heavy watering with your garden hose, and watching where the water runs. You can use your shovel to dig shallow trenches to divert water to where you want it to go, and use the soil you’ve removed to build up shallow walls on either side of that trench for reinforcement. You’re essentially creating mini streams that will flow towards the plants that require the most moisture, and away from those that prefer drier feet. Ideal areas that will benefit from this kind of diversion system are: Trees, especially those that produce fruit or nuts, as they require a lot of water Brassica beds: dedicated areas where you’ll grow kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and so on Lettuce beds: those greens are thirsty Corn rows: its shallow roots don’t hold water well, so it needs to drink often Legume patches: peas, snow peas, beans Related: DIY hugelkultur – how to build raised garden beds Mulch Say it out loud, just for fun: “mmmulch”. Satisfying little word, isn’t it? It’s also a tremendously effective way to collect (and keep) moisture in your garden. A lot of people end up watering their food gardens far more often than should be necessary because so much moisture is lost through evaporation, so the best way to combat that is with mulch . Grass clippings, trimmed leaves from plants like squash and comfrey, and bits of bark can all be lain atop your garden’s soil—just make sure to keep it about half an inch away from vegetable stems so that it doesn’t cause root rot. Here’s a tip: lay strips of copper coil around these mulchy mounds to keep slugs away, since they won’t cross the metal barrier. Those slugs may love moist mulch, but the copper will keep them away from your vegetables. As an aside, don’t be too overzealous with your weeding: those inedible plants may be “unsightly” as far as a traditional garden goes, but they help to keep water in the soil and prevent erosion. Additionally, if you let your chickens roam around freely, they can feed on those weeds instead of on your vegetables. Unless the unwanted plants are causing real harm, let them be. Photos via Pixabay, Unsplash and Wikimedia Creative Commons

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3 ways to capture water for your backyard garden (that wont break the bank)

UK man builds highly sustainable Passivhaus-standard home for his elderly parents

July 17, 2017 by  
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A UK man has built his parents the ultimate gift: a highly sustainable home where they can comfortably live out their lives in one of their favorite places on Earth—and it’s also a house that’s won numerous awards to boot. The loving son is Richard Pender, who began the self-built project, called Shawm , as a master’s student studying renewable energy at Newcastle University. Richard worked in collaboration with Dan Kerr of MawsonKerr Architects to create a beautiful airtight home in rural Northumberland that’s built to Passivhaus standards. Richard’s retired parents, Tony and Anne Pender, previously resided in a traditional farmhouse but needed a more modern home where they could comfortably age in place. To allow his parents to continue living in the beautiful yet wild landscapes of rural Northumberland, Richard lived and worked onsite to design and build a custom home with minimal environmental impact. Though Richard isn’t an architect, he drew on his experience with conventional property development projects and dedicated three years to research to meet the highest standards of energy efficiency and detailing. Related: Colorado man builds state’s most energy efficient house The new Shawm home is located within a former farmyard behind the existing farmhouse. The timber-frame new-build is attached to an existing stone wall and features a traditional barn-like silhouette with a clean and contemporary appearance. Materials were sourced locally, such as the larch cladding from Borders and the bespoke furnishings built from trees felled onsite. Richard also manufactured the entire timber frame with a specially designed jig in an old hay shed. Since Shawm was built with Passivhaus principles, the low-impact and low-energy home features highly insulated fabric with airtight construction, thus doing away with any need for a space heating system. The house also includes mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, ‘passive’ solar gain through the south, and use of local and low-carbon materials wherever possible. However, because the site on which Shawm is built is oriented to the north, the home was unable to attain Passivhaus certification. A small biomass pellet boiler provides space heating and domestic hot water in the winter. A solar array powers the house year-round, while rainwater is stored and pumped around the home for non-potable uses. Shawm is also disability friendly and includes ramps, electric blinds, and intercom front door control. The Shawm house won four Regional RIBA Awards, a National RIBA Award, and is long-listed for the RIBA House of the Year 2017 . + Shawm House Via Dezeen Images via Shawm House , by Renderloft

