Where to find eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings

July 16, 2020 by  
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Your engagement and wedding rings are a symbol of your eternal love and commitment to your spouse. If you’re eco-minded, they should also be a testament to your love for and commitment to the planet. So when selecting your metal and gem rings, do so with extra attention to the material origin and manufacturing process. We’ve made it easier with a roundup of some of the best sustainable jewelers. Jewelry-making, at its core, uses natural or eco-friendly materials and sustainable methods, but mass-production has led to pollution , over-harvesting and poor working conditions for thousands of people in the industry. The main issue is the mining process as well as the conflicts common to the areas around mines. As these environmental and humanitarian issues have come to light, a variety of companies have stepped in to do some of the foundational ethical research for you, ensuring you’re making the best wedding ring choice for yourself, your partner and the planet.  Related: How to have a more sustainable wedding Melissa Joy Manning With a Green-certified shop in Berkeley, California and a similar studio in New York City, Melissa Joy Manning is an honorable choice for your wedding rings. Not only is the manufacturing process sustainable, but all products are handmade using recycled precious metals . Packaging is made from recycled materials as well. Plus, carbon offsetting counterbalances any shipping emissions. Ken and Dana Design With each piece handcrafted in NYC, Ken and Dana Design avoids overseas manufacturing and ensures a generous living wage to the workers along the supply chain. All jewelry uses recycled metals to curb the impact caused by sourcing virgin materials. Diamonds are sourced from all Kimberley Process-compliant suppliers, which is a certification system that prohibits the trading of diamonds from conflict regions. Ken and Dana Design also offers Canadian-origin and lab-grown diamonds. A portion of each sale is donated to Earthworks and Cool Effect, organizations aimed at protecting the environment. Couple If diamonds are your dream, Couple.co is a great option for sourcing a ring you know has been thoughtfully made. Each diamond must first be certified by the International Gemological Institute, then only the best are personally selected by the in-house gemologist. For an eco-friendly and 100% ethically sourced and produced option, you can also select lab-grown diamonds. Aurate New York For a combination of minimalist design and high diamond traceability practices, Aurate New York is a solid choice. The gold is 100% recycled, and the company employs a process to ensure each piece is sustainably handmade, casted, polished and perfected in NYC by seventh-generation craftsmen. Plus, for each purchase, the company donates a book to improve literacy efforts across the country. Noémie Another U.S.-based jeweler focused on ethical production, Noémie uses recycled 18K gold and conflict-free certified diamonds. Plus it provides free overnight shipping and returns and a lifetime warranty, and it boasts IGI Diamond Certification. Do Amore Diamond-sourcing is a hot button issue due to the violence in some of these areas. While the Kimberley Process is a great start in avoiding diamonds from conflict areas, it’s not a foolproof indicator. Do Amore recognizes this and takes the process further to ensure safe worker conditions by purchasing all diamonds directly from Diamond Sightholders, who are held to strict sourcing and employee treatment standards. In addition, all rings are made from recycled precious metals, handmade in the U.S. and packaged sans plastic in wood boxes made from sustainable Jarrah trees. MiaDonna All MiaDonna rings are made in the U.S. using lab-developed diamonds and recycled metals. One tree is planted through the Nature Conservatory to carbon-offset each shipment, and the company is dedicated to the protection and reconstruction of areas damaged by the mining process. The company has also been awarded the Green America Seal of Approval, which is best expressed by MiaDonna itself with the statement, “We believe in transparency. As an advocate for diamond mining communities, global societies and the Earth, we are putting a modern twist on an outdated industry.” Erica Weiner If vintage describes your dream ring, check out the unique and expansive collection from Erica Weiner . In addition to offering the flair you desire, going vintage means eliminating the need for virgin materials, making it one of the most sustainable options for eco-friendly wedding jewelry . Catering to all preferences, the company also has handmade options made from recycled materials in contemporary designs. Aide-mémoire Jewelry If your desire to be earth-conscious is combined with a goal to support the LBGTQ+ community, Aide-mémoire Jewelry may be the option you’re looking for. As an “all-inclusive, queer woman-owned small business in Seattle, Washington,” the company designs its jewelry with recycled precious metals and lab-grown, conflict-free diamonds, then places each order in recyclable and compostable packaging. The company also contributes to Lambda Legal, an organization that supports the LBGTQ+ community, and Higher Heights, which supports Black female politicians. Bario Neal Designers Anna Bario and Page Neal set out to share more than beautiful jewelry. “Disillusioned by industry standards that turned a blind eye to metal and gemstone mining’s environmental and human tolls,” the duo creates rings with a commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability. Bario Neal supports LGBTQ+ rights and worldwide marriage equality, and all items are handmade in the Bario Neal Philadelphia studio. Both diamonds and colorful stones are fully traceable, and according to the company, “Fairmined metals are extracted by empowered and responsible small-scale and artisanal miners.” Images via Ken and Dana Design, MiaDonna, Bario Neal and Noémie

