19th-century Catalan ruins are revived into a self-sufficient home

March 24, 2021 by  
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Spanish architecture firm Andrea Solé Arquitectura has given new life to the ruins of Can Tomeu, a historic Catalan building from the 1800s that is now a modern, self-sufficient home. In addition to sensitively restoring and reinforcing the remaining walls from the original construction, the architects expanded the building footprint with an annex and inserted site-sensitive materials that imbue the home with a sense of warmth. The house has also been outfitted with solar panels, diesel tanks and rainwater harvesting and graywater systems for off-grid use. Located at the entrance of the Parc Natural de Garraf just outside of the town of St Pere de Ribes, Can Tomeu was originally used for agricultural and stone-crafting purposes for the Masia Corral d’en Capdet. Although the building was later abandoned and deteriorated into ruins comprising only bearing walls, Can Tomeu was classified as a Cultural Asset of Local Interest (BCIL), a designation that requires the preservation of the building’s remaining elements. Despite the strict regulations and the poor conditions of the ruins, the architects took on the challenge by carefully rehabilitating the original walls and expanding the footprint by 30%. Related: Old ruins are transformed into a cozy, off-grid guesthouse in France The architects used iron mesh and concrete reinforcement to repair and join the original stone walls. Concrete was also used to raise the height of the existing walls and form a new roof structure. In contrast, the exterior walls of the new annex are rendered as smooth, white surfaces. Large, timber-framed windows punctuate both the old and new construction to visually tie the buildings together, bring a sense of warmth into the home and frame exterior landscape views. The light-filled interiors match the minimalist design approach of the exteriors with a simple materials palette that includes ceramic tiling to evoke a Mediterranean character. “The performance represents a second life for the building, rediscovering the existing interior spaces of clear and powerful geometry that after the intervention constitute a new spatial experience,” the architects noted. + Andrea Solé Arquitectura Photography by Adria Goula via Andrea Solé Arquitectura

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19th-century Catalan ruins are revived into a self-sufficient home

This Indonesian high-rise performs 36% better than LEED baseline

March 5, 2021 by  
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Located in Jakarta’s central business district of Sudirman, Sequis Tower makes a space for itself on the city skyline. Drawing inspiration from the Banyan tree for both design influence and metaphoric meaning, the tower is meant to look like it’s rising organically from the ground. Sequis Tower encompasses roughly 1.5 million square feet and 40 floors. This includes spaces for offices , healthcare facilities, shops and restaurants. The innovative design uses a series of landscaped terraces composed of four bundled super-tubes. While this certainly makes the tower eye-catching, it also creates a range of different floorplates. This makes the building extremely structurally sound, which is essential considering the tower’s location in an active seismic zone. Related: Seismically-safe cave home in Spain replaces informal shelter for shepherds While the tower wall is designed to provide beautiful views of the surrounding world, it also reduces solar heat gain , which helps keep cooling costs down. Other sustainable elements have also been integrated into the design, such as high-efficiency building systems. Additionally, using locally-sourced and recycled building materials helped reduce the tower’s embedded energy, while also staying true to the building’s central theme of rising from the landscape like an organic structure. On the ground level, the tower includes spaces for pedestrians. The building’s parking area is elevated, so the ground floor remains open for green areas and walkways. The design includes an elevated park , too. KPF, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, received two major awards for Sequis Tower, starting with a design award recognizing the tower’s human-focused, efficient design. The second is a sustainability award, proving that good design and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. The building also won a slew of additional awards, including Best Green Development and Best Office. Sequis Tower is also one of the first LEED Platinum buildings in all of Indonesia. In fact, it performs 36% better than the LEED baseline. + KPF Images via Mario Wilbowo Photography

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This Indonesian high-rise performs 36% better than LEED baseline

San Diego Zoo apes get experimental, animal-only COVID-19 vaccine

March 5, 2021 by  
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In California, like other states, officials have come up with a priority list of COVID-19 vaccination recipients: healthcare workers, long-term care residents, elderly people, endangered apes — wait a minute, did the bonobos and orangutans at the San Diego Zoo just jump the line? No, they’re the first great apes to receive an experimental COVID-19 vaccine made specifically for animals. After some of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorillas tested positive in January, zoo keepers were worried. The IUCN Red List includes all gorilla species in the endangered or critically endangered categories. “Susceptibility to disease” is cited as one of the main dangers. Gorillas live in family groups, like many people, so infections can quickly spread. Related: Tourists could spread COVID-19 to gorillas in East Africa The decision to vaccinate was not made lightly. “This isn’t the norm,” said Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, as reported by National Geographic . “In my career, I haven’t had access to an experimental vaccine this early in the process and haven’t had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one.” Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, developed the vaccine. Last month, the San Diego Zoo used it to vaccinate five bonobos and four orangutans. Bonobos are endangered, and orangutans are critically endangered. The zoo also plans to vaccinate one gorilla. Because many of the zoo’s gorillas have already recovered from COVID-19, they’re considered lower priority than some of the other primates. At first, Zoetis was developing the vaccine for use in cats and dogs, the only animals it has been tested on. But when COVID-19 broke out in farmed mink populations last year, the company shifted its focus to mink. The vaccine is similar to the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine produced for humans. The USDA has not yet approved the experimental vaccine for animal use in the U.S. So far, the vaccinated apes seem to be doing fine. Soon they’ll be checked for antibodies. For Karen, one of the orangutans, making medical headlines is nothing new. In 1994, she was the world’s first orangutan to have open-heart surgery. Via National Geographic and Live Science Image via Oleg

