A Super Green Building Planned for Brussels

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Architect Vincent Callebaut is well-known for his ambitious sustainable architecture project proposals, and this latest one that he’s proposing for the EU city of Brussels is no exception. His plans call for turning the city’s industrial area of Brussels into a sustainable community. They plan to renovate existing buildings, as well as build new high-rises, which would be equipped with a wide array of sustainable features.

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Callebaut’s plans call for the building of three high-rises, which would have a total floorspace of 915,000 sq ft (85,000 sq m). These buildings would feature a slide-like shape and rise to a max height of 328 ft (100 m). The roof would be clad in solar panels, while the balconies could be used to grow fruits and vegetables.

The plans also include the renovation of the old Marine Terminal, which measures 538,000 sq ft (50,000 sq m) to serve the communities needs. It would be divided up into different areas, and would feature several geodesic domes that would house restaurants, bars and other structures. There would also be raised pods made from CLTs that would serve as meeting spaces. Retail and office spaces would be housed in another set of CLT structures. It would also be possible to attach small greenhouses to the exterior of the buildings.

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Among the green tech planned for this project are the already mentioned large solar power arrays, wind turbines, airtight building envelopes, natural ventilation, and rainwater collection systems. They calculated that the complex would generate 186 percent of its annual electricity requirements, and this surplus would then me used to power the historic buildings in the area, as well as any planned future developments.

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We will, however have to wait and see whether this project gets picked up by the city’s planning commission.

Eco-Resorts Going up in the Azores

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The Azores, a group of gorgeous islands just off the coast of Portugal, has seen increased tourism in recent years. However fortunate that maybe, it also presents a problem for the environment, so in a bid to retain the unspoiled state of the landscape, the local Tourism and Agribusiness Development Company of the Azores (TADA) has come up with a way to preserve it. They will be developing eco-resorts across the islands, which will be sustainable and have a minimal footprint.

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The resorts will basically be made up of solar powered cabins, which they are calling the Eco Pods. They are currently planning to build six of these eco-resorts and the first is already under construction in the Vila Franca Do Campo Region of São Miguel Island. It’s set to open in the summer of 2017.

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The resort will feature an as yet undisclosed number of Eco Pods. The smallest of these will measure 161 sq ft (15 sq m) and will feature a sleeping area and a sitting area, along with a small food preparation space. The pod will be equipped with a fridge, a coffee machine and a TV. The bathroom will be located outside and will be heated by an external wood burner.

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There will also be a few 215 sq ft (20 sq m) Eco Pods. These will have all of the above, but the bathroom will be an inside one. The largest of the Eco-Pods making up the resort will measure 322 sq ft (30 sq m) and will feature all of the above as well as a small kitchenette.

All the EcoPods are prefabricated and raised off the ground on stilts that are made from recycled electricity poles. Among the other materials used for the construction are locally-sourced pumice stone, windows made from recycled plastic bottles, and timber that is grown locally. The cabins will be powered by a solar panel array. The Eco-Pods currently have normal toilets with septic tanks installed, though the plan was to equip them with composting toilets, which sadly fell through.

The Eco-Pods are built to withstand high-winds and earthquakes, while TADA also plans to put the designs to use for other purposes, such as disaster relief housing, or garden pavilions.

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Simple Yet Beautiful Furniture

When faced with the need to move, one of the more daunting tasks is dealing with the furniture. When such moves are required every couple of years, such as when changing jobs, the type of furniture you own plays a big role. And the lighter and more movable it is, the better. To solve a part of this problem, the firm Studio Corelam, of Vancouver, British Columbia designed a line of furniture which is made of super-thin, corrugated plywood which is strong, lightweight and gorgeous.

The material that their line of furniture is made of is called Corelam, and according to the makers, it uses a lot less energy to produce than conventional materials. It is made using a hydraulic press that applies 400 tons of pressure to the plywood. This technique was developed by Christian Blyt, the founder of Studio Corelam and it is patented. The idea is to corrugate plywood in order to make it stronger as well as more aesthetically pleasing than just regular plywood.

The first line of furniture created using this technique is called Tidal. One of the pieces is the so-called Lean-To shelf that can either be leaned against a wall, or connected to a second such unit to create a freestanding shelf. Another piece is the Round-about, which is a multipurpose unit that can be used as a storage stool or a side table, and also features a reversible top to give it some variety. The next piece is called the Capilano, and it is a coat rack, which can also be used as a small shelving unit. More than one of these can be attached to the wall by a French cleat to make a type of closet space. All the pieces in the collection can be transported in a flat packed box, which is light enough to be carried by one person. The pieces are also easy to assemble and disassemble.

This line of furniture would be perfect for a tiny house or a micro-apartment, since it also saves a lot of space. They are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to begin production where it is also possible to pre-order the first pieces.

Work From Home in Style and Sustainability

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Even when you work from home, it’s important to have your own workspace or office, which is separated from the rest of the living areas. Still, it’s sometimes hard to have that, especially when living small. But architect Petr Stolín from the Czech Republic came up with a very clever way to achieve this work/living separation. His so-called Zen Houses are made up of two volumes, one of which is used just for working, while the other for living in. He was inspired by the simplicity and minimalism of traditional Japanese architecture in creating them, hence the name.

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Each volume of the Zen House is 9.8 ft (3 m) wide and they are made from simple and, for the most part, recyclable materials such as chipboard, wooden beams, plywood, raw metal and rubber. The two volumes are clad in transparent acrylic panels. The interior is also very Zen-like. The office part of the home is all painted white, which has a calming, energizing effect, while the living part of the home is done up mostly in black, which is intended to promote rest and relaxation. It reminds me of the ying and yang concept, which might have been part of the architect’s intention when choosing the color scheme. Both the volumes have a mezzanine level, which increases the floor area of the spaces yet still keeps the interior open. The two volumes also feature large windows, which links them visually. They are connected by a wooden deck, and this area between the two volumes is perfect for outdoor lounging.

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Having your home office this clearly separated from your living spaces is a dream from many freelancers and work-from-home entrepreneurs. It’s hard enough to leave the job behind at the end of the day, and when you work from home, this becomes even harder. And the overall design and color choices for this home are in themselves very inspiring.

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Luxury Prefab Off-The-Grid Cabin

The recently unveiled Gapahuk cabin was designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and the leisure home builder Rindalshytter. It can be equipped to operate completely independently of the grid, and comes in a prefabricated package, meaning it can be built virtually anywhere.

The Gapahuk is a single story structure and has 968 sq ft (90 sq m) of interior floorspace. The interior is well-laid out, with most of the space taken up by a large open plan living/dining area and kitchen. The home also features three bedrooms, a spacious bathroom with a shower and toilet, and another separate toilet. The home also features a large covered outdoor deck, and plenty of storage areas, both inside and out.

Judging from the renders, the finished home will feature ample glazing, while most of the interior and exterior surfaces will be clad in wood. While the basic version is intended to be hooked up to the grid, it would also be easy to install the necessary tech to take if off-grid. according to the firm, the cabin’s sloping roof is ideal for installing solar panels, while it also protects from both the sun and from high winds. The home is heated by a wood burning stove, while it would probably be relatively simple to install a composting toilet, and a couple of water tanks and a water filtration system. Since the home was designed in Norway, it is probably safe to assume it offers comfortable living conditions even in the harshest climates.

The Gapahuk is probably the closest thing you can get to a professionally designed, high-end prefab home at the moment, and as such also carries a hefty price tag. It costs roughly $156,600 (1350,000 NOK) which does not include construction, or any of the off-grid features.