This Brazilian beach house is made from locally-sourced natural materials

March 13, 2019 by  
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The architects at MNMA Studio have created a natural beachy oasis made of eco-friendly elements in the region of Pontal do Cupe, Pernambuco of northeastern Brazil. Head architects Andre Pepato and Mariana Schmidt used natural materials such as eucalyptus, certified wood, calcium carbonate rocks and even twigs to complement the concrete structure. The people of the Pontal do Cupe region have limited access to building materials and methods, so the beach house helps to symbolize an innovative and rewarding new period of architecture for the area. The building site is located on an old coconut farm, and construction was completely primarily by workers from the surrounding communities. Not only did the architects use environmentally-friendly materials for building, but they also gave the local area an opportunity to learn about sustainable building since some of the project workers (a portion of which came from families of fishermen) had never used cement or concrete before. Related: Minimalist tiny cabin is a secluded retreat in a Brazilian forest It’s clear that the entire project revolved around choosing eco-friendly materials that would reduce the need for environmental energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. For example, a portion of the structure was designed in certified eucalyptus wood. Perhaps one of the most unique and striking portions of the home is the ceiling, which is made from reused twigs and brings a particular brightness into the interior. The furniture and interior decoration are by Sergio Rodrigues and Cariri Fair. The designers used whitewash to add pigment to the concrete, a natural painting process using a non-toxic solution of calcium carbonate rocks, slaked lime and water . The whitewash on the walls and stairs make an eco-friendly statement and fight humidity while adding a textured bright-white color to the open-aired interior and exterior. As a result, the entire beach house is presented with beautiful natural colors. A dark mustard-colored concrete slab serves as a base for the home and contrasts nicely with the light brown wooden columns that help to hold up the roof terrace. The roof patio was fitted with lovely stone slab flooring of faded natural colors and opens up with an unobstructed ocean view. Via Archdaily Images by Andre Klotz 

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This Brazilian beach house is made from locally-sourced natural materials

These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

March 13, 2019 by  
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This plastic was said to be incapable of being recycled, but U.K.-based company Gomi found a way nonetheless. Each Gomi speaker is made from about 100 non-recyclable plastic bags of multiple colors, creating a unique, individualized look. The sustainable design company won a 10,000-pound grant from the Environment Now Programme in January 2018 to kick-start the project and were funded further by the Santander Big Ideas Competition later that year. Co-founded by Brighton-based sustainable designer Tom Meades, Gomi’s intention is to use plastic waste that would otherwise be considered non-recyclable (and therefore would end up in a landfill) to create electronic products. The U.K. throws away 300 kilos of flexible plastics that are not accepted for recycling by local councils each year. This includes plastic bags, pallet wrap and bubble wrap. Meades said the company was inspired to target the challenge of flexible plastics to show that these types of materials can be made into usable objects. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic Because the design is modular, every piece of the speaker can be taken apart and recycled into a new one, so the company urges consumers to return the products for free recycling after use instead of throwing them out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these speakers won’t sound good because of their unconventional materials, either. “Our components are made from 100 percent non-recyclable plastic ,” Meades said. “We have worked with audio professionals and electronics engineers over the past 12 months to ensure the product is not only aesthetically desirable but also sounds great.” The company intends to only grow from here. Gomi is planning strategies to increase storage capability and produce on a larger scale in the future. It also unveiled a portable power bank and charger for smartphones made from the same material back in January. Check out the  Kickstarter page to support the project or learn more. + Gomi Via Dezeen Images via Gomi

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These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

James Whitaker unveils modular prefab home system that can be ‘daisy-chained together’

