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Hygge for the Holidays: Ikea’s New Värmer Collection

We’re not thrilled with the retail trend of earlier-than-necessary holiday marketing. Let’s get through Halloween, shall we, before contending with the behemoths in the last two months of the year? But we’ll make an exception for Ikea, which is jump-starting the holidays with a new line next week. Starting in October, the limited-edition Värmer collection will be in stores. (The word means “warming” in Swedish.) Consisting of holiday homeware and winter accessories, the collection is by two different husband-wife designer teams—one from Sweden, the other from Kenya—who were tasked by the brand to create products inspired by the season of…

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Kitchen of the Week: A Communal Kitchen/Library at the Jennings Hotel

Previously we featured the five-room, Kickstarter-funded Jennings Hotel (see Labor of Love: The Jennings Hotel in Joseph, Oregon). Today we take a closer look at its communal kitchen and library, jointly designed by Matt Pierce of Wood & Faulk and Ben Klebba of Phloem Studio, both in Portland, Oregon. Hotel guests use the light-filled room for reading, listening to records, cooking, and engaging in conversation—”all the things I hoped would happen and more,” said hotel owner Greg Hennes. “It’s been a dream to see community and friendship develop around the space.” Photography by and courtesy of Greg Hennes. Above: The kitchen is anchored by custom…

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Can Middle America Afford Climate Change Solutions?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have 12 years before irreversible climate change occurs. That means that if the United States wants to avoid this situation, everyone reading this article (and many more) must decarbonize as quickly as possible. And we must do this with the least negative effect on the economy and our daily lives as possible. Can we even afford it? In a word, maybe. Let’s focus for the time being on residential energy use, and ignore the changes that will be required for industry, commercial buildings, and for-profit transit. As long as a homeowner…

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What’s the Risk of Painting HVAC Insulation Materials?

Traditionally, building design has “hidden” the building components (pipes, ducts, and insulation) behind walls and ceiling panels. As a result, historically, HVAC insulation has simply needed to offer thermal and/or acoustical performance – the outward appearance of the HVAC material and its facing has largely been insignificant if not entirely irrelevant to the application. However, new design trends are creating a space and a need for HVAC insulation materials that not only offer thermal and/or acoustical control, but also, to the extent it is visible, offer outward aesthetic appeal. As we see more and more buildings embracing open ceilings and…

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How to Handle Exposed Ductwork Projects

I recently had a son graduate from college. To celebrate, my wife and I took a group out to a week-old new restaurant. My wife groaned as I took out my cellphone and started taking pictures of the exposed duct system. Hey, it’s what I do for a living. Architecturally exposed duct systems have become popular for a number of different reasons, but as a “duct guy,” I take particular pride in the many successful installations of which I’ve been a part. I’m also curious about how others design, fabricate and install exposed duct systems. I see some great ideas…

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Fire Safety and Thermal Insulation: Sorting Out the Details

A number of different codes and standards for thermal insulation are related to fire safety—ASTM E84, ASTM E136, ASTM E119, and UL 1790, as well as regulations about fire penetration seals, grease ducts, and so forth. It can seem a maze of confusing standards to those who do not spend much time dealing with fire safety. It makes one wonder whether there need to be so many, and whether there is overlap. What needs to be specified when one simply wants thermal insulation that will not catch on fire, release smoke and toxic fumes, and harm people? Click here to…

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