Peteris Lazovskis, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), Cambridge, MA, USA
Tectonic Ventilation: Establishing Design Parameters to Harness Buoyant Air Through Mass, Distribution and Recovery
The simultaneous challenges of energy efficiency and interior climate regulation have led to the increased sophistication of temperature and air delivery systems. While generally effective at responding to such challenges, mechanical systems are often formally autonomous entities that, at best, are complementary, and at worst, disruptive, to spatial and structural intent.
In the drive towards holistic sustainable design, where mechanical functions are intrinsic to the shapes and masses of architecture, numerous projects completed in the last fifty years have adapted natural heating, cooling and ventilation methods, reinforced by technologically advanced systems. In many cases, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has aided designs approach desired interior airflows through digital simulation, with some projects using water bath modeling (WBM) as an analogue alternative.
For the “Airflow Carving” project, I used thermally driven WBM to simulate the way natural convection can be harnessed by a radiant mass feeding it into a distribution labyrinth, thereby ventilating interior space during a warming cycle. My subsequent research suggested that the addition of an energy recovery loop could help maintain a constant interior temperature differential irrespective of season, thus driving ventilation in a cooling cycle as well.Boston Mental Wellness Center (PDF, 10.97 MB) »
Four prizes were awarded in the increasingly popular Next Generation category for students and professionals up to 30 years. This category seeks visionary projects and bold ideas, and gives young professionals public exposure and a platform to gain recognition. The first of four Next Generation prizes in North America went to Georgina Baronian from Princeton University, NJ, USA. She developed a universally applicable roof design with a cooling function. Second prize was won by Jason Heinrich from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, for a set of rules for establishing a sustainable urban neighborhood in the city of Vancouver. Sarah Gunawan from the University of Buffalo, NY, USA, received third prize in this category. She investigated the potential for people and wildlife to coexist based on an example in Markham, ON, Canada. Fourth prize went to Peteris Lazovskis of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA. His experiments investigated climate control in buildings using the example of the Commonwealth Mental Health & Wellness Center.Read more »
The design exploration begins with a set of provocative questions pertaining to the climate control of buildings and the design implications of alternative approaches to cooling, ventilation, and lighting in construction. Can a building’s thermal mass be great enough to maintain a stable ambient temperature, while providing adequate ventilation, in a temperate northern climate? Can the flow of air be guided through a building with only architectural elements, and without ducts? Which materials can be used to improve a building’s comfort level? In order to answer the questions, a series of experiments were undertaken in a laboratory setting. Using airflow as a carving agent through the building’s mass, architectural propositions were tested, while avoiding ventilation ducts. A combination of concrete and rammed earth is furthermore used as a construction material to maintain constant ambient temperature levels and thus enhance the structure’s comfort provision for users.
Though critical of the particular choice of the building’s function, the jury nonetheless valued the author’s aim to essentially rethink the role of mechanical systems in architecture, while taking recourse to traditional principles for cooling buildings. The jury particularly applauded the project’s critical stance concerning contemporary building practices and principally praised the bold exploration of alternative solutions using airflow as a generator for space- and form-making. Rather than perceiving technology as an autonomous domain, the projects merges technical with architectural exigencies, turning the logic of a quasi-neutral and anonymous system into one producing an architecture with specific properties – an approach that could be easily applied to a range of everyday uses and programs.See more
Planet - thermal battery as simple energy saver
Can a thermal mass be big enough to maintain a stable ambient temperature, and provide adequate ventilation, in a northern climate? Moreover, can it do so for an entire institutional building? Buoyancy driven ventilation systems - and their consequential temperature-maintenance systems, can save energy, and work well in seasonally similar climates, as these can predictably provide livable interior conditions year-round. Places that use a disproportionately large amount of the earth’s available energy, however, are not in such climate zones, for example Boston. As such, a simple, monolithic “thermal battery” can be radiantly heated and cooled if water piped within it, and air channeled through its pores to deliver ventilation and temperature difference to desired spaces.
Progress - mechanical, structural and spatial systems are analogous
Can the flow of air be guided through a building with only architectural elements, and without ducts? Taking cues from the thermal battery, which has a mechanical function (heating/cooling of air), a structural function (supporting the wooden volumes above) as well as a spatial one (hosting sensorially subdued exercise areas in its caverns), the composition of the terra- cotta clad top volume acts as a channel for air; first, its thick exterior walls are hollow, directing the freshly conditioned air from below up into the rooms, and allowing light to filter down; second, all the rooms are delimited by bent plywood planes, which, with their curved edges, scoop air from the hollow walls into the interior; the spaces between the terracotta volumes are both stairwells and exhaust chimneys.
Place - subtle contextual reciprocation
Situated on the threshold between a historically residential low-rise neighborhood, and a mid-rise commercial one, the wellness center takes material cues from the surroundings to both complement and enhance them. The massive stone volumes of the latter inform the massive concrete base of the wellness center, while the nearly-uniform brick cladding of the former inform the top, terracotta volume. Further, the terracotta volumes enhance the intimate nature of the program within, spatially suggesting non-institutional subdivision and privacy inside. Thus the stance is not imitation, but clever reciprocation.See more
By addressing the enormous level of information we have into his climate control experiments for enhanced comfort …
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