Award-winning sustainable retreat offers a stylish defense against fire

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

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Award-winning sustainable retreat offers a stylish defense against fire

Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

June 14, 2019 by  
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Innovative design start-up Six Miles Across London Limited (small.) has just unveiled an emergency shelter made almost entirely out of upcycled plastic bottles . The Recycled BottleHouse is a pyramid-shaped shelter that was constructed from a bamboo frame covered in discarded plastic bottles. Recently debuted at the Clerkenwell Design Week, the innovative shelter is an example of how a truly circular economy is feasible with just a little design know-how. Related: MIT students find a way to make stronger concrete with plastic bottles Designed to be used for emergencies in remote parts of the world, the Recycled BottleHouse shelter is made out of low-cost, lightweight and sustainably sourced materials and built to be thermally comfortable. The frame of the structure is made out of thin bamboo rods joined together in the form of a tipi. The frame is then entirely covered with discarded plastic bottles filled with hay to provide privacy to the interior. For extra stability, the shelter flooring is made out of bottles filled with sand that are burrowed into the landscape. Next, hollow bottles are placed around the main bamboo frame to create four walls with a front door that swings upward. Inside, the space provides protection from both solar radiation and precipitation. The interior also boasts a lantern made from plastic bottles powered by the shelter’s integrated PV panels . According to small. founder Ricky Sandhu, the emergency shelter was inspired by the need to find feasible and sustainable solutions to the world’s growing plastic problem. Sandhu said, “We believe ‘BottleHouse’ provides a new formula for the world’s growing problem of discarded plastic bottles by transforming them into rapidly deployable, protective and valuable shelters in areas of the world that need them the most and, at the same time, setting a new mission for the rest of the world to think about and contribute to — a new circular economy .” + Six Miles Across London Limited Images via Six Miles Across London Limited

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Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter

Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

June 13, 2019 by  
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In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources , eco tourism and reforestation. Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming , the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes. “The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.” The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?” Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy. + EETJ Images via EETJ

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Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

These solar-powered floating homes are built to withstand floods and hurricanes

April 1, 2019 by  
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As many coastal cities struggle to come up with resiliency plans in the face of rising sea levels, a Miami-based firm is creating sustainable, solar-powered floating residences that could offer the perfect solution. Already well-known for its high-end floating homes , Arkup is now teaming up with Artefacto , an environmentally friendly Brazilian furnishing brand, to create stylish floating houses that are not only resilient to storms and sea levels, but also represent the luxury style for which Miami is known. Arkup has long been recognized for creating sustainable and attractive floating homes that can provide discerning homeowners with what the Miami-based company refers to as “avant-garde life on water.” The residences are modern, cube-like structures that are completely self-sufficient, operating 100 percent off-grid thanks to solar power generation, eco-friendly waste management features, rainwater harvesting and water purification systems. Additionally, the homes are equipped with unique self-elevating systems that help the structures withstand high winds, floods and hurricanes. Related: These hurricane-proof floating homes are packed with green features In addition to the ultra sustainable and resilient features, the two-story floating homes boast interiors with a 775-square-foot living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining space, as well as an open-air rooftop lounge. Sliding glass doors, which almost make up the entirety of the front facade, lead out to a beautiful terrace. Although the company has been working on its floating homes for some time, it recently announced a new partnership with Artefacto, a Brazilian furnishing company with a strong commitment to sustainability  that is known for combining luxurious furniture made of raw materials with cutting-edge smart automation technologies. The Arkup residences will now be outfitted with eco-friendly furnishings, including high-end pieces made out of timber approved for use by the Brazilian Environment Department. + Arkup + Artefacto Images via Arkup

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These solar-powered floating homes are built to withstand floods and hurricanes

Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says

April 1, 2019 by  
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Air pollution may have more long-term effects on teens than previously thought. A new study conducted in the U.K. found that adolescents who are exposed to pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, harmful particles and nitrogen dioxide , are more likely to experience psychotic episodes during their teen years. People living in densely populated, urban areas have increased risks of having clinical psychosis. This includes disorders like schizophrenia. Prior to the new study, researchers had yet to start any long-term projects that explore the relationship between air pollution and these mental disorders, despite pollution becoming a growing issue in urban locations. Related: Air pollution is killing Europeans at an alarming rate The new study, published in  Jama Psychiatry ,  looked at more than 2,200 children in the U.K. and examined the link between air pollution and mental health . The study was conducted over an 18 year period and included children from various socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic locations. In over 92 percent of the cases, the test subjects reported some kind of psychotic experience, such as having intense paranoia or hearing voices. “We found that adolescent psychotic experiences were more common in urban areas,” explained Joanne Newbury, one of the lead scientists on the study at King’s College London. Newbury added that they were unable to directly link the psychotic experiences of teens in the study with air pollution. Their findings, however, strongly suggest that these harmful chemicals are a contributing factor in the connection between urban populations and psychosis. It should be noted that the study took into account biological factors, and the scientists admitted that psychosocial mechanisms, such as stress, could also be at work. By 2050, experts estimate that over 70 percent of the world’s human population will be living in cities. With more and more people gravitating toward urban locations, it is vastly important that we discover why city dwellers are more susceptible to mental disorders. Although there are likely multiple connections to be made, the harmful gases and particles that commonly make up air quality should not be ignored. According to King’s College London , scientists hope to initiate more studies on the link between air pollution and psychosis, with long-term research being the key focal point. + Jama Psychiatry Via EcoWatch and  King’s College London Image via David Holt

