This might seem like a lot for a bed, but multiple scientific studies have shown that too little sleep (or poor quality sleep) has clear ties to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a shortened lifespan over time — and those same studies show that Americans average just 6.8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is an important part of maintaining your health, and The Pod can help optimize your sleep patterns.

The Pod is designed with an adaptive foam bed that makes it a comfortable sleeping experience, even with all of the built-in sensors. The foam consists of four distinct layers that allow it to adapt to any sleeping position. It is also divided into two sections so each side of the bed has its own temperature controls and biometric tracking.

The temperature control works through water cooling. The Pod contains a reservoir (called The Hub) that lets the bed warm and cool according to your specifications. The temperature range is anywhere from 55 to 115 degrees, although it’s tough to imagine sleeping on a 115-degree mattress.

One of the interesting features in The Pod is the Thermo Alarm. This setting begins to cool the bed in the minutes leading up to your set wake-up time. With no sound and no vibration, it is the perfect way to wake up without disturbing your partner. And with easy integration to other smart home tech, you can set your coffee pot to begin brewing the moment you get out of bed.

The Pod can be reserved for $95, with the remaining balance due when the bed ships in April. The Pod starts at $1,995 for a Full, $2,295 for a Queen, and $2,495 for a King and California King. Eight Sleep is offering its customers a 100-night trial with free returns.

Eight Sleep hopes that users will monitor their biometrics during the night and learn how to make their night-time environment more conducive to a full night’s sleep. The Pod might seem like just a fancy bed, but all of the built-in technology poses a solution to fighting back against sleep deprivation, one night at a time.

Eight Sleep’s Pod bed keeps you cool (or warm) and tells you how you’re sleeping [Digital Trends]

Ok, if I were scrubbing a filthy, smelly, overly disgusting toilet in, say, a prison or a football stadium, I might sing a different tune. As it is, I’ve only scrubbed the pee-splattered ones in my home. But I’ve always felt that toilets get a bit of a bad rap as the grossest place in the home — when they’re actually not.

From a germ perspective, we should be more fearful of neglected areas like door handles, computer keyboards, and phones. And if you have a good toilet brush, you don’t even have to touch the places where poop touches. So, what’s the big deal?

This was exactly what I was thinking when I first heard about Giddel, the $500 toilet-cleaning robot from Altan Robotics. Come on, I thought. Do we really hate cleaning toilets so much that we’ll buy a $500 robot to do it for us? Is this something that society really needs?

But the more I learned about it and talked about it on Digital Trends Live, the more my thoughts about the robot morphed from skepticism to curiosity to fascination. Finally, unable to stop myself, I requested one for review. I had to try this sucker — er, scrubber — out.

I figured I’d let it twirl around in my dirty toilet just to see if the cute little thing would have me ditching toilet brushes forever or cursing our tech-solution-without-a-problem society.

We all know that houseplants help purify the air inside a home. If you don’t have a green thumb, though, you may still be in luck – Ikea has developed curtains that are claimed to clean indoor air, utilizing a process similar to that which occurs in plants.

Known by the product name Gunrid, the curtains are made of conventional fabric that is subjected to a surface treatment which coats them with a photocatalyst mineral layer. We asked Ikea just what that mineral is, but the company isn’t ready to reveal it just yet. That said, we’re guessing that it’s titanium dioxide, which has previously been used in air-purifying textiles.

In any case, when the material is exposed to indoor or outdoor light, it reportedly reacts by breaking down pollutants such as formaldehyde, that are present in the surrounding air. There’s currently no word on how effective the coating is, although the process is said to be “similar to photosynthesis found in nature.”

If you’re interested in getting a set of the curtains, they should be in Ikea stores sometime next year. The price has yet to be announced.

“Besides enabling people to breathe better air at home, we hope that Gunrid will increase people’s awareness of indoor air pollution, inspiring behavioural changes that contribute to a world of clean air,” says Lena Pripp-Kovac, Ikea’s Head of Sustainability. “Gunrid is the first product to use the technology, but the development will give us opportunities for future applications on other textiles.”

