You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

Systems has helped gain an thoughtful understanding of the systems that make up our homes and the built structure around us, as well as the natural systems within our world.

Here are some ways you can reduce your energy consumption this holiday season:

  1. LED Christmas Lights
  2. limit the use of christmas lights/lights in general.  Make sure to turn off the lights during the day and before you go to sleep at night, this will also help prevent fires.
  3. The Fireplace. The Alliance for Saving Energy says that “while using a fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or opening the nearest window slightly (about an inch), closing the door to that room, and turning down the thermostat to 50 to 55 degrees. And don’t forget to close the flue when you’re done enjoying the fire.”
  4. Eat less meat.  Meat is carbon-intensive. Check local places (or even places like Wegman’s), where you can get meats from local supplies. This will reduce food miles and combustion energy.
  5. Don’t leave your oven on


The EPA has some more great ways to save and reduce energy this season! Follow here:


In our final lecture Bill Sherman spoke of different case studies and how they utilize systems.  It was a great wrap-up to the semester to see how beautiful buildings can be designed, not around these systems, but with them, adding to the character of the building and making them beautiful.

The building I was most fascinated with was the Sidwell  Friend’s School in Washington D.C.  by Kiran Timberlake Associates,  Andropogon Associates, and Natural Systems International.  In the building, a wetland system is constructed where water is coming through building through primary filters inter bio squalls and getting recycled for grey water.  Through the center of the building/space (courtyard) is the water treatment plant for the building.   I think the idea of the treatment plant in the center of the structure is a great thing because it represents the systems between nature and the built structure.  A storm water system is also implemented where direct runoff from the building’s green roof falls into a pond that students can use for biology research.

To learn more about the building take the Green Building Tour:

 Enzyme Corporate Headquarters, Cambridge, MA/USA

  • This building allowed for new ways of thinking because it was done in a completely non-standard practice.  It introduces the contrast of sparkle/flashes of light that is rather engaging.  These harsh blinks allow for an interesting aspect that is unlike most buildings that aim for a clean light going through the building.

 Institute for Forestry and Nature Research, Alterral, Netherlands

  • Becomes a solar greenhouse with gardens
  • Buildings become narrow slivers between garden machines
  • Building needs almost nothing in terms of energy consumption

Senscity Paradise, Vegas

  • “oasis”
  • Architecture that transforms that climate and environment
  • PP panels

Harvard’s Allston Science complex, Massachusetts

  • air
  • 4 billion dollars
  • Complexof academic and research buildings
  • City on the other side of the river
  • Highly integrated
  • High tech urban setting
  • Often dealing with high tech systems – heat exchangers carried through the building and out
  • Labs huge energy consumers so important

Kevin and Carrie Burke of the firm Parabola gave a guest lecture to our class.  Their focus is to promote   “the design of a more nuanced human experience of the built environment through the precise integration of the inestimate.” They focus heavily an experience within the natural world and utilizing these natural systems within the build environment.  The collaboration of these elements result in a full range of human sensorial capacities and not just visually appealing. Moreover, they support their design by scientific research.

They began by looking at the 10 Hannover Principles by William McDonough & Partners:

  1. Insist on the right of humanity and nature to co-exist
  2. Recognize interdependence
  3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter
  4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design
  5. Create safe objects of long-term value
  6. Eliminate the concept of waste
  7. Rely on natural energy flows
  8. Understand the limitations of design
  9. Seek constant improvement by sharing knowledge

By following these principles, they created careful designs that seek a greater goal after they are physically built. They allow for nature and humanity to work together and learn to respect the relationships between the two.

A project in Netherlands is based on the Almere principles. The set of principles came about through a dying sea.  By following these doctrines , the sea has continued to be rejuvenated and juvenated and has been reclaimed. Almere is a town designed 30 years ago along the sea with a pledge to be healthy by 2030.  They work to follow these guidelines as a way to clean up the sea, cultivate new relationships allow for change for the future.

