The Olympic House sets a new green building standard

September 16, 2020 by  
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The International Olympics Committee has a brand-new home in Lausanne, Switzerland . The stunning new Olympic House brings together 500 employees who were working at different offices scattered throughout the city. Now, these employees will work in an award-winning building that features all the latest green technology in a truly breathtaking design. Olympic House’s design centers three values: movement, flexibility and sustainability. These values show in every facet of the design. View the building from another angle, and suddenly the design looks completely different. The sweeping, elegant design sets the standard for all future buildings. The Olympic House boasts a LEED v4 Platinum building certification, with the highest score ever given (93 of 100). Minergie P. and SNBS platinum certifications further prove this building as one of the world’s most sustainable offices. Environmental concerns influence the design in more ways than one. The building connects to a beautiful park and fits perfectly with that setting. After all, this isn’t an ordinary office building. This office building houses the Olympics committee. The Olympics brings together nations and people from all around the world; that’s why the campus design allows for public enjoyment as well. As one of the most sustainable buildings ever created, the new Olympic House sets a standard for all other buildings to follow. The building even includes a green roof and multiple terraces, plus a fitness center for employees to use. Low flow taps and toilets help reduce water consumption, and rainwater capture helps provide the building with water. Meanwhile, solar panels power the Olympic House. Through green design, the Olympic House lowers carbon emissions, conserves resources, provides a healthy environment for employees and maintains green spaces. At the heart of the Olympic House, the Unity Staircase features a curving, twisting and awe-inspiring design. Hopefully, the building’s incredible design and multiple green features will inspire others to create more sustainable buildings that improve the environment, rather than damage it. + 3XN Via Architizer Images via 3XN

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The Olympic House sets a new green building standard

The Olympic House sets a new green building standard

September 16, 2020 by  
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The International Olympics Committee has a brand-new home in Lausanne, Switzerland . The stunning new Olympic House brings together 500 employees who were working at different offices scattered throughout the city. Now, these employees will work in an award-winning building that features all the latest green technology in a truly breathtaking design. Olympic House’s design centers three values: movement, flexibility and sustainability. These values show in every facet of the design. View the building from another angle, and suddenly the design looks completely different. The sweeping, elegant design sets the standard for all future buildings. The Olympic House boasts a LEED v4 Platinum building certification, with the highest score ever given (93 of 100). Minergie P. and SNBS platinum certifications further prove this building as one of the world’s most sustainable offices. Environmental concerns influence the design in more ways than one. The building connects to a beautiful park and fits perfectly with that setting. After all, this isn’t an ordinary office building. This office building houses the Olympics committee. The Olympics brings together nations and people from all around the world; that’s why the campus design allows for public enjoyment as well. As one of the most sustainable buildings ever created, the new Olympic House sets a standard for all other buildings to follow. The building even includes a green roof and multiple terraces, plus a fitness center for employees to use. Low flow taps and toilets help reduce water consumption, and rainwater capture helps provide the building with water. Meanwhile, solar panels power the Olympic House. Through green design, the Olympic House lowers carbon emissions, conserves resources, provides a healthy environment for employees and maintains green spaces. At the heart of the Olympic House, the Unity Staircase features a curving, twisting and awe-inspiring design. Hopefully, the building’s incredible design and multiple green features will inspire others to create more sustainable buildings that improve the environment, rather than damage it. + 3XN Via Architizer Images via 3XN

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The Olympic House sets a new green building standard