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San Diego Zoo apes get experimental, animal-only COVID-19 vaccine

Stranded at sea: 2000 cattle face culling by Spanish government

February 26, 2021 by  
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Several sailors are stranded outside the shores of Spain , fearing for the lives of hundreds of cattle aboard their ships. The managers of two vessels have accused the Spanish government of ignoring their calls for help. Further, they say that they are unable to dock since the Spanish government threatens to kill the cattle on board. One of the vessels that has been affected is the Karim Allah. The ship left Spain in December with bulls headed for several countries. However, due to a suspected outbreak of bluetongue, the vessels were denied entry into several countries, including Libya and Turkey. Karim Allah is owned by Khalifeh Livestock Trading, based in Lebanon . The ship is also managed by a Lebanese company, Talia Shipping Line. A third party owns the over 800 cattle onboard. Majed Eid, Talia Shipping Line director, says that they have remained docked outside Cartagena port since being barred from entering Spain. “We remain at anchor outside Cartagena port because first the Spanish authorities told us we could not enter. That was on Sunday or Monday,” Eid said. Eid added that they may lose all the animals if they enter Spain. “Then the Spanish authorities said we could enter [the port] but that all the cattle – they are all bulls about seven to eight months old – must be slaughtered,” he said. Furthermore, Eid claims no one has even mentioned vets possibly coming to inspect the ship and test for bluetongue. Eid laments that there is no proof of the animals suffering from any condition. As a result, the company wants to be allowed to enter the country and have the animals tested before any action is taken. “We do not want to slaughter the healthy animals. That is the proof of the good care we have taken, only 15 dead after more than 60 days at sea . We expected people to thank us, not criticise us,” Eid said. “We are crying out for help but the Spanish government is not helping us. No one is helping us,” he added. The other affected ship is the Elbeik, which left Spain with over 1,700 cattle. Currently docked off the coast of Cyprus , the ship lacks a clear destination. The sailors are now calling on the Spanish government to allow the animals to be tested before further action is taken. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pixabay

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Stranded at sea: 2000 cattle face culling by Spanish government

Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

January 12, 2021 by  
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The U.K. government is reversing a ban on a dangerous pesticide. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar lobbied hard to get a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beets. Not only is this chemical thought to kill bees, but rainwater will wash it from fields into rivers. Last we heard, fish weren’t requesting neonicotinoid thiamethoxam any more than were insects, many of which already face serious declines. Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the conservation group Buglife, was one of many environmentalists unhappy with the decision. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” Shardlow said . “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment .” Related: Flea treatments are poisoning England’s rivers Beet yellows virus is carried by aphids and has a ruinous effect on sugar beet crops. The U.K. has tracked this disease with national surveys since 1946, charting the effects of chemicals, farm hygiene and other factors on the changes and developments in virus yellows disease. Treating sugar beet seeds with neonicotinoid thiamethoxam is one approach used to control this disease . “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorization is desperately needed to fight this disease,” said Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board. “It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.” He emphasized that pesticides would be used in a limited and controlled way. In 2018, the EU decided to protect bees by banning outdoor uses of thiamethoxam. But now 11 countries, including Spain, Denmark and Belgium, have signed emergency authorizations to use this controversial chemical. Via The Guardian and Pest Management Science Image via Kurt Bouda

