A sculptural office crowns the solar-powered Stellar building in India

March 17, 2020 by  
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Following four years of design and construction, Mumbai-based design studio Sanjay Puri Architects recently completed Stellar, a solar-powered commercial building in Ahmedabad, India. The building features a striking sculptural office on its northwest side. Constructed with rust-red colored aluminum sheets, the angular office is a focal point for not only the 110-meter-long building but also for the bustling intersection where the building is located. To mitigate the city’s temperatures, which rise to an excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit for eight months of the year, Stellar features a series of terraces that deflect solar gain. Spanning an area of 18,580 square meters, the multistory building houses retail on its lower three levels and office spaces on the upper four levels. About one-third of the offices open onto landscaped terraces and are set back from the building perimeter to take advantage of solar shading. The terraces are connected to a rainwater harvesting tank that stores runoff for reuse. Solar panels have also been installed on the terraces to harness renewable energy . Related: Sculptural, energy-saving office boasts the “smartest building advances in Germany” The crowning distinction of Stellar is the 500-square-meter office on the building’s northwest side. Surrounded by a spacious, north-facing outdoor terrace, the eye-catching office is wrapped in angular aluminum sheets strategically placed to protect the windows from the sun. Small triangular perforations along the sides of select panels also allow natural light to pass through into the office during the day and are backlit at night to give the office a beautiful, glowing effect. “This office space is deliberately designed to contrast with the rest of the building, creating an interesting juxtaposition of color, volume and geometry in addition to creating an individual identity based upon the brief,” the architects explained. “The simple rectilinear geometry with muted color tones and the complex angular geometry awash with color contrast to create a unique composition.” + Sanjay Puri Architects Photography by Abhishek Shah via Sanjay Puri Architects

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Solar-powered home embraces tree canopy views in all directions

March 4, 2020 by  
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In the coastal township of Barwon Heads, Australian architecture firm Peter Winkler Architects has completed the Green Velvet House, a family’s solar-powered home that sensitively responds to the landscape in more ways than one. Positioned for passive solar design and to maximize views over the surrounding tree canopy, the sustainable dwelling was engineered to minimize impact on the existing terrain. In addition to walls of glass that let in natural light and ventilation, the home draws power from a rooftop solar array and minimizes its environmental footprint with rainwater collection tanks for irrigation and toilet-flushing. Nestled into an existing depression in the site, the Green Velvet House rises to a height of two stories with 580 square meters of living space. Its minimalist appearance — a facade of cement sheets and floor-to-ceiling glazing divided by exposed structural timbers — helps to reduce the building’s visual impact on the landscape. “In response to the program, we have minimized the building footprint by efficiently consolidating the form, rather than creating a sprawling building that overtakes the site,” the team explained. Related: Samurai-inspired home keeps naturally cool in Melbourne To keep the focus on the outdoors, the solar-powered home is surrounded by walls of glass and terraces that invite the owners outdoors on multiple floors. The outdoor spaces and the interiors are protected from unwanted solar gain by generous eaves and horizontal screens. The main living areas and the guest bedroom are located on the ground floor, while the upper floor is reserved for the more private areas, including the master suite and two children’s bedrooms. Plywood walls and a sealed fiber-cement ceiling reference the exterior materials and lend a sense of warmth to the interiors. Recycled “Grey Ironbark” hardwood columns and beams are also featured throughout the building. For energy efficiency, the Colorbond tray deck roof is fitted with a 10.26 kW photovoltaic system . The aluminum sliding doors are also outfitted with double glazing, while the double-hung, sashless windows can be opened for natural ventilation. Three 5,000-liter water tanks were installed beneath the north deck to store rainwater for garden use and toilet-flushing, while other stormwater runoff is retained in bioswales. The home is also equipped with hydronic heating, wood-burning fireplaces and a Sanden heat pump with a 315-liter water tank. + Peter Winkler Architects Photography by Jack Lovel via Peter Winkler Architects

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MVRDV’s garden oasis in Utrecht includes a green-roofed convention center

