Innovative And Sustainable Tiny Homes Transforming Flood-Prone Communities In Bangladesh

Bangladesh, a country where up to 80% of the land is classified as floodplain, faces significant challenges with flooding, impacting its population of around 170 million. In response to this critical issue, Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum, in collaboration with engineers AKT II, has created the Khudi Bari—a simple, low-cost, and highly functional tiny house designed to offer a safe and affordable home adaptable to the country’s challenging conditions.

Designer: Marina Tabassum and AKT II

The Khudi Bari, meaning “small house” in Bengali, stands out for its innovative and practical design. Raised above the ground and accessed via a ladder, this tiny house is not built on wheels but is designed to be easily assembled, dismantled, and relocated without the need for specialist tools. This feature is particularly crucial for Bangladeshi residents who need to quickly move to higher ground to escape encroaching floodwaters.

The construction of this house prioritizes sustainability and local resource utilization. The primary building material is bamboo, complemented by prefabricated recycled aluminum nodes that allow for easy assembly. The walls and roof can be sourced locally and crafted from materials such as polycarbonate and metal. This approach not only reduces costs but also supports local economies.

The interior of the Khudi Bari ranges from 64 sq ft (5.95 sq m) to 144 sq ft (13.4 sq m), consisting of a single, versatile room. This space can be adapted to meet the needs of its occupants, with the area beneath the raised house available for additional living space if necessary. Despite its simplicity, the Khudi Bari provides a dignified living environment for those in need.

The Khudi Bari is not just a conceptual design, it has been put into real-world use. Over 100 units have already been deployed throughout Bangladesh, significantly improving the living conditions for vulnerable populations. The project has been carried out in collaboration with relief organizations and community groups, demonstrating a successful model of community-driven, sustainable architecture.

One of the units is currently showcased at the Vitra Campus in Germany, an exhibition space run by the renowned furniture maker Vitra, known for featuring exceptional architectural designs. This international exposure highlights the global relevance and innovative nature of the Khudi Bari project.

While the exact cost of each unit is not specified, initial prototypes were produced for around £300 (approximately US$380). Efforts are ongoing to further reduce this cost, making the Khudi Bari even more accessible to those in need. This initiative is part of a broader trend in architecture aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change, with similar projects like the Floating Bamboo House and Blooming Bamboo House also contributing to sustainable and resilient housing solutions.

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Heineken Bottles get transformed into Recycled Glassware and Lampshades

Heineken is taking a bold step towards sustainability with its latest initiative, Waste-to-Wear, coinciding with the launch of returnable bottles in South Africa. This innovative project transforms single-use bottles into stylish homeware and wearable pieces, marking a significant move in the company’s commitment to reducing waste.

Designer: Sonic State and Heineken

The Heineken bottles are usually made of glass, a versatile and long-lasting material. Glass can be easily cleaned and reused, making it an unfortunate choice as a one-time disposable item. This inherent durability and adaptability of glass allow it to be molded and designed into a variety of household items and even wearables, showcasing its potential beyond single use.

The Waste-to-Wear collection is an extension of Heineken South Africa’s Fields Green With Grass, Not Glass initiative. This project aims to tackle two critical issues: reducing environmental impact and enhancing urban aesthetics. By repurposing broken glass “hotspots,” the initiative not only beautifies urban areas but also addresses the ecological consequences of discarded glass bottles.

In collaboration with the creative agency Sonic State, Heineken has repurposed bottles collected from these hotspots into a range of stunning items. These include 3,000 rings, 3,000 medallions, and a unique collection of homeware, such as dinner sets and a hops-inspired pendant light. Each piece reflects thoughtful design and environmental consciousness, demonstrating how waste can be transformed into something beautiful and functional.

This initiative is part of a broader focus on sustainability and community development. It includes the introduction of new returnable bottles and the Green Zones Project, which converts broken glass hotspots into green spaces. The first phase of this project has established five green zones in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban, covering over 5,000 square meters. These zones feature indigenous plants and grasses, food gardens, and creative art installations, transforming urban spaces into vibrant, eco-friendly areas.

This project has also brought recognition to Sonic State, which won Bronze at the New York Festivals Ad Awards 2024 for this innovative initiative. This accolade highlights the vision and collaboration between Heineken South Africa, Sonic State, and other industry partners such as Swain Swagger, Bhavna Mistry, and Juaan Ferreira.