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UK man builds highly sustainable Passivhaus-standard home for his elderly parents

Biomimetic Eye_Beacon mimics deep-sea creatures in a hypnotic light show

July 17, 2017 by  
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UNStudio and MDT-tex have tapped into the ocean’s murky depths for their design of the Eye_Beacon, a sculptural pavilion for the Amsterdam Light Festival. Illuminated with LEDs to create a hypnotic pulsating light show, the colorful art installation draws inspiration from the bioluminescence of deep-sea creatures. The pavilion was created as the festival’s ticketing and information booth, and follows this year’s theme of biomimicry . Installed on the western side of the ‘Blauwburg’ next to the river Amstel , Eye_Beacon is an eye-catching pavilion that serves as the first stop for visitors to the festival. The structure also connects the ‘Watercolour’ canal route with the ‘Illuminade’ land route. The sculptural pavilion comprises two interconnected cube forms that are twisted to create a dynamic shape with 316 uneven panels. The designers used parametric optimization to determine the pavilion’s openings and complex, curved shape. MDT-tex developed the 2D and 3D tensile textile modules that make up the pavilion. Focused LED projections on the inside of the tensile structure turn the pavilion into constantly morphing composition of light and color ranging from orange sunset hues to neon greens and blues. Related: Amsterdam’s Light Festival Sets the City Aglow With Magical LED Installations “Similar to deep sea creatures that use bioluminescence to signal, attract and inform, the Eye_Beacon uses choreographed light sequences to alert visitors to its dual function as both a sculpture and an information point for the festival,” said Ben van Berkel of UNStudio. “Along with the effect of the pavilion partially overhanging the Amstel River, the twist that connects the two halves of the structure emphasises the crossing point between the land and water routes of the festival.” + UNStudio + MDT-tex Photo credit: Janus van den Eijnden

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Biomimetic Eye_Beacon mimics deep-sea creatures in a hypnotic light show

Worlds most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid homeand you can stay overnight

June 8, 2017 by  
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The Phoenix House is a tiny off-grid home that truly befits its name. Rising from the ashes of the world’s most active volcano, this solar-powered abode built of recycled materials boasts spectacular views of the Hawaiian landscape. Available for rent on AirBnB , the Phoenix House promises an unforgettable, off-the-beaten track experience and is just a bike ride away from a 100-foot lava waterfall. The eco-friendly Phoenix House is the newest creation by ArtisTree , a green design studio with an impressive portfolio of beautiful, low-impact treehouses and vacation homes. Located at the base of Mauna Loa volcano next to Kilauea, the tiny 450-square-foot Phoenix House is a shining beacon of sustainability and is part of a regenerative, off-grid community compound. Created to symbolize the temporal nature of life, the Phoenix House merges visual elements from a modern beach farmhouse with the stark volcanic landscape. The building is clad in charred Shou Sugi Ban timber to blend into the surroundings as well as recycled rusted corrugated metal that represents hot lava. “We built this house with deep respect for Mother Earth. For that reason, you will find the design minimalist, the development footprint light, and the result is one with its surroundings,” said Will Beilharz, the designer of Phoenix House, who also spoke of the difficulties of building on a lava field with 30-mile-per-hour winds. Related: Solar-powered cylindrical treehouse in Mexico is made with sustainable bamboo Sustainability is a major focus of the tiny house design. In addition to its use of solar power and recycled materials, the Phoenix House also collects and reuses rainwater . The modern home is equipped with all the comforts of home, including electricity, high-speed wifi and hot showers. The home, which accommodates two on a queen bed, is available for rent on Airbnb for $111 a night . Guests also have access to a fully equipped kitchenette with a propane stove top, living area with a couch and desk, and a small dinette table. + ArtisTree

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Worlds most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid homeand you can stay overnight

