Overall, I think that this course helped me get a better idea of how systems work and all the different types of systems that I need to be aware of as a architect. I now have a better understanding about the different systems of heat, light, ventilation, as well as other things that will go on to help me as I continue in my life.

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12.02 lecture

Last semester, I designed a wastewater recycling center for my studio project sited at Shuckoe Bottom, Richmond. Because of this, I was particularly interested during the lecture when the Sidwell Friends school was mentioned. While I was in high school, one of my classes had taken a field trip to see Sidwell Friends and learn more about their sustainable architectural practices. I remembered that the school had incorporated an interesting system which allowed them to deal with both wastewater and stormwater on site, and I wanted to research that a bit more.

sidwell friends diagram

At the front of the school, lies a terraced wetland garden planted with various indigenous plants. This garden also functions as part of the wastewater treatment for the building.

 All of the wastewater from the Middle School building is processed in a multi-step system that incorporates a variety of ecologies to provide robust, diverse treatment.  System components include a passive primary treatment tank, followed by a series of terraced subsurface-flow constructed wetland cells, a recirculating sand filter and trickling filter, which are all tightly integrated into the courtyard’s landscape. The wetland is a subsurface-flow type, as opposed to the surface-flow type, which reduces or eliminates odor and prevents contact with the water.  All water flows beneath layers of planted gravel so that no surface water is exposed. A variety of native and local wetlands plants provide not only aesthetic beauty, but play host among their roots to a wide diversity of microorganisms that help break down contaminants from the water. The trickling filter and sand filter provide further polishing and reduction of nutrients such as nitrogen.

Wastewater at Sidwell Friends is allowed to flow through the courtyard for three to five days before entering a storage tank. This water is then able to be reused for things which do not require potable water, such as toilet flushing.

 The wetland system will receive up to 3000 gallons per day and the high-quality reclaimed water is recycled into the building for reuse.  Any unused water passively overflows as clean water back to the municipal system.

The system I implemented in my greywater recycling center seems to be simpler but  similar to the system at Sidwell Friends. In my building, I only passed the greywater through a sand and gravel filter before passing it down to the storage tank for use to water the terraced interior courtyard vegetable and plant garden through subsurface flow. The system at Sidwell Friends consists of the passive treatment tank, terraced gardens, and then the recirculating sand and trickle filter. One thing I could have developed more in my project that they do at Sidwell Friends was how to deal with excess water. At Sidwell Friends, the clean water is allowed to passively overflow into the municipal system. I had initially wanted the extra water from my building to overflow into the nearby James River, but had not fully researched that concept.

Not only does the Sidwell Friends building have its own wastewater management system, but it also incorporates a stormwater system to deal with storm runoff. This system consists of swales, rain gardens, habitat pools, green roofs and biofiltration.

All site runoff is directed to the rain garden, planted with native meadow species, for infiltration. A green roof also reduces runoff volumes and improves the quality of infiltrated runoff.  To address improving runoff water quality, the overland flow of runoff from paved areas is routed through a storm filter to remove suspended solids and excess nutrients.  Excess water from the roof and lawn also flows to the courtyard’s pond. Some of the roof runoff is stored in an underground cistern which provides additional water for the pond during dry weather. During heavy rains, excess water flows from the pond into the rain garden. No permanent irrigation system was installed.

The way Sidwell Friends dealt with stormwater runoff is much more sophisticated than the way I had settled on. My building dealt with rainwater the same way it dealt with wastewater – by passing it through the sand and gravel filter and then storing it in the basement. The addition of a greenroof could have helped to slow storm flow within the building, but while I was designing, I had viewed my building as something which slowed the runoff for the surrounding area.

spring2011 greywater recycling building

I think that if I had both looked at Sidwell Friends as a case study and had my current understanding of systems while designing my greywater recycling building, I could have created a more sophisticated system, at least for my storm water collection, which may have improved my building.

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11.29 lecture

During the guest lecture by architects from Parabola, we were presented a house which was built to be extremely aware of the path of the sun throughout the year. While all architecture responds to the sun in varying degrees, I found this house to be particularly interesting as the house seemed to act as a sort of sun dial, with the conditions during the solstices and equinoxes deliberately planned and intentional experiences throughout the year. The house reminded me both of some ancient, primitive, hut built towards the sun as the sole way of telling time, as well as the Pantheon of Rome. Today, most architecture deals with how the sun may light spaces throughout the year, but few seem to still use the sun as a method of keeping time. I think this adds an interesting dimension to the architecture of the building, as it seems to cross over the boundary of being simply a space to inhabit. It becomes more than a room, and seems to encourage interaction with the house, and not simply in it.

The method through which Parabola constructed their house for the Living Building Challenge restricted their use of many traditional materials for more environmental friendly or sustainable materials. While there are obvious positives to this, I’m a bit curious about the drawbacks which keep these substitutions from being more widely used.

The NASA headquarters building which they presented was very effective at using daylight to completely light up the workplace. This is a concept that I think more office buildings should use to create a better office environment. I would be interested to see that concept applied in a crowded city, such as New York, where direct sunlight may be more difficult to come by.

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assn 5

For this semester, I have been designing a pod hotel, sited on the intersection of 14th St. and 10th Av. at the New York High Line.