The success of the ‘Fields Green With Grass, Not Glass’ campaign and the ‘Waste-to-Wear’ project underscores the impact of creative design in addressing environmental issues. Sonic State’s collaboration with Chas Prettejohn and Ngwenya Glass in Eswatini further demonstrates the power of craftsmanship in transforming waste into art and utility.

The New York Festivals Ad Awards recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the Waste-to-Wear project. It underscores the significant impact of innovative design on our environment and communities. Sonic State’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of creative design and sustainability sets a high standard for future endeavors, showcasing what can be achieved through vision, collaboration, and a passion for making a difference.

The importance of large organizations like Heineken adopting sustainable practices cannot be overstated. Such initiatives not only address environmental concerns but also raise awareness among a broader audience. Global warming and environmental degradation are often taken lightly by many. However, when a beloved brand like Heineken takes visible and impactful steps towards sustainability, it ignites conversations and fosters a genuine understanding of the issue. The unexpected nature of Heineken-branded wearables and homeware pieces grabs attention and makes a lasting impression, far more than a written declaration of sustainable practices ever could.

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Houseplant, vase, and microbiome work together to purify the air at home

If you think pollution outdoors is already bad, you might be shocked to learn how bad the air we breathe indoors actually is. Although there’s no smoke from vehicles and other contaminants, there are still Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs that pose just as much of a threat to our health. Air purifiers are en vogue these days, but these machines aren’t always the best solutions, especially if you consider sustainability and environment-friendliness. That said, nature’s own air purifying workers alone might not be enough to handle all those harmful toxins in our homes, so this creative houseplant product combines a normal but potent plant with engineered bacteria to offer a greener way to keep your air at home clean and safe.

Designer: Neoplants

Plants have always been Mother Nature’s hard-working air purifiers, but some plants are just better than others at doing that job. The Marble Queen Pothos plant, for example, is notable for being quite effective while still being suitable as a houseplant. It’s still not enough, though, considering how many VOCs there are in the air we breathe indoors, so science, specifically biotechnology, is ready to lend a helping hand. Or tiny microscopic hands in this case.

The Neo PX utilizes a bioengineered microbiome that contains the evolution of two bacteria specifically designed to break down pollutants such as Benzene, Toluene, and Xylene, collectively referred to as BTX, into substances like sugars and proteins that are beneficial to the growth of a plant. These bacteria are dried up and packaged as “Power Drops” that are dissolved in water and then poured into the soil of the house plant. Not only do these microorganisms help remove the VOCs from the air, they also transform them into nutrients for the Marble Queen Pothos plant growing from it.

Even the plant pot itself, the third part of the Neo PX system, is specially designed to facilitate this process. Unlike a typical pot, it has vents at the bottom and an internal structure that facilitates airflow, bringing the dirty air into the bacteria-enriched soil to enhance the plant’s root growth. It also incorporates a simple self-watering system so that you only need to refill the water reservoir once every three weeks during winter or once every two weeks in summer.

The best part of this system is that it doesn’t require any electricity or chemicals to function. The shell of the pot itself is made from eco-friendly PLA Flax derived from renewable and biodegradable materials. There are no fans for sucking up and blowing out air, so you don’t have to worry about charging anything or keeping it near a wall socket. Neo PX is definitely an interesting air purifying solution that also adds to the aesthetic of a room with its minimalist design and lush green foliage, keeping your air clean while also helping to keep the planet alive.

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Concrete made from food waste can be edible

When I hear the word “edible concrete”, the visual that comes to my mind is straight out of a horror or dystopian story: people gnawing at walls because they have nothing more to eat. But of course that’s just my overactive imagination. It’s of course a recent development in construction innovation from scientists at University of Tokyo to make concrete from food waste.

Designer: University of Tokyo

The scientists have been looking to create concrete made from organic materials like coffee grounds, banana peels, Chinese cabbage, and orange skins. These materials are dried and compressed and then mixed with water and seasonings. Afterwards, they’re compressed in a high-temperature mold to create concrete material.

In this early stage of their experiment, they discovered that the material is actually able to avoid bending better than actual concrete and is three times stronger. It can also resist rot, fungi, and insects which is of course important for concrete aside from the bending strength. It is also edible, although that is probably not the most delicious or nutritious thing to consume.

