REPOST: How Architecture Should Adapt to Climate Change

With the planet’s climate rapidly changing, architects must begin designing homes and buildings with deeper understanding about weather patterns. This article published on TIME has interesting insights on this issue:

Ever since humans left their caves, providing shelter has been the focus of their architectural endeavors. Perfecting the art over time, we have come to think of buildings as permanent. When we build, we do it for eternity. Still, whenever disaster strikes, buildings invariably burn, flood or collapse. We have seen a lot of that in the news lately. Grenfell Tower, hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Maria, the Mexican earthquakes, to name a few. Confronted with the fragility of our structures — and the ever-growing power of the elements they face — we start asking questions, search for solutions and, inevitably, turn to architects for answers.

It can give one hope to see the hands-on interventions that architects have provided in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Some have turned shipping containers into shelter for evacuees and refugees. Others have transformed otherwise-disposable paper tubes into partitions in relief shelters and repurposed gymnasiums, into entire concert halls and churches. Several have built structures halfway so their future residents can complete them according to local needs. Still more have provided indoor play spaces for young children after nuclear plants melted down.

Architects have also been engaged in optimistic longer-term solutions. On the hurricane-exposed coast of the Atlantic, a group of architects has developed catastrophe-mitigation strategies that seek to work with the environment, rather than against it. (One team is led by OMA, the firm where I work.) Instead of reinforcing protection against flooding, they accept the reality of sea level rise and incorporate it into the design. Building is confined to safe areas, while vulnerable areas become buffer zones.

Though useful as they might be, the real effect of such ideas remains an open question. Certainly, they raise awareness of global catastrophic risk. But how are they to be applied in existing, densely populated urban areas — the way that now more than half of the world’s population lives? In the end, such projects mainly expose the deficiencies in the way cities have been planned, from a time when responding to climate change was not an issue. It will take more to address these issues than clever solutions devised by architects and other specialists. What is at stake is not so much how to find solutions in our struggle against the elements, but why we are at war with the elements in the first place.

Read more HERE.

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These developing countries are building the most ambitious real estate projects of today

Real estate has always been considered one of the most vital sectors in every country’s economy and its growing importance has also made it a strategic investment option not only because of its ability in generating ongoing income sources but also how its value can rise overtime.

Since the decision of investing in particular real-estate projects depends on unpredictable factors such as the state of economy and government stability of a nation, a growing number of developers and investors have looked into building and investing in the most flexible, multi-use real estate projects recently – bringing their ambitions to the relatively calm and stable economies of several developing countries around the world.

Forest City, Malaysia (estimated cost: US$100 billion)

Image source: eco-business.com

Country Garden Pacific View (CGPW)’s new project, the Forest City in the Iskandar Region of the country is something that investors should look forward to.  In fact, the company’s CEO Baiyuan Su expects great things from this smart city, calling it Southeast Asia’s first and the largest multi-use green development project, covering an area of 6-million square meters.

The firm has also partnered with PCCW Global for a world-class, energy-efficient digital infrastructure by building data center solutions that will enable a future-proof digital framework for the green city.

Also included in the developer’s vision are digitized transport and utility management services and integrated communications solutions for its residents and businesses.

Eko Atlantic City, Nigeria (estimated cost: $6 Billion)

Image source: ekoatlantic.com

Started in 2009, the Eko trans-Atlantic city project was a practical and ambitious response to the region’s demand not only for commercial and residential accommodations but also for its growing tourism and business sector.

Developers have promised state-of-the-art technology, modern water systems and advanced transportation services, and an independent energy source.  Eko Atlantic City is already in its advanced stage of development and is considered the best, prime real estate in West Africa.

The project was made possible through the combined efforts of the Lagos state government and several private sectors including South Energyx Nigeria Limited.

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The biggest and most economically important road networks in the world

Image source: pulseexterne-pp.cie.edf.fr

One of the most unnoticed and often unsung heroes of economic development are the major road networks in the world. Basically, roads not only provide access to the outside world but also offer easier and faster means to distribute produce to markets, deliver goods and services efficiently and enable social mobility and stimulate economic growth and expansion. In fact, countries across the globe have recognized that roads are extremely important social and economic assets. Let’s take a look at the world’s biggest and most important road networks today.

1. United States of America

Image source: nashvillepublicmedia.org

The American road network is the longest, the biggest, and one of the oldest in the world, exceeding 6.58 million kilometers (4.3 million kilometers of paved roads). The highway networks is categorized into three major roads: the interstate highways, the US routes (numbered highways) and the state highways.

