An Extreme Ecological Vision For An Extreme Environment

What do you do when the site designated for a building faces extreme natural conditions? The Ecoscape solution from Open Source Architecture: put technology to work in creating an extreme ecological building.

The Ecoscape building, created in response to the harsh conditions found in some of California‘s highest mountain ranges, was designed to integrate nature and architecture into a single responsive system. With a “skin” composed of photovoltaic solar cells, the building’s surface geometry maximizes its solar exposure by responding to a wide range of environmental parameters. This means, essentially, that the building changes its shape in response to local conditions, via an algorithm that transforms and optimizes that geometry.

Ecoscape

image via Open Source Architecture / eVolo

This focus on energy production is a sheer necessity of the site location, as the building must operate off the grid, supplying all of its own energy on site. By maximizing its solar potential, the building generates significantly more power than a fixed solar power or even solar tracking system.

The areas of the roof that change shape to optimize their angles in response to the sun are covered with a building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) surface. (BIPV works by sandwiching photovoltaic cells between two layers of glass.) In between the BIPV, the roof will be clad with Texlon Foil, which is transparent, durable, lightweight and insulating. This smart, dynamic system adjusts its shading and thermal characteristics as the sun makes its journey across the sky each day, creating a kind of moving sculpture in the process.

For cooling in the summer months, the building makes use of natural ventilation, aided by its north-south orientation and strategically placed windows. Low, operable windows pull outside air into the building, while high windows escort hot air inside the building out; if additional cooling is needed, these windows can also be left open at night. In the winter, the building relies on its smart, passive solar design for heat.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.