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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Biological Concrete for a Living, Breathing Facade

© cowbite

The future of design requires thinking innovatively about the way current construction techniques function so we may expand upon their capabilities. Sustainability has evolved far beyond being a trend and has become an indelible part of this design process. Sustainable solutions have always pushed against the status quo of design and now theStructural Technology Group of Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech(UPC) has developed a  that sustains and encourages the growth of a multitude of biological organisms on its surface.
We have seen renditions of the vertical garden and vegetated facades, but what sets the biological concrete apart from these other systems is that it is an integral part of the structure. According to an article in Science Daily, the system is composed of three layers on top of the structural elements that together provide ecological, thermal and aesthetic advantages for the building.
More after the break.
Courtesy of UPC

The  that promotes the plant growth is actually concrete, with a fine tuned cement base that promotes plant growth and is specifically catered to the viability of specific mosses and lichens. Generally, the pH levels of concrete are high. Ideal concrete conditions have pH levels lower than 9, but traditional Portland Cement can have pH levels around 12 or 13, which then needs to be reduced to an acceptable level. These are not the ideal conditions for which researchers at UPC are looking. Instead, they are developing the of concrete using a magnesium phosphate cement that is slightly more acidic and does not require treatment to reduce its pH levels.
Mosses can thrive in levels of pH as low as 5 – levels that most other plants do not prefer. Limiting the competition by reducing pH levels will likely promote moss colonization. This strategy will lead researchers to develop several types of cement with a variable distribution of pH levels that promotes specific types of organisms to thrive be it moss,microalgea or lichens.
The assembly for this living concrete is composed of three layers on a structural surface. The first layer is a waterproof membrane that protects the structural elements from water penetration. The new biological layer of concrete is applied on top of this layer. This layer absorbs rainwater, acting as a microstructure that retains and stores rainwater. The final layer is a discontinuous coating that permits the entry of rainwater and traps it between the coating and the waterproof membrane. This optimizes the amount of water that is caught within the biological membrane without compromising the structure.
The system’s advantages are numerous. The plants capture CO2 from the air and release oxygen. The layer also acts as insulation as a thermal mass. It helps regulate temperatures within the building by absorbing heat and preventing it from entering the building in hot weather or escaping the building in cold weather.
The material is patented but is still in its experimental phases. Researchers are experimenting with the types of cement that can be used to promote certain species of plant growth. These variations in the facade, both ornamental and ecological, add diversity and color to any facade be it a new building or a renovation.
Story via Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC). “Biological concrete for constructing ‘living’ building materials with lichens, mosses.” ScienceDaily, 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2013.
Images via Flickr user: cowbite; Licensed via Creative Commons
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Self Cleaning Fish Tank

Self Cleaning Fish Tank Garden by Back To The Roots in technology news events home furnishings  Category
Already an internet hit with their mushroom-growing kitBack To The Roots went from fungi to fish. Raising over double their Kickstarter goal, they just launched this Home Aquaponics Self-Cleaning Fish Tank.
Self Cleaning Fish Tank Garden by Back To The Roots in technology news events home furnishings  Category
This self-cleaning fish tank features five pots on the top for growing herbs and plants such as spinach, baby greens, oregano, beans, basil, mint, parsley and thyme. The fish waste naturally fertilizes the plants above. So, all you really have to do is feed the fish!
Self Cleaning Fish Tank Garden by Back To The Roots in technology news events home furnishings  Category

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SOLAR charging stations

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ZERO CARBON: Stamp House / Charles Wright Architects

CWA were approached by the project client to deliver a carbon neutral (in operation) solution for an environmentally sensitive site off-grid on the edge of the FNQ beachfront rainforest. The aim was not to simply produce an engineered outcome but produce a building which made the most of the sites natural amenity and re-introduced the surrounding native wetland environment. The building is literally reflected by way of its siting over an engineered water ecosystem which was the result of lengthy liaison & collaboration with National Parks, Environmental Agencies, State and Local Government.
© Patrick Bingham Hall