  1. Cultivate diversity
  2. Connect place and context
  3. Combine city and nature
  4. Anticipate change
  5. Continue innovation
  6. Design healthy systems
  7. Empower people to make the city

Their home, “Timepiece,” utilized all of these examples, with an emphasis on a central skylight/oculus.  The design allows for the sun and other natural forces to be used to form space.  They study and work with different architectural strategies such as light, gravity, air, thermodynamics, water and the balance of constancy and change over time.

The roof is designed by the solar equinox and solstice. The beams of light can fall along the interior and exterior walls of the attic space, as pictured below.

What I thought was interesting is that the house was designed in section to allow for the light to go in.  This is very different from a “traditional” home where it starts in plan and primarily driven by program, or unnecessary rooms we have become far too accustomed to.  The images of the home are truly inspiring. You can see the connection of nature to humanity, giving it great long-term value. Though this is a fairly small scale, you can tell that in designing they took into consideration all the impact to the parts per million. The home creates a positive atmosphere that is enlightening in both product and idea.

What I thought was very thoughtful and interesting that Kevin spoke about was the idea of LEED buildings.  He discussed how though LEED designs get approved because of their sustainability efforts and benefits for the long run, their certification does not take into account the humanity it will be affecting.  I think this is a very valid argument.  It is important in architecture to have a goal of sustainability, but sustainability cannot occur in a place that is not ready for it or that does not work well with the surrounding environment.  As Kevin said and as the Hannover Principles represents, one of the main aspects of designing is not only to reduce the impact of the buildings but the question is to how to create positive effects. I think this relationship between the experiences of a building and how the building functions can be something truly inspiring and thoughtful, and one that allows for humanity to be excited for the space within and around it.


My studio project for this semester is to design a Pod Hotel.  The site is located adjacent to the High Line Park and West of the Hudson River in New York City (19th St and 10th Ave).  The hotel is made up of small pods that are meant to serve solely as sleeping areas rather than destinations, as a way to house those who come for a short amount of time to view and experience what the city.  The public spaces, however, are located within the pods and at the height of the High Line to attract both New Yorkers and tourists.  This studio has been primarily a computer-less studio, so all renderings were developed through tonal storyboards.  Through drawing and modeling, I have been able to integrate various systems of lighting, ventilation and thermal mass throughout my building.

Cross Section, Program Diagram, 1/16″ = 1′-0″

Cross Section, Systems Diagram, 1/16″ = 1′-0″

The High Line, as I have mentioned in several posts before, is a kind of urban renewal project.  It integrates natural systems to provide green space within a busy, industrial and grey city.  This section represents the large atrium space that people can walk along and gather a full view of the High Line.  I have diagrammed the summer and winter sun penetrating at the atrium, illuminating the right side of the building and letting the light fade out to the left. At the same time, it provides for a space for people to circulate and/or gather in an area that is naturally lit and provides for great, open ventilation.   The large window allows people to be awakened by the natural beauty of the city, with the High Line in the foreground.  Through these systems, the visitor can be visually stimulated through the manifestation of the natural surroundings.  As they walk away from the atrium, back into their pods, it parallels with the idea of retreating to a place to sleep for the night, until they are once again stimulated by the city.  The light fades back into a private corridor that is line with bathrooms and a faster and more private route to the pods.  Here, the corridor is lined with concrete, benefiting from its thermal mass.  This thermal mass helps to regulate the temperature inside.  I have also diagrammed the wind flow coming in from the Hudson from the east.  This breeze helps to keep the rooftop garden cool, which then helps to cool the building.  The pods use a stacking affect, carrying air up and into the halls.  This process works when the outside air is warmer than the inside.  The warm air then naturally rises to the top of the building and is then replaced by cooler air at the bottom.  The stack effect helps to regulate ventilation and the natural airflow through the spaces, moderating the building temperature.

