The Expandable House helps adapt to rapid urbanization

March 5, 2020 by  
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Singapore-based design firm  Urban-Rural Systems  has developed an innovative housing prototype that fights urban sprawl while simultaneously providing better infrastructure for rural-to-urban migrants. Implemented in phases, the project recently completed its second phase this year in Indonesia with the construction of its first Expandable House prototype. True to its name, the dwelling can be flexibly expanded to increase its built area from a single-story, 36-square-meter unit to a three-story, 108-square-meter  mixed-use  building equipped with sustainable decentralized systems such as rainwater harvesting and photovoltaic systems.  The Expandable House (“‘rumah tambah’ in Bahasa Indonesia, or ‘rubah’ for short”) targets rapidly urbanizing regions on the fringes of cities and towns. As the designers explained in a project statement, these are regions where the impact of rapid urbanization “is most directly felt: where land is still relatively cheap, new industrial jobs are springing up, rural migrants often first arrive in the city, and infrastructure is often inadequate to support them.” Additionally, the designers said, “The expandable house tries to respond to this dynamic situation by allowing the dwelling to be flexibly configured around the fluctuating patterns of resource consumption and expenditure, or metabolism, of its residents.” To meet these needs, the Expandable House features a roof that can be raised as well as a floor and foundations strong enough to support up to three floors. This model not only allows for flexible financing — owners can expand their home from a single-story unit to a multi-story unit as needed — but also encourages vertical growth to reduce urban sprawl. The adaptable housing system also incorporates  rainwater  and solar harvesting systems, passive design principles, on-site sewage systems, as well as food production systems to promote self-sufficiency and small-scale business growth.  Related: Passive solar school in Indonesia celebrates the natural landscape Developed in three phases, the Expandable House project began with the Phase 1 design at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore. Phase 2 oversaw construction of the prototype in  Indonesia  that began in 2018, with the first floor of 36 square meters, and concluded earlier this year after all three floors were built along with the technical systems, including rainwater harvesting and photovoltaics. Phase 3 will involve piloting the Expandable House on a larger-scale in a project dubbed Tropical Town, also in Indonesia.  + Urban-Rural Systems (URS) Images © Carlina Teteris

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The Expandable House helps adapt to rapid urbanization

Solar-powered home embraces tree canopy views in all directions

March 4, 2020 by  
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In the coastal township of Barwon Heads, Australian architecture firm Peter Winkler Architects has completed the Green Velvet House, a family’s solar-powered home that sensitively responds to the landscape in more ways than one. Positioned for passive solar design and to maximize views over the surrounding tree canopy, the sustainable dwelling was engineered to minimize impact on the existing terrain. In addition to walls of glass that let in natural light and ventilation, the home draws power from a rooftop solar array and minimizes its environmental footprint with rainwater collection tanks for irrigation and toilet-flushing. Nestled into an existing depression in the site, the Green Velvet House rises to a height of two stories with 580 square meters of living space. Its minimalist appearance — a facade of cement sheets and floor-to-ceiling glazing divided by exposed structural timbers — helps to reduce the building’s visual impact on the landscape. “In response to the program, we have minimized the building footprint by efficiently consolidating the form, rather than creating a sprawling building that overtakes the site,” the team explained. Related: Samurai-inspired home keeps naturally cool in Melbourne To keep the focus on the outdoors, the solar-powered home is surrounded by walls of glass and terraces that invite the owners outdoors on multiple floors. The outdoor spaces and the interiors are protected from unwanted solar gain by generous eaves and horizontal screens. The main living areas and the guest bedroom are located on the ground floor, while the upper floor is reserved for the more private areas, including the master suite and two children’s bedrooms. Plywood walls and a sealed fiber-cement ceiling reference the exterior materials and lend a sense of warmth to the interiors. Recycled “Grey Ironbark” hardwood columns and beams are also featured throughout the building. For energy efficiency, the Colorbond tray deck roof is fitted with a 10.26 kW photovoltaic system . The aluminum sliding doors are also outfitted with double glazing, while the double-hung, sashless windows can be opened for natural ventilation. Three 5,000-liter water tanks were installed beneath the north deck to store rainwater for garden use and toilet-flushing, while other stormwater runoff is retained in bioswales. The home is also equipped with hydronic heating, wood-burning fireplaces and a Sanden heat pump with a 315-liter water tank. + Peter Winkler Architects Photography by Jack Lovel via Peter Winkler Architects

