Rammed concrete home in Portugal boasts passive design features and a green roof

March 26, 2019 by  
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Portuguese firm  Atelier 1111 has unveiled a gorgeous home designed to strategically blend into the rural region of Grândola in southern Portugal. The Cottage House is an angular design embedded into a small hillside, putting part of the home underneath the arid landscape. This technique provides the house with a strong thermal envelope, which — along with additional passive cooling strategies such as a green roof and thickened stone walls — boosts energy efficiency. Using the idyllic setting as inspiration for the design, the exterior of the home is clad in a rammed concrete, which gives the exterior a textured, neutral color that blends in with the arid soil. According to the architects, the rammed concrete was part of the structure’s many passive features, which also include a green roof and thick, insulative walls. Related: This breezy, green-roofed home in Singapore embraces nature from all angles “Thermal comfort was one of our biggest concerns, especially in the summer, because it is a region with high temperatures,” the architects explained. “We avoid mechanical systems, because we have a green roof and considerable thick walls.” Although angular in form, the contemporary home manages to subtly and respectfully blend in with its surroundings. Using the rolling topography to their advantage, the architects created a main open-air corridor that weaves through the structure, leading to the interior living space as well as various cutouts that frame the incredible views. Throughout the interior, the home’s walls and ceilings are also made out of concrete , but in a polished version. Locally-sourced marble was used for the flooring, and the design is enhanced with brass features on the interior doors. The Cottage House is actually part of a bigger plan that is set to be built on the same site, including a garage and a swimming pool. The design of the home, as well as the remaining buildings, was almost entirely inspired by the surrounding landscape, which is characterized by protected stone pine, olive and  cork  trees. The sloped land at its highest point provides a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. + Atelier 1111 Photography by Nuno Pinto via Atelier 1111

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Rammed concrete home in Portugal boasts passive design features and a green roof

Stanfords sustainable scholars building embraces the California landscape

March 26, 2019 by  
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A former parking lot has been converted into the Denning House , the new home for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford University. The University and the Denning Family tapped New York City-based architectural firm Ennead Architects to design the building as a gathering place for graduate scholars hailing from international backgrounds and diverse disciplines. Wrapped in timber and surrounded by California oaks, the Denning House has a treehouse-like atmosphere and sustainably embraces the landscape by minimizing site impact, tapping into natural ventilation and using bird-friendly glass to reduce bird collisions while improving solar performance. Located at the edge of Lake Lagunita and surrounded by a dense forested landscape, the Denning House design draws inspiration from its site surroundings. Hidden in the trees, the 18,000-square-foot building features a Douglas fir wood structure that’s clad in cypress with interiors lined in Douglas fir. The exposed wood, expansive glazing, and open-floor plan makes the indoor environment feel seamlessly connected with the outdoors. The building has also been designed for optimal views of Lake Lagunita. The large public spaces, such as the dining areas, classrooms and lounges are located on the second floor to take full advantage of spectacular lake vistas. The shallow arcing facade also gives way to a continuous outdoor deck from where views of the lake can be enjoyed. Meanwhile, the ground floor is given over to administration, conference and back-of-house facilities. Related: Heroic Food Farm gives military veterans a new mission as farmers growing sustainable food “It is a very environmentally immersive site,” said Emily Kirkland, the project architect and project manager. “The building was designed to respect and enhance the symbiotic relationship between visitor and nature, and by virtue of its minimal footprint, help to restore the native landscape.” To further reduce the building’s site impact, the Denning House is set on recessed footings to conserve and intensify native vegetation and is accessed via a gently curving, sloping boardwalk. + Ennead Architects Images by Tim Griffith

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Stanfords sustainable scholars building embraces the California landscape

Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends

March 26, 2019 by  
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A recent study analyzed billions of Wikipedia searches and found that the public’s interest in plants and animal species is often linked to the seasonality and migration patterns of wildlife. The findings contribute to a body of research that uses internet search data to understand and gauge the public’s interest in environmental topics. Researchers believe this information can ultimately help guide more effective wildlife conservation campaigns. The study: Wikipedia searches and species The study, led by John Mittermeier, an ornithology student at the University of Oxford, was published on March 5 in the  PLOS Biology journal. It analyzed 2.3 billion Wikipedia page views of 32,000 different species. The authors examined pages across 245 different languages over a span of three years. The study’s most pertinent finding shows that over a fourth of all page views were linked to the seasonality of the searched-for species . The authors concluded that this means that people are paying attention to the plants and animals around them, despite the widening disconnect between people and nature. According to Mittermeier, each page could count as a human-wildlife interaction, “if you count a click as an interaction”. Although “clicks” are debatable as an interaction, it is true that people are increasingly disconnected with nature in many parts of the urbanized world. The study’s authors are hopeful that this knowledge of seasonal interest can turn into support for wildlife conservation . Related: IKEA teams up with London artists to upcycle old furniture into funky abodes for birds, bees, ?and bats Searches and Seasonality The study found that searches for particular species peaked during certain seasons or times of migration . For example, searches for Baltimore Orioles were higher in the Spring when the birds migrate to breeding grounds. Searches for flowering plants were also higher during times when flowers were in bloom, whereas searches for evergreen plants like pine trees had no correlation to season. “The results of this study…encouragingly suggest that humans remain attuned to the seasonal dynamics of the natural world,” Mittermeier explained. The authors also noted cultural trends in the searches. For example, searches for Great White Sharks rose during the Discovery Chanel’s Shark Week. Mittermeier and the co-authors believe the study will help explain important questions, such as “how is the world changing, for which species is it changing the most and where are the people who care the most and can do the most to help?” Similar internet-search studies There are a number of other studies that have examined the ties between internet searches and environmental topics. In fact, this body of research is part of an emerging field called “conservation culturomics,” which uses digital trend data to understand public support for and interest in the environment. One similar study examined Google searches on environmental topics since 2004, particularly testing linkages between ‘conservation’ and ‘ climate change ‘ and the competition between those two searches within the public’s “limited bandwidth” for environmental topics. Although the authors originally believed climate change would overpower conservation and biodiversity searches,  findings reveal that both topics are closely linked and that searches for the two were about equal. Remarkably, the data also revealed a drastic increase in interest in conservation and climate change among populations in India, Nepal, and Eastern and Southern African countries. Another study suggests that spikes in wildlife conservation searches occur around the publication of news articles on similar topics, however, such peaks are not associated with the publication of research studies. This discovery shows the critical importance of the media for conservation and climate change awareness and suggests that conservation organizations should look to strengthen partnerships with journalists and media channels as complementary to their investments in scientific research. Still, different  study on internet searches for endangered wildlife species revealed that the general public is far too focused on endangered mammals, while equally important and threatened fish and reptiles receive little attention and therefore very few searches. Again, this study concluded that more media attention must be given to lesser-known and often less-charismatic species in order to peak public support for their protection. All of the studies’ authors are quick to point out that though the use of internet searches is a great and inexpensive way to read the pulse of the general public and understand their curiosities; interest does not equate to support, and conservation organizations must use the new information to turn curiosities into financial and political action. Via Monga Bay Image via Dave_E

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Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends

Singapores new-build, first net-zero energy building opens its doors

March 12, 2019 by  
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Opened earlier this year, the newly completed NUS School of Design & Environment 4 (SDE4) is distinguished as Singapore’s first new-build, net-zero energy building school. Developed by the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore and designed by Serie + Multiply Architects with Surbana Jurong , the six-story multidisciplinary building is located on a hillock along Clementi Road near the southern coastline of Singapore where it joins a larger campus redevelopment. Engineered to strict net-zero energy standards, the 8,500-square-meter building is powered with over 1,200 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels and features a climate-responsive design to stay naturally cool in the region’s tropical climate. Serie + Multiply Architects and Surbana Jurong won the bid for the academic building through an international design competition back in 2013 with their design of a porous structure meant to blur the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors. Instead of creating a hermetically sealed environment heavily reliant on AC—like many of Singapore’s buildings—the architects wanted to integrate Singapore’s lush tropics into the building. Not only do landscape views and natural ventilation penetrate the building, but nature has also been made part of the teaching curriculum, from the planting palette that incorporates many native species to the south gardens that serve as a natural purification system for stormwater runoff. SDE4 includes over 1,500 square meters of design studio space, a 500-square-meter open plaza, public and social spaces, workshops, research centers, a cafe and library. The rooms are designed for flexibility with layouts that can be rearranged to suit diverse usage. The net-zero energy building also takes inspiration from vernacular Southeast Asian tropical architecture with an abundance of verandas and shaded terraces. Natural ventilation is supplemented with an innovative hybrid cooling system that feeds rooms with 100% pre-cooled air that work in tandem with ceiling fans. Related: A green-roofed underground extension breaks the mold for school architecture “Buildings are not isolated entities in their own context,” Lam Khee Poh, Dean of the School of Design and Environment, explains. “They form an environment, a precinct, or a neighborhood supporting community activities, which is crucial for all educational institutions. Our students and faculty get the opportunity to learn both inside and outside the classroom , being engaged in an integrated process of designing, developing, constructing, and operating state-of-the-art buildings that will, in turn, influence them to adapt their own behavior when they occupy it.” + Serie + Multiply Architects + Surbana Jurong Images by Rory Gardiner

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Singapores new-build, first net-zero energy building opens its doors

Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

March 5, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is becoming a major problem for ocean wildlife. Organisms that ingest plastics are subject to hormone disruption and issues with reproduction that affect their overall health, a new study finds . Wildlife around the world is exposed to plastic pollutants called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Not much is known about how these chemicals affect marine environments, though scientists have been studying them for years. According to The Guardian , killer whales, for instance, have been found with large amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their systems. These chemicals were a common ingredient in plastic products until a global ban in 2004. Scientists monitored a group of killer whales on Scotland’s coast and found PCBs in their system. This pod did not have any children over the course of the 25-year study. Related: Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore Scientists estimate that the population of orcas around the world will be cut in half over the next 100 years because of high levels of PCBs in marine environments. Although these chemicals have been banned, they still reach the ocean via landfills and other waste sites. Marine life is susceptible to PCBs because of the amount of fat in their tissues, which absorbs the toxic chemicals at a high rate. “We are looking at the possible exposure [of marine life] and evidence of toxicity is still developing,” the Zoological Society of London’s Paul Jepson explained. Once whales have ingested these harmful chemicals, they pass them on to their offspring through the production of milk and extended lactation periods. The cycle is then repeated until the levels of PCBs reach a point where they affect reproduction. Some orcas have been discovered with more than 100 times the safety limit of PCBs, which build up in their lipid tissues. Although EDCs clearly have a negative impact on wildlife , the overall effects of these chemicals remain unknown. Researchers also have not studied how EDCs affect human populations. Scientists believe more research is needed to determine exactly why these harmful substances found in plastic pollution are affecting reproduction systems in ocean wildlife. Via The Guardian Image via Mike Charest

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Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore

February 18, 2019 by  
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Scientists have found toxic bacteria on microplastics in waters around Singapore . The bacteria are believed to be one of the culprits behind coral bleaching. They have also been known to cause wound infections in people. Researchers working out of the National University of Singapore (NUS) discovered over an alarming 400 varieties of bacteria on a little less than 300 pieces of microplastics . The samples, which are only around 5 mm in size, were taken from three coastlines in the region: Changi Beach, Sembawang Beach and Lazarus Island. According to The Straits Times , scientists located the toxic bacteria through DNA sequencing. Once the results were in, they discovered traces of photobacterium, which has been linked to coral bleaching , and a species called vibrio, which is known to cause infections in wounds. The team also found traces of arcobacter, a microorganism that has been linked to gastroenteritis. “As the microplastics we studied were collected from locations easily accessible to the public  and in areas widely used for recreation, the identification of potentially pathogenic bacteria is important in preventing the spread of diseases,” Emily Curren, part of the team at NUS, explained in the report. Curren noted that the majority of microplastics came from straws and disposable utensils, such as spoons and forks. These plastics biodegrade in a few hundred years and serve as vehicles that transport toxic bacteria around the world. Not only can these affect human populations by getting in the water supply, but microplastics are ingested by marine animals, many of which are later consumed by people. Sandric Leong, who led the research effort at NUS’s Tropical Marine Science Institute, added that microplastics are one of the most popular forms of plastic pollution in the ocean. Organisms in these environments accidentally ingest the microplastics, which is how toxic bacteria could end up on dinner plates around the world. Leong explained how more research in microplastic distribution is needed to better understand how to manage this worldwide problem. The biggest way to combat microplastics, of course, is to decrease our use of non-biodegradable plastics and cut down on how much plastic ends up in landfills. Via The Straits Times Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore

A green-roofed underground extension breaks the mold for school architecture

September 13, 2018 by  
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When Singaporean architecture firm Park + Associates was tapped to design an extension for Nanyang Girls’ High School in Singapore, the team knew that it would have to think creatively. The brief called for two large four-story blocks that would house a variety of programs, including classrooms, a large performing arts center and a multipurpose indoor sports hall. To meet these requirements without overshadowing the school’s existing architecture, the firm built the spaces below ground — an unconventional move and considered the first of its kind for an academic extension in Singapore  — and topped the new buildings with artificial turf that can be used for sports and outdoor recreation. Founded in 1917, the Nanyang Girls’ High School is one of the top public schools in Singapore. The school changed campuses several times and has been established at its present location along Dunearn and Bukit Timah Roads in the heart of Singapore since 1999. The school’s original colonial-inspired architecture comprises a clock tower flanked by two brick wings and has become an iconic landmark for the area. As a result, Park + Associates wanted to preserve the appearance of the building without necessarily emulating the existing school complex in the new design. Therefore, the firm decided to set the two new extension blocks partly below ground and top the volumes with curved green roofs that slope to touch the ground. By lining the roofs with artificial turf, the architects could also replace the school field. Careful consideration was taken to create bright and airy interior spaces within the partially underground extension, which enjoys access to plenty of natural light, views and natural ventilation. Related: New images show greenery engulfing Singapore’s tropical skyscraper The architects explained, “This Nanyang Girls’ High School extension, as the first secondary education institution in Singapore that has spaces below ground, is symbolic, as it allows students to see that rethinking assumption and rules, followed up with constructive discussions, can result in an outcome more successful and creative than otherwise imaginable.” + Park + Associates Images by Edward Hendricks and Frank Pinckers

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Can we integrate natural ecosystems in urban Asian spaces?

