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

A young couple creates a dreamy Scandinavian-inspired yurt home in Oregon

November 11, 2019 by  
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When filmmaker Zach Both decided to hit pause on his itinerant lifestyle after three years on the road in a self-converted camper van, he and his girlfriend, Nicole Lopez, tapped into their DIY roots to assemble their new home — a contemporary yurt 20 minutes outside of downtown Portland, Oregon. Prefabricated by Rainier Outdoor, the couple’s modified yurt offers 930 square feet of light-filled living space furnished to ooze hygge vibes. To share the knowledge they learned during the build, Both created a website, DoItYurtself.com , a free step-by-step guide to show others how to build a modern yurt. Built over the course of six months, the prefabricated Eagle Yurt that Both and Lopez purchased from Rainier Outdoor measures just over 30 feet in diameter with 730 square feet of living space; the couple added a bedroom loft to squeeze in an additional 200 square feet of space. While the exterior of the yurt only took a single weekend to erect with the help of friends and family, finishing the interiors was a much more involved process. As stalwart DIYers, the duo took on all parts of the project from running electrical lines and plumbing to framing the walls and furnishing the greenery-filled contemporary interior. Related: This yurt-inspired modern cabin is a holiday getaway in Slovakia The modern yurt serves as a functional home for the couple and as a home office where Both can work on his filmmaking and writing. At the heart of the circular residence is a service core housing the bathroom with a composting toilet , service equipment and kitchen. This core is wrapped by the living room with a wood-burning stove, dining space and office. The home is hooked up to electricity and draws water from a well. A round bedroom loft is elevated atop the service core and features a circular planter with more than 45 plants. “It’s been incredible to adapt a structure with a history that stretches back thousands of years,” Both said. “It was our attempt at building a modern yurt for the 21st century.” To help others, Both’s online yurt guide offers photos and videos of his entire build process as well as a comprehensive collection of information about American yurt companies on the internet. + Do It Yurtself Photography by Bryan Aulick via Do It Yurtself

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A young couple creates a dreamy Scandinavian-inspired yurt home in Oregon

Illegal logging possibly contributes to majority of mislabeled wood in US markets

October 28, 2019 by  
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In a first-of-its-kind study , the World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute and United States Forest Service collaboratively found that a disconcerting 62 percent of the U.S. wood products studied were mislabeled. Mislabeling often signals wrongful supply chain violations — illegal logging and deforestation — that consequently hamper endeavors to promote sustainable wood According to Amy Smith, the World Wildlife Fund’s forests deputy director, “Wood products are intentionally mislabeled, sometimes to pass off lower-value wood for more expensive varieties, and sometimes to cover up the fact it was illegally sourced. We wanted to know how often this fraud occurs, and our study indicates it could be alarmingly common. The wood you think you are buying is not what you get.” Related: More than half of Europe’s native trees face extinction How does mislabeling occur? Loggers, for instance, could harvest trees from a threatened or ecologically vital forest ecosystem , then mix wood species to cover up the illegal logging activity. Following transport to the lumberyard, species origin of the timber logs and boards are further misrepresented to allow illegal wood in the supply chain. Distortion persists as the wood is misidentified as a different species, continuing onward to the mill’s processing, the factory’s product manufacturing, and eventually reaching the import and retail junctures as an illegally sourced wood product made available for purchase. Mislabeling of wood is of high concern because illegal logging harms fragile forests, placing them at risk of biodiversity loss . Whether purposeful or not, mislabeling breaches the U.S. Lacey Act , first enacted in 1900 to ban trafficking of illegal wildlife , then amended in 2008 to include plants and plant products, like timber. The U.S. Lacey Act’s landmark legislation continues as the world’s first ban on the trade of illegally sourced wood products. To solve the crisis, the U.S. Forest Service strives to increase training in identifying wood species. Doing so pinpoints supply chain gaps that need measures to combat illegal logging, mislabeling and the sale of fraudulent wood products. It is hoped this will cultivate best practices in verifying sources of wood species to confirm they arrive from sustainable, responsibly managed forests. Similarly, consumers are encouraged to make a difference by pledging to purchase products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council as FSC-certified . The FSC is “the most rigorous, credible forest certification system” that ensures products reliably comply with environmental protection standards before gaining access to markets. “ Deforestation and illegal logging are critical threats to our world’s forests,” Smith added. “It’s our responsibility as consumers to demand legally and responsibly sourced forest products. We do that by purchasing FSC-certified wood and paper and letting businesses and policy makers know that enforcement of our import laws — plus investment in technologies to detect fraud — must be a priority.” + PLOS ONE Image via James Schnepf / WWF-US

