Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

October 1, 2020 by  
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For the entire month of July, the Estonian city of Tartu transformed one of its main streets in the heart of the city into the Autovabaduse (Car-Free) Avenue, a popular pedestrian-friendly paradise. The project not only observed COVID-19 social distancing guidelines but also gave local businesses a much-needed economic boost. Commissioned by the local government, the Car-Free Avenue 2020 project was designed by Tõnis Arjus, Ragnar Kekkonen, Maris Peebo and Anna-Liisa Unt. The area used for the urban intervention spanned approximately 8,000 square meters and accommodated a wide range of programming, from dance courses and morning yoga to national radio broadcast pop-ups, concerts and more. Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2024 with the slogan “Arts of Survival.” The recent Car-Free Avenue project fits in perfectly with the city’s agenda for development, which prioritizes sustainability. The main street that was closed — known as Vabaduse (Freedom) Avenue — was selected for its location between the classical old town and the river Emajogi that flows through the city. The Car-Free Avenue helped to better connect the old town and river and provided a jumping-off point for revitalizing the riverside. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “It [also] created a public discussion all over Estonia on climate change, excessive car ownership and different methods in tackling the issues of building a sustainable future,” the designers explained in a project statement. The month-long urban intervention attracted people from all over Estonia and abroad, counting around 18,000 visitors in the first three days. The road was completely redesigned to create a versatile, car-free public space that abided by social distancing rules. All of the design elements follow a 2-by-2-meter module, including the grass portions, which were cut into 2-meter stripes. + Tartu Autovabaduse Images by Mana Kaasik, Maanus Kullamaa, To?nis Arjus, Eva-Maria Tartu

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

This luxurious home is a pollutant-free paradise and it’s for sale

October 1, 2020 by  
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Located in Norwalk, Connecticut, this recently listed pollutant-free home at 88 Old Saugatuck Road has been void of chemicals, insecticides and pesticides for more than 26 years. The house has been rebuilt to 100% green standards by the seller, an award-winning LEED AP interior designer specializing in sustainable luxury, green consulting and holistic homes. The house at 88 Old Saugatuck Road isn’t just an energy-efficient, green home built with non-toxic materials and finishes — it is also a stunning example of a residence with clean air . The indoor air is refreshed every 20 minutes with a specialized heat recovery ventilation system that exchanges indoor air with fresh outdoor air. The system filters out allergens like dust, pollen, mold, mites, dander and VOCs all while recovering up to 80% of the heating and cooling energy. There is even a whole house central vacuum system designed to prevent dust from going back into the air while vacuuming. Related: IKEA’s new air purifying curtain will decrease indoor pollutants Thoughtfully constructed with fewer natural resources to minimize its environmental impact , the house also has custom, FSC-certified solid rock maple cabinetry throughout. The cabinetry is free from interior particleboard and formaldehyde-based finishes. Additionally, the walls and trim are painted with no-VOC, water-based latex paint. During the remodel, when a wall was taken out between the original kitchen and living room, the design team reused the appliances in a lower-level catering kitchen rather than purchasing them new. The garage has a charging station for electric vehicles as well as an automatic air filtration system that activates for 20 minutes each time the car pulls in to filter harmful fumes. To reduce electromagnetic fields, there is metal-clad cable electric wiring used instead of non-metallic sheathing. For landscaping, the property’s 1.15 acres are planted with trees and pines to help filter out any car fumes from the street and organic, perennial gardens to promote less maintenance. A driveway storm drain filters pollutants before runoff can enter local waterways, and a five-ring meditation walkway can be found in the back garden . The 4,094-square-foot, single-family home has three bedrooms, three full baths and a two-car garage. + Coldwell Banker Images via Coldwell Banker

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New Arizona highrise takes sustainable luxury to another level