September 4, 2018 by  
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A Q&A with one of Singapore’s top architects on how Asian cities can be more environmentally friendly.

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Can we integrate natural ecosystems in urban Asian spaces?

New images show greenery engulfing Singapores tropical skyscraper

August 30, 2018 by  
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When we last saw local design practice WOHA Architects’ 30-story Oasia Hotel Downtown in Singapore, the tropical skyscraper had only begun to sprout the lush landscaping that would later overtake the building’s facade. Now, a little over a year-and-a-half later, we’ve been treated to new images of the high-rise that has become increasingly enveloped in creeping vines. This combination of nature and architecture is continued into the building’s embrace of indoor-outdoor spaces, particularly in the sky gardens designed by Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola , that feature verdant landscaping and spacious pools. Located in Singapore’s central business district, the Oasia Hotel features a sealed-off, air-conditioned tower sheathed in red aluminum mesh cladding. More than 20 species of creepers and vines grow on the facade and will envelop the exterior in a process largely helped along by the country’s humid tropical climate. The plants were also selected for low-maintenance and ability to withstand strong winds, particularly at the top of the tower. The vertical garden set against a vibrant red backdrop not only serves a striking visual component for the building, but it also helps reduce the urban heat island effect and clean the air of pollutants. Rising to a height of over 600 feet, the tropical skyscraper comprises four large outdoor spaces. Three massive verandas occupy the 6th, 12th and 21st floors, while a luxurious roof terrace can be found on the 27th floor. The roof terrace is protected from solar heat gain and noise pollution by a 10-story-tall screen constructed from the same material as the building’s red mesh aluminum cladding. Greenery also grows over the screen to give the rooftop terrace the impression of a hidden oasis. Related: This plant-covered Singapore skyscraper is the tropical building of the future Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola led the design of the outdoor spaces as well as the hotel interior. To give each of the outdoor locations an oasis-like appeal, she introduced verdant greenery and — on the 21st and 27th floors — added swimming pools lined with beautiful AGROB BUCHTAL tiles. + WOHA Architects Images via Infinitude

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New images show greenery engulfing Singapores tropical skyscraper

Off-grid Glass Cabin is built of recycled materials on reclaimed Iowan prairie

August 30, 2018 by  
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Indianapolis-based architecture and design studio atelierRISTING recently completed the Glass Cabin, a family retreat that operates off the grid with minimal site impact. Designed and built by the architects on land belonging to a sesquicentennial farm in northeastern Iowa, the property is elevated off the ground to minimize disturbance of the grasslands and floodplain. Built in the shape of a wood-framed pole barn, the low-maintenance building is powered with solar energy. Set in a clearing in the woods next to the Wapsipinicon River, the Glass Cabin derives its name from  full-height low-E insulated glazing that wraps around its northern facade. Barn-inspired timber doors slide over the northern glass front for security when the retreat isn’t used. Flanked by outdoor terraces, the elevated home includes two bedrooms, one bathroom with a composting toilet, a great room, kitchenette and screened porch within 1,120 square feet. Indoor-outdoor living is embraced throughout the light-filled abode, as is natural ventilation. Natural and reclaimed materials were used throughout the off-grid home. Western Red Cedar was used for the structural framing, barn doors, exterior and interior siding and exterior decking because of its natural resistance to moisture, insects and fire. The timber was left untreated and will develop a silvery gray patina over time to match the aged barns nearby. Natural cork was used for the flooring, while the wall cabinets were custom-built from cedar. “While primarily a three-season retreat, a Norwegian designed wood stove provides warmth for the holidays,” the architects added. Related: A net-zero modern farmhouse kicks off a sustainable community in Texas To minimize construction waste, standard lumber sizes were used. The Glass Cabin, oriented on a north-south axis, relies on passive solar strategies to keep its energy footprint at a minimum. Energy efficiency is also secured with highly efficient mineral wool and rigid insulation, achieved by using R-30 floors, an R-20 roof and R-15 walls. The white metal roof also helps to minimize heat gain. + atelierRISTING Via ArchDaily Images by Steven & Carol Risting

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Off-grid Glass Cabin is built of recycled materials on reclaimed Iowan prairie

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