This elegant vacation retreat rises from the pink earth in Mexico

August 29, 2018 by  
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Mexican design studio Taller Héctor Barroso crafted a cluster of pinkish holiday homes that appear to emerge straight out of the earth. Dubbed Entre Pinos in reference to the surrounding pine forest, this modern vacation retreat derives its natural appearance from local soil that covers the exterior and interior brick walls. The soil was  recycled from the onsite excavations for burying the foundations, and it blends the buildings into the landscape. Located in the idyllic town of Valle de Bravo, two hours west of Mexico City , Entre Pinos comprises five identical weekend houses arranged in a row to follow the site’s sloping topography. Covering an area of 1,700 square meters, the homes were built from local materials, including timber, brick and earth. Each weekend home consists of six smaller volumes arranged around a central patio. The volumes toward the north are more solid and introverted, while those to the south open up to embrace the garden, forest and sunshine, which penetrates deep inside the buildings. The communal areas, as well as one of the bedrooms, are arranged on the ground floor and connect to the outdoors through terraces and patios. Three bedrooms can be found on the top floor and frame views of the pines through large windows. The Entre Pinos project recently received a 2018 AZ Award in the category ‘Best in Architecture – Residential Single Family Residential Interiors.’ Related: This gabled home wraps around an existing pine tree in Mexico “The firm led by architect Hector Barroso seeks to generate architectural proposals that manage to merge with their environment, taking advantage of the natural resources of each place: the influence of light and shadows, the surrounding vegetation, the composition of the land and the geographic,” reads the project statement. “Thanks to this, the projects merge in harmony with the environment that surrounds them, creating spaces that emphasize the habitable quality of the architecture.” + Taller Héctor Barroso Images by Rory Gardiner

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This elegant vacation retreat rises from the pink earth in Mexico

Award-winning luxury townhouses boast energy-efficient, passive solar design

August 28, 2018 by  
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Melbourne Design Studios has dramatically transformed a row of townhouses in the historic, post-industrial neighborhood of Richmond, Melbourne . The six bespoke urban homes—named ‘No Two The Same’—are strikingly contemporary, with light-filled interiors, handsome facades and a bevy of sustainable features that have earned the project an average 7-Star NatHERS Rating across all townhouses. The sustainable development was recently awarded Building Design of the Year at the 2018 Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) Awards. Located opposite a former shoe factory, the project included a number of challenges in addition to its narrow laneway location. The heritage setting required careful design attention, particularly due to its unusual battle-axe shape and the inclusion of a derelict heritage home in desperate need of an extensive renovation. Wanting to complement the neighborhood’s mix of Victorian architecture and warehouse conversions, the architects scaled the development to fit the area’s proportions and gave each townhouse an individualized facade constructed with materials that reference the area’s industrial past. The perforated laser-cut screens, in particular, double as artwork referencing local culture. Each home comprises three to four bedrooms and two bathrooms within 200 to 230 square meters of space that opens up to 100 to 120 square meters of outdoor space. “Marking a significant departure from conventional townhouse typology, each dwelling offers multi-functional and spacious living in an otherwise tightly built-up urban area,” explain the architects. “Boasting a rare combination of light-filled internal spaces gathered around multiple outdoor spaces and rooftop terrace with city skyline views, each townhouse has over 20% more outdoor space than a typical solution, with the six different outdoor spaces designed for various activities and purposes.” Related: Solar-powered home cuts a bold and sculptural silhouette in Melbourne To meet sustainability targets, the architects relied on passive solar principles, which dictated north-facing orientation, the “thermal chimney” effect that dispels hot air in summer, and cross-ventilation year-round. Natural and recycled materials were used throughout. Natural light is drawn deep into the home through double-glazed, thermally broken windows. The home also includes highly efficient insulation, solar hot-water heaters, and rainwater tanks that provide 14,000 liters of storage across the entire development. + Melbourne Design Studios Images by Peter Clarke

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Award-winning luxury townhouses boast energy-efficient, passive solar design

