Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

April 6, 2020 by  
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As one of the most beautiful states in the country, Maine offers an infinite number of advantages. But the state’s notoriously frigid winters often leave new residents desperate to find some respite from the long, cold months. After spending a few years in a drafty home where she and her family lived in multiple layers of clothing, author Jessica Kerwin Jenkins and her husband decided to build their own energy-efficient home. The result is an incredible barn-inspired structure that uses solar power and multiple passive features to keep the stunning interior living spaces warm and cozy throughout the year. Once they set out to build a new home, the couple researched passive house concepts that would suit their family’s needs, which included a comfortable living space where they wouldn’t have to dress in 10 layers of warm clothing for six months out of the year. With the help of a local architect, the couple set out to build an extremely airtight structure that used solar power and passive strategies to create an energy-efficient home with a minimal carbon footprint. Related: Beautiful Maine home uses passive solar principles to achieve near net-zero energy Located in the quaint community of Blue Hill, the beautiful home is tucked into an old blueberry field just minutes away from a secluded cove. The incredibly idyllic setting set the tone for the design, which focused on creating something that would fit the region’s style but also reap the benefits of modern sustainability. As for aesthetics, Jenkins explained that she and her husband were both intrigued by the traditional Japanese practice of shou sugi ban . But they ended up cladding the home in something that would pay homage to the local seaside community — pitch tar. Typically used to weatherproof ships’ masts, the material is durable, low-maintenance and highly insulative. Additionally, the jet-black exterior allows the home to both stand out and blend in with its natural surroundings. “We always wanted to do a black house, which seems really dramatic — but there are so many evergreens here that it disappears into the tree line,” Jenkins said. The house is topped with a 26-panel, 7.8 kW solar array on the pitched roof, generating more power than the home uses. The exterior is punctuated with an abundance of triple-paned windows that, thanks to the home’s southern orientation, provide optimal solar gain to keep the interiors warm. At 2,288 square feet, the four-bedroom home is quite spacious. Plentiful windows and high ceilings add to the modern feel of the living spaces. For an extra touch of warmth, the home is equipped with a radiant floor heating and an air exchanger that pulls in air from outside and passes it through a filter. This stunning, eco-friendly home set in an unbelievable location, not far from Acadia National Park, can be all yours for just $585,000 , as it is currently listed for sale. + Christopher Group Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Bruce Frame Photography via Christopher Group

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Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

First home solar pavement installed on a driveway

April 6, 2020 by  
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Solar tiles aren’t just for roofs anymore. Platio, a Budapest, Hungary-based tech company, has just installed the first solar pavement for use on a residential driveway. “Roofs are not the only surfaces that can be used for solar energy production,” said Platio co-founder and engineer Imre Sziszák. “Paved areas absorb solar radiation all day long as well. The walkable solar panels of Platio can utilize this new source of clean energy.” Related: New recycled plastic sidewalk harvests energy from the sun The system consists of interlocking units called Platio solar pavers. Each paver is made from 400 recycled PET plastic bottles for a product more durable than concrete, according to the company’s product video . Pavement can be installed in sizes of 10 to 30 square meters and is suitable for driveways, terraces, balconies and patios. The energy generated by Platio tiles is fed back to the household’s power network. A 20-square-meter solar pavement can cover the yearly energy consumption of an average household, according to the video. The developers aimed for aesthetically pleasing tiles that would look good in a driveway and would increase a home’s energy efficiency. The solar pavers are available in black, red, blue and green. Hardened glass tiles protect the solar cells. They are anti-slip, so people can safely walk on them, and the tiles are designed to be able to bear the weight of a car occasionally driving over. Electric car drivers can also use the solar paving system to fuel their vehicles. Inhabitat previously reported on a 50-square-foot solar sidewalk Platio installed at an EV charging station in Budapest. Other uses include connecting a Platio solar paver system in an outdoor square to benches equipped with digital boxes, from which people can charge their mobile devices. Pavers could also fuel streetlights on nighttime walking paths. Unlike roof-mounted solar tile systems, paved areas with good sunlight access have a larger-scale potential for energy production. + Platio Images via Platio

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First home solar pavement installed on a driveway