December 9, 2019 by  
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MVRDV has unveiled designs to transform the underutilized area on the west side of Utrecht’s central station into “a garden in the city” with a new, green-roofed Jaarbeurs convention center. The redeveloped events venue will be at the the heart of a 600,000-square-meter masterplan. Created to achieve BREEAM Excellent certification, the project has been fittingly named a “city oasis” by Jaarbeurs CEO Albert Arp for its inclusion of accessible green space, the beautification of the streetscape and the focus on sustainable design. Developed in collaboration with SITE Urban Development, the masterplan for the Jaarbeursdistrict will redefine the area as one presently dominated by cars into a more pedestrian-friendly destination. The new design will introduce a car-free street — the “Jaarbeurs Boulevard” — that will serve as the neighborhood’s new backbone and provide access to the new Jaarbeurs convention center as well as create a direct link from the station to the shops and restaurants along the Merwede Canal and areas beyond. Related: This Eco Villa in Utrecht produces all of its own energy through solar power In addition to the inclusion of sustainable technologies, the new Jaarbeurs venue will feature an accessible green roof that descends to the ground level via cascading terraces that can be reached from all four sides. The spacious green roof will house a rooftop park with a “carpet of programmable ‘squares’ and gardens” to host a wide variety of programming and renewable systems, such as water storage and energy generation. Construction of the Jaarbeurs events venue is expected to start in 2023. “It is rare that a private party not only invests in its own building but also includes the environment in its plans,” said Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “This masterplan shows that Jaarbeurs is passionate about the city and dares to think outside the box. This is desperately needed, because this underutilized area has the potential to become a fantastic neighborhood with the venue as its core — an attractive green ‘hill’ in the city. The plan is also an opportunity to significantly improve the city and properly connect the center, the station area, the Merwede Canal zone and the Kanaleneiland.” + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica

September 5, 2019 by  
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Sustainable design practice A-01 (A Company / A Foundation) has combined traditional tropical architecture elements with modern prefabrication to produce the No Footprint House, a contemporary and energy-efficient abode that boasts a minimal environmental footprint. Developed for mass production, the first No Footprint House prototype was installed last year in Ojochal, a small village at the edge of a tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. To keep cool in the region’s humid climate, the home relies on passive climate control strategies, from the double-layered facade with operable panels to the slanted solar shades. Spanning an area of 108 square meters, the first No Footprint House prototype is the largest in the No Footprint House series, which also includes a “tiny” version at 36 square meters and a mid-size version at 81 square meters. All housing types can be customized with different finishes and layouts and will be available for purchase in 2020. Related: Low-budget, bioclimatic home boasts a minimal energy footprint in Costa Rica The No Footprint House in Ojochal was prefabricated in the Central Valley of Costa Rica based on a structural grid of 12 by 9 meters and comprises a combined living and dining area, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a multifunctional terrace. The home was transported to its current location on a single truck bed. Key to the design of the No Footprint House is the centrally located service core, which houses the utilities and machinery and thus groups together the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry area into the heart of the house. The compression of utilities into a centralized location opens up the rest of the steel-framed home to an open-plan layout. Glass sliders and “curtain walls” allow homeowners to reorganize the residence as they see fit. “The NFH is designed to blend with its natural surroundings and minimize the impact of construction on the environment,” explained the design team, who used a natural materials palette with bamboo and wood and topped the building with a solar water heater. “It offers a wide range of adjustable, affordable and replicable solutions to cater for a broad customer segment. The project seeks for integral sustainability in terms of its environmental, economic, social and spatial performance.” Future building configurations will also offer off-grid capability. + A-01 Photography by Fernando Alda Fotografi?a / Fernando Alda via A-01

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Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica

Green-roofed luxury home blends historic Spanish influences with contemporary design