Ikea is set to release air-purifying curtains [New Atlas]

Brett Mahon, Joonas Parviainen, Saagar Tulshan, Shreyansh Sett have built a multi-level pavilion where people can gather and relax in Rijeka, Croatia.

Level Up is designed to be a new place for locals in the post industrial port city to socialise, and turns a previously disused rooftop area into a terrace.

The international quartet of architects created the site-specific pavilion as part of European Architecture Students’ Assembly, (EASA) 2018.

The pavilion was built as an extension to Export Drvo, a 1950s industrial storage building by the Dead Canal. Rijeka is due to become Europe’s culture capital in 2020, and the Export Drvo is set to be one of the key venues in the celebrations.

The pavilion, which doubles as street furniture, is formed of a series of levels linking up to a elevated terrace built on the roof.

Different places and surfaces for visitors to sit, swing or relax in a hammock are placed all along the extended staircase to the top of the structure.

On the terrace a platform provides a raised vantage point to look over the city and doubles as a place for speakers to address a crowd.

Mahon, who is from Northern Ireland, Parviainen from Finland, and India-based Tulshan and Sett, drew up the design prior to EASA 2018, where they ran a workshop for participants who helped bring Level Up to life.

“Instead of creating new public urban area, Level Up puts focus on reclaiming existing space,” said the design team.

“It creates a balcony to the Delta with an industrial aesthetic, acting as a public frontage. In an era where permanence of the built form has been defining architecture, Level Up celebrates ephemeral urbanism, inviting everyone to ponder material and spatial impermanence.”

Steel scaffolding was used for the structural frame, with wooden boards and decking used to create the levels, steps and furniture. Plants sourced from a local garden centre were used to decorate the pavilion.

Others repurposing unused places for public space include Jordanian architects Sarah Abdul Majid and Sandra Hiari, who have designed a series of stackable wooden unitsthat can turn abandoned areas into children’s playgrounds.

Level Up street pavilion provides multi-level hang-out space for Rijeka [Dezeen]

 

Living in a crowded inner city means that many residents don’t have a garden of their own, so are unable to grow their own fruit and veggies. We’ve seen a number of indoor growing innovations – including Windowfarms and the Grobo – but last year’s OGarden was a little different, growing plants in a rotating wheel with a light at its center. The design has now been updated, resulting in the OGarden Smart.

Like the original OGarden, the Smart version is raising production finds on Kickstarter. And its makers are hoping for repeated success – the first campaign raised over €80,000 and attracted nearly 270 backers.

Up to 90 plants can be grown at the same time in the second generation indoor garden, including leafy greens, herbs, cherry tomatoes, baby peppers, strawberries and edible flowers. The eye-catching wheel can accommodate 60 plants, while an LED lit nursery shelf in the housing below can take 30.

New to the Smart design is automatic watering from tanks housed in the base, with those tanks holding roughly 10 days of water and a warning system notifying users when reserves are running low. Low energy LED lighting at the heart of the device should make for relatively inexpensive indoor gardening throughout the year. This latest model is also reported to be slimmer – at 53 x 29 x 15 inches (134.6 x 73.65 x 38.1 cm) – and easier to use than the original. And the whole shebang draws only 120 W of power.

Indoor gardening with the OGarden Smart starts with seed cups supplied by the company which are placed in the nursery cupboard and the start button pushed. If the list of available plants is not to your liking you can get a bag of virgin earth and seed your favorites.

About three weeks later, the plants should be ready to be moved into the wheel. Then indoor gardeners just need to harvest when ready, usually about 30-40 days after planting. When a plant stops producing, its root ball and earth can be composted for future plant growing.

OGarden’s makers reckon that owners should shave a considerable amount from their shopping bills, while enjoying the benefits of fresh, organic fruits and veggies all year round – and without adding plastic packaging to the environment.

