Nonprofit teaches communities how to build homes out of straw, clay and soil

May 31, 2017 by  
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Emily Niehaus was working as a loan officer when she see realized that there was a need for affordable, sustainable housing options in her community. So she founded Community Rebuilds – a nonprofit that teaches people to build affordable homes out of “dirt cheap” materials like clay , straw and soil . Interns participate in a 5-month program, completing two homes from foundation to finish using sustainable living principles. Community Rebuilds started in Moab, UT as a way to ease the financial strains of people living in the community. Since then, the project has spread to southwestern Colorado and the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. The initiative has constructed 25 homes in four communities with the goal of expanding knowledge about valuable natural building skills across the US. Homes are built out of natural materials like straw, soil and clay using passive design techniques. They are equipped with green tech like solar arrays and sustainable features like adobe floors, earthen plasters and greywater systems. Related: Navajo mum gets new lease on life with this solar-powered home The first home was built in 2010, and since then the internship has evolved to include 16 people over a five-month term. Interns build two homes from the ground up. In exchange for their labor they get housing, food and an invaluable education in sustainable building. + Community Rebuilds  

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Nonprofit teaches communities how to build homes out of straw, clay and soil

Everything in this LA store was built with repurposed cardboard rolls

January 24, 2017 by  
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Looks like some swanky LA shops are swapping glitz for green. Aesop , a popular skin care company, has just unveiled a new store completely built with repurposed cylindrical cardboard tubes . Inspired by the stripped fabric bolts discarded by nearby costume shops and fashion houses, designers Brooks + Scarpa went with the unique material to best represent Aesop’s natural, soothing aesthetic. The designers repurposed the six-inch cylindrical cardboard tubes , which are made out of cross laminated engineered paper by a local manufacturer, as the principal building material for the store. The bolts are repurposed from the Los Angeles fashion district just two miles away. Before installation, they were coated with a special flame-retardant material to add durability and strength. Related: Apple’s new Regent Street store is filled with daylight and living trees To build the walls, the tubes were placed in a vertical position to cover the entire layout of the store. From there, everything else was also made out of the recycled tubes, including paper display shelving, door jambs, countertops, cabinets, and a custom light fixture. The store is a resulting monochromatic, pared-back aesthetic is further enhanced by the three vintage porcelain sinks that were repurposed from a local salvage yard. + Aesop + Brooks + Scarpa

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Everything in this LA store was built with repurposed cardboard rolls

Trump may ban the Environmental Protection Agency from funding scientific research

January 24, 2017 by  
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A troubling new report from Axios states that Donald Trump may soon ban the Environmental Protection Agency from funding scientific research. Reporters Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen described the Trump transition team’s action plan for the agency, which they were able to catch a glimpse of while covering the incoming administration. While they didn’t republish the complete document, the summary they’ve provided is terrifying enough. The excerpt the reporters published claims that the agency is manipulating the research it uses to further a political agenda – presumably, a reference to evidence-based policy addressing climate change . The quote in full reads: “EPA does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses regulatory policy to steer the science. This is an old problem at EPA. In 1992, a blue-ribbon panel of EPA science advisers that [sic] ‘science should not be adjusted to fit policy.’ But rather than heed this advice, EPA has greatly increased its science manipulation.” Related: The White House website has already been scrubbed of any mention of climate change While it’s unknown exactly who authored the document, the contents are not terribly surprising given that Trump’s transition team was headed by Myron Ebell, one of many career climate deniers on the incoming President’s team. It’s important to note that while this new attitude toward the EPA certainly puts much of the country’s climate and clean air policy at risk, environmentalists can at least take comfort in the fact that Congressional support would be needed to overturn many of the agency’s rules. It’s also likely that staff within the agency itself will oppose Trump’s anti-environmental agenda . Those two facts give concerned citizens room to fight for strong anti-pollution standards as the new administration takes office. Via Business Insider Images via Photos via EPA 1 , 2 , 3 and Gage Skidmore

