Old mountain retreat renovated into sublime off-grid refuge

April 28, 2017 by  
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The challenges of renovating older buildings are already numerous, but when working deep in 8,100-foot-high mountainous topography and extreme climate conditions, it can be downright perilous. Meeting the challenge head-on, architecture firms Arteks Arquitectura and Ginjaume Arquitectura i Paissatge partnered up to convert a 1930s mountain retreat in the Andorran Pyrenees into the modern, off-grid Illa Mountain Hut that can generate up to four days of self-sufficient energy . Working within the confines of such harsh conditions, reforming the mountain refuge proved to be an uphill battle at every turn. The first hurdle was working under the restrictions imposed by the area’s protected UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status. Additionally, the extreme weather conditions meant that the project team could only access the site – the 4th highest shelter in the Pyrenees – during the summer months. Related: Modern lodge in the Rocky Mountains produces as much energy as it consumes Although the conditions were not optimal for building, it did have its advantages. Working around so many environmental barriers enabled the building team to use the restrictions to their advantage by using eco-friendly materials that were purpose-built for the project. Due to the harsh conditions and topography, for example, the architectural team chose to use light and prefabricated materials that could be flown in by helicopter. With most of the elements prefabricated in workshops and assembled on site, the building now weighs about a third of a similarly-sized conventional building and the execution time of the project was cut down to a surprising six months. Using the existing building as a structural base helped the team to further minimize the cost of the project as well as reduce the waste associated with the project. The wooden frame was reinforced with an extended gabled roof which helps discharge large snow loads during winter. This feature was also strategic to optimize solar energy gain . Thanks to a large array of photovoltaic panels installed on the roof, the refuge can generate up to four days of energy self sufficiency , making the project 100% off-grid. In addition to its solar power, the structure uses an independent water treatment system equipped with coconut filters . Additionally, an efficient ventilation system and ultra-thick insulation keeps the interior spaces warm and cozy, free from the extreme exterior cold. + Arteks Arquitectura + Ginjaume Arquitectura i Paissatge Photography via Pol Viladoms

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Old mountain retreat renovated into sublime off-grid refuge

Giant "Lily Pads" will capture stormwater at Brooklyn’s largest public-housing complex

March 29, 2017 by  
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When Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook didn’t stand a chance. Surrounded by the waters of the  Gowanus Canal , Upper New York Bay, and Buttermilk Channel, the coastal community was ripped apart by the tidal surge. More than four years on, Red Hook is slowly but surely returning to form. New development is under way, and Red Hook Houses , Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex, is getting a new, more resilient makeover complete with giant, green-roofed “Lily Pads” that will capture stormwater and keep it from overflowing the city’s sewage system. To help it weather the brunt of Mother Nature’s wrath, if and when she decided to call again, the New York City Housing Authority commissioned Kohn Pedersen Fox and landscape architecture firm OLIN to devise a “resiliency and renewal program.” Related: New renderings reveal resilient and revitalizing Red Hook waterfront creative complex After extensive research, including community surveys and workshops, KPF is proposing to build 14 “utility pods”—all above ground—to not only deliver heat and electricity to each of the 28 buildings but also to provide a space where residents can convene. There will also be a “Lily Pad” scheme: permanent flood barriers in the form of raised earth in the middle of internal courtyards. For extra security, Red Hook Houses will get an active flood wall bolstered with passive barriers. “These elements transform the experience of residents and guests by providing vibrant, social spaces in conjunction with the area’s infrastructural needs,” KPF wrote in a press release . Related: Red Hook Housing Project’s new urban farm grows fresh produce and jobs for the community And KPF and OLIN’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has named NYCHA Red Hook Houses one of its 2017 Design Awards winners . You’ll be able to view the project, and the other winning designs, at an exhibition at the Center for Architecture in Manhattan from April 21 through June 20. + Kohn Pedersen Fox Via the Architect’s Newspaper

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Giant "Lily Pads" will capture stormwater at Brooklyn’s largest public-housing complex

