Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

June 13, 2019 by  
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In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources , eco tourism and reforestation. Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming , the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes. “The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.” The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?” Related: Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy. + EETJ Images via EETJ

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Architects envision a sustainable future for a Finnish island at risk of rising sea levels

Ending animal exploitation in tourism with World Animal Protection

June 13, 2019 by  
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World Animal Protection works internationally to end the suffering of animals and urge all people to do more to protect our furred, feathered and scaly friends. World Animal Protection (formerly World Society for the Protection of Animals) works on many fronts— including wild animals, farmed animals and those suddenly displaced by disasters. Ontario-based campaign director Melissa Matlow talked to Inhabitat about World Animal Protection’s work to end the exploitation of animals in the name of tourism. Inhabitat: How and when did World Animal Protection first get involved with educating tour operators about animal attractions? Melissa Matlow: World Animal Protection has been campaigning to protect wild animals that are suffering for tourism for several years now. More than 20 years ago we started working with local partners to bring an end to bear dancing in Greece, Turkey and India, and bear baiting in Pakistan. We have been working to protect the welfare of elephants in Asia since 2005. In 2015, we launched the Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign globally and working to influence the tourism industry became one of the organization’s priority campaigns. We decided to shine a spotlight on the problem of elephant riding first because it is one of the cruelest activities and tourist demand is fueling the poaching of elephants from the wild. In 2017 we released our Taken for a Ride Report , which reviewed the welfare of nearly 3,000 elephants used for tourism in 220 tourist venues in six countries (Thailand, India, Nepal, Laos, Sri Lanka and Cambodia). We discovered that the majority of these elephants (77 percent) were living in grossly substandard conditions. Related: Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism Inhabitat: Can you tell me a little bit about the TripAdvisor campaign? Matlow: We showed TripAdvisor our research into the animal welfare and conservation impacts of Wildlife Tourism Attractions (WTA) and how wildlife lovers were unknowingly causing harm to animals by participating in these activities. Tourists were seeing and buying tickets to cruel attractions that offer elephant rides and tiger selfies on TripAdvisor and leaving positive reviews. After more than half a million people joined our campaign and signed our petition asking TripAdvisor to stop selling cruel attractions, they listened and announced in 2016 their commitment to stop selling some problematic attractions and set up an educational portal for people to learn more. Inhabitat:  What other tour operators and companies has World Animal Protection worked closely with?                    Matlow:  World Animal Protection has worked with the Travel Corporation, G Adventures, Intrepid, World Expeditions and many other tour operators to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. Together we formed the Coalition for Ethical Wildlife Tourism to shift tourist demand towards humane and sustainable alternatives. Inhabitat:  What have been some of your biggest wins? Matlow:  We are now working with some of the largest travel companies in the world to put an end to elephant riding and other forms of wildlife entertainment. More than 200 tour operators have signed our pledge committing to never offer, sell or promote elephant rides and shows. After more than half a million people signed our petition and joined our movement, TripAdvisor committed to stop selling tickets to cruel attractions. Expedia soon followed suit and in 2017 we convinced Instagram to educate its users of the cruelty that happens behind the scenes for wildlife selfies. Inhabitat:  What are still the biggest challenges? Matlow: We need to reach the right people— wildlife lovers who are unknowingly causing harm by participating in wildlife entertainment activities and the travel companies who sell them tickets. One of our challenges is to debunk the many myths that these tourists and travel companies are commonly subjected to. Many tourist attractions dupe people into thinking they are protecting the animals and serving some kind of conservation and education benefit but nothing could be further from the truth. Tourists don’t realize that these attractions are commercially breeding and trading wild animals for the sole purpose of entertaining them. The demand is fueling the capture of wild animals from the wild. The animals suffer every day in small tanks and cages to entertain tourists and won’t ever be released into the wild. Tourists aren’t learning about how to keep the animals in the wild, where they belong. If anything, they are being desensitized to their suffering in captivity and learning that it is okay to get up close to them to feed them, pet them and take wildlife selfies. Inhabitat: What are the most important things for tourists to keep in mind when evaluating animal attractions? Matlow: Our simple rule of thumb is— if you can ride it, hug it or take a selfie with a wild animal, chances are it is cruel, so don’t do it. The best place to see wild animals is in the wild from a respectful distance. People can download our Animal-Friendly Travel Pocket Guide and visit our website to learn more about the work we do to encourage animal-friendly tourism and to protect the welfare of animals globally. +World Animal Protection Images via World Animal Protection