Kickstarter pledges for the OGarden Smart System – which includes the device itself, seed cups and some greens to get you started – start at CAD 729 (about US$550). If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in May. The video below has more.

Circular garden makes growing veggies indoors even easier than before [New Atlas]

Vo Trong Nghia Architects has covered the roof and facade of Breathing House in Ho Chi Minh City with a canopy of climbing plants to create private outdoor spaces.

Breathing House occupies a narrow and deep lot within a densely populated neighbourhood that is accessible only via a narrow alleyway.

Due to the restricted site, the only surfaces that could be opened up were the front, back and top of the building. Each of these surfaces then required what Vo Trong Nghia Architects described as “a green veil” consisting of creeper plants growing on a steel mesh to protect the interior.

The plant curtain ensures the external space and openings to the outdoors are private areas for the occupants to enjoy.

“This soft layer, as an environmental diffuser, filters direct sunlight and prevents the interior space from overexposure to the outside, without the feeling of isolation,” Vo Trong Nghia Architects explained.

In addition to preventing overlooking, the curtain of plants provides a view of greenery that is visible from every part of the house.

Planters at the edge of each floor slab combine with galvanised-steel modules to create an outer facade beyond the sliding doors or windows lining the living spaces.

The house has a staggered plan that creates small external spaces described by the architects as “micro voids”. These openings allow natural light and ventilation to reach the open spaces on each level.

“In the narrow and deep plot shuttered by neighbours on both sides, it is more environmentally effective to promote ventilation for each corner of the house through multiple ‘micro voids’ rather than a singular large courtyard,” the studio said.

These carefully positioned openings create views through the various internal spaces towards the outdoor areas. The staircase also functions as one of the voids, with a roof light and openings onto the living areas allowing daylight to filter through.

The building is entered through a garage and hall on the ground floor, which also accommodates a guest bedroom with a small courtyard to the rear.

Stairs ascend to a kitchen and dining area on the first floor, which flows seamlessly into the main lounge. The master bedroom is situated on the second floor, with the children’s bedroom on the level above.

The fourth floor contains a hallways and altar, with access to a rounded terrace. This exterior space is overlooked by a larger roof terrace slotted in beneath the sloping canopy of greenery.

The Breathing House is the latest residential project designed by Nghia’s studio to demonstrate how planting can be integrated into architecture to help mitigate the negative effects of urbanisation.

Previous examples have included a property featuring stacked concrete slabspunctured by voids with trees growing through them, and a home with bamboo-filled concrete planters covering its facade.

Plant curtain drapes over Breathing House by Vo Trong Nghia Architects [Dezeen]

 

Thanks to a new invention in the sleep arena, you may never have to fight over the temperature in the bedroom ever again.

This Smart Duvet can control the temperature of each side of the bed so that if you prefer it cooler than you’re partner, you can adjust the temperature accordingly without affecting the other side. This is genius.

And that’s not all. If you think the only thing worse than getting out of bed is having to make it, then you’re in luck.

The smart duvet can also help us be lazier than ever by taking away the need to lift a finger when it comes to making your bed in the morning. Yes, really.

This Smart Duvet is the brainchild of Tina Cayouette and is currently being developed in Montreal, Canada.

The duvet is made up of a system of inflatable tubes that when programmed using the Smart Duvet app on your phone will expand with air, automatically straightening out the duvet into its ‘made’ state. It slips in between your duvet and duvet cover and is made from lightweight and breathable materials for a comfortable night’s sleep.

When asked if the duvet is a necessary invention considering how making a bed is probably a chore that takes less than a minute, Tina compared the device to automatic blinds. “There are a lot more lazy people than we think”, she said.

This genius invention does come with a pretty hefty price tag – £150 for a single size duvet, plus shipping – but can you really put a price on the ability to be lazy?

