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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A 1950s house receives a bioclimatic renovation in Mexico

July 23, 2018 by  
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When Mexican architecture practice Hector Delmar Arquitectura was tapped to renovate a dark and dated 1950s house in the city of Naucalpan, it did more than just update the dwelling to modern standards. The architects dramatically opened the existing structure up to light and the outdoors, expanded the footprint to a site area of 8,288 square feet and applied bioclimatic and sustainable strategies such as radiant floors and solar photovoltaic panels. The breezy home — called the C260 House — erases boundaries between the light-filled interiors and the lushly-planted landscape. Set on an old garden with large trees, the original 1950s flat-roofed house suffered from a lack of ventilation . In renovating the building, the architects began by tearing back layers of materials applied to the building after numerous alterations to reveal 21-centimeter-thick brick walls and concrete slabs that the architects retained as their starting point. The team also knocked down some walls to expose the home to cross breezes and installed thin protruding roofs to offer shelter from the elements and to give the residence an airy  pavilion -like feel throughout. The team also focused on using reclaimed and recycled materials in renovating the old home. “Carpentry and wooden features were reclaimed from demolition, also timber beams were reclaimed from a demolished restaurant nearby and used for shading the terrace and other additions,” the architects said. Related: This sustainable bioclimatic home is made of volcanic ash and prickly pear fibers The primary rooms of the home were moved to the new addition, while the old structure is now used for secondary functions including a gymnasium, three bathrooms, a dressing room, pool and service areas. Outdoor areas were carved from the garden to further emphasize the home’s connection with the landscape, and the concrete slab slopes were modified to capture storm water and to optimize thermal mass. The house is also equipped with solar hot water heaters, water pumps, radiant floors and a solar array. + Hector Delmar Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images via Luis Gordoa

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Energy-plus home is a beacon of sustainability in Tel Aviv

July 17, 2018 by  
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Israeli architecture firm Geotectura recently completed a striking modern home that can produce more energy than it needs. Located in Tel Aviv , the energy-plus home — called the Eco360 — combines traditional passive design principles with improved energy-efficient systems such as solar photovoltaic panels and a gray water system. The sustainable house also embraces views of the outdoors and offers plenty of natural light. The project brief was for a modern home that could elegantly incorporate sustainable features with minimal maintenance. The client desired a house that would serve as an environmentally-friendly example for other developments. In addition to being equipped with solar panels and a gray water system, the Eco360 house also features durable and recycled materials . Aided by the mild Mediterranean climate, the energy-plus home requires little, if any, heating thanks to its highly efficient insulation and passive solar design . The energy generated from simple household items, like a hair dryer, can be enough to heat the home. Due to the client’s desires to embrace views of the sea to the west, Geotectura doesn’t face south as recommended in traditional passive solar design teachings. As a result, the architects used BIM (Building Information Modeling) to determine the optimal building envelope and positioning to harness passive design features while facing west. Related: Incredible rooftop farm takes over Israel’s oldest mall to grow thousands of organic vegetables “The client’s hope is that the house will inspire others to consider ways in which they can also use these green principles in building and that it will serve as a model of efficiency and environmental sensitivity,” wrote Geotectura in its project statement. “The house reveals and reflects the ideas of sustainability with more than 50 green design features. The hope is to raise awareness about green design challenges and solutions.” + Geotectura Via ArchDaily Images by Lior Avitan

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Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment

July 10, 2018 by  
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Coffee drinkers around the world can soon sip their daily latte in peace, knowing it is getting better for the environment. Starbucks has announced it will eliminate single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 company-owned and -licensed stores by 2020. The company will replace them with compostable straws (for blended drinks) and recyclable, strawless lids. Plastic pollution from single-use products is a major concern. The United Nations’ Environment Program estimates as many as eight million tons of disposable plastic products end up in the oceans each year, where it ultimately harms aquatic ecosystems. Related: This British café is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste To reduce its overall reliance on plastics, the coffee giant is introducing strawless lids for the majority of its beverages — including cold coffee drinks. For its blended offerings, the company will move to paper or compostable plastic straws. The new lids were approved for global distribution after testing in 8,000 North American stores, as well as select Asian countries. Starbucks’ home stores in Seattle and Vancouver will be the first to fully transition to the lids starting in the second half of 2018, followed by transitioning in Europe. Its goal is to completely remove the single-use plastic items over the next two years. “For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee ,” Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO, said in a statement,“served to our customers in more sustainable ways.” The change to drinkable lids and straws made out of paper or biodegradable plastic is part of a larger goal set for the company. Starbucks is also expanding a paper cup surcharge to 950 stores in the United Kingdom by the end of July 2018 to discourage their use, while offering discounts to those who bring in reusable cups . In addition, the company wants to include 20 percent post-consumer recycled fiber in its cups by 2022 and have achieved 99 percent ethical sourcing of its coffee. However, government reports suggest the coffee industry has a long way to go before going completely green. The British parliament discovered the coffee industry adds 2.5 billion disposable cups to the nation’s landfills annually. + Starbucks