Beautiful cliffside home ‘split in half’ by landslide rebuilt with wooden pods

March 21, 2017 by  
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Sometimes beautiful design is just fate. When AR Design Studio decided to add an extension to a cliffside home on the UK’s South Coast, the entire house ended up being split in half due to a major landslide . Fortunately, the architects stayed on to design a replacement house, resulting in a beautiful vacation home called the Crow’s Nest. This time, however, the gorgeous structure, which is made out of four wooden “pods,” was built with highly-engineered technology to stabilize the structure against future land movements. The Crow’s Nest home is built looking over a large cliff on the UK’s South Coast. To secure the new home against future natural disasters , the architects worked with engineers to create an integrated system that could resist major land movements. The system entailed installing dwarfs walls into a massive concrete slat that sits underneath the home. This was strategic to creating an adjustable raft-like structural frame where the walls absorb any major land movement. In this case, mechanical jacks installed underneath the frame would be able to re-level the house afterwards. Related: These 6 extraordinary cliffside homes will give you chills Although the original home was severely damaged by the landslide, the architects managed to use its original cabin design as inspiration for the new one. The team created an elongated structure with a series of four “twisted” pods, creating a unique contemporary cabin character . Clad in beautiful blond larch panels, the home seamlessly blends in with the surrounding landscape. The entryway is made up of the smallest pod , which leads into the main living area. The “tower pod” to the left houses the large master bedroom, along with the children’s bedroom and bathrooms. The remaining pod on the right of the living area is a guest space that can be closed when not in use. The interior comprises a light, airy design with a modern cabin feel. Bold wooden furnishings are found throughout, but the use of various industrial materials give the space a contemporary touch. Large windows offer optimal natural light as well as stunning views of the forest and coastal views. + AR Design Studio Via Design Milk Photography by Martin Gardner

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Beautiful cliffside home ‘split in half’ by landslide rebuilt with wooden pods

Coming soon: NYC’s first community solar project

March 21, 2017 by  
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A company based in Toronto is bringing New York City its first community solar project. UGE International , one of the world’s leading renewable-energy contractors, will be partnering with Gotham Community Solar to develop a new array at a multi-tenant commercial facility between the Park Slope and Boerum Hill neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in early summer, will have a rated peak capacity of roughly 100 kilowatts, according to UGE. The building abuts another UGE project: the Whole Foods Market at 214 3rd Street, colloquially known as “3rd and 3rd” by locals. “It’s been a privilege to work with ConEd , the Department of Buildings, and the project’s ownership group on developing this landmark project” Tim Woodcock, UGE’s Regional Director, said in a statement. Related: UGE is building a massive rooftop solar array atop this popular Brooklyn church Woodcock anticipates selling any surplus power to nearby residents at rates lower than those offered by their utility companies. The benefits would be twofold: cheaper electricity that also comes from a sustainable source. “The solar power generated by the project will be credited to numerous residential accounts, offering access to the benefits and low cost of solar energy to those previously excluded due to their housing situation,” he added. + UGE International

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Coming soon: NYC’s first community solar project

Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

March 15, 2017 by  
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Cacti may not excite a lot of people, but in Taiwan the plant is so highly respected the island community of Penghu built the Qingwan Cactus Park to celebrate its existence. The beautiful complex was created by converting an old military complex into various greenhouses that store a staggering variety of cacti in all shapes and sizes. To protect the site and the plants for the strong winds associated with monsoon season, the project implemented a number of resilient features around the park. Located in the Qingwan district of Penghu’s Fongguei Peninsula, the site’s old military structures were built during the Japanese Colonial Era. Abandoned for years, the site became covered with cactuses and white popinac. Cacti thrive on the island’s dry, windy climate because they are resistant to drought, strong winds and high salinity in the soil. To protect the beloved cactus population , the locals decided to give the existing buildings a thorough facelift in order to create a protected area for the plants to thrive. Related: Cactus Gum Can Purify Water Cheaply and Effectively At the heart of the complex is the teak and glass dome shaped like a cactus that “glows” at night. This main building, along with the other refurbished structures, was constructed to make as little impact on the surrounding basaltic landscape as possible. A teak wood frame and basaltic masonry walls support the dome’s large prismatic windows that provide ventilation and light on the interior. The complex consists of various greenhouses and an artists village, all surrounded by a “green belt” that connects the buildings and leads out to hiking and biking paths along the coastline. Although the cactus plant is known for its ability to thrive in dry climates, a rainwater conservation basin collects rainwater for irrigation and cleaning purposes. To protect the complex and the plants from the island’s strong winds, which carry salt that interferes with plant growth, numerous landscape architecture features were implemented in the complex.  Various windbreaking earth berms, inspired by the same design used by local farmers, form a protective barrier around the site. Although the park is geared to attract more ecotourism to the area, cacti are deeply respected by the locals, who express hope that visitors will enjoy a stroll around the greenhouses as well as spend time viewing the local wildlife. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to try their cactus-centric cuisine, especially the local favorite, cactus ice cream. + Qingwan Cactus Park + CCL Architects & Planners Via Archdaily Photography via Lin Fu Ming