13 shipping containers are reborn as a new restaurant on Treasure Island

August 20, 2018 by  
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On the heart of San Francisco’s man-made Treasure Island, a chic restaurant has popped up inside a series of recycled shipping containers. In a nod to the city’s history as a major port, local design firm Mavrik Studio crafted the new eatery — named Mersea after an Old English word meaning “island oasis” — out of 13 shipping containers and a variety of other materials found on the island, such as reclaimed wood. The decision to use cargotecture was also a practical one given the uncertainty of development on Treasure Island; the restaurant can be disassembled and moved when needed. A total of 13  shipping containers have been repurposed to create Mersea’s indoor bar and dining space that seats 60 people, an MRDK military-grade kitchen, bathrooms and a private dining area. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the restaurant with natural light and frame stunning views of the city skyline on clear days. Mersea also includes a golf putting green and bocce court. Environmental sustainability and recycling are key parts of the restaurant design. In addition to the repurposed shipping containers, the design team upcycled pallets and used reclaimed wood furniture pieces to create new seating. The herb garden is also made from recycled pallets. In homage to the old Treasure Island Bowling Alley, artist and carpenter Joe Wrye and executive chef Parke Ulrich constructed two communal tables from the former maple bowling alley lanes. Related: German company converts old shipping containers into gorgeous living spaces Continuing the theme of recycling , the restaurant also teamed up with famous New York-based street artist Tom Bob, who furnished Mersea with unique and cartoonish artworks made from common and oft-overlooked street infrastructure elements like pipes, poles, metal grates and gas meters. The industrial installations — such as the jailbird constructed from pipes in reference to Alcatraz Island, which can be seen from the restaurant — complement Mersea’s light-filled, industrial setting. + Mersea Images by Sarah Chorey

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A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves

August 15, 2018 by  
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With summer still in full swing and heatwaves gripping countries around the world, breweries across  Germany have been scrambling to keep up with the beer demand from hot and thirsty customers. The brew masters have enough of the bubbly beverage to go around, but companies are running out of containers to distribute their goods as people continue drinking  beer without returning the bottles for reuse fast enough. While there are approximately 4 billion beer bottles in circulation within Germany, the demand for beer is higher than the return rate of the glass bottles. Germany is very proactive in recycling , having one of the highest recycling rates in the EU at around 50 percent, according to a Eurostat data report . Customers pay a small deposit on bottles when they buy beer from the store, which they get back when they return the empty cases. This small incentive, and a high regard for the environment, encourages customers to reuse and refill the glass bottles up to 30 times. Related: France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive Greif Brewery recently told its customers to return their empty bottles, or they would have to go without beer. “We’ve had a beer bottle shortage since the middle of May,” said Christian Schuster, employee of Greif Brewery. “We can’t get hold of used ones fast enough, and ordering new ones takes time. I’m having to send my delivery guys out to look for old, empty bottles.” According to master brewer Thomas Tyrell, who heads up the Berlin plant for California’s Stone Brewing, German attitudes toward aluminum cans are contributing to the problem as much as the heat is. Most Germans believe that cans are not environmentally friendly, so they prefer glass bottles. This is not the case, he pointed out, and the cans hold the same small deposit fees as their glass counterparts. Many Germans also see drinking beer out of a can as being crass and ill-bred, but soon they may not care as many breweries struggle to put fresh beer on the shelves. Related: The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles Meanwhile, Stone Brewing may have found the only solution to the problem. Stone opened its first brewery in Berlin two years ago — with canned beer. Manners aside, Tyrell added, “We think it’s best for the beer… there is no light ingress and, over time, there are some oxygen permeations through the lid of a bottle, which the can doesn’t have.” Any beer is good beer when there is none to be had, but with crisp and refreshing beer, Stone seems to hold a sustainable recipe for success. Via NPR Image via Kaktuslampan/Flickr

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Singapore, the City in a Garden, sets an example for a green planet