This duvet cover for couples is completely genius [Goodhousekeeping]

As television screen sizes continue to increase, the viewing experience may improve, but the TVs also take up more space within a room. LG has set out to address that problem, with what it claims is the world’s first production roll-up OLED TV.

First shown as a prototype one year ago, the 4K TV is now known as the LG Signature OLED TV R (model 65R9). It can be used in three modes – Full View, Line View or Zero View.

In Full View, the entire 65-inch screen is unrolled and visible, for regular TV-viewing. Line View only partially unrolls the screen, presenting a viewing “slot” for features such as a clock/weather display, a music control interface, or photos streamed from a paired smartphone.

In Zero View, as you might have guessed, the screen is completely retracted. That said, music and other audio content can still be played back through the brushed-aluminum base unit’s 4.2-channel, 100W front-firing Dolby Atmos audio system. LG additionally states that “The remarkable AI picture and sound quality powered by LG’s second generation ? (Alpha) 9 intelligent processor and deep learning algorithm puts this breathtaking TV in a class of its own.”

Support for Amazon Alexa means that users can control the 65R9 via voice commands. The TV is also compatible with Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. Utilizing the former, users can play videos from iTunes and other video apps, or stream music and photos directly from their Apple devices. Utilizing the latter, they can control the TV either via the Home app, or by asking Siri.

The LG Signature OLED TV R is being debuted this week at CES in Las Vegas. There is currently no word on pricing or availability. Sony previously developed a rollable OLED screen, although we have yet to hear anything about it becoming a consumer product.

LG announces “world’s first” roll-up OLED TV [New Atlas]

The basic idea is the coolers collect data for marketers to help them sell more goods to you. Not you, specifically, according to Cooler Screens, but people of your age and gender.

One noticeable difference between the smart fridge screens and conventional coolers is you don’t look through the glass to see actual products with Cooler Screens. You look at a digitized representation of available products, called a planogram.

When you look at a Cooler Screen, you see products organized and neatly lined up with real-time pricing and promotions. No messy shelves, no out of stock signs, and no worn, torn, or dirty products. All of those factors benefit the retailer, who will also be informed of low stock and other real-time issues.

Brand managers and merchandisers will be able to test pricing, packaging, accompanying ads, and promotions. The opportunities to learn about consumer behavior, preferences, and decision-making are almost endless, especially when analyzed with other data including season and time of day, weather, local and regional events, and much more.

Cooler Screens uses a menu of technology including proximity sensors and cameras, iris tracking and heat maps, cooler door open and close sensors, and real-time traffic and sales figures.

Walgreens is not the only company involved with the Cooler Screen pilot program. According to The Wall Street Journal, Nestle, MillerCoors, and Contra plus another dozen or so advertisers are involved, as is Microsoft, which is an equity partner in the software and technology for Cooler Screens. Foxconn manufactures the displays and IoT technologies used by Cooler Screens.

One of the largest pharmacy chains in the world, Walgreens is no stranger to innovation. In 2013, for example, the company announced its plan to build a “net zero energy” store in Evanston, Illinois. If the Cooler Screens pilot is successful by any of several potential measures, we’d all better be aware that the fridges are watching us.

Walgreens’ smart fridges scan your face and remember your behavior [Digital Trends]

The containers vary in width and depth to accommodate a range of contents, including a double mattress, clothing and toiletries. The lid of each unit conceals its contents and doubles as a floor panel.

Bruijn developed MoreFloor during her final year at Design Academy Eindhoven in response to her own cramped urban living conditions.

“I had a small apartment in Eindhoven,” she told Dezeen. “I really needed an extra room to work and got frustrated that I only used the bedroom for the minority of the time,” she added.

By tidying away pieces of furniture that were only used for brief periods of the day, Bruijn found she was able to reuse the floor in her bedroom for different purposes.

MoreFloor is an attempt to challenge the notion of single-use spaces as well as traditional methods of storage, which the designer claims only serve to “make your walls thicker”.