With concrete being the highest-consumed product (aside from water) but also accounting for billions of tons of carbon dioxide release and food loss and waste accounting for a third of all food for human consumption, it would be a big help if this eventually becomes a fully-developed product. Even if it won’t be used for building construction, maybe there are other applications for concrete made from food-waste material.

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Crayons from Japan’s recycled trees highlights the country’s forests

When you think of wood, the color that immediately comes to mind is brown since that’s what most of us have seen in the trees near our abodes or even when we travel. But it’s not the only color that we can extract from it, specifically from various species of forest trees. With 2//3 of Japan covered with trees and a lot of these forests remaining unharvested and unmaintained, it’s interesting to see what sustainable products can be made out of these trees.

Designer Name: Playfool

Forest Crayons is a project that uses the pigments extracted from various recycled forest trees and mixes them with other sustainable ingredients to turn them into crayons. Each one has a different shade that is based on the species of the recycled tree as well as how it was cultivated and grown. For example, you get a light green color for magnolia and a deep turquoise of fungus stained wood.

The pigments extracted are mixed with wood, rice wax, and rice oil to produce the different crayons. There are ten crayons available in the Forest Crayons set: Bayberry, Bogwood, Cedar, Chinaberry, Cybress, Hazenoki, Katsura, Kaizuka, Magnolia, and Zelkova. Some names should be familiar to most people but there are species that are native to Japan and some that have Japanese names.

Forest Crayons are actually supported by the Japanese Forest Agency and aside from producing these from recycled trees, they also want to “breathe new life into Japanese wood” so that people will have a new appreciation for the country’s forests. I would prefer the triangular shape of the crayons shown in the product shots but it makes sense of course to have them in the traditional crayon shape for functional reasons.

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Accordion paper cup concept makes carrying coffee easier and more sustainable

The number of coffee chains spread around the world is undeniable proof of how much people desire or even thrive on the beverage. Unfortunately, that number is also an indirect testament to the waste that the industry produces, especially when it comes to to-go cups. The majority of these cups are made of plastic, though some brands and consumers are becoming wiser and opting for more sustainable drinkware. The problem, however, is when you need to carry more than one of these cups, usually in precarious trays or bags. A paper cup design concept tries to hit two birds with one stone, offering not only a more sustainable cup but a better way to hold and carry them.

Designer: Shenzhen Samore Design & Research

Although iced coffee to go is still usually served in plastic containers, unless you bring your own reusable cup, the more common hot beverage is thankfully put in paper cups with cardboard sleeves. Their designs are simple and handy for holding in one hand, but some people have the unfortunate task of buying for a group. Some stores offer cardboard trays or boxes for carrying two or four drinks at once, though some have to resort to bags that could let the coffee spill as you swing it while walking.

Neither are ideal solutions, especially for long-term use or reusable cups, so someone thankfully thought of a better and admittedly more aesthetic solution to this common problem. It doesn’t have a formal name yet, but the Accordion Paper Cup design offers a simple yet ingenious way not just to carry coffee paper cups but also to hold one in your hand. In a nutshell, the paper cup has a sleeve that expands upward, turning it into a bag of sorts.

The trick to this sleeve design is the accordion-like structure can easily expand and contract without changing its total mass. This same structure happens to also be a good insulator against heat, allowing you to wrap your hand around a hot cup. It might not be an intentional part of the design, but the alternating pattern of holes and divisions also makes it easier to grip an otherwise smooth and slippery cup.

The paper cup and its innovative sleeve are allegedly made of recyclable, renewable, and biodegradable materials, further driving home the idea of an all-in-one sustainable solution for to-go cups. But while the cup itself seems to have that brown hue typically associated with recycled paper products, the sleeve has a gradient that softly shifts from blue to brown, though other colors are also possible. Unfortunately, there is no word on whether this concept has any chance of becoming an actual product, but it’s definitely an interesting avenue to consider for large coffee chains.

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Algae-based material and traditional Korean braiding turn into striking lights, vases

The world is filled with many things that have the potential to become materials for creating products, and yet we still prefer typical materials like plastics, metal, or wood. Not all of these are sustainable, and those that are sustainable aren’t always easily renewable or require a lot of energy to process or recycle. Admittedly, looking for alternative sources of materials isn’t an easy task, but once in a while, we come across a promising solution both in terms of sustainability and beauty. This rope light and Ikebana vase, for example, are already quite striking in their unique shapes, but they are made even more significant by the fact that they are made using a biodegradable material based on one of the most common and simplest kind of plant on the planet: algae.

