Architects experiment with terracotta in the fight against climate change
TITLE: Architects experiment with terracotta in the fight against climate change
DATE: December 26, 2017
BY: Lacy Cooke
Architects have utilized terra cotta for thousands of years – and it turns out the ancient building material could actually combat climate change. Ceramicists, engineers, and architects converged on Buffalo this year for the Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) to investigate environmentally responsive designs made from terracotta.
Terracotta is durable, breathes, offers a natural system to transfer water and heat, lasts for hundreds of years, and can be sculpted, transforming buildings into artwork, according to the University at Buffalo(UB). ACAW participants came together to work on terracotta facade prototypes with an emphasis on bioclimatic design. Workshop co-organizer and UB chair of architecture Omar Khan said in a statement, “Buildings account for two-thirds of final energy use and more than half of the world’s greenhouse gases. Yet the materials and assembly methods used for building facades have remained essentially the same since the 1950s. The skin of architecture must adapt to and mitigate such changes in our environment. Bioclimatic design invites us to change the paradigm from disposability to longevity.”
Four research teams developed prototypes during the four-day workshop. Team UB/Alfred designed a terracotta shingle system with digital sculpting techniques that supports passive cooling. Team AECOM created a terracotta counter-current heat exchanger able to channel heat throughout a building using little to zero energy.
A team from structural engineering and design firm Walter P. Moore explored a post-tensioned system of terracotta panels to answer questions on insulation, heating and cooling, and thermal mass and ventilation, as well as how different composite formulations would boost terracotta’s structural possibilities. And Team Morphosis worked on a facade system with ribboned terracotta panels for natural ventilation and evaporative cooling, while creating the feeling of movement.
UB said the teams “are expected to advance results into full-scale projects, patented products, and actual buildings.”
+ Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop
Via the University at Buffalo
Images via Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo (1,3); Alexander Becker (2,4); and Laura Garófalo (5)