TRACHEOLES: BREATHABLE CONCRETE BLOCK
FIRM: dosu studio architecture
PRINCIPAL: doris sung
TEAM: evan shieh (project coordinator), dylan wood, dennis chow
ROLE: schematic design, fabrication
YEAR: five (5)
DATE: september, 2012
DESIGN LENGTH: two (2) months
PROJECT SITE: prototype, exhibited at ars electronica festival 2012 in linz, austria
Traditional concrete blocks in construction are not designed to breathe. They are made relatively solid and designed to be stacked quickly and cheaply. Because the fabrication of these cast blocks require re-useable molds, it has been impossible to fabricate complex geometry that can begin to incorporate performative design goals. However, the development of digital-to-digital technology in rapid prototyping three-dimensional printing in our modern day has allowed the concept of mass-production to be transfigured into one of mass-customization, where every single unit can become unique. At the same time, new materials like concrete polymer can be explored and tested in this innovative process of 3-D rapid prototyping.
In the case of Tracheoles, the breathability of the block is achieved by incorporating a complex cavity system that is similar to the trachea system of grasshoppers, who breathe through spiracle holes in their sides. In order to allow the movement of hot air through the continuous spaces, smart plugs are strategically positioned and made of thermobimetal, a lamination of two metals with different coefficients of expansion. When heated to a designated temperature, one of the metal sides will expand more than the other, resulting in a curling action. This symbiotic and dual relationship between the passive concrete form and the active thermobimetal plugs allows the system to performatively adapt to the conditions demanded by a building. When heated by internal building temperatures, Tracheoles opens and allows this hot air to escape through its system while simultaneously still performing as a structural fašade. When temperatures drop, Tracheoles automatically closes to prevent air from escaping in order to preserve a constant building temperature.
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