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Sustainable Structural Skins: Beauty with a PurposeArchitecture | Green Design

author Sephora Arthur Contributor

Contemplating the crude artistry of the Native American abodes, the stone igloos of South America as well as the rock cut caves at Guyaju, China, the enclosing walls are defined by their ability to counteract the unpredictability of the blistering sun, wind and rain.

Dual skin facade at Santa Monica, California

Transformations took their place as security, privacy and the constant craving for comfort kept knocking down the rudimentary shells into structures of varying levels of sophistication and adequacy. The primitive designs were centered around specific climatic zones for maximum efficiency and resistance to external effluents. A headway in the construction industry and with a flourish of regional styles, the four walls of the structure formerly formed out of function, were projected as an outward expression of the owners' status and stature. However, the phase of embellishment was a short lived one, as it took a toll on the environment in reaction to the apparent building activities gulping down natural resources by the second.

The word sustainable began to feature in the anatomy of the building bringing about a shift in facade design and architecture as a whole. It inferred a restoration of public buildings and a change in perception of iconic structures. The new found veneration for the building envelope has been around for the past few decades and there are a few  can't-get-it-out of your mind structures that call for a recollection of sorts. The new parking structure centered in Santa Monica, California conceived by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners is a dual skin conformation, providing parking for 900 vehicles diffused to 6 levels of adept aerated spaces.

Decoding the complementary structural skins

Treating the users to grandeur vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the nostalgia of the city, the facades facilitate an uninterrupted flow of light and natural breezes at all levels, accounting for most of the energy requirements of the building. The polychromatic display of colour is a result of transparent and translucent panels that illuminate at night, giving the street an identity that is hard to beat.

The multifaceted civic centre

A combination of colored laminated glass panels framed into ribbed pre-cast concrete channels in contrast to the static steel mesh, is an amalgamation of the surrounding architecture and is a pure reflection of the civic centre.

Louvered facade overlay on the motif screen wall

A garden oasis in the city as described by the Director of Elenberg Fraser was stimulated with the surrounding flora to conceptualize the leaf motif running through the expanse of the structure. While the northern and western facades garner privacy and protection from the sun through louvered sunshades, the east facade bears the elm leaf inscription superimposed on a white washed screen wall. The reduced heating and cooling loads are brought about through double glazed windows with a low emissivity bronze film from the exterior and a clear glazing from the interior enabling unbarred views of the city.

Green concrete structural skin

E-studio has found an ingenious technique that transforms the energy embodied concrete to capture and hoard rainwater by the addition of a permeable layer inducing plant growth. The outcome is that of a hassle free vertical garden with zero maintenance requirements. The three layered concrete is a combination of a waterproof layer with an internal biological microstructure retaining water and a final porous layer that aids in trapping the water to further the growth cycle. A period of one year is all it takes to create a canvas of earthy hues of plant species, that is a painting of sorts in addition to the growing cultures ability to absorb and reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.


Le Galile Office Building,France

On the commercial front, the Le Galile Office Building in France designed by Studio Bellecour is a compilation of 2 buildings connected by an entwined concrete core, in addition to an insulated aluminum screen. Both the structures get a generous spread of aluminum sunshades that keep off the scorching summer sun and maintain a comfortable environment in the winters.

State of the Art Smog-eating exoskeleton

If structures could engulf resources, then the following proves that they are smog-eating devices too. Titanium dioxide when coated on the surfaces of glass, concrete, metal and even fabric, its reaction to sunlight causes an oxidation process that converts the atmospheric contaminants into water vapor and CO2. The Manuel Gea Gonzlez Hospital in Mexico City is proof to the functioning of such an invention in design.

Low-cost perforated concrete shell

The Kontum house, a Vietnamese single story structure created by Khun Studios was built using i- situ molded concrete blocks in response to the low budget of the project. The structure has triangular perforations layered above a glass curtain wall keeping the blazing sun out and bringing in filtered light and facilitating natural ventilation inside the house. 

Improved Indoor air quality through permeable concrete

Even as we revel in the time bound classical masterworks and the technology driven modern age edifices, its the structure that instinctively adapts and reinvents in response to climatic uncertainties that will not just survive alone, but be an eye-catching benchmark for a challenging future in architectural design.  

Images via Inhabitat, Static, Architizer, Karma Trendz, E-Architect, Fast Company, BlogSpot, Elenberg Fraser, Moore Rubleyudell



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