How high-tech Kasita microhomes could revolutionize homeownership

March 17, 2017 by  
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America’s affordable housing crisis is squeezing people out of cities, but one Harvard researcher believes he’s developed a beautiful and high-tech solution to the problem. In 2015, Jeff Wilson—also known as “Professor Dumpster” after his year-long dumpster living experiment—unveiled Kasita , a smart microhousing startup that aims at disrupting the housing market with prefabricated tiny homes that can pop up just about anywhere. After a couple years in development, Wilson just debuted the Kasita microhouse at SXSW this week with the announcement that the tiny stackable homes will be ready for nationwide delivery in June. Stylish, smart, and space-saving, the 352-square-foot (33 square meter) Kasita mobile home offers a beautiful split-level living space that uses transforming furniture , white walls, and ten-foot-high ceilings to make its small footprint feel airy and spacious. Most impressively, the home is outfitted with ultra-modern amenities and home automation such as the dynamic curtain-less windows that can be turned opaque with a smartphone app to the Amazon Alexa-powered lighting modes. The high-tech stackable homes can be moved around with a crane, placed virtually anywhere, and can be prefabricated in as little as three weeks. https://vimeo.com/207700762 Envisioned for installation in unused areas of land like vacant parking lots, the Kasita aims to keep land lease costs low by taking advantage of undevelopable real estate in prime urban areas. The flexibility and modularity of the Kasitas lend themselves for use as apartments, multi-family homes, student housing, workforce housing, and more. Related: Meet the Texas Professor Who Lives in a Dumpster The Kasita comes fully equipped with all the traditional home amenities—including a walk-in shower, fridge, convection oven, washer/dryer, cooktop, and queen-sized bed—as well as lots of space-saving storage and access to natural light. Each unit costs $139,000, which according to Wilson’s calculations comes out to an estimated $800 monthly mortgage not including land lease costs. Interested customers can pay $1,000 to hold a spot on the waitlist for preorders. + Kasita

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How high-tech Kasita microhomes could revolutionize homeownership

Couple converts 16-year-old van into a compact solar home on wheels

February 24, 2017 by  
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An increasing number of digital nomads are replacing their conventional houses with practical, mobile homes powered by renewable energy technologies . Freelancer photographer Norbert Juhász and his fiancée Dora, a writer, have joined the fray with a 16-year-old van they transformed into a solar-powered home on wheels, and they’re driving it from Budapest to Morocco. While the exterior of the van is unremarkable, its interior packs all the amenities the couple needs on their journey. A multifunctional seat turns into a bed for two and includes a storage space and electrical system underneath. Opposite the bed is a small kitchen unit with a gas cooktop, gas cylinder, sink and a large water tank with a pressure-sensing pump. The tank is connected to an extra hook-up that leads to the rear of the van, where the water is used for quick showers. An L-shaped cabinet accommodates a refrigerator and more storage spaces, and features another section that doubles as a seating structure. Related: How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer The vehicle is powered by a 12-volt electrical system charged by either the 250-watt solar panels mounted on the roof, or the engine’s generator. Excess energy can be stored in 200-Ah batteries attached to an inverter. The couple spent around $7,200 for the van’s transformation, including its custom-made furniture. They will travel through Southern Europe all the way to Morocco, and document their journey on the Rundabella website and Facebook page . + Norbert Juhász + Rundabella Via Treehugger Photos by Norbert Juhász

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Couple converts 16-year-old van into a compact solar home on wheels