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Trump may ban the Environmental Protection Agency from funding scientific research

Colorado man builds state’s most energy efficient house

January 17, 2017 by  
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Passive House is a globally-recognized building design technique that promises huge cuts in energy use for any kind of building in any climate. In a nutshell, the Passive House Design strategy relies on airtight buildings, super insulation, thermal mass and passive solar design. As a former Inhabitat contributor, I was keen to put Passive House design to the test in the Colorado Rockies, where the winters can be brutal and living off-grid comes with a tiny energy budget. The house I ended up building definitely lives up to its promises in terms of energy conservation, but the biggest surprise is how comfortable it is. Read on as I tell my story about how I came to build Colorado’s most energy-efficient house. After years of building, research, and writing about green design, I became fascinated with the concept of Passive House design, which was originally pioneered in Germany. In Europe, hundreds of buildings have been built to consume 90 percent less energy than their neighbors, using super tight insulation and passive solar design, and the trend is gradually picking up in the US as well. Reporting for Inhabitat, I visited a Passive House by NEEDBASED in New Mexico, and was amazed how well adapted it is to a climate that is both very cold and full of sunshine. The visit convinced me Passive House design is the state-of-the-art tool for building design, and that I wanted to apply it for my own home. Passive House has been both celebrated and spurned for its radical departure from normal building techniques. While in Europe it is catching on quickly , and is even being incorporated into the code from New York City to Vancouver BC, it is still considered exotic to many designers and builders. From the thick walls, triple pane windows, and sophisticated fresh air system, to the extensive energy calculations, Passive House design leaves little to chance and the certification process can be arduous. Related: How to design a passive house off-grid, and without foam After having an erratic and disappointing experience trying to certify with the US based group Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), I ultimately chose to certify with the Passive House Institute (PHI) in Germany. One of the main issues when doing energy modeling is avoiding bad inputs. As I looked closely at the critical climate data that we were building, it turned out to be way out of whack. PHIUS was in the process of introducing a more climate dependent certification scheme, and building to such a careful system using bad data left a sour taste in my mouth. Other issues kept coming up and it was time to change the approach. The process of certification with PHI though the Passive House Academy took some time but went relatively smoothly. To my surprise, we beat the energy threshold by almost two times. This turned out to be great news as the home is only powered by solar electricity and has a small propane hydronic heating system. The home’s main heating source is the sun, followed by the “waste” heat of the occupants and appliances, and then finally a small hydronic heating loop in the wall and at the Heat Recovery Ventilation system. The home has been occupied for a year, and while it uses practically no energy for heating, the real take away is how comfortable it is. The house tends to naturally hover between 67 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit without heating or cooling. I use the heating system sparingly, so during a recent cold spell, when exterior temperatures reached -10 degrees, I let the house get down to 62 degrees. After taking a shower, I was surprised that it did not feel chilly like in most houses. Why? What I learned in high school physics class paid off. The heavily insulated building envelope reduces heat loss through conduction, but it turns out that ambient air temperature is not the only reason we feel comfortable or not. With such a tight and well-insulated envelope there is neither cold air coming in nor interior air circulating by cooling convection. But what really makes the difference is the radiantly neutral surfaces, especially the triple pane glass. My bare (and damp) skin does not bleed heat via radiation to cold surfaces, which in turn reduces the need for extra layers. The other discovery was learning the difference between passive solar design and passive house. A typical passive solar building will utilize up to 50 percent of a home’s south side for glass. This works well in some conditions, but in very cold weather there is significant heat loss, or things can get too toasty, especially in spring and fall when the sun sits lower on the horizon. My house comprises about 20 percent glass on the south side, which means it neither heats up dramatically, nor loses heat. That balance pays off in simplifying heating and cooling needs. Even so, the house can still get a little too warm in fall, so I have to be active in opening and closing windows and plan to add some movable external shading. Much is said about health and indoor air quality, but little is known about how Passive Houses keep occupants healthy. I tried to minimize potential risks by building with low-processed materials like plywood, timber, tile, and cellulose and mineral wool insulations. But activities like cooking can still be problematic, so the University of Colorado Boulder is measuring my home’s indoor air quality to see how a passive house compares to a typical house in terms of indoor air quality. I’ll keep you posted! All images by Andrew Michler for Inhabitat

