Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

March 18, 2020 by  
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According to the World Air Quality Index of 2019, the city of Bangkok suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution most of the year. In a bid to raise awareness about air quality and the urban heat island effect, Thai design collective Shma Company created Safezone Shelter, an ephemeral pavilion filled with air purifying plants and technology to create a welcoming gathering space for passersby. Shaped like a cloud, the sculptural intervention was briefly installed in front of the Grand Postal Building during Bangkok Design Week 2020.  In contrast to the brutalist architecture of the Grand Postal Building, the 150-square-meter Safezone Shelter features a futuristic, organic shape with a white nylon covering to evoke the appearance of a cloud. The white textile allows light to diffuse through while hiding the interior from outside views. Inside, the designers created an unexpected oasis filled with tropical plants, informational signage and seating, which also includes part of the postal building’s steps.  Related: Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhi’s air pollution To create a cooling microclimate, the designers engineered the pavilion to pull in hot, polluted air with fans and pass it through dense vegetation to capture dust particles. This “pre-filtered wind” is then passed through a dust filter plate and a cooling plate to purify the air . In addition to the cool air flow generated by fans, the trees, shrubs and ground cover help keep the pavilion’s interior temperatures to between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidifier maintains humidity levels of 50% to 70%. Recorded nature sounds, such as the sounds of water and birds, are also played inside the space. “All of these inventive methods could further be applied to solve air pollution in other kinds of design,” the designers explained. “Looking wider at an urban scale, bus stops, recreational space under expressways and skywalks also have a potential to be revitalized with such purification systems. At the end, even high-rise buildings might become old-fashioned when a better choice like an air purifier tower could be constructed.” Safezone Shelter was put on display from December 2019 to February 2020.  + Shma Company Images via Shma

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Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

March 18, 2020 by  
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I’ve been vegetarian since childhood and have met people with many different takes on a healthy plant-based diet. The raw foodists I’ve encountered have blown me away with the innovation it takes to come up with a menu beyond salad while limiting cooking temperatures to no more than 118 degrees. The raw food philosophy is that heat breaks down food’s nutritional value, while low temperatures allow food to retain enzymes and vitamins, leading to the body’s ability to prevent and fight disease and generally thrive. So when Theresa Keane, co-owner of Pixie Retreat , invited me to tour her Portland, Oregon raw food kitchen, I was intrigued. Her team produces a full vegan, organic , gluten-free and mostly raw menu on a commercial scale. Not only do they supply Pixie Retreat’s three Portland retail locations, they’ve also started wholesaling to local stores. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at a commercial raw food kitchen. The early years Pixie Retreat was built on a dream and a lot of hard work, trial and error. Keane co-founded the business with Willow O’Brien in 2008. At the time, they wanted to make and sell healthful and delicious food , but were new to the dining business. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Keane said. “We never worked in kitchens, Willow and I. She didn’t even know how to make food. She made tea and stuff like that.” They started out sharing a commissary kitchen with other vegan businesses. That’s where they met Anna Clark, who later became their third business partner. Clark, a pastry chef, was the only one with formal culinary training. After 9 months in the commissary kitchen, they rented a house and ran Pixie Retreat out of it, working late into the night while filling wholesale orders. Keane described a time when an engineer acquaintance stopped by. Their setup left him shocked. “We had eight refrigerators, freezers, 20 dehydrators,” Keane said. “He said it’s amazing you don’t burn this house down. Every night, the power would trip off. We couldn’t even turn the heat on because it would trip the power.” A spotless, modern raw food kitchen They’ve come a long way. Now headquartered in Southeast Portland’s industrial district, the Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery is both a retail outlet and the site of their commercial kitchen. The small front part has a seating area and a case of premade wraps and goodies. “We’re grab-and-go style, because that’s how people are living,” Keane said. “We’re not a sit down-like service restaurant . We’re into flavor, satisfaction and integrity of our ingredients. Plating is not my forte.” Customers can also custom-order kale- or millet-based bowls and coconut cream puddings with toppings. The millet is one of several cooked ingredients available. A big white curtain hangs behind the counter, obscuring the kitchen. “That’s more for health department reasons,” Keane said, indicating the curtain. “And to protect the magic back there.” We step through the curtain and find three workers preparing food in an extremely well-organized kitchen. It’s Thursday, one of the big assembly days for delivering to the two other Pixie Retreat outlets. Tacked up on the door of the walk-in dehydrator are long to-do lists for each day of the week. Keane introduced me to her staff and to each machine, many of which were specially made or adapted to the needs of a mostly raw food kitchen. The walk-in dehydration room is the most exciting and unusual. Keane opened the door, releasing a smoky smell. Inside are trays and trays of eggplant bacon strips, which stay in there for 72 hours. Pixie Retreat bought the dehydrator from a former kale chip entrepreneur who devised tools to streamline raw food making. Keane estimated the walk-in dehydrator is 75% more efficient than the company’s former multiple-dehydrator setup. Pixie Retreat has a Robot Coupe Blixer, which is an industrial-strength food processor. “This tool is a game changer,” Keane said. “I mean, it’s expensive like a car, but it paid for itself in labor. I love this tool so much.” The company uses it to blend ingredients for pizza dough, macadamia nut cheese and raw onion bread. Pixie Retreat makes raw chocolate in its chocolate machine, melting it down at a temperature of 108. The chocolate winds up in treats like chocolate salted “karmals”, “almond butta cups” and dehydrated, oat-based chocolate chip cookies. Other interesting tools include an Italian fruit press repurposed for squeezing excess moisture out of sauerkraut and a specially made enormous cookie-cutter to cut onion bread into uniform squares while minimizing waste . Raw and vegan at home The Pixie Retreat kitchen is cool but daunting. What about the average person who wants to add more raw food into their diet without shelling out for a Blixer? “Make nut milk ,” Keane said. “That’s where I would start.” You’ll need a nut milk bag, available online or in some grocery stores’ produce departments. She recommended starting with hazelnuts or almonds. For flavor and sweetness, add sea salt, vanilla and a Medjool date. Put it all in your blender. “Kick it up on high. Blend it. Then you put it in the nut milk bag and you squeeze it out.” Dry out the pulp and use it as a nut flour for baked goods. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative After you master nut milk, try making nut cheese. Keane recommended blending buttery macadamia nuts with water, Italian seasoning, lemon juice and sea salt for a plant-based ricotta. Going national Pixie Retreat scaled back from wholesale for a while to focus on retail locations. But it has just relaunched, selling chocolate “karmal”, salted “karmal” and raspberry “l’il puddin” at New Seasons stores in Portland. Made with organic young coconut meat and Irish moss, these raw desserts are packed with nutrients . Soon, Pixie Retreat plans to introduce nationwide cold shipping of the “l’il puddin’”. Currently, customers across the U.S. can order sweet or savory Pixie snack boxes . But Pixie Retreat’s goals go far beyond Portland or even the U.S. When I asked Keane about the company vision, she immediately said, “Global. That’s the dream. We want to be the fast food of the future.” + Pixie Retreat Images via Josh Chang and Marielle Dezurick / Pixie Retreat and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

