UN Environment and Yale present a sustainable tiny home in NYC



U.N. Environment and Yale University’s School of Architecture has unveiled an innovative tiny home that explores the intersection of policy and eco-conscious design. The Ecological Living Module, located at the U.N. Plaza in New York City, is a sustainable dwelling that embodies many of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, several of which are under review this month at the U.N. High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Designed by an interdisciplinary group of engineers, architects and designers from the Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, the 22-square-meter tiny home includes integrated systems for on-site water collection, solar energy generation (using less than 1 percent of toxic semiconductor materials), micro-agricultural infrastructure, natural daylighting, plant-based air purification, passive cooling and cross-ventilation and various other cutting-edge technologies that allow the home to function off-grid.

In addition to being powered solely by renewable energy with a net-zero footprint, the housing module is composed primarily of locally sourced, bio-based renewable or recyclable materials. Several of the materials used to construct the particular model on display were reused or repurposed from previous projects.

Related: 10 eclectic tiny homes built with 99% scrap

At a minimum, the living tiny house module includes a kitchen, bathroom, dining area and sleeping space for four people, and it can be adapted for both domestic and commercial needs. The project demonstrates what can be accomplished in a small space with a minimal environmental footprint. The tiny home symbolizes the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and brings sustainability closer to home and to the forefront of our lives.

U.N. Environment’s communications officer Sophie Loran said, “We really enjoyed the work that went into this project because it brought together such a wide variety of experts interested in making sustainability real for people.”

Related: Architecture students build a tiny CLT classroom in just 3 weeks

One billion people currently inhabit informal settlements across the globe, and many more live in structures that are not environmentally friendly. Communities faced by rapid economic growth and urbanization are increasingly facing the need for new infrastructure solutions in order to grow sustainably.

“Everybody on this planet has a right to a decent home, but the housing sector uses 40 percent of the planet’s total resources and represents almost a third of global greenhouse gas emissions,” said U.N. Environment Head Erik Solheim. “In the face of a growing world population, smart new housing solutions, such as the Ecological Living Module, will be needed to balance our need to house everybody while protecting our planet’s ability to support life.”

In addition to examining where we live, the exhibition calls attention to how we live, namely, how our daily at-home habits impact the planet. As visitors move through the various spaces within the tiny home, they will have the opportunity to learn more about energy-efficient lighting and appliances, urban farming, composting toilets and methods for reducing water consumption and food waste. In the bathroom, visitors will be exposed to information about avoiding hygiene products containing microbeads and videos about various initiatives to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems. In the kitchen, they can explore information on global campaigns to reduce food waste or to redirect it from landfills to livestock food.

Some of the Sustainable Development Goals embodied by the tiny house include “Responsible Consumption and Production,” “Clean Water and Sanitation” and “Climate Action.” After exploring how eco-conscious home design can directly support these goals, visitors can apply similar sustainable technologies and techniques to their own homes, making sustainability initiatives more personal and approachable.

Related: Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development

The tiny home exhibit will be on display at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City until July 18, after which it will be moved to the U.C. Berkeley campus. This first demonstration unit contains location-specific features that consider the climate and context of New York. Plans for future applications, including an adaptation in Kenya, will likewise incorporate features that cater to the local climate and culture.

By demonstrating the practicality and benefits of eco-conscious affordable housing, the Ecological Living Module showcases the ability of sustainable design to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

+ U.N. Environment

+ Yale University

Images via U.N. Environment

Ancient rural hamlet reinterpreted as a solar-powered modern home



building exterior

Rimini-based GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects has renovated a cluster of historic buildings into a modernist dwelling set in the lush Italian countryside. Named the AP House, the project comprises three structures with a more streamlined farmhouse aesthetic on the exterior and a light-filled contemporary interior. The striking renovation is located on one of the highest hills in Urbino atop ancient remains that date back to the Medieval Communes.

walnut office


Clad in rustic stonework, AP House consists of three floors constructed with reinforced concrete walls and red concrete floors. To lend the interiors a sense of warmth, GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects inserted custom walnut wall furnishings throughout, from the kitchen storage and dining table to the walnut-lined office and double-height statement wall that rises from the living room. Large openings let in plenty of natural light and views of the picturesque Urbino countryside.

living room

“Linked to each other on the hypogeum level, the structures rest on a red concrete platform (38 X 20 mt) dominating the surrounding landscape,” wrote GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects. “The core of the houses, which forms a single housing unit, reestablishes a central role to this site in the landscape, restoring a direct and empathic dialogue between new buildings and historical stratification.”



