A green lung brings sunlight and air into a narrow Vietnamese home

January 7, 2020 by  
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In the tightly packed cities of Vietnam, residential houses are often placed close together on long, narrow plots of land — a setup that can make it hard for residents to get access to natural light and ventilation. When VRA Design was tapped to design a home on a plot tightly sandwiched between two others, the Hoi An-based architecture firm inserted a large courtyard to bring fresh air and light deep into the house. Built to the edges of its narrow and long plot, the HH Green Lung house spans three floors over 270 square meters. The main communal rooms, including the living room and kitchen, are located on the ground floor while two bedrooms, a prayer room and a relaxation room are placed above. Rather than install a courtyard that spans all three floors of the home, the architects instead designed a double-height courtyard located on the second floor — “if the courtyard is too deep, it would have made people who stand in it feel uncomfortable,” according to the architects — and cut out nine holes on the courtyard floor to let light and views into the living room below. Related: A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam “These holes are created not only to allow the light that can penetrate the ground floor, but we also want to look [at it] as a symbolic representation of the fusion between the sky and the earth of the eastern notion,” the team explained. “This space is like a buffer space between outdoor space and indoor space .” Filled with plants and open to the sky, the interior courtyard serves as a “green lung” that brings natural ventilation and sunlight into the rooms through operable glazing. To protect the home from heavy rain or high winds, the architects have also installed an operable roof cover that can be programmed to open or close depending on the time of day and weather conditions. + VRA Design Photography by Ha Phong DANG via VRA Design

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A green lung brings sunlight and air into a narrow Vietnamese home

An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

January 7, 2020 by  
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Bend, Oregon is a sunny spot in a state known for rain. This area of central Oregon is the fourth fastest growing region in the country. About nine people move there daily, often because they want a healthy outdoor lifestyle and a smaller town. Tourists love this town of 81,000, too. If you’re venturing that way, leash up Fido; Dog Fancy magazine once nicknamed it Dog Town, USA. Bend outdoors Start your Bend adventure with an easy walk around downtown. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has many attractive, century-old buildings that now serve as cafes and boutiques. Crow’s Feet Commons is a must-visit for outdoorsy types who stop in for ski boot fitting, bike shopping and Oregon craft beers. If you’re ready to pick up the pace, check out Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails. For a short run, the 3-mile Deschutes River Trail loop is very pretty, and you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy it. Visiting runners can pick up trail maps and connect with locals at FootZone , a running shoe store that sponsors running events. Bend is probably best known as a magnet for rock climbers. About 25 minutes outside of Bend, the 651-acre Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. It offers challenges for all levels, from newbies taking their first lessons with local climbing schools to pros ready to tackle the 500-foot volcanic rock walls. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on a trail, the park also offers a lovely, flat trail along Crooked River and a steep climb to the tops of cliffs. Seventy miles southeast of Bend, the Fort Rock State Natural Area makes for a geologically intriguing day trip. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring that rises 325 feet above the surrounding high desert plain. This is a magical, quiet place, with soft, sandy trails, scrubby bushes and orange and chartreuse lichen coating the rocks. The nearby Homestead Village Museum is an interesting collection of old buildings, including a small church and a one-room schoolhouse. Did you bring Fido? After a day of exploring Bend and environs, stop by Pine Nursery Park so he can cool off on the seasonal splash pad. Join a canine-friendly canoe adventure with local outfitter Wanderlust Tours . Don’t forget a doggy life jacket made by the Bend-based company Ruff Wear. Bend wellness Jinsei Spa is a local favorite for facials, massages and body treatments using natural and organic ingredients. Namaspa Yoga Community offers public yoga classes in the Baptiste power and yin styles, as well as yoga for groups such as seniors, people in recovery and inmates at the local jail. They also provide Reiki, massage, cupping and energetic healing. Those who like to drink while doing yoga will enjoy Bend Beer Yoga . While these teachers usually hold classes in craft breweries, they may also add the odd cocktail, cider or glass of wine . Plant-based restaurants in Bend For vegan burgers, milkshakes and fries, visit the original location of the Bend-based chain Next Level Burger . Its house-made burger patties feature combinations of quinoa, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds and other nutritious ingredients. Taj Palace has an excellent lunch buffet with several vegan dishes. In addition to curries, Taj Palace also serves South Indian specialties like idlis, vadas and dosas. The cheery interior and friendly staff make it an extra nice place for a meal. Bethlyn’s Global Fusion is a cute cafe with a wide-ranging menu. Vegan choices include a Thai coconut curry bowl or a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. Lots of menu items can be made vegan upon request. For a fancier night out, Joolz is a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that uses the tag line “where the Middle East meets the Wild West.” Delicious menu items include dukkah nuts, an appetizer of toasted bread, olive oil and crushed mixed nuts flavored with coriander and cumin. The vegetarian platter provides a good variety of Mediterranean foods, such as tiny stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo beans and roasted cauliflower. Ice cream-lovers flock to Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato . The shop crafts inventive flavors, including a few sorbets and coconut-based ice creams for those avoiding dairy. Bend’s public transit While a car is very convenient for traveling outside Bend to places like Smith Rock, it’s possible to fly into Bend and get around town without driving. Cascades East Transit provides bus service in Bend and to nearby towns. It also operates recreation-based shuttles, including the Ride the River bus during the summer for folks floating the Deschutes River and the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in winter for skiers . The Ride Bend shuttle cruises around downtown and the Old Mill District during summer. There’s also a bike share program run by Oregon State University – Cascades. It’s open to the public as well as students. Uber and Lyft operate in Bend, too. Sustainable hotels in Bend The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend is especially known as a chic, boutique eco-hotel. It was built with sustainable materials and operates on 100 percent renewable energy . The Riverhouse on the Deschutes is Oregon’s only LEED Silver hotel and convention center, featuring high-efficiency HVAC and renewable energy. If you want to go for LEED Gold, the Helios Eco-House is available as a vacation rental. The McMenamins Old Saint Francis School is a 1936 schoolhouse that was turned into a hotel . Highlights include a movie theater and an extensive collection of works by local artists . Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam

December 17, 2019 by  
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In Vietnam’s coastal region of Quang Ngai, a one-of-a-kind home with a roof topped with fresh vegetables has infused new life into a rural village. Designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm TAA DESIGN , the recently completed home — dubbed The Red Roof after its red facade and eye-catching roof — is the residence of a married couple who grew up in the area and sought a unique home conducive to their traditional cultural lifestyle. Designed with an emphasis on connecting with nature, the home features a flourishing vegetable garden on its roof and multiple courtyards for seamless indoor-outdoor living. Located along the main road of the village, The Red Roof is a compact residence of 80 square meters that stretches east to west on a long and narrow plot. Accessed from the west end, the entrance leads past a gated front yard with a bicycle repair space to a covered porch that opens up to a double-height living room. Tucked behind is a kitchen and dining area next to a small interior courtyard and bathroom. A set of stairs to the mezzanine and the rice storage area separates the kitchen from the master bedroom in the rear; this space leads to the small backyard. Related: This self-sustaining Australian home harvests its own food, energy and water A second bedroom with a bathroom and an alter room are located on the mezzanine level. The alter room has access to a courtyard and the terraced vegetable gardens on the roof. The vegetable garden not only gives the couple ample opportunities to indulge in their love of gardening and cooking, but it also helps tighten bonds with the community, who benefit from the harvest. “In Vietnamese traditional landscape, ‘the red roof’ house represented for a time of regional local architecture,” the architects said in a statement. “However, now new multi-story houses with steel roofs seem to have lost the identity of village landscape.” The architects used a stair-step method as to not overwhelm the urban landscape with another towering, steel structure. Instead, the stair-step design “establishes the communication between the space on the roof and the space under the road. ‘The red roof’ has the intent to keep, to store and remind the familiar rural lifestyle.” + TAA DESIGN Images via TAA DESIGN

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A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam

Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

December 3, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem, with piles of debris along coastlines, on roadsides, in landfills and floating in waterways. Environmentally conscious companies are looking for ways to clean up the mess while simultaneously seeking out methods to recycle plastic waste into other products. One Dutch company, The Recycled Island Foundation (RIF), is tackling both problems with one solution — Litter Traps. According to the RIF website, the motivation for the project came from the knowledge that our waterways are part of global ecosystem, where everybody benefits or pays the consequences of waste management . “Plastic pollutes our seas and oceans and has a direct and deadly effect on marine life,” the foundation said. “Thousands of birds, seals, turtles, whales and other marine animals are killed every year after ingesting plastic or getting strangled in it. With the plastics breaking down into smaller particles, it also enters the human food chain.” Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste Knowing that the majority of ocean pollution comes from rivers that lead out to sea, RIF decided to stop plastic waste before it could travel that far. The foundation’s Litter Traps are aptly named. Sourced from recycled plastic themselves, the traps filter water, collect plastic and stop that plastic from traveling downstream. The collected plastic is then made into durable floating parks, seating elements, building materials and even more Litter Traps. The passive design of the Litter Trap allows it to float in the river, harbor or port, catching plastic once it floats inside the trap. The system does not rely on any energy source. Once full, the trap is emptied, and the usable plastic is sorted. The plastic then heads into manufacturing, where it is turned into a variety of products. This circular system allows the company to collect materials, clean up the rivers and make products without waste and at a minimal cost. The RIF has been busy collecting plastic from local waterways for some time. More than one year ago, it opened a prototype in Rotterdam, the Netherlands called the Recycled Park. This floating park is made entirely from recycled plastic gathered from the nearby Meuse River. You can read more about that project here . The initial park prototype is an example of how recycled plastic can be used to replicate the marine ecosystem, complete with live plants above and below the park that animals such as snails, flatworms, larva, beetles and fish call home. What began as a local movement has gone international. New Litter Traps are being manufactured to tackle river waste around the world. Belgium and Indonesia were the first countries to adopt the RIF approach, and the organization is now preparing similar projects in Vietnam, France, the Philippines, Brazil and more. As an example of how the mechanism performs, a single Litter Trap located in Belgium is emptied twice a week, and the average amount of waste collected is 1.5 cubic meters per month. The goal is to continue to expand the use of Litter Traps to divert plastic from the oceans on a large scale. The future of the Litter Trap is bright, with plans to make portable Litter Traps and Litter Traps that can collect and hold larger quantities of plastic before needing emptied. Now partnering with international companies, RIF hopes to create products that are in high demand in the areas where the plastic is collected. RIF is working with innovators to turn the plastic into a durable and easy-to-assemble housing material. It is also looking into large-scale, 3D-printing options using the marine plastic. For example, the company offers custom couches made entirely from salvaged marine plastic that is 3D-printed into shape. RIF feels knowledge is power in the campaign for plastic reduction, so it has implemented an educational program that includes ways to reduce plastic consumption, information about proper recycling techniques and an opportunity to participate in clean-up efforts. It hopes to continue to inspire action and raise awareness about the problem by visiting schools and organizing community events. When it comes to environmental efforts , the more hands involved in projects, the better. RIF has partnered with dozens of agencies with similar goals, creating a village of like-minded companies hoping to lead the way toward better plastic management and the creation of durable, reusable products. + The Recycled Island Foundation Images via The Recycled Island Foundation

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Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

All-bamboo retreat in Bali features all you need for a serene off-grid escape

September 30, 2019 by  
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If the hustle and bustle of every day life getting to you, perhaps it’s time for a little escape to paradise? Located in a hardy tropical forest in a remote area of Bali, the Hideout Falcon is an all-bamboo retreat with a massive pitched roof and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, all designed to help guests immerse themselves in the idyllic tropical landscape. And if the serene sustainable retreat isn’t enough to calm your nerves, the home, which was designed by Studio WNA , comes with an immense wooden deck with plenty of seating for when you’re not soaking your worries away in the large outdoor stone bathtub. The Hideout Falcon is one of three all-bamboo retreats offered by Hideout Bali. At just 538 square feet, the one-room Falcon definitely has a compact interior space. But this lack of interior space is completely by design so that the guests can truly take in the fresh air and nature of one of Bali’s most pristine forests. Related: Gorgeous bamboo hall welcomes visitors to a relaxing coastal oasis in Vietnam Tucked into a lush forest in the Karangasem regency region of Bali, the minimalist design of the idyllic lodging is meant to put the focus on the incredible surroundings. The most prominent feature of the bamboo structure is it’s large wooden deck. Set off the ground so as to reduce impact , this space is the living room of the home. There is plenty of seating, from a small dining space and comfortable lounge chairs, to a hanging chair under the palm trees. Of course, at the heart of the outdoor space, is the large bathtub, which is permanently filled and filtered as a swimming pool. But, rest assured that it can be heated to hot spring temps. The interior space of the tiny retreat houses the bedroom, which is large enough for a king-sized bed, covered with a romantic mosquito net. Additionally, there is a small lounge space, perfect for delving into a good book on a rainy day. The bamboo structure is meant to cater to those wanderers who look for sustainable lodgings on their adventures. Designed to be low-impact, the Hideout Falcon was built with locally-sourced building materials, mainly from the local forests in Karangasem. + Studio WNA + Hideout Bali Via Archdaily Photography by Drifters and Lovers , Gust Indra  and Valentino Luis, courtesy of Hideout Bali and Studio WNA

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All-bamboo retreat in Bali features all you need for a serene off-grid escape

Sustainable Central Park with energy-producing trees unveiled for Ho Chi Minh City