2. China

Image source: ft.com

China’s 4.24-million kilometer (as of 2012 data) road network takes a spot as one of the longest and most economically strategic national and provincial highways in the world. Its national expressway system is known as the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS) with seven radial expressways that all lead to the national capital, Beijing. China’s road masterplan however doesn’t stop there. Come 2030, the country envisions a 5.8 million kilometers of total road network that includes 180,000 kilometers of expressways and 400,000 kilometers of national highways.

3. India

Image source: sterlingholidays.com

India is the home to an economically important road network in Asia, spanning over 4.6 million kilometers (as of 2015 data). It plays a major role in the country’s transport infrastructure, and data shows that it accounts for 65 percent of freight as well as 80 percent of commuter traffic in the country.

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REPOST: Should You Invest In Rental Real Estate?

Investing in real estate, as with all other investments, has inherent risks of varying degrees. Whether or not it is a good investment will depend on a variety of factors, including your risk profile, leverage, credit score, and many others. Here are more insights from Forbes:

Are you considering investing directly in rental real estate? With many people increasingly concerned about both stock and bond market valuations, you’re not alone. First, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of becoming a landlord:

Income: With stocks and bonds both yielding about 2%, one of the main benefits of real estate is the ability to generate significant income without having to sell your investment. It’s possible to generate high single to low double digit returns on your cash even with a mortgage.

Inflation protection: Not only can real estate provide good income, it’s income that naturally keeps pace with inflation. Inflation can also increase the value of real estate and reduce the real burden of mortgage debt over time. For these reasons, it can be a great way to hedge against the possibility of rising inflation, which generally hurts both stocks and bonds.

Leverage: Historically, real estate appreciation plus rental income has underperformed stock appreciation plus dividend income. What gives real estate an advantage is the ability to benefit from the leverage of purchasing it with borrowed money at relatively low interest rates. For example, if you put down 20% on a $100k property and it appreciates 3%, you actually earn a 15% return ($3k of appreciation divided by the $20k you put down). Of course, you can buy stocks on margin but margin rates are higher and are not tax deductible. You could also be forced to sell your stocks while they’re low to satisfy a margin call.

Tax advantages: Real estate also comes with a lot of tax advantages. First, you can deduct costs such as the mortgage interest, property taxes, and depreciation from your taxes and even use excess “losses” to reduce your other taxes. If you sell a property, you can defer the capital gains tax by reinvesting the proceeds in another one. When you pass away, your heirs can inherit the property and sell it without having to pay any tax on all the appreciation during your lifetime.

Control: You can add additional value to real estate by purchasing a property you believe will appreciate faster than the overall market (the real estate market is much less efficient than the stock market so there are more opportunities to profit from superior knowledge), making improvements, and managing it yourself.

However, real estate is not for everyone. There are some important challenges to be aware of too. Before taking the plunge, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you have to have a good credit score and debt/income ratio? Ideally, you’ll want a credit score above 740 and total debt payments (including future mortgage payments) of no more than 43% of your gross income. If you’re not there, take steps now to improve and protect your credit score and to pay down your debt. Otherwise, you’ll get a higher mortgage rate or you may not even be able to qualify for a mortgage at all. If you have the cash, you can purchase real estate without a mortgage but you lose the benefits of leverage.

 

Do you have enough savings? A 20% down payment will help you avoid having to pay for PMI (private mortgage insurance) but a 25-30% down payment is often needed to qualify for the best rates on an investment property. You may also need another 2-5% for closing costs. If you don’t have that, start saving now. Keep in mind that you’ll also need savings for emergencies after the purchase, including maintenance and repair costs and covering the mortgage during vacancies.

Do you have time and patience? Sites like Roofstock are making it easier, but buying direct real estate isn’t as easy as buying a mutual fund. You’ll likely have to spend a lot of time researching and looking at properties and may not get your first, second, or even third choice. Even once you have a signed contract, expect lots of phone calls, emails, and paperwork to complete the transaction.

Do you know how you’ll manage the property? The first method makes it a business/part-time job. The second is an additional expense that can cut into your returns.

What tax bracket are you in? While there are lots of tax breaks from owning direct real estate, the rental income is subject to your ordinary income tax rate, which is higher than the tax on qualified stock dividends. One way to avoid this is to invest more for appreciation than income while you’re working and in a high tax bracket. Another is to purchase real estate in a self-directed IRA, which can grow to be tax-deferred or tax-free, but that comes with its own complications.

Are you okay having your money tied up? You can’t generally sell real estate as fast as you can a stock or mutual fund and transaction costs can be high. You can take out a line of credit to borrow against any equity you have, but that still needs to be paid back.

