After a makeover, this local shack becomes the envy of the neighborhood

July 30, 2018 by  
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Nearly everyone has strolled through a darling neighborhood and suddenly come across an orphan house. Sitting silently, often in the shadows of the prettier houses, there’s a neglected home that once had dignity. A family of four discovered such a home in an Iowa City neighborhood, and with some TLC and help from Neumann Monson Architects , they transformed it into a star of the community. Seeking a tranquil neighborhood near the University of Iowa campus, the family found the unpolished jewel, built in the ’60s, on a quiet street lined with lovely modest homes. It was a smaller, 1,300-square-foot home, and years of high-turnover renters had left their mark, earning the abode the local moniker of “ The Shack .” Related: O2 Studio renovated an old Netherlands home into a gorgeous energy-neutral villa Determined to change that image, the family embarked on a mission of a cosmetic makeover that would also embrace the home’s carbon-neutral potential. After commissioning Neumann Monson Architects for the project, the family wanted to create a guest room and recreation room in the formerly unfinished 500-square-foot basement. Then, the team expanded the ground floor from 1,300 square feet to 2,500 square feet with a slab-on-grade modification. All these upgrades used standard post and beam construction coupled with steel wood framing and steel columns. To sustain the eco-friendly theme, the home’s walls and ceilings were lined with insulated sheathing and foamed-in-insulation, creating R-24 walls and an R-40 roof. Upgraded windows take full advantage of natural light without sacrificing the mid-century spirit. A new tongue-and-groove bleached cedar ventilated rain screen beautified the home’s exterior. Energy-saving renovations also included new super-efficient climate control systems, such as LED lighting , EnergyStar appliances and a closed-loop, horizontally-bored geothermal system with fresh air energy recovery. An 8.4kW photovoltaic array powers the LED lighting, mechanical systems and energy-efficient appliances. The family enjoys the credit they receive from the utility company for their home’s surplus energy, but they love the homey ambiance of the neighborhood even more. A nearby property is undergoing a similar overhaul, so their success appears to be contagious. + Neumann Monson Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Integrated Studio

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After a makeover, this local shack becomes the envy of the neighborhood

This massive Sun Ray could sustainably power 220 homes in Melbourne

July 17, 2018 by  
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What if renewable energy infrastructure could be both functional and beautiful? Exploring that notion is Italian architectural practice Antonio Maccà, who designed ‘Sun Ray,’ a massive solar collector that could generate enough energy to power 220 Melbourne homes — with approximately 1,100 MWh of electricity produced annually. Shortlisted for this year’s Land Art Generator Initiative Melbourne design competition, the conceptual design was conceived as a symbol for the future of sustainable energy that also doubles as public artwork. Envisioned for the City of Port Phillip in Melbourne , Sun Ray consists of a series of flat mirrors — each with a single-axis tracking system — laid out in a round shape with a diameter of 279 feet and elevated atop slender steel columns. To capture the sun’s energy, Antonio Maccà tapped into linear Fresnel reflector technology, in which mirrors are used to focus sunlight onto a solar receiver. A power block tucked underground transforms the solar energy into electricity before feeding it into the city power grid. “Sun Ray is a new symbol of renewable energy, lighting the way to the State of Victoria’s zero- greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target,” explained Antonio Maccà in his project statement. “It is also a cultural attractor for Melbourne, an investigation of light as a physical and symbolic source of illumination for life. It is a place for reflection, relaxation, learning and play — and it is a linear Fresnel reflector solar power plant that provides heat and electricity for hundreds of homes in St Kilda.” Related: This gigantic solar hourglass could power 1,000 Danish homes Residents and visitors can interact with the Sun Ray by using it as a shade canopy. The 50 primary mirror lines cast shade over the public park space, while the mirrors create a constantly changing play of light and shadow as they turn to track the sun. The winning design of the 2018 Land Art Generator Initiative Melbourne will be announced on October 11. + Land Art Generator Initiative Renderings by Antonio Maccà

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This massive Sun Ray could sustainably power 220 homes in Melbourne