September 7, 2020 by  
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This 12-story residential tower doesn’t just boast an impressive luxury highrise  condominium  design, but also an award-winning green building design. The luxurious 7180 Optima Kierland is located in one of North Scottsdale’s most desirable areas, with lavish amenities throughout and a vertical landscape system with self-containing irrigation. The building debuted a new  green  design created by David Hovey Jr., Optima’s president and head architect. The architectural firm has already earned a reputation for its unique buildings that marry design with innovation and sustainability. Related: A massive green wall grows up the side of this luxury Italian hotel Both the rooftop and ground level feature  luxury  amenities. The 12th floor Sky Deck includes a cutting edge design that utilizes railings just beyond the skyline to create a negative-edge view, giving residents the sensation of floating above the city. The top floor Sky Deck also contains the state’s first rooftop running track, a heated lap pool, various seating areas and a spa complete with cold plunge pools, a steam room, a sauna and hydrotherapy capabilities. There is also an outdoor theater, indoor screening area, a fire pit area and an indoor/outdoor fitness studio. On the ground floor, residents enjoy an additional gym and spa, a covered dog park and dog wash, a game room, a catering room and more. Sustainable elements include perforated panels on the facade along with sun-screening louvers to create textured shadows. During construction, builders used post-tension concrete and aluminum. A variety of energy-efficient and carbon-reducing design aspects, combined with water-conserving plumbing fixtures, give the building added eco-friendly elements. The building’s most impressive  sustainable  feature has to be the innovative vertical landscape system; built-in self-containing irrigation and drainage allow for vibrant, colorful plants that start at the edge of each floor and grow up and over the building. A six-acre park accented by a water feature and landscaped with  drought-resistant , desert climate plants surrounds the building. This green space helps reduce ambient temperature, creating a microclimate that lowers the temperature by between five and nine degrees. + Optima Kierland Images via Optima Kierland

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New Arizona highrise takes sustainable luxury to another level

Pela offers biodegradable phone cases and other zero-waste products

June 12, 2020 by  
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Cell phones have become ubiquitous in the world, with the average phone being replaced every 1.5 to 2 years. Along the way, the plastic cases used to protect our expensive investment quickly become outdated and end up in landfills, where they sit for hundreds to thousands of years. This process leaves an unimaginable amount of garbage behind for generations to come. So Jeremy Lang decided to do something about this plastic waste by creating Pela phone cases, which offer protection for every major model of phone and completely biodegrade into the soil at the end of their lifecycle. Pela’s 100% compostable phone cases and other sustainable products are part of a larger goal to remove 1 billion pounds of plastic from the waste stream by using renewable resources and other waste materials in production. In the case of Pela’s phone cases, a byproduct of flax harvest creates the strong yet biodegradable material used in manufacturing.  Related: Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones With an expansive collection of colorful or clear cell phone cases that offer a variety of etched designs, Pela has moved onto other endeavors with the same goal of eliminating plastic from the production stream. Other products include AirPods cases, a zero-waste liquid screen protector, radiation reduction inserts, sunglasses and a guidebook on how to cultivate a positive outlook in life, called Pela’s Guide to Positivity. Most recently, Pela acquired a fellow Canadian company in a partnership that includes a plastic-free personal care collection. Habitat Botanicals develops soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and even deodorants that are zero-waste and plastic-free. “Pela is proud to welcome Habitat, our new sister company, to our waste-free family,” said Matt Bertulli, CEO of Pela. “Like any family dynamic, there are different practices and products, but one thing that ties us together is our goal to reduce global plastic waste.” Pela is also committed to giving back to causes that support the planet. As a Certified B Corporation, Climate Neutral Certified business and member of 1% For The Planet, Pela supports several nonprofits in their efforts to clean up the oceans and coastlines . By using technology to produce materials without plastic while also working to remove plastic from the waterways, Pela is taking a two-sided approach to the problem. Even with the efforts to create bio-based materials for its products, Pela felt that it could do more to ensure plastic is properly disposed of, so the company implemented a program called Pela 360. This initiative allows customers to mail back their old phone cases from other brands when they purchase a Pela case, so Pela can ensure proper recycling . The program is one more way Pela hopes to help bring plastic waste to an end. + Pela Images via Pela

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This modular, off-grid design can adapt to any landscape