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A new study estimates how many people will die from global heating in your city

June 6, 2019 by  
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A new study reveals the severity of global heating by calculating how many heat-related deaths would occur in major U.S. cities if the world continues to heat at the current rate. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami are predicted to see the highest number of deaths every year, but with each half degree cooler that the world remains, hundreds of lives can be saved. The study estimates that if the world continues on the current path to heat up to 3 degrees Celsius above the average pre-industrial global temperature, 5,800 people would die annually from heat-related deaths in New York City, 2,500 in Los Angeles and 2,300 in Miami. The analysis included 15 cities, and the numbers may be conservative, because the researchers did not adjust for additional temperature increases from urban heat island effect . The calculations also did not adjust for population growth nor potential adaptation measures. Climate justice advocates, particularly from vulnerable small islands, have been vocal about the need to curtail global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius. Studies show that increasing temperatures will lead to disastrous coastal flooding, drought, sea level rise and extreme weather. This most recent study predicts that by meeting this ambitious target, 2,716 lives could be saved every year in New York City alone. Related: Climate twins — which city will your city feel like in 2080? By demonstrating specific numbers and individual lives lost, the researchers are hopeful their study will contribute to mounting evidence that radical action must occur to stop the climate crisis . “Reducing emissions would lead to a smaller increase in heat-related deaths, assuming no additional actions to adapt to higher temperatures,” said Kristie Ebi, a study co-author from the University of Washington. Despite President Trump’s efforts to expand the oil and gas industry both nationally within the U.S. and internationally as a major export, the average American is increasingly concerned and fearful about global warming. In fact, climate change is a central issue for democrats in the upcoming 2020 election and will certainly spur conversation and debate, though time will tell if it will also spur action. + Science Advances Via The Guardian Image via Martin Adams

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Two thirds of world’s rivers are contaminated with drugs

May 30, 2019 by  
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A large study of the world’s rivers found that out of 711 sites tested, the majority are dangerously contaminated with antibiotics. The study , conducted by the University of York, is the largest of its kind and involved a team of international scientists testing for water pollution. Last month, British Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sally Davies argued that the rising prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is just as much an existential crisis as climate change and called on widespread awareness, protest and action. According to the United Nations , antibiotic resistant bacteria could be responsible for 10 million deaths by 2050. This most recent study confirms that environmental bacteria are a major pathway to resistance among bacteria, with over 65 percent of all sites recorded with dangerous levels of antibiotics. The prevalence of bacteria in rivers and ecosystems allows bacteria to develop immunity to the drugs over time, rendering them useless for human saving purposes. Related: Supreme Court will make historic Clean Water Act ruling “It’s quite scary and depressing. We could have large parts of the environment that have got antibiotics at levels high enough to affect resistance,” said Alistair Boxall, who co-led the study. Drugs enter waterways primarily through human and animal waste that contain the antibiotics and cause water pollution. In addition to health care, antibiotic use is alarmingly high in the farming industry. Waste can enter directly into waterways in low-income countries, or through leaks in wastewater facilities. In some cases, drug manufacturing sites might also leak or illegally dump waste into watersheds. According to the study, the Danube river in Austria contained clarithromycin at four times the level considered safe, while the Thames river contained ciprofloacin at three times the safe level. In Bangladesh a river was reported to be the most severe site, with metronidazole at 300 times the safe level. The researchers plan to follow their study with further research on how the antibiotic prevalence is further contaminating waters and affecting fish and wildlife . Via The Guardian Image via pxhere

