Mass Regimes

Geometrically Actuated Thermal Behavior

Project Type: Design Research
Year: 2015-2017


Related Links: ACADIA’14, PITA’15, Berkman Fund, Liceaga Award, NYSCA’13, IJAC, MRS’15, Eliciting Environments, The Architect’s Newspaper

Mass Regimes is a research project that investigates the effect of complex geometry on the process of passive heat distribution in thermal mass systems. Within the context of systems thinking, the intention is to instrumentalize design principles that exercise a wider range of design tactics in the choreography of thermal gradients between buildings and their environment. Nearly 60% of accumulative US energy consumption stems from buildings’ energy usage, primarily in their overuse of mechanical systems heating and cooling. This research suggests mitigating this overuse by offering a new way of thinking about passive systems, and expanding the possibilities of thermal mass and Trombe wall principles in building design.

| PI: Dana Cupkova | co-PI: Shi-Chune Yao | RESEARCH ASSISTANTS: Nicolas Azel, Pedro Veloso | COLLABORATORS: Max Vanatta, Someera Razak, David Bosworth & BuildLab LLC |

Project supported by the New York State Council on the Arts Project Grant | Berkman Development Fund CMU: Liceaga Grant CMU | Cornell University Faculty Grant

Hsu House Mass Wall – Ithaca, NY

Operating under the premise that complex geometries can be used to improve both the aesthetic and thermodynamic performance of passive heating and cooling systems, Epiphyte Lab have recently designed and built a first functioning mass wall prototype as part of a new home. We have a general understanding that the wall’s geometry helps to significantly decrease energy usage by both capturing solar energy and redistributing it over time and by serving as a thermal buffer that prevents rapid swings in ambient temperature.

It is clear that the relationship of the mass (and thus thermal storage capacity) of the wall to its surface area and geometry plays a significant role in the effectiveness of the system to the extent that no mechanical air conditioning was needed. However, we lack comprehensive measurements to support our hypothesis in detail, and we lack a functional method to model (mathematically) the specific relationships between three dimensional pattern, surface area, volume, and effective energy performance. Having calibrated data that describes the performance of such complex systems is a necessary first step in developing mathematically based design guidelines for effective use of complex material patterning in passive architectural systems.

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Mass Regimes: Geometrically Actuated Thermal Flows investigates effects of complex geometry on the process of passive heat distribution in thermal mass systems. The intention is to better understand design strategies that can effectively control thermal gradient between the buildings and their environment, using passive strategies of thermal mass and manipulation of surface geometry to volume distribution coupled with material properties.

Thermal Transfer Heat Maps & Geometric Family Types | Genetic Optimization of Geometry: Increased Surface Area over Constant Volume for Specific Geometric Type | Fabrication & Thermal Sensor Setup | Thermal Testing: Data Collection & Visualization


Tooling: Data Visualization to Form Generation to Data Validation
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