August 2, 2019 by  
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In between the Mediterranean Sea and the coastal mountain range in northern Spain, Tarragona-based architect Guillem Carrera has completed Casa VN, an energy-efficient luxury home that pays homage to the region’s historic heritage. Set on a steep slope, the modern home uses terraces to step down the landscape and is faced with walls of glass to take advantage of panoramic views. To reduce energy demands, the house follows passive solar principles; it is also topped with insulating green roofs and equipped with home automation technology. Casa VN is located in Alella, a village near Barcelona that was historically used for farming and marked by large estates and stonewall terraces. However, in recent years, changes in the economy have led to increased urbanization in the area. Given the landscape history, Carrera strove to conserve the original character of his client’s property while introducing modern comforts. Related: Minimalist home in northern Spain uses geothermal energy to reduce energy consumption The goal was to “preserve the soul and the morphology, to preserve each one of those things that make it unique and characteristic: the terraces, the retaining walls, the different elements of pre-existing vegetation and the dry stone chapel ,” Carrera said. “These elements are delimited and identified to be preserved in the plant, and once they have been delimited, a respectful implementation of housing directly on the existing land is established, so that the house coexists and interacts spatially and functionally with these elements. The resulting ensemble seeks to be a whole, timeless and heterogeneous, that is part of the place and the landscape.” At 869 square meters, Casa VN recalls the large estates that were once typical in Alella. Locally sourced stone — the same used in the preserved stone chapel — and native Mediterranean landscaping also respect the local vernacular. Meanwhile, the residence features modern construction with a structure of reinforced concrete, steel and glass. Passive solar principles also guided the design and placement of the house to reduce unwanted solar gain and promote natural cooling. + Guillem Carrera Photography by Adrià Goula via Guillem Carrera

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Luxury condo in Budapest will bring residents closer to nature

July 24, 2019 by  
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Hungarian architect István Benyei’s design studio has created a new luxury condo for Budapest that will immerse residents in nature. Conceived as a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of city living, the proposed Budapest condo will comprise four apartments that boast views of the forest, gardens and water. To reduce impact on the environment, the construction will follow passive house principles and preserve existing trees. Nestled in Budapest’s forested hills, the planned condo takes advantage of its lush surroundings with full-height glazing on all floors and covered balconies. The building’s location on a steep plot allows it to be almost completely hidden from view; the top floor will be level with the street. To minimize visual interference with the landscape, the architects have tucked the parking garage underground so that the entrance will be accessed via a footbridge. Rather than fencing, subtle architectural and landscaping solutions were used to mark property lines. “As our lives become increasingly metropolitan, many of us are seeking to be closer to nature,” the architecture studio explained in a project statement. “The pace of urban life can be exhausting as we lose ourselves to our mobile phones and the digital age, which can make the importance of connections with our fellow humans all the more significant. Restoring our connection with both nature and personal relationships is crucial for a harmonious lifestyle, and that’s the overriding thought behind Benyei’s architecture studio’s latest plan. The modern-day sense of a luxury residential space goes beyond quality of design or premium construction materials; the true luxury is a building’s ability to unite family, friends and the silence of nature.” Related: Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square The four apartments vary in size from 130 to 290 square meters, and each will have a private terrace and a private garden with water features that help reflect light into the living spaces. The building will be topped with an undulating roof that echoes the surrounding hilly topography. The building is slated for completion in 2020. + István Bényei -B13 architect Ltd. Images via István Bényei -B13 architect Ltd.

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Luxury condo in Budapest will bring residents closer to nature

MVRDV proposes a glowing Times Square Taiwan with interactive media facades

January 11, 2019 by  
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Prolific Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has unveiled a bold proposal to transform Taipei’s Main Station into a “Times Square for Taiwan.” Designed as part of a consortium led by Nan Hai Development, the Taipei Twin Towers aim to reactivate the area with two high-rises clad in interactive media facades. The mixed-use project would offer new retail, office space, two cinemas and two hotels, in addition to the unification and redevelopment of the existing plazas. Located on the east side of the city, Taipei Main Station is currently ensnared in an aging concrete jungle and offers an arrival sequence — the transportation hub includes access to inter- and intra-city buses, metro and the airport railway — that MVRDV principal and co-founder Winy Maas has described as an “anti-climax.” To revitalize the area as a tourist and shopping destination, the architects have proposed stacking a mix of small and large blocks together into “vertical village” skyscrapers. The smaller blocks, located near the bottom, would house different retail outlets while the larger blocks above would contain the offices, cinemas and two hotels. The blocks will be strategically stacked to not only create public atriums  but to also allow for natural ventilation. Landscaped terraces will be located on the top of the retail blocks and connected via escalators and elevated walkways. Some blocks would also be covered with interactive media displays that can be programmed to show major cultural spectacles, sporting events or advertising for the retail tenants. Related: Shimmering bamboo-shaped skyscraper to rise in Taipei “The Taipei Twin Towers will turn this area into the downtown that Taipei deserves, with its vibrant mixture of activities matched only by the vibrant collection of facade treatments on the stacked neighborhood above,” Winy Maas explained. “We break down the required program into pleasant small blocks that echo the surrounding urban quarters, thus fitting the density fit into its surroundings. People can climb over the blocks to the top — a true vertical village . And the space in between allows for social gatherings and natural ventilation.” + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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MVRDV proposes a glowing Times Square Taiwan with interactive media facades

