Final Thoughts

ARCH3230 Systems, Sites, and Buildings has been an invaluable course in covering the fundamentals of designing with regards to the environment, climate, and various relevant systems. I particularly appreciated the extensive number of topics covered, from solar studies to natural ventilation. This expansive curriculum has essentially been a crash course on the most important elements crucial for designing more efficient, effective, and strategic.

The course started and essentially came to a conclusion with the topic of “resilience.” Brian Walker and David Salt discussed resilience in respect to systems and adaptive cycles in “Resilience Practice.” The issue of resilience eventually became more focused and consolidated in Bill Sherman’s lecture on how to incorporate resilience in practice and design. Understanding the differences of resilience vs efficiency has been a critical concept I have learned, which has also shed some light on the topic of why simply being “sustainable” is no longer sufficient in today’s environment and designs.

I look forward to using information learned throughout the course onto my future studio projects and designs. The topic of Ecosystems reviewed towards the end of the course will be particularly useful in the upcoming UVA All-School workshop, Woolen Mills, Pantops and the Rivanna River, starting at the beginning of spring semester of 2013. Kristin Hill’s reading, “Urban Design and Urban Water Ecosystems” in The Water Environment of Cities will be an important resource as it “addresses the role of urban design in the performance of urban water ecosystems, with an emphasis on urban rainwater runoff and future urban infrastructure systems”.

While some information throughout the course seemed a bit redundant, such as the diagramming of the assignments, I found the course really useful and I will be sure to look back at notes, especially during the schematic stage of design projects.

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reCover: Learn, Play, Grow

I am designing a primary school with fellow peers and professor, Anselmo Canfora, in the UVA reCover studio. The school is to be built in the Waksio District of Uganda by Building Tomorrow.  Because the final site has not been determined, a study site has been temporary substituted (Gita, Uganda). Nevertheless, this is not too critical of an issue, because the primary school has been designed as a prototypical and modular model that can be adapted to various sites throughout East Africa. The real challenge behind the project is that the school will be completely off the grid (because of lack of infrastructure and tight budget) and thus, only passive systems will be utilized (ex. cross ventilation, apertures+clerestory for natural lighting, etc). A perspective view and site plan are illustrated to provide context for the the section and axonometric projection that demonstrate the passive systems of the primary school.

Perspective

site plan

section

section PDF

axonometric view

axonometric view PDF

 

I am designing a primary school with fellow peers and professor, Anselmo Canfora, in the UVA reCover studio. The school is to be built in the Waksio District of Uganda by Building Tomorrow. The following images are some sections and perspectives that illustrates some of our concepts behind our design, which is currently in progress. One real challenge behind the project is that the school will be completely off the grid and thus, passive systems will be utilized (ex. cross ventilation, apertures+clerestory for natural lighting, etc).

 

Light and the Mina El Hosn Tower

The incorporation of natural sunlight in an architectural design is a critical element for an environmentally conscious and energy efficient building. Nick Baker and Koen Steemers explore various factors that influence the form and shape of daylight building designs in “Daylight Design of Buildings.” I have studied an architectural precedent, 486 Mina El Hosn Tower to be built in Beirut, in order to understand the daylight building forms presented in Baker and Steemers’s text.

One of the primary steps for the design of daylight in a building is the proper spatial configuration of the plan and section. Baker and Steemers explain that at its simplest terms, the plan and section must work to define the depth of the building, which largely determines the daylight penetration of the interior of the building, from either the vertical facades (i.e. sidelighting), or from the roof (zenithal or rooflighting). The plan and sections of the 486 Mina El Hosn Tower below illustrate the “inside/outside dichotomy on the apartment level” of the tower. The zones of occupation are largely dictated by its exposure to sunlight during different conditions (time of day, season, etc). This begins to demonstrate how sunlight interacts and even informs the design of the interior of the building during the winter and summer. The architects’ ultimate solution to the interior space was based on a series of studies, including: “the access of exterior spaces to light, the reflective potential of the blocks on the tower and shadows cast by the ensemble on itself and its surroundings, access to light in terms of use (types of space, room depth, occupation, etc.), the ‘facets’ of the tower’s envelope, the possibility of creating variable solar protection adapted to orientation, the effects of wind on living units and exterior spaces.”