This recycled plastic beehive is designed for happy bees

March 11, 2020 by  
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As backyard beekeeping continues to rise in popularity, there’s no reason the traditional beehive can’t take on a more modern and functional design. With this idea in mind, Duluth-based Jon Otis of Lake Superior Honey Company approached Loll Designs to create an improved version of the beehive. Aptly named the Bee Hive, this apiary combines the functionality of classic human-made hives with a sleek and durable product sourced from post-consumer recycled milk jugs . The partnership between Lake Superior Honey Company and Loll Designs means the final products must meet the standards of both companies: mainly functionality, quality and aesthetics. Lake Superior Honey Company maintains a high standard for its honey , insisting on 100% natural, 100% raw and 100% free-foraged, meaning the bees are unstressed and honey is produced in limited quantities for quality. The horizontal top-bar beehive had to live up to the company’s expectations. Equally, the essence of Loll Designs’ product lineup is based on function and durability, so the duo spent two years developing a beehive to be proud of. Related: Urban Beehive Project creates a buzz around honeybee education The end result offers a lockable flat roof for weather resistance and bear deterrence, longer legs for a more ergonomic design and a reinforced box for long-lasting use. The Bee Hive is made from recycled HDPE. Because this material was new to the traditional beehive design, it went through many variations before the final product emerged. Loll Designs reported that while propolis will stick to the plastic , it comes off easily during cleaning. After two seasons with the Lake Superior Honey Company, the process ensured the bees respond to the material well. The Bee Hive is available in five color options: white, sky blue, sunset orange, leaf green and driftwood gray. The housing includes an internal separator that can be moved as the colony expands. The current production timeline is eight weeks, and products are available on the Loll Designs website . + Loll Designs + Lake Superior Honey Company Images via Loll Designs

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This recycled plastic beehive is designed for happy bees

