MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

November 24, 2020 by  
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MVRDV has revealed designs for Chengdu Sky Valley, a competition entry for the Future Science and Technology City, which is a planned district on the outskirts of Chengdu, China. Guided by sustainable and placemaking principles, the masterplan seeks to differentiate itself from the country’s other high-tech cities with an emphasis on retaining the existing agricultural landscape, promoting self-sufficient lifestyles and designing with site-specific analyses in mind. Developed as part of Chengdu’s Eastward Development Strategy, the planned Future Science and Technology City will be developed on a rural swath of land adjacent to the new Tianfu International Airport with access to the city’s Metro Line 18. Rather than raze the rural area, the architects sought to retain and enhance the existing landscape — characterized by agricultural fields, rolling hills and scattered villages — while embedding new areas of development in between preserved farming areas.  Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “The dichotomy between the existing rural landscape and the future science and technology campus demands a solution that balances tradition and innovation, past and future, young and old, East and West, technology and agriculture,” MVRDV explained. “The design therefore preserves the agricultural valleys, incorporating this activity as a key component of the Future Science and Technology City. New buildings are clustered on the hills, and shaped in a way that amplifies the valley skyline, augmenting the appearance of the Linpan landscape.” MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, developed a series of digital scripts to analyze the site’s topography. The site analyses informed decisions on several parts of the design: which areas should be designated for agricultural zoning versus new building development; the optimization of pathways and bridges to ensure accessibility across the entire site while never exceeding a slope of 4%; the shape and height of human-made hills; and building height limits. As a result, the design features three main valleys — the Knowledge Valley, the Experience Valley and the Venture Valley — around which seven mixed-use developments will be clustered. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV and Atchain

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MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold

November 24, 2020 by  
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After purchasing a humble country home 25 years ago in the village of Ivry-sur-le-Lac, architect-owner Richard Rubin of Canadian firm Figurr Architects Collective wanted to treat himself and his family to a new second home with an extremely low environmental impact. Key to the creation of this low-impact holiday home was the use of prefabrication. The residence consists of five custom, prefabricated modules, each approximately 50 feet in length. With a reduced environmental footprint achieved through an airtight envelope, use of sustainable and local materials, and large, insulated glazing, the modern, energy-efficient home is currently being submitted by Rubin for LEED Gold certification. To ensure that his family wouldn’t lose more than one season of enjoying the country, the architect began construction on the new house in late summer, before the demolition of the existing home. Prefabrication not only helped to speed up the construction process, but the modular design also allowed for indoor construction without fear of inclement weather conditions. The five custom prefab modules were assembled with insulation, windows and flooring intact before they were transported to the site — a challenging undertaking due to the size of the giant, factory-built modules and winding country roads. Related: Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin Conceived as a nature retreat, the new country home is punctuated with floor-to-ceiling glazing that brings in views of the forest as well as direct sunshine, which helps reduce the heating and lighting costs. A natural materials palette blends the building into the landscape, while the warm timbers used indoors create a welcoming feel. The home brings the family together with an open-plan kitchen and dining room along with a cozy living room and a three-season, screened-in porch that looks out to the lake and woods. The architect has also carved out more intimate spaces for each of the family members, such as the ground-floor atelier for painting and carpentry. + Figurr Architects Collective Photography by David Boyer via Figurr Architects Collective

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A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold

A geometric double roof promotes natural cooling at this Tropical Chalet

November 23, 2020 by  
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After three years of design and construction, Singapore-based firm G8A Architecture & Urban Planning has completed the Tropical Chalet, a naturally cooled home with a beautiful and functional “double roof facade.” Located in the Vietnamese coastal region of Danang, the four-bedroom family villa takes advantage of its lakeside location with a porous brick moucharabieh facade that brings in cooling cross breezes and also gives the beautiful home its distinctive appearance. The predominate use of rough brick — which covers the roof, walls and a portion of the open-air interior — is also a nod to Danang’s historic use of baked brickwork that dates back to the fourth century. Set on a roughly rectangular plot facing a lake, the Tropical Chalet lives up to its name with an indoor/outdoor design approach. A lush garden and spacious, landscaped backyard surrounds the L-shaped home, which opens up to the outdoors on all sides. Operable glazing, a porous brick facade and a recessed gallery help bring in natural light and ventilation while protecting against unwanted solar gain and mercurial coastal weather conditions. Related: Lush living plants engulf the green-roofed Pure Spa in Vietnam “Materials were were chosen not only for their sturdiness and climate resistance, particularly bricks with their high insulation qualities,” the architects explained. “But also, their minimal and natural aesthetic, once again blending with the surrounding landscape. A strong presence of wood, textured concrete and rough brick highlight the organic nature of the concept.” The building’s undulating roof is also engineered for natural cooling with a shape informed by site conditions; the geometry of the roof has led to a folded waxed concrete ceiling below that hides the structural framework of the terracotta-lined roof. The 400-square-meter Tropical Chalet rises to a height of two stories and includes a floor that’s partly buried underground and opens up to a sunken sculpture garden. + G8A Architecture & Urban Planning Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via G8A Architecture & Urban Planning

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A geometric double roof promotes natural cooling at this Tropical Chalet

SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

October 14, 2020 by  
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Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has unveiled designs for Jiuzhou Bay, a new 5.6 million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood in coastal Zhuhai, which was recently named China’s most livable city by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Selected from a shortlist of 10 global design firms, SOM’s proposal targets a low-carbon scheme that makes use of the region’s abundant natural resources — the sea and the sun — to generate renewable energy and reduce the development’s environmental footprint. Located in China’s southern Guangdong province in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai is a burgeoning tech hub with a reputation that has been recently elevated by a connection to the international finance and tourism centers Hong Kong and Macau via the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world. The new development will be a beacon for sustainable growth in the tech-heavy region that the architects say may soon rival Silicon Valley. The proposed Jiuzhou Bay development will include state-of-the-art office spaces, residences, retail and infrastructure, such as a robust transportation hub that offers connections to land, sea and rail across more than 40 acres. Related: Historic Zhuhai sugar factory to be reborn as a low-carbon cultural hub The city’s maritime history has also greatly informed the architects’ design decisions, particularly with the five modular canopies that wrap around the three sides of a 1.8 million-square-foot port to form a series of covered pedestrian alleyways, a lively retail environment and interlinked courtyards along the waterfront. Solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems would be integrated into the canopies. The masterplan also includes a lighthouse-inspired skyscraper with offices, a 20-story Ritz Carlton hotel , a sky bar and an observation deck. “The forms of the canopies are inspired by the local legend of the Fisher Girl and reflect the fishing nets commonly seen on the coastline throughout the region,” said Sean Ragasa, design director at SOM. “We wanted our design to resonate with the culture and history of Zhuhai, and to evoke a story that’s familiar to everyone who lives there.” + SOM Images via SOM

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SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

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

Could a private car ban make NYC more livable?

July 29, 2020 by  
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When COVID-19 brought New York City’s traffic to a shadow of itself, Vishaan Chakrabarti, former New York City urban-planning official and founder of Manhattan-based design firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) , drafted an ambitious plan for a car-free future. Dubbed N.Y.C. (“Not Your Car”) , the proposal calls for banning private cars to create a more livable city via cleaner air, fewer car deaths and greater space allocated to the pedestrian realm. PAU’s reimagined roadways would also bolster infrastructure for cycling, ride-sharing and public transportation.  According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign , over half of New York CIty’s households do not own a car, and the majority of people who do own cars not use them for commuting. However, the amount of space that Manhattan devotes to cars adds up to nearly four times the size of Central Park, as seen in a diagram shared in The New York Times . PAU’s proposal asserts that banning private cars would not only reduce traffic but would also improve life for almost everyone who lives and works in dense American cities by freeing up space for new housing, parks and pedestrian promenades. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “In the case of New York City, the air in the Bronx and Queens, which are largely populated by immigrants and people of color, is more polluted than the other boroughs due to traffic sitting idle on the roads leading to Manhattan,” PAU explained. “Among other ailments, long-term exposure to polluted air is thought to increase the deadliness of COVID-19 , which is a direct result of structural racism in the city. By improving air quality, and thus reducing the health risks that invariably come along with it, the city can begin to tackle the environmental racism that plagues our communities.” The plan also offers suggestions for reengineering car-free roads with two-way bike lanes with protective barriers, dedicated bus lanes, larger dedicated trash areas to replace parking spaces, and additional crosswalks. Bridges would also be rethought; the seven-lane Manhattan Bridge, for instance, could replace four car lanes with bus lanes, paths for cyclists and a pedestrian promenade, while the remaining lanes would be used for taxis and ride-share vehicles. Local communities would also be encouraged to take part in deciding how to reclaim their car-free roads. + Practice for Architecture and Urbanism Images via Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

