The Wall Street Journal steps inside the "low-emissions estate" of investment banker Brad Geer and his wife Kirstin, an ovarian cancer survivor. In addition to including an indoor driving range, state of the art Japanese toilets, and an "acrylic tube elevator," the multi-million dollar Minneapolis home, all 6,800 square feet of it, is virtually toxin-free.


Smart Planet sings the praises of smart sprinklers, irrigation systems that "take into account plant type and use weather data and sensors to make sure you don’t waste a single drop of precious, expensive water."


Triple Pundit takes a look at the story behind — and the impact of — the Wasting Water is Weird water conservation campaign. What I really want to know: Is "Rip the Drip," the star of the campaign's cringe-y PSAs,  available for parties?


Co.Exist takes a gander at Mirai Nihon ("The Future of Japan"), a completely off-the-grid, disaster-ready wooden home conceived by Japanese ad agency TBWA/Hakuhodo in collaboration with a host of architects, technologists, and more than 20 different companies including Nissan. That's the home pictured up top and featured in the video embedded at the bottom of the page.


On a similar note, the Los Angeles Times considers power inverters to be a wise investment with the summer blackout season just around the corner. Explains Susan Carpenter: "Power inverters on the market connect to car batteries to keep home appliances running. Just pop the hood, connect the inverter directly to the battery of a running car and thread the power cord from the inverter into the house. A refrigerator, television, lights or other devices that usually plug into a wall outlet would instead connect to the inverter power cord. The inverter, similar in size to a hardcover book, converts direct current, or DC power, coming from the car battery into alternating current, or AC, used in most homes."


Dezeen eyes the most dramatic hen house — "Hönhouse 1 from Swedish architect Torsten Ottesjö — that this blogger ever did see. 

Grist provides an interesting take on all the hype surrounding TreeHugger founder Graham Hill's LifeEdited apartment in Manhattan. Concludes Claire Thompson: "As a design achievement, the LifeEdited apartment is impressive, and would certainly come in handy if our major cities start being demolished by sea-level rise and we all have to squeeze into the ones that are left. But as a marketable way of living, it seems like a gimmick, a complicated way of achieving a commercialized version of "'simplicity.'"


Apartment Therapy wrangles up a few lovely instances of outdoor furniture made from reclaimed wood. 

Gizmodo plots to move in to a stunner of a solar-powered home located on New Zealand's Great Barrier Island. 


The New York Times checks in to see how the close-knit — and frequently gay — residents of Dunemere Dr. in the wealthy San Diego enclave of La Jolla are faring with the controversial home renovation plans of neighbor Mitt Romney. Turns out, not so well. "Little did Mr. Romney know that his efforts to quadruple the size of his house would collide with a bid for the White House, foisting the unpredictable dramas of home renovation and presidential politics onto a community that prides itself on low-key California neighborliness."


Video screenshot: Mirai Nihon project/Vimeo

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Playing catch up: Around the world in 7 days
This week: Architecturally significant Swedish hen houses, toxin-free Minnesota mansions, disaster-ready Japanese shelters and the most controversial home renov