Paris is Getting a Vertical Forest Tower

Towers covered with greenery are not a new idea and the first ones are already getting built around the globe in an effort to fight the alarming pollution present in some cities. Now the Paris suburb of Villiers sur Marne is getting its own such tower. The so-called Forêt Blanche (which translates to White Forest) was designed by the famous architect Stefano Boeri, who is no stranger to proposing such vertical forest buildings. Towers based on his designs are already getting built in Switzerland and Milan, while a whole city of such towers is being planned in southern China.

Forêt Blanche will be made entirely of wood will stand 177 ft (54 m) tall. The exterior will be covered in 2,000 trees, shrubs and plants. It will feature apartment units at the top, while the lower floors will be taken up by offices and retail spaces.

The fours sides of the tower will be covered by a mix of balconies and terraces on which various plants and trees will be planted. According to the architects, this green covered area will be equivalent to one hectare of forest, which is 10 times larger than the actual footprint of the building itself. The project is still very much in the early stages, so a timeline for its construction and completion has not yet been decided upon.

However, it is a great idea, and one which more large cities should start entertaining. We must embrace nature and help it heal if we are to build a more sustainable future for our world. We will follow this project closely as new developments arise and keep you informed. Let’s hope it is just one of many such projects that we will get to report on in the next year.

Sustainable Co-working Space in the Himalayas

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Who says co-working spaces are only for big cities? There will soon be a place where you can go work in deep, untouched wilderness. The firm Carlo Ratti Associati is planning to build Pankhasari Retreat, which will be located in the Himalaya Mountains.

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They chose a valley in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India as the ideal location for this project. The retreat is bordered by picturesque waterfalls on one side, and a swift river on the other. That’s quite a change from the surroundings of co-working spaces we’re used to, which mostly consist of busy city streets.

The project was developed in partnership with architect Michele Bonino from Turin, Italy, along with a team of more than 20 professionals. The buildings themselves were designed in collaboration with local craftsmen and residents. The retreat will be constructed using locally sourced materials, which will include stone, framed teak as well as the native Indian Rosewood called sissoo.

Local architecture of the area favors large verandas and overhangs, and these were also be incorporated into the design of the retreat. The traditional styles of building have been modernized though, in the sense that the overhangs and other elements will effectively protect the inhabitants from rain and sun. The retreat was also designed in a way that promotes natural cooling, shading and ventilation. The retreat will be made up of several residential units, each of which will be able to house three to four people in two bedrooms. The units will also contain a communal living space, studio, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. Teleworking facilities will also be built onsite and Internet will be provided via satellite.

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According to the architects, the Pankhasari Retreat is being built to expand the concept of international living and working, while connecting local and global communities. Construction started in late August of this year.

Driving on Plastic Roads

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Holland-based firm VolkerWessels has recently introduced plans to start building roads out of recycled plastic instead of asphalt. According to them, this would reduce construction costs and maintenance time, as well as prolong the lifespan of roads. Given that plastic waste is very damaging to the environment, and that the process of building traditional, asphalt roads creates quite a few harmful effects, this could well be a very sensible step forward toward a more sustainable world.

According to VolkerWessels there are quite a few benefits of constructing roads out of plastic. They maintain that such roads could withstand extreme temperatures better than asphalt roads. More specifically, plastic roads could withstand temperatures as low as -104° F (-40° C) and as high as 176° F (80° C). Corrosion would also be less of a problem, while the company maintains that plastic roads would last three times as long as asphalt ones. Road maintenance would also be greatly reduced.

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Plastic road sections could be manufactured off site and then installed on sand in larger pieces, which would reduced the build time from months to weeks, according to the company. Plastic is also lighter, which would enable better control over road stiffness and water drainage. These type of roads would also have a hollow space within them, which could cater to a variety of secondary purposes, such as running cables and pipes through them, or housing traffic loop sensors.

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Using recycled plastic to build roads would also greatly offset the carbon emissions created by asphalt production. Also, plastic roads would lend themselves better to infrastructure advances such as power generation and heating roads to melt the ice and snow.

PlasticRoad, as the idea is called, is still in the concept stage, though VolkerWessels is currently looking for investors and partners to build the first prototype to test the idea in practice. The first plastic road will most likely be laid in Rotterdam, Holland.

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MiniHouse Grows Up into a Real Home

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Mini House was developed as a collaboration between architect and designer Jonas Wagell and the Swedish house producer Sommarnöjen, and could be used as a cabin or guest house. Due to its success, the company has now developed Mini House 2.0, which could conceivably become a true family home. And the best thing about it is the speed with which in can be built.

The basic Mini House measured a modest 161 square feet (15 square meters), with the new version being available in a longer length, offering the option to extend the home’s size up to 295 square feet (90 square meters). Since the construction is modular, the single units can be attached one to another to form a larger home. The new version also has a lot more extras and add-ons to choose from. These homes are built using recyclable and prefab materials.

Future owners are able to design the interior layout of the home according to their own wishes and needs. All the plans are then finalized before prefabrication begins, meaning that the home is ready to use as soon as it is assembled on site. The homes all feature wooden flooring and wooden-paneled interior walls, which is in keeping with traditional Swedish architecture, and electrical wiring and insulation are included in the base price of the home. The homes also come with a spacious covered deck for outdoor lounging.

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After they are prefabricated, the modular homes are delivered to the building site on a lorry in sections. The homes require only a plinth foundation to be erected, though a bathroom and plumbing would require at least a sewage system to be in place before construction begins.

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The makers are discussing plans to make the Mini House 2.0 available to a wider customer base soon, but for now it is only available in Sweden. The basic unit costs US$29,550 (€24,000), while a unit with a kitchen is priced at $41,860 (€34,000).

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Wooden Skyscraper Wins the eVolo Skyscraper Competition

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This year’s winner of the eVolo Skyscraper Competition is the so-called “Vernacular Versatility” skyscraper, which was designed by the US architect/designer Yong Ju Lee. The “Vernacular Versatility” skyscraper design was inspired by the traditional Korean house called Hanok, the defining characteristic of which is a wooden structure that is completely exposed, along with a tilted roof. The eVolo Skyscraper Completion has been held since 2006 and was established “to recognize outstanding ideas for vertical living through the novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations.”

Lee’s “Vernacular Versatility” skyscraper was inspired by the same building techniques as were used to create the Hanok houses, but translates them into unique, sustainable vertical living structure. The entire skyscraper is to be constructed of wood, with the structure fully exposed. The main structural element of the skyscraper is a traditional wooden connection called Gagu.

The Gagu is located just below the main roof system where the column meets the beam and girder. This structural element is fastened without the need to use nails. In the past, this type of architecture has only been used to construct one story houses, but due to the advances in technology, this unique traditional building system can now be applied into high rise buildings as well.

The model presented in the competition is a 7-floor structure, each of which contains a single elongated apartment space. The skyscraper would basically be built like a wooden puzzle, namely by fitting together specially cut wooden connection pieces. Some of these, like the Gagu, would be used to hold up the structure itself, while the rest would hold the wooden panels of the walls together.

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All the apartments in the skyscraper would also be fitted with large windows to maximize the amount of daylight entering the house, while the fact that it is constructed out of wood would make heating the indoor spaces easier. The “Vernacular Versatility” skyscraper would also feature a tiled roof with a curved edge that can be adjusted to control the amount of sunlight that enters the building.

On the whole, this skyscraper design is a great blend of the traditional and the new, and proves that a lot can still be learned from our forbearers, especially, perhaps, when it comes to building sustainably. Its design also has undeniable aesthetic qualities.

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