Nature-inspired gallery celebrates Taiwans aboriginal cultures with cargotecture

March 31, 2017 by  
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A shimmering wave-like roof mirroring the Pacific Ocean tops this stunning new structure that celebrates Taiwan’s aboriginal cultures with eco-friendly construction. Bio-architecture Formosana recently completed the Taitung Aboriginal Gallery, a 1,921-square-meter exhibition center that draws inspiration from nature just as the architects of Austronesian culture did for centuries. With Taitung’s rich and varied landscapes as well as its seven different aboriginal tribes, the architects drew on a wealth of cultural and environmental resources for their design. The Taitung Aboriginal Gallery was created to celebrate the artistic and nature-inspired architectural elements of Austronesian culture. Thus, the architects created a large steel-framed roof with an undulating shape that mimics the topography and ocean, and is decorated with diamond shapes that symbolize the eyes of the ancestral spirits. The shape allows for access to natural light and ventilation throughout the building while providing much needed shade and cooling from the tropical sun. The sloped sides also facilitate collection of rainwater , which is stored in five small ponds in the plaza. Related: Mecanoo wins competition to design the Tainan Public Library with natural materials As an island with several major ports, Taiwan collects approximately 10,000 shipping containers from the ocean every year. The architects recycled a number of the containers into rooms within the Taitung Aboriginal Gallery. The repurposed and repainted shipping containers are individually air-conditioned and serve as aboriginal handicraft shops. “In Taitung’s tropical climate, individualized air conditioning reduces the refrigerating ton by 50%, and the electricity use by 60%,” write the architects. + Bio-architecture Formosana Via ArchDaily Images by Lucas K. Doolan

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Nature-inspired gallery celebrates Taiwans aboriginal cultures with cargotecture

Solar-powered Vreugdenhil office earns BREEAM-NL Outstanding for its low energy footprint

November 3, 2016 by  
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Triangular in plan, Vreugdenhil’s new head office is built like a work of art that eschews hard corners for rounded edges for a sculptural appearance. Curved glazing wraps around the building to let in copious amounts of natural light that reflect off the mostly white interior surfaces. The office’s most eye-catching feature is the grand spiraling staircase that wraps around a live tree in the center and ascends a light-filled triangular atrium . The office spaces that branch off of the staircase are flexible and designed to encourage employees to socialize and collaborate. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects renovate a derelict fire station into Antwerp’s new BREEAM-rated port headquarters In addition to incorporating natural light to minimize dependence on electricity, the energy-efficient building also includes an intelligent climate control system, a 170-panel solar array system, rainwater collection reused to flush the toilets, and a thermal energy storage system that heats and cools the building. The new office’s comfortable and attractive environment is also aimed to help the company reach its 2020 target to reduce the absenteeism rate to below 4%. + Maas Architecten Via ArchDaily Images via Maas Architecten

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Solar-powered Vreugdenhil office earns BREEAM-NL Outstanding for its low energy footprint

LEED Platinum GWU building helps people make healthier choices with smart design

October 26, 2016 by  
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The 161,100-square-foot Milken Institute School of Public Health was a difficult design challenge given its many programmatic requirements, odd triangular geometry, and restrictive zoning regulations that capped the allowable floor area and imposed a 90-foot maximum height limitation. The architects successfully overcame the unusual site geometry with an exposed post-tensioned cast-in-place concrete structural system and a seven-story atrium that fills the building with natural light and creates a sense of spaciousness without exceeding the allowed building area. Related: University of Pennsylvania’s green-roofed New College House targets LEED Silver In addition to centrally located stairs (and the somewhat hidden elevators), other ways the architects engineered public health into the building include the encourage of movement with standing desks and an indoor bicycle rack; clean indoor air with the help of low-light plants, a strong air filtration system, and sustainable low-VOC materials; and access to natural light, views, and a walkable neighborhood. The energy efficient school building earned LEED Platinum certification with eco-friendly elements such as local and recycled materials, a green roof, rainwater collection system, and low-flow plumbing . The project recently won a 2016 AIANY COTE Honor Award. + Payette + Ayers Saint Gross Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Payette , © Robert Benson

