These solar-powered, mobile chicken coops help farmers prepare for harvest

December 11, 2019 by  
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Created specifically for the farmers working at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, this automated, solar-powered chicken coop , by Designers on Holiday , combines two important agricultural tasks: giving a chicken brood access to fresh grass and letting the animals fertilize new crops. The Chicken Caravan is a lightweight structure with wheels so that it can easily be transported by hand or tractor. Clad in a shimmering aluminum to reflect heat, the modern chicken coop was built with two large “wings” on either side to shade the interior, protect the hens from direct sunlight and provide natural air circulation. Related: The Moop — a modern, modular, prefab coop for design-savvy chickens The Chicken Caravan is also automated. Solar sensors on the doors automatically trigger the doors to open at the first light day and close after sunset. A singular solar panel keeps the batteries charged for easy maintenance of the system. The interior of the tiny structure is designed to keep the chickens as comfortable as possible. It can also be outfitted with various nest boxes and perches. A narrow ramp folds out for the chickens to come in or out, and there is also a portable fence to keep the hens inside and predators at bay. While some people might not see the need for such an innovative take on a basic, functional design, the Chicken Caravan’s mobility is a true game-changer for farmers . The mobile structure enables them to easily move their chickens to different areas so they can graze evenly over the pastures while preventing overgrazing. As the chickens harvest one section, they can also be used to fertilize other areas during the planting season. + Designers on Holiday Images via Designers on Holiday

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These solar-powered, mobile chicken coops help farmers prepare for harvest

Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires

December 11, 2019 by  
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Record-breaking bushfires are raging along the eastern and southeastern coast of Australia, burning through prime marsupial habitat and claiming the lives of hundreds of koalas, an already vulnerable species . Search-and-rescue teams are underway to locate surviving koalas, and they do so thanks to the efforts of koala detection dogs, like Bear, who has been trained by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Human-caused climate change is to blame for the severe temperatures, vegetation dry-out, worsening drought impacts and low-to-almost-no precipitation, all of which have exacerbated bushfire conditions in Australia. Raging bushfires have devastated the eucalyptus stands populated by koalas. Related: Koalas declared “functionally extinct” Koalas can survive weeks following a fire, but they are likely suffering from severe burns and smoke inhalation. Finding these surviving koalas, many of whom are injured and distressed, to provide them proper care and rehabilitation then relocate them to safer areas has been a challenge. That’s where the deployment of koala detection dogs, like Bear, can be of value. The University of the Sunshine Coast has been training canines at the Detection Dogs for Conservation Centre. These trained detection dogs locate koalas by recognizing the scent of koala fur as well as fresh koala scat. What makes a good koala detection dog? A canine must be disinterested in people and not have a strong prey drive. More importantly, they must be hyper-focused on koalas. Bear, now 6 years old, meets those qualifications. IFAW shared about Bear’s training and upkeep, “He was brought in for assessment at about 1 year old. Within minutes, the team knew he was ‘The One’ they had been looking for to train on live koalas. He is high-energy, obsessive, doesn’t like to be touched and is completely uninterested in people, which sadly means he doesn’t make the ideal family pet. But these qualities do make him a perfect candidate for a detection dog, which is exactly why he was chosen. He also has zero prey drive, which is essential for a wildlife detection dog, as they need to focus purely on the scent and not the animal, ultimately ignoring the animal .” Unlike other detection dogs that are trained to sniff out koala scat, Bear is trained to detect live koalas by their fur. Scat remains aren’t always effective, for they don’t always lead to the koalas who left them. But, with Bear’s abilities to detect koala fur, living koalas can be found even at the top of burned trees, giving them more chances of survival success. + IFAW Via People Photography by Fiona Clark Photography via IFAW

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Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires

Brick cladding conceals a family home’s sophisticated, zero-energy systems

December 9, 2019 by  
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Although brick homes are certainly nothing new, the respected building material is having somewhat of a renaissance moment as architects search for materials with sustainable properties. Dutch firm Joris Verhoeven Architectuur has just unveiled Villa Alders — a large, brick family home that runs completely on solar power, making the structure a zero-energy  build. A maintenance-friendly product, bricks are incredibly durable, meaning that they are suitable for virtually any climate. The porous nature of brick enables a tight thermal envelope because it can store and radiate heat when necessary. Brick is also unique in that it is a material that can be recycled or repurposed fairly easily when the structure has come to the end of its lifecycle. Related: Green-roofed home in Poland is made out of reclaimed brick Keeping these features in mind, the architects created the beautiful Villa Alders in a way that complements, rather than stands out from, many other homes throughout the Netherlands. However, its boxy shape conceals a number of unique systems that enable the structure to be a zero-energy household. Punctuated with several windows, the house consists of several cubes clad in Belgian hand-molded bricks. Additionally, the home’s cubed volumes allowed the architects to use various flat roofs to their advantage. On the upper roof, a massive solar array meets all of the home’s energy needs while the lower roof was planted with a state-of-the-art cooling sedum green roof that adds significant insulation properties to the design. The interior boasts a modern but warm living space. All-white walls and concrete flooring contrast nicely while an abundance of natural light in the living spaces further reduces energy demand during the day. Minimalist furnishings and art pieces are found throughout, adding to the home’s contemporary aesthetic. The house is also designed to be flexible based on the family’s needs for generations to come. The layout spans two stories, which can be closed off to create a separate living area on the bottom floor after the children grow up and leave home. This allows for the possibility of creating a rental unit upstairs for extra income or a spacious guest room for visitors. + Joris Verhoeven Architectuur Photography by John van Groenedaal via Joris Verhoeven Architectuur