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Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

Circular garden walkway cuts straight through Japanese timber home

January 31, 2017 by  
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Serious gardeners love to have their green space as close to their home as possible, but one Japanese couple’s love for gardening has literally come “full circle”. Designed by Fujiwaramuro Architects , the House in Mukainada has a continuous concrete garden promenade that cuts straight through the couple’s tiny timber clad home . Located in Hiroshima, the home was designed to integrate the garden into the design, making it easier for the elderly couple to enjoy their greenery. The home’s compact volume stems from wanting to protect the existing Japanese dogwood trees found on the lot. As part of the design, the architects built an earthquake-resistant wall around the perimeter that pulls double duty as a privacy fence. Related: Beautiful Greenhouse from Bangkok is a miniature garden you can bring inside Once the cedar-clad structure was designed, the architects began to build a circular earthen floor that lined up with the home’s two entrances. This round pathway was then was covered in concrete, leaving space for various planting holes. The garden design is meant to grow with the homeowners, so that eventually, they will be able to stroll through a verdant walkway without having to get their feet dirty. On the interior, the walls and flooring are also covered in oak, with a wide path of paler wood leading from the outdoor walkway through the home and back out again. The compact 800-square-foot space has one bedroom, an office space and a kitchen and bathroom. For now the home serves as a place for the family to socialize, but it was designed to be adaptable for various future uses, such as a community center or gallery space. + Fujiwaramuro Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Toshiyuki Yano

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Architects use local materials to build beautiful Costa Rica community center

January 30, 2017 by  
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Round building offer many advantages in terms of sustainability and resilience , so it’s no surprise to see disaster-prone communities turning to the curved architecture. Fournier Rojas Arquitectos recently created a beautifully round community center for the small Costa Rican town of El Rodeo de Mora. The center, which was primarily built with locally-sourced and donated materials, will provide the economically disadvantaged area with an adaptable space for hold community events and a shelter during natural disasters. El Rodeo de Mora is rural community located in hot and humid central Costa Rica, which sees extended periods of heavy rainfall. These conditions, along with poor construction, caused the community’s existing center to deteriorate over the years. When Fournier Rojas Arquitectos stepped in to work pro bono on the project, they focused primarily on constructing a building that would be sustainable and durable granted the tropical climate. Related: Villa Nyberg: A Passive Swedish Prefab with a Cool Circular Floorplan They based the design layout on the needs of the community – it offers a kitchen, toilets, a storage facility and amenities for the local soccer team – but they were also working within the challenges of the location itself. Costa Rica has strict regulations in place to reduce damage from earthquakes, and the architects built the center (which can hold up to 100 people) on high ground to protect it from flooding . Using local materials , many of which were donated, the architects managed to keep the cost down to less than $250 USD per square meter. At the heart of the center is an adaptable circular room, whose exterior is made of clay ventilation bricks – a common material of choice for tropical environments. Not only did the round design help cut down the cost in terms of materials needed, but the circular layout provides natural air circulation. The entire building sits on reinforced concrete columns. Eight pitched roofs made from lightweight fiber-cement sheets make up the building’s canopy, which extends out past the circular volume, further providing shade and protection from the elements. The “layering” style of the roof was strategic to further optimize the building’s natural ventilation . The design has won an award from the WAC (World Architecture Community, May 2015) and a Special Mention in S.ARCH AWARDS (May 2016). + Fournier Rojas Arquitectos Via Archdaily Photography by Fernando Alda

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8 surprising uses for hemp that could make the world a greener place

