A California beacon of sustainability gets a LEED Platinum refresh

August 8, 2018 by  
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An inspiring beacon for recycling in El Cerrito, California has recently received a sustainable revamp that includes newly minted LEED Platinum certification. Redesigned by Berkeley-based architecture practice Noll & Tam Architects , the El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center (RERC/Center) was overhauled following extensive community involvement and now features a more user-friendly environment with educational opportunities and a greater holistic approach to sustainability. The facility aims for net-zero energy use and is equipped with renewable energy systems as well as passive design strategies, including solar panels and 100% daylighting autonomy. Originally founded by a group of local volunteers in the early 1970s, the El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center has become a source of community pride that has attracted visitors from neighboring communities, including the wider San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Inspired by the facility’s industrial uses, the architects incorporated corrugated steel, reclaimed timber and other durable materials into the building, while local quarry borders and existing concrete retaining blocks used on site allude to the old quarry in which the Center sits. “The design of the El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center was inspired by the community’s devotion to environmental stewardship, the Center’s functional requirements, and its unique natural setting,” reads the project statement. “It was important to create a strong sense of place for the community, a great place for the gathering and interaction of the Center’s diverse users and visitors, and a demonstration project for zero net waste, net zero energy use, restoration and regeneration, and maximizing community value.” Related: NYC’s New State-of-the-Art Recycling Facility to Eliminate 150,000 Annual Truck Trips Taking advantage of the local temperate climate and cross ventilation, the Center operates in passive mode for most of the year. A 12 kW photovoltaic array provides more than enough electricity to power the building to achieve net-zero energy usage. The Center is also equipped with an additional 8.8 kW solar array to offset electricity needs from electric car charging stations and the recycling industrial equipment. A rainwater cistern, native gardens and rain gardens handle stormwater runoff on-site. + Noll & Tam Architects Images by David Wakely

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A California beacon of sustainability gets a LEED Platinum refresh

A minimalist home in Portugal emphasizes stunning valley views

August 8, 2018 by  
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Architects and their clients are often surprised when their visions don’t quite align after the initial ideas are transformed into renderings, specs and floor plans. But when MJARC Arquitectos met with a couple who wanted a house in Douro Valley in Marco de Canaveses,  Portugal , it was a euphoric meeting of minds. All parties shared the same vision — a pristine and absolute articulation of minimalist architecture. With a setting as picturesque as this one, highlighted by sweeping views of the rolling curves of vineyard -covered valleys and the mesmerizing Douro River, the goal was to leave the undulating landscape unscathed. The house was constructed as close to the terrain as possible, with the upper levels providing more encompassing vistas. The “crouching building” concept drove the choices for the size, design and exterior accouterments of the home. Related: Derelict property transformed into a vibrant, sunny hostel in Portugal The interior is warm and inviting, with an open floor plan that gracefully flows from room to room, clad in a combination of deep wood shades, rustic stones, concrete and stark, black accents. The pool is designed to give the illusion of it flowing directly into the river. The views from every level focus on the surrounding forest and foliage and achieves the symbiosis with nature desired by all parties. To accommodate the tastes of the homeowners’ visitors throughout the year, MJARC Arquitectos incorporated sustainable construction and energy sources as well as clever spaces that could easily be adapted for multiple uses. The roof is even topped with lush greenery, a welcome addition to the home. The combined efforts on this project not only thrilled the architects and clients — the house was recently nominated for an award in the Home category by the World Architecture Festival , where it is one of 18 finalists. The winner will be announced at ceremonies scheduled for November 28-30 in Amsterdam. + MJARC Arquitectos Images via João Ferrand

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A minimalist home in Portugal emphasizes stunning valley views