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Where to find eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings

Work from home in style in these slippers made of natural and recycled materials

May 20, 2020 by  
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Footwear requirements at home are different than anywhere else you may roam. While sometimes slippers or bare feet fit the bill, other times you might need proper support, even if you’re staying indoors. The entrepreneur behind Dooeys thinks you can have the best of both worlds, with a shoe and a slipper in one that won’t hurt the planet. Founder of Dooeys, Jordan Clark, originally from Seattle, Washington, was living in Amsterdam and found herself struggling to find a proper pair of shoes for her typical work-from-home activities. Tennis shoes were too rigid, and slippers didn’t offer the support she needed nor the style she desired. So she decided to design her own footwear that women could wear while working and lounging at home. She dubbed this footwear Slipshoes. Related: Vegan shoes from Insecta are a stylish option for eco-friendly footwear In addition to comfort and versatility, it was important to Clark that the shoes were made with sustainability in mind. She said, “I came up with the idea for Dooeys two years ago before I had any idea there would be a global shift forcing millions to work from home. I spent the past year-and-a-half designing and sourcing sustainable materials to make the perfect house shoes for women.” To that end, Slipshoes are made with a breathable upper portion using vegan apple leather that comes from post-processing organic apple skins grown in the Italian Alps. The insoles are produced from cork , which is harvested in Portugal and bound with natural latex from the rubber tree. The EVA soles are made from sugarcane while the footbed stems from coconut husks. Each shoe is made in Portugal using these earth-friendly materials, along with recycled plastic and recycled polyester.  Jordan hopes the shoes appeal to anyone who loves the environment and just enjoys working, lounging or entertaining at home. The Slipshoes are available as two-tone loafer or slide-in mules. Both styles are currently available for pre-order on the Dooeys website for $145. + Dooeys Images via Dooeys

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Work from home in style in these slippers made of natural and recycled materials

Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

May 18, 2020 by  
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Seattle recently made bold moves to put pedestrians and cyclists first as the pandemic-induced stay-at-home order creates a new normal. Up to 20 miles of roadways in the “Stay Healthy Streets” program shall remain permanently closed to nonessential through traffic to encourage people to exercise safely while social distancing.  Environmentalists  are praising the move because curtailing vehicular traffic means a reduction in  carbon emissions . “Our rapid response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 have been transformative in a number of places across the city,” Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director, told  The   Seattle Times . “Some of the responses are going to be long lasting, and we need to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Quarantine fatigue has been a major motivation towards more citizen safety measures to sustain  public health  through exercise. Not only were 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets permanently closed to encourage walking, jogging, skateboarding, scootering and cycling, but  Seattle’s Office of the Mayor  also announced plans for enhanced bike infrastructure and additional protected bike lanes. The news has garnered praise from the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board. Mayor Jenny Durkan further explained, “We are in a marathon and not a sprint in our fight against COVID-19. As we assess how to make the changes that have kept us safe and healthy  sustainable  for the long term, we must ensure Seattle is rebuilding better than before. Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather. Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.” According to SDOT, the streets that have become pedestrianized were selected because they have few open spaces, lower rates of car ownership and are located in routes open to essential services as well as takeout meals. Of course, postal services, deliveries, garbage and recycling trucks, plus emergency vehicles are still permitted on these “closed” streets. SDOT will also be reprogramming traffic signals to reduce pedestrian wait-times at crosswalks so that crowd formations at intersections can be avoided. Pushing buttons to request walk signals will no longer be needed for 75% of Seattle’s densest regions as walk signals there will become automated to minimize the touching of surfaces. An estimated $100,000 to $200,000 will be used for these safety measures, which include helpful new signs and barriers. The  SDOT blog  has documented that ever since Washington state’s Governor Jay Inslee issued stay-at-home orders, vehicular traffic has dropped by 57% in Seattle. It is hoped that permanently closing almost 20 miles of street will lead to fewer idling cars and limit traffic even after the lockdown lifts. In so doing, reductions in  air pollution  will continue for the Evergreen State’s Emerald City long after the lockdown lifts. + City of Seattle Office of the Mayor + Seattle Department of Transportation Images via Pexels

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Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

Olson Kundig designs worlds first Recompose facility for composting human remains

December 3, 2019 by  
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Architectural practice Olson Kundig has unveiled designs for the flagship facility of Recompose, a company that will offer a new and sustainable after-death care service, in which human remains are gently converted into clean soil. Presented as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional burials and cremations, Recompose’s “natural organic reduction” service expects to save over one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person as compared to typical after-death options. The flagship facility in Seattle will emphasize the service’s environmentally friendly aspects with the inclusion of greenery indoors and the use of modular, reusable architecture. In April 2019, Washington state passed a bill that allowed human remains to be composted — making it the first state to legalize such a practice. Yet even before the bill was passed, Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of the Recompose public benefit corporation, had already reached out to Olson Kundig’s design principal, Alan Maskin, in 2015 to begin designing the first prototype of the Recompose vessel. Related: 6 eco burial options for a green afterlife Expected to open in spring 2021, the 18,500-square-foot Seattle flagship facility for Recompose will be located in the city’s SODO neighborhood and will include a ceremonial disposition area ringed by trees, spaces for storage, an area for the preparation of bodies, administrative back-of-house areas and an interpretive public lobby that describes the Recompose process. Approximately 75 modular Recompose vessels — used to compost human remains into soil in about 30 days — will be stacked and arranged around the central gathering space. “This facility hosts the Recompose vessels, but it is also an important space for ritual and public gathering,” Maskin said. “The project will ultimately foster a more direct, participatory experience and dialogue around death and the celebration of life. We’re honored to be involved with this project, and excited for the first Recompose facility in the world to open its doors in Seattle .” + Olson Kundig Images via Olson Kundig

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Olson Kundig designs worlds first Recompose facility for composting human remains