Longitudinal Section, Program Diagram, 1/16" = 1'-0"

Longitudinal Section, Systems Diagram, 1/16" = 1'-0"

I decided to also look at the longitudinal section of my building, because it was very important to how systems work in my building as well.   In this section you can see the different light wells that divide my building.  These light wells puncture my building to provide natural lighting and ventilation to the pod spaces.  The pods purposely do not have a view of the High Line, because they are meant to be place to just rest for the night, making the atrium spaces important to see the city.  In doing so, I was forced to place my pods in the middle of my building, away from exterior walls.  These light wells provide the perfect amount of controlled ventilation and comfortable lighting that can help one peacefully wake up or fall asleep at night.   These light wells are an important part of my building because they keep the systems flowing in the longitudinal section.  Light is able to penetrate through the building and air is able to circulate within.

Wind Diagram

Here is a prevailing winds diagram for New York City I have overlayed on top of a typical plan of my building.  During the summer, wind most frequently comes from the south.  In the winter, wind comes most frequently from the northwest as well as the south.

Solar Positioning, 40 degrees altitude

Here is a solar diagram I did for my building to understand how light is entering through my building at different times of the day.  In the morning, the sun is able to penetrate through the large east glass facade and into the light wells in order to wake those sleeping in the pods.  The light then never hits too harshly into the light wells and instead provides a comfortable illumination into the pods.  Additionally, the rooftop garden is able to gain a a large amount of sunlight during the day.

Pod Perspective Drawing

Here is a perspective drawing of my pod.  The area is around 80 square feet is adapts to the human body.  The inhabitor enters in and is directed into a sleeping corridor.  The corridor is adjacent to the window that leads out into the light well.  The inhabitor is then able to control the air flow and sunlight coming in through window manipulations.  However, not much needs to be done because the light is so comfortable and not too harsh coming down into the wells.

Sleeping Pod Lighting

In order to best understand how light was entering into the pods, I created a sectional model of the sleeping area.  I then manipulated the light to reflect the summer and winter azimuths.   As you can see, the light gently enters in to the pod to awaken the sleeper.

Pod Materials

In order to create the most comfortable and sustainable environment it was also important to study the materials being used. The primary materials used in the pod are wood and concrete. The concrete makes up the exterior walls and guides you to the back sleeping area.  Concrete’s properties create a thermal zone that helps maintain a suitable temperature.  Concrete’s dense property allows it to not heat or cool up too much, providing a comfortable atmosphere.  Concrete’s inherent thermal mass helps it to absorb and retain heat, cutting costs on heating and cooling all year round.  The wood is situated along the sleeping area to create a slightly warmer environment, because the wood can retain the heat. These materials together provide a sustainable systems that is also a comfortable sleeping environment that adjusts to the surrounding atmosphere.


Light is a huge part of my project.  It helps to direct people through my building and out into the city.  Through these series of diagrams I am able to better understand the surround site and how my building is interacting with it.  This assignment has been a great way to think about sustainable designs in our studio projects and I plan on utilizing these ways of studying the site in future projects as well.

Look forward to more diagrams as I develop my project further!

Peter Culley from Rick Mather Architects/Spatial Affairs Bureau came gave a great lecture the other day.  He discussed different projects of his that represented different ways to best utilize space and accessibility.  I was most fascinated with the first project he discussed, the Southbank Center Masterplan. This project helped to revitalize an important part of London.  The area was nearly deserted because the walkway was above ground with limited accessibility and the area below was seemingly abandoned.  The firm modernized the area by utilizing the space underneath the walkway, as well as providing more clear accessibility to the above-ground walkway.  They worked with the landscape and adapted to the environment.  They provided restaurants below the walkway to provide vibrancy.  This allowed for a way to not only utilize the empty/dead space, but also bring people in to the area, making it a “logical place to be.”  Before, the pedestrian was strangled by upper level walkway and there was no sense that you were supposed to be there.  Today, there is sculpture, markets, and an entire sense of place now with high value.  This seemed like a great success story to me.  It also reminded me a lot of the High Line.

For more info on the Southbank Center:

The High Line used to be an abandoned railroad track until its prominence adaptation to the environment was admired.  The area has brought life back to the old meat packing district/Chelsea area.  It has become a destination area, as well as a providing a “green” space in the middle of a busy city.  The High Line also has restaurants located beneath it so people can interact above or below the tracks.