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Brick cladding conceals a family home’s sophisticated, zero-energy systems

Minimalist home in the Brazilian countryside is made from mining waste

December 6, 2019 by  
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Brazilian architectural firm Gustavo Penna Arquiteto e Associados (GPA&A) has unveiled a tiny, minimalist home with a small stature that conceals a powerhouse of sustainable design. Located in a former mining region, the architects decided to build the 484-square-foot Sustentable House out of bricks manufactured from mining sludge waste. The family home is also installed with solar panels and a wind turbine to produce energy and heat water. Additionally, the residence is almost completely zero-waste thanks to an integrated waste water treatment system and organic waste incinerator. The small home is located in the pristine, mountainous area of Ouro Branco, once an important base located on the transportation route from the mines of Minas Gerais to the coast. Paying homage to the region’s history, the architects were able to construct the Sustentable House with bricks made out of the byproducts of mining . Related: Sustainable desert home has a small water footprint in Nevada Tucked into an open lot surrounded by forest, the house sits on a small, flat plot of a sloping hill. The volume has a cube-like base topped with a slanted rooftop. The sloped roof was an important factor in protecting the interior from direct sunlight . The roof was also installed with a small solar array that heats water for the residence, although it will eventually power the entire home. At the front of the building, a wall rises up past the slanted rooftop. The cutout space in this section is outfitted with a wind turbine that generates energy for the home. The design also incorporates an organic waste incinerator that produces energy through hot air and an integrated, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system that can be used as an additional power system. All of these sustainable features are wrapped up in one gorgeous design. The two-bedroom house’s brick walls wrap around the exterior and interior, except for the front facade, which is made out of floor-to-ceiling glass panels. The wide glass doors slide open completely, opening up the living room to the great outdoors. This allows the homeowners to enjoy unobstructed views of the mountains and valleys that stretch out across the horizon. + GPA&A Via ArchDaily Photography by Jomar Bragança via GPA&A

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Minimalist home in the Brazilian countryside is made from mining waste

Prefab homes on stilts include solar panels, water collection systems and organic gardens

November 29, 2019 by  
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Bali-based architect Alexis Dornier has unveiled a beautiful, eco-friendly concept for a series of prefabricated homes that are elevated off the landscape by stilts. The Stilt Studios come in a variety of sizes, from one-story to multi-level, all raised above the ground to reduce the structures’ impact. Additionally, the prefab design , which can be easily disassembled and moved to new locations, includes a number of sustainable features, such as solar power and integrated rainwater collection systems. According to the architect, inspiration for the Stilt Studios came from a problematic housing issue common in Bali . “The reality here is that we often find leasehold plots with a limited amount of years,” explained the German architect, who currently resides in Bali. “This situation calls for us to tread lightly through prefab ‘PropTech’ structures that could be packed up and re-erected someplace else.” Related: Beautiful cedar home stands high on stilts to accommodate heavy snowfall in Japan Accordingly, the concept calls for prefab building system, which would allow the units to be installed by families who are in need of extra space. The homes could also be used as rental units for extra income. The structures would come in a number of sizes as well, depending on the owners’ needs. The homes would be made out of steel frameworks initially, but Dornier hopes to build additional models out of CLT paneling . Other sustainable features to the design are plentiful, with solar arrays on the roof to generate energy, large roof overhangs to reduce solar heat gain on the interior and a built-in rainwater harvesting system to reuse water. Wide, open doorways and large windows would also promote natural air ventilation. The concept envisions families growing their own organic food underneath the buildings. + Alexis Dornier Via Dezeen Images via Alexis Dornier

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Prefab homes on stilts include solar panels, water collection systems and organic gardens