Do you have a high risk tolerance? People often think that real estate is less risky than stocks. With an individual stock, you could lose all the money you invested, but with a rental property, you can actually lose more than you put in. After all, you’re on the hook for maintenance costs and mortgage payments even if you don’t have a paying tenant. If you sell it at a loss, leverage can work against you as you can end up not just losing your down payment but also possibly being stuck with an underwater property.

Like any investment, real estate has its pros and cons. The important thing is to go into it with both eyes open. It’s not just location, location, location. It’s also education, education, education.

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Modern and bizarre: Architectural marvels to see in your lifetime

Architecture is a major field of design that is also a massive and constantly evolving industry. A crucial aspect of real estate and urban planning, it is a major factor to determining a properties’ value and investment potential. Hence, many cities around the world are investing heavily in good design to attract not only property buyers but also tourists.

Man-made architectures have long reigned the list of wonders both in the ancient and modern world. To think that humanity can create something majestic by combining skills and imagination is a source of pride, a brilliant gift that can have the ability to nearly rival the beauty of nature.

If you’ve travelled enough places, you’d observe how modern architectural wonders have impressively attracted millions of people to countries and how these seemingly passive structures have actively interacted and conversed with their perceiving audience. If you are still yet to check them off your bucket list, here’s a glimpse of some of the modern world’s greatest architectural achievements that you should see in your lifetime.

 

Image source: ideasgn.com

The Shard in London, England

As one of the marvels of modern engineering and architectural design, ‘The Shard’ (also referred to as ‘the Shard of Glass’) stands 310 m to tip tall, with 95 stories that allow anyone to see the finest 360-degree city views of for up to 40 miles. What’s impressive is its exterior, which is covered by 11,000 glass panels.

 

Image source: oddcities.com

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Branded as the ‘greatest building of our time’ by the iconic architect Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry’s the Guggenheim Museum was inspired by different architectural styles: deconstructivism, expressionist, and contemporary architecture.

 

Image source: arup.com

CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China

This building is known for its bizarre and seemingly physically impossible form, but thanks to modern engineering and the brilliance of its creators, Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, it has become one of the greatest architectural marvels that the world has ever seen.

The engineers described it as a ‘three dimensional cranked loop’ because of its unusual shape. What’s amazing is that, the building is also designed to withstand earthquakes and stand strong in frequent seismic activities.

 

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REPOST: Algae-producing architecture a “future energy” highlight at Astana Expo 2017

Nowadays, ‘beautiful’ design is no longer just the sole basis of defining what good architecture is. At the Astana Expo, architects are finding new ways to integrate green energy and non-artificial elements (such as plants and natural lighting) in building quality structures. Here is an interesting feature from Daily Planet:

The BIOtechHUT exhibit at Expo2017 in Kazakhstan. Image ©NAARO

An urban “algae farm” producing low-carbon protein and bio-fuel is one of the highlights on show this week at the future energy-themed Astana Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan.

London-based EcoLogicStudio’s BIO.tech HUT is a three-part pavilion at the biennial world fair event, exploring the boundaries of biologically based architecture. The prototype aims to “probe the future, test scenarios and promote the emergence of a new narrative in future energy”.

Bio.light room

The first part of the exhibit, the Bio.light Room, is a dark space in which the only visible light emitted is from bioluminescent bacteria. The organisms absorb energy through photosynthesis in tubes that encircle the outside of the pavilion, lighting up the dark part of the exhibit when shaken and oxygenated.

Bio.light Room. Image ©NAARO

 

H.O.R.T.U.S. (Hydro Organisms Responsive to Urban Stimuli) room

Another room (H.O.R.T.U.S.) flooded with natural light, hosts an art installation containing photosynthetic micro algae. Visitors are encouraged to engage with the micro algae using carbon dioxide to produce oxygen bubbles in 700 meters of glass tubing (see image below).

H.O.R.T.U.S. (Hydro Organisms Responsive to Urban Stimuli) room. Image ©NAARO

 

Garden hut

A third area, Garden Hut, uses a high-speed air flow to lift algae into glass tubes, generating a stirring effect that allows the desired oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to occur, before falling back with gravity. A pump isn’t needed, a method that the team thinks hasn’t been used in algae production previously.

Garden Hut. Image ©NAARO

 

Climate benefits

Five tubes containing different types of algae loop the exhibit, collecting in tanks for harvest as super-food or bio-fuel.

EcoLogicStudio estimates the hut can produce enough algae-based protein for 12 adults, the protein equivalent of eight cows. By switching to an algae protein diet, the overall net contribution to carbon sequestration of the BIO.tech HUT would be around 90kg per day — the same carbon sequestration potential of 500 square meters of forest.

