Brazilian timber home uses bioclimatic principles to reduce its environmental footprint

July 16, 2019 by  
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Designed by Brazilian firm PITTA Arquitetura , the aptly named Casa Modelo serves as an architectural model for sustainable home design. Built using numerous bioclimatic principles , the solar-powered home has minimal environmental impact on its idyllic tropical setting just outside of São Paulo. Built for the owner of a sustainable real estate development company, Casa Modelo is located in the remote area of Ubatuba. Surrounded by acres of lush, green, protected biospheres that span out to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, the home has a setting that is as idyllic as it gets. Related: Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round The incredible location set the tone for the design. Working with the homeowner, the architects sought to create a model sustainable home that could serve as a platform for future constructions in the area. At the forefront of the design was the objective of reducing the home’s impact on the pristine natural setting. Inserting the 1,100-square-foot building into the lot with minimal interference was essential to the project. Accordingly, the timber home is elevated off of the landscape by a concrete platform and pillars that allow natural vegetation to grow under and around the structure. The local climate is marked by severe humidity, ultra hot summers and considerable rainfall, all of which prompted the designers to create a resilient structure that could stand up to the extreme elements. Not only did elevating the home reduce its impact on the landscape, but it also helps keep ground humidity at bay and improves natural air circulation. Passive, energy-saving features are found throughout the home, namely in the structure’s large openings and high interior ceilings. The open-plan living area and kitchen open up to the outdoors thanks to a long stretch of sliding glass doors with retractable timber screens on either side of the house. The doors can be completely or partially left open to ensure cool temps and natural ventilation on the interior, a feature that also creates a strong, seamless connection with the outdoors. The layout was also driven by the natural elements. The two bedrooms were orientated to embrace the morning sunlight , while overhangs shade the living spaces from the hot summer sun. In the winter months, sunlight from the large, north-facing windows is absorbed by the concrete walls and floors during the day and released at night. In addition to its impressive passive features, the home was installed with several systems to minimize energy use. A solar array covers 100 percent of the electrical needs, which are reduced thanks to highly efficient lighting, electrical equipment and smart home devices. Additionally, an innovative rainwater harvesting system provides water for the residents. + PITTA Arquitetura Via Dwell Photography by Gustavo Alkmim via PITTA Arquitetura

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Brazilian timber home uses bioclimatic principles to reduce its environmental footprint

This apartment building in Staten Island has a 5,000-square-foot urban farm

April 26, 2019 by  
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Along the waterfront on New York’s north shore, Staten Island Urby sits overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan . The millennial-friendly residential space includes 571 units, 35,000 square feet of commercial space and something a little unusual for an apartment complex: a massive urban farm. When it comes to innovation, the urban farm, also known as Rabbit’s Garden, incorporates bio-dynamic, bio-intensive and agro-ecological methods into its farming techniques. Rabbit’s Garden sells its variety of vegetables, herbs, microgreens and flowers to both CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture”) members and wholesale clients, but that’s not all it does. The urban farm is also a place for Urby residents and the larger Staten Island community to familiarize themselves with agriculture, a rare experience in a big city. The garden team provides educational workshops on everything from cooking and gardening to art, science and sustainability. Some of the events planned for 2019 include community volunteer days, a workshop on composting , farm dinners and cooking classes. Urby residents have the chance to use the produce in their own personal cooking, and local, on-site restaurants often use the fresh vegetables for seasonal dishes. Urby also sells produce at the weekly farmers market. Related: SUPERFARM design envisions an urban vertical farm that is energy self-sufficient The inspiration behind Urby combines the nature of apartment living with the personal touches of boutique hotel hospitality. Plenty of space and natural light with an abundance of communal areas and in-house culture teams that plan neighborly get-togethers further add to the hospitality aspect. The farm is one of these areas, and the cozy Urby kitchen and dining room is another. Along with these spaces, residents of the luxury apartment complex also enjoy amenities such as a fully-equipped gym, a heated saltwater pool, on-site dining options and outdoor spaces aimed at social interaction. Landscaped spots with Wi-Fi capability ensure that residents stay connected, while outdoor courtyards with fire pits and lounging space inspire social interactions and collective creativity. If residents are feeling a little more reclusive, there are plenty of comfortable spots throughout the property to curl up with a good book or get some work done without interruption as well. Rabbit’s Garden is run by farmer-in-residence Olivia Gamber, a longtime urban agriculture-enthusiast with a degree in Environmental Studies and years of community garden experience under her belt. Urby was created by real estate developer and hotelier David Barry, known for his contributions to the New York boutique hotel scene as both a developer and operator. Urby also has two other communities located in Jersey City and Harrison, New Jersey, and it plans to continue growing the collection of complexes in the future. + Urby Images via Urby