London’s ‘smallest house’ uses flexible plywood furniture to maximize space

February 23, 2017 by  
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Danish design firm Studiomama is known for their talent of creating comfy living space out of virtually nothing. However, designers Nina Tolstrup and Jack Mama recently put their skills to the test by buying a vacant 140-square-foot structure in Northern London just to convert the tiny space into “London’s smallest house”. Taking a cue from space-efficient interiors of caravans and boats, the designers focused on making use out of every corner of the compact space by creating flexible furniture . “A tiny space like this has to be designed like one would design the interior of a caravan or boat,” Studiomama co-founder Nina Tolstrup explained, “Everything has to be custom designed as there is not room for any off the shelf furniture, which was a great challenge.” Related: Space-saving furniture transforms to make the most of a Hong Kong micro-apartment https://youtu.be/gIfNhakS_PY Using plywood as the main material, they equipped the home with custom-made, adjustable furniture to divide it into distinct functions. The foldout bed , standing desk, and extendable dining benches add utility without occupying permanent space. Mirrors placed on either side of the home were create a feeling of amplitude, and two large windows allow for optimal natural light . To create a nice lounge area, a medium-size bench and a foldout footrest were installed into the main wall, which is covered in sliding pastel-hued panels. These panels cover use-specific storage cabinets such as a designated office space with a foldout desk, a sewing machine table, shelving for books, and even a wine rack. The designers used plywood for the furniture, as well as the ceilings and flooring, because of its versatility. “The use of one dominant material has made the space seamless – where floor, walls and ceiling comes together as one,” they said. “It is also a very warm material that makes the space feel cosy and cabin like.” The design layout for the tiny home was originally an installation for the 2016 London Design festival. The designers wanted to show how compact living can be comfortable. “We see the issues of how to live in a compact living space to be of growing importance, especially given the trends towards urbanisation and rise of megacities,” they said. “We wanted to use the project to pose a question about what are the things that we really need to live comfortably.” + Studiomama Via Dezeen Photography by Rei Moon, Director/Photographer MOON RAY Studio. Video by Suzie Joyce.

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London’s ‘smallest house’ uses flexible plywood furniture to maximize space

Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

February 23, 2017 by  
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The battle for Bears Ears National Monument is far from over. Weeks after Patagonia spurned the Outdoor Retailer Show trade show in Salt Lake City to protest Utah governor Gary Herbert’s quest to roll back nascent protections for the twin sandstone formations, the outdoor-apparel company has launched a campaign to inundate the gubernatorial office with calls demanding otherwise. Utahns are more than familiar with this song and dance: Locals, lawmakers, and environmentalists have long knocked heads over how the Bears Ears area, and its untapped reserves of gas and shale , should be developed. The 1.35 million-acre expanse of arches, buttes, and canyons, which several Native American tribes regard as sacred, isn’t the only public land under attack from Utah’s top politician. On February 17, Herbert signed a resolution urging President Donald Trump to narrow the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the south. “In passing two resolutions asking the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and reduce the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument, Governor Herbert and Utah’s state delegation have unleashed an all-out assault on the state’s protected public lands,” Patagonia wrote on a website powered by Phone2Action , which provides web and voice tools to help advocacy groups connect their supporters with elected officials. “This land grab would open wilderness and recreation areas to oil and gas development and could eliminate access to the diverse landscape that makes Utah unique.” Related: Patagonia boycotts huge Outdoor Retailer show to protest Utah Republicans The outdoor-recreation industry plays a major role in Utah’s economy, supporting some 122,000 jobs and bringing in $12 billion a year in consumer spending, according to Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia. For Patagonia, at least, boycotting the Outdoor Retail trade show was just a start. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah,” Marcario said. “And we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.” + Patagonia Via Outside Photos by Bureau of Land Management

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Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

February 23, 2017 by  
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Nearly 10 years ago, a group of scientists got together to build the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle , to prepare for a world threatened by climate change , wars, and natural disasters. According to The Crop Trust , an organization that supports the storage facility, the vault holds the world’s largest and most diverse seed collection – and just received a major investment of 50,000 new seeds . The Svalbard Global Seed Vault works to ensure food security and biodiversity for the future, and it appears many countries value that mission. The Crop Trust reported around 50,000 samples from seed collections in the United States, United Kingdom, Benin, Belarus, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Bosnia and Herzegovina recently arrived at the seed vault, which lies between Norway and the North Pole. Related: Syria withdraws seeds from Doomsday Vault as bombs disrupt crop research The Crop Trust executive director Marie Haga said at the vault, “Today’s seed deposit at Svalbard supported by The Crop Trust shows that despite political and economic differences in other arenas, collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong.” The seed vault helps countries today too – in 2015 a research center in Syria had to withdraw some seeds they’d stored as war plagued Aleppo, but they were recently able to return some of the seeds to the vault along with the rest of the recent deposit. The seed vault could store as many as 4.5 million seed varieties; until the recent deposit, there were over 880,000 samples stored, and the total has now reached 930,821 seed samples, including potato, wheat, sorghum, rice, lentil, barley, and chickpea seeds. The vault’s extreme location helps protect the seeds; permafrost and thick rock keep the samples frozen. The Crop Trust describes the facility as the ultimate insurance policy, saying it “will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final backup.” Via The Crop Trust ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Global Crop Diversity Trust on Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

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50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Rios $800 million Olympic Park sits nearly abandoned after 2016 games

