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Italian architects and scientist design sandstone microclimates

Barberio Colella Architetti and Dr. Angelo Figliola proposed a design to ameliorate temperature perception in Abu Dhabi’s urban microclimates using 3D printed sandstone. The design focuses on a city whose average temperature for 2019 was 28.9 degrees Celsius. The United Arab Emirates’ annual average in 2019 was 29.1 degrees Celsius. The city’s warmest month is August; the architects and Dr. Figliola’s design projects temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius in August. This substantial cooling effect helps make targeted areas more comfortable.

The proposed design is built around sandstone blocks, which emulates the UAE’s traditional architecture. The design uses vaulted spaces to create shades groves within the city. Sunlight filters through lattice printed panels, and vertical supporting structures are perforated to allow fast airflow throughout the space. Standing evaporation pools ring the interior, with native palm trees planted in central locations. Standing water and vegetation help give the space a cooler feel by keeping water suspended in the air; waterfalls are also designed into the space to aerosolize water particles. These features combine fast airflow with comfortable humidity to cool the air.

A digital model of the sandstone structure's interior in daylight
A digital model of the sandstone structure in daylight

Sandstone is the bedrock for this design. Each part of the space is printed using binder jetting technology. This method is effective because shapes are created on-site with a high level of precision. Local sand is mixed with a heat reflective pigment and bound in the printing process into light, yet sturdy shapes. These shapes combine into the planned structures.

A main passive heat reduction strategy for these structures mimics common building techniques around the Mediterranean: the sandstone vaults are designed to be 55 centimeters thick. Thick walls in this coastal climate capture heat before it penetrates habitable spaces. This phenomenon, known as ‘thermal mass’ or ‘thermal capacitance’, occurs as the building walls store heat. The stored heat is radiated into the night sky without ever affecting inhabitants.

The passive thermal strategies are enhanced with low-tech active technology. A high-pressure misting system further reducing the human perception of ambient temperature. The micro-fine mist created by this system quickly evaporates on surfaces. Evaporation transfers heat energy from the surface to the air. A further series of cooling pipes will be built into the sandstone walls. This system enhances the structures’ thermal mass by transferring heat into water and out of the living space.

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