An urban wetland springs to life among Bogotas high rises

March 12, 2019 by  
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An open plaza in Bogota’s northeastern business district has been radically transformed from a place of pure pavement to a vibrant urban wetland . Colombian architecture firm Obraestudio completed the project in 2016 in the Santa Barbara business center to revitalize the outdoor common space shared by the Torres Unidas Building, Scotia Bank, Samsung, AR and W Hotel towers. Covering an area of over two acres, the architects injected a lush aquatic landscape into the public-facing plaza, creating a striking contrast between wild nature and the sharp geometry of the surrounding high-rises. Winner of an open national design competition sponsored by The Colombian Architects Society, the Usaquén Urban Wetland has become an iconic, privately-owned public space in northeast Bogota . The design draws inspiration from the wetlands of the Bogota Savannah, a rich, biodiverse area located in the southwestern part of the larger Andean plateau, the Altiplano Cundiboyacense. To recreate the wetland appearance, a large recycled rainwater-fed pool was carved out from the heart of the plaza and planted with native aquatic vegetation. “A natural ecosystem — half aquatic, half terrestrial — is recreated by the geometry, colors and textures of the overall design,” Obraestudio explained in a project statement. “Existing buildings and the exterior common areas are a provocative, clear contrast to the wild, free-growing landscape elements. A recycled rainwater garden over the main square creates a native urban wetland that blends harmoniously with the surrounding Andean hills backdrop and preserves the native vegetation in its natural habitat.” Related: Triangular windows bring light and drama to a stunning Bogota bakery Moreover, the parking area was replaced with a linear park that has also been lushly planted and designed to “inspire slow and meditative walks.” Pre-existing green roofs were preserved while the old elevator and stairs structures have been re-engineered so as not to visually detract from the new landscape design. + Obraestudio Via ArchDaily Photography by Daniel Segura and Andres Valbuena via Obraestudio

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An urban wetland springs to life among Bogotas high rises

Climate change is wreaking havoc on Italy’s olive harvests

March 8, 2019 by  
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Italy is facing a major climate change crisis as the country’s olive harvests continue to decline. Italy’s olive industry has witnessed a 57 percent decrease in olive production, and according to a leading climate scientist, extreme weather is at the forefront of the crop shortage. Olive tree farms across Italy have been devastated by weather-related events this past year, including heavy rainfalls, unpredictable frosts, droughts and powerful winds. All of these weather patterns coincide with what climate scientists have predicted would happen in the event of global warming . Related: Biodiversity decline puts food supply at risk “There are clear observational patterns that point to these types of weather extremes as the main drivers of [lower] food productivity,” Professor Riccardo Valentini explained. Valentini noted that below-zero temperatures are not common in Italy, and extremes like this were foretold through climate change models. Research from the United Nation’s climate change panel also predicted similar weather patterns and indicates that the worst is yet to come. When it comes to olive trees, any abrupt change in temperature can have a devastating effect on the harvest. Valentini explained how a day or two of freezing temperatures can harm the trees and hurt their development. After they have experienced extreme weather , the trees never fully recover and are more susceptible to disease and pest infestations. As a whole, temperatures in Italy and the surrounding Mediterranean have gone up by around 1.4C over the past century, while rainfall has decreased by a staggering 2.5 percent. The changes in weather have cost the country over 1 billion dollars in olive production. Government officials are scrambling to come up with a viable solution but have yet to offer any resources for farmers in the region. Italy is not the only country affected by the changes in weather. The European commission recently predicted that olive harvests in Portugal will decline by around 20 percent this coming year. Greece will take a much larger hit with a decline of around 42 percent. All signs point to a continually increasing problem for European countries, as putting a stop to climate change is proving to be an intricate issue. Via The Guardian Images via vpzotova

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Climate change is wreaking havoc on Italy’s olive harvests