January 30, 2017 by  
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Hemp isn’t just for hackin’ the sack at Phish shows or making rope. This amazing plant, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis grown specifically for industrial purposes, has a vast number of applications for a greener planet. Cultivated hemp grows quickly in a wide variety of climates and does not degrade the soil in which it is grown. Tune in, turn on, and read this feature to learn the latest developments in the magical (yet still illegal in most countries) world of hemp. Housing Hemp can processed into a durable material that was once used by Henry Ford to construct a car that was lighter, less expensive and consumed less power than traditional metal cars. These principles have also been applied to housing throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, farmer Nick Voase turned his own grown hemp into an amazing eco-house, held together by lime, that is cool in summer, warm in winter, and even features a walk-in fridge made out of hemp. In South Africa, hemp advocate Tony Budden is working hard to demonstrate the value of the wonder plant; he and his partner built the country’s first hemp home. Northern Ireland’s Bevan Architects  used hemp to construct a simple low-impact cottage on a riverside apple orchard for an environmentally friendly retreat from urban living. Lastly, in Australia, Mihaus Studio built a prefabricated hemp-based modular space that can be adapted for a wide variety of purposes. Plastic Traditional plastic is derived from non-renewable resources and is non-biodegradable, which means that disposed plastic usually ends up in ever expanding landfills. Enter our hero, hemp, a renewable resource which can be used to produce biodegradable plastic. A shift to the greener hemp would not require a sacrifice of quality . Hemp plastic may be up to 5 times stiffer and 2.5 stronger than traditional plastic made from polypropylene and unlike glass fibers, hemp plastic would not pose safety and health risks. Designers, such as  Studio Aisslinger , have incorporated this fine bioplastic into its products, such as the chair shown above. Pet Toys Hemp isn’t only for humans. Dogs, cats, and other furry, feathered, or scaly friends can also benefit from the plant. Honest Pet Products has created a line of pet toys made from sustainable hemp and organic wool. The method by which these toys are produced is also beneficial for the environment and community. The toys are manufactured by adults with developmental disabilities in Wisconsin and women living in the Gobi Desert and Nepal, who simultaneously support their family with their work and vow to protect the local snow leopards as a condition for their employment. Energy Storage Graphene  has received a great deal of attention for its superstrength and its astounding ability as a superconductor of electricity. Lost in this storm is the fact that hemp may be able to replicate graphene’s function as a supercapacitor, a revolutionary energy storage device, at a radically lower cost . David Mitlin of Clarkson University , New York discovered hemp’s superconductive properties by “cooking” plant material in a process. “Once you dissolve the lignin and the semicellulose, it leaves these carbon nanosheets – a pseudo-graphene structure,” said Mitlin. These nanosheets are then fabricated into electrodes, infused with an ionic liquid as an electrolyte, and function as supercapacitors that work in a wide range of temperatures and conditions. Mitlin founded a small company, Alta Supercaps , with the goal of producing hemp-based supercapacitors on a small scale. Insulation Not only is hemp a durable material for housing structure, it also is an excellent insulator. In Belgium,  Martens Van Caimere Architecten  renovated a local home with a sustainable hemp-based insulation material known as hempcrete . Hempcrete is a mixture of lime, hemp, and water that is superior to concrete in its sustainability and cost while also offering better insulation. “In our projects we try finding solutions to lower the building costs,” said architect Nikolaas Martens. “In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Belgians were building houses that were badly or not insulated. So renovating these houses in a sustainable way tends to be expensive. Hempcrete combines the insulation and finishing in one layer, reducing building costs. Plus it is durable and sustainable, because it is made from a waste product.” Airplanes Fly high in the sky with hemp! In 2014, Canada-based Hempearth  contracted with a Florida-based plane manufacturer to build an airplane almost entirely out of hemp material . The plane will seat four people and have a wingspan of 36 feet. Approximately 75 percent of the plane will be constructed of industrial hemp. Originally scheduled for its first flight (appropriately out of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina) in 2015, the plane has yet to fly. Hempearth is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their project. Biofuel Not satisfied with simply being made from hemp, the designers at Hempearth also plan for their plane to be powered entirely by hemp-based biofuel . While hemp biodiesel has great potential, there are currently legal and economic barriers to widespread adoption . “That particularly, is very much an issue of economies of scale,” said Arthur Hanks, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance. “We are still very much a specialty crop.”  The limited production of hemp is primarily geared towards the health food market, in which hemp provides the greatest return to farmers. “Every pound that’s being produced goes into the food chain,” Paul Bobbee, a Canadian hemp grower. While hemp production is legal in Canada, the continued haziness surrounding hemp policy in the United States suppresses the market.  If hemp production were legalized nationwide, “it would help regularize hemp in America, and help to increase markets,” said Hanks. Food Bring on the munchies. Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, sprouted, or ground up while the iconic hemp leaf can be thrown into a salad. Hemp seeds are high in protein and have a similar amino acid profile to meat, milk, and eggs. Often cold-pressed into oil form, hemp seeds are a rich source of Vitamin B, iron, dietary fiber, magnesium and zinc. Although illegal to produce in most American states, hemp can be imported as a food product. As of 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products. Images via  The Event Chronicle , vhcmor/Flickr , Christina Griffin ,  Cedric Verhelst , Hempearth , FluffyMuppet/Flickr , Wikimedia Commons   (2) , Don Goofy/Flickr , Studio Aisslinger   and Bob Doran/Flickr