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NBBJ to design Tencents futuristic Net City in Shenzhen

June 17, 2020 by  
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Global design firm NBBJ has won an international competition to design Net City, a 2-million-square-meter masterplanned Shenzhen district for Tencent, China’s largest internet company. Envisioned as a “city of the future,” Net City will prioritize “human-centric” and sustainable design through the inclusion of an extensive public transit network, a green corridor and energy-generating systems. The abundance of greenery will also help the project meet the goals of China’s Sponge City Initiative so that stormwater runoff is collected and managed throughout the campus. Developed for the 320-acre peninsula along Shenzhen’s Dachanwan, Net City was created to meet Tencent’s growing office needs in the upcoming years. The mixed-use masterplan covers roughly the same size and shape of Midtown Manhattan and will be centered on a new Tencent building that is surrounded by a living quarter with schools and an assortment of retail spaces and other amenities. The buildings will range in height from single-story structures to three-story towers as part of an overarching design vision for differentiated spaces with strong sight lines to nature. Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “A typical city calls for simplistic and efficient zoning to keep everything under strict control and facilitate the flow of goods, cars and people,” said Jonathan Ward, design partner at NBBJ. “This principle was driven by a love for the industrial age machine. In today’s computer-driven world, we are free to imagine a highly integrated city that brings ‘work, live, play’ closer together to foster more synergy between people. This fits in perfectly with the collegial, collaborative culture of Tencent.” A public transit network with a subway, bus and shuttle system as well as a folding green corridor for pedestrians, bicycles and autonomous vehicles will shape a pedestrian-friendly environment. General vehicles will be diverted underground. In addition to an abundance of green space ranging from recreational parks to wetlands, Net City will also include rooftop solar panels, green roofs and environmental performance trackers to reduce the district’s overall environmental footprint. + NBBJ Images via NBBJ

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NBBJ to design Tencents futuristic Net City in Shenzhen

First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

November 8, 2019 by  
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Milan-based architecture firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled innovative designs for a nature-infused smart city in Cancun, Mexico that will serve as a model for resilient and sustainable urban planning. Created for Honduras-based textile conglomerate and property developer Grupo Karim, ‘Smart Forest City – Cancun’ is a proposed alternative to plans for a shopping district in the area. The masterplan would reforest a 557-hectare site — currently used as a sand quarry for hotels — and create mixed-use development that would be completely food and energy self-sufficient. The proposed Smart Forest City – Cancun would house 130,000 residents as well as 7,500,000 plants of 400 different species selected by botanist and landscape architect Lauri Gatti. More than 200,000 trees would be planted to create a ratio of 2.3 trees per inhabitant, while the remainder of the vegetation would be mostly shrubs, bushes, green roofs and vertical gardens. “Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint,” the press release stated. Related: Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design With help from the German company Transsolar, the mixed-use development would be surrounded by a ring of solar panels that provide enough renewable energy to meet the residents’ needs. The city would also include an agricultural field belt that wraps around the urban area. The fields would be irrigated by a water channel fed by an underwater maritime pipe and treated with a desalination tower. Parking for traditional vehicles would be located on the city periphery; a MIC (Mobility in Chain) system would provide internal electric and semi-automatic vehicles to transport residents and visitors throughout the development. As a testing hub for sustainable urbanism , the Smart Forest City – Cancun proposal includes a center for advanced research large enough to host international organizations, university departments and companies. The center would include research and development facilities dedicated to sustainability issues and green infrastructure. + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti and The Big Picture