August 15, 2018 by  
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Singapore has transformed itself from a hub of pollution to an environmental dream-city in the past 50 years. From afar, the country’s landscape looks like any other modern city with abounding skyscrapers etched into its skyline. On the inside however, a green heart has grown at the center of the city, spreading into the minds of its people and up the walls of its buildings. This heart was initiated by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew — often called ‘Chief Gardener’ — who pushed his imperative of a clean and green Singapore until it became reality. In the 1960s, raw sewage loaded already-polluted canals of the city-state with so much waste that they poured sludge-like  waters into the Singapore River and surrounding areas. “In the 1960s, Singapore was like any other developing country – dirty and polluted, lacking proper sanitation and facing high unemployment,” Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources for Singapore, explained in his recent address to the Global Environment Outlook 6 (GEO6) . “These challenges were particularly acute, given our constraints as a small island state with limited resources; we did not even have enough drinking water.” These problems encouraged rapid industrialization to help improve living conditions for the citizens of Singapore, but the widespread urbanization only aggravated the environmental concerns. Related: A rainforest-like green heart grows within Singapore’s Marina One Yew saw the decay as “a blighted urban jungle of concrete [that] destroys the human spirit.” He believed that “we need the greenery of nature to lift our spirits,” hence planting the first tree of many in 1963 to inspire a generation of eco-warriors into action. This has become The Singapore Story  of the ‘Biophilic City in a Garden.’ The incredible journey began with this small deed, shortly before Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. Now, the city sits at the center of architectural innovation and technological design and has become a green global powerhouse. “We merely wanted to rise above the region we found ourselves in,” Lim Liang Jim, group director of the  National Biodiversity Centre at the National Parks Board, said in an interview with UN Environment . “Lee Kuan Yew had a plan. Keep us clean. Keep us green.” The generation that pioneered this change understood that if Singapore became “a nice place to live, then people will come and invest. Then we moved up,” Jim explained. But the movement was not solely economic or aesthetic in nature. The small self-governing city-state was urged to clean up the region by Singaporeans who wanted to stay on their land. These residents launched a strenuous 30-year campaign, cleaning up pollution and creating agencies where there were none to support their cause. This lead to the inception of the National Parks Board, which decided there should be greenery and plant life everywhere people looked. The board rejected the idea of being confined to a concrete jungle and instead constructed a sustainable model for any city to follow. Part of the ongoing changes involves educating students from an early age on the importance of environmental awareness, protection and advocacy. “We are going back to history, to ensure that we build from the ground up and ensure that the youth of Singapore don’t take our 50 years of history for granted,” said Lim, who believes that history can be easily forgotten by the minds of young Singaporeans who only know the smell of fresh air and the sights of lush greenery. “[Environmentalism] has to be something that is driven by the grassroots movement, it has to become in a sense political. You can’t easily turn a nature reserve into buildings, it would require some reasoned discussion with the public. We have to make sure that the younger generation appreciates our nature and biodiversity and do not take them for granted.” Related: Giant glowing bottle walls light up Singapore for “plastic binge” awareness This is Singapore’s mission in preserving the achievements it has made while ensuring the future of its vision as an environmental champion. It believes that its citizens are entrusted a with stewardship that makes caring for common spaces second-nature. The residents built this new Singapore from the ground up, adding innovative features like the SGBioAtlas , which allows members of the public to become ‘citizen scientists’ by uploading photos of plants or animals and to the National Biodiversity Centre’s central database. Other ongoing projects include urban planning and zoning as well as policy changes and public awareness campaigns focused on a smaller carbon footprint and zero waste, among other goals. With its visionary leadership, Singapore’s long-term plan includes a phase of sustainable development found in its Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 , which underlines improvement in sectors that include all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through 2030. “Our approach has been to build a livable and sustainable city through pragmatic policy-making based on sound economic principles and science; a focus on long-term planning and effective implementation; and the ability to mobilize popular support for the common good,” Zulkifli said. Singapore has set the standard for a clean and green future worldwide, and it looks absolutely inviting. + The Singapore Story Via UN Environment Images via Joan Campderrós-i-Canas ( 1 , 2 ), Jaafar Alnasser and Jo Sau

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France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