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Illegal logging possibly contributes to majority of mislabeled wood in US markets

Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

August 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium announced that they have managed to make a group of coral reproduce two days in a row. This is the first such successful attempt at Atlantic coral reproduction in a lab setting and could have important implications for saving barrier reefs. “Project Coral” is a program the aquarium designed in partnership with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens . The objective: to create large coral egg deposits in a laboratory and ultimately repopulate the Florida Reef Tract. Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Florida’s coral reefs are the world’s third largest barrier reef ecosystem. This phenomenal system, often called “America’s Great Barrier Reef,” extends from St. Lucie Inlet, north of Miami, to the Dry Tortugas, which are west of the Florida Keys. Biscayne National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contain about two-thirds of the reef tract. But pollution , climate change and the orange sponge that invades the weakened reefs have destroyed much of the ecosystem. Can Project Coral heal the threatened reefs? “It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world,” Roger Germann, CEO of the Florida Aquarium, told CNN . “Our team of experts cracked the code … that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.” The researchers started working with Staghorn coral in 2014 but then shifted their concentration to pillar coral. Devastated by disease, pillar coral are now almost extinct . Unfortunately, the female and male clusters are too far apart to reproduce. The aquarium’s coral greenhouses use high-tech gear like LED technology and computerized systems to imitate the real reef ecosystem and send out signals to encourage reproduction. The aquarium has proven doubters wrong — it is possible to generate native Atlantic coral spawn in a laboratory. It’s still too early to determine how this controlled experiment will transfer to all the variables involved in repopulating a wild reef. But this success has spurred scientists’ positive attitudes about a happy future for both the reef and Florida’s tourism economy. Germann said, “Now there really is hope … I think we can save it.” Via CNN Image via National Park Service

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Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

August 26, 2019 by  
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Known as The Fashion Pact, a group of 32 major luxury brands, labels and companies, such as Adidas, Burberry, Kering, Hermes, Nike, Prada and Puma, shared its ideas to improve sustainability in the fashion industry at the G7 summit from August 24 to 26. While addressing French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, some of the pact’s members said they would focus on using other options in their work in order to protect forests and minimize plastic usage. Related: Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025 At the summit, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “We know that one company cannot solve the environmental challenges facing our planet alone, and we believe in the power of collaboration to drive real change.” Some of the pact’s ideas include pledging to 100 percent renewable energy for operations by 2030; removing microfiber pollution; boosting biodiversity and creating eco-friendly agricultural, mining and forestry processes; and cutting back on single-use plastics in packaging by 2030. The fashion industry initiative came to fruition in early 2019, when Macron asked François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering Group, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, to form a coalition that discusses how the industry’s current practices impact the environment . Pinault talked about his ideas for the coalition at the Copenhagen fashion summit in May, according to The Guardian . “This has nothing to do with competition,” he told delegates at the time. “It’s a matter of leadership. Alone it is useless, you have to work with your peers. We might not succeed, but we will achieve more than not doing anything.” Several key fashion companies have been criticized for not addressing recent wildfires in the Amazon rainforest , despite donating millions of euros toward the restoration of the Notre Dame. Macron described the situation in the Amazon as an international crisis on Friday and said he wanted it to be addressed as a key issue at the 45th G7 summit. Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Tokatlian

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G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