April 27, 2020 by  
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DIY home design is a life-long dream of many, and today’s architects are making it easier than ever to build your own home without toiling for years. Genoa-based firm  TEKE Architects  has just unveiled the MU50, a modular  off-grid home  designed to be configurable to virtually any landscape. Using modules of prefabricated timber frames that can be connected in various layouts, the innovative design is meant to be incorporated into any landscape with minimal impact. The MU50 design is meant to be a feasible solution to sustainable and convenient modern  home design . According to the architects, a basic principle of the innovative home design was to create a modular, highly-flexible system that incorporates reusable and recyclable materials that would ensure minimal environmental impact across the board. The modular frames and enclosure panels, which are prefabricated off-site, are easily delivered on-site where they can be installed in just a few days, depending on size. Related: This ready-made tiny home can be shipped to any destination Part of the design includes a severe pitched overhang roof made out of three possible building materials, either wood, aluminum or copper. As one of the design’s many passive features, the roof offers several climate control features. First, the underside of the roof includes tight thermal insulation and waterproofed panels. Secondly, the large overhangs shade the interior spaces. The roof will also be installed with  solar panels,  which depending on the location and size of the home, should provide sufficient energy to power the entire house. The living space is designed to be an open plan that allows for optimal natural lighting and air ventilation. No matter what the size, the system’s modular pods allow for  maximum flexibility , meaning minimalists can create the tiny home of their dreams, and families can create larger spaces that are suited to their individual needs. This flexible system also allows homeowners to adjust their living space to their changing needs throughout the years. Additionally, the home can run off-grid in any number of climates or terrains thanks to several active and passive climate control features. The modular frames are designed to be elevated off the landscape to allow for air circulation below its base. With proper building orientation, custom windows with double-paned glazing, and piston-operated pine sunshades, the home’s interior is protected from harsh sunlight and heat. In terms of active sustainable systems, the home design is created to run solely on solar power, but additional clean energy-generating systems can be used as well, such as a water collection system. Additionally, ground source heat pumps and underfloor heating create optimal  energy-efficiency  for the beautiful home design. + TEKE Architects Via Archdaily Images via TEKE Architects

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This modular, off-grid design can adapt to any landscape

Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

April 27, 2020 by  
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Studio Precht has turned the rules of social distancing into a design guideline for Parc de la Distance, an innovative park proposal that ensures all visitors will be separated at least 6 feet from one another at all times. Created in the shape of a fingerprint with spiraling ridges represented by tall hedge rows, the conceptual park takes inspiration from both French baroque gardens and Japanese Zen gardens. The hedge-lined paths slowly spiral toward a center, where fountains are located. With all famous parks across Vienna closed due to the pandemic , Studio Precht wanted to create a safe way for local residents to get access to a brief time of solitude and nature. As a result, it has proposed Parc de la Distance for a vacant lot in Vienna that comprises multiple spaced-out pathways for individual walks. “Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint,” the architects explained. “Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape.” Related: Architects propose produce markets designed for social distancing Each lane is bookended by an entrance gateway and exit gateway to indicate whether the path is occupied or free to stroll . The lanes are spaced 8 feet apart and flanked with nearly 3-foot-wide hedges on either side for visual separation. The height of the hedges vary along the path. Each individual path is 0.37 miles long and takes around 20 minutes to walk from start to finish. Although visitors are often shielded from view from one another, they will be able to hear the sounds of footsteps on the reddish granite gravel that line each path. “For now, the park is designed to create a safe physical distance between its visitors,” Studio Precht founder Chris Precht said. “After the pandemic, the park is used to escape the noise and bustle of the city and be alone for some time. I lived in many cities, but I think I have never been alone in public. I think that’s a rare quality.” + Studio Precht Images via Studio Precht

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Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

Costa Rican eco-lodge is made of reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old home