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Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says

A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

March 28, 2019 by  
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In the aftermath of the Puebla earthquake that struck central Mexico in September 2017, Fundación PienZa Sostenible and Love Army México tapped Mexico City-based firm Francisco Pardo Arquitecto to design a home for a family who had lost their house in the disaster. Working in close collaboration with the Guzman family, the architects created a new and more earthquake-resistant dwelling that not only caters to the family’s needs but also offers improved living conditions. Named Casa Karina after the matriarch in the family of four, the home is built largely of compressed earth blocks , created in situ, along with pinewood used for the doors and windows. Located in the rural town of Ocuilan de Arteaga, the Guzmans’ 807-square-foot lot is located on family land split into five equal parts among the siblings. The Guzman’s original home was of poor construction: a single-story wood structure covered in metal sheets without insulation ; the floors were bare soil. In designing an improved home for the Guzmans, the architects decided to build a multi-story house with the communal areas and full bathroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the second floor and an open terrace on the third floor from where views of the town, the neighboring fields and the surrounding volcanoes can be seen. By building upward, the architects also allocated enough area on the grounds for a field for growing crops and space where the couple’s two daughters can play outdoors. The kitchen, located at the heart of the home, overlooks views of the field. Related: This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation The new construction is also far more robust than the previous house, with concrete foundations and polished cement floors. The compressed earth block walls are reinforced with concrete slabs. The architects said, “This is how we were able to entirely adapt the design to the needs and uses of the Guzman family and to build a new and more resistant home for them, providing better space conditions.” + Francisco Pardo Arquitecto Photography by Jaime Navarro, Pablo Astorga and Fernanda Olivares via Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

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A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides

February 12, 2019 by  
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When the Hampshire County Council’s Property Services decided to build a new visitor center on the coastal area of Lepe Country Park on the England’s south coast, it knew that it had to create a design with several resilient features . The building needed to withstand the area’s brutal natural elements and rising sea levels. Guests to the historic area can now enjoy a bite to eat in the Lookout, an elongated wooden and glass center surrounded by a row of concrete fins that will help protect the building against future rising tides. The design of the visitor center was strategically planned to provide a place where visitors and tourists could stop in to enjoy a bite to eat while taking in the incredible views of the sea. According to the architects, the building also had to be constructed to withstand the current and future climate conditions. “From the outset, it was important that the building had composure in an environment that can be both beautiful and brutal,” said the council’s design manager Martin Hallum. Related: Sleek fiberglass visitor center is a beacon for wind energy in Denmark The building’s elongated volume is comprised of two connected horizontal boxes with the front box containing the main dining area. The box at the rear houses the service areas including the restaurant’s kitchen, the administration offices, meeting spaces and a visitor information point. The center is clad in wooden panels, with the front area punctuated with a series of windows that let in ample natural light . The building’s large sloping roof hangs over the exterior walls, providing shade during the summer months and protection from inclement weather. A wooden open-air deck wraps around the sides of the structure, leading out to the east- and west-facing terraces. Picnic tables surround the building for those wanting to enjoy dining al fresco. + Hampshire County Council’s Property Services Via Dezeen Photography by Jim Stephenson via Hampshire County Council’s Property Services

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Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides

Brilliant home made out of cascading concrete planter boxes grows more than 40 types of edible plants