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Colorado man builds state’s most energy efficient house

9 of the most impressive Living Building Challenge certified projects

September 28, 2016 by  
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Image: Ethan Drinker Photography 1. Smith College Bechtel Environmental Classroom The Bechtel Environmental Classroom, designed by Coldham and Hartman Architects , is a former pastoral observatory transformed into a green learning space in Whatley, Massachusetts. The 2,500-square-foot, single-story building serves as a part of Smith College and sits on 223 acres of pasture and forest , overlooking an old stone dump site. One of the two enclosed areas provides space for biological and environmental science classes and the other, larger area gives plenty of room for humanities seminars and other classes, such as poetry and dance. A drilled well ensures a sustainable water supply and composting toilets give back to the Earth. LED lighting and two solar panels combined ensure a gentle footprint on this peaceful site. Image: Matthew Millman Photography 2. Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab If you are going to teach the next generation how to move forward with alternative energy, the facilities had better reflect the mission. That is just what the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab ensured with its completely sustainable, net-zero-energy design. Flansburgh Architects are behind the structure, which achieved

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9 of the most impressive Living Building Challenge certified projects

Earthships heading to Canada will provide First Nation communities with low-income housing

July 20, 2016 by  
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Earthships are a unique kind of low-cost homes that are built primarily with recycled materials and produce and provide as much as possible on site. Created and marketed by New Mexico-based Earthship Biotecture , the earthship alleviates the problems of housing insecurity and environmental waste in one elegant solution. These sustainable housing units have been installed in India, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and other countries as a means to empower local communities. The Earthship team are now bringing their housing model to First Nations communities facing a housing crisis in Canada. Francine Doxtator and her family are among the first members of the First Nations to collaborate with Earthship Biotechture on such a project. “We’re all looking forward to the new home,” says Doxtator, “but I still don’t believe it’s happening.” The new earthship home, powered by solar panels, hydrated by a rainwater collection system, and insulated by recycled tires, will reduce utility bills by hundreds of dollars per month. It will also allow the family to have a more respectful relationship with nature. “We try and respect Mother Earth, says Doxtator. “Right now we’re ruining her. We have to look after her so she can look after us.” Related: First Nation builds spirited solar project in the heart of Canada’s oil sands While earthships may seem an ideal solution, there are obstacles that currently prevent their wider adoption. Earthships often do not qualify for standard mortgages or loans in Canada , which puts its cost of C$60,000 out of reach for many. Strict regulations on new housing on First Nations land also prohibits the spread of earthships. The newest earthship installation at the Doxtator homestead arrives as Prime Minister Trudeau has promised the public investment of C$554 million in First Nations communities. The earthship’s best days may still lie ahead. “I would love to see this happen for more people,” says Doxtator. Still, even the new homeowner is a bit perplexed by the unusual design. “I just hope it doesn’t look like a Flintstones house in the end.” Via the Guardian Images via Wikipedia , Flickr and  Adrienne Harper

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This Canadian passive house factory was built from its own prefab wood panels

May 27, 2016 by  
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The firm estimates the factory will produce 971 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, when compared to a facility built from concrete. A heat-recovery ventilation system and incredibly well-insulated walls help reduce carbon emissions, making the BC Passive House Factory as efficient as any of the houses its products build. Screens made from two-by-fours make up the building’s facade, with each side featuring unique spacing between the wood to accommodate its relation to the sun. The firm stated, “The two-by-fours were prefabbed into screens and left unfinished to naturally weather over time.” Natural light from clerestory windows is abundant for the workers inside, creating a warm complement to the wooden walls. The ceiling is an especially unique tribute to responsible construction, as the beams are made from cedar wood felled from a nearby forest fire. Related: Turkey’s first certified Passive House cuts energy use by 90% Recently, the 1,500 square meter site was awarded the coveted 2016 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture . The factory hopes its accolades and commitment to sustainable and energy-efficient design will help to promote the presence of passive houses near and far. +Hemsworth Architecture Via Dezeen Images via Ema Peter