COBEs Red Cross Volunteer House is an urban living room in Copenhagen

December 31, 2018 by  
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Copenhagen-based architecture firm COBE has unveiled images of the Red Cross Volunteer House, a new building in Copenhagen that not only celebrates the efforts of Red Cross volunteers, but also the power of great public space. Completed November 2017 as an extension of the national headquarters of the Red Cross, the Red Cross Volunteer House is a triangular building with an 850-square-meter roof that doubles as a large staircase and new meeting place for 34,000 Red Cross volunteers. Open to the public, the terraced space has also been embraced by the city as a new “urban living room.” With a floor area of 750 square meters, the Red Cross Volunteer House was designed by COBE — which won the design bid in a 2013 competition — in close collaboration with the Red Cross and representatives of the volunteer organization. Set partially underground, the volunteer center consists of exhibition spaces, meeting rooms, conference facilities, training facilities, disaster management facilities and a cafe. The extension also houses the main entrance to both the volunteer center and the headquarters, which are further linked with a green park. Yellow bricks were also used on the extension’s triangular roof to visually tie the building to the headquarters’ yellow-brick facade. “With the Red Cross Volunteer House we wanted to create a place that provides optimal settings for the heroes of everyday life – the thousands of volunteers who make an extraordinary effort to help marginalized people,” said Dan Stubbergaard, architect and COBE founder. “The roof of the building is now the Red Cross’s face to the world and a unique meeting place that acts both as a terraced stand and as stairs while also offering an attractive and inviting space to the many thousands of volunteers and, equally, to passersby and the rest of the city. The building has become an urban space and expresses both generosity and modesty while inviting the outside world in.” Related: COBE transforms former grain silo into swanky apartments in Copenhagen Since the project was opened to the public in November 2017, the Red Cross has garnered increased attention and visits from volunteers and passersby. The extension was constructed with a grant of DKK 30.7 million from the private foundation A. P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formål. + COBE Photography by Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST via COBE

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6 positive advancements against climate change to lead us into 2019

