Solar-powered home stays naturally cool in Keralas tropical heat

April 2, 2019 by  
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In the South Indian city of Kochi, local architectural practice Meister Varma Architects recently completed Maison Kochi, a contemporary home for a family of four that mitigates the region’s intense tropical heat with energy-efficient and cost-effective techniques. Inspired by the concept of chiaroscuro, a Renaissance artistic technique named after the strong contrasts between light and dark, Maison Kochi features a solid white exterior and a dark interior finished in polished concrete to create a cool indoor environment. The interior layout is also arranged to buffer the heat, while the roof is equipped with solar panels and a rainwater collection system. Slotted on a tight, 1,830-square-foot lot, Maison Kochi was commissioned for a family of four who also sought a studio and office space in the home. As a result, the west-facing building is split into two volumes — the volume on the south side is slightly taller to provide shade on the second volume throughout the day — for a clear division of space between the work areas and the primary living spaces. An open-plan layout and large windows allow for cross ventilation, while a vent in the roof access hatch lets hot air escape for natural cooling. On the ground floor, the work areas (a studio, tool shed and flex meeting room that can be used as a guest bedroom) are located on the south side of the house, while an open-plan living and dining room are located opposite; the two volumes are joined by the entry foyer and a compact kitchen. The master bedroom with a terrace, a children’s bedroom, a TV room and a study are upstairs. To soften the polished concrete walls and black oxide floors, the interior is dressed with Kerala sari-inspired fabrics and multicolored baskets that mimic traditional urban crafts. Almost all of the interior furnishings are custom-made. Related: This rammed earth home in India uses recycled materials throughout “ Rainwater channels are integrated in the roof design as are solar panels,” the architects added. “Collected water is used to recharge the groundwater through an injection system. Flat roofs are insulated with hollow clay blocks and sloping roofs with polyurethane sandwich panels.” + Meister Varma Architects Photography by Praveen Mohandas and Govind Nair (drone photography) via Meister Varma Architects

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Solar-powered home stays naturally cool in Keralas tropical heat

