This is my last blog post of the semester! 😦
I really enjoyed this class. I’ve always been interested in sustainability and this class allowed me to explore it more in depth and connect it to what I have been working on in studio.
From this class, I have been most interested in ways to regulate the temperature within a building without relying on an HVAC system. I am really intrigued by buildings that use systems such as double skin walls and geothermal heating and I think that this will become just some of the things that will be standard in buildings in the future. I think this class has taught my classmates and I that it isn’t difficult to think about energy efficiency and that it actually adds to the quality of our designs and the connection to the natural world like the sun and wind.
In our reading, “Thermally Active Surfaces: Physiology and Thermodynamics,” Moe asks the simple question: “Why do we heat and cool buildings with air?” This question really got me thinking. Only in the last century have we installed HVAC systems into our buildings. For thousands of years, people relied on the thermal mass of materials, the orientation to the sun and the site in order to create different microclimates. I believe that we should look back at this concept and reconnect with the site and the materials we use.
“Thermally active surface systems are inherently integrated solutions because the structure, enclosure, and human comfort systems are the same system. This saves not only energy for heating and cooling loads but design, coordination, organization, and labor energy in building production.” Integrating thermally active surface systems puts the focus towards the architectural systems, rather than the technical ones. It fosters the importance of creating a system as a total entity with relationships between “body, program, technology, material, and form.” I think looking at these sustainable ideas is not only energy efficient, but it also creates a sustainable relationship between the structure and the surrounding, making it something meaningful that will remain for years to come.
Recently, researchers at the UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA (awesome!) in partnership with Microsoft have released a proposal to use computer servers as sources of heat for a building. With the rise of cloud computing, servers could be placed everywhere, even in a residential home. “If a home has a broadband Internet connection, it can serve as a micro data center. One, two or three cabinets filled with servers could be installed where the furnace sits and connected with the existing circulation fan and ductwork. Each cabinet could have slots for, say, 40 motherboards — each one counting as a server. In the coldest climate, about 110 motherboards could keep a home as toasty as a conventional furnace does.” (NY Times) This system would not only reduce the carbon footprint of conventional furnaces, but it would also cut costs for both the residence and the company hosting the server.
Even if this method is used in office buildings, there would be many benefits. Computer servers currently put a burden on the HVAC system. Even sitting in the computer banks at the architecture school, one can see how much heat a computer puts into the space. By simply changing the systems so that the computer server’s heat output works with the system instead of against it, one could significantly impact the energy use of HVAC systems.
you can read the paper here:
Last week, Professor Sherman gave us our final lecture of the semester. He showed us several buildings which utilize many of the systems which we have learned about. One of the buildings I found interesting was the Center for Environmental Sciences building at Oberlin College and I decided to research it further.
Designed by William McDonough, along with student input, the building follows the principles of “eliminating waste, relying on natural flows, and honoring diversity.” The building utilizes natural forces such as daylighting, natural ventilation, and geothermal heating. It is also has its own waste treatment through a natural marsh. The building actually produces energy from its solar panels, which it puts back into the community’s grid.
The structure goes beyond sustainability within the energy flows. The space creates sustainable relationships with the rest of the college and the community, serving as a meeting space for town halls.
Last week, Kevin and Carrie Burke of the firm Parabola came to to speak to our class about designing within the environment, not around it. Their focus is “toward the design of a more nuanced human experience of the built environment through the precise integration of the inestimate.” Instead of seeing the systems of the environment as fragile, they see the natural world as full of amazing energetic system.
By following the Hannover principles, their designs work toward creating an environment where humanity and nature can co-exist. Their home went above and beyond these principles; they designed it so that the sun and other natural forces were used as the design tools to form space. The roof was carved by the solar equinox and solstice; the beams of light can fall along the interior and exterior walls of the attic space. The house was designed in section in order for the sun’s path to be the primary force. It surprising that there aren’t more homes like their’s. The house’s design connects the residents to the sun and the land and gives it a sense of place.
Kevin and carrie gave us a lot of good design advice. Some of the ones that stuck with me were:
-when designing, think about the impact to the parts per million; we have the ability to work at a variety of scales
-try to design things to have a positive impact, not just a passive one
I hope that I will be able to incorporate these ideals into my future designs.
This semester in studio, I have been designing a rehabilitation center for veterans along the Highline in New York City. The rehabilitation center offers apartments for veterans and their families to stay in while receiving both psychological and physical rehabilitation. During their stay, they will go through a process of healing and will want access to light and airy spaces when they are unable to go outside. I have created these spaces through the interconnections with the surrounding environment, including the Hudson River and the Highline.
The wind that crosses through the site comes primarily from the west off of the river. With an average speed of 6 mph, the winds provide a steady stream of cool air especially during the spring and summer. Throughout the building there are ribbon windows with louvered panels, which catch the wind and bring it into both the common areas and the rehabilitation spaces.
Light is also a very important component of my building. Most of the building’s exterior walls utilize a double-skin system. In this system, window walls are covered with sheets of perforated stainless-steel. These sheets still allow daylight to come through the windows and fill up the space, but prevent the sun’s heat from entering the building. It also has an “umbrella” effect during the winter, preventing heat from escaping the building.
One space I focused on in my building was the gym. It needs to have as much natural light as possible during the day. During the summer, the sun enters the space at a maximum angle of 75 degrees. During the winter, the sun enters the space at a minimum angle of 25 degrees. The double skin wall prevents this space from becoming too warm, but it still allows the residents of the building to have unobstructed views out to the Hudson River and the Highline.
Today in section, we started to discuss how we would integrate the systems we learned this semester into our studio projects. In Studio, I have been designing a rehabilitation center for war veterans adjacent to the High Line in New York City. One important aspect of my design is the incorporation of the High Line throughout the housing units and rehabilitation spaces. I have done this through a ribbon separating the two programs which continues throughout the building. This building will not only create view out to the High Line, but it will also allow air to circulate through the building through apertures. It is my intention that this ribbon of space will allow the inhabitants of the structure to be able to interact with the High Line, the harbor, as well as the rest of the city.