The BIO.tech HUT can also produce about 1kg of bio-fuel a day, comprising either dry algae or oil produced by green algae — enough to power a north European home.

According to Marco Poletto, Director at ecoLogicStudio, it makes more sense for to produce food from the algae produced. To realise the ambition of bringing microorganisms into architecture, “in an urban environment you are looking to grow strains that have higher market value”, he said.

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Neo-futurism: A response to modern architecture’s skeptical designs

Since the Industrial Revolution and the boom of 20th century technology, mankind has witnessed changes that our ancestors would and could have never imagined to ever exist neither in their lifetime nor in the millennia to come. What was once impossible has now become a reality, thanks to the continued quest to simply see beyond and outside the box.

 

Image source: fsmedia.imgix.net

 

Truly, many sectors and industries have benefited from the modern world’s innovative ideas as well as the ever developing technology– and the same story is true in the field of architecture—probably the single most important reason for the success (or failure) of many real estate and property development projects. Therefore, it plays a critical role in shaping up the business and the economy as a whole.

 

As a form of art that highlights a respect for structural and geometrical balance, it has expressed its own appreciation and genuine acceptance of what the modern world has to offer in the form of a “new” architectural style, neo-futurism.  Essentially, it is a late 20th century architectural style derived from high-tech architecture.  It combines concepts of urban design that utilize new materials and technologies. However, unlike its other modern counterparts, the style is more in touch with human emotions, promoting ethical values, and eco-sustainability.

 

Image source: londontopia.net

 

This is why neo-futurism is described as an idealistic and more optimistic take on the future. As a form of an avant-garde movement, it is as a departure from post-modernist’s skeptical and referential style in design. One of its goals is to rethink functionality and aesthetic in response to the rapidly developing urban areas.

 

Buckminster Fuller and other designers introduced this concept in the late 1960s and early 70s but rise of this art movement in modern architecture can be credited to prominent figures such as Zaha Hadid, Iraqi-British Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect, and the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

 

Other famous neo-futurist figures are French architects Denis Laming, British artist Olivia Peake, urban-noise artist Joseph Young, and many more.

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REPOST: Why are houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright a tough sell?

Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces, while culturally important and aesthetically impressive, require serious upkeep and diligent maintenance. In the article below, The Financial Times explains why it is often very difficult to sell any of the famed architect’s famous projects:

 

Coonley House (1908) in Riverside, Illinois, $1.7m

 

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most distinctive homes was collapsing in 2000, when Dean and Ella Mae Eastman bought the property in the Chicago suburb of Riverside for about $1m. Known as the Coonley House, it had a roof that was falling down, thousands of handmade tiles designed by the famed architect had disappeared and the façade had been damaged by a fire years earlier. “You couldn’t open any of the doors,” says Dean Eastman, a retired physicist. “They were all warped.”

For a more than a decade, the Eastmans worked meticulously to restore the century-old building, tracking down Wright’s original plans and hiring craft companies to repair the woodwork and art glass that were signatures of Wright’s Prairie style. Now the Eastmans, who are both in their seventies, are ready to sell the home.

“We’re of an age that we don’t want to be taking care of the house all the time,” Ella Mae says. “We enjoyed it and had fun, and now somebody else can have fun with it.”

Yet it hasn’t been easy to find a buyer, even after the Eastmans’ painstaking restoration. The property has its quirks: it is part of an estate that was carved into four separate properties and any buyer must agree to preserve the exterior of the historic landmark and more than 270 art glass windows and doors. A year after the 6,000 sq ft house was listed for $1.79m, it is still available and the price has dropped to $1.7m.

The property has prompted “many inquiries but no real interest”, says Catherine Simon-Vobornik, an agent with Baird & Warner, the agency that is listing the house.

 

FB Henderson House (1901) in Elmhurst, Illinois, $1.1m

 

Wright is one of America’s greatest architects, but the homes he designed are often a tough sell. They are old and often require meticulous maintenance, and typical vendors are looking for a premium to other homes in the area.

“It’s going to take a particular type of buyer,” says Marilyn Fisher of LW Reely, the agent marketing a Wright-designed home in Elmhurst, a city outside Chicago. Built in 1901, the six-bedroom, 5,500 sq ft home is another example of Wright’s Prairie style and includes 80 feet of original stained-glass windows, three fireplaces and large formal rooms.

However, the house can seem dark and dated to modern buyers and the bathrooms are smaller than in most new homes. Fisher acknowledges this. The house has been on and off the market since 2013; once priced at $1.29m it is now listed for $1.1m.

