Posts tagged with "passive design":

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Passive-Aggressive design: When sustainability radically shapes architecture

This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Diagram

The promise of architecturally considered, environmentally conscious buildings that are more than exercises in technological prosthetics is taking shape around the world. Sustainable design can be achieved without subjugating space, form, experience, and aesthetics, concepts that often end up subservient to green concerns. Even offices are moving beyond the often-gauche addition of solar panels and sun shades to typical building typologies. To do so, form is playing an important role in achieving sustainability goals, and a new crop of spatially and formally exuberant projects is being realized. The result is a series of buildings that neither perform—or look—like anything we have seen before.

Perhaps the best test of a project’s sustainability aspirations is an extreme climate. Drastic temperature changes, remote locales, and inhospitable landscapes call for more than technological gadgetry to produce even a habitable project. Deserts in particular present challenges that push conventional designs to their limits. When New York firm WORKac began designing a guesthouse in southern Arizona with the goal of being completely off the grid, it looked to the southwest Earthship typology to start. Earthships are passive solar homes that use a combination of natural and upcycled materials embedded in the earth to create a thermal mass that keeps their interiors cool during the day and warm at night. WORKac took some of these concepts and elevated them into a unique architectural form. A simple diagram, the heart of the project is an adobe brick mass, upon which airy living spaces are cantilevered above the ground.

New York–based MOS Architects engaged the desert climate in its Museum of Outdoor Arts Element House. A guesthouse and visitor center for the Star Axis land art project by the artist Charles Ross, the project hovers just above the New Mexico desert on stout concrete piers. The house, designed to be off the grid, is built out of prefabricated structural insulated panels. By distilling the project down to its basic architectural components, a theme among many MOS projects, a clear yet expressive geometric system governs its overall shape. Rather than a central hearth, a series of modules each has its own solar chimney. The result is a naturally lit interior without excessive glazing to increase solar gain. A reflective aluminum shingle cladding counters even more of the sun’s intense rays while also playing visual games with the overall form. Views out of the project are captured through deeply inset operable glass walls at the ends of each module. The only typical sustainable technology visible is a solar array folly, situated just a few yards from the building.

On the other side of the world in another desert climate, Zaha Hadid Architects supersized its sustainable efforts. The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) was founded in 2010 by its namesake as an independent, nonprofit research institution to investigate the future of energy economics and technology. KAPSARC will bring together researchers and scientists from 20 nations into one planned community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Currently under construction, KAPSARC will become the main building of the campus, while formally being a campus within itself. An aggregation of six-sided plant-cell-shaped spaces, the project is a series of conditioned and unconditioned laboratories, conference rooms, lecture halls, and courtyards. Thanks to the office’s mastery of parametricism, angles, openings, and surfaces are cleverly utilized to manipulate sunlight, blocking it or allowing it into the advantage of the occupants. The modules also permit future expansion while maintaining the overall form and performance. The complex interlocking forms, and green-water-filled courtyards passively cooling surrounding spaces, echo traditional Arab courtyards buildings.

While designers strive to capture and control sunlight in the desert, in more northern climates it can be a scarce resource that is protected by code. In a city like Toronto, which averages six months of regular snowfall, new buildings can be required to allow sunlight to hit the sidewalk for portions of the day. For large projects like Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) King Street development, sunlight, views, and greenspace were calculated using the latest in super-computer simulation modeling. Though the pixelated project will resemble the early diagram-driven ones from Ingels’s days with PLOT, such as the Mountain Dwelling project, King Street will be undeniably more complex. Within BIG, a smaller studio called BIG Ideas works in collaboration with Microsoft to develop predictive modeling tools for direct use by the designers. “All of the hill heights are determined by the sun and site,” Jakob Lange, BIG partner, explained. “Big Ideas created a tool for the design team to use to generate the formation of the hills. On the sidewalk, you need at least a certain amount of sunlight. The only way you can do that is to have a machine that can test every point.” The result is a seemingly haphazard stack of blocks that allow copious light and air into each unit and terrace, as well to streets and public courtyards. 

Whether through high-tech computer modeling or low-tech desert vernacular, passive sustainable design is turning a corner. No longer an afterthought, environmental considerations have stopped holding projects visually captive. With improved agency, architects are striking a delicate balance between formal, spatial experience and sustainable considerations.