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Two thirds of world’s rivers are contaminated with drugs

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

RRA unveils mountain-inspired ski resort that emphasizes nature and community

May 29, 2019 by  
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Oslo-based architectural firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter (RRA) has won first place in Alpinco Gondoltoppen AS’ competition for the design of a new master plan for a mixed-use resort in Hafjell, an alpine village famous for its skiing and impressive mountain vistas. The project, called Mosetertoppen, will cover an area that’s slightly over 538,000 square feet and is expected to house approximately 1,000 people. Early design renderings show the buildings built primarily from wood, topped with green roofs and inspired by the mountainous surroundings. Because most visitors to Hafjell come for the stunning landscape, Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter decided to emphasize the site’s natural attributes in its master plan. The timber buildings will feature gabled rooflines of varying heights in reference to the surrounding mountains, while large windows open the interiors up to views of the outdoors. The local vernacular is referenced in the traditional building shapes yet the spacious roof cutouts for balconies, clean lines and green roofs create a more modern interpretation. “The project will emerge as an exciting whole-year-around destination at Hafjell — a place for a multitude of activities and a place where everyone should feel welcome,” the architects explained. “The project will be rooted in both tradition and innovation. Tradition is for implementing the best of the cultural landscape and building art. Innovation to contribute with rethinking in relation to sustainable architecture and how to build in the Norwegian mountain landscape in the future.” Related: Greenery fills this sustainable glass-and-timber tower planned for Oslo Mosetertoppen emulates the feel of a densely populated village with its large buildings clustered together around shared outdoor spaces. For visual interest, the dimensions and designs of the building interiors and exteriors will vary. The ground floor of certain buildings will be given over to commercial use. Cars will also be tucked underground to create a pedestrian-friendly environment. + Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter Images via Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

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RRA unveils mountain-inspired ski resort that emphasizes nature and community

Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

May 20, 2019 by  
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Our quest to save the world by achieving 100 percent renewable energy will unfortunately also be devastating for the environment . An increase in renewable energy means an increase in the need for batteries to power electric cars and store energy from solar panels and wind turbines. However, batteries are made from unsustainably and unethically sourced metals. A new report , released by the University of Technology in Sydney, estimates that the surge in battery production will increase the demand for metals four times above what is currently available in the earth’s existing mines and reserves. The researchers calculated how the demand for “green batteries” will rise if countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments and transition to 100 percent renewable energy and transportation by 2050. Their findings indicate that the demand will exceed the amount of cobalt that is currently available and will consume 86 percent of the earth’s lithium. What metals are needed? Phones, solar panels, wind turbines and the batteries they use to store energy all use a variety of metals. In addition to lithium, batteries use cobalt, manganese and nickel. Solar panels are made from tellurium, gallium, silver and indium. Other renewable devices also use copper and aluminum. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history The impact of metal mining Metal mining is largely unsustainable and there is currently no plan for ensuring a clean transition to renewable energy that reforms the mining industry. The following metals are especially problematic and in high demand: Cobalt 60 percent of all cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the mining process causes large scale heavy metal contamination of the air, water and soil. Moreover, the cobalt industry has widely documented human rights abuses, including employing children and forcing workers to mine in highly dangerous circumstances. After extraction in rural areas of the DRC, the raw metal travels to the capitol for processing and is typically transported to China, which refines 40 percent of all cobalt. Chinese companies then sell the refined cobalt to places such as Vietnam, where batteries are produced and then sold all over the world. In addition to the atrocious impacts at the mining site, the entire industry has a massive carbon footprint . Innovators are desperately trying to design a cobalt-free battery. Elon Musk even tweeted a commitment to discovering a new way to produce batteries, hoping to distance Tesla from the environmental and human rights issues tied to the cobalt industry. Such battery technology is not a likely possibility in the near future and the demand for renewable energy will cause a spike in the need to rely on the existing cobalt market at the expense of nature and thousands of lives. Lithium Lithium is largely extracted from South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The mines have contaminated drinking water reserves and cause conflict with local communities. Leaders from 33 indigenous groups sued mine operators over their right to clean water, however, they are up against a powerful industry that charges everything from our TV remotes to our beloved cellphones. Copper A new technology promises a more environmentally friendly strategy for extracting copper from the ground. It involves injecting an acid solution into the land while leaving the surface relatively undisturbed. However, the technology may still contaminate land and ground water. In Alaska , an indigenous group has been fighting a proposed copper mine on the site of a world’s most highly productive sockeye salmon fishery. Despite the importance of this ecosystem , the indigenous leaders have an uphill battle against powerful corporations, rising demand and limited copper reserves. Solutions: The greening of batteries Despite the negative impact of battery materials, experts still argue that the transition to renewable energy is worth it. Energy professor, Charles Barnhart of Western Washington University, told the media: “I want to be clear that when we talk about environmental impacts, we’re not trying to decide between ‘lesser evils,’” the destructive legacy of fossil fuels is incomparable. Although metal mining may never be clean, there are a few ways to improve the problem: Demand transparency from battery and electronics companies If mining operations and electronics companies know that consumers are paying attention to their supply chains, human rights practices and environmental impacts they are more likely to do the right thing. Respect rights of indigenous communities The sovereignty and voices of dissent from local communities must be recognized and supported both legally and financially in places from the DRC to Alaska. Increase energy efficiency The world’s transition to renewable energy seems to be the path forward, however people can still reduce their need for electricity in their every day lives. For example, homes built to make the most of natural light use less electricity during the daytime. Recycle batteries The lithium and cobalt recycling industry will be worth $23 billion by 2025 and will rise with increasing demand. Major companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon are developing battery recycling programs for their products. Related: A growing number of states are aiming for clean energy Tips on how to recycle your batteries: Single-Use Batteries Identify a collection program or event in your area by calling your town hall or using Earth911’s Recycling Search program. Store batteries in plastic or cardboard containers and cover the ends with tape to prevent energy drain. Rechargeable batteries Identify a collection program. Many home and office supply stores have recycled battery dropboxes. Remove the battery from your electronics and cover the ends with clear tape. Via Earther Images via Shutterstock