The design is formed in an innovative combination of in-situ and precast concrete. The concrete has been engineered & insulated incorporating a total solar panelled roof to provide for a constant cooler & more comfortable ambient temperature year-round. The design utilises massive cantilevers to mitigate impact from potential flooding & king tide inundation associated with cyclonic activity. The project has been designed to be solid and to withstand intense cyclones.
© Patrick Bingham Hall

ESD initiatives include: total 250,000 ltr water harvesting, recycling & reticulation, renewable solar energy generation with solar backup non-reliant on fossil fuel backup generation, On-site Advanced Tertiary Sewerage treatment plant, grey water recycling & irrigation, Shaded & Insulated Thermal mass engineering, ‘green’ cooling & energy conservation controlled via building automation system (CBUS).
Floor Plan 02

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Seattle Leads the Way in Tracking Building Energy Use

Enthusiasm for water and energy data collection for commercial and residential buildings has been growing strong across the U.S. in major cities such as Austin, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. It’s no surprise to learn that Earth-friendly Seattle is ahead of the game when it comes to tracking its buildings; reports show that the city is receiving data for a whopping 87% of its commercial and multi-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet, which totals to 1,160 individual properties covering over 200 million square feet of the city.
But that’s not all. New cities are hopping on the data collection bandwagon, most recently – the first city in the Midwest to adopt rules for energy benchmarking and disclosure. Other cities who already have a green reputation, such as Boston, are upping their game to adopt this beneficial practice in an effort to create even healthier and more prosperous urban conditions. With the President himself expressing support for cutting energy use by constructing more energy efficient buildings at last week’s State of the Union address, water and energy data collection is finally receiving the attention and consideration it deserves.
More on tracking building energy use after the break…
Architecture 2030, inventor of the 2030 Challenge, an incremental set of energy-reducing targets for building sector professionals, says that the sector is undergoing a dramatic transformation. As of July 2010, 73% of the 30 largest Architecture/Engineering firms in America had adopted their challenge to incorporate into their designs “appropriate planning and passive design strategies, improved material selection, building envelope design, more efficient lighting, equipment and appliances as well as on-site and community-scale renewable energy technologies.” If the building sector continues to lead, Architecture 2030 believes that it can “dramatically reduce U.S. and global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over the next twenty years and beyond.” 
Collecting, documenting and displaying the effects of these design decisions in a way that makes them useful for the future is a matter of governmental policy and it’s clear that governments who choose to implement such policies are seeing real results. Cities experiencing disclosure requirements for energy and water are reporting lower energy costs for businesses – one of the desired outcomes – along with the bolstering of market forces and the motivation of owners and tenants to invest in  improvements. New York City is uncovering intriguingly less-than-ideal performances of some of its LEED buildings while older buildings seem to be doing less harm than expected – evidence of significant knowledge that would otherwise go undetected.
Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston hopes to reveal similar potentials in his own city by filing the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance with the Boston City Council, another component of the Mayor’s extensive action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lessons learned from experienced cities informed the Ordinance, which will similarly require “all large and medium sized buildings to report annual energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions tracked through Energy Star Portfolio Manager,” only one of the many services offered by the EPA to educate and organize new leaders in this green endeavor. Other services include help centers, workshops, daily technical assistance and a how-to-guide to facilitate the transition to more earth and energy-friendly buildings.
According to Brian Swett, Boston’s Chief of Environment and Energy, “the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance follows the principal of what gets measured gets managed. Through measurement and transparency, the Ordinance will encourage cost effective building investments in energy and water efficiency that will improve building performance, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” With this quickly-spreading concern for water and energy conservation, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of our nation’s cities follow Seattle’s lead.

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Tokyo Urban Farm: Eat While Watching Your Food Grow

Offering some green relief in a dense and brightly-neoned cityscape, these mini urban farming cubes add visual relief and interest but also provide a functional habitat supplying an adjacent restaurant.