December 3, 2018 by  
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From crystalline-inspired homes to funky cargotecture office spaces , James Whitaker ‘s unique shipping container designs have taken the world by storm. However, the prolific architect is now branching out to design modular homes that not only add more versatility to home design, but can withstand various climates. Whitaker has just unveiled the Anywhere House, a lakeside residence comprised of multiple prefabricated modular units . Slated for completion in 2019, the home will be the first property built using Whitaker’s prefabricated modular system. Known for his unique designs that include building with shipping containers, Whitaker has now developed his own prefabricated modular system , which can be used for a number of purposes. After receiving numerous requests to build the “starburst home” design in various regions, Whitaker realized that he needed to develop a new system that could be adapted to different climates. His new prefab modular system’s resilience will be tested with the Anywhere Home, which will be built lakeside in Alberta, Canada. Related: Starburst shipping container home to rise in the California desert The Anywhere Home will contain a number of separate volumes, either clad in patinated steel, or finished in stainless steel. On the interior, timber paneling will be used on the walls and ceilings and marble flooring will run throughout the living space. Large sliding glass doors and multiple windows will flood the interior with natural light. The design of the modular structure is meant to offer optimal flexibility and versatility. The modular system is comprised of individual, but connected volumes that differ in shape and size. The units would be adjoined through two or more openings or closed off to  be used as a singular space. The modules range in size from one to two levels and have slanted roofs that jut out at various angles. According to the architect, his inspiration for the home design was to create a design that could withstand various climates, but also provide a unique design that could be configured depending on the use. The modular prefab system could be adapted into a home, a hotel, social center, etc.  The Anywhere house will feature modules that are fabricated off site and small enough to be easily transported. + James Whitaker Via Dezeen All renders and drawings by Whitaker Studio

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James Whitaker unveils modular prefab home system that can be ‘daisy-chained together’

Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume

October 15, 2018 by  
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It’s no secret that the building sector is a resource-intensive industry, but La Mesa, California-based nonprofit Green New World believes that the future of construction can and should be greener, healthier and energy-producing. Green New World created the House of PeacE (also known as Project HOPE), an autonomous and regenerative residential housing model that champions carbon-free living. Combining biophilic design with renewable energy systems and natural materials, Green New World’s first carbon-negative residential prototype — dubbed HOPEone — is slated for completion by 2019. Conceived as a decentralized, autonomous housing model, Project House of PeacE (HOPE) will integrate water, energy, waste and food production and be adaptable to different climate zones. Shaped into a cluster of domes, the HOPEone prototype will be built from locally sourced earth using low-impact and affordable Superadobe construction methods. The building technique can be easily taught to people and can produce well-insulated and ecologically sound buildings with demonstrated resistance to earthquakes, fires and storms. The geometry of the domes is engineered to optimize energy-efficient thermal regulation and follow passive heating and cooling principles. Related: Dome-shaped Earth Bag House keeps residents naturally cool in Colombia “Modules are selected based on a low-embodied energy and environmental footprint while being simple to recreate with basic skills and, as far as is possible, are constructed with locally available, low-cost and low-impact materials,” Green New World explained. “The first HOPE model, HOPEone, is nearing completion, where the productivity of the core bioenergy modules and carbon sequestration modules will be assessed for the development of future prototypes.” In addition to energy and water conservation measures, the prototype will also harvest and generate its own resources. Depending on the location and climate conditions, different water harvesting systems will be installed and sized to meet the consumption of the inhabitants. The harvested water will be treated with ozone and subject to a three-stage purification, mineralization and alkalization treatment system. Solar photovoltaic panels will also be added to the buildings as will an anaerobic bioreactor for creating biogas used for heating and cooking. + Green New World

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Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume

Mark your calendars for the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago!

October 8, 2018 by  
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Integrating nature into the built environment is no easy feat, but when done correctly, it can be a work of art that gives back to our world instead of taking from it. Greenbuild celebrates just that by exploring new ways of sustainable building and design through teaching, collaborating and empowering professionals. View the gallery below to learn about this year’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago, where you can find new inspiration, learn state-of-the-art techniques and skills and meet like-minded experts interested in bettering our planet through green design.

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Mark your calendars for the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago!