Culley also discussed the VMFA briefly.  I thought the way they utilized ventilation was interesting.  They use a low-energy approach in gallery spaces.  The ventilation is displaced so that air flows at a slow volume (just below the temp needed and you relyon people to heat it).  The room then uses natural circulation and it comes out and is re-circulated.  The people in the room generate heat and the heat naturally rises.  The supply air at low velocity at the ground, people heat the room and it goes up and is removed at the top.  They use localized ac on the bridges, however, because the air there is stagnant.

Culley provided a great way to utilize systems.  These ideas seem simple, because they are.  Culley’s appreciation for the natural environment has helped his work generate a sense of healthiness in them that allows great accessibility and circulation throughout them.

For more information on Rick Mather/The Spatial Affairs Bureau:

For my Assignment 5 I will primarily be focusing on light.  I wanted to research more about utilizing natural light and what the best way to do it is.  I found lots of great information on daylighting and designs.

Kruse Elementary, Colorado

Here is an Kruse Elementary School in Colorado.  The natural lighting, though good in though, is actually quite distracting, especially during the hours it is primarily used.  The lighting is too open and unable to be controlled.  Instead, it provides a large glare that does not let you appreciate the light.

Here, is Fort Collins High School, also in Colorado.  The room uses a taped paper and glazing to provide shade from harsh lighting that illuminates the room at a comfortable level.

Fort Collins High School, Colorado

(Source: Architectural Energy Corp,

Here are some cool simulations on how daylighting works:

For more information:

This past week Professor Sherman briefly discussed the movie “My Architect” when discussing Louis Kahn. This film is a documentary on Louis Kahn’s life (or lives) and his architecture.  I thought it was a great documentary that portrayed a very real representation of Kahn and his architecture.

You can watch the film here (it’s also on Netflix):


Here is a video animation I made of how refrigeration works in system.  All of the diagrams shown are my own, unless noted otherwise. Simply click on the images to enlarge.

Refrigeration is the process of achieving and maintaining a temperature below that of the surroundings, making a certain product or space cooler than its natural climate. I want this study to help foster better ways of using refrigeration systems.  I will discuss history of refrigeration along with the new strategies and technologies that are being developed to make refrigeration more efficient.  Many new alternative energy sources are being developed as a result to high electric bills.  These new energy efficient systems could lead to a different set of possibilities for public life.  This study has helped me understand the concept of refrigeration and its impact on architecture.  Additionally, through my research I have been able to understand different methods of refrigeration as well as more sustainable uses of energy to reduce costs, make the system more efficient and protect the environment.  Refrigeration can create a very stimulating effect displacing itself from the natural environment.  Through different research I have found that this does not have to be a harmful experience, and can in fact, be an enlightening one that helps to better understand how systems work and how to utilize the environment as much or as little as you want for a structure. Through this study I have gained a better understanding of refrigeration in its relationship to air conditioning and larger structures such an ice rink.

Refrigeration was first applied to preserve perishable food products by storing them at low temperature. Humans have been finding ways to refrigerate since 1000 BC when the Chinese cut ice in the winter and stored it for the summer.  This kind of seasonal harvesting of ice and snow became very common through ancient cultures.  The Chinese, Hebrews, Greeks and Romans would store ice and snow in caves or storage pits dug out of the ground and insulate them with wood and straw.   Today, the refrigeration we think of is produced artificially.  In the mid 1700’s in Scotland, the first refrigerating machine was demonstrated when William Cullen boiled ethyl ether into a partial vacuum and produced a small amount of ice in the laboratory.  In 1820, Michael Faraday liquefied ammonia and other gases by using high and low pressures, which would later be used in 1834 by Jacob Perkins in the first vapor-compression refrigerating system.  In 1841 Dr. John Gorrie designed the first system to refrigerate water to produce ice.  He also conceived the idea of using his refrigeration system to cool the air for comforting his patients with yellow fever in the hospital.  Through time, refrigeration systems have become a means of thermal comfort for humans through air conditioning.  There have been constant improvements of the refrigeration system and many different iterations continue to be developed.