A family builds an impressive, 300-square-foot tiny home to travel the world

December 3, 2019 by  
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It’s the freedom to travel that continues to push the tiny home trend. Families like Bela, Spencer and their young daughter, Escher, are able to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle while also exploring the world whenever they get the urge to get up and go. What’s more, this family’s custom tiny home on wheels , as functional as it is beautiful, features all of the creature comforts of a contemporary home. Bela and Spencer began their love affair with tiny home living on their honeymoon, where they spent a few days off the grid in a quaint cottage in Appalachia. The experience stayed with them for years, even as they found themselves paying a whopping $2,300 a month to rent a studio apartment in Redwood City years later. Related: Newlyweds forgo pricey wedding to embark on an incredible tiny home adventure Wanting a better life that would allow them to travel with their new addition, baby Escher, the couple decided to embark on a DIY tiny home project. Once they located an idyllic spot in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California, they got to work building the tiny home of their dreams. The couple decided to approach each design step by focusing on spatial awareness and functionality instead of the limited square footage. This focus allowed them to create functional, custom spaces that best suited their own needs as a family. The finished tiny home on wheels features an expansive, open-air deck, complete with a comfortable lounge space, dining set and barbecue grill. The family spends quite a bit of time here, enjoying the views and fresh mountain air. The entrance is through a glass garage door that opens vertically and connects the interior to the front deck. Interestingly, the interior layout was designed to have nine distinct living spaces, each one separated from the other by either a difference in level (steps or a ladder) or a soft partition of some sort (glass door, curtain or shoji paper). This strategy allows each section to have a unique purpose. The ground floor features a living room and high-top dining table that looks out a window over the landscape. The fully equipped kitchen, with a striking copper backsplash, is elevated off the ground by a short staircase that slides out of the wall to create storage space . Behind the kitchen is the master bedroom, which, like the rest of the home, benefits from an abundance of natural light. The queen-sized bed is built on hydraulic lids, enabling it to fold up to reveal more storage underneath. On the other side of the home, a spacious bathroom with a composting toilet features a lovely, spa-like shower stall. Above this area is an L-shaped loft accessible by a ladder. This upper level houses two distinct spaces: an extra bedroom and storage. + This X Life Via Living Big in a Tiny House Photography by Bela Fishbeyn; family photos by Ryan Tuttle

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A family builds an impressive, 300-square-foot tiny home to travel the world

Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

December 3, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem, with piles of debris along coastlines, on roadsides, in landfills and floating in waterways. Environmentally conscious companies are looking for ways to clean up the mess while simultaneously seeking out methods to recycle plastic waste into other products. One Dutch company, The Recycled Island Foundation (RIF), is tackling both problems with one solution — Litter Traps. According to the RIF website, the motivation for the project came from the knowledge that our waterways are part of global ecosystem, where everybody benefits or pays the consequences of waste management . “Plastic pollutes our seas and oceans and has a direct and deadly effect on marine life,” the foundation said. “Thousands of birds, seals, turtles, whales and other marine animals are killed every year after ingesting plastic or getting strangled in it. With the plastics breaking down into smaller particles, it also enters the human food chain.” Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste Knowing that the majority of ocean pollution comes from rivers that lead out to sea, RIF decided to stop plastic waste before it could travel that far. The foundation’s Litter Traps are aptly named. Sourced from recycled plastic themselves, the traps filter water, collect plastic and stop that plastic from traveling downstream. The collected plastic is then made into durable floating parks, seating elements, building materials and even more Litter Traps. The passive design of the Litter Trap allows it to float in the river, harbor or port, catching plastic once it floats inside the trap. The system does not rely on any energy source. Once full, the trap is emptied, and the usable plastic is sorted. The plastic then heads into manufacturing, where it is turned into a variety of products. This circular system allows the company to collect materials, clean up the rivers and make products without waste and at a minimal cost. The RIF has been busy collecting plastic from local waterways for some time. More than one year ago, it opened a prototype in Rotterdam, the Netherlands called the Recycled Park. This floating park is made entirely from recycled plastic gathered from the nearby Meuse River. You can read more about that project here . The initial park prototype is an example of how recycled plastic can be used to replicate the marine ecosystem, complete with live plants above and below the park that animals such as snails, flatworms, larva, beetles and fish call home. What began as a local movement has gone international. New Litter Traps are being manufactured to tackle river waste around the world. Belgium and Indonesia were the first countries to adopt the RIF approach, and the organization is now preparing similar projects in Vietnam, France, the Philippines, Brazil and more. As an example of how the mechanism performs, a single Litter Trap located in Belgium is emptied twice a week, and the average amount of waste collected is 1.5 cubic meters per month. The goal is to continue to expand the use of Litter Traps to divert plastic from the oceans on a large scale. The future of the Litter Trap is bright, with plans to make portable Litter Traps and Litter Traps that can collect and hold larger quantities of plastic before needing emptied. Now partnering with international companies, RIF hopes to create products that are in high demand in the areas where the plastic is collected. RIF is working with innovators to turn the plastic into a durable and easy-to-assemble housing material. It is also looking into large-scale, 3D-printing options using the marine plastic. For example, the company offers custom couches made entirely from salvaged marine plastic that is 3D-printed into shape. RIF feels knowledge is power in the campaign for plastic reduction, so it has implemented an educational program that includes ways to reduce plastic consumption, information about proper recycling techniques and an opportunity to participate in clean-up efforts. It hopes to continue to inspire action and raise awareness about the problem by visiting schools and organizing community events. When it comes to environmental efforts , the more hands involved in projects, the better. RIF has partnered with dozens of agencies with similar goals, creating a village of like-minded companies hoping to lead the way toward better plastic management and the creation of durable, reusable products. + The Recycled Island Foundation Images via The Recycled Island Foundation

