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.
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.
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.
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.
Chopsticks have been around for almost 4000 years, but they also present quite an environmental problem. It is estimated that just in China, around 80 billion chopsticks are thrown away every year, with the number much higher if we factor in all the Asian food restaurants around the world. I’ve often wondered, when eating at an Asian restaurant, what happens to the used disposable chopsticks. And so have the founders of the Vancouver, Canada based startup Chopvalue. They went a step further, and founded a project that turns used chopsticks into awesome pieces of modern furniture and home accessories.
Felix Böck, the founder of Chopvalue is a PhD student at the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia. According to his research, over 100,000 pairs of chopsticks get sent to the landfill every day just in Vancouver. That is quite an alarming statistic, which is why he decided to try and offset this waste. He started out by purchasing recycling bins, and asked restaurant owners to use them for throwing away the disposable bamboo chopsticks. Once full, the contents were collected and taken to the Chopvalue lab. There they were first cleaned, then coated in resin and finally hot-pressed with a machine, which yielded a flat board.
These bamboo boards can be cut and assembled to build a wide range of furniture and other accessories for the home, such as tables, shelves, coasters, cutting boards and more. For example, a side table they made reuses almost 4000 chopsticks, while the base for it is made from steel that was salvaged from local demolition sites.
The company was started in July 2016, and thus far, they have already successfully recycled 800,000 chopsticks. The recycling service Chopvalue offers to restaurants is also free of charge and greatly reduces their waste production and consequently the costs associated with waste disposal. This is a great example of how a simple idea executed by a small company can have a far-reaching positive effect on the environment.
When working from home, having a dedicated office space is awesome, and having one that serves more than just a single purpose is even better. The firm Neil Dusheiko Architects from London, UK, recently built this sustainable garden office, which also doubles as a yoga studio and even a playroom for children. This space is used by a psychiatrist who practices from home, and they use it to see patients during the day. The structure is called the Shadow Shed, and they chose this name because it was envisioned as a space with a dark skin, but with light and warmth at its center. I think they did a good job of bringing this image to life.
The office shed is located at the far end of the garden and was sunken slightly into the ground. It is clad with heat-blackened cedar, also known as the shou sugi ban technique which is a popular all-natural way of protecting wood from fire, pests and rot. The main aim in the design of this structure was to make it blend into the surroundings as much as possible, and I think they pretty much succeeded.
The interior is comprised of just a single room, which was clad using recycled birch plywood. The furniture was also made using this same material, which gives the interior a clean, seamless look. The shed has two large windows on the side, as well as a skylight, which togetehr let in plenty of natural light. LEDs in the form strips and tubes, as well as multi-colored, pinpoint bulbs placed into the ceiling, are used to illuminate the interior after it gets dark outside. Due to it’s dark façade, the office shed is virtually invisible at night, save for the light spilling out of it’s oversized windows.
This cleverly designed garden shed is definitely one of the nicer ones we’ve seen. The fact that it was also built using sustainable methods and techniques is also commendable.
Tiny Homes are without a doubt gaining in popularity, and their uses, as well as designs are, as a result, getting more and more interesting and ingenious. Some people use them as vacation homes, others live in them full time, and still others have turned them into rental properties. Such is the case of River Resort, a tiny home designed by Liberation Tiny Homes, which is currently situated in Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
River Resort rests atop a 28-foot (8.5 m) long trailer and features a shed-type roof. The interior is taken up by a well thought-out lounge, which looks a lot more comfortable to use than the sitting areas of most other tiny homes. The sofa can also be turned into a bed. There is also a small kitchen, which is equipped with a full-size fridge, ample counter space, a sink and stove. This area also features a dining counter, which was made of concrete and reclaimed wood. The interior paneling is birch plywood.
A very interesting design choice for this tiny home was the inclusion of two staircases, which lead to the two sleeping lofts. Normally, tiny homes have one staircase that leads to the main loft, and a ladder that leads to the secondary loft. Each of the lofts in this tiny home measure 8 ft by 8 ft (2.4 by 2.4 m), though the headspace is not very generous in either. Both of the staircases also have integrated storage.
The door leading into the bathroom is actually a reclaimed oak wood barn door. The bathroom itself is quite spacious for a tiny home and features a 4-foot long bathtub. The home also features LED lighting throughout, as well as a 30-amp electrical system and a propane on-demand water heater.
Awhile back, architect Rolf Bruggink from Utrecht, Holland purchased a property on which stood an old, 1950s office building, and a coach house built in 1895. He planned to renovated the latter into a home, so he first demolished the office building. He salvaged a lot of materials from this demolition though, and reused them in the home renovation.
With the help of architect Niek Wagemans, Bruggink first drew up the plans of how to turn the old coach house into a modern home. Much of the focus was on reusing the old as much as possible, and to basically just give an old structure a new life. In that, they very much succeeded.
The coach house measures 538 sq ft (50 sq m), which was all more or less one space. To create some partitions, they first inserted a series of enclosed, suspended wooden volumes, which basically divide up the house into the needed areas, namely bedrooms, bathroom and office. It was a very clever idea to use these suspended volumes for the purpose of separating off the space into different rooms, since the coach house had a very tall ceiling and this space was thus very well utilized.
All these overlook the open plan dining, living and kitchen area. They also cut out a large window from the coach house wall to let in more natural light. The interior is very modern and minimalist, with a bit of an industrial aesthetic thrown in.
This is yet another example of a sustainable home renovation done right. It’s always more eco-friendly to live in an existing house, than to build a new one. And while they did demolish an office building in this case, they reused and salvaged a lot of the materials from that.