MASK Architects design a sustainable pavilion nestled in a German forest

July 19, 2019 by  
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Turkish architect Öznur P?nar Çer’s firm MASK Architects has designed a sustainably minded pavilion proposed for Waldspielpark Heinrich Kraft Park, the largest forest game park in Frankfurt, Germany. Created with a leaf-shaped structure, the building is designed to blend into the forest with its natural materials palette that mainly comprises locally sourced timber. Dubbed Leaf and Bean Co Pavilion, the building will house a coffee shop, a semi-open library, recreational areas and an events space. Shaped like an ovate leaf, the Leaf and Bean Co Pavilion will span an area of more than 2,000 square feet across two floors. The pavilion’s ground floor will be semi open and house exhibition space, while the upper level will include the coffee shop with the service areas placed inside a circular core at the heart of the building. Optimization of views of the surrounding forest informed the decisions for placing the programming. In addition to providing structural support, locally sourced timber will be used to give the pavilion a sculptural appeal. The architects propose crisscrossing long timber blocks around the building exterior for a nest-like appearance that evokes branches in a forest. Large amounts of glazing wrap around the building to create an immersive experience in nature. The roof of the pavilion directly above the coffee service areas will be planted with trees and greenery visible from the coffee shop below. Related: A modern reusable pavilion is sustainably designed to pop-up almost anywhere “We carried out a design in which people can provide unforgettable experience without disturbing the mathematics and physics of nature,” Öznur P?nar Çer said in a press statement. “This pavilion can be adapted to any kind of forest area, the development offers visitors an escape from the city with the celebration of fresh and organic dining. A hub educating and reestablishing gastronomy’s historic and appropriate connection with nature. Guests may enjoy the leisure and programmed resting on the terrace level while connected with the natural forest. By wandering in the forest, visitors not only discover co-creation programs but also meet with the people involved with the project and explore their creative process.” + MASK Architects Images via MASK Architects

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MASK Architects design a sustainable pavilion nestled in a German forest

Extreme heat wallops US

July 18, 2019 by  
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If you live in the central or eastern U.S., it’s time to fill your ice trays and seek shade as a major heat wave will put 50 million Americans under a heat warning this week. People in Nashville, Chicago, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C. and many other cities will be fanning themselves as temperatures top 95 degrees. High humidity will intensify the effect. “The prolonged duration of the heat and humidity will potentially become dangerous to those most vulnerable,” the National Weather Service warned. The heat wave will probably last at least three days. Related: Heatwave roasts mussels alive in California Climate scientists predict that by the mid-21st century, Americans will face an average of 36 days annually when the heat index surpasses 100 degrees, and 24 days when it exceeds 105. By 2100, those numbers could rise to 54 and 40. “Our analysis shows a hotter future that’s hard to imagine today,” said UCS senior climate scientist Kristina Dahl, according to Newsweek . In addition to direct health risks of scorching weather , heat waves bring other dangers and inconveniences to cities. More people cranking air conditioners lead to power fails. Places like Manhattan— which is served by underground delivery systems that heat up as the ground gets hot— are especially susceptible to blackouts. Scientists predict that the current heat wave will bring record high overnight lows in many cities, and that this pattern will also continue to rise with climate change. This phenomenon presents a serious health risk, as people’s bodies don’t have a chance to cool overnight. Via EcoWatch Image via NASA Earth Observatory