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This Canadian passive house factory was built from its own prefab wood panels

Toyota Prius has the best gas mileage of any car Consumer Reports has ever tested

May 27, 2016 by  
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While the green car industry has been obsessed with the latest electric cars  ( Tesla Model 3 , anyone?) some mainstays like the Toyota Prius hybrid continue to shine outside of the limelight. Case in point:  Consumer Reports  just revealed that the all-new 2016 Prius recorded the best gas mileage of any car in the publication’s history! With a combined 52 mpg rating, the Prius outperforms any other hybrid on the market without a plug. Last year, Consumer Reports recorded a combined rating of 44 mpg with the last generation Prius, so an 8 mpg improvement is significant. Thanks to its more aerodynamic body and more powerful battery, the all-new Prius also achieved a 59 mpg rating in a 65 mph test. Of course the 59 mpg rating is nothing compared to the MPGe rating that some electric cars and plug-in hybrids get, but the Prius is still the best conventional hybrid you can buy if you’re not quite ready to make the switch to a vehicle with a plug. Related: Toyota’s new Prius Prime has the world’s highest MPGe for a plug-in hybrid If you are ready to switch to a plug-in hybrid, Toyota recently revealed the 2017 Prius Prime , which can now travel up to 22 miles in fully electric mode. Toyota also announced that the Prius Prime will have the highest MPGe rating of any plug-in hybrid with an estimated 120 MPGe rating. + Consumer Reports

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‘Nightmare’ bacteria found in the U.S. resists all known antibiotics

May 27, 2016 by  
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Last November researchers in China discovered a strain of bacteria that resisted all forms of antibiotics – including the ” last-resort drug ” colistin. Now, government officials have found the first case of an antibiotic-resistant superbug in the United States. A 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania went to the doctor for symptoms akin to a urinary tract infection, however the ailment did not respond to antibiotics . She had not traveled during the five months before her infection. Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center obtained samples and tested them, finding they did not respond to colistin. They released a study detailing the drug-resistant bacteria. Related: Antibiotic resistant bugs could kill 10 million people each year by 2050 The bacteria doesn’t respond to drugs because of a particular gene called mcr-1. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), mcr-1 “exists on a plasmid,” or a bit of DNA, and plasmids can travel between bacterium. The bacteria found in the woman had actually been infected with mcr-1 via a plasmid. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thomas Frieden said , “The more we look at drug resistance, the more concerned we are. The medicine cabinet is empty for some patients. It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently. We risk being in a post-antibiotic world.” According to Reuters , both feeding antibiotics to livestock and over-prescription have contributed to the dilemma we face. Between 30 to 50 percent of antibiotics given by doctors to patients are either needless or incorrectly prescribed. Further, drug companies haven’t been willing to shell out money for research on better antibiotics because they can make more money on drugs that combat cancer or uncommon diseases. Reuters reports that in the United States, 23,000 people already die due to antibiotic resistance every year. Last year President Obama released the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, at which point the HHS said that it has been studying antibiotic resistance and is undertaking a ” coordinated public health response .” According to HHS and the USDA, a few ways to avoid antibiotic resistant bacteria are to thoroughly wash hands and produce, and properly cook all fish, meat, and poultry to kill bacteria. Via Reuters Images via V on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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‘Nightmare’ bacteria found in the U.S. resists all known antibiotics

Extraordinary thatched Enterprise Centre may be the UK’s greenest building ever

March 10, 2016 by  
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