Walkers launches free recycling program amid growing pressure from critics

October 8, 2018 by  
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An online social media campaign calling for popular U.K. chip manufacturer Walkers to adopt a more sustainable packaging method has succeeded. After hundreds of thousands of empty potato crisp packages were sent back to Walkers by environmental critics, the PepsiCo-owned company is launching a free recycling initiative to collect and repurpose the plastic packaging. Initially, Walkers intended to adopt a better packaging solution by 2025, but pressure from consumers has resulted in a momentous decision by company leaders to make the change now. “Our new Walkers recycling initiative starts to tackle this issue right now by repurposing used crisp packets to create everyday items,” announced Ian Ellington, general manager for PepsiCo U.K., on Friday. Starting in December, consumers will be able to deposit any brand of empty chip bags with recycling firm TerraCycle. The company is setting up collection points nationwide as well as a free-of-charge mailing system where users can post their chip bags using a box or envelope. Walkers came under public scrutiny after it was revealed that it produced over 7,000 non-recyclable potato chip packets every minute. These empty bags find their ways into landfills and oceans  at a rate of approximately 6 billion packs a year. Backlash resulted in a highly-publicized plea by the British Royal Mail for chip consumers to stop sending empty bags back to the company (despite their respect for the conservation movement), because the mass mailings were tampering with its service efficiency. Related: Environmental campaign floods UK Royal Mail with empty potato chip bags “We share people’s concerns about the amount of plastic in our environment and are working on a number of both short- and long-term solutions to reduce the impact of our packaging,” Ellington said. Walkers maintains that its packaging is in fact, “technically recyclable, but the issue until now has been that they weren’t being separated or collected for recycling.” However, Recycle Now, the government-funded program created by waste advisory committee Wrap, claims this is not quite the case. The body reports that none of the produced packets are recyclable, and that they should be directed to the waste can, not the recycling bin. Members of the 38 Degrees movement , which includes more than 332,000 petition-signers, will be keeping a close eye on Walkers and its repurposing plans. “We are delighted to hear that Walkers will now be recycling used crisp packets,” said David Babbs, executive director of the online campaign. “It is proof that public pressure can shift big companies to do more to prevent waste. But let’s not forget that there is still more for Walkers to do if they want to keep the public on side. The public will be watching to make sure the new recycling scheme isn’t just a PR stunt. And, most importantly, they have to make their crisp packets fully recyclable far sooner than 2025.” Via The Guardian and 38 Degrees Image via Caitriana Nicholson

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NY man spends 6 years building this incredible, energy-efficient hobbit home

September 13, 2018 by  
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A lot of lives have been touched by the Lord of the Rings films, but super fan Jim Costigan took it one step further by building his own Bag End-inspired hobbit home . The New York construction supervisor and his family spent more than six years building the energy-efficient cottage with a curved shape and lush green roof that would even make Bilbo Baggins a little bit envious. Like millions of people, Jim Costigan was enthralled by The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Specifically, though, he was drawn to the home of Bilbo Baggins, Bag End. The curved home enveloped in greenery spoke to Costigan’s love of design.  “I thought that was the coolest house I’d ever seen,” Costigan said. “Architecturally, I thought that that house in the movie was just really well-done, that it was really original. The curvatures, everything about it was unique.” Although Costigan had spent most of his career working on skyscrapers in Manhattan, he decided to re-create the charming design in his own backyard, with a cottage he now calls Hobbit Hollow. Related: This earth-sheltered Australian hobbit home stays cozy all year More than just a fan’s whimsy, the ambitious builder set about to not only recreate the famed hobbit home, but to make it an earth-sheltered passive house . From the start, the entire project was integrated with energy-efficient details, including thermal bridge-free construction that provides a tightly insulated shell, as well as triple-pane thermal windows and a heat recovery ventilator. Starting with a concrete foundation, the 1,500-square-foot home was built with various creative features that showed off his attention to hobbit detail as well as his commitment to sustainability . Just like Bag End, the exterior of the house is clad in natural stone. However, when it came to putting in the signature round door, there was a bit of a snag, because it didn’t meet Passive House standards. Working around the problem, Costigan built a circular red frame that hides the rectangular door. And of course, no hobbit home would be complete without a lush green roof that follows the curve of the design, blending it deep into the landscape. On the inside of the home, a high barrel-vaulted ceiling gives the tiny space character and depth. The abundance of windows and skylights in every room, except the guest bathroom, flood the interior with natural light . Adding to the charm is the various geometric shapes and patterns that the family imprinted into the concrete ceiling and skylight borders themselves. As an extra nod to the beloved films, a replica sword hangs over the electric stone fireplace, a gift to Costigan from his sons. Located in Pawling, New York, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom hobbit home sits on 1.7 acres of natural forestscape with an open-air bluestone patio in the back. From there, the family and visitors enjoy the sounds of a babbling stream that leads to an idyllic Shire-like waterfall and pond. + My Hobbit Shed Via Houzz Images via Jim Costigan

