Zen-like Seattle retreat keeps a minimal footprint in a lush landscape

July 20, 2017 by  
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For those seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, feast your eyes on this beautiful light-filled cabin just outside Seattle in Greenwater, Washington. Robert Hutchison Architecture designed Crystal River Ranch House, a cedar -clad home hidden in the shadow of Mount Rainier that exudes a zen-like air of tranquility. Crafted to blend into the lush evergreen landscape, the 1,900-square-foot retreat was kept as compact as possible to minimize site impact and to epitomize the small home living movement. Set within a forest on the banks of the White River, the two-bedroom Crystal River Ranch House emphasizes connection with nature through its large glazed walls and natural materials palette . Custom-run and blackened Western Red Cedar planks clad the building and help it blend into the landscape. The entry courtyard serves as a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor environment. Despite the home’s compact size, the interior looks surprisingly spacious thanks to use of a centrally located double-height space , large glazed windows, white-painted surfaces, and abundance of natural light. The modern design is characterized by simple, clean leans and a cozy yet minimalist aesthetic. The communal areas, including the open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living room, as well as a covered patio and outdoor patio, are located on the east and south sides of the home. The two bedrooms are placed on opposite ends of the house, with the master suite on the northeast side and the guest bedroom on the southwest side. Related: Natural material palette brings warmth to minimalist Swiss home The architects write: “Designed as a zen-like retreat from the bustle of the city, the open living area uses large glass walls to create a sense of space and light even on the Northwest’s darkest, rainy days. A steel-clad fireplace mass serves as a central architectural feature and utility, complementing the natural wood interiors while separating the living room from the covered outdoor patio.” + Robert Hutchison Architecture Images by Mark Woods

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Zen-like Seattle retreat keeps a minimal footprint in a lush landscape

PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem

July 20, 2017 by  
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Much of our trash is hidden from our daily lives, which is why design collective Luzinterruptus is shining the light on wastefulness in their latest environmental art installations. Located at the heart of Madrid’s popular tourist attraction Plaza Mayor, PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a massive maze constructed from the thousands of plastic bottles that had been consumed in and around the plaza in the past month. The Madrid City Council commissioned the installation, built in June for the fourth Centennial Celebration of Plaza Mayor within the “Four Seasons” city art program. The PlasticWaste Labyrinth design developed out of Luzinterruptus’ desire to create a large-scale interactive installation befitting the historical plaza. The giant plastic bottle maze is intentionally claustrophobic so as to make the public feel disoriented while exploring the intricate path and narrow passages flanked with three-meter-tall walls. Wrapped around the King Philip III statue, the 300-square-meter maze features corridors measuring 170 meters in length and takes three minutes to pace. “The idea was to graphically visualize the amount of plastic we generate in our daily lives which we don’t often recycle accordingly,” said Luzinterruptus. “As a consequence, all this plastic is dumped in nature and ends up floating in the ocean, forming huge plastic islands that are destroying the marine ecosystem and will not ever decompose. Bearing all this in mind, we thought it was paramount that the piece didn’t look friendly.” Related: Glowing circle made from thousands of recycled notebooks celebrate Bilbao’s book festival Around 15,000 plastic bottles, inserted with lights and placed in bags, were used for the walls of the PlasticWaste Labyrinth. The plastic bottles were collected from businesses surrounding the square as well as from local residents and visitors who could dispose of their plastic waste in two giant containers placed in the square. The maze was open day and night for four days. + Luzinterruptus Photography: Lola Martínez © 2017

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PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem

Dwell Development’s net-zero home in Seattle is packed with sustainable goodness

June 29, 2017 by  
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This 5-Star Built Green home in Mount Baker, Seattle is packed with sustainable elements – including locally and sustainably-sourced materials and net-zero building strategies. The house was designed by JT Architecture for Dwell Development , and it’s perched on a peaceful hilltop in one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods with expansive views of the city. The design of the Mount Baker house is in line with the philosophy of Dwell Development and its net zero strategy rooted in the idea of remaining local. Each home by the firm occupies an urban site in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, where homeowners can live within blocks of all essential services and social activities. This new home was built on an urban infill lot steps away from Hunter Boulevard which includes an Olmsted designed center median park and dense retail and commercial areas on Rainier and McClellan. Related: Dwell Development’s outstanding zero-energy Emerald Star home in Seattle is almost entirely reclaimed The floors throughout the building are covered in sustainably harvested walnut from Montana, while the exterior polished concrete pavers were sourced locally. The exterior facade of the house is clad with reclaimed barn wood and reclaimed standing seam metal sourced from Oregon, while the interior features posts wrapped in over 100-year-old hand-hewn beam skins from Montana. The house is prepped for solar panels and electric vehicle charging, uses 100% LED lighting and is 100% electric. An exterior barrier system and a heat recover ventilation system regulate indoor temperatures 24/7. + JT Architecture + Dwell Development Photos by Tucker English