—Matthew Messner

Envelope

Be aggressive and show off your passive sustainability strategy facade first.

Bates Masi Architects’ Amagansett Dunes home, a modest cottage a few hundred feet from the ocean on the South Shore of Long Island, is covered on its east and west sides with operable glass. Different-sized adjustable openings create a pressure differential that promotes natural ventilation. To modulate light through these surfaces, the firm installed canvas louvers that admit cool breezes in the summer and block cold winds in the winter.

Each tapered louver is cut from one piece of canvas and wrapped around a powdered aluminum frame, its riveted strips slightly twisted to increase their transparency. The canvas pattern, which was developed through several digital and physical models, casts dappled light and dramatic shadows throughout the house and creates a lantern effect at night.

Another dramatic facade is located at Carrier Johnson + Culture’s Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. The concrete project has achieved LEED Gold certification through a number of sustainable solutions—from drought-resistant landscaping to smart solar orientation—and is lined with a curved, south-facing stainless-steel screen that reflects solar heat while allowing in natural light. A concrete roof overhang provides additional shading for the building and an adjacent outdoor walkway serves both as a pedestrian connector and a sort of double-layered facade. A new public plaza fronts the other side of the wall.

The wall’s staggered, water-jet-cut steel panels are unique: Each one contains a gap to allow air and views and is connected to a series of steel posts. The screen’s design makes subtle references to the religious campus, employing alpha and omega symbols, images from the cosmos, and other abstract references. “It’s both an art piece and an environmental wall,” Carrier Johnson + Culture’s design principal Ray Varela said.

Halfway around the world in Tehran, Iran, Admun Design and Construction created a memorable brick facade that shields the hot sun, encourages natural ventilation, and provides privacy while allowing limited, interesting patterns of light. Inspired by the surrounding neighborhood buildings and the city’s chaotic skyline, the facade is composed of variously rotated bricks with varied apertures. The openings change size based on the views, sun angles, and external distractions. Mortar was removed by punching the bricks, and the scheme was designed using parametric software. The process was carried out by the builders through a simple coding system. A ledge was placed in the gap between the brick membrane and the outer edge to provide space for flower boxes and to give cleaning access to the windows from outside. Balconies were placed behind the brick facade.

Indeed, low-tech solutions are becoming new again, but with a clever technological twist.

—Sam Lubell

Material

Is it possible for sustainable systems to be both high- and low-tech at the same time? That’s the question architects are answering with a resounding “Yes,” thanks to advanced, but somehow simple, passive strategies that rely on new materials. One of the most publicized solutions is New York–based raad studio’s Lowline Lab, a heavily planted public space—still early in development—that will be located in a historic trolley terminal under the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

In order to bring natural light into the space, the team is using what they call a “remote skylight,” in which sunlight passes through a glass shield to a parabolic collector, where it’s reflected and gathered at one focal point, then transmitted onto a “solar canopy,” a reflective surface underground. The technology transmits the necessary light wavelengths to enable plants and trees to grow in the underground space. A motorized optical system (likely to be powered by photovoltaics) tracks maximum sunlight throughout the day, and the solar canopy carefully distributes light evenly throughout the space.

Raad principal James Ramsey likened the system, which uses a series of relay lenses and mirrors, to both a telescope and a plumbing system. “You’ve almost treated the light as if you’ve turned it into a liquid,” he said. “It’s only geometry. That kind of simplicity is very efficient, and there’s something elegant about that.” All these technologies, added Ramsey, are still in development, so a specific system has not been finalized. He hopes to have it nailed down in the next couple of years.

French firm studioMilou’s reimagining of the National Gallery in Singapore consists of a roof and “veil” that unite two renovated historic buildings while creating a new courtyard. It’s another passive wonder that draws even, dappled light and keeps the buildings and their new public space cool. It mimics one of the oldest systems in the universe: a tree, with its thousands of branches stemming outward. The veil starts above the existing buildings and swoops down around them, filtering and softening natural light through thousands of laminated fritted glass and perforated aluminum panels, creating a filigree structure that also marks the new main entrance. All is supported by large aluminum columns, which effectively serve as tree trunks.