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Extreme heat wallops US

Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

May 1, 2019 by  
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A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office predicts an alarming $54 billion in hurricane and flood damage over the next few years — much of which can be avoided by spending money upfront to protect and prevent against losses. The frequency of what are called “billion-dollar storms” appear to be increasing. In 2018, there were 39 “billion-dollar” disasters around the world — 16 of which were in the U.S. Already in the first four months of 2019, the U.S. has endured winter storms Quiana and Ulmer, and each one caused more than a billion dollars  in damage to infrastructure and homes. The new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focuses on hurricanes, which are the mostly costly natural disasters according to NOAA. Since 1980, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $927.5 billion in damages and are also the most expensive individual storm events in both financial cost and lives lost. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Of the annual losses predicted by the CBO, $34 billion is estimated in damage to homes, plus $12 billion for the public sector and $9 billion for private businesses. The direct cost to taxpayers is estimated at approximately $17 billion per year. However, the CBO report also underscores several preventive actions that could significantly reduce these costs. By some analyses , mitigation measures (such as flood prevention or watershed protection) could save Americans $6 dollars in losses for every $1 spent in preparation. Solutions to mitigate hurricane damage The following suggestions from the report include environmental and policy-level recommendations to reduce loss in infrastructure and lives from tropical storms and hurricanes. Reduce carbon emissions Hurricanes, and their rising frequency and intensity, are intricately tied to climate change . Increasing temperatures melt glaciers and cause sea level rise, which leads to higher storm surge levels and more destructive flooding. The rising temperatures have also been linked to increased rainfall. Climate change is a result of greenhouse gas emissions; therefore,  reducing emissions would slow and prevent some of the future damage caused by intense storms and extreme flooding. One primary way to reduce emissions, according to the CBO, is by expanding cap-and-trade programs. These programs incentivize companies to keep emissions below designated thresholds and allow the purchasing of emission credits between companies that pollute less and companies that pollute more. However, the CBO also acknowledges that limiting emissions may negatively impact the economy by increasing the cost of goods and services and reducing jobs. Likewise, the CBO argues that such strategies must be enforced at a global scale, otherwise corporations will relocate to countries that allow unfettered pollution. Increase funding for flood mapping The weather is changing, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is struggling to keep up. Rapid urban development in wetlands and flood zones, combined with sea level rise and erosion, are changing the landscape of flood risk. The scale of this need is overwhelming — in 2018, FEMA spent $452 million on flood mapping and data collection, but it was nowhere near enough. Expand flood insurance coverage Flood insurance agencies need accurate spatial data and maps in order to adequately provide coverage, charge appropriate rates and adequately inform the public about their specific risks. Most people simply do not buy flood insurance and of those that do, 25 percent drop their plan within the first year. More accurate data and delineated risk zones can help inform residents of their direct risks and incentivize homeowners to implement mitigation measure, such as relocating heating and cooling equipment above of the predicted flood level. Accurate risk data will also help justify changes for long-standing insurance policy holders who have been “grandfathered” into plans that grossly underestimated their vulnerability before climate science and spatial mapping were widely available. An estimated 20 percent of insurance policy holders are paying rates lower than their appropriate risk level, which is good news for the policy holder up until a storm hits and they are in need of benefits that correspond to the damage they endured. Encourage local and state governments to share recovery costs When the president declares a disaster emergency, municipalities receive federal dollars to provide basic needs and support recovery efforts. Though the federal government plans to ramp up funding for preventive measures, such as sea walls, the CBO believes that if local and state governments had to foot more of the bill, they would be more inclined to enforce important mitigation policy . For example, if local and state governments expected to have to pay for damage to infrastructure, they would be more strict about limiting new development in flood zones — something they have more power to control from a local level. The message is clear — mitigation efforts are worth every penny. The National Weather Service already predicted more severe flooding this hurricane season than previous years. As evidence piles up in favor of mitigation, the only question remaining is ‘where do we start?’ + CBO Via The Weather Channel Image via Raquel M  and Pamela Andrade ( 1 , 2 )

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Congress reports U.S. will lose $54 billion annually to storms

Two abandoned 1960s buildings in the middle of a desert become a chic eco retreat

May 1, 2019 by  
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London-based practice Anarchitect has breathed new life into two stone buildings from the 1960s that had laid vacant in the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah desert for years. Using the crimson landscape as inspiration, the firm converted the abandoned buildings into the Al Faya Lodge , a light-filled eco retreat that was built with a variety of resilient materials to withstand the remote area’s extreme temperature fluctuations. Set into the foothills of Mount Alvaah and surrounded by miles of desert, the boutique hotel  required a very strategic design that would enable the structures to be resilient against the harsh climate. According to Anarchitect founder Jonathan Ashmore, the location was challenging to say the least. “Desert conditions present extreme heat in summer with intense and prolonged sun exposure,” Ashmore said. “It is important to consider these factors when first designing the form and mass of the building and secondly the selection of suitable and robust materials, which go hand-in-hand.” Related: Off-grid eco-retreats reconnect you to serene nature in Brazil Using the existing frames of the old buildings (formerly a grocery store and cafe) as a guide for the layout, the architects selected a number of robust materials to create a resilient design that would stand up to the elements for years to come. Locally-sourced stone and concrete were chosen to create a heavy thermal mass, which would help keep the interior spaces at a comfortable temperature year-round. Additionally, using concrete and stone also protects the building from the harsh weather that often sees driving rain, sand storms and freezing overnight temperatures. In addition to these materials, the hotel was clad in a vibrant mixture of weathered steel and teak hardwood to add a refined industrial aesthetic to the design. Large floor-to-ceiling panels let in optimal natural light throughout the interior and provide a strong connection with the amazing setting found outdoors. While guests to the lodge can enjoy stunning views of the mountains and desertscape from the hotel’s dining area, reception room and outdoor fire pit, the rooftop terrace is the place to be at sunrise and sunset. All of the five guest rooms feature large skylights for stargazing. When looking for a little downtime from exploring the area, guests can also take in a luxurious soak in the open-air saltwater pool. + Anarchitect + Al Faya Lodge Via Archdaily Photography by Fernando Guerra via Anarchitect

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