Punch the Sky
REG 02 - 28 - 2010

Design senario: Dense urban center where daytime temperatures can reach 10-15 degrees warmer than areas outside of the concrete jungle. Paved surfaces everywhere buildings are not. Minimal room for open green space or private reflection. A desire for a cooler, greener, softer environment where people can get together, but the individual can have a piece of his own. Design solution: Looking to one of the basic building blocks of the American family - the home - we can tackle the issues of urban heat island; private/public threshholds, and urban greenery. To maintain density and scale of the urban neighborhood, a cluster of housing units topping three or 4 stories can create a continuous urban facade around a private/semi-private courtyard in the center. The benefit of this configuration is that the each apartment or flat has access to daylight, fresh air and a view of either the courtyard or the streetscape, thus maximizing usuable space and increasing the quality of life for residents. The building itself casts shade on the courtyard, allowing indirect light to permeate apartment windows, and regulating temperatures from direct solar gain. The center courtyard could be a pervious surface or vegetation that could mitigate onsite water runoff, introduce a cooler microclimate and a comfortable private/semi-private environment for building residents. Furthermore, orientation is essential to reducing temperature gains. Facades exposed to south and west solar gain can be shaded by street trees, thus reducing the direct light reaching the building and providing shade to pedestrians on the street level. Taking a more involved and innovative approach, solar screens could be cantilevered from the roof of buildings. Made out of lightweight screening, the solar screens would be adjustable or automated to filter direct sunlight from reaching the street level, effectively reducing direct solar gain and making street level temperatures more comfortable for pedestrians. The economic feasibility of the screens relies on sponsors who could customize the image on the screen for advertising or beautification campaigns. The city, for instance, could imprint the neighborhood identity or narrative on the screens thus providing an educational and beautification component to the urban fabric. In summary, the courtyard cluster serves to enhance the quality of life by providing more residents with indirect daylight, increased ventilation, and semi-private green space. Streetscape vegetation further works to combat direct solar gain to user areas. Lastly, solar screens could be installed to filter direct sunlight and manage urban heat gain during the hottest months. Bottom image: Plan, section, perspective, detail of design principles. Side image: User relationship to building.

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