Thursday, May 7, 2009

DOWN TO EARTH: 10 Modern Earth Sheltered Homes

1. R.E.A.C.H (Rural Earthship Alternative Community Habitat) in New Mexico

One type of home using earth-sheltered construction is known as an ‘Earthship’. Earthships, created by US architect Michael Reynolds, are dwellings created from recycled products that minimize the human impact on the earth. The homes are generally made of earth-filled tires utilising thermal mass construction to naturally regulate indoor temperature.

Earthships are built to utilize the available local resources, especially energy from the sun. For example, windows on the sunny side admit light and heat, and the buildings are often horseshoe-shaped to maximize natural light and solar-gain during winter months. Likewise, the thick, dense outer walls provide effective insulation against summer heat. The roof of an Earthship is heavily insulated - often with earth, for added energy efficiency.

For over 35 years, pioneering architect Michael Reynolds has developed housing constructed of recycled materials.
R.E.A.C.H., the original Earthship community founded in 1989 is located in a high mesa valley tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, near the outer fringes of Taos, New Mexico. The off-the-grid community does not produce the same human imprint of most suburban households. However, this is a private community, therefor one cannot 'pitch up' uninvited. With invitation, the only way to reach the village is via 4 x 4.

2. Eco-friendly home, California

This modern eco-home designed by eco architect Mickey Muennig is found in Copper Point, Big Sur. Built into the lush landscape overlooking the California coastline, this innovative, home literally blends into its surroundings, with only strategically placed doors and windows peeking out from beneath its sod roof. The Cooper Point house literally becomes the landscap following the natural contours of the site. It’s built like a bunker with massive concrete retaining walls at either end and all-glass walls in between. There isn’t really a roof in a conventional sense—it’s more like a continuation, an enhancement of the Big Sur environment, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers.

3. The Underground House in Cumbria, UK

The project to build the house started in April 2002 and the proud family moved in just over six months later. The site also includes a farm animal veterinary workspace. The house has been built into the hole left by the removal of stone from the quarry, making it invisible from behind or the sides.

All that can be seen from the front are the double height conservatory and a small array of photo-voltaic tiles above the front door. The family is surrounded by 350 million year old sandstone, and is covered with soil. The home is warm and quiet, light floods in from the front, the ventilation system means that the air is always clean and fresh.

4. Earth House Estate Lättenstrasse, Switzerland

This earth covered homes by architect Peter Vetsch, are anything but traditional. The nine private houses that make up the estate are grouped around a small artificial lake. The basement, as well as the parking lot is built with conventional techniques, not so the ground floor, which is constructed with the typical earthhome construction principle of sprayed concrete.

The insolation consists of recycled glass, an absolute environment friendly product. The water protection is added directly on the sprayed concrete. On top of the isolation is a protective layer with natural earth, which can be used to grow grass or plants on the rooftop.

5. The Nautilus Earthship, New Mexico

The Nautilus Earthship, in Taos, N.M., was built in 1996 and is listed in the top 500 buildings of all time. It causes no conflict, no stress, no depletion, no trauma to the planet earth. It is built will recycled materials such as old car tires and soda pop bottles. It is constucted to provide stabilized temperature. The home makes use of renewable energy and integrated water systems that makes it functions without paying any utility-bills.

6. Sundown Gardens & Residence, LA, Mount Washington

One of LA's most unusual homes by far, owned by architect Fritz Haeg. The home was built in the mid-1980's by a doctor and designed by architect William King. The home has various dimensions, the cave part of the home is lit only by skylights.

The outer part of the house has s green roof for maximum thermal efficiency and the geo-dome shelters a vast interior studio volume for meditation, art, rehearsal, performance, or entertaining. Haeg bought the property in 2000, and is currently living in and working from his home.

7. Home in Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK

South Uist is an island of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. This is were you will find this interesting earth sheltered dome home. The stucture of the home is so that it maximises the views across the islands. Glulam beams are used to form roof of the earth shelter. ICF has been used to construct the walls of this earth sheltered dwelling. Steel mesh and Polarwall was used to form the earth sheltered house.

8. Geodome Montana, USA

It is the world's first earth sheltered geodesic dome with passive annual heat storage. John N. Hait, the inventor of passive annual heat storage wanted to build, not just one home, but to design and build a concrete precasting facility capable of mass producing. Thus began one of the most unusual construction stories of the 20th century.

Four inch thick steel fibrous reinforced concrete was used to built this complicated structure. The Geodome has 1.5 million pounds of fill on it and it is engineered to hold another one million.

9. Woodlands Hobbit Home, Wales

The home was built by the family themselves, they wanted to live close to nature. It was built with maximum regard for the environment by using natural materials. The home was dug into the hillside for low visual impact and shelter, stone and mud from diggings was used fot the walls and foundation. Straw bales in the floor, walls and roof provides super-insulation. A skylight in the roof lets in natural light. Solar panels provides the home with electricity.

10. Woodland Parks Hobbit Hotel, NZ

The Hobbits, like the other motels available at Woodlyn Park, are all self-contained with kitchens and own shower toilet facilities can accommodate up to 6 people in each unit.

Each have specially designed furniture and decor and having been built using polystyrene blocks this has given them added warmth in the winter and cooling affect in summer.

Monday, May 4, 2009


1. World's Largest Green Wall, the 'Bio-Lung', Aichi, Japan

The Bio-lung is a wall covered with living vegetation, and is said to be the biggest 'green wall' in the world, measuring 150 meters long and 15 meters high. The name Bio-lung was intended to communicate that this kind of structure can use the power of plants to function like a lung for cities. Over 200,000 individual plants of 200 different species, including vines, colorful flowers and fruits is part of the Bio-lung.