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Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

October 17, 2019 by  
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When Wendy Morgan accepted a friend’s invitation to go see Elda Behm’s garden in the 1990s, she had no idea she would become entangled in a project for the next 25 years. “Elda popped her head around the garage and that was the beginning of it,” Morgan says with a laugh. “She was a saleswoman.” The Port of Seattle was planning its third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport . Behm’s home and garden were in the way, so the port slated them for demolition, but Behm wasn’t giving up her garden without a fight. By the end of the decade, her charisma and love of her plants would entice Morgan and 200 other volunteers to move Behm’s entire garden. As Morgan and her dog Snooks show my tour group around the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden , we see the rich community partnership that has grown up around the original effort to recycle a garden into a new space. Five local flower societies have started gardens within Highline, and many individuals pay $40 per year for a community garden plot. Some people include the garden in their daily dog walk, and hundreds turn out for the annual summer time ice cream social. The garden’s beginnings Elda Gothke Behm was born in 1913 and raised on a farm near Wenatchee, Washington. She became a certified landscape designer in 1953 and moved to Burien, near SeaTac, in 1954. “Elda never met a plant she didn’t like,” Morgan reminisces as we wander through the Elda Behm Paradise Garden section of Highline. Plants flourished under her care — enough so that the Burien City Council and the City of SeaTac (yes, there’s a city as well as an airport with that name) agreed to develop 11 acres in North SeaTac Park into a public garden, starting with relocating Behm’s plants to save them from runway three. The Highline Botanical Garden Foundation was incorporated to oversee the garden. Volunteers worked with the Port of Seattle and the City of SeaTac from late 1999 into the spring of 2000 to move plants, trees and shrubs from Behm’s home into a holding area while gardeners prepared the soil. Behm favored native species, especially rhododendrons. The port supplied cranes and trucks to hoist conifers and other trees into their new home. The garden is planted on former residential land that the port had claimed in the 1950s, demolishing houses for a buffer zone around runway two. Morgan, who promotes interactive tours by asking questions and urging visitors to guess the answers, wants to know what we think they found when they started digging. “Water heaters!” she tells us triumphantly after we guess wrong a few times. Buried appliances had been left behind, which had to be cleared out. But some trees and shrubs had survived from the long ago houses, so those are incorporated in the garden today. Behm didn’t quietly slide into the background once her garden was moved. “She stayed on the board even in her nineties,” Morgan recalls. “She never gave up leadership.” Morgan remembers lots of arguments Behm had with the board over features she wanted added to the garden. Her last project was a shade garden featuring ferns, hostas, hellebores and her special favorite black trilliums. Behm died in 2008 at the age of 94. The Japanese garden While the thought of transplanting one entire garden is astonishing enough, in 2005 Highline relocated a second garden. The Seike family came from Japan , settling in Des Moines, Washington around 1920. The three sons all studied horticulture and helped run the family-owned Des Moines Nursery. They were forced into an internment camp during World War Two. Unlike most Japanese families, the Seikes were lucky in that a German-American family tended their plants during their internment and returned their property intact after the war. However, a much greater wartime loss befell them: their second son, Toll, died while fighting in France. Later, in conjunction with the 1962 Seattle World Fair, they hired a gardener to come from Hiroshima and build an authentic Japanese garden in Toll’s honor. Fast forward to 2004. Again, the Port of Seattle wanted more property. This time, the Seike family nursery was on the chopping block. The city of SeaTac found funding to move the miniature mountain and waterfall garden to Highline. Now generations who were born long after World War Two can sit by the pond and contemplate this family’s suffering and perseverance. The garden today Highline covers 11 acres today, with half developed and half still just dreams in gardeners’ heads. In addition to grants, donations and bequests, Highline raises money at its annual plant sales. Volunteer coordinator and gardener Jolly Eitelberg propagates the plants in the garden’s greenhouse. The garden is an extremely peaceful place, despite being so close to planes landing and taking off. Many out of town visitors with long layovers find their way to Highline, Morgan says, as it’s one of the closest attractions to the airport. But the airport has one unexpected effect on the garden — Highline can’t put koi in its ponds, because koi attract herons , which could get sucked into jet engines. Morgan is especially proud of the victory garden, modeled after those who tended to the home front during World War Two, when fresh vegetables supplemented ration cards. Highline donates green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables grow in the victory garden to the Tukwila Food Bank. Morgan is a big believer in sharing food. She even takes our group into her plot in the community garden and offers us parsley, cucumbers and tomatoes. “Where do you think we get most of our volunteers?” she asks, a twinkle in her eye. “Most of our volunteers run red lights. And then when the judge says that will be 500 dollars they say they don’t have that kind of money.” They choose working in the garden as their community service so they can get outside, she says. Some like it so much they stay. After 25 years, the garden still inspires Morgan, who loves to share its message with visitors. To her, Highline is a triumph over what looked like insurmountable odds for Behm’s beautiful garden. She repeats herself several times over the course of our tour, driving her point home: “If you have something in your life that you think should be preserved or kept somehow, you can. If you gather people around you and keep pushing.” Images via Inhabitat