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This apartment building in Staten Island has a 5,000-square-foot urban farm

Why this Colorado land developer is prioritizing zero energy homes

February 7, 2019 by  
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The incremental costs compared with traditional construction are shrinking.

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Why this Colorado land developer is prioritizing zero energy homes

Californias largest utility company plans massive sale of natural gas division

January 9, 2019 by  
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Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California ’s largest utility, is exploring the possibility of selling off a major part of the company, according to a new report. Thanks to the massive liability costs that they could be facing for their possible culpability in recent deadly wildfires, PG&E has a strategic plan called “Project Falcon” to cover costs and avoid bankruptcy. This plan would involve the company selling its natural gas division and then using the proceeds to pay the potential millions of dollars in claims from the wildfires . Anonymous sources recently told NPR that PG&E is also looking at selling critical real estate assets— like the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Last Friday the utility announced that they would explore “structural options” to put the company in the best possible position to meet customer needs and operational demands. They also revealed that they are searching for new directors for the board to “augment its existing expertise in safety.” “Safety is and will continue to be our top priority as we work to determine the best path forward for all of our stakeholders. PG&E remains fully committed to helping our customers and the affected communities recover and rebuild — and to doing everything we can to reduce the risk of future wildfires,” said spokesman Andy Castagnola in a written statement. Back in June, Cal Fire (California’s fire agency) determined that PG&E power equipment sparked at least a dozen major wildfires in 2017. And now, the agency is looking into whether or not the company sparked the November 2018 fire that ended up being the deadliest and most destructive one in the state’s history. Related: Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires If Cal Fire determines that PG&E caused that fire , it could result in the company having to pay billions from legal action against them. Insurance companies Allstate, State Farm, and USAA have already filed lawsuits against the utility, and some equity analysts project that the damages from the recent wildfire could exceed PG&E’s market value and its insurance coverage. The California Public Utilities Commission would have to approve PG&E’s plan of selling their natural gas division. The regulatory agency has already expressed their concern about the utility’s inferior safety record, as well as their lack of transparency and past efforts to pass liability costs onto their customers. State Sen. Bill Dodd, who originally supported shielding PG&E from liability costs related to the 2017 fires, has now switched gears. “PG&E has demonstrated a pattern of poor management and illegal conduct that has shattered lives across California,” Dodd said in a statement. He also called for “systemic change, which must include change on the board of directors and in the executive suite.” Via NPR Images via skeeze

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Californias largest utility company plans massive sale of natural gas division