“You can work and play on the floor during the day, and when you’re tired simply open up the floor and snuggle up in your sunken bed,” said Bruijn.

The micro-living solution was designed to be installed in an existing space without diminishing the footprint of the room. “By taking just 30 centimetres off the height of the room, you can gain more than six square metres in floorspace,” said the designer.

“I have used the bed unit myself now for over half a year,” said Bruijn. “I like the routine of tidying away the apartment, then immediately having a blank canvas that’s ready to use in a different way,” she added.

The modular system enables users to combine the units in different configurations to suit their own spatial requirements.

Bruijn hopes that her product will not only encourage people to think more creatively about their homes but also help those who live in cities where space is scarce.

This movie is part of Dezeen x MINI Living Initiative, a collaboration with MINI Living exploring how architecture and design can contribute to a brighter urban future through a series of videos and talks.

MoreFloor micro-living storage solution hides furniture beneath floorboards [Dezeen]

Samsung has been sticking touchscreens on fridges since 2016, adding a few new features every year. Right on cue, the company unveiled the latest Family Hub fridges at CES 2019, with the main new addition being a Family Board screen dedicated to posting photos and messages, and support for the latest version of the Bixby voice assistant.

The annual updates to the Family Hub are fairly incremental, but the basics of the smart fridge stay the same. There’s a 21.5-in touchscreen built into one door that lets users peer into the fridge without opening it, share photos and messages with the family, get news and weather updates, set reminders, play music and video, add items to a shopping list, find and follow recipes, and keep track of expiration dates.

Installing the Family Hub app onto everyone’s phones makes it even more useful. If you’re at the supermarket and wondering if you have eggs at home, you can take a live look inside the fridge to check. Not going to be home for dinner? You can write a note and virtually pin it to the fridge for everyone to see.

For the 2019 models Samsung has added Family Board, a new screen devoted entirely to pinning photos, notes and doodles drawn on the touchscreen itself. These functions were on the older fridges but were spaced between other icons. Photos can be customized with different styles, and the background color can be changed to better fit the kitchen’s decor.

There’s also a new screen saver that can flip through photos or default to info like the weather. And, like Samsung’s recent TVs, an Ambient Mode can be set to make the screen more subtle, blending into its surroundings rather than look like a big black rectangle when it’s not in use.

Minor tweaks have been made to the Food Management side of things too, including the ability to fine-tune recipe searches for criteria like healthiness. If you have a smart oven, you can now also preheat it straight from the fridge screen, to a given temperature in the Recipes app.

The Family Hub has been updated to make use of Samsung’s “new Bixby,” the updated version of its voice assistant. New Bixby is apparently smarter and more conversational than old Bixby, allowing it to essentially rSmart Fridge un a whole smart home from the fridge via voice commands. Keeping things in the family, users with Galaxy phones can mirror the screen to the fridge without booting up the Smart View app on the fridge.

And finally, Samsung says it’s bringing the Family Hub tech to more models and styles of fridges in 2019.

It’s always hard to decipher exactly what’s new about each iteration of Samsung’s Family Hub fridges, but overall the long feature list makes them seem like a decent Internet of Things option. The fridge is a logical place for a smart home hub (as opposed to something like a rangehood), but you could do most of the same stuff by just sticking a tablet on the bench.

There’s no pricing or availability details just yet, but the 2019 Family Hub fridges will likely be released in the next few months and, if prices from the last few years are anything to do by, they’ll probably run you upwards of US$5,000.

Samsung’s 2019 smart fridges go back to the drawing board [New Atlas]

Is it time to give your laundry room a zero-waste makeover? With the average American running anywhere from four to five loads of wash per week, the environmental impact of laundry in the US is a genuine concern. Not to mention the environmental effects of laundry wastewater.