These sustainable headphones are making a debut just in time for Earth Day

April 2, 2019 by  
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The Exodus headphones are The House of Marley’s first release in its new 2019 line of eco-friendly audio products, and trust us when we say they are everything you’d want in a pair of headphones. Made from materials like FSC-certified wood, stainless steel, recyclable aluminum and soft natural leather, the Exodus headphones allow you feel good about your purchase while having a comfortable listening experience. The House of Marley doesn’t stop at headphones, either — the company also creates turntables built from natural bamboo and outdoor speakers made using organic cork. Not to mention all of its packaging is produced from 100 percent recycled paper. Inhabitat recently had a chance to try out the new Exodus headphones and interview The House of Marley’s Director of Product Development, Josh Poulsen. Eco-friendly and sustainable materials The headphone casing is made from wood that is FSC-certified, meaning that the trees cut down to produce the wood are guaranteed to be replaced and regenerated sustainably. The stainless steel making up the headphone architecture and fasteners creates less environmental impact and is more durable; it can even be recycled. Not only is aluminum (used for the headphone housing) one of the most eco-consciously produced metals, there’s no limit to how many times it can be recycled. Lastly, natural leather adds a sense of warmth and style while remaining a biodegradable option. Related: This eco-friendly wooden laptop is designed to curb e-waste Inhabitat: “What was the inspiration behind building the Exodus headphones with such eco-friendly and sustainable materials?” Poulsen: “We strive to build all House of Marley products with eco-friendly and sustainable materials, not as an inspiration but as our mission. With the Exodus, we aimed to design an over-ear headphone that can be listened to for long periods without discomfort or acoustic fatigue, offers premium construction and incorporates  sustainable materials while focusing on heritage and retro-inspired design elements. In the case of the Exodus, sustainability means more than just the materials from which the headphone is constructed. The quality craftsmanship means product life is extended and the emphasis on comfort allows the user to sustain longer listening sessions.” Sound quality The media website CNET called these the “Best new headphones of CES [Consumer Electronics Show] 2019.” The Bluetooth LE technology was fast while pairing with our devices, meaning less time waiting for a connection and more time enjoying music. 50mm hi-def drivers ensure quality sound, regardless of unconventional materials. Inhabitat: “What steps does the company make to ensure that these non-traditional materials don’t compromise the sound quality?” Poulsen: “Sound quality isn’t negatively affected by the sustainable materials we choose to use. In fact, often times the choice of wood can enhance and add to the warmth in acoustic we strive for. Wood is a premier choice for materials in many musical instruments for thousands of years, so it seemed logical that it be incorporated into audio listening products as well. We take it one step further by ensuring the non-traditional materials such as bamboo , cork and FSC-certified woods not only contribute the sound quality of our products, but are a sustainable design choice in the manner in which they are harvested and incorporated.” Long-lasting Not only is the sound long-lasting (the headphones boast a 30-hour lithium polymer battery life, the longest-lasting in the company’s history), USB-C charging makes it easy to plug into any USB-compliant outlet. The company doesn’t just exercise sustainable materials but also helps ensure that its products last longer than other audio makers. Related: Artist upcycles discarded cassette tapes into eco-friendly MusicCloth® Inhabitat: “We covered The House of Marley earbuds a few years back. Has anything changed about your products since then?” Poulsen: “It is important to produce timeless designs and high-quality products. The House of Marley intends for products to last longer without the need for replacement — meaning less products being sent to landfills . In the past five years, The House of Marley has increased durability and quality, while the product return rate has been brought down significantly.” Helping to save the planet As if it could get any better than a product that’s both high-quality and eco-friendly, The House of Marley has also been working with One Tree Planted since 2017 to fight global deforestation. One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization that has been planting trees in North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa since 2014. To celebrate Earth Day, The House of Marley will be contributing to tree plantings in Colorado, Kenya and Rwanda. Inhabitat: “How did your partnership with One Tree Planted come about?” Poulsen: “The House of Marley was conceived around carrying on Bob Marley’s legacy, which includes the charitable philosophy of giving back to the Earth what we take from it. Given our history of using FSC-certified woods, bamboo and cork in the sustainable construction of our products, in 2017 we were introduced to One Tree Planted to contribute to tree plantings around the world. Since then, we have planted 168,000 trees in an effort to bring awareness to the consumption and waste of the plastics-driven consumer electronics market. Reforestation contributes to positive environmental, social and economic impact through carbon offsets, cleaner air , water filtration and greater biodiversity within the world’s forests. By donating to the planting of trees, we hope to encourage growth and begin changing the minds of consumers and our industry.” Bottom line The House of Marley is not kidding when it says 30-hour battery life; these headphones can be enjoyed all day and then some. Over-ear headphones can get clunky or uncomfortable, and plenty of music-lovers out there prefer the smaller earbuds for these reasons, but the memory foam ear cushions combined with the natural leather definitely squash those excuses. The over-ear speakers are super comfortable and can be used for hours without getting painful. Related: Dimension Plus turned Oreo cookies into edible records that play music One of the best parts is the hinge allowing the headphones to fold into each other to easily fit into the premium stash bag (included) made from the company’s signature REWIND organic cotton fabric, helping to take up less space while traveling. We loved the option for plugging the headphones directly into your device with the included aux cable (because let’s face it, sometimes we forget to charge things), but even if you do forget to charge, it only takes two hours to get fully juiced. Any outdoor-lover will enjoy how the Exodus headphones look. The certified wood is a light, natural color, which pairs really nicely against the black color of the plastic and ear cushions. The charging and aux cables are designed with the same sturdy, braided design (a godsend for those of us prone to breaking those skinny plastic cables on other headphones). You can also control the volume and playback from the headphones themselves rather than fumbling for your device. Finally, we couldn’t help but pump some Bob Marley through these headphones, and unsurprisingly, it did not disappoint. + The House of Marley Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by The House of Marley. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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This tiny home allows a family of 3 to go off the grid in Maui