Nissan debuts pop-top and fully-electric camper vans for summer adventures

August 8, 2018 by  
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Just in time for summer road trips, Nissan has debuted two new camper vans  at the Madrid Motor Show. The company showcased mod-style camper vans — one with a pop-up sleeper roof and one designed for  zero-emissions  — perfect for your next adventure. The car giant recently debuted the two new camper vans in Madrid. The NV300 Camper sleeps up to four people thanks to a pop-top sleeper roof, and the e-NV200 Camper is fully-electric. The electric camper van is powered by a 40kWh battery, which can be charged up to 80 percent in less than an hour, so you can be back on the road in a flash. The e-NV200 gets approximately 124 miles on a single charge. Related: Tesla’s all-electric semi truck has a bold new competitor According to Francesc Corberó, communications director of Nissan Iberia, the design of the vans was inspired by the need to provide road-trippers with the utmost in comfort and flexibility while on the road. Corberó said, “The new Nissan Camper range will allow the most adventurous to have a balcony with views of the most incredible places in the world and enjoy the essence of traveling with family or friends.” The NV300’s pop-up sleeper roof allows for four people to sleep in the van comfortably, two in the lower bed and two up top. In both models, the living space is efficiently designed with a compact kitchen that comes with a stove, sink and refrigerator. An abundance of windows lets natural light flood the interior, but the vans are equipped with retractable shades for privacy. The interior is installed with a number of transforming features for space optimization. There is a removable table that attaches to the kitchen countertop and can be dismantled when not in use. In addition to the rear bench, which is set on floor rails for added flexibility, the front seats swivel around to provide additional seating. For gear storage, the exterior of the van is equipped with various racks and awnings. Unfortunately, the electric vans are only available in Spain at the moment, with the e-NV200 starting at a base price of $25,165. + Nissan Via Curbed Images via Nissan

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Escape the stresses of city life with the off-grid Into the Wild cabin

August 8, 2018 by  
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Slovakian architecture studio Ark Shelter has recently unveiled the latest iteration of its beautiful Ark Shelter—a tiny, self-sufficient unit that can be placed almost anywhere you please. Dubbed the “Into the Wild” cabin, their newest off-grid shelter typology embraces the outdoors from all sides with large walls of glass. Developed from three years of research and development, the Into the Wild cabin offers modern comforts with minimal landscape impact. Prefabricated in a factory offsite, the Into the Wild cabin encompasses nearly 431 square feet of living space. To recede the tiny cabin into the landscape, the architects used black-stained spruce for the exterior cladding. In contrast, the interior is lined in light-colored spruce and fitted out with lacquered oak furnishings and surfaces with a beige finish. Ark Shelter custom-designed the table, dining table, couch and lamp while the drawing and conference table was sourced from Croatian manufacturer Prostoria. Punctuated with glazing on all sides, the light-filled cabin features an open-plan living area, dining space and kitchen, as well as a bathroom, storage space and bedroom space with a concealed Jacuzzi beneath the bed. An extra module added to the top of the cabin creates space for an upper loft that can be used as a second bedroom. The cabin is equipped with solar panels, batteries and rainwater collection systems for off-grid living. Related: 7 charming off-grid homes for a rent-free life “The Shelter, with its low-tech outlook facade, is created so that it attempts to blend with nature, while refining its complex and sophisticated system that automatically works with space and light,” wrote the architects. “Thanks to an automatic system the heating, cooling and shadings can be pre-programmed. The double bed goes up automatically in the ceiling and beneath the bed there is a hidden jacuzzi, creating a new relaxing area.” + Ark Shelter Images by Jakub Skokan and Martin T?ma / BoysPlayNice

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Escape the stresses of city life with the off-grid Into the Wild cabin