Wastewater is the result of the washing process; it refers to the additional energy, lint, soil, dyes, finishing agents, and chemicals from detergents that leak directly into the environment and contaminate our water systems. In addition to being toxic to wildlife, wastewater can also contribute to eutrophication, when a body of water becomes overly enriched in minerals and nutrients, causing an overgrowth of plants and algae and oxygen depletion in the water.

Using traditional detergents contributes to these environmental issues, as well as creates unnecessary waste. (Think: lots of plastic, unnecessary packaging, and unrecyclable, un-compostable components.) In order to cut the footprint down and reduce the harmful chemicals your wash and the environment are exposed to, there are a few zero-waste amendments you can make to your current laundry routine.

Consider Washing With Vinegar 

When it comes to laundry, vinegar is a double agent, acting as both a powerful deodorizer and gentle, non-toxic fabric softener. Pour a half cup of distilled white vinegar into your washing machine in place of traditional detergent. To use vinegar as a fabric softener, pour 1 cup of vinegar into the washing machine during the final rinse cycle.

Vinegar can also be used to pretreat stains — just dilute one-half cup vinegar in a gallon of water. Apply directly to the stain with a clean cloth. Then, wash. Vinegar is known to brighten, whiten, and soften clothes. It’s also more gentle on septic tanks, so your plumbing will thank you for making the zero waste switch.

Add Horse Chestnuts to Your Routine

Horse chestnuts — also known as conkers or buckeyes — can be used as a gentle, nontoxic and low-impact alternative to traditional detergents. Chestnuts contain saponins, a naturally occurring, and soap-like chemical compound. (Note: Horse chestnuts are not to be confused with edible chestnuts. This variation is not edible.) To use, wrap about 6 horse chestnuts in a cloth, then use a hammer to turn the nuts into a finer, grainy powder. Combine the shredded chestnuts and one cup of hot water in a mason jar; let it sit overnight. The next day, it will have turned milky. Use a strainer to sort out the larger clumps of chestnut from the “milk.” You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for scent. This natural detergent can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

Introduce Castile Soap

Castile soap is a zero-waste game changer, as it can be used for so many different purposes. For laundry, add one-third cup of castile soap to a regular washing machine. Add one-half cup vinegar during the laundry’s rinse cycle. If you have a high-efficiency washing machine, cut this recipe in half. Castile soap is a vegetable-based soap with a track record of being gentle on the skin and fabrics. It’s natural, nontoxic, and biodegradable. If traditional detergents have caused rashes or irritations to the skin, castile soap might be the ideal option for you.

Use Wool Dryer Balls

It’s time to ditch the dryer sheets — not only are they single-use, non-biodegradable products that end up in landfills, but dryer sheets can also be toxic. The chemicals used in dryer sheets are known to mimic estrogen, cause asthma, affect the reproductive and nervous systems, halt metabolism, and cause cancer. Have we convinced you? Good. Wool dryer balls are an ethical, nontoxic option that also provides benefits like reducing drying time, wrinkles, and static. To use, cover three dryer balls in the essential oil of your choice, then add to the dryer.

Zero-Waste Laundry Options [Green Matters]

Whether you want them or not, smart devices have finally moved into the bathroom. The Consumer Electronics Show is almost always a good showcase for out-there ideas, and CES 2019 was no exception, with a strange but also somehow totally predictable trend emerging: Smart toilets. That’s right, toilets with internet-connected features, voice assistants built in, and more. Here are the best smart toilets on display at this year’s show.

Toto Neorest NX2

The Neorest NX2 intelligent toilet from plumbing giant Toto is a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree. The company says the rounded toilet is inspired by the “beauty of pebbles shaped by water over time,” which seems like an odd place to draw inspiration for something you sit on and dispense of waste in, but sure. The toilet features high-tech sensors that can automatically open and close the lid and flush the water. There’s a personal cleansing system integrated into the device that uses warm water, an air dryer, heated seat, and in-bowl deodorizer to make the venture to the bathroom as comfortable as possible. The Neorest NX2 also uses Actilight bowl-cleaning technology that mists the toilet with electrolyzed water to remove waste.