Designer: Su Yang Choi

One of the problems with supposedly more sustainable or recyclable materials is that the process of making or treating them isn’t always sustainable, requiring more energy and water than usual. In contrast, this algae-based material isn’t treated with harmful chemicals, has reduced energy consumption during manufacturing, and can easily be shaped using heat. Even better, leftover scraps from the production process can be collected and recycled to reduce material waste at every step.

While the material itself is quite impressive, putting it to good use is the real test. For this purpose, a pair of everyday objects were made not just to demonstrate the usability of this algae-based material but also to show off the complicated designs that can be made with it. And nothing can perhaps be more complicated than knots, especially the beautiful traditional Korean knots known as Maedeup.

This knotting is best exemplified in this Ikebana vase that loops around itself a couple of times in an almost random fashion, symbolizing the unpredictability and cyclical nature of life. In addition to this rather intriguing structure, the biodegradable material used here is mixed with coffee grounds, another sustainable material, to give it that earthy brown color.

On the opposite end of the color spectrum is a long string lamp that uses the algae-based material in a four-faced linear braid that wraps around a flexible LED strip. This segmented structure was inspired by Korean stone pagodas that rise in majesty and grandeur, characteristics carried by this string lamp. These two objects, part of the Slow series of artworks, embody the ingenuity and creativity that spring from combining modern material science and traditional craftsmanship to produce breathtaking designs that do no harm to the planet in return.

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Airiva: Modular Rotary Turbine Walls Revolutionize Urban Wind Energy

Since introducing the concept for an energy-generating wall in 2021, designer Joe Doucet has been tirelessly working to turn this innovative idea into reality. Now, with the launch of Airiva, a modular rotary wind turbine wall designed for urban installations, this vision is closer than ever to being realized. Airiva promises to revolutionize how cities and infrastructures harness wind energy, bringing sustainable power generation directly to the places where people live and work.

Designer: Joe Daucet

Wind energy has been instrumental in reducing global dependence on fossil fuels. However, the adoption of wind turbines for residential and commercial use has been slow, largely due to their intrusive designs. Airiva addresses this challenge by combining functionality with aesthetic appeal.

The wind turbine wall is composed of multiple rotary blades that spin independently, driving a generator to produce clean, renewable electricity. This modular and scalable solution is tailored for urban and suburban environments, allowing it to augment or coexist with other power generation methods. The electricity generated can be used on-site, stored, or fed back into the grid. The system is not only efficient but also quiet and safe, making it suitable for a wide range of environments. Potential installation sites include municipal and public facilities, commercial buildings, transportation networks, and coastal areas, among others.

Airiva places a strong emphasis on sustainability. The manufacturing process aims to use at least 80% post-consumer and recycled materials, aligning with circular economy principles and minimizing environmental impact. This commitment to sustainability is a fundamental aspect of Airiva’s design and manufacturing strategy.

One of Airiva’s key strengths is its flexibility. The system’s modular design allows it to be easily transported and scaled to meet specific site requirements. Multiple units can be networked together, creating a flexible, clean energy system that can adapt to various use cases. Additionally, Airiva is designed to complement other distributed energy technologies, providing a versatile alternative that can enhance existing installations.

Airiva’s smart technology enables remote monitoring of system and site information, offering visibility and control over geographically dispersed installations. Each unit consists of two segments, each measuring 2100mm in length and height and 1050mm in depth, along with an end hub unit for controls, communications, and power management. This design facilitates global transport and distribution, ensuring that the system can be deployed wherever it is needed.

The initial idea in 2021 envisioned a wall of 25 vertical-axis turbines with a total peak power output of 10 kilowatts. While the intermittent nature of wind means that actual energy production can vary, the refined Airiva system is expected to produce approximately 2,200 kWh annually per unit. While this may not cover the entire energy needs of an average home, it can significantly reduce energy bills. Larger installations, such as those on commercial campuses or transportation hubs, can harness more power, demonstrating the system’s scalability.