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

Amazon’s new eco-friendly shopping platform

October 29, 2020 by  
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During the pandemic, it seems like Amazon has come to dominate our world, especially during lockdowns when few vehicles save Amazon delivery vans traveled the roads. Many people have been relying on the website throughout the pandemic. But now, the e-commerce giant is trying to save the Earth by promoting eco-friendly shopping on its new platform. The new platform made its U.S. debut in September. This week, shoppers in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Italy will be able to browse more than 40,000 items certified by the Carbon Trust, Fairtrade International and other environmental certifying organizations. From bamboo toothbrushes to plant-based garbage bags, Amazon will display these products in a dedicated section of its website. Many small businesses across Europe are participating, including U.K. brands Kite Clothing, which sews sustainable kids’ clothes, and Faith in Nature, makers of shampoo bars. Related: The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping According to Doug Gurr, Amazon U.K. manager, customers will more easily discover sustainable products on the new platform. “With 18 external certification programs and our own new certification, we’re incentivizing selling partners to create sustainable products that help protect the planet for future generations,” Gurr said, as reported by The Guardian . But not everybody is impressed. Some large environmental nonprofits think the giant company is doing too little. “Amazon sells millions of products and this latest initiative covers just a tiny fraction of the total,” said Will McCallum, senior campaigner at Greenpeace U.K. “By certifying only a limited range of goods, Amazon is implicitly admitting that the rest of its business model isn’t up to scratch. The environmental and climate crises we are facing demand more than token gestures and piecemeal action.” Further, environmental campaigners also found some discrepancies within the new platform, with single-use items like cotton swabs, disposable wipes and novelty Donald Trump toilet paper all labeled with Amazon’s own sustainable certification. After being contacted, Amazon removed the label from these products, citing this as a mistake. In the perfect world, everybody in the supply chain would care about the planet, from the manufacturer to the seller to the end consumer. Here’s hoping that Amazon shoppers will make a point of purchasing sustainable products via the new platform, if not from local shops in their neighborhood. Via The Guardian Image via Christian Wiediger

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This energy-efficient home in Spain has a rainwater-fed infinity pool

August 11, 2020 by  
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Find Casa Palerm on the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca, located in the Spanish Mediterranean. The area is known for its lavish beach resorts, world-famous beaches, stunning limestone mountains and ancient ruins. This home in Spain designed by OHLAB is an example of an energy-efficient architectural design that doesn’t detract from its stunning surroundings. The house itself is an extension of an existing hotel in Lloret de Vistalegre, a region in the center of Mallorca that is rich with wide-open countrysides. Near the hotel’s property farmhouse, Casa Palerm functions as a smaller vacation home . Related: This is one of the only LEED Gold-certified hotels in Spain There is one compact, single level making up the house, which is topped with a pitched roof. The entire structure has a width of about six meters with low-cost beams and no columns. This layout not only favors cross-ventilation , natural lighting and thermoregulation of the interior but also provides a parallel layout to take full advantage of the property’s views. The stretching countryside, as well as the Tramuntana Mountains to the north, can be enjoyed from multiple spots in the house. The living/dining room opens up to a massive porch on both sides, providing excellent ventilation during favorable weather. This panoramic format is built intentionally to have cinematographic proportions of 2.66:1, invoking a feel of being inside an old movie theater. The windows here can be completely hidden in the facade to be opened or closed depending on the season. A wattle (cañizo) pergola on the ceiling expands on both sides to protect the terraces from the hot summer sun and to filter the light and shadows. These energy-efficient choices, paired with the discrete design, help integrate the home into its surrounding environment.  Low-maintenance, drought-resistant Mediterranean plants and deciduous trees make up the garden, providing natural shade and aesthetics. Rainwater is stored in the water-collecting tank under the terrace to be reused for the garden irrigation, toilet tanks and the infinity pool. Natural and local materials , such as the rustic local limestone for the mortar plastering, became essential tools during construction. The home also contains reused ceramic tiles for the roof, local mare stone, sepi wood and artisan cement for the floors and sinks. + OHLAB Photography by José Hevia via OHLAB

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This energy-efficient home in Spain has a rainwater-fed infinity pool

Apple Hotel gains a green-roofed wellness center in South Tyrol

August 11, 2020 by  
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Bolzano-based architecture practice noa* (network of architecture) has recently completed the latest stage of expansion for Apfelhotel (Apple Hotel), a nature-focused retreat tucked away in the village of Saltaus in northern Italy. The recently completed phase includes 18 new guest suites and a green-roofed wellness facility that serves as the hotel’s centerpiece. Covered with a layer of earth and plants, the curved spa appears to blend seamlessly into a grassy hillside on one side and opens up to views of the landscape and apple fields on the other. In 2014, noa* won a design competition to expand on Apfelhotel’s historic structure and, in 2016, completed the expansion of the grounds, a renovation of the main building and restaurant as well as the addition of the Apfelsauna (Apple Sauna). Earlier this year, the architects added a wellness facility and 18 new suites on the hotel’s east-facing side that have been carefully crafted to complement the rural landscape and the existing renovated farmhouse . The guest rooms are spread out across three floors in three independent buildings, each wrapped in a wooden rhombus-pattered facade that pays homage to the traditional vernacular while appearing distinctively contemporary.  Related: A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming “alpine village” getaway The new wellness facility — known as the Brunnenhaus (Water Well House) — forms the “green heart” of the hotel campus. The entrance to the green-roofed spa was built from a curved, semi-exposed concrete shell embedded into a grassy hill and punctuated with a door fabricated from old timber. The interior houses an adults-only upper level with a sauna , lounge, relaxation room, Finnish spa with panoramic outdoor views, a cave-like steam bath and an adjacent terrace fitted with an outdoor shower.  “The entire Apfelhotel project reflects the nature and passion of its family-owners, whose aim is to make people feel truly at home, rather than like a hotel guest,” the architects explained. “Together with noa*, the architecture was created with a great sense of integrity towards this special place, which becomes a unit with nature, ties in with its history, and maintains its own identity through applied design — where occasionally, glimpses of the apple can be seen in the surrounding nature and design.” + noa* Photography by Alex Filz via noa*