TemperPack raises $40M to combat plastic foam waste

March 8, 2019 by  
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If you’ve purchased a TV or other appliance in the past few decades, you’ve experienced the massive chunks of polystyrene foam that came with it. Plastic foam as it is known, also commonly called by the brand name Styrofoam , has dominated the packaging and insulation industries for many years and brought with it tons of waste. Taking an estimated 500 years to break down, the product leaves much to be desired from a sustainability standpoint. There is no doubt that plastic foam is one of the least sustainable products on the market, yet it is still prevalent because it works so well. A newcomer to the market, TemperPack, has developed an eco-friendly option that hopes to eliminate the need for plastic foam altogether. Obviously, TemperPack is not alone in its desire to bring the product to market, as they have sourced around $40 million in funding to further develop the technology . Related: Jamaica will ban plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam by 2019 Longtime friends and now co-founders Brian Powers and James McGoff developed a patent-pending product called ClimaCell that is aimed at sustainability from production through the waste cycle. The company claims that the manufacturing produces 97 percent less carbon emissions than plastic foam manufacturing. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the ClimaCell is the ability to add it to curbside recycling where available. The company has taken the steps to obtain OCC-E certification, ensuring the product meets recycling standards equal to basic cardboard, which has an extraordinarily high recycle rate. The new product is set to replace large hunks and sheets of plastic foam with its cushioning capabilities. In addition, ClimaCell offers an alternative for disposable food shipping coolers while ensuring perishables arrive safely and remain cold during transport. Several thicknesses are available to cater to the different needs of businesses throughout seasonal and product changes. Using the technology in a similar way, TemperPack also produces a completely recyclable alternative to packing peanuts and bubble wrap for full-spectrum packaging and packing options. TemperPack aims to offer complete solutions to businesses in order to make it easier for them to lessen their environmental impact. In the end, its hopes to achieve its mission of solving packaging problems through sustainable design. High consuming industries include pharmaceutical and food companies with a need to keep products cold. The company estimates the use of ClimaCell has diverted 10 million pounds of plastic foam from the waste stream. + TemperPack Via Forbes Images via TemperPack

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TemperPack raises $40M to combat plastic foam waste

General Mills’ Shauna Sadowski on grounding regenerative agriculture at General Mills

November 5, 2018 by  
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Shauna Sadowski is the head of sustainability in naturals and organics at General Mills — and where her passion and her role intersect are through regenerative agriculture. The term might sound about vague, or a bit hippie-dippy, but for Sadowski, it’s actually about grounding agricultural practices in the outcomes for the crops and the land. Pursuing regenerative practices for General Mills’ agricultural suppliers focuses specifically on soil health, above-ground biodiversity and resilience in the surrounding agricultural communities. 

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General Mills’ Shauna Sadowski on grounding regenerative agriculture at General Mills

Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

September 21, 2018 by  
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New data suggest that flooding in the Amazon River has dramatically increased by as much as five times in both intensity and frequency in the last 100 years. Scientists analyzed data points from the past century and believe the increase in flooding is linked to global warming. Scientists have measured the river’s water levels for 113 years at the Port of Manaus in Brazil . Over time, they found that large flooding events and extreme droughts have gone up over the past 20 to 30 years. In the early part of the century, massive floods only happened about once in every 20-year period. That number has increased to one major flood every four years. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years The researchers believe the uptick is related to an oceanic system called Walker circulation, which describes air currents created by temperature fluctuations and pressure changes in the ocean , specifically in tropical locations. The Pacific Ocean has been cooling while the Atlantic Ocean has been getting warmer, which creates these circulating air currents. These changes are affecting the surrounding environment, including precipitation in the Amazon basin. Scientists are not sure why the Atlantic Ocean has been warming up. They do, however, believe that global warming is contributing to the temperature changes, but in a more indirect way. They theorize that global warming has shifted wind belts farther south, which pushes warm water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. This creates an opposite effect of El Niño and results in more rainfall in the Amazon. Flooding along the Amazon River lasts weeks on end. Not only does it spread disease and contaminate water supplies, but it also destroys farms and homes. Right now, there is no indication that the flooding will decrease. This past year, water levels rose above the flood range, and scientists believe the water levels will only get higher as the years progress. Via EurekAlert! Images via Dave Lonsdale and NASA

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Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