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Elon Musk stands up for refugees, wants to rewrite Trump’s immigration ban

January 30, 2017 by  
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In the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, which targets Syrian refugees and people from six other countries, numerous Silicon Valley leaders came out in support of immigrants. One notable objector was Tesla CEO Elon Musk , who tweeted the ban is “not the best way to address the country’s challenges.” And Musk won’t just be tweeting, but said he will gather recommended modifications to the executive order that he plans to present to Trump . https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/825502618680045568 People from the predominantly Muslim countries of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya will temporarily be barred from entering America, according to Trump’s executive order, which reads “I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.” Trump claimed the order was not about religion, but about terrorism. Related: Artist covers two houses in bright pink crochet as a symbol of hope for refugees Silicon Valley leaders were quick to stand against Trump’s executive order. Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined a protest at the San Francisco International Airport, telling one reporter he was a refugee, Airbnb promised to provide housing for stranded refugees, and Elon Musk tweeted , “Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the US. They’ve done right, not wrong & don’t deserve to be rejected.” https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/825809205244223488 Musk provided a link to the text of the executive order on the Wall Street Journal so people can read it for themselves. He said he will “seek advisory council consensus & present to President.” Born in South Africa , Musk came to the United States in 1992 to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He sits on an economic advisory board for Trump and more recently agreed to be part of a Manufacturing Jobs Initiative started by the president. Let’s hope Trump is willing to listen to his recommendations. Via The Verge ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Images via OnInnovation on Flickr and Lorie Shaull on Flickr

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Elon Musk stands up for refugees, wants to rewrite Trump’s immigration ban

Rammed earth and bamboo cultural center keeps naturally cool in Senegal

January 30, 2017 by  
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In the remote Senegalese village of Sinthian rises a culture center that twists and turns like a sinuous sculpture. New York-based Toshiko Mori Architect designed this eye-catching building, called Thread, as an artists’ residency and cultural center commissioned by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation . Constructed from local materials, the building’s rammed earth and large thatched openings help promote natural cooling. Winner of a 2017 AIA Honor Award , the Thread Artist Residency & Cultural Center comprises two artists’ dwellings and studio spaces for local and visiting international artists, but also serves as a greater community hub for Sinthian and the surrounding villages. Shared between twelve local tribes, the socio-cultural center provides agricultural training as well as an exhibition space, kindergarten , children’s play area, library, performance space, and a center for charging mobile homes. “It is a hub for Sinthian and surrounding villages, providing agricultural training on the area’s fertile land and a meeting place for social organisation which is, in rural Senegal, the crucial mechanism for sustainable development,” says a statement from the Aga Khan Award for Architecture about the project. “The success of its atypical plurality proves why art and architecture should be the right of all people.” Related: Off-grid earthen abode in Senegal gets all its energy from wind and solar Constructed with a team of 35 local workers over the course of a year, Thread is topped by an undulating thatched roof designed to facilitate rainwater collection, provide shade, and promote natural ventilation. The building structure was built from a bamboo framework fitted with rammed earth bricks that help absorb heat during the day and dissipates warmth at night. Site-specific solar conditions were taken into consideration when orienting the building spaces to minimize glare and unwanted solar heat gain. + Toshiko Mori Architect Via Dezeen Photographs © Iwan Baan

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