Weathered-steel home near Palm Springs is the epitome of desert chic

March 30, 2020 by  
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Los Angeles-based EYRC Architects has tucked an undeniably chic home into a remote corner of the Californian desert. The Ridge Mountain House is a concrete and weathered steel dwelling specifically designed to sit in harmony with its breathtaking setting. In addition to running on solar power, the project also uses several passive features to reduce the home’s energy use. Located on a hillside with the protected Agua Caliente Indian lands to the west and the Coachella valley to the east, the Ridge Mountain House provides the homeowners with a seamless connection to the stunning wilderness that surrounds the lot. Related: Oregon couple spends years building their net-zero ‘extreme green dream home’ Although the building site was perfect for what the family had in mind, the rough terrain presented its fair share of challenges for the architects. The craggy topography meant that the two-story home had to be embedded deep into the hill using two large cast-in-place concrete volumes that make up the ground floor. The second floor was clad in a rusted steel rainscreen that blends in nicely with the rugged colors of the desert landscape. “The site is unique and majestic,” said Steven Ehrlich, founder of EYRC. “The house is close to civilization yet feels remote and private. Building on such a craggy site was complicated, but our contractors performed a feat of engineering. The pool and casita were built first, because they are on the downside edge of the ravine.” The project features two separate structures: the main home and a small casita, both connected by a wooden deck. This outdoor space, complete with an infinity pool and a hot tub, allows the family to enjoy much of their lives outdoors, dining al fresco, stargazing, entertaining or simply taking in the expansive views. The deck leads directly into the home’s great room via sliding glass doors. The rest of the interior spaces, with 12-foot ceilings, are flooded with natural light thanks to the sliding doors as well as an abundance of windows. Flooring made of gray concrete and burnished plaster and wax walls give the main living spaces a natural feel. In fact, there was no paint used in the house whatsoever. The Ridge Mountain House runs on clean energy . Rooftop photovoltaic panels generate enough power for the home, while natural cross ventilation and passive cooling techniques further reduce energy use. During the construction period, the architects and homeowners insisted on minimal landscaping, using only native desert plants. + EYRC Architects Via Wallpaper* Images via EYRC Architects

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Weathered-steel home near Palm Springs is the epitome of desert chic

The 10 best tiny homes in California

March 23, 2020 by  
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If you’re looking for some cool tiny home retreats to try out a more minimalist style of living or just looking for a serene vacation spot, well, California is definitely the place to be. We’ve scoured the beautiful coastal state for some of the best tiny homes in California. Take a look! Gorgeous tiny home thrives in the California sunshine Surf’s up in this gorgeous tiny home, which is designed to be both comfy and mobile. One of Canadian studio  Minimaliste’s most recent tiny home builds, the compact 331-square-foot structure was built to perform just as well in warm climates as it does in colder regions. The interior space, although compact, was strategically laid out to provide optimal space, including a cozy sleeping loft made possible by the home’s slanted roof. Related: 8 tiny homes built tough for off-grid living Converted school bus in Malibu Creek State Park This gorgeous glamping retreat is located near Malibu Creek State Park and promises incredible mountain views. The interior is spacious and sleeps up to four people comfortably. Although you’ll most likely enjoy this cozy interior, the outdoor space is what makes this skoolie so special. An open-air deck with ample seating and dining space is a wonderful area to take in the views over breakfast, lunch and dinner. The nearby hammock is a prime napping spot. Young couple build tiny home to avoid sky-high Bay Area housing prices It’s well-known that California’s Bay Area is one of the country’s — and the world’s — most expensive places to live. However, its also an idyllic area to put down roots, or wheels for that matter. When Nicolette and Michael decided to live in the Bay Area so that Michael could stay in college, they had an impossible time finding proper housing. Frustrated at price of housing, the ambitious couple decided to just build their own tiny home . The result is a stunning, 300-square-foot home on wheels that comes with a full kitchen, sleeping loft and even a reading nook. Off-grid eucalyptus tiny home radiates cool Californian vibes Another creation by Canada-based  Minimaliste Houses , the Eucalptus tiny home is a sight to behold. Built for a client who wanted to explore the California coast, the beautiful tiny home on wheels is optimized for off-grid fun. Besides its modern design, the 28-foot-long home is equipped with roof-top solar panels , tight thermal insulation and natural light, all of which contribute to the home’s self-sustenance. Try out tiny home living in San Francisco’s ‘Pavilion’ This tiny home retreat is a perfect place to enjoy the beautiful city of San Francisco. The Airbnb property is just 450 square feet, but its charming cottage-style design, made up of several recycled and repurposed materials , makes it feel so much bigger. The retreat sleeps up to two guests, who can make use of its many amenities such as a light-filled, glass-enclosed living space surrounded by a serene garden with a pond. Relax in this retreat with a hot tub in San Francisco If you’re looking for a tiny home experience in California that is guaranteed to bring a little tranquility to your life, check out this retreat in San Francisco. Located in a spacious backyard of the owner’s home, the minuscule studio sleeps two guests comfortably in its shed-like space. The interior is compact, with just one room fitting in the bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. But, the biggest draw to this retreat is its outdoor space. The home is surrounded by an open-air hardwood deck with a two-person hot tub. Built around a 700-year-old redwood tree that offers as much of a romantic touch as it does shade, the rental also boasts an outdoor shower, where you can bathe under the stars. The ‘Nugget’ in Costa Mesa takes tiny home living back to basics Located just a 10-minute drive to the beach, this beautiful tiny home in Costa Mesa is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. Although it is just 140 square feet, the retreat sleeps up to two guests comfortably. With its large sliding glass door entryway, the home boasts a minimalist feel that makes it just as perfect for a business trip as it does for a relaxing stay at the beach. A private deck wraps around the home and is shaded by bamboo trees. Tiny home getaway near San Diego These days, many travelers are forgoing the excessive displays of luxury in fancy hotels for simpler getaways. Tiny home retreats, like this gorgeous cabin-inspired tiny home near San Diego, offer guests a chance to relax and reconnect with nature. Located near beautiful Mount Laguna, the tiny home sleeps up to four people between a double bed and two sofa beds. Although the living space is more than sufficient, it is the outdoor area that is so special. The glamping retreat is completely immersed in nature, and features a rooftop terrace for guests to take in a bit of stargazing before enjoying a toasty nightcap around the private fire pit. Vintage glamping travel trailer in San Fernando Valley If there’s one iconic image that encompasses California adventure, it’s the gleaming vintage travel trailer, like this 1954 trailer just outside of Los Angeles. The trailer itself sleeps up to four and has a lovely interior. The magic really begins with the outdoor space, which features a covered deck with a romantic canopied double bed, perfect for sleeping under the stars during the long summer months. Additionally, guests can enjoy the incredible views of the San Fernando Valley from the adjacent outdoor lounge space. Off-grid tiny home in southern California Sometimes, you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle. For those times, this off-grid tiny home in Southern California will do the trick. The compact studio is outfitted with a plush, queen-sized bed. The space is tiny, but as an extra bonus, the home features a custom, garage door-style window that can be fully opened to enjoy amazing views of the 20 acres of beautiful private land that surround the tiny home retreat. Images via Minimaliste, Airbnb and Glamping Hub