Treetop House combines the best of two worlds

August 6, 2018 by  
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There’s nothing as special as being with family – that is, until you need to be alone. The family of five who contracted with Ben Callery Architects  to design the Treetop House wanted this concept to play a key part in the house’s design, and they were delighted when Callery so easily grasped it. He also understood that the design had to commune with nature, include as many views as possible of the lush parkland  around the site, and incorporate as many aspects of sustainability as possible. Callery knew the kitchen was the favorite family gathering place. Dedicated to nurturing casual yet intimate communications between parents and children, Callery’s design concentrated on the kitchen views of the parkland tree canopies, a never-ending source of wonder for young and old year-round. The tall kitchen ceilings and oversized windows flood the room with natural light and provide an unobstructed view of the rooftop deck, a favorite venue for family activities and entertaining. A turf roof , though inaccessible to pedestrian traffic, brings the magnificent foliage of the park even closer. The high, banistered deck protrudes out, bringing the treetops even closer, accelerating the excitement of nature at one’s fingertips. To create private spaces for everyone to retreat for alone time, Callery designed the other rooms with lower ceilings to create a cozy atmosphere of privacy and security. While no family member in the house is ever far away, the sanctuaries everyone needs now and then to read, study or just reflect on life are readily available. Related: The Treebox is an amazing modern home set high up in the treetops Easy-opening windows with electric external blinds help control the rays of the sun from dawn to dusk and provide shelter from the variable winds. The house also runs on solar power, has energy-saving underground water tanks, and was constructed with green materials that provide optimum thermal efficiency . + Ben Callery Architects Images via Nic Granleese and Jack Love

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Treetop House combines the best of two worlds

The Goldtree House is designed for sustainable family living

August 3, 2018 by  
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When kids hit their teens, your house suddenly feels smaller. The atmosphere is hectic, groups of friends traipse in and out, and parents often retreat to a bedroom for peace and quiet. However, one clever family with teenage twins got ahead of the curve, asking Hartree and Associates Architects to remodel their home to accommodate these changes and create a private apartment for the parents down the road. The owners of the Goldtree House, a 1950s home in East Fremantle, Australia, wanted the renovation to include ample space for their children to entertain guests, as well as help the house withstand frequently inclement weather. They also needed a revamp that adhered to their firm budget while providing the best views of nearby Fremantle Harbor. The first step was removing the existing roof and constructing a new top story. The added level includes a new master bedroom, plenty of living space, and a kitchen with sweeping views all around. The owners envision this level as their private “apartment” many years in the future. The ground level is devoted to the needs and tastes of teenagers and their friends. The internal spaces were simplified and revamped to include ample views of the surrounding landscape as well as optimum sunlight and a current of internal breezes. The floor plan easily flows from the entryway to the great room for adolescent games and socializing. It also provides easy access to the terrace, thriving garden and pool, the latter of which was designed to eliminate the need for a privacy fence. Related: A 1950s house receives a bioclimatic renovation in Mexico Besides a photovoltaic solar panel array , the home also includes eco-friendly water and energy management through natural air ventilation, energy-efficient fixtures and equipment, and native garden plants that require minimum watering. Two wind turbines and storage batteries for power are also part of the home’s green technology. The twins were involved in the renovation from inception through completion, which gave them a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. They proudly share the outcome with their friends. + Hartree and Associates Architects Images via Robert Frith

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The Goldtree House is designed for sustainable family living

A 19th century building is reborn as solar-powered temporary housing for families in need

July 19, 2018 by  
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No matter where you live or what you do for a living, there’s always a chance that fate will take a few bad turns, leaving you and your family in need of temporary housing. The Cambridge Health and Human Services Department (CHHSD) and Cambridge’s HMFH Architects recently joined forces to build such a shelter in a lovely 19th century building once thought doomed for demolition. In addition to providing safe, short-term housing, the project focuses on sustainability in its design. Once a grand, aluminum-gilded structure among the dignified homes along Massachusetts Avenue, building number 859, constructed in 1885, was turned into offices years ago. But time took its toll: the aluminum siding faded, the entryway became disheveled, rust sullied the fire escapes and flourishing gardens were harshly paved. Related: Architect converts derelict 19th century Mexican home into light-filled mixed-use community center The city purchased the dilapidated structure, and HMFH Architects razed the interior down to its structural beams and studs to make room for 10 family-sized housing units that each provide temporary homes with private baths for an adult and one to two children. Each floor has a kitchen and dining area shared by tenants. The architectural design team joined forces with the Cambridge Historical Commission to ensure as many details as possible were restored to their original state, from the front stairway design to the paint, trim and roofing materials. Sustainable design was also high on the list of project goals. The building meets Cambridge’s goal to keep the site’s energy use to as close to zero as possible, concurrent with generating sufficient renewable energy to fulfill its own yearly consumption. To accomplish this, the building has three types of solar roof tiles , maximum-efficiency mechanical systems to decrease heating and cooling needs and LED lighting operated by sensors. Double-thickness walls and insulation along with energy-efficient windows and doors also helped the project meet its energy goals. “The new residence at 859 Mass Avenue provides a welcoming, comfortable environment for families and children in need,” said Ellen Semonoff, Cambridge’s Assistant City Manager for Human Services. “The beauty and functionality of the building let families know that they are valued members of our community.” The Cambridge Historical Commission presented the 2018 Cambridge Preservation Award to jointly honor the project and the city for its work. + HMFH ARCHITECTS + Cambridge Health and Human Services Department Images via Bruce T. Martin and Ed Wosnek