April 20, 2020 by  
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Costa Rican architectural firm Gussa has unveiled a peaceful eco-lodge located on the country’s beautiful Caribbean coastline. Esquina Verde is a cozy rental accommodation made out of locally sourced materials and reclaimed wood salvaged from a 100-year-old home. Surrounded by lush vegetation and native wildlife, the lodge’s multiple hammocks that hang from the thatched roofs make it an idyllic place to disconnect. Located just outside of Cahuita National Park in Limon, Esquina Verde is a serene retreat that provides park visitors with a place to stay while they explore the area. The indoor/outdoor nature of the two bedroom, two bathroom guest house lets guests completely immerse themselves in the tropical forest backdrop, which is home to some incredible wildlife. Related: Sustainable eco huts built on stilts in an idyllic French pine forest Inspired by the natural setting, the architects wanted the project to reflect and protect the environment. The first step was to repurpose loads of reclaimed wood that was salvaged from a 100-year-old home being demolished near the site. This timber was originally imported from the U.S. to be used in the island’s banana plantations. The rest of the lodge was almost entirely prefabricated off-site in San Jose. Once delivered to the lot, it was put together using a simple bolt system that held the steel frame in place. To protect the structure from the region’s infamous heavy rains and high humidity, the lodge incorporates several resilient design features. Esquina Verde has multiple connecting volumes, all of which are elevated off of the landscape to reduce the impact on the terrain . The lifted building also protects itself from flash flooding, which commonly occurs in this part of the country. The eco-lodge is arranged around a central courtyard with a small swimming pool. The main structure, which is two stories, features a wide thatched roof and a wrap-around porch, where guests can enjoy views of the lush tree canopy. Underneath the roof overhangs, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open up completely to provide air circulation and a deeper connection to the environment. + Gussa Images via Gussa

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Costa Rican eco-lodge is made of reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old home

Self-sustaining Shade House helps combat urban pollution

April 13, 2020 by  
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Bangkok-based architectural firm,  Ayutt and Associates design , has unveiled a stunning  self-sustaining home  in the Thai capital. The Shade House is a three-story home covered in the firm’s signature perforated facade that allows for optimal natural light and airflow, while simultaneously providing privacy for the homeowners. Additionally, the design incorporates several passive and active technologies, as well as an abundance of indoor pocket gardens that allow the homeowners to enjoy a serene, natural forest-like atmosphere inside their own home. Tucked into a quiet neighborhood behind the massive high rises in Bangkok, the Shade House was designed to be a serene living space for a family who wanted to live in an urban area but retain some personal  green space  to enjoy in their day-to-day lives. Accordingly, the architectural team came up with an ingenious home design that would be based on creating an “individual natural ecosystem.” Related: Spain’s San Telmo Museum Boasts a Perforated Green Façade At over 10,000 square feet, the Shade House is comprised of two main towers connected by an indoor/outdoor walkway that leads to various access points inside the home. The home’s exterior shell is made up of a perforated facade  created using aluminum panels and white slender steel rods. This system allows the home to enjoy ample sun and air ventilation, as well as a natural cooling system. In fact, according to the architects, the home allows the interior spaces to be around seven degrees cooler than the outside temperature. The  interior layout  of the home was also designed to take advantage of the natural atmosphere. The first floor of the home is designed as a “garden villa.” Separate from the family’s main living areas, this space is meant to be a welcoming social area, or can be closed off to be used as a guest home. The second floor contains the family’s main living spaces, as well as the “pool villa” that features a large swimming pool and outdoor area. Elevated off the first floor, the main living room, kitchen and dining spaces look out over the tree canopy, creating the sensation of being high up in a treehouse . The private bedrooms are located on the top floor, which rises way up over the treetops to provide a sense of privacy and relaxation. Throughout the home, an abundance of greenery has been strategically planted at virtually every corner. Between the outdoor plantings, indoor pocket gardens and a  green roof , the total vegetation currently covers 90% of the home and is expected to grow 150% larger than its beginning site over the years, eventually covering the home’s expansive exterior. + Ayutt and Associates design Via Archdaily Images via Ayutt and Associates design

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"FORGO" plastic packaging with powder to liquid hand wash