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Apple Hotel gains a green-roofed wellness center in South Tyrol

MVRDV plans to sustainably repurpose the Dutch Expo 2000 Pavilion

August 11, 2020 by  
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MVRDV has unveiled plans to sustainably transform one of its seminal projects, the Dutch Pavilion at the 2000 World Expo in Hannover. The redesign will highlight the Expo Pavilion’s reputation as a landmark for sustainable design, while transforming it into a co-working office building flanked by two new buildings: one containing student housing and the other comprising offices and parking spaces. The new vision for the Expo 2000 Pavilion will also retain the building’s third-floor forest, which made the pavilion an icon in the 2000 World Expo.  MVRDV’s design for the original Expo 2000 Pavilion responds to the Dutch Expo theme “Holland Creates Space.” The architects took a space-saving approach by stacking six different Dutch landscapes into a tower and leaving the remainder of the site open as multipurpose outdoor space. This “stacked landscape” concept conceptualizes the building as a self-contained ecosystem capable of generating its own internal resource cycles.  Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen The architects’ new vision for the pavilion maintains the “stacked landscape” concept, while renovating the interior to better fit an office environment. The first floor that was originally used as a grid of greenhouses, for instance, will be turned into an office with a similarly strict rectilinear layout. On the second floor, the architects will repurpose pod planters into glazed meeting rooms and office spaces. The third-floor forest level and exterior staircases will largely be kept the same as will the ground-level “dunes” that will remain as communal meeting areas with small cafes and exhibition spaces. The co-working office building will be complemented by two new buildings that form perimeter blocks around the site and create an entry point on the west side of the site. The larger of the two buildings will contain 370 student apartments as well as 300 bike parking spots. The smaller building will feature three levels of office and meeting rooms as well as ample parking. The two new buildings will feature stepped roofs with colorful accessible terraces with different programming — from gardens and sports facilities to study areas and a cinema — in a nod to the “stacked landscape” concept.  + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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MVRDV plans to sustainably repurpose the Dutch Expo 2000 Pavilion

Research facility minimizes its carbon footprint to attract international talent

June 16, 2020 by  
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Spain’s coastal city of Badalona has recently welcomed the Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image, a new research facility designed to meet high standards of energy efficiency and sustainability. Pilar Calderon and Marc Folch of Barcelona-based architecture firm Calderon-Folch Studio teamed up with Pol Sarsanedas and landscape designer Lluís Corbella to create a site-specific building that would offer the highest levels of comfort as a means to attract and retain both local and international talent. Embedded into the landscape, the compact facility was constructed with a prefabricated wooden framework and clad in larch to blend in with the nearby forest. Because the Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image is located on sloped terrain, the architects placed the portion of the building containing the research floors partly underground to take advantage of thermal mass for stable climatic conditions year-round. Building into the landscape has also allowed the architects to create two access levels: one used as a general entrance for the administrative area, and the other for logistic purposes for the scientific-technical area. The separation of areas by levels optimizes building operations and adheres to the strict requirements of biological containment. Related: Green-roofed Honey Bee Research Centre targets LEED Gold “The new Centre for Comparative Medicine and Bio-Image holds a research center of the first order,” the designers explained in a project statement. “A research facility based on ethical research criteria, technical and functional complexity, and comfort features that have been resolved in an efficient and sustainable way that strongly considers its relationship with the environment.” Natural materials, large glazed openings and naturalized exterior spaces visually tie the research facility to the environment. Eco-friendly considerations were also taken with the use of a modular , lightweight wooden framework with loose-fill cellulose and structural insulated panels that minimize material waste. Moreover, the building follows passive solar principles. The research facility is equipped with high-performance energy and air-flow recycling technologies as well as a 250-square-meter rainwater collection tank for sanitary and irrigation purposes. + Calderon-Folch Studio Photography by José Hevia via Calderon-Folch Studio

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Research facility minimizes its carbon footprint to attract international talent

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