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Glass elements dramatically open up a solar-powered Sydney home

July 16, 2018 by  
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In Sydney’s affluent suburb of Kirribilli, a contemporary solar-powered home stands out from its Victorian manor neighbors. Local design practice Bijl Architecture reworked an existing semi-detached home into the Doorzien House, a two-story home that takes full advantage of its sweeping Sydney harbor views. In addition to floor-to-ceiling glazing installed in the rear of the house, glass elements are used throughout the home — in the form of skylights, flooring, highlight panels and balustrades — to fill the interior with light. The clients tapped Bijl Architecture to design a home that pursued a modern typology. To satisfy the project brief and comply with local heritage expectations, the architects restored and preserved the home’s traditional street-facing facade while inserting a contemporary zinc -clad addition to the rear side of the house that draws inspiration from the neighborhood’s naval and industrial history. The back of the property is opened up to the outdoors and overlooks views of Careening Cove, Neutral Harbor and Kurraba Point. “To embrace our clients’ desired openness and connectivity between the floor levels and surrounding context, we dismantled the existing plan,” the architects explained. “The broad Sydney Harbor view and neighboring vistas are exploited by the hybridized living spaces, while each room retains its individual focus and remains intimate and warm through the material palette and layered lighting. We oriented living spaces to the rear; multiple interior viewlines serve as a counterpoint to the expansive harbor views. This approach continues to the rear garden, with bleacher-style steps moderating the level change, extending the study and sitting room interiors to form a third living space.” Related: This self-sustaining Australian home harvests its own food, energy, and water A 3.5kW system of Nu-Lok solar roof tiles was the first approved installation for a NSW conservation area. The solar system and Redback Technologies’ Gen II inverter and battery are part of the clients’ plan to eventually move their home off-grid . + Bijl Architecture Images by Katherine Lu

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Glass elements dramatically open up a solar-powered Sydney home