The goal, the French architects said, is for the roof and veil to resemble a handcrafted rattan tapestry. To execute the simple but complex form, the firm scanned the entire space and created a detailed 3-D model, working the roof and veil into the complex geometries of the space and even adjusting panels to fit and avoid the existing facade cornices. Each aluminum panel (chosen for its light weight and rust resistance) can be removed if maintenance is needed.

Meanwhile, Phoenix-based Wendell Burnette Architects’ (WBA) Desert Courtyard House uses a simple, reductive system to create a memorable space in a Sonoran Desert community near Phoenix while also being naturally sustainable. The house, which wraps around a courtyard containing volcanic rock, Saguaro cacti, and desert trees, is located in a low-lying area. It consists of about eight percent locally sourced cement (constituting the raised base) and 92 percent rammed earth excavated from the site. All of the extracted soil was used for the thick walls—none was taken away from the site and none was imported from elsewhere. The peripheral walls range from 3.5 to 18 inches thick, their high thermal mass keeping the home cool—although air conditioning can be used on particularly hot days. Another natural cooling system is the folded, wood-framed Cor-ten steel roof, which conducts heat up and out, creating a chimney effect.

The heavy, almost cave-like palette continues throughout the house, creating a unique aesthetic that Burnette said “feels ancient, primal, and modern at the same time.” He added, “You experience this as a shelter in a very elemental way.”

—Sam Lubell

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typologyMOS Architects' Michael Meredith on sustainability, and our brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design.

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AN interviews Michael Meredith of MOS Architects on sustainability

 This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Michael Meredith is a founding co-principal of MOS Architects, whose work connects the rigor of American formalism with 21st-century biopolitics.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How does sustainability affect form?

Michael Meredith: I would say that in the last few years, formalism went from geometry-as-god to performance-as-god. If Eisenman would say, “The logic of geometry made me do it,” today people would say, “The sun angles made me do it.” It’s a narrative that played out in schools, at least.

What kind of passive design strategies do you use?

Well, a lot of our projects use the chimney effect. We love chimneys, we even gave a lecture on it. The Element House is maybe the most explicit. It is totally off the grid and has about 12 inches of insulation.

But we also implemented it in the Ordos house in 2005, as well as After Party, our MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program installation in 2008, and some of our other more recent house proposals. It’s one of the most basic units of architecture and acts as a catalyst for both performance and form without a lot of effort, and to great effect.

How do you see sustainability today?

Sustainability has become the new default. It is hard to find anyone who says they aren’t sustainable, although that would be interesting. Nobody would say they’re not sustainable, it’s like saying they’re against ADA. It’s just a requirement nowadays. Maybe we should make a bigger deal about it, we don’t really sell the sustainability thing like some other offices would, but we do use it.

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: our feature article that features projects from across the world, Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typology, and our brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design.

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A brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design

This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Is it possible to look to the past to see the future of passive-aggressive architectures?

The answer is yes. The roles of architectural form and technological advancement dance across the eras, with passive design moving from being fundamental in pre- and early modern architecture to being subverted by mechanical ventilation and artificial climate control. That does not mean, however, that passivity ever disappeared completely. Though called by different names and evoked for a variety of reasons, environmental contextualism remained a hallmark of design throughout the 20th century and we would be ill-advised to consider it only as something ancient and ideal or new and novel.

We can look to early American skyscraper designs for a precedent that formally translated competing programmatic functional considerations and without an overwhelming reliance on forced air or artificial light. Structures like the 1891 Wainwright Building by Adler & Sullivan in St. Louis, Missouri, the 1913 Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert in New York City, and the 1892 Bradbury Building by George Wyman and Sumner Hunt in Los Angeles were shaped most directly by considerations of light and air. Because air conditioning and electric lighting were nonexistent, structures during this era were drawn with U-, E-, and H-shaped plans to facilitate comfortable use. The resulting narrow floor plates, large, operable openings, and tall ceilings necessary to accommodate the physical properties of these considerations define this era’s architecture directly.