In 1992, the EPA made it against the law to intentionally vent CFC and HCFC refrigerants into the atmosphere because it was found to be depleting the ozone layer. The late twentieth century phenomenon of climate displacement has great significance towards sustainable design and energy use.  This manipulation of the environment, constructing entirely artificial climates outside of the domain of their natural occurrence, has not been around for very long in terms of refrigeration. Using refrigeration to create an artificial climate has only been around for the last 70 years. The refrigeration is much simpler than one would think.  Here are the basic steps of a refrigeration system:

  1. The compressor a machine that increases the pressure of a gas or vapor (typically air), or mixture of gases and vapors compresses the ammonia gas. It is located on the outside of the refrigerator or system. The compressed gas heats up as it is pressurized.
  2. The coils on the back of the refrigerator let the hot ammonia gas dissipate its heat. The ammonia gas condenses into ammonia liquid at high pressure.
  3. The high-pressure ammonia liquid flows through the expansion valve. The expansion valve regulates the flow and meters the systems. On one side of the valve is high-pressure ammonia liquid. On the other side of the hole is a low-pressure area (because the compressor is sucking gas out of that side).
  4. The liquid ammonia immediately boils and vaporizes. This makes the inside of the refrigerator cold.
  5. The cold ammonia gas is sucked up by the compressor, and the cycle repeats.

The air conditioner system works just like refrigeration system. Here is a window air conditioner.  You can see that the evaporator is located on the inside and works just the same with the compressor on the inside, turning hot air into cool. At a larger scale, HVAC systems in homes work the same as well with the main air conditioning unit on the exterior of the home with the evaporator, and the compressor above the furnace in the interior. This process can then be brought at an even larger scale with a mechanically-refrigerated ice rink.  The first ice rink was opened in 1876 in Longdon.  The ice was made through an expensive process of sending a mixture of glycerin and water through copper pipes. The main difference in an ice rink is that the refrigerant doesn’t cool the ice directly. Instead, the refrigerant cools Brinewater, a calcium-chloride solution.  The Brinewater is then pumped through underground pipes that go under the ice and are rooted in a sand base, as shown in the diagram. As I had mentioned in recent posts, ice rinks are a large produced of energy and waste a large amount.  Ice rinks typically use energy through refrigeration, lighting, pumps, fans and heating.

There are also many mechanically-refrigerated heat leakages in ice rinks from ceiling radiation, brine pump work, rink humidity, rink air temperature, ice resurfacing, light radiation, ground heat, skaters and header heat.

An energy efficient ice rink could reuse that heat in order to reduce refrigeration use.  For example, by adjusting the air temperature at different times so that it is warmer during games and colder when the ice is less used.  Or, installing heaters above the bleachers would reduce having to heat the entire space.  Another possibility is to add heat recovery. According to Touch Stone Energy, “on average, as much as 7.2 million Btu,  or more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours, of heat are generated each  day by [a Canadian] ice plant—more than enough to satisfy the entire daily heating load of the ice rink while having excess thermal energy left over for other purposes. By implementing heat recovery systems, ice rinks can realize overall heating savings of over 75 percent.” By recovering the wasted heat energy that I mentioned in the diagram earlier, heat can applied in other ways such as domestic water heating, subfloor heating, flood water heating, ice melt and preheating cold outdoor air for ventilation.

Additionally, by adding low-emissivity ceilings ice rinks can better hold in the cold air and reject the hot air from the outside.

There are many new modern refrigeration technologies that can also help to reduce energy:

  • Magnetic Cooling (diagram from Talbott, NIST)
  • Closed-Cycle Air Refrigeration
  • Thermo-Acoustic Refrigeration

There are many different forms of climate displacement  that can be found in restaurants, botanical gardens, theme parks and other forms of architecture.  In Dubai, a indoor ski resort was recently built in the middle of the Arabian desert.

