London tree rental service solves a Christmas quandary

December 9, 2020 by  
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People who like to decorate their houses for Christmas often face a tree dilemma: should they buy an artificial, plastic tree or a real, dead one? Now, a new U.K. business saves Londoners from that choice. London Christmas Tree Rental delivers a real, pot-grown tree, lets customers enjoy it for a few weeks, then picks it up in January and takes it back to a farm, where the tree can continue to grow. The tree rental service has enjoyed a roaring success this year. By the first week of December, it was sold out of all four tree sizes, from the three-footer to the six-footer. Related: Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment It’s a lucrative side business for owners Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns, who co-founded the company in 2018. “It all started when walking the streets of London in January and weaving between the Christmas tree graveyards that Jonathan decided enough was enough,” the company’s website reads. “With 7 million trees going into landfill each year for the sake of 3 weeks of pleasure there must be a better way to do Christmas trees.” Rental prices range from about 40 to 70 British pounds, or about $53 to $93 in U.S. dollars. Add in 10 pounds (about $13) each way for delivery and pickup, plus a 30 pound (about $40) deposit, and the rental tree can cost more than many cut or artificial trees. Still, it is a more sustainable option, plus trees that are well-cared for will result in a deposit refund. Customers also have the option for free tree pick-up and drop-off. Tree rental lets consumers feel good about the sustainability of their choices. While artificial trees may be reused for many years, they have a significant environmental cost. “In the U.S., around 10 million artificial trees are purchased each season,” according to the Nature Conservancy. “Nearly 90 percent of them are shipped across the world from China, resulting in an increase of carbon emissions and resources. And because of the material they are made of, most artificial trees are not recyclable and end up in local landfills .” Real, cut trees are a better environmental choice, as only a fraction of the trees grown at tree farms are cut down each year. Growing real trees doesn’t involve the the intense carbon emissions necessary for producing their faux brethren. But psychologically, many people balk at ending the life of a beautiful tree just so it can stand in a living room for a few weeks. It seems like selfish, flagrant domination over nature. And millions of these trees go to landfill after they spend less than a month adorning living rooms. London Christmas Tree Rental urges customers to name their trees, so that these plants feel more like family. If a customer grows attached to their tree, they can arrange to have the same one again next year — up to a point. At seven feet, the trees are transferred from their pots to retire in a forest . + London Christmas Tree Rental Via Upworthy Image via David Boozer

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House passes Big Cat Public Safety Act

December 9, 2020 by  
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a landmark legislation that will see big cats protected from human mistreatment. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) prohibits individuals from owning big cats in their homes or in roadside zoos. The act was passed by 272 votes, compared to 114 members who voted against the legislation. The bill, which was introduced by Michael Quigley and Brian Fitzpatrick in 2012, has been in the pipeline for a long time. Due to public outcry, the legislation has now been passed, prohibiting exploitation of big cats such as lions, leopards, and tigers . “After months of the public loudly and clearly calling for Congress to end private big cat ownership, I am extremely pleased that the House has now passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” Quigley said. “Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos.” Related: ‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S. The success in passing this legislation in the House has been attributed to the exposure of animal exploitation on the Netflix series “Tiger King.” Following the show’s popularity, in April 2020, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released footage showing the abuse that tigers and other big cats suffer at the hands of Joe Exotic, one of the leading personalities in “Tiger King.” The footage of Joe Exotic and other zoo workers routinely abusing big cats lead to public outrage, which resulted in varying levels of discipline for several people featured in the show. Joe Exotic himself is currently in prison for wildlife violations. The case of Joe Exotic’s mistreatment of wildlife is but one among many. Due to such incidences, multiple states have been implementing rules to control human-wildlife interactions. Currently, only five states, Nevada, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have no laws protecting big cats. As such, it has become necessary to have a federally recognized law to protect these animals. Keeping big cats in roadside zoos and homes also poses a public health threat. Since 1990, over 400 dangerous incidences, including 24 deaths, have been reported in 46 states and Washington, D.C. According to HSUS CEO Kitty Block and Sara Admunsen, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the only way to end these incidences is by introducing federal legislation. “But to wipe this problem out for good, we need strong federal laws that will prevent unscrupulous people from forcing wild animals to spend their entire lives in abject misery while creating a public safety nightmare,” they said in a joint statement.  The Big Cat Public Safety Act now moves to the Senate floor for voting. Via VegNews Image via Sherri Burgan