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Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

October 17, 2019 by  
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Modern homes come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems that architects are opting to take a simpler route these days when it comes to creating amazing designs. Case in point is the beautiful BL House by Mas Fernandez Architectos . Located in a coastal area in Chile’s Valparaíso region, the gorgeous home was built using prefabricated and modular materials, then topped with an eye-catching, origami-inspired metal roof. Tucked into a hilly landscape covered with trees and vegetation, the almost 2,000-square-foot home was designed to embrace its idyllic, quiet setting. Using the surrounding nature as inspiration , the team at Mas Fernandez used simple, cost-effective materials to create a design that would offer the homeowners a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica The single-level home is gently nestled into the topography of the land in order to minimize impact. Using concrete pillars, part of the home is elevated over a gentle slop. The home is topped with a fun, origami-inspired aluminum roof that gives off the impression that it is about to take flight at any moment. The roof juts out over the home’s frame, shading the interior from harsh sunlight during the hot summer months. The roof also has two triangular cutouts that allow for natural light to filter into the two interior courtyards. The house was built using prefabricated materials that allowed the architects to keep construction costs down and minimize construction time. The project is clad in a dramatic, dark pine cladding with some walls made of glass panels. The five-bedroom home features an open-concept living, dining and kitchen area that is filled with simple, rustic decor reminiscent of a contemporary cabin. Massive, floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a seamless connection between the outdoors and indoors. Additionally, the walls and ceilings are lined with native treated pinewood, adding warmth to the atmosphere. For outdoor space, the home has an enviable, open-air deck with plenty of space for seating and dining. + Mas Fernandez Arquitectos Via Dezeen Images via Mas Fernandez Arquitectos

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Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

October 15, 2019 by  
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Packed with automotive and logistics giants, the living lab out of Seattle aspires to test solutions to “the transportation challenge of our time.”

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How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

October 15, 2019 by  
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Packed with automotive and logistics giants, the living lab out of Seattle aspires to test solutions to “the transportation challenge of our time.”

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How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

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