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Mode:lina upcycles construction materials into an industrial-chic eatery

July 9, 2018 by  
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This new eatery in Pozna? , Poland sports an unconventional interior that’s all about imaginative upcycling. Polish architectural interior design studio mode:lina outfitted the restaurant — called The Rusztowanie Grill and Bistro — with a suite of construction materials repurposed into decor, serving plates, lighting fixtures and more. Serving up comfort food like massive burgers and hearty soups, the eatery’s contemporary and industrial-chic design matches its Instagrammable food offerings. Located in ?azarz (St. Lazarus District), one of the oldest districts in Pozna?, Rusztowanie Grill and Bistro can be found in the basement of a historic townhouse that dates back more than 100 years. The space spans 538 square feet and was designed with products sourced from a building warehouse. The existing exposed brick walls were retained and, matched with the Edison bulbs, track lighting and exposed concrete ceiling, they give the space an industrial feel that’s emphasized in the decor. Timber sourced from the warehouse forms the bar front and booth seating. The timbers were deliberately misaligned to bring attention to their raw appearance. Galvanized metal pipes were reworked into sculptural lamps, table legs and wall partitions. Concrete lattice paving blocks were stacked in front of some of the exposed brick walls that are painted black. The burgers are even served on a shovel head repurposed as a plate. Related: Spiky sweets shop makes extraordinary use of the common traffic cone “[We] ensured that the interior design of a basement in an over 100-year old townhouse is consistent with the name and communication strategy of the restaurant,” explained mode:lina in a project statement. “All is done in line with the type of food available here – simple dishes served in an unusual way.” + mode:lina Images by Patryk Lewin?ski

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This British caf is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste

July 5, 2018 by  
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A coffee shop northeast of London wants to serve its customers coffee in a mug from your home.  La Tour Cycle Café has a novel idea to stop its reliance on disposable coffee cups: pour everything into reusable ceramic mugs, even if the order is to-go. A 2017 report from Britain’s House of Commons discovered as many as 2.5 billion coffee cups are disposed across the United Kingdom every year. This equates to more than 6.8 million cups per day. To cut down the amount of waste from hot beverages, the La Tour Cycle Café has started serving everything — including to-go beverages — in  reusable mugs . Although customers sometimes choose to take their beverages with them, supplying more mugs for the next customer isn’t a problem for the café. Every day, the business puts out a collection basket for coffee drinkers to return their cups . While many choose to come back with their glassware, even more use the opportunity to clean out their cabinets and donate their unused mugs to the café. “We’ve all got mugs languishing in our cupboards that we no longer need,” Anna Matthews, the owner of La Tour Cycle Café, told the BBC . “Why not donate them to your local coffee shop and allow people to actually have a hot drink in a china cup while they walk around?” Related: German city offers ingenious alternative to single-use coffee cups The unique program allows people to reduce the amount of waste destined for landfills  while still enjoying their favorite beverages. But reusing and recycling isn’t a new concept for Matthews and La Tour Cycle. Earlier in 2018, Matthews worked with a contractor team to transform a vacated building. Matthews was able to move her business into the bigger space, which features better wheelchair accessibility and public art displays. The café — and its eclectic collection of coffee mugs — only plans to be in the new space for two years;  Matthews has aspirations to move and give new life to another abandoned building by then. + La Tour Cycle Café Via BBC , The East Anglican Daily Times  and  Treehugger

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This British caf is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste

Net-zero Sawmill House is 100% self sufficient in California’s high desert

June 28, 2018 by  
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Building a comfortable self-sufficient dwelling is no easy task, especially when in a harsh climate. But when Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig was tapped to design an off-grid home in the high desert in California, the architects rose to the challenge and delivered an elegant, net-zero dwelling known as the Sawmill House. Located in Tehachapi, California, the Sawmill House serves as a family retreat that weathers the harsh climate with durable materials and sustainable strategies. Completed in 2014, the Sawmill House is named after the valley in which it resides—a scrubby and remote landscape that had been used for mining, ranching and logging. In a departure from the site’s past, the homeowners wanted a family retreat with minimal environmental disturbance that would “give back to the land, rather than take from it.” With that guiding principle in mind, Olson Kundig crafted a self-sustaining, net-zero  vacation home that maximized connections between the indoors and outdoors. Spread out across 4,200 square feet, the Sawmill House is built mainly of concrete blocks, steel and glass, materials chosen for their durability against the harsh and fire-prone landscape. The living space with a central hearth marks the heart of the off-grid home and features a stunning 12-by-26-foot window wall that completely retracts with a few turns of the wheel, opening up the interior to the outdoor patio . The three bedrooms are housed in the three wings that branch off from the central living space. The longer wing, which houses the master bedroom, also includes the kitchen and dining area. Related: Floating Olson Kundig home makes way for Washington wildlife “Tough as nails, Sawmill is made from durable materials that can withstand the harsh climate, where fires are a major hazard in summer and winters are extremely cold,” says Olson Kundig Architects. “The design approach was driven by a scavenger mentality, seeking always to do more with less, including using salvaged and recycled materials whenever possible.” The home is powered with a photovoltaic solar array and comes with backup propane and generator; water is supplied by an on-site well. + Olson Kundig Images by Gabe Border and Kevin Scott / Olson Kundig