Substance harmonizes with style in this former Spanish Colonial Revival home

July 26, 2018 by  
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Any home perched on the side of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, is a winner. With awesome sky views as the backdrop for majestic deep-red sedimentary sandstone mountain ranges, the vistas are breathtaking, an awesome balance of beauty and tranquility. The owners of a Spanish Colonial Revival style house on the mountain loved the views, but the design of the house stifled the indoor/outdoor relationship they craved. Claire and Cavin Costello of The Ranch Mine architectural firm stepped in and made their vision a reality. The primary concerns of the homeowners were the choppy floorplan, the authentic but heavy clay tile roof on the house, dark beams that absorbed rather than reflected light, and chunky columns inside and out that ruined the panoramic views. The style was lovely, but it didn’t do justice to the natural surroundings. Related: Yield’s Sweet Suspension Shelf is Inspired by Spanish Colonial Design Instead of simply redecorating, the Costellos opted to remove all the original design elements and start the makeover with a simple two-story stucco house . To open up the floorplan and flow of the house, they connected the living spaces and added a glass, wood and steel staircase that left a wide-open view from the back to the front of the house and beyond. An ensuite bedroom added to the second floor juts out over the mountain to leave the footprint unchanged. Clad in limestone with calcite veins, the bedroom addition contrasts beautifully with the surrounding red sandstone that has hints of calcite throughout. The crowning glory to the project was more than 2,000 square feet of shaded patios around the entire perimeter of the house that also protects the interior from searing sunshine. For added comfort, cooling misters line the covered patio on the first floor. This patio leads to additional comforts including a fire pit, hot tub and pool. Custom-built steel screens on the southerly exposed second floor patio keep the sun at bay and the breezes flowing and are easily retractable to watch the sunset at the end of the day. + The Ranch Mine Images via Roehner + Ryan

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Substance harmonizes with style in this former Spanish Colonial Revival home

The SPACE pod from IO House lets you go off-grid in style

July 5, 2018 by  
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Who says that off-grid living is in conflict with living in style? Not the designers behind The SPACE, a portable pod that allows you to go off-grid easily and harmoniously while still enjoying modern features and conveniences. Combining sustainable living with luxury comfort, The SPACE from IO House can be placed anywhere you go, from a river’s edge to a forest clearing. All you need to bring along is a smart device to connect, and this off-grid pod will provide the rest: water, electricity, heat and WiFi. In addition, each detail in The SPACE has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing while also remaining ecologically friendly. Related: Escapod’s rugged Topo trailer lets you live off-grid in any environment With this portable pod home, IO House wanted to show that eco-friendly living can be a way of life without sacrificing modern amenities, conveniences and luxuries. Designed to take the dweller away from the stresses of everyday living in bustling cities, The SPACE is the result of dedicated design details that synchronize with the use of a smartphone to give the dweller ultimate control over his or her home. In order to provide unity with the natural world, IO House eschewed synthetic materials when designing the pod, using wood, wool, glass and metal in their place. The SPACE’s windows also link the home’s interior with the surrounding environment, furthering the residents’ connection to the outdoors. Inside the off-grid home, residents can take advantage of the smart home technology, controlling heat, electricity and more with the touch of a button. The full kitchen includes a dishwasher, gas stove, refrigerator, washing machine, coffee maker (with hot water and a steamer), and water purifier. + IO House Via ArchDaily

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The SPACE pod from IO House lets you go off-grid in style

Natural light floods this energy-efficient Dublin home from all sides

July 2, 2018 by  
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London and Dublin-based design practice Anthro Architecture recently completed Villa 9010, a light-filled dwelling that takes cues from the region’s breezy seaside vernacular. Located in Dakley, South County Dublin, the energy-efficient Villa 9010 was completed for a young family in the side garden of the client’s redbrick childhood home. Triple-glazed windows combined with underfloor heating, highly efficient insulation, an air-to-air heat pump and mechanical heat recovery ventilation ensure a low-energy footprint with a BER rating of A2. Villa 9010 is a contemporary, energy-efficient take on the nearby buildings found in the coastal village and is also inspired by the grandeur of the eye-catching 19th-century castellated school gates next door. Constructed in the place of the client’s former garage and boat shed, the new steel-framed and concrete masonry villa is divided into two levels, with the primary living spaces placed on the ground floor while the four bedrooms are located above. A cantilevered oak staircase that connects the two floors serves as a focal point and the open risers offer views to the sunken living area and rear garden. “The Client[s] were drawn to the sense of optimism and escape that comes with a seaside villa and sought to create a light-filled energy efficient home suitable for a young family that was in-line with their modest budget,” wrote Anthro Architecture in a statement. “Defined by the imposing 19th century castellated gates to the neighbouring school, the design carefully carves a space for a new residential dwelling, nestling itself respectfully beside its prominent neighbour while also drawing on the wider context of the bright seaside villas in the surrounding area.” Related: Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures The interiors are minimally dressed with white walls and oak floors that emphasize the play of light throughout the home. Aluminum-framed timber glazing overlooks views of the outdoors. The most light-filled space in the house is undoubtedly the double-height library illuminated by skylights and a large south-facing triple-glazed atrium . + Anthro Architecture Images by Ste Murray