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

Geothermal-powered Forest House showcases sustainable features in Maryland

July 13, 2018 by  
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Set on the edge of a forest conservation area in central Maryland , the Forest House is a contemporary home integrated with a wide variety of energy-efficient features. Local design firm Gardner Architects LLC designed the spacious home that responds to passive solar principles and rises to the height of the tree canopy to capture surrounding views. The sustainable technologies include geothermal energy, rooftop solar panels and rain gardens, as well as low-tech solutions like stack ventilation. Commissioned by clients who wanted a spacious home yet desired a sustainable footprint, the Forest House spans 25,000 square feet across three levels. By building upwards on the 0.6-acre wooded property, Gardner Architects sought to create a compact building footprint that would minimize site disturbance . The Forest House embraces the outdoors with covered balconies, a large roof deck that overlooks the forest, and ample low-U value glazing that wraps around the south side to maximize solar gain in winter. The upper level is cantilevered over the glazed south facade to provide shade from the harsh summer sun. The home was constructed with framing panelized off-site in a factory to reduce material waste as well as onsite construction time. The energy-efficient building envelope is bolstered with rigid insulation on the exterior to prevent thermal bridging. In addition to natural daylighting that’s brought in through the skylights and other glazed openings, the openings were carefully placed in concert with an open stair tower so as to promote stack ventilation that brings in cooling breezes. Related: 13 energy-efficient modules make up this prefab modern home in Maryland The Forest House is powered with a ballasted solar array that sits atop the roof deck. A ground source heat pump provides heating and cooling. To further reduce energy needs, the house is equipped with central DC-powered low voltage LEDs that can be controlled remotely. The project was completed in 2016. + Gardner Architects LLC Images by John Cole

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Eco-conscious Birkenstock HQ in Melbourne targets carbon-neutral status

July 11, 2018 by  
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A two-story heritage building in Melbourne has been remade into Birkenstock Australia’s new headquarters, an eco-conscious development with a modern aesthetic to reflect the classic elegance of the company’s shoe line. Designed by local architecture firm Melbourne Design Studios (MDS) , the adaptive reuse project targets carbon neutral status thanks to its solar photovoltaic system, passive solar design, and a sustainably minded material palette that includes recycled timbers and natural materials. The offices are also designed with human comfort and health in mind and feature low-VOC materials, an abundance of indoor plants and natural daylighting. Located in Clifton Hill, the award-winning Birkenstock Australia headquarters includes a retail shopfront, e-tail, wholesale operations, offices, showrooms and a workshop, as well as a courtyard and warehouse with a mezzanine. The Australian landscape is celebrated throughout the adaptive reuse project’s design, starting with the retail shopfront, which is outfitted with double glazing, a living grass floor and a deciduous tree. The central courtyard also echoes the landscape with recycled timber sleepers and a water tank. “Creating a green environment within an existing, heritage building is much more challenging than a new build,” explains Melbourne Design Studios founding director Marc Bernstein-Hussmann, who adds that they opted to integrate the different departments of Birkenstock into a single company culture. “Coincidentally over a hundred years ago the building was conceived for a boot manufacturer. We’ve reinvented an almost derelict building to live and breathe its owners’ values.” Related: Melbourne architects turn an old terrace house into a gorgeous light-filled home To promote collaboration between the departments, the architects inserted an open office layout dressed with air-purifying plants. The interior is flooded with natural light, while timber slat screens provide shading. The sustainably sourced timber palette includes woods such as sugar gum with linseed oil, EO plywood, and recycled paper with bamboo fiber that’s used in the office’s bench tops. + Melbourne Design Studios Images by Peter Clarke

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Eco-conscious Birkenstock HQ in Melbourne targets carbon-neutral status

This Swiss straw-bale house is completely self-sufficient

July 6, 2018 by  
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Traditional building techniques and modern technology come together in the House in Berne, a self-sufficient straw bale house in Graben, a Swiss village located less than an hour’s drive north of Bern. Trun-based architecture practice Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed the modern home, crafting it to blend in with the rural surroundings by taking on the appearance of an old Bernese farming house. Additionally, the self-sufficient house is powered entirely by rooftop solar panels. Completed this year, the House in Berne is set in the middle of a vast and open farming landscape. The dwelling comprises three floors in addition to a small basement for a total area of 1,970 square feet. In response to the client’s request for a modern, self-sustaining home that would be flooded with natural light , Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed a building with large yet carefully placed openings, as well as an energy-efficient envelope to ensure minimal heating energy demands that could be satisfied through a photovoltaic array or passive solar means. “Inside the house, glass ceilings ensure that daylight can penetrate fully into the whole building,” explains Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH in a project statement. “The reduction of inside walls allows the owners to live and work in a big open modern space. The 80 centimeter thick straw-bale walls guarantee minimal heat losses. The electrical and thermic energy gained on the solar roof is stored in a home battery system and in a 5000 [liter] solar tank located in the basement. If needed the house can be heated by the stored thermic energy.” Related: Leaky cottage retrofitted with straw bale sees 80% energy reduction Set on an east-west axis, House in Berne is built primarily from unfinished timber for both the interior and the exterior; the timber façade will develop a patina over time and further blend the building into the landscape. Solar panels top the roof, which features long overhanging eaves to protect the interior from unwanted solar heat gain . + Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH Images by Rasmus Norlander