Mirrored outhouse disappears into a lush river valley landscape

November 13, 2019 by  
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In Australia’s Kangaroo Valley, Paddington-based design studio Madeleine Blanchfield Architects carefully crafted a freestanding bathroom that all but vanishes into its surroundings. Designed for minimal impact, the compact outhouse is wrapped in one-way mirrors to blend into the lush landscape. Its use of solar energy and gray water recycling helps reduce the building’s carbon footprint . Moreover, the mirrored building is elevated off the ground and can be easily assembled and disassembled with limited site impact. Built to service a small cabin for overnight stays, the freestanding bathroom is set on a privately owned hillside about 30 meters from the accommodation. Its secluded location helps to enhance the feeling of being immersed in nature. The mirrored facade camouflages the structure by reflecting the lush landscape. When the space is used at night, the interior lighting makes the bathroom visible from the outside; the building orientation and remote location ensure privacy. Related: Mirrored home in the woods is hidden in plain sight The bathroom contains a bathtub and shower at the center that look out to unobstructed views of nature in all directions to give guests the sense of bathing outdoors. The architects also equipped the building with sustainable technologies, including solar-powered lights and a gray water recycling system with septic tanks. The landscape was minimally altered, and the bathroom can be easily removed without harm to the site. “The client’s desire to create a haven that not only provided connection to the landscape but a place to truly escape and unwind was met through the design,” the architects explained. “By avoiding the temptation to create a visually intrusive folly, the brief for the outhouse was met both visually and experientially. The outhouse heightens the sense of place, makes one consider their location.” + Madeleine Blanchfield Architects Photography by Robert Walsh via Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

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Mirrored outhouse disappears into a lush river valley landscape

Cambridge students create the UKs most efficient solar-powered electric car

November 12, 2019 by  
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Undergraduate students at Cambridge University have teamed up with Formula 1 engineering experts and Bridgestone to design and build Helia — a solar-powered electric car that is so energy efficient, it can travel more than 500 miles at 50 miles per hour on the same amount of power it takes to boil a kettle. The student team, known as Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER), equipped the aerodynamic and lightweight vehicle with an extremely high-energy density battery pack to achieve more than double the range of a Tesla Model 3, while being just a quarter of the size. To show off its features, Helia recently competed in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2019, a renowned solar car race where 40 to 50 teams race 1,864 miles from Darwin to Adelaide. Related: Meet ‘Blade’, the world’s first 3D-printed hypercar In designing Helia, CUER pushed the boundaries of automotive battery technology and aerodynamics. Portsmouth-based Formaplex, a manufacturer of lightweight components for high-powered supercars and Formula 1 teams, created Helia’s ultra-lightweight, carbon-fiber chassis and body panels, making it possible for the four-seat family car to weigh just 1,200 pounds without compromising structural integrity. The aerodynamic build is coupled with low rolling-resistant tires — developed in collaboration with Bridgestone — to significantly enhance the electric car’s overall energy efficiency. The solar-powered Helia is equipped with high-performance lithium-ion battery packs produced in collaboration with Silverstone-based vehicle electrification company Danecca. Although electrical issues prevented the team from progressing past the first stage of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2019, they are optimistic about taking Helia to other solar races in Europe and beyond. “Helia was designed to demonstrate the technology behind electric vehicles and renewable energy and will visit schools next summer with the aim of inspiring the next generation of engineers,” said Xiaofan Zhang, CUER’s program director. “We have plenty of positives to take forward and are already in search of our next challenge.” + Cambridge University Eco Racing Images via CUER

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Cambridge students create the UKs most efficient solar-powered electric car

Climate change heightens Californias drought and wildfire risks

October 31, 2019 by  
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Global warming and climate change are to blame for creating the strong winds and low humidity that are currently turning California into a tinderbox. Tracts of Golden State land are drying out, making them more prone to insect infestation, forest disease outbreaks and extended wildfire seasons. In response, two of the state’s main electricity companies, PG&E and SDG&E, have implemented brownouts, unplugging entire cities to minimize fire hazard risks. The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection , or CalFire, recently reported that “while wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the west is starting earlier and ending later each year. Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend.” Related: Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires The growing intensity of present day wildfires is a sobering reminder that greenhouse gas emissions and the global carbon footprint must be curbed, lest our planet be faced with irreversible climate consequences. Accelerated warming and the burning of fossil fuels trap more heat on the planet, shifting precipitation patterns and amplifying the risks of wildfires and their prolonged seasons. Temperature rises from climate extremes likewise lead to drier air that quickly desiccates vegetation on the ground. These drought conditions transform the landscape, inviting infestations of ravenous, bark-eating pests to excessively feed on trees, making them more susceptible to woodland diseases. These ailing California forests are thus compromised further, pushing them to the brink of mortality. High temperatures, strong winds, dry conditions and ailing flora are a formula for wildfire risks. But another variable to increased California wildfire occurrences is attributed to the sparks that can ignite the tinderbox; those sparks can be started by electrical utility infrastructure. Shutdowns of California power grids are now the new normal, according to the California Public Utilities Commission , which regulates services throughout the Golden State to “safeguard the environment and assure access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.” To protect California, the regulatory board has implemented a number of climate initiatives that include a utility wildfire mitigation plan calling for electrical power-downs to customers, especially during exceptionally hot and dry conditions. Many customers in the Golden State oppose the electrical shutdown measures. So, what other solutions are there? California has been at the forefront of fighting climate change, even promoting renewable energy and solar power as go-to strategies. Similarly, insurance companies have been shying away from securing housing development in fire-prone locations, leading to a shift in household relocation trends. Plus, researchers — in academia, military and public and private sectors — are now studying fire-resistant or non-flammable materials to harden California buildings and houses in hopes of making them more resilient. Even with these ideas in place, the best practices will rely on curbing climate change, which increases the likelihood and frequency of wildfires in the first place. Via CNN Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Climate change heightens Californias drought and wildfire risks