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LEED Platinum GWU building helps people make healthier choices with smart design

This family home in Japan is designed to let the rain inside

August 4, 2016 by  
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The house, dubbed the “Puddle”, is located in a densely populated area of Matsusaka City in Japan ‘s Mie prefecture. The large opening in its roof surface extends down into the living area and forms a small room where a puddle of rainwater brings the residents closer to nature. It shrinks and grows depending on the amount of  rainfall , constantly changing with the weather. Related: Japan’s CYIN House on stilts shelters a small winter garden The chimney also brings natural light into the interior and enables natural ventilation. The design was inspired by artist James Turrell, and creates a similar effect of spatial immersion. It brings the great outdoors indoors for a lifestyle more in-tune with nature. + Masaki Yoneda Via Spoon & Tamago

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This family home in Japan is designed to let the rain inside

Earthships heading to Canada will provide First Nation communities with low-income housing

July 20, 2016 by  
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Earthships are a unique kind of low-cost homes that are built primarily with recycled materials and produce and provide as much as possible on site. Created and marketed by New Mexico-based Earthship Biotecture , the earthship alleviates the problems of housing insecurity and environmental waste in one elegant solution. These sustainable housing units have been installed in India, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and other countries as a means to empower local communities. The Earthship team are now bringing their housing model to First Nations communities facing a housing crisis in Canada. Francine Doxtator and her family are among the first members of the First Nations to collaborate with Earthship Biotechture on such a project. “We’re all looking forward to the new home,” says Doxtator, “but I still don’t believe it’s happening.” The new earthship home, powered by solar panels, hydrated by a rainwater collection system, and insulated by recycled tires, will reduce utility bills by hundreds of dollars per month. It will also allow the family to have a more respectful relationship with nature. “We try and respect Mother Earth, says Doxtator. “Right now we’re ruining her. We have to look after her so she can look after us.” Related: First Nation builds spirited solar project in the heart of Canada’s oil sands While earthships may seem an ideal solution, there are obstacles that currently prevent their wider adoption. Earthships often do not qualify for standard mortgages or loans in Canada , which puts its cost of C$60,000 out of reach for many. Strict regulations on new housing on First Nations land also prohibits the spread of earthships. The newest earthship installation at the Doxtator homestead arrives as Prime Minister Trudeau has promised the public investment of C$554 million in First Nations communities. The earthship’s best days may still lie ahead. “I would love to see this happen for more people,” says Doxtator. Still, even the new homeowner is a bit perplexed by the unusual design. “I just hope it doesn’t look like a Flintstones house in the end.” Via the Guardian Images via Wikipedia , Flickr and  Adrienne Harper

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Earthships heading to Canada will provide First Nation communities with low-income housing

Escape city life in a lux off-grid cabin that can pop up almost anywhere

July 15, 2016 by  
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? Designed and produced by a team of architecture students-turned-entrepreneurs, the Ark Shelter was created to bring back people “back to basics” and into nature. Clad in durable timber for a cozy feel, each cabin is prefabricated off-site in a factory and then craned into place on raised, mobile foundations. Its modular architecture can be easily customized and expanded from its basic 9-square-meter workspace module to a fully livable space with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and a living room. Related: Stunning Moon Dragon is a fairytale-like tiny house that goes off-grid ? The self-sufficient structure is equipped with wind turbines and rainwater collection systems, while natural light streams through folding glazed doors to minimize dependence on artificial light and embrace panoramic views of the outdoors. There’s no word on price on the website; interested parties will have to contact the design team directly. All Ark Shelters are delivered fully furnished, from custom timber furnishings to the bed linens. + Ark Shelter Via Architizer Images via Ark Shelter

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Escape city life in a lux off-grid cabin that can pop up almost anywhere

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