Currently, the building consists of 55 pod units, a restaurant, two gallery areas, a lobby, and the main staircase. Using principles and concepts learned in this class, I was able to integrate various ventilation, daylight, and thermal systems.

In this section perspective diagram, solar lighting is analyzed for the summer and winter solstices at 2:00PM. Because this section is cut facing the south, It can be seem that the pods in the pod tower are able to receive natural lighting fairly easily. The restaurant and one of the galleries, which are located on the west facade, also receive a lot of sunlight, so to help regulate the lighting, I have implemented a vertical louver system. The rooms located on the eastern side are also able to receive a more diffuse lighting, as sunlight needs to bounce off the adjacent building in order to enter.

In my building, I make use of thermal mass, a double skin system, and exterior shading vertical louvers in order to help maintain the thermal condition. In the pod tower, I make use of thermal mass on the western side. During the day, the protruding concrete boxes absorb and store heat from the sun. At night, this heat is released into the pod units to naturally warm the space. On the lower facade of the western elevation, I decided to incorporate exterior shading vertical louvers. The placement of the louvers on the exterior allows for less heat gain throughout the day. The double skin facade on the eastern elevation also helps to maintain interior thermal conditions and prevents the creation of a thermal bridge.

In this diagram,  I have overlaid wind frequency graphs on the ground floor plan of my building. The diagram on the left shows wind frequency in the summer, and the one on the right shows frequency in the winter. During the summer, wind most frequently comes from the south, while in the winter, wind comes most frequently from the northwest but still fairly frequently from the south.

With these wind patterns in mind, I was able to develop a ventilation strategy.In the pod tower, I plan on using the stack effect in order to naturally ventilate the spaces. In each pod, there is an operable window as well as openings in the double glass wall on the east side. As the sun heats up the air in between the glass on the eastern side, that air rises, leaves through the roof, and pulls air out from each of the pod levels, as well as fresh air into the pods form the open windows. On the lower levels, I need to utilize both natural cross ventilation and air conditioning in order to properly ventilate the area. On the fourth floor on the south facade, there is a larger operable window, and on the first floor on the north, there is another opening. When these openings are opened, cross ventilation is allowed to occur, as wind from the south blows into the building, flows down the large volume created by the main staircase, and exits on the north side of the first floor. During the summer, the air may need to be mechanically cooled through air conditioning, in order to encourage the ventilation flow.

tone west facade study
early tone interior pod light study

I have chosen to further analyze the small pod units in my building. In the above image, I have more closely diagrammed sunlight on both the summer and winter solstices at 2:00 PM. Throughout the year, each of the pods are able to receive a good amount of natural light during the day. 

In this material study, I attempted to analyze how materials used also affect the thermal condition on the space. The use of steel enforced concrete for the protruding box on the west allows for the box to be used as a thermal mass. The glass window in the box is slightly recessed in order to attempt to minimize heat gain during the day, and the window can also be opened in order to increase ventilation and the stack effect. The wood floors help to insulate the pod, but do not have the thermal mass qualities of concrete.

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Light has always played a huge role in architecture. From the temples of Greece to the cathedrals of France to Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals, light has been used to help create a certain aesthetic and atmosphere as well as provide functional daylighting of the space. In chapter 1 of Daylight Design of Buildings by Baker and Steemer, the authors give the example of the subdued lighting of a church. “In a church, the lighting is subdued and inspirational, but sufficient to read by once the eyes have adapted,” (p. 25). In the chapel of Tadao Ando’s Church of Light, A cross cut from the concrete allows light to enter and symbolically show the division between the secular and spiritual realms. However the light entering from that cut is also used to functionally light the space enough for use.

Tadao Ando's Church of Light

In many Islamic mosques, window openings are covered with elaborate screens, which help to create a spiritual space with filtered light. However, these filtering of the light also serves to keep the space from becoming hot and create a cooler space with more shade and dark.

Great Mosque of Isfahan

The Mosque of Sidi Sayyid also uses ornate latticework in order to filter the light entering the mosque to both create a spiritual space and moderate the temperature.

Mosque of Sidi Sayyid lattice

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eco leaf solar curtain

Designers Lim Wan Xuan and Tang Xueling Jane have created the Eco-Leaf Solar Curtain, a type of shade device which filters, captures, and stores sunlight as it hits the window during the day. At night, the shade becomes a light source, and emits light using the energy it gained over the course of the day. The cord at the center allows the vertical blinds to be lifted slightly to help increase air circulation throughout the room. While I think that this is a creative and innovative way to rethink shading devices and integrate solar leafs into the home, I would be slightly disappointed to use these in any room that had a nice view. Unlike regular blinds or louvers which can be adjusted to both filter light and still allow a view, these blinds completely obstruct the outside. Even when the “blinds” are lifted, you would have to stand at an angle in order to look out. Also, based on the images I’ve seen of it during night, I am skeptical that it will be able to fully light a room, which may be intentional, and would allow for a nice ambient glow. But apart from being a night light, I’m not sure what else this light would accomplish. The small panel on the lower right which gives a temperature reading is useful though.

more information at:

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Architezer blog has recently posted a graphic tracing the evolution of the refrigerator and stove. After seeing this I was reminded of the lecture we had in systems where we attempted to understand how these things work.


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