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Solar-powered home embraces tree canopy views in all directions

Century-old building is reborn as a LEED Platinum home in San Francisco

February 6, 2020 by  
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When architect Jonathan Feldman of Feldman Architecture began remodeling his home in San Francisco in the early 2010s, the growing green building movement in the city inspired him to turn his residence — dubbed ‘The Farm’ after its overgrown backyard — into a testing ground and laboratory for sustainable design. From installing renewable energy systems to sourcing sustainable materials, his pursuit of green, net-zero energy standards earned the project LEED Platinum certification. Purchased with the intent of green renovation, the 1905 historic home that Feldman and his wife, Lisa Lougee, renovated was rebuilt from the inside out to merge the building’s classic Edwardian features with more contemporary elements. Critical to the project’s success was the addition of new windows and skylights as well as an open-floor plan to undo the home’s closed-off character. The basement was also transformed to include a usable backyard and deck. Related: Green-roofed San Francisco townhouse features an indoor swing In pursuit of LEED Platinum certification, Feldman worked with the San Francisco building department to allow an unprecedented type of water system in the city: a water recycling system that includes both rainwater and gray water harvesting with tanks tucked below the rear deck. A heat recovery ventilation system pumps fresh air into the home with minimal energy loss, while solar thermal panels partially heat the mechanical system. All materials are sustainably sourced and non-toxic. Water and electricity monitoring can be accessed via panels throughout the home or smartphone technology. “The key to achieving LEED Platinum or any kind of green standard is to identify and commit early on to the features of interest,” said Feldman, who strives to reach net-zero energy with many of his firm’s projects. “We didn’t push for the passive house standard because we didn’t believe it made sense for this particular project.” + Feldman Architecture Photography by Matthew Millman via Feldman Architecture

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Century-old building is reborn as a LEED Platinum home in San Francisco

Net-zero Del Mar Civic Center celebrates community and the great outdoors

January 30, 2020 by  
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After decades of planning, the Californian seaside city Del Mar has finally welcomed a new civic center to consolidate all of its primary public functions into one location at the heart of the community. Located on a 1.5-acre site with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the Del Mar Civic Center is the work of West Coast-based The Miller Hull Partnership , who took inspiration for the design from the surroundings. The new civic center is also engineered for net-zero energy operations and is outfitted with a rooftop solar array, a rainwater harvesting system and programmable windows that take advantage of passive ventilation. Set adjacent to Camino Del Mar, the town’s main thoroughfare, the Del Mar Civic Center comprises a 3,000-square-foot Town Hall, a 9,000-square-foot City Hall, a 13,000-square-foot Town Commons and parking for 140 vehicles, most of which is tucked beneath the complex. All of the buildings were constructed with warm, natural materials such as wood and integrally colored concrete; durable ipe wood siding clads much of the exterior. The architects have likened the civic center to a set of family beachside cabins translated into a series of interconnected structures that follow the contours of the site to maintain a low-slung residential profile. Related: Lush greenery blankets a passive solar community center in Singapore The architects preserved 40% of the site as open space for gardens showcasing native and drought-tolerant plants, active and passive courtyards and a dedicated area for the community farmers market. Further emphasizing the complex’s connection to the outdoors is the abundance of windows, which frame views of the Pacific Ocean in almost every room and promote natural ventilation. Additional sustainable features include the complex’s partial earth sheltering for temperature regulation, porous paving, EV charging stations, daylight sensors and stormwater swales. “City Halls have evolved into being much more than places representing civic gravitas,” noted Mike Jobes, design principal for the project. “They are a public investment in the infrastructure for the social aspects of community , where civic identity is formed through the ritual of public gatherings that are made possible by these spaces.” + The Miller Hull Partnership Photography by Chipper Hatter via The Miller Hull Partnership