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Net-zero Sawmill House is 100% self sufficient in California’s high desert

A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal

June 28, 2018 by  
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Five tons of plastic waste has been pulled from the oceans and transformed into the Bruges Whale, a gigantic sculpture that highlights the staggering amount of trash floating in our oceans. Designed by Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang of the Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary practice StudioKCA , this massive environmental artwork was created for the 2018 Bruges Triennial with the theme of “Liquid City.” The Bruges Whale, also called the Skyscraper, was positioned to appear in mid-breach in a canal opposite the city’s iconic Jan Van Eyck statue. Installed in the UNESCO World Heritage City Center of Bruges, the Bruges Whale was created to draw attention to the unrelenting flow of plastic waste into our oceans — with an estimated eight million tons added every year. Teaming up with Hawaii Wildlife Fund and Surfrider Foundation, StudioKCA collected more than 5 tons of plastic waste from the ocean in four months. After cleaning and sorting the trash, the team also launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the project to life and to fund fabrication of the steel and aluminum structural system created in collaboration with Thornton Tomasetti. “Skyscraper is a physical example of why we need to change how we use and dispose of plastic in the world today,” said Lesley Chang, Principal of StudioKCA. Principal Jason Klimoski continues, “[The sculpture] is 5 tons of plastic waste that we’ve pulled out of the ocean to create a four-story tall whale to help raise awareness about the other 150 million tons of plastic waste still swimming in our oceans. The more people know about a problem, the better, as it takes all of us working together to change the way things are done. This is a real opportunity to help bring awareness to a large audience about this global issue.” Related: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing at an exponential rate Located in the historic Jan Van Eyck Square, the Bruges Whale is one of 14 other installations selected for the 2018 Bruges Triennial , a free event that’s expected to welcome more than two million people. The art and architecture event is held from May 5 to September 16, 2018. + StudioKCA Images via StudioKCA

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A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal

Old fishermans shack is reimagined as a dreamy eco retreat

June 26, 2018 by  
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Eco-conscious couple Jamie and Ingrid Kwong have breathed new life into an old fisherman’s shack by transforming the dilapidated structure into a cozy, environmentally-friendly getaway. Located on Pittwater’s Mackerel Beach in New South Wales, Australia, The Little Black Shack is a restorative retreat that offers complete immersion in nature with minimal site impact . The house was reconstructed by hand with recycled materials and lovingly furnished with secondhand items. Local fishermen originally hand-built the shack around the 1930s. The couple, who lived nearby, had admired the shack for over 20 years and finally jumped at the chance to buy the property when it was put up for sale in 2013. The building was in poor condition with termite-damaged wood, but the couple was undeterred in fixing up the shack and spent the next 18 months with family and an eco-minded builder to completely restore the shack by hand. “Our aim is to give our guests a relaxing and restorative experience in our sustainable little patch of paradise by giving them everything they need, whilst taking very little from the environment ,” the couple explained. “By the end of their stay, our guests tend to take a lot less for granted too. If you want real stars, wildlife, peace, quiet and a place to connect with and appreciate nature and each other, you might want to jump on the old wooden ferry ‘Myra’ and cross Pittwater to Mackerel Beach.” Related: Decrepit lumberjack shack transformed into a beautiful retreat with minimal site impact The Little Black Shack was rebuilt with recycled and repurposed materials as part of the owners’ desire to reduce their impact on the environment. Instead of air conditioning, the property relies on natural ventilation and passive heating supplemented with a hand-built, sandstone open fireplace. The paints used throughout the home are all-natural, water-based and VOC-free . Rainwater is also harvested and reused; during times of drought, a desalination system is used to turn salt water into purified fresh water. The couple hopes to take the Little Black Shack completely off the grid in the future. The idyllic retreat is available for rent; for a closer look inside, follow their Instagram . + The Little Black Shack Images by Luisa Brimble

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The Dung Beetle Project farts flames as it transforms plastic into fuel