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Tree-planting drones aim to cool a hot planet

November 3, 2020 by  
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Professional tree planters typically plant upward of 11,000 trees per week. This sounds speedy until you compare Flash Forest’s plan to use two pilots and a drone to plant 100,000 trees in a day. The Canadian startup isn’t that fast yet. But this month, it plans to plant 40,000 trees on fire-ravaged land north of Toronto . Then, the organization will expand its efforts to other regions, with a goal of planting 1 billion trees by 2028. Flash Forest is one of several startups trying to restore forests with tree-planting drones. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, humans need to plant 1 billion hectares of trees to have any hope of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This equals a forest about the size of the U.S. Related: The daily life of a tree farmer with One Tree Planted “I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society,” said Flash Forest cofounder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom, as reported in Fast Company . “When you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.” When beginning a new project, Flash Forest first uses mapping drones to determine the best places to plant trees based on soil type and existing plant life. Then the planting drones swoop in, precisely depositing special moisture-storing seed pods. The drones even have a pneumatic firing device they can deploy in difficult terrain like mangrove forests or steep hills. “It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t,” Ahlstrom said. The startup, which launched in early 2019, can already plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods per day. Flash Forest matches the tree species with the environment — and what the environment might be like in the future. “We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them,” Ahlstrom explained. The drones don’t just drop the seedlings and desert them. Depending on the project, Flash Forest plans to check on the seedlings when they’re a couple of months old, then a year or two, then three to five years old. If all works out well, the trees will take eventually take care of themselves and, by extension, us humans as they help to limit the global temperature rise. + Flash Forest Via Fast Company Image via Ki-Kieh

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Modular Tree-House School concept connects kids with nature

October 27, 2020 by  
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Could this be the school of the future? Designer Valentino Gareri has created a concept for the Tree-House School, a sustainable and modular educational building that highlights children’s relationship with nature. The treehouse design distributes classes and age groups through multiple levels, incorporating usable roof classroom space and combining indoor with outdoor educational activities. As more and more schools prepare to reopen, the importance of having ample opportunities for distance learning and access to fresh air has become paramount. The Tree-House School envisions a learning center that is not only suspended and immersed in nature but also includes all phases of the educational process from kindergarten to secondary school. Related: Rimbin concept offers a look into the future of infection-free playgrounds Additionally, as people continue to relocate from big cities to less-populated areas thanks to the flexibility of remote work, rural areas around the world are gaining more popularity. The proposed design includes a modular educational center containing multiple levels of schooling, with all spaces fitting into two rings that create two courtyards and additional accessible rooftops. Classrooms are located inside the main circle, all with easy connection to courtyards and outdoor landscapes to help increase the relationship with nature both physically and visibly. Each 55-square-meter module is made of cross-laminated timber and corresponds to 20-25 students per classroom connected by a central corridor. The Tree-House School is operable 24/7 and features a community center, a plaza, a café and a library available to the entire community . The modular design allows for future school expansions, different programming and even opportunities for multiple functions, like temporary residential units or medical centers for emergencies. The building’s faceted facade is created by alternating solid timber and glazed panels; the circular perimeter blocks direct sunlight with opaque panels and diffuses light through transparent ones. Sustainability and energy-efficient measures include rainwater collection systems, natural cross-ventilation, photovoltaic panels and wind energy devices. + Valentino Gareri Images via Valentino Gareri

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CRA unveils designs for Biotic, a high-tech district in Brazil

