New terracotta designs join the fight against climate change
Climate Adaptation

It may surprise you that the ancient Chinese may hold secret insights on how to solve the modern climate crisis. Since China, architects have utilized terracotta for over thousands of years – and it seems the ancient building material might actually be able to combat climate change. Ceramicists, engineers, and architects met together at the 2017 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop at the University of Buffalo to discuss and investigate“environmentally responsive designs”made from terracotta.

Terracotta not only provides excellent air ventilation – providing a system to transfer water and heat, but is also highly durable and lasts for centuries. Even more so, and can be sculpted to decorate beautiful and artistic buildings. The 2017 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop participants came together to design terracotta facade prototypes with an emphasis on eco-friendliness and sustainability.

Workshop co-organizer and University of Buffalo chair of architecture Omar Khan stated to media: "Buildings account for two-thirds of final energy use and more than half of the world's greenhouse gases. Yet the materials and assembly methods used for building facades have remained essentially the same since the 1950s. The skin of architecture must adapt to and mitigate such changes in our environment. Bioclimatic design invites us to change the paradigm from disposability to longevity.”

Four research teams designed the prototypes during the four-day workshop. The University of Buffalo team designed a terracotta shingle system with digital sculpting techniques that allows natural cooling. AECOM engineering corporation team created a terracotta counter-current heat exchanger able to channel heat throughout a building using almost no energy. Walter P. Moore engineering and design firm team explored a post-tensioned system of terracotta panels to address insulation, heating and cooling, and thermal mass and ventilation. They also explored how different composite formulations would boost terracotta's structural possibilities. Finally, Morphosis Architects group worked on a facade system with ribboned terracotta panels for natural ventilation and evaporative cooling, while creating the artistic feeling of movement.

A University of Buffalo spokesperson states: "[the teams] are expected to advance results into full-scale projects, patented products, and actual buildings.”

Source: The Inhabitant