January 31, 2019 by  
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Built for a retired couple who loves to grow their own food, this home design by Kuala Lumpur-based firm FormZero is comprised of several concrete blocks planted with more than 40 types of edible plants on every floor. With various patio spaces that double as mini home gardens , the Planter Box House oscillates between garden, farm and living space. The home’s overall design was heavily influenced by Kuala Lumpur’s vernacular. Being that the area is a tropical region, the homes are often built with split bamboo, a practice that goes back to the area’s indigenous people. By using bamboo as form work for the concrete cladding, the architects not only paid homage to the local history and culture, but ensured a durable design that would last years. Using the two durable and low-maintenance materials added extra resilience to the design so that the three-story home could withstand heavy rain storms and local pollution. Related: Giant bamboo planters protect a Ho Chi Minh City home from the sun and rain In addition to the home’s resilient features, the architects worked closely with the homeowners to create a design that would enable the couple to grow their own food . Accordingly, the design is a 3,650 square feet building that spans over three stories, with every level outfitted with various concrete planters that provide ample space for growing a variety of plants. A custom-made irrigation system, a joint endeavor between the couple and the architects, enables the boxes to store and reuse rainwater. The cascading design was a strategic feature that helps each box enjoy optimal natural light , but also adds a system of natural air ventilation throughout the interior. On every floor of the home, large sliding glass doors that lead out to the balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows create a strong connection to the exterior. All-white walls and minimal furnishings, along with the abundance of greenery, will allow the homeowners to enjoy a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle as they age. + FormZero Via Archdaily Photography by Ameen Deen via FormZer

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Brilliant home made out of cascading concrete planter boxes grows more than 40 types of edible plants

Budweiser’s Super Bowl LIII commercial focuses on renewable energy

January 31, 2019 by  
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Millions of fans and spectators around the world are expected to watch Super Bowl LIII this Sunday, and with secured viewers accounted for, Budweiser has gone above and beyond to announce its commitment to renewable energy in the best way possible — a Super Bowl commercial. Last year, the popular beer company announced its commitment to using 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power to brew its beer. Sticking to its promises, the company decided to focus on that effort in this year’s commercial entitled “Wind Never Felt Better” and showcase its iconic Budweiser Clydesdale with wind turbines accompanied by Bob Dylan’s classic song “Blowin’ in the Wind” as the soundtrack. “Super Bowl is one of the most exciting times of the year for our team, and people all over the country,” said Ricardo Marques, VP of marketing core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch. “Those who wait for the best commercials all year expect Budweiser to show up big, and we felt there was no better way to show up this year than to talk about our commitment to Renewable Electricity.” Related: Anheuser-Busch orders 800 hydrogen-electric semi trucks from Tesla competitor Nikola Marques added that Budweiser is proud to be the first brand in the Anheuser-Busch family — as well as the first major beer brand in the world — to be brewed with 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power and hopes to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. In addition to the commercial, Budweiser is also emphasizing the importance of its commitment to renewables by donating clean electricity to the city of Atlanta for Super Bowl week. As the largest city in the south, Atlanta has been at the forefront of building a clean energy blueprint and Budweiser’s donations to the city align with the overall goal of reducing an environmental impact. By doing its part, Budweiser is hoping to inspire communities to adopt clean electricity . It is also teaming up with Drift, a leader in clean electricity, to offer a one-month free trial of a green plan as a thank you for signing up. + Anheuser-Busch Image via Shutterstock

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Budweiser’s Super Bowl LIII commercial focuses on renewable energy

This round treehouse’s undulating roof mimics the flow of water

July 26, 2018 by  
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Nothing screams “serenity now” like an off-grid treehouse retreat that lets you wake up to the sounds of rustling leaves and a burbling brook. Thankfully, the architects at MONOARCHI have created a gorgeous round treehouse  that goes above and beyond the traditional fare, tucked away in a bamboo forest in China. Treewow O is about 26 feet off the ground, and it comes complete with an open-air deck shaded by an undulating round roof. Located in a remote village at the foot of the Siming Mountain range in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, Treewow O was inspired by the incredible surrounding landscape. The house is approximately 26 feet high, a measurement chosen to blend the structure into the surrounding bamboo fields. Related: Microsoft unveils amazing treehouse office where employees can brainstorm in fresh air Built just a few steps away from a creek, the treehouse is divided into two levels and supported by steel beams, a design feature that was chosen to minimize the project’s impact on the landscape . The design consists of three non-concentric circles clad in wooden panels. A beautiful undulating roof covers the main structure and extends in certain places to shade the wraparound terrace. According to the architects, the constant movement of a nearby stream inspried the roof’s unique, wavy shape. To create the treehouse, the architect worked in collaboration with local craftsmen. According to the project description, the undulating form mirrors a local building practice used to protect interior spaces from harsh weather conditions. In addition to its protective qualities, the gradient movement of the design helps provide natural air circulation to the living space. The interior of the round structure houses a bathroom and living space on the first floor, with a spiral staircase leading up to the large bedroom on the second floor. The bold circular design helps to define the private and public spaces in the structure. According to the design team, “When the guest enters the terrace on the first floor, they will start to experience the circular sequence of spaces from the eave along the terrace to the connected interior: from the living room to the huge window, to the terrace of large depth and to the unwrapping roof to enjoy the view to the creek and the landscape of the mountain of bamboos; from the bedroom to the low window, to the falling roof to capture a good view.” + MONOARCHI Via Archdaily Images via MONOARCHI

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This round treehouse’s undulating roof mimics the flow of water

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