Product Architecture Lab



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    PAE Design/Build!

    By Ben.Silverman
    Oct 28, '11 5:51 PM EST

    Sorry for the delay in posting. PAE is getting involved in a very exciting Design/Build project at an educational camp in the Northeast and its been a busy couple of weeks. Last weekend we had a PAE retreat to the site to better get to know the camp and do some good ol' bonding. In addition to a healthy camp fire, we had a PAE architects vs. engineers basketball game. Thanks to a certain naval engineer, the architects never had a chance (never bet against a guy who spends his time thinking about buoyancy and center of gravity against a bunch of uncoordinated 4-eyed architects in any athletic endeavor). We architects are hoping to gain some ground in the PAE olympics once we get to the diagramming, communications, and coffee drinking events. More importantly, the build site is a 50 acre educational summer camp in the northeast located in an absolutely beautiful setting, with wooded, wetland, lake and coastal ecosystems all within its bounds. It was a great weekend, with some very productive workshopping.

    Our task is to transform the camp from the 3 month summer camp, to a year round self-sufficient camp and educational center over the next 10 years. Our first challenge, is rebuilding the existing dining hall, which is basically a wood sided barn with no insulation and mesh bug screens for windows (works pretty well in the summer), into a 12 month zero-energy dining hall.

    Over the past year, it has come to our attention that a building envelope optimized for winter climate, would look very different than one optimized for summer climate. A winter envelope will do best with low surface area, high insulation, and passive solar heat gain from the south. A summer envelope will do best with shading to reject any direct solar heat gain and well designed natural ventilation to bring a breeze through the structure. Rather than compromising our building performance by settling for an envelope somewhere in between the winter and summer design, our concept is to build both envelopes, with one inside the other.

    The program for the camp lends itself very well to the envelope within an envelope concept. The population of the camp in the winter will be half that of the population in the summer. Thus our winter dining hall will be a smaller envelope with less occupiable space (less air to heat) and will open up to the larger summer envelope, as the population of the camp doubles some time in the late spring.

    The great and exciting challenge is how do we dissolve the wall that separates the winter and summer envelopes without compromising the space or the airtightness of the construction. We've been looking for examples of swinging, sliding, lifting, folding, or straight up vanishing walls. Thus far we've been goggling at the beautiful operable walls (fancy garage doors) of Olson Kundig architects. Check out the videos for the Olson Kundig designed Chicken Point Cabin. Apparently even a young girl with a cast on her leg can operate the enormous glass garage door. Which brings me to another very important aspect of our design; education. The camp director is very keen on educating his campers in the natural sciences. He envisions the new camp buildings as additions to the educational experience. There has been a lot of discussion about live weather data and building energy use on display for the campers to view. This video got the camp director very excited. If a child can interact with the building in this manner and feel the change in breeze through the building as well as see the live data feedback, the lessons of sustainable building and living will make a much more lasting impression on that camper. 

    We've also been looking at products such as the Nana wall glass accordion walls. If you know of any other good examples, please let me know.

    In order for the concept to work, the highly insulated wall needs to be able to open and close each spring and fall. As with any operable joint on a window or door, the air tightness of the joint is never as good as a taped or caulked joint. The trick will be to minimize the lineal feet of operable joints in order to minimize unwanted air infiltration. This entry is getting long, so I'll save my air infiltration thoughts for the next post. Please stay tuned for project updates.



      if looking for thermal efficiency, kundig's the last person i'd look to.

      the work of pfeifer kuhn and lacaton + vassal might be a worthwhile exercise

      Oct 29, 11 2:18 am  · 

      Sweet. Thanks for the recommendations. Never heard of either, but I just took a look at their websites. Pfeifer Kuhn Architekten has some really beautiful work, very much along the lines of what we think the client will agree with. Another that should go on that list is Thomas Herzog (unfortunately often confused with Herzog and De Meuron). Incredibly beautiful, simple, and environmentally sound. 

      I totally agree with you about Olson Kundig's lack of thermal efficiency. We looked at one or two of there buildings that have a steel beam eave running uninterrupted from the interior to the exterior. In a cold northwest climate, that would be a thermal superhighway, completely eliminating the building's opportunity for energy efficiency. 

      Our interest in Olson Kundig is the interactive operation of their buildings. The camp's #1 goal is to educate their campers and the camp directors would like to add sustainable building and living to the curriculum. We'd like to create a building that can be manipulated by the students to alter its interior climate. The operation of walls, windows and sun shades will hopefully drive home the what, why's, and how's of green building.

      Oct 30, 11 1:21 pm  · 

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The Product-Architecture Lab at Stevens Institute of Technology is a pioneering graduate program integrating the study of Architecture, Engineering, Product Design, and Interaction. The program focuses on a fusion of design culture and technology through the disciplines of computation, analysis, and advanced production methodologies.

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