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This self-sufficient tiny house is designed to pop up anywhere

July 3, 2018 by  
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If you’ve ever dreamed of living off the grid without giving up contemporary comforts or style, you’ll love Petit Place, a sustainably minded tiny house designed by Dutch architecture firm RoosRos Architects . Created to follow the WikiHouse principle, the Petit Place concept was conceived as an open-source solution that will be available to everyone and easily customizable thanks to its modular design. Powered by solar energy, the tiny home is designed to pop up anywhere and follows sustainable principles from energy self-sufficiency to its use of healthy, natural materials. Petit Place can accommodate the full suite of home essentials—including a bedroom, storage, bathroom, kitchen, dining area, living space, and outdoor patio—in a compact footprint that still feels airy and spacious thanks to access to natural light and outdoor views. The tiny house’s customizable floor plans range between 25 square meters and 1,000 square meters. Although owners are free to choose their own material palette, RoosRos Architects’ 40-square-meter prototype integrates a LOCI solar roof, tripled-glazed windows with Velux roof glazing and sustainable Irroko wood frames. The firm also insulated the permeable exterior, floor and roof with ISO flax, a natural product made of old linen with an RC of 7+. To protect the tiny home against the elements, breathable Gore-Tex foil is used on the exterior. The solar roof can generate approximately 9,000 kWh annually—three times more energy than the house is expected to use. Related: WikiHouse is a CNC-Milled Home That Uses Zero Bolts (Video) “Sustainability often feels like ‘giving up life’s little luxuries’: eat less meat, drive less, consume less,” says architect Stefan de Vos. “The Petit Place aims to create sustainability which ‘gives something back’. This can be seen in low monthly bills, the fact that surplus energy is created and in the creation of a healthy living environment thanks to breathable cladding and ‘good’ materials. Living in a Petit Place is not just good for you; it’s also good for the planet.” + RoosRos Architects Images via Christian Fielden

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Dairy farmers’ excess milk gets a second life feeding the hungry

July 3, 2018 by  
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Automation may have caused a significant surplus of dairy products and a corresponding price drop, but one non-profit has stepped up to ensure food – and farms – don’t go to waste. Philabundance , a food bank in Philadelphia, is working with cow ranchers to help sell their foods while also keeping hungry families fed in the city. After shifting their farming focus away from traditional milk packaging and sales, Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers struggled to keep family businesses afloat. According to a study by the Center for Dairy Excellence , 120 Pennsylvania dairy farms closed their gates for good in 2016. Related: Transfernation volunteers will deliver your leftover party food to homeless shelters That’s where Philabundance came into the picture. Working with farmers across the state, the organization wanted to purchase excess dairy products to feed hungry families in Philadelphia. Traditionally, extra skim milk was dumped because farms didn’t have the equipment to turn the surplus into cheese or yogurt. In 2016, Pennsylvania farmers alone discarded 43 million gallons of excess milk. But with state funds provided by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System and the cooperation of dairy farms, Philabundance and other food banks purchased over 60,000 gallons of excess milk destined for waste and turned it into cheese. The result was a new food source for food banks and $165,000 in revenue for farmers. This partnership quickly turned into a much bigger idea: turning excess milk into artisan cheese. Philabundance took the lead by buying even more milk to produce the same food products , then selling them under the name “Abundantly Good.” The products went on sale through three retail partners, a direct-to-restaurant seller and an online shop . One dollar from each sale goes back to farmers, subsidizing the milk set aside for food donations. In one year, farmers sold $9,000 worth of products each and prevented further food waste. With the success of the cheese sales and donation programs, Philabundance is testing other products for retail shelves, including drinkable yogurt. The group is also expanding its line to include foods like spiced tomato jam. Much like the dairy program, portions of the sales go back to farmers who turn their crops into soup and sauces for people in need. This partnership closes the loop in agricultural waste. Instead of destroying products or sending food waste to the garbage, farms produce more food that goes to people in need. In turn, the farms’ bottom lines increase, keeping them sustainable well into the future. Which is something that everybody – from farm to table – can celebrate. Via NPR