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NY man spends 6 years building this incredible, energy-efficient hobbit home

Architects build their own rammed-earth office around existing trees

August 3, 2018 by  
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Paraguay-based design firm  Equipo de Arquitectura has created a number of innovative structures, but when it came to constructing their own office space, its designers decided to go back to basics. The team has just unveiled the Caja de Tierra – a beautiful,  rammed-earth construction that was built around existing trees. When the architects set out to build a new office space for themselves, they decided to focus the design on nature, with the goal of fostering a sense of connection to the earth. As the structure’s concept began to take form, the architects decided they would employ just three basic materials: earth, wood and glass. Related: Striking rammed earth home blends into the hills of Santa Fe The architects built the cube-like structure on-site themselves. First, they had to sieve the earth to eliminate rocks, roots and large particles. Once the soil was “clean”, they mixed it with cement and placed it in mold-like modules. The mixture was then pummeled with a pressure tool to get rid of air and pack it tightly into place. When the elongated, 30-cm-thick earthen blocks  reached a sufficient consistency, the team placed them on top of each other, forming four beautiful rammed-earth walls. The result? A gorgeous facade with red and orange tones that blends seamlessly into the natural surroundings. Contrasting with the all-earthen walls is a large glass skylight, cut into one of the corners in order to flood the interior with natural light – a feature that also reduces the structure’s energy usage. In keeping with the environmentally-conscious design, all of the furniture and doors were made out of reclaimed wood. With a lot surrounded by greenery, the team did what it could to protect the existing plants growing on-site. Specifically, the architects designed the layout to leave space for two existing trees . A flame tree is framed in an all-glass box that juts into the interior while a majestic guavirá tree holds court right in the middle of the office space. + Equipo de Arquitectura Via Archdaily Photography by Leonardo Mendez and Federico Cairoli via Equipo de Arquitectura

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Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

