Dencity 2016: Third Place Award

Cairo: Allometric Sake

Entry by: Amira Abdel-Rahman, Gabriel Muñoz Moreno, Santiago Serna Gonzalez

Core Interest

The relentless growth of cities urges for solutions that relate to the improvement of levels of comfort in confined spaces. Slums, being directly affected by the lack of space, are an intriguing object of study. With constraints on cost and feasibility, we believe the population will greatly benefit from a passively powered space-conditioning system.

How? Software “Sake”

We have developed software that provides strategies that most affect natural ventilation by changing the following parameters:

A* (Openings): The value refers to the amount, geometry and distribution of openings that a building has to the exterior and interior network. These openings usually are windows, doors, chimneys, etc. The variation of this value will help to define the amount of fresh air coming into the building.

H (Height): This parameter refers to the height of a building. Hot air is driven to the upper part of a building due to its decrease in density, and vice versa when cold. This phenomenon creates differences in pressure, generating the opportunity to drive passive ventilation with the control of this parameter.

S (Interior surface): The interior surface area mostly affects to the amount of energy that a material can absorb and release. Changing this parameter will allow us to control the temperature of an interior according to current adaptive comfort models.

These values depend on a climate analysis that our software “SAKE” performs. With the climate data extracted from a specific location, we can provide a desired ventilation rate (Fn) to determine the amount of fresh air that a building has. If this rate is high, the ventilation will be high, if this rate is low, the ventilation will be low.

All these parameters are part of relationships that our program “SAKE” uses. Thanks to vector data collected from GIS like “Open Street Maps” or “Google maps 3D viewer”, we can analyze existing buildings and provide retrofit or new design strategies.

Our efforts will be focused toward the following goals:

Definition of comfort zones (ASHRAE): This will set goals in terms of finding ideal living conditions according to the location of study. If climate conditions are too extreme for the implementation of Athermal resonator strategy, we will suggest ways to improve living quality during other seasons.

Extrapolate the analysis: Our ultimate goal is to design a simple tool that will allow the accurate analysis of an urban condition so as to provide intervention methods to improve the thermal performance of the built and unbuilt environment.

Case Study: Cairo Slums

We are using Cairo (Egypt) as the location of our project. Cairo is located in a hot arid climate where cooling is needed most of the year to achieve thermal comfort.

Although Cairo has historically witnessed a large range of passive architecture innovations to address the hot dry climate, today, modern architects ignore these techniques. Instead of using wind catcher, roof lanterns and Mashrabiyas, nowadays everything is substituted by the HVAC systems. The residential building industry is responsible for the 43% of the total energy consumption of Egypt, which increased in the last five years. This caused the government to cut the electricity in all districts of Cairo in an average of 2 hours a day in summer and half an hour a day in winter in the last two years.

We are choosing slums in Cairo in particular for a context for our study, mainly for the alarming growth rate or these settlements, which is clearly out of the government’s control. The Egyptian Housing Ministry estimates that 40% of Cairo’s population is living in slums.

It became a fact that it is not only impossible to remove the existing informal areas, but also to very hard to control reduce the growth rate of these areas: this is the ugly truth.

Therefore, it became an urgent matter to study and research these slum areas and try to fix the problems on a larger scale with the available resources: the bare minimum. The slums areas have a lot of problems; we are aiming to passively solve the lack of ventilation/thermal comfort for people to have a ‘humane’ life.

Focusing on the morphology of the slums themselves, they are in a stagnant bath of unmoving air. Buildings are so close together and streets are so narrow that the air is literally forced into motionlessness. These conditions are unbearable for locals living without fresh air at the urban scale. In Cairo, the need is dire and with “Allometric Sake” we are providing solutions based on simple and economical architectures.

About the entrant

Amira Abdel-Rahman is a first year Master in Design Studies (MDes) candidate (technology concentration) at Harvard Graduate School of Design. She finished her bachelor’s degree at the American University in Cairo (AUC) (architecture engineering major, computer science and economics minor). After graduating, she worked for a year as a research and teaching assistant at AUC, as well as design team leader and computational designer at Dimensions Designs.

Amira believes that technology can be an enabler of innovation and creativity. In her study and research at GSD, she worked in several projects related to computational design, smart material and robotics.

Gabriel Muñoz Moreno is a licensed Architect with an Advanced Diploma in Digital Fabrication and candidate for a Master in Design Studies from Harvard University. With his work, Gabriel has won international awards and has exhibited in places such as Expo Milano 2015 and the UN-Habitat III conference. Moreover he worked in international offices such as Shigeru Ban Architects in Tokyo and Abalos+Sentkiewicz in Boston.

His research focuses on achieving a sustainable development between the natural and social environment due to the expected population growth. To do so Gabriel has designed alternative construction and urban systems focused in Asia due to its rapid growth. In the following years, Gabriel plans to expand not only the solutions but the locations of this research to other continents, trying to achieve an urban sustainability that also provides opportunity for its inhabitants.

In 2014 Gabriel co-founded Social Cooperation Architects, where systems and designs to solve some of the most pressing social issues are proposed.

Santiago Serna Gonzalez has a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of the Andes (Universidad de los Andes) in Bogotá, Colombia. He practiced structural engineering from 2012 to 2014 at Proyectistas Civiles Asociados (PCA) and P&P Proyectos SAS in Bogota, realizing the construction industry needs a more emphasized social agenda for new projects.

Motivated to change the status quo, he entered the MArch I program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 2014. Faced with ultimately conflicting perspectives of his newly found interest in architecture, he took a step back, and left the GSD on a leave of absence to work in a dairy farm in Colombia during the spring of 2015.

Currently, Santiago has transferred to the MDes Energy and Environments program at the GSD. Now, his work is aimed at the dissemination of novel energy ideologies and methods, researching vernacular architectures and high performance materials. Being able to combine design and engineering is his lifelong personal and professional goal. By doing so, projects can become integral to society, working across all scales, activating opportunities for the less fortunate masses.