BioSkin facade, a system of water-filled ceramic pipes that cools the exterior surface of buildings and their surrounding micro-climates, has won the 2014 Tall Building Innovation Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). The initial use of BioSkin was at the NBF Osaki Building in Tokyo, Japan.
BioSkin is a system of ceramic pipes, affixed to the side of a building, which absorbs heat through rainwater evaporation, mitigating the urban heat island effect by cooling the building as well as its immediate surroundings. Through this process, the surface temperature of the building enclosure can be reduced by as much as 12 degrees Celsius and its micro-climate by about 2 degrees.
The potential implications of this are substantial:
If a large number of buildings in a city used such a system, ambient air temperature could be reduced to the point that cooling loads for many buildings, even those without the system installed, could be reduced.
The simplicity of the system is elegant. The BioSkin tubes are made of extruded aluminum cores, with a highly water-retentive terra-cotta shell attached to the aluminum core using an elastic adhesive. When rainwater collects on the rooftop, it is then drained to a subsurface storage tank, where it is filtered and sterilized. This water is then pumped up and circulated through the pipes, which in the live test case were incorporated as balcony railings on a Tokyo office building, reminiscent of the horizontal screens seen throughout Japan and known as sudare.
Rainwater penetrates outward through the porous ceramic, evaporating from the pipe’s surface, cooling the surrounding air. Excess water is then drained down to the soil of the premises to the extent possible, normalizing the water cycle and reducing the load on sewage infrastructure.
“BioSkin is a bold concept, suitably analyzed, elegantly integrated into the architectural form and beautifully detailed,” said 2014 Technical Awards Juror Paul Sloman, Principal and Buildings Group Leader at Arup, Sydney, Australia.
“This is a remarkable façade solution, both in its concept and how it has been beautifully detailed,” said David Scott, Technical Awards Jury Chair and lead structural director of the Engineering Excellence Group at Laing O’Rourke, London, UK. “I look forward to seeing this being proven by measurement. It is elegantly and delicately detailed, and it is quite outstanding, as it is combined with many other innovations in this remarkable building.”
The CTBUH Innovation Award recognizes a specific area of recent innovation in a tall building project that has been incorporated into the design, or implemented during construction, operation, or refurbishment. Unlike the CTBUH Best Tall Building awards, which consider each project holistically, this award is focused on one special area of innovation within the design, construction, or operation of the project – thus not the building overall. The areas of innovation can embrace any discipline, including but not limited to: technical breakthroughs, construction methods, design approaches, urban planning, building systems, façades, and the interior environment.