April 1, 2019 by  
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DIY home building is always an ambitious aspiration, but when it comes to building your own tiny home, it can be an entirely different beast. But that didn’t stop Maui natives Zeena and Shane Fontanilla from taking on the task to unbelievable results. The Fontanilla tiny home is 360 square feet of an incredible blend of beautiful design mixed with some impressive off-grid features such as solar power and a water catchment system that allows the family to use all of the rainwater that falls on the property to meet their water needs. After getting engaged, the couple decided to forgo buying a large family home that would lead to decades of debt, instead opting to built their own tiny home that would allow them to lead the life that they had dreamed of. They kicked off the project around 2014, doing most of the work themselves along with a little help from family, friends … and the television. Zeena told Design*Sponge , “Binge-watching Tiny House Nation on HGTV helped us hone in our ideal design.” Related: Serene off-grid tiny home sits tucked away in a Hawaiian rainforest The first step of the DIY home build for Zeena and Shane was designing their dream layout. The next step was finding a trailer that would suit their desired floor plan, which is where they hit their first obstacle. After searching Craiglist and other sites, they couldn’t locate a trailer that would fit what they had in mind. Instead of changing their plans, they decided to build a customized trailer. From there, they cut their own timber to create the frame of the home. The couple took about two years of working nights and weekends to build the off-grid tiny home of their dreams. Located on an expansive lot of idyllic farmland, the final result is 360 square feet of customized living space, complete with a spacious living room and double sleeping lofts. The interior is light-filled with high ceilings. Plenty of windows, all-white walls and dark timber accents, such as exposed ceiling beams, make the home bright and modern. In addition to its beautiful aesthetic, the tiny home operates completely off the grid. A solar array generates enough power for the family’s electricity needs. Additionally, a custom-made, 3,000-gallon water catchment system allows the family to use the water that falls on the property to fulfill the family’s water usage. To reduce energy use, the home is also equipped with energy-efficient appliances and a waterless composting toilet. You can keep up with the Fontanilla family’s tiny home living adventures on their Instagram page . + The Reveal Via Design*Sponge Photography by Stephanie Betsill via Zeena Fontanilla

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A solar-powered luxury home blends into a Pacific Northwest landscape

March 27, 2019 by  
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When a client commissioned Seattle-based architectural practice Hoedemaker Pfeiffer to design their new solar-powered home, they asked that the design take inspiration from a stone-and-wood retreat that they had lost to a fire decades ago in the hills of Appalachia. As a result, the new build takes cues from the client’s former property as well as its location on a remote forested plateau atop a steep hillside in the San Juan Islands . The dwelling, named Hillside Sanctuary, is built of stone and wood volumes and appears to naturally grow out of the landscape, while its large walls of glass take in sweeping views of Puget Sound. The Hillside Sanctuary comprises two buildings: a main house and a guest house, both of which comprise two floors and are oriented for optimal views of Puget Sound to the southwest. In the main house, the master bedroom and the primary living spaces can be found on the upper floor, with the main rooms sharing access to an outdoor patio. Secondary rooms are located below. The smaller guesthouse also places the primary living spaces on the upper level. On the lower level are two bedrooms and an outdoor dining area and kitchen. The bases of both buildings consist of thick stone walls topped with light-filled timber structures. Simple shed roofs with long overhangs shield the interiors from intense southern summer sun and support solar panels . Walls of glazing along the buildings’ southern elevation let in ample natural light. Strategically placed clerestory windows allow for northern light and permit the escape of warm air. A particularly impressive application of glass can be seen in the guest house dining room, which is cantilevered into the forest and wrapped on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass. Trees were carefully preserved so as to create the room’s treehouse-like feel. Related: Lakeside cabin made out of reclaimed wood is as idyllic as it gets “Taken together the buildings provide two related but distinct ways of appreciating the beauty of this site,” the architects explain. “Together they provide friends and family comfortable accommodation while offering a sanctuary for the owner at the main home.” + Hoedemaker Pfeiffer Images by Kevin Scott

