RPI & SOM Center for Architecture Science & Ecology (CASE)

We thought we’d showcase another one of the programs that we think is a pretty great idea; involving one of the world’s largest architecture firms doesn’t hurt either.  The Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE), a partnership between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Skidmore Owings and Merrill, focuses on creating ecological solutions to problems posed by our built environment.  Through research, green technologies are integrated into different phases of the building process, from preliminary design strategies, new material creation, or smart wall systems.  The co-op has won multiple awards for innovations in ecological thinking and design.  Check out a few of their best projects.


Integrated Concentrating Dynamic Solar Facade

The Integrated Concentrating Solar Facade (ICSF) is a building-integrated photovoltaic system that takes a dramatically different approach to providing interior space with electrical power, thermal energy, enhanced daylighting, and reduced solar gain. It surpasses existing building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) or concentrating PV technologies in these benefits, and is applicable to both retrofits and new construction. The system integrates architecturally into facades and atria, harvesting solar energy, while still providing outside views and diffuse daylight for the building users.

ICSF accomplishes these benefits by miniaturizing and distributing the essential components of concentrating PV technology within the weather-sealed windows of building envelopes. Electricity is produced by an array of PV cells, and much of the remaining solar energy is transported out of the facade as captured, usable heat. The sum effects of ICSF are these valuable energy resources, reduced interior solar gain loads, which reduces loads on HVAC systems, and enhanced interior daylighting quality, which reduces the need for inferior artificial lighting. The design and operation of the system permits direct partial viewsheds by building occupants which change and flow over the course of the day, furthering occupants’ engagement with their environs. The modular design compliments a range of existing building structures, or, implemented in new designs, offers bold design opportunities. ICSF has been developed through a series of prototypes, and is currently integrated into building envelopes.

Active Modular Phytoremediation System

Contemporary construction materials and building types are complicit in the degradation of indoor air quality (IAQ) and have become principal contributors to health problems in developed countries. Compounding this is the poor, and in many cases severely deteriorating air quality within global metropolitan areas, which is an important determinant of population health and well-being.

By integrally cleaning airborne contaminants associated with poor indoor air quality, building-integrated active phytoremediation systems have the potential to decrease or even eliminate fresh air requirements required by American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and with that the potential to both realize substantial energy savings in climate types with high heating and/or cooling loads and to reduce or eliminate the need to intake, treat and circulate poor quality air in heavily polluted urban areas.

Advanced Ecoceramic Structural Systems

The increasing pressure on finite natural resources from global demand for construction materials combined with rising energy consumption is forcing the construction industry to look for low-impact and less energy intensive alternatives. This presents a need for abundant materials that can meet demanding performance criteria. Ceramics represent the most potential for the ecologically minded building materials of the future. Oxygen, Silicon, and Aluminum compose the majority of the Earth’s crust, and are readily found as silica and aluminum silicates that can be directly used for the production of ceramics. Ceramic materials can be used in diverse applications and continuously reclaimed as high quality materials saving more precious resources.

Composites and coatings augment ceramic materials for high performance architectural applications. Energy and climatic simulation with physical testing are used to produce ecologically and biologically minded architectures of advanced ceramic technologies in response to environmental criteria and thermal comfort. Digital technologies and physical modeling techniques along with an innovative look at traditional materials re-inform and re-value the role of earthen materials in the built environment.

A portion of this research was conducted at The University of Arizona, reprinted with permission of the authors.

Make sure to check out more of CASE’s projects at their website.
All text and images via CASE

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