May 28, 2018 by  
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We tend to view plastic waste as worthless garbage, but a group of innovators and creators in Africa view it as an unexploited asset. In fact, they’ve used it to create the Dung Beetle Project , an art project that includes a pyrolysis gasifier to turn plastic into usable fuel. Through the effort, which recently debuted at AfrikaBurn and was spotted by the Land Art Generator Initiative , the Dung Beetle Project hopes to convert plastic from a problem to a solution. Inhabitat spoke with the project’s Finance and Marketing Director, David Terblanche, to find out more. Ideally, the Dung Beetle Project will roll around emulating the insect from which it draws its name — cleaning up waste and transforming it into something useful. The trailer-mounted movable art piece was sculpted with recycled metal in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it contains  gasification technology that recycles plastic into low-emission diesel and liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG. It’s not just the shape of the Dung Beetle that catches attention — it actually shoots flames into the sky by firing recycled gas, and it features an art stage as a platform for musicians, artists or jugglers to create “a spectacle of light and sound…to ignite people’s imaginations and spark excitement about solutions to environmental problems,” according to the group’s statement. Related: Shimmering Solar Arch to generate power for a post-industrial Connecticut town “We want to change people’s perceptions around what plastic is,” Terblanche told Inhabitat. “Right now it’s viewed as a waste, as litter, as a blot on the landscape,” but the Dung Beetle Project could help communities realize “this is a commodity that we can harvest, that it’s got some value, that we can turn it into something.” The Dung Beetle Project got its start when inventor Pierre “Pops” Pretorius, who lives on a rural farm, was tinkering with a gasification system using macadamia nut shells that would otherwise largely be discarded, according to Terblanche, a longtime friend of Pretorius and Jeffrey Barbee, project director and director of Alliance Earth , the organization backing the Dung Beetle Project. Pretorius wondered what else he might be able to gasify and thought of plastic. The friends all attend AfrikaBurn, a regional offshoot of Burning Man , and thought maybe they’d show off the gasification technology there. They had a scale working prototype and decided to transform it into a playa-ready art project. Both AfrikaBurn and Burning Man offered funding that the Dung Beetle team used to create a more sophisticated prototype; artist Nathan Honey designed the metal beetle shell. Here’s how the Dung Beetle Project works: plastic is shredded into pieces and burned in an oxygen-free environment in a reactor; gases then rise up while physical particles are recirculated to be burned again. The gases run through cooling ribs and condense into liquid, “similar to how a whisky still might work,” Terblanche says. Fuel drips out, and it can be used to power a vehicle or generator. According to the group’s statement, “Anything not burnt will fall out the bottom as pure carbon that can be placed directly into the soil to enrich it, or made into something more exciting like nano-tubes or graphene sheets.” There’s no waste, and while some emissions are produced when the resulting fuel is burned — it isn’t a clean fuel — the process used to create that fuel has no emissions,  and the fuel itself burns cleaner than oil. Any plastic could be gasified, but there are some types the team avoids using, like PET, as it’s easily recycled, or white PVC piping, which has chemicals like chlorine that don’t work well with the gasification process. “The big benefit is that [the Dung Beetle Project] can process things that can’t be recycled, like the cellophane wrapping your pre-packed salad comes in, and this process allows you to process items that would have just ended up in a landfill ,” Terblanche said. The vision for the Dung Beetle goes beyond AfrikaBurn. The group aims to take it on a roadshow to educate people and work with communities to create lower-tech versions inspired by Pretorius’ original gasifier built with recycled parts. “The really nice thing about the low-tech version is it can kind of be built in any little backyard garage. So imagine a mechanic who has a welding machine and a workshop. That’s all you probably need to make one of these,” Terblanche said. “So we want to spread the message, and if we can get hundreds of these out there, then we’re going to have hundreds of communities which are cleaning up their own plastic. And then at a community level you starting changing people’s behavior so the plastic doesn’t reach the ocean .” The project could even offer incentives to preserve forests: in places with shortages of fuel or employment, people chop down ancient hardwoods to make charcoal to sell. The Dung Beetle technology could provide fuel security as people use plastic instead of wood for fuel, and people could even sell the plastic for money or some of the fuel a gasification system would generate. In the future, the members of the Dung Beetle Project even see themselves taking to the seas on a boat powered with their tech, bringing the message to island communities facing plastic washing up on their shores. Terblanche said they’d love to “go out into some of these ocean gyres and basically fish for plastic and turn it into fuel on the boat, which we can then store in oil bunkers at the bottom of the boat. At worst, you’ll power the boat and get it across the ocean with its own plastic fuel; at best, you’re creating a commodity which you can actually sell.” The group has been invited to come work with a Mozambique nonprofit; there’s also been interest in the Dung Beetle Project from a Cape Town sustainability institute and even Serengeti National Park. Regardless of what happens, we’re curious to see where the Dung Beetle rolls in the future. + Dung Beetle Project Via Land Art Generator Initiative Images courtesy of Jeffrey Barbee

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