Kohler Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet

Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet has a feature you never thought you needed (and maybe never will need): Alexa built right into the toilet. The Numi 2.0 is more of an experience than a toilet. It features high-quality speakers that you can use to play music or talk to Amazon’s voice assistant. The toilet also has lights built right into it that can set the mood or sync up to music that you’re listening to. You can get all of that for a cool $7,000

Inubox

Smart toilets aren’t just for people—your four-legged friends can get in on the act, too. Inubox is presenting itself as an all-in-one indoor toilet for dogs. It can sense when a dog has done its business, then automatically contain and bag up the waste while cleaning off the platform so the dog use it again. While Inubox isn’t on the market yet, the creators are getting ready to try to fund the first round of manufacturing the devices on Kickstarter.

CES 2019 is flush with smart toilets. Here are the best bowls of the bunch [Digital Trends]

Apartments are made up of rooms stacked on top of one another in this extreme vertical housing proposal by Chicago studio Kwong von Glinow, which is the latest video in our Dezeen x MINI Living series.

Titled Tower within a Tower, the scheme tries to solve an issue that is typical in traditional “pancake stacks” of apartments – the lack of opportunity for neighbourly activity.

Kwong Von Glinow’s proposal, which won a challenge to create new housing typologies for Hong Kong, reimagines the apartment unit as a collection of spaces stacked on top of each other vertically rather than arranged on a horizontal plane.

Each customisable apartment would be assembled off-site from a selection of modules, chosen according to the needs of future inhabitants.

The scheme reimagines apartments as vertical homes with rooms stacked on top of each other

These units would then be brought to the site and stacked on top of each other to form an apartment building.

Each successive floor of every unit would have a smaller footprint, causing the vertical apartments to take on a pyramid-like appearance and opening up space between the upper floors of the homes.

Alison Von Glinow, co-founder of the studio alongside Lap Chi Kwong, emphasises that the spaces between units have been opened up to foster community amongst the building’s residents.

“We realised that corridors are often an unused space,” she said. “In Tower within a Tower, means of access double as a space for communal activity.”

“Sometimes these spaces could be used as private balconies for owners of the tower units, or they could be be used communally as gardens, or places where people can hang their laundry between units,” explained Von Glinow.

“People in Hong Kong love to sit outdoors and they love their balconies,” she continued. “These buildings will have places where people can just sit and enjoy themselves with their neighbours.”

The modular proposal has been designed to offer residents of the buildings flexibility in the design of their homes.

“The units would be assembled and brought to the site, and then more or less stacked on top of each other” Von Glinow said. “The interior could be manufactured level-by-level off site, almost like a custom kind of container box.”

“The interiors are very simple fit-outs that allow the resident to customise their space in their own way.”

This movie is part of Dezeen x MINI Living Initiative, a collaboration with MINI Living exploring how architecture and design can contribute to a brighter urban future through a series of videos and talks.

Kwong von Glinow designs Hong Kong high-rises containing multi-storey homes [Dezeen]

Constructing new sustainable projects is all well and good, but there are still many drafty old buildings in use throughout the United States. With this in mind, Snøhetta has teamed up with Harvard’s Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) to create HouseZero. The project involved renovating a pre-1940s building into a new energy-positive office and aims to offer ideas for making old inefficient buildings energy-efficient.

HouseZero also involved Skanska Teknikk Norway and was created as a kind of working laboratory. The idea is that it will be used daily as CGBC’s headquarters while being monitored for its efficiency and eventually produce more energy over its lifetime than was used to renovate it.

To bring this about, the once inefficient office space has been retrofitted with a lot of sustainable technology and design. For example, its original HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) unit was replaced with a ground-source heat pump, while triple-glazed windows open and shut automatically to help maintain a comfortable temperature.