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First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

Canada unveils its first chemical-free public outdoor pool and it’s gorgeous

September 13, 2019 by  
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Toronto-based architects, gh3* have just unveiled a stunning chemical-free natural pool in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. The Borden Park Natural Swimming Pool, which replaced an existing pool that dated back to the 1950s, was incorporated with several innovative natural filtration processes that uses a combination of stone, gravel, sand and botanic filtering to keep the waters clean and pristine. The project was a massive undertaking from the start. The old pool and infrastructure had to be completely gutted to make room for the new, completely chemical -free swimming pool. The whopping 64,465 square foot complex is made up of seasonal pavilion and landscaped pool area that accommodates up to 400 swimmers. In addition to the main swimming area, there is also a kids pool. Next to the outdoor area, a large contemporary building houses the universal changing rooms, along with showers and bathrooms. There is also a sandy beach and picnic area, as well as a volleyball court and exhibition space. Related: Chemical-free community swimming pool is filled with recycled rainwater filtered through plants To create an all-natural swimming pool that was safe for swimmers, the designers had to work within Canada’s ultra strict regulations for public swimming pools. To completely avoid the use of chemicals was challenging, but the team worked with several experts to create a balanced ecosystem where plant materials, microorganisms and nutrients come together to create a system of “living water.” The pool water is filtrated in two ways: using a biological-mechanical system or using the constructed wetland and gravel filter filled wtih Zooplankton . These soil-free systems allow for a chemical and disinfectant free filtering system in which water is completely cleaned via a natural process as it circulates. The system entails a long circulation process that sees the water flow through a sand and stone pond first, then a hydro botanic pond. Adjacent to these ponds, a granular filter PO4 adsorption unit was installed that runs along the gabion walls that run the length of the pool, allowing the water to circulate from one end to the other unnoticed. The entire system allows for a natural, chemical-free cleaning process that is entirely eco-friendly and safe for swimmers. The natural swimming pool is the firm’s latest addition to the Edmonton area. In 2015, the designers unveiled a gorgeous glowing mirrored pavilion in the same area. + gh3* Photos via gh3*

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Canada unveils its first chemical-free public outdoor pool and it’s gorgeous

The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

September 13, 2019 by  
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The rate of world deforestation continues to accelerate, despite governments’ promises to reverse it. Now, the world loses 64 million acres a year of forested land, which is equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, according to a new study by Climate Focus . Thirty-seven governments as well as many multinational companies, NGOs and groups representing indigenous communities have signed the New York Declaration on Forests since it sprang from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014. This declaration pledged to cut the deforestation rate in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Unfortunately, this feel-good, non-legally binding declaration has been hugely unsuccessful. Since the declaration was penned, tree cover loss has skyrocketed by 43 percent, while tropical primary forests have been slashed. The world is now in worse shape than when the well-intended pledge was made. Some countries are making an effort. Indonesia slowed its rate of deforestation by a third between 2017 and 2018. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador, are determinedly planting trees. But these attempts are overshadowed by deforestation in much of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Major forests in these regions saw marked decreases in tree cover between 2014 and 2018. Latin America lost the most forest by volume, but Africa experienced the greatest increase in the rate of deforestation. Of course, the recent Amazon wildfires are bringing deforestation to a whole new level. Climate scientists worry about feedback loops, where climate change makes trees drier, leading to increased flammability and more fires and carbon dioxide, which in turn makes things drier, hotter and even more flammable. “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Jo House, an environmental specialist at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian . “At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the dual compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change . The continued loss of primary forests at ever-increasing rates. despite their incalculable value and irreplaceability, is both shocking and tragic.” + Climate Focus Via The Guardian Image via Robert Jones

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

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