April 8, 2020 by  
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Plastic containers  line nearly every shelf of any health and beauty aisle. To tackle this earth-endangering practice, Stockholm-based design studio Form Us With Love set out to make personal care more sustainable with their first product in this endeavor, FORGO powdered hand soap. Although the design company has launched other product campaigns, including furniture in conjunction with notable icon IKEA, FORGO targets making an impactful change to the personal care industry.  The name FORGO, meaning “to do without,” captures the essence of the hand wash, the first product in what Form us With Love hopes will be an entire line of personal care products. This hand wash is made using the bare essentials, from the ingredients list to the packing materials, embracing minimalism  throughout the process for all the right reasons. Related:  This skincare and natural deodorant is made from apple cider vinegar FORGO is a lightweight and compact powder you mix up at home. During your initial order, the company sends a glass jar with a fill line mark for easy measuring. Your job is simply to open the package, dump the powder into the glass jar, fill with water and shake. In less than a minute, you have a full bottle of foaming hand soap ready to go. When you run low, you can have three more packages sent directly to your home with free shipping throughout Europe and North America. For the initial run, FORGO is only available for these areas, but they hope to expand to other countries in the future. FORGO is produced in a partnership with a Montreal-based lab specializing in natural cosmetics. The result is a product that uses only six essential ingredients over 1%. All ingredients are naturally derived , and all are considered safe by EWG Skin Deep®. Five are COSMOS certified (COSMetic Organic and natural Standard). The scents for the foaming soap are also natural, with the wood scent distilled from timber yard scraps in Canada and the citrus scent distilled from leftover peels and pulp from organic citrus in the Caribbean.  The packaging is also mindful, using only recycled and recyclable paper to contain the powder and ship it, along with the glass jar, which can be recycled and is non-toxic should it end up in a landfill. The steel pump can be returned to the company for proper recycling . The compact packaging reduces waste and produces significantly fewer transport emissions, with 18 packets of FORGO equaling approximately one plastic bottle of a premixed solution. A now fully-funded Kickstarter campaign boosted the initial launch, with the first round of shipments expected summer 2020. + FORGO Images via Jonas Lindström Studio, Fredrik Augustsson, and Anna Heck & Yujin Jiang

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"FORGO" plastic packaging with powder to liquid hand wash

DIY yurt could be the answer for true social distancing

April 2, 2020 by  
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In these trying days when social distancing seems to be so hard for so many, perhaps a change of living space is the key to finding some alone time. Designed by the team from  Woodenwidget , the Plurt is a lightweight yurt  that can be assembled quickly with just a few simple tools. What’s more, the round yurt offers a sustainable and highly insulated home that can be built in just about any landscape. While we’ve seen some pretty impressive DIY yurt designs over the years, the Plurt is designed to take the guesswork out of the process. The entire set up includes six curved wall panels, 15 flat roof panels and a door frame. Enabling an easier transport process, the panels, which are made out of exterior grade wood, weigh less than 45 pounds each. In fact, the entire yurt weighs only about 550 pounds. Additionally, the interchangeable panels are custom cut to ensure that the project is as low-waste and low-impact  as possible. Related: 7 cozy tipis and yurts that make you feel right at home Once put into place, the  wooden panels are bonded together through several adjustable clasps and sealed with waterproof wood glue. According to the team from Woodenwidget, the round yurt structure can be assembled by just one or two people using basic power tools in about 200 hours. About 16 feet in diameter and just under 9 feet high, the interior of the yurt is a fairly compact size, but the living space seems quite spacious thanks to an abundance of  natural light . Curved walls made out of plywood add a cabin-like feel to the living space. In addition to the large windows, a central skylight covered by a plexi dome can be raised or lowered for natural air ventilation. Besides the resiliency naturally achieved by its  circular design , the Plurt also offers several sustainable features. Unlike most yurt designs, the structure is constructed using the insulating layer as a structural element, which in return, reduces the project’s overall number of building materials. Additionally, the design’s highly-insulated system and natural lighting mean that it can be used in almost any climate. A Neoprene seal stops water leakage and a simple gutter system helps redirect rainwater from the roof. + Woodenwidget Images via Woodenwidget

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