Futuristic DFAB HOUSE is digitally built with robots and 3D printers

July 15, 2020 by  
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The homes of the future could be built with robots — that is the narrative that DFAB HOUSE, an experimental “house” in Switzerland’s municipality of Dübendorf, hopes to promote. Set atop Empa and Eawag’s modular research and innovation building NEST, the three-story structure completed last year serves as a testing ground and showroom for cutting-edge smart home technology and robotic construction . Built largely with digital means, the inhabitable “home” is also smart in terms of energy consumption; it includes rooftop solar panels that supply, on average, one-and-a-half times as much electricity as the structure needs as well as heat exchangers that harvest hot wastewater from showers. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/DFAB-HOUSE-9-889×592.jpg" alt="large glass and concrete building topped with a white extension" class="wp-image-2274915" Researchers from eight professorships at ETH Zurich collaborated with industrial partners to not only digitally plan DFAB HOUSE but also make it habitable for academic guests and visiting scholars of Empa and Eawag. The innovative construction has created an otherworldly interior landscape — defined by curvaceous walls and a wavy concrete ceiling cast in 3D-printed formwork — that Empa likens to the Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s Alien film sets. Related: Robots weave an insect-inspired carbon-fiber forest in London The ground floor, which houses the common areas, is built mainly of concrete, while the two upper residential floors are characterized by wooden frames fabricated by construction robots. In addition to a home automation system that coordinates all energy consumption, guest residents also benefit from an intelligent multistage burglar protection system, automated glare and shading options and networked intelligent household appliances that even include a smart hot water kettle. 

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Futuristic DFAB HOUSE is digitally built with robots and 3D printers

‘Floating’ Kayak Point makes a home in the trees

June 22, 2020 by  
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Sometimes architecture means not building, or at least not in the traditional sense. Presented with logistical challenges, the team at Christopher Wright Architecture used innovation and creativity to create Kayak Point, a house perched in the trees along the Puget Sound coastline in Washington state. The clients, one of whom is originally from Switzerland , came to the architects with an idea in mind. They wanted a house that combined Swiss design elements with modern touches all nestled within a wooded coastal lot. With a focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail, they developed a plan for a strong yet environmentally-sensitive home with the smallest footprint available . Portions of the home don’t sit on the ground at all. Suspended slightly above ground, support beams run across the bottom of the home’s center to provide the needed structure. Related: Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone As with most architectural design, the plan changed and evolved as the team studied the available land. Construction only being allowed on a small portion of the property meant finding ways to work around the challenge. The single-story structure presented an even larger challenge in the form of massive cedar trees that the clients wanted to be kept intact. With such a small available building area, the home had to be situated directly in those trees, but digging a traditional foundation would have endangered the tree roots below ground. To avoid this, the entire center of the house was elevated instead.  “We wanted to create a home that seems to belong where it is–as if it could have always been there–but does not necessarily blend or disappear. Here, I like the strength of the simple form set against the natural landscape,” said architect Christopher Wright. To further this goal, cedar clads the entire structure, both inside and out. An outdoor space connects the expansive views to the function of the interior. For interior design, Kayak Point encompasses natural elements combined with a streamlined, cozy vibe that invites the owners to relax and enjoy the view. The architects catered to requests for a TV viewing area, fireplace and large European -style kitchen, each focusing on dynamic lighting and deliberate lines for a finished home cemented into refined tranquility. + Christopher Wright Architecture Photography by Anna Spencer and Ben Benschneider  

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‘Floating’ Kayak Point makes a home in the trees

Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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Sumo wrestles sustainability into an all-natural, biodegradable diaper

February 14, 2020 by  
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Sustainable living is an ongoing pursuit that requires evaluating each purchase and every product we use. But some daily tasks just don’t have suitable solutions. The spotlight on disposable diapers is one example, and the only real option so far has been cloth diapers. Even though cloth diapers do keep the plastic variety from sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years, the plastic ribbing and diaper inserts typically keep cloth diapers from being recyclable. As part of her master’s thesis, Luisa Kahlfeldt created Sumo, a natural, biodegradable diaper that is as gentle on the planet as it is on a baby’s skin. Sumo diapers are created from a material called SeaCell, which is made up of algae extracts and eucalyptus wood . Both materials are soft and naturally antibacterial, making a great combination for something that will be against a baby’s skin. Additionally, SeaCell is sustainably harvested and produced with a low environmental impact. It is also biodegradable. Related: Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers Anyone who has children knows that while it is important to strive for sustainability, if a reusable diaper doesn’t do its job, it’s out. The Sumo incorporates performance into the design with three layers of protection that include a soft inner layer, an absorbent center and a waterproof outer layer to combat leaks. Once the performance and material issues were hammered out, Kahlfeldt turned to finding an alternative to the standard elastic used for gathering fabric around the legs in traditional cloth diapers. In the process, she developed a way to knit natural yarns that stand up to the task while offering elasticity. The design is gaining notice from some notable organizations, namely the James Dyson Award, where Sumo was the winning entry from Switzerland in 2019. Kahlfeldt completed the project before graduating Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), one of the world’s top design schools. She is currently working as a senior designer at Konstantin Grcic Design in Berlin. + Luisa Kahlfeldt Via Dezeen Images via Sumo