Related: Historic stone stable in Tuscany hides a beautiful contemporary interior

To prevent views of any vehicles on the first floor, the architects tucked the main entrance and parking in the basement level. The lower level also comprises a movie room, an exhibition gallery, and a gym with a spa. The ground floor houses the primary living areas including the living room, dining room, kitchen and private studio, while the upper level contains the master suite along with two en-suite bedrooms. All of the systems in the house run on electricity and are powered by a hidden photovoltaic solar system onsite.

+ GGA Gardini Gibertini Architects

Images by Ezio Manciucca

The spacious Camberwell House reconnects a large family with nature



When a family approached AM Architecture wanting to turn their mid-century modern into a more spacious home with a stronger relationship to the outdoors, the firm had a tall order to fill. The large family wanted a bigger indoor living space to accommodate their numbers and an improved layout that would allow them to reconnect with nature. The result is the 5,920 square-foot Camberwell House in Melbourne. The firm redesigned the existing home and successfully created a comfortable space for the family that embraces indoor-outdoor living.

To meet the family’s expectations, the architects created a split-level design for the living areas and re-centered the home’s entry to create a pavilion, which serves as a meeting place for the family and their guests. The pavilion structure has become a focal point of the house, incorporating key elements that serve as the centerpiece of any home: the kitchen, a dining space and living areas complete with a fireplace.

To help foster a stronger connection to nature, the architects included large windows throughout the home. These windows, including the floor-to-ceiling glazing, utilize a low-E coating to help block heat in the summer and keep the house cozy and warm in the winter. Large internal brick walls also assist in regulating the indoor climate.

Related: Mid-century Eichler home gets a bold remodel into the 21st century

Furnishings are a futuristic take on mid-century style and blend well into the wood and glass materials that make up the family home. In the kitchen, cupboards provide plenty of storage space while also concealing appliances. An abundance of shelving proudly displays the residents’ knickknacks. In the living space, bare pendant lighting and a ceramic fireplace mimic the vertical placement of the home as well as nearby trees. The full-height windows fill the common areas with natural light.

Thanks to their new location on a higher level in the home, bedrooms offer privacy and serenity for both kids and adults. From their beds, the family can look out to views of the backyard and nearby park. Although the home is two stories, the glass wall seamlessly integrates the two spaces. “This split level addition creates a dramatic new focal point in the house,” the architects said, “that connects all discrete parts of the house and introduces a dramatic relationship to its beautiful, natural surrounds.”

+ AM Architecture

Images via Dianna Snape

Snhetta designs an energy-positive data center to fight climate change



data center aerial

Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and real estate developer MIRIS have unveiled designs for ‘The Spark,’ an urban data center that reuses excess heat to power cities. Framed as a “solution to the global climate crisis,” the prototype is designed to power cities with up to 18,000 people. The city of Os, located south of Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, will be the first municipality to test the concept as part of a plan to become the world’s first-ever energy positive city.

data center exterior

Created in collaboration with Skanska, Asplan Viak and Nokia, The Spark was born from a study that examined the energy footprint of data centers and how they could be redesigned for energy efficiency. According to their research, they found that 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the world could be attributed to buildings, while data centers alone account for approximately two percent of total energy consumption. As digitalization continues to rise, so will demand for more data centers.

data center exterior

data center exterior

Although data centers have traditionally been located in remote locations, The Spark would be placed in the middle of a city so that recaptured excess heat could be used to power nearby buildings, which would also be solar-powered to feed energy back to the center and thus slash overall energy consumption by up to 40 percent. “We have developed a cyclical energy concept,” explains Elin Vatn of Snøhetta. “By cyclical, we mean that the heat generated from the data center is looped through the city before it is brought back to the center. This system allows us to heat the buildings in the city, but also to cool down the center towards the end of the cycle. This way we can maximize the utilization from beginning to end.”

data center interior

Related: Snøhetta unveils plans for world’s first “energy-positive” hotel in the Arctic Circle

The Spark will be tested in a pilot project in Lyseparken, Os as part of a sustainable business park that will generate at least 4,000 new jobs with thousands of households in the surrounding area. If the pilot is successful, Lyseparken is expected to be the first-ever energy-positive city in the world. The Spark data center would be constructed following the Powerhouse standard—a set of guidelines for plus-energy buildings—and include low-embodied materials like wood instead of concrete.