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Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

Architects transform a residential building into a lush, green oasis in the heart of So Paulo

May 20, 2019 by  
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Although São Paulo is known as a bustling metropolis, a local architectural firm, Lucia Manzano Arquitetura , is doing its part to add more green to the concrete and glass cityscape. The Lorena is a residential building in the heart of the city that is designed to integrate architecture and landscape. It infuses an abundance of vegetation throughout from its ground floor garden, which was planted with native shrubs and trees to attract local fauna, to the massive balconies covered in hanging greenery, and of course, a lush green roof. Sitting in the middle of São Paulo, the 28,000-square-foot Lorena building holds court in a quiet area, standing out significantly from its concrete neighbors thanks to the massive amount of vegetation that hangs from each of its outdoor terraces and rooftop gardens . According to the architects, the inspiration for the design was to create a strong relationship between landscape and architecture. To do so, the building was covered in layers of vibrant plants. Related: Translucent Ho Chi Minh City office tower infused with greenery helps combat urban pollution The concrete building is four stories, comprised of several 5,543-square-foot duplex units. The common areas, the ground floor and the rooftop were conceived as private gardens for the residents. On the ground floor, the landscaping includes  native vegetation , such as local species from the Atlantic Forest as well as fruit and native trees, chosen to attract local birds and insects. This space also has an extended splash pool to create a soothing oasis where the residents can relax. At the top of the building, residents can also enjoy a beautiful green roof . Equipped with large trees, shrubs and flowers, there are also plenty of lounge chairs to take in the stunning views of the city. When they are not strolling along the pool or taking in the rooftop vistas, residents have their own private escape at home. Each duplex has four bedrooms, each with its own private balcony that pulls double-duty as flowerbeds. The living space in each unit opens up to a balcony, merging the interior with the exterior. As well as creating the sense of being surrounded by a garden , the abundance of plant life also provides the residences with plenty of privacy. + Lucia Manzano Arquitetura  Via Archdaily Photography by Evelyn Müller via Lucia Manzano Arquitetura