September 8, 2020 by  
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After two years of development, international design firm Carlo Ratti Associati and consultancy firm Ernst & Young have unveiled their masterplan designs for Biotic, a high-tech innovation district in Brasilia, Brazil. Inspired by the Brazilian capital’s modernist masterplan engineered by urban planner Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, Biotic was conceived as an extension of the city’s historic layout as well as a reinterpretation of the city’s iconic superblocks to create a more nature-centric community with greater mixed-use programming.  Developed for public real estate company TerraCap, the 10-million-square-foot Biotic would be located between the UNESCO World Heritage “Plano Piloto” — the foundation of Brasilia in 1960 — and the 42,000-hectare Brasilia National Park in the northwest of the Federal District. The proposed technology and innovation district focuses on “domesticating nature” to allow residents, workers and visitors closer contact with nature in both public and private areas. Related: How Barcelona “superblocks” return city streets to the people The Biotic project expands on Brasilia’s iconic Superquadra (or superblock ) modules by subdividing each into pedestrian blocks with street fronts. These internal neighborhoods would not only be protected from traffic and pollution, but the inward-facing spaces would also promote social cohesion and community. The masterplan also champions mixed-use programming — a feature that was typically avoided in Brazil’s modernist urban planning in the mid-century. The architects intend to take advantage of Brasilia’s year-round mild climate to cultivate stronger connections with nature. For example, outdoor offices would be designed with curtain walls that could open like real curtains. Digital technologies embedded into plazas , pedestrian zones, shared vegetable gardens and other spaces would be used to monitor sunlight, wind and temperature and create comfortable working environments while allowing close contact with nature. “The office buildings, hovering above the ground level, are designed for sun and wind to come in,” said James Schrader, project manager at CRA. “Thanks to a system of openable wooden facades that can slide along the building like a curtain, the interior spaces will open to the exterior, allowing users to enjoy Brasilia’s weather. This project merges the interior and exterior into one space.” + Carlo Ratti Associati Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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CRA unveils designs for Biotic, a high-tech district in Brazil

Is almond milk bad for the environment?

March 30, 2020 by  
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Almonds are a nutritious and satisfying food source. Not only are the munchable nuts a popular snack , but they are also used in a variety of other consumable products, such as almond butter and almond flour, and can be used in a milk alternative for people with dairy allergies or vegan preferences. Almond milk, a supermarket staple, is used in everything from coffee to baking. But like many other crops, the spotlight has been on whether almonds and the increased demand for almond milk are damaging the environment. How is almond milk produced? It’s important to first understand that almond production is a regional issue. In the United States, California grows nearly every almond in the country and also provides more than 80% of almonds shipped around the world. Needless to say, that level of production affects a significant part of the state’s land, economy and resources. The result is an industry criticized for extreme water consumption and pesticide use. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative Water use in the almond industry The main headline on almonds echoes fears regarding excessive water use. The truth is that farming uses water and a lot of it; almonds are no exception. In fact, a single almond takes about 1.1 gallons of water to produce. However, to put this in perspective, a single pound of beef requires a whopping 1,800 gallons of water , proving that raising cattle is much more resource-intensive than growing almonds. Collectively, meat and dairy production in California uses more water than that of all homes, businesses and government buildings in the entire state. Those figures make choosing almond milk over dairy milk much easier. Farmers realize water is a precious resource, and it’s been a topic of conversation for decades. As a result, California almond producers have spent two decades reducing the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33%. Additionally, they are dedicated to further cutting water usage by another 20% by 2025. Farmers achieve this by targeting water usage where it is needed rather than spraying large areas. Technology is helping, too, with computer-programmed water probes that measure moisture levels in the soil and respond accordingly. Pesticides for growing almonds Another concern centers around the use of pesticides in almond production, as pesticides then end up in the soil and water supply. The answer to this problem is a basic one; simply buy organic . Although the transition has been gradual, an increasing number of almond farmers in California are converting to organic growing methods.  Is our obsession with almond milk killing bees? Then there are the claims that almond milk is killing bees , but almonds are important to bees. Not only is almond nectar the first feast bees have early in the year, but the almond groves support roughly 2 million hives from across the country, making it the world’s largest managed pollination event. With the good comes the bad — pesticides are indeed credited with contributing to colony collapse, enforcing the need to grow and buy organic almonds along with other nuts, fruits and vegetables. Almonds and the economy While California remains cognitive of the potential negative impacts of almond production, the benefits appear to outpace those concerns. As far as the economy goes, The California Agricultural Issues Center says the California almond community delivers significant economic value to the state, including providing 104,000 jobs in the state and boosting GDP by $11 billion. Almond milk’s overall impact on the environment While the discussion of almond production is important to whether almond milk is bad for the environment or not, it’s also critical to realize that most almond milk uses very few almonds. Most almond milks are high in added ingredients, like sugars, artificial flavors and thickeners. Almond milk packaging and transport both have a negative impact, and all of the added ingredients make the nutrition benefits of almond milk questionable at best. You can curb the environmental impact of prepackaged almond milk by making your own at home. There are recipes all over the internet that explain how to do so and even offer twists on the traditional almond flavor by using spices and natural flavorings. So to address the question, “Is almond milk bad for the environment?” the answer is somewhat, but the benefits of a healthy snack producing a healthy economy and a healthy bee population outweigh the water consumption issues. Also remember that almonds offer the same environmental benefits of any other tree, cleaning the air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Plus, the branches offer shade to the soil allowing for better water retention and less evaporation. When the leaves drop, they add nutrients to the soil through natural composting. In all, the carbon footprint is somewhat small, especially compared to conventional dairy, while the economic, nutritional and environmental rewards are high. Images via Pixabay