How to Combat the Urban Heat Island Effect at Home

March 6, 2020 by  
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The urban heat island effect occurs in cities, where structures … The post How to Combat the Urban Heat Island Effect at Home appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Worlds first car-free IKEA store to open in Austria

February 11, 2020 by  
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IKEA Austria has announced plans to open the world’s “most innovative and green” IKEA store — a car-free, BREEAM Excellent-targeted, mixed-use complex located in the heart of Vienna. Dubbed IKEA Westbahnhof, the ambitious store will be modeled after a public square to not only attract IKEA shoppers but also local residents and tourists with its many amenities and abundance of green space that will include approximately 160 trees planted atop the building. The ambitious project was designed in collaboration with Vienna-based architectural firm querkraft architekten .  Located at the end of the major shopping street Mariahilferstrasse, about 3 kilometers from the historic city center, IKEA Westbahnhof will be easily accessible by public transit. The shift to a car-free IKEA location was partly born from research on consumer behavior, which points to the increase of e-commerce and convenience of home delivery. Approximately two-thirds of residents in Vienna’s inner city districts do not own a car and instead prefer to take public transit, walk, bike or use a scooter to reach their destinations. Related: IKEA renewable electricity plan could save customers £300 per year In addition to its car-free concept, IKEA Westbahnhof will target BREEAM Excellent certification with sustainable materials, energy-saving systems and an abundance of greenery, such as the publicly accessible roof garden , which will help mitigate the urban heat island effect. The architects plan to plant 160 trees atop the building to help lower the temperature of the structure by at least two degrees. “The new store aims to be an iconic meeting place in Vienna,” IKEA’s press release stated. “IKEA Vienna Westbahnhof is going to be the most unique and green IKEA store. It will be inviting, human scale and standing out as a landmark.” Likened to a bookshelf, the multistory building uses a flexible, grid-like system that emphasizes transparency and openness. IKEA will occupy the first four floors of the building, while a hostel will be located on the upper two floors. Four additional retail shops will be placed along Mariahilferstrasse. + querkraft architekten Images via IKEA

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Worlds first car-free IKEA store to open in Austria

