town planning and architecture

Tornado House or climate architecture

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Tornado House is a project developed by Ted Givensan American architect based in Hong Kong. Ted Givens and his team at 10 Conception are exploring ways to apply kinetic design to architecture to provide safe options against hazardous climatic environments. The aim is to break free from static building structures and create, through technological innovations, a response to the challenges of climate change.

Will kinetic architecture be the innovation that will form the basis of tomorrow's housing? How can a house respond to its environment? The answer, says Givens, lies somewhere "between garage doors, flowers, and the survival mentality of a turtle. The futuristic design features a protective shuttle that goes underground when extreme weather conditions threaten the safety of the inhabitants. A series of hydraulic control levers activate the movement of the house in and out of the ground. They also control the outer skin, which can deform in response to external stimuli and protect itself from destructive forces such as high-speed winds. The design has its own survival instinct that is triggered by thunderstorm winds or tornadoes to which it responds by putting itself out of harm's way.

The outer skin technology is made of durable and efficient material. It acts as a barrier consisting of transparent insulation sandwiched between two layers of Kevlar that allows diffuse light to penetrate the interior spaces of the structure. The roof is completely waterproof to protect it from heavy rain or potential thunderstorms and flooding. "The safest place, said Givens, lies in the earth".

A series of solar cells on the outer skin has been installed to capture the maximum solar intensity. The application of photocatalytic coatings and carbon nanotubes on the roof skin is currently being investigated in order to create maximum energy for the house and power the hydraulic system.

Givens and his team hope to provide a technological alternative to human shelters. Rather than trying to dominate and transform the landscape, rejecting the natural ecological homeostasis of an ecosystem, this design offers a solution that works with respect for the environment.

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The aggregation of these houses can make it possible to build entire neighbourhoods that will interlock and be linked together through networks of sensors interpreting weather data. Suburbs can collapse in seconds even though warning sirens warn of extreme weather threats. The collective response thus allows neighbourhoods to behave like a living organism and exchange information in real time.

Givens and his team are exploring new materials that can react to weather conditions on the exterior of the building. The team is looking for photocatalytic and carbon nanotube-based coatings that could absorb any pollution. They are currently collaborating on a prototype with a group of shipbuilders in the United States and Africa.

Designed for Mid-West America

"The Tornado House was specifically designed to withstand the tornadoes and flooding of the American Midwest. Part of the house is raised from top to bottom by a series of hydraulic arms. When a storm approaches, sensors activate the hydraulic system and lower the house into the ground; the roof is sealed with waterproof doors. Daylight and cross-ventilation have been added, something that was missing in typical underground houses. The house is intended to save lives and avoid the extremely costly costs and reconstruction efforts required after storms". explains Ted Givens.

All too often, natural disasters are considered accidental and are not anticipated. IO seeks to design architecture that is sensitive to its natural context, including the "probability" of disaster. This project was conceived as a means of redesigning a landscape and resulted in a new suburban concept for the tornado zones of the American Mid-West. A design influenced by the kinetic ideas of garage doors or sailboat hulls.

The aim of the project is to change the way people look at natural disasters, and to design whole cities around the concept of disaster resilience. The IO agency would like to obtain a prototype construction in the central-west to start testing the concept. The project also includes ways to advance the development and use of advanced building systems and materials such as Kevlar building skins and photocatalytic nano-coatings on facades to speed up their introduction to the market. The practice aims to test similar ideas around the world on the basis of natural conditions where people also organize thinking in the face of natural disasters.
The concept of OI, if applied, could have a significant impact on the design of the built environment. Hopefully, this will lead to many more creative ideas for responding to natural phenomena.

The IO Project could immediately benefit low-income residents in the American Midwest with the primary objective of replacing a tornado-proof trailer park. The practice could expand to suburban neighbourhoods and then to small towns, while refining the design throughout the process. This concept would benefit the U.S. government and the general public ultimately by reducing the cost of insurance and the funds needed for post-disaster reconstruction. This applies to all countries, including China, in Africa and South America. IO is working closely with engineers and manufacturers for the realization of this project.

Givens explains: "The project is based on a combination of simple, existing ideas: all you have to do is put them together from another perspective. A marriage between architecture, boat design and mechanics. This is one of the main reasons for the partnerships that IO is setting up with universities to inspire designers to think about innovative developments".

IO's Tornado House initiative deals with a problem that people cannot anticipate, namely, dealing with natural disasters as "probabilities" and reacting to them before they happen rather than just reacting to the consequences. The project removes the idea of a potentially dangerous and even harmful house and helps to recreate a certain balance between safety and the necessities of daily life. The IO project can save lives and avoid the costs of rebuilding lives and communities after storms. 

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(Source and images: 10 Design)

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