August 8, 2019 by  
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Laboratory for Vision Architecture (LAVA) and Australian design practice Aspect Studios have won an international competition to design the new Central Park for Ho Chi Minh City. Located on the site where southeast Asia’s first train station was located, the 16-hectare linear park will pay homage to its industrial heritage with walkways overlaid atop 19th-century railway tracks. In addition to historical references, the visionary public space will also integrate sustainable and futuristic “tree” structures engineered to provide shelter, harvest water and generate solar energy. Located in District 1, the central urban district of Ho Chi Minh City , the proposed Central Park will replace and expand the existing September 23 Park. The new design will retain its predecessor’s lush appearance while adding greater functionality to include sculpture gardens, outdoor art galleries, water features, music and theater performance pavilions, a skate park, sport zones and playgrounds. ”The site has always been about transportation,” said Chris Bosse, director of LAVA. “It was the first train station in southeast Asia, it’s currently a bus terminal and in the near future it will be Vietnam’s first metro station. Our design references this history and future mobility. Known locally as ‘September 23 Park’, it also hosts the important annual spring festival.” The designers plan to link the redesigned park to the new Ben Thanh Metro Station and memorialize the transport history with a dramatic twisting steel sculpture at one end of the park. Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat To improve the energy efficiency of Central Park, three types of eco-friendly structures will be installed, and each one will be created in the image of “artificial plants” and “trees.” The “water purification trees” will collect rainwater for reuse for irrigation, drinking fountains and fire hydrants. “Ventilation trees” will reduce the urban heat island effect and generate fresh air, and the “solar trees” feature angled solar panels to generate renewable energy used for powering the charging docks, information screens and the park’s Wi-Fi system. Construction on Central Park is slated to begin in 2020. + LAVA + Aspect Studios Images via LAVA

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Sustainable Central Park with energy-producing trees unveiled for Ho Chi Minh City

Breezy brick house with a ground-floor cafe mimics the shape of a cuckoo clock

July 16, 2019 by  
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In the coastal Vietnamese city of Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City-based architectural firm Tropical Space has combined a single-family home with a coffee shop to create an architecturally striking mixed-use building that evokes the playful shapes of a cuckoo clock. Dubbed the Cuckoo House, the home is built predominately from locally sourced clay brick to tie the structure to the local vernacular, while the use of bold geometric shapes throughout the building give it a distinctly contemporary edge. The home also takes advantage of sea breezes with its porous facade that harnesses natural cooling for relief from the tropical heat. Built for a couple and their two children, the Cuckoo House spans an area of nearly 3,000 square feet across two floors and an attic. To make the most of its rectangular east-west plot, the architects split the ground floor into three sections: the entrance gate and parking pad on the east side along with a small storefront and bathrooms; the coffee shop and bar in the middle; and a semi-enclosed courtyard with a pool on the west side. Large arches surround the brick-paved courtyard and bring cooling breezes and views of the surrounding garden into the space, and full-height glazing wraps the coffee shop to blur the line between indoors and out. Related: Solar screen brings beauty and heat relief to a Vietnam home The residential section of the building is located atop the ground floor “base block” and split into three blocks: the double-story Block A with the master bedroom on one floor and the bathroom and walk-in closet on the other; the double-story Block B with the kids’ bedroom above and the living room below; and Block C that contains the kitchen and dining area. All three blocks are connected and open up to outdoor terraces with operable glazing and views. “Like a habit, most of people’s daily activities usually take place in functional spaces. Tropical Space detaches walls, which are used to defined the place and offer the buffer space to urge people to leave their rooms and join together,” the architects explained. “These buffer layers can be used flexibly, connecting the indoor and the outdoor of the house, which could make the family activities be both private and open. Meanwhile, it allows the breeze to go through all corners of the house, and make it chill in the tropical summer.” + Tropical Space Images via Tropical Space

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Breezy brick house with a ground-floor cafe mimics the shape of a cuckoo clock

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

May 29, 2019 by  
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On Monday, Malaysian authorities reported that the last male Sumatran rhino died in a nature reserve on Borneo island. Currently, there is only one female from the same species remaining in Malaysia. The male, Tam, is thought to have died from old age after he was discovered on a palm oil plantation. Efforts to breed Tam with females of the same species were unsuccessful. Related: Koalas declared functionally extinct Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species , and only one of three found in Asia. At their peak, Sumatran rhinos could be found in Bhutan, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. They are the smallest rhino species in the world. Experts estimate that between 30 and 100 remain, with a few also living in captivity in Indonesia, and the U.S. Like most species on the brink of extinction , rhinos have suffered from deforestation and loss of habitat. Logging, roads, urban development, farms and palm oil plantations have carved up their habitat. According to experts, the fragmentation of natural spaces is the primary threat to their population. Small reserves and wild spaces are simply not enough. Disconnected populations also make it difficult for the solitary creatures to find mates and reproduce. “With logging, with roads for development, the patches of forest available are shrinking. Frankly it’s hard for them to find each other to mate and breed successfully,” said Cathy Dean of Save the Rhinos International. In addition, rhinos are frequently poached for their horns and other medicinal purposes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered , however Save the Rhino International believes there may still be hope for the species. According to their research, only about 20 rhinos could still provide enough genetic diversity to save them from extinction if they are able to successfully mate. Via BBC Image via Charles W. Harden

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