Solar Powered Theatre in France is a Real Feat in Engineering

The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban recently completed a very interesting and innovative theater building in Paris, France. Shigeru Ban is well known for pushing the envelope when it comes to architectural design, as well as for his humanitarian design work, and this theatre is no exception. It features a wall of solar panels, which is movable so that it can follow the sun all day.

Ban created the Seine Musicale theatre building in collaboration with French architect Jean de Gastines. It is located in the western suburbs of Paris, on the Île Seguin. The round building can seat 5,500 and contains two separate main halls, five recording studios, several practice rooms, as well as a huge rooftop garden that is planted with more than a dozen different tree species.

However, the really impressive part of the building is the 200-ton and 147-foot (45-meter) movable “sail” covered in solar panels. It is a heliotropic surface, which is capable of automatically tracking the path of the sun at a rate of 16 feet (5 meters) per minute. In this way the solar power generation of the array is maximized, while the “sail” also provides shading for the interior. It is definitely a feat in sustainable design, and Ban hopes in time the building will become one of the world famous symbols of Paris, alongside the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre pyramid.

The theater has a timber structure, which is robust enough to support its glass skin. The ceiling of the 1,150-seat classical music auditorium is made out of hexagonal elements that satisfy the acoustic demands of building such a structure. It is covered with an array of tubes that are made from wood, cardboard and paper, while weaved wooden slats cover the walls.

This project took four years to complete, and it is a great example of how cutting edge technology can be used to make our buildings more sustainable. Hopefully more future projects will incorporate such innovative solutions.

A Former Factory Worker’s Cottage Converted into a Home

Renovating an existing building can sometimes be the greenest choice, and this revamping of a traditional worker’s cottage into a modern family home is certainly a prime example of this. The renovation was carried out by the Australian firm A For Architecture and the home is located in Melbourne, Australia. The house was once the home of a local factory worker and was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, along with hundreds of others just like it.

The original layout of the house featured many small rooms, and consequently a lot of walls. They started the renovation by first taking down a number of these dividing walls, to make the spaces more open. They kept the two bedrooms, which are located at the front of the house, but they moved the bathroom from the rear to the middle of the home, where it is now located next to the laundry room and a storage space. It was completely redone and is quite large, featuring a sink, shower and toilet. A third bedroom is located just above it.

The living area is at the rear of the home and opens onto the back garden. They also installed several skylights into the roof here to let in even more natural daylight. Apart from having a good connection to the garden, the clients also wished for a layout that would allow for both privacy, as well as spaces where the family could spend time together.

For this reason the architects kept the original layout of the bedrooms in the front, while the rest of the home is now basically one large space. Glazing was installed along the entire back wall of the home, which together with the many skylights makes the interior appear spacious, aids ventilation and lets in lots of light. They kept the existing brick walls, but added timber and concrete during the renovation to make it more robust and give the home that modern, industrial aesthetic.

All in all, this is a great renovation of an old building, and they managed to keep heaps of material out of the landfill while transforming it into a lovely family home.

Sprawling Shipping Container Home Built in California

Some years ago the London-based architect James Whitaker designed an interesting shipping container office, which was unfortunately never built.  But earlier this year, a film producer from LA came across the plans and commissioned Whitaker to build him a home in the same style on his 90-acre (36-hectare) plot in Joshua Tree, California.

The Joshua Tree Residence, as the home is named, will measure a luxurious  2,152 sq ft (200 sq m) once complete. Though very realistic, the pictures are mere renders as construction has not yet begun.  Judging from the renders, the residence will be made out of 10-12 shipping containers, which will be left in pretty much the original state. To create the spacious interior layout, the containers will jut out at different angles and inclines. This will also ensure privacy and maximize the view of the surrounding desert.

The center of the home, where the shipping containers come together, will be taken up by a spacious living room, which will offer amazing views, while its large windows will let in plenty of natural light.  Elsewhere, the home will also feature three bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom, a kitchen, and a dining room. There will also be a covered area for parking, which will be topped by a solar power array that will provide all the necessary power for the home.

While there will likely be no shortage of sunlight to harvest for electricity, living inside metal boxes in the desert might prove uncomfortably hot. Minimizing the heat gain will be achieved by painting the exterior in a light to reflect the heat, and installing high-performing insulation. The windows at the top of the house will also let out the hot air naturally, while there will also be air-conditioning units strategically placed throughout the home to cool it.

Construction is due to begin in 2018.

The World’s Largest Vertical Garden Rises in Colombia

Green facades, or just adding some greenery to city buildings, help purify the air and make the cityscape that much more beautiful. Adding living greenery to our urban buildings in the form of vertical gardens not only helps to make cities more beautiful, but also serves the practical purpose of producing extra oxygen and cleaning the air. One great example of such a vertical forest is the Santalaia building in Bogotá, Colombia, which is also the world’s tallest vertical garden.

The Santalaia is a residential building which rises 9 stories high (with 2 stories below ground) and covers 33,550 square feet (3,117 square meters). It is the brainchild of biologist and botanist Ignacio Solano of Paisajismo Urbano, who worked with green roof design firm Groncol to create this gem. The garden consists of more than 115,000 plants, which are of 10 different species, including Hebe Mini, rosemary, asparagus fern, vincas and spathiphyllum that come from Colombia’s western coast. These plants cover practically the entire exterior of the building.

The plants are irrigated with the help of the so-called “F+P” hydroponic system, which is patented by Paisajismo Urbano. It is made up of pillars, that each supports a segment of greenery. These are irrigated by 42 irrigation stations to keep the plants growing. The water used comes from the residents’ bathrooms. The irrigation system is also fitted with humidity and radiation sensors that help in optimizing water consumption.

They estimate that the vertical forest produces oxygen for 3000 people, while helping to offset the carbon footprint of about 700 people. It also helps to filter out the emissions of 745 cars. Because of this, they are calling the tower a “living building” and it is quite fitting. It also brings some much needed nature into the densely populated city, and more cities around the globe should consider the addition of such vertical gardens to their skyline.

Tiny Home That Offers Plenty of Storage Space

Tiny homes are all about downsizing, and in the beginning of the movement that meant getting rid of everything but the bare essentials when it comes to clothes and other material possessions. But with some clever design techniques this is no longer the case. And the newly constructed Juniper house proves that even a very small house can pack a lot of storage.

Juniper house was built by Backcountry Tiny Homes, and they created this home for Alexis and Brian of Living the Tiny Dream. The home measures 290 sq ft (27 sq m) (which includes the lofts) and features an advanced form of framing known as ladder framing, which reduces material costs and weight, as well as limits thermal bridging. It also makes the process of insulating the home easier. Beetle-kill pine was used in the construction process.

The interior of the home features a large multi-purpose unit, so to speak, which was made for IKEA parts and contains a transforming seating area and foldaway table. The seating area also features a hidden coffee table and ottoman, which can be rolled under the sofa when not needed.

The bedroom is located in a loft, which is accessible via a set of stairs with integrated storage space. There is also an elevated platform here for storing shoes, while there is additional storage space hidden in the floor of the loft.

The kitchen is located under the sleeping loft and is fitted with a large sink and refrigerator, as well as an all-in-one washer, and plenty of pantry space. The bathroom features a shower and composting toilet, while the ladder leading up to the second, so-called “reading loft,” is incorporated into its door to save space.

In an effort to save money, Alexis and Brian assisted in the construction of their tiny home, which also meant that they learned a few things along the way. Because of this the total cost of the home was only $53,800, which includes all the furnishings and appliances.