Taylor Guitars and the sustainable approach to instrument-making

February 11, 2020 by  
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Since 1974, Taylor Guitars has been a champion guitar brand, renowned for its signature sound and instrument-manufacturing innovations. In this feature, Inhabitat goes behind-the-scenes at the company’s headquarters and factory in El Cajon, California, where tour guide Ryan Merrill shares the Taylor Guitars approach to  sustainability , sourcing  wood  and making guitars.   Inhabitat:  What can you share about the process of making a Taylor Guitar? Merrill:  The very first step of building our guitars is housing them in this outdoor tent when the wood arrives. What we’re seeing here is mostly mahogany. When we bring in wood from around the world, they’re accustomed to other types of climates, places that are generally a lot more humid – Cameroon, India, Hawaii. When it gets here, we therefore need to make sure that wood acclimates to our  weather , temperature and  humidity . If we don’t, then as that wood is drying out in the factory, and we’re working on the guitar, it’s going to start bending and warping in different ways. We want all that bending and warping to happen here outside rather than during the process when we are building guitars because we have some tools in there that have high accuracy. And with that level of accuracy in cutting, if the wood is warping, it’s going to cause some problems. So we leave this wood outside here to acclimate. Water that’s sitting inside the grain of the wood, you want to bring down to about 10%. Sometimes that takes two weeks, sometimes that takes a month. Related: YouTube stars partner up in #TeamTrees campaign to plant 20 million trees Inhabitat:  What does Taylor Guitars do with any leftover wood cuttings? Merrill:  The first measure of our sustainability endeavors is that after we’ve cut wood for our guitars, the scrap wood — instead of us throwing them into the trash bin — we actually utilize it by giving them to other companies that need them, like toymakers, people who make birdhouses, even companies that turn the wood into  mulch . Inhabitat:  Forest management,  reforestation  and the sourcing of ethically harvested tonewoods — the wood used to build acoustic guitars — are important values to Taylor Guitars. Tell us more about that. Merrill: We understand that in order to make our products, we have to cut down trees. But we make sure to plant more trees  than we are taking out of forests every year, and we’ve continued to be dedicated to that goal. A pipe dream Taylor Guitars has is to plant all of the trees we use for all of our guitars on the land we own. That way, we won’t have to source our wood anywhere else in the world, but just focus on effectively using that one piece of land that is ours with all our trees on it. Of course, that’s still what we are working toward. For now, the two places we are focused on are in Cameroon, where we have our ebony, and in Hawaii, where we have our koa. Out in Hawaii, for instance, we own over 570 acres on the Big Island, where we are planting koa trees. Now, koa trees take about 40 to 60 years to grow — that’s a long wait for us to be able to use those trees for guitars. Ebony is even longer, taking 100 to 200 years to fully mature. Inhabitat:  Now, on display here in the corporate headquarters gallery are an array of signature Taylor Guitars, made from various types of wood. What’s the importance of wood type, or tonewood? And, why are certain ones chosen over others for guitar-making? Merrill:  The type of wood affects the instrument sound. First, it’s important to know that woods flavor the sounds. And, historically, there’s hundreds of years’ worth of experimentation on what types of woods are best for what is now the modern guitar . And the main ones that have been settled on are rosewood and mahogany, which are the hardest woods.  So, in a mahogany guitar, you’re going to hear a lot of mid-range sounds, not a lot of bass, not a lot of treble. In rosewood, you’re going to get a lot of bass, you’re going to get a lot of treble, but not as much of the mid-range. You’ll probably notice we’ll get more deep tones and more sparkle with rosewood. Inhabitat:  These are some exotic-sounding names of tonewoods lining this guitar gallery wall. Tell us more about them. Merrill:  Cocobolo is a South American rosewood, so it has a very similar tone to a rosewood guitar. Ovangkol is an African relative of the rosewood. Sapele is an African relative of mahogany. Most tonewoods are going to fall within those two very broad categories. There are some exceptions — we have  maple , which is a very bright wood. It’s the only wood that’s distinct from mahogany and rosewood. We have something like koa as well, which has the mid-range of mahogany and the sparkle of rosewood, but it doesn’t have the bass of rosewood.  Koa guitars have become increasingly popular amongst guitarists. And that’s because as koa wood ages, it gets more dense, which means it will start to produce a better low-end sound. So, if you buy a koa, it might sound one way, but then five years down the line, someone might pick up that same guitar and go, “Wow! This has way more bass than I ever heard out of this instrument!” And that’s one of the very unique things about koa — just the amount that it opens up over time. Inhabitat:  Taylor Guitars has been recognized as a leading guitar-making pioneer. What are some things you can share about what makes you stand out from other guitar manufacturers ? Merrill:  We’re the only company making sapele guitars. We’re the only company making ebony bodies. And we’re the pioneers of the V-bracing, whereas all other guitars elsewhere are still employing the X-bracing. Inhabitat:  What’s the difference between your V-bracing and the conventional X-bracing in guitars out there? Merrill:  One of the beautiful things about the V-brace is that it’s very forgiving of notes that aren’t quite in tune. With an X-brace, the notes start to warble — you can hear the notes bouncing back and forth. You can kind of hear the decay there — decay is just the note fading out. When you compare that with something like a V-brace, the notes just keep ringing — we call it bloom, where it almost grows into a larger chord after you first strum it. You can hear the difference, it sounds fuller, and a lot of that comes down to the sustaining, and that’s the V-bracing being a little more forgiving with those notes. It was fitting for Merrill to say the word “sustaining” to describe the V-brace and what it does to guitar notes, because it circularly tied into Taylor Guitars’ sustainability initiatives. As the tour winded down, a large plaque — entitled “Taylor’s Commitment to Sustainability” — was visible on the way out, reminding everyone of the quality the company stands for in the soundness of its products and  supply chain . Images via Mariecor Agravante

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Taylor Guitars and the sustainable approach to instrument-making

Trend: Last-mile transportation inches closer to home

February 3, 2020 by  
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Last-mile freight is a major contributor to local air pollution, often in disadvantaged communities. But there’s some good news amidst all this urban doom and gloom.

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Trend: Last-mile transportation inches closer to home

