LISTEN AND LEARN
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Now sit back and relax. The most inventive new chairs transform plastic waste like single-use water bottles into sculptural perches for home or office. Collaboration is the key to sustainability in the global world.
For urbanites, a country house can offer the ultimate escape. But a second home can also double your residential carbon footprint. As the effects of climate change become more immediate, experts are saying yes to less, designing high-style, completely off–the–grid homes that go beyond the tiny-house trope. Take, for example, the new prototype that architect Marc Thorpe devised as his own haven in upstate New York. Just 500 square feet, the cedar-clad cabin is, as he puts it, “an exercise in reduction,” and entirely self-sufficient. Solar panels provide electricity; a wood-burning stove heats and cooks; and rainwater is collected and reused. Customizable for clients, the simple off-grid abode provides all the necessities. Says Thorpe: “We, as architects, have an opportunity now to start a movement toward less.”
SLEEP ON IT
When it comes to a good night’s rest, it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. With the health of our planet in mind, pioneering companies are rethinking the staples of slumber—from Buffy’s eco-friendly eucalyptus sheets, comforters, and pillows to Avocado’s all-organic mattresses and bedding. Because you don’t want to lay your head just anywhere, that’s when sustainability comes into the picture.
Before COVID-19, the climate crisis was already changing how we travel, as conscientious jet-setters forwent planes or offset trips by supporting programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But to invert the adage, it’s not just about the journey—it’s about the destination. Today’s most enticing hotels are doing their part to be greener. Take the new Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica, which created a reserve for local sloths; or Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia, now updated with solar panels and a water-recycling plant. If the eye has to travel, it must do so with sharper vision.
Denim snippets, cast-off feathers, even clay sludge—one person’s trash has literally become another’s treasure, thanks to a bold generation of designers developing new materials from old waste. This calls for a bright sustainable future.
KNOCK ON WOOD
Though it may seem like a throwback to yesteryear, wood construction is now being heralded as the building method of the future, as experts deploy prefabricated, cross-laminated timber planks for everything from mixed-use towers to single-family off-grid homes. Embraced for its low carbon footprint, the material is not only easily replenishable (when harvested from sustainably managed forests) but also fire-safe. Notably, Zaha Hadid Architects has received permission to erect the first all-timber stadium, a sinuous, 5,000-seat soccer arena in Gloucestershire, England. What’s old is new again.
CEMENT YOUR IDEAS
According to recent studies, buildings and their construction produce some 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, and cement is the main offender, releasing one metric ton of carbon dioxide for every metric ton produced. In a high-rise, that stacks up to a lot of pollution. But a novel sustainable system may be the key to tomorrow’s towers. Designed by the global architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Stereoform Slab debuted at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial in the form of an undulating 70-foot-long pavilion. The engineering feat uses 20 percent less concrete than traditional construction but maintains the same strength. “Material savings is key,” says SOM partner Scott Duncan, whose team used robotic formwork to determine the efficient shape. “Sustainability is a matter of using our resources more intelligently.”
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