+ Snøhetta

+ Spark City

Images © Plompmozes

Geothermal-powered Forest House showcases sustainable features in Maryland



exterior of the Forest House

Set on the edge of a forest conservation area in central Maryland, the Forest House is a contemporary home integrated with a wide variety of energy-efficient features. Local design firm Gardner Architects LLC designed the spacious home that responds to passive solar principles and rises to the height of the tree canopy to capture surrounding views. The sustainable technologies include geothermal energy, rooftop solar panels and rain gardens, as well as low-tech solutions like stack ventilation.

exterior of the Forest House

south elevation of Forest House

Commissioned by clients who wanted a spacious home yet desired a sustainable footprint, the Forest House spans 25,000 square feet across three levels. By building upwards on the 0.6-acre wooded property, Gardner Architects sought to create a compact building footprint that would minimize site disturbance. The Forest House embraces the outdoors with covered balconies, a large roof deck that overlooks the forest, and ample low-U value glazing that wraps around the south side to maximize solar gain in winter. The upper level is cantilevered over the glazed south facade to provide shade from the harsh summer sun.

side view of the kitchen

south side of the Forest House

The home was constructed with framing panelized off-site in a factory to reduce material waste as well as onsite construction time. The energy-efficient building envelope is bolstered with rigid insulation on the exterior to prevent thermal bridging. In addition to natural daylighting that’s brought in through the skylights and other glazed openings, the openings were carefully placed in concert with an open stair tower so as to promote stack ventilation that brings in cooling breezes.

view of the kitchen

side view of the Forest House

Related: 13 energy-efficient modules make up this prefab modern home in Maryland

The Forest House is powered with a ballasted solar array that sits atop the roof deck. A ground source heat pump provides heating and cooling. To further reduce energy needs, the house is equipped with central DC-powered low voltage LEDs that can be controlled remotely. The project was completed in 2016.

+ Gardner Architects LLC

Images by John Cole

The luxurious Pohutukawa tiny home on wheels lets you live large in style



house exterior

The notion of living large in small spaces is perfectly captured in the Pohutukawa, a tiny home on wheels that fits up to six people and boasts a double mezzanine. Designed by New Zealand-based firm Tiny House Builders, the contemporary Pohutukawa is a luxury tiny house that comes with a fully outfitted interior and all the necessary hookups. Keep scrolling to take a peek inside the surprisingly spacious tiny home.

living area seen through entrance

open-plan living area

Outfitted with all the modern comforts of home, the Pohutukawa measures nearly 10 feet in width and 27 feet in height with an 11.5-foot-tall ceiling. The Pohutukawa, which takes its name from the New Zealand Christmas Tree, is handsomely clad in board and batten siding painted black, which contrasts sharply with its light-filled interior and white walls. With a footprint of approximately 270 square feet, the abode also embraces indoor-outdoor living for an even more spacious feel thanks to aluminum-framed French doors, while clerestory windows and other wide windows — all double-glazed — let in additional natural light. The mono-pitched roof is topped with corrugated iron. The home rests on a custom-made triple-axle tiny house trailer.

dining area and kitchen

kitchen appliances

At the heart of the home, there is a large living and dining area with a mezzanine on either side. Beneath the first mezzanine, which fits a queen-size bed, the full kitchen includes a dish drawer, an oven/microwave, hob, range hood, sink, fridge/freezer and plenty of storage. On the other side of the tiny home is the more compact mezzanine that can hold a double bed or serve as an entertainment lounge and is accessible via ladder. Beneath that elevated space is the bathroom with a standing shower, vanity, toilet and heated towel rail. The washing machine and extra storage can also be found on this side of the house.

living room

bathroom and washer dryer

Related: This cedar-clad tiny home radiates true southern charm

The price of the Pohutukawa tiny house ranges between $55,000 USD to more than $90,000 USD. The structure typically takes three to four months to construct from start to finish. The Pohutukawa includes appliances, but clients can also purchase optional upgrades, from a custom corner fold-out couch with built-in storage to an off-grid solar setup.