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Self-shaping Urbach Tower twists itself into a unique, curvaceous shape

May 29, 2019 by  
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Wood warping typically creates unwanted and undesirable effects, yet the creators behind a unique new landmark in Urbach, Germany have found a way to harness the naturally occurring deformity into an unexpected architectural possibility. The University of Stuttgart completed a nearly 47-foot-tall timber structure that gets its curvaceous form from the “self-shaping process” of its curved wood components. Constructed from spruce wood cross-laminated panels, the Urbach Tower is the first wood structure made from self-shaped components and offers a more sustainable alternative to energy-intensive, mechanically formed structures. Created as one of 16 architecture-designed installations for the Remstal Gartenschau 2019, the Urbach Tower offers high performance and strength with low environmental impact . The landmark building’s prefabricated, self-shaping components are made from spruce wood CLT sourced regionally from Switzerland and CNC cut into 12 flat panels that deform autonomously into predicted curved shapes when dried. Computational models were developed to design, predict and optimize the material arrangement that would achieve the desired look through moisture-induced swelling and shrinking. “The Urbach Tower is the very first implementation of this technology on building-scale, load-bearing timber parts,” the designers said in a press release. “The distinctive form of the tower constitutes a truly contemporary architectural expression of the traditional construction material wood. It celebrates the innate and natural characteristics of self-shaped wood in its upward spiraling shape.” Related: Playful gable-roofed home in Atlanta champions the power of CLT The design team also clad the tower in a custom-made protective layer of glue-laminated larch with a titanium oxide surface treatment to protect the wood from UV radiation and pests. Four craftsmen assembled the tower in a single working day without the need for extensive scaffolding or formwork. The Urbach Tower, which is a permanent installation, serves as shelter, a landscape overlook and a showcase for efficient, economical and expressive wood architecture. + University of Stuttgart Images via University of Stuttgart

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Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

May 2, 2019 by  
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Poachers are taking advantage of a fashion trend to turn Tibetan antelope into expensive scarves. It takes four Tibetan antelopes to make the single opulent wrap known as a shahtoosh, and the hunt is decimating the antelope populations. These scarves, once used as dowry items in India, are seeing an increase in demand by Westerners willing to pay upward of $20,000 a piece. Over the past century, conservationists have measured a 90 percent drop in antelope numbers, mostly due to increasing wool demands . Experts believe there was once a million antelope that roamed the Tibetan landscape, but their numbers fell to around 75,000 in the 1990s. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife According to National Geographic , population numbers started to recover in the 2000s after China enacted tough laws against trading the antelope wool, but the demand for shahtoosh has increased poaching over the past 10 years. Since 2010, border agents in Switzerland have confiscated 295 scarves, which represent the deaths of more than 1,000 Tibetan antelopes. In light of the alarming numbers, officials are asking for other countries to keep a close eye on shahtoosh trafficking with the hope of curbing some of the fashion demand. It takes a trained eye to identify a shahtoosh. The biggest key in properly locating a shahtoosh is looking for antelope guard hairs. These long pieces of hair are difficult to remove in the manufacturing process and are easy to identify under a microscope. Once it is determined that a scarf is a shahtoosh, the owner is fined a few thousand dollars, and the piece of clothing is confiscated. The shahtoosh trade appears to be less of an issue in the United States, at least on the surface. Since 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not confiscated a single shahtoosh, though it is possible that the material has simply flown under the radar. Either way, experts do not believe Tibetan antelopes will be able to make sustained recoveries until the demand for the luxurious scarf is significantly reduced. Via National Geographic Image via McKay Savage and Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