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Net-zero Del Mar Civic Center celebrates community and the great outdoors

New Marine Education Center in Malm raises climate change awareness

January 17, 2020 by  
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In Malmö, Sweden, the recently completed Marine Education Center is giving visitors a closer look at the effects of climate change and sustainable technology. Copenhagen-based practice NORD Architects designed the building, which not only provides an indoor-outdoor learning landscape but also visually blurs the boundaries between the built environment and its surroundings. As a beacon of sustainability, the center is integrated with energy-efficient technologies including solar panels, geothermal heat exchangers and rainwater collection systems. Located next to the Öresund strait, the Marine Education Center officially opened in the fall of 2018, four years after NORD Architects won the bid for the project in a design competition. Surrounded by earth berms built up to resemble sand dunes, the single-story building appears nestled into the landscape, while its long footprint emphasizes the vastness of its surroundings. The wave-like protrusions that top the roof add both visual interest and practical purpose; the angled elements are used to mount solar panels , let in indirect daylight and promote natural ventilation. Related: Obra Architects stimulates climate change discussion with a “climate-correcting machine” Beneath the roof are two enclosed areas separated by a large, sheltered walkway. Walls of glass surround the classrooms and gathering spaces to let in light and frame views of the sea, while the use of timber adds a sense of warmth to the interior. The Marine Education Center was designed to be highly flexible and can adapt over time to accommodate new technologies.  “We have developed a learning landscape where education is everywhere,” said Johannes Molander Pedersen, partner at NORD Architects. “It is in the landscape, in the building and in the transition between nature and culture. The center is open for everyone who is interested in the role we as humans play in nature’s life cycle. It allows hands-on learning experience that invites users to explore using their senses in the field, and thereafter analyze and understand their observations of the marine life .” + NORD Architects Photography by Adam Mørk via NORD Architects

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Modular Aquatecture panels can harvest rainwater from the sides of buildings

December 16, 2019 by  
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In response to the severe water shortage that recently gripped Cape Town, South African-born designer Shaakira Jassat of Studio Sway has developed Aquatecture, a building facade panel designed to harvest rainwater runoff as well as moisture from the atmosphere. Developed with modern, urban settings in mind, the modular panels feature a compact profile and stainless steel construction with attractive perforations made for optimal rainwater collection. Jassat’s focus on innovative, water-conserving design are in part inspired by the fears of Day Zero — a reference to the day when severe water shortage would force municipal water supplies to be switched off — and threats of reoccurring droughts throughout South Africa . “As the threat to earth’s natural resources rises exponentially, our ‘available-on-demand’ mentality needs to change,” the designer said. Jassat’s recent projects “reconsider the value of water” and range from a small-scale tea machine that condenses water vapor from the air to the large-scale Aquatecture rain-catching panels. Related: TREDJE NATUR develops sidewalk tiles to capture and reuse water runoff To combat potential drought, Jassat proposes equipping buildings with Aquatecture panels to collect falling rainwater that is then funneled into a tank and pumped back into the building’s gray water system for later use. The panel’s perforated pattern not only takes aesthetics into account, but it is also designed to optimize rainwater collection. The slim profile of the panels would also make it easy to insert into dense urban environments. Research models of the Aquatecture panels and Jassat’s other works were recently presented at Dutch Design Week. Jassat, who is presently based in the Netherlands, was also selected to participate in the Bio Art Laboratories in Eindhoven and has been studying the water-harvesting characteristics of air plants as part of an ongoing ‘Embracing Water’ project in urban environments. + Studio Sway Photography by Ronald Smits, Angeline Swinkels and Alexandra Hsu via Studio Sway