A generation later, structures like Richard Neutra’s 1929 Lovell Health House in Los Angeles and Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1939 Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, also considered climate and light in regionally conscious configurations. Neutra’s Lovell House used innovative insulation and construction materials to comply with its seismically active, semi-arid environment, while Wright’s Headquarters made pioneering use of glass blocks, pairing transparent glass cubes with opaque thermal mass to arrive at new forms of daylit office space in a much colder region.

As air conditioning eliminated the requirements for natural ventilation and daylighting, fewer architects continued to design examples of climactically conscious buildings. Neutra’s 1946 Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, California, however, is an exception to the rule: The designer utilized deep overhangs and pivoting louver assemblies to control the desert-bound building’s solar exposure. In 1953, Paul Rudolph’s Walker Beach House tackled a beachside locale, duplicating the home’s wooden structural frame beyond its exterior walls and creating an armature for retractable shading devices. In 1954, Charles Colbert designed the Phillis Wheatley School in New Orleans, a modernist box lifted on stilts and capped with a large overhanging roof.

By the 1960s, regional modernism had given way to corporate modernism as a complete reliance on mechanical ventilation had become a fundamental orthodoxy in architectural discourse. Artificial technologies proliferated, causing formal considerations of local climate to go underground, as they were replaced by the lure of high technology.

The development of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes—contextual structures that were designed and outfitted to operate as self-sustaining worlds—married sustainable technology with nihilistic self-determination. Publications like The Dome Cookbook compelled recalcitrant youth of the 1960s to stake a claim in the countryside, where they built communes composed of geodesic domes and attempted to live off the land. The mostly amateur, counterculture movement was integral to establishing contextual and environmentally guided design as a legitimate architectural concern during the deeply entrenched corporatism and artificiality of the atomic and Cold War eras. As corporate modernism and its attendant ideologies coursed through the academy, hippie-led contextualism took root and blossomed, feeding off rising environmental and social awareness. As a result, contextually conscious architectural experiments sought to reinvent architectural formal expression literally from the ground up.

These concerns were institutionalized as key figures as these new movements gained prominence and authority.

For example, Sim Van der Ryn’s work as California State Architect in the 1970s was marked by an emphasis on solar design. Plans for his state office building in Sacramento, California, utilized two 600-ton subterranean sunlit rock beds to heat and cool incoming air received by a courtyard capped with a saw-toothed roof and north-facing skylights. The building’s articulated, béton brut exposures feature treatments appropriate for mitigating solar heat gain along the envelope that results in substantially lower levels of energy use for the overall building. Paolo Soleri’s proposals for an experimental, ecologically driven “arcology” in the Arizona desert also pioneered solar design, but at the urban scale. His designs for a utopian, self-sustaining desert acropolis took the form of massive landships that would use a huge, terraced, and south-facing greenhouse as an agricultural, thermal, and social engine for each settlement. Soleri’s super-scaled structures utilize natural phenomena like the chimney and greenhouse effects to drive their formal attributes.

Simultaneously, New Mexico–based architect Michael Reynolds utilized the principles of solar design in his Earthship prototypes, developing contextual, experimental approaches to self-sufficiency at the scale of the single-family house. Designs for Earthship houses use thermal mass to store and repel heat. Trombe walls frame openings calibrated to the local sun path, and when combined with the masonry walls, keep Earthships at roughly 70 degrees, year-round. And on the East Coast, New Jersey architect Douglas Kelbaugh utilized the principles of solar design to design in a cold, snowy climate. Kelbaugh’s Solar House of 1973 is oriented in concert with the sun: A wide, glass-sheathed enclosure along the southern wall illuminates a heavy masonry Trombe wall that moderates the home’s seasonally variable temperature.

While not considered high architecture at the time, the gradual adoption of sustainable design principles and emphasis on high-tech solutions through the 1980s and 1990s—when coupled with the formal promiscuity and emphasis on human, cultural, and experiential scale of the 1960s and 1970s—ultimately provided a firm foundation for contemporary passive-aggressive experiments. As the principles of overt sustainable design have become more firmly grounded in scientific analysis and computer modeling, sustainable features like thermally efficient and glare-reducing glazing, energy-efficient structural materials, and renewable energy generation have become common aspects of architectural design. But these measures are only part of the story.