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Dwell Development’s net-zero home in Seattle is packed with sustainable goodness

Pollution cuts solar energy production by up to 35%

June 29, 2017 by  
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We may be sabotaging our efforts to generate clean energy . New research from a team led by Duke University found polluted air may be reducing our solar energy output – by 25 percent. And areas with some of the highest investment in solar power are those impacted the most: China , the Arabian Peninsula, and India . Dust and airborne particles may be harming our ability to generate as much solar energy as we can. Duke University engineering professor Michael Bergin said, “My colleagues in India were showing off some of their rooftop solar installations, and I was blown away by how dirty the panels were. I thought the dirt had to affect their efficiencies, but there weren’t any studies out there estimating the losses. So we put together a comprehensive model to do just that.” Related: Students Create Award-Winning Robot That Cleans Solar Panels Joined by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison , Duke University scientists found pollution accumulation is indeed impacting solar energy output. They measured the decrease in energy from IITGN’s solar panels as they got dirtier. Each time the panels were cleaned after several weeks, the researchers noted a 50 percent boost in efficiency. China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula are the areas of the world impacted the most. Even if their panels are cleaned monthly, they still could be losing 17 to 25 percent of solar energy production. And if the cleanings happen every two months, the losses are 25 or 35 percent. Reduced output costs countries not just in electricity but money as well. Bergin said China could lose tens of billions of dollars yearly, “with more than 80 percent of that coming from losses due to pollution.” He pointed out we’ve known air pollution is bad for health and climate change , but now we know it’s bad for solar energy as well – all the more reason for politicians to adopt emissions controls. The research was published online this month by the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters . Via Duke University Images via Duke Engineering on Twitter and Pexels

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Pollution cuts solar energy production by up to 35%

9 eco-friendly ‘man caves’ for dudes and dads to get away from it all

June 29, 2017 by  
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Ah, the “man cave” – a place for dudes and dads to find solitude, tinker, build or read. Although the term may conjure up images of dank basements and wood-paneled rec rooms, the modern man cave has much more to offer. From prefabricated backyard pods and minimalist A-framed cabins to a futuristic voice-activated sphere in the sky, we’ve rounded up 9 inspiring ideas for men looking to get away from it all and recharge their batteries. 1. Prefabricated, versatile backyard getaway The Backyard Room is only available in Australia at the moment, but, logistics aside, it’s the perfect solution for creating a separate space without the need for moving or funding a pricey (and intrusive) home renovation. The prefabricated structure is built from renewable materials with high standards including LEDs and insulated roof and walls. It only takes a week to install this space-maximizer; calculate another few days to add on a green roof for the ultimate backyard eco-haven. 2. Man cave for a man-in-training For the young at heart, this man cave features pinball machines, a pool table, and a skateboarding bowl as well as a fully loaded tv and movie-viewing area. Designed and built for a very fortunate Cape Town teen, this space is a dream for men who want to go from shredding on their skateboard to playing video games to lounging with friends. There’s no need to leave the premises, especially when Mom and Dad’s stocked kitchen is just a few feet away. 3. Solar-powered, voice-activated Skysphere Image via Jono Williams Because having a regular, old man cave isn’t sufficient, Jono Williams concocted one of the craziest ones we’ve ever seen: a solar-powered sphere in the sky with electronics that operate on voice command. Williams designed and built the Skysphere himself (with a little help from friends), taking classes and learning a variety of topics to ensure that the Skysphere would be safe and structurally sound. While it’s awesome that he can say the word and custom LED lights change color or motorized doors open to cool the space down, it’s even more impressive that these awesome features are a result of educating himself and working until he had the dream space he wanted. 4. Cabin by the lake with a 55-year history This lakeside retreat isn’t truly tiny, but it began that way 55 years ago when an 18-year-old commenced construction on a 14-square-foot bunk house. That teen with a vision grew up to be Jim Olson, an accomplished architect . Over more than five decades, the cabin grew too, continually and gradually transforming into the picturesque getaway that it now is. Olson took care to build his outdoor deck around three trees to allow for their continued growth; a palette of woods used in the cabin’s interior as well as floor-to-ceiling windows make the space appear integrated into its gorgeous surroundings. Related|Build your own tiny home or treehouse with these stackable wooden micro-units 5. Modern micro-cabin made from recycled parts We love this 3-D printed micro-cabin , and we hope you will too. Dutch architects created the “Urban Cabin” using mostly recycled components and a sustainably produced and sturdy bioplastic frame. There’s enough room for a bed, which can also be folded into seating to leave room for Dad to tinker with other projects (or even set up a little table to serve as a mini office). A 3-D printed tub doesn’t fit inside the structure itself, but can be placed just outside. 6. Book nook nestled in nature For bibliophiles, this timber cabin is a green dream come to life. Felled oak trees that were left over from a separate construction project were repurposed into the bones of this tiny retreat, which was crafted using a Lincoln log-like method that created natural internal bookshelves and window spaces. This sublime upstate New York space is perfect for every season, although the wood-burning stove makes it the ideal place to snuggle up for a long winter’s nap. Image via Rok Pezdirc 7. Cabin among the trees This cozy cabin on stilts reminds us of a kiddie treehouse all grown up and elevated (literally). Inside there’s everything one would need for some R & R including a chair, storage units that double as a bed foundation, and a table. An outdoor deck offers optimal views, but between the skylights and numerous windows, the divide between inside and outside is minimal. Untreated timber forms the interior and exterior, but the space is surprisingly refined and could even serve as an office space. Image via Carolyn L. Bates 8. Wheelchair accessible tiny home with a mobile base Wheelchair accessibility is unfortunately not typically high on the list of specifics when designing tiny homes; the struggle to use every nook , cranny, and spare inch often supersedes an effort to make the space friendly to persons with mobility issues. Wheel Pad , designed with input from home health nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and doctors, aims to change that precedent. The home maximizes the available 200 square feet with a spacious and accessible bathroom, a wheelchair-level desk set-up and fixtures, and large windows to fill the home with natural light. 9. A-frame eco hut with a tiny footprint A-frame cabins by Lushna are reminiscent of human-sized bird houses, and they even come ready for some up-close-and-personal nesting: each has a king-sized mattress and was designed with four season living in mind. The prefab cabins are comprised of locally sourced larchwood and can be customized to include an outdoor wooden hot tub , curtains, or even a luxurious suite version with bathroom facilities and a mini kitchen.