Currently in the prototyping stage, Airiva plans to begin customer pilots in the latter half of this year, with orders expected to open in 2025. Although specific figures have yet to be disclosed, Airiva’s targeted Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) aims to be competitive both domestically and internationally against other small-scale distributed energy resources. Upcoming pilots will be crucial in validating these claims and demonstrating the system’s effectiveness in real-world conditions.

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Wave-Shaped Data Center Is Europe’s Biggest 3D-Printed Building Constructed In Only 140 Hours

Located in Heidelberg, the Wave House is designed to be a new data center in the urban heart of Germany. Designed by SSV and Mense Korte, and built by Peri 3D Construction for the developer KrausGruppe, the Wave House was 3D-printed, adding an element of style and personality to the rather mundane arena of cloud-computing infrastructure. The end result is Europe’s largest 3D-printed building! The building measures 6600 sq ft and has a rather unique appearance, in an attempt to draw attention and make it unlike the typical 3D-printed structures we come across.

Designer: SSV, Mense Korte & Peri 3D Construction

“Due to the typical absence of windows and large openings in all or the main areas of data centers, for safety and other reasons, data centers tend to look quite dull and uninspiring,” said a press release by COBOD. “As long as such data centers are placed far outside the cities this problem is perhaps of less concern, but the trend towards making data centers more in the vicinity of the users and therefore locate them in suburban areas and cities has created a need to make the data centers more visually appealing.

This issue was resolved by imparting the walls with an innovative wave design, which also lends the building its name. The fascinating waves could not have been built using traditional construction methods, hence 3D-printed technology was adopted, to support creative and design freedom while producing the walls.

The construction process of the Wave House is similar to other 3D-printed projects we’ve come across. It was printed using a single COBOD BOD2 printer, the same model that has been utilized to build other 3D-printed buildings of importance. The printer extrudes a recyclable cement-like mixture in layers via a nozzle. This is done at a rate of 43 sq ft per hour to create the exterior walls which have a length of 177 ft, a width of 35 ft, and a height of 29.5 ft.

The entire printing process involved around 140 hours, after which, finishing touches were added to the project by humans. These touches include the doors, roof, lighting, as well as the wiring and gear needed for a data center well-connected to the internet. A robotic painter by Deutsche Amphibolin-Werke was utilized to paint the interiors of the building. How cool!

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Microsoft Surface Pro 11, Surface Laptop 7 repairability gets thumbs up from iFixit

It has only been a month since Microsoft unveiled its latest Surface-branded computers, and while the tech industry was awash with discussions on the company’s aggressive Copilot AI push and ARM-based Snapdragon X silicon, the products’ design may have left some people less than impressed. The Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop, for all intents and purposes, look exactly like their forebears, making one wonder if Microsoft has run out of creative juice or is desperate to milk its current design until it runs dry. Fortunately, that isn’t the end of the new Microsoft Story, as it turns out that the latest Surface Pro and Surface Laptop computers have one “invisible” upgrade it didn’t really talk about much: an easier repair process that has even the meticulous and stingy iFixit impressed.

Designer: Microsoft (via iFixit)

Laptops have come a long way from being impregnable fortresses that made even the smallest repairs or upgrades a hellish experience, though there are still some companies living the past in the present. Initially, the Surface Laptop was part of that group, requiring cutting through fancy Alcantara fabric just to open the laptop to replace a battery or upgrade the storage. This year’s design almost makes a complete U-turn with a bottom plate that’s only held down by four screws and magnets; no adhesive in sight. Even the battery can be easily removed by just removing screws and a few layers of parts blocking those.

Tablets are even worse news for repairs, especially with displays that are glued on top of the frame. To its credit, Microsoft has at least made changing the Surface Pro M.2 SSD painless by having an accessible magnet-locked panel to get to that storage instantly. The 11th-gen model takes things further by employing as little adhesive as possible, though you still have to go through the risky process of removing the screen first. Fortunately, getting to important parts like the battery is less of a grueling task, especially since it’s only held down by screws as well.

Even more impressive, however, is the fact that Microsoft officially supports such self-repair processes. It has made repair guides publicly available since day one and has even clearly marked out the number and types of screws that hold certain components in place. It’s far from perfect and definitely not on the same level as a Framework laptop, but it’s still an unexpected yet pleasant surprise, especially considering it’s Microsoft we’re talking about.

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