February 23, 2017 by  
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Last year, during the 2016 Summer Games , it would have been hard to imagine the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro sitting empty in the hot Brazilian sun. Sadly, this is what has become of the space today. Despite having been officially reopened in January as a public recreation area, the park is treated to only a few visitors and a longstanding bad reputation. The $800 million Olympic Park was constructed in the months prior to last year’s Summer Games in a process that displaced residents and enraged others. Clare Richardson of Vice visited residents of the old Vila Autódromo favela, a community that was forced to move, later granted new public housing in the area. The city’s promises have fallen short of the agreed upon vision of building playgrounds, a court for sports, and a community center, leaving people with plain housing in an asphalt jungle. Residents have even resorted to creating their own speed bumps out of stones and trash cans to keep nearby roads safe. Related: Japan wants to make 2020 Olympic medals from recycled smartphones Visitors to the area feel shortchanged, as well. Vital services that were available during the park’s grand opening event, such as running water and electricity, are no longer available. The typical two-hour journey from the center of the city greets commuters with a sad skatepark , playground, and the ghostly spectacles of towering arenas. Bigger events, like the Rock in Rio music festival, are planned, but the park has become an inconvenient eyesore for the rest of the year. “I’ve seen about 12 people here since I arrived five hours ago,” Vinicius Martini, a beer vendor at the park, told Vice. “And I haven’t sold any beer.” Via Vice Images via Clare Robinson

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Rios $800 million Olympic Park sits nearly abandoned after 2016 games

Couple builds dream solar-powered home on an awkward lot in Rotterdam

February 23, 2017 by  
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When it came time for Dutch architects Gwendolyn Huisman and Marijn Boterman to build their dream home, they chose an extremely narrow plot of land in the city of Rotterdam. The plot presented a few challenges, which the pair overcame with a minimalist 12-foot-wide design that comes with its own rooftop garden and indoor hammock. If you need some inspiration, take a closer look at their SkinnySCAR house after the jump. The plot of land had been vacant for decades due to its small size. However, the couple was determined to efficiently convert the skinny space into a fully livable home. They clad the three-story strucure in a sophisticated black brick with two extra large windows, adding a strong character to the previously empty lot. Related: Super skinny 4-meter-wide home is squeezed between buildings in Tokyo https://vimeo.com/203146648 Of course, working with such a narrow space created a number of challenges on the interior. To create a sense of openness, the architects took advantage of the tall, skinny space by building three stories, all with incredibly high ceilings. Multiple large windows offer optimal natural light , and exposed concrete and white walls enhance the minimalist interior design. The entranceway to the 1,506-square-foot space opens up into the kitchen and dining area in the back of the home, which leads out into a shared garden space. The second floor houses a small library and reading lounge that includes a reading hammock that looks out over the interior garden space. Two small bedrooms and a unique bathroom with an open shower and aquatic green accents are housed on the third floor. For private outdoor space, the architects put a quaint little herb garden on their rooftop, which shares space with the home’s solar array . + SkinnySCAR House + JagerJanssen Via New Atlas Images via SkinnySCAR House

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Couple builds dream solar-powered home on an awkward lot in Rotterdam