+ Tiny House Builders

Images via Tiny House Builders

view of open-plan living space from second mezzanine

Confluence Park's new solar-powered pavilions collect rainwater and provide shade from the summer su



San Antonio’s idyllic Confluence Park just became a little greener and more scenic, thanks to a collaboration between firms Lake Flato and Matsys Design with the support of landscape architect Rialto Studio. The riverfront park now boasts sweeping sculptural pavilions that provide shade from the fierce Texas sun as well as an elegant method for collecting rainwater.

Confluence Park is located where the San Pedro Creek merges into the San Antonio River. Covering just over three acres, the public park now features a main pavilion, three smaller pavilions and a classroom. Flowing water and confluence served as strong influences these new structures, which imitate the sculptural atmosphere of the surrounding landscape. The team strategically designed these additions for minimal site impact.

The focal point of the park is the main pavilion. This structure is constructed from 22 concrete pieces resembling petals, which were made on site and lifted into place. The pieces form giant archways that are illuminated at night with subtle accent lighting that merges seamlessly into the swooping petal formations.

The main pavilion as well as the smaller pavilions are both beautiful and functional. The petal shapes help to funnel rainwater that is collected in the park’s catchment system. This system serves as the park’s main water source. In addition to collecting water, the pavilions provide a cool respite from the fierce summer heat that often plagues southern Texas.

The Estella Avery Education Center stands near the main pavilion. This structure generates 100 percent of the energy it uses through solar panels while offering a space for the city’s residents to learn more about the San Antonio River watershed and surrounding environment. The green roof that tops the classroom is planted with native grasses and allows for passive heating and cooling through thermal mass.

Thanks to the new classroom and pavilions, Confluence Park now offers more opportunities for park-goers to learn and explore the local environment. “Confluence Park is a living laboratory that allows visitors to gain a greater understanding of the ecotypes of the South Texas region and the function of the San Antonio River watershed,” Lake Flato architects said. “Throughout the park, visitors learn through observation, engagement and active participation.”

+ Lake Flato

+ Matsys

+ Rialto Studio

Via Dezeen

Images via Casey Dunn

Historic warehouses transformed into a swanky boutique hotel in New Orleans



front room of the hotel

New York City-based architecture and interior design firm Stonehill Taylor tapped into New Orleans’ storied past for its design of The Eliza Jane, a new boutique hotel a few blocks west from the city’s iconic French Quarter. The unique hotel was created from seven centuries-old warehouses that were combined and renovated to form a variety of elegantly dressed spaces including 196 guest rooms with 50 suites, a fitness center, garden courtyard, lounge, restaurant, and lobby.

the press room lounge

The lounge and bar

Created as part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, the Eliza Jane hotel was named after Eliza Jane Nicholson, the first woman publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States. In the late 1800s, Eliza Jane had worked as the publisher of ‘The Daily Picayune,’ which was one of the original warehouse occupants. Moreover, Stonehill Taylor wove references to ‘The Daily Picayune’ and the buildings’ other original occupants—like the Gulf Baking Soda company and the Peychaud Bitters Factory—throughout the adaptive reuse design. The ‘Press Room’ lounge on the ground floor, for instance, is decorated with typewriters and other antiques referencing a 19th-century newsroom.

Publishers suite bedroom

publishers bathroom

“The intent was to create a quintessentially New Orleans setting, a sophisticated blend of old and new, that pays homage to the building’s past,” says Stonehill Taylor in a statement. “The hotel is built within seven historic warehouses that stand distinct on the outside but have been internally conjoined to create the luxury accommodations with a 2,000-square-foot open-air interior courtyard.”

sitting area in lobby

hotel bedroom

Related: Abandoned NYC warehouse is reinvented as LEED Gold-certified apartments

The arrival sequence is anchored by a 60-foot-tall light-filled atrium surrounded by lush greenery and the original exposed brick and slate-colored plaster walls. Repurposed materials can also be found throughout the interior, while new custom wall coverings reference the different historic uses in each building. The opulent material palette is combined with vibrant patterns and rich colors to create a setting that feels luxurious and uniquely New Orleans.