UN Environment and Yale present a sustainable tiny home in NYC

July 13, 2018 by  
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U.N. Environment and Yale University’s School of Architecture has unveiled an innovative tiny home that explores the intersection of policy and eco-conscious design. The Ecological Living Module, located at the U.N. Plaza in New York City, is a sustainable dwelling that embodies many of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals , several of which are under review this month at the U.N. High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Designed by an interdisciplinary group of engineers, architects and designers from the Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, the 22-square-meter tiny home includes integrated systems for on-site water collection, solar energy generation (using less than 1 percent of toxic semiconductor materials), micro-agricultural infrastructure, natural daylighting, plant-based air purification, passive cooling and cross-ventilation and various other cutting-edge technologies that allow the home to function off-grid. In addition to being powered solely by renewable energy with a net-zero footprint, the housing module is composed primarily of locally sourced, bio-based renewable or recyclable materials. Several of the materials used to construct the particular model on display were reused or repurposed from previous projects. Related: 10 eclectic tiny homes built with 99% scrap At a minimum, the living tiny house module includes a kitchen, bathroom, dining area and sleeping space for four people, and it can be adapted for both domestic and commercial needs. The project demonstrates what can be accomplished in a small space with a minimal environmental footprint. The tiny home symbolizes the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and brings sustainability closer to home and to the forefront of our lives. U.N. Environment’s communications officer Sophie Loran said, “We really enjoyed the work that went into this project because it brought together such a wide variety of experts interested in making sustainability real for people.” Related: Architecture students build a tiny CLT classroom in just 3 weeks One billion people currently inhabit informal settlements across the globe, and many more live in structures that are not environmentally friendly. Communities faced by rapid economic growth and urbanization are increasingly facing the need for new infrastructure solutions in order to grow sustainably. “Everybody on this planet has a right to a decent home, but the housing sector uses 40 percent of the planet’s total resources and represents almost a third of global greenhouse gas emissions,” said U.N. Environment Head Erik Solheim. “In the face of a growing world population, smart new housing solutions, such as the Ecological Living Module, will be needed to balance our need to house everybody while protecting our planet’s ability to support life.” In addition to examining where we live, the exhibition calls attention to how we live, namely, how our daily at-home habits impact the planet. As visitors move through the various spaces within the tiny home, they will have the opportunity to learn more about energy-efficient lighting and appliances, urban farming , composting toilets and methods for reducing water consumption and food waste. In the bathroom, visitors will be exposed to information about avoiding hygiene products containing microbeads and videos about various initiatives to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems. In the kitchen, they can explore information on global campaigns to reduce food waste or to redirect it from landfills to livestock food. Some of the Sustainable Development Goals embodied by the tiny house include “Responsible Consumption and Production,” “ Clean Water and Sanitation ” and “Climate Action.” After exploring how eco-conscious home design can directly support these goals, visitors can apply similar sustainable technologies and techniques to their own homes, making sustainability initiatives more personal and approachable. Related: Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development The tiny home exhibit will be on display at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City until July 18, after which it will be moved to the U.C. Berkeley campus. This first demonstration unit contains location-specific features that consider the climate and context of New York. Plans for future applications, including an adaptation in Kenya, will likewise incorporate features that cater to the local climate and culture. By demonstrating the practicality and benefits of eco-conscious affordable housing, the Ecological Living Module showcases the ability of sustainable design to meet the challenges of the 21st century. + U.N. Environment + Yale University Images via U.N. Environment

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UN Environment and Yale present a sustainable tiny home in NYC

Ancient rural hamlet reinterpreted as a solar-powered modern home

July 13, 2018 by  
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Rimini-based GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects  has renovated a cluster of historic buildings into a modernist dwelling set in the lush Italian countryside. Named the AP House, the project comprises three structures with a more streamlined farmhouse aesthetic on the exterior and a light-filled contemporary interior. The striking renovation is located on one of the highest hills in Urbino atop ancient remains that date back to the Medieval Communes. Clad in rustic stonework, AP House consists of three floors constructed with reinforced concrete walls and red concrete floors. To lend the interiors a sense of warmth, GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects inserted custom walnut wall furnishings throughout, from the kitchen storage and dining table to the walnut-lined office and double-height statement wall that rises from the living room. Large openings let in plenty of natural light and views of the picturesque Urbino countryside. “Linked to each other on the hypogeum level, the structures rest on a red concrete platform (38 X 20 mt) dominating the surrounding landscape,” wrote GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects. “The core of the houses, which forms a single housing unit, reestablishes a central role to this site in the landscape, restoring a direct and empathic dialogue between new buildings and historical stratification.” Related: Historic stone stable in Tuscany hides a beautiful contemporary interior To prevent views of any vehicles on the first floor, the architects tucked the main entrance and parking in the basement level. The lower level also comprises a movie room, an exhibition gallery, and a gym with a spa. The ground floor houses the primary living areas including the living room, dining room, kitchen and private studio, while the upper level contains the master suite along with two en-suite bedrooms. All of the systems in the house run on electricity and are powered by a hidden photovoltaic solar system onsite. + GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects Images by Ezio Manciucca

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