For more information on Ski Dubai:

diagrams from philip rahm architects

Philip Rahm represents how the manipulation of the environment does not have to be a harmful process, but a very psychologically stimulating one that creates a contrast to the natural environment and plays with different kinds of systems. The new forms of technology seem very promising for the future of refrigeration. I am very interested to see how the thermo-acoustic refrigeration and magnetic cooling efforts play out.  Before this study, I had no idea there were so many possible ways of refrigerating a space or product.  Through time, however, there have been many different variations of cooling systems that have built upon one another in order to produce the more efficient and environmentally sound system.  This study of the evolution of refrigeration is itself a system, developing mechanically refrigerated buildings and air conditioned space.  Today, refrigeration is looking to work with the environment rather than fighting against.  However, it is still generating high amount of energy waste in structures that are not acting upon the new advancements in refrigeration.  Simple tasks of just managing pumps or adjusting the air temperature can save drastic amounts of money on electric bills and energy.  This study has helped me  better understand how refrigeration is working with the environment and space to develop a more sustainable system.  I have developed a deep understanding of the methods and am eager to see where it goes to next.


“Advanced Refrigeration Technology.” Forums – The Front Page. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.
“Hormonorium – Philippe Rahm Architectes.” Philippe Rahm, Architectes. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.
“How Do They Do It?: Indoor Ski Resort : Video : Science Channel.” Science Channel: Space, Technology, Engineering, Earth Science. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.
“HowStuffWorks “How Ice Rinks Work”” HowStuffWorks “Learn How Everything Works!” Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.
“Managing Energy Costs in Ice Rinks.” Touch Stone Energy. E Source Company LLC, 2010. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. <;.
“New Refrigeration System Based On Magnetics More Economical And Quieter Than Current Technology.” Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. 4 Nov. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.
“Refrigeration, Naturally – Archives.” Food Engineering. 4 Nov. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.
“Refrigeration: Some Cool Ideas | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 4 Nov. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <;.

This is a little silly but it is relevant to Systems! Though I never use these apps on Facebook, this one seemed kind of cool…It shows where all my Facebook friends are located.  It’s interesting to see how far my friends actually go and how popular the internet (and Facebook) is across the globe.  Try it out!

“The sun never knew how wonderful it was until it fell on the wall of a building” – Louis Kahn

Optics and light have always been something I’ve been interesting in since IB Physics in high school.  I thought Professors Sherman lecture in the dark because it made me realized that it is not always about getting the most light and that sometimes no light at all can be good and open up your other senses.  Tanazaki provides a similar idea in his essay, “The Praise of Shadows.”  Tanazaki argues about the impact shadow has own space.  He describes how shadow, through its connection with space, applies a deeper understanding of the spatial structure (inside and outside of it) that could not be gathered with just pure sunlight.  Shadows are a reaction to sunlight and help to divide up subtle breaks in the space.  Tanazaki uses the difference between east and west architecture and culture to support his argument.  In the West, Tanazaki argues, is continuously searching for new technology and new forms of light and clarity, while oriental art enjoys subtle and subdued forms of art.   Tanazaki is definitely more appreciative of the subtle shadows to provide a strong impression.

Architecture develops in response to climatic conditions and building materials.  Tanazaki pulls different examples of how Westerners find beauty in the lean/pristine/untarnished/clear, while the Chinese/Japanese find beauty in the worn/imperfect.  He compares a the harmony and austerity of a typical modern Japanese house with a wires and pipes of a western house through the heaters, stoves, security systems, lamps and bathrooms.  He notes how bathrooms have become bright, sterile metallic and industrial and are no longer the dim, cool, meditative spaces they once were.  He also compares Japanese temples (Heavy roof with dark shadows, keep sun off) versus gothic cathedrals (Light, airy celestial structure, keep wind and dew off).

As it is noted in the afterward, “the quality that we call beauty…must always grow from the realities of life.” I admire the sentiment Tanazaki provides for the subtle use of shadow.  However, I believe the contrast can also be just as beautiful.  I think the way western modern architecture, though it is not my favorite, can be very beautiful in a way that it is showing how the building is functioning and how light and shadow flow through pipes in the ceiling.   I think every kind of architecture as the ability to produce strong shadows to reflect upon the space and react to the culture, building materials and environment around it.

Here are some pieces of architecture that I think are visually stimulating through light and shadows:

Hagia Sophia

Church of Light

The Pantheon

Reading: “The Praise of Shadows” by Tanazaki