The orientation, or the direction that the main façade(s) faces, is another critical design factor for effectively utilizing the sunlight. What is really ingenious of the Mina El Hosn Tower is the automated 3D tool that enables the orientation of the façades of the tower, by precisely orienting over 30,000 facets of identical size so that the tower can reflect some of Beirut’s monuments and remarkable districts, as well as introducing sunlight to the interior in a visually stunning fashion. So orientation of the building forms views in the interior (with sunlight) and the outside (with the reflection of the buildings and monuments facing it).

The third main sunlight design element explained in “Daylight Design of Buildings” is the overall building form, particularly the inclusion of atria, lightwells, courtyards, and galleria. The idea is to introduce different design strategies to provide for a greater percentage of the building being illuminated by sunlight. In the case of the Mina El Hosn Tower, “green belts” link the terrain’s various differences in levels for circulation and public gathering spaces, which also helps break up the building mass to allow for more sunlight and to provide views of nature. The inclusion of sunlight within the design of the tower really contributes to the tower’s aesthetics and its natural “lightness.” The potential for using sunlight in architectural designs seem endless, from its energy efficiency to its effect on the building’s aesthetics, the design of any building needs to actively utilize the sunlight.

Sources:

Nick Baker and Koen Steemers, “Daylight Design of Buildings”

http://www.dezeen.com/2009/10/29/486-mina-el-hosn-by-lan-architecture/

Medical Training Center of Mae Tao Clinic

Basic Info

Medical Training Center of Mae Tao Clinic

Location: Mae Sot, Thailand

Architects: a.gor.a Architects

Construction: Ga Yaw – Ga Yaw

Architect In Charge: Albert Company Olmo, Line Ramstad, Jan Glasmeier

Project Year: 2012

Cost: $27000 USD (Estimated)

Size: 500 sq. m

Mission Statement: “The Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) is a health service provider and training centre, established to contribute and promote accessible quality health care among displaced Burmese and ethnic people along the Thai-Burma border. In addition to the comprehensive services provided at its onsite facilities, MTC also promotes general health through partnerships with other community based organizations. We work together to implement and advocate for social and legal services, as well as access to education for people living along the border.”

Climate Conditions:

Latitude: 16 ° 40’N

Longitude: 098°33’E

Elevation: 196 m

Monthly Temperature: Rather consistently warm weather year round

Average Rain Fall: from http://www.weather-and-climate.com

Spherical Solar Projection

Optimum Orientation: 190°

Prevailing Wind Frequency: Winds from all directions, but most frequent from South

Average Wind Temperature: Warm winds, especially from the North

Average Relative Humidity: Fairly high humidity from all directions

Psychrometric Chart

Psychrometric Chart: Indication of thermal comfort

Psychrometric Chart: Climate Classifications shows the climate is Warm/Hot + Humid

Psychrometric Chart: Active Cooling Strategies

Psychrometric Chart: Natural Ventilation

Diagrams

PDF Version

PDF Version

PDF Version

Sources:

http://agora-architects.com/

http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/

http://www.weather-and-climate.com

EcoTect

Illumination of Light

Humanity has always had a very close relationship with light. Sunlight has forever illuminated the day, and fire has been able to extend the light into the darkness of night. As our civilizations have expanded, our relationship with light has become more complex. We sit around the fire for social and spiritual purposes, we manipulate the daylight through various building designs, and since around the last two decades, we have used various forms of artificial lighting to illuminate spaces that may have been previously left dark.

Nick Baker and Koen Steemers explore various modes of sunlight manipulation through vernacular architecture in “Daylight Design of Buildings.” They argue that unlike “high architecture,” which primarily uses light for aesthetics and artistic purposes, vernacular and traditional architecture responds to climatic parameters, such as the visual, thermal, and energy implications of sunlight. Thus, the traditional architecture design more closely relates to the views and needs of all the people, therefore, it is an “unselfconscious expression of the society and it culture.”