Two beautiful, self-sustaining tiny cabins rest on a remote island off the coast of Finland

October 22, 2019 by  
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Finnish designers Aleksi Hautamäki and Milla Selkimaki have done what many only dream of — they have bought an entire island to construct a gorgeous off-grid retreat. Located on 5 acres of rugged landscape, at the edge of the Archipelago National Park in Southwest Finland, Project Ö includes two self-sustaining, solar-powered cabins that include chic living spaces as well as a sauna and a workshop. The ambitious designers purchased the remote island two years ago with plans to built a set of off-grid cabins . According to Hautamäki, their vision was “to build all things necessary in as little space as possible.” The result is two compact structures that offer optimal functionality and comfort without harming the existing landscape. Related: These tiny steel cabins in Joshua Tree epitomize off-grid design Since the designers bought the island, they have constructed two narrow gabled cabins , which house the living spaces, a sauna and a workshop. The cabins sit elevated off of the rocky landscape by an expansive wooden deck. The cabins are long and narrow, with ultra-large windows that, in addition to flooding the interior with natural light , provide stunning views of the island’s coast. Additionally, there are a number of outdoor lounge areas that let the designers and visitors enjoy spending time in the outdoors. The main cabin is comprised of an open-plan living room with a kitchen and dining area. A sleeping loft on the second floor is accessible by a ladder. The bedrooms and bathrooms are located in the second cabin, which is accessible through a central, covered outdoor area. All in all, the cabins can sleep up to 10 people. Due to the remote location, the cabins were also built to be completely self-sufficient. Rooftop solar panels generate energy, and there is an integrated water system that filters seawater. Two wood-burning stoves provide hot water for the cabins and create the ultimate cozy atmosphere. + Project Archipelago + Project Ö Via Dezeen Photography by Archmosphere via Project Ö

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Two beautiful, self-sustaining tiny cabins rest on a remote island off the coast of Finland

Mirage Architecture envisions a solar-powered glass cube for Lithuanias national concert hall

October 3, 2019 by  
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In response to an international design competition for Lithuania’s National Concert Hall in Vilnius, Iranian architecture firm Mirage Architecture Studio designed a conceptual solar-powered venue sheathed in a double skin facade. Dubbed Tautos Namai, the cuboid building proposal houses art inside and out — the exterior transforms into a vibrant artwork at night with holographic displays. Per the competition’s brief for sustainability, the conceptual project would not only produce more energy than it uses but would also minimize site impact and be built of recycled materials. In February 2019, the Vilnius City Municipality announced an international competition for a concert hall to be located on Tauras Hill, a popular park that offers a sweeping view of the city. To preserve the proportions of the old trade union palace and reflect the natural surroundings, Mirage Architecture Studio proposed a glass cube with a transparent outer shell and an opaline inner shell.  Related: Steven Holl’s solar-powered concert hall plays up the dramatic contrast between new and old “One reflecting the outside, and the other reflecting the enigmatic atmosphere inside,” explained the architects of the facade. “These glasses are made of photovoltaic tiles and produce a wide range of solar energy . So, in addition to creating a sense of belonging in the unconscious of the audience, an inexpressive and semi-transparent state of truth within it appears in mind. And all of this happens on the daytime. But at night time, the project has another story to tell. The Lithuanian National Music House is shining like a diamond using more than 18,000 holographic display; thus, the building’s appearance will never be reiterative at night, displaying a variety of surreal and abstract images.” The multifunctional, 550-capacity concert hall would be tucked underground, while the above-ground spaces could be used for artist workshops, training venues and other purposes. To reduce environmental impact, structural materials would be recycled from the previous building on site, site impact would be minimized wherever possible and recycled natural materials would be used for acoustic padding on the walls of the hall. Mirage Architecture’s submission did not win the competition; Spanish architecture firm Arquivo was recently announced the winner. Still, the design is an innovative way to combine solar power and art under one roof. + Mirage Architecture Studio Images via Mirage Architecture Studio

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Mirage Architecture envisions a solar-powered glass cube for Lithuanias national concert hall

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