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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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.

A Breakthrough in Sustainable Hydrogen Production

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A shift to using renewable sources of energy to fuel our lifestyle is a must if we want to ensure a sustainable future. But finding such sources that are reliable, scalable, affordable and eco-friendly has been a challenge. Hydrogen is certainly one such potential source, if it could be produced and stored more efficiently, and using renewable energy to do so. But all this has proven difficult. However, the company HyperSolar has recently come up with a solution, which they believe could change all that.

HyperSolar have made a breakthrough in producing low-cost, scalable, and renewable hydrogen, using polluted or dirty water as its main source. They created a device called the H2 Generator to do the job. The device is powered by sunlight, and has a solar array attached to it, meaning it doesn’t need an additional or separate array to run. The device is a “self-contained Photoelectrochemical Nanosystem” and the technology was designed in a way that mimics photosynthesis. They claim that the nanoparticle-based system they developed leads to a significantly more efficient electrolysis process compared to a system that would be powered by a separate solar unit. Since the device has the solar array attached to it, there is also very little energy loss. The entire device, including the solar array can be submerged in water.

According to HyperSolar, the device optimizes the science of water electrolysis, using sunlight to separate hydrogen from any available source of water to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable hydrogen. To work, the H2 Generator does not need conventional electrolyzers that are energy intensive and expensive.

They are currently testing the lab-scale prototype of the H2 Generator, but they believe it could easily be scaled up and set to work turning wastewater into energy. Let’s hope this tech becomes available soon.

Mobile Home and Hostel Made From a Bus

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Converting a disused bus into a house gives a whole new meaning to living in a mobile home and we’ve seen quite a few awesome examples lately. This latest one is not only a home, but also a mobile hostel, which travels around the best skiing and snowboarding spots in Europe. It was built by Valerie Cook and Tim Boffe of Let’s Be Nomads. They will be travelling across Europe in it for the next 3 years, together with their toddler daughter and their dog.

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They converted a 39-foot-long yellow bus for this project, adding quite a few green and sustainable features. They’ve fitted it with a solar power array, which takes care of its’ energy needs. The bus is also fitted with a composting toilet. For insulation they used renewable, chemical-free Doschawol wool insulation, which is also great for regulating the moisture build up that occurs when moving from areas of extreme heat to extreme cold and vice versa. The home is heated by a woodstove.

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The interior of the home is very well spaced out too. The front is taken up by the lounge area, which features two rows of banquettes. These were custom built and feature collapsible tables , meaning they can be used for eating or working. When moved away, the space becomes a sitting room with enough room for children to play. The kitchen is next to the sitting area and features a woodstove and a propane-powered four-burner stove. There’s ample counter space, and also lots of storage space in this area. Next is the section with the bunk beds where guests can sleep. The family’s bedroom is located at the back of the bus. The bathroom features a small, but functional shower, sink and composting toilet.

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All told, the conversion cost around $55,000. To fund their travels, they are renting out space on the bus, starting at $61 per night. The bus will be touring the Tirol, Austria region until May 2017, stopping at the top places to ski and snowboard. In the summer, they plan to drive up to Norway.