This minimalist timber writers studio in Switzerland is suspended in mid-air

July 18, 2018 by  
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Most writers need a quiet space to gather their thoughts and work. Tapping into this need for solitude, Oslo-based Rintala Eggertsson Architects designed ‘In Praise of Shadows,’ a minimalist writer’s studio  built primarily of timber and suspended in the air on the grounds of the Maison de l’Écriture, a literature institute in Montricher, Switzerland. The compact timber cabin takes inspiration from the cross in the Swiss coat of arms for its geometric form and is lifted into the air beneath a curvaceous and porous roof. The In Praise of Shadows cabin was developed as part of the Maison de l’Écriture’s writer’s residency program. Rintala Eggertsson Architects was invited — along with 16 other architecture practices — to take part in an international design competition; a total of six designs were chosen. Rintala Eggertsson Architects’ studio was built with a structural steel frame fitted with three layers of insulation to ensure energy efficiency. The cladding and the interior walls were made entirely from lightweight timber. “Shaping a space for a writer is a demanding task, as it has to stimulate the creative process on one hand and represent a firm framework for the physical needs on the other,” Rintala Eggertsson Architects said. “These seemingly distant opposites don’t need to out-compete each other, but rather enter into a dialogue where the shift from black to white is a journey in itself. In our design proposal, we tried to emphasize this connection between the bodily functions of the inhabitant and the mental tasks he or she will take on.” Related: Dreamy light-filled writer’s studio pops up in a lush Brooklyn garden The interior is split into four half-levels with floor space varying from 86 square feet to 183 square feet. The service areas, which include the water and heating equipment, are located on the lowest level. The toilet and kitchen are placed on the next half-level near the entrance, while the living room is just above. The writer’s room can be found on the top-most floor. The cabin’s windows were carefully oriented to allow natural light and views while preserving privacy. + Rintala Eggertsson Architects Images by Valentin Jeck

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This minimalist timber writers studio in Switzerland is suspended in mid-air

This Swiss straw-bale house is completely self-sufficient

July 6, 2018 by  
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Traditional building techniques and modern technology come together in the House in Berne, a self-sufficient straw bale house in Graben, a Swiss village located less than an hour’s drive north of Bern. Trun-based architecture practice Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed the modern home, crafting it to blend in with the rural surroundings by taking on the appearance of an old Bernese farming house. Additionally, the self-sufficient house is powered entirely by rooftop solar panels. Completed this year, the House in Berne is set in the middle of a vast and open farming landscape. The dwelling comprises three floors in addition to a small basement for a total area of 1,970 square feet. In response to the client’s request for a modern, self-sustaining home that would be flooded with natural light , Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH designed a building with large yet carefully placed openings, as well as an energy-efficient envelope to ensure minimal heating energy demands that could be satisfied through a photovoltaic array or passive solar means. “Inside the house, glass ceilings ensure that daylight can penetrate fully into the whole building,” explains Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH in a project statement. “The reduction of inside walls allows the owners to live and work in a big open modern space. The 80 centimeter thick straw-bale walls guarantee minimal heat losses. The electrical and thermic energy gained on the solar roof is stored in a home battery system and in a 5000 [liter] solar tank located in the basement. If needed the house can be heated by the stored thermic energy.” Related: Leaky cottage retrofitted with straw bale sees 80% energy reduction Set on an east-west axis, House in Berne is built primarily from unfinished timber for both the interior and the exterior; the timber façade will develop a patina over time and further blend the building into the landscape. Solar panels top the roof, which features long overhanging eaves to protect the interior from unwanted solar heat gain . + Atelier SCHMIDT GmbH Images by Rasmus Norlander

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