+ Stonehill Taylor

Images via The Eliza Jane

Go glamping with views of the Statue of Liberty on NYCs Governors Island



tents exterior

A new glamping destination has popped up in an unlikely location — a 172-acre island just across the river from New York City’s Statue of Liberty. Launched by Denver-based Collective Retreats on Governors Island, the Collective Governors Island retreat offers luxury tents with modern amenities in a verdant setting just a quick ferry ride from Manhattan. The experimental campsite is the first time camping has been allowed on Governors Island, which has recently undergone dramatic changes from a military base to a beloved summer escape for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

luxury tent exterior

Glamping — short for “glamorous camping” — at Collective Governors Island offers an all-inclusive experience with a variety of high-end dining options, amenities and activities available. Currently, the 100-person campsite includes two luxury tent types: the Summit Tents and the Journey Tents. The Outlook Shelters, a series of full-service suites housed in repurposed shipping containers, are coming soon as well. Both the Summit Tents and the Journey Tents are outfitted with comfy beds and linens as well as electricity, however, the former is a larger, more luxurious option that includes added amenities like a private en suite bathroom; the Journey Tents are connected to a shared bathroom.

Related: Luxury facilities let campers enjoy nature with no hassles

tent bedroom

tent bedroom

Although Governors Island is less than a 10-minute ferry ride from Manhattan, the naturalistic setting makes the island feel miles away and is ideal for a relaxed glamping experience. This area is mainly owned by the city and state, while 22 acres are controlled by the National Park Service.

tent at dusk

communal outdoor space

Related: Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food

A recent push to open the car-free island to the public has seen the addition of movie nights, community gardens, and public art installations. However, a curfew and the ferry’s limited schedule meant visitors had been previously barred from staying overnight. Although guests at Collective Governors Island will not have free reign over the island at night, there are more than enough activities to keep families entertained, from the new The Hills Park to biking paths. A stay at the Collective Governors Island starts at $150 a night.

+ Collective Governors Island

Images by Patrick Chin

tents exterior

A former ski lift station takes on new life as a bold mountain lodge



Black cabin with gabled roof and large deck

A small mountain lodge has replaced an old ski lift station on the Krkonoše mountains in the Czech Republic. Czech studio ADR designed the Černá Voda, named after a nearby stream, to serve as a place of respite for short-term guests of a nearby lodge’s owner. The isolated retreat stands in a meadow apart from the Horní Malá Úpa village, among tall trees and lush shrubbery that shroud the cabin in serenity.

Black cabin in a snowy landscape

Stepping inside the Černá Voda, guests will find a bright, minimalist design. Light timber, which covers the walls, floors and ceilings, creates an open, airy feel. The kitchen space offers a sharp contrast with blackened wood cabinetry. The simple interior draws focus to the large windows and their picturesque views of the mountains, including Sněžka, the highest mountain peak in the country. One window opens to the outdoors and allows a breath of fresh air into the cabin.

Blackened timber cabinetry in a kitchen

Upstairs, a sleeping loft outfitted with protective netting offers a quiet space for visitors to rest. As natural light filters into the ground floor at daybreak, the loft benefits from the pitched ceiling and retains some darkness for guests who prefer to sleep in. During cooler months, a small wood-burning stove keeps the cabin toasty and inviting after a long day of exploring the outdoors.

Black cabin surrounded by trees

The mountain lodge blends into its forested surroundings in the summer with its dark metal and blackened wood cladding. When the landscape becomes blanketed in snow, the gabled cabin stands out boldly in its environment. On the west end of the home, a deck extends the living areas to the outdoors.

On the left, black timber kitchen and a dark wood burning stove. On the right, pendant lights hang above a small dining table

The Černá Voda mountain lodge has been nominated for a 2018 Czech Architecture Award, which promotes projects that embrace the public and the environment by both new and seasoned architects.


Images via Jakub Skokan and Martin Tůma / BoysPlayNice

Black cabin on snowy hill at dusk