Brooklyn-based architectural studio Modu has collaborated with local architects and engineers to develop a cutting-edge building envelope that effectively lowers the ambient air temperature, providing a cooler interior and exterior for an office building in Houston. By incorporating various features such as pocket gardens, vertical fins, trellises, and fluted concrete walls, the studio has successfully created an “outdoor comfort” zone that combats the intense heat of the city.
The Promenade building, a 15,000-square-foot center, aims to serve as a wellness and health hub for multiple office spaces. Each tenant will benefit from both an interior and exterior space, ensuring a seamless transition between the two.
Recognizing Houston’s sweltering climate and heavy rainfall, Modu sought to design a solution that would effectively lower the air temperature surrounding the building, thereby reducing the need for excessive air conditioning. “In hot climates like that, if you can lower the air temperature, then it would require less air conditioning because the air around the building is cooler,” explained Phu Hoang, the founding director of Modu.
To achieve this self-cooling effect, Modu employed a range of innovative techniques. The studio integrated fluted concrete walls with wind-dissipating patterns, allowing for quicker dissipation of solar heat. Consequently, the temperature of the walls can be reduced by up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit (7.7 Celsius). Additionally, the installation of pocket gardens along the building’s exterior provides shade for tenants and creates inviting outdoor spaces where people can relax and enjoy the surroundings.
The space also features vertical fins strategically placed on the west-facing facade, providing shade and contributing to the cooling effect. Some of these fins are enclosed in climbing cages, serving as support structures for plants to grow on. Modu meticulously selected various plant species for each garden, creating a diverse and immersive experience for passersby.
Modu’s innovative approach to architectural design demonstrates the studio’s commitment to addressing environmental challenges in a practical and aesthetically pleasing manner. By seamlessly blending nature and technology, Modu has transformed the Promenade building into an architectural marvel that defies the heat and invites people to immerse themselves in an oasis of comfort.
How does Modu’s building envelope lower the ambient air temperature?
Modu incorporates various design features such as fluted concrete walls with wind-dissipating patterns, pocket gardens, and vertical fins to create an “outdoor comfort” zone that effectively reduces the air temperature around the building.
What are the benefits of the self-cooling exterior for the office building in Houston?
The self-cooling exterior reduces the reliance on air conditioning, thereby saving energy and reducing costs. It also enhances the comfort of tenants by creating cooler and shaded outdoor spaces.
How much can the temperature of the concrete walls be reduced?
The wind-dissipating patterns on the fluted concrete walls can reduce the temperature by up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit (7.7 Celsius).
What are some of the plant species used in the pocket gardens?
Modu has carefully selected a variety of plant species for each pocket garden, including a Texas rock garden, a tall grass garden, a pollinator garden, a desert garden, and a bamboo grove to provide additional shade.
Who worked on the project?
The project was a collaborative effort involving Modu, local architects Identity Architects, climate engineering firm TransSolar, and several other professionals in the field of architecture and engineering.