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R&T Forum: Air Cycles – From Mechanical to Soft Strategies

March 21, 2017 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm


Imagine tackling air pollution with “breathing” building systems!

Several cities around the world are suffering from the dire implications of atmospheric pollution, primarily in Asia and other developing regions. Although the severity of this problem has urged extensive research and regulation of outdoor ambient air quality (via legislation), this has not been the case for indoor space. In most cases, contemporary methods for conditioning indoor air have proved inadequate in moderating indoor air quality. Evidence has indicated that the air pollution within buildings can be higher in levels of toxicity from the outdoor urban air, while the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) characterizes the problem of indoor air quality (IAQ) as one of the top five most urgent environmental risks to public health.

In building science, indoor air quality and outdoor air quality are normatively considered as separate problems. The same logic leads to the development of mechanical systems for buildings. Highly advanced mechanical systems for treatment and control of AQ are primary focused on interior space, and, while some of these applications have proven very effective, the reality is that all of them still depend on the influx of fresh air from outdoors.

The objective of this presentation is to showcase an alternative paradigm, wherein a different building systems configuration logic could tackle air pollution in a more integrated way. Thinking of indoor and outdoor air intake simultaneously and developing strategies of exchange and flux at the outside lower atmospheric level, as well as the indoor level of habitable space, could decrease the levels of toxicity of indoor air. This research suggests a reconfigured typology of building envelopes and other building systems as a strategy for an ambient air environmental remediation. Framed as a combination of mechanical apparatuses and biological organisms, the exterior wall section will serve as a site of inquiry in coordinating orchestrated cycles of air between indoors and outdoors. In this context, it will be argued that augmenting the sensing capability of the exterior envelope, relative to larger environmental forces and patterns, such as winds and pollution levels, is critical to create truly interactive and porous “breathing” systems that will effectively contribute to a healthier urban environment.


Photo of Lydia Kallipoliti

Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect, engineer and scholar, currently an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and at the Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology in New York. Her research on the intersection of cybernetic and ecological theories is presented in a variety of media including online digital platforms, lexicons, databases and archives, exhibitions and holographic animations, with the scope of engaging a wide audience in what she calls ‘immersive scholarship.’ Her work has been displayed among other venues at the Venice Biennial, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Shenzhen Biennial, the Storefront of Art and Architecture, RIBA and the Disseny Hub Barcelona. Kallipoliti holds a SMArchS from MIT and a PhD from Princeton University. She is the principal of ANAcycle thinktank in Brooklyn, New York www.anacycle.com.

Photo of Andreas Theodoridis

Andreas Theodoridis is an architect, engineer and environmental analyst, currently a PhD Candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology in New York. Theodoridis has fifteen of experience in practice through the office he founded in Athens, 207×207 architecture network www.207×207.net. Theodoridis holds an MS in Sustainable Environmental Systems from Pratt Institute and has previously taught at Columbia University and Syracuse University.




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