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Modular Aquatecture panels can harvest rainwater from the sides of buildings

Fuksas designs a zero-impact public square in the heart of Sofia

December 13, 2019 by  
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Italian design firm Studio Fuksas has recently revealed designs for the new Sveta Nedelya Square, a “ zero-impact ” public space in the heart of Sofia, Bulgaria. Located in front of the medieval Sveta Nedelya Church, the project will bridge the city’s ancient roots and modern urbanism with a contemporary design that shows off the city’s historic architecture. As a beacon for sustainability, the square will feature transparent solar panels atop a “hi-tech canopy” of pavement modules and a rainwater collection system. Billed by the architects as “a key intervention for the entire nation,” the new Sveta Nedelya Square will represent the country’s forward-looking ambitions while paying homage to its cultural roots. “Our aim is to reduce the dichotomy between the ancient and contemporary city,” the firm explained in a project statement. “We started our design from the Roman framework, using the Cardo and Decumanus to extrapolate the square module, a pure geometric shape.” Related: Studio Fuksas completes Rome’s largest building in over 50 years Spanning an area of 34,000 square meters, the new Sveta Nedelya Square will be bisected by a tram line into two parts: a public park and a paved square. The design also proposes turning parts of the surrounding roads — the Kyaginya Maria Luiza Boulevard, Aleksander Stamboliyski Boulevard, Vitosha Boulevard and the Saborna Ulitsa — into pedestrian-only avenues. Visitors will be able to enjoy views of the ancient Roman cardo covered by protective panels of glass that can be walked on. Select pavement modules will be elevated to create a series of sculptural, vertical elements that form a forest-like covering, which will provide shade and will recall the shape of a rose, Bulgaria’s national flower. The curved shapes of the vertical elements also reference the northern and southern porticoed facades of the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral. The pavement modules are built with transparent solar panels that harness renewable energy, which is used to light up the square at night. The new Sveta Nedelya Square is expected to break ground in 2021, with completion slated for 2023. + Studio Fuksas Images via Studio Fuksas

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Fuksas designs a zero-impact public square in the heart of Sofia

Greta Thunberg is Time magazines 2019 Person of the Year

December 13, 2019 by  
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Time magazine has just announced its 2019 Person of the Year, and it is Greta Thunberg. So far, the 16-year-old is the youngest individual to receive the recognition, thanks to her youthful activism that has brought global attention to the planet’s climate crisis . It all began when she skipped school back in August 2018 to hold a strike in front of the Swedish Parliament. As Time magazine described it, “In the 16 months since, she has addressed heads of state at the United Nations, met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019, in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history.” Even the Collins Dictionary lexicographers selected ‘climate strike’ as the word of the year, in honor of Thunberg’s idea. Related: New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike Time’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, elaborated, “Thunberg has become the biggest voice in the biggest issue facing the planet,” namely climate change and its environmental repercussions. While climate action and its attendant politics are not entirely new, Thunberg’s difference, according to Time magazine, is that “she has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change.” In 1927, Time Magazine inaugurated the annual accolade, first calling it the Man of the Year award, which has since evolved into the Person of the Year award. The recipient is often the most influential person, group, idea or object that “for better or for worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year,” in other words, a newsmaker honored for shaping or defining the year. Earlier this year, Thunberg was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize but did not win it. Another honor, an environmental award held by the Nordic Council, was instead given to Thunberg, but she declined it, saying “The climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power to start to listen to the current, best available science.” + Time Via BBC Image via Shutterstock

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Greta Thunberg is Time magazines 2019 Person of the Year

Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design

October 15, 2019 by  
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A Stefano Boeri Architetti -led design team has won a competition to design a new urban project to transform the Polcevera valley in Genoa, Italy into a beacon of sustainability. Titled “The Polcevera Park and The Red Circle,” the urban regeneration scheme will include a series of parks beneath the new Renzo Piano-designed bridge that will replace the Morandi Bridge that collapsed on August 14, 2018 — a tragedy that killed 43 people. In addition to revitalizing the area and memorializing the recent tragedy, the project will promote sustainable design through renewable technologies, green space and an emphasis on non-motorized transport. Designed in collaboration with architecture firm Metrogramma Milano and Dutch landscape design firm Inside Outside, The Polcevera Park and The Red Circle will include a sustainable mobility grid, a system of parks, and solar-powered buildings that will serve as hubs of productivity and innovation to lead the area’s economic revitalization. The Red Steel Circle refers to the circular elevated pedestrian/ cyclist pathway that will visually and physically knit together the two sides of the valley. This “relationship-building structure” measures 1,570 meters in length, 6 meters in width and 250 meters in diameter, and will be equipped with a 120-meter-tall Wind Tower for generating and producing renewable energy. The new series of parks will also be designed with sustainability in mind and include rainwater harvesting systems and an emphasis on biodiversity . A planting palette of species native to the Mediterranean basin area as well as a rich diversity of spaces — including recreational, educational and social areas — will define the landscape. A memorial to the victims of the collapsed Morandi bridge will be located at the heart of the park. Titled Genova in the wood, the art installation will feature 43 trees, one for each victim lost. Related: Stefano Boeri Architetti’s iridescent tower breaks ground in Tirana “The Red Circle, the Tower, the World Buildings, and the Polcevera Park with its vital chromatic and botanical variety will act as Genoa’s welcome to the passers-by of the future,” says Stefano Boeri. “A welcome to the world that crosses it and reaches Genoa from a network of infrastructure that stretches from east to west connecting Italy to Europe, parks perched on vertical walls, workers and noblewomen, singers- poets and naval engineers. A Superb City, even though it is afflicted by poignant melancholy; beautiful, even if in the harshness of its everlasting contradictions. A city of steel and sea, sculpted by wind and tragedy, but always able to stand tall.” + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via The Big Picture, Renovatio design, 46xy via Stefano Boeri Architetti

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Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design

Award-winning sustainable retreat offers a stylish defense against fire

September 20, 2019 by  
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Australian architectural firm Steendijk’s Bellbird Retreat is proof that designing for fire safety doesn’t have to mean compromising aesthetics. Located in pristine bushland about two hours southwest from Brisbane, the award-winning weekend escape features a striking, weathered steel roof and stellar landscape views as well as a reduced environmental footprint thanks to a rainwater harvesting system and optimized passive design elements. Located on a 141-hectare bush site in Killarney, the Bellbird Retreat is in an area at high risk of fire. To protect the house from devastating bushfires, the architects installed thick brick walls and a fire-resistant roof that uses weathered steel pleats, rather than combustible timber rafters, for the structural support of a single-span structure with unsupported cantilevered eaves. Computer modeling informed the shape and size of the roof, which fans out across the house with deep overhangs to provide protection from solar heat gain. Related: A shipping container is recycled into a chic nature retreat in Brazil “On approach, Bellbird Retreat appears fortress-like with the pleated steel roof crowning three pivoting brick blades that tie the dwelling inextricably to the site while sheltering the building from wind, sun and fire,” the architects explained. “The building sits boldly, carved into the landscape. It is positioned to maximize the mountain saddle for recreational use, enticing the occupant through sliding corner doors that peel back.” Elevated on a cantilevered concrete floor slab, the north-facing Bellbird Retreat spans 721 square feet and includes two bedrooms on the west side with a shared bathroom in between and an open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen on the east end. Fronted with floor-to-ceiling glass, the light-filled interior is dressed in a minimalist palette of locally grown indigenous hoop pine used for the joinery, doors, walls and ceilings. More impressive is the endless views of the landscape that residents can enjoy from dawn until nightfall. + Steendijk Via ArchDaily Images via Steendijk

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