August 14, 2018 by  
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Take that, plastic! France has announced that it plans to make bottles made with recycled plastic less expensive than those made from new plastic, part of a larger plan to intensify regulations on plastic use. Other aspects of the plan include increasing taxes on landfill and lowering the value-added tax on recycling activities. Related: Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets According to Junior Environment Minister Brune Poirson, the French government will introduce further specific measures to address the problem of plastic pollution . “We need to transform the French economy,” she said. “We are launching a movement that will be scrutinized and followed by our European partners.” Part of this movement is a plan to reduce the price of products packaged in recycled containers by up to 10 percent. The discount-premium system encourages its consumers to recycle by making sustainability the more affordable option. “Tomorrow, when there is a choice between two bottles, one made with recycled plastic, the other not, the first one will be cheaper,” Poiron stated. Related: Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution Currently, France has the second-worst recycling rate in Europe, with just 25.5 percent of its plastic packaging waste recycled. By comparison, Germany and the Netherlands recycle about 50 percent of their plastic waste. Nevertheless, the French government plans to change its plastic recycling rate to 100% by the year 2025, with the recent announcement marking the first steps toward this goal. Veolia and Suez, recycling powerhouses in the French market, have long been calling for the regulation changes, which would provide a boost for business. Retailers have also joined the cause; for example, French company E.Leclerc has pledged to eliminate the sale of throwaway plastics and replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives, such as bamboo , and is testing a loyalty point system for customers who deposit plastic and glass bottles in some store outlets. + Eurostat + Le Journal de Dimanche Via Reuters

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France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

Court orders Monsanto to pay $289 million in cancer trial

August 14, 2018 by  
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Agrochemical company Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who said the Bayer subsidiary’s chemical products gave him cancer. On Friday, a California jury ruled that the company acted with knowledge that risks of cancer were possible when allowing their weedkillers, such as Roundup , to remain on the market with no hazard warnings. The $289 million sum consists of $39 million in compensatory damages with the remaining $250 million accorded for punitive damages. The three-day trial in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco concluded with the determination that Monsanto did not warn consumers like Johnson of the dangers associated to glyphosate exposure. The 46-year-old’s case was filed in 2016, but it was rushed to trial as a result of the acuteness of his cancer. Doctors predicted that Johnson, a pest control manager for a California county school system, would not live past 2020 because of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma he developed while being on the job. Related: California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate Johnson regularly used popular Monsanto products Roundup and Ranger Pro, both herbicides containing glyphosate , a chemical that poses cancer risks to humans. Monsanto plans to appeal the verdict and cited 800 scientific studies and reviews in its support of the weedkillers. The company said, “Glyphosate does not cause cancer and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer.” Monsanto was recently acquired for $62.5 billion by the German conglomerate Bayer, which is now faced with more than 5,000 lawsuits across the U.S. that resemble Mr. Johnson’s case. Related: Court orders EPA to ban pesticide that causes learning disabilities in children Jurors on the trial were privy to never-before-seen internal company documents “proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate, and specifically Roundup, could cause cancer,” Brent Wisner, Johnson’s lawyer, revealed in a statement. Wisner’s demand to the company was simple — “Put consumer safety first over profits.” Via The New York Times Image via Global Justice Now

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Court orders Monsanto to pay $289 million in cancer trial

Abandoned house gets a gorgeous, energy-efficient refresh

August 9, 2018 by  
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Few homes undergo the trials and tribulations of Boston Villa – and fewer still receive a gorgeous renovation that also wins an architectural prize. But in the Fitzroy neighborhood of Melbourne, Australia, that’s exactly what happened. For years, Boston Villa stood abandoned, serving as a shelter for indigent wanderers. Even after Nest Architects ‘ clients Dean and Lisa saw promise in the property, someone set it on fire halfway into the preliminary stages of the rebuilding process. The couple remained undaunted, however, and Nest Architects forged ahead with the overhaul, creating a beautiful, light-filled home with numerous energy-saving and sustainable features. For the project’s first phase, the architects tore down walls to let natural light and air flow freely through the space. This demolition also opened up views of courtyards and created light sources throughout the structure. Skylights illuminate the laundry room and bathroom, louvered windows let filtered light brighten the children’s bedrooms, and an enormous glazed glass wall brings the glow of sunlight into the study, guest room, dining room, kitchen and living spaces. Rustic timber columns and beams accentuate this wall and help it harmonize with the rest of the home’s aesthetic. Two large windows flanked by striking Victorian brickwork highlight the front of the structure. Related: Abandoned house transformed into a gorgeous sanctuary on a remote Chinese mountain Because the clients wanted a sustainable home as well, Nest Architects included a number of features that reduce the house’s overall footprint. The concrete slab foundation effectively controls heat loss, and internal thermal blinds coupled with low-E glass fend off heat from the sun. The architects used recycled fittings and fixtures in every room; additionally, all the plywood and timber came from recycled sources. Low-voltage lighting and appliances with five-star energy ratings further reduce the amount of electricity consumed. Boston Villa won the Victorian Institute of Architects Award in the Alterations and Additions Category in 2011. + Nest Architects Images via Jesse Marlow