No artificial lighting whatsoever is used during daylight hours thanks to the carefully-placed glazing and skylights. Additionally, the windows sport sculpted surrounds that offer shading during summer months. The building is topped by a roof-based solar panel array too.

Hundreds of sensors have been installed in the building to track its energy usage and the team will closely monitor its performance year-round.

“The building will adjust itself seasonally, and even daily, to reach thermal comfort targets for its occupants,” says Snøhetta. “285 sensors embedded within the building collect almost 17 million data points each day. This data infrastructure enables the building to immediately self-adjust in response to both internal and external variables such as outdoor air temperature or rain, and indoor CO2 levels and air temperature.”

It’s early days yet and there’s still a lot to learn, though the team hopes the project will ultimately demonstrate that an energy-efficient renovation can be preferable to knocking a building down and starting again.

“We hope to prove that HouseZero’s approach is replicable,” says Harvard’s CGBC. “Some of HouseZero’s upgrades are solely required to transform the building into a functional office for up to 20 researchers and staff, but most enhancements to the existing building are viewed through the lens of the renovation market. The CGBC believes that the best ideas should be transferable to other building owners as a recipe for significant energy and carbon use improvements to their existing structures without costly or wasteful tear-downs.

“While a building owner may not be able to implement every aspect of HouseZero, applying one or more of its components could positively impact its environment, the health of its occupants, and building operating costs.”

Snøhetta and Harvard join forces to make old buildings sustainable [New Atlas]

Lured by their superior sustainable qualities, high-rise developers around the world are increasingly turning to timber materials for construction, and a newly completed office tower in Australia is the latest shining example of this. Billed as the nation’s tallest timber structure, 25 King tastefully pairs its wooden skeleton with a shimmering glass facade, leaving the exposed timber beams to become part of the aesthetic inside as well as out.

Opened last week, 25 King by Australian architecture firm Bates Smart stands 10 stories and 45 m (147 ft) tall in Brisbane. According to the developers, this makes it Australia’s tallest timber structure and pushes the boundaries of building design for the commercial world.

Where steel and concrete might have otherwise been used in the construction, the firm deployed forms of highly engineered wooden materials instead. These consist of Glulam (glued laminated timber) and CLT (cross laminated timber), and their manufacturing results in far lower carbon footprint than that of resource-intensive concrete and steel.

This also meant that a lot of the building’s components could be pre-fabricated off-site, greatly reducing on-site wastage and construction time with the entire structure going up in 15 months. Floor by floor, huge exposed V-shaped columns were stacked on top of one another to support the timber slabs used for floorplates and exposed ceiling soffits. This has the added benefit of creating a pleasant aesthetic inside.

“25 King reflects a turn towards making buildings and spaces that are warm and inviting,” says Philip Vivian, director of Bates Smart. “We know that people want to connect to nature, and using timber on the exterior and interior of buildings helps complete the connection, making people feel more at ease within the built environment.”

The bottom floor consists of a shaded colonnade home to cafes and restaurants, while the nine floors above it are used as open-plan office spaces. Support columns are arranged strategically throughout to keep their individual size to a minimum and allow maximum flexibility of the space.

According to Bates Smart, its method of construction when compared to conventional building practices brought a 46 percent reduction in energy use, a 29 percent reduction in potable water use and a 74 percent saving in embodied carbon, thanks to the C02 sequestered in the timber structure. Other sustainable features include rainwater harvesting, energy efficient lighting, a greenery-covered wall in the entrance lobby, “optimized air-conditioning” and aluminum sun-shading to keep the interior cool.

“Each time an engineered timber project completes, architects learn more about CLT’s potential as a new building material and how we can work and innovate with it on all types of buildings,” says Vivian. “This building marks a genuine commitment to CLT from the industry. It’s exciting to see the ideas take hold and evolve across the globe, and we’re happy to contribute with the lessons we’ve learned on 25 King.”

Australia’s tallest timber building makes a towering case for eco-friendly construction [New Atlas]