December 31, 2018 by  
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Global carbon emissions may be on the rise and poised to reach an all-time high this year , but that doesn’t mean there isn’t positive climate news to talk about. If you are looking for some uplifting stories about the environment as we close out 2018 and head into the new year, here are six reasons to be hopeful in spite of  climate change . Plant-based meat The carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is still the main greenhouse gas , but methane and nitrous oxide are more potent, and the levels are rising. Livestock farming is the main source of methane and nitrous oxide, and because the world loves meat and dairy, these gases are a huge factor in the battle against climate change. Simply put, if we don’t radically curb our meat consumption, we can’t beat global warming . Related: Look out meat industry — flexitarianism is on the rise People all over the world are switching to vegetarian, vegan  and flexitarian diets, and that is a step in the right direction. Bill Gates has invested in two plant-based burger companies that make food from plants that looks and tastes like meat. Major companies like Tyson, Danone and Nestle are also investing in plant-based products that have a tiny carbon footprint, so the market will continue to grow and offer a wide variety of plant-based foods. The renewable energy revolution Renewable energy is quickly becoming the new normal. Thanks to the cost of solar panels and wind turbines plummeting over the last decade, renewables are now cheaper than coal. There are already systems in place to shift from gas and oil to renewables. Companies all over the world are committing to renewable energy, and now more than half of the new capacity for generating electricity is renewable. Many parts of the world are already installing the cheapest electricity available. Last year, there was so much wind power in Germany that customers got free electricity . Even in the U.S., despite President Trump’s rollback of key climate legislation, there has been $30 billion invested in renewable energy sources. “We Are Still In” movement As a response to President Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement, thousands of America’s CEOs, college presidents and politicians have declared that the U.S. is “still in” the climate change fight with the We Are Still In movement. Over 2,600 leaders from across the country are standing together and committed to delivering the goals from the Paris Agreement. They also want to make sure that the U.S. continues to be a world leader in reducing emissions. More than 1,800 businesses and investors, 18 states and tribes and 335 of America’s colleges and universities are also part of the movement. More than half of the country’s Fortune 500 companies have the goal of cutting pollution . The death of coal Production of fossil fuels seems to have peaked in 2013, and since then, the demise has been shocking. Five years ago, the IEA anticipated a 40 percent growth in coal burning by 2040. But now, it only expects 1 percent growth. Bankruptcies are taking over the coal industry, and plans for many new coal plants are now dead and buried. China has halted plans for 151 coal plants, and in the U.K., coal has plummeted from 40 percent of the power supply to just 2 percent. This is all happening because solar and wind are now cheaper, but there is still more that can be done. When it becomes cheaper to build renewable energy sources compared to running existing coal plants, there will be zero reasons to keep digging coal out of the ground. Electric cars Oil is responsible for providing one-third of the world’s energy, so figuring out how to reduce this usage is a big challenge. One of the most promising options for reducing oil usage is battery-powered cars. They are starting to make a dent in the market, and China is leading the way by selling more electric cars every month than the U.S. and Europe combined. Just about every car manufacturer has  plans to go electric , and some will be doing it sooner rather than later. Both Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have announced plans to end production of pure fossil-fueled cars by 2021, and Tesla has already rolled out its Model 3. If current growth rates continue, EV-volumes.com analyst Viktor Irle said  that 80 percent of new cars will be electric by 2030. Batteries A big piece of the renewable puzzle is batteries. The big issue is how to deliver solar power when it’s cloudy or how to provide wind power on a calm day. New battery technology is now making it possible to continuously store renewable power, even when the sun is behind the clouds and the wind stops blowing. With battery technology improving so fast, the price of battery storage is expected to drop in half by 2030. The price of lithium-ion batteries has already dropped by 75 percent over the last six years. The latest battery technology is also contributing to the rising demand for electric cars. Via Grist , The Guardian and WWF Images via Appolinary Kalashnikova , KMW737 , Andreas160578 , Jon Tyson , Benita Welter , Stefan Schweihofer and  Sabine van Erp

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6 positive advancements against climate change to lead us into 2019

A couple builds a fairytale-like rental cabin near a volcano for $30K

November 6, 2018 by  
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When Caroline and Julien traveled across South America in their Volkswagen Kombi, the couple noticed a dearth of quality accommodations and decided to fill that hospitality gap by building a beautifully crafted rental cabin in Chile . After 19 months of construction, the couple realized their dream on the slopes of the Calbuco Volcano in Ensenada. Designed and constructed for an approximate cost of $30,000, the cozy, handcrafted home — dubbed Casa Nido — has been listed on Airbnb starting at $116 a night . Designing and building Casa Nido was a big adventure for the couple, given that they didn’t know anything about construction before starting. Yet all parts of the cabin , from the design and interior finishes to the electrical wiring and water systems, were carried out by the duo without any outside help. “We are offering tourists and travelers high quality, fully handmade accommodation, somewhere to relax and contemplate far away from consumer society,” said Caroline and Julien. “It is also the ideal place to rethink one’s priorities and experiment, for a given time, what is ‘going back to the essential.’” Inspired by images of fairytale cottages , Casa Nido spans two floors, with a ground floor of 290 square feet and a smaller second level of 129 square feet. The curved roof beam is constructed from plywood, and all the other timber materials are locally sourced, native species. For instance, Patagonian Cypress was used for the windows, doors and furnishings while Manio was used for the outside siding, interior lining and flooring. In addition to a bedroom that sleeps two, the cabin comes with a living room overlooking Calbuco Volcano vistas, a fully equipped kitchen that frames views of Osorno Volcano, a ground floor terrace and a wood-fired hot tub. Related: Award-winning glass cabin is nestled inside an Australian rainforest The cabin is powered by a photovoltaic solar system that provides enough electricity to meet daily needs, while the water is sourced from a nearby natural spring higher up in the valley. Wastewater is treated with a photo-purification system. The couple also plans to build a homemade biodigester to replace the use of gas cylinders for the cabin’s gas system. To wake up to volcano views at Casa Nido, check out the listing on Airbnb . + Casa Nido

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