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9 eco-friendly ‘man caves’ for dudes and dads to get away from it all

This green-roofed castle home in England is cooled by the ocean breeze

June 29, 2017 by  
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With its thick undulating walls and green roof , this villa in England translates the architecture of traditional Celtic fortifications into the language of sustainability. Tonkin Liu Architects ‘s Ness Point House is a castle-like structure that protects its occupants from the elements while achieving a high level of energy efficiency. The house occupies a cliff top site in Dover, South East England, and functions as an airtight shelter that utilizes passive and active sustainable design features. It utilizes heat recovery and solar thermal renewable systems to maximize energy efficiency in the winter, while the long gallery skylight and eco-vents enable passive cooling during the hot summer. Related: A green-roofed Hobbit home anyone can build in just 3 days The undulating plan and inclined sections create a cavernous internal space that offers flexibility of use and captures changing lighting conditions. As if growing out of the land, the house is covered in a vegetative roof that slopes downward at the rear of the site. + Tonkin Liu Architects Via Plataforma Arquitectura Lead photo by Nick Guttridge

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This green-roofed castle home in England is cooled by the ocean breeze

New map provides clues into 500-million-year mystery in Earth’s past

June 29, 2017 by  
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1,000 to 520 million years ago, Earth’s climate was undergoing dramatic changes. From icy extremes in what some have termed Snowball Earth , to warmer conditions as an increase in oxygen led to the Cambrian explosion of biodiversity , it’s a period of the planet’s climate history we knew little about – until now. Scientists recently created the first ever global map of plate tectonics during this time, shedding light on their influence on other Earth systems. Tectonic plate movement helps researchers understand how life evolved and how Earth’s climate changed. But there was around a 500-million-year gap that a group of 12 researchers in Australia and Canada just filled in with their new map, which they describe as the “first whole-Earth plate tectonic map of half a billion years of Earth history .” Related: World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion years old The researchers were able to draw up the map by studying rocks that formed near where tectonic plates meet or where they ripped apart. The rocks came from Brazil, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. The scientists said the work took them a few decades. Their map offers new details, further back in geological time, than we had before. Two of the co-authors on a paper in press at the journal Gondwana Research wrote a piece for The Conversation detailing their map and the role of plate tectonics in our planet’s climate and the evolution of life. Andrew Merdith of the University of Sydney and Alan Collins of the University of Adelaide said the lack of ancient tectonic maps has made it difficult for researchers trying to unravel the mysteries of the past. They wrote, “Understand ancient plate tectonics and we go someway to understanding the ancient Earth system. And the Earth as it is today, and into the future.” Via The Conversation Images via Andrew S. Merdith, et al.