March 1, 2018 by  
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You may have heard about green walls or even seen a few. Also called living walls , live walls, eco-walls and vertical gardens , these structures are essentially walls covered in vertically grown plants, and they can appear either inside or outside. The idea has been around for a while, and it’s really caught on lately due to their environmental and health benefits, as well as appealing aesthetics. But not all green walls are made equal. Read on to learn how a green wall should be designed in order to be useful and friendly to the environment. How Do They Work? There are several types of green walls. Some might consider regular walls covered in ivy as a green wall, while others would limit the definition to walls specifically designed to hold vegetation. The latter type can be constructed in various ways . They might consist of panels with pre-planted vegetation, or replaceable trays that fit into slots in the wall, enabling easy removal if necessary. Vertical gardens also vary in terms of how they function. The simpler models require hand watering, while others have self-watering pipe systems. Many green walls rely on hydroponic systems that use drip irrigation. Based on the desired aesthetics and effects, you might choose different types of plants. You can include many varieties of plants, including groundcover, ferns, shrubs, flowers and more. Benefits Green walls have become popular in urban areas where people want to make their space greener but don’t have a lot of room to do so. Vertical gardens ensure the benefits of green space without taking up too much space. They also improve air quality, which is advantageous for people as well as animals and the overall environment. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. They also filter out various contaminants, creating cleaner air, and can remove up 87 percent of airborne toxins inside a home within just 24 hours. This helps people breathe easier, especially indoors where air quality is notoriously bad. Ecowalls can reduce the urban heat-island effect and improve thermal insulation, reducing a building’s energy costs. They can also absorb noise and provide mental health benefits. Research has shown that having plants around can reduce stress and increase productivity by up to 15 percent. Challenges Critics have identified several potential issues with green walls. If the designer doesn’t adequately plan for their project, they say, the costs might outweigh the benefits. Maintaining a green wall requires more work and resources than a regular wall, especially if it doesn’t have a self-watering system. You’ll have to manually water the plants, and even with a self-watering system, the plants will need care at some point. Green walls typically require large amounts of water, which can be unsustainable if supplies are low and the wall isn’t equipped with water recycling equipment. Operating a living wall also requires energy. Producing this energy can have a negative impact on the environment if derived from fossil fuels. How to Make a Green Wall More Efficient A green wall’s efficacy depends on how it’s constructed, operated and maintained. Drip irrigation systems appear in walls that use panels and hydroponic systems, while walls with replaceable trays use tank systems. Drip irrigation tubing is typically about 85 percent more efficient than tank systems. They connect to the building’s plumbing system, while tray systems require manual watering. Drip irrigation systems can also automatically recycle water. You could use recycled water in a tank system from an air conditioning system or another source, but you’d have to do so manually. Because tray systems require more water and use soil, they can attract bugs and form mold, fungus and even introduce pathogens. Due to this possibility, they don’t comply with strict health, safety and hygiene codes in places such as healthcare facilities. These buildings would need to use a hydroponic system. For these reasons, the soil in tray systems must be replaced about every month, which can be costly. Panel systems don’t require this and therefore don’t need as much maintenance. Another factor that can impact a green wall’s efficiency is the type of vegetation with which it is populated. Drought-resistant and local plants need less water than other types of vegetation, so they’re more water-efficient. Plants also, of course, require sunlight. Placing a living wall in an area with a lot of natural light will reduce the amount of artificial light needed and, therefore, the amount of energy it requires. The Importance of Truly Green Green Walls For a green wall to be truly beneficial, you need to use an efficient watering system, put it in the proper place (with ample natural light), and plant vegetation that’s easy to maintain and requires minimal irrigation. Anyone interested to install a green wall, as well as the architects and engineers in charge of designing them, ought to consider the efficiency of the system in addition to their benefits and aesthetics. Photos via Depositphotos , Scott Webb on Unsplash , Mike.dixon.design  via Wikimedia Commons , Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons , AlejandroOrmad via Wikimedia Commons , and Terry Robinson via Wikimedia Commons

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Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

Snhetta unveils designs for worlds first energy-positive hotel in the Arctic Circle

February 13, 2018 by  
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Snøhetta has revealed designs for the world’s first energy-positive hotel in the Arctic Circle —an incredible proposal given the region’s below-freezing temperatures. Located at the foot of Svartisen, Norway’s second largest glacier, the circular Svart hotel will offer panoramic 360-degree views of the fjord and use solar panels to produce more energy than it needs. The sustainable building is being developed in collaboration with Arctic Adventures of Norway, Asplan Viak and Skanska. Set partly on shore at the foot of the Almlifjellet mountain, Svart also extends into Holandsfjorden fjord’s crystal-clear waters where kayakers can paddle beneath the circular building . Elevated off the ground for low-impact, the hotel’s V-shaped timber structure is a nod to the local vernacular architecture, more specifically the form of the A-shaped fiskehjell, a wooden device used for drying fish and the local fisherman “rorbue” house. A boardwalk built into the timber structure serves as a walkway for guests in summer or as boat storage in winter. “Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site,” said Founding Partner at Snøhetta, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. “It was primordial for us to design a sustainable building that will leave a minimal environmental footprint on this beautiful Northern nature. Building an energy positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features of the plot; the rare plant species, the clean waters and the blue ice of the Svartisen glacier.” Related: Jaw-dropping hotel made of ice and snow opens in Sweden The new hotel aims to reduce its yearly energy consumption by approximately 85% as compared to an equivalent hotel built to modern building standards in Norway. Snøhetta hopes to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint by topping the rooftop with solar panels produced with clean hydro-energy and by using materials with low-embodied energy like timber over energy-intensive materials such as structural steel and concrete. Extensive site mapping informed the placement and design of the hotel to best exploit solar energy during the day and minimize unwanted solar gain. + Snøhetta Images via Snøhetta

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Snhetta unveils designs for worlds first energy-positive hotel in the Arctic Circle

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