Simple iron frames enclose full glazing on all sides so passers by or diners can watch from any side. The growing plants within provide shade and configure exterior space for the restaurant-goers as well.

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The 8 Most Interesting Ideas to Revolutionize Urban Farms

Today, while the Center for Science in the Public Interest was busy coordinating Food Day events across the nation, we got to thinking about all the delicious plants that will have to grow on buildings if our rapidly urbanizing world is to produce enough sustenance for the projected 9.1 billion people who will need access to fresh food by 2050. Could it really be a coincidence that so many of the causes CSPI addresses—healthy eating, hunger, food security, agriculture policy—find some resolution in the promise of agritecture, farmscrapers, and other utopian portmanteaus? We think not!
As the vertical farming trend has taken off in recent years, many architects and designers have begun tackling the question of how to marry agriculture with architecture. Here’s a look at some of our favorite concepts (most of them un-built) for fanciful food-producing pyramids, geodesic domes, flower pods, and insects.

1. Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut‘s design for the 132-story Dragonfly—a solar- and wind-powered vertical-garden concept for New York City’s Roosevelt Island—packs in 28 agricultural fields as well as meat and dairy production. Two oblong towers sandwich a greenhouse in clear glass "wings," which are buttressed by a pair of inhabited rings.

2. The Swedish organization Plantagon‘s concept for a vertical garden tower (left) and a rendering of a new Plantagon Greenhouse, which will begin construction in Linköping, Sweden, in 2013 (right). The approximately 175-foot-tall greenhouse will house a Center of Excellence for Urban Agriculture and begin food production in 2014.

3. Pictured here is Plantagon’s now-iconic design for a geodesic greenhouse, released in 2009. Inside, spiraling ramps make up the main circulation. The dome’s curved glass allows light to reach crops at varying angles, and to penetrate deep into the structure in winter when the sun is low.

4. Studio Mobile developed this concept for a vertical farm in Dubai. Addressing the coastal city’s scarcity of fresh water, the design borrows the logic of flowers to irrigate the gardens inside its five greenhouse-pods, which are made of polyethylene-wrapped steel. Studio Mobile’s “plant” has five stems that send humid and cooling sprays of seawater up through the pods, and condensers separate out fresh water that can be used to water the plants.

5. Designers Michaela Dejdarova and Michal Votruba conceived this cactus-like farm as a communal garden on the outskirts of Prague. The garden gets its structure from clusters of tetrahedrons that form an exoskeleton, which in turn supports hundreds of terraced agriculture plots. And since the tetrahedron clusters are modular, the structure can grow with demand or even be “harvested” to seed new farms across the city.

6. Columbia professor Dickson Despommier and collaborator Eric Ellingsen designed their speculative farm as its own ecosystem. In addition to raising crops and fish and poultry, this futuristic food pyramid manages its own waste with a heating and pressurization system: sewage separates into water and carbon, which in turn powers machinery and lighting. As Despommier writes on his Vertical Farm website, “We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on earth.”

7. Mithun’s concept for a Center of Urban Agriculture in Seattle envisions full-on urban-farm living. The design combines 318 affordable apartments with vegetable fields, greenhouses, and a chicken farm, all on a condo-friendly site just under three-quarters of an acre. Rooftop rainwater-collection tanks would keep the center off the city water system; the design also calls for 34,000 square feet of solar arrays, whose unused energy could be stored as hydrogen gas.

8. Taking an approach we can only guess at (techno-utopian rainbow… Swiss army knife?), FABLAB designer Kevin Chu proposed this concept for a vertical farm in London—and took home an award for it. As the Atlantic Cities’ John Metcalfe marvels, the design specifies a dizzying array of features, including solar helium balloons, a laterally mounted wind turbine, transparent wing canopies, and the tallest organic restaurant, sky lounge, conference hall, and theater in the world.
This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.
Lamar Anderson is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Architectural Record, ARTnews, the Hairpin, and Salon.
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