Another Design Experiment . February 22, 2016
The Kansas Project: Design Charrette Week 5
This week we wanted to further develop the tower concept, explore passive design approaches for potential net-zero results, and consider more thoroughly the materiality and design detailing of the building.
The overall orientation has remained consistent. The most notable evolution of the design is evident in plan; this is the extension of the tower element and the retained ramp that it creates. This feature helps to accentuate the tower as well as provide a dynamic landscape element that might become a tool for rainwater collection, or a programmed space for activities such as cloud observation. There is now an upper and lower gallery at the base of the tower adjacent to the office, and this will serve as exhibit space for WindEEE research graphics, storm chase and weather photography, and design work from The Kansas Project. Extending from the upper gallery is a cat walk that leads to the living unit. New in this iteration is the open-air spiral stairwell that rises to connect to the upper space of the weather observation tower.
We wanted to introduce some passive strategies to the most ‘house-like’ portion of the building, the living unit. The diagrams below are simple building sections that diagram some of these concepts.
1. Renewable Energy Source. In this case we have illustrated a solar array to utilize solar energy. We will source wind energy as well, and one goal of the WindEEE analysis will be to model wind flows for optimal harvesting.
2. Highly Insulated Walls. Walls with high R-values will enable the retention of heat during colder months and keep the home cool during the warmer months. By helping to regulate heat gain and heat loss, the walls become an important element in passive approach.
3. South Facing Orientation. Having south facing windows with proper management allows us to optimize solar control and potential.
4. Rainwater Harvesting. This strategy is simple. Collect rainwater from hard surfaces (roofs), channel it to a collection tank, and draw from the tank when needed. Not illustrated in the diagram, but items we are considering are Greywater Reuse, Composting Toilets and Geothermal Heating.
5. Thermal Mass. By designing walls and floors with thermal mass on the interior of the insulation (i.e. 4” thick concrete floors, CMU exterior walls with exterior insulation, poured concrete walls with exterior insulation) the living unit is able to benefit from the thermal lag that results from heat storage properties. In the winter, for example, the thermal mass of the floors will store heat collected throughout the course of the day, and slowly release it during the night when it is needed most. By morning, the floors are cooler and, as a result, keep the home more comfortable during the day when the home is exposed to direct sun light.
The southern orientation of the living unit, coupled with strategic overhangs above south facing windows, allows for heat gain during cooler months and protection protection during warmer months. Air flow and cross-ventilation strategies will be carefully incorporated; these will be specifically determined during the course of our work with WindEEE as airflows are modelled around and through various spaces. The illustration below diagrams airflow through the living unit, where high open windows draw hot air upward and out, allowing for the introduction of cooler fresh air to circulate.
Given the big skies and open spaces of Kansas, the long and majestic views from the site, and the weather-centric focus of The Kansas Project, we feel the design calls for verticality. The result is the tower element, oriented to the southwest which is the modal path direction of approaching storm systems.
We envision utilizing a system of wall shutters and levers that will allow flexible degrees of openness, exposure or protection in the face of different weather conditions. This is exemplified in the illustration below which depicts a shutter system that may close or open around the gallery. Dynamic wall systems will be incorporated throughout the entire design to enable exposure to the elements or to serve as a ‘first line of defense’ against extreme weather conditions.
As we continue to design to fuse the weather of Tornado Alley with human sensory experience, the importance of achieving environmental flexibility and strategic materiality cannot be understated.