Cool Oculus – innovative ways to make buildings comfortable

Spiraling and swiveling, the large, metal structure currently sitting in the lobby of Princeton University’s School of Architecture opens and closes like a blossom. An aluminum blossom with sharp, louvered blades for petals.

It’s a Cool Oculus, a high-tech chimney prototype that uses passive cooling techniques to keep a building comfortable in a desert climate. It integrates two passive cooling strategies into one architectural system.These complement one another on a day-night cycle in a desert climate. The project is a lightweight structure with a double-membrane envelope that is configured as a downdraft evaporative chimney.

A light water mist emits from the chimney’s crown. This humidifies the hot-dry air, causing the temperature to drop and pulling the cooled air into the space below. Hyperbolic geometry regulates airflow throughout the interior volume. In an arid climate of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this technology can cool interior air to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the chimney dilates to a larger diameter and exposes the ground slab to radiative cooing by the sky above. The slab acts as a thermal mass, slowly releasing coolness to its surrounding as the air temperature rises during the day.

This project began as a Master’s thesis at Princeton University School of Architecture, where a conceptual model was developed based on airflow calculations and scaled-model testing.

The next stage is to prove the cooling potential of this integrated system through testing a full-scale model in lab conditions, which will provide the opportunity to explore the performance, material and mechanical requirements of the system.



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