The issue of lighting becomes much more complex since the advent of gas lighting in the early 1800s and electric lighting by 1900. Artificial light has allowed for humans to become seemingly independent of the sun. An interior space can now be illuminated at all hours of the day and night, no matter of depth or scale. William Lam explains in “Perception and Lighting as Formgivers for Architecture” that designers have “limitless” possibilities due to artificial sources of lighting and believes that great, imaginative designs can come by effectively utilizing the artificial lighting as a powerful tool. Nevertheless, he claims that designers have gone ashtray with this possibility and have in effect abused the use of artificial lighting due to misguided notions of the luminous environment. We are now at the mercy of the technicians who control our luminous environments that have reduced the criteria of illumination to “simple numbers, which are basically unrelated to vision, perception, comfort, or pleasure.”

This relationship with artificial lighting is very similar to a topic I have discussed in previous blog posts about the advent of central air conditioner. Granted the AC is much more current in history, its effect on the architectural designs is very similar. Both have presented designers new opportunities to explore various new building spaces, but both the AC and artificial lighting seem to have evolved architecture predominantly in the wrong direction. AC has replaced natural, clean ventilation in place of an artificial environment that doesn’t properly address human comfort. Similarly, the use of artificial lighting has a tendency to ignore the environment, climate, and the human comfort.

Nevertheless, various innovative and bold solutions to properly utilizing lighting appear in modern times on the same level of ingenuity as the historical and traditional architecture as explored by Baker and Steemers. For instance, UK-based Moxon Architects are working on the design for Oliver’s Place Preston, or the “Porcupine Office Building”. An array of anodized aluminum fins suspend from the tensile rods of all four facades of the building that are strategically oriented to act as a large scale brise soleil as well as a rain screen. Their placement has been carefully considered such that “early morning and winter sunlight is able to enter the building while high summer sun is excluded and so does not adversely alter the environmental conditions within the building.” So the façade of the building is a brilliant passive solar design that deals both with the illumination and heat gain from the sun.

Another innovative project is Thomas Heatherwick’s UK Pavilion, “Seed Cathedral”, presented at the 2012 Shanghai Expo. Its appearance is similar to the Porcupine Office Building, but its use and manipulation of light is vastly different. The Seed Cathedral uses 60,000 translucent rods that act as fiber-optic filaments that channel sunlight into the pavilion’s interior. The filaments branch off of the six-story high structure and gently sway with each passing breeze. The interior is illuminated by thousands of subdued star-like lights, powered by the sunlight, creating a highly unorthodox, yet beautiful illuminated environment, which is informed and coexistent with the natural sun. The generated interior light is paradoxically both natural and artificial. Thus, it’s quite possible to design buildings that properly utilize light to create practical, exciting, and imaginative interior spaces.

Source:

Nick Baker and Koen Steemers, “Daylight Design of Buildings”

William Lam “Perception and Lighting as Formgivers for Architecture”

http://www.moxonarchitects.co.uk/

http://www.greenpacks.org/2009/04/14/passive-solar-design-porcupine-office-building-takes-shape-in-the-uk/

http://www.heatherwick.com/

http://inhabitat.com/construction-complete-on-the-uks-stunning-seed-cathedral/

Medical Training Center of Mae Tao Clinic (Intro)

I will be studying the natural passive systems of the Medical Training Center of Mae Tao Clinic. It is located in Mae Sot, Thailand and designed by a.gor.a Architects. Construction began in 2011 by Ga Yaw – Ga Yaw.

“The Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) is a health service provider and training centre, established to contribute and promote accessible quality health care among displaced Burmese and ethnic people along the Thai-Burma border. In addition to the comprehensive services provided at its onsite facilities, MTC also promotes general health through partnerships with other community based organizations. We work together to implement and advocate for social and legal services, as well as access to education for people living along the border.”

Sources:

http://agora-architects.com/

http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/

http://www.gaisma.com/en/location/mae-sot.html

EcoTect