Modular homes in Sweden are specially designed for solar panels

January 22, 2020 by  
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Swedish firm Street Monkey Architects has unveiled new solar-powered, prefabricated modular homes in Örebro, Sweden. The row-house project was based on a similar award-winning construction project near Stockholm that was built using passive house principles but designed to complement the urban setting. The single-family structures are designed with energy efficiency in mind to promote lifestyles with smaller carbon footprints. Each home is constructed using six factory-build prefab modules that arrive to the building site already complete with finished walls, bathrooms, kitchens and finishing materials. Onsite, the facade is assembled, and the seams between the modules are finished to remove any evidence of modular prefabrication. Related: Rural, modular home in Mexico allows for a wide variety of configurations The designers heightened the roof in order to better frame the street and allow the homes to stand up against some of the neighborhood’s taller buildings. The facades — which Street Monkey builds once the modular homes arrive to the site — are made from the same combination of wood, steel and plaster as the firm’s Stockholm project but with more exposed steel. The materials used in the facades depend on the orientation, meaning the ones facing east or west have white plaster and the ones facing the north or south are made of either dark silver steel or steel with wood lattice. As a result, the row of modular houses presents three different versions of the same 150-square-meter home and provides a sense of individuality for residents without losing the overall visual cohesiveness of the row. The highlight of the Örebro homes is the utilization of solar panels , the placement of which also depended on the particular house’s orientation. As the solar panels are designed to face south, the architects had to come up with a unique roof designed for both appearance and practicality. Houses that were east-west facing have sawtooth roofs with customized ridgelines and a 45-degree angle for the panels, while homes with north-south facades and east-west ridgelines have asymmetrical, mirrored roofs. + Street Monkey Architects Photography by Mattias Hamrén via Street Monkey Architects

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Modular homes in Sweden are specially designed for solar panels

BIG plans unveiled for pedestrian paradise in Downtown Brooklyn

January 3, 2020 by  
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After nearly a year of research, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and WXY Studio have unveiled their visions for improving Downtown Brooklyn — a 370-acre urban district with updated streetscapes, plazas, and public spaces. Commissioned by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Downtown Brooklyn Public Realm Vision includes a comprehensive study of the urban district’s existing conditions as well as a bold, long-term design vision for making the area more inclusive, inviting, and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The Downtown Brooklyn Public Realm Vision was created in response to Downtown Brooklyn’s unprecedented growth over the last fifteen years since its 2004 rezoning. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership tapped WXY Studio and BIG, who worked in collaboration with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and Sam Schwartz Engineering, to create a comprehensive study and implementation plan. This plan is intended to help unify the growing mixed-use area and meet the needs of the diverse community, which is expected to welcome 50,000 additional residents by 2025. “The Plan draws upon the District’s existing conditions, systems, land uses and policies to create a bold design vision that is uniquely Brooklyn, provides a greener, safer pedestrian and bicycle experience, and unlocks projects, initiatives and pilots for a more vibrant public realm,” BIG explained in a project statement. “Downtown Brooklyn Public realm is re-animated into a playful environment largely focused on the pedestrian experience. A place where residents, workers and visitors can enjoy gathering outdoors, practice sports and celebrate the diverse culture of Downtown Brooklyn.” Related: Reclaimed NYC water towers are upcycled into a NEST playscape in Brooklyn To visually unify the updated streetscapes, the architects have proposed a distinct yellow-orange color palette for the mixed-use area that will be applied to the bike paths, street furniture, and planters. Greenery and public art have also been woven throughout the pedestrian-friendly design. + BIG + WXY Studio Images via BIG

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Urban Earth House exemplifies off-grid living in the city

December 16, 2019 by  
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When Craig Byatt Architecture was approached by eco-minded clients who wanted a home that was off-grid in an urban context and built with a combination of natural, reclaimed and locally sourced materials, the plans for the Urban Earth House were born. What’s more, because the clients’ children recently moved out, the resulting 70-square-meter structure in Melbourne, Australia was to become their “forever home.” The greatest challenge arose when the building site was examined. Privacy was an issue because access was constrained through a shared driveway. The site was also surrounded by neighbors, which worried the clients as they expressed eagerness for natural light. This, combined with a steep, small property block and a limited budget, led to a difficult time finding the right builder. After turning to four different building companies, all of which turned down the project, the clients decided to build the home themselves. Related: Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion The Urban Earth House has many green design features. Double-glazed windows, recycled glass bulk insulation batts in the roof and ceiling spaces, mud bricks and recycled concrete walls help the home maintain a comfortable temperature year-round. A north-facing glasshouse was built onsite to help utilize the sunlight for winter vegetables and seed propagation for the clients’ organic farm. The skeleton of the house was constructed with recycled and reclaimed hardwood from an old road bridge, and the project used local tradespeople and suppliers as often as possible. To make the Urban Earth House even more exceptional, the clients commissioned local artisans to add unique touches. The kitchen backsplash was designed by a local painter and printed onto glass. A local metal worker crafted the door handles using tools owned by the grandfather of one of the clients. According to the architect’s statement, “This project’s recipe called for experimentation and adventure.” By “working with the laws of nature” and using “what’s already there” as much as possible, they were able to create a unique, off-grid home that respected the building site and supported the clients’ sustainable ambitions. + Craig Byatt Architecture Photography by Meredith O’Shea via Clean Energy Nillumbik

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Urban Earth House exemplifies off-grid living in the city

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