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The 10 best tiny homes in California

UN releases World Water Development Report 2020

March 23, 2020 by  
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Climate change further challenges the world’s overstretched water resources, ultimately threatening all aspects of human life, according to the latest UN World Water Development Report. Most human needs revolve around water, so energy production, industrial development, food security, human and animal health and housing are also vulnerable to climate change impacts. The report states that the reliability of available water will decrease as the climate becomes more variable, amplifying floods, droughts and other water-related problems. Places already stressed from insufficient water sources will suffer more, while places that have so far been unaffected will feel the pain, too. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Over the last century, global water use has increased by a factor of six. Between population increase, economic development and explosive human consumption, this growth continues at about 1% per year. Groundwater depletion doubled from 1960 to 2000. Some experts predict that 40% of the world will face a water deficit by 2030. “If we are serious about limiting global temperature increases to below 2°C and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must act immediately,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, chair of UN Water. “There are solutions for managing water and climate in a more coordinated manner and every sector of society has a role to play. We simply cannot afford to wait.” The UN report acknowledges that while most countries recognize water as a crucial issue, few have specific action plans about adapting policies to protect this resource. The report suggests that climate change funds be used more for adaptation and mitigation of water issues. Adaptation includes social and institutional measures, plus natural, technological and technical steps to lessen climate change-related damage. Mitigation refers to the actions humans must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wastewater treatment generates a high amount of emissions. Some countries — such as Peru, Mexico , Thailand and Jordan — have already harnessed the methane in untreated wastewater as biogas, which provides enough energy to run the treatment process. The UN report also mentions wetland protection, conservation agriculture techniques, reusing partially treated wastewater for industry and agriculture and fog capture as possible water management interventions. + UN World Water Development Report 2020 Image via Alex Hu

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UN releases World Water Development Report 2020