As the effects of climate change become ever more apparent and our society moves closer toward collective action, architects will naturally be required to incorporate local climate considerations into their designs. The wide use of digital technologies like parametric climate modeling have integrated sustainable design into the overall design process, raising another question: Are architects finally properly positioned, in terms of technological capabilities, cultural awareness, and popular opinion, to fully hybridize technology and climate through architectural form?

The answer, again, is yes.

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: our feature article that features projects from across the world, Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typology, and MOS Architects' Michael Meredith on sustainability.

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Inside Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank

This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

BIG Ideas is an in-house think tank at the Danish studio Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). It delves into three initiatives: simulations, product design, and conceptual ideas. The simulations are carried out by a team of experts in computationally derived methods of design. With this close collaboration, they solve the designs from BIG’s architectural department while addressing the sustainable and environmental needs of a project, maximizing its potential when they see fit. An example of its work can be seen with its ski-slope-sporting, smoke-ring-spouting Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant currently being constructed in Copenhagen.

The Architect's Newspaper senior editor Matt Shaw sat down with Jakob Lange, a partner at BIG and director of BIG Ideas. Lange has been working with Ingels since 2003, when the pair were both at PLOT, Ingels’s and Julien De Smedt’s now defunct studio. Shaw and Lange discussed the role of parametricism in realizing and optimizing the diagrammatic passive-aggressive schemes at BIG.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What setup is in place at BIG Ideas that allows parametricism and sustainability to go hand-in-hand?

Jakob Lange: We have engineers working in-house, which facilitates a continuous loop of iterations, creating a build-up of simulations that can then become parametric. This breaks away from the old-school way of calling up an engineer, where you can get bogged down by discussing fees while having to wait to get a result weeks later.

With this new setup, we can do this on a daily basis. Once the project is in the system, it takes two minutes to change the parameters and see what the output is—say, if we change the overhang of a building. Here we can see how much energy it uses if, for example, we just cantilever it a little bit more. We also look at how it changes the big picture, which can be addressed by building all this information into our system.

To achieve this, we’re collaborating with Dell Inc. We have a supercomputer that allows us to accelerate the amount of simulations that we can do. Prior to this, one of the limiting factors of doing very comprehensive simulations was computer power. Subsequently, this means that the quality of the results that we get out is much higher than what was previously possible.

Now it is very simple. The designers-architects send us an email with a link to the 3-D file and a little description of what they need. There may be a few questions back and forth—depending on how busy the guys are—but it’s done in a short time.

The engineers are actually based in Copenhagen, so those in that office can just simply walk up to them and ask. Some simulations are also difficult to set up, so they take a bit longer, but it is usually a very short back and forth.

As far as this diagrammatic idea of expressing sustainability as “fun” goes, how did that emerge in BIG?

It’s been in our DNA from the beginning. All projects, back from when Bjarke had PLOT, had to have an idea, an idea that we couldn’t just design a beautiful sculpture or something. And of course, very often one of the main idea-drivers is to solve a challenge. A climate around your building is always a challenge; say, if you’re in the Middle East or in Finland. Then, of course, we have this idea that making sure that whatever makes your building so nice is that you’re improving the life quality around your building.

So do the simulations end up altering the form of the building?

Oh yes, often. We did a facade for a museum in Marseille [France] that has louvers, but instead of using horizontal louvers, we used some that curved around with the building. Depending on the location of the sun, the louvers can also be angled individually to be most effective.

To do this, we made some parametric models into which we could feed the facade—no matter how organic it was—and it would generate the optimal angle and then space the louvers out onto the facade.

We are also currently doing a project in Amsterdam and we simulated a facade system. We set the simulation up and just let our supercomputer run all night. In the morning we had a wealth of data that was then compressed, giving us the final result. It really enables us to do some very, very high-quality simulations.

For more "Passive Aggressive" articles, explore: our feature article that features projects from across the world, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typologyour brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design, and MOS Architects' Michael Meredith on sustainability.