Green tapestry at Changi Airport, Singapore

Singapore landscape architect Tierra created the ,Green Tapestry, at Terminal 3 at Changi Airport. The wall spans 300 meters across the middle of the voluminous interior. The suspended I-beams and stainless steel cable structure is covered with vines, creepers and epiphytes. The 'green Tapestry' can be seen from departure and arrival areas.

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3. Parabienta Green Wall, Japan

Another 'green' wonder of Japan. Shimizu, one of Japan's great construction dynasties has developed a rather impressive and affordable 'green' wall at 80,000 yen per square metre. This 'wall surface afforestation system' (parabienta) is light, can be designed in different patterns and grids, and cools the building significantly.

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4. Edouard Francois 'Flower Tower' in Paris


I wasn't really sure if this one belongs in the green wall or green roof category, but none the less, it is worth mentioning somewhere. Francois is a green architect and the creator of this unconvencional apartment tower in Paris. The building features flower pots built in at each level to surround and shade the entire structure.

Ann Demeulemeester Shop, Seoul, South Korea

The Ann Demeulemeester shop in Seoul, South Korea, features undulating living walls made from a geo-textile that is planted with herbaceous perennials. The green look is even carried into the interior of the store. Mass Studies, the Korean architecture firm responsible for the design, wanted to incorporate nature into what can often be cold retail environments.

Edificio Consorcio, Santiago, Chile

Architects Enrique Browne and Borja Huidobro are the creators of The Consorcio in Santiago, Chile. It is one of the world’s most eco-friendly office complexes. It uses up to 48% less energy thanks to the vegetation climbing up its exterior walls, which turns red in autumn.

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7. Harmonia 57, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Harmonia 57 by French-Brazilian architects Triptyque is an office building in São Paulo, Brazil, with a planted facade irrigated by a mist system.

Plants grow in 'pores' set into the concrete facade and will eventually cover the building.
The pipelines that serve the whole building, as well as the pumps and the water treatment system; are showing in the exterior walls, embracing them like veins and arteries of a body.

The building is rough and has a primitive elegance; a reflex of the actual concern with environmental issues and the investigation of new ways of intervention.

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Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, Paris

The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in Paris opened in 1984. It was designed by Andrault-Parat and Prouvé, Guvan. It is the venue for the Paris Masters ATP Tour tennis tournament and for many sports as well as rock concerts. The seating varies from 7,000 to 17,000, depending on the event. Bercy has an original and modern pyramid shape and is completely covered by lawns.

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9. The Moss Room, San Francisco

The atmosphere at The Moss Room Restaurant in San Francisco is certainly unlike any other. Diners descend into a subterranean room, housed within the Academy of Sciences, that has a unique feature: a wall covered in moss. Designed by Olle Lundberg, the restaurant features a 40-foot living wall that draws moisture from a large water tank in which African jumping fish will reportedly soon live.

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10. CaixaForum Museum, Madrid

Patric Blanc designed the beautiful vertical garden on the exterior walls of the CaixaForum in Madrid. More than 15,000 plants from more than 250 species cover an entire side of the historical building, built in 1899.

The plants are arranged in such a way that they form a painterly design, with arches of color creating a sense of movement.
It is 24 metres high and takes up one wall of the square in front of the building. It has 15,000 plants of 250 different species and has become an instant drawing card to the area.

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11. Emporium Shopping Centre in Bangkok

Another example of Patrick Blanc’s stunning green walls, the Siam Paragon shopping center in Bangkok Thailand features a lush, rainforest-like cascade of ferns, vines, sedum and moss in various shades of green, yellow, red and purple.

This elevator in Bangkok's Emporium shopping center stretches vertical horticulture to a height of more than 30m (98 ft.). Such heights pose challenges to upkeep: Twice a year, the plants are cut back and the irrigation mechanism and wall framework are inspected.

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12. Restaurant Japonez in Mexico

Restaurant Japonez offers hungry souls searching for Asian-inspired dishes a serene landscape seated between a stunning living wall, wood, and an incredible glass enclosure. Designed by Serrano Cherrem Architects.

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13. Musee du Quai Branly in Paris

The building was designed by architect Jean Nouvel. The "living wall" (200m long by 12m tall) on part of the exterior of the museum was designed and planted by Gilles Clément and Patrick Blanc. The "living wall" at installation was quite healthy and vibrant, however, over time, the inadequate support system for the plants roots, irrigation and drainage have become visually evident. The museum complex contains several buildings, as well as a mediatheque and a garden.

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14. The Living Wall in the Qantas First Lounge
, Sydney

Marc Newson, together with associate architects Sébastien Segers and Woods Bagot, is responsible for the stunning experience that is the Qantas First Lounge.There are 8,500 plants in the 2000 square metre Sydney Airport lounge, 280 square metres of which is greenery. It goes to show that you don't need a lot of space to make sure that nature and plant-life is close by.

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15. Shuhei Endo Stadium,
Hyogo, Japan

The continuous surface of roof and wall is covered with plants on artificial soil in which the bark of Japanese cedar and cypress are mixed. Mixed soil with plant seeds of 10 kinds is sprayed on the slant of 70°in maximum. At the beginning of the spraying, the state of the surface was just black soil.

Normally large interior space requires artificial lighting even during day time. Here, it obtains the required illumination by providing three large top light to reduce the energy consumption of artificial lighting. Shading seal was pasted on the glass to reduce the temperature increase by direct rays of sun, in addition to this, louver openings are installed for gravitational ventilation around the top lights.

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