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Even the most remote islands are victims of plastic pollution

May 17, 2019 by  
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Plastic hasn’t taken much more than a century to conquer the entire world. Since plastic’s invention in 1907, it has infiltrated even the most remote island chains, according to a new study by marine biologist Jennifer Lavers and her associates. When the researchers visited the Cocos Keeling Islands — 6 square miles of land 1,300 miles off Australia’s northwest coast — they found a staggering accumulation of plastic waste . Because nearly no one lives on the islands, the plastic bags, straws , cutlery, 373,000 toothbrushes and 975,000 shoes must have floated there. “So, more than 414 million pieces of plastic debris are estimated to be currently sitting on the Cocos Keeling Islands, weighing a remarkable 238 tons,” Lavers said in an NPR report . Lavers is a research scientist at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. Related: Ocean explorer finds plastic waste during world’s deepest dive Lavers and her research team studied seven of the 27 islands, mostly in 2017. They marked off transects of the beaches , then counted the plastic pollution inside the transects. Their estimated total is based on multiplying the plastic waste found in each transect by the total beach area of the Cocos Keeling Islands. But what surprised Lavers most was how much plastic pollution was buried beneath the sand. Her team dug four inches down. “What was really quite amazing was that the deeper we went, the more plastic we were actually finding,” she said. The sun’s heat breaks down plastic waste sitting on the sand’s surface, then waves drive tiny plastic pieces into the sand. “It’s the little stuff that’s perfectly bite-sized,” Lavers said. “The stuff that fish and squid and birds and even turtles can eat.” There’s not a lot of good news in Lavers’ study , which was published in the journal Nature. As the authors point out in their introduction, global plastic production is increasing exponentially, with about 40 percent of items entering the waste stream after a single use . “Unfortunately, unless drastic steps are taken, the numbers and challenges will only grow, with the quantity of waste entering the ocean predicted to increase ten-fold by 2025,” the study warned. + Nature Via NPR Image via Jennifer Lavers

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Even the most remote islands are victims of plastic pollution

Futuristic treehouse in Arkansas is designed to inspire imagination

May 16, 2019 by  
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Heat-treated pine and steel were used to create this unique treehouse inside the Garvan Woodland Gardens in central Arkansas. The space, a 210-acre nature park with botanical gardens owned by the University of Arkansas, borders the Quachita River. The structure itself resides inside a children’s garden full of native trees such as oak and pine, and serves as an interactive experience for children. The treatment process to create the “thermalised” southern yellow pine uses heat and steam to ensure longer-lasting durability of the wood . It also makes the wood less susceptible to weather and the elements. Related: Floating treehouse inside Mexican forest is a dreamy escape from city noise The slatted design provides a strong, safe way for the children to feel more connected with nature . The curves were intentional, influenced by “dendrology,” or the study of trees, exhibited by the way the house changes shape while walking through. Using six pairs of skinny steel columns, the treehouse is lifted 13 to 25 feet into the air. This ensures that the natural ground below wouldn’t have to be manipulated in order to install the structure— an important consideration for the protected nature park. It’s a win-win situation, as the elevated location allows visitors to feel suspended into the air among the trees without a dangerous climb. The treehouse is multi-storied and has a raised walkway leading into the entrance in the center. When it comes to the actual structural design , the designers built a centralized spine made of steel that runs along the entire treehouse. Connected to the spine are 113 ribs (10 made of steel and the rest out of pine) that act as a sort-of skeleton, as well as features floor plates and six pairs of columns. Holes constructed into the east and north-facing ends give visitors an unobstructed view of the forest and tree canopies, with the eastern side partly covered by a decorative metal screen for added safety and allure. As for the “tail” of the treehouse, the designers used a metal infill and net to give users the illusion of danger (while still completely protected) keeping the spirit and excitement of a traditional treehouse alive. + Modus Studio Via Deezen Images via Modus Studio

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