New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties

February 23, 2017 by  
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Email already hobbled one politician; could it prove to be the downfall of another? The writing might be on the wall for Scott Pruitt , longtime foe of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , as well as its newest administrator. While serving as attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt regularly colluded with oil and gas producers and electric utilities with ties to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch to oppose federal environmental regulations, according to 7,500-plus pages of email that were made public on Wednesday. “The newly released emails reveal a close and friendly relationship between Scott Pruitt’s office and the fossil fuel industry, with frequent meetings, calls, dinners and other events,” said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy , which sued to obtain the documents. Indeed, the correspondence portrays a rapport that isn’t just amicable, but downright cozy. Devon Energy , an oil and gas exploration firm based in Oklahoma City, for instance, drafted—and redrafted—letters for Pruitt to sign and send to federal officials in opposition of regulations designed to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and ozone pollution. “Attached is a potential first-cut draft of a letter a (bipartisan if possible?) group of AGs might send to the acting EPA administrator and some others in the Administration in response to the NE states’ notice of intent to sue for more E&P emission regulation,” William Whitsitt, executive vice president for public affairs at Devon, wrote in 2013. Related: Scott Pruitt can’t name a single EPA regulation he approves of Months later, Clayton Eubanks, a deputy solicitor general, asked Whitsitt for advice on a draft the letter was preparing to send to the EPA regarding proposed regulations of methane emissions. “I would like to get the letter out in the morning,” Eubanks wrote. “Any suggestions?” Whitsitt was quick to respond. “Here you go. Please note that you could use just the red changes, or both red and blue (the latter being some further improvements from one of our experts) or none,” he wrote back. Hope this helps.” “I sent the letter today,” Eubanks emailed the next day. “Thanks for all your help on this.” Communications reveal a similar fraternity between his office and Koch Brothers-funded conservative political groups such as Americans for Prosperity , which emailed the offices of Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman thanking them for helping “push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states.” The emails’ release comes just days after Pruitt was promoted from EPA critic to EPA overseer. The road to his appointment was a rocky one, to say the least. Senate Democrats, environmental groups, and former and current members of the EPA staff launched a vociferous campaign against Pruitt, even calling for a delay on his confirmation vote until after the emails were made public. It was mostly for naught, however. Susan Collins from Maine was the sole Republican who voted against him, and Pruitt was confirmed by a 52-to-46 vote on Friday. Making his first speech at EPA headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, Pruitt told employees that he was here to “listen, learn, and lead.” Related: Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech Pruitt said the EPA needed to respect states’ roles in enforcing standards, and that “regulations ought to make things regular.” He also insisted that there shouldn’t be a disconnect between environmental protection and energy production. Nor should regulations hamper job creation. “We as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment,” Pruitt said. “That we don’t have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world at making sure we do the job of protecting our natural resources and protecting our environment while also respecting the economic growth and jobs our nation seeks to have.” Pruitt’s words did little to smooth staffers’ hackles, however. “Pruitt’s talk [was] as bad as expected,” one anonymous employee told Mother Jones . “Not one word about public health. And talking about the rule of law as if we didn’t do everything with the realization that it will end up in court. It was condescending and hypocritical.” + Center for Media and Democracy Photos by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties

Timber ‘prosthesis’ gives Mexican tiny apartment more flexibility

January 27, 2017 by  
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Supportive scaffolding typically comes down after a construction project is complete, but MANADA Architectural Boundaries has used the wooden “prosthesis” to add flexibility to a tiny apartment in Mexico City. The wooden skeleton is interwoven throughout the interior, creating a second level loft space and extending out to the patio, where its serves as the frame for a vertical garden . The apartment, located in La Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, has a layout typical to the area, with double-height ceilings, a simple interior, and a strong connection to nature. Updating the space was essential, but not at the cost of losing its original character. Related: MVRDV’s massive staircase made of scaffolding opens in Rotterdam According to the architects, the concept behind “Essay 4 Spatial Prosthesis” was inspired by artificial prostheses that are designed to “correct a damaged organ’s function; second, to extend an organ’s inherent capability.” Using this as the inspiration for the apartment’s renovation, the architects choose the wooden skeleton structure to provide a second floor loft space. In addition to providing another level to the home, the wooden “prosthesis” is strategically integrated throughout the space, creating new sitting nooks and functional space where possible. Continuing out into the apartment’s open-air patio, the structure serves as a light and airy frame for a lovely vertical garden . + MANADA Architectural Boundaries Via Archdaily Photographs by Jaime Navarro

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Timber ‘prosthesis’ gives Mexican tiny apartment more flexibility

Bouldering walls cover this tiny home built for adventure lovers

January 9, 2017 by  
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When Mississippi couple Breck and Kelsey sought to adopt life on the road with a tiny house on wheels, they asked Tiny Heirloom to design a dream home that epitomized their passion for adventure and love of rock climbing. The Portland-based luxury tiny homebuilder responded with the Tiny Adventure Home, a towable custom-build clad in real bouldering walls . Covered in colorful holds, the impressive bouldering walls run the length of the house and offer a rugged contrast to the chic and modern interior. Like its name implies, the Tiny Adventure Home fully embraces nature, from its timber-dominant materials palette to its large side window that opens like a garage door, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor living. The operable window also offers access to the bouldering wall, made up of modular Rockwerx panels. The house, which has the footprint of a double-axle 28-foot-long trailer, can be towed with a pickup truck . Related: Tiny Heirloom’s luxury micro homes let you live large in small spaces The contemporary interior is beautifully detailed with luxury fittings. A galley kitchen with a four-burner stove, range hood, oven, full-sized sink, and full-sized fridge with freezer is located in the center of the home opposite the large window. A dining area made up of a long table and two benches sits six is located on one end of the home, while a cozy office space is located on the loft area above. On the opposite end of the house is a loft bedroom with a double bed stacked above the bathroom. + Tiny Heirloom Via New Atlas Images via Tiny Heirloom

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Bouldering walls cover this tiny home built for adventure lovers

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