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Natural light floods this energy-efficient Dublin home from all sides

Award-winning Hungarian home combines old-world charm with modern style

July 2, 2018 by  
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Hungarian architects András Varsányi, Péter Pozsár and Norbert Vas have given the traditional Hungarian farmstead a modern refresh with their design of the Wooden House, a contemporary country house completed for approximately 500,000 euros ($585,300 USD). Located in the small village of Algy? in the Great Hungarian Plain, the tranquil family retreat was conceived as an antidote to bustling city life. Although the new home is undoubtedly modern, it also shares the same footprint as the old farmhouse it replaced and is heavily inspired by the values of Hungarian folk lifestyles. Winner of the audience’s vote at the Media Architecture Awards , the Wooden House has tapped into the growing demand for indoor-outdoor living . Varsányi, Pozsár and Vas used the layout and classic cross-section of a traditional Hungarian farmstead as the base of their project and then adapted the structure for modern uses. The areas that would have been used for animal stalls, for instance, were redesigned as garages. Unlike the introverted nature of typical homes, the Wooden House feels bright and airy thanks to an abundance of glazing. “ Modern design can often fly in the face of the traditional values of the past,” the project statement reads. “In some cases it can aim to improve by ignoring the needs and concerns that we once had, but this architectural design in Hungary shows that — for home structures, at least — those same values are just as important now as they ever were. This modern farmstead is expressing the contemporary need for smart integration into an environment while extolling the traditional values that comes from the building’s folk inspiration.” Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The key to the design is the home’s central courtyard , which is enclosed on three sides and looks out to the surrounding acacia forest. The courtyard and a sheltered club space also connect the living areas with the bedrooms. The architects chose timber as the predominate material to relate the building with the landscape and minimize environmental impact. + András Varsányi, Péter Pozsár and Norbert Vas Images by Tamas Bujnovszky

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Award-winning Hungarian home combines old-world charm with modern style

This beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center has nine movable sections that let in natural light

March 28, 2018 by  
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Dutch firm 70F architecture has designed a beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center in the Netherlands that “breathes” thanks to nine movable sections that open up the facade in the morning and close it at night. The Hof van Duivenvoorde Center welcomes visitors to the Duivenvoorde Castle and Estate, offering a light-filled restaurant and information center with an innovative, changeable window system engineered by the architects themselves. The Duivenvoorde Foundation requested a simple building that would blend into the surroundings – the castle grounds have an expansive lawn and plenty of green areas – as well as provide a comfortable place where visitors  can relax.  Keeping the natural landscape in mind, the architects created an understated building with an elongated form and vertical slats that evoke a typical, rustic  barn design. The movable panels signal that the building is open for visitors during park hours, but at closing time, they lower back down and the center virtually disappears into the surrounding environment. Related: Visitor center disguised as a hill to welcome visitors to Denmark’s historic Kalø Castle Ruins The movable panels cover glass windows and slide upwards with the help of an innovative engineering system created by Bas ten Brinke, founder of 70F architecture. Once the panels have lifted,  natural light floods the center’s interior, which, at 6 by 30 meters, is relatively small. The large windows both enhance this space and provide a natural ventilation system throughout. The  visitor center houses a restaurant and museum shop, as well as space for the volunteers who give guided tours of the estate. The architects decided to forgo any type of separation between the different areas in order to give the interior an open, airy feel. Out back, a large garden wall provides shade during the warm summer months. And, finally, an open-air patio provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and enjoy the surrounding nature. + 70F architecture Via World Architecture News Images by Luuk Kramer  

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This beautiful, barn-inspired visitor center has nine movable sections that let in natural light

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