A design framework for the integration of interscalar flow control systems in architecture

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Wilson, Nina, Marie
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Electronic thesis
Architectural sciences
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Current environmental control systems (ECS) innovations in the built environment are predominantly developed within a fossil fuel systems paradigm characterized by technical and disciplinary boundaries that restrict system performance to short-term quantitative metrics. The conventional interface between controlled interior environments and exterior fluid flow is governed by centralized combustion-based machine logics that are no longer concurrent with interdisciplinary understanding of fluidic environmental relationships, and which furthermore contribute substantially to greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of waste heat in cities. With global urbanization trends rising, the centralized combustion paradigm behind conventional systems is ill-equipped to effectively address international and local climate change initiatives for buildings, or to meet increasing demand for high-resolution environmental performance. As emerging interdisciplinary research in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) characterizes the critical relationships between interscalar urban aerodynamic phenomena and environmental outcomes, novel design frameworks are needed that address fluidic behaviors and aerodynamic performance at multiple system scales and interfaces. Originating from within aeronautical engineering design, aerodynamic flow control systems modify certain characteristics of the surrounding fluidic environment to achieve desired performance outcomes. Developments in aerodynamic flow control systems present a technology transfer opportunity for AEC research to actively engage fluid flow as both a bioclimatic design driver and an extension of the building envelope, or mediator between exterior climate and interior conditioned space. The aim of this research is to develop a design approach to adapt fluid flow control techniques from the aeronautical engineering context to the interscalar environmental interfaces of urban buildings. Integration of flow control into architectural systems offers an adaptable technical design pathway towards controlling the aerodynamic behaviors that drive environmental design outcomes. This inquiry addressed the aerodynamic performance through system design and testing at key interfaces of energy exchange throughout the building. First, the building exterior and surrounding region, where wind plays a driving role in building energy and the quality of indoor environments, was studied. Through the development of an interscalar design framework, the exterior flow control technique was then adapted to interior air delivery for augmentation of ventilation strategies and parametric study of a modular airflow approach. Through negotiation of design space parameters at each interface of testing, iteratively-developed performance metrics were brought together in the scope of this work as part of a synthetic design integration approach. By considering fluid flow as an environmental continuum of interactions through multiple building scales, this research seeks to facilitate re-engagement of environmental controls design, conventionally relegated to the purview of mechanical engineering, with the aesthetic, material, and haptic tenets of architecture. Enacting and building upon multi-faceted design performance criteria may spur the emergence of new ECS strategies, while offering the potential to augment existing alternatives to conventional systems. Finally, through articulated performance design interfaces brought about by deployment of the design approach, the invisible fluidic interrelationships within the built environment can be rendered visible and clearly characterized along a diverse morphological taxonomy. As such, these relationships may acquire a new phenomenological role and agency within the technical and political discourse on architectural systems.
School of Architecture
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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