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This solar-powered school produces enough surplus energy to power 50 homes

June 27, 2018 by  
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This timber elementary school and kindergarten in Switzerland boasts more than just good looks — the School in Port, designed by Zürich-based architecture firm Skop , also gives back to the community through excess energy production. Located in a residential neighborhood, the energy-plus building and communal power station draws from a rooftop array with more than 1,100 solar panels that completely covers the school’s energy needs and powers 50 additional households. Moreover, the school is visually tied to its neighbors with a contemporary zigzagging roof that references the pitched roofs of the local vernacular. Skop won an international competition in 2013 to design School in Port, which is largely informed by sustainable principles. The building was prefabricated using timber sourced from sustainably-managed forests. Wood, which was chosen for its ability to sequester carbon , was also used throughout the interior and in the furnishings. All other construction materials were chosen for their non-toxic, recyclable and low-impact properties. The school covers an area of more than 180,000 square feet to cater to 280 children from kindergarten to elementary school. The light-filled interior is organized around a “central circulation zone,” a zigzagging east-west spine and open learning space that branches off to staggered classrooms and other enclosed spaces to the north and south. Flexibility is a major theme of the interior design — in addition to the multifunctional circulation zone, adjacent classrooms and group working spaces can be connected through large doors — that encourages a variety of teaching and learning methodologies. Related: This minimalist prefab hotel offers stunning views of the Swiss Alps “Placed on a gentle slope, the building takes advantage of the topography and links various outdoor spaces according to the different access routes of the school children,” Skop explained. “On the main level, all rooms benefit from the spatial qualities of the folded roof. Each classroom appears to be an independent little house, creating a cozy and homelike atmosphere for the children.” The School in Port has achieved a MINERGIE-A rating and is also connected to the district heating. + Skop Images via © Simon von Gunten and © Julien Lanoo; illustration via © Skop

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This solar-powered school produces enough surplus energy to power 50 homes

Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development

June 22, 2018 by  
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Like in many places across the U.S., the real estate market is booming in Aspen , Colorado. And, as companies move in to replenish the dwindling housing inventory, one real estate developer hopes to provide a more sustainable alternative to the inevitable onslaught of cookie-cutter homes. Working in collaboration with San Francisco-based Aidlin Darling Design , the developer has completed a solar-powered dwelling that serves as a new energy-efficient prototype for speculative real estate in Aspen. Located on the steep slopes of Red Mountain, the Aspen Residence boasts spectacular panoramic views that overlook Aspen to the west and an undeveloped landscape to the south. The spacious home covers an area of 9,618 square feet and is oriented on a north-south axis to maximize views, preserve privacy, and optimize passive solar strategies. To tie the contemporary design to the landscape, the architects used local materials and long stone walls that anchor the space into the hillside and frame outdoor spaces that function as extensions of indoor living areas. “The client, a developer with an earnest desire to change the real estate paradigm in Aspen, desired a more sustainable, site-sensitive , and modern alternative to the usual developments,” explains Aidlin Darling Design. “The design challenges conventional notions of interior and exterior, absorbing the surrounding landscape.” Related: Solar-powered Colorado school houses a sun-soaked learning environment Sustainability is key to the design. The Aspen Residence’s rooftop is integrated with a 12.6 kW solar photovoltaic array as well as a green roof and solar hot water panels. The roof is also designed to slow and reduce stormwater runoff in conjunction with the on-site bio-retention pond. To reduce energy demands, the home is wrapped in closed cell spray foam insulation and punctuated with glazed windows and doors that let in natural light and promote natural ventilation. Moreover, energy-efficient radiant heating is built into the floor slabs and a heat recovery ventilation system recaptures heat from exhausted indoor air. + Aidlin Darling Design Images via Aidlin Darling Design

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