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WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typology

This article is part of  The Architect's Newspaper's "Passive Aggressive" feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

“The desert house typology reached an ending point where it became all about overhangs and metal—a common vocabulary of what a desert house should be,” said Dan Wood, principal of WORKac. “We felt like that needed to be renewed.” For their typological update, Wood and his wife and partner Amale Andraos conceived an off-the-grid guesthouse in Tubac, Arizona, about 45 minutes out of Tucson. The approximately 1,500-square-foot structure will balance on a single column (a pilotos, joked Wood) with an extreme cantilever to create a shaded yard and a triangular frame.

The resulting form cites Arcosanti, Taliesin West, Earthships, and Spanish missions.

“There is a culture of embedding the architecture in the landscape that has this very environmental sort of aspect—the desert has this immediate effect of asking you to respect it because it’s so striking and beautiful,” said Andraos.

Starting with the concept of a classic Earthship (a passive house made of natural and recycled materials), Wood and Andraos experimented with thermal and structural mass. Rather than embed the building in the ground like an Earthship, they elevated it, using a weighty mass of adobe bricks to insulate the home. Orienting this thermal mass to the north, a slanted glass wall with photovoltaic panels faces south, its 35-degree angle running parallel to the stairs inside. An outdoor fire pit and garden atop the fireplace conveniently occupies the incongruous space created by the building’s two masses coming together.

Inside, the layout is organized with the private rooms—two bedrooms and a bathroom—embedded into the adobe brick mass, and the public spaces—including a kitchen, living-and-dining area, and greenhouse—in the glass-enclosed portion. The triangular shape and a series of screens and shades will help to circulate air and provideheating and cooling. “We’ve always been interested in systems and architecture that we can play and engage with,” Andraos said. “This ties all of it together in a microcosm: heat and cooling, air movement, water collection, and growing food and plants.” The division of space also allows the architects to play with compression, expanding from eight-foot-high ceilings in the bedrooms and bathroom to 18-foot-ceilings at the apex of the home.

Under the main house, parking spaces will be dug into the ground to further facilitate cool air circulation, and a workshop-toolshed will inhabit the column. The rest of the area is meant to be used as a deck. “It’s a very different kind of space under the house, but it still resonates with the traditional typology,” Wood said. “We’re trying to see how much we can float, so all of the furniture is suspended.”

Although the house will feature composting toilets and other sustainable systems, it is meant to be largely manual and will require the residents to interact with it. “We want to engage with that history of Earthship systems with an aesthetic that’s very ad-hoc, anti-architectural, and DIY, but bring a contemporary take to it.”

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: our feature article that features projects from across the world, Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tankour brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design, and MOS Architects' Michael Meredith on sustainability.

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Small town receives new high-tech science facility dressed in a dynamic crystalline metal mesh veil

A total of 149 custom panels cover nearly 11,000 sq. ft. of the facade, providing a passive approach to daylighting, glare reduction, shading, and solar heat gain reduction.