“It’s just an old house,” Fisher says. A few years ago a Frank Lloyd Wright home “would have been a feather in the cap, something you could show off”, she says. “I think nowadays people are not into that as much.”

 

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Famous people and their gorgeous homes

For celebrities and well-known personalities, fame and fortune can be the keys to happiness—especially if one’s definition of being ‘happy’ is going home to a outrageously stunning million-dollar mansion. Just imagine having all the money in the world to buy almost anything under the sun. What would your dream home look like?

Before you answer, take some design inspiration from these famous sports and Hollywood personalities and their gorgeous homes.

 

  1. The Kardashian Sisters’ California Homes

Image source: architecturaldigest.com

Both of Kourtney and Khloe’s Calabasas properties in California used to be owned by two famous stars, NFL celebrity Keyshawn Johnson and superstar Justin Bieber, respectively.

Although the sisters hired the same decorator, each of their homes reveals very different designs: Kourtney focused on a sophisticated but family-friendly style while Khloe’s vibrant and contemporary combination of Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Turkish sense embrace an elegant vibe.

 

  1. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Majorcan Villa

Image source: mirror.co.uk

This stunning luxury home was a recent additional to the couple’s portfolio in 2016 and was acquired before their rumored separation. It is located in the sunny town of Andratx, the same area where Pitt’s WWII drama Allied was filmed.

According to report, this coastal property is an eight-bedroom home and is estimated to be 900 square meters. The property also covers a double living room, a large garden and swimming pool.

 

  1. Stephen Curry’s Alamo Mansion

Image source: bizjournals.com

Curry’s latest East Bay property is a five-bedroom, 10,290 square feet mansion that houses a Finnish-style sauna, five fireplaces, chef’s kitchen, billiard room, and a library. In addition, it has a 1.5-acre footprint that includes an outdoor pavilion with kitchen and a remarkable infinity edge pool. The property also has enthralling formal gardens with a fountain.

 

Wealthy individuals, including celebrities and business tycoons, are responsible for some of the biggest real estate deals in the world. Each property costs millions, and that translates to substantial profits to both realtors and property developers. Real estate as a whole is a major economic driver of any city, and thus, an important component in many investment portfolios. Know more how diversify into real estate by consulting with a financial advisor at LOM Financial.

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REPOST: Portable Architecture You Can Roll, Wear, Tow, or Float

Innovations in architecture are almost limitless, and Dubai’s impressive skyline is a proof to that. However, in an article published on Atlas Obscura, outrageous architectural concepts such as portable saunas and moveable houses may soon become even more ubiquitous. Here’s more about portable architecture:

 

The Ecocapsule can accommodate two people and runs on solar and wind power. (Nice Architects, Slovakia, 2008) TOMAS MANINA

 

Moveable houses, portable saunas, and wearable tents are the subjects—among some 250—of the new book Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move, by Rebecca Roke. It’s both a paean to traveling light and an eye-catching look at all the ways a dwelling can move. The designs range from the functional to the outlandish, and cover an array of forms of transport, from tugboats to tractors.

Some of the examples are ideal for recreation, such as the compact-cute, California-made Golden Gate 2 camper, with a rounded timber frame, portholes, and a spot for a surfboard. For lovers of winter sports, the Nomad Sauna, which was built on a lake in Norway, includes an internal ice-hole for intensely refreshing breaks from the heat.

It is not all fun and games—others are designed for important, practical use. It can also be used to provide shelter during a crisis, or for protection in extreme weather. The Rapid Deployment Module is a temporary dwelling that can be assembled in an hour to provide shelter during a crisis or disaster, while the DesertSeal is an inflatable, lightweight tent that can protect inhabitants from extreme heat.

For portable architecture to actually move, it needs somehow to be stowed, carried, pushed, pulled, or towed, and this is the way that some of the portable shelters featured in the book get really get inventive. The Walking Shelter is like a tent on two legs (yours), and folds up neatly into the heel of high-top sneaker. Many of the designs are pedal-powered or designed to be towed in a more traditional manner. Some of those can be quite luxurious, such as the four-wheeled Collingwood Shepherd Hut wagon, with a shingled exterior and a cozy wood-burning stove.

And there are some creations that just defy categorization. The aptly named Portaledge, for example, is a small tent that rock climbers can affix to a rock face and sleep in (safely)—while dangling high above the earth. The experimental Camper Kart, created by artist Kevin Cyr, turns a shopping cart into a mini-home with a roof, sleeping desk and storage—all of which can be folded right back into the cart. It can also be considered an artistic statement on the perceived association between shopping carts and the homeless.

Continue reading HERE.

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