Architects envision a green, solar-powered skyscraper

March 19, 2020 by  
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Warsaw-based architecture firm  FAAB Architektura  has unveiled designs for the Vertical Oasis Building, a conceptual skyscraper that would use renewable energy to reduce its carbon footprint. Envisioned for densely populated cities around the world, the futuristic proposal features a conical shape with a facade built of materials designed to harness solar energy. Large round openings that punctuate the facade reveal an abundance of greenery growing inside the building. The Vertical Oasis Building was conceived as mixed-use development comprising retail, office spaces, hotels and residences that also doubles as a local heat distribution center for the surrounding neighborhood. Powered by ground heat pumps and  solar energy , the conceptual design promotes a new type of urban development that not only meets the needs of local citizens, but also uses technology and biotechnology to reduce its environmental impact and improve livability.  Although there are no plans for construction, the architects have identified the materials that they would use for the building. BIPV active panels and glazing made with “clearview power technology” would allow all parts of the facade to harness solar energy. The greenery that grows on all levels of the building would be installed inside multifunctional VOS WCC modular panels. This “green layer” would be used to help preserve endangered local plant species, purify the air, reduce noise pollution and promote natural cooling. The green layer would also be connected to an AI and machine learning program so that building users can monitor and interact with the system from their smartphone.  Related: FAAB reimagines Warsaw’s largest public square as a solar-powered cycle park “Harvesting electricity from the sun, lowering the building’s energy demand, the geometry of the facade creating shade where needed, these are the features creating the basic ECO-DNA of the Vertical Oasis Building,” said the architects. “However, the main goal is to change the environment in the vicinity of the building while making inhabitants of the building involved in the process; give them tools to be able to control, manage and enhance the changing  climate .” + FAAB Architektura Images via FAAB Architektura

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Architects envision a green, solar-powered skyscraper

Solar-powered community hub in Australia emphasizes green design

March 18, 2020 by  
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Residents of the Australian suburb of Bayswater now have a new community center to enjoy. Designed by Melbourne-based firm K20 Architecture , the Bayswater Early Years Hub is a building that was strategically designed to minimize its impact on the environment via green design, which includes solar power, rainwater harvesting systems and more. At 20,000 square feet, the massive building offers residents a range of services including early learning spaces as well as several health centers. To blend in with the existing residential area, the structure was built with fairly humble features, such as red brick cladding and a gabled roof, which is covered in solar panels . Related: Green-roofed community center champions sustainable design in London It was imperative to the designers to include a functional layout with enough space for multiple services without sacrificing convenience to visitors. Accordingly, the resulting design is a dynamic volume comprised of two U-shaped masses “turning toward the sun,” which gives the project its nickname, Sunflower. As one of its primary functions, the center is a space for learning. Therefore, the project includes several learning classrooms that are spacious and well-lit by large windows. Additionally, an expansive courtyard was strategically landscaped to include a variety of greenery as well as adventurous play areas including a sand pit, swings, crawling spaces, slides and bridges. Along the border of these sites, parents and grandparents have several areas to sit down and enjoy the fresh air while the kids run around freely. From the onset of the project, the architects worked with the local government to ensure that the new structure would be incredibly energy-efficient . With the objective of a 100+ year building lifecycle, improved ecology and reduced environmental impact, the designers added several sustainable features to the building. The roof boasts an array of solar panels, which generate a substantial amount of clean energy for the building. The roof is also equipped with a rainwater harvesting system. Baywater uses several passive features to further reduce energy use, such as ample natural light. + K20 Architecture Via ArchDaily Images via K20 Architecture

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Solar-powered community hub in Australia emphasizes green design

Prefab Birdbox is the perfect retreat for nature-lovers

March 17, 2020 by  
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With a design that can only be described as a “bird box for humans,” this prefab dwelling from Norwegian studio Livit gets its inhabitants as close to nature as possible while still maintaining comfort and a sleek, minimalist style. With its first models utilized as vacation rentals in the Norwegian wilderness, overlooking the majestic Fauske region fjord and the Langeland snow-capped mountains, Birdbox is small and light enough to be placed in unique places with a minimal footprint. The prefab boxes come in two turn-key versions: Birdbox Mini measuring 6 by 10 feet and Birdbox Medi measuring 16.7 by 8 feet. The Birdbox Mini holds a bed and a small seating area while the Birdbox Medi features a bed, a desk, a larger seating area and more substantial windows. There is also an option to add a separate bathroom pod constructed with tinted one-way glass so that occupants can enjoy the view of the surrounding area in privacy while inside. Related: A pair of minimalist cabins is a serene retreat in a Portuguese forest Both models, however, put the most focus on the windows. The Mini’s circular windows and two smaller oval windows highlight the nature outside, and the Medi adds an additional two windows to give occupants more sweeping views. Birdbox can be lifted and installed with a helicopter for more challenging sites and has no need for maintenance, according to the lead designer, Torstein Aa. The resilient design can withstand extreme weather, and there is the option to add solar panels , which the company can provide as well. “Birdboxes will be located across the country where you get a new experience in every place you visit,” said Asbjørn Reksten Stigedal, CEO of Livit. “We are creating an offer where we can showcase our country from its best side where one can experience Norway through Birdbox.” + Livit Images via Livit