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Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably

March 7, 2019 by  
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The goals of the Green School are anything but small, yet they are simple: take care of the local community and teach children to be stewards of our planet and leaders of sustainability in the future. The baby of John and Cynthia Hardy, the Green School was inspired after the retired couple viewed the Al Gore film The Inconvenient Truth . With four children of their own, the couple decided to make a difference and, in 2006, broke ground on a new type of school — an educational campus focused on using a holistic teaching approach and a natural canvas as classrooms. Related: Modscape installs a prefab school building that stays comfortable year-round The Green School is located on 20 acres in south central Bali, where the Hardys lived and ran a jewelry store for decades. Using local architects and materials, mainly bamboo , they spent two years constructing an open-air campus, which now houses several hundred students and teachers. In fact, the local area is becoming a community with families building green homes nearby, so their children can walk to school. Those that don’t walk board a bio-bus, fueled by oils collected at the community level and processed into biofuel locally. In addition to eliminating a reliance on fossil fuels and reducing the carbon footprint, the process of making biofuel produces glycerine as a natural by-product that is then turned into soaps to use on campus. This earth-friendly alternative to traditional palm oil-based soaps reduces the chemicals that would otherwise end up in the water system. Electricity to the school comes from solar panels and a water vortex system, which diverts water from the river that flows through campus and turns it into energy. Waste is an issue at any school, and the designers of the Green School have taken special consideration to create a closed circuit. The composting toilets produce waste that can be amended back into the adjacent soil, feeding the bamboo that grows rampant on the campus. Local Balinese woman use wood-fired stoves instead of gas and traditional cooking techniques to minimize resource usage. Food waste from feeding over 400 people each day is either fed to the school’s pigs or added to the on-site composting pile. Speaking of food, most of the meals provided are grown on campus, giving the students a full understanding of how to plant, nurture, maintain and cook vegetables and rice. The students also help raise the pigs, cows and even the buffalo that roam the campus, enclosed only by organic , natural fencing made from branches and leaves. Mostly tapioca root, the students recognize the fencing is edible for grazing animals as well as themselves. The eco-friendly design continues all the way down to where the footprints go by eliminating any pavement and the petroleum-based chemicals that come with it. Instead, all pathways are paved with hand-laid volcanic rocks. Drinking water comes from a nearby well after traveling through a reverse osmosis system to filter it. Water is used other ways on campus, too, with an aquaponics system that combines aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponics (raising crops with little to no soil). These systems work in conjunction with each other, so the fish waste feeds the plants while the plants provide much-needed water filtration for the fish. While the goal to be sustainable and local may seem simplistic, the objective of teaching the next generation how to work with students from 25 other countries to solve problems on campus and eventually in the world means the potential for a better future for the entire planet — and that’s no small feat. + Green School Images via Green School Bali

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Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably

Solar-powered home embraces Hudson River views and aging in place

January 24, 2019 by  
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Wanting to reconnect with the outdoors after decades of living in Manhattan, a couple nearing retirement asked New York-based architecture firm Resolution: 4 Architecture to design a contemporary home in the northern suburbs of New York City that would take full advantage of a waterfront site. Located on one of Croton-on-Hudson’s highest overlooks, the resulting design features an elevated profile that appears to float above the trees and boasts panoramic views of the Hudson River through walls of glass. The home — dubbed the Hudson River House — was also built for longevity as noted by the materials selected for durability, solar rooftop panels for self-sufficiency and the elevator for comfortable aging-in-place. Spread out across 2,374 square feet, the Hudson River House comprises two floors and a basement. The main entry is accessed from the ground floor, which consists of a spacious outdoor pool and deck sheltered by the upper floor, a carport with an entry patio and a small indoor area housing a powder room as well as an elevator and stairs. The primary living and sleeping quarters are placed on the upper floor, with the master bedroom and guest bedroom bookending the centrally located open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen. An office and deck are also located on the main level. “They wanted a compact home that was as extraordinary as the vista it offered, equipped with just enough space for two,” the architects explained of the clients. “The house is lifted high in the air to enhance views, with storage spaces and an outdoor recreational zone below.” To maximize space while keeping a compact footprint, the interior follows an open-plan layout so as not to disrupt sight lines. Full-height glazing lends the interior a sense of spaciousness as well. Transforming furniture, such as the Murphy bed in the guest room, gives the homeowners added flexibility. Related: Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in The Hudson River House features a mostly natural materials palette that includes untreated ipe and metal paneling for the exterior. Inside, white oak and light-colored surfaces create a muted backdrop for the homeowner’s pottery and art collection and the stunning outdoor vistas. The energy footprint of the home is reduced thanks to the optimization of cross ventilation as well as the solar panels installed across the entire roof. + Resolution: 4 Architecture Via ArchDaily Photography by Emily Andrews via Resolution: 4 Architecture