This museum is carved into the seaside sand dunes of China’s Gold Coast

December 18, 2018 by  
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International firm  OPEN Architecture has unveiled a stunning museum embedded into the sand dunes along China’s Gold Coast. At 10,000 square feet, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is a massive structure, but its all-white cladding and various low, curved volumes tucked deep into the rolling landscape give the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) a modern yet unassuming character. Located on the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay, the museum was a labor of love for the architects, who spent three years carefully crafting the design to be as much a work of art as the museum’s collection. Embedding the structure into the sand dunes was a strategic decision to help protect the landscape from over-development. Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency “The decision to create the art museum underneath the dunes surrounding it was born out of both the architects’ deep reverence for nature and their desire to protect the vulnerable dune ecosystem, formed by natural forces over thousands of years,” said the project description. “Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments, as has happened to many other dunes along the shore.” The unique space is comprised of various pod-like structures whose curved volumes were made possible thanks to small linear wood strips bent into shape. During the construction, the architects collaborated with local workers from Qinhuangdao, many of whom are former shipbuilders. The architects paid their respect to the handcrafted labor by leaving the imperfect textures of the formwork visible. Covered in concrete and painted a stark white, the museum’s multiple roofs are finished with sand . This feature not only helped connect the design to the natural landscape, but it also helps to reduce solar gain on the interior. Additionally, the museum is equipped with a low-energy, zero-emissions ground source heat pump that keeps the building cool during the searing summer months. Embedded into the rolling sand dunes, the curvaceous volumes house the museum’s 10 galleries. Visitors to the museum enter through a long, dark tunnel and small reception area. Further into the structure, the exhibition spaces are made up of immense cave-like rooms clad in raw concrete. Throughout the interior, large cutouts in the roof and multiple skylights of varying sizes flood the galleries with natural light . A large spiral staircase leads visitors from the underground galleries up to the museum’s open-air viewing platform as well as a cafe space. Here, guests can enjoy the stunning views of the sea. + OPEN Architecture Via Archpaper Photography by Wu Qingshan via Open Architecture

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This museum is carved into the seaside sand dunes of China’s Gold Coast

Own a funky, biophilic home by an acclaimed upcycling artist for $1.2M

November 28, 2018 by  
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A truly one-of-a-kind home has surfaced on the Florida market that offers luxury living in a lush, jungle-like environment as well as a wealth of upcycled art . Located just north of Fort Lauderdale in the town of Wilton Manors, the home is a sculptural oasis designed by owner Michael Jude Russo, an internationally renowned multimedia artist. Filled with light and views of the outdoors, the unique two-bedroom, two-bath dwelling is now being sold for $1,200,000, an asking price that includes all of the sculptures and art on display in the house, studio and gardens. Built in 1957 on a roughly quarter-acre lot facing south, the creative artist’s 1,386-square-foot residence features an open-floor plan with an abundance of glass to blur the boundaries between the indoors and out. “The inspiration came from my lifelong belief in the circularity of good design (no ‘dead ends’) and its integration with nature,” explained owner and artist Michael Jude Russo . “My favorite aspect of the house is how natural light plays visually through the interior during the day. I appreciate the house as an artistically interconnected functional entity. One that offers framed garden views through every door and window.” In addition to the property’s many artworks that were built of recycled and reclaimed materials, the home and furnishings were constructed primarily from sustainable and natural building materials. Russo also added that all the landscaping and house upkeep were “organically maintained,” meaning no pesticides were used. The plumbing, electrical systems and roof were replaced in 2009. Original artist-designed light fixtures and built-in, sculptural, artist-designed glassware and china cabinets can be found throughout the home. Related: Italian artist creates extraordinary sculptures out of reclaimed driftwood Water features prominently in the landscape, from the 10,000-gallon saltwater swimming pool to the 1,500-gallon river water feature integrated with two fountains and a salt system. Full-height sliding doors create a seamless connection with the garden. The property at 401 NE 26 Drive, Wilton Manors, Florida is currently being listed by Virginia Hornaday of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty for $1,200,000. + Artist Residence Wilton Manors Images by Iuse Steve Brown for ONE Sotheby’s Realty

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Own a funky, biophilic home by an acclaimed upcycling artist for $1.2M

Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

August 24, 2018 by  
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A new study has revealed Chicago to be the greenest city to work in within the U.S for the second consecutive year. About 70 percent of the Windy City’s office spaces are certified for energy efficiency, up from 66 percent last year. Other top cities include San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Each year, the U.S. Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE Group) surveys buildings in the 30 largest U.S real estate market areas and evaluates the results in collaboration with  Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Results depend on the amount of square footage of LEED – or Energy Star-certified commercial buildings constructed within a city. This year’s records show an extraordinary total of 4,700 green buildings in these 30 areas. The total square footage now accounts for 41 percent of all office spaces. CBRE Senior Vice President David Pogue revealed that green certification has “become a proxy for good building management,” in recent years. “Particularly in the services sector, a lot of their energy use and environmental impact is in the buildings they occupy, so the tenant base is demanding this, and institutional financiers also believe a sustainable building is a better building,” he said. According to the EPA, commercial buildings account for approximately 19 percent of total energy use in the country. As such, they are often the largest contributors of carbon emissions within cities. To combat this, LEED certification was established by The Green Building Council, which recognizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through evaluation of aspects such as water systems and energy efficiency. Similarly, the EPA’s own Energy Star program focuses on strict performance standards in the energy category. “So many buildings have become dependent on this as a way of demonstrating quality to investors and corporate tenants,” Pogue added. “It’s going to cause every building to go back and reconsider what their energy use is — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Chicago is well on its way to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in city-run properties by 2025. Close competitors include San Francisco, with 64 percent of its office spaces certified as energy-efficient. Also notable is Los Angeles, which has the most Energy Star buildings, 716 in total, compared to Chicago’s 339. Via Bloomberg Images via Alan Stark and Michel Curi

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Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

10 minutes with Amanda von Almen, Salesforce

August 13, 2018 by  
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A green building evangelist shares how she convinced the tech giant’s real estate team to prioritize the environmental and health aspects of the company’s workspaces.

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10 minutes with Amanda von Almen, Salesforce

Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development

June 22, 2018 by  
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Like in many places across the U.S., the real estate market is booming in Aspen , Colorado. And, as companies move in to replenish the dwindling housing inventory, one real estate developer hopes to provide a more sustainable alternative to the inevitable onslaught of cookie-cutter homes. Working in collaboration with San Francisco-based Aidlin Darling Design , the developer has completed a solar-powered dwelling that serves as a new energy-efficient prototype for speculative real estate in Aspen. Located on the steep slopes of Red Mountain, the Aspen Residence boasts spectacular panoramic views that overlook Aspen to the west and an undeveloped landscape to the south. The spacious home covers an area of 9,618 square feet and is oriented on a north-south axis to maximize views, preserve privacy, and optimize passive solar strategies. To tie the contemporary design to the landscape, the architects used local materials and long stone walls that anchor the space into the hillside and frame outdoor spaces that function as extensions of indoor living areas. “The client, a developer with an earnest desire to change the real estate paradigm in Aspen, desired a more sustainable, site-sensitive , and modern alternative to the usual developments,” explains Aidlin Darling Design. “The design challenges conventional notions of interior and exterior, absorbing the surrounding landscape.” Related: Solar-powered Colorado school houses a sun-soaked learning environment Sustainability is key to the design. The Aspen Residence’s rooftop is integrated with a 12.6 kW solar photovoltaic array as well as a green roof and solar hot water panels. The roof is also designed to slow and reduce stormwater runoff in conjunction with the on-site bio-retention pond. To reduce energy demands, the home is wrapped in closed cell spray foam insulation and punctuated with glazed windows and doors that let in natural light and promote natural ventilation. Moreover, energy-efficient radiant heating is built into the floor slabs and a heat recovery ventilation system recaptures heat from exhausted indoor air. + Aidlin Darling Design Images via Aidlin Darling Design

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Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development

Why retailers like Target are powering up more EV charging infrastructure

April 23, 2018 by  
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The investments could appeal to new sorts of shoppers.

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Why retailers like Target are powering up more EV charging infrastructure

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