'Flexible' building designed to physically respond to the environment

July 31, 2009 |

The ecoFLEX project, designed by a team from Shepley Bulfinch, has won a prestigious 2009 Unbuilt Architecture Design Award from the Boston Society of Architects.

EcoFLEX features heat-sensitive assemblies composed of a series of bi-material strips. The assemblies’ form modulate with the temperature to create varying levels of shading and wind shielding, flexing when heated to block sunlight and contracting when cooled to allow breezes to pass through the screen.

The assembly’s bi-material strip is manufactured in a curved shape, with one strip made from a material with a high expansion rate, such as steel, while the the second is one with a very low expansion rate, such as carbon fiber. While the form maintains this form in cool temperatures, the ratio of expansion rates creates movement that is temperature driven. Ambient temperature and direct sunlight heat the assembly, causing it to flatten out.

Rather than creating a disconnect between interior and exterior environments inherent in conditioned spaces, the innovative design of ecoFLEX seeks to provide climate control while re-connecting people with the elements of Dubai’s climate.

The winning project was one of ten entries chosen from more than 90 submissions in the BSA's Unbuilt Architecture Design Awards program, which is open to architects from around the world. It was designed for the Tall Emblem Structure competition in Dubai earlier this year. Sited in an urban park, ecoFLEX is designed to accommodate sightseeing, dining, exhibit, and recreation spaces.

The Shepley Bulfinch design team of Angela Watson, Luke Voiland, Lauren Deck, and Allan Donnelly, joined by Paul Kassabian of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, will be honored in November at the BSA Jurors' Forum during the Build Boston, where the winning boards will be displayed.

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