The Georgia BioScience Training Center is a signature building with a dual purpose: a high-tech facility supporting research critical to bio-manufacturing that brings identity to Georgia’s growing biosciences industry. The 40,305 sq. ft. building is sited approximately 45 miles due east of Atlanta in Social Circle, "Georgia's Greatest Little Town,” and houses laboratories, classrooms, meeting rooms, and large gathering spaces. The building is organized around a large elliptical courtyard lined with glass walls. “Building planning centered on the idea of a “10 minute marketing tour” as the state will tour thousands of future 'prospect' companies through the facility,” says Nathan Williamson, Associate Principal at Cooper Carry. Williamson says the exterior courtyard doubly serves as a breakout space for large meetings and events, while drawing daylight into the training spaces. “By centralizing this natural amenity and event space, all spaces are energized by daylight while vistas create an open, highly-collaborative environment. The result is a high performance design that evokes the sophistication of 21st century bio-manufacturing.” The most striking feature of the building envelope is a large angular metal mesh veil, suspended off the building by a steel frame. Williamson notes the versatility of the aesthetic properties of the material combined with the performance of the veil as a passive solar shading device brought a significant value to the project: "We infused stainless steel into the exterior design to capture the performance benefits of shading while expressing the connections of the system which enhance the client’s brand of a decidedly hi-tech facility. The mesh is expressed independently from the orthogonal main façade with facets and plane changes to provide a dynamic, crystalline aesthetic with ever changing shadows and reflections that suggest a sense of movement." The BioScience Center’s high precision metal facade assembly is a familiar aesthetic for the high-tech students and visitors of the facility.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cambridge Architectural
  • Architects Cooper Carry - Atlanta
  • Facade Installer L&S Erectors, Inc. - Litchfield, Ohio
  • Facade Consultants Whiting-Turner – Atlanta (Construction Manager)
  • Location Social Circle, Georgia
  • Date of Completion September, 2015
  • System Rigid metal mesh panels attached to a steel frame with Clevis in tension system
  • Products “Lanier” Metal Mesh pattern, by Cambridge Architectural
The metal mesh product, named “Lanier” after nearby Lake Lanier, was developed by Cambridge Architectural as a custom solution specific to this project which has become a showcase for the architectural metal company. "We always like to be involved early in the process of any project and work with the architect once the initial design has been established,” says Matt O’Connell, Director of Operations at Cambridge Architectural. “After initial review and discussions with Cooper Carry about their vision, we conducted 3-D modeling. But the computer only goes so far, so we went through multiple specifications and mock up processes, both small and full size, to provide the right mesh fabric for the job.”  The rigid panels are fabricated as trapezoidal shapes to account for the faceted panels. When folded into place, the panels assume an orthogonal ribbon-like patterning. Cambridge developed the rigid mesh to allow for a one-directional bend. The product is suspended in tension off a rigid steel frame that allows the dimensions of the panel to be maximized with fewer intermediate supports. The result is a lightweight (1.28psf) panel with a maximum width of 10 feet, and a maximum length of 100 feet. A unique feature of Lanier is the ability to expand and contract the open area of the mesh, by removing fill wires as the pattern repeats. What results is a quality of lightness in the material - the ability to block direct sunlight while maintaining views from within the building. “We know that architects are seeking flexibility and looking for mesh choices that create a more stimulating visual appearance while providing options for varying degrees of light passage,” said Cambridge National Sales Manager David Zeitlin. “In the case of Lanier, they can even choose to expand the openness of the pattern for a single panel. We call this option Transition.” The material has been used for exterior facades, solar shading, parking garages, and interior screen walls.
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KieranTimberlake demonstrates best practices for a prototypical new commercial building

The facility will serve students, building operators, building energy auditors, and will be used to support the development of new business ventures in energy efficiency.

The Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI)—formerly the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub—at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, is a research initiative funded by the Department of Energy and led by Penn State University that seeks to reduce the energy usage of commercial buildings to 50% by 2020. KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based firm located three miles from Navy Yard, was selected by Penn State to renovate a 1940’s Georgian-style brick building to be a living laboratory for advanced energy retrofit technology. Included in the brief was an addition to the building, which evolved into a new stand-alone building across the street on Lot 7R, which aptly became the name of the building. The new 7R building, literally tied to the ground with groundwater-sourced heat pumps, is also formally and tectonically organized around passive solar strategies. A number of daylighting studies drove a re-shape of the building. An initial four-story cube was introduced in Robert A.M. Stern and Associates’ masterplan for the site, but became a long linear east-west oriented low-lying building. This configuration maximizes daylighting while minimizing over-shadowing on the site, establishing a framework for campus growth. 7R is loaded with environmental features including a green roof, a gray water reuse system, integrated daylighting strategies, and geothermal wells. These environmental priorities influenced an approach to building envelope design that balances performance with overriding aesthetics and compositional goals. David Riz, a partner at KieranTimberlake, says the composition of the facade is integral to the siting of the building: “In a large number of our projects, we accentuate the orientation of our buildings with facade treatments.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Kawneer (aluminum), Solera (translucent glazing),JE Berkowitz (clear glazing),
  • Architects KieranTimberlake
  • Facade Installer Malvern Glass (translucent rainscreen), Torrado Construction (brick)
  • Facade Consultants Balfour Beatty (CM)
  • Location Philadelphia, PA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System brick, clear & translucent glazing on steel frame
  • Products Metro Ironspot brick (by Yankee Hill Brick and Tile), VM Zinc (by Dri-Design), Kawneer Encore Storefront / Kawneer 451 UT Storefront / Kawneer 1600 Curtainwall, Solera, R-9 Panel with aerogel, Acrylite, 16mm High-Impact Multi-skinned Acrylic Panel
Brick, chosen for its relationship to a historic Navy Yard context, is utilized as a ‘solar shade,’ opening and closing along the south facade to manage direct heat gain, while eliminating the need for mechanized shades. ‘Rips’ in the brick fabric reveal a transparent glazing system adorned with horizontal sun shade louvers. To the north, the building visually connects to adjacent League Island Park by maximizing glazing along an elevated second floor ‘tree-top’ interior walkway. Arguably the most significant feature of the building envelope is a twin-wall assembly of insulated translucent panels, seen prominently along the length of the north facade, allowing the architects to maximize the level of daylight. David Riz says the panels are notably used both performatively and compositionally, spanning 19’ tall from the plenum to the roof coping: “We wanted to create syncopation in the patterning. We were trying to get a dual read on a long linear building introducing key moments as your eye moves along the building.” The panels are incorporated into the west facade as a primary material to help manage a harsh late-afternoon sun in the large auditorium’s break out space. Riz celebrates the success of the facade in managing a difficult western orientation through diffusing harsh sunlight into a soft glow: “When you’re in the break out space, you simultaneously sense the daylight from the west, a view to the north park, and also a view through the flying brick screen to the south. That’s where it all comes together.” Riz considers the quality of daylight filtering through the building envelope to be one of the project’s greatest strengths: “There are very nice moments as you walk through the building because its so narrow where you experience a simultaneity of the south facade and the north facade: a hint of the brick screen through the classrooms, and bays of transparent panels to the other direction.” KieranTimberlake, who recently received an award for Innovative Research at ACADIA 2015, continues to monitor for thermal performance and storm water analysis. In this regard, the 7R building is a blend between high tech data monitoring, paired with low-tech passive strategies and off-the-shelf products. The project, completed within the last year, will be utilized by Penn State for various research programs.
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Just six logs keep this cafe warm and cozy in Buffalo, New York

Wintry Buffalo, New York is about the last place you might expect to find a building with no mechanical HVAC system. Yet that's where a pair of architects fired up their custom-designed masonry heater, also called a kachelofen, which warms a contemporary cafe space by burning just six logs per day—even through a record-breaking winter where the average temperature was just 22.8 degrees. Where possible, architects are increasingly ditching mechanical heating and cooling systems to cut carbon footprints and sometimes budgets. But frigid western New York is a tough climate to tackle without the benefits of modern mechanical heating. University at Buffalo architects Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis, who run their own practice, pulled it off using a specially engineered masonry heater. Their kachelofen (pronounced KA-hell-oh-fen) is a wood stove that on a typical day slowly radiates the heat from a single, hour-long burn over the following 24 hours. A long, rectangular flue pipes smoke from the burn around a doubled-over, 30-foot loop, warming up as exhaust from the fire flows through. Charlotte Hsu from The University at Buffalo quotes Davidson:
“Very long horizontal flues are unusual because smoke wants to go up, so it’s very challenging to keep it from stagnating,” says Davidson, a UB clinical assistant professor of architecture. “Many of the masons we talked to said they couldn’t do a horizontal flue longer than 8 feet.”
Rochester, New York's Empire Masonry Heaters could, however. They helped the architects enliven the flue chamber, covering the refractory cement with patterned tiles reminiscent of an intricate mosaic. Their ornamental chamber doubles as a café bench. The kachelofen is known in North America simply as a masonry heater. While its winter-busting abilities are new to Buffalo, it is a centuries-old form of heating in Northern Europe. North America is “a fertile ground for new developments on masonry heater construction,” said the architects of the cheekily-dubbed Cafe Fargo. “It seems also with a widening consciousness about 'green' forms of heating, and rising heating costs, the good old masonry heater is grabbing peoples' interest,” they told AN. At only 880 square feet, their cafe is well-suited to the system. But Davidson and Rafailidis said masonry heating could work in larger spaces, too, but it might require several heaters to evenly heat multiple rooms. Wood-fired systems also need to be constantly monitored. Buffalo takes a degree of pride in its cold and snowy conditions, but if you've warmed up to the radiant heat of Cafe Fargo you may want to drop by—it's still looking for a tenant.