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BUILDING ECOLOGIES: Collective Rooftop Infrastructures

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The purpose of this research is to propose new models of urban infrastructures and collective spaces for social interaction based on the integration of material, structural, and environmental systems. Accordingly, this prototypical installation works as a preliminary concept developed as result of a collaborative and interdisciplinary research approach conducted at Rice University and involving expertise in the fields of structural, civil and environmental engineering, materials science, music, and architecture.

Prototypical flexible module

The project lends itself to operate as a prototypical flexible module with the potential to be deployed onto any pre-existing urban rooftop or public area. The modular system is comprised of hollow ceramic pieces acting as structural columns and water collectors, a modular ceramic floor elevated on pedestals, a lightweight space truss structure, and a waterproof membrane that captures and cleans rainwater through its expansive surface.

Channeled through the hollow ceramic

Subsequently, the rainwater would be channeled through the hollow ceramic columns, from which it would be diverted to pipes below the elevated floor and collected into modular water tanks uniformly distributed within the elevated floor. The water management system as proposed would work to alleviate the effects of flooding and drought through storage as well as release and reduce runoff by capturing water and redirecting it into the tanks. Besides, the materiality of the modular ceramic columns, with their low thermal conductivity, could potentially provide energy-saving cooling benefits.

The prototype

The resulting prototype integrates structural and material strategies to optimize construction aspects related to transportation, assembly and disassembly of building components, as well as thermodynamic questions related to heat transfer and water cycles while helping to foster a sense of community and social interaction. 

Project Credits

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Juan José Castellón González, Assistant Professor at Rice School of Architecture, Rice University, Houston, USA

‍Co-Principal Investigator:
Dr. Qilin Li, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Research team:
Michael Xu, Candela Cicinelli, Van Pham, Rae Atkinson,Christian Ayala-Lopez

Kurt Stallmann, Professor of Music Compositionand Theory, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University

Ricardo Pittella, Principal at Arup Houston

Steel structure and Membrane:  Lancelot Miserachs, IndustriasBEC S.A.
Ceramic columns: Toni Cumella and Guillem Cumella, CeràmicaCumella
Ceramic Floor:  Raquel Larsen, Cosentino

Project images

Photo Credits

  • 01-collective-rooftop-infrastructures.jpg Divya Pande
  • 02-collective-rooftop-infrastructures.jpg Divya Pande
  • 03-collective-rooftop-infrastructures.jpg Divya Pande
  • 04-collective-rooftop-infrastructures.jpg Divya Pande
  • 05-collective-rooftop-infrastructures.jpg Divya Pande

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