Project description by jury
The proposal describes a research project aimed at the implementation of plant-based design modules for the construction of building vegetated components. The project identifies multiple benefits ranging from improved air quality to food production and education. From an energy point of view, the project offers an alternative to mitigate the carbon footprint of buildings related to the use of mechanical and physio-chemical air handling systems. The project envisages the installation of such structures especially in troublesome districts where vegetation can help tackle communities’ problems linked to poor air quality, nutrition and lack of educational opportunities.
The LafargeHolcim Awards jury North America recognized that the proposal relies on a significant amount of research work. If benefits for human health provided by the vegetation are well known, what was found interesting in this proposal is the ambition to use building-integrated plants to combine the notion of ecology with justice and social inclusion. The integration of the vegetation into a modular system is visually very convincing and offers the opportunity to rethink the enclosure of our buildings in a more sustainable way. Furthermore, the modularity of the structure allows for a multi-scale application of the component and, therefore, for a wide flexibility and adaptability of the project.
Vegetated indoor air bioremediation: Towards environmentally-conscious performance
Emerging research suggests filtering urban air through vegetated structures may reduce carbon dioxide levels through photosynthesis, diminish Volatile Organic Compound loads by utilizing root-microbial community metabolisms, while removing particulate matter through surface sequestration on growth media, likely improving inhabitant health in the process. In comparison, incumbent mechanical/physio-chemical air handling systems do not always adequately address persistently high levels of these pollutants, and are simultaneously energetically costly: of the 97.7 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) used in the continental US in 2017, approximately 13% was spent keeping indoor spaces habitable through the conditioning, filtration, and ventilation of indoor air.
Vegetated indoor air bioremediation: Towards environmental justice and social inclusion
Vegetated structures utilizing active air flow could address systemic urban challenges with a grassroots model, in direct contrast with many attempted solutions to these seemingly disparate issues which tend to tackle one at a time. While emerging research suggests the potential for filtering urban air through vegetated structures to benefit the physical health of urban inhabitants, assuming an agricultural species plant selection, these structures could also serve as a nexus for nutritionally rich fresh vegetables in food deserts which often coincide with poor air quality, as well as a mode of hands-on continuous education for neighbors to teach themselves and each other to maintain community resources, strengthening educational prospects and community connectivity.
A 21st century agriculture: Produce and performance
To date, fifty-five percent of humans live in cities. Support and maintenance of inhabitability for densely populated areas generates one billion tons of waste annually, contributing to urban air quality issues in the process. Modern air-handling systems reduce indoor air issues by ventilating indoor spaces with filtered exterior air, however they are energetically costly and contribute significantly to urban energy use and carbon footprints. While there remain gaps in our knowledge of how to scale fundamental mechanisms involved in indoor air bioremediation, the relationship between photosynthetic CO2 sequestration and pollutant-reducing metabolically active root-zones is an opportunity to design alternative air remediation systems with a multitude of systemic benefits for urban life.See more
According to the WHO, urban air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to human health. Phoebe Mankiewizc, Ph.D. student at Yale University, proposes improving air quality by means of multifunctional plant-based air-cleansing systems. The systems metabolize air pollutants and help clean the air. They reduce the need for HVAC systems in buildings and therefore reduce energy consumption of buildings and promote human health. “The real potential is to implement this technology not only in corporate lobbies but also in communities that could really use them,” says the student. “The project is environmentally and socially sustainable. The maintenance could be taken over by community members to benefit the whole neighborhood.”
The jury praises the integration of vegetation into a convincing modular system that has healthy effects on people and promotes ecological sustainability. “Plants can help in many ways,” says Marilyne Andersen, “and this project doesn’t just use them to make a building look green – it actually strives to change the comfort within a building.”Read more »
Next Generation 4th prize winner Pure Inhale, Connecticut – Plant-based design module research by Phoebe Mankiewicz, PhD …
Next Generation 4th prize winner Phoebe Mankiewicz, PhD student, Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, New Haven, …
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