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Clyde Mews eco-village champions sustainable housing alternatives in Melbourne

January 23, 2019 by  
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Melbourne recently became home to Clyde Mews , an inspiring “eco-village” that champions sustainable, community-focused living in close proximity to the city center. Created as an alternative to resource-intensive, car-centric developments, Clyde Mews features attractive, pedestrian-friendly design and energy-efficient housing. Designed by local architecture firm Six Degrees Architects for property development company Excelon Group, the eco-friendly development includes eight contemporary townhouses fitted out with sustainable elements — such as solar panels and water-efficient appliances — inside and out. Located in the center of Thornbury near a mix of services and amenities, Clyde Mews includes eight dwellings clustered around a shared green space with an urban garden and a  reclaimed timber boardwalk. As a medium-density development, the project consists of six double-story, family-centric townhouses and two apartment units ranging in size from one to three bedrooms. In addition to the tight-knit community atmosphere, the design also stresses resident privacy through the careful consideration of layouts and window placements. Clyde Mews’ contemporary yet grounded appearance is achieved through a material palette consisting of recycled brickwork, black steel, stained glass, cyclone fences and sustainably harvested natural wood. All dwellings benefit from a 30,000-liter underground rainwater storage tank that collects and stores rooftop runoff for reuse in flushing toilets, filling washing machines and irrigating the communal garden. Each house is equipped with Canadian Solar photovoltaic solar panels as well as Fronius solar inverters. Related: Zaha Hadid unveils futuristic designs for “New Moscow” Inside, the Clyde Mews homes are outfitted with Aerotron ceiling fans, hydronic heaters and reverse-cycle air conditioners that work in tandem with passive design features to minimize energy use without compromising on comfort. Examples of passive heating and cooling include high thermal mass exposed concrete floors that absorb sunlight during the day and dissipate the heat at night; cross ventilation; an abundance of natural light through double-glazed windows; and a pitched roof design with operable roof vents to allow hot air to escape. Energy-efficient fixtures range from LED lightbulbs and high-star-rating V-ZUG or Miele appliances. + Six Degrees Architects Photography by Alice Hutchison via Six Degrees Architects

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New library in Hanoi aims to show young children the benefits of aquaponics in an urban setting

January 14, 2019 by  
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While most libraries tend to be filled with nothing more than books, the new VAC library (an abbreviation of the Vietnamese words for Garden, Pond and Cage) in Hanoi is teeming with koi fish and greenery. Vietnamese firm Farming Architects has built the the new open-air library with an impressive aquaponic system to teach the kids about urban farming. Located in a Hanoi neighborhood, the VAC Library is an immense structure comprised of wooden frames with various cubicles filled with books. However, within the almost 600 square feet library is an integrated production system that was designed to teach kids about sustainable food production. Related: URBANANA is Vertical Banana Plantation That Would Bring Tropical Fruit Farming to Paris According to the architects, the library is designed to show children how energy from land, air, water and solar energy can be harvested in order to be completely self-sufficient even within an urban context, “The aim is not only to produce an effective use of natural resources but also favorite experimentation in using different types of plants and animals in the urban environment.” At the heart of its design, the VAC library relies on aquaponic systems to provide a sustainable model. The structure’s fish pond provide nutrients to the plants, which in return purify the water. Built with energy conservation in mind, the system runs on a few pumps powered by solar energy, which also provides the electricity for the lighting system as well. In addition to its impressive sustainable systems , the VAC library is a center of learning. Besides reading the many books on offer, local children enjoy learning about the way that the fish in the ponds are so vital to the vegetable planters and so on. There are also chickens on site whose eggs are used for meals and their waste used as fertilizer for the center’s gardens. + Farming Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Thai Thach and Viet Dung An via Farming Architects  

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Net-zero home is designed to blend in with its natural, protected landscape

January 11, 2019 by  
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Located adjacent to designated wetlands, the Tung House by Seoul-based firm Project Architecture  is a net-zero home that combines conscientious landscape design with energy efficiency. Along with a large photovoltaic array and solar water heater panels to provide power and heating, the home uses a number of passive features to achieve its  net-zero energy use . At 2,900 square feet, the Tung House is a fairly large structure but relatively small in comparison with other homes in the area. One of the reasons that the size was restrained is its location. The home is built in Lincoln, Massachusetts on a strictly preserved site adjacent to designated wetlands. The size limitations imposed by the local government presented a challenge to the architects, who met the restrictions head-on with a gorgeous angular design that aesthetically gives the home a unique character while simultaneously achieving net-zero energy use . Related: This net-zero home is inspired by Iceland’s volcanic landscapes At the heart of the design are the geometric features. The roof, which is comprised of various planes, was used to give the home ample space for the photovoltaic array and solar water heater panels . The rooftop solar panels provide sufficient power and heating to the house, and in the summer months, any additional energy is transferred back to the city’s local grid. In addition to making room for solar panels, the multiple roof planes provide several overhangs that shade the interior living space during the warmer months and help provide natural light and heat during the wintertime. Inside, the architects wanted to create an open layout that offered a seamless connection between the living space and the outdoors. From the front door to the upper level, multiple large windows offer views of the serene backyard. Naturally lit by sunlight , a loft-like living room and open kitchen are on the ground floor, which is connected to the upper floors through a mezzanine level. The interior design scheme of all-white provides a contemporary elegance throughout the home, enhanced by the various angular ceilings. + Project Architecture Via Archdaily Images via Project Architecture

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An adaptable timber house celebrates recycling in Ecuador

January 11, 2019 by  
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Ecuadorian architecture firm Natura Futura Arquitectura has teamed up with Frontera Sur Arquitectura to develop an inspiring example of social architecture in the town of Huaquillas, Ecuador. Dubbed La Comuna, the project is a double-story timber structure that not only provides a local family a place to live but also a safer work environment for them to continue their recycling business. The building was constructed with six easily replicable modules that take inspiration from the local vernacular with its “chazas”, or latticed screens. Commissioned by a foundation and private company, the architects were asked to create a live-work building that would also be held up as an inspirational landmark for the city, which suffers from a reputation of poor sanitation. To that end, the design studios created a two-story building with a community-facing ground floor that houses the recycling workspaces, while the upper level houses the private living spaces. The structural system is based on a 3-meter-by-4-meter module, with each floor made up of three modules. “’La Comuna’ becomes a milestone for the city, due to the transformation process it had, with a history of unhealthiness and contamination,” the team explained in a project statement. “The project communicates a discourse through its facade with a message, generating reflection between the private and the public through architecture and recycling. The wood is used by the tradition of the existing buildings in the area, the application of shafts or lattices contribute in the construction of the building.” Related: LOT-EK upcycles 140 shipping containers into an apartment complex in South Africa In contrast to the open workspace in the ground floor, the living quarters on the upper level are screened off for privacy. The operable timber latticed screens were also designed to spell out the word “RECICLA” (recycle) when closed. Inside, the home is engineered for flexibility with walls set on wheels and movable furniture that give the family freedom to reconfigure their living quarters as they please. + Natura Futura Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images via Natura Futura Arquitectura

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