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We wore Allbirds’ Tree Runners around the world here’s how they performed

December 27, 2019 by  
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Shoes made from wood pulp that are actually comfortable? Count us in! Allbirds took the internet by storm after its Wool Runners, made using New Zealand merino wool and tested by numerous consumers, were deemed “the world’s most comfortable shoes” by almost everyone. After selling 1 million pairs of shoes just two years after officially launching in March 2016, the brand developed a cult following pursued by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and former President Barack Obama. At $95 a pair (the company has yet to have a sale, citing the fact that it is already charging the lowest amount possible for its shoes), Allbirds can be enjoyed even by those without celebrity-level wealth. Allbirds was founded in New Zealand, a place where sheep outnumber humans six to one. According to the company, its process uses 60 percent less energy than typical synthetic shoe manufacturing, and companies such as ZQ Merino make sure the wool used in these shoes is held to the highest standards of farming, land management and animal welfare. Related: These waterproof shoes are made of recycled coffee grounds The newer Tree Runners line takes sustainability a step further — these shoes combine the time-tested merino wool with light tree fibers . Inhabitat tried out the Tree Runners for a couple of months to see if these captivating sneakers are all that they are cracked up to be. Allbirds’ Tree Runners are made using sustainably harvested eucalyptus pulp. The material is lightweight, forms to your foot and helps your feet stay cool with its breezy fabric. The tree fiber, TENCEL™ Lyocell, is sourced from South African farms that rely on rainfall rather than irrigation and need less fertilizer. If you compare that to cotton, according to the site, it uses 95 percent less water and cuts the carbon footprint in half. The trees are FSC-certified as well, meaning the wood is harvested sustainably and held to a strict standard to protect forests. To create a signature yarn to meet its own standards for comfort and sustainability, Allbirds combined the eucalyptus tree fiber and merino wool for the unique Tree Runners. The shoe laces are made entirely from post-consumer recycled polyester; the eyelets consist of bio-based TPU, which is formed by plant sugar-consuming microorganisms. For cushioning, Allbirds uses castor bean oil rather than petroleum-based foam to reduce carbon output. So far, we’ve walked many steps in these shoes, including in a couple of cities in Europe, all across Disneyland and beyond. The results were happy feet and hardly any soreness — no easy feat when it comes to full days of non-stop walking. The shoes are great for the changing seasons and temperatures thanks to the breathable yet sturdy fabric , and they are easy to slip on and off at the airport. One of the chief complaints among customers has to do with the sizing, which doesn’t include half-sizes, presumably to avoid wasting product because half-sizes are so minute. Allbirds combats this issue by assuring a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy if its shoes don’t fit, suggesting buyers size up in the Wool Collection and size down with the Tree Runners and Tree Skippers if they typically wear a half-size. The shoes came packaged in imaginative, 90 percent post-consumer recycled cardboard that served as a combination shoe box and mailer all in one. Another factor that throws consumers off is the claim that the shoes can be comfortably worn without socks due to the breathable and soft merino wool, which minimizes odor (less sweat equals less stink). We wore them for short periods without socks and can say that they were perfectly comfortable, although after about an hour or so, there was slight rubbing on the back of the heel (no blisters to speak of, thankfully). Speaking of wool, don’t let that scare you; merino wool is some of the softest material on earth. It’s nothing like the scratchy wool sweaters your Grandma used to put you in. Despite the name, these shoes don’t feel well-suited for long-distance running. The shoes are machine-washable, and the website sells replacement insoles for $15 each. While there was no issue with foot support on our end, those who need a lot of additional arch support may want to consider getting their own insole inserts. The company is so transparent about its manufacturing methods that you’d almost think they wanted others to steal their ideas (hint: they do ). It is a mindful organization that clearly values the environment while still retaining a business model that keeps its sustainable ways in the public eye. Allbirds is also a Certified B Corporation , meaning that it is required to consider the impact of its business decisions on the environment. Comfort aside — and these shoes are very comfortable — the focus on genuinely sustainable materials is the real triumph with Allbirds’ one-of-a-kind footwear, especially considering that, even in 2019, a vast majority of the shoes in American closets are made from non-compostable, unrecyclable plastic . Not only is it the perfect minimalist shoe, but it also has all the style and comfort you’d ever want in an everyday sneaker. + Allbirds Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Allbirds. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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We wore Allbirds’ Tree Runners around the world here’s how they performed

Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

October 2, 2019 by  
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Alder Creek, a 530-acre forest billed as the largest privately owned giant sequoia property in the world, will be acquired by century-old conservation group, Save the Redwoods League. The group will ultimately transfer the land to the United States Forest Service to safeguard the trees as a national treasure. Alder Creek’s sequoia trees number 483, many with diameters of 6 feet or greater. Mightiest of Alder Creek’s sequoias is Stagg Tree, believed to be the fifth-largest tree in the world. It towers at 250 feet with a width of 25 feet. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment Known for reaching heights of more than 300 feet, giant sequoias are esteemed for their rarity. What sets apart the giant sequoia from other trees is that it lives to be up to 3,000 years old, older than Christmas itself. Only two other tree species — the Great Basin bristlecone pine and the Patagonian cypress — have members older than the giant sequoia. These trees are only found in approximately 73 groves across 48,000 acres of Sierra Nevada territory. Most of the land these majestic behemoths grow on is in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park .  The height and girth of one giant sequoia means this ancient type of tree is resilient. Its carbon-sequestering capacity makes it irreplaceable, which is why its long-term conservation is of poignant significance. It is also home to such endangered animals as the American marten, California spotted owl and Pacific fisher. “Old growth of any species , let alone the world’s largest trees, is extraordinarily rare,” explained Samuel Hodder, president and SEO of Save the Redwoods League. “There is precious little left of the natural world as we found it before the Industrial Revolution. Alder Creek is the natural world at its most extraordinary.” Alder Creek, located about 10 miles south of Yosemite National Park, is comparable in size and significance to the renowned Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Of the 1,200 acres of giant sequoia stands still held privately, Alder Creek is the largest, measuring about five times the size of other privately owned parcels. Alder Creek has been on land owned by the Rouch family since the 1940s. Claude Albert Rouch initially purchased the land for logging . While the family logged pine and fir for lumber, they made sure the giant sequoias remained unscathed. The deal has been under negotiation for the past 20 years, and the group has until the close of 2019 to garner the $15.6 million required to secure Alder Creek’s purchase. + Save The Redwoods League Via Times Standard Photography by Victoria Reeder via Save the Redwoods League