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Japan considers adopting daylight savings time for 2020 Summer Olympics

August 7, 2018 by  
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This summer’s deadly heatwaves in Japan  have caused government and Olympic officials to consider the benefits of adopting daylight savings time for the  2020 Summer Olympics to ensure athlete safety. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered his ruling party to consider what impacts a two hour shift forward would have on the country after backlash on social media followed the announcement. Adopting daylight savings time would allow events such as the marathon to be scheduled in the cooler morning hours. Masa Takaya, spokesperson for the 2020 games, urged the time push, saying it would also “help protect the environment and realize a low-carbon society in Japan,” alongside other efforts to add more plant life and heat-inhibiting pavements in the city. Although the time shift would provide both energy-saving and safety measures in the face of climate change , many citizens are protesting that the change would result in longer working hours for them. This is not a light claim made by the Japanese labor force, as a 2017 report by BBC News revealed that most individuals in the nation clock in more than 80 hours of overtime each month. Related: Japan wants to make 2020 Olympic medals from recycled smartphones Japan has not used the daylight savings system since the U.S. Occupation following World War II from 1948 until 1952. The event, a sour subject for many Japanese, also impeded initiatives during the 1970s and early 2000s to return to the system in the hopes of conserving energy in the country. The 2020 Summer Olympics are set to be held in Tokyo from July 24 until August 9, 2020, followed by the Paralympics from August 25 until September 6. As these are typically the hottest months of the year and likely to become hotter with global warming , the decision to enforce daylights savings time in Japan weighs very precariously in the balance for now. + 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Via Reuters and  The Japan Times Image via T-Mizo

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These bold, eco-friendly bathrooms reduce water usage by 80%

August 3, 2018 by  
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Hong Kong-based design practice Ida&Billy Architects have completed an unusually eye-catching bathroom redesign for a Guangzhou shopping mall that boasts striking looks and sustainable elements. Crafted with human comfort in mind, these renovated toilets at the TaiKoo Hui mixed-use development are almost a destination in themselves due to the colorful patterned aesthetic, sculptural clean lines and adherence to green design principles. In addition to the use of recycled materials and gray water recycling systems, the eco-friendly bathrooms also feature air-purifying indoor plants. Tucked underground, the bathrooms at TaiKoo Hui are designed to embrace their subterranean location with a modern grotto-like appearance featuring curved doorways and openings. White paint brightens up the curved walls while LED strips illuminate the space. The original bathroom layout was preserved during the renovation to minimize structural and piping changes. The original sandstone and gray tiles were crushed and turned into aggregate for the newly cast dark gray terrazzo floors. “The sustainable design toilet aims to raise the environmental awareness in the public realm and to become the role model of sustainability in the commercial and retail sector,” the architects explained in their project statement. “The design aims to tie back to nature, formally as well as environmentally. Sustainability, spatial sculpting and human comfort drive the whole design.” Related: 8 toilet designs that could save millions of lives around the world The architects chose glass fiber reinforced gypsum (GRG) panels (made with recycled content) to create the curved surfaces that seamlessly connect the walls to the ceilings in the eco-friendly bathrooms. Aided by two fans for circulation, indoor plants improve indoor oxygen levels and bring a splash of green to the windowless space. Collected and filtered gray water is used for irrigation. The waterless urinal and water-saving toilets are estimated to save water usage by 80 percent and reduce waste by 60 percent on a daily basis. + Ida&Billy Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Ida&Billy Architects

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