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New map provides clues into 500-million-year mystery in Earth’s past

Ultra-green house in Seattle marries aesthetics and sustainability

March 22, 2017 by  
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This ultra-green house for a Seattle family of four has achieved an exceptional level of sustainability without compromising on aesthetics. Shed Architecture & Design designed the Madrona Passive House as a net-zero residence for former Microsoft program manager and renowned environmental advocate Jabe Blumenthal. With a super-insulated envelope and passive design features such as heat recovery systems, photovoltaics, green roofs and stormwater and rainwater harvesting, the house minimizes its energy consumption and act as a stellar example of climate-friendly living. The 3,700-square-foot home relies on solar panels , high-performance construction and a contemporary design for its energy efficiency. A well insulated envelope which includes a Zehnder ComfoAir heat recovery ventilator that pumps fresh air into the interior contributes to its low energy consumption . This technology also recovers 90 percent of thermal energy from exhaust air for reuse inside. Rainwater from the home’s roof and the green roof on the garage goes into two cisterns via permeable pavers, while mechanical shading system and triple-pane windows regulate solar gain . The owners can also tap into the building’s real-time consumption by using the circuit-by-circuit energy monitoring system with dashboard. Related: Seattle’s Palatine Passive House consumes 90% less energy than a conventional home Achieving the world’s most demanding building energy standards – Passive House – the building is expected to also receive the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready and Living Building Challenge’s Net Zero Energy Building certifications. The project was recognized by Green Builder Media as winner of the 2016 Green Home of the Year Award in the Best Energy Efficiency category. + SHED Architecture & Design Via Green Builder Media Photos by Mark Woods

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Ultra-green house in Seattle marries aesthetics and sustainability

Seattle votes to divest billions of dollars from Wells Fargo over Dakota Access pipeline

February 7, 2017 by  
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Seattle could pull billions of dollars out of its longtime bank because of its role in the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline . On Wednesday, a Seattle City Council committee voted unanimously to divest nearly $3 billion of the city’s funds from Wells Fargo , one of 17 financial institutions involved in financing the contentious project. Although the bill still has to undergo a procedural vote by the full council on Tuesday, it is “widely expected to pass,” activist Shaun King wrote in the Daily News . During the hearing, councilwoman Debora Juarez said that committee members all agreed that divestment was the city’s “goal.” Should the legislation push through, Seattle will not renew its contract with Wells Fargo when it expires in 2018. Neither will the city be allowed to make new investments with the bank for three years. The proposal would be a major victory for the pipeline’s opponents, who returned to the site of last year’s monthslong protests at Standing Rock after President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the 1,000-mile-long oil pipeline. “You faced down attack dogs, blizzards and rubber bullets,” councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who co-sponsored the bill, told a crowd on Wednesday, referring to the thousands of Native Americans and activists who faced off with law enforcement during last year’s standoff. “If we do not fight we will not win.” “Let’s build on this, make sure other cities move to divest from Wells Fargo,” she added. Related: 76 water protectors arrested at Standing Rock Jessica Ong, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said that the bank respects “all the views” being expressed in the dispute, including those of the Seattle City Council members. “We are obligated to fulfill our legal obligations as outlined under the credit agreement,” she said. “That being said, we remain respectful of the concerns being expressed by tribal governments and communities, other groups, and individuals.” Meanwhile, in North Dakota, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in riot gear in 14-degree weather. A “rogue group” of 76 protestors who illegally set up camp on private property was arrested and taken to local jails, according to authorities. “After repeated warnings to vacate a camp being illegally set up on private property in southern Morton County, south of Backwater Bridge, approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protesters were arrested by law enforcement officials today,” the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release. Via Grist Photos by Mike Mozart and Bryce Edwards

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Seattle votes to divest billions of dollars from Wells Fargo over Dakota Access pipeline

Japan’s experimental mission to clean up space junk ends in failure

February 7, 2017 by  
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An experimental effort to remove five decades worth of space junk orbiting Earth has met with failure due to technical problems. A Japanese team planned to use a 700-meter-long tether to coax floating debris to a lower orbit, where it would burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. But something went amiss and the tether couldn’t be extended – despite the best efforts of technicians who tried to fix it. According to the Guardian , more than 100 million pieces waste of various sizes, including cast-off equipment from old satellites and bits of rockets, are currently floating around the Earth. Experts say this garbage could pose risks for future space exploration, or even provoke armed conflict one day. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) developed a giant electrodynamic “tether” which they hoped could slow space refuse and bring it into a lower orbit – where they hoped it could later enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. The plan was to extend the 700-meter-long tether, made from steel and aluminum wires, from a cargo ship launched in December to bring astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. However all did not go according to plan – “We believe the tether did not get released,” leading researcher Koichi Inoue told The Guardian. “It is certainly disappointing that we ended the mission without completing one of the main objectives.” Related: Japan successfully orbits giant space junk collector The Guardian notes that JAXA has had some other disappointing results lately, including aborting a mission to use a mini-rocket to send a satellite into orbit a few weeks ago, and last year’s abandoned launch of a satellite designed to search for X-rays emanating from black holes and galaxy clusters. Via The Guardian Images via Jaxa and Wikimedia Commons

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Japan’s experimental mission to clean up space junk ends in failure

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