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Conservation group to purchase worlds largest privately owned giant sequoia forest

More than half of Europes native trees face extinction

September 30, 2019 by  
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Europe’s endemic trees are threatened by extinction, states a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessment on biodiversity. The unfortunate decline is due to the combination of three paramount factors: problematic invasive species , unsustainable deforestation from logging and wood harvesting and urban development. According to the IUCN’s European Red List , there are 454 native European tree species, of which 265 species are found nowhere else on the planet except in continental Europe, and 252 species are found only in the 28 European Union (EU) member-states. Of these, 168 species (or 42 percent) are regionally threatened with extinction. Related: Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years Circumstances adversely affecting European trees include changes in forest and woodland management. More poignant is the significance of ecosystem modification, as in the case of forest fire, land abandonment, agricultural encroachment, livestock farming and even tourism. But the three most hazardous are invasive species, deforestation and urban development. “It is alarming that over half of Europe’s endemic tree species are now threatened with extinction ,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List Unit. “Trees are essential for life on Earth, and European trees, in all their diversity, are a source of food and shelter for countless animal species, such as birds and squirrels, and play a key economic role. From the EU to regional assemblies and the conservation community, we all need to work together to ensure their survival.” The IUCN report calls for more data gathering and analysis, especially regarding overlooked species. By improving knowledge of all these “overlooked” European species, the continent’s biodiversity can be better managed and protected. Tree species , unfortunately, are rarely prioritized in conservation planning and policy making. But it is hoped that the recent disclosure of the IUCN’s European Red List findings will change that. Growing public awareness can help galvanize urbanization control, conservation action and sustainable management. “This report has shown how dire the situation is for many overlooked, undervalued species that form the backbone of Europe’s ecosystems and contribute to a healthy planet,” explained Luc Bas, director of IUCN’s European Regional Office. “We need to mitigate human impact on our ecosystems and prioritize the protection of these species.” + IUCN Images via Noël Zia Lee

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Steel-framed treehouse slated for Malaysian national park

July 19, 2019 by  
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Visitors to the Taman Tugu National Forest Park in Kuala Lumpur will soon have a playful steel observation tower to take in the immense tropical forest. Designed by Daniel Tiong, Nature’s Catalog consists of three cubed steel frames which interlock vertically to create multiple level, open-air platforms that rise up to through the tree canopy. Recently named the winner of the Greenovation Gazebo Design Competition, the Nature’s Catalog design will be installed along a newly opened forest trail in Malaysia’s National Forest Park, Taman Tugu. The location is an idyllic tropical stetting where hikers on the trail will be soon able to enjoy the beautiful views from the tree canopies. Related: Awesome two-story treehouse is half jungle gym and all childhood dream come true The observation tower is comprised of three steel cube-like framed with open sides, creating a series of open-air platforms that rise up vertically from the ground. To get to the structure, a roped off trail leads from the hiking path. A perforated split staircase leads visitors to the first level platform, which then rises up through the middle platform. There, a sunken courtyard provides a nice space for large groups. A fun cat ladder leads up to the top of the observation deck , allowing for prime views of the lush tropical landscape. The multiple platforms were all purposely laid out in tight configurations, and at differing heights, creating private reading or contemplation spaces, open terraces, as well as courtyards, reading areas, a meditation room, etc. Additionally, the tower’s platforms are made out of perforated panels so that the forest trees and vines can grow unobstructed through the slats over time. Due to the natural, remote location, all of the building materials, which are minimal apart from the steel frames themselves, will be delivered by hand and assembled on site in order to reduce impact on the existing landscape. + Daniel Tiong Photography by Steven Ngu Ngie Woon, Daniel Tiong

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