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Prefab Birdbox is the perfect retreat for nature-lovers

Rubia Tiny House features minimalist, sustainable design

March 17, 2020 by  
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Byron Bay-based Little Byron has really outdone itself with its latest tiny home model. The Rubia Tiny House is merely 160 square feet, but thanks to several savvy design techniques, it comes across as being much more spacious. The impressive tiny home can also be customized for self-sustenance with solar panels, a rainwater collection system and a composting toilet. Named for its light blond exterior ( rubia is Spanish for blond), the Rubia Tiny House is made out of sustainably sourced hardwood . At 19 feet long and just under 8 feet wide, the compact, cube-like structure is built on a trailer and can be easily transported. Related: This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook The gorgeous interior design mimics the lightness of the exterior. White walls with light wood accents create a modern, minimalist atmosphere. Along with the LED lighting that was installed throughout the home, natural light is ushered in through an abundance of windows. The Rubia Tiny House consists of a small living room, a full kitchen, a bathroom and a dinette set. The kitchen is equipped with a four-burner gas stove and a full-sized oven. There is also plenty of overhead storage in the cabinets, which have been outfitted with LED strip lighting . Farther past the kitchen, the bathroom features a composting toilet and a shower along with a standard vanity cabinet. The bedroom is located upstairs on an unusually large sleeping loft , which fits a queen-sized bed as well as an end table. Windows on either side of the bed and a light wood accent wall allow for a calming sense of openness. For guests, there is a custom-built sofa that pulls out into a twin-sized bed. The stairs leading to the loft offer extra storage. In addition to its sustainable wood exterior, composting toilet and LED lighting, the Rubia Tiny House can be customized for off-grid functionality. Potential installations include solar panels with batteries and a rainwater collection system with a holding tank. + Little Byron Via Tiny House Talk Images via Little Byron

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Rubia Tiny House features minimalist, sustainable design

Off-grid beach retreat is ‘carved’ into the dunes of Cape Cod

March 11, 2020 by  
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Brooklyn-based firm Studio Vural has unveiled an incredible concept design for an off-grid beach retreat, which is embedded into the sandy dunes of Cape Cod. The Dune House is a futuristic structure that is “carved” into the sand dunes, essentially divided into two parts by an open-air walkway. Covered with a lush green roof, the idyllic home will also rely on clean energy to be completely self-sufficient . The unusual design features both modern and natural materials that add resiliency to the Dune House. To make it storm-resistant, the structure will be embedded into the dunes via deep piles. Octagonal in shape, the house will consist of concrete bases and large stretches of storm-resistant, triple-insulated windows. Topping the residence is a lush green roof planted with native vegetation that, in addition to helping insulate the interior spaces, will also be helpful in reducing carbon emissions. Related: A solar-powered home in Maine rises above the sand dunes on wooden stilts The top floor houses the main living space, along with an open-plan kitchen and dining area. These rooms are connected via a central breezeway, which will enable the homeowners to enjoy the incredible views while taking in fresh air. Wedge-shaped windows around the home also bring in natural light as well as unobstructed views of the ocean. The interior design will feature a modern, neutral palette that incorporates white, painted concrete walls and polished concrete floors. Natural bamboo will be used for the cabinetry and wood paneling found throughout the home. Besides its breathtaking design, the residence will also be completely self-sufficient. A solar panel array as well as various mini wind turbines will generate all of the energy the home needs. A rainwater collection system will supply fresh drinking water, and water for sinks and showers is to be sourced from filtered groundwater. To heat and cool the off-grid house, an innovate geothermal system will be installed to work collaboratively with the “eco-concrete basin” created via the structure’s concrete envelope. + Studio Vural Via Dezeen Renderings by Dom